crookedman's Blog


I was just lost, staring into a corner, imagining my new dj shelf, with room for vinyl and mixer; and how I'd fix the wiring around the window; and phospherous bronze racking, tatty with stickers from box-sets and promos.  I stopped myself with a mini-earthquake of absurdity and remembered I was giving all that up, for the sake of my maturity.   Wasting my time on something more befitting of a man my age.  Wearing shirts, combing my hair, tending my sage.

Today, by contrast, I went out onto the damp park with my  kid to show our faces at the Umbrella Fair (a community/ hippie led mini-festival they put on about 500 metres from my front door), to watch the utterly wonderful band The Retro Spankees.  They rehearsed where I used to work so I knew them pretty well in their early career (3rd album now).  It reminded me, as a bobbed up and down in the drizzle, how careful one has to be with stuff.  After 10 years of them playing they've actually become retro.  These are the ironies possible when trying to sound clever - eg. Pete Townshend's 'Hope I die before I get old' - we might live to eat our own words.  I imagine when CrookedMan is in his 80s, with bone disintegration and plastic joints, there'll be people who'll think it is ironic, so let me just say, even at 50 I'm already crooked.

Especially after standing in the rain drinking cold guinness out of the can.

It was the evening session of the festival, with lots of techno dance tunes drifting through my rattling windows, that got me dreaming of my vinyl.  Like the sirens of folklore it was tempting me, pulling me away, testing my new grownupness.

Bastards.  I shook my impotent fist at them from behind my net curtains and wished I had a Hootie and the Blowfish CD to drown it out.

Oh, Excuse You!

I can pretend that Jobs Come and Go, but, over a month ago I applied for a job with the only Agency in my home town who do what I'm trained to do; and I want a job doing what I do, in my home town.  My family needs me, and I'm no good to anyone an hour's drive away.  And the petrol prices are killing me.

I can't say I spent hours of quality time explaining myself on the application form, but I did a reasonable spiel, and relied on my qualifications and experience.  The Closing Day past by and I heard nothing.  I was, I confess, disappointed.  Not just because I didn't get an interview, but because my options are so limited.  I was either going to have to (a) get a job I don't want, here in town or (b) get a job I do want, in another town.  Yes, I'm fussy, but I have my reasons.  Additionally, with a redundancy looming, I have a limited time frame.

After about two weeks of hearing nothing from them I woke from a dream that had intimated that there was a letter from them mixed in with all the bills, voting advice, and fast food menus that have accumulated in my hallway over the last month.  It hadn't occurred to me in this day and age that they might actually write me a letter!  With a Stamp on it!  So I went through the envelopes, subjected myself to the torture of things I need to pay for, but haven't.  No letter.  Nothing but pain.  Did I really think that somehow my dream was trying to convey some useful piece of information beyond the usual self-reminders that I'm a nervous wreck and that I need to get laid?  Maybe, having given my dreams some credence recently, after years of not-remembering them, I was being reminded that I shouldn't take them too seriously.  I felt an idiot, and the weight of the unpaid bills weighed me down for a day.

That was It.

Today, after over a month, I got an email apologising for the delay but there had been 'an overwhelming response', and that I have indeed Got An Interview.  I say Yay, and on with my next series of performance anxiety worries about what I should do, say and wear.  Impress rather than Seduce, that's the ticket.


Went to the pub and had One Beer, just to prove to the 12 steppers that it can be done.  Pretty much spent the whole time I was there emailing a friend and eavesdropping on a couple of men on the next table.  They'd had a few and were talking politics.  It was ugly and extreme.

There were some local elections last week and, in them, England took a lurch to The Right politically.  Of course no one expects the hoi polloi to understand what they're voting for but since then it's become almost acceptable to become a racist bigot when interviewed in the media.  All the mad proto-fascists, that have been hidden away in the basement since Thatcher was ousted, are back.  It's okay to pick on the immigrants.

This agenda can be summarised by a woman who was interviewed on the radio, who noted that after the Diamond Jubilee, the Royal Wedding, and the Olympics, she'd remembered how good our country is and thought we were 'Giving it away to Foreigners'. 

The other day, whilst discussing this issue with associates, I was drawn into a mindless rant about how, when I do the school run in the mornings, I have noticed that all the good looking people are immigrants.  The Eastern Europeans, in particular, both genders, are strong, lithe and healthy looking.  Strong teethed people, standing straight.  The English, obese in track suits and dressing gowns, sucking on cigarettes, could do with a boost to the stock. I think it's resentment.  We know they make us look bad.  They come over here, work hard, for wages we wouldn't get out of bed for, have well-behaved children, and go to church on Sunday.  We're sloppy and unfocused, miserable, infatuated with our Rightful Place in the World, living for the Lottery, and blaming it on immigrants, gays, the disabled, and badgers.

Proud as punch.

Nucleus Accumbens & First Album Rule

Whilst indoctrinating my youngest girl in the ways of Rock N Roll, today, we got to the moment when I had to explain the ‘First Album is Best Rule’: That bands inevitably get worse.  There may be occasional moments of growth, giving us hope, but in general there’s a steady petering out.
There are exceptions, of course, but they’re rare.  And, of course, I accept that if one is a ‘fan’ of a band, the ups and downs are interesting.  But it must be remembered that bands who have a career are self-selecting; most bands that get a first album don’t get a second, so we’ve no need to worry about it, but with long-standing bands (or with bands who just won’t go away) there’s the Rule.
The reason that the first album is best is because bands are groups of people with lives. Lives that are mostly ordinary except for one exciting escape – the rock n roll.  Filled with that emotional intensity and the urge to put what they see around them into a song, bands sublimate the full gamut of existence into their music.  Of course, for most bands this ‘full gamut’ isn’t very deep as most are people in their teenage years, or early 20s, so the themes tend to be limited.  However, being a band tends to widen their perspective and for a few years of hard rehearsal, squabbling, realigning and learning how to play, bands are exciting.  Lightning rods.  They have songs, discard them for newer, better ones.  They hone their set towards their ends (whatever they may be), and to what is popular.  They have favourite songs they play well, that get played over and over again in bars and studios.  The band make changes, getting bored with that riff or solo, the singer stretches the voice and performance through repetition.  Muscle memory takes over to allow the music to play itself, almost.  They play, they get good, they record, they get noticed, and then they make an album.  On the album they put all the best songs.  All the well-rehearsed and perfected songs, played with heart and enthusiasm because the Dream is on. 
The second album… if the first sells, is the left over songs, the ones they dumped but weren’t too bad.  Other band members think they’ve got a song they want on the record.  A new song or two, but now they’re not writing about anything real, they’re regurgitating things that have happened whilst on tour; it’s not about ‘our’ lives anymore.
By the third album they might have a drug and alcohol problem so there’s a chance that some personal growth might be happening, but at this stage each member is writing material on their own and ‘bringing it’ to the studio, where it gets recorded in a stoned way, without proper rehearsal.  Someone will put the bass track on next week.
By their 4th album the drummer is dead, session musicians are in to play the hard bits.  There’s a girlfriend on keyboard, internecine struggles, lawyers, and their myspace site is full of admiring young bands calling them ‘Classic’.  The admirers have more fun because they’re still making their first album.  Whoopee.
Now, the reason we’d got into this was that I’m gradually downloading the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time and me and my girl were picking through it, playing her things she might not have heard.  Rolling Stone, and therefore the Rock N Roll Establishment, don’t follow the First Album Rule.  It is apparent that RS knows nothing.  If only there was an NME Top 500 Albums of All Time.
But I think there’s a more seditious, underlining bias.  Often, when liking music or not, it’s the first example that we hear that we really like.  This is natural because often it’s the newness of the sound or concept that captures the imagination.

