Friday, 27 November 2015

Do Your Thing, Dads.

Dads, be honest. how often have you sat back and let your other half take the strain? Suddenly looked busy when a nappy needed changed, pretended that the baby wants their other parent? Pretended to be clueless with the special cream the doctor gave you for the baby's bum?

Yup, its true, we've all done it. And yet frequently, us Dads get furious, incandescent with rage when society does that thing that completely fucking ignores Dads.

Well I say (up to a point), we only have ourselves to blame. Many of us will have been raised by Dads that were the 'bread winners'. Came home, ate their tea, gave us a look if we were being naughty. But mainly only did nice stuff once a year or not at all. My Dad was always there for a hug, but rarely fed me, changed me, chastised me, or anything. We bonded over trips to Sutton HMV once I was a teenager. But it was different. All too often us Dads use this as an excuse for our equally disengaged behaviour. Well that's a lame excuse. We're grown ups, and we make our own choices.

When we found out about our first daughter Maeve's difficulties at the 20 week scan, we were ushered into the (what became all too familiar) room with a leather sofa, leaflets and tissues. The nurse that did the scan followed us in and hugged my wife. Before I had a chance to, and then left the room. I mean HELLO?!? From that moment I decided, as an adult can, that I wasn't going to put up with that shit. At all scans and appointments since I am (probably annoyingly) pointed if the GP/Doc/midwife etc talks to Becca and not to me.

A few weeks after Maeve died aged 18 months, I was at home losing the plot (like you do). Becca wisely suggested we go to the GP, our surgery was really good about that stuff. By the time we got there I was kind of blank and catatonic. I don't remember much but we were took into a small room by the kind receptionist, who then hugged Becca. And left. Yup, an appointment that was for me.

So Dads, back to being on message, in order for this to stop happening, we need to engage. Embarrassingly often on Instagram I hear the words "I wish my other half was engaged as a Dad like you are Nick". I'm flattered I guess, but I hate hearing that. What the fuck are you guys doing?! 

I accept that all the wonderful Mums out there have a bond with a child like no other. Its unique, its physical, emotional, spiritual, incredible. However us guys can get a taste of that if only we'd realise that all you have to do is SAY you want that too. Then actually do it. Be the bad guy sometimes, change that nappy when the baby is having a meltdown, let your other half have a break. Take the baby out, let your other half have a big deep bath. Be the first one to reach for the baby when it falls. I know a lot of you guys will be shouting and cursing at me "I DO THAT YOU TOSSER!" but far more of you don't. I see it in play parks, cafes, streets, shops, soft play. Some of the local parent and toddler groups aren't called Mums and Chums for nothing. Ain't no guys there, EVER.

Break the mold, prove that we deserve to be heard above the noise of our sisters doing it for themselves, lets gets together brothers. Without shame, without fear, without embarrassment, but with love, care and a desire to be Dads. You don't have to be some horrible cheesy perfect teethed Dad rolling about in the grass (google image search 'dads' - I dare you), just engage, and don't accept the norm.

Love you, guys. Yeah, yeah, euuuuw.

Friday, 12 June 2015

North vs South (Divided)

The UK has had a North / South divide forever. This is enforced (I use that word intentionally) of course by having its government at one end of this supposedly united country. 

This automatically creates a sense of those being near government (and previously monarchy) of importance. Of superiority. It's little wonder that no-one south of Watford cared about the slums of Liverpool or Glasgow, until they started appearing as images in newspapers in the 1960s, while the shiny new world of Wilson and The Beatles took hold, 75% of the country was probably wondering when it was their turn.

Todays decision by the IPCC to not investigate events at Orgeave in 1984/85 should come as no shock to anyone. Should it? But this isn't what I'm blogging about.

As someone born in 1972 in Dorking, Surrey, I was raised on the Daily Mail, commuter trains and suburbia. We weren't well off. In the sense that we didn't have a huge leafy pad in deepest Surrey, anyway. We had (owned - none of that 'council estate stuff' for us) a flat (my parents called it a maisonette - Bouquet not Bucket). Dad worked for the GLC. You'd think we'd be silent Labour or Liberals, but no, we were blue through and through. I even remember copying a cartoon during the '79 election of "Callaghan down the drain". I grew up with power cuts, strikes, piles of bin bags. So it was no surprise that I should dislike those Labour lefty loonies Livingstone and Scargill, Kinnock and Foot. All they seemed to do, to my childlike eyes, was shout a lot.

