THE HORROR, THE HORROR: How to cope with 2016, Year of Anxiety.

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I am probably suffering a case of severe solipsism, for two reasons

  1. Starting a blog post with ‘I’
  2. My life going well while the world seems to go to shit.

But I can’t help it. That perpetual Cassandra in me has been fairy-godmothered into a Pollyana. Stuff has gone alright for a while, and I’m enjoying life more than ever. Admittedly, this is from a series of low bases of unemployment, poor health, relationship disasters and that ole ches’nut, the chance of dying alone in poverty with nothing and no one. Somehow, I got out of all these desperate holes in acts that I will credit entirely to my own strength of will, in  direct proportion to all the times I blamed shitty circumstances and bad luck for my previous poor run of form. A self-help book will inevitably follow. Perhaps consider the following a taster.

Annnnnyway, lets have a look at why everyone is going to pieces in 2016, and what to do about it.

EVERYONE IS BLOODY DYING

BLAP

  •  THE CLOUD:This seems to have hit it’s peak at Prince, and now we’re clocking up deaths at a more normal rate. But my, the Grim Reaper had a time earlier this year, didn’t he? I blame Poldark, the daft scything bastard. Some have suggested the Rapture has happened, with all the heroes jetting off to heaven leaving us atheist scum to fight it out on a floundering planet. Bowie, why hath thous forsaken us?

 

  • SILVER LINING: Loads of ace people are alive well longer than you’d expect them to be. Burt Bacharach (88) Chuck Berry (89)  David Attenborough (90) . Professor Stephen Hawking (74 -was given 2 years to live back in 1963) . Dick Van Dyke (90). Angela Lansbury (90). Mel Brooks (90) (and Carl Reiner – 94).. James Lovelock (97) Kirk Douglas (99). Dame Vera Lynn (99) Jerry Lewis (100) . Instead of wallowing in the grief of those gone, and that sudden guilt you’d not really thought of them much lately, embrace what we have still got, well past their presumed expiry date. I still live in a world with these people. I am grateful. Be grateful too.

REFERENDUM SHITENESS

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  • THE CLOUD: The one that really hurts many. We’re out of Europe. We’ve cut ourselves off from our neighbours, and replaced the Union flag with a flapping piece of cloth saying ‘FUCK OFF’. We’ve suddenly discovered that not only is the country full of shy / ashamed Tories, as we did  in 2015; but that 52% of this nation would like to find the mooring ropes of the British archipelago and cast us floating free away from those shirking French and their continental quislings, as a country ran by a hereditary Head of State and an unelected House of Lords DEMANDED we self-determine.
  • SILVER LINING: While the Tories have seemingly regained a facade of control and stability with ruthless competence after the surprise result, and Labour have managed to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the Nasty Party are possibly in deeper poo. The button embossed with ARTICLE 50 is unlikely to be pressed anytime soon, boiling the piss of the (majority)Tory Brexiteers. After May’s cull of the Cameron’s favourites , which swept arch-brownnoser Soubry to the backbenches (she claimed she resigned. Really. Even my Westminster mole, who previously defended her staunchness of position on issues, has described her scrabbling for retention as ‘desperate’. She was, it seems, sacked, denied even a junior ministerial role due to an impending court case regarding her electoral overspend looming ominously on the horizon. That and a litany of incompetence. Of which more later). The fact is, May is now strapped to the mast, unable to either initiate Article 50 or ignore it. To insulate this decision, she’s bought in key Brexiteers into her cabinet to wrangle the departure. In a act of almost Nero like cruelty, this grouping -David Davis, Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd and Liam Fox – have all significant responsibilities coupled with significant vulnerabilities: Fox is already being probed for alleged fiddling of a military family charity; Davis is seen as a politician with much gob yet little brain; Johnson is inevitably going to trigger an accidental  war and Amber Rudd used to be married to hollow-souled twat and sociopathic baboon murderer AA Gill, which shows an incredible lurch of judgement. It’s a volatile mix, and will explode soon. Hopefully, the shambolic Labour Party will have somehow come together to get the boot in.

TERRORISM RUNNING RIFE

less-fear-of-terrorism

  • THE CLOUD Nice, Paris, Jo Cox…the list of victims is a morbid procession of those killed by hate. We’re presently jumping at every shadow; with any breaking news story read for signs of terrorism before any other reason. We’re all on edge, knowing it is only a matter of time before the next attack happens. Have we ever been in such a terrifying place?
  • SILVER LINING: It’s been calculated that the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack is at least 20,000,000 / 1. That level of risk means that you’re more likely to killed by your furniture  (18,000,ooo / 1). You’re more likely to become an astronaut ( 13,200,000 / 1). Has it been worse? Oh yes, and in most of our lifetimes. The frequency of terrorist attacks on UK soil, that led to loss of life or injury, was much higher in the seventies and eighties, due to the continuing Irish issue. Back then, the lack of rolling news and hysterical social media kept this at a more reasoned pitch. The whole point of terrorism is to bring fear to a population, to terrorise. We make that personal choice about that happening. Be scared, they’ve won. You’ll also be making a choice to increase the chance of an early grave: excessive stress is a contributory factor to the REAL killer in the UK: heart disease. Chances of that getting you? 7/1

