The column aimed firmly at the louche, disaffected bon viveur and the properly bearded man-about-town
MYSELF: Here’s a thing. Did you know that every year (apart from the 2021 lockdown), the World Miniature (don’t call it Crazy) Golf Tournament is hosted on Hastings’ seafront, and attracts teams from all over the world?
READER: Crazy Golf? I love it!
MYSELF: Go back and read that first sentence again. Just because something is in brackets doesn’t mean you can just skip it.
READER: God you’re strict.
At 5am, on a typical chilly autumnal seaside morning, I climbed over the padlocked fence of TheRoyal & Ancient Hastings Miniature Golf Club to meet the German Minigolf team, who arrived this week to begin preparations for the next competition, due to take place in August 2022. During a torrential downpour, team captain Rolf Schlepper broke off from intensive training to talk to me about the careful preparations needed for their attempt to lift the trophy for a record breaking 17th consecutive year:
“Your English weather”, he told me from beneath a giant, partially destroyed golf umbrella, “is full of wind, and we do not like this. Here on the third hole for example, the sails of the windmill are going around so fast that that it is impossible for the door to remain open long enough for a regular ball to enter politely. For this reason we have developed in our laboratory a new ball, not yet approved, which is slightly taller than the old ball. We are also negotiating with Hastings’ famous inventor Gordon Thinktank, who has agreed to supply us with his new motorized cheating putter, with the revolving tungsten laser guided shaft and fake leopardskin grip. We may be the champions, but it is necessary to make these arrangements, so that it is certain that we are triumphant”.
DON’T MENTION THE WATER HAZARD
When I asked Rolf whether the team had any special strategy in mind for the 2022 competition, he sneered, straightened out his artificial robot arm and made a noise like a chicken:
“So, you wish to see our plans? Ha! In the game of MiniGolfputten, vice captain Klaus Wunderbra and myself are the supreme tacticians and we have developed a secret strategy which is unbeatable. If you shine your torch over there, you will see Horst Scheiße, our caddy, who is applying his expert analysis to the most difficult hole on this course The Big Clown Head. Deiter Klansmann, our newest team member, is the specialist for this hole, which is a dog-leg requiring a perfect 9-iron tee shot. Once over the water hazard, you must score a direct hit on the red nose of the clown. The opening of the clown’s mouth must be quickly followed with an accurate putt to the exposed tonsils”.
As dawn broke, and a police car approached, I thanked Rolf and was about to climb back over the fence, when suddenly, a dark Teutonic cloud spread over his rugged, rain-spattered face as he confessed;
“Regrettably, The Big Clown Head was the only hole we did not win at the last contest, and this was the sole reason for the tragic suicide of our star player Gottfried Schtumm, who, the night before Christmas 2019, drove his top-of-the-range Audi to a Lidl’s car park in Potsdam and beat himself to death with a sand wedge”.
READER: It’s hard to believe now, but the British invented this game.
MYSELF: I know, I know. We should never have admitted foreigners.
FOOD BANK CRISIS
An internet whistleblower has leaked shocking details of fat cat food bankers’ greedy bonuses. In a single 12-month period, one shameless food bank boss gratefully pocketed 3,500 shop-soiled cheese & onion pasties, 950 out of date Pot Noodles and over 2,000 Yorkie Bars. During a 5am raid on his £1,000,000 home, police discovered hundreds of slightly dented catering sized tins of baked beans buried under the patio of Hugh Falafel (59), manager of Upper Dicker Community Food Bank.
READERS’ LETTERS IN BRIEF
To Mr Donald Sinbad of Dymchurch: No, it is not possible to catch racism from a toilet seat, although you can catch it by drinking pomegranate juice, droning on about how you ran the half marathon without dropping dead, or simply by standing next to a jockey during an eclipse.
To Mrs. Beatrice Rasputin of Lilliputtenden:
Absolutely not. Always leave the cellophane wrapping on in case of snakes.
BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB
A selection of late summer titles published in a desperate attempt to capitalise on the upcoming Christmas delivery shortage:
The Chronicles of Beyondenden (Woggle & Peckinpah £12.95)
This is Semolina Gateaux’s third novel in her popular Beyondenden series for children and concerns mysterious goings on at the Hartlepool Museum of Steam. Three old friends, a fireman, a taxidermist and a window dresser are innocently stroking the streamlined contours of the high pressure boiler on a 1937 Radcliffe 4-4-2 Type 006 locomotive, when a steam-genie bursts out of the pressure relief valve and spirits them away to the parallel dreamworld of Beyondenden, where the normal rules of existence are suspended.
The Tibetan Booky Wook of The Dead (Monkey & Typewriter £15.99) by Russell Brand.
This, the latest outpouring from The Garrulous Gobfather of Guff is described on the cover as “a comprehensive new translation of the essential book of Tibetan philosophy, with all the small words taken out.” I cannot argue with that, since I would rather saw my own head off with a breadknife than actually read it.
If, on the other hand, you find reading difficult, or are a moron, I can confidently recommend I’m a C-List Celebrity Get Me Out of This Hideous Ballroom Dancing Nightmare (Netflix boxed DVD set, 23,000 episodes, £99.99)
MUSIC SCIENCE NEWS
Crack inventor and Hastings’ resident boffin, Professor Gordon Thinktank, has come up with yet another groundbreaking device for musicians. By welding two instruments together in a certain way, (see illustration), he has at a stroke solved the perennial noise-nuisance problem experienced by all flat-sharing trumpet duettists. With his new instrument, which he calls The Tacit Duettophone, essential eye contact is always maintained, and each player is able to keep tabs on the other’s fingering, yet no neighbour-irritating cat-strangling sounds emanate from the trumpets. READER: Isn’t there a danger of unconsciousness? I mean how do the musicians avoid passing out from the hyperventilation caused by all that fruitless blowing? MYSELF: Circular breeding.
Perhaps for quite a while Anant ji, the pen vendor, had been writhing to utter what he finally told me on the first Saturday of the last month, “You, sir, visit my shop five times a week and almost every week, tell me and my customers those tales and anecdotes from your life; you should write some and publish them as a source of earning.” ‘Professional’ he added.
I shook my head, “No, dear. I am hardly capable of scribbling a list of the items I should purchase and take home to show my family that my daily outings are not as fruitless as they actually are, and besides my life is nothing outside those stories I fabricate. I spend my miserable life in your company. I work no longer on the advice of my former employer. I have more life now at my disposal than possible in any human lifetime, and this life of mine is not exactly lively.”
Anant ji put down one vintage fountain pen he worked on. He smiled, “Exactly what I meant. Your words are humorous. No one I meet these days talk this way anymore. ‘Ha’ to your use of ‘life’ instead of ‘time’.”
“Ha.” I whispered ‘Slàinte’.
“You should write with a fountain pen in the old fashioned way. It would slow down your outpouring, clear your thoughts.” He salvaged the cleared feed from the liquid in a tray.
“I had one; the one I lost. It was a gift from my father for finishing my high school. Its barrel shimmered, flakes of green, celluloid dream. It had a gold nib. I lost it in a feat of anger. I keep the pencase in the top drawer of my study table as a reminder of the ruins rage leaves behind before it dies away.” I began to elaborate the storyline.
Anant ji raised his hand, ” Save your energy. Write down this exact story as your first one. Just write it with this pen.”
He foraged through his boxes. I said, “Fountain pens make me impatient these days. Perhaps they also ignite the fire of guilt. They are expensive as well.”
“It is a gift.”
“Then I would not let you gift me something expenses. I hardly spend any money at your shop.”
“It is a fountain pen but not an expensive one. Use it, and the writing will be the return-gift.”
I saw it was a Pilot. I shivered. I held the King Arthur’s sharp legend. I finally pulled out the lost relic of childhood from the stony sheathe of penitence.
“So far I can tell,” Anant ji said, “yours was a Pilot from another era. This one I give you is almost an entry-level, but nearly as good.”
He caught me in his web. I nodded. I should write. I should write how my father, a child himself back then, ten or eleven, visited a pen shop now extinct, and how the shop owner startled my father by throwing one steel nibbed fountain pen like a dart against a hard wooden desk and showed him that the pen still worked.
Perhaps while writing I could avoid the puns life threw at me all the time.
I would write how I lost the pen. The anger – I no longer remember the cause – unveiled something pure, pristine and evil, a noise of scratching on the blackboard.
The story I wrote and rewrote, typed and retyped was short and furious. Its journey ended in that very pen shop Anant ji owned.
Another pen, another time, the same brand, phoenix undead amidst the ashes we gather singing ‘Ring-a-ring-a-rosies’ and holding this liquid life. This was my story about the relativity of the state of beings.
I scrivened that in my father’s memory most parts of the year were autumn, and so were mine. Was the autumn a catalyst or a laboratory or the only protagonist we never mentioned.
I submitted the story to some magazine good for a beginner, then to another one and then to another one
The rejections cluttered the yard of my inbox and clogged my doorstep. The world of submission was cursed with eternal autumn.
Anant ji would never ask me if I was writing or if I had already written something, but he must have noticed the ebbing talkativeness, receding presence.
One evening I opened my desktop, found all the ‘Pen’ in my typescript and replaced them with ‘Pain’ in one document and copied that into another document where ‘Pen’ transformed into ‘Pane’.
Both the versions were accepted by two publications. Yes, Anant ji, indeed they were.
I see you dying under the sky.
I see you fading away.
I see your corpses and your spirits fly,
Like a wild bird towards its prey.
Your voices are no more strong;
Silence gripped them.
You are free after so long;
You are free from shame.
I see you dying successfully.
I see you passing away.
I see the Death brutally,
Removes all your gay.
I see you turning into ashes.
I see you in frame.
I see the wounds and gashes-
Are burning into flame.
I see you dying together.
I see you going hell.
I see you going far,
From this earthly spell.
I see you behind the scene,
Loosing your existence therefore.
Dear enemies! Hurrah!
I see you no more!
~By, Tiyasha Khanra, Kolkata, India
Illustration Nick Victor
Alan Dearling takes a long-ish stroll around Salts Mill in Yorkshire. An extraordinary space and collection.
An absolute ‘Wow’ of a place. So much art and history jumbled into a mighty and cavernous ex-factory space. Awesome. Magical wonderments… Exhibitions, original art works, books and prints, and a diverse range of products on sale from jewellery to antiques; postcards and signed artworks; outdoor clothing; high-end kitchen equipment. And the location of Saltaire Model Village and the seemingly never-ending mills are mind-boggling even without the Hockney connections.
Jonathan Silver established the 1853 Gallery – named after the year the mill opened – in 1987, as a place to exhibit the works by his friend and fellow Bradfordian, the artist David Hockney. As the publicity for Salts Mill proclaims: “It was an audacious move, filling an old industrial space with contemporary art and hanging paintings from the old steam pipes… The mill began to fill up with art, books, culture and flowers and also became a popular place for cutting edge technology businesses to rent office premises and manufacturing space.”
Salts Mill first opened in 1853 as a utopian vision of a better future. It was the brainchild of Sir Titus Salt. Vast in scale and ambition. It still feels slightly ‘unreal’ to visitors in 2021. Perhaps especially as we are wandering around in face-coverings in an indoor, industrial labyrinth. It was a massive cloth manufacturing operation, located right next to the Leeds Liverpool Canal and the River Aire. But, it wasn’t just another mill or factory. Sir Titus also built the model village of Saltaire right outside the mill gates. It was a place where his workers could (apparently) live in modern, sanitary housing near green spaces. This represented the relatively beneficent, philanthropic, Victorian factory owner. Salts Mill and Saltaire were named after their founder.
The Salts Mill continued to produce cloth until 1986, when it stood empty. Now, it is a monumental historic edifice. Filled with artworks and busy restaurants and cafes. There’s also an opportunity to learn a bit about the history of the Mill, and its old working practices.
Salts Mill curates many visiting exhibitions and special events. In recent years they’ve hosted works by photographer Kevin Cummins, poets Simon Armitage and Tony Harrison, the Yorkshire Fashion Archive and Cloth & Memory to name just a few.
The mill today is also a place of work for over 1,000 people, including providing a home to creative businesses from technology to landscape architecture and graphic design.
In 2001, Saltaire became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO noted: “Saltaire is an outstanding and well preserved example of a mid 19th century industrial town… The layout and architecture of Saltaire admirably reflect mid-19th century philanthropic paternalism, as well as the important role played by the textile industry in economic and social development.”
David Hockney was born in Bradford in 1937. He is the UK’s greatest living artist, constantly working, innovating, looking – and looking again.
The 1853 Gallery houses a huge collection of pictures by David Hockney, cherry-picked from throughout his life. His work is dotted about throughout the mill. On my visit, an enormous room on the third floor was devoted to his series, ‘The Arrival of Spring’. This is comprised of a set of iPad drawings created by David in 2011, and printed at an incredible scale. And a film, an immersive video, which displays a sequence of evolving, ever-changing, nine photos of the Woldgate Woods through the seasons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijndJWCJzoo
Also on display during my visit was a large collection of signed prints and original works by Simon Palmer. He’s a leading British watercolour artist. But, one that exhibits a somewhat weird sense of humour. Almost all of his works are off-kilter. A bit strange and surreal. Along with David Hockney, Simon’s work has been on display for almost 30 years – indeed, his pictures are dotted around Salts Mill.
If you are anywhere in striking distance of Saltaire (also worth a look around, including the unusual Saltaire United Reformed Church) and the Salts Mill (nearest conurbation is Bradford), take the time for a visit – actually, make plenty of time. This is a Big Show! Here’s video of Rick Wakeman playing, ‘Morning has Broken’, probably recorded from the Saltaire church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VebVIXSQFC0
Modes of relation enacted
Through layered scenes
In settings presided over by Russian dolls
There is an extraordinary amount
Of stereotyping going on
As if a 60 year old man
Should know and be like this
A 20 year old woman like that
Fads and fashions have their dictates
Some catch on, a bit like memes,
Others are resuscitated.
That ahead of your time phenomenon
After a while it seemed
That they were deciding who I was,
Sometimes a good fit, sometimes not
Or even very far from
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning
The emotional cost of depression
When the vested team loses
You try to impress your friends
In subtle ways, or at least
Not fall out with them
As you try to pretend
You’re pleased to see me
‘Each man’s soul demands that he be, and that he live, every great archetypal role in the collective unconscious: the betrayer and the betrayed, the lover and the beloved, the oppressor and the victim, the noble and the ignoble, the conqueror and the conquered, the warrior and the priest, the man of sorrows and the self-reborn.’ Robert A Johnson
Many people are now aware of the pressing importance of alkalizing the body, but how many have transposed this understanding to the toxic mind, now out of control and wreaking havoc across the globe?
We have succumbed to acidity of thinking, often poisoned without any awareness on our part, and I can’t but wonder about the rampant senility and brain-rot, so much a feature of modern life.
Technology has not only outpaced wisdom but rests at its polar opposite where mind rules, splintering society asunder into the acidic and the alkaline.
There is simply no reasoning with the unreasonable, those who have lost their minds to the mind itself, a god in all but name that has seduced a weakened populace down the road of perfection, forgetting we already exist as perfection though at an entirely different, yet higher level of being.
This warning was issued many years ago from one of the great pioneers of the East: ‘The modern technological advances that come to this world with newer and newer innovations, as well as those yet to come, make up a cyclone of Great Illusion’ Mahamaya
‘Be certain that you will be held captive by it. Who knows to where the one who is caught by this great cyclone will be carried off? When the saints see one who is taken up by these modern advances running here and there, struggling in his pursuits, they try their utmost to bring about an awakening of Self Knowledge in him.’ Siddharameshwar
One of the chief problems with the never-ending search for the perfect, which is simply a product of the reflected light in the mind casting both illusion and shadow, is that any human being that doesn’t pass muster is for the scrap heap.
Genocidal maniacs, who are really fighting their own deep-seated inadequacy, focus first on the weakest nexus in society: the elderly, handicapped and mentally ill, or ‘useless eaters’ as they call them.
It happened under Hitler and it has happened again under a Conservative government which can no longer lay legitimate claim to the prefix of ‘caring’.
These people and their civil servants are often simply the continuation of a long line of sickos who themselves are severely disturbed, projecting their own self-loathing on to our most vulnerable.
When the mind plays God, the whole world is in trouble. I have seen this process almost universally in clients sent away to school at a young age – those running our government – roots destroyed, feelings torn out, a cold, hard veneer setting in for a long winter.
Occasionally, a brave one might emerge from this dark night of the soul in better shape than they went in, but those are the exceptions not the rule.
Most of our tormentors conform to a hideous template of damage. I know, I worked with many such people, often bankers and city traders hooked on cocaine, prostitution and cruelty as a way of life.
Suppressing amusement at their belief their plight was somehow original and never seen before was almost a full-time job. There really is nothing new under the sun.
Few of them get better; most are lost to themselves and can only vent their fury at this primary abandonment by comforting themselves with more of everything, although of course this strategy never works.
‘More’ simply becomes another cage and a recapitulation of earlier downfalls, some of which exist prior to memory, pre-verbally and even in the womb.
Such lifetimes are deeply karmic, of course and the net result of accruing quite a few negative points on the debit side of the ledger. There are many lessons to still learn and I suspect many will now go back to the divine recycling bin for a needed makeover.
Some experiments simply don’t work!
It is a good job there is eternity and the divine is infinitely more merciful than we are with ourselves and each other.
When I was at school, I was taught a ‘schism’ referred only to a religious divide (I think we were doing Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church at the time), but it seems the term deserves to graduate.
If the sharp divide between those following the false, reflected light of the mind, commonly and ridiculously known as ‘the science’, and those who have evolved to a purer light isn’t a schism, then I don’t know what is.
But as the Chinese say (again the true ones not the egoic ones), where there is crisis lies opportunity. The chance we have is to understand the nature of light and move away from the false, even if we have held it as true for eons.
Awakening is en-light-enment after all: ‘When the psyche is raw, undeveloped, quite primitive, it is subject to gross illusions. As it grows in breadth and sensitivity, it becomes a perfect link between pure matter and pure spirit and gives meaning to matter and expression to spirit.’ Nisargadatta
This is not meant to demean or insult often highly intelligent beings, just to point out that to invest so much in only what we can see is a terrible error.
‘In my father’s house are many mansions’ hints at the truth. For example. many teenagers think and believe wholeheartedly they know best (those of us who are parents will appreciate this!), yet we know their consciousness has not matured sufficiently to enable clarity of thought.
They are, in short, un-illumined, in this illustration at least. Anyone who thinks for one moment a boarding school survivor whose emotional maturation was truncated aged eight to 13 should be telling us how to live only evinces their own naivety.
In the traumatized being, the ego or adapted self takes the place of God, is flooded with thinking and exists cut off from the universal field (God) floating like a small dinghy on choppy seas, top heavy and without anchor, vulnerable and relying solely on inflation – a scrabbling in the mind.
And because most of society can only see through its own limited understanding, we are deluded and allow ourselves to be drowned, with our oppressors standing on our shoulders to survive.
The raising of the National Insurance contribution announced this week is yet another measure to kill off those considered worthless while those who are really worth so little in their current state, prosper.
It is surely time to begin to question and discover that thinking is only one aspect of consciousness and that we are supported by an energy far greater than we know. When intelligence presents only a tiny fraction of available consciousness, it really isn’t intelligence at all.
Just because the tyranny of memory suggests we doff our caps to our alleged superiors is no reason to continue doing so.
As I write, what emerges is a vision of an entirely different national curriculum and a parallel world dedicated to consciousness as the only really marker of value.
Copyright Simon Heathcote
Simon Heathcote is a psychotherapist who has developed a unique way of working, drawing on Jungian concepts, mysticism and archetypal psychology to help return clients to their essence or deep soul. He has been sex and love addiction therapist at The Priory Roehampton, England and senior practitioner of the Conde Nast award-winning The Arrigo Programme. His first career was in journalism. He is an award-winning writer, former newspaper editor, broadsheet travel writer and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He has undergone a profound inner journey of meditation which he brings to his work. Simon trained at Broadway Lodge (Britain’s first specialist addiction treatment centre), studied past lives with the late Dr Roger Woolger and was present for the outset of the UK men’s movement under the guidance of Robert Bly. His website is soulvision.co.uk
The rain turns every roof
into a kettledrum; it gallops along a road until
there is no road; it washes darkness
into silver light and dances
on each puddle of its making. The sky
is flowing down into the forest,
the ceiling above tables where
a meal is freshly served, sharpening the razor wire
along defensive walls, washing the blood
from history as it drains into rivers
that drain back into the sky
begins again, and even the most
venomous of snakes
threads its black, red, and yellow banded
length through the eye in a jade pendant
made before the Spaniards
This tender collection from Martin Crawley evokes passionate encounters of sex and conversation. Twelve poems set in twelve areas of London at the height of the AIDS epidemic: the dead and the still living are remembered, as in this extract from ‘Homerton.’
Without clothes you were very thin.
We lay naked on your bed, faces pressed together,
sensing each other’s fragility.
Touching your head gently, I felt its shape,
your soft thinning hair.
You find scars on my wrist and kiss them.
We learn early in the poem that this lover had died. Yet the poem brings him back to life as a fragile and beautiful human being. Not a word is out of place. There are no ‘types,’ each remembered person is as individual as the encounter. Crawley has made small paintings to accompany (not illustrate) the collection. Interlocking, angular shapes that evoke MC Escher or Mondrian. The colours are lovely; warm and cold juxtaposed, and I wondered if this represented life and death – but I may be overthinking it. Yet the poems are not cerebral, they are events – like this from ‘Clapham Park’ with its loving solidarity.
We are taking an orchid to Dalston,
it is sinister, like wax,
tiny drops of moisture form in its clear round box,
how carefully you hold it.
You will try to open your boyfriend’s hands and place it there,
then the lid will go on.
Publisher, Negative Press launched I Think of You on a barge moored on the Regents Canal last Friday. A warm evening, light breeze disturbing the duckweed, a gentle rocking as Martin Crawley read the poems – each one a celebration of a dead or living lover.
Hi to whoever finds this. My name is James Hesford. I was called David Hughes. I now use James, my second name and Hesford – my mother’s maiden name. In many ways, Out-Bar was the reason I changed my name. Not because I wanted to disassociate myself with my past – I have good memories and bad, made many friends, but probably more enemies – but because I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to start again from scratch, which was easy. To tell you the truth, I had no option. As a footnote I would say, I am reluctant to write this. If I was writing about the famous you would be hanging on to every word. The finger cymbal player of a legendary rock band pissing in a plant pot in an uptown Los Angeles Holiday Inn would probably go down in your personal history as something that changed your life forever, a benchmark to which you can justify the hours wasted on comfy sofa’s smoking skunk weed wondering why you are not successful yet having spent at least a couple days of your life learning those three major, first position, triads on your Fender Stratocaster that is slowly disappearing under a pile of dust in a corner of your bedroom. You might be a crap guitar player but you’re as good at pissing in plant pots as the next guy, right? Maybe even better. So, if you’re looking for that kind of inspiration you won’t find it here. This is not about fame although you will find names here who are famous, very famous, who, whether they like it or not, were part of this journey even though they don’t think it worth mentioning it in their Curriculum Vitae. Neither do I particularly. But I think it is at least worth a couple of pages buried in the Time Capsule we now call the internet. Anyway, reluctant or not, here it is…………………….
In 1980 I won the Young Jazz Musician of the Year award. I was/am a dedicated musician – practice faithfully every day and true to my roots. However, after the award, it suddenly occurred to me how much I hated the British Jazz Scene. Don’t get me wrong – there were/are brilliant musicians here, but most people were, at that time, trying to sound like Americans. All bass players sounded like Jaco; all guitarists sounded like Pat Metheney or whoever was the current American Favorite. I also figured out that it would take me 4 years to get my prize money which was dished out as 50% gigging subsidy; in 1980 you were lucky to get £50 a gig. So, I packed my bags and went to New York, Downtown Manhattan – the East Village.
James (David) Central Park
The rent in the East Village, back then, was astronomical and making money wasn’t easy. My excitement at joining a quartet, a real American touring band, was soon tempered when I found out that most of their gigs were in Europe, which seemed to be how it worked here in downtown Manhattan i.e you go to Europe, make a big pile of money, come back home and hand it over to your landlord in monthly instalments. I had two options – take the gig or do a less than minimum wage job looking over my shoulder every five minutes waiting for immigration control to drag me off to the wrong side of the Mexican border and leave me there begging for small change to get my fare back to the UK, where I would spend the rest of my life in despair and disappointment knowing that I would never be able to take my rightful place in the Miles Davis Ensemble, hang out with Ornette Coleman and drink Bourbon in downtown bars while being interviewed by Downbeat Magazine and the Village Voice. The USA was where I needed to be at that time and I was prepared to do whatever it took to stay there.
There was also another way to make some money. Punk was getting big in New York. It followed me over from the UK. (The British version of Punk, that is) At first, I didn’t particularly want to play in a Punk Band but there seemed to be an emerging trend of Jazz musicians (particularly from the Avant-garde – e.g Ornette Coleman influenced) joining Punk Bands, initially for the gig money but later finding that playing in this environment was a springboard for a new kind of improvisation and there was a club audience who were keen to listen to it. And, importantly, dressing rooms with a band rider of copious amounts of alcohol and pretty uptown young women taking a holiday from their luxury uptown apartment lifestyle and weekends in the Hamptons by immersing themselves in the New Wave, introducing themselves by offering to share their high-grade Columbian super stash. After doing my first gig with Snuky Tate (a Downtown black punk musician guitarist and visual artist, who, despite being homeless, having had a minor hit – ‘He’s the Pope in the Vatican/He’s the Groove’- could get us past every club fashion Furur doorman security team in Manhattan), I was blown away. The new band was made up of amazing horn players from the village, a really hot Latin rhythm section from Alphabet City and a punk drummer. The experience can only be described as electric. We could play anything we wanted, however ‘outside’, and the cocaine-induced euphoria of the 80’s uptown audience drove us on endlessly to heights we had never dreamed possible. Every gig was different and hanging out with musicians whose main objective was to ‘find their own voice’ was exhilarating, to say the least. I found this early incarnation of Snuky with a house band (a couple of years before I met him and before the Jazz Punk thing took off) on YouTube. Later in the video, he talks about his band called the Octoroons. He said he only played with black musicians but his theory was that everyone was part black, at least an Octoroon, which means genetically ⅛ black, a theory that I will be ever grateful for; being a pale face honkey from the back streets of Rotherham to one of Snuky’s Octoroons was a genuine leg up in my self-image department.
Here’s a tune He did which was a cult hit. It was mentioned in the comments that Frank Zappa played this tune at the Dr Demento show in May 1981.
There were also a lot of RIPs, which saddens me greatly. I lost touch with Snuky when I left.
Two years later and I’m still managing to stay here, to be on the scene, despite the fact that the band that I had been touring Europe with had chickened out of high intense urban jungle life by actively seeking suitable fertility fading Frauleins to shack up with and spending the rest of their lives living off their dubious reputations as New York Jazz musicians, playing to an audience of lederhosen adorned jazz enthusiasts in the backwoods of Bavaria.
To tell you the truth I wasn’t doing that great. I can tell you that busking your way through the Real Book on the benches of Washington Square for enough spare change to keep a roof over your head and provide a diet no more substantial than Stromboli Boy’s pizza slices and one dollar two egg breakfasts with dubiously hormone growth induced bacon slices can start to take its toll. All the good gigs I got to do weren’t paying much money so, for a subsidy, I took a job with a singer from Brooklyn. He had an all-female band and my girlfriend at the time was playing in it. Because of that connection, I became his Musical Director arranging popular songs for him and writing out scores and parts. Without saying too much, I would say that Mr XXXXXX was a very influential man in the Sicilian community. When we visited the cafe’s downtown, there was always a warm, if not a little nervous welcome, free coffee and as many cakes and pastries as Mr XXXXXX wanted to eat and, almost always, an envelope or a bag of something to take away with him.
Mr XXXXXX seemed to like hanging out with me and liked what I had done for the band. He offered to get me a Green Card. He had legal connections who could sort it for me. After visiting many of his friends and family in Brooklyn, as kind and friendly as they were, it occurred to me that owing a favour to Mr XXXXXX might not have been such a great idea – even though he was the nicest man I had ever met, a thoroughly decent, honest person with only love and good intentions for everyone around him – HONEST! (I’m going to leave this here – it’s a blog in itself, maybe even a book.) Why I mention it is because Mr XXXXXX was one of the reasons I finally returned to the UK. In fact, I didn’t mention it, did I? This never happened – I swear ….by almighty God that the evid………I’m going to delete this before I get an extradition order put on me to testify on old unsolved crimes now re-emerging due to too new forensic methods not available in the early 80’s.
Anyway, moving from sub-let to sub-let every couple of months, followed by Snuky looking for a sofa to crash on, paying most of what I earned on rent, was getting to me. With the barrage of influences and all the stuff I had learned, I had started to compose again, but without a solid, secure base and more free time, I was finding it difficult. Going back to the UK could have been an option, but embarrassing. Spurred on by my friends in London, I had come to New York to conquer the world. Going back without having achieved anything significant would have looked like defeat.
In my last Summer in New York, I bumped into an old friend – Tymon Dogg. I was riding the A train coming back from Brighton Beach and he just happened to be sitting across from me in the carriage. To be honest, it was a big relief for me to see him – a fellow European – as my social life was now either hanging out with Snuky (which was the upside) or driving around Manhatten with Mr XXXXXX and his Brooklyn Hairdresser girlfriend delivering dubious parcels to scabby knuckled Sicilians in Hoboken. (No I didn’t) Tymon was staying uptown in Harlem and had come to New York to guest on the Clash’s double album and play a few gigs in the folk clubs where Bob Dylan had played in Greenwich Village. Tymon had actually taught Joe Strummer how to play the guitar. We’d become friends after playing a gig together in London and his energy and totally original style had blown me away. He reminded me that, even though the Jazz Scene in the UK was a bit damp, there were other areas of the music scene that were breaking new ground. And here he was, from folk and punk clubs in London to the Power House in NYC recording with The Clash.
I still wasn’t sure whether I was brave enough to leave NYC and go back home with my tail between my legs. But then something happened that changed everything. John Leckie (producer extraordinaire) happened to be in town. He was producing an album in the Power House studios just down the road from me. I had shared a flat with him and his then future wife, Christina, in Notting Hill Gate when he was still a tape op in Abbey Road. I was even best man at their wedding – they’ve just had their 50th wedding anniversary – so we go back a long way. Anyway, we were hanging out together in bars and clubs and restaurants having a great time demolishing his per diem expense account. The Jazz punk thing had taken off and John was keen to check it out in situ, so after a hearty meal of sushi rolls and saki, we ended up standing next to Debbie Harry in a small club in Soho, watching James White and the Blacks. It just became so apparent that this new genre, that people like Snuky had kicked off in the late 70’s, was definitely moving up the food chain and getting some recognition.
John was quite taken with the scene and knew about my involvement in it. He told me that he had got a pretty good but loose deal with EMI where he could use their studios in dead time and bring in any bands/musicians he wanted and make albums. The only condition being that EMI would have the first option on a deal. John then asked me if I would be interested in going back to London and starting a project and recording with him in Abbey Road.
I now had a good reason to leave NYC. Two actually. Looking back, John probably saved my life. Up to that point, I was honestly considering taking up the offer of a Green Card from Mr XXXXXX. I would have probably found myself helping prop up a flyover in Hoboken as part of a girder reinforced concrete pillar. So thank you John.
Being in London was OK – not as depressing as I imagined and despite being a lively, culturally significant city, compared to NYC it seemed quiet and rural (I needed quiet and rural) and having been given the ‘get out of jail for free card’ on the saving face front from John, I was able to walk around with my head held high. But even though I was about to make an album in Abbey Road, ‘the deal’ everyone desperately hopes for was still a long way off. I had to deal with reality, something I’ve never been that great at. Nothing brings you down from the cloud of future possibilities more than the lack of money to pay your bills and rent, let alone eat. I now had to draw on the only resources available to me – my ability to play jazz standards. I had vowed in NY that if I had to play ‘All The Things You Are’ one more time. I would ‘Take the A Train’ and throw myself onto the tracks.
Anyway, there I was sitting in a wine bar hacking my way through ‘All The Things You Are’, ‘Girl from Ipanema’ and whatever followed on the next page in the Real Book. I had hooked up with Andy Herbert, a bass player I had worked with before I left. We weren’t doing that bad, to be honest. Wine bars were opening up all over the place and live jazz music was an extra attraction. The money was OK and Andy was even managing to feed his family on what we were making and the free food was a bit of a bonus and helped me cut down on my household expenses. The downside was that it was really cramping my style. Back in NYC, you were expected to go out there and give it all you’ve got, blast away the audience with a furore of atonal sixteen notes at astonishing tempos. In the bars and restaurants of London, restraint was the order of the day. If you played anything more than straight 8’s medium swing at mezzo-forte, someone would throw up their Alouettes Sans Têtes on the waiter’s shoes and you wouldn’t get a re-booking.
Luckily, my mental health was kept intact by the fact that we had already started putting a band together, OUT BAR (Out-bar Squeek) – Tim Sanders (Kick Horns) on Tenor Sax, Barbara Snow on Trumpet, Boris Williams (BackBeat Boris) on drums, Andy on Bass, Me on guitar and Vocals. Yes, you heard right, Me on Vocals. I had never sung in my life. I tell a lie. When playing in the Roy Hill band, I was asked to sing some backing vocals. After three gigs, I stepped up to the mike to sing only to find that the roadies had put a banana there instead of a microphone. A spear through my heart at the time that discouraged me from ever taking it up again. My lack of confidence in this department was sort of getting to me especially as the band was sounding amazing and, as a novice vocalist, completely out of my league. Tim was a great improviser as well as being so fastidious about getting my quirky brass arrangements together; Barbara, who had recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music and could read fly sh…t and, after spending some time working on the feminist music scene was really becoming a great improviser; Boris and Andy were just so tight as a rhythm section it was frightening.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I did it – write a song. The band’s initial concept was basically instrumental – great tight top lines from the brass and guitar, punk, swing, hard funk bottom end with lots of free improvisation, ensemble and solo. I like instrumental music – Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Hindemith, Bartok, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Xenakis and have since come a long way as a composer by misunderstanding their concepts. So when I brought a song to rehearsals, I was a bit nervous about presenting it. It was called Disco Eddy.
I would like to write a little footnote here because as a band only remembered in a one-line sentence in the Eddi Reader story (details to come later) as a Disco Band – an awful Disco Band at that – it needs to be clarified that Disco Eddy was not a Disco song and the band was never a disco band. The song was inspired by a guy I saw on Brighton Beach in NYC (my hang out place on my days off). I remember he was ranting and raving. He called himself Disco Eddy and kept shouting “got the get me some respect around here” while blindfolding himself and jumping over sandcastles like it was some great athletic feat that deserved tumultuous applause. To me he represented what the downside of society has become: about impressing people; style over substance; the total importance of fame; celebrity culture; worth as a human being directly in ratio to the degree of fame. He was paying the price for not succeeding; he was what Americans call a bum.
So, I brought the song ‘Disco Eddy’ to the band and sang it in rehearsals. After the brass intro, I just launched into it. To be honest, I was expecting everyone to hate it and that, in some ways, would have been a big relief. We could go back to playing quirky jazz heads and I could just quietly slip back into the backline and concentrate on being a guitar player. However, it seemed to be the common consensus that not only was it good but it would be our hit single. Hit single …….Hit single…..Hit single……..Our Hit Single! The words hovered above my head like a host of whispering celestial angels. Hit Single?. I never even considered having a hit single. BUT – Having a hit single would mean we would be out there: in the big time, Top of the Pops, Radio One, tours with a tour bus and real roadies, food, girlfriends, drugs, more drugs, money, more money and drugs, throwing tellies out of windows and pissing in hotel plant pots with total impunity and more drugs.