So, for instance, if you only heard the Police when they did Every Breath You Take you’re going to like that boring, MTV pop sensibility, and may think the beautiful freshness of their first album is too scratchy and punk rock.  We like Mature music because we are more Mature. 
Equally, first albums tend to be representative of the band’s live sound so if you go to their gigs – discovering them, so to speak – then you like that feel and sound, whereas if you’ve got into them watching them from your sofa, then you like boring ‘I wrote this sitting on my sofa’ sort of music.  That’s what the Rolling Stone list is made up of.  People who’ve had all the fun and sex sucked out of their souls choosing records to be listened to whilst having a dinner party.

Short staff, the PM and BST

My youngest girl made the mistake of asking me who my favourite band is, so I had to play her some Velvet Underground on youtube. White Light, White Heat, Heroin, some Venus in Furs (she likes the viola).  Some of Walk on the Wild Side.   I've always tried to instigate the finest of musical tastes in her by playing her a selection of weirder music alongside my genuine liking for some of the chart tunes she plays me, but today she confessed to liking this -


I confess I thought I'd failed her as a father.  

She came with me to the bar on Friday afternoon to help me set up the PA and kit for the gig.  It's smoke-free these days and she refused offers of beer and tea from the alcoholics at the bar, so I didn't think it would hurt.  She's helped me at work before so she knows one end of a microphone lead from the other, she's good at untangling things, and bending down.  I let her do the 'mic check, one two one two' bits, and had to tell her off (a bit) for using her whiny voice with 'I need some bottom end on it'.  She's always 'My Apprentice' at these times, not my little girl.  Occasionally she lets it slip and gets huffy about something but mostly she's aware of keeping it professional.  She's careful not to show it but, secretly, she's a bit pleased when she's described as a chip off the old block.

She carried the 'Rucksack that contains all the important stuff' while I carried the guitars and metalwork on our walk down the park to the venue.  I mentioned this was probably how Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus got started, with him exploiting his child as a free roadie.  She only sees Billy Ray as the kind of Dad it's okay to laugh at because that's what he's like in the TV show.  She didn't have to grow up through Achy Breaky Heart, like I did, so she's unaware of the full horror life has to offer.  

Today, to see what I was up against we spent half an hour playing her favourite songs off of Sims games, and then some other things she'd been infected by.  Perhaps in the past I've always been too liberal and dismissive of the Computer Games ruin our kids argument, but I'm rethinking.

This kind of generic 'clean metal' is the Devil's semen that gets into the brains of our children and ruins their futures.  And to think! I myself have collected emeralds in Sonic the Hedgehog.  Indeed, when waiting impatiently for my child to pack her gaming paraphernalia in the rucksack before leaving the house, I do an exaggerated Sonic foot tapping impersonation.  I thought Sonic was a good role model.  I feel tremendously let down.  First Tiger Woods, then that cyclist guy, and now Sonic.  The rapture can't come quickly enough.


I'm not usually a fan of our primeminister Mr Cameron, but this week he's done good.  Probably by mistake.  He's been accused of marginalising christians.  The UK, thankfully, is a god-forsaken country.  Atheism is enshrined in the law.  Wearing a cross to work is the equivalent of wearing a Swastika armband.  Only royalty is allowed that kind of latitude.  Gays can have sex on the altars of our churches, if they want.  Evolution is taught in the schools as if it's fact not supposition, and we assume that anyone who's got religion is either going to blow us up, go on a spree killing, or fiddle inappropriately with our children in dark corners.  I mean, look at the world, it's the religious countries that are dragging us down.  All that emphasis on the poor, doing good, blah blah, how's that going to open up new markets?  

Thankfully we've trained up all the Border guards at airports to spot them.  And the dogs that used to waste their time sniffing out explosives and drugs have been retrained, by trolls and giants, to smell the blood of christians.  Soon there'll be no hiding place.

All the empty churches and temples are being redeveloped as casinos and lap-dancing clubs.  That kind of architecture and ambience is hard to recreate and customers say the lingering sense of sin adds to the experience.


We also have this bizarre thing called British Summer TIme, when, once a year, right now in fact, I became an hour older than I was only a few moments ago, when the 'clocks go forward'.  Maybe everyone has it?  Who knows.  I hope so though, I don't think it's fair that I should be older than everyone else just because the government says so.  I thought I'd been abducted by aliens or my alzheimers had set in.  I started this blog so long ago it feels like another lifetime.  And now, when I thought I was doing alright for sleep time, it's looking really late when I've got to get up soon.  Bloody hell.

I can't decide if it's Sonic or the Christians who are to blame for it.


Past the Ides, Fools to come

Should catch a breath before the last hurrah of the month.

And a holiday, of sorts.

Tomorrow is the last night of the Burning Bridges & Breakin' Curses month-long residency.  Last week was rough, there were loud people so I played it 'cut thru' style until they left in a grump.  I can out-disgruntle most people; I've got the microphone and the amplifiers on my side.  Not that I see it as a War ;)   Anyway, hoping tomorrow's is easier going.  I made my ears hurt and I'm having to nurse them in their waning years.  I'll be like Beethoven soon, but without the talent, and unable to write music notation.  Music will be lost to me.  Shudder.  

I played my first ever gig on a Good Friday.  With my first band.  I was trying to think how many years ago was it? but my head started spinning with existential angst.  I remember it was a shambles.  We had no drummer so we made drum beats on a ZX spectrum (or maybe a Commodore?) with software loaded from a cassette; then recorded the beats onto another cassette, dragged a Radio Shack cable from the 'phones out' on a walkman, to a battered 40Watt transistor amp, and tried to play along to that without monitors.  The lead was damaged and decided to switch itself off randomly in the middle of songs.  Disconcerting.  I'd like to say I was caught up in the lights and the applause but, believe me, it wasn't a bit like that.  I think I promised myself I'd never do that again.  Dreadful.

I developed stigmata on my palms with the anxiety of it.

Anyway, this will be my fifth gig in the month so I'm suffering from mission creep.  I've tried to keep my set fresh by playing mostly different songs every week - sometimes new things I'm still struggling to play, and some I'm more familiar with - but tonight, when I'm supposed to have rehearsed feverishly for the big finale, I've hit a low.  Fuck it, I'm thinking, I might just wail like a banshee and thrash my guitar until my hands are bloody stumps of pulp.

My daughter's asleep peacefully upstairs and I'm sat down here feeling like Willard in Apocalypse Now, waiting for a mission.  But if you can't self-flagellate at Easter, when can you?  

It was a full moon, it made the snow glow.  I nearly transcended the genetic differences and started howling at it; eager to pad across the cold crystals with my head hanging low between my shoulders, my taut haunches loping; sniffing, pissing and baying is better than praying. 

My head wants to loll but the tension keeps it cracky and vulnerable.

The vodka isn't touching it.  I might have to try opiates.

