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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

19. Merry Christmas

Thanks to all bleaders (blog readers) for reading this blog. I’ll leave sycophancy and a whole load of other stuff for the New Year.
The next blog will be Tuesday 8th January 2013. If you'd like a peek through the blog archive – favourites have been;
Dinosaurs Cured my Performance Angst (blog 4 – 4th Aug 2012)
‘Concretized’ (blog 8 - 2nd Oct 2012)
My One Night Stand with the Ghost of Bill Farrell (blog 10 – 16th Oct 2012)

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

18. Elitism for All

I’m confused. Isn’t sex equality for royalty like giving the flu jab to someone who just had their leg blown off? Isn’t it like making car fumes smell nice? Isn’t it like passing a law to make looters wipe their feet? Isn’t it just mad? I mean isn’t it just totally missing the issue by about three galaxies and a black hole? If you are going to continue to support ultimate elitism in all its ridiculous glory and preposterous silliness – why get squeamish all of a sudden about fairness for one woman? Though of course with all the fanfare, political time, energy, international chat, news air-play and righteous posturing, it’s clearly me that is out of step. Passing a law that will affect one body out of xxxbillion is clearly a priority even if that person is less in need of legislative or any other support than any other child ever to be born anywhere at any time ever. And it must, must be rushed through because at some time way into the future when the royal great grandmother, grandfather and father have all had their turns with the dressing up clothes on the gold seat, it’s clearly going to matter! It certainly isn’t just something else that’s being waved around to distract us from the mess that the others of the privileged minority got us into. Oh no it isn’t.
Ever the optimist – I realised there must be a positive side to this and – glory be - I think I found it. Maybe – just maybe – it will lead to other strange, anachronistic, elitist organisations or individuals also deciding to introduce random egalitarian or lefty flavoured incongruities into their repertoire of bonkersness. This will liven things up a bit and keep us entertained. I name this new phenomenon,
Elitism for All
Royals finally get gender equality so…
White Supremacists, they’re supporting equal pay
Neo Cons make tree hugging compulsory
Racists think it’s fine if you are gay

The Gun Lobby have gone macrobiotic
Klu Klux Klansmen want the poor to have fair rent
Donald Trump got yoga for the homeless
Sarah Palin backs Chris Rock for president

Fascists endorse co-operatives for Lesbians
Free biodegradable coffins for the sick
And all because upon the throne of Eng-er-land
A Liz can be a queen before a Dick


Next week – sycophancy – a very English sickness… unless I’m sick of that subject.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

17. How to Make Monopoly More Interesting

Sick of the same old Chance and Community Chest cards in Monopoly? Try spicing things up by introducing some new surprise options. How about the ‘Harry Redknapp’ card? You can play this like the ‘get out of jail free’ card only it’s called the ‘I’m too thick to go to jail’ card. The HR card can be kept then used in the face of apparent financial malfeasance. There’s the X-factor card too. A player picking up this card can sing a whiny version of a crap 80s ditty then whizz round to Go, collect a wad of money, pay a huge commission to the person running the game then plop onto the Free Parking slot. The player then stays there while the others pass them by saying – wasn’t she…? Nah.
Perhaps you’ve had enough of Monopoly. It may be that you are sick to your stomach of what passes for competition in the current climate.
Recently my heart sank when yet another school project arrived home masquerading as a cheap TV winners-take-all type contest. Small groups were to compete to make money with their own business schemes. True to real life, some took it seriously, some did not, the playing field was bumpy and skewed, some made a lot of effort, some made none and the results bore no resemblance to the amount of blood sweat and tears invested.  One or two had a leg up from competitive parents while others used whatever rules suited themselves. At the end of the day one group gets a treat and the majority who took part will not see any direct reward for all the hard work they put in. Stressed and bickering and non-the-wiser as to what they were supposed to achieve or learn, the debacle ended as a less than a damp squib. Maybe that was the lesson? A couple of parents who were all for the scrap, reckoned it was preparing kids for life. I can only assume they were imagining their little darlings smarming round a futuristic office in a wet dream of ‘The Apprentice’, ordering minions to stir their skinny latte to the left and hold all calls.
This is ironic when I think of the son of a friend of mine with his M.A, now stacking shelves for a living or a friend’s daughter with a B.A hons first class from a redbrick university (who wanted to and should have done an MA but couldn’t afford it) depressed and miserable on her first teaching placement. She’s been set the kind of work load – including nightly marking - that is currently giving her sleepless nights and she’s been told to ‘tone down’ because people find intelligence intimidating.
 I wonder what lessons she’ll want to teach her pupils to ‘prepare them for life’.
Perhaps another card we should insert in to the Monopoly game is the ‘child of the banking crisis era’ card. For ‘crisis’ read – ‘unpunished criminal activity’. The recipient of this card would be told - do not pass Go, do not collect £200, do not get a house, do not start a family until you’ve paid off your student debt, do not hope to be out of this crap any time soon.
What about the Russian oligarch / Arab royalty / Old Etonian card? Proceed to Mayfair, or anywhere else for that matter – it’s all yours.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

16. Never mind ordinary victims – what about the rich & famous?

Some people do not understand contemporary priorities.
Frankly if I have to look at one more picture of a starving person when I could be looking at a weepy celebrity going on about how upset they are looking at a starving person, I’m going to get very  irritated. Isn’t it  much better to be able to focus on a nicely dressed, coiffure’d western woman who is thin from fad dieting than some skanker who is emaciated from lack of food or cholera? It’s just as bad when you consider racism. Frankly I’d far rather hear the latest story of eye-wateringly rich footballers calling each other names than ordinary day-to-day racism perpetrated against people who probably don’t do anything more interesting than try to survive on a minimum wage (which of course is different to a living wage – in which case could someone explain what ‘minimum’ means?)
I had to laugh at my daughter the other day when she complained about being teased because – whilst she appears to be white some kids at school have noticed that her mother is a ‘wog’. Poor silly fool. Who does she think she’s is?
Don’t get me started on child abuse. There are still bits and pieces leaking through about the victims of abuse when what is of real interest surely is who said what to whom at the BBC or via twitter and who is suing whom for what vast sums and which newspaper hates which T.V channel the most.
Why don’t ordinary victims just GET REAL. If they want the world to listen to them why don’t they sign up for Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity Look At Me, Look At Me, Look At Me.
Some groups and institutions have, fortunately, got it dead-on. Take government posturing on prisoners voting rights for example. Some folk think the real issue is that huge swathes of the country are more interested in voting for the latest Karaoke act on X Factor than their political representative - pshaaaw. Well done D.C. I say and hurrah. Also thank heavens (maybe literally) for the Church of England. What a scorcher that was. I was sweating I can tell you. There was some danger that their historical (founding?) principal of misogyny might be about to take a back seat to real issues like physical and spiritual poverty but by a very narrow majority they saved us from that.
Next week – perhaps - some hints on how to make Monopoly more interesting.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

15. I know what you did last weekend… & a couple thousand stalkers!

OK – this week’s blog is – what-I-did-last-weekend (very facebook – get me)
PLUS the winners of the fabulantastic 1st International Euphemism Competition (run on this blog)
In line with the competition rules (see Blog 13) all the winners have been chosen on the basis of nepotism i.e. they are either people I like, people who owe me biscuits, people to whom I owe favours, folk I like. At no point was the quality of the entry an issue – just to be clear…
In first First Place is 3-D artist and fantastic Performance Poet (my fave piece remains ‘Bin Laden shops in Asda’) Wajid Hussein. Wajid’s euphemism relates