TRUMP BECOMING PRESIDENT

meet-the-scottish-man-who-rubbed-a-big-balloon-on-2-25715-1450176873-1_dblbig

  • THE CLOUD: Yes, like a bewigged Oompa-Loompa drip-fed a diet of pure hate since birth, orange faced demagogue Donald Trump has snatched the Republican nomination and is now one vote away from having his tiny fingers on the US nuclear button (and ours!) His brand of toxic racism and vicious rhetoric propelled him to beat off all the other competitors, who prefer to keep their toxic racism vicious rhetoric undercover, at least until they get into the Oval Office. Having Trump as the most powerful man in the world will be the end, surely?
  • THE SILVER LINING: It’s probably not going to happen. While he rode high while in the primaries, he’s sinking now the actual race is on. It all seemed a bit of fun once, to many. Might shake stuff up. But now it looks like he has a chance, people are fleeing, his own party is collapsing round him and strong rumours abound that he might simply pull the plug, effectively destroying the Republicans for years. Demagoguery will be seen as a fatal road to follow, and a post-post-factual democracy, based on rationalism and consensual policy making will follow. The darker hour, etc. If he does win? Well, the phrase ‘Trump Apocalypse’ will at least cause some childish sniggers from the UK, just before the earth spins off orbit and is consumed by the sun.

CONCLUSION

We’re dead lucky. We live at a point of history where a baby born today will have a greater chance of survival than at any point in history, and will probably thrive enough to celebrating their 100th birthday. There is less poverty in the world than any other time. Education is spreading wider: the global IQ shifts up 3 points per decade. We are more connected than ever before, able to talk to each other cheaply and easily at virtually any place in the world (remember when we’d talk about the future, and how we’d have video phones? It seemed so far off, such sci-fi technology. But it happened and we just took it for granted).Wars, which seem to be raging harder than ever, are actually at an historic low in terms of casualties. Of course, any war is one war too many, any casualty a tragedy. But we’re getting more peaceful, and that should be celebrated.

We’re locked in a cycle of anxiety only by our own choosing. It’s a commonly noted phenomenon that fear makes for a more easily controllable, more passive society. If you think terrorists are on the cusp of killing you and your family, you’ll of course allow the state to apply more draconian methods to consolidate their power.

To be a real radical these days, ditch the anxiety. Embrace rationality, and stop ruining your present by panicking about the future. The world is an imperfect thing, spinning through space as those on board bicker and battle. But it’s also a sublimely wonderful place, and for every pissflap of a human out there, there are dozens of excellent, lovely people. We’re alright. Now, go out and enjoy yourself.

Soubry: Guilty of Fraud?

Halfway in, it’s been a good 2016. I’m getting paid to write both fiction and non-fiction, I’ve passed my magazine on to a new editor where I am sure it will flourish, I’ve got rid of some long-standing toxic people from my life; I’ve not been hospitalised for a while due to bizarre injuries and my wonderful wife is pregnant. I have a great job with Nottingham City of Literature, where I get to meet people I’ve admired for ages; it’s nearly Summer and my I’ll be a dad in four months. Yes,  I mentioned that already. I’m chuffed to bits. A whole new human built out of some of me and some of that excellent woman I married.

So what could make it better? World peace? A decent summer? Anna Soubry going to prison?

soubrybars

Soubry, in front of some bars.

The first two are definitely implausible, if not impossible as idiots wield power / climate change remains unchecked. But the latter? A fair few people are suggesting that El Soubz is in for a fall. Much more many people haven’t even heard she might be sliding into the brown stinky stuff. I thought I’d give you a comprehensive overview of what the state of play is. Anyone fancy a bit of Socratic Dialogue to kick this off? Yes, I would. Well, ok, let’s go:

I’ve heard Soubz and her fellow Tories are in a spot of bother about election expenses. Has she been caught trying to claim money for getting the moat of her palatial Leicestershire pad cleaned? 

Nope, not quite that simple as the stuff that happened in 2009. Arguably, this is a lot worse.

The Tories had a real problem last election. Their membership was lower than ever, with an average age of well into pensionable years. Activist membership (people who go out and canvass, rather than like the idea of being a member as it gets them invites to events) is very low.

This means that they struggle to campaign at General Elections. They are awash with money, centrally (millions roll in from a various bunch of spivs, crooks and tax avoiders, eager to preserve the status quo), but they can’t spend this locally due to caps on spending.

Caps on spending? What’s that all about then?

Politics and money have always had a strong relationship. Here, in Nottinghamshire, it was common a 150 years ago for the Tories to buy in votes: one account in the archives describe an election where a considerable proportion of voters died after drinking the copious amount of ale promised them – after the election. When this was system was contended in the 1831 Electoral Reform Bill, the peer in charge of Nottingham, Henry Pelham, 4th Duke of Newcastle took the Tory line of opposition.The system must stay corrupt, was his contention, and he voted accordingly.  When they heard about it, Nottingham folk rose up and burnt down his house. This was quite a thing, as he lived in Nottingham Castle at the time.

Over the years, a fairer system has been strenuously worked towards. In the USA, the lack of this has led the race to the White House to be one only available to those who can be bankrolled. Our system is designed to stop a billionaire demagogue such as Trump being able to effectively buy an election. This really pisses the hell out of the Tories. All that bribe/ lobbying cash: nowhere to put it.

The independent watchdog overseeing our democratic system, the Electoral Commission thus sets out a spending cap on elections, that have to be strenuously adhered to. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

So why is Soubry in trouble? Her election expenses were UNDER the cap set by the Electoral Commision. You’re just trying to stir up shit, aren’t you?