Looking back, I can see this as a landmark moment in the development of the band. Although not seismic, there was a change. Musicians are amazing – if the music they are playing excites them, their level of commitment knows no bounds. A combination of exciting music and a possibility of making money, big money, can turn a bunch of mild-mannered nurdies dedicated to promoting high art, truth and beauty into a bunch of fearsome Spartans ready to sacrifice their own lives on the battlefield of making some serious p. Anyway, for better or worse, the possibility of a hit single was now out of the bag, and although not yet running amok through a forest of mixed metaphors it was definitely hanging in the air.
John liked it. John really liked it. He thought it could be a hit single and was keen to record Disco Eddy first so he could present it to Dave Ambrose, his A and R contact at EMI who, I think, was partly responsible for his deal of free time at Abbey Road. We recorded the whole track in a couple of hours except for the vocal line which, because of nerves and insecurity, took a bit longer. With the help of John’s direction and the band’s support, I finally got it down and the recording project was now well on its way. The band sounded great and thanks to the virtuoso skills of John, who single-handedly did everything from miking up to tape opping while simultaneously producing us, so were the recordings. There was a little hiccup. A big one really. Just before we were about to start recording the album Boris was offered a job working with the Thompson Twins. They were doing pretty well at the time so it was an offer he couldn’t refuse. That’s the problem playing with great musicians, everyone else wants them. He later left the Thompson Twins and went on to play for The Cure. The last time I saw him was at the Brit awards (will explain later) looking like a Goth with his all-black clothes, smudged lipstick and runny mascara. Anyway, that problem was solved pretty easily because we had already met a great drummer on the Jazz circuit – Richard Marcangelo. He could play anything: swing, hard funk, Latin, punk, hard rock. We didn’t even have to audition him; he just came into the studio and did everything in one take. He also introduced us to Martin Ditcham (Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, Donald Fagin, Sade, and more artists than the London Phone Book) who turned up at the studio one night with a big bag of percussion and proceeded to play squeaky toy hammers over the track we were recording. We were impressed, very impressed. He must have liked what we were doing because he joined the band. Bloody hell. The band was getting bigger. We had six mouths to feed and no gigs.
Andy, as well as being a great player and letting us rehearse in his squat in Clapham, had connections. He had a job at the Rock Garden doing the sound for the bands.. I would visit him there regularly, getting free entry by lying to the doorman saying that I had brought his money from the PA company. The next couple of hours were spent drinking watered-down lager and having my eardrums fractured by high energy punk bands. I loved it. I belonged here and so did the band. The Rock Garden was a showcase venue for emerging talent. It would be one of our first gigs and Andy would wangle it somehow.
He did wangle it. After a couple of warm-ups at the Greyhound and other pub gigs, we were ready to launch ourselves onto an unsuspecting Central London Audience. I was nervous. I was now fronting the band as a singer – a more monotonal deliverer of urban jungle-inspired verse to be honest, which, to my surprise, thus far had been received favourably if not with a degree of amusement. For me, it was as much an acting gig as anything else: dressing the part in ’40s and 50s retro gear and getting into character. After focusing most of my life on being an instrumentalist, this was new for me, a departure. I loved it.
To be honest, the audience was split between ‘what the f….k is this?’ and ‘don’t know what the f….k this is but I like it’. Whatever it was, despite a couple of heckles, we kicked arse and were only prevented from doing a third encore because the next band had to get on and we didn’t have any more tunes left. John taped the gig on his little dictation recorder. It’s here:
Here’s the whole gig in two parts with audience murmur at the beginning
After the gig the whole band was high. We were a team to be reckoned with, that’s for sure. However, after coming down off the ceiling with talent induced euphoria, I was feeling a little ashamed that some of the best musicians in town had just been playing their buts off on that cramped little stage and the only thing, apart from the high, they were going to get to show for that was a share of the £20 fee. BUT, we had a SINGLE. A HIT SINGLE. We still didn’t have a deal yet – we decided we would finish the album before presenting to Dave Ambrose – but we had a HIT SINGLE for sure – and three pounds thirty-three pence each to buy half a pint of watered down lager to celebrate our future success. Where’s that plant pot? I’m going to piss in it right now.
Off the back of the Rock Garden, we got lots of gigs. People turned up, people cheered. Our following was growing, although I did notice something about our audience. It became apparent to me that most of them were musicians. They described us as Hindemith on acid which I took as a great compliment. The non-musicians, sensing the lack of those major triads that lull them into a sense of security by providing a backing track for their over sentimentalised life story, called us that band that plays out of tune. I didn’t mind, but I was beginning to see problems here. One being that we had no real category, we weren’t Jazz, Punk, Rock, Hard Rock or New Wave. We looked like a 1940’s big band, played free jazz solos over Hindemithien inspired melodies and Shoenburg ripped off tone rows supporting monotonal vocal lines from yours truly. To my mind, a winning combination.
This winning combination of musical influences finally turned up on the desk of EMI’s Dave Ambrose in the form of a demo tape, which, after a few opening bars, was promptly thrown into his bin and the only light of day it was ever going to see from there on was through a split in a black landfill decomposing liner bag.
Telling the band that we didn’t have a deal was going to be difficult. They had worked really hard making the album and playing their arses off on creaky cramped stages in smoky rooms for little or no money. I wasn’t ready to give up yet but I couldn’t expect these great musicians to keep turning up to gigs and walking away with only a couple of quid in their pocket. And at this point, there was no future, nothing in the offing that a musician could consider an investment opportunity. John (bless him) had done his best to get the album out there but had exhausted all his contacts. No one took the bait.
Sure, the band was disappointed, to be expected, but (bless them) they all wanted to carry on regardless. To be honest, at that point, they believed in the music’s potential more than I did.
So we carried on but gigging in town was becoming difficult. We played the circuit: Dingwalls, Hammersmith Palais, Greyhound, Rock Garden, Hope and Anchor etc. but something had started to happen which was a big rip off – new gigs with a pay to play policy. How this works is quite clever. Someone books you for a gig. They offer you £100, say. A £100 is not that great for a six-piece band but it’s better than £20 the Rock Garden was paying. So you take the gig. You play your arse off. The audience, most of which are your following, pay a pretty hefty entrance fee and buy drink after drink at the bar paying totally inflated prices for pints of something that tastes like it’s just been scooped out of the Thames estuary. The management pays you – actually count the money out in front of you – and then present a bill for £180 for PA hire.
So you start taking gigs in pokey little pubs for a share of the entrance fee, most of which are off the beaten track where the audience is mostly passing trade hence the door money won’t even cover your bus fare.
Doing Out Bar gigs was great but it certainly didn’t pay the bills. Luckily most of the band were getting by doing sessions and playing one-nighters in pick up bands. Andy and myself were still doing the odd jazz gig, but not as many as before. I had been totally focused on Out Bar, writing new material trying to get gigs so, to be frank, I was broke, worse than broke; I was really in debt
My bank had refused to extend my overdraft. Going down to my front door had become a nightmare. The only post I was getting was final demand bills and threatening letters. I just stopped opening them. And, scarily, I was also losing weight. Living only on rice and bread and butter, I had dropped at least a stone. I decided that I would give it another couple of weeks and just disband the group if something miraculous didn’t happen. I think what really did it for me was that we were playing a gig in South London in a pub near The Old Kent Road. We were ready to go on to play to an audience of about 5 people and Richard had still not turned up. Luckily there was a drummer in the audience who had seen us a few times and was familiar with the set who happened to have his kit in his car. He played the gig. He did a good job I have to say, but for me it was the end. This was the last straw, the last gig as far as I was concerned, I’d had enough.
So, there I was, licking my wounds, trying to get my life back together working for an agency as a temp typist in the day and doing the odd jazz gig at night. (Yes I can type – 80 words a minute – the only thing I ever learned at school that was useful). One day Richard turned up at the door. He had already apologised for not turning up to the gig. He was doing a session for Chas and Dave and it had run over. I really couldn’t blame him. He was making money and the band wasn’t. Anyway, Richard had a proposal. Jim Prene who owned a studio (Red Shop Recorders) and Geoff Gurd (producer) had seen the band and wanted to produce us. They wanted to re-do Disco Eddy, use drum machines and fatten out the horn section and bring in session backing singers, ‘make it sound current’ as they said. I loved the old version but what the heck. I had nothing to lose apart from a couple of days work in a typing pool so I said yes.
It was a good couple of days. It felt good working in a studio again. Jim and Geoff were lovely and were doing a great job. They brought in Simon Clarke on Baritone Sax and Roddy Lorimer on Trumpet. Barbara was fine with extending the horn section, but I think Tim was a bit reluctant at first until they all started to play together. The sound was massive and Tim got on really well with Simon and Roddy. That was the first day that what would become Kick Horns played together. Simon and Roddy really liked what we were doing and basically joined the band there and then. Later, Jim and Geoff brought in Gina Foster, an amazing singer who I had worked with before, with Geoff and Andy in a Tamla Motown band (a real one) called the Flirtations. She laid down 16 tracks of backing vocals that sounded like a 60 piece funky choir. OK, the track lacked the raw edge of the original but it was sounding pretty good I have to say. Gina, who had seen the band and liked it, joined that day. Having given up on the band a couple of weeks earlier, we were back together again but there were now nine people. Jesus, nine mouths to feed. How was that going to work? I had no idea, but everyone was keen and as excited as when we first started.
I never thought of myself as a guy who gets a lucky break. The serendipitous event that would change the course of my life was just a fairy story to me until this happened – A guy from Tritec Publishing, who had basically discovered Duran Duran and had got them their deal with EMI, happened to be in the studio a couple of days later and Jim and Geoff were checking their Disco Eddy mix over the big speakers. Duran Duran man – Ian, liked the track big time and literally rang me up and offered me a publishing deal with an advance. Wow. I was bowled over. Not only did I have a publisher and enough money to pay off my overdraft and live on, but he also said he would get the band a deal, no probs, easy. The guy had basically discovered Duran Duran so he could walk into any record company in town and ask for a deal. Which he did. If there ever was an epitome of irony I would say it is this – Ian went to see David Ambrose from EMI and Dave Ambrose signed the band and gave us advanced royalties, which meant the band could finally get paid.
The thing about record companies, big record companies like EMI, is that they like to have control. They think they know better than you: how you should sound, how you should look, how to shape your future, where your audience is Blah blah blah. When Dave first heard Disco Eddy, he immediately said that he wanted us to re-record the track with one of his producers who had worked with Duran Duran. There was no argument. We either did that or it was no deal. I, to my shame, agreed. Geoff and Jim had really gone out of their way, had produced a great track at their own expense, in their own time, and now they were out in the cold. Bugger! Should I have stuck to my principles and just said no? Maybe. But – if I said no everyone would lose. I had nine mouths to feed, for Christ’s sake. But now knowing the need for the hard utilitarian pragmatism to survive didn’t make me feel any better.
Anyway, we all went back to the studio. The producer, I can’t remember his name and even if I did I wouldn’t mention it, was basically a junkie who spent more time jacking up class A behind the mixing console than producing. When he did give us attention his ideas were basically rubbish and the track was sounding awful – overproduced, soaked in AMS reverb. Dave was really angry when he heard it, as much with us as the producer. The upside of that was we managed to talk him round to using Geoff and Jim’s version which he agreed to but he wanted a remix on an SSL desk. The trouble was that the damage had already been done. Even though they said they didn’t, I got the feeling Geoff and Jim basically hated me. I was friends with Geoff before and we had always got on well, but after that, things would never be quite the same between us.
Despite the underlying tension the single was remixed and released. To be honest, it didn’t do that well but it had some good critical acclaim and caused a bit of a splash? Well, at least a plop. And more importantly, Dave Ambrose, after coming down to the Rock Garden and seeing us play live, was very excited by us.
The band was back in Red Shop Recorders demoing tracks for EMI and Tritec. Roddy and Simon had just been working a session and had bumped into Eddi Reader – a session singer at the time who had been working as a backing singer with Eurythmics. They brought her along to Red Shop and I’m not sure how it happened, but she started singing on one of the demos with Gina and basically just joined the band. We were now ten. But at least we had a deal and money to pay people.
Disco Eddy had flopped for the second time, but the ripples from the plop were still out there. I had recently written another song, basically for someone who could sing. It was my first attempt at writing something I would consider a blatant pop song – ‘Away From Heat, Away From the Enemy’. Now having two singers who could actually sing, Gina and Eddi sang lead vocals on the track. Sounded pretty good and Dave was excited about it and released it. Somehow it managed to get into the top 100. It wasn’t a hit but a respectable result, 99 if I remember rightly, for a band that was, in a wider sense, unknown.
Here’s the music
With the help of EMI and Tritec, we started to get exposure: radio play, a couple of articles in the music press, even a couple of TV appearances and radio interviews which I found quite difficult simply because the band that had started as basically a Punk Jazz band was now moving into more commercial territories so anything I had to say about it (roots, influences etc.) was becoming totally irrelevant. That bothered me some. What I initially wanted from the band was recognition for its originality. What I wanted was the freedom to be able to develop as a musician, to create a new genre, to compose without attention to commerciality. OK, I might not be able to join The Miles Davis band, but if I worked hard and stayed true to my roots, I might one day get his respect. (Dream on) But, let’s face it, I had tried that. I had put a band together from scratch, put together some amazing musicians, gone out there in total belief in what I was doing but at the end of the day, it had almost killed me. The stress, the lack of a regular income, debt, the general disrespect to musicians from venue promoters who couldn’t care less as long as they got the door and bar money had totally worn me down. So perhaps there was another root? I could make big money commercially and when I had made a sufficiently big enough pile, I could return to the music I loved and develop without the stress of having to deal with day to day functional reality. Dream on. Pop music isn’t like that. As much as I dislike 99.999% of pop music, I have to say out of respect, that those people believe in what they are doing. Duran Duran was a force to be reckoned with because they had total belief. For them, their music was the height of their expression and lucky for them, it ticked all the boxes. It would be totally arrogant of me to say that entering the world of commercial music, pop music, was dumbing down, but it was definitely about making compromises. And that, ironically, put me at a distinct disadvantage. OK, I decided I would mentally commit myself to this project, wherever it took us but, in reality, I would be an imposter.
Anyway, enough of that. At least the gigs were getting better, in the sense that we were touring, had a real tour bus and roadies, better gear, a budget for clothes and even a stylist. We were recording in the best studios, Psalm West, Wessex, Abbey Road, Trident, Maison Rouge, all costing £1000 per day. I don’t quite know how we did it, but we managed to rack up a £100,000 bill for three tracks. We had also made a video. Today, you can virtually make a band video on your iPhone and put it out there on YouTube. Back then the only way to get it out there was to get plays on MTV. A great video could make a band. Duran Duran was literally spending millions on videos. They had set a precedent for high production value; consequently, the video we made was expensive – a feature film sized camera crew: cameraman, assistant cameraman, focus puller, sound man, catering, a team of runners and a director with his assistant. With only one day to shoot it, we still managed to rack up another £100,000 to add to our debt to EMI which was now running slightly shy of a quarter of a million quid which had to be repaid before we would actually start making money from record sales.
So what. It’ll all work out in the end when we are up there? – hit records, fame, fortune, drugs, throwing tellies out of hotel windows with impunity. A quarter of a million will seem like peanuts, an investment that will yield millions. So who cares? I’m living the dream, am I not? Last week David Bowie nodded as he passed me in a corridor of the EMI building; I got my name on a guest list of a posh West End Club, albeit to fill out the numbers for someone’s Album launch; I sat in a chair in the BBC’s makeup department being plastered with foundation by someone who had never heard of me; I sniffed a line a coke off a Studer multitrack machine in Maison Rouge. That helped. The truth is, I wasn’t living the dream, I was dreaming a life. I was missing the old Out-Bar Squeek. I even missed the rough existence of my peripatetic life in the East Village, that excitement of knowing that something new and original was bubbling up and I was a part of that. I was kidding myself that somehow the new OUT-BAR was still part of that movement. In truth, it was a musical version of NEW LABOUR whose excuse for making compromises was that it was for the greater good and, worst of all, I was Tony F….ng Blair!
Looking back, I should have stopped beating myself up and given myself a bit more credit. Imposter or not, I had landed a major record deal. Nine other people were making a living off the back of it and that, mostly, was down to me.
A year (maybe – can’t remember) had gone by since we had been signed. The advance that had been paying the band’s wages had almost run out and EMI wasn’t about to top it up unless we had some serious success. If I remember rightly, I wasn’t taking wages because I was living off my yearly advance from Tritec publishing which was due and now being back in the land of overdraft, I was relying on it.
We’d had a hard time that year trying to find a producer that we could work with. Things had changed drastically since our beginnings in Abbey Road with John Leckie. It was now the period of the Trevor Horns, who despite having the ability to create a wonderful soundscape, paid only lip service to the character of the bands they were producing. The musicians were sidelined in favour of synthesizer generated bass lines and punchy AKAI drum machines. The more producers we worked with the less the band was being used. This had started to piss everyone off to the point that the members, who had been so dedicated to the success of OUT-BAR were now waning in enthusiasm. Tim, Roddy and Simon were mostly concentrating on getting the Kick Horns out there as a session Horn Section. Andy was totally frustrated because most of the producers were using synths and he was only being used on live gigs. Eddi was feeling frustrated because she wanted to be a solo artist and didn’t think she was getting enough exposure or involvement with songwriting. Unbeknown to me at the time she had started to work with Mark Nevin and form Fairground Attraction. Martin had flown off to the USA to play on the Rolling Stones Album and finished up staying there and working with Diana Ross and Donald Fagin and then came back and joined Sade. We used to say that Martin had a new percussion instrument – a big bag of money.
Despite this, we were still a band and although I could sense the frustration, I can’t remember any bad arguments – just a gentle drifting away. And who can blame anyone? The band had changed out of all recognition to what it once was. As soon as Gina and Eddi had arrived I had been given a serious talking to by the A and R department, who had threatened to chuck the band off the label unless I concentrated on writing for the ‘girls’ – their expression not mine. Also, a band of ten people was giving the publicity department a headache. Having ten people on a record sleeve was confusing. They, and I say ‘they’, decided from then on that Eddi, Gina and myself should be the only ones on the publicity shots. I didn’t like that. Not being that confident in my looks, I felt much more at ease hiding behind a group of musicians rather than parading myself like a male catwalk model. Anyway, after months of grooming by West-End hairdressers and show business stylists, at least I looked the part.
As I said before the music business was changing; EMI was changing. A new head of Music had been appointed. He had been the head of EMI Canada and was sent to London to do a hatchet job and get rid of the deadwood. The story goes that he spent his first day flicking through record sleeves (not even listening to anything) and shouting ‘OUT’ before throwing the ones he didn’t like in the bin. Luckily for us, Dave Ambrose happened to be there to catch our record sleeve that was floating its way, in slow motion, across the A and R department towards the trash can. It was our new single ‘When the Bad Men Come – Hokibo-Sadobo’. I had co-written it with Richard. My first writing collaboration. It had been produced by Dereck Bramble and was sounding like a hit record. Thanks to Dave, after a heated discussion, the new department head agreed to put it out but not until making it clear to me, with fingers under my jacket lapels (I’m serious), that this was our last chance.
‘When the Bad Men Come’ – Hokibo Sadobo
The EMI publicity department had promised to get behind it and so had Tritec’s publicity, but there was a condition. Duran Duran man, Ian, said that Tritec would only get behind the single if I signed a new contract containing a ‘Productivity Clause’. The ‘Productivity Clause’ said that I would only get advanced royalties if I’d had a degree of success – a top 20 hit, in effect, if I didn’t sign they would drop me.
I had no option. As the boss man said, this record was our last chance. Without Tritec’s support it just wouldn’t happen so I signed the contract. There was a real problem here for me. As I mentioned, I was already up to my ears in overdraft – made worse by trying to live up to the lifestyle of a ‘Pop Star’. Now, without my advance, the only way of getting out of debt was by getting a hit record – a top 20 at least. Two weeks later, the bank refused to extend my overdraft and I was basically back to square one.
For some reason, probably because EMI was concentrating on Greatest Hit albums, the release date was put back. I literally had no money. Nothing to live on. Out of desperation I secretly took a job typing/data inputting in Soho. It was the only thing I could get. The office was just around the corner from my publisher in Berwick Street. Soho was also in the centre of the music business. Warner Brothers or Universal (can’t remember) was literally next door to me. This was a real problem. OK, I wasn’t that well known as a public figure but my face had been around the business a bit and I was on chatting terms with some of the executives and members of other bands, so walking into work and bumping into people who knew me and might find out that I was doing a minimum wage day job could be embarrassing. The morning coiffure to keep up the appearance of a successful signed musician was an extra burden I could have well done without. Sitting in posh bars looking at publicity shots and making excuses to leave so that I can get back to the office to make apologies for extending my tea break and promising to make up the time by having no lunch hour was just a regular part of my double life existence.
The single was eventually released and Gina, Eddi and myself had been booked for a nationwide publicity tour giving interviews with the hope that regional radio plays would eventually lead to it being picked up by National stations. I basically had to call in sick to work to be able to do that. To tell you the truth it was awful. Being unknown and walking into those places to do an interview knowing that the DJs, aware of your current non-status in the music industry, had absolutely no interest in you whatsoever and couldn’t wait until it was over so they could play the latest chart-topper and wallow in the sound of their own voice was so demeaning. The tour was exhausting, The schedule just seemed so illogical. We would start at nine o’clock in the morning in, say Birmingham, do an interview and drive all the way up to Newcastle and then finish up in Cardiff on the same day suffering from car lag and DJ inanity overload. And then you would spend the next couple of hours listening to the radio because you had been promised a play on Radio One if, if……..the DJ didn’t run over by talking too much.
I’d like to say that I’d had enough, that I didn’t care anymore whether the single was a hit or not, but I can’t. The radio tour had exhausted me in every way: physically, mentally and spiritually, but I just couldn’t give up yet. I felt like the circus employee who was always complaining about having to clean up elephant sh…t and when asked why he didn’t just quit replies – ‘What, and give up show business?’
Being back in London wasn’t that much better – spending hours listening to radio show after radio show just on the off chance that you would get a play was equally exhausting and stressful especially after a hard day of inputting data. After a week or so no one had picked up on the track. It was dead in the water. But then Bruno Brookes (Radio One DJ) started playing it almost every day. It was moving up the charts, into the top 100. For the next week I was like a punter screaming at the trackside for his horse, that he had put his life savings on, to come in.
Despite Bruno Brookes’ persistence ‘When the Bad Men Come’ wasn’t a hit. Needless to say, despite the minor success, EMI dropped us. My publisher dropped me.
This was the end. There was nowhere else to go. I knew it and so did everyone else.
When you imagine a band splitting up you always think of a dramatic event – arguments, blame gaming, even fist fights. Well, that’s not how it was. By the time the last single was released people were just hanging in there on the off chance. The enthusiasm that was almost frightening at the beginning was now non-existent. Our-Bar had become a day job, a waiting room for something better to come along. As each member drifted away, for a while, they were replaced by other musicians to fill the last few gigging comments, but there was no future. The band had lost its identity – from a roaring lion to a rotting carcass ravaged by the pursuit of fame, compromise, and record industry executive control freaks. Bugger!
Well life goes on as they say, so I can’t leave it here without an epilogue – the bit at the end of the movie before the credits roll up on the screen that tells you what finally happened to all those people who managed to survive the apocalyptic, seismic disaster we call failure. Here we go…….
Martin Ditcham – left for America, initially to play on the Rolling Stones Album, and stayed there for a while recording with Diana Ross and Donald Fagin. After many more months of continual session work he returned to the UK with suitcases full of Dollar bills and spent the next few years working with Sade and then Chris Rea. As well as still being first call session man for just about every artist in the UK he also continues to work on his own creative projects. Trust me – you’ve heard him. He’s amazing.
The Kick Horns – Tim Sanders, Simon Clarke and Roddy Lorimer – there’s not enough room in this whole magazine to list all the Kick Horn’s credits – still remain first call horn section for sessions in the UK and Europe and if you hear a brass section on a hit record it’s probably them. So, here’s just a few credits. Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Dave Gilmore, Baaba Maahl, Pete Townsend, Spice Girls, The Verve, The Who, Erasure. I’m going to stop here before I get carpal tunnel syndrome. Also for anyone looking for material for a horn section master-class you should check out their album ‘The Other Foot’.
Eddi Reader – What can I say. Wow! After leaving Out-Bar Eddi formed Fairground Attraction with Mark Nevin and had two major hits: ‘Perfect’ and ‘Find my Love’ and their Album ‘First of a Million Kisses’ went triple platinum and won two Brit Awards. Eddi went on to have an amazing career as a solo singer and songwriter picking up another Brit Award on the way, two Ivor Novello awards and an MBE. Bloody Hell. Amazing! And, I have to say, her voice is still Awesome.
Andy Herbert – continued playing bass as a session man and stage performer. After a brief interlude of getting a first class degree in Oxford University, he returned to music where he became a top session player and first call Jazz bassist.
Gina Foster – You’ve heard Gina. I can guarantee it – Swing out Sister, Eric Clapton and Sinead O’Connor and on literally hundreds of hit records. She is known in the record industry as one of the most soulful session singers in the UK. As well as being a session singer, she is also an amazing solo artist. Her latest project, Unsung Singers with Tessa Niles – an insight into the world of the session singer – will soon be a mainstream TV documentary.
Barbara Snow – Barbara’s love of Latin music led her to move on to the Jazz and Latin circuit where she toured regularly before forming her own band Que Barbara – love that name. She also became a singer – heard her recently, her voice blew me away – and a composer and has written scores for mainstream television and film projects.
Richard Marcangelo – after a period of session work and becoming a highly respected composer and producer in his own right, he joined Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Playing better than ever, Richard is still in demand as a drummer and percussionist (he plays a mean conga, I can tell you). His credits include: Robert Plant, Afro Celt Sound System, David Gedge’s Cinerama, Eddi Reader, Chris DeBurgh, Desmond Dekker, Mica Paris, Steve Coogan and Gilbert O’Sullivan.
Phew! That was exhausting. I suppose I should say a little about what happened to me as I was the one who started the bloody thing in the first place. Here we go …… As I said before, Out-Bar was dead, a carcass left to decompose on the refuse heap of unfulfilled dreams. I got that, so you might think that I would be left alone to stink and soupify at my own leisure. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. There were still bones to be picked at. (I think I’ve extended this metaphor far enough. I’m sure you get the point). Anyway, I’m being chased by the taxman, re: EMI’s advance and, even worse, the solicitor DXXXX XXXXXXX who, unlike a prostitute, still keeps f…….ing you when you’re dead. DXXXX, despite telling me that he hadn’t got his meter on during our previous meetings at the beginning of our EMI contract, presented me with a four figure bill itemised in six minute time slots. I needed money quick and working in a data input department of a software company in Soho wasn’t cutting it.
I don’t quite know how this happened but I was offered a job on a TV news camera crew as a soundman – you know, the guy with that fluffy thing on the end of a stick. I was told that it could be dangerous and I would have to expect anything – war zones, disasters, riots. I even had training on how to calculate the direction of incoming gun fire so that I could protect myself and my camera man. First rule of being a sound man is that if your cameraman gets shot, you leave him and continue filming on his camera. So, it was either facing DXXXX XXXXXX in debtors court and spending the rest of my life as a bankrupt or spending the next three years being shot at, rambling my way through debris from a third world earthquake disaster, being covered in paint and threatened at knifepoint by poll tax protestors. I decided on the latter.
I suppose why I am telling you this is because after flying back from some godforsaken place, I think it might have been the former Yugoslavia, tired and filthy after spending days on the road without sleep in a shaky old jeep, I returned to the NewsRoom to be told that I couldn’t go home because they were a crew down and had no one to cover the Brit Awards. I turned up there with the crew looking like we had just come out of a war zone – funny that – to see Boris, our first drummer, picking up an award with The Cure AND Eddi running towards me to give me a hug. She was carrying two Brit Awards.
Thank you for reading. If you want to know more, Google me. I’m still out there. James Hesford xxxxxxxxxxxxx
I leave you with a track from our early days before EMI
on the screen it looks so easy: steal a car American with a gun under the dash get chased by motorcycle cops shoot one down take it on the lam à Paris so easy
once there steal another car Cadillac Fleetwood with power hood hit a guy for his wallet rifle a girl’s handbag while she sits half-clothed oblivious then snare that preppy Yankee selling newspapers on the boulevard make it into her bed make it into the headlines
so easy when you have Le Look that trilby those shades
the right knot in your tie tapered jacket silk socks cigarettes lit one from another so easy with jazz on the sound track action in the bars in telephone booths on the street smoky trumpets and smoky cafés
and what of that Yankee girl? the haircut no longer dated but so hip it hurts the Herald Tribune T-shirt tapered trews ballet shoes eyes and lips so now second time around it’s she who takes the eye and ear talking of her need to be free
making-out she’s pregnant: a could-be would-be masquerading as a journalist at the press conference for The Important Writer With The Pork Pie Hat who flirts with her then puts her down shooting an existential line she takes so seriously: am I free? she wonders am I free? well – we shall see….
the Yankee actress who played the Yankee
met her death in Paree
the film made her famous in France
the French actor who played the gangster
said en bas to Hollywood yet the film made him famous in America
the man who directed the film
became famous everywhere
ill d’habite en La Suisse et aussi La France
I don’t know what’s wrong with people.
I don’t know what the hell they want.
They expect me to behave normal,
Even if nothing’s normal.
They advise to subvert my wild dreams;
And I don’t know why the hell I should.
They overlook my pain,
And act like gone through the same.
But check reality.
You’ll find something else. (Something else!)
I don’t know why they even care for me.
After all it’s fake.
No body ever counted the nights-
I’ve spent sleepless or hardly slept.
No body ever knew how many days-
I passed with zero confidence.
But everybody comes everyday,
Gives their appearance,
Speaks in a casual way,
As if the most beautiful day is today.
But how many of them ever asked me-
To live the life of my own way?
None! None have ever taken the step.
Very often they speak of adjustment.
And I wonder how to go with it.
Should I never speak the words that-
Nobody ever wants to hear?
Should I never go to the places that-
Nobody ever wants me to go?
Or is it something else?
Confusion is what I left with;
And I end up with nothingness.
They speak of love but fail to take part.
They speak of honesty but-
Never knew what it means.
Everything they do, they’re asked to do.
Any of them never pushed the boundary;
Never seen the unseen.
My sympathies are with them.
I don’t know what’s wrong with them-
And vice versa.
By, Tiyasha Khanra, Kolkata, India
Illustration Nick Victor
The Charisma Years 1970-1978, Van der Graaf Generator (20 CD/DVD, Virgin box set)
What do you get if you mix the suicidal angst of Sylvia Plath’s poetry, saxophone freakouts by John Coltrane or Roland Kirk, an obsession with the sound and construction of church organs, caterwauling vocals, heavy metal riffing and pounding rock drums? Van der Graaf Generator, of course, one of the best and most extreme progrock bands. Without any elves or new-age mysticism in sight, Van der Graaf offered the listener a monster blend of surrealism, philosophy and musical extremes that teetered on the edge of noise and chaos as it navigated time and key changes, mood swings and musical experiment.
As is the nature of things these days, it is time for a gathering-up and re-assessment to occur. This wonderful new box set contains studio albums, live concerts, radio sessions, studio outtakes and a DVD of TV appearances and promo videos; as well as brand new stereo mixes and high resolution 5.1 versions of four of the studio albums. There’s also a wonderful 68 page full colour book, which is perhaps the highlight of it all, as it offers loads of unseen photographs, comments and a detailed band history.
That’s not to denigrate the music, of course, but I do wonder just how much remastering and remixing albums need? And, to be honest, most of what is here has been available on various official and unofficial CDs for many years, though it is good to finally have ‘The Pawn Hearts Sessions’ with crystal clear sound. It’s interesting, too, to have Peel Sessions, single versions and suchlike appended to the studio albums the tracks appear on; and although I have many bootlegs of live concerts, I don’t have the excellent 1976 Paris gig which is contained on discs 9 and 10 here. Anyway, most people will, I suspect, concentrate on the music contained on discs 1-13 and the DVD disc 20, making this in effect a 14 disc box.
Van der Graaf Generator’s first album, which was actually planned as a Peter Hammill solo album, isn’t on here, but The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other and H To He Who Am The Only One are (discs 1 and 2). They both evidence a band finding their feet, musically and lyrically, with a mix of sci-fi tinged tracks such as ‘After the Flood’ and ‘Pioneers Over C’, and the existential angst of ‘Killer’, an edgy inward-looking riff monster that reflects on the latent violence within us all. Robert Fripp guests to good effect on He To He… but it doesn’t prepare you for the madness that is Pawn Hearts, one of their standout albums.
Pawn Hearts (disc 3) only contains three tracks, but what tracks they are! The first side offers us ‘Lemmings’ and ‘Man Erg’, complex meditations on life and death (and the bits between) but ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’, which originally took up the whole second side of the vinyl album, is the standout here. Assembled in the studio with judicious editing and a generous use of effects and treatments, this is progrock at its finest. No, I have no idea of what it is about, but it’s awesome. The music ebbs and flows, changes suddenly and turns back on itself then heads for the hills. There are wild pounding drums, multitracked saxes, screams and whispers, anthemic keyboards and electronic interludes, not to mention foghorns in the distance and elaborate and evocative wordplay.
The album was originally intended as a double but Charisma pulled the plug on that idea. Some of the unreleased material is on disc 4, again with fantastic sound quality. Pawn Hearts didn’t receive much critical attention at the time, although the Italians loved it and the band became stars over there. But after too much touring and a lot of industry disinterest, Peter Hammill decided he wanted to focus on solo albums and the band were no more until 1975, although they all played on said Hammill solo albums, which at times can sound like band albums anyway (and contain tracks the band sometimes played live). But that’s another box set waiting to happen…
The trio of albums consisting of Godbluff, Still Life and World Record (discs 5, 7 and 8) are often considered the pinnacle of Van der Graaf Generator’s career, but I beg to differ. Still Life, recommended and sold to me by the owner of the record shop in the back room of the greengrocers in Harrow, near where I worked for a while, was my introduction to the band, and it remains my favourite album, along with Pawn Hearts. The other two have never gripped me in the same way, and were a disappointment when I bought them. Godbluff contains a quartet of tracks, and to these ears they all sound rather similar and plod along, trying too hard to be ‘serious’. World Record starts well, with the sprightly ‘When She Comes’, and I quite like ‘Masks’ too, but what was side B is dominated by ‘Meurglys III’ an overlong meandering jam which turns into cod reggae as it nears the two-thirds mark of its almost 21-minute duration. ‘Wondering’, which closes the album is great but I think almost anything would sound good after the preceding track.
But Still Life is glorious. It’s sprightly, uplifting and exploratory. Its five tracks are varied and contrasting, making pilgrimage, revisiting science fiction themes, and considering doubt, faith and love. ‘La Rossa’ is angst and loss epitomised, despair transmuted into lyrical and musical over-the-top profundity. (This theme continues, but in a more pastoral and downbeat musical vein, on Peter Hammill’s post-divorce album Over, which I heartily recommend to any miserable romantics out there.) The title track contemplates the horror of living for ever, relentlessly aging with no end in sight. One of the bonus tracks here on disc 7 is ‘Gog’, a live band version of a Hammill solo album track, and if it doesn’t contain the startling multitracked duetting drums of the original version it is nevertheless one of the most powerful moments in Van der Graaf’s musical history.