'The North' was painted by the news (BBC only - Blue Peter not Magpie, Swap Shop not Tiswas) as a place that was grim, grey and grimy. But, you could get a pint of beer for 14p. As a 10 year old boy the North was scary, where men worked in mines, women seemed to permanently have aprons on and kids always had dirty knees. I was raised with that sense of superiority deeply embedded in me. I was working for HMV Trocadero during the 1992 election, many of my colleagues had been involved in the 1990 poll tax riots, and they were still very fresh in the memory. I however, unashamedly voted Tory. My first vote. Not one for the history books, eh? I still lived at home, Margaret Thatcher had kindly abolished the GLC, meaning my Dad went and got a job at a 'blue-chip' Solicitors firm whose offices were literally facing the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, and paid well. We were doing good, so why should I care? I'm lucky I didn't get my face kicked in.....

I left home for South Devon in 1993, starting an unstoppable trend that over the last 20+ years has seen an extraordinary rise in house prices there, meaning the local people can't afford to live there anymore. Sorry about that, Devon. Anyway, I was a barman in a pub. I earned pretty low wages. I was lucky enough to fall in with a family there that rented me the flat above their garage for peanuts. Phew. Dodged the social housing bullet. Not that there was much social housing left by then, and anyway you needed to have "14 children and walk with a limp" to get one of those. Yeah, so the Tory wasn't quite knocked out of me yet.

I spent 8 years in Devon, I dated and lived with a local girl, and I scorned her working class family. They didn't like me much either. However, I did vote Labour in 1997, despite my then boss saying they'd raise taxes, and cause mayhem. In 2001 I moved to Oxfordshire & things under "New" Labour were looking good. I was Ops Manager of a hotel that backed onto Blenheim Palace. I hung with the nobless nobles and ate well, and had a jolly good time in my new build house in Banbury. I still didn't own a house by the way. Renting is my game. Then I moved to Belfast in 2002.

I fell in love with this broken but re-building city, and country. I drove its streets and started to notice something. I lived in East Belfast, historically a predominantly protestant working-class area, dominated by the Harland and Wolff shipyards. The houses were being pulled down, all the old Victorian terraces were being rebuilt as shiny new houses. This meant communities being fragmented, peoples entire support networks going in the name of progress. The shipyards were no longer great. Only a few 100 people worked in a place that once employed 1000s. Jobs kept being created and destroyed. People talked to me about it. Suddenly I realised what the miners strikes were ACTUALLY about. Lost community. Lost jobs. Lost lives. My sister lives in West Yorkshire, and some people still won't speak to her because she has a London accent. They think she was in league with Thatcher. Little wonder. Brassed Off wasn't just a cute little film about a brass band you know....

So what am I talking about? I think the IPCC decision about Orgeave just proves that for all the regeneration that has happened UK-wide, for all that Manchester and Glasgow are as thriving as any international city, they're still no match for London. Still second best. Historically, most civil unrest happens during Conservative governments. Hopefully, this won't change. We need to get off the sofa, stop staring at Sky TV aimlessly, and get some passion back in our over-fed guts. And throw some stuff.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Grief For Newbies

Maeve Joy Elise - and her
famous 'O' face!
So (big, deep breath). Some of you may know that in April 2013, our world went shitbag. Our world went blurry, angry, unreal, horribly real, agonising, pointless. Our first daughter, Maeve, died. She was precisely 18 months old. She had to have surgery on her skull, and there were unexpected complications.

The past 2+ years have been, as you might imagine, life changing. I've been thinking about writing this post for most of that time.
Its difficult to know where to start. I could tell you about how we arrived at this point, I could tell you all about Maeve's difficulties, I could tell you about the fact that she was entirely well, not a sick child, but had to have corrective work. I could tell you me and Becca feel strong, supported, let down, abandoned, angry.