I was playing a song and had a rush of smug at the following lyric I wrote :P

"I've got a push pull personality -
Either fuck me
Or get the fuck away from me.
It's not that hard,
It's not even that wrong;
It has the ring of good sense
From where I'm coming from.

From sperm to worm,
Via rules, time, place, and germs;
I want more play,
Less plague -
An equal amount of the flesh
And the vague.

And definitely less
Awkward silence."

The other half isn't so good but as I got told off today for being negative, (when I was racked with self-doubt about where I'd lost the 2.6% of marks from my distinction), I'm being optimistic about that half of the song.  My therapist is on holiday tomorrow so I'm doing my best to replace her good vibes just to show I'm not dependent.

Oddly, at tomorrow's gig I'll be joined on the bill by two old friends - Scott and Curtis (separately, they don't really know each other).  Scott lodged with me for a year a few years ago.  I gave him alcoholism.  It went away when he left.  And I spent 6 weeks on tour with Curtis, sitting next to him in the van when I wasn't driving, sharing a room with him in hotels.  He didn't take off the same pair of black leggings for the whole trip, I'm sure.  By the end they were like MC Hammer's.

Memory Lane.
I'm sure we'll all huddle together around a single microphone for a rousing rendition of Hey Jude at the end.

I'm not even going to dwell on the Voluntary Redundancy, the enormous pile of marking, the Gas Bill,  the distinct lack of solids in my fridge, or the prehistoric sense of shame I seem to be wearing like a chastity belt. As long as I've got a broadband connection so my girl can play Minecraft, pasta in a jar, and a sense of humour, things'll be just fine.  Sublimation will come to my rescue.


I was teaching my counselling students about the Hippocratic Oath and about Ethics and Values.  We were talking about the contradiction between being congruent and being non-judgemental.  One of the students was vehement that they wouldn't work with paedophiles.  'I'd kill them!' she said.  Her strength of feeling elicited a general muttering of approval from some of the other students so I was pushed into the position of playing devil's advocate.  

Last week, in my other job, we assessed a client who was sexually abusing a six year old boy.  I told the students about it, and mentioned that I would have to find a counsellor to see the abuser.  They were very uncomfortable with it, of course.  They started hard-line - 'I couldn't do it, No.' - but as I completed the case history and mentioned that the abuser was an 11 year old boy who touches his six year old brother inappropriately, and that he himself had been abused by a family member, and that if we did good work we might be able to make a difference, breaking the chain of it, they relented a little with their judgmental attitudes.

Then, after some further debate, it became apparent that they believed something unusual: that if a man went to psychotherapy and wanted to discuss his guilt and shame about finding 6 year old girls attractive, that was the same as a man who actually goes out and abuses 6 year old girls.  When I explained that there are, indeed, men who find six year old girls attractive and know very well that it's abnormal, and that sometimes they mutilate themselves to stop it, or agree to take huge quantities of medication, some of their heads exploded.

Of course it's up to them who they work with.  I'd perfectly understand if they'd had some personal experience and didn't feel able to work well with sex offenders.  It was just the general tenor of their attitude I object to.  They were a split second away from forming into a mob, lighting torches, and routing the paediatrics department.

Edgy pedagogs.

Girly Night

Sped home on a foggy, cold and dark night to get home to see my youngest girl for our usual Tuesday night story.  Yes, I confess I'm interested in what happens to Septimus Heap but also the quality time with my kid.  I park my car, I dump my rucksack in the house and prepare for my cycling spurt to her house, a mile or so away..  It's exactly 8pm.  At 8.01 I got a text informing me not to bother because my ex and my girl were having a Girly Night.  

A Girly Night.  

A Girly Night occurs for several reasons.  Most often it's because I've said or done something to piss off my ex, who then punishes me by picking a fight with my girl; texting that it's a Girly Night is a euphemism for 'I'm bullying your daughter and I don't want you round here taking her side'.  Or, less malevolently, it's a way of not having to explain that they're watching some mindless TV show.  Although I feel guilty feeling it, I still don't think that's enough to break what passes for a routine in our chaotic and fragmented lives.  

Sad truth is that I treasure the time.  It hurts me to think that, for her, my company doesn't match up to an episode of Big Bang Theory (that she can watch on catch-up).  

Sadder truth is that to punish myself for a couple of passive-aggressive texts I sent to my ex about 'Preparing our daughter for the visit of her Father' I watched some film with Clint Eastwood, baseball, and a daughter who's estranged from her Dad.  It had all the ingredients for a Weepy Cocktail, but still nothing.

Under the influence of Descartes

I was considering a list of traits I’d compiled, as asked, that make up my character, apparently.  I was fair on myself, I thought –

Loyal, kind, ambitious, homebody, angry, quarrelsome, caustic, unforgiving, domineering, ugly, stubborn, fidgety, boorish, persuasive, bossy, talkative, naïve, poetic, distant, reliable, picky, persistent, funny, sly, considerate, dishonest, pessimistic, self-centred, cynical, and sensitive.

I think I've 'proven' these, day-to-day, by my actions.

And I am accepting of the principle of paradox.

However, Descartes suggests there are Modal properties – Wax, for instance, has the modal property of being liquid, in the special circumstances of it being hot.  I related this to my Self, and to my list of traits.

Originally I didn’t include ‘Loving’ and ‘Cheerful’ in my list, and yet I have been in love, and hope to be again.  Indeed, I love several people now, therefore I think I am Loving, but I’m not entirely sure other people would describe me as Loving!  Maybe Loving is related to the Other, and dependent upon whether they feel loved?  I might be doing it wrong; I might think I'm Loving but actually I'm smothering, therefore I wouldn't like to say.  I do remember moments when I might have been Cheerful; there are photographs of my smiling, in existence. 

Equally, there are things I do that relate entirely to circumstances but I still 'own' them, such as, I say I'm talkative, and yet, in most circumstances I'm not.  I like to be Boorish but only with certain people.  I remember that I'm Argumentative from a few occasions I've been unable to stop myself, but mostly I can hold my tongue; yet I accept those things as Me because those moments fill me with such horror and shame, so I remember them.  

Partly, therefore, I think the whole idea of ‘Modal Properties of Self’ is a cop out.  In the right circumstances I might be Loving, Brave, Generous, blah blah blah, You just wait and see!  Therefore I might as well say all of the Traits could be me, under the right or wrong circumstances.  Who knows? The superstructure of Me that is made up of character traits, dissolves; I could have every trait imaginable latent within me, waiting for the right occasion to shine, or revolt, depending.   


I've had a couple of anxious weeks I should try to summarise.  Usual mix of balancing Spheres and Hats.  Trying to get my Creative Side out.  Showing my social side to the plebiscite, to see if I can break through my sense of Peripheralness.  It's not making my sentences any clearer, talking to other people.  My therapist said I was so vague she wanted to grab me.  I asked where she was going to grab me, lewdly, perhaps, but tentatively.  She said something about 'In the Room' and 'Reality', managing to shake off my attempt at avoidance via smutty innuendo.  On a good day, when I'm at my funniest, I can get her to collude with my defence mechanisms, but these days I'm too weak.  I actually weighed up a 'You'd better have warm hands' line, but I dropped it; it was as if I'd been drained of bullshit and there was nothing to replace it, so I sat there with my face in my hands, shaking my head, and calling myself a schizo.