The estimable Michael Crick from Channel 4 News has shown that proper investigative journalism is alive and well and pulled a blinder. A massive, very likely tedious investigation has exposed huge discrepancies in spending, discrepancies which if held to be an overspend would mean the election was void, and a criminal offence had been committed.

Wait a moment! I’ve just had another look at her election returns and they’re showing it was an UNDERSPEND! 

They do indeed. She did declare she spend a few quid under the cap. However, the evidence is showing that she (illegally?) bought in help, courtesy of the ‘Battle Bus’.

Let’s see how the Electoral Commission view it:

There are two types of spending by or on behalf of parties at elections. These are:

Party campaign spending on campaigning to promote the party and its policies generally. For example, national newspaper adverts for the party, or leaflets explaining party policy. It also includes spending on promoting candidates at elections where the party nominates a list of candidates for a region, instead of individual candidates for local areas.

Candidate spending on campaigning to promote a particular candidate or candidates in their local area. For example, leaflets or websites that focus on one or more candidates and their views.

Different rules apply to the two types of spending.

The Battle Bus? I’ve heard something about these. Isn’t this the thing that led to a big internal Tory Party row and their Chairman quitting?

Yes, that’s the fella. A nasty guy called Mark Clarke, who had been previously feted as a future Tory leader by his party, was in charge of the campaign to send buses to marginals. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this ‘Tatler Tory’ put in charge of this campaign was a horrendous bully . Despite numerous warnings from many in his own party, including Baroness Warsi, he was allowed to carry out a reign of terror while setting up the campaign. Such was his nastiness and ambition, a young activist, former Nottingham of University student Elliot Johnson , was allegedly driven to suicide after being subject to this bullying.  Despite numerous attempts by Johnson and others begging the Conservative Party to examine the claims, Mark Clarke was only dismissed from the party once the media discovered Johnson had mentioned the bullying in his suicide note.

It is sad that it took a young man’s death to eventually rid themselves of Clark. Grant Shapps, the habitual liar co-chairman of the Tories, fell on his sword moments before he was pushed; but Lord Feldman, his fellow co-chairman, still reigns. Good friend of Cameron, you see. You can’t help that feeling if it wasn’t for a suicide triggering  a load of illumination and whistleblowing, the nasty git Clark would now be A-listed for a Tory safe seat come 2020, and legislate on your life.

Ouch. Soubry isn’t like that though, surely? Isn’t she one of those ‘compassionate conservatives’?

Well, some might judge that an oxymoron but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

What I mean is, she didn’t get involved in the battlebuses, did she? 

She didn’t run the campaign to drive the buses round marginal constituencies, no. But she did benefit from them.

How? Surely she was just running her campaign and they happened to drop by, jump off and say how great Tories are, how we should vote Tory, and jump back on the bus?

If they did just that, then that would be fine. It would be filed under ‘National Spending‘.

So they filed it under that, right?

Errr, no. They failed to file it whatsoever. When challenged on this , Soubry took her usual stance of passing the buck and claimed ‘It was a cock-up’. As a former barrister, Soubz might have stumbled across the maxim “Ignorantia juris non excusat”: ignorance is no excuse.

That ignorance will be even more telling if the battlebus visit is found to have been not just campaigning for Tories in general, but for Soubry in particular.

Well,surely it wasn’t? 

Not according to, errr, the Battlebus and  Broxtowe Conservatives. They tweeted and  retweeted, respectively,  this on the day stating:

for

Notice the word ‘for’. Not with. ‘For’, This is crucial. If they were there to campaign ‘for’ her, then that was something that should have been included on the local spend, not the national. And if it was to be included,it would have rocketed Soubry well past her legal spending limit. Buses -and the dinners and hotel room of ‘activists’ don’t pay for themselves, y’know.

Woah, woah. One possibly mistyped tweet does not a prosecution make!

Absolutely. But when there is a systematic pattern of such expense abuse being exposed, it doesn’t look like the action of an exhausted fat-thumbed activist in charge of social media. When it is also revealed that their activists were door-knocking and leafleting specifically for the local candidate (the allegations in Broxtowe are that the Battle Bus team were saying what a battle Anna had put up against the tram* / supporting Independent businesses** / caring for the greenbelt***) then it looks like they were, with intent, ensuring that the playing field was far from even, and unfairly and illegally skewing the election.

Oh. ok. So she has to repay the difference?

It’s not a question of figures: it’s a matter of principle. It’s also a matter of law.

Again, woah. She won’t get arrested, will she?

It’s not impossible.

But if it’s a centrally imposed conspiracy, she was surely an innocent bystander?

This is complex, and I’m no legal expert. Yet if a degree of complicity is identified (and the act of meeting the Battlebus, and the guest for the day,Theresa May, suggests such), then it is likely she will be hoisted before the courts.

Bloody hell.  Then  what?

A court case, but as it will be one of many, this will drag on,. If found guilty, the sentencing guidelines state a year in jail; and a three year bar from holding public office. Which might seem a barrier, but almost ideal timing to be back in position to claim the safe seat of Rushcliffe in the General Election. Ho ho.

You’re dicking around now. This is sounding serious. Surely I should have heard more of it?

Both Channel 4 and The Mirror have been fairly hot on it, but yes, it’s barely raised a peep elsewhere. Rather than suspect a conspiracy, this is probably more down to the EU Referendum dominating. As any story would have to mention rivals Michael Crick / Channel 4 News, it’s awkward to report.