Anyone who has been through - duh - is going through - this kind of thing will know what I'm talking about. And yet, they wont. Because everybody's experience of grief, of loss, is personal, different. Our experience is just as huge and awful, as someone losing their mother, father, brother, sister, dog, cat. Its all relative. So I guess what I'm saying first, is that yes, you may 'know of' what Becca and I are going through (and will continue to for the rest of our lives in some way or another), but you don't know what we're going through.

There's nothing good to be said about what has happened to us. When this happened, we were 'grief novices', 'child loss newbies' if you like. What I mean by this is that we did not know how to deal with any of it, our reaction, other peoples reactions, societys reaction. Fortunately Becca and I are fairly singular people, and tend not to bow to socially acceptable behaviours and platitudes. We were constantly (figuratively) standing with swords drawn just waiting for someone to say "At least you had the time you did with her" so that we could slash back "FUCK OFF, the time we had!?!? Cheated. Taken away. THINK about what you say before saying it!!". You see, with child loss, there are no socially accepted phrases people can run to. You know what I mean - 'she had a good innings' 'at least she's free of pain now' 'It wasn't unexpected'. None of these apply. Although I would add at this point, that if you say any of those phrases to someone who just lost a loved one, you, well, just DON'T bloody use them.

As a result of the death of our beloved daughter making people feel socially awkward, damn it if people just chose to not speak to us instead! Or they would come up to us all cheery, and not even mention Maeve. There's also an in-betweenie one, "I didn't want to say anything and upset you more..". This one even now, makes me "laugh". 'even more'. As if it wasn't on our minds 24//7 anyway.

Folks, when you encounter someone you call a friend, who has lost someone, if you don't know what to say, stand there, and SAY "I don't know what to say, I just want you to know I'm here for you, if you need anything". Saying nothing is worse than saying something stupid. But we also now encounter a problem (in what has become a 'Grief For Dummies' blog post) - that previous phrase " for you.." - which suggests 'just ask'. The trouble is, when you lose someone, unexpectedly or not, there's a good chance that you are in a place where you are using ALL of your energy just getting out of bed (or not), dressing and not walking in front of a speeding train. So asking for help is almost impossible. People actually need to grab the nettle, and come knock on your door. We may not answer, but we'll know you came. And that is more meaningful than you can imagine.

The opposite to this, which we also encountered, is people seemingly sprinting towards us with their horror stories. 'this happened to a woman in my work so I know how you feel'. Someone even came up to us at Maeve's funeral telling us about how she had "buried three children, and to go to her for advice". Believe me, that is the LAST thing you want to hear, and the LAST person you want to go near.

So all in all, its very difficult to do anything right around us untouchables, us unclean child-loss people... The one thing is, be there. Be a friend. You do have to work hard at it though. Loss of this magnitude puts you inside a bubble, and if people try hard enough they can poke their heads inside the bubble, or even sit next to you in it. We will potentially be rude, monosyllabic, we'll cry a lot and not care what people think, we'll say things and not care what people think. In fact, grief gives you a window of opportunity to behave in a pretty vile manner, and get away with it. So (fellow grievers), use it, I suggest.

My favourite metaphor that I came up with, is this. If you walk up to a bus stop in town, and there is a stranger sitting there, well dressed, nice converse, cool clothes, nothing threatening or socially unacceptable about them to make you recoil and make it someone else's problem, and they are sobbing, crying, what would you do? Would you wait to be asked? Or would you just go for it? See here
If you're the latter, you'll probably stay friends with your bereaved friends. 

You see, we also disappear off the radar, for long periods, we turn down invites out, invites for dinner, invites for coffee. The reason? Not because we hate, its because, our child died, we didn't lose our job, we didn't have a car accident, we didn't even get divorced, our child died. It doesn't go away, so don't YOU go away either. Most people stopped asking us after 8-10 weeks. A shockingly short time after Maeves death. But our counsellor said this would happen. Sadly, she was right. People that weren't there, quite quickly don't get to be part of our new and Maeve-less life. Sounds cruel? Well, tough. Some people we knew well were amazing, others disappeared, some people we weren't that close to, stepped up incredibly. Its odd. We know that none of the people we feel let down by are bad people, but we don't have time to wait for them to catch on, in our situation.

I think I'll stop for now. This is difficult stuff to write about. And my mood will be different in a while, giving me different things to say, thoughts to express and mud to fling.