Then I went to work for a few hours.  I must have communicated but I can't remember any of it.

Later I played a gig, the 2nd in a series (apparently), and I'd planned to be at my most petulant.  Last week's gig (my first in 6 months) had gone well.  People were complimentary.  In conversation, midweek, over gin, with my Manager/ Promoter, he mentioned that I'd played too many of 'the old favourites' (whatever they are), and that our residency was more about a musical journey.  This smugness on his part is partly due to his own new musical thing - a spoken word/ avant-garde/ improv venture; he's got some app on his phone, into which he reads his 'poetry', and it reads it out in a cool voice with all the sentence structure ruined, immediately turning everything into genius.  Anyway, so I got Dared into playing only new songs as the closest approximation to taking 'musical risks'.  Stuff I'm still making up as I go along.

So, I'd got 7 songs (I'm not prolific, this is 'recent' as in the last couple of years).  They're mostly very hard and complicated but... I'd been challenged.

I barely mentioned the impending gig in therapy, despite my anxiety about it.  This is partly because I only tell her things once they're over with, and partly because the one thing that ties my most recent 7 songs together is that they're all written under the influence of psychotherapy.  Like with Picasso's Blue Period I consider these songs to be 'of a time and place', and, in a yucky way, that's important to me.  The only person to have heard several of these songs is my therapist, as I used to take a guitar in occasionally to serenade her with how I've been feeling.  Sometimes I find it easier to sublimate feelings into songs rather than 'own' them directly.  

What we did talk about in therapy was my Top 10 List of 'Things I want'.  I'd struggled with it.  I had a thousand 'I want a new Gas Boiler/ Car stereo/ Way to effectively fasten a polystyrene cactus to my painted wall' items, but nothing that would be worthy of Processing... at first.  Then I decided to try a bit harder and came up with 10.  Like the commandments.  I tried to get rid of one or two as I don't like lists of 10 things.  I like 8.  8 is real.  There are only 8 things.  If you've found 10 then you're just searching for stuff that's probably repetition of earlier items, or going too far.  Filler.  Like tracks 4, 7 and 8 on albums.  But in this case there were genuinely 10.  I can't remember them all right now but the first one was 'I want to live forever' and the the second was 'I want everybody I love to live forever'.   What with her obvious concern at my feeling Ghostlike and schizoid, and the 10 impossible things that might make me happy, the 50 minutes flew by. 

At the gig I spent the first few minutes at the microphone, fiddling with leads and tuning, regaling them with how I'd been challenged by the Promoter to take more risks in my musical journey. Some people were looking nervous.  I confessed that the previous week I'd taken seriously my role as 'Opening the Residency', and therefore I strove to encourage a Sunny Disposition, and get the whole thing off to a rousing start; like the 'Smile, Be Happy' Reggae band that always opens the first day of a Festival.  But this week I had been unleashed upon them, raw and vulnerable, to tell them how It Truly Is.  Listen Up, Sinners.

A random ramble - Keep Calm, Pick a Pope

The BBC web news is telling me stories that make no sense.  There’s one about Amazon selling vile-slogan t-shirts, based on the ‘Carry on, Keep Calm’ genre that’s annoyingly everywhere.  There were complaints about ‘Carry On, Hit Her’.  The company who make them came up with the best excuse I’ve ever heard - that the t-shirt slogan “had been automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against hundreds of thousands of dictionary words."
Further absurdity followed when a Twitterer of note announced the whole thing was ‘a massive mellow-harsher’… a phrase so ugly I had to look it up on the Urban Dic.  It’s short for ‘Harshed my mellow’, man, as in, it ruined my good mood.  Harshed my mellow is alright, I can dig it.  But a Mellow-harsher!?  It’s almost as offensive as the t-shirt.
I’m trying to read it right.  I am a Mellow-harsher by nature so I thought I’d ponder the situation a little.
In gambling, for instance, they have characters called ‘Coolers’ who somehow turn everyone’s luck to bad.  A jinx, so to speak.  The same situation can occur when groups of men are on the prowl for women.  This is where it applies to me.  My associates will be complimenting the ladies’ hair and make-up, talking about cars, tanning beds and gyms, when I’ll say something about skin cancer and trying to get a reasonable petrol/mileage balance.  Or Schopenhauer. 
So, there must be a better word or phrase.

Talking of 'No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition', apparently the Pope resigned.  The best joke in the comments was ‘Now we know he was a real Catholic, he pulled out early’.  The story particularly referred to the Basilica being struck by lightning the day he resigned, hinting at a comment by God.  Just a brief glance at the timeline for the day was enough to dismiss this idiocy, but the BBC felt the need to talk to a lightningologist who talked gibberish.
Normally I don’t approve of gambling, but betting on who’ll be the next Pope seems to be about as ironic as can be, so here’s ‘the running’ according to PaddyPower (who, being from Eire, should know):
9/4 Cardinal Peter Turkson
5/2 Cardinal Marc Ouellet
7/2 Cardinal Francis Arinze
7/1 Archbishop Angelo Scola
10/1 Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga
12/1 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
14/1 Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
16/1 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
20/1 Cardinal Leonardo Sandri
25/1 Cardinal Raymond Burke
25/1 Cardinal Cladio Hummes
25/1 Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi
25/1 Cardinal Christoph von Schonborn
33/1 Cardinal Wilfrid Napier
33/1 Cardinal William Levada
33/1 Cardinal Camillo Ruini
33/1 Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera
33/1 Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa
33/1 Cardinal Renato Martino
33/1 Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith
33/1 Archbishop Piero Marini
33/1 Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera
33/1 Cardinal Keith O’Brien (:Pulled out due to accusations of sexual abuse)
Well, where do I vote?
I’m immediately fascinated by the name Errazuriz, and I imagine ‘Llovera’ spoken in a Shaggy ‘Mr Lover Lover’ style; Ruini is ripe for disaster, Pope Keith would attract the Spinal Tap vote, Bergoglio rolls off the tongue beautifully, as does Dionigi Tettamanzi; but then I remembered they change their names to something more religious when they’re Poped.  Peter could probably get away with keeping his real name, as could the two Angelos, but mostly they choose something more pathetic sounding.

I was complaining about a Church-based, do-gooder, social housing charity called Cyrenians to my boss the other evening, ‘bloody Samaritans, bloody Cyrenians…’ (like I do), and he told me the Bible story about some strapping chap called Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus’s cross for him.  I was a little disappointed!  It took the shine off the sacrifice.

Perhaps the next one will be called Pope Itookabulletforyou.

I’m being facile picking the next Pope via the ‘attractive name method’, of course, their Cardinalships will obviously have other more dogmatic differentiating features; more or less people will get condoms, abortions, abused, swindled, prayed for and patronized to. The sum total of Guilt in the world will rise or fall, like the child starvation and HIV statistics.

I was intrigued to read of a ritual performed on the death of a Pope: His rooms and chambers are closed off and marked with wax seals due to historical looting by ‘ruthless Cardinals’.

Cardinal sin, indeed. 

Nuff said.