The track also appears on discs 9 and 10, which contain a 1976 concert from the Maison de la Mutualité in Paris, with lots of tracks from the trio of 1975/76 albums and a couple of older fan favourites, ‘Killer’ and ‘Man-Erg’. The band offer rough and ready, lively versions of their music here, with the energy pouring off the stage and out of your speakers. ‘Live in Rimini’, back on disc 6, does similar things in 1975 for several Hammill solo tracks along with a pair of tracks from Pawn Hearts and ‘Scorched Earth’ from Godbluff. It’s genuinely alarming to hear these tracks dissected and re-assembled into the lurching Frankenstein’s monsters they become, the band relying on each other to keep up and understand what’s going on at any given moment. I only wish I’d seen this incarnation live. (I have managed to see the reformed 21st century band.)
By the end of 1976 keyboard player Hugh Banton had left the band, and in early 1977 he was followed by saxophonist David Jackson. Punk was happening, too, but Hammill and Van der Graaf seemed to be not included in the progrock hate list at the time; John Lydon and Mark E Smith of the Fall would praise them, whilst some critics saw Hammill’s energetic 1975 album Nadir’s Big Chance, which featured his alter-ego Rikki Nadir playing ‘beefy punk songs, weepy ballads, soul struts’, as a precursor to the whole punk movement.
Rather than try and replace Banton and Jackson, Hammill and drummer Guy Evans invited violinist Graham Smith, from String Driven Thing, to join the band, along with Nic Potter, who had played bass on the first few albums. They also shortened the band’s name to Van der Graaf, and focussed on shorter, punchier songs, which were showcased on The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome, and a single with two non-album tracks (all on disc 11). The band apparently sounded ‘a little too extreme on stage’ (Hammill), and cellist Charles Dickie was added to the line-up. Along with the guest appearance of David Jackson, they would record the final album in this box, Vital (discs 12 nd 13), live at the Marquee in early 1978.
Vital is ear-shatteringly awesome: some of those beefy punk songs and a judicious selection of previous tracks put through the mincer at full volume. Saxes skronk, violin and cello squeal and whine, Hammill shouts, cries, declaims and hectors, Banton beats his drumkit up and percusses wildly, as Nic Potter tries to anchor the whole thing to some kind of pulse. Never have the band been so noisy and so alive, never have they sounded so relevant and dangerous.
It couldn’t be sustained though, as the band were struggling financially, and critical acclaim wasn’t translating into sales. The group split up, with Hammill continuing to release a plethora of solo albums to this day, many featuring band alumni. He would also reform Van der Graaf Generator with Banton, Evans and Jackson in 2004, although Jackson would soon leave for good; the trio have continued to record and play live since.
So, what of the videos? Disc 20, The Video Vaults, gathers up a number of European broadcasts and a couple of Charisma promotional films, including a cleaned-up copy of the stunning Pop Shop version of ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’, recorded live in a Belgian TV studio amongst a forest of candles. I once sat up until 3am to record this to video; now of course it is all over the internet and has been on a couple of questionably legal DVD releases. I also love the 1970 Beat Club footage of the band playing a couple of songs from The Least We Can Do…, and ‘Lost’, ‘Killer’ and ‘Octopus’ from The Bataclan in 1972.
Virgin are to be congratulated for their curating skills and the thoroughness with which they have approached this project. Everything from 1970s Van der Graaf Generator you could want is here in glorious sound quality, along with a bumper book you can read along to the music with. The packaging and design is wonderful too. My only complaint is that I would have liked the lyrics included but I can always pull my LPs out for that. Talking of which, look out for 3-disc editions of four of the individual albums, as well as new vinyl editions, in the future.
Van der Graaf Generator, ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’, Belgian TV, 1972
Van der Graaf Generator, ‘Wondering’, promo film, 1976
Salute the ice interminable.
Delayed, the call echoes across a miasma of downcast matter, afloat, adrift, imagining, impossible.
Extension into dismal eternity of dislocation. Body naked. The book contains useless enigmas of destruction showing no solution, no heartbreaks, no vessel to hold the final glimmer of a soul exhausted by such a struggle.
Downcast the eyes, lost, destroyed in fires of cosmic ice – in the vacuous deeps of their cruelty, imagining one holocaust, enacting another. My own.
In the streets ravaged by alarms, detonations and the crying of orphaned dogs, brittle glances penetrate the shell encasing this luminous thought.
Poet? No more.
Destroyed in a fire which sweeps unchecked. Chequered history of bridges collapsing under their own weight, deprived of sense, reason and any pretext for remembrance.
Obsequies of winged blue shadows infect the aura of sleep.
Delayed the call.
Dislocation my naked soul.
Useless enigma of eternal fire.
Rising up out of the Upper Calder Valley at Hebden Bridge, the steep road and paths up to Heptonstall village can take your breath away. This is on the Calderdale Way which is a local, circular 50-mile path that links into the Pennine Way. But hey, it’s worth the climb! This is a special place, steeped in its own unique history and the ‘stories’ of the local area. It feels like stepping back in time. Superb views too.
. There’s an interesting museum located in the old grammar school building – which has many of the school artefacts left in situ. There are also very interesting exhibits and information boards in particular recounting the history of the Cragg Vale Coiners (counterfeiters who produced fake gold coins, out of ‘shavings’ from real coins, in order to supplement their meagre incomes from agriculture labour and weaving); the co-operative movement; information about the weavers/mills and local battles in the English Civil War.
The Coiners under the brilliantly erratic leadership of King David, were villains with working-class hearts of (real) gold!
Currently, UK filmmaker Shane Meadows of ‘This is England’ fame, is to make his first-ever BBC television drama with Benjamin Myer’s heavily-researched book set mostly in the Calderdale Valley, ‘The Gallows Pole’. It’s being cast with local, Yorkshire, non-experienced young people, and filmed at the moment, to be produced by the UK-Irish company, Element Pictures. They have a very successful track-record in the production of historical dramas including Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’, Andrea Levy’s ‘The Long Song’ and ‘An Officer And A Spy’ by Robert Harris.
The BBC series, to be based on the 2017 novel which won the 2018 Sir Walter Scott Award, is the fictional, but probably true(ish) story of 18th-century ironworker, ‘King’ David Hartley and the Cragg Vale Coiners. It’s a dark, bloody and gruesome tale which follows the counterfeiters’ struggle against oppression and poverty. No heroes exactly, but no simple criminals either. In the late eighteenth century the ‘shaving’ of coins was so wide spread and developed, that it was set to cause the collapse of the English economy. In fact it was potentially the biggest fraud in British history. A map and poster of the Cragg Vale Coiners’ perambulations has been produced by Christopher Goddard. There’s even a vinyl album by ‘The Shining Levels’: https://theshininglevels1.bandcamp.com/album/the-gallows-pole-ost
Organised resistance to oppression from undemocratic government, industrialisation and capitalism is a prominent feature of this whole area of the old West Riding of ‘Jorvikshire’ and beyond. Remember, it was many people from this area who were in the forefront of the 80,000 protestors who marched to Manchester’s St Peter’s Fields in 1819 to fight for democratic political reform, plus, resist cuts to wages and sackings in the mills – action that led to the infamous Peterloo massacre. Mike Leigh’s quite recent film, ‘Peterloo’, features many scenes filmed in locations around the upper Calderdale Valley. It was fun to sit alongside many locals in the Hebden Bridge independent cinema watching the film depicting scenes from what is ‘local history’. I found that film a bit too much of a caricature of the people and issues, yet, it is a portrayal of ‘history’ that contains many echoes of the current demonstrations and protests taking place in the UK and beyond.
Organised resistance to oppression from undemocratic government, industrialisation and capitalism is a prominent feature of this whole area of the old West Riding of ‘Jorvikshire’ and beyond. Remember, it was many people from this area who were in the forefront of the 80,000 protestors who marched to Manchester’s St Peter’s Fields in 1819 to fight for democratic political reform, plus, resist cuts to wages and sackings in the mills – action that led to the infamous Peterloo massacre. Mike Leigh’s quite recent film, ‘Peterloo’, features many scenes filmed in locations around the upper Calderdale Valley. It was fun to sit alongside many locals in the Hebden Bridge independent cinema watching the film depicting scenes from what is ‘local history’. I found that film a bit too much of a caricature of the people and issues, yet, it is a portrayal of ‘history’ that contains many echoes of the current demonstrations and protests taking place in the UK and beyond.
The King was finally laid to rest in the graveyard of Heptonstall’s Thomas a Becket church. If you take time to listen, you can faintly hear the words to the local rhyme to the past generations of coiners and clippers:
“Valley boys clip and valley boys sing, valley boys kneel to none but their king,” and “clip a coin and melt the crown, if a lawman comes knocking, chop him down.”
Mercury Rev – I Keep a Close Watch Serge
Esther Marrow – Things Ain’t Right
Serge Gainsbourg – L’hotel Particulier
Greg Foat – Of My Hands
Les Baxter – Sinnerman
Nat ‘King’ Cole – Nature Boy
James Brown – It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World
Carol King – You’re so Far Away
Boz Scaggs – Lowdown
Tennesse Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons
The Rolling Stones – No Expectations
Theatre West – Children of Tomorrow’s Dreams
Aretha Franklin – Good to Me as I am to You
Led Zeppelin – That’s the Way
Isaac Hayes – (They Long to be) Close to You
The column that Damien Hurst once tried to saw in half
READER: Oh there you are. I’ve been looking all over for you.
MYSELF: I’ve been in Belgium.
READER: Belgium? Oh bad luck!
MYSELF: Bad luck? Which hall of superior sophistication are you residing in, you corked-up, dim-witted Little Englander? Or are you just repeating the half-remembered words of lazy stand up comedians who haven’t even been to Belgium?
READER: Ooh, who’s a bit over-sensitive this morning?
MYSELF: Sorry, I’m allergic to ignorance.
READER: Go on then, name me five famous Belgians.
MYSELF:René Magritte, George Remy (Hergé), Audrey Hepburn, Jaques Brel, Toots Thielmans, Adolph Sax, Leo Hendrik Baekeland, Gerardus Mercator …..shall I go on?
READER: Call those famous? I’ve not heard of any of them.
MYSELF: …….Jean-Claude van Damme?
READER: No! Van Damme? The Muscle from Brussels? Belgian? I’ll get my coat.
Enthusiast with approximately 12,000 vintage Eastern European tram tickets (franked and mounted), wishes to exchange entire collection or will separate, for Chinese porcelain thimbles engraved with Hawaiian sunsets by miniaturist installation artist Bandy Sponk, or any early recordings on the American Kosher Goy label by Bob Pierce & His Talking Dog, backed up by The Torture Chamber Orchestra (conductor: Dame Labia Thrush).
To the disappointment of many readers, this column’s popular ‘agony aunt’ feature Wendy Writes was discontinued recently due to Wendy’s realignment surgery and her subsequent elopement with used car dealer Lily (formerly Frank) Crosby. Good news! Recently, out of the blue, I received a text message from Wendy (now Walter), begging for his job back. He explained that Lily was firmly in the past, that it had all been a tragic misjudgement, and he hoped all was forgiven. Naturally I was delighted, but being cautious, I decided to give him just one letter in this issue, in order to make sure he had lost none of Wendy’s innate cutting-edge wisdom. This enquiry comes from Mrs Dierdre Puce of Upper Dicker:-
Can you recommend a good nasal defoliant? My husband refuses to do anything about the forest of hair clogging up his nose, despite the fact that it’s creeper-like dangling has made the soup course intolerable. Our cleaning lady, Mrs Dungeness, is so frightened by it she has threatened to quit.
Dear Mrs. Puce,
It’s Walter now actually – for the moment anyway. First of all let me say that the very idea of your husband’s nasal follicles polluting the soup tureen is an image I would prefer to exclude from the photo album of my life, and your poor cleaning lady has my deepest sympathy.
Help, however, may be at hand, and curiously it comes from France, where hirsuteness of the orifices has never been considered a social stigma. Top Parisian exfoliation specialists, Eaupuantes, have unveiled a new product, Agent L’Orange, only available online at www.nezpoilu.com, which claims to banish all traces of nasal hair, as well as snoring, and if applied indiscreetly, the nose itself.
CHEESE ‘N CHAIR by HALOUMIOIL
Let’s face it, when you’re out with friends enjoying a nice Greek Meze, nothing poisons the congenial atmosphere more than the chalk-on-blackboard sound of squeaking halloumi cheese. And what about that irritating kitchen chair? The one that makes a noise like a nest of baby mice every time you sit down?
Now it’s time to say goodbye to anti-social culinary squeak misery with new Cheese n’ Chair by Halloumioil. This exciting new product not only eliminates Greek cheese-squeak, but also silences noisy chairs. After applying a few drops of Cheese n’ Chair, you’ll soon be enjoying the luxury of eating Al Greco in total silence.
Listen to this unsolicited endorsement from Mrs. Vera Popacatapetl of Athens: “I’m ecstatic, and it’s all thanks to Halloumioil’s Cheese n’ Chair. I can’t describe the relief of finally being able to dine on silent cheese in a squeak-free environment… 5 stars… Its like two oils in one.
Professor Gordon Thinktank has been ruminating on one of the most pressing sociological concerns of our modern age; bag-based teapot spout blockage. Thinktank’s solution requires the addition of only a few drops of his revolutionary hybrid chemical Spouto developed over several years in the inventor’s Hastings laboratory. He told us: “Although the design of the teapot has changed little since the ancient Greeks first thought of adding a curved spout in order to facilitate accurate pouring, one modern innovation has altered our relationship with the tannin-laced pick-me-up; teabags. Marvellous for making a single cup of tea but not quite up to snuff when it comes to a well attended cup and saucer gathering.”
Choking back tears the professor added: “No self-respecting member of the trades union movement could forget the Tadcaster Teabag Rebellion of 1963, when angry members of Yorkshire’s “Bugger the Baggers ” movement hurled over 11 tonnes of Tetley teabags into Bridlington harbour. These brave protesters failed to turn the tide, and the ubiquitous teabag remains a kitchen staple to this day.”
Thinktank claims that Spouto, properly applied, will free any teapot spout from teabag blockage in a matter of hours, after which tea may be poured with a smooth, free flowing action not dissimilar to that of Niagara Falls in Buffallo, New York.
BOOKS: Footballer’s names for Children Vol XVI, by Reg Trubshaw
Many people wrongly suppose that professional footballers are stupid and barely able to string two clichés together, however I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Footballer’s Names for Children, was written by goalkeeping wizard Reg Trubshaw of Herstmonceaux Cannibals FC, who is currently serving life in a secure institution for biting off an opponent’s ear and eating it.
READER: Life? Today’s namby-pamby pink-booted footballers don’t know they are born! When I was a lad we played soccer underwater, in deep-sea diving suits, with itchy woollen underwear, and lead boots. The referee and linesmen were in a miniature submarine and were heavily armed and the spectators had to hold their breath for 90 minutes plus injury time. On the other hand, it certainly comes to something when an innocent cannibal going about his unlawful business can be banged up indefinitely in Broadmoor.
MYSELF: Thank you for your invaluable interruption, perhaps we can discuss this on another occasion. Meanwhile here are Reg’s top ten footballer’s children’s names:-
So, there I was, quietly minding me own, when there’s a noise outside the door. It takes me by surprise. I open the door and there’s what looks like an old woman crumpled up on my doorstep. When I tells her to clear off ‘cos I don’t know whether she up to date on her vax or not, she starts bawling. Then I had to let her in, because she started making so much racket that someone was going to notice, which would mean I would loose rating. I’m thinking, if this old woman gives me an infection I can graphene the shit out of it, no problem. If she costs me rating, it’ll take me months to to rebuild, and I thought, I’ll be fucked if I’m working extra time for some old bint.
So I gets her in by half dragging and half carrying her. She looks out of place. I’m not used to excess items in my living area. She smelt terrible. I didn’t know human beings could smell like that. She looked proper fucked ‘en all. Definitely never used medi.
Anyways, I pulls her through the door cos of her howling. I tell her to be quiet but she’s not listening. Just crying and crying. I give her some water from my hand cos I don’t want her to touch my bottle. She sucks it up through her toothless mouth. Her whiskers brushing against my hand makes me feel sick. Touching people is not something I do. Ever. She looks up at me, expecting something. I don’t know what. When she’s stopped drinking she crawls away from me, to the corner of the room, curls up and falls asleep. She looks and smells like garbage. I think I should put her in a sack and throw her out, but the thought of the noise stops me.
I spend the night working, like every night and, in the morning the woman wakes up. I switch to room mode and see that she’s looking at me. She asks me for food by putting her fingers to her mouth. I reach over and put a few snacks on the floor in front of her. I turn away as she eats. Putting music on to hide the noise of her sucking gums. I switch back to work mode to tidy up before signing out. I twist my chair round to look at the her, hoping she wants to leave.
Perking up a bit, she starts talking. ‘Listen’, she says, in perfect English, like she’s spoken it her whole life. ‘I need to tell you something. A story’. I sigh and mutter under my breath. ‘It’s important’, she says. I ask her who it’s important to. ‘Please’, she says, ‘let me just tell you’. Then she asks if I can record it so I can share it. I said not fucking likely, my ratings gonna to be smashed in already just with her being here, let alone me sharing a fucking story. I tell her she’s in the wrong place. She says she can’t go anywhere else, so I’ll have to do. That makes me feel really good. At least we are both unhappy about the situation. Anyway, she insists and I want her gone, quick as, so I agree. I’ll record her story and tell it to someone else if she agrees to go away. It better not be a long story neither. I want to go to sleep.
She sits up with her back against the corner. I notice she is leaving a mark on the wall. This annoys me. I tell her to lean forward. She says she can’t. It hurts. I sigh and sit back down. I tell her I’m not interested in stories. She says that’s not her problem. I switch on record mode and tell her to get on with it.
She begins her story. I keep telling her to hurry up, but she just ignores me. Droning on about the past like it means something. At one point I even fuck off for a bit and leave it recording. When I got back she’s still going on. I’m not going to tell you the whole story. It’s boring and to be honest, I can’t be bothered.
I was brought up to believe that if you say you’re gonna do something, you fucking do it. So here’s the story as told to me, by the smelly, un-vaxed, un-med, toothless, whiskery, probably unchipped, soon to be forgotten, woman, who came knocking at the door.
Sixty years ago, there was a parliament in what used to be London. This parliament pretended to look after the people but it’s real function was to protect those in charge. (Don’t ask me, I’m only telling you). In that parliament, this woman worked for a department who’s job it was to recognise and neutralise threats. It was her job to sweet talk anybody who found themselves with enough wealth to influence society, that the best thing they could do was go to space and start again.
Anyway, turns out she weren’t very good at her job, ‘cos one of those minted types lied to her and did the dirty on parliament. Without telling no one, once they had control of manufacturing and the media. They bought the power stations and invested in housing. Bought up the farms and the super markets, took control of food. Took over the banks and wrote off everybody’s debt. Then they started giving people money for nuffin’, which meant people stopped doing jobs they din’ wanna to do. It din’ take long for the monarchy to come over to their side and, with them the military. They made deals with other countries over the money that could be made if they all got on. Parliament became less and less significant, and finally didn’t mean nuffin’. London became a ghost town because nobody needed to skivvy and the posh lot either joined in or, like the old woman, had to crawl off and do the best they could for ‘emselves, living on the scraps. Her and her mates ended up in an underground tunnel where she lived until the other other day, when she knew she was going to die and needed to tell someone what had happened.
I told her I shouldn’t think anyone cared, at which point she got up and left. I hope nobody saw her leave. It wouldn’t do to have someone gabbing on about me having someone round when I’m in work mode. Science fiction flicks are full of stories of people’s lives being turned upside down by strangers knocking on their door. Thankfully, I’m not one of them. Silly old cow.
Another girl-group singing acapella?
They sipped their milkshakes laughing –
In a booth at Happy Sundaes Their taste of fame still seemed distinctly distant
Perhaps you can recall that pleasant plateau
Before the rumours of their split went viral –
Before they gave as one reply ‘We’re passionate about our separate projects…’
Solo albums surfaced –
All variation in world literature
Became the jealous province of one isolated muse
We had taken their concord for granted –
Lyrical lovers locked
In Cupid’s florist shop gave way
To industrial blue-grey
Power Suits of Academia
The study of English Literature
By custodians who count each syllable –
Yet cannot sing themselves
Having subdued ‘the natives’
Quite to his satisfaction
And dreaming of an imminent promotion
He mistook a sleeping lion for a sand dune
Delivering one QUICK KICK
So hard his sandal sailed into the air…
This prevented running very far…
An obstacle placed squarely in your path
As picaresque disturbance on your journey
Is better accepted surely
Than to elevate your status prematurely
Above all-guiding Providence
The column which is proud to be a vital ingredient in the casserole of confusion.
MYSELF: I received one of those bafflingly modern text messages the other day, which contained no vowels. The worst thing is, it was from a Hawaiian friend of mine so some of the words don’t even appear at all. READER: OMG! LOL! Your like so old school. Vowels are soLST YR. Don’t you realise that ppl thse dys lead bsy lives?
MYSELF: I give up. What sort of person imagines this sort of nonsense actually saves time, when it takes the recipient of their ‘msg’ half an hour to figure out WTF they are talking about?
READER: Un42n8ly, as fr as grmmr n spllng is cnsrnd, its bcmng obvs tht mst ppl jst dn’t hv the bay6.
UP THE ARTS
Edgy conceptualist artist Bandy Sponk has a new show at the Upper Dicker Polygon the new Mecca for the arts in the South East. His latest exhibition Back to Mono explores all of Van Gogh’s post ear-amputation work via the medium of wallpaper paste. “In order to fully become immersed in the experience,” he told me, “anyone attending the show will be asked to wear an industrial strength noise-cancelling plug in one of their ears.”
Speaking of mediums, World of Pane the popular Psychic Healing & Window Cleaning company, would like their customers to know that from late autumn it will be branching out into paranormal landscape gardening, specialising in psycho-kinetic topiary.
“It all started when a friend asked me to prune his splendid box hedge (buxus sempervirens) in the style of Mount Rushmore,” managing director Bob Tarot explained, “so when I decided to shape it, using spontaneous psycho-kinesis, into the heads of former British Prime Ministers, I immediately spotted a gap in the market.”
World of Pane is yet to set a charging scale for the service. “The price will be determined by economic factors and the amount of mental effort involved in producing the work,” said Tarot. “Should you opt for the head of former British Prime Minister William Gladstone for example, we would have to charge a small premium. This is partly due to his enormous nose but also because his spiritual apparition is often accompanied by the overpowering scent of lilacs, which not only interferes with psychic vibrations but raises all sorts of public liability problems.”
AR, THINGS WUZ DIFFERENT IN THEM DAYS
I was rummaging through a job lot of old cassette tapes I’d bought in Oxfam, when I came across this tiny fragment of an episode of The Archers recorded in the 1970s. My, how times change!
ARCHERS THEME FADES TO FARMYARD NOISES. A TRACTOR APPROACHES. IT STOPS AND THE ENGINE IS TURNED OFF.
TOM: Come on, there’s no-one about, let’s get in the back seat and make love
GWEN: There ain’t no back seat in a tractor Tom.
TOM: Oh bugger so there ain’t. Well let’s do it in the plough then.
GWEN: But Tom we can’t….we’renot married.
TOM: I know that mum!
MUSIC: ARCHERS THEME FADES IN SLOWLY UNDER FARMYARD NOISES
MUSIC: (full volume) Dander dander dander dan, dander dander dan-dan….
Your letters to wildlife correspondent Ellie Fünz Lively discussion continues and opinions remain divided on what or whom is responsible for the dwindling population of our native red squirrels.
During the first world war, with many of our brave lads fighting at the front, there was a shortage of featherweight boxers, and red squirrels were often used instead. Owing to their short stature, they often perished during round one, either by being trodden on by the referee, or torn to pieces by the angry crowd, who had paid their 30 shillings (£7,000 in today’s money), in the mistaken belief that they were about to witness slightly-built men kicking lumps out of each other. I believe this to be the true reason for the red squirrel’s demise, and not, as some have suggested, alien abduction.
Paul “Battler” Hastings
Ward 34, Cranium House, Lalaland
Dear Ms Fünz
I believe your recent correspondent Lawrence Smeck, who suggested that one solution to the red/grey squirrel imbalance would be to dye all the grey squirrels red, to be totally barking (up the wrong tree). The size of the UK’s grey squirrel population alone would render this operation logistically untenable. A far better idea would be to dye the few remaining red ones grey. The Rev Mortimer J Axlotl
The Holy Jesus Church of Religious Intolerence
Brilliant Hastings inventor Gordon Thinktank has come up with a radical solution to his home town’s urban seagull crisis. He proposes that the entire population of aggressive herring gulls be replaced with owls.
“Owls are like vampires and will only come out at night” explained the professor as we sipped cocktails in his secret laboratory, “The public are rightly fed up with having their takeaway meals whipped away by voracious dive-bombing seabirds. Unless fast food outlets suddenly begin to offer mice or other small nocturnal rodents as convenient snacks, the act of replacing the gulls with owls will resolve the whole problem of airborne food-snaffling at a stroke.”
When I asked the inventor to explain exactly how he intended to accomplish this mammoth sub-species swap, he smiled enigmatically, opened a drawer in his desk and with a twinkle in his eye proudly indicated the five delightfully cute golden Labrador puppies snuggling within. As I gazed at the adorable furry bundle, a tiny spontaneous tear of joy abseiled slowly down my face. When I eventually looked up, he was gone.
grew in the garden
Bleeding my hand
with each bouquet
The suns rose & descended
sky blue & grey & black
No moons were necessary
in the geometrical formula
Hemlock grew tall & unharvested
when I gathered from the quince
Nile waters cut through levees
doubts & dams & droughts
All these I scribed when I learned
the conjunctive verbs of dreaming
I entered the life I’d created
then immediately lost my way
she said, traversing graffitied subways
past the demolished library
to areas of sub-standard housing
where tourists never venture
is this my pavement? my road?
is the shopping mall mine
patrolled by big men in uniform
topping up their Universal Credit?
is it OK to window-shop?
I open my purse, it’s full of oysters
not a single pearl
I look at google maps
not a single straight path
past the retail parks
& railway sidings
of small-time crooks
drunks & dead-beats
of TV talent shows
& sad-eyed academics
on minimum wage
o where is mine countrie?
it cometh forth like a flower
& is cut down, & where
where, she asked are
the houses built for
sustenance & not for profit?
the life I created isn’t mine
I have to build it
from discarded words
& sentences that make sense
only to twisted minds
tongue-tied, I sing
a memory-lapse series of moments
rained-on turf soaked in grief
visions of Albion
Sunderland’s sad factories
& heritage museums
I ask what use is the past
if it doesn’t remind us
of all those
who’ve laboured in it?
I hum the tunes to adverts
& list the products I like
feature-rich & discounted
o lead me to endangered orchids
in the oakwoods of Derbyshire
show me dog walkers
& litter bins
imbued with transience
& an otherworldly light
& let the new-made Sun
spill over this world
old & ruined as it is
I need a soft scoop
of something sweet
a multi-vocal harmony
interrupted by adverts
a splash of colour
on a high-resolution sky
manganese water mixable
what’s on the news?
the death of a duke
anything else? no
is your life
full of the world
as you imagine it? no
do you wish for…? yes, grass
shaken by the wind
& the big trees across the park
to dance their stately dance
& birds to be buffeted
I want to sleep the sleep
of sandpipers, one eye
always open to the world
dreams illuminated by a real Sun
I want to switch off
the TV & lie
with Night draped
over my shoulders
keeping me warm
with its invisible light
open to quantum effects
& warped time
in which buskers get rich
though the coffee is cold
& the day
turns dark early
set on fire by clouds
Take a beaker filled with clean water, add salt
Until your water fogs (it’s early yet as he sips his first coffee thinking “three’s an odd number, got a foot in both camps”) next apply gentle heat,
Add more salt (chews a dunked biscuit, smells washing day, fresh baked bread, Grandad in his coffin) go way past saturation point then turn off
The heat, let the mix cool, see how it stays clear
(staring down at the table top he sees a rhythm in the grain) wait a moment then tap the glass
Gently (he lay full length ear pressed to the bedroom carpet itching his face as he hears muffled anger from downstairs) and a single
Crystal will form seemingly out of nowhere,
(he’s sliding weightless down that twisted rope ladder to the place where all poems begin) shatters the beaker (picking up his pen, he begins…)
Alan Dearling takes us on a slightly damp tour of some London music and arts events as post-Covid activities re-activate.
After my first weeks of post-English Covid ‘Freedom Day’ in Yorkshire, I found myself heading down to London, via Scotland, to take photos and review a big indoor gig with Eat Static, Zion Train, Chris Tofu and others at Brixton Electric. Alas, it was not to be. It was cancelled late on, presumably over Covid entry restrictions. So, personally, I had to bite the bullet, and I still went by train and buses from the Scottish borderlands to North London to stay with good friends in Crouch End. It felt a long time since my last visitation. Indeed, it had been a long gap since the London Re-Mixed indoor festival at the very beginning of 2020.
Wandering around a soggy London, on-off rain and sunny bits, it was interesting to see London emerging into the new world of ‘living with Covid’. Pubs with virtually no masks, but still face-coverings mandatory on public transport. Signs of poverty and homelessness on the streets. People bustling about their business, but a slightly edgy wariness.
My first indoor London event was an album launch for the Snakeoil Rattlers at the iconic, Hope and Anchor pub in London’s Islington Upper Street. A legendary downstairs’ stage, the site of many famous sets from pub bands, punk gigs, blues, country and more.
The sound quality for a short solo intro by the Snakeoil Rattlers’ front man, Barry Warren, was great. Clear and sweet. Not so, for the ramshackle, but loveable rock ‘n’ rollers in support, The Shangrilads. It was even louder and muddier for the Snakeoil Rattlers. They were previewing ‘Backwater’ their new album. We got to hear some fine lap-steel guitar, but the words were lost in a sonic murk. The Snakeoil Rattlers are purveyors of swampy, bluesy-rock Americana. Songs full of ‘stories’ of life on the road, in bars, brawls and drug and alcohol fuelled ‘experiences’. The sound quality was disappointing for both bands as they seem to be a really nice bunch of lads. Here’s the link to the Rattlers’ website and to the Bandcamp page: http://www.snakeoilrattlers.co.uk/
A pic of the Snakeoil Rattlers, and one of Barry Warren.
And a pic of the Shangrilads.
ZooNation at the Southbank
Oooodles more precipitation down at Southbank. Outside events – arts, music and dance were forced indoors. It ain’t the same vibe, but ZooNation Dance Company did their level-best to energise a youthful workshop group onto an improvised dance-floor. ZooNation are a well-known dance collective, part of the Katie Prince Company, which uses story-telling, music and dance to enable young people to become more creative.
Sunday afternoon – street food and craft drink stalls, plus live music all centred around the terrace at the ‘Palace’. A good size, revolving crowd of punters and performers braving some pretty abrupt and sudden rain-bursts. Smiling people, dancing people, people on their own personal missions to shake-off the shackles of Covid.
Heavy Beat Brass Band
From Birmingham, this is a marching band and a human entertainment machine. They offered musical slices of authentic vibes of New Orleans to the crowds in North London. Lively, youthful and fun!
Country-tinged music, but at times accompanied by a pulsating, driving beat. During their second set, they upped the tempo, capturing much more attention and even got a fair few among the crowd up and dancing. They were showcasing many tracks from their recorded output.
For many, the ‘heroes’ of the afternoon, the ‘star attraction’ with that extra ‘z’ or ‘x’ factor, were: The Third and last remaining London Elvis, and his two dancing friends. Memorable! As my mate Tony remarked, “I want to find their Care Home, and go and join them!”
A revolutionary and powerful speech from musician and Pink Floyd band member Roger Waters on challenging authority and societal change. This is not a drill. “We are all brothers and sisters under the skin and above it . . . it’s super important that we stop lobbing bombs over the top of the wall and start trying to dismantle it, so that we can say ‘hi’ to whoever is on the other side, whether the divide is religious or nationalistic or politic or economic.”
Following my first appearance as one of the Siamese children in ‘The King and I’ in my local operatic society production at the age of seven, I was chosen to play Jerome (son to Emile de Becque) in ‘South Pacific’, so watching Chichester Festival Theatre’s revival production brought back many fond memories. Mine, being an amateur production, was rehearsed over a period of six months, and I attended every rehearsal. I loved the show, the music, the drama, and the wonderfully defined characters, albeit some of them slightly caricatured both in the writing and interpretation. All these years later, to watch the streaming version on my TV at home was a treat I was looking forward to.
The audience were masked, as were any of the cast who wandered amongst them, and although there was little social distancing on stage, there was still a sense of a company fighting the odds to come up with a production which main strength is ensemble playing. A beautifully staged show by Daniel Evans and choreographer Ann Yee presents a ‘South Pacific’ that is low on individual glory but high on accolades for a hard-working, well drilled ensemble. A company of performers working to one common goal, a contemporary vision of a very controversial storyline from yesteryear.
Controversy aside, my everlasting memories of the show are threefold: the wonderful love story between the Frenchman (Emile) and the American cockeyed optimist (Nellie Forbush), the tragedy of Bloody Mary’s daughter, Liat, and Lieutenant Cable’s relationship, and the comedic relief from the likes of Seabee sailors Luther Billis and henchman Stewpot. Two out of three succeeded here. One, Julian Ovendon’s (Emile) renditions of ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘This Nearly Was Mine’ sent shivers down my spine, as did Rob Houchen’s (Cable) poignant ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’. The missing element was the light relief. Keir Charles as Luther Billis just didn’t capture the essence of fun required, nor was his singing voice up to the challenge of ‘There Is Nothing Like A Dame’, sadly, one of the disappointments of the show. Fortunately, Nellie (Gina Beck) and the female ensemble make up for it with their ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’, which gets a well-deserved encore.
Like many musicals, it is a show of two halves. With most of the hit songs in Act One and following a fun opening to Act Two (‘Honey Bun’) – again a misjudged drag from Keir Charles (where was the coconut shell bra, I ask?), we enter the drama and dangers of wartime romance. The difficult change of locations is wonderfully achieved, and the controversial acts of prejudice not shied away from but played with a true sense of the now. Bravo to all who contributed to the artistic and dramatic success of this Final Act, not least to the wonderful sounds coming from the orchestra above us. So much of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical score unfolds to tell the story through the music alone and it is then we truly begin to feel the emotion, passion, and power of two of the greatest musical theatre writers of all time. The show receives a standing ovation – for the cast, and for R&H.
(I’M NOT YOUR) STEPPIN’ STONE PUNK HISTORY BELONGS TO US ALL. IT IS A HISTORY OF INDIVIDUALISM AND THE SENSE THAT WE HAVE THE POWER AND WHEN WE USE THAT POWER WE CAN CREATE A BETTER WORLD.
IT’S NOT THE HISTORY OF THE OPPORTUNIST OR THE NARCISSIST, ALTHOUGH THEY DO FIGURE IN IT. IT IS NOT THE HISTORY OF THE HOLLYWOOD-STYLE HERO MAKING A STAND, CHANGING THE WORLD AND LEAVING THE MEEK TO BOW AND SCRAPE IN THEIR WAKE.
IF YOU LIVED IT YOU WERE AS BIG A PART OF IT AS ANYONE ELSE AND DON’T BE TOLD ANY DIFFERENT. OUR CONTRIBUTION DOESN’T SEEK TO ATTACK INDIVIDUALS BUT IT DOES SEEK TO ATTACK THE NOTION THAT WE SHOULD EXALT LEADERS AND FIGUREHEADS. PUNK HISTORY BELONGS TO US ALL AND I FOR ONE AM NOT YOUR STEPPIN’ STONE…
Performed by ARSE Petesy Burns
– vocals Jim Gilmore
– guitar and backing vocals Martin Lenane
– bass and backing vocals Donal McCann
– drums and backing vocals.