Remember the phone hacking scandal? That was being flagged up in a series of excellent articles by the forensic genius of Nick Davies, writing for The Guardian, years before it properly broke. Similarly, a code of virtual omerta dominated, not thorough plotting, but through publishing pragmatism.

Blah Blah Blah. I didn’t come here for a discussion on media ethics.

I’m sorry. Do you need to know anything more?

Bleddy hell, yes! So it looks like Anna Soubry is guilty, and she’ll lose her seat, and potentially get banged up in prison?

Well, I didn’t say that. The Tories will put up a fight.

Surely putting up a fight is tantamount to an admission of guilt?

I’m sure they’d prefer the police, and then the Crown Prosecution Service, to bat this aside. However, they’re worried.

How so?

In an unprecedented step, they gave one of the UK’s top lawyers, James Laddie QC, a heap of money to defend them on a particular case, the battle for South Thanet. Laddie was bought in with some sense of urgency to stop Kent Police from obtaining permission to extend the time they could investigate any fraud by a year. This is very weird: the self proclaimed party of law and order trying to block justice and due process.

Doesn’t that make them look more guilty?

A blocked investigation will always look more successful than one that leads to conviction. A short term blow is more acceptable than a long-term knock out.

But…but…

Sadly the decision is made in closed court. We may never know the reason they are so desperate to stop any investigation.

Right. This is crazy. What’s happening here in Broxtowe?

Nottinghamshire police have applied, and have been given, a extension to investigate Soubry and dundering prig Mark Spencers’ expenses for an extra year. I can’t see what she’s saying on Twitter: she blocks anyone she doesn’t like. But the latest info, as the net tightens, is that she feels that it is time to try and pass the blame.

Who to?

The most obvious scapegoat will be their electoral agent. Soubz could argue that they were too busy being MP’s to check every penny and farthing. It is doubtful that would make any impact: disbarring from office would still be a likely penalty: she could dodge a conviction herself and merely lose office, lick her wounds and move to a safe seat come 2020, or the Lords.

So who will take the hit?

Her agent was a guy called Richard Jackson. He would be the obvious target.

I think I recognise that name?

Give it a minute it’ll come to you.

Ngggghhhhhhhh..tip of tongue, no don’t tell me…..

Ok. No hold on, this could take all…

THE BLOKE WHO RUNS BROXTOWE BOROUGH COUNCIL??? THAT RICHARD JACKSON???

Well done! You looked like you were struggling. Yes, that bloke.

What, the spiv-suited, reputably oleaginous erstwhile used car salesman Richard Jackson?

Bingo!

So the bloke who closed down the Beeston toilets, shuttered the DH Lawrence centre up in Eastwood, threw the council cash office staff on the dole and put the boroughs leisure centres up for grabs could be thrown to the Electoral Commission lions?

Yes. Soubry has a rich history of blaming others for her own faults, and a career-threatening situation like this will probably be no exception. If it reaches court, watch as Jackson is thrown to the mob while she makes her escape.

That is callous, surely?

Not really. He is a Brexiteer, spotted applauding with gusto at Gove’s recent visit to Boots. Soubry is increasingly at odds with her own council: her utter failure to secure a fair funding deal for the council is hurting the coffers severely.

So what next? 

Hopefully the police will be granted as much time to do a thorough job, without Soubry obfuscating. I’ll keep an eye on stuff and report back if any significant details appear. Keep your eye on Channel 4 News and The Mirror, they have the lead on this. And cross those fingers. Soubry could very well soon be ousted. She could even up jailed. But fear not, she’s done her research on women’s prisons…

 

 

*which she subsequently praised on completion, claiming it could make Beeston ‘As good as West Bridgford, one day’.

** despite actively briefing against BID, and more recently scuppering any hope of helping pubs tied into chains by screwing up the implementation of a new code for nasty, asset stripping pub companies.

*** Did  I ever mention that her partner, Neil DaviDson, was a director of a greenbelt-hating, shonky-to-the-max building firm, Persimmon? And she has, with gusto, invited fracking into Broxtowe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accidental Writing

Another post? I thought this blog had more or less been retired after 7 years of weirdness?

Oh, I see. You have a kid on the way so think there might be some mileage in stopping the freewheeling edgy political baiting and civic oddness and becoming a dadwriter, one of those males who once they get the proverbial pram in the hall suddenly can only write about babies, particularly their own baby, and how they didn’t know happiness before it appeared, etc.

No. I’m not going to to do that, the horror that is Tony Parsons casts a demonic shadow over that avenue. However, if any editors out there with a decent budget and a space in their pages for a loosely comic description of an old dad having all sorts of silliness over nappies, get in touch. Baby needs shoes, after all.

So why am I wasting your time today, when you could be usefully spending that time matching digital fruits into infinity, getting frustrated with Twitter or looking at pictures of sunsets on Facebook? Simple. I’m going to have a honk on my own trumpet.

You see, I’ve accidentally become a proper writer. I’ve been a (published) writer for around twenty years ago now, but exclusively in non-fiction. This always disappoints people when you tell them:

“You’re a writer then?

“Yeah”

“Ooh, written many novels?”