Fighting Genocide one bad metaphor at a time

One of my work colleagues has ‘disappeared’ so, on Tuesday I was asked to stand in for him and cover his groups (music events).  One of them was today’s Holocaust Memorial Day, for which he was booked all day to work with nearly a hundred 7-8 year olds in groups of 15, for 45 minutes per group.  Thanks for that, Mate.  The ‘brief’ was to come up with some music that relates to the Holocaust in some way, then work with the kids to produce an event at the end.  The more specific theme was ‘Bridging the Gap’… between species, races, people, all that nonsense…
We are all equal, apparently.
I’d have said No Fucking Way except she must have been desperate to even ask me; and I need the money.
Anyone who’s met me or read anything I’ve written will realise fairly soon that I’m not always the most Politically Correct person in the world.  Although on most occasions it’s done deliberately, sometimes it’s just because I’m not scared of words and, because I don’t really have a bad bone in my body, I push my luck.  So, my preparation for the Holocaust Memorial Day was inevitably going to throw me into a panic.
No chance to really prepare as I was in middle of some lecturing, and the rest, so I let it float ominously over my head, and in my tight jaw, trying to find an angle on how to do it.  My ranting about it caused some consternation.  In our initial meeting I must have seemed incredulous so my boss suggested ‘Ummmm, what about... ummm.... something like,’ (she pondered as if waiting to be struck by lightning) ‘get them to learn Where is the Love by Black Eyed Peas.  That’s what they did last year.’  When I suggested teaching them the Pistols’ ‘Belsen Is a Gas’ she looked disgusted, aware that she would have to suffer my passive-aggressive defence mechanisms for a while.  She noted that Rob, the dance teacher, was going to have just as much trouble as I was; inferring that I was moaning too much and that any Arts-based Youth Worker worth his salt would just have something ready for such an occasion.  :P  This pushed me into saying that it would be easy for him as all he needed to do was to get the kids to form a pyramid in the middle of the room, to music, job done.  She helpfully concluded our conversation with the notion that I'd be alright if I smiled a lot.  Kids like that.
Sometime on Wednesday I had an epiphany and thought that I could do something with Martin Niemoller’s statement:
“First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”
But when I checked this out with a random 11 year old it became clear that socialists and trade unionists didn’t really ‘cut it’ as examples of bullying to your typical English kid, so I spent several stressy hours trying to make a lightbulb appear over my head.
Later in the evening, half way through my lecture on Depressants (Booze, Benzos and Smack) the students all disappeared for 15 minutes (for Stimulants) so I had a few moments to mess about with some terrible ideas such as ‘First they came to get the Goths’ or ‘Then they came to get the Chavs’, knowing in my heart there was no way they’d let me do it.  I was becoming exasperated in the extreme.  The urge to smoke was taking over.  As my students drifted back I was sharing my conundrum with them, and someone came up with the idea of hair colour: ‘Yes, that’ll do’, I thought; ‘First they came to get the Gingers’. Genius.
I got back at 11pm, composed a really terrible song in C, F and with a quick drop G, put a beat together and stood back.  I’d got Gingers, Blondes… but I was considering Afros, and I wanted something for Brown hair dudes (most of us).  A random 22 year old suggested the word I was looking for was Brunette, which I'd assumed was a hair-dye rather than a real colour, but no.  She also hinted that if I said ‘First they came to get the Afros’ I was putting myself in danger.  By about 2am I’d got a workable thing; it was skimpy, yes, but a kernel of mixed metaphors.  No way was I going to win a Grammy, and I was a middle-8 short, but I needed to sleep; no point in having a song and then being miserable and grumpy due to sleeplessness, I thought.
I woke up with an anxious crooked face at 5am, added a chord, packed my car full of percussion and drums, and set off through the snow and fog to a faraway town.  The first group came in at 9.30am.  I was very, very nervous, especially when I turned the A1 sheet over and showed them what we were going to sing.  I had to start the singing, of course – it was like a slightly distasteful Sunday School, mixed with a bit of Jack Black, and scrambled with some uncomfortable Violent Femmes acoustic guitar.  I got a funny look from the class teacher but the kids all did their bit.  We had drums for the first verse, cow bells and maracas for the second; heavy rock for the Brunettes, and a tambourine shaking ending.  Sorted. 6 hours later I’d done the same weird session to 90 kids; my fingers were raw, sore nodes on my vocal chords, my back hurting (I hadn’t stood up to play the guitar for that long in years, not since my booze-driven wah-wah pedal freakout days) but with the satisfaction that I’d pulled it off.
It might take me several days to rid myself of the song going round and round in my head though.  It went like this –
C First they came to get the Gingers
F (shouty and angry rock bit) And take them away, take them away.
C First they came to get the Gingers
F (shouty but embarrassed bit) And I didn’t tell, I didn’t tell
G Because, I’m…. (wait for it, wait for it)
C Not a Ginger
Then they came to get the Blondes (blah blah)
Then they came to get the Brunettes (blah blah)
C Then they came to get… (wait for it, wait for it)
F (Shocked outrage) Me!
G (slow it down) And there was no one
C Left (wind down, big mock-rock outro)
F Who could tell.
96bpm ;)
Everybody’ll be singing it at the next Live Aid, you wait and see.

The Man-Code

A friend asked me about the Man-Code so I read a paper about Masculinity in the British Medical Journal, to see if I could work it out.  She knows enough about me for it to have been a rhetorical question but I thought I’d look it up anyway.  Here's some of my initial research.

There seem to be several layers of mystery.
First is the basic sex organ distinction – as in ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’, ‘Hang on I’ll have a look’.  This is a rough n ready, tried and true method of telling the difference.  Even the foetus on the flickering screen is ‘sexed’ this way.  After that it gets a bit more complicated and there seem to be some kind of ‘Men like Westerns, Women like Musicals’ splitting thing going on, whereby men and women are shunted into different yards.  This is why Gay Men like Musicals and Lesbians prefer Westerns; in an attempt to live up to gender stereotypes such as men are invulnerable, analytical and like guns (Westerns), whilst women are more expressive with their emotions, gullible, and prefer bright clothes (Musicals).  So we can be equally certain that men who wear bright clothes, and women who like guns, are what scientists would define as homosexuals. 

With me so far?
Then there are the people who have clitorises yet feel like men, and the post-constructivists who say it’s all just a matter of language and that the stereotypes, the genitals, the pay inequality, none of it means anything at all and that the whole of idea of men and women is a bit rubbish in this day and age. And, to make it even more complex, there are musicals with guns, and westerns with gay cowboys. 
(I tried to watch Les Miserables today and even with swords and Cat Woman in it I couldn’t bear it for more than an hour, awful.  Therefore it’s no surprise that when I walk down the street I think ‘yummy’ at female bodies but only notice a bloke’s if it’s threatening in some way (then I want to beat them and shoot them with guns), but I like poetry and I feel sorry for cute little animals). 
Biologists have suggested a continuum from one extreme to the other and we’re all dotted along the line somewhere.  It makes sense but I’m not so sure.  What would be at the extremes?  All the stereotypes are ridiculous – yes some men are aggressive, but so are many women; I’ve known ‘straight’ loyal men who cry at ‘Mama Mia’, and promiscuous women drummers who revel in a Tarantino bloodbath.  It would have to be a very complicated continuum, perhaps with several dimensions.
But they’d simplify it, saying there’s a genetic tipping point – to this side there’s more male stuff, with the deformed chromosome, whilst over there it's all woman.  Of course there’s a spread, but it’s a spread of things that can be measured in a petri dish or with a spectrometer.  Something we could nail a % to. 
Given the context, as outlined above, how are men supposed to be?  Presumably we’re raised in the ‘he’s got a cock so let’s get him a train set and some toy guns’ environment, and we learn how to be from films and our parents and people at school and all the rest of the umwelt from which we internalise floating signifiers.  It’s probably easy if that’s the way we would go anyway, but it messes with a few people who get trapped into the process.  Hopefully they’ll work it out.
I don’t think any of these snippets of thought will go very far in answering my friend’s question about the Man-Code, but men in relationships are different, anyway.