I'll leave it to Leo. I've lots more to say. At some point.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Remember Chat Rooms....?

All of a sudden, in the late 1990s you just couldn’t ignore it. The BBC were referencing it. Rock stars were complaining and issuing law suits about it. The internet had arrived. So when my rich Aunty Molly died in ‘99, and left me £1000, I went out and bought a PC, hooked it up to the phone line, and waited for 3 hours until it connected. The future had arrived, albeit a bit clunky.

In these Pre-google times the only search engine then was MSN. So if you were on their site, you saw MSN Chat rooms. I took the bait and went for it. It wasn’t long before my then girlfriend was lost to me sitting in front of the glowing box at 3am chatting to troubled and lonely people in Anaheim and Argentina.

I started to make regular friends too. And not always of the platonic kind. There were (and still are) a million things you could do in a chat room that don’t involve any bodily contact, threat of STDs, and if it got (too) weird, you just hit ‘block’. I can’t honestly say I’m proud of this, but hey, I’m apparently what they call an Early Adopter, and I was feeling fruity.

Lots of other things were happening in my life, my hotel career was burgeoning and a move was in the offing. I behaved like a well-seasoned jackass and ended my then 6 year relationship without so much as an explanation one day, and then carried on chatting in this twilight netherworld. Back then it was still a very small world, a private pleasure that wasn’t shared openly with people. The chat rooms were definitely spoken of in hushed terms, and then seen as seedy. The general consensus wasn’t completely off the mark either. Then, as now, you got to know the oddballs very quickly, learned the lingo, and built up a block list that would fill a library shelf.

Eventually I got chatting to woman in Northern Ireland who seemed to just uncannily ‘get’ me and my then late 20-something issues. We chatted and chatted, it was very exciting, almost verboten. One of the things about online chatting of course, was that you could be told you were chatting to a tall dark raven-haired 22 year old art beauty, and art school student and fan of MC Escher, but it actually turned out to be cross-dressing Alan with a 42 inch waist from Droitwich. So we also exchanged pictures. Back then Bluetooth and pressing share on a smartphone was merely a glint in Steve Jobs eye, so we had to scan and email. But things went well that department too so we eventually (probably within a few weeks actually) exchanged phone numbers and spoke. I was incredibly nervous, even though we had shared loads of personal stuff in the chat rooms already. But we hit it off. We talked at 3am. We texted. Then we started telling friends how we had met. There was a lot of silences, and disapproving head movements. This of course made it all the more attractive, and added to the fact that it was someone from Belfast, who was also 15 years my senior, it was irresistible. There’s definitely something about the unknown that makes meeting and chatting to people online all the fun.

The flights were booked for late July in 2001. I jumped on a train with a bag and a pocket full of dreams. To coin a phrase.

As I came down the escalator at Belfast Int’l Airport I was terrified. My impressions were met. Almost. So I went with it. We chatted really well in the car, took a trip to Dublin. I came for 4 days, and ended up staying for 2 weeks. I fell in love with Belfast. From this I visited week after week, moving over to live with her in March 2002.
The MSN dream came to a rather unpleasant and bitter end on new years day 2007, with a difficult discussion and a realization I had (I cant & wont, speak for her, that’s not fair) been living something of a lie for a long time.

Perhaps it was never going to work, perhaps all that ‘real’ stuff we chatted about online when we first met was just the fulfilment of our individual fantasies, instead of reality. And as we know, the twain rarely meet. I don’t like the person I became, but that isn’t MSN’s fault. Whatever methods we use to meet people, we are still responsible for our own behaviour.
Online meeting now is commonplace, and a media staple, but still, I think it’s no less exciting, or possibly unsuccessful, or even dangerous. After all, those dating sites don’t match human beings, merely algorithms. I still used online chat rooms/sites after 2007 for a short period, but never with much success.

So on the upside, if it wasn’t for MSN, I wouldn’t have moved to Belfast, met my (now) beautiful wife in 2007 (face to face, in very romantic circumstances!), and had two beautiful daughters. So, a happy ending after all, then.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

What Is Free Speech?

The events of the last few days in Paris have shocked us all. The idea that cartoon satirists can be murdered in such a way for expressing their art, is repulsive to anyone in their right mind.