“No , though I do have some fascinating 500 word features on the provision of public toilets”

“Bye”

The idea of a writer is that of a creator, someone who raises dust into characters, blowing life into them and steering their destinies. It’s always seemed to me a bit strange, scary almost. Non-fiction types work the other way round: you gather a huge chunk of stuff then chip away at it until you have something readable. So an hour long interview that spider-scrawls over 10 pages of my notepad can be condensed into a couple of snappy quotes.

Then I started meeting lots of fiction writers. I started working for the bid for Nottingham to become a UNESCO City of Literature, and suddenly, I’m surrounded by all these authors.

I’d like to say there is some defining trait about then – consumptive, absinthe swilling garret-dwellers, but no, they’re as wide a swathe of the population as is imaginable. Perhaps there is a little of the introvert in them all, but us non-fiction writers have to be, by trade, extroverts, so it’s probably not them, but me.

robinarseAnother character trait I have is stubbornness: if someone challenges me to something I tend to agree, leaping in with little thought. Last year this led, among other things, to dressing as a bee on the hottest day of the year and cycling round Beeston.

This was recently piqued by a writer I’ve become friends with over the past couple of years, Shreya Sen Handley. Originally from Kolkata, she moved here for love which turned to violence, and had to work her way from from him. She succeeded (and, like myself spent some time at Royal Mail en route) , now happily married to a great guy with two kids, a role as the Nottingham City of Literature Ambassador and a book deal with a major publisher. She started in feature writing, until being persuaded to turn her hand to fiction.

She challenged me to do the same. I demurred initially, as I was too busy and lacking the confidence. Then one evening, I was just about to turn the light out and sleep when a sudden urge to write came into my head. I put the kettle on, fired up my laptop and began typing.

Four hours later, four hours of throwing myself round the room trying to dislodge thoughts and words that were stuck in my head and not slipping via my fingers onto the screen, four hours of delving into memories long packed away, four hours which felt like months at times, minutes at others.

Four thousand words sat glowing back at me. I gave it a read through, a few corrections, then fell asleep at the keyboard. My first story written.

Then it got weird. I sent it to Shreya, not for approval, but to prove I could do it. I was very surprised where I’d gone with it: instead of the usual whimsy and glib silliness / ranting polemic of my non-fiction, I’d written an incredibly dark tale of violence and recrimination.

I was almost embarrassed by it: its visceral bite was alien. A story that dwells on a man being beaten to a pulp and left for dead  isn’t my usual thing. And here comes the irony: it was actually a thing that happened to me.

I won’t go into too much detail, but for two years in the nineties I lived in Portugal, on the Algarve. In such a mad, drunk environment as a holiday resort, violence was quite commonplace and visible. It wasn’t, therefore, much of a surprise then when it visited me. What was a shock was the level: I was left for dead, with a face more mush then features. I lost a lot of blood, nearly drowned and still am mildly paralysed down one side of my face.

It’s not been a huge secret, I’ve told the tale to friends before. What was odd however was to write it, to fictionalise it. Life has no true narrative other than the certain bookends of  birth and death; by applying one to my own experience was terrifying, and suddenly it stopped being a few abstract, untouchable memories and turned into something solid. A weird experience to see it happen to a character.

I was persuaded by Shreya to submit it to a publisher, which I. Nevertheless, after a spruce from my long-term friend and colleague on The Beestonian, Christian Fox, I packed it over to the editor of Transportation, an Australian publisher looking for submissions for a forthcoming book of international writing, and forgot about it.

A while later, an email appears from a guy called Sean Preston, Editor of Open Pen literary mag, which I’ve been a fan of for some time. Assuming it was something relating to my job at Nottingham City of Literature, I cautiously opened it, and found to my utter surprise my story had been selected for the Third Script, their latest anthology, and I’d be getting a fee. I’d be sitting among a fine mix of Iranian, Tasmanian and British writers. Proper writers. My jaw fell south. A rejection letter would have been fine, at least my existence would have been noted. But no. I’d become a writer, by accident.

*********

3rdThe book is now published, and we’re going to launch it this Sunday. You’re welcome to come and join us. It will be at Rough Trade in town (near Broadway Cinema), and inaugurated by the screenwriter Billy Ivory, who wrote Common As Muck and Made in Dagenham, and we have a banquet of fine writers coming along to read excerpts from the collection. We also have one of my favourite bands, The Madeline Rust, coming along to open and close the event with an exclusive acoustic set. Starts at 5pm, and is free entry…though we’d be chuffed if you picked up a book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poppy

A much different post, one I wrote 9 weeks ago, but couldn’t put out at the time for reasons that will become clear….

 

Hello, Poppy Seed. I’m six feet tall, 13 stone, cynical, grizzled,and weathered through the frosts of 42 winters and 41 Summers. You’re a poppy seed. A smooth, perfect, untouched poppy seed.

Well, if I could see you, buried deep, that’s what I apparently would see. You’d be less smooth and more globular, pinker, I suppose. But at that size, and with my eyesight, who could argue at such detail. Anyhow, Poppy Seed, pleased to meet you.

Yeah, we met before. Earlier today, in fact. What to me is the merest thin sliver of time, to you; a significant chunk. I’d got up early and cycled to the BBC to give my opinions on the day’s newspapers. It’s a fun distraction that gets me out of bed at dawn, forces me to cycle down the towpath from Beeston to Nottingham, uninterrupted by traffic and lost in thought.

