Visitors

The fucking mice are back. I know they’re there. They’re crawling under the fucking floorboards. The cheeky fuckers are even hiding under the settee. I saw one last night, a dark beige flash, zipping from the side of the settee towards the hole in the floorboards. It’s my own fault. There shouldn’t be a hole in the floorboards. It’s as easy as that; all you’ve got to do is give them a fucking excuse and they’re in. It doesn’t have to be anything major, a little gap in the bottom of the back door, a small crack in the floorboards, and that’s enough; that’s all they need. Continue reading “Visitors”

Shakespeare did it for himself?

This article first appeared on Adopt an Indie

Shakespeare never needed the big six

When I started to write this I came up with what I thought was rather a clever little pun. “In his time ‘Shakespeare was no great shakes’. Hang on, I thought, let me google that just in case it’s been used before, and yes of course it has. The point is that nowadays we have at our fingertips – literally, access to the accumulated writings of just about every poor sap who has ever put quill to vellum or speech-to-text or any other way of recording words. There are loads of writers out there – millions upon millions of them and a small proportion are successful enough to be familiar to most literate people. Shakespeare is the Zeus in this pantheon of literary gods, yet in his day he was regarded by the then intellectual establishment as a “Johannes Factotum”, “a Jack of all trades”, nothing but “a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others” (Wikipedia).

Despite being an outsider, good old Will just got on with it and using his own wit and talent he produced The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. You can’t get more successful than that.

Continue reading “Shakespeare did it for himself?”

Supermarket prices

A contribution of mine for the people’s panel on The Guardian’s comment is free section:

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A strong smell in the car park heralded an in-store promotion. I hate being manipulated as much as I hate the smell of fish, so was immediately irked. It was the first time we had been to a supermarket for months, a visit prompted by curiosity and boredom rather than a desire to pick up a bargain.

We have never liked supermarkets, and like them less now since the lovely local wholefood shop we owned went bust recently, due, in part, to their behaviour. They take on brands tried and tested in small shops like ours and plant them at cheaper prices in strategic positions in their aisles. Then, when they’ve enticed our customers into their emporiums they quietly drop the products or replace them with watered-down own-brand versions.

In the past I’ve worked for companies that supply the big four, and can say from personal experience that they are ruthless when it comes to dealing with their suppliers too. They squeeze until the margins are so tight that the companies supplying them go out of business or are sold off for a pittance to larger brands. Despite our cynical and defensive attitude, we still succumbed to the Tesco trance and racked up a bill three times as high as it would have been if we had gone shopping in the local Co-op.

Don’t be fooled by the price cuts and the friendly visage, the supermarkets exist only to make the maximum profit for their owners; the customers are simply part of the equation, and that equation involves the customer spending at least the same amount of money on each visit. Tesco’s move to cut prices will have little effect on us, the damage has already been done. Who’s next? You have been warned.

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Direct link to the full piece with comments

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/30/peoples-panel-supermarket-wars

Failure

Things fail – bicycles, cars, washing machines, governments, recipes and businesses. A failure is something that has failed, fair enough. For me though, that word has always been impossible to apply to a person. Someone who failed to make an appointment because of a traffic jam may have failed to arrive on time but is not a failure. Life is a complex web of possibilities and the choices we make about which threads to navigate are influenced by every micro-facet of our existence, whether we are aware of it or not.

Blame is another word I have a problem with. It’s a very negative word and is used to attack and hurt people. This doesn’t mean that people are not responsible for the choices they make, responsibility is not blame, though the two terms are often used the same way. The point is, life is complex and as tiny creatures in this infinite universe where every nano action ultimately has an effect on everything, we can only pray we are making the right choices as we step onto the tightropes of those threads.

That’s the hypothesis. Now to the real world – I am a failure, I am to blame. It’s true. Continue reading “Failure”

The True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas is snow and feasting and fire and preserves. Christmas is calm and peaceful. Christmas is generous and spiritual. Christmas is short cold days and long colder nights – it is the darkest time of the year when life retreats to its lair and prays for its own renewal. The festival of Christmas sits like a light at the centre of each year’s tunnel drawing us towards it, injecting us with hope and ejecting us into a brighter future. In the Northern half of the world, Christmas is as essential to our psychological well-being as water is to our physical.