Then I remembered this, and, of course it's on youtube.

I don't get invited to many dinner parties

Two almost simultaneous debates in the English news this week that demonstrate the levels of endemic hypocrisy: The first,

a piece of research that has proven that lobsters feel pain when they're dropped into boiling hot water.  Or, more specifically, they'd avoid it if they could. Of course this isn't to say that they're praying to God and thinking of the shrimplets they're leaving behind as they simmer, but it's a start. Initially I gave it a 'duh, only a delusional fool could deny that critters feel pain' it seemed like wasted money, and I imagine they had to murder a fair few crustaceans to get at the facts.  However, later on, when talking to friends, they were of the belief that all that screaming was just air being evacuated, at high pressure, through the lobster exo-skeleton; and they seemed to consider being scraped out of the water, then being crated in ice for a day's travel was some kind of lobster primp day.

The second story

involved the shock horror discovery that there's horse meat in some of the cheap beefburgers sold in the supermarkets.  There was outrage.  Poor horses.  Fuck the cows but let's get all righteous about the idea of eating horses.  I suggested to my friends that throwing a live horse into a vat of boiling water would be something that even they wouldn't eat? but Sophie replied that 'either way it wouldn't suffer for long and it tastes good'.  She's a tough one.  I had to resort to mentioning their two dogs, (at this point hiding under the table, strangely quiet, full of big soppy eyes) to elicit a grunt of acceptance that there are hypocritical lines that get drawn.

I felt a little guilty at my persistent haranguing, but if she'd said 'In an emergency I'd eat the dogs' then I'd have happily moved on to discussions of which one of their children looked tastiest.

Cold Snap

I've hit a low with going slow in the snow.  Picking through the ruts of ice on my bike, I don't like.

Waddling when walking.

Pied Wagtails on the park reminded me...

When I was a boy one Christmas day I made sparrow traps out of snow in the garden, baited with bread and seed.  When I got lucky the little shallow tunnels I'd dug would collapse in on the sparrow, making them flutter it off as they took flight, chattering grumpily. Nothing's as beautiful as a bird shaking snow off.

I could do that.  I could take on the mean eyed robin that patrols the end of my garden.  

Except he's way too smart to fall for the bread in a hole trap.

My daughter has been praying for a blizzard in the hope that they close the schools.  Health and Safety rules.  Except today she fell over on the ice and hurt her ankle.  She's not so sure now, but still fancies having a lark with snowballs in the park.  The last time I hit her with a snowball she burst into tears, but it's fine if she smothers me.  I'm expected to fall over and get pounded; avalanched.  But it might stop her playing Minecraft for an hour, so in the name of Good Parenting I suppose I should take the beating.

For the sake of fun.

The Christmas Party


Red wine and silence.  Sigh.  Though it’s all too easy to have too much of both.  Mostly a bit bored with myself.  I’ve tried all the usual distractions but I seem unable to piton my way up to a creative peak.  Pity on me. 
Marquis de Carano, 2007, a wine so good it was in a bottle with a cork. 
The silence didn’t last long; I had to play my guitar because I was thinking too much, again.
But back here now, with the quiet roaring in my inner ear, and my heart thumping in the other.  Red sounds; the smell of salt and penicillin clings to me like a peppery pox, warning people off.  And it’s midnight.
Couldn’t be more contrived.
I should just put on a Lou Reed album and get it over with.
There’s the threat of having to attend a party hanging like a bad smell outside my front door, where tomcats gather.  I am reciting poems to myself in case a party piece is required, on the basis that I need to find something I can do without smiling.  They can’t have invited me for witty repartee and my physical presence; I kill parties, stone dead.  I lose things and have to find them.  I get sick and lock myself in the toilet for hours.   I’m every party’s worst nightmare, believe me.  I must practise my selection of Christmas cracker jokes and decide which side to choose for the obligatory ‘kiss’ for those women I haven’t seen since the last party I attended… a long time ago.  Were we introduced?  If so why can’t I remember your name?  Oh yes, because I’ll have had to be wasted beforehand to even pluck up the courage to leave the house and walk in the general direction of the party…
Hmm.  It’s not sounding good to me.
If I think of the party as a continuum, from the mild ‘let’s play canasta, drink lemonade and talk about children’ kind of event, right through to the cocaine fuelled orgy that turns into a whiskey fight and a police raid, there’s nowhere even in between that I think, ‘Oh yeah, that sounds like fun!’ 
My friends who are throwing the party were teasing me a few weeks ago with setting me up on a date with a mutual acquaintance, Jane.  Tomorrow, she will be present at the party.  I’ve never been ‘set up’ before, it’s rather intimidating, and a bit pointless as I know this woman and there were no sparks.  Even approaching 50 I’m not particularly enamoured about a ‘convenience’ relationship (well, not unless Nastassja Kinski ever needs a UK passport… sorry, that’s just the wine talking).  Being ‘set up’ is like giving up hope that I won’t bump into the woman that’s right for me by some happy miracle.  I know that’s draconian thinking, probably rationalising a fear of relationships, or women, or anything that would mean I’d have to take more baths and smile occasionally, but these days I think ‘When I’m well enough I might consider a relationship but in the short to medium term it’s better I just keep myself to myself’. 
So, not only have I got to worry about a party but there’s also this added concern.  Even with my glass half full (of wine, in this case) I’m finding it hard to be optimistic.  So, let’s try a few reframes to see if I can improve my cognitions.
It might be fun.
If I imagine any fun at a party it involves MDMA and the LCD Soundsystem.  When I try to imagine a party without either, I’m hitting a blank. 
So much for the reframing.
It’s not them it’s me.  I’m like a draughts piece in the middle of a game of chess.  I’m a 7 inch single at an iPod disco. 
I should go but be myself, be congruent.  But if I was being congruent I’d stay at home in silence drinking red wine. 
Listen to some 303 music.
On the day of the party I ended up spending the day with my eldest daughter, on a shopping expedition to a faraway town for a cheap Peppa Pig rocket; and she came with me to the party.   Partly this was to protect me from this potential future wife – ‘we come as a package, he’s my Dad, I’m checking you out’, she could say – but partly it was to get her to meet some proper arty types I’m associated with, via history.
I’d texted them for ‘What time should I arrive?’ advice and got a terse reply that just said, ‘Sherry @ 8.30’ so I just snorted and figured we could get pretty drunk and turn up about an hour after that.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, (I was expecting a collection of random drunk musicians huddled in corners around the house listening to jazz), there was occurring a sit-down, fairly formal, dinner party with mostly nice people, or at least people behaving normally.   The horror.  So we started in an excommunicated place and worked our way up from there.  We did good, I think.  She was more socially astute than me, often warning me that I was too loud when talking about people, especially people only a few feet away, but I don’t say bad things about my friends anyway.  She’s young and a bit sensitive.  They know what I’m like already, and yet they still invite me.
And then, after I’d put her in a taxi, out came the cocaine.
Who knows how I was from there on in.
A bit inappropriate, apparently.
Hold on to your hats.
Earlier in the evening…
Before going my eldest daughter and I spent an hour getting wasted and swapping youtube songs. She’d been telling me how things were going since she’d split with her man.  Apparently she’s turning down six shags per week.  We got laughing about this, me being mock outraged, not at these threats to ‘her honour’ (or whateva) but at the idea of blokes just saying ‘Fancy a shag?’  She didn’t seem offended at all and thought that obviously I’d been doing it wrong, throughout my whole life.  I couldn’t help thinking that maybe she’s right.  To torment me (she combined my love of 303 tunes with her teasing me about my naivete and shyness) she made me listen to this song before we went to the party, in the hope of getting me in the right mood for my first meeting with my future wife.  I was a little ashamed that I hadn’t heard it before, or seen the video.