Today, one of those thoughts I had whole spinning my pedals towards the studio was inspired by the rough path, causing the saddle to rattle with a painful frequency upon my testicles. I had a weird panic that this was not something that should be happening. It’s now immaterial, Poppy Seed: your existence means that now I can subject my scrotum to as much damage as I choose.

I chose not to go home, but for a coffee. Ellie -I won’t introduce you, you’ve met – rang to accept my invite to join me. I got myself my caffeine-free coffee, she got a tea. She sat next to me, and we had a quick kiss.

“Didja listen?” I asked.

“Yes” she said “You sounded like you had a cold”.

“Ah, probably my mic technique” I pointed out, and was about to expand on this conversation about how I could never get it right, when she hushed me with an imploring look.

“I have something to tell you important. I need to talk to you”

All sorts of thoughts flew through, and I felt a nauseous imbalance. I’d had a writ. Someone had died. I was fairly hepped up on this morning, this dawn where the sun had risen with slow grace over the frost, burning it off, steaming the crystal-lit Trent. The ten mile round trip, parsed with the adrenalinised experience, I was awake, alive, so was ready for the news of whatever.

Before the following moment, I didn’t know you. How a moment can change everything. I’m sort of going to know you now until death, which I wholeheartedly wish – it’s only fair given my 42 years on you -gets me first.

“Umm. I’m pregnant”.

Everything changes and everything stays the same.

“I did a test. I was going to wait to tell you when we were at home, but I rushed out to meet you and didn’t want  you to get home and find the test and think I was being…pointed.”

A billion questions. “But I thought….when? When did it happen? When will it happen?”

“Well, It’s early days, so let’s not tempt fate. Right now, it’s not even attached to me properly. It’s just a bunch of cells, rapidly expanding. Our child is right now no bigger than a poppy seed”.

So hello, Poppy. You’re terrifying, and tiny, and even though you have not yet got a heart to love, it is loved in advance. I am so happy to meet you.

TORIES SET TO TEAR UP GREENBELT: GUEST POST BY TOM ROBERTS

frack-well

 

A guest post from Tom Roberts, who I met at a hustings and later bought on board The Beestonian when it turned out he was a pretty sharp writer. I recently commissioned him to look at the contentious issue of fracking for an article. It’s key we know where our representatives stand on what is sure to be the most important issue over the next few years. However, each time a Tory is asked their position, they act rather strange. 

If you have a Tory representative, ask them to state their position. The Lib Dems and Labour, (and unsurprisingly perhaps, the Greens) have stated their opposition to fracking. Not so the Tories, who are all out for letting frackers pump toxic water under the nature reserve, and stick rigs on Bramcote Park. Yet they’re a bit embarrassed to say so. Tom tells us more.

Fracking in Broxtowe is fast becoming a major issue. Ever since our MP, and professionalfrack-well Commie Hunter, Soubz of the Yard decided to perform one of her patented U-Turns and promote speculative drilling. Given the relatively untested nature of fracking, and the relative beauty of our area, it seems vital that Borough Councillors oppose this drilling if our MP won’t. A fact that brings us on quite nicely to the Toton and Chilwell Meadows By-Election.

Conservative Borough Council candidate, Stephanie Kerry, has decided to present herself as the defender of the Greenbelt. Vowing to oppose the building of desperately needed homes at any cost. Keen to recruit a new volunteer in the battle to keep Broxtowe frack free I decided to contact Ms Kerry to ascertain her position on the matter. Apparently another man who shared my brilliance was Greg Hewitt, of Frack Free Notts, who also wished to ascertain Kerry’s position.

I voyaged through the twisted intertoobz and alighted upon her campaign Facebook page to ask the following:

“When you talk about working with Anna Soubry to protect the green belt does this include fracking under it? I saw on the news that Soubry has recently performed a U-Turn and endorsed fracking and given it’s dangerous history I don’t want our green areas poisoned!”

Keen to get a response from “the candidate that listens to Broxtowe” I sat at my laptop waiting for the sweet ding of the notification sound. It never came. After a short while, and sure there must be some mistake, I decided to check my message for typos only to find it deleted! Yes, it turns out I’m not part of the Broxtowe that Ms Kerry is listening to! And neither is Greg Hewitt who also saw his post deleted! Agog! Aghast! I stumbled from my screen in shock. She had blocked me!

It appears that the sensitivity of the issue of fracking must have overcome Stephanie Kerry’s usual open-ness. Given the threat fracking may pose to our greenbelt, something Stephanie Kerry vows in her largely misleading leaflet to protect, it seems odd for a candidate to become so evasive. This may be because the party line is both pro-fracking and pro-greenbelt, a position that seems hard to reconcile

Want to find if your South Broxtowe Tory representative is willing to let the frackers free reign over our greenspaces? Why not ask them?

Broxtowe Tories: http://www.broxtoweconservatives.org.uk/contact-us

Or find them on here, and politely get in touch to find their opinions (and, as they are there to represent you, give them yours!) . (click to enlarge)

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Jeremy Hunt vs the Doctors. Who do YOU trust?

As I speak, the country’s Junior Doctors are staging a walkout. You might be against them. After all, they’ve had the right-wing media machine take Hunt’s side on the debate. Not that it has proved effective, as the support for the doctors is growing. Still, a sizable majority trust Hunt over the doctors. Why? Well, Here’s the lines being span. Give it a read, and feel free to share.