Photo: A Christmas Tree by Rhian Jones

Sadly, Christmas has been hijacked and harnessed by the dolts that profit from our human innocence and gullibility. They present us with beads of paste and glue – fake glitter that dilutes the true light and costs us our breath. We are herded through lanes edged with bulging shelves laden with colourful consumables designed to imitate the love and light our psyches crave in the darkness of midwinter. Cleverly, the Christian establishment has also hitched itself to the festivities and imposed its fable, to complete the duality that keeps us enthralled.

Christmas is neither the celebration of the birth of a man in some past land, nor the gluttonous gorging from the toxic mound of phony food. The true meaning of Christmas is in its light. It is the annual counterpoint to midsummer, when the sun’s light is at its most abundant, for Christmas is full of light too – the light that we carry inside. We bring it with us into the darkest time of the year and we express it in our fire and frolics. We don’t need churches or shopping malls, we just need ourselves – the bringers of light.

I was (virtually) there

The mainstream media’s coverage of the student protests over tuition fee increases is completely silly. Their collaboration with the police and with the government, unconscious or not, is damaging their reputation as credible sources of news and information.

I’ve got to admit that my participation in the demonstrations has been limited to tweeting a few messages of support to the students. I’m just an ordinary bloke trying to scratch a living in the dark depths of the recession and am generally content with the way things are, being a bit apolitical. I’ve witnessed a number of such occasions on the television over the years, and swallowed the line I’ve been fed. Of course you expect nonsense from Sky News and we all know that ITV News  chases the sensational tabloid headlines, so any accidental exposure to them is tempered with a large handful of rock salt, but the BBC? I’ve always trusted the BBC – shame on me.

There was a very large fire in Parliament Square – no there wasn’t, it was just a large bin. The protesters attacked mounted police – no they didn’t, the mounted police attacked the protesters. I know because I was there, well I was there virtually at least. I saw the pictures on the television and the other pictures all over the internet. I heard the reports on the radio and browsed the news media’s websites.  I followed the trends on twitter and clicked the links to innumerable articles, opinions, photographs and videos. I made my own mind up.

Set against the current desperate financial background and the corruption, incompetence and sheer greed displayed by the bankers and the politicians, it’s a wonder the Houses of Parliament are still standing never mind a few smashed windows. Of course the biggest story of the day is that our beloved Charles – the Prince of Wales no less, had his armoured car attacked.

Like I said, I’m an ordinary bloke, just another middle-aged man; a small human creature feeling his way through this crazy universe, but come on the BBC, I’m not an idiot, you could be so much more than a mouthpiece for the establishment.

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p.s. After writing this I was sent a link to a video about the Poll Tax riots of over twenty years ago.  Scarily similar.

You Tube – Poll Tax Riots London 1990

All the questions . . .

I just got interviewed for the Selling Books website.

Click Here to read the interview and get a glimpse into the twisted mind of the narrator 😉

Today we went to town

(This from about three years ago)

Today we went to town. We walked most of the way through the park, alongside the river. On the way saw a few interesting things. People were walking, some running or cycling. People had dogs, some had human companions. We saw jays hopping about and flittering into trees, (they might have been magpies), and we saw a squirrel. Some of the trees were budding with leaves and some with flowers – like the magnolias in Disney pink and white near the castle.

A black dog was in the river trying to catch a pair of ducks. A man on the bank shouted loudly at the dog: “Millie, Millie,” he shouted. “Come here, there’s a good girl.”

A few people stopped on the footbridge, as we did, and watched the tug between the dog, the man and the ducks, some may even have taken pictures – it was a lovely, sunny, spring day. Eventually the dog heeded the man and left the river to lots of cuddles and assurances that she was a good girl. Millie is a good girl.

Then there was the smart couple in their late seventies, sprawled out, eyes closed, on a bench in the sun. And the guy with the bull-terrier who ran around in the undergrowth like a truffle-hound (yes, it was the guy who ran around). The ice-cream van was quiet, though its engine was chugging along keeping the unsold stuff freezing – still a bit early in the year for that. It might have been sunny but it was cold in the shade or when the wind rose.