It’s possibly just as well that my ‘intended’ didn’t show up.

Name dropping frenzy

A great man lives in my home town, called Alan Moore.  I’m not sure how famous he is in the real world but in my world he’s the most famous man I know.  To say hello to, at least.  If his myopia allows it, or if we’re thrown together unexpectedly, he might even recognise me as me, and remember reading my novella (that I put through his door and asked for comments.  Very presumptuous of me, but we regularly drank beer together and he, sort of, foolishly offered.  He did in fact come round my house, get me stoned, listen to tunes and tell me to my face that it wasn’t great writing and that the characters were more like cyphers than people, really.  He was right.)
Due to my proximity ‘on the scene’, very locally, I got to go into the studio and play bass on some tunes he was doing with my friend Pat.  Another friend, Gilly P was to drum; so we were a hot rhythm section.  We played on two tracks, terrified.  I was told which two notes to play, and when, for several minutes, and got a bit bored.  Gilly P stuck to cross-hands tub-thumping without much variety, and we were both a bit starstruck, and wasted, being cannabis light-weights of the worst kind. 
Alan Moore, at that point in his life, was an enormously successful comic superstar, in the days when being a comic superstar was pretty big.  He was one of ones that got comics taken seriously.  Cool Americans came to town, to visit, to hang out with us in the bar.  Film star types!  Exotic people with good teeth.  It was before he started squabbling with Hollywood about scripts for ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘Watchmen’, but after the start of his hallucination-induced black magic days.  He was great to be with, when we saw him.   
So, we did the music: The stressiest part was that we had to do backing vocals on a song about Godzilla trampling Tokyo, and sing ‘Gojira, Gojira’ a lot, in too high a key for me so I screeched it a bit.  We sat around for the first mix-throughs and I somehow ended with a rough first-take mix of it.  Then we all went to the pub.
I was looking for it on youtube (where everything is), and it wasn’t.  I googled; I could find talk of the Godzilla one but not this other one here.  Who knows, perhaps it got released under a different title.  It’s about London; specifically, I think ‘Hawksmoor’ London, the East End back in the day.  There’s a whole mystery about Churches and masonry, it’s very English.
To be honest the vocals are indistinct so it’s not a great mix.  I’m sure they mastered it better later on.  Sorry about that.  He mumbles though, and it’s from a copy of a copy of a 20 year old cassette tape.  If it’s not been released there’ll be a reason for it.  I can’t be the only one in the world to have it.  The thing is, I quite like it despite the rubbish rhythm section and the long-winded babble of it all.  Pat did a good job with the guitars and keyboards and it’s worth hearing just for Alan Moore singing “She came from Rotherhythe” and making an unfashionable part of London sound fascinating.
Sadly, I no longer have the regular pleasure of his company as he gets about a bit, and I don’t.  However, I’ve heard talk that Mr Moore has some kind of spirit snake from the Cthulhu dimension, that he communicates with, and I don’t really want to die in some voodoo way.

Which brings me to the reason I was thinking about him.

Something irked me.

I was in the library with my youngest; she’s wading through the well-worn 11-13 fiction and sighing about it all looking boring.  Occasionally we come to an arrangement whereby I get her books from the young adult section (14+) on my card.  The young adult books merge seamlessly into the graphic novel section via Buffy and Twilight, so I was browsing nearby.  Read it.  Read it.  Pointless!!!: Shakespeare in a graphic novel, for fuck’s sake, how stupid is that.  I know why, but it’s just wrong.  Anyway, nestling there, unread, was a recent Alan Moore, ‘Neonomicon’; it looked very Noir from a quick perusal; and brand new, I was the first borrower :) .   My girl got a Skullduggery book.
I read it all later in the day whilst she played ‘Don’t Starve’ on my laptop  It was interesting: Some gore, a critique of racism, and the usual weird stuff; but then, out of the deep blue was an orgy scene with a reptilian creature and a selection of humans, at least one of whom wasn’t enjoying it at all, involving lots of rape with enormous peni, and cum shots.  While I was quite happy to read it myself, a part of me, for the first time in my life, felt a sense of hypocritical Bible-thumping indignation about standards slipping at the library.  Surely, not next to the Hunger Games!

When I took it back the next week I was going to say something but I didn’t. There is no X-rated comic section for it to go in so they’d possibly remove it from stock, and I didn’t want that.   Mostly I just didn’t want to look like one of those prudish types who get shocked by modern things.   Just imagine the shame of being ‘The man that complained in the library about local hero’s book’.  The government are trying to get rid of libraries anyway, and I don’t want to give them another excuse. Besides, I’m no longer sure whether a stylised reptile rape portrayal causes a blip on the shock horror scale.  Perhaps the sheer absurdity of the idea absolves it from criticism.    
On the other hand…
“Library Scandal.   Shocked and bitter ex-acquaintance objects to alien porno cartoons in children’s section, then posts unreleased track on social networking site”.  When I’m interviewed I’ll be sure to mention that aside from my outrage at the illustrations, I found the characters in his comic to be more like cyphers than real people.
I could be found dead - a contorted smirk twisting my lifeless face - with the mark of the snake upon me.



I was moaning in therapy that I seem to only get to be ‘part’ of my family (and-metaworldview-too) whenever there’s something of a crisis going on.  All of a sudden I’m there, being all manly, sorting shit out.  I adapt, spend more time with the kids, make all kinds of phone calls and arrangements that I would never dream of doing if the need was mine.  I ‘turn up’ in case of emergencies but otherwise I’m out of the way.  My therapist reflected that I sounded a bit like an ambulance, chasing around, and had this catchy phrase about ‘people NEEDING an ambulance but not WANTING one’, that stuck with me for a week.  Gnawing.  Hmm.  She’s good.  I would’ve been prepared to argue the semantics: that ‘needing’ is just ‘really really really really really wanting’ something, but I understood her point, so didn’t.
I decided - there and in the moment - that I want to be more of a VW Camper: everyone wants one, nobody needs one.  She thought this a good metaphor, but I’m already picking holes in it.  Do I really want to be a high-maintenance luxury item, a financial black hole, a vanity object?
My eldest daughter, in her days of roaming with her gang around industrial waste sites, took a photo of a discarded ambulance that had been stolen, ransacked, then dumped near the old Avon cosmetics factory.  Ding dong.  She framed it for me a couple of years ago, knowing my penchant for urban decay and krunk.  Crack heads might have been living in it.  Note the lovely rickety bed trolley frame and the not-so pristine, emptied cupboard space with white paint, stripping; the blood red linoleum and the hatch with the Mind Your Head sign.  It had perspective, grime, and rust, but wasn’t much good as an ambulance.
Me all over.
The Mind Your Head sign… was a sign.
And that’s the thing.  I’m a shambles of an ambulance.  Or a sham of one.  Either will do.
Or not do.