It has brought to the fore (again) the idea of 'what is free speech'?

It seem a very simple concept to me. Anyone is entitled to have an opinion, however misguided or abhorrent it may be. We cannot start trying to control people's thoughts. And free speech means we can express this, and anyone who disagrees has the right to argue back. With words, pictures, music. Hence the phrase "free speech".

When a group of people start arguing back at the tip of a sword, or gun or bomb however, that is wrong. And they deserve the full force of the law upon them. We should make no excuse for it, and not question it. If someone points a gun at you or your country, you don't, or shouldn't, just lie down and give in.

I think democracy is a wonderful but very complicated thing. The events in Paris, however, are not the price we pay for it. The price we pay for democracy are the extreme right wing political parties, the extreme left wing, the ones that scare us a bit, but don't go around enforcing their views with a gun.

At the moment, the world is obsessed with the idea of Islamic extremists. But we seem to forget that not much more than 100 years ago, Britain had at least a 3rd of the world at the tip of a Christian-fuelled sword. Christianity very recently, had a hold on the world in just as brutal a manner as a (comparatively small) amount of Islamic extremists would have it if they could.

For me, it is the way of the world. People are radicalised by whatever they see gives them power. If it wasn't Islam, or Christianity, it would be something else that radicalised the bored, the disaffected, those people in our world that feel forgotten but want a voice.

I don't think we can fix this. Merely live through it, and hopefully, learn from it. I don't really understand or know what I'm talking about. So I'll use the below.

Joe Sacco: On Satire – a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks

Saturday, 1 November 2014

What is normal? And why don't I like it?

I have always been interested in the life and work of Vivian Stanshall. If you don't know anything about him, follow the link on his name. He was one of those guys from the 60s and beyond that a comparatively select few people have heard of. But everyone who has, was almost certainly affected or influenced by him in some way. One of life's one offs. A true renegade, an individual, he ploughed his own furrow, not to be 'hip', but just by being himself.

Of late, I have found myself in a place where I am becoming more myself, the person I want be (about friggin' time, I'm 42!), not the person that (I feel) is expected of me, or forced upon me. My wife Becca and I have had a truly horrendous 18 months, having lost our first daughter Maeve, aged 18 months, in April 2013. Life continues to be hard as nails, but is frequently softened by our beautiful 2nd daughter Rosa.

Maeve was born with a some challenges which I'm not going to go into, but as a result, you could perhaps have said that her life wasn't 'normal'. It didn't conform to platitudes and tick boxes. Becca and I have also always been people who do not give in to the well-walked paths (never have). a simple example of this would be that we have no telly (since 2008...gasp!!), and consequently no idea what or who is on Strictly or the X-factor (and we don't care).

I have recently re-established my Twitter addiction. I have talked to SO many fascinating people on this social media phenomenon. I have learned SO much, been called out on stupid things I've said. And made a couple of genuine friends too. Recently BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast a lengthy and amazing documentary about Vivian. This led me to chat briefly to its producer, Laura Baron on Twitter, and then to Rupert Stanshall, Vivian's son. Now, I'm not a celeb worshipper, and frankly cannot stand that kind of crap. But Rupert's twitter feed was amusing enough for me to follow him. Then he started selling some rather glorious Bonzos memorabilia on eBay. So in the course of buying a few pics, I got chatting with him about this n that, and a picture he put up of his Dad (left) struck me. "This is my normal Dad". Now its is simply none of my business, but my general impression is that Viv was an incredibly unconventional guy, but a perfectly loving Dad. But was seen as 'not normal' by so many people. And parents almost certainly kept their kids away from him, and therefore Rupert. Which is just, so much more abnormal.

I was briefly tweeting Rupert about this, and he said something which really stayed in my mind. Just an off the cuff remark, nothing earth shattering or heaven sent....(aren't most of the best things?)

"Best shut the door and keep the normals out".

I asked Rupert to write it out in his handwriting and post it with the pics I had bought. And yesterday this happened.