Recorded and mixed in Attic Studios Belfast by Jamie Wilson, October 2018 Produced by Petesy Burns Executive producer: Colin Harper Mastered on Skye by Denis Blackham Video by Mark Case at Busted Flush Productions Available for download on iTunes and all the usual places
Larkin Poe and Nu Deco Ensemble: ‘Paint the Roses’
A class-act. This female country-blues duo exude skill, charm and an increasing amount of light and shade in their musical output. In the past, they’ve appeared a bit manufactured in that North American way of things. Now, I think there’s more edge. A rougher, gutsier, blues feel and sound, some real lived-along-the-roadsides. Still plenty of sweetness and light too. Catchy tunes, melodies and an almost telepathic harmonising. Sisters, Rebecca and Megan Lovell are archetypal singer/songwriters, multi-instrumentalists have been honed by their southern US heritage. Originally from Atlanta, they are currently living in Nashville. And, just for the record, one should note that they are descendants of the tortured artist and creative genius Edgar Allan Poe. The album, with the sisters collaborating with Nu Deco, is a new departure in terms of texture and sounds. I prefer them at their rowdier, but, I reckon that it’s worth checking out.
Here’s ‘Every Bird the Flies’ from the new, live concert album:
‘Straight Outta Caledonia’, is apparently the first commercially available Jackie Leven ‘Greatest Hits’ album. I have well over a dozen of his solo albums, starting with ‘Control’, when he called himself John St. Field, plus some of his output from the punky, Doll By Doll. For me, he was a Scots’ ‘institution’ along with Michael Marra. Ian Rankin totally agrees and has been instrumental in supporting the legacy of Jackie Leven and his music. Jackie was a wordsmith, raconteur, a troubadour, a poet and bard for, and of, the people. Acerbic, he could be a tad rude, and sometimes pissed. The kind of loveable rogue that you wanted as a companion on the road or a long pub crawl. The album is a compilation recently selected for release by Night School out on CD & black vinyl and on its Archival label ‘School Daze’ via Bandcamp. It must have been a hard call, as to what to leave off, as well as what to include. To give a flavour of the guy, who provided so many ‘fairytales for hard men’, here’s a video link to Jackie, ‘My Philosophy’ from Rockpalast in 2004:
I’ve always savoured and enjoyed my sorties into modern jazz, especially when its music is shredded through a musical blender. This new longish EP – same length as some LPs back in the 1960s, is fun, experimental and witty. The NJE musicians are seasoned pros, with Terry Edwards on horns, who has worked with the likes of PJ Harvey; Mark Bedford, multiple electronica (Madness et al.) and Simon Charterton on percussion (I think), has worked with Alex Harvey ‘back in the day’. ‘Spirit of Indo’ kicks off the album with a loose, multi-textured jam. Its hypnotic, sparse and at times filled with squalls of sound. Bowie’s ‘Five years’ is re-imagined with a mournful, almost melodica/harmonium sound.
The title track, ‘Nought to 60’ reminded me of the repetitive, drug-fuelled Nik Turner (originally of Hawkwind) arriving on the musical station platform. A mash-up of sax, beats and speed-freakery. Odd, but satisfying on its own terms.
More mid-period, ‘Bobness’. From the blurb, we learn that this is the latest chapter in Columbia/Legacy’s highly acclaimed Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. It revisits an often-forgotten, rather reviled period vein in Dylan’s vast and complex catalogue. Again, to quote the promo-blurb: “In the early 1980s, while the music industry was grappling with the arrival of new trends and technology, from MTV to compact discs to digital recording, Bob Dylan was writing and recording new songs for a new decade, creating an essential new chapter in his studio catalogue.”
These are: Bob Dylan’s ‘Shot Of Love’, ‘Infidels’, and ‘Empire Burlesque’. The new double album is provocatively crammed with previously unreleased outtakes, alternate takes, rehearsal recordings, live performances and more. Here are some samples.
I’ve only heard and watched samples as yet, but it does look like a ‘must have’ for Dylan fans.
My good friend, Sam, and her partner, Frank are travelling still. Have done so throughout the Covid lockdowns and for well before. They travel in their live-in vehicle. Many places, people met, experiences lived.
Their music has been evolving in their recent ‘travelling days’. It feels ‘old-timey’, redolent of campfires, the ‘old days and the old ways’. See what you think. I particularly enjoyed this track:
Oldtimer in an Old Hymer Motorhome
It started with a closed cell insulation, condensation conversation
Butane pipe for propane, it all got somewhat deeper
Said an oldtimer in an old Hymer motorhome
I was stuck in a rut, driven to the booze
By the job I hated, I was so afraid to lose
Said an oldtimer in an old Hymer motorhome
They want to communicate with a new and future audience. It ain’t about money. It’s about getting noticed, getting heard. Here’s what they say about it:
“Hey Bandcamp followers! Long time no see or speak! Here is our second album for your listening pleasure. Please do let us know what you think! Don’t forget to check out our website for new videos and pictures! Lots of love, Sam and Frank aka Undying Heads xxx”
Nepalese poet, Bhuwan Thapaliya is the author of four poetry collections. Bhuwan Thapaliya’s books are Safa Tempo: Poems New and Selected (Nirala Publications, New Delhi), Our Nepal, Our Pride (Cyberwit.net, Allahabad), Rhythm of the Heart( Lulu Publication) and Verses from the Himalayas. Thapaliya has read his poetry and attended seminars in venues around the world, including South Korea, the United States, Thailand, Cambodia, and Nepal. His poems have been widely published in leading literary journals, newspapers and periodicals such as Kritya, Pandemic Magazine, The Foundling Review, Strong Verse, International Times, Countercurrents.org, myrepublica , The Kashmir Pulse, Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Life and Times, Ponder Savant, VOICES( Education Project), Longfellow Literary Project, Poets Against the War etc. His poetries have also been published in the CD’s and Books such as The New Pleiades Anthology of Poetry (ISBN 1- 878431-52- 8) , Tonight: An Anthology of World Love Poetry (The Poets Printery, East London, South Africa,2008, pp.118, Paperback, ISBN 0-620-41372-7), The Strand Book of International Poets 2010 , of Nepalese Clay, Pratik and in many more.
Despite drought, despite burning
restrictions, against advice to the contrary,
I clip the gauzy nursery of the tent
caterpillars from the black walnut branch,
rush it to the back yard fire pit,
torch the swaddling of newspaper
I’ve wrapped it in and watch its whitish
envelope melt and crisp in the flames,
watch with an enflamed part of myself
the inch-long baby caterpillars
squirming to escape the heat until
the fire utterly consumes them.
Later I ask myself why
the outsized rage at the sight
of a single infested branch. Google
advises drowning them in soapy water.
Why wasn’t that enough? I remember
caterpillars falling on my head in boyhood
summers, the revulsion, in truth the fear.
And here it has returned, infesting me
again, a shadowy crawling beneath
my cobwebby justification for the same
reckless arrogance smudging our air
from forests burning a half-continent away.
before streaming, people had
upright pianos in their front room, no-one
has space for a front room piano any more
except Elton John, he has a big white room
just devoted to that one white grand piano,
overlooking the lawn where his peacocks strut,
and there was a time, I’m now free to confide,
when I was paid to clean and polish that piano,
it constituted my fulltime employment role
and I took my duties as Elton John’s
piano-polisher very seriously indeed,
I would clean the white keys one day
then the black keys on alternate days,
stooping low to polish each claw-leg in turn
allowing no speck of dust to sully the high-gloss
sheen of that immaculate well-tuned Steinway,
I was proud to be the Rocket Man’s piano-polisher
proud to play such a very small part in Elton’s career,
but, I hear you ask, why did the sun have to come down
on such fulfilling employment? come close, I’ll tell you,
it wasn’t the polishing I objected to, it wasn’t the
white keys or the black keys, no, it was having to
wear the French Maid’s outfit while wielding the
feather-duster when I was polishing that finally brought
my career as Elton John’s piano-polisher to a close…
Do not underestimate the mind bending power it takes to get ordinary folk to embrace the notion “You will own nothing and you will be happy”.
If anyone says to you “the weather extremes are a sure sign of global warming”, it’s because they take this information directly from the media and assume it to be fact.
The media get it from government – or government ‘expert advisors’. The ‘expert advisors’ get it from a computer modelling exercise (e.g. Imperial College London).
The computer modelling exercise gets it from a large financial incentive offered by the corporate conglomerate and bought-out government, with the explicit instruction to produce a result which fills the needs of their combined political goals. In this case, to magic-up ‘scientific proof’ that global warming is real.
The need to have ‘proof’ that this invention is real is arrived at in spite of the fact that global warming’s main proponents know that the idea was dreamed-up at the Club of Rome in 1972 under a widely publicised treatise with the catchy title ‘Limits to Growth’. It gained a further boost from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, when the infamous Agenda 21 was launched to impose largely irrational environmental constrictions as a forerunner to the highly discriminating ‘carbon taxes’ in operation today.
Limits to Growth might have appealed to those who oppose neo-liberal capitalist insistence on the necessity for a ‘permanent growth’ economy; but the real intent behind those words is the conditioning of the receiver to take a self imposed pseudo-sacrificial attitude about ‘limitation’.
Ergo, limiting one’s self for the sake of a ‘higher cause’ – saving the natural environment from Global Warming!
This form of ‘austerity-conditioning’ becomes the perfect precept for encouraging naturally concerned citizens to not just embrace cutting back the typical material excesses of their lives, but ultimately the pseudo-saintly renunciation of all material interests. The ghoulish plan behind Klaus Schwab’s quasi religious Sermon from the Mount WEF
“You will own nothing and you will be happy”.
Schwab’s psycho-social engineering ‘deep mind experts’ having planned-out the precise stepping stones necessary for a ‘check-mate’ seamless handing-over of all private wealth to the insatiably materialistic elite masters of deception. A thoroughly odious yet quite brilliant sleight of hand.
The great ‘Global Warming’ alarm was raised as a calculated way for leading industrialists, bankers and royalty to ensure their future as the premier influencers and controllers of global affairs.
Blanket controlled media indoctrination, using rampant fear mongering as its key component, is designed to convert public sentiment to the cause. The elite industrialist club know full well that ‘fear’ makes desperate people turn to their perceived leaders to protect them – and tell them what to do. The historial precedent for this is ubiquitous.
The notion that the climate was dangerously warming had no scientific evidence to back it up. That was cooked-up later under the auspices of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC).
It is more than unfortunate that the great majority of green oriented NGO’s also swallowed the bait and, being by then mostly well funded by corporate backed governments, took the money, closed their eyes and minds – and jumped on board – thus embracing the deadly distortion of their original green commitments.
It is now the turn of Klaus Schwab (director of World Economic Forum) to take up the reins handed down to him by earlier representatives of the small but powerful elite that runs planetary affairs via such puppet heads of state as Bush, Cheney, Blair – and other aspiring despots of that time.
Schwab’s job is to ensure that ‘stop global warming’ goals are fully implemented through the channels of The Green New Deal, Great Reset, Fourth Industrial Revolution, Zero Carbon agenda. He must get this fake-green ball firmly rolling down the road especially designed for it by highly paid technocrats, whose particular bent is to create an ‘inventory of everything’ to make possible the control of all aspects of life on Earth.
These techno’s view the management of the world as an exercise in accounting. A sterile reductionist mind-set closely linked to robotics and the notion that advanced mechanisation and calculation is superior to the creativity of the human mind. Hence the WEF’s announcement of the forthcoming ‘Internet of Everything’, the 5G powered Smart City surveillance and control grid which forms the centrepiece of The Great Reset agenda.
An agenda that has been specifically positioned under the title ‘green’- a name stolen from the original ecology movement of the 1970’s and 80’s, whose ethos was – and remains – the promotion of a human scale, light footprint ‘people’s ecology’. An authentic vision that bears no resemblance whatsoever to today’s gigantic corporate led Fourth Industrial Revolution, held up by the WEF masters of deception to be the only solution for ‘greening the planet’.
What it actually is, of course, is a wholesale corporate/cabal grab for the control of the world’s primary resources and money supply. The word ‘green’ could hardly have been more butchered.
So with this fake green ideology now at the forefront of the central control global planning elite’s blueprint for a brave new world, the drive is on to utilise every opportunity possible to enforce conditions that constrict mankind’s behaviour patterns to fit the cunningly concocted demands of ‘preventing global warming’. The great Club of Rome scare story, designed specifically to leave a frightened and confused public completely dependent upon the technocrat ‘experts’ coming up with a ‘life saving solution’ to prevent the planet from frying.
Now, ‘the life saving solution’ to the fictional ‘problem’ the technocrats came up with, has to fulfil the hard-wired goals of this small but very powerful elite that forms the shadow government of the planet. A despotic cabal whose intention is to master-mind the future according to a darkly inflated sense of self importance and superiority over the rest of humanity.
The first thing needed to smooth the way for the unfettered display of such rampant megalomania is to ensure the least possible public resistance. Least resistance to the rolling-out of ‘the grand plan’, whose implementation requires – to make it credible – a continuous process of environmental disruption and degradation.
The cause of this disruption can then be pinned on the advance of the ‘catastrophic’ warming’ – to which all solutions must be ‘technological’. Technological in the sense of high tech, robotic, digital and electro magnetic.
Killing at least two birds with one stone is a popular concept within the ranks of New World Order proponents. So it was found that the effects of a general dumbing-down of brain power could be enhanced when combined with individually targetted mind control, hypnosis and torture, all of which had already been well tested via the US MK Ultra programme.
In this program human beings were ruthlessly experimented upon to find at what point they ‘cracked’ and became controllable tools for carrying out the secret operations needed to undermine the orderly functioning of society and to enact psy-ops, false flag events and even – when deemed necessary, murders.
A variation on these same techniques were used behind closed doors during Covid lockdown, especially in care homes, where genocide has become thematic and old people are considered disposable matter in the cause of ‘stopping Covid’.
Mind control is the central weapon of the elite planners. Its presence is ubiquitous in all aspects of daily life – starting with the TV – a particularly vital component of (State) control of the masses, and extending into all mainstream media operations, cell phone technologies, computer programmes, Wi Fi and advanced military ‘silent’ weaponry. There is a wafer thin line of distinction between the process and function of mind control, propaganda and straight indoctrination.
All the above are now being deployed to get the joys of Klaus Schwab’s Great Reset, Zero Carbon, Green Deal and 5G Smart Cities firmly installed in the brain cells of culpable human beings, who are also to be induced to hand-over all their private assets ‘for the cause’. Do not underestimate the mind bending power it takes to get ordinary folk to embrace the notion “You will own nothing and you will be happy”.
Coming-up this November is the COP International Climate Conference in Glasgow, UK. All the most sophisticated mind controlling wizardry will be employed to make this event appear to be ‘a world saving’ gathering of the good and the great. This is because it is nothing less than ‘fear of global warming’ that holds the entire Great Reset/Green Deal invention together.
Without this scary message of ‘disaster if we don’t act’ underpinning it, the future of the New World Order’s master control agenda would fall apart at the seams. Covid was sprung on the scene to ensure the fear factor would receive a turbo-charged boost, enough to carry it through to the point where the COP could double-up on it – and thus increase the chance of a witless public finally throwing up their arms and shouting “Save us at any cost!”
Atmospheric Aerosol Geoengineering (Chemtrails), Covid, 5G, The High Auroral Atmospheric Research Program (HAARP), WiFi, GMO, the chemical saturation of household products and especially foods – are all examples of contemporary weapons whose deployment is sold to us as ‘important progressive science’, but whose true purpose is to suffocate the life force that drives human and environmental vigour, natural health and spiritual vibrance.
Right down to the manipulation and degradation of human, animal and plant DNA and the genome of life itself.
At the end of this egregious mono cybernetic intrusion into the divinity of creation is ‘Robotic Man’. The transhumanist singularity omega point. A soulless cyborg ‘inhuman race’ which gets all its instructions through having its neocortex permanently wired to a central super computer.
This is actually the vision of the evolution of humanity that Schwab’s dark controllers have planned-out to be ‘The New Normal’; making the sentient human race largely obsolete by around 2050 – and almost so by 2030/2040. A human race that will by then have been culled down to approximately one quarter of its current number, if all goes according to plan for the psychopathic architects of the Great Reset/New World Order/Green Deal.
It is vital to grasp that the monstrous Covid invention, whose toxic ‘vaccinations’ are a genocide inducing weapon dressed up as ‘protection’, is just one of the cards in the ‘kill and control’ pack. A significant one, but one whose manifestation is symptomatic of the demonic bag of tricks available to the insentient perpetrators of raw evil.
Corona Virus and Global Warming are first cousins. They both owe their creation to exactly the same ‘rabbit from a hat’ conjuring trick. That of applying the art of deception-hypnosis en masse, in order to make people believe that what is unreal is real – what is fake is actual. And they both use the same fascist control mechanisms to achieve their ends.
Now we have put together the disparate parts of this genocide operation called: The Great Reset (forced totalitarian take-over), Green New Deal (fake green fascism), Zero Carbon (no carbon=no life), Fourth Industrial Revolution (completely robotic workplace) we can recognise that each element is actually integral to the overall plan. Strung together in this way we can finally see the whole diabolical picture.
It is therefore vital to recognise that we can only be effective in our defence of Life on Earth by seeing and acting on this ‘whole picture’. Not being drawn into treating each symptom as a separate and unrelated crises in its own right. Which is precisely what the instigators want us to do, of course.
For a steadily growing number of people, these dark days are actually having the reverse effect than that intended. They are stimulating the manifestation of great shafts of counteractive light! Suddenly, tens of thousands are finding a commonality of purpose and joining together to take-on the masters of deception, through standing strong for truth, justice and freedom.
It portends a remarkable shift of emphasis in all our lives. One of truly dramatic proportions that heralds the tangible unfolding of a new era for humanity. An era in which a dissolving of old barriers of race, class, religion and money – ushers in a profound sense of universal brother and sisterhood; a great expansion of the spiritual and a new form of worldwide social and economic cooperation.
Cooperation in which shared humanitarian goals steadily replace the divisive and destructive greed of the profit predicated global market place.
This heart-led flowering of humanity is to be the truly defining factor of the great Global Warming/Covid Scam, as the history books will one day relate. The overwhelming use of fear and deception has provoked the opposite state to come out of hiding and to manifest as what, for its detractors, will be an unendurable counter force – emanating from none less than the energetic source of Creation Itself.
Such an astounding metamorphosis is now underway, and it has taken an extraordinary, blatant manifestation of darkness to ignite the counteractive fire which is now calling forth a great renaissance of the true powers of man. This is the age of truth, enlightenment and action..
Take your courage in both hands and step forth! Set your sights on nothing less than disarming and dismantling the technocratic top-down total-control system that attempts to enslave you, me and every sentient human being who seeks to remain true to the deepest values of Life.
Julian Rose is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, writer, international activist, entrepreneur and holistic teacher. Julian is co-founder of HARE The Hardwick Alliance for Real Ecology see https://hardwickalliance.org/ His acclaimed book ‘Overcoming the Robotic Mind – Why Humanity Must Come Through’ is particularly recommended reading for this time: see www.julianrose.info
By the pond, near a line of poplar trees
Is an old man whose brush stroke stills
A shifting sky: pondskaters skim each
Ripple’s wind raised spine: their movements
Mirror his line, his colour as he seeks a wash
Of birdsong, blocked in sunlight,
The silence that precedes
Sudden leaping trout.
Kevin Patrick McCann Painting William Joseph Schaldach
Speak, Silence. In Search of W.G. Sebald, Carole Angier (617pp, £30, hbck, Bloomsbury)
Carole Angier is obsessive, a literary terrier who will never put the ball down to be thrown again. Denied interviews and information by many of W.G. Sebald’s closest family, friends and colleagues, she nevertheless persists in tracking down and interviewing every and any contact she can, revisiting cities and towns in England, Germany and Switzerland, and reading all the letters, manuscripts and archives she finds.
This is, of course, what biographers do. What they don’t so often do is have a thesis or argument they subsume their biography too. Here, Angier’s obsession is Sebald’s nationalistic ‘guilt’ (and hatred of) his country’s Nazi past and its denial of it, and his depression. Throughout the book, however, Angier has to make assumptions and guesses about how Sebald felt and how it all feeds into his writing.
It’s not, of course, that Sebald’s books aren’t melancholic and depressive, they are well known as discursive and gloomy exploratory texts. But they aren’t autobiography, or anything close, and Angier knows full well that she is on thin ice when she persists in seeing endless links between ‘real’ events and occurrences and the contents of Sebald’s books. All writers are somehow present in their work, all writers steal and adapt stories and experiences from others, and Sebald was no different.
Or perhaps he was? One of the problems with this book, apart from the surmises throughout, is that it is so closely focussed on Sebald that it does not offer a wider literary context for his work. One of the reasons that Sebald was so popular a writer is that his books were published as creative non-fiction was becoming a best-selling genre and publishing hotspot. Psychogeography and fictional biography were just two of the types of book that contributed to this rise, and Sebald was and is often associated both of these. Literary debates raged, and continue still, about the blurring of fact and fiction, and the ownership of stories; sampling and remixing don’t just happen in popular music!
It seems to me that this context is entirely missing from Angier’s biography, yet it would be more useful for the reader than some of the psychological assumptions and biographical details here. At times this book falls back on convoluted links between biographical details about Sebald and his books, occasionally noting that a certain fact wasn’t true, he altered the date or changed the colour of her hair, which of course is what writers do! But it is a biography, whose focus is the named subject, although for me it strays too far from the books, which after all is what Sebald is famous for, and the only reason anyone would read his biography.
This may be my problem of course. I came late to Sebald and after four attempts over a decade have still not made it through Rings of Saturn, though I have read his poetry and his other books. I am not very knowledgeable about German culture or widely read in European literature, but I am interested in Sebald’s literary influences, and how he saw himself as a writer; even the process of how he wrote. I am not, however, at all interested in where he lived, what he had for breakfast or how ill he was feeling at any given moment.
The repression of individual and cultural memory, inherited guilt and melancholy are all fascinating subjects, and much has been written about them. There is no question that these subjects underpin Sebald’s writing, often more specifically in relation to Germany and the Holocaust, but Angier never truly unpicks these themes in her biography: they are here only through biographical moments, such as Sebald’s first shock encounter with concentration camp footage at school. Angier uses words like ‘trauma’ throughout her book, and relies on her categorisations and labels, rather than the books themselves, as evidence for why Sebald wrote what he did.
There is no question that Sebald is an accomplished and fascinating writer, albeit too erudite and mannered for many readers; nor that Angier is a studious and thorough biographer. Much of this book however feels like conjecture, and also highly constructed to fit Angier’s point of view, especially her late sideways step where she suggests that Sebald is totally original and actually writes about metaphysics and the true nature of reality. Despite copious and detailed footnotes for each point, I can’t help but feel there is another Sebald out there, an author who is not quite the one Angier creates. I’d rather like to meet him.
Now we come to the final instalment of this section which has got to do with my own loneliness, isolation and self-love throughout writing…
The funny thing is: I never felt alone or isolated throughout writing these poems and stories and screenplays and articles…
The real funny thing is: I always felt better when I was on my own!
The three women I talked about: of course I loved their company, but when they were gone: I always had my writing to fall back on and keep me company!
I personally know a lot of people who are so scared of being on their own and they have never truly been alone for too long in their lives…
I don’t necessarily hate people or other writers but… I can do without them most of the time.
I think when you are with someone or a part of a clique with writers it starts to get too political… and that’s the part I don’t like at all!
When I did all the hardcore training: I did most of it on my own and maybe that’s why I got so good at it.
And when I did the skating: there were some nights I would just go out on my own and practice as much as I could to get better!
And when it came to love (one of my main reasons to live) I would always clash with the other woman over the heads of something stupid and I would always look like a bastard and seen as the shit head!
But, for my writing: I could do most of it on my own and be on my own while I did it and that career path just really, really suited me to the ground.
I have met so many great living writers in my time writing all of this bullshit but… there is something so sublime reading a dead writers book and getting what you need from him, her or it!
My mum would always say: most of your writer friends are dead ha ha.
But, of course! All of the living writer friends I have befriended over the last several years doing this more prolifically: I fucking love them and I will and always have wanted the very best for them…
I just hate when it gets political and people only do it to win things… instead it should be about encouraging one another to get better and better instead of downgrading each other after every controversial lyric or mistake you may make!
I love the story Bill Hicks’s brother told about Bill… he said that Bill only felt like himself when he was on stage… and for me: this one room I am in now where I do all of my writing is the only place I feel normal, safe and free!
So, where do you feel most as yourself?
When you find this: don’t fucking let go!
We have to deal with a lot of bullshit outside of ‘our’ place, unfortunately!
So, when you do find it: build a fucking universe and don’t stop until you’re dead!
That is the only way they are getting me out of here ha ha!!!!
As long as I have my books, music, films, writing, coffee, cigarettes, food and wanking… I’ll be all fucking good!
I will be honest with you: there are times I do get very, very fucking lonely but, I remember what the great Bukowski said: you get so alone sometimes it just makes sense!
I couldn’t say it better myself!
Loneliness will make you into your ‘own’ greatest writer!
I mean, look at Emily Dickinson!
She never fucking left her room and she has been seen as one of the greatest woman poets of all time.
And if I’m to be frank with you: I fucking love Emily!
I am going to leave you with the one thing that has got me through my most difficult times in my life from one of the greatest philosophers in the word: the only thing I know is that I know nothing – Socrates!!!!
Take that with you everywhere you go and your life and your art will become your very own playground to do with it as you please!
The many loves of P
Love entered P’s life young. He was five years old when he was entranced by A. she was a-class. She eventually became his girlfriend in primary 5 until primary 7. He fucked it up by kissing another girl under his cousin’s bed sheets. About ten years later P met A at a rock concert and she told him that he was her first kiss and she wrote it in her diary.
In the summer of P’s 12th year he fell in teenage love with E. They dated in that summer with their thirteenth birthdays only a few days a part. She broke it off with him and he slit his forearm with a piece of dirty glass on a car park floor. She met him in an alleyway in their hometown a few days later, but she never took him back. Another autumn, winter, spring went by and then the summer appeared its head like a rose and they got back together again. They dated all summer and into the autumn then it fell apart again. She wanted him back a few weeks later and got one of her friends to ring him to see how he was. When E’s friend rang P he became butch and manly and told her he didn’t care for her anymore. Which was not entirely true, but what he didn’t know was, her friend had a crush on him and she was trying ‘not’ to get them back together again. It was finally over and he never saw her adolescent face again as the last autumn leaf fell.
By the time P was 19 he fell in love with a girl he was sure was his other half. Their whole relationship was like the nougat bars and hot chocolate they drank and ate every night and day. But when she decided she could not deal with his inability of not being able to see how great he really was, as a man and a god damn artist, she left him with a last kiss at her door and it tasted like rotten tomatoes and he wandered about aimlessly for one full year until he wrote that ‘I’m over you poem.’
P met N through a friend of hers he kissed while she was there as well that night. On that night she told him he was fucking hot. A few months later and with her friend out of the way P got in there and made a move and it was successful. They started off great and the sex was open and full of life with every moon that showed its smile and whatever bit of sunshine they got in Northern Ireland. But in the last six months he lived in fear. She would always say: you’ll never get rid of me. But in the last six months he wanted her gone and it was difficult because they lived together. The opportunity arose to have that talk about splitting up and they did. The next day she left in her first car and drove off and he knew she was crying when she turned that corner as he waved in relief.
These were the four major loves of P’s life but there was others like: the time he blew his load in J’s mouth and told her he would come back, but he never did, or the Christian girl who only believed in procreating when you’re having sex. P wasn’t so much a slut but he was a handsome man. From a child with snow white hair till twenty something with a leather jacket and sunglasses. You couldn’t fathom the amount of love and sex P had in his lifetime, but he plants them in major poetry magazines all over the world.
He will leave this world just exactly as he leaves this page… FULL!
Uncrowned king of seedy rooms in this city, I am not interested in your wretched lives.
We are trained for it – for this – for the end of the line. My methods no longer trouble me; I can just recall when my thoughts were interrupted by eruptions of conscience. But no more. It does not matter – not any more.
Quit this dying forest of pylons. Escape? Impossible.
Life is what you make it. Or what others make of it for you…
Call the service.
Get it together.
We are all lying through our teeth most of the time.
It does not matter.
The future glows along the darkened horizon – so many incendiary flares rendering the landscape stark with shadows that haunt the waking hours.
They come from above. They come.
On the surface the wind blows warm with unnamed diseases.
Inside we cower, writing messages of hope in the blood of our offspring born shrivelled onto the cracked and shattered flagstones. The river flows deep, encrusted with all the detritus we can find to tip into its insatiable maw.
But on the other side They wait. Waiting forever. Rusting monoliths of treason.
Anger used to be my most favoured weapon. Outrage. Denial.
But now the bitterness eats at the very core of it all, encroaching on our forgotten dwellings where, sometimes, blood still courses, red and inviting.
Sustenance for leeches.
Santa Lucia by Charlie Baylis (Invisible Hand Press)
I’ve been on a subtropical Atlantic island for a week, doing nothing but swim, look at the spectacular scenery, eat, drink – and read. It makes you feel poetic, sipping sun-downers in the early evening with Madeira shimmering on the horizon.
It also makes you wonder what to do with beauty and poetic feelings – whether others really want to read about them: do I? Because I’m aware how annoying my first paragraph may be.
Baylis lives in the blazing heart of Spain – Madrid – though at first, I thought Santa Lucia was some island, possibly Caribbean. I’d reviewed his first collection, which was brilliant in places, but also a bit loose and sometimes too ‘poetic’, at least for my grim tastes. He’s much given to surrealism – a technique yielding diminishing returns – and extravagant metaphor. Both of these can be highly distracting and – sometimes – leave the reader groaning ‘not another one; can’t I have a poem instead?’
Of course, that’s personal; but poetry is unique, in how people quickly tire of (and even poets are wary of) its tricks. No other artform is so inherently self-destructive and annoying. Let’s face it, the baggage is often quite horrendous. All those creepy mugshots of sensitive souls, heads tilted, with dumb looks on their faces – offering ‘workshops’, doggedly convinced their reactions are worth sharing.
The problem, of course, is that poetic ability and sensibility exist and ARE vital, sometimes overwhelmingly so. The point is: ‘Having a talent is not enough: one must also have your permission to have it…’.
Anyway, Baylis looks like a poet, sounds like a poet – and certainly writes like one. Thankfully, it increasingly seems less affected; this pamphlet seems more disciplined and controlled than his previous work. He’s not done that by the quick-fix thing of ‘finding poetry in the the everyday’, with poems about Granny’s knee-caps or some unlucky sod’s Huddersfield council flat.
No, the writing is even more obviously poetic, just more aware of the risks. It’s using more bite and attack – more serious and grounded, less sugary, with salt added to counteract the wackiness. In the very first poem (all lower case) he shows how he’s now balancing the two. It opens with an Elvis impersonator but quickly moves to:
john ashbery writes in clouds of entropy
of polar bears with the bluest eyes
playing in the blue snows of neptune
of beached seals hypnotised by global warming
the police lend me novels which drive me mad
the police lend me novels about romance
my novels are classified…
(from ‘the museum on the edge of santa lucia’)
He’s undercutting the extravagance here, both by that sudden use of the police but also by switching tone, and even voice. Throughout the collection, there are frequently sinister elements intruding, and there’s a very effective elegy to the deceased Sean Bonney:
the eagle with gold bars melting in her mind
lava over the opal mines
ashes in a bucket of ice-cream…
i’ve had enough of this shit…
write to me when the war is over
write to me when we have won.
My favourite poem is this one, ‘private beach’, quoted in its entirety, to show what I’m getting at:
the beauty of the city when the sun is rising.
the botanist collecting peas. classic god
shaped wholes envelop us, you.
a small private beach with white sands.
yew tree, unicorns graze, youths.
hitting blue with a hammer.
what’s wrong? everything i do is dumb.
a ballerina pirouetting with a rhino.
nothing left of my leather toes.
getaway while you can.
What I especially like about this, is the preponderance of simple (but vivid) statement, with only a touch of the extravagant – the rhino dancing.
Bird Guano The column that won’t shoot until it sees the whites of your eggs
READER: I heard there were riots at the Poundsavers closing-down sale.
MYSELF: I’m not surprised. There was 10% off everything.
READER: So what happened?
MYSELF: Apparently police were called when two elderly ladies, battling for the one remaining combination nail file and fish knife, tripped over a folding loofah rack which had been left in aisle 2. This ricocheted them into an adjacent trio of shelves featuring non-stick suction pads, screwdrivers with revolving handles, and USB-powered fridges just big enough to hold a thimbleful of milk or a single sperm sample, causing them all to collapse like dominoes. Three policemen were arrested.
READER: Shocking. It’s simply not worth cutting corners just to save a few bob. I once bought a lava lamp there, which was still active! Luckily for me I was out shopping when it erupted.
MYSELF: That’s nothing, when Poundsavers first opened I bought my kids a bouncy castle, which turned out to be haunted.
RIVAL PIER PROPOSAL: COUNCIL DECIDES
Vladimir Novichok, a billionaire businessman with “no connection to the Russian Mafia”, has submitted plans for the construction of a brand new second pier in Hastings which, he says, will “knock the other one into a cocked hat”. Over 5 kilometres in length and 1,000 metres wide, the ambitious structure will house, according to the billionaire’s blueprint, a helicopter pad, a runway for private jets, 500 luxury log cabins featuring sauna facilities, nail bars, vape shops and affordable junk food, as well as responsible gambling facilities for all the family and a self-service coin-operated money laundrette. “This is going to be the mother of all piers,” said the oligarch, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it won an award”.
A council spokesperson warned however: “A pier of this length is highly likely to interfere with shipping in the English Channel. Mr. Novichok may be a respected member of the Russian kleptocracy, but this does not exempt him from UK planning regulations.” adding, “We accept that proposals for a cyber-zoo containing 2,000 life-sized radio-controlled animals, including crocodiles, pterodactyls and herd of elephants programmed to stampede on the hour, will be a huge visitor attraction, but would point out that it may raise a significant number of health and safety issues”.
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SPORT: DIM AND DIMMER
Upper Dicker Memorial Hall has been announced as the venue for the long anticipated return to the ring of fresh-out-of-rehab heavyweight face-puncher Typhoon Anger. His opponent will be Mexican veteran Mickey “Chihuahua” Gonzales (53), 23 years older, 11 stone lighter and 9 inches shorter than Anger and furthermore, his critics claim, “a pushover”.
Gonzales’ manager, José ‘No Way’ Huevos hit back: “Pushover? Don’t underestimate The Chihuahua. Looks can be deceiving. My boy’s like a miniature combine harvester on steroids. He will reap The so-called Typhoon like wheat, bag him up and leave him all over the ring in black plastic bundles. His footwork is a blur. One round will be enough. The difference in height means nothing. He can jump like a grasshopper. His flying uppercut will be the angry bull in Typhoon’s china-shop jaw.” Ron Maserati, Anger’s manager, countered: “The Chihuahua doesn’t stand a chance. Typhoon’s in tip-top shape since his withdrawal symptoms wore off. He’s down to two bottles of gluten-free vodka a day. His arms are like legs. His right hook is like a shoal of jet-powered piranha fish wrapped in cement. Don’t even mention footwork,” he railed, “One of the judges on Strictly described Typhoon’s feet as ‘like two tiny hovercrafts’. I’ll give Chihuahua two rounds at the most.”
Dubbed “Brawl of the Century”, the bout will take place on September 14th. where the two brain-damaged ex-alcoholic sociopaths will battle it out for a purse thought to be in excess of £500.