And then between the greening trees, the garish logo of the Moscow State Circus, I wondered if it was still sponsored by the state or whether the name was just another brand. I wondered how much the brand was worth.

Town itself was OK. Busy, seeing as it was a Saturday, but just about bearable, though we had to buy a cold drink in Marks and Spencer, then sit out the back for ten minutes. That’s when we saw a guy in a mac and glasses run past pursued by a store security guard. A skinny, scruffy old man with a thick grey beard stopped and watched the pursuit until it went out of sight behind a building. He looked at us and smiled. “He’ll have him,” he said. I laughed, he moved on and I got told off for encouraging a nutter.

A few minutes later the guy was marched back past us flanked by two uniformed security guards and a plain-clothes guy. He couldn’t have nicked much, he was only carrying a small carrier bag, unless he had other things under the mac. I tried not to look at him as he walked past but he caught my eye and my shoulder-blades trembled. I don’t know how they do it – those security guards, get paid minimum wage and have to deal with shit like that.

In the middle of the main shopping street we saw some teenagers clambering over a tank while nervous soldiers tried to keep them from doing any damage or hurting themselves.

Then we dodged a Big Issue Seller (I know – tut-tut)  and a charity chugger and wandered into an exhibition about the making of a city or something – anyway, it was a fantastic space, right in the heart of the city, but all it was, was like a blown-up brochure, just text and photos – they could have put it all on something the size of a takeaway menu, what a waste of space, and I bet it cost a fortune too.

We stopped in the market and bought some bread rolls and looked for a knitting pattern.

A few other things happened and we saw a lot of people, every one with a story, and I imagined some of their stories. An old woman in a wheelchair with a false leg and a middle-aged woman pushing her. I wondered what their relationship was. I had a little play worked up about the two of them, it involved a dog, a Big Issue Seller and a shoplifter. Turned out that the woman pushing the wheelchair was the mother of the bloke who nicked the stuff. At first they don’t know each other, then it emerges that she gave him up for adoption because her religious parents forced her to. Now he’s found someone to blame for his crap life and she’s found a reason to stop paying the penance for giving him up by looking after the infirm ageing mother she hates. In the end the dog pins the security guards in a shop doorway and the woman and her son walk off happily together abandoning the miserable old woman in the wheelchair, who is now at the mercy of the Big Issue Seller, who is imploring her to buy his last copy so he can go to the hostel for a bowl of soup and some stale bread.

And that in a moment of inspiration after a glimpse of the wheelchair woman and before popping into a health food store to buy a small plastic tub of hummus to use with the bread rolls to make a sandwich for lunch.

That image of the wheelchair woman is still there, it’s a bit fuzzy but she’s now gone past misery, she lives in a black universe of pain, hate and resentment. The wheelchair pusher is a bit of an enigma – there’s a blankness there, her reality is somewhere else.

So, it’s spring and people are revealing themselves a bit more and the light is better so you see more anyway, and your head is up from the dark floor of winter and it’s worth fighting again, and there’s something to fight for – life and love, love in the spiritual kind of way, where you see the light everywhere and realise that there is no need for hate and resentment or any other of those negative human feelings.

So, we go back and make a sandwich with the bread rolls and they’re huge and we put hummus and salad and half a pack of balsamic vinegar and sea salt crisps in each one and we eat them with a cup of Darjeeling and we loll around reading The Guardian and The Western Mail and doing crosswords but cheating by using the Internet until we’re rested enough to go and buy some organic onions from the wholefood shop and a couple of Lucky Dips for the Lottery from the newsagents round the corner and that’s at half-time during the Italy-Wales rugby match that we discovered was on the telly while flicking through the papers.

And it’s still Saturday afternoon and we loll around a bit more and finish off one of the crosswords by more cheating and by guessing and then start to make an evening meal that turns out of be waxy new potatoes and a concoction of organic passata, black-eyed beans, fresh green organic garlic, the onions, diced sweet potatoes and a big splash of tamari – nicely spiced with Cajun spice mix, fresh ginger and organic paprika – nice.

Now, late evening after some organic (and expensive) lager and that, it seems, is our Saturday.