Rupert, and lots of you, probably think I'm off my crock. But it just speaks to me. My only other tattoo is of Maeve's hand print. So, I don't do a tattoo lightly. But the phrase is what we strive for. I think my interpretation is less about insulting 'normal' or 'regular' folk, more about guarding oneself against an attack of the 'normals'. i.e. You can have an attack of the jitters, right? So an attack of the normals, to me, just means, be yourself, stop following the well-trodden path. That's all. I love it.

Thanks Rupert for being so game. It didn't hurt that much. Thanks to Jenna and Helen at Skullduggery Tattoo in Belfast too, They're amazing.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

How long will the UK citizens wait, its looking like Berlin in '38..

Following a discussion with a Twitter friend. I feel moved to blog.

The idea of the UK has taken a battering over the last few months. The fact that it us viewed as an outdated, clinging to imperialism ideal.

This has lead to a lot of people actually having an opinion, instead of just trying to please everyone all of the time. This illustrates what has happened to politics since the end of the Thatcher years. Both parties moved further and further to the centre, cutting off anyone with defined views or opinions as crackpots and the like. But as we see the rise of UKIP, I think it's clear that politics are going to go back to their left and right side. And this will involve a move back to grass roots politics.

However, with this, comes a danger. In Germany in the 1930s, the country was on its knees, still recovering from WW1, an outdated imperialist leadership seen as removed from the populous. Sound familiar? Then along comes this hugely charismatic guy, who made good on his promises. To give Germany back to the Germans, to put nationals before non-nationals. Again, sound familiar?
The UK is on the brink of something, and it is creeping up on us. It's easy to say how obvious Hitler was, with a post-war, post holocaust hindsight. In the 30s, many in the west revered him, thought his policies were progressive.
Take a look at what is happening in British politics (and latterly, but no less so, Northern Irish politics). All it needs is someone with charisma, to give a voice to the 1000s of disenfranchised, and they'll vote with their ballot cards.
 And then, when a democratic mandate has been spoken, it'll be too late.
The biggest threat to our democracy isn't terrorism or even religious extremism. It's voter apathy. Don't like what you see, the way to complain is not to not bother voting. It's the opposite. Get out there and vote next year. Or soon we may find ourselves complicit in some scary stuff.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Nutter, filth monger, comedy icon. bloke.

I, like so many of my peers, worshipped at the alter of the Young Ones. We quoted it, we laughed at it, hell, before student grants ended (ask someone over 40), some of us even lived it.

So, when I moved to South Devon in 1993, to be a barman at a pub near Dartmouth, and live the country life, I appeared to be in sync with my heroes of comedy.
One night, Bob Speirs turned up and got very drunk with a couple of friends. And he was great fun.

Then a few weeks later, having purchased property in the area (we heard on the grapevine), Rik Mayall came to the pub. It was initially very exciting, but then as I stopped being a dick, I realised he was human like the rest of us, and my up-until-then-lifelong worship of celebrities came to an end. Which has continued to this day.

But anyway, back to the pub, so at about 9ish, the door swung open, and purely by coincidence (no, really) Ruby Wax walked in. After a huge theatrical embrace between them, I served drinks at an unforgettable night of laughs and insight.

Over the years up until Riks quad bike accident, we ended up on nodding-pass-the-time-of-day terms. I worked at a local petrol stationn, then a hotel in Dartmouth. And saw Rik frequently, he was ALWAYS nice to kids that shouted Rik, Bottom or B'Stard isms at him. And he never ever played the celeb card.

Last time I saw him, he was walking along a Devon lane past a farm, top off, sun belting down, not a care in the world. All the crap of celebrity far away. I was driving, so I slowed, said hi, as did he, and off he went.

What a comedy giant. What an icon. What a normal bloke.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

When Indie was real

I have just been Tweeting with 1p Album Club (follow them - they're great!) about Carter USM. I was, for the second time this year, reminded of the great Bloodsport For All single release gig / trashing / minor riot that was 17th Jan 1991 at HMV 363 Oxford Street. I was working at the HMV Trocadero store at the time, and was also a huge Carter USM fan. I trotted up to the cavernous store that day, and had to sign-in through the staff entrance. Back then, this HMV store was hallowed ground for any/all record store employees, and to get my 33% staff discount off my 7" single, I had to follow protocol. I remember queuing up to get the Bloodsport 7" signed (this is a link to the video - blink and you'll miss me), then after that, a lot of jumping around (ermm.. 'moshing'), and then amazement at the aftermath.