Hastings’ latest dressing up and getting drunk event took place last weekend. Like Pirate Day, Constable Day, now in its third year, has captured the Sussex seaside resort’s imagination. This year’s event was a resounding success, and saw Hastings shatter the record for the total number of people assembled in one place dressed as policemen, WPCs, or non binary officers. On a blistering August morning, the town quickly filled up with ‘officers of the law’, and by noon, the previous record-holders’ total of 8,710 (Taunton, 2017), was easily overtaken. Even after the judges disqualified 54 ineligible plain-clothes detectives and a confused couple from Suffolk who arrived wearing artists’ smocks and carrying easels and paint brushes, Hastings’ 2021 turnout easily outshone that of their west country rivals. Hastings’ new mayor Medved Oligarki praised the effort, saying: “The townspeople, as always, got into the spirit of things 110 %, which is coincidentally also the figure Hastings chief of police Hydra Gorgon has given me for the regrettable spike in petty crime which occurred that day as hundreds of intoxicated ‘policemen’ emptied the shelves of clothing stores and off-licences, leaving a trail of confused shopkeepers across the town.”
SOCCER SETBACK: THE CAMELS ARE NOT COMING
The popular new owner of Hastings & St. Leonards Warriors FC. who claimed to be Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah Habibullah, a well-connected oil-rich millionaire member of the Saudi Royal family, has been revealed as a fraud. It turns out he is not an Arab sheik, but Podraig Ballycuddy, an Irishchef, whose previous job was flipping burgers at the Upper Dicker branch of Calories R Us. Warrior’s captain and midfield enforcer Nobby Balaclava told us, “This is a bitter blow, particularly in in view of our relegation to the Nuclear Waste Disposal Solutions League (South) last season. The lads are inconsolable, particularly as we had all ordered 4-wheel drive cars and got measured up for Armani suits in anticipation of £200,000 a week salaries and boot sponsorship.”
“It now looks as though the promised Olympic-sized stadium with its own money laundry facilities and jumbo jet runway is not going to materialize,” he continued,, “along with the luxury yacht marina and the new away strip.” As we went to press, Mr. Ballycuddy’s telephone number appeared to have been suspended. His caravan, parked in a layby on the outskirts of Herstmonceaux, was deserted when our reporter called. The FA have cancelled the purchase and given the club 30 days to find a new owner.
Key to unlock the energy stuck trusting that material will declare itself. Changing the relationship to the feelings in the memory, taking responsibility for past fear across the bridge of dreaming. This too will pass texts between two couples – calling in a shadowy fixer to take the edge off joy. Against beliefs which structure misery I am sharing my knowledge of the connection between earth and air. Look after your heart – silent and deep.
Breath leading to a purging in revisiting the situation. I spoke out, giving dignity to it, rolling my hands around the globe of the group. I am not a victim of this story any more. Losing the stops in the breath, a crystal placed on my solar plexus, felt the floor flowing under my back. Part of me didn’t want to return, to face the memory out of the circle. Could I think of the future of the poem only for the time I was writing it?
I resisted the pull to presence, critical of the performance that pollutes my joy. Fitted fingertips together horizontally making an ascending vertical stack. Coming off the floor into expansion, I noticed my body contracting, arranging itself for the next movement, so I went more fully inside with it, before expanding again. Shaking feet and legs whilst keeping toes on floor, shoulder to shoulder, head to head, a squeeze of uplifted hands in the memory of touch.
Went through the high, black turnstile. Hard to accept imperfection, the idea of death. I was drawn to the fire: curious, if naïve. When I faced it again later, the gesture was two hands – one going out from the torso, the other going out but coming back at once. The animals went in two by two into my heart, gave back another layer, an old criticism. The whole is operating.
Scott Thurston is a poet, mover and educator. He has published fifteen books and chapbooks of poetry, including three full-length collections with Shearsman: Hold (2006), Momentum (2008) and Internal Rhyme (2010) and, most recently, Phrases towards a Kinepoetics (Contraband, 2020). Scott is founding co-editor of open access Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry and co-organized the long-running poetry reading series The Other Room in Manchester. Since 2004, he has been developing a poetics integrating dance and poetry which has seen him studying with dancers in Berlin and New York and collaborating with dancers in the UK. Scott is Reader in English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford where he has taught since 2004.
I forget the opera now –
No doubt it was ‘Romantic’ where
Joy and tragic circumstance
Too often seem synonymous –
Can lovers never find a middle way?
Here is the leading man
His head is in his hands
All he desired has tangled into chaos
And so he grasps the final gist
In which we too must empathise –
At the end he is most certainly alone
But then the heroine
The love he has disdained and set aside
Appears from high above
Descending on a starry stair
Her course set slow and stately
She bears a cool clear glass of water
Purely lit and quite transparently
Offering both healing and renewal –
A waterfall that issues to his desert
A slanting globe of rain
Water is not wine of course
Champagne nor any type
Of liquid the Romantic
Bohemian might otherwise prefer –
Though for the greater part
It is the substance by which we’re composed
Sustained and satisfied
Baptised and re-baptised internally –
Water so might summon
All beings to accord
World access to clean water
Was once my Roman ideal
Legions leaving irrigated trails
The flow of ancient springs renewed
As I sit in your genteel English rain
In my plastic pac-a-mac meditating
TITLE DEEDS OF MARCUS AURELIUS
When you earn the titles
‘Modest good and true’
Do not change them for others
Considered cool-outrageous or in fashion
Don’t customise your spirit for the market
If you should ever mislay them
Return to them at speed
With documents as these
You need not press for fame
reading them in English now for years. I bought
your book Wybor (there should be
an accent over that o) but didn’t know it’s all
in Polish, so sometimes I just look at it, occasionally
look up a couple of words. Some of my ancestors
lived in Poland, but that was well over 100 years ago
and I can’t remember if I ever knew where they lived
there. Before I began this I was thinking
that one of the things that you do
that I enjoy
is talk about various news stories, and I suppose
I will tell you about a story I read today about
Nathan Wayne Entrekin, who wore a Roman gladiator costume
to the January 6th, 2021, riot in Washington, D.C. He
was arrested, finally, on July 15th, 2021, for two misdemeanors:
knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building, orgrounds, without lawful authority, and
violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
You may find it heart-warming to learn
that he stayed in touch with his mother during his adventures,
shooting videos of himself that he narrated. “I’m here, Mom!”
“I made it, Mom. I made it to the top. Mom, look, I made it
to the top, to the top here. Look at all the patriots here.
Haha, if I can make it up that, anybody can.”
This boasting to his mother during the crime sets him apart
from, say, one of the newsmakers you have immortalized,
Bryan James Hathaway, who you note (in your book Kopenhaga) was arrested for having sex with a dead
deer. I imagine that if Hathaway did go to prison he tried
to keep his crime secret, whereas Nathan Wayne
put his exploits on the internet for his mom, who
perhaps complimented him at one time or another
for his gladiator costume. At one point he says
to his mom, “I wish you were here with me.” Impossible
to imagine Bryan James videoing his mother at the scene
of his crime, though
I suppose there are stranger things that have happened
here on Earth. (Are there?) Anyhow, it has been fun
writing this for you, though if my mother were still alive
I don’t think I’d want her to read it. She wouldn’t need to know
about Bryan James Hathaway.
John Levy Painting: Gregorz Wróblewski
Gregorz Wroblewski is one of Poland’s major contemporary writers. He was born in 1962 in Gdańsk and grew up in Warsaw. Since 1985 he has been living in Copenhagen. He is the author of many books of poetry, drama, and other writings, a number of which have been translated into English. And as a visual artist, he has exhibited his paintings in galleries in Denmark, Poland, Germany, and England.
On William Blake vs The World by John Higgs (Weidenfield and Nicolson,2021)
From William’s walks down the Strand through time’s stream, John Higgs
Has brought Blake back to burn brightly, as in Weidenfield & Nicolson’s wise
Volume, all of Blake’s former bounty is here, and his life. William Blake is
John Higgs’ totem, its clear, as he should be for us all. This book proves it.
As the world’s Visionary in Chief, we’re just flickers seen in those Leonard Cohen
Cracks that let light in, and which Blake dealt with fully as he sought to illuminate
And alleviate, too, earthly strife. In Eighteen chapters John Higgs shows
How Blake discerned each dimension, from love and light, through religion
And into modern science and space. He was the living proof of God’s point
And possibly became man as portal, as his work and way made the methods
To truly unify our torn place. This short, and overweight, evolved man,
Is physically revived in these pages, where Higgs warmly human prose, poise
And reason recalibrate Blake as star. From the age of eight, or ten where
He glimpsed a tree full of Angels in Peckham, straight to God’s mansion,
Blake, that great One man Movement truly understood where and what it is
We all are. In his biblical score Blake epitomised vision which Higgs seeks
To detail in scientific ways free from myth. By examining the theories of
William James in 1901’s VaritiesofReligiousExperience and Eben Alexander III
A century later, the noetic state and poetic fuse from Blake’s tutelage
As mind gifts. The self is a mental creation in thrall to the higher realms
William witnessed, as he received information that would see the modern view
Fail all tests. He grasped the four modes of insight where we have only one
That time blinkers. Blake, as transcendant and true progressive too,
Saw souls crest. Higgs proves the point further still as he explains Marchus
Raichle’s fMRI scanners, showing how those former angelic orders
Eequivocate sleeping brains who communicate while at rest, lighting the dark
Like engravings; the sort that Blake himself innovated within his childrens
Books and gold frames. In a poem written at the age of fourteen he even
Championed the Transgender, roaming English fields as a woman as he sought
To become everyone. For in Blake’s cathedral of mind God is securely housed
In the body; a fact he shared and defended as he endured accusations
Of madness and more. Each word stunned. And yet through it all, he shaped
Peace and gave it a place and state for becoming; ‘thesweetmoonlitspace, Beulah’, where, as Higgs has it, every seeker could gain ‘a postcoitalembrace fromthewholeuniverse.’ So Blake was both science fiction and fact, as much
As he was social comment. He was history and religion, advance and art,
Coin and purse, An expenditure not of the hand, but of the full mind and spirit,
Spending himself for a future that is even now far behind. Blake was another
Jesus, perhaps, humbly born, and a craftsman, working within a tradition
That defies the tattered one we now find. Higgs proposes that Jerusalem’s Famous lines may well be journalism and that Joseph of Arimethea brought
Jesus to walk on England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ in his time. Higgs positions
Blake at all points in this vital book, a new classic, which after Ackroyd’s is part
Biography and part Bible in which TheMarriageofHeavenandHell is the treatise
And map for the ascent that awaits all mankind. And yet Blake took no side.
He is neither Dawkins or Chopra. He was not Ayn Rand, or James Lovelock;
Contrarieties for him contained truth. Which makes William Blake Quantum’s
King and a forerunner too of H. Pinter, for whom reality shifted under falsity’s
Weight, free from clues. Higgs adds his own poetry through the poetic elegance
Of his writing, as talks of ‘thequalitiesofbirdsong, guitarchordsandlaughter’ We see a writer whose emphatic prose deserves raise. He is one of the best teachers
We have, as he eloquently elucidates all he studies, from the KLF to Tim Leary,
To the Twentieth and this century, his words raise – both interest, hope and the heart
As John conveys Bill’s breadth and full bounty. Comparing Emmanuel Swedenborg’s
Partial vision, heaven formed, with Blake’s take on Hell is one stance. But there is more,
So much more about this artist as individual antinomian working freely, separate
To time, matching Angels with Chimney Sweeps through art’s dance.
From the Enantiodromial approach that Carl Jung saw, Blake built fresh futures.
In shaking Blake in this volume the experience encyclopedia props all doors.
As the words written here complete Blake’s Eighteenth Century vision to create
One for the Twenty First still to follow, John Higgs delivers through this artful
Enterprise, truth reports. He has found a way, finally to make Bill Blake a new hero,
For an age in which a restarting needs a union from both below and above.
And so, John Higgs sets the scene and tells the only tale that needs telling;
That we need Blake’s informed innocence at the centre of all advance
And experience. Are we grateful? This, at last, is the lesson and applies
To this book once you buy it: Mankind is found guilty if He, She or They
Do not love.
David Erdos 23/6/21
Published on 1st June 2021 by Weidenfield and Nicolson in Hardback, ebook and audio £20.00
In the middle of some story
You’ve told me before but
Then tell again, sometimes,
When you’re pausing for breath,
Head tilted slightly just to one side,
Sometimes as you’re sipping chilled wine And every smile that you utter begins with Your eyes, it’s that moment before the first Time we spoke and I’m falling in love,
All over again.
Time ate away uncle’s sight. At first nearness became his extension, and then the light dimmed and the field narrowed down a thread. On that thread ropewalked a few books we gave him on the occasion of his birthdays or Christmas or a day we made special because we felt penitent for letting him leave on his own, and hence we bought casseroles and books. I read him the regular prints. I often changed the endings. I pared down the character details to the ascetic essence the author had intended to, and then kept feeding more details to establish his point. I turned the comedies into tragedies I turned thrillers into social commentaries.
We sauntered into cafés and ordered the bare minimum. I would watch the people around our table. My description would be challenged by my uncle. Later I realised that his reverse osmosis worked on my lacunae. He put fleshes on my skeletal expositions and annals.
I told Prisha that in one way I had the same right over my uncle’s dilapidated property that his plants had over the plot of land they grew up on, and if, in this dire need, we should perish somewhere, there would be no better building to house our ruin.
Elora shouts, “Got them.”
We rush. She points out at the cat and its kittens.
The eggs or the creatures inside those are yet to be found.
My uncle whispers from his conspicuous corner, “You should add more to what you see. You can see the creatures. You cannot describe them because you are lazy.”
I shake my head, tell Elora to let the Cat handle her kittens and the feline must find her own safe-place for her progeny. The cat approves. Prisha says that she have seen cats shift their children at least thrice between the time of their birth and the time they begin to eat solid foods.
Now, I ask all what can happen to a creature that comes to this world by the mean of eggs as their vessels. The creature will be vulnerable, even if it is one of those dragons Elora reads about these days.
We step inside, and Prisha closes the door; I insist all should wash, as I do since the outbreak made my OCD an asset and an attribute.
We gather downstairs. Poet never worsened the puzzle the basement has been since we arrived here.
We combed the place. Poet’s tablet. Poet’s laptop. Poet’s dresses in a heap on the bed on the floor. Done. Now we search the darker arena of discarded cardboards, magazines my uncle used to read, books and an unused santoor.
The crawling feeling I have shrieks when I reach beyond the dusty wood ladders and stools meant to be used for lime paint and whitewash the house. I watch the tiny fledglings behind the heap of discarded painting brushes. How did they move from Elora’s temporary hatchery made from two plastic boxes and blazing light bulbs? Prisha touches my left shoulder, and because I have read about these terrifying moments and I have seen such scenes in several cinematic expressions her icy fingers do not flinch me, but I forge juddering and twitching the upper part of my body nonetheless as if I am startled because surprise and fear seems real, typical, normal and sane.
I extend my index finger and say as if not about those one winged bird-like creatures, but about the worrisome political pandemic we are encircled in I state, “Rise of the right wings.”
Behind me, others have gathered their emotion. Poet says, “Those too, represent the pointers of a significant but ephemeral dot in the timeline of history.” The miniscule, orange all skin-yet-to-grow-any-feather mortals raise their one wing, the right ones, to protest against the world so dissimilar to their own balance.
Outside rain pelts every hard object. I hear my uncle guffaw the laughter of a decent human life unleashed from all its shackles of decency after its death.
that wayward blue train
upon wrong gauge tracks
longing to learn the language
of a desolate landscape
so it can apprise all of all the
it has challenged & dueled in the
netherlands of la mancha
Bio : Guna Moran is an international poet and book reviewer. His poems are published in more than 150 international magazines,journals,webzines,blogs, newspapers, anthologies and have been translated into thirty languages around the world. He has three poetry books to his credit.He lives in Assam,India.
Alan Dearling recovers (slightly) from the English Post-Freedom Days of unreality…
Travelled down by a bus and two trains from the (relative) Wilds of Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders to join in with so-called ‘Freedom Day’ in the Upper Calder Valley of West Yorkshire. It felt odd. A bit surreal and unsettling. Todmorden – my Alternative Home. Over four weeks, I’ve watched, listened, danced, supped cider and taken pics at a host of gigs, mostly indoors. Hardly a mask in sight except for some on public transport and probably a few more in super-markets.
Bands such as: Sneeky, Bite the Dust, The Chain and a Covid-reduced, Backup Band) purveying mostly well-executed ‘covers’ – you know the sort of thing: Beatles; Stones; Survivor; a lot of Fleetwood Mac; some still ‘Daydream-believing’; a few ‘Stairway(s) to Heaven’; even more ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door; ‘Hey Joe’ (is it really you?) and good to see you back, ‘Hey Jude’, too… Then there was Neil and Almighty Sound playing a Sunday set outside the Tod Market Hall and the wonderfully eccentric one-man band inventing new songs on a street corner. All good to witness. Old and New Life Returning.
No more ‘mitigations’. No more yelling garbled messages through mouthfuls of mask or face-coverings, and across the great social-divides between segregated, socially-distanced tables. Many more smiles, hugs, dancing and generally Good Vibrations.
And down at the wild and wonderful Golden Lion (GL) pub and music venue, life has kicked back into gear. A nice mix of punters of all ages, genders and sexual orientations. Plenty of ‘sounds’ from all around the globe. From EDM to World Party Music; punk to indie; folk and reggae – new music/old music. Bands travelling many miles to share their love, enthusiasms and music with bouncing, having-it punters. Glimpses of freedoms that have been sorely missed. This pub is Haven and a Heaven for the Freedom Seekers and Experimenters. But, for many older folk too, it is their Club House. Their Home and Refuge insulated from the many unpleasant realities of Covid-times.
If you’d seen the posters for quite a few of the upstairs and downstairs gigs at the GL and on-line publicity, it was sometimes hard to work out which were Dj sets and which were live bands. Many performers were kind-of incognito, performing with friends and unusual line-ups, away from pretty well-known bands like Biffy Clyro, The La’s; Cardiacs, Zutons, Gong, Cast and more. The punters at the Lion are a substantial sub-strata of The Party and never-ending Carnival of Life.
At the end of the day, these Freedom Days have re-affirmed the positives. Some Kindness, some rock ‘n’ roll. Dancing away the blues and back into the Dance of Life!
Here are a few more pics from the Golden Lion. The really rather wonderful, Silent-K band – with a bit of luck, good support and management, they should go far. They have the material and I’d really recommend them ‘live’, and do look out for their videos, songs and album as they hit the web-waves. How should I describe them? Powerful, something unique. Heavy-ish. Psychedelic, punkish, not-Prog, but with proper tunes, melodies and catchy, punchy hooks. A must-see band…from Liverpool. I want to get my hands on their album – now, but am making do with the T-shirt, for the present.
Likewise, Heavy Salad look good, with a lively, psychedelic sound. Stylish with an odd, full-on vocal presence with three Priestesses providing a powerful choir-sound to the proceedings. Their videos look a bit more folksy. Live, they need a bit more time to get back into full-power mix-mode, post-lockdown.
Music continued downstairs on the stage in the GL bar with troubadour, Barry Sutton, the singer/guitarist best known from Cast and The La’s, offering warped covers and originals, entertaining the revellers. Superb.
A highlight of Freedom Days was Mike Vennart’s Walpurgis – a celebration of Black Sabbath music, kicking off with a magnificently, ear-shredding and classy rendition of the ‘Paranoid’ album. A truly magical evening – noisy, friendly, smiling, laughing. Boogie-and air-guitar time. Big Love to Mike and his mates…a ‘special’ occasion. Mike was once in ‘Oceansize’, but has also contributed to many other musical outfits including his own ‘Vennart’ and as second guitarist in ‘Biffy Clyro’. He was joined in Walpurgis by Ben Griffith on bass and Joe Lazarus on drums:
And, it was fab to see Kavus Torabi join Walpurgis on stage, and later on, performing from the Dj-booth. Kavus seems to pop up every-which-where, including music and a new book, ‘Medical Grade Music’ with Steve Davis (snooker ace/muso/dj), Gong and Cardiacs. He’s a bit of hippy-prophet in my book!
The sleep in eyes
The dew drops are only you,
The thirst of lips
The hope to live is only you,
The blurred shadows on my thought
The morning rain is you,
A little of me, a little of you
Lost in love.
I, I wake up in my sleep for you
Why every happiness smiles only for you?
I am your face, you are my mirror
Come erase all distances,
A little of me, a little of you
Didn’t fall apart.
Why do you talk about me in my thoughts?
Why do you live like this in my question?
Your perfume smelled so good
Like a fresh red rose,
I, I wish you were mine, you stay mine
Turn on the light, remove the darkness,
A little of me, a little of you
Lost in love,
A little of me, a little of you
Didn’t fall apart.
‘And the checkout girls sing a song for the world
That goes round and round’
– Ricky Ross
Checkout 19, Claire-Louise Bennett (Jonathan Cape) Textual Non Sense, Robert Crawford (Beyond Criticism Editions / Boiler House Press) A Shaken Bible, Steve Hanson (Beyond Criticism Editions / Boiler House Press)
Claire-Louise Bennett’s first book, Pond, was a collection of short stories about the lives of women in Ireland. It was careful, considered and paid attention to the everyday and mundane, making them and her characters’ thoughts the focus of the book. You could – indeed I did – read it as a discontinuous novel, which is exactly what Checkout 19 is.
Bennett’s new book is a meandering walk through her narrator’s mind: she leapfrogs associatively from the present to the past, from detail to concept, from here to there, and occasionally back again. Sometimes it is obsessive writing, with a topic being picked apart for several pages; in other places it is almost slapstick memoir, particularly some of the crushes and bad behaviour remembered from school. When she wants, Bennett can be downright hilarious, but mostly she is droll and considered.
The novel as interior monologue is hardly new, but Checkout 19 offers something different, and is a long way from the modernist experiment of, say, James Joyce or William Faulkner. Despite the way the book leapfrogs along, Bennett’s prose is polished and pared back, even when fixated on a memory or topic for several pages. It is also self-aware, and as much about reading and the act of writing, of being a writer in the world, as a story (or collection of stories). It is clever, readable and innovative.
Boiler House Press have started a new imprint, Beyond Criticism, to engage with ‘radical new forms that literary criticism might take in the 21st century’. All well and good if, like many readers and lecturers, you question the idea that criticism should mostly consist of quoting quotes from others who have quoted other quotes… And if you are questioning the notion of literary criticism, it’s just the name given to understanding and thinking about literature – which is pretty much anything these days, from radio script to graphic novel to poetry to blogs. In a world where we have had over a century of formal and informal experimental literature, where the idea of the canon has mostly been abandoned, high and low culture have merged, and the digital has replaced the analogue, surely there must be new ways to critique and write about stuff?
Well, there are. Remixology has given us a theoretical basis for collage, juxtaposition and sampling; and has been seen by some as a basis for questioning the so-called ‘crime’ of plagiarism. The arts and sciences have found new ways to relate to each other, for instance with the biological structure of the rhizome offering a way of thinking about the world in a non-hierarchical way. And, of course, colonial and post-colonial studies have trickled down from academia into the real world and helped raise questions about history, and even the statues and road names around us.
Robert Crawford wants more humour in critical writing, and also wants to see less divide between critical and creative writing. I’m in total agreement: literary criticism has yet to actually find innovative ways to deal with innovative writing, and despite the fact that good critical writing does not have to be pretentious, awkward or mannered, much of it is. The introduction of some humour might be welcome.
Unfortunately, Crawford’s Textual Non Sense is more like a schoolboy snigger than a serious attempt to subvert lit crit. It’s not often I get to the end of a book and think ‘I could write that’ but I did after the thirty minutes it took to read. Yes, it produces some laughs, and I enjoyed some of the asides, puns and subversions, but really it belongs in a cheap pamphlet, not a paperback from the University of East Anglia. It’s the sort of thing writers conjure up in the pub together, usually (and thankfully) with little follow through. The latter half of the book takes potshots at the research culture which governments (of all sorts) have instigated as a way of policing academia and reducing funding for arts subjects, but it’s an easy target and won’t convince anyone who thinks otherwise. (They won’t read Crawford’s book anyway.)
Steve Hanson’s A Shaken Bible, in the same series, is an interesting work that juxtaposes the Authorized Bible with Ranter and other dissenting texts to question belief, religion and society. Unfortunately, instead of simply letting the texts do the work he felt compelled to not only rewrite – taking out any references to god – but also ‘translate’ it into Yorkshire dialect, wanting to make a contemporary text for what another academic has called ‘the broken middle’, a term which feels as outdated and useless as ‘everyman’. Whilst I admire anything that questions what is given and subsumed by authority, and that is interested in how society works, I can’t but feel that Hanson has merely muddled things and denied himself a possible wider readership.
I’m a big fan of collage and juxtaposition as a form of criticism, and am not worried about texts being ‘difficult’, but I think novels such as A Clockwork Orange and Riddley Walker have done a much better job of questioning social norms and political structures in new languages. The latter, especially, questions and critiques myths and rituals, with its post-apocalypse creation story that mixes up St Eustace, nuclear fission and Punch & Judy, all told in a broken and deformed English by surviving tribes in what was once Kent. And of course, there are plenty of other theological, a-theological, pagan and dissenting works that rework the Bible and other ‘sacred’ and political texts.
In the end, the clarity and precision of Bennett’s storytelling offers much more of a critique and questioning of creative writing than Hanson’s and Crawford’s books do. Checkout 19 gets the reader questioning when fiction becomes non-fiction, how digression and asides function as the focus of writing, and how literary asides and allusions to other authors and books might be useful and creative. Crawford and Hanson may talk about a place where critical and creative writing meet, but in the end they have retreated into respective (book) corners of silliness and obscurity.
This poem of young trees battling for survival and upper fellside revival is based on research done on Young Wood (on Bowscale Fell near Mungrisedale in the Lake District, UK). This ‘awkward remnant of shrubby sessile oak’ is thought to be the highest Atlantic-period semi-natural ancient oakwood in England. It has never appeared on any map old or new and was assumed to be a sporadic colonising by oak, gorse, bilberry and crowberry on south-facing slopes and rocky outcrops. A large area around it was fenced in 2008 (my double backslash divisions perhaps echo this) to see to what extent this type of woodland can spontaneously re-establish and expand in an area now free of sheep-grazing.
Rudimentary accession of trees \\ how can such stalled youth fit the land? \\ in such sticks butting it?
Not strutting across terrain but implanting its pick of arrival struts, their risings in green slur
Guest juvenile shelter in quest of the ordinary for growing into cover
A breast of fells falters its bareness, rebevels, gawky at conserving the slope’s latest soft rabble \\ earliest squabble of blown Atlantic leaf
Juvenile relief reseasoning the groping rubble of edge, a pinned shroud of beginning life
Needs to hear the young greens sheer of chewed surfaces \\ not just airfaces curdling the bare mountain-tongue but its slighted foothill crenelation
High altitude, low-growth set at wind-sweep, youth of it beyond the edge of tree connectives
Awkward remnant of shrubby sessile oak \\ this unprevented wood, itself a ground habit undiminished at grub-hedging to miniscule provenience
A patchwork of stubs in cropped grass at their sticking point (travestied youth), become the thatchwork of clothing a sill
A fate of trees beyond a wood but so young in speculative pitchings, will not be isolates, consoling what there is for gusts to stroke
Kiddish ankle-cramps, jejune in tangle but a common testimonial \\ a triangle of corners recessioning (buttressing) shelter
Nothing like the age of earth, so young in flurries of delay-limb, of the same era as transitioning dust
Naked unraked ground prematurely slaked, these child trees must be earlier than every other resistance \\ leavings (callow-remote) of natural woodland
Too young to the infill, juvenile flickers crouch vertically, hold to loose couch
Starved for a maturity they don’t yet get, will fill their adolescence with figures of arboreal rebound
How earth lives off them by being raised one degree, this is an offground razing chivvied alive to exact leaf-shape
Here below nothing near fell-summit, already a taller horizon acts up its leaf-shadow stairs, swabbed verticals purer at each stunt
How can the young of a tree-flock trans-graze the ousted (oakless) soil? \\ premature root-jolt across ungraftable incline
Tots of tree at a mildness of ground-touch (susceptible cauls of soil) instantly revisit what is tottering \\ sway now is all verticals ahead, infancy of beginner generational (inferential) bedding
Puny as they are to begin here these tree-quips are sprung to a major defence \\ can such juvenilia be local seed or the import-crust off some elect conservation shield?
Brinks to beget connotation, counter-attract trails of grit around currents of stem
Only at such infantile rootlet can prayer stall enough to have landed a preserve on its future \\ mature forest would be this micro-grace fresh to new seams of underlying spoil
Defining an ancient infantile canopy, stunted in full brunt of inexperience but expertly immature
Unfavourable recovering creeps to the living stores of its non-repair, lisping in succulent leaf
A slenderly greater abundance, diversive earthworms vindicate the edge of low canopy
Fragment of Atlantic oak impoverished but wholly scouring (seed-mapping) its beginnings, any quittings will undershoot their residue
Impertinent whorls of greenery, the intrusion that this belongs where it can will only just reckon the effort, organs of curtain effect
Altitude won’t shrink except at granule cracks for a seed even smaller, pioneer trances (rinses) of grass
Skip any sparking between trees too young for the embers of full grant, can only dance their untaught going-at
At all drop it’s a matter of trapped stealth, where an acorn trips the wind’s sloping this is a reset \\ young in strands of reseaming the cessations
Or is a re-missive scantness, a message of clinging the slope sent to plenary summit \\ a desert until it comes to fetch how trees serve it a fore-habitat they never reach
Trying to crystallise the rim of a semi-ridge, at crouching light where shade begins dimmer
Struggling to be unfree in a loam of its own, future tree pines for its size-beginner in diminished adult, the youth-resin still at full tilt
Bold tatters of rubbed-down wood, batterings are the wizened shape of youthful forms in sole profile
A share of incoming weather co-habiting the one given ledge to score leaves, nestles the common scope
Prayer no longer steep where it commends the cramp \\ a young tree knows this as ascension pressure in itself, stripling verticals were never overdue this height
‘Scuse me, while I fall from the sky. Is this the fourth or fifth arboreal psych-wave, after the Paisley Underground, Teenage Fanclub, Shoegaze, Dream-Pop, Noise Spectrum and all the other acid-revivalists? I lose count. But Misty Coast make a wish. And the wish gets cladded in metal and jewels, and it flies, it’s a machine like half a thousand great watches all ticking and whirring, one inside the other, a machine that quivers and trembles with ethereal harmonies located beyond the sky at the very tenuous edge of the atmosphere. Intro as well as outro-spective, in a dream continuum that ‘Electronic Sound Magazine’ calls ‘sonic gorgeousness.’ The single “Do You Still Remember Me?” is downright strange. Subtle swoops woven into textures going deep into the curve of ripples until your ears are buzzing. Although even their Lock-Down front-room performance retains the sky-clad haunting quality.
That unplugged set shows just how strong the song is when it’s stripped of studio effects. ‘Thanks!’ says Linn brightly. ‘Yeah, most songs on the album can actually be done stripped down, and still make sense somehow. A few of our release gigs this springs are duo shows, and will be done in this vibe. But probably not on acoustic guitar though.’
Misty Coast are the heavenly synergy of spaced-out Norwegian Indie duo Richard Myklebust and Linn Frøkedal. She has long centre-parted hair. He has a tidy beard. There’s an illuminated world-globe beside the record-player turntable on a unit beside the wall crammed with vinyl albums. The light of the world. A potted plant with huge green succulent leaves. A triad formation of three white lights shining at the plush red chair.
They’re in the room where they made that acoustic demo, so you get a visual image in my mind. ‘Correct. We’ve been here most of the time since corona.’ But they have books. They have music. What are they reading? What are they listening to? ‘Right now we’re both reading Norwegian literature. Richard: Seshan Shakar ‘Tante Ulrikkes vei’ and Linn: Pedro Carmona-Alvares ‘Refrenger’. Lately we’ve been listening a lot to bands like Mint Julep, Big Thief, Fucales, Orion’s Belte and old classics from The Byrds, Mazzy Star, Flaming Lips and Nick Drake. We will never get tired of listening to the Byrds.’
‘We’ve been writing together since we started recording music with out previous band, The Megaphonic Thrift. We also live together, so it’s easy that way. Our first album was self titled and was released in 2017 she explains.
Is there a good scene in Norway that supports thier spacey Psych-kind of music? ‘As you probably know, Norway is not huge, HeHe, but the experimental music and psych scene is strong in the biggest cities.’
Following their second album ‘Melodaze’ (2019), assisted this time around by drummer Kim Åge Furuhaug (of Orion’s Belt)… ‘I think most people updated on the Norwegian music scene knows Orion’s Belte by now. They are great, and are making lots of really interesting instrumental tunes.’ Together they’ve create a machine made of gold and steel and rubies and pulsing light… with ingots and rods, crystals and carved shapes, swirls and curls of preciousness. There’s more here than meets Steven Duke’s melting eyeball cover-art in Linn’s enticingly ethereal wisps of suggested sonic seduction. “In A Million Years” has the harder edges of Cardigans velocity, tweaked by the production skills of Emil Nikolaisen. ‘The song represents a recurring theme on the album’ they explain, ‘and it lingers in thoughts about whether we should choose to ignore the reality outside of what we experience as our world – or if we should dare to seek a larger, perhaps unpleasant truth.’ Yes, exactly. Richard up-fronts vocals on the labyrinthine sound-swooshes of “Sugar Pill”, after all, the pill ‘that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all.’ It’s a rabbit hole that swallows you up then spits you back out again. The title track, inspired by the universal sensation of dream-falling, creeps up on the back of your mind unawares and mugs you with a blown storm of electric dandelion seeds. A survival-guide to the anxieties of living, exploring communal unease, the press hand-out announces an ‘album’s Psych-Pop dreamscape grounded by themes of loneliness, insomnia and social anxiety.’ And for once the hype is for real. ‘Hey Andrew, thanks for listening to our album! We are really happy you are enjoying it.’
Endlessly renewing. Misty Coast are smooth therapy for anxious times.
Bird Guano a random collision of events narrated by baboons
READER: I see in the Express that Britain’s economy is booming.
MYSELF: Yes. And if you close your eyes and hold your nose you can fart through your ears. In the same issue, the Express also printed the following headline:
LACK OF TROUSERS LEAVES MEN WITHOUT TROUSERS
READER: Is that true?
MYSELF: About the trousers?
READER: No, about closing your eyes, holding your nose and farting through your ears.
MYSELF: Of course.
KEN LOACH EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW! We have been given exclusive access to the trailer for PURGATORY! ex-Labour Party member Ken Loach’s latest star-studded 5-part drama-documentary series about The Roman Catholic Church’s post-mortem waiting room,
VOICE OVER 1 (Ex-Dr Who, Tom Baker):
Often described as the church’s own Guantanamo Bay, Purgatory – neither heaven nor hell – hovers midway between the two, like a tightrope-walking ballerina suspended over a bubbling volcano. We were granted exclusive interviews with some of the inmates of purgatory-although we have been expressly forbidden by the Ecumenical Council of Innocent Bishops to reveal their identities………………..
What are you in for?
I recently converted to Catholicism in order to marry my wife – if only I’d known. INTERVIEWER:
How long do you expect to spend in purgatory?”
No idea. Nobody gives you any information down here, or are we up? its worse than being alive
Like Groundhog Day?
MAN: Yes, but much longer, and without Bill Murray. We just lack the basic things. Human contact, empathy, beer.