WE NEED A 7 DAY NHS:

We DO have a 7 day NHS already. It is utter bunkum to assume otherwise. Go to an A+E ward on a Saturday night and see if it’s busy. When my appendix went ARRRGHHH on Christmas Eve, the ambulance didn’t wait until after the Christmas holidays to turn up.
However, if you mean a 7 day NHS where you have the same range of out – patient clinics, the same routine operations as you do in the week, them great, but you’ll also have to hire all the necessary support staff: technicians, admin etc at great cost. Is that going to happen? Nope.

THE BMA ARE CRAZED PINKOS:

This is Hunt ‘s attack line right now: that the doctors have been brainwashed by a radical ‘union’. Again, balls. The mandate for the strike was staggeringly high. The insinuation that people who are trained to rigorously analyse data are somehow just idiot cattle that just obey their leaders is beyond irony from a man who would vote to eat his own genitals if the Whips Office instructed so.

DOCTORS ARE OVERPAID:

They earn more than me. But I don’t save lives. They earn less than MPS (and don’t run up huge expense accounts, have all their accommodation and travel paid for and know that should it all go wrong, they’ll be retired into the Lords).They also carry upwards of £70k of student debt around with them, on a basic of £23k starting salary. Before they become consultants, GPs etc, they won’t be rolling in dough. Even if they were, they’d have no time to spend it.

The NHS is our greatest gift to ourselves. It’s ours. Everyone of us owns it equally, that’s why if you fell down in the street today your symptoms will be checked, not the colour of your money. The Tories HATE this, as it shows very simply that working together works well.

To attack the NHS, they need a battle. They’ve decided on the Junior Doctors. While this is going on, privatisation is hurtling forward, with more services being taken out of our ownership and sold to business. It’s theft.

The medical profession works from the simple start point of “Do No Harm”. The Tories have no care for harm: as long as the shareholders are happy, let the harm continue.

Who do YOU trust?

January Round-Up: Oxjam, Podcasts, Libraries Why Toton Needs Lisa Clarke; Soubzilla vs RoboBercow.

It’s been a weird month, has January. I fully expected to spend today, the last day possible,  doing my tax return, and sweltering with fear as the midnight deadline loomed.  Not so. I actually got it sorted last week. This is entirely uncharacteristic. I usually thrive on deadlines. I must be growing up.

Still, it means that on a gloomy wet winter Sunday afternoon I have some time free: a real rarity right now in my life. So rather than put the telly on, or go to the pub, you can have a bit of Beestonia. Make it last though, might be a while until I get the chance again.

CRAP JANUARY. 

Bowie, Rickman, and now Wogan. It seems like a cull of The Good ‘Uns.

I’m no sentimentalist, and do get a bit weird about grief. I was living abroad when Diana died, and never been more grateful to be out the UK.

Yet I can’t stand the flip side, the ones who try and smugly assert some coolness with a ‘You’re weak to grieve’.

So what is it when famous people die that gets us? In a brief lucid interlude, I tapped out some thoughts on Facebook earlier which I think gets it:

Used to have glorious Saturdays as a child. 2p Erewash bus trip to Toton, where I’d meet my gran and, after a fish and chip lunch on Stapleford precinct, go to bingo. I’d have a comic, a Mars Bar and a can of pop, and sometimes my gran would furtively let me play a card.

After, we’d go to Hyper, pick up a fuddle (to non – Notts natives, sweets and cakes ), before a bus back to Toton. We’d then have sausage and tomato, swimming in Lard, then Game for a Laugh, Dynasty, 3-2-1. I’d then be allowed a shandy once I’d got my pajamas on, and I’d fall asleep on the sofa as my gran watched Wogan: then a Saturday night thing.

It was bliss, a total contrast to the Sunday where my parents would pick me up and drag me to the horrible, creepy, joy – hating Salvation Army (” I don’t want to be a Christian” I declared in front of a load of them once, who had been recruited to prise me off the bannister I was clinging to. “I want to be…” I searched around for a word that I knew was a bad person, but had no idea what it meant “I want to be a prostitute”. Long after the event, my Gran cited it as the funniest moment of her life).

It all fades. Erewash buses are long gone. Chip shop stopped frying decades ago. The bingo hall was demolished. My gran made it to 93, as funny as ever, but I still miss her to bits.

When someone like Wogan dies, people react, not because they knew the person, but that person was part of the fabric of memory and experience. It causes them to look back, and see something else fade. It’s a sadness more related to our own temporalness.

The Floral Dance is still the most annoying thing ever committed by music, though.

OXJAM VOLUNTEERS

Oxjam has been a tremendous success over the years, which exceeded even even our expectations last year where we raised more cash -over £17k – than any other festival, ever. We even got a small trophy. It’s particularly good news as we weren’t going to do it, thinking we’d peaked in 2014 with £12k. But we couldn’t help ourselves, and all signed up. It was hugely enjoyable; even my idiocy in challenging a pro-cyclist to a spinning bike endurance race (if you’ve never cycled 120km in one sitting, then don’t. Unless your idea of a good time is having arse cheeks that feel like they’ve been done over by a salted cheese grater).

I will probably be staying on as the publicist and press man, perhaps the easiest role on

beesiuitz

Warning: joining Oxjam puts you at risk of unexpected public-dignity loss

the team, as we already have such good will the press releases are swiftly lapped up. But the main organisers are stepping down, and we need fresh blood in place. I won’t pretend it’s an easy job, the logistics are utterly terrifying at times, so we need real commitment to a role, a role you will not get a penny for, and will make you cry over spreadsheets.