As an aside, I asked her to send me the jpeg as an email so’s I wouldn’t have to take the framed print to therapy tomorrow, but she directed me to her flickr site (everyone’s a blogger!), where I still couldn’t download it.  Some rights reserved.  I bit off more than I could chew visiting her photostream!  It was definitely less reserved.  I texted her after, saying, ‘Blimey, you could have warned me about the cleavage!’  She answered, and I sic-quote, ‘That should be a given.  You kno what kinda photography I experimented with.  And an artist must not b afraid to use oneself’.  What kind of monster have I created.  Talk about reap what you sow.  I think that was exactly the same line I used when telling her mother I fancied a night on the heroin.

Honey Bunny

Today my hallway is full of the olden days – guitar cases, a bodhran, a djembe, and record decks – plugs and cables akimbo.  Because it’s rock n roll it doesn’t count as a mess. 
Everything else counts as a mess.
And I’ve got stollen cake, because it’s Christmas.  Though I’d never heard of it until I shacked up with a Dutch woman… a cake with a fold of marzipan in it.  I’d always thought I hated marzipan.
From it my kitchen has a dusting of icing sugar that should make it look Christmassy, but fails.
It’d have been better if I’d been marzi-pam – a benzodiazepine derivative, it’d have sparked my interest.  Then.
I joined the buy-on-line frenzy today and got a cheap CD player and a supermario game for my kid.  Then I run out of ideas and money.
So took the day off work - except for a barrage of emails and some vague guilty thoughts - and sat in front of the fire and watched movies for several hours, trying to ‘still’ my mind.
Spotted a film coincidence.  Amanda Plummer, in ‘Static’, sits in a diner with a bloke, and says ‘Kill Them!’ (in a good, ‘prove yourself’ kind of way); years later she’s in a diner in Pulp Fiction and says ‘I’ll execute every last motherfucking one of you’. 
These kinds of thoughts have no value.  They’re not big or clever.  So I decided I should stop watching movies, it’s not doing me any good.
It’s making the mess in my head worse.

Shoegazing and Bobs

Some days… only vodka, a rising chorus, and spangling electric guitars, can cut through the grime in my head.  I had a go myself earlier but my fingers are hurting now so I’m having to let someone else do some of the work.
Twenty years ago thing.
Last year’s thing.
Today, because someone had given her some kind of voucher for her birthday, I was supposed to take my daughter to the hairdressers.  She’s just turned 11 and has long blonde hair and a long pale face.  Neither of us has ever been to a proper hairdressers before.  I’d tried asking a few people if they knew the protocol but everyone was totally disinterested in my feeling of dread.  I looked at their website.  That was no help either.  Stuff I had no idea about and a ‘shaking hair gif’ of some attractive looking girl with mauve streaks.  It’s a whole concept, this hair thing.
The situation was put on hold for a couple of hours because I’d promised to pay for both my daughters to go and see the new Twilight, first thing, the £20 being a worthwhile price to pay, for me, to avoid seeing it myself.  I tried to get a bit of work done while they were out but I knew it was going to be looming. 
The whole thing was getting to both of us.  It’s been a bone of contention for a fortnight.  Tempers were feathering this morning when I was trying to get her to specify some kind of design, favourite style, or even a hand-to-neck gesture that might give me some clue as to an acceptable length.  We’ve spent days with me saying ‘What about hers?’  and ‘That’s not bad’, but eliciting no concrete response.  I tried to get her to look at pictures on the internet.
Perhaps I should put the safe search on before I do that kind of thing.
Anyway.  Yes, at one pm she was refusing to go.  Arms were folded.  Why does she have to get her stupid hair cut anyway? at a stupid place, just because someone stupid bought her a stupid birthday present she doesn’t even want. 
At 1.30, after threatening her with getting the clippers out, and her choice of crew cuts involving numbers rather than styles, did she say ‘some kind of bob’.
Some kind of bob.
Less like Ritzy, more like Sadie J.

I tried my eldest daughter’s phone to see if this would be enough for a hairdresser to go on, but she wasn’t picking up.  That left my ex, who’s mid alcohol detox and relatively spaced on some kind of benzodiazepine, to ask for hair related assistance.  She decided to drop everything and rescue the whole situation, turning up at the haircutters to take over, just in time.
I was banished to sit in the car to listen to rugby on the radio.
I’m only imagining but I’d have thought if one bunches a lot of hair in a pony tail, then hack through it with scissors, one gets a bob.
But maybe not the big smile on her face as she came out from there.

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Oh, Excuse You!, posted May 7th, 2013
Immigrants, posted May 6th, 2013
Nucleus Accumbens & First Album Rule, posted April 13th, 2013
Short staff, the PM and BST, posted March 30th, 2013
Past the Ides, Fools to come, posted March 28th, 2013
Flags, posted March 23rd, 2013
Girly Night, posted March 19th, 2013
Under the influence of Descartes, posted March 16th, 2013
Ghost, posted March 10th, 2013
A random ramble - Keep Calm, Pick a Pope, posted March 2nd, 2013
Fighting Genocide one bad metaphor at a time, posted January 24th, 2013, 1 comment
The Man-Code, posted January 21st, 2013
I don't get invited to many dinner parties, posted January 19th, 2013
Cold Snap, posted January 17th, 2013
The Christmas Party, posted January 4th, 2013
Name dropping frenzy, posted December 22nd, 2012
Shambulance, posted December 20th, 2012
Honey Bunny, posted December 3rd, 2012
Shoegazing and Bobs, posted December 1st, 2012
Ohana, posted November 3rd, 2012
Holloween, posted October 28th, 2012
Transference confession no#15, posted October 19th, 2012
Weirdness, posted October 6th, 2012
a solo phenomenon, posted October 4th, 2012
Acral lick, posted September 25th, 2012, 1 comment
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Tat and clutter, posted June 27th, 2012, 1 comment
Utilities, posted May 4th, 2012
Biodiversity, posted April 5th, 2012
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Clutter, posted December 23rd, 2011
The Reverse of Dorian Gray?, posted December 12th, 2011
Open Mic Rant no#6, posted November 23rd, 2011
Just one more, posted November 7th, 2011
GreasyGrebDeath, posted November 3rd, 2011
Sylvia, posted October 15th, 2011
Exercise No#3, posted October 12th, 2011
My Dad the Master Criminal, posted August 12th, 2011
Moan moan moan, posted July 21st, 2011
The empty chair, posted June 22nd, 2011
Soup, posted June 18th, 2011
Safer reading, posted June 6th, 2011, 1 comment
Lost and found and lost again, posted May 12th, 2011, 1 comment
Poppy Somniferum, posted May 4th, 2011
OS maps don't tell us everything, posted April 26th, 2011, 1 comment
Tourism, posted April 25th, 2011
The getaway, posted April 21st, 2011
Troubles, posted April 19th, 2011, 1 comment
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