Back then, 'indie' music really was independent, but no less important. Carter's first LP came out on the tiny Big Cat records, the enormo-band that was Mudhoney (well they were to us in Surrey), were on Sub-pop, in fact to my memory to get a Mudhoney EP I had to travel to the Rough Trade shop in Kingston 'cos no-one else stocked it.
Even at this pre-Nevermind moment the biggest record shop on the planet had recognized the popularity of 'indie' music, then paid the price for inviting us anarchists into the place. 

There was Carter USM, PWEI, Neds Atomic Dustbin, Fugazi, Mudhoney, Lush, Snuff (my personal fave-at The Venue New Cross I moshed so hard I got punched and then threw up on some poor stray grebo lying on the floor), Leatherface, Mega City Four, Lard, Pixies (I have a pristine unused ticket for Kilburn National 89-damned train strikes & flakey 'friends') and so much more. The cool guys in the Warp Records t-shirts didn't cotton on until '92 when Trompe Le Monde came out and Nirvana had gone stratospheric, by which time almost all of those bands had signed to big labels and gone all  Blue Bell Knoll.

I remember being so surprised at the excitement the Stone Roses debut caused, they sounded like The Smiths to me, and they were old news by '89, and anyway, we had The Poppies! I didn't understand the reverence that the jangly crap of the first two Primal Scream Albums were held in, we had Jesus Jones!! Then, Screamadelica came out, and I'm Free by Soup Dragons, and Groovy Train by The Farm, all these big label bread-heads were doing was ripping off PWEI, Carter, Neds and the like!! The nerve.
But my Doc Marten'd, floppy hair'd, army trouser'd smelly jumper look had been cottoned onto too, by some bloke called Kur(d)t. After that, it was all over.

But once in a while i can listen to the poetry that is The Taking Of Peckham 123, and wonder at how such a tiny band, from Sarf London, could have written such amazing lyrics, to such malevolent music. Only a few years later did I realize what a debt they owed to Tom Waits Small Change, or Billy Bragg's Levi Stubbs Tears, or even Ray Davies etc. Now, we have the likes of Jake Bugg, claiming to be the new pretenders. And oh, how he pretends.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

"Its Whoop Of Gorillas....."

Last night we (well.. I..... Becca just sat and marveled at me mouthing along to all the words) had a Blackadder Goes Forth marathon. I was struck by how amazingly popular it was at the time (and still is), and how wordy it is, how generally intelligent and 'high brow' it is. Then I realised that TV like this now, would probably only make it to Channel 438+1 (v 3.56), if in fact it would be made at all, mainly because its audience would be a mere 7 million, not enough to fuel the advertisers pockets. There are moments, and only moments (I say this as a die-hard fan of all thing Adders Black) when the ensemble reach th heights of Python or Peter Cook. No, really.
I then discovered I had the documentary about the show made in 2008 (Blackadder Rides Again) so I dutifully stayed up until 1.00am watching it. It was quite interesting.
Rowan Atkinson for instance, said he suffers from a stutter, quite incredible considering the lines he delivers, and then Stephen Fry mentioned the Schoolmaster Sketch. Oh helloooo YouTube... One wonders whether underneath that searing, frightening exterior (above) was he absolutely petrified? It truly is 5 minutes of utter joy for us, however.
In an amusing side note - I tweeted a YouTube clip of the poo-poo monologue and @'d Stephen Fry. He tweeted back which was nice, but more weirdly, i am now being followed by an extra 50-60 strangers, as if touching the hem on my tweet maybe gets people closer to Mr Fry.... What an odd place Tweet-land is.
Watching the schoolmaster sketch from the Secret Policeman's Ball, I was reminded how back in about 1986, a school friend, Jon and I, mimed along to the below.
Jon was very priviledged, because we had it playing in the background on his huge 27" television (in his room!!) and then we video recorded (in 1986?!?) ourselves miming along. I would love to see it again. I think there was a viewing at my house in front of my mum and dad and sister. How cringeworthy.
Anyway, that was a nice trip along memory lane. Happy 30th Birthday Slackbladder.