If you fancy it, then get in touch. Perhaps the many wannabe councillors who used the lines ‘an avid supporter of Oxjam’ in last May’s election might want to put their muscle where their mouth is. Perhaps the councillor who is claiming right now that he ‘started Oxjam’ will actually like to justify this nasty lie. As the only memory we have of his interaction was drunkenly demanding to check that our dedicated volunteer’s collection boxes were correctly sealed, upsetting them with his demands as he tried to man-handle the tins out their hands. Why not come on board and actually help, rather than hinder, Councillor?

PODCAST

A what? Many people have yet to discover the simple joy of podcasts, so let me enlighten. Imagine a radio show that you didn’t have to get off the radio. An independent, often amateur show where enthusiasts talk about…well anything. Something you can download and listen to for free, whenever you fancy. That’s a podcast. And we now have one for the Beestonian.

It’s not exclusively about Beeston, but we use local issues as a jumping-off point. I moderate the thing, and local comedy hero Scott Bennett, fresh from winning a prestigious honour at the Midlands Comedy Awards; talks on the burning issues with John Cooper, who has been writing for the Beestonian for a couple of years, mainly the funny bits that betray his deadpan, Hartlepool-moulded humour.

We then get a musical guest in, who plays a tune, and then we all go home. We’ve done three episodes so far, and it’s honestly the most fun one can have on a Sunday – well, since Harry Secombe split his trousers on Highway– it would be really ace if others found it funny too. Have a listen 

NATIONAL LIBRARIES DAY

…is next week. In my work for the UNESO  City of Literature, my office is now Bromley House Library in Nottingham: I could not eulogise the place more. It’s celebrating its Bicentenary this year, and is in great health. Hello and thank you the guy there who asked me if I was Lord Beestonia the other day, and when I said ‘Well, sort of’  told me how much he liked my piece about my appendix.

Closer to home, Beeston library is to close for around six months for a refit. It’s unclear what this will be, but I’ve heard unofficially that the Registary and the resource centre won’t be returning, though the core services – books! – will.

To mark Libraries Day, I was asked to write about an inspiring local librarian, Zaimal, for LeftLion magazine. I asked Lisa Clarke to help out, as I thought she’d be excellent to work with. And so it proved. You can read the resulting piece here.

I’ve known Lisa for some time: I once shared a house with her brother, bizarrely, but it’s NMP3_Lisaonly been in the last few years has she really fascinated me. She kicked off the local branch of campaign group No More Page 3,  although she had never really done any campaigning before: her work as a nurse, and her home life as a mother of two put paid to that. Yet with sheer hard work, passion and a real sense of what is right, she rose to become number two in the movement. A year ago, the work paid off, and The Sun dropped it’s seventies throwback feature where women are reduced to just their contents of their bra. A brilliant, positive campaign that fulfilled its mission. The Sun pretended it hadn’t stopped, but as it has now gone a year without a pair of tits on the leading page, it evidently did.

Lisa is standing as a candidate in the upcoming Toton by-election, and I couldn’t endorse her more. Yeah, of course I’d say that, as she’s Labour, and she’s a friend. But even if she as standing for another party, I’d back her. She is a tireless campaigner with huge life experience; intelligent, fearless, and independently minded. Toton desperately needs a strong candidate: the greenbelt area that was earmarked for housing was a strong issue, which the Tories promised to fight. Instead, they have a plan in place to not only stick the housing down, but to also earmark another swathe of land for industrial development. Soubz tries to paint herself as the champion of the Greenbelt, but is quite the opposite: she has a confused, out-of their depth council bowing to her whims and willing to sign over land for her own pet development projects.

They aren’t exactly subtle about this either. The future of Toton was due to be revealed on February 17th. Realising that their plans would anger locals, and that the election would be on February 18th, they did a reverse-ferret and pushed it back a week, so the candidate would not her campaign harmed.

This is a total disregard for democracy and I believe a complaint has been made to the Chief Executive. The Tory candidate is not exactly likely to be of her own mind: she is a serial candidate having stood a few times for other wards. Her dad is a councillor though, so the old Tory nepotistic patronage rolls its gears.

If you are reading this in Toton, and you quite like living there, I thoroughly recommend you put a cross next to Lisa’s name on election day.

SOUBZ VS BERCOW: ROUND THREE

Broxtowe’s walking embodiment of the Dunning Krugar Effect is once again bringing the good name of Broxtowe into disrepute. After a latest in a succession of disasters (she was tasked to save British Steel. British Steel collapsed as she stuck out tenders for subzinfrastructure projects to the Chinese; she was asked to work on the concept of the Northern Powerhouse, in a move that went beyond a Daily Mash parody, she closed the Northern offices and told the staff to move to London to reapply for their jobs), she’s probably in a defensive mood, manifested with gurns, snarls, and downright rudeness.

For the third -to my knowledge – The Commons Speaker had to get her to behave, and show some ‘basic dignity’. Take a look:

PS: This is also a cracker, from yesterday. Paranoia from Soubz as she get’s the latest exhibitexhibition up at Notts Contemporary, a fascinating exploration of culture under Tito’s Yugoslavia, confused with a socialist recruitment drive. It would make Joe McCarthy’s cheeks turn, err, red. I can’t help thinking our MP is actually…well, a bit… thick.