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.
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 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
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?
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 only 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 infrastructure 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 exhibition 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.