A PALE WOMAN DRIFTS BY, DRESSED ANACHRONISTICALLY, OBLIVIOUS.
See that? They can’t hear you. You can’t hear them either, we’re all just bumbling around like bees. Lonesome bees.
Have you read Kafka’s The Trial?
I would if I could, but they don’t give you any books down here. No books, no magazines, no newspapers. Nothing.
Some of these people look like they’ve been here for centuries
I know, It’s a worry. I don’t quite know what I’m in for, or how long I got for it.
So you don’t even know how you got here?
Sin, obviously. only it couldn’t have been mortal sin, otherwise…..
Straight to Hell?
Exactly. So it must have been original.
How do you suppose that happened?
Well you’re just born with it.
Born with it?
If you’re Catholic, you’re born with it. Its like a silver spoon in reverse.
Are there any other religions in here?
No, only Catholics
Wow, what a bummer”
You said it pal.
So how do you manage to survive?
With increasing difficulty since my death. The one thing about Purgatory is that everything stays more or less the same as when you were last alive. Hunger for example – I would advise every Catholic to have a good meal before dying. The same goes for thirst, and sexual desire-so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
MUSIC: Purgatory Suite for Unprepared Piano by Jean Michel Jarre
VOICEOVER 2 (The bloke who used to say “probably the best lager in the world”):
PUR-GA-TORY…..Channel 5… Thursdays…..the long wait is over.
DICTIONARY CORNER Unclear (adj) More uncly than some of your less uncly uncles
Cross dresser (n) Bad tempered piece of bedroom furniture
Robust (n) Reinforced bra specially designed for the 1936 British Olympic ladies coxless fours.
TV NEWS Channel 5, sold by pornographer Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond to multinational conglomerate Viacom in 2014, have announced a brand new sitcom, which they claim will “blow Netflix out of the water”. Opium All Hours, is to star Russell Brand as Derek Bargepole, proprietor of an all night grocery shop with a secret back room concealed behind a bookcase in the storeroom. Tongues start to wag after Derek hires a mysterious Chinese assistant, and long queues begin to snake around the block far into the night.
SOAP CATCH-UP Eastenders
The police are called after Tracy discovers a six- fingered glove in Harry’s caravan.
Trouble at Ambridge Comprehensive where angry parents have gathered to accuse headmaster Mr. Gallstone of being anti-semantic after he refused to condemn a badly-written essay by Rafifi’s daughter Sensimilla.
NEW LOCKDOWN AVERTED
Doctors have warned of a serious epidemic striking the South East, where clusters of Munchhausen’s Syndrome by Proxy have broken out over a wide area of East Sussex.
In Cockmarling, after a man with his leg in plaster boarded a bus, a polite student who stood up to offer him a seat was immediately overcome with intense pain, fell over, and was thrown off by the driver for being drunk. A similar incident occurred in Upper Dicker, when Ron Anchovy, a local jockey who is partially sighted, chastised a group of tourists on an exchange visit from Hartlepool who were blocking the pavement. Within seconds they were all struck blind and staggered into the road, causing a 30-tonne French juggernaut laden with goose paté to swerve into the path of a coach party of Swedish theatregoers who had just attended the Wealdon Amateur Dramatic Society’s performance of Noel Coward’s burlesque farce, A Scotch Egg in My Bra.
There were no serious injuries apart from a paramedic who sprained an ankle after he slipped on a patch of spilled fois gras whilst attending to the concussed truck driver. One coach passenger, a lady fish processer from Målmo who had become trapped under a pile of accordions, had to be cut free by firemen.
A senior NHS spokesman added, “There is no cause for alarm. The epidemic has peaked and should have disappeared by the end of the month. Until then, my advice is to avoid standing next to anyone with an infirmity, wear a mask, use braces rather than a belt, wash the back of your neck and always make sure chicken is cooked thoroughly by getting a friend to try it first.”
FOR NATIONAL POETRY WEEK Sylvia, by Alistair Milqueflote
I was having a bath
With Sylvia Plath
When my winkle popped out of the water.
She observed that Ted Hughes
Wore a size nineteen shoe
Though his whelk was considerably shorter.
I was rinsing my hair
With Sylvia still there
And remarked that the water was scalding.
When she told me that Ted
Kept his clothes on in bed
(He was secretly short fat and balding).
Tracklist: Dorothy Ashby – Soul Vibrations
Solomon Burke – Get Out of My Life Woman
Jimmy Smith – I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More Babe
Jean Knight – Mr. Big Stuff
Lonnie Smith – I Can’t Stand it
Lonnie Liston Smith – Space Princess
Cold Blood – I Just Want to Make Love to You
Muddy Waters – I’m a Man
Mary Jane Girls – All Night Long
Funk Inc. – Message from the Meters
The Meters – Sing a Simple Song
Sly and the Family Stone – Thank You for Talkin’ to Me Africa
Charles Earland – Revelation
SAUSAGE LIFE by Bird Guano The column with the nice soft fabrics, sustainable biscuits, a lovely cup of tea and a Valium
READER: I’m pleased to see Boris is finally getting his point across.
MYSELF: In what way exactly is the brain-fogged overprivileged slacker “finally getting his point across”? And please stop calling him Boris like he’s an old mate of yours.
READER: Why so? Boris has the common touch. I feel as though he’s speaking to me personally when he says he’s going to “prick the lid and whack things in the microwave at gas mark 8”, or when tackling “the mattresses and the yeast” of complex social issues.
MYSELF: Well apart from revealing that he doesn’t know the difference between a microwave and a gas oven or how mattresses work, the only relevant word I see in those lame attempts at amusing the gormless corpses who support him, is the word “prick.”
READER: Are you seriously suggesting that Boris is not possessed of a coruscating, razor-sharp wit?
MYSELF: On the contrary, as a humourist he’s right up there with Edgar Allen Poe and Anne Widdecombe.
READER: My point exactly. He is subconsciously funny – he just can’t help it.
MYSELF: As Dr Freud ought have warned us, the subconscious is an undomesticated beast which is best kept outdoors.
READER: Brilliant! Do you mind if I use that?
MYSELF: Be my guest. As long as you are aware that it’s security chipped, watermarked and coated in a thin veneer of my own DNA, as well as being registered with The Patent Office, National Geographic Magazine and Alcoholics Anonymous.
WENDY IS ON HOLIDAY Wendy, our regular agony aunt, is currently enjoying a well-deserved camping weekend in the Antarctic. Psychic Doris, the clairvoyant mystic, has kindly agreed to stand in at very short notice, although oddly enough she didn’t seem at all surprised.
PSYCHIC DORIS Predictions, dream interpretation, tap lessons Before we begin, just a gentle reminder to those who wish to peek into the future with me via the tea leaves: Tea bags do not work.
In reply to an enquiry from Mrs. Labya Thwang of Babelehurst; Dear Mrs. Thwang (may I call you Labya?),
First of all, let me say how sorry I am to hear from my Native American spirit guide Two Dogs Fucking, that your husband has (predictably) run off to Panama with a tango dancer. On your main point however, I’m sorry to have to tell you that, due to Covid and Brexit restrictions, subscriptions to my road congestion tarot predictor app come at a fixed premium price. Good news however! My special introductory offer on the popular Here comes summer traffic congestion avoidance app is valid from now until August 31, which means that all this month you can outmanoeuvre local and national traffic delays by having your tea-leaves interpreted at no cost or obligation whatsoever! Simply send a complete cup of tea (not just the leaves) to PO box 437, Luxembourg, and remain in the car until help arrives.
This one came from Felicity Panquake of Lower Herstmonceaux; Dear Doris,
I have always grown my own vegetables but the other night, during a very lucid dream. I looked out of my kitchen window and saw, standing in my back garden, a horse – eating my carrots! When I woke up the dream was still fresh in my mind, so I went straight into the kitchen where out of the window I saw, to my surprise, that there was a horse in my garden, but it was eating my broad beans. What on earth could it all mean?
Dear Felicity, (is it OK to call you Felicity)?
What you need to decide is which one of these equestrian experiences was the dream. Maybe it was both of them? Perhaps you are dreaming now? I’m getting a Malcolm or a Douglas. Have you ever been to The Isle of Man? A couple of homeopathic tarot sessions and a Turkish massage should sort this out once and for all. My normal rate is £159 + VAT for the hour. Or you could pay me in vegetables.
IN THE COURTS Hastings Crown Court was the scene of an unpleasant affray last Thursday, during which His Honour Lord Justice Karman-Mirandah (presiding), had to order the public gallery to be cleared. The defendant, Arnold Strangler (53), an unemployed juggler, was accused of the theft of two pints of Jersey Gold Top Milk and a carton of Greek-Style yoghurt from an unattended electric milk float operated by the plaintiffs, Ludlow’s Dairies Ltd. When the case resumed after order was restored, counsel for Mr. Strangler entered a plea of not guilty, citing the precedent of Ribbentrop Surgical Supplies vs Angus McAlnwyck (Glasgow Assizes1952), where a similar plea was accepted by the court on the grounds of puilly quo prosne, and furthermore ad hoc distemper regis, relating to the…
READER: Courts? Latin? What’s going on here? Where’s this all leading?
MYSELF: Philistine! Have you no interest in the wheels of justice?
READER: I didn’t get where I am today by being interested in the wheels of justice, nor for that matter , in the crossbar, the pedals or the handlebars. Just get to the juicy bits.
MYSELF: As you wish. I will cut to the chase:
…During Mr. Strangler’s cross-examination, intermittent gasps could be heard from the gallery, as the following exchange took place:
Ms Oskar Hammerstein QC (counsel for the prosecution, sneering): Mr. Strangler, you claim that you attended a bestiality party the night before the alleged offence. Can you tell the court what took place?
Strangler: Regretfully ma’am, I was drunk. I don’t know what came over me.
After a stunned silence. uproar broke out in the public gallery. As the judge waved his hammer and called for an adjournment, relatives of Mr. Strangler let off fireworks and threw vegetables at the barristers. During the brouhaha, Mrs. Molloy, the lady who does the fast typing, was struck in the face by a flying cauliflower hurled by Mr. Strangler’s girlfriend, the non-binary actress Lulu LaRue, which required hospital treatment.
READER: Blimey that’s more like it! By the way, is that how you got that black eye?
MYSELF: That? No, I was punched in the face by a waitress in an Italian restaurant.
READER: A waitress punched you? A waitress? What brought that on?
MYSELF: I’ve absolutely no idea. All I said to her was “do you shave your Parmesan?”
SMELLS LIKE METHYLATED SPIRIT Calamari Parsimony the film actress recently divorced from Meat Raffle guitarist Tit Bingo, appears to have consciously uncoupled from reality. Her company, Fool and his Money which markets bipolar exploration kits, atomic irrigation and scented candles infused with the perfume of Calamari’s own lady parts as well as an aerosol called Psychic Zombie Repellent and soap made from her own faeces. Her hit TV show Ladies Who Lynch promotes global warming crystals and novel methods of castration.
the prince is back in ravenna
walking behind himself through the black dust, blocked fountains
early christian monuments,
who is at the door?
some pleasure delayed, withheld
when you are in the arms of the prince
walking ahead of yourself through the black dust, flowing fountains
early christian monuments
my arms work with all the cards
when there are no cards
the prince is floating
collecting colours on his tunic
laughter of the princess
we’ve only got a minute
Sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ poetry are a powerful combination.
As I learn to my cost…
‘Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…’ I’d chew my left arm off with my own canines if I could scribe something one-tenth as good as that’ I groan into the laptop.
‘Ireton Soames, you’ve penned some wonderful poems’ simpers Stephanie Bangs from the beanbag. ‘I love that one about how you’d pluck the moon from the night, and toss it back and forth like a Frisbee.’
This is the day I destroy the world.
Stephanie had come out of substance-dependency issues. She’s sucked four cocks this morning. She does not think it too many. She could work at the Call Centre. She could get a minimum-wage position at a Supermarket checkout. But those are tedious options. She’d rather hang with the whores and hookers for a quicker profit turn-around. For me to write, knowing the rent is being provided for. That’s what lovers do, lovers use each other.
‘Every poem I write is pledged to you’ I lie. ‘You’re my soul and inspiration.’ She likes to hear that kind of think. You can see her drinking it in, like a cat slurps up cream. She has black elfin hair and elfin ears, Bambi-eyes like polished splinters of black gemstones, and the kind of breasts that prove biology outwits gravity – at least for a clutch of years. She has jackdaw blood in her veins, she’s attracted by shiny trinkets. When we kiss, I taste other men’s cocks on her tongue.
There are 470,000 words in the English language, with maybe 20,000 in common usage, going down to around 5,000 in conversation. You’d think all you need do is rearrange those words in new permutations. Add incandescence. Internal skipping reels of rhyme. Some allegory, a little alliteration. How difficult can that be? Describe how the sunlight pours in through a crack in the cane-blind… as rich as molasses, no – that’s just to steal from Joni Mitchell, the sun pours in like butterscotch. Is that permissible? Will anyone pick up on the theft?
Our mattress on the floor is heaped with tapestry-wove from India and silk-tessellated cushions from the antiques & curio emporium under the dark arches, they lie beneath the psychedelic wall-poster, the erotic Aubrey Beardsley print, and the collage of snippets inching across wall-space left to right, cut-outs from old magazines, slashed headlines and mutated ads ripped and reconfigured, super-glued into constellations. The aroma of patchouli oil and exotic herbs. Piles of old books and magazines, some stacked in attempted order on a shelf constructed from stacked house-bricks on a white melamine plank rescued from a skip.
We walk. The asphalt is a skin under which animal muscles flex and tension. People are corpuscles in the street’s bloodstream, in the swift torrent river of light with the brilliant glare of cars gliding that river. The moon is trapped between aerials and chimneys, balanced on tower-blocks. We meet Rich at the Burger Bar, he’s dark and thickset, with sad eyebrows. He recently split from Lorraine. They’d seemed good with each other, although he’s not the easiest of cohabits. Stephanie buys the vegeburgers and fries. She’s the only one with ready cash. That’s how things operate. I write. She hangs out on Call Lane, servicing sleazy guys. That’s how she contributes to arts and literature. She supports me. My writing. My poems. She believes in me. Which is more than I do. I don’t even believe in myself. I don’t know what I mean by that. I just say what I feel. I like that luring thump of little magazines ejecting through the mailbox as they cascade onto the welcome mat. Those smudgy explosions of insurrectionary art and words crammed to the seams with incendiary violence. Flick-flicking pages through to find my own tight shrapnels of spiky verse. They look different on the page, set against those of other people. Thinking fuck, theirs is better than mine. I bleed to write like that. Or – yes, that’s pretty good. I like that. Nothing is ever neutral.
Rich seems relaxed, totally at ease, until he begins into his spiel, and you feel the burning quality inside. He’s working through a new routine to use at tonight’s open mic. Homer Simpson discovers Springfield is a ‘Matrix’-style digitally coded-simulation controlled by evil Mr Burns. He can rewrite the script, select and delete at will. Who will he eliminate? God-bothering neighbour Ned Flanders? Surely not wife Marge…? Will the freedom of bereavement be worth the loss? How can you calculate that equation? The joke, of course, is that Homer Simpson is already an animation, created by Matt Groening. Rich thinks that’s so very cool. But, given the chance, who would you choose to delete from reality? Apart from obvious political targets, Game-Show hosts and Boybands? The editor who rejected my poem?
‘For me’ says Stephanie Bangs, turning the full intensity of her quasar eyes up to max, ‘I’ll delete everyone else in the world ‘cept you and me, so no-one can ever take you away from me.’ That’s not quite in the banter spirit of the game. But I smile all coy in contrived bashful. She likes that.
Rich looks at me. He fingers the knot of his silk scarf in a vague shutter-eye glimpse of Oliver Hardy. I seem to see a flicker of something in his glance, something I can’t put a name to, a disturbing thing like the gleam of jealousy or resentment. Rich lives the creative pose, a cultivated dandy bohemianism, neck-scarf worn with flourish, turquoise nail-varnish, hat with peacock-heart feather in the brim. He wrote a long comic-satire about Jesus born a woman which worked pretty well. His long theme-narratives draw an audience in, instead of my rapid-fire scattershot of shorter pieces. But that can work too. Catch them unaware.
Stephanie stays. We head for the venue upstairs at the Tawny Owl, stepping over snogging couples of various gender combinations strewn across each step. That’s just to random sketch the venue’s ambience… When I started doing this I assumed intellectual credibility would impress, with cultural references to Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard. I get swiftly disabused. That misapprehension doesn’t last long. But mention something about the cast of ‘Neighbours’ and there’s an instant recognition factor. Your references must relate. Yet poets should advocate anti-materialism, so how can we use catch-lines from TV-ads, ‘shoulda gone to…’, ‘simples’, ‘I’m not confused, I’m…’. Yet they evoke instant response.
Rich is a difficult act to follow, but I follow, get sniggers in all the right places, and come out of it with some positive ripples of applause.
‘Mr Northern Poet’ says the girl at the bar, ‘I just loved your set. Are all those things you say true?’
‘I’ve been accused of many things, but seldom truth’ I poke back at her. ‘Not a scintilla.’
The music breathes softly through night air. She is Veronica Speedwell, she tells me. I offer ‘Perhaps all is truth, and we are the lie?’, as though it’s playfully profound. Her depths are no more interesting than her surfaces. So why do it? You do it because it’s offered. Even when you know you shouldn’t. Even that niggling conscience-pang is good, it says ‘bad to the bone’, it says you’re getting away with it. When it’s there it’s impossible not to taste. Human nature is an old friend. There’s no guilt if you’re not found out. We have werewolf beast-genes. The human race would not have got far if we’d not been horny throughout history, and prehistory, and our frisky pre-human progenitors even before that. Some species have a narrow time-frame designated the ‘mating season’ when they suddenly go into an orgiastic frenzy for ten days, before quietly settling down again to grazing and eating nuts and berries. Humans just keep on fucking regardless of the time of year, and let’s be grateful for that. When a cock gets the pulse that can’t be resisted, and a pussy gets hungry to be filled, there’s no feeling better in the world… We’ve lived through too much history, we’ve outgrown too much sin. There’s nothing left to believe in, only the touch of flesh in a bitter world.
When she says ‘we are going on, there’s a party. You too?’, the world falls away on either side as we go out through the door without awareness of even opening it. Out into a stone forest city that melts into the sky. Its unstable outlines waver and brighten, while passing cars reduce to coloured lines that wheel slowly, keeping that focus always steady on the single point. The abrupt side-street is a walled-in canyon. The scrawl of tree-shapes hiss and surge above us. It’s a student house. I should have known. There’s a spatter of gravel that glistens and scrinches. A clamorous throb of noise. Rich is with someone who might be called Norma. Veronica has most definitely decided she’s with me. I have no strength to argue. I can’t invent anything clever to say. I never know how these things are done. I ask her stupid questions, don’t listen to her replies, and instantly forget what few words I do catch. No-one listens to what anyone else says anyway. There’s a medical skeleton in the hall wearing a bowler hat. In the kitchen they’ve fashioned hash pipes, the air all dreamy a-swim with hallucinogenic particles. In the adjoining room they’re laid about like corpses in a serial killer atrocity although there’s Hip-Hop vibrating the architecture.
I have an equivocal relationship with artificial energies. I’ve never, seldom purposefully… well, not very often purposefully gone out seeking it. But, like sex – if it happens to be there and available, impossible to turn away. She passes me a joint, it vibrates like something alive. Sparks and embers glimmer and burn in quarkness and strange. It sings against my touch. It trembles like skin. I dream theorems that guide me through the dance of constellations. But love is the drug I’m thinking of. Her mouth on mine, her red-snake tongue. The scent of her surrounding lightness, the pulse of blood beneath her skin. Neither small-boned nor slender. But with the kind of unquenched energies that produce this very strange weaknesses at the back of my knees. Rich watches us, sunk into the couch as if he’s grown tired of carrying his own weight. She holds my hand, leads me, we climb the stairs, try this door then that one. I swear she’s sniggering. Into a kind of luminous moon-gloom room. There’s no way I can resist such luring enticement. Her black hair uncoils, her eyes wide, threaded with fire. T-shirt falls away, a revealed skin whiteness, the pale pear-shape curve of breasts. A butterfly tattoo hovers above a well-tended goatee of pubes.
Staring, mesmerized, nerves in bits. I’m wearing Pink Panther boxers. Then I’m not wearing anything. We’re giving our skins an airbath. We should open the window, it’s getting gross in here. Listen, you can hear mould growing on the wall. Sick with darkness deep within belly and brain, flowing as smooth as corpuscles of blood streaming through my veins. I’m not gonna bore you with gruesome details.
‘We’re in bed and all you want to do is snog?’ Like she’s challenging me. Her breath smells of olives and peppermints.
‘I like snogging. Nothing wrong with it.’
Her fingernails tease and explore, delicate, insistent. Erupting a storm of moths in my scrotum. I go from flaccid to rigid in an instant. I distrust flesh. I push into her liquescence harder and faster than I should, before it fails me. She gasps and moves up against me, smoothly sinuous, vaginal muscles clasp, squeeze me hello. Her legs curl up around me, drawing me in, trapping me there. We both inhale the breath of relentless skin, a moist well of fire. She glows. Time is an empty place that opens up for our slide of bodies, the flowing back-and-forth, then closes in behind us as we pass. Time is a flexible thing, infinitely long yet also compressed into a very short space. If this one night is all we ever have, I’ll stretch it out to infinity. I try to hold back time, and it takes me forever. Feel the bed beneath us, try to believe in its solidity as we sink into each other, the springs groan, or maybe it’s my exhalation? She’s on fragrant fire. A burning woman, above me now, riding me, I swear the butterfly in her groin takes fluttering flight, I inhale a wind of interstellar dust, she falls across the galaxy of my body and we absorb in its deeps. It goes on, this way and that. Perhaps it’s the spores of chemistry ripping me, but once erect it refuses to rest.
It’s morning light when we half-wake. The covers are a hard and rumpled mess. Her groin is in my face, I stare intently, as if to count each frizzled pubic hair, as soft as feathers. She squirms around and smiles, ‘Mr Northern Poet. Will you write me a poem when I’m gone? Will you?’ And I drift. She’s gone when I wake a second time. Morning light. Dress and stumble down. Nora looks up from the kitchen, with knowing tease. ‘You’ve been with Veronica, her husband won’t appreciate that.’ She shoves bitter-strong coffee. No sweetener. I’m just looking for clues at the scene of the crime.
‘She implied they were separated.’
‘I don’t believe her man sees it that way. They run that hairdresser salon across the street.’
Rich leers. ‘Don’t worry. Sometimes a one-night stand is all you both need.’
‘She was great.’
‘She was hideous’ he gurns. A snappy one-liner. We both crack up.
We wary wend out into the chill, autumn’s last spasm, a Quasimodo-hunch in drizzle with an icy sting, the street digests us, a fidgety glance sideways up the direction towards the hair salon. Stooped, urbane gorillas who walk faster than strictly necessary back onto the thoroughfare. Swallowed into a huge poignant emptiness of city. It’s over. Done. No more to come. Except… of course, that there is. For this was the night I destroy the world.
Because then, casually and with ease, she drops that hand-grenade.
I make pasta. Dice rich shiny red peppers, dark mushroom-flesh, layers of onion, and courgette sliced in neat cubes. A shaker of herbs and spices. When Stephanie Bangs comes in off the street. And she’s crying. Long black streaks of smudged eye-shadow. ‘You fucked her, didn’t you? I know you did.’
‘It was nothing. It meant nothing.’ I have pasta-sauce as red as guilt on my fingers.
‘He told me. Rich told me about the party. About what you did.’
‘I was stoned. I wasn’t in control. And anyway, you have other guys.’ When I touch her it’s like touching a shadow.
She turns demonic. ‘That’s different, and you know it. That’s commerce. I do that for you. I do that because I care. I can’t even believe you’d use that against me.’ She’s crying, and I hate to see her cry.
I eat the pasta alone. She’s gone. She’s with Rich. She has jackdaw blood in her veins, she’s attracted by shiny trinkets. Now she has him. Now he has her. Perhaps that’s what he planned all along? In the night I see her black elfin hair and elfin ears, her Bambi-eyes like polished splinters of black gemstones, her breasts that prove biology outwits gravity. Memory gurgles like indigestion. And I feel this vast end-of-the-world desolation opening up beneath me.
Perhaps I’ll take a stroll down Call Lane. Just once. Just for old time’s sake.
Now, me and N2 talked a lot for the first month over messages then I suggested we should go for a coffee in a Starbucks in Derry.
When she picked me up she told me she was shitting herself while getting ready and telling her friend this in the process.
I just smiled and told her she had nothing to worry about!
Eventually we would start seeing more of each other for another month but nothing happened.
I never tried to kiss her or make love to her.
She would be in town with her friends – I would be finished a gig and sitting at home eating and watching TV and she would land up and talk, but I knew she wanted more and… if I am to be totally honest: so did I!
After a couple of months of being good friends – I was sitting one late afternoon in that winter and I decided to text her and say this: I’m not looking for a relationship but, would you be interested in being friends with benefits?
I got no reply and I ended up sending 2 or 3 more messages apologising if I upset her by what I said!
A couple of hours later she replied and said: I love that idea and you didn’t upset me… my phone was dead lol!
Oh, fuck… this was happening!
She came down straight away from the Port to my home… and when she came through the door I just told her to say nothing and I took her by the hand and by God it was so fucking amazing to be mad about someone again while making love!
Now, she was just out of a long complicated relationship like myself and that’s why she was happy with the agreement like myself…
We had sex all the time and everywhere!
We fucked in the dark (midnight) beside a pond in between our local forest and a well-known hotel while I stood outside her car door and she was inside the car doing her from behind.
We did it in her mum’s house in her bedroom so silently you could hear the moonlight bouncing off the windowpane as I silently mouthed ‘fuck yeah!’
We would walk in my door and go into the living room and she would drop down on her knees, I would turn off the light as she unzipped!
She even gave me a quick blowjob in her friend’s bed…
(I would write and a poem about this called ‘Hashtag’ and put it out publicly and she wasn’t mad, but she would like for that to not happen again)
I even said I would give up writing that night and she told me: don’t to be silly you’re a great writer!
There was a changing point for me when we were getting Chinese food in the little town she lived in outside of mine for her, myself, her mother and her sister and her boyfriend!
We were picking it up when all of a sudden we bumped into an old school friend of mine and his girlfriend was an old friend of hers.
We were sitting like we were all a couple and shit got real!
I really liked N2 and I knew she liked me but, this was what we were trying to avoid!
We continued hanging out and having sex but I felt like feelings maybe getting in the way!
I’ll never forget the last night we were together and freaked out and text her it was over!
The last night we fucked I was forcing myself to cum, but I made sure I did because I knew it was going to be the very last.
Just before she left later on that night – I was starting to drift off (I did this a lot after my night time tablets) but she leant over me and kissed me gently and said: goodnight!
When I heard the door close I got up and wrote that message I was dreading to write!
I said: I can’t do this anymore and I’m sorry, love you!
She didn’t take it bad at all and replied: that’s fine, love you too!
Now, my mum was mad about N2 and thought I was a complete cock for finishing it with her!
Lo and behold – I would stay friends with her (even up till now) and I would tell her how stupid I was for ending it and tell her this truth: I was starting to fall for you and I totally freaked out!
But she would not reciprocate my love and just say: thank you!
So, never leave it too long to tell someone the truth and never leave anything unsaid, even if that means it is not paid back!
Follow it for a winding while
Until you come to the fret
Rising through dank empty fields
Hemmed with trees already fading.
Go on until you reach
A deserted prom.
As the fret thickens
Feel your way
Along dripping rust scabbed railings,
Find the jetty.
Close your eyes
JJ Burnel’s elegy for Dave Greenfield, who died of/with Covid
“If Something’s Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love)”
Innocence has left this house
To wander among the stars
To light the path before us so we can see
You wake me up one morning and the world has changed
It’s war and the Martians have arrived
The world goes in meltdown and I miss you
The world goes in meltdown and I miss you
Earthquakes may happen
And the heavens open
If something’s gonna kill me
It might as well be love
One more gone to join the legions far away
Our ranks are getting thinner by the day
Our glory’s far behind us and I miss you
Our glory’s far behind us and I miss you
Innocence has left this house
To wander among the stars
To light the path before us so we can see
Earthquakes may happen
And the heavens open
If something’s gonna kill me
It might as well be love
Earthquakes may happen
And the heavens open
If something’s gonna kill me
It might as well be love
Might as well be love
If something’s gonna kill me
If something’s gonna kill me
It might as well be love
I stare at the passerine
without seeing it improving
this neighborhood scene,
albeit the leaves of dust and
those sleeves of concrete
seem the bright second draft
of my nextdoor writer’s.
The rain, last night’s, has cooled
down everything my skin
by quite a bit. I punish
my elbows by pressing those
against our veranda railings.
Should an epiphany hit
my awakening it is way late,
almost nine AM, and I
stand still in this space
without standing here,
Far below the kid who lit
up his mummy to see
how fast alcohol in bloodstream
burns whistles by.
I drop my heavy coffee-mug.
Extensions Out, Plus: Four Poetry Books, Sun Ra ($50, Corbett vs Dempsey)
Jazz composer, band leader and musician Sun Ra claimed to be born on Saturn and only visiting planet Earth. Some have suggested he pushed this to extremes as a way of diverting racism and hatred: better to be weird than black. Others suggested he was deluded, crazy, or brilliant at marketing; whatever the case he made some of the most far out music around, managed to keep a big band going for many decades and ran one of the first ever independent record labels, releasing myriad albums in many versions with different tracks and handmade sleeves: a record collector’s nightmare!
Sun Ra was also a fine poet, producing freeform texts which mixed spaced-out lyrics with social observations & critique, re-presenting black spirituality as a mix of alien gnosticism and heretical christianity. The poems drew on early American spirituals, Bible stories, Black consciousness, the counterculture, science fiction, hallucinations and visions, messages from space, and interior thought to riff on a multitude of obsessions, observations and obscurities. They were often printed on album sleeves, read or chanted over improvised music, and were occasionally gathered up into lo-fi mimeographed books and pamphlets. Now Corbett Vs Dempsey have obtained permission from the Sun Ra estate to produce four publications in a limited edition of 1000 copies, carefully reproducing the originals.
First up are two thin pamphlets first issued with early Sun Ra LPs. The small square (CD size) stapled booklet for Jazz by Sun Ra mostly contains recording details from the album, along with notes about the music and three poems, one of which is interrupted by a plea to America:
There is a great need for America to give all of its CREATIVE ARTISTS a chance.
I believe that America is big enough and broad enough to realise that it is not
possible to substitute anything for ART & CULTURE.
The same piece goes on to declare that ‘America must not be afraid to face the future, because the hope of this country is the future’ – and we all know how that turned out!
The future is also the subject of some of the work in the ‘liner note poems’ for 1959’s Jazz in Silhouette:
THE SPACE AGE CANNOT BE AVOIDED
The prophets of the past belong to the past,
The space prophets of the greater future
Belong to the greater future.
Skilled culture is the new weapon of nations,
The new measure of determination as to whether a nation
Is ready to be a greater nation is art.
And one of the great arts is music, which Sun Ra declares to be ‘a plane of wisdom’ and ‘a universal language’.
Early Sun Ra music is fairly accessible, drawing on the likes of Duke Ellington and other 20th Century bandleaders to create complex variations of tunes with powerhouse ensemble playing and featured soloists. It must have been strange to find Sun Ra’s exhortations and declarations within your album sleeve, though it might perhaps have sat with the American dream of space exploration and jet-set design at the time.
Sun Ra’s music would later encompass not only big band jazz but avant-garde composition, noise, improvisation, early synthesizers and electronics, chants, songs and demented cover versions, with something for everyone if you knew where to look. Many didn’t, which meant punks picked up his mainstream jazz releases when they were looking for noise, and the opposite for mainstream jazz audiences. Albums came in and out of print, legally and illegally, with both major and obscure labels; some weeks the racks were full, next week they were in the cut-out bins, then they were gone. Some albums got renamed, some were so poorly recorded they were unlistenable, others would startle and shake the listener with their innovative sonic exploration. Whatever the state of play with regard to the ebbing and flowing of cultdom and the availability of music, Sun Ra and his Arkestra kept on playing and touring; and Sun Ra kept writing.
The two volumes of The Immeasurable Equation are the most important publications by Sun Ra. They have been reproduced in various forms over the years, as well as excerpted, repackaged, anthologised, sampled and plundered. It’s good to have them in these definitive versions, although it has to be said that previous paperback editions are easier to read and carry around, particularly with regard to volume II which is republished here as a massive side-stapled brick of paper printed on only one side!
Just as the music got weirder and better, Sun Ra’s poetry also changed. Ra lived his life as a Saturnian in exile, an alien visitor, and his poetry is often written from that point of view. It is rooted in an infinite cosmos, with multiple planes of existence, and endless visions of both past and future. Sun Ra observes, exhorts, declaims and encourages us Earthlings to change our world for the better, using music to transform and improve things. Like some messianic figure, without any desire to be worshipped, he often talks not only of knowing more and of being wise, but also of going ahead:
In some far off place
Many light planes in Outerness-Space
I’ll wait for you.
Where human feet have never trod
Where human eyes have never seen
I’ll build a world of otherness . . .
And wait for you.
Some have seen this kind of aspiration to a heaven elsewhere as an excuse to avoid civil rights issues, others as simply escapism, whilst many see it as a playful subversion of christianity and utopian idealism. Others accept that Sun Ra really was from elsewhere and maybe could see other planes of existence, that he offered humanity a rare view of the cosmos, offering hope and possibility, be that literal or metaphorical. Sun Ra’s angels, humans and gods are bound together through music and its vibrational powers: powers that can heal, unify, uplift and encourage, that are bigger than humankind’s problems.
There’s no doubt about it, Sun Ra was a visionary, a one-off original, who managed to produce a huge amount of startlingly original music and writing that continues to confuse, confound, challenge, bewilder and delight those who engage with it. These beautiful poetry books may be an aside to the music, but they help explain and contextualise it, help us to listen to the world around us. As ‘The Sound Image’ poem says:
Endless sound is a universal language because that is what the music is
I have an injurious heart,
Longing for millennium.
Two full burnt smoky lungs,
Almost turned into fossil.
Liver is the victim of waywardness.
Kidneys are half damaged.
Viscera has no clue.
Brain is beyond repair,
Deeply rooted in anarchy.
Eyes convey an eye-catching past.
But fortunately no mask found-
In my bloody face.
Lips are parted with truth.
Cheeks are squeezed with betrayal.
Nose is battered.
Love is intact in ribcage.
Spine has the trace of backstabbing.
Voice sabotaged throat.
Vein gave up in vain.
Although, soul is beyond any postmortem,
It was null with fantasy.
Fabricated with thousands dreams.
A spirit fought to save the last breathe-
And successfully failed.
Galib, it’s but a fatal phenomenon.
It reported suicide.
Which is part true and part lie.
This mumbo jumbo postmortem-
Is an error.
It only beats around the bush and-
Precisely no truth comes out.
Society is impossible
A collection of individuals
Who when all meets up
Feel strangely alone
With only oneself to decide
Or choose someone to defer to
As if the action decided itself
Edged on by a little stimulus
To offset the resort to force
If you’re not careful
That anarchist dream of your’s
Will become crypto fascist
It’s not a free for all
Some needs are greater than others
How can you justify to me
Why you won’t wait
Sure the State
Resorts to force
As an underpinning
But it is nominally accountable
Half the problem may be
That you are too old now
What really moves me
Delegating down the chain
Alan: Really nice to get a chance to chat with you. Gerry Ranson was very kind enough to send me an advance copy of your new solo album, ‘Tangled’, due to be released by Fretstore Records on 3rd September. I thought we could talk a bit about your recent musical excursions and then do some good old fashioned reminiscing!
So, to kick-off, I believe you’ve been back playing and pre-Covid touring with Graham Parker and the Rumour. How’s that been going? It’s just so hard to plan at the moment. Are there more dates for the future?
Brinsley: Hello Alan, thanks for your interest and nice to meet you… Yes, Graham re-started GP and the Rumour back in 2010. He had written a bunch of songs which he thought would make a great come-back for the band. We all got back together in New York State, with the Catskills as a backdrop and The Big Pink and Woodstock just down the road. We had a couple of days to rehearse and then recorded ‘Three Chords Good’. It all came back to us as if it was yesterday, we laughed a lot and played with nothing to prove, just played the songs. We also had a small film crew with us during that recording and during the subsequent touring, adding to the documentary of the story that started in the ’70’s. That documentary ‘Don’t ask me Questions’ was finally released…as was the movie, ‘This is 40’, in which we had a small part, although Graham had a ‘starring role’. The following album ‘Mystery Glue’ (one of my favourite GP+R albums) and the tours were so good to do and the reaction from the fans made it so worthwhile and, like the whole seven year experience, so unexpected. I finished up on some Duo tours with Graham and it was thanks to all of that, that I began to think I could make a solo album. And my two albums ‘Unexpected’ and ‘Tangled’ are the result. I guess Covid has been the final obstacle to further touring, which always has its financial difficulties as well. Graham is in the States with some solo touring ahead in the Autumn. And I am looking at the possibility of touring myself in some way. But at the moment I guess we’re all back doing as much of what we were doing back in 2010 as we can.
Alan: You have featured Graham Parker’s song, ‘Love Gets You Twisted’ on the new ‘Tangled’ album. How did that come about?
Brinsley: It’s always been one my favourite GP songs. I was playing around with it one day and (unlike the original) quite naturally fell into the two repeated choruses after the guitar solo, not only did that seem to work musically, but the chorus lyrics flow together as one as well. So I dared to try, slowed it down a bit and had the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison in my mind. Graham (in photo, right) said he likes it, so I’m chuffed.
Alan: You are probably best known for your fine range of guitar sounds. There’s quite a lot of reverb and wah-wah on the new album and almost hints of Shadows’ licks and perhaps the ‘feel’ of Traveling Wilburys? Or, even the Notting Hillbillies? Is that a reasonable observation?
Brinsley: Well, wah-wah on ‘He Takes Your Breath Away’, but there is some delayed plate reverb on guitars, and on the vocals too. James and I like delayed plate reverb, the reverb comes after the initial hit of the note, so it doesn’t swamp the music, it’s not like being in a cathedral.
I don’t think I’ve ever not been influenced by Hank Marvin and for a long time I’ve tried to hold the song in the forefront of my solos. It was Graham who wanted wah-wah, on a track from ‘Mystery Glue’, on his demo he got to the solo and said ‘wah-wah, it’ll be fun’ and he was right, it was! Guitar-wise, I still feel that I’m influenced more by The Beatles, and Little Feat and Steely Dan and The Band, and, of course, Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. (I have three Zendrives, Robben Ford’s favourite overdrive pedal, on my pedal board.)
Alan: The second track on the new album, starts with the lines:
“And You, Drive Me to Drink…until, I Just Can’t Think…The Games You Play, Tear Me Apart.”
Have you really been, “turned inside out”? Or, is just a bit of poetic licence?
Brinsley: Having spent most of my life being a guitar player, I think I missed a lot of how songwriters write songs. And when you’re in a band with a songwriter as good as Graham Parker, your own faltering utterances can seem, well let’s just say, you’d rather keep them to yourself. And that’s without the thousands of great songwriters and great songs out there. On tour with GP I used to sound check my guitar and microphone with a song which is on ‘Unexpected’, ‘You Miss Again’, a song that started out being about a well-known footballer, but then it became about anybody who has tried, failed and got up to try again, and about the frailties or strengths that failure can bring. One day I was surprised when our tour manager asked me who that song was by, he really liked it…that was a big step up for me, someone liked one of my songs enough to tell me. But doesn’t poetic licence mean you can take something very general and make it personal, or, take something very personal and make it general or about something completely different, or, all of that. It can be up to the listener to say what it means to them. So, haven’t most of us been turned inside out at some point in our lives?
Alan: I think my favourite track is probably ‘Stranded’. Heartfelt, emotional lyrics and a soaring guitar. It generates a sense of ‘loss’. And feels autobiographical, but not necessarily recent…A really great song and recording…
Brinsley: Thank you, it was one of the two songs written and recorded during Covid lockdowns. I think I’ve become more and more emotional and alternately angry over the past couple of years.
Alan: You are quoted as saying that this album offers, “songs of richness and maturity from decades of experience”… but it also strikes me as quite up-beat, with some rollicking boogie-woogie too and plenty of sentimental songs. Lots of potential catchy, live ‘crowd-pleasers’, methinks.
Brinsley: Ah no, I think that quote is Gerry talking, but yes, there’s a mix of feels on ‘Tangled’ which I think is down to the passage of time. ‘Game On’ was written in the 1980s, ‘Crazy World’ earlier this year, and the songs definitely have changed as the times, sometimes unexpectedly, have.
Alan: ‘Crazy World’ is a very personal postcard to a friend (and the locked-down rest of human-kind). Some tender moments of kindness. In style, it reminds me of Paul McCartney. A song that sounds as if it has resonated in our heads forever and then some.
Brinsley: Yeah, I don’t know, I see a nurse in ICU with tears in her eyes or just plain worn out, or Captain Tom or Greta, or just good people helping out where they can, and I have just wept. But seeing a polar bear looking for ice has the same effect, it seems like climate change and the pandemic along with the countless injustices in this world have all joined up like a cloud of dementors hanging over us. I don’t know, politicians just don’t seem to get it, the time to be one world is now. Well this is the other song written in lockdown, it was a real struggle to record but worth it. (And if it reminds someone of Paul McCartney, then that’s got to be a good thing….)
Alan: Did you have guest musician friends play with you on the album? I gather it was recorded with James Hallawell, who has enjoyed an illustrious career with the Waterboys as keyboard-player and as the producer for the late, lamented Scots’ singer-poet-raconteur, Jackie Leven.
Brinsley: Yes, couldn’t have done this without James, he did the recording and the strings on ‘Crazy World’ and played great keyboards, (although I played a little organ on ‘You Can’t Take It Back’). We mixed and mastered together. Ralph Salmins and Ben Niblett played drums (although I played drums on ‘Storm in the Hills’) and my friend and co-chandler, guitars-repairer, Andy Eales played great rhythm guitar under the guitar solo in ‘You Drive Me To Drink’. (By the way, James played on GP’s album ‘Mona Lisa’s Sister’ and toured with us in the ’80s.)
Alan: So, perhaps we can now get down to doing a bit of that reminiscing? I started going to live gigs in the mid-1960s and then festivals like the ones at Isle of Wight in 1969 and ‘70. I was at the University of Kent 1969-72 and probably saw you perform there, but definitely saw you and bands like the Pink Fairies at Harmony Farm Festival in 1971. What are your memories of those fairly wild, early festies?
Brinsley: Well, all a long time ago, but I think we had a pretty mixed time of festivals… saw the Stones and Blind Faith in Hyde Park, from half a mile away! Brinsley’s played at Bickershaw supporting The Grateful Dead, the Melody Maker’s front page headline ‘the Dead Stop The Rain’ was not quite accurate and despite the ‘Dead’ refusing to move their back line a few feet back so we could be under some sort of cover, the days of persistent rain stopped halfway through our set! GP and R played at Reading when we had the power pulled halfway through our encore, Steve Goulding (our drummer) didn’t stop though and our ‘turn the power on’ chant was taken up by the crowd and forced the power to be turned back on…and Blackbush, where the jack-socket came loose and almost fell into my (semi-hollow Gibson 335) guitar body two minutes before going on stage. It was just rescued in time by our manager, Dave Robinson. Rumour guitarist, Martin, waited just a touch too long to pick up courage to go say hello to Bob Dylan sitting in the food tent, Bob got up and walked out just as Martin picked up the courage and stood up. Still, he got a lot further than me!
Ups and downs at festivals…Glastonbury, we built a great PA system out of ours and all the other bands’ Hi Watt PAs and were halfway through a really good set when we were hassled off stage so the kid guru could speak.
Alan: I moved to work in London in the early 1970s and as a band, Brinsley Schwarz were frequently labelled a ‘pub rock band’. A band with a mixed pedigree of prog, folk-rock and some psych-influences from Man, Help Yourself and the Frankie Miller Band. I was a big fan of Dr Feelgood’s high energy-fuelled performances, of Mick Green with the Pirates, and Chris Spedding. You were involved in Dr. Feelgood and Ducks Deluxe, weren’t you?
Brinsley: After the New York fiasco we got a big house together, built a rehearsal room and played. We continued to play colleges and town halls but we were enticed by the idea of playing with close-up audiences, New Orleansy and Band, Stones type r’n’b, and when we saw Eggs Over Easy at the Tally Ho pub we thought we’d try that. Dave Robinson and I toured round London pubs, persuaded some landlords that it was a good idea to have us play in their pubs by offering to play for nothing for a month, if it worked, we’d carry on and get paid. It worked (better than we thought it might) and other bands joined in. The press called it pub rock, but it was just bands playing what they played, where they could. And the music had a wide reach, but I’d guess that for a while at least, long guitar solos were not part of pub rock! But I didn’t really have much to do with playing with anybody else until after the Brinsleys broke up. I remember playing sax one time with Dr. Feelgood and I joined The Ducks for a few months before they, too, broke up, after which Ducks guitarist Martin and I were in The Rumour.
Alan: ‘Pub Rock’ was a fairly misleading label, perhaps? Was it apt?
Brinsley: Oh, oops, sorry, I guess I answered this one question earlier.
Alan: Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Ian Gomm, yourself and Graham Parker, Geraint Watkins were some of the stalwarts of the pub scene along with about to be mega-star, Ian Dury, who managed to morph seamlessly into the Rock Against Racism, punk and reggae scene. What are some of your memories of the mid 1970s’ music scene? You seemed to work with a lot of bands and musicians…through the 1970s, ‘80s and beyond.
Brinsley: mmmm, I don’t think Dave Edmunds had much to do with pub rock and Graham has always been ‘surprised’ to be included, GP and R played the Newlands Tavern, and The Rumour have to give thanks to the folks there for letting us rehearse for months for nothing more than a promise to play our first gig there, and we played a couple of out of the way places as a warm-up before our first tour. But GP and R didn’t really play pubs. We did play a lot of support tours during the first 18 months here and in the US. We were playing or recording pretty much flat out, four albums with Graham, two Rumour albums and more. I missed most of the seventies, working.
Alan: Quite a lot of my friends have always loved the ‘Greasy Truckers’ double live album. It’s almost the seminal, UK end-of-the-hippy-era album. Recorded at the Round House in Chalk Farm in 1972. The ‘Brinsleys’ were one of the main performers along with Man and Hawkwind and the loose-cannon, slightly-bonkers, Magic Michael. I guess you must have some amazing memories of that session…
Brinsley: You are pushing my memory here, we played the Round House a few times, once with Dr. John, he was terrific and I remember more about him and his band than I remember about us. Quite likely that the Greasy Truckers was the Round House gig when I got a pretty nasty electric shock…my amp went down, I got hold of a live 240volt bit and couldn’t let go, can’t remember how I did…That’s probably why I don’t remember much about that evening.
Alan: Over your long career, what have been your own favourite musical moments and the albums that you have been involved with?
Brinsley: Blimey, well seeing The Shadows at the Opera House, Tunbridge Wells in 1962 and The Beatles at Hammersmith Odeon. Cream, The Band, Ry Cooder, Van Morrison, all were great nights. Sitting at the PA desk watching Albert King three nights in a row, just terrific… watching The Last Waltz two or three times a day in a cinema in Auckland, NZ, every day for a week while we got over jet lag before touring Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Sometimes, in the afternoons, I was the only person in the cinema…Thrilled to have The Band rehearse at our barn rehearsal room by our house in Beaconsfield and standing round Garth’s Lowry as he played. For me and the albums I’ve played on, nailing the solo in ‘This Town’ (on ‘Max’, the first Rumour album), same with the solo on ‘Coat Hangers’ (on ‘3 Chords Good’). Playing ‘Long Emotional Ride’ on Jools Holland, a few years back, that was really special. I’ve enjoyed playing on the 40 odd albums I’ve played on, of course I have favourites,’ Max’, ‘Mystery Glue’ and ‘Tangled’… we’re pretty damn lucky getting to make albums, they’re all journeys that will remain.
Alan: Being part of The Rumour with Graham Parker has been quite a mainstay. Four decades, I think?
Brinsley: 46 years since we all met up for the first time, I was with Graham for fifteen odd years ‘till ’89, and then seven odd years on and off up to 2017. It has been emotional.
Alan: I think you also worked as guitarist with Kirsty Mac Coll. She always struck me as a loveable and feisty character? What are your memories? Did you work with Shane McGowan as well?
Brinsley: You know I’m pretty sure that I just played a little sax with some of the other Stiff Records artists, just one-off sessions. Those days were very busy. But I do remember playing on and co- producing Carlene Carter’s album, and The Rumour supported and backed her on tour. I toured with her again in the ’80s.
Alan: Any other favourite Brinsley Schwarz tales you’d like to share?
Brinsley: Well there have been so many fun and not so fun times, but since this is my and not the band’s story, I could own up to something… Sometime during GP and R first tours of the US, Graham was having to do a lot of radio appearances. They involved some chat, a plug for the show that night, play the record and do a Station ID. He was often busy with interviews or just needing a day off, so occasionally the band members stepped in for him. I did a few, turned out to be enough, though, to grow really tired of being asked the question, ‘How did the band and Graham meet up?’ Apart from having to answer this same question over and over, the true answer was too long a tale for the short radio chat. So, somewhere, I was sitting across from this radio DJ listening to him ask the question yet again, and suddenly I was telling him about how we’d been driving to a gig, stopped to get petrol, and the pump attendant (an American thing) came out and was washing the windscreen, singing away as he worked. We thought he had a good voice and asked him if he wanted to join the band…he said ‘yes’ and that’s how GP and R got together. The DJ said, ‘Wow, what a great story’, and that was that. It was, of course, a complete fabrication and I never thought anyone would believe it…but next time I did a radio chat, the DJ asked, ‘So the band and Graham met up at a gas station!’ And it carries on. It never happened, folks, I made it up.
Alan: I think that there are a number of Brinsley Schwarz (the band) compilations. What would you recommend?
Brinsley: Oh definitely ‘What IS so funny about peace, love and understanding’. A live set on Hux Records.
But enough of the old stuff, let’s recommend ‘Tangled’, it’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years, I’m hoping people will enjoy it, maybe revisit my first album ‘Unexpected’, and look forward to some gigs and the next album. I am, after all and as it says at the top of the page, ‘the man and Not the band’…’Yes..Tangled.’
Alan: Many thanks for chatting…hopefully now the Covid lockdowns are potentially lifting we’ll meet up in some pub or muddy field, err too long!
Brinsley: Thanks Alan, and yes hopefully that’ll be soon… see you there…
I visited Gavin Turk in his Canning Town studio and asked him about what he’s up to these days. ‘There’s a lot of shouting going on in the art world,’ he said, ‘and sometimes it’s hard to be heard if you make quiet art.’
‘Which you do?’
‘At the moment. Coming out of lockdown there’s a cultural vacuum. For artists to re-populate that space they need a renewal of consciousness of their effect on the planet. It’s wonderful have Deborah (Deborah Curtis his partner) on the other side of the studio working on The Great Imagining project, planning a future for children’s education.’
‘What are you working on?’
‘Several things, here’s one of them.’
‘The brown flowers?’
‘Yes, it’s called, work in progress. I found these out in the street, I thought it was funny, with that Mercury messenger logo, and perfectly complemented my other dried, brown flowers.’
‘Like the one’s in the beautiful bright vases?’
‘That’s right. These flowers have a different kind of life . They are changing, not static.’
‘Creation, maintenance, destruction – these things must happen – yes?’
‘Adopt an at-risk species’ said the ad. Marcia clicked on the link, which took her to a catalogue of endangered life forms. By donating a few dollars, the site claimed, you could help keep these creatures from extinction. The choice of which life forms should be preserved was left to the donor. ‘That one looks cute,’ said Paulo, her ten-year old son, pointing to the image of a small newt-like animal. ‘Axolotl salamander’, she read from the screen. ‘Is it real?’ he asked. ‘It looks like something created in CGI. You know, for Disney or whatever.’ Marcia scrolled on down the list. The number of animals and plants was daunting. ‘Depressed river mussels,’ she read, ‘Oahu tree snail, corpse flower.’ ‘What’s a corpse flower?’ Paulo asked. She clicked on the photo and a text box opened with a description and information about conservation efforts. ‘It gives off a scent which smells like decomposing flesh,’ she said. ‘Cool, that has to be worth preserving,’ Paulo said. ‘Let’s sponsor that one.’ ‘Make a list,’ Marcia said and continued scrolling down. ‘What about this jewel beetle,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it pretty?’ The image showed an iridescent, pale blue-green bug. Paulo wasn’t impressed. ‘Here’s one you’ll like, hornet robber fly…lives near dung, and feeds on grasshoppers, beetles and moths.’ Paulo gazed at it for a moment, the large black eyes and hairy thorax, then added the insect’s name to his list.
My mother samples the tilth of the soil
before sowing her family jewels.
Half of the town is down under a spell
of rain; ours stand on a higher ground.
If you dwell in a dream for far too long
your gray cells begin to swell up with its details –
how rain falls nowhere near your mother
and how it cordons off everything from her
existence and those pearls – now some seeds
for something silver. The blood and flesh
of the town’s nether part perfects the fertilizers,
spreads a bone meal. Meanings, meanings
leave minute prints across the garden.
How THE Parallel Non-Monetary Economy Is created – (paid for with labour). Potential realisation:
“I am a refugee living in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. I am 15 years old and lost my parents and home. A representative of our camp said it has adopted The Parallel Non-Monetary Economy (PNME). She told me the time I spend finding water, food, caring for my cleanliness and sanitation and helping my family and others in the camp – has been assigned some virtual figures in an individual non-monetary account like a bank account. It is called a ‘Universal Basic Income’ based on statistics the camp has agreed upon regarding the amount and nature of the work my daily life entails, (it also includes a measure of rest). If I decide to use more time in education, or employment, that is also measured and creates additional income. All other individuals and businesses have these non-monetary accounts (alongside monetary ones) and when I transfer numerals from mine to theirs it can purchase services or goods to the level of numerals society has agreed upon. This is not money and has no material value, so I cannot exchange my units for anything else. I can only use them in PNME accounts. The goods are exchanged simply through the non-monetary units kept on a cloud storage system. So, now, I do not need money or anything to do this with. I only have to press a scanner with my thumb and immediately the numbers are created or transferred! Many suppliers are now moving in to the camp and we do not need to rely on NGOs. I can now choose what I want to eat, clean and clothe my family, and myself, and my aunt can get her medical supplies. Even my younger sister age 7 earns from her activities. I thanked the representative but she said it wasn’t her or anyone else giving it to me, I was already earning it from the moment they adopted the PNME, it is mine. I asked where it came from and she said nowhere – my daily work made it.”
This Parallel Non-Monetary Economy is not merely for refugees. It is a system that can be applicable to all, indiscriminately, as an immediate solution to economic disparity, so we can collectively take back control of the global economy and our individual choices and future.
1 – form a decent size collective that can dictate terms of a market or supplier; OR use EXISTING organisations – NGOs, charities, aid & campaign networks.
2 – agree the terms and standards that suppliers have to meet.
3 – agree what forms of activity (constituting work / labour) are
rewarded by PNME units.
4 – agree what tiered rates of numerical units are earned for what incentives and prioritised work (sanitation, food production, health care, individual career choice, education, creative work, conservation to brain surgery etc). Also, set a Universal Basic Income / Living Wage (base-rate that removes cost burden of those less able to work and as an individual human right for home / familial / self-care etc). The units only have virtual numerical significance for the sake of transaction, not value, and can incentivise less attractive and/or essential work by paying more than money can, requiring less hours to be spent doing that work. All labour will be cost-free to employers, so it will accommodate beyond-optimum employment, as earnings are self-generated and do not deduct from existing budgets. Also, formal employment can attract a small premium as an incentive for employers choosing PNME workers.
5 – agree what those units can exchange for (compared with the monetary market in a fictional sense, not as value or an equivalent, it should always outperform money but can reflect scarcity or specialization).
(In any circular economy, all participants would agree the medium and its value – even if trading with used matchsticks).
Once a decent collective have formed, they hold economic power. They choose what form the non-monetary economy will take and what rates are applied to various types of labour, or they can set a rate for all labour. This is best if it is done with international accord, for there to be one universal PNME requiring no exchange calculations, but it can accommodate unilateral systems without exchange rates, (if one is aware how that system differs affecting choices in different localities) – so various PNMEs might exist but remain usable to anyone in that static location; (this is less desirable as it mirrors the monetary system of differing currency values globally). Since the PNME is not a cost and is a benefit to the economy, it avoids many injustices and economic impositions if it does not alter from location to location,. This is one superior quality and universality above money, affecting the artificial manipulation of price rates.
6 – agree an accounting system that is de-centralised, regulated and reported (if necessary) by part of global society on rotational or random basis.
7 – set up measuring mechanisms (these are best if they are automatic and do not require hands on maintenance and policing).
Many are sceptical of surveillance technology and tracking, (Big Brother) but most people globally already condone it from government and corporate imposition and even with their valuables, private details and wealth, through apps created by companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft. Once you have the PNME collective with immediate and rapid accumulating wealth, it is entirely possible an existing company, or a purpose formed company, can create the necessary system for collating all individual PNME income, through open-source technology. Some suggest civic states and community or cooperative banking, but all monitoring must be INDISCRIMINATE; so, already successful blockchain and other accepted forms of technical tracking along with statistical demographics for basic needs is preferable – regulated by a global random consensus, which means it is secure and not easily abused / misdirected. We are all used to payments made through card transaction, but there is something better at our disposal when we trust its regulation is for civic benefit, not commercial manipulation. Use of this technology means nothing material need be carried for transaction purposes and any monitoring receiver – like a watch, phone, fob, bracelet or pendant – does not lose individual monitoring data if it is lost or damaged; (stealing someone’s equipment would be futile as it basically only registers individual bio-metrics and isn’t used in trading). People in the worst circumstances could immediately afford to acquire such a unit, or statistics applied for such circumstances would eliminate this need.
HOW WILL THE PNME FUNCTION? (please see Illustrations).
1 – Blockchain technology already automates income successfully (though through monetary-generated crypto-currencies and pyramid schemes). It is not a currency system, it is a METHOD OF VERIFICATION where all users have a random automated share in verifying transactions in the cloud-based hard drive system.
2 – Bio-Metrics already measures everyday activities for us relieving our minds from mundane calculations – step counters, heart monitoring, etc. We already trust our mobile device, computer and bank account access to fingerprint or face-recognition. Other technologies could be more adaptable to different functions, temperature monitoring, for example.
3 – Magnetic Sequencing, bar-coding etc. already scans our products and transactions, does progressive stock counting and automated re-ordering. Amazon GO was the first primitive example of a store that needs no checkouts. Emphasis will shift to quality of customer services.
4 – Global Positioning System, we already trust for our maps, advertising and retail searches, purchases and deliveries, rescue search and verifiable activities, such as rental vehicles, haulage, forensic evidence etc.
5 – Laser, Light, & camera technology (QR codes for example) already used in scanning, security, positioning, architecture and even Wimbledon line tech and VAR in sports.
6 – Peer verification; computer records and online activity – we already accept from employers, voluntary organisations, social media, computer system logs and personal browsing history.
7 – Statistics may help with less quantifiable and monitored activities – child rearing, self-care, (7 years mental process in research for writing a book for example could be paid, even if nothing ends up being published). So as human beings we already have what we need to generate income. The only equipment necessary for transactions are various scanning machines.
Even though these technical facilities are generally developed, controlled, or bought by monopolising companies to make profit; when you have a global collective with greater cumulative wealth than any monopoly, society can set the controls and always defend against corporate take-over. Also you can collectively dictate political decisions and set up a civic state, decoupled and independent from monetary and corporate dependency. And since PNME units have no value, they only work as a transaction for exchange that is also in the interests of corporations to maintain as impartial, because it also protects and liberates their economic performance and options. They have so much to gain from engaging the PNME it is unlikely any will not welcome it, but the choice is there. The 99% can make law that guarantees preservation and security of that individual connection to those virtual figures so they cannot be stolen. Also, there could be a caveat of actionable consequences and removal of access to the PNME if individual or collective action impedes another person’s right to use the PNME. There would be personal IDs, business and location IDs that all clock transactions made and activities generating income. We already have this technology. Any elite 1% monopolising this process to compete for superiority and sustain atrocities over the 99% will be outlawed. But because it is not money with any exchangeable value, it is inflation-proof (see following example).
The term ‘value’ is necessary for measurement, but for PNME transactions it is a misleading term and one we can ditch in society, when it comes to economic exchange. For most economists, this is inconceivable. But this is what Marx referred to when he projected beyond how to “abolish prices” and “revolutionise the bourgeois economically.” This does NOT mean we need to dispense with prices, whether they are monetary or non-monetary. But this process happens with money anyway, wherever you happen to be – a bottle of water someone possesses in the Sahara versus the same bottle in a Tunbridge Welles news agents will have maybe an equivalent retail price, but someone may trade his or her entire wealth for it in the Sahara. The re-sale ‘value’ to the individual is what dictates exchange level – and the world over gets negotiated for fluctuating levels of figures fictionalised by accountancy risk-management, as if the calculation and transaction was as solid as the articles being negotiated for – on a promise to repay – debt and credit. But what price you could place on the millions of kind freely volunteered acts that happen ever day throughout the globe, often between total strangers? Another reality of abolishing price. Not cost. But how does the PNME achieve for everyone what Marx proposed, where ‘work’ loses its formal meaning and relates to everyday activity?
Illustration: a group playing cards decide to use matchsticks as indicators of success – so matchsticks determine the transactions from playing a numbers game, but the matchsticks have no value other than as numerical indicators. The numerical values assigned to the cards in the game determine the value not the matchsticks (it is a related parallel system with no value – they could be playing for single units or a kitty, the quantity of which is irrelevant). So, compared with the monetary system and how cost of living is linked with inflation, which does or does not affect wages, production costs, scarcity, price etc; it is entirely possible to have a separate but parallel accounting system with only the agreement of exchanging those units at levels set by the group – separate to what is materially exchanged. In the end, what is traded or exchanged is neither the goods nor services nor items that hold the value, but simply the symbol of exchange or success.
Example: so society in the form of various organisations, or even just a collective wanting a civic state, decide they want this economy and sit down to determine what it can do. “What of we agree 2 minutes basic unskilled labour can acquire 2 PNME units, which can buy 1 apple” then you’ve got “ah but 2 minutes of this more specialised skill level, or unpalatable job, lets say generates 8 PNME units which can buy 4 apples” – economists are always going to be working out the cost of the apple in relation to all the parameters money assigns to productivity and price as stated earlier. They want an equivalent, so, 1 apple = 0.20 GBP (which = ??? in various other denominations) meaning 2 units = 0.20 GBP – now we have something to pin the PNME down to. 0.10 GBP = 1 PNME unit. So, some supplier getting greedy says – well I’m raising my stock to the value of 0.30 GBP, which means you have to pay me 3 PNME units. But the collective of the PNME economy turn around and say – “raise it all you like, we’ve agreed to keep the PNME as it is so you can either reconsider or lose our business.” raising of the monetary value of an object results in raising the power of the PNME not diluting it. Yet the PNME can remain unchanged or society can forever adjust it against any monetary comparison. So the PNME remains inflation-proof BECAUSE it has no equivalent material or monetary value – only a numeric one between PNME users; (not even a tempting barter exchange value). Society has just simply formed a negotiating economic force to play a numbers game and agreed to use matchsticks or symbols. On top of this we have to factor in the seismic influences of the PNME labour economy reducing monetary production costs to zero in practical terms and hence the knock on effect to material value will be radicalized – “revolutionising the bourgeois economically.”
Fundamentally, the units forming measurement from productive or purposed labour is 1 – kinetic energy, 2 – mental effort (some expressed and measurable, some not) and 3 – time (including some rest time); but trying to tie this in to some fixed static economic equivalent is not essential and if it was, it only replicates the issues affecting the monetary system, (what economists and accountants are obsessed with and which is ALSO subject to fictional imposition). Trading in the monetary system is all about perception, scarcity and projection, sheer guesswork and risk. There is no set value between one transaction and another in one place and another and sometimes not even calculated risk, but an individual’s mental assessment of a transaction. Add to this the workings of financialization, loans and interest rates, debt, national debt, fiscal deficits, foreign debt ownership and interest rates – insurance on that and interest rates on the money gained from that, plus trading and contract speculations and unredeemable debt (loss).
Firstly there is nothing to prevent the figure assigned to labour (having no equivalent value to anything) accessing products and services and the natural world, which are artificially assigned value in the monetary economy: (for a comparison, see International Times article; https://internationaltimes.it/covid-capitalism-or-corvee/). This is key: the PNME mirrors the transactional process of computer figures currently assigned value as currency in sales and purchasing, (which is far easier for people to get their heads around), BUT – and this is the biggest but – the PNME figures are a fiction, like assigning points to scrabble letters. So what are accessed within the PNME economy are goods and/or services (which are also generating their individual fictional numerals) – what is exchanged in ACCOUNTING are merely the disconnected valueless PNME figures.
Some wish to relate this to Marx’ Labour Theory Of Value. In principle the PNME can create ‘ownership of the means of production,’ but essentially doesn’t necessitate it and hence removes the conflict of costs and profit with capitalist employers; or it can do this merely as a majority micro and macro market that can dictate terms. (See International Times articles – https://internationaltimes.it/the-end-of-money-part-1-the-cost-of-everything-the-value-of-nothing/ & https://internationaltimes.it/the-end-of-money-part-2-a-new-labour-theory-of-value/). It is a mistake to compare it with Communist, Socialist or Libertarian economies, none of which have produced lasting solutions but more deferring of wealth control. Yanis Varoufakis is now proposing a central community bank of crypto-currency, separate to the monetary banking economy. It can work, but only if its regulation is trustworthy and guaranteed de-centralised. Reliance on a governing body would make it vulnerable to manipulation. And, what is going to fund / generate income in this separate community crypto-currency system? Even Varoufakis anticipates elite capitalists will “resist this with all their might.” The PNME relies on collective monitoring, but most is automatic and is NOT reliant on collective moral ideology. The other advantage being it empowers the individual directly (or rather they empower it), not a body that regulates legal processes to distribute wealth, subject to some of the conflicts and dynamics monetary control is. It offers NO resistance to capitalists except its green agenda and caveats.
This empowers the 99% with the means to outnumber and overwhelm any oppressors and reduces the incentives for oppression, (see International Times article – https://internationaltimes.it/covid-capitalism-a-case-for-high-street-resurgence/ ). The PNME is already under our noses in practical terms; this is what neoliberalism has forced – IT IS WHAT WE ALREADY DO & RELEASES WHAT WE KNOW WE HAVE THE INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE POTENTIAL TO DO, that is being strangled and held to ransom by monetary control and dependency. This prospect can ONLY be offered by the 99% PNME, as employment Is no longer dictated or competed for. They offer it on their terms and earn the rate they or society have collectively decided.
1 – How the PNME inverts neoliberalism;
2 – Generating PNME wealth alongside monetary economy: personal to Macro level;
3 – PNME earnings v monetary costs through individual life;
4– the PNME accounting mechanisms.
1 – The Parallel Non-Monetary Economy already exists and works, exploited without payment by capitalism.
2 – Forming a collective of scale by the 99% transforms this collective into a market dictating economy (corporations always follow the market).
3 – This does not require any money.
4 – This empowers every individual to have an active, self-generated economic stake in his or her future from an early age onwards.
5 – This empowers collective representation and decision-making dictating politics, rather than corporate agendas.
6 – The is enables people to offer their chosen form of employment (most likely part-time for the agreed PNME rate set by society, or by themselves for specialisation or where resources are scarce) and removes welfare state for those who are incapacitated or limited.
7 – This does not eliminate money but eliminates dependency upon money, reducing monetary power to dictate circumstances.
8 – This can be formed quickly and at scale and enables rapid green industrialisation and resource-based development and production to address climate emergency at greatest speed and scale.
9 – This uses existing technology and systems.
10 – This reduces economic conflict and competition, eliminating debt & poverty; encourages international accord and cooperation.
(Entails 6 year research of 66 Authors; 649 global networking NGOs, charities, self-sustaining networks, anti-poverty, relief & environmental campaign organisations; political social empowerment and protest movements; NEMs, 70 alternative, complementary, circular and crypto-currencies; non-monetary & free sharing economies). Copyright – Kendal Eaton. (Sounding Off UK Publications 2020).
Primer (emulsion will do)
Cobalt blue and yellow ochre acrylic for backwash.
Assortment of oil paints.
White and blue oil pastels
Walk the South Downs from Eastbourne to Alfriston and find a wheat field with landscape and sky. Proportions – 4oz wheat field and 2oz each of sky and land.
Print it out at home – A4.
Scribble all over the back in soft 3B pencil.
Prime a breadboard with emulsion. (Or any other board, but breadboards are good as they come already framed – and wheat is to do with bread.)
When dry lay the image on top and trace the proportions of wheat, land and sky onto it. Your board may be bigger than A4 so just extend it. This is not cheating, but saving time.
Cover with washes of ochre and blue acrylic.
When dry work into it with small brushes and oil paint. Draw into that, paying some attention to the original image.
Scribble accordingly with white or blue pastel.
If moved to do so, draw into wheat field with pointed end of brush.
Now forget the original image and make of it wheat you will.
Go and buy a new bread board.
Repeat recipe with any ingredients you fancy
The white butterfly alights by the flower Becomes the hidden, still, brown leaf Yesterday was alive: Imogen on the mandolin; Leonie’s dreams, Excelsior, a fine picture; William, a poem of the hot sun & us beneath; Godfrey describes the wind, we listen, win
Our world; hearts warmed sitting ‘round Alice sings; memory melts, silent, still Gentle release, words, desire, let go This moment I belong to you. A sound Softens fragile colours to one, and will Join flower, meadow, tree, you, me; sow
This harvest is a simple one Beneath the clear and baking sky Our food and drink from each of us Comforts shared by friends, father, son Mother, daughter; all see this butterfly Shine, flicker, be still; our life ever thus
It was a great culture and it faded.
They always do – in the failing is
their glory. Shining uniform clouds
to populate a sky over autobahns
and genitals scrubbed clean, laws
to regulate coughing. The girls just love
English but speak it like good Kraftwerk
lyrics. In truth, there are vast symmetries
of boredom, flaring to violence and then
reclining on a 3pm beach of gold blue
where nothing happens until a shutter
opens – a gorgeous waft, fine cooking,
eaten over hours.
You would argue, who’d reject this?
The bookshelves in the heat, process
endless to the channel. There comes
the welcome rain, not ugly nor angry.
As an idea, I hate it – only the reality
worked, untrammelled, unstable as
cities built with water for walls – the
blue and white encircling but perfect.
In the warm kitchen of a remote farmhouse on the flat lands of northern France, the telephone rings. An old man stirs in the chair next to the blackened range he grew up tending. His daughter in law, herself now in late middle age, wipes the flour from her fingers, on to her apron. As she crosses the kitchen to where the telephone hangs on the wall, she tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear, leaving a streak of white across her cheek.
Too soon for anyone to hear, she says ‘Hello’, as she lifts the receiver. The coiled cable is tangled and she sighs and tuts as she tries to loosen it. ‘Hello, bonjour’, she says again, now ready to talk.
‘Marie-Pierre?’, says a woman’s voice.
‘Oui, this is Marie-Pierre’.
‘Bonjour Valerie, Ca va?
‘Yes, yes I’m fine, are you OK?’ Marie-Pierre sensed concern in Valerie’s voice.
‘Yes, I’m fine, why?’
‘Its just that’, Valerie took a deep breath and began, ‘whilst I was driving along the main road this morning, I saw someone crossing the fields towards your place, and you know, what with the rain, and the fields only being ploughed last week, and what with all the horror stories you hear on the news, I mean why would anyone cross the fields? They are so muddy, and that mud sticks like nothing else. My Grand Mama said as many soldiers died in the mud as were shot. So I saw this person crossing the fields and, and….well my mind it just went in to over drive, with all sorts of possibilities, you know?’
Marie-Pierre waits for Valerie’s frantic energy to pass through her.
‘Oh Valerie’, she says, laughing slightly. ‘You have nothing to worry about. A stranger did call at the house this morning. It was a young man, well a child really.’
‘What did he want?’ Valerie, ever impatient cuts in.
‘He was hungry’. Marie-Pierre laughs a little louder now. ‘It was ever so funny’.
Marie Pierre’s laughter is infectious and Valerie’s voice smiles down the phone line. ‘Funny how?’ she asks.
Marie-Pierre begins her story. ‘We were having a usual day. Father was in his chair dreaming and I was folding the linen I had brought in from the line. I managed to get it in just before the rain, but it still felt a little damp so I was hanging it on the rack over the range. Just as I was pulling the rack up there was a knock at the front door. It took me quite by surprise. I don’t ever remember anyone coming to the front door in all my years of living here. I stopped for a minute to consider it, and there is another knock, harder this time. So hard it wakes Father from his sleep, and he sits up in his chair. A little afraid I think. We look at each other while there is a third knock.
I go to the window, but can not see anyone, and anyway the rain is so hard, you saw how it came down, I can barely see beyond the glass. In front of the door is a big pile of boxes, goodness knows what it is, it’s been there so long, so I call out, ‘Go round the back. Use the other door’. But, they ignore me and knock again. By now I am becoming agitated and father shouts, ‘open the door, open the door’, ‘OK, OK’, I say, ‘It’s not that easy, look’, and I begin to push the boxes away from the door. There is another knock. Why they don’t just go round the back, I do not know. ‘Wait a minute, yes, yes’, I say, ‘I’m coming, for goodness sake, just wait a moment’. Eventually I managed to pull the door open. Father and I could barely believe our eyes. It was ever so funny, we are still laughing now, all these hours later. I’m dying for Lionel to get home so I can tell him’.
Valerie joined in with Marie-Pierre’s laughter. ‘What was it?’ she asked, ‘What was so funny?’
Marie-Pierre gave a musical sigh to end her laughter and shook her head. The old man smiled in his sleep.
‘So, after much huffing and puffing. Straining and pulling, I manage to pull open the door. Outside the rain is pouring off the roof by the bucket load. (It must be flowing over the top of the gutter). And there standing before me is the sorriest sight I have ever seen. A boy, maybe sixteen, seventeen, skinny and pale, his long hair stuck to his face. Dressed only in trousers and a t-shirt. Thick in mud up to his knees. Oh, goodness me, it was funny.’ Marie-Pierre laughed again.
‘That must have been who I saw. The person walking across the fields’, interrupted Valerie again. ‘What is so funny?’
Marie-Pierre continues. ‘Father and I are stunned to silence. I look at father, he looks at me, I look at the boy. The boy looks past me to the room and father in his chair. This is when it gets funny, the boy holds out his hand with a one franc piece in it and he says ‘I very woman, do you have the bread for me?’ Father and I look at each other and we both roar with laughter. ‘Pardon?’ I say. He repeats, ‘I very woman, have you the bread for me?’ Again we laugh and laugh. Day after day we live in this house, never seeing another living soul, then, when finally someone comes along…well goodness me, we’ve not laughed like that for years. Again the boy says, ‘I very woman. Do you have you the bread for me?’ The rain is still pouring down, he looks like a drowned puppy. Father and I look at each other, I lift my hands and shrug. Not knowing how to respond. ‘I think he is English’, says Father. ‘And not women but hungry. I think he wants to buy some bread’. ‘He wants to be in the bakery then, not here’ I say, ‘everything but our bread for the day is frozen’. ‘Tell him that’, says Father, laughing. So I turn to the boy, and trying not to laugh I say. ‘I have only frozen bread’, to which the boy pleads, ‘S’il vous plait. I very woman.’ I can’t help but laugh. ‘It doesn’t matter how much a woman you are’, I say ‘the only bread I have is frozen’, which has Father is in fits of giggles. ‘For goodness sake’, he says, ‘just get the boy a baguette from the freezer’, I can’t take any more. So, I shut the door and with both Father and I laughing and repeating the boys words, I go off to the back room and take a baguette. from the freezer.When I return and open the front door again the boy has walked away, he must have thought I had told him to go or something. Anyway I call through the rain and he comes back. I hold the baguette. and wait for him to give me the franc. As soon as he gives it to me and I give him the bread, I shut the door. I didn’t want to see his face when he realised the bread was frozen, and anyway I was getting wet. I ask you Valerie, what sort of a fool is out in the middle of nowhere without a coat in the pouring rain, with no food and not even being able to speak the language? Honestly, what an idiot. He was so funny. We are still laughing now, aren’t we Father?’
Marie-Pierre turns to face the old man in the chair, who sure enough, is chuckling away with his eyes still closed.
Marie-Pierre hears the latch on the back door being lifted. ‘Valerie, I must go. Lionel is home. Au revoir, au revoir’. Without waiting for the reply she hangs up the phone, and anticipating the fun she is about to have with her husband, straightens her apron, and fixes her hair.
Lionel comes in to the room, dressed in his railway uniform, tosses his hat on to the table and sits down. Without greeting him, Marie-Pierre places a half full bottle of red wine and two glass on to the table in front of him. Rubbing his hand across his balding head he says to the room, ‘I saw the saddest thing today’, he shakes his head and pours himself a glass of wine. ‘It is un revolutionary, I tell you, to see such a thing in modern France’.
Marie-Pierre crosses the room with a glass of pastis in her hand and passes it to the old man, who takes it without opening his eyes. Lionel, lifts his glass to the air, makes a silent toast and takes a sip of wine before placing his glass, carefully, back on the table. ‘A young lad, in his prime of life. Drenched to the skin, mud up to his knees, sat, shivering on my train. Peeling flakes of bread from a frozen baguette. When I asked him for his ticket he just shrugged like he didn’t understand, I didn’t have the heart to throw him off, so I bought him a ticket myself.
‘Ha’. Says Marie-Pierre, ‘That’s him. The same boy. He came here, that was our baguette’.
‘Pardon?’ asks Lionel, reaching over to his wife’s face, smiling slightly, as he wipes the flour from her cheek.
‘He must have left here and walked to the station’, says Marie-Pierre, warmed by her husband’s affection and pouring herself a glass of wine. ‘Honestly, it was so funny’.
Lionel sat and watched as Marie-Pierre acts out the story for him. Crossing the room, opening the front door, imitating the sorry excuse for a boy she and Father had encountered that day. Doing the best she can to copy his voice and language. After his second glass, Lionel forgets his pity for the boy, appreciates the comedy of the scene, and is laughing along. Just as he would at every family gathering for years to come as Marie-Pierre tells the tale of the ‘very woman who wanted the bread’.
PUBLIC INFORMATION FILM: CLICK ON BORIS’S FAT FACE
Bird Guano The column which believes that where there’s a turd, there’s a polisher
READER: The Olympics – I’m lovin’ it
MYSELF: I can tell by the amount of junk food you are ordering and the increasing strain on your trouser waistband. Wasn’t that a Supersize bacon ‘n cheese extra cheesy double MacDogwhistleburger that the man from UberEat just delivered?
READER: Yes, with extra hormones. There just isn’t time to mess around preparing and cooking stuff when there are so many Olympic medals flying about. What about that gold in the pommel horse event? Who pommels horses better than Team UK?
MYSELF: Apparently, pommel horses are flying off the shelves at Sports Direct. All the kids want one.
READER: There you go. Horse Pommeling is the UK’s fastest growing sport – would you prefer your kids to be pommeling horses or working as mules for some ruthless gang trafficking class-A drugs to minors?
MYSELF: Sorry, but as usual you’re only getting half the picture. You really don’t want to hear this, but pommel horses live short, brutal lives. Once they have ceased to make money for their owners, they are packed into trucks and transported to Eastern Europe where they are shot and sold off to be processed into dog food.
READER: I really didn’t want to hear that.
MYSELF: I warned you.
Top Gear – The Movie (Carp Pictures)
Following the huge box office success of Waiting for Godot –The Musical, the fledgling production company now has a high-tech, big-budget flick in pre-production. Top Gear – The Movie boasts a roster of top stars with Hovis director Ridley Scott at the helm. Thanks to the latest deep fake techniques, the movie will feature stunning stop-motion special effects by the late Ray Harryhausen.
Former Top Gear presenter and school bully Hugh Jarce will be played by Scientologist ex-jockey Tom Cruise. Long, CGI-generated legs will be added during post-production. The dim, short one whose name no-one can remember will be played by a 3-D hologram of the late ex-Monkee, Davy Jones.
James May will play himself as a cameo of himself, as he has done for many years. Shooting starts in December at Pinewood.
CARP PICTURES IS WHOLLY OWNED BY HUGH JARCE
Suck! Dyson with Death (Silibili Films)
Controversial cult film director Erik Von Pirate has an exciting new project in the pipeline. The protagonist of his latest low-budget epic is a cordless Dyson V11 vacuum which mutates and goes on the rampage after being used by a cleaner in a pregnancy testing laboratory.
“SUCK! is about climate change and diversity, like most of my work,” said Von Pirate during a speech at Sunderland’s Last Chance Independent Film Festival, where a retrospective of his work is being shown, “although with some of my earlier films, such as Tits Out for the Lads! or Moby’s Dick, I would respectfully leave it to the viewer to make up his, her or its own mind. Art, like truth, is subjective.”
WARRIORS: “NEW SIGNING WILL WOW FANS”
So declared José Pypebahn, the feisty Spanish sausage millionaire and controversial new owner of Hastings & St Leonards’ Warriors FC, in a move he hopes will patch up his recent clash with angry supporters, disappointed by a string of 8-0 defeats. It is hoped that the purchase of pink-booted Albanian centre back Glaxo Zog from Herstmonceaux Cannibals FC, will shore up the Warriors goal-leaking defence. “Zog is no one-trick pony,” said Pypebahn at a press conference. “He is not only able to operate as a roaming midfield dynamo whose blistering bursts of speed have been described as “brief”, but he can also juggle with 3 balls and is learning to ride a unicycle. He can play on either wing, as long as it is not on the right, and his ruthless finishing has often been compared with Ronaldo’s, although unfavourably”. When questioned about Zog’s transfer fee, rumoured to be in excess of £1,000, the Catalanian chorizo magnate chose to remain tight-lipped.
Inspector Twollet Netflix
Season 46 Ep 112:Holocaustic Soda
When an unidentified body is discovered in a down-at-heel transient motel, crushed between the jaws of a Corby trouser press, Stanley Twollet, unconventional detective inspector on the verge of retirement is assigned to the case, and must put his complicated domestic difficulties behind him in the search for clues. A chance meeting with a former fiancée recently released from a secure psychiatric institution triggers unpleasant memories which Twollet struggles to suppress in order to pursue the investigation to its violent, unexpected conclusion.
(dir: Zig Zaggersen)
HORROR FEATURES Jaws XII
Saturday 10pm ITV 8
A prize won by a small boy at a funfair is flushed down the lavatory by his strict Mormon parents who disapprove of goldfish. Cast adrift in a Victorian sewer system awash with toxic chemical waste, the terrified animal is constantly pursued by carnivorous newts and giant mutant alligators. Finally, the goldfish itself begins to change, developing enormous jaws full of sharp pointed teeth and deadly poisonous barbs. Due to a leaking sewer pipe, the mutated monster is pumped into a reservoir, where it begins to mate with the carp population. Local fisherman Ray Palooka smells a rat when the half-eaten corpses of local teenage windsurfers begin washing ashore.
For reasons of space I am able to publish only the replies to reader’s letters this week, not that it makes a great deal of difference
To Mrs Andrea Haiku of Babylon, Kent.
That is as it may be, but what a lot of people forget about is warm revenge. If you’re having a barbecue in November say, or if you’ve just been rescued after falling through thin ice on a frozen lake, a bowl of warm revenge, served perhaps with a glass of mulled Schadenfreude, can be just the ticket for restoring the equilibrium and bringing a warm glow to the cheeks.
To Brigadier Damien Gargoyle of Upper Dicker
No, I am afraid that is an old wives’ tale. To put it simply, toads are like slinkies in reverse. When confronted by a flight of stairs, bufo-bufo will instinctively form itself into a ball, secrete anti-gravity mucus from it’s parotoid gland, and roll upwards. In 1959, a Natterjack toad was placed on the first step of the Eiffel Tower, and reached the top in a record-breaking 21 days 7 hours and 10 minutes.
In a unique year, a group of 29 London artists connected by the Turps Art School Correspondence Course 2020/21 worked in a back and forth dialogue with their mentors, not unlike the motion of an artist’s paintbrush across a canvas.
United by this and an interest in furthering questions of what painting and making could mean at this time, they present their first group show.
“Imagine you are in a very, very remote place and post takes a couple of months to arrive. Or you are above the arctic circle! You send images to an esteemed colleague and await response. The response comes months later. You are unable to ask questions of what you just read because it’s a letter, no Internet, no phones. What then happens is that you slow right down, you listen to and digest every last drop of sense in that letter. You sniff it, you sleep with it under your pillow and you constantly re-read it until you suck every last ounce of anything useful from it. You then make work and any accompanying comments that are posted off with your next work upload will be very deeply thought about. That’s it, period! Babbling, garbling impatient ‘I must know now’ hysteria has ruined people’s ability to absorb and reflect. In doing this course you have enabled a slightly different process to take place. You learn from what you already know. The mentor is a guide. You do the work. It works! Read, reflect then make!”
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced” – James Baldwin
Saturday, 10 July 2021
Paris Commune – a revolution of more than its own time
A revolutionary tradition has always been strong in France. “From childhood,” wrote Eugene Varlin, a member of the 1st International, “people are brought up having revolution glorified … boys who cannot work out their own pay, who do not read newspapers, rush out as soon as there is any disturbance in the street.” This applies to Parisians most of all who are still proud that they destroyed the Bastille in 1789, leading to the execution of King Louis XIV.
When war broke out between France and Germany in 1870, The International Workingmen’s Association called for a General Strike against the war in all countries of Europe. It was just a hope as workers were gripped by patriotic fervour while Emperor Napoleon III was half-hearted in his attempt to check a German advance. On 9 August 1870, a large crowd gathered in the Place de la Concorde to demand the Emperor’s abdication and the arming of the people.
The defence of Paris now lay with the National Guard, the armed militia which had sprung up after the fall of the Bastille. Their allegiance was to the people rather than the State and the government was more frightened of the people than they were of the German army. One minister said that there is a fear that “the agitators would use their arms more for social upheaval than for national defence”. With Paris under siege from the Prussian army, by the end of the year, 300,000 Parisians were under arms.
The government proceeded to to make peace as soon as possible and on 3 September 1870 the French army surrendered to the Germans at Sedan. The Republic was declared, supported by the old bourgeois parties who acted to prevent a social revolution. The people of Paris, however, were demanding defence of their city, universal elections and municipal freedoms. A “Commune” was declared by delegates from the arrondissements in January 1871 and the Revolution was about to begin.
The Paris Commune was the first revolutionary upheaval in France in which the working class played the leading role. “Its true secret was this,” wrote Karl Marx. “It was essentially a working class government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of Labour.”
The government moved to Bourdeaux, headed by August Thiers who had suppressed workers revolts in Lyons and Paris in 1834 and 1848, referring to them as “that vile multitude”. Paris was defended by the Commune, with cannons placed on the Montmartre hillside. The army attempted to move these guns on the night of 20 March, but the officers in charge forgot to bring horses to draw the guns away and the populace was alerted. They fraternised with the soldiers and drew them away from their commanders. The army retreated to Versailles, but the Commune made its first and most fatal mistake. They failed to pursue them.
The Commune had two months to make its mark on history. “Time,” Marx said, “was not allowed to the Commune.” The political spectrum of the Commune was wide: Jacobins, socialists, members of the International and anarchists. The provinces supported Paris so long as municipal liberties remained a Commune demand. The more revolutionary Commune characteristics found strong support in the larger French towns, such as Lyons and Marseilles (where there was a short-lived Commune). The countryside remained antagonistic, a conflict that stretched back to 1848 when the peasants had supported Napoleon III against Republican Paris, helping to assault the city’s barricades.
For many Communards the Commune was not revolutionary enough. Some wanted to seize the National Bank. “The appropriation of the Bank of France would have been enough to put an end with terror to the Versaillais”, declared Marx. But the Commune supported the setting up of workers cooperatives which resulted in ten large factories taken over by their workers. The socialist paper Affranchi called this, “The glory of the Paris Commune, rallying and bringing over definitely all workers to its side.” But the attempts by some of the Commune’s delegates to take over the monopolist factories for the workers were not taken up.
Decrees on educational reform were ambitious although little was accomplished. The poet FB Clement faced the issue in the pages of Le Cri du Peuple. “What will remain if the people are defeated?” he asked, “if not the principles enshrined in its decrees. They can kill us if they wish, they can rip down our posters and remove all traces from the walls, but the principles that have been affirmed will still exist, and whatever is done, whatever is said, they are monuments that the Versaillais cannot destroy either by strokes of the pen or shots of the cannon.”
In Lenin’s words the Paris Commune was “a festival of the oppressed” which lasted long enough to show mankind a possible new future. Direct democracy of delegates replaced the parliamentary representatives. The Commune declared that “those elected by the people have the duty of keeping in constant touch with their electors in order to give account of the mandate they have received and to submit themselves to questions.”
The fighting for a total involvement of the people in their own democracy gripped Paris. The newspaper Rappel declared, “Today Paris has become truly pictureaque with the cries of its paper-sellers from dawn to dusk. It is a permanent concert, a sort of perpetual fair.”
Debates took place, at the Hotel de Ville, and in cafes and clubs. At the Club St Lieu they discussed ‘Whether the rich should be shot or simply made to give back what they had stolen from the people.” The vote taken declared that they should first surrender their ill-gotten gains and then be shot. A woman at the Club des Proletaires suggested that as a last line of defence women should march to the basrricades with their children. “We shall see if the solders fire on them. Perish our children if necessary, but the Commune must live.” The League of Prostitutes met and declared that, “We are 25,000 and we will rip open the guts of the Versaillais.” Some took up arms, others became nurses. Many died on the barricades.
In the words of the historian Stewart Edwards, “The Commune was a truly revolutionary event, the breakthrough into a new order where what seemed to be barely possible, however fleetingly, became actual.”
Neverthelees, a gap existed between the demands and hopes of the people and the actions of the Communards. Eduard Vaillant, editor of Affliche Rouge, expressed this difference when he wrote, “Instead of a revolutionary Commune, Paris had an elected Commune. It did its duty and it did its best. But because of its electoral origins, it could not have the unity of action and the energy of a committee arising spontaneously, from a people in revolt.” A Communard, August Malin, was later to admit, “The men of the Commune were not up to their task. One is never up to a people in revolt.”
The army broke into Paris in the last week of May 1871. A massacre took place. Le Figaro spoke of the need, “to purge Paris. Never has such an opportunity presented itself for curing Paris of the moral gangrene that has been consuming it for the past twenty years. What is a republican? A savage beast … we must track down those who are hiding, like wild animals. Without pity, without anger. Simply with the steadfastness of an honest man doing his duty.” Le Monsieur Universal said that the Communards should be treated as “the most appalling monsters ever seen in the history of humanity.” Le Bien Public spoke of the need for a “Commune Hunt”.
Paris was put to the sack by 130,000 troops. Upto 30,000 people were slaughtered with corpses thrown into the River Seine. Blood ran down the streets. Bourgeois women poked at bodies with their sunshades while their husbands boasted to theit wives and children of the numbers they had killed.
The dead took their revenge. The large numbers of corpses in the streets threatened pestilence. There were over a thousand piled outside the Trocadero. Outside the Ecole Polytechnique the bodies were three deep in a line one hundred metres long. Limbs were sticking out of the ground in Place St Jaques. Flies were everywhere. Even the London Times condemned, “the inhuman laws of revenge under which the troops had been shooting, bayonetting, ripping up prisoners, both women and children, during the last six days.”
As well as the 30,000 killed in this way, a further 25,000 were exiled to island prisons where many died. The ruling class exacted their revenge in the only way they considered appropriate, with a bloodpath.
Once the city was subdued, the national government celebrated its victory by constructing a monument in ‘expiation’ for the crimes of the Commune – the Sacre Couer, a white basilica dominating Montmartre, which had been the centre of Red Paris.
If you visit Paris and the Sacre Couer think of why it is there and think of the people defending that hill at the end of their short-lived Commune. In the Jardin de Luxembourg visualise the corpses heaped there by the troops after the carnage on the barricades of Rue St Michel. Then take Metro Line 2 to Philippe-Auguste station and visit Père Lachaise cemetery, Of course pay homage to Oscar Wilde and Frédéric Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Molière, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison. But don’t leave without a visit to the momument to the Mur des Fédérés. On 28 May 1871, 147 Communards were put against this wall, shot and thrown into a trench below.
Tweny years ago, I was standing at this spot when an old man approached me and said that his father had first taken him here on his shoulders. “Tourists come to Paris, and they know about the 1789 Revolution, but how many know about the revolution of 1871? How many of us French even know?” He was silent for a long time, then raised a clenched fist to his temple. “The truth about what happened here has been hidden for too long. It was a revolution of more than its own time. And it is our duty to keep their struggle and sacrifice alive.”
Walking back to the Metro station, I remembered a Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds”.
This is written on the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune
Had a cousin insane and was himself
Insane before, has that restless
Hesitating way of a dull weak minded Tawdry child and fancies
Rawcliffe Hall is rightly his, becomes Incoherent when told to justify this
Claim, says he need do no work now
But can spend his days in idleness…
I had faith In thold squire, Faith that eed do Right by me, Recognise his only son,
Do right, as well, By my old mam And if this is all my fancy Explain the three Queens Who hailed her as sister, Explain the three Kings Who knelt before me, Explain the angels Who sing me to sleep.
He was once fallen from a cart,
His skull left so deeply dented
I can insert my finger knuckle deep,
Was committed by his brother who fears Him turning violent and asks that he be kept Here as
long as he needs be.
What if I die today?
The sun will continue to rise every morning.
The river will take its regular course.
The birds will chatter.
The winds will blow in its direction.
No difference will take place.
And what if I live today?
The world will split into two.
In one part, the sun will rise.
In another, my hope will fall.
In one the river will flow and-
In other the heavy pain.
In one someone will start to dream.
In other my heart will stop to beat.
In one the birds will chatter and-
In other my cry will go through and beyond.
In one the whimsical wind, in its way.
In other my breathe will fluctuate.
Life and death! Life and death!
What if I die tomorrow?
The world will earn me some grief.
And next day it’s all memory- –
My heart, my breathe, my cry and me.
Only the sun is perfect and I’m pieced.
Only the river is deep and I’m so hollow.
Only the birds are free and I’m stuck.
Only the wind is permanent and I’m lost.
World followed! I failed!
And what if I live tomorrow?
My scar will have no effect on the earth.
The earth will go on and on and on.
My will for live, will not reach to the sky.
The sky will remain unreached for ever.
My melancholy will not turn anyone.
Not anyone will take a share of it.
It will die along with me or It will live if I……
……so! What if I die today?
Or I live tomorrow?
The world will split into two:
Another, upside down!
By, Tiyasha Khanra
Photo Nick Victor
Bio – Tiyasha Khanra is a poet, live in Kolkata, India. Poetry is her alter ego. She lives in poetry, feeds in poetry and dies in poetry
Stoned Circus Radio Show – Garage & Psychedelia from all over the world (from the 60’s to the 00’s) Freak out the jam !
he 60 minutes long show superbly highlights psychedelic music, garage punk, , mods, Rock’n’Roll, Rockabilly, punk rock, psychedelia, acid-rock, beat, r’n’b, soul & early funk, space-rock, exotic sounds with sitarfuzz from the 60’s to NOW !
Co-founder, Bill Elliott, of the vocal duo, Splinter, passed away in June 2021. At one point in time, back in 1974, he and his musical partner, Bob Purvis, edged into the limelight of fame with the single, ‘Costafine Town’ from their debut album, ‘The Place I Love’. Another potential hit was ‘Drink All Day’ (Got to find your own way home) which was a very catchy ditty, but it was deemed too risqué by the Beeb. Without enough airplay it became something of a musical casualty.
However, the main reason for the music-business buzz around the band was former Beatle, George Harrison, who mentored the two-man band that was Splinter. Indeed, for their first album released on George’s own personal Dark Horse label, George actually is credited more times on the sleeve notes than either of the Splinter boys! But, George was always a Dark Horse and his credits include:
Moog synthesizer: P. Roducer
Guitars and dobro: Hari Georgeson
Percussion: Jai Raj Harisein
Producer: George Harrison
And the other musicians included a considerable roll-call of the great and the good, including Klaus Voorman – bass; Alvin Lee – guitars; Organ – Billy Preston; Piano – Gary Wright and Jim Keltner – Drums.
A really rather fab black and white video collage for ‘Costafine Town’ displays the talents of some of the UK’s finest photographers. Featuring the stunning photography of John Bulmer, Colin Jones, Don McCullin and Bert Hardy.
The songs and images of Splinter were deeply rooted in their own Geordie heritage, especially from in and around South Tyneside. The scenes and sounds of pubs, pits, heavy industry and working class life. A little geographical puzzle still surrounds the location of Costafine Town. According to John Simpson Kirkpatrick on Youtube:
“Costa Fine Town (real name Corstorphine Town) was named after business man Robbie Corstorphine, who settled in South Shields, but hailed from Corstorphine, a village west of Edinburgh.”
I think that ‘Drink All Day’ would have been a great sing-along-Beatles’ ditty. And it features some characteristically stunning George Harrison guitar licks:
“Bill Elliot (one ‘t’) was featured on an Apple single (#1835) ‘God Save Us’ b/w ‘Do the Oz’ both written by Lennon/Ono and under the moniker of: “Bill Elliot and The Plastic Oz Band” on the A side. The B side was the “Elastic Oz Band”. Elliot was also featured on the 45rpm picture sleeve.”
John wrote both songs in support of ‘Oz’ underground magazine and as a protest about the implementation of the UK’s obscenity laws. I think Bill and John both sang on the A side, which was originally entitled: “God Save Oz”. This sounds pretty much the same in a Liverpool accent.
“In 2019 both members of Splinter, realising their recordings were not on the market and had not been for some considerable time, decided to commence a Legacy Project, thus ensuring that unreleased material will be made available to fans.
and a new album titled “Never Went Back”, was issued October 2020. This album is a straightforward acoustic album, capturing the duo in the studio as they would have been heard live in concert.(Gonzo Multimedia, Cat No 207916).”
A second Splinter legacy album, ‘Live in England’ is currently due to be released in 2021:
Splinter’s output was better known outside of the UK, especially in Australia and Japan, where they actually recorded in Japanese! In addition to ‘The Place I Love’, their discography from Wikipedia lists:
1975: Splinter (Dark Horse DH2) Promo album of acoustic demos released in plain white sleeve. Said to have been limited to 100 copies.
1975: Harder to Live (US Dark Horse SP-22006) (UK AMLH 22006) (Japan King GP-270)
1976: World Popular Song Festival in Tokio ’76 (Yamaha YL 7615)
1977: Two Man Band (US Dark Horse DH 3073 or Warner K 17009 ) (UK DRC 8439) (Japan Warner P-10425D)
Quail on the cusp of darkness
explore between the grass blades
for remnants from yesterday’s rain
while clouds face off
against the sunset. The mysteries
are flying home to roost: is light
the universe’s way to suggest
that mountains have a soul? Is it
when the ridgeline is a fingerboard?
Or the alchemy by which
the flicker, opening its wings, scatters
gold dust from beneath them.
The Spots That Never Went (Spectra Polaroid, elastic band, screws) Roelof Bakker
I have known artist/photographer Roelof Bakker for ten years, since he produced and published Still (2012) a book of his photographs from the disused Hornsey Town Hall with accompanying short stories. Each writer was asked to choose a photo and I chose a clock stuck at ten o’clock, which somehow brought forth a story about Napoleon and the ten-hour clock: but enough of that. Roelof Bakker’s work is tender and sinuous, with beauty and sometimes menace. I asked him a question for IT.
JW – Once you see something, and it strikes you as a possibility for art, what are your internal processes? Do you start with an idea and look for a corresponding image? Or does something you see in the world jump-start something in you? What happens first?
RB – Thanks Jan… Interesting question, it’s a tricky one because with each project, or with individual works, I use different approaches, it’s a random process – it’s about surrendering or responding to a feeling or emotion, to a thought or a question, to a memory, to self-reflection, to the subconscious, to an event, to a text or words, to a physical thing (a work of art, the natural world, a sign), to a person, to a place or often to process itself.
My work always has a personal connection, from my statement, ‘With my creative projects I process life experiences and events, playing with form and format, exploring issues relating to health, history, queerness and the environment.’
The project The Spots That Never Went evolved from a Polaroid photograph I took of a rotten, spotted, apple held tenderly in the palm of my hand. It reminded me of a press photograph of Princess Diana holding the hand of a man living with AIDS in 1987, an event helping signify the end of misinformation about how HIV could be transmitted. The spots on the apple connect visually to the appearance of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin cancer which manifested itself in the later stages of AIDS. The Polaroid image and the connection to the Princess Diana photograph (a symbol of care, love and understanding), led me to explore a process of making multiple images of the apple photograph, applying an extreme halftone screen (a photograph is converted to dots for reproduction in a publication, like a tabloid newspaper) to the image, then taking small fragments of this to make a series of twelve abstract images conveying forgotten history and fragmented memories, also communicating ideas about life and death, loss and hope and HIV-positive and HIV-negative status.
They were positioned on the pages of a tabloid newspaper, opposite brief sentences of personal memories of the 1980s/90s AIDS crisis, each sentence starting with ‘I remember a time…’, like ‘I remember a time when the police raided bars and clubs wearing decontamination suits and gloves.’ and ‘I remember a time when I was young and other young men got ill and soon after they died.’
The images and the texts appear in a tabloid newspaper, I wanted to reclaim this format from the hateful tabloid newspaper reporting (The Sun, News of the World, etc) of people living with AIDS and gay men and lesbians in the 1980s, something Derek Jarman writes about in At Your Own Risk (1991).
My book has been reinvented as an exhibition, to be shown in Brixton’s Photofusion in October-December 2021, following on from a show during Gay History Month 2020 in Cambridge.
RB – I’m working on the design of three artist’s books for projects I started during a self-assigned lockdown residency at The Queer Hut, a desolate wooden structure standing on a disused railway embankment overlooking Cambridgeshire fields. Each book highlights a different aspect of the negative impact of mankind on the environment and will be published through my press, Negative Press London. I’m also finalising a project about asthma and air pollution, experimenting with analogue photographic processes, video, writing, appropriation and performance.
David Erdos’ Poemusic album is a unique series of tributes to resistance and vision. From William Blake and Heathcote Williams to George Floyd, Harold Budd and the plight of all musicians this charts the space between the worlds of poem, spirit and song.
Executive Producer and Project Manager: Renato Roversi
Recorded in London throughout the second Lockdown.
Cover Art:Elena Caldera CD Cover Design: Claire Palmer
Renato Roversi and Suriya Recordings Presentsthe debut release of:
A Poemusic EP(Suriya Recordings 2021)
Featuring STEPANHONC, GIL DE RAY, KIRANPALSINGH, MARCAPPLETON, THE SIPS
Track1: OVERSEER(ForBlake)–Poem by David Erdos.Music composed by GilDeRay, PerformedGilDeRay& Stepan Honc (6.29)
Track 2: THEFLOWERFOLDS(ForHaroldBudd) –Poem by David Erdos. Music composed and performed by MarcAppleton(5.45)
Track 3: THINKFLOYD(ForGeorgeFloyd) –Poem by David Erdos. Music composed and performed by StepanHonc(5.49)
Track 4: SONGBIRDSOURED(ForallOrtolans) –Poem byDavid Erdos. Music composed and performed by KiranpalSingh(6.45)
Track 5: BETWEENBRIGHTWORLDS(For HeathcoteWilliams) –Poem by David Erdos. Music composed and performed by RaoulKhayat,FrancescoBuffone,KillianAubertin(4.49)
Track 1 Produced by Gil De Ray and Stepan Honc.Mixed and engineered by Stepan Honc
Track 2 Producedby Marc Appleton and Stepan Honc.Mixed and engineered by Stepan Honc Tracks 3 & 4 Produced, mixedand engineered by Stepan Honc. Track 5 Produced by RAWKILL PRODUCTIONS (Killian Aubertin, Raoul Khayat,RenatoRoversi) and Stepan Honc, remixed and engineered by Stepan Honc.Mastered byJames Connor
My pen has no boundary.
My pain has no boundary.
My pen moves through my pain.
My pain inks my pen.
My pen alters all my paranoid thoughts.
My pain checkmates my pen.
I play with my pen.
I play with my pain.
I know it’s as simple as that.
Yet I make it spiral because-
Simple is too simple to simplify.
So I do it intentionally.
And all my pain comes in a certain way.
And my pen becomes a silent-
Witness and hence an oxymoron!
Because it penned what it wasn’t supposed to.
Therefore, my pen betrayed my pain and not vice versa.
All I write isn’t a poetry.
Sometimes my pen only pens my pain.
And yes sometimes I babble the gibberish.
And sometimes my pain only pains my pen.
And yes sometimes I feel choked with utter nonsense.
What’s the point?
I think you should pen what you shouldn’t.
I think you shouldn’t refrain when you should.
And when all the pain freaks out,
Relaxes your incorrigible pen. Just pen it.
Pen what pains.
I step outside for smoke, but there’s only steam rising from spilt coffee and a rough sketch of breath still hanging around from old conversations. While I was furloughed from work, I learned to read such traces, so I know that there was a man – 56 years old, 5’ 9” – with brown shoes and a voice that squeaked like a windmill in need of oil. He works in retail, selling stationery and craft supplies in an out-of-town mall, and once, when he was a child of 7 or 8, a heron flew in through his bedroom window and stood at the foot of his bed. Years later he got a tattoo of a heron on his right forearm, though a lot of people he meets assume it’s a stork or a crane. A bird is a bird is a bird. Looking closer, I see that he was talking to a taller woman whose head was shaved like an egg. She plays piano on cruise ships, though there has been no work for a year or more. She, too, was once visited by the same heron, and has an identical tattoo, though her more ornithologically aware circle of friends and acquaintances generally identify the King of the Birds. They both gave up smoking on the same day in 1997, but the steam from the coffee tells me that neither of them knew any of this about the other, and they only spoke of problems finding parking spaces in a city of this size. Away to the west, a finger of smoke tickles the sky, sketching the outline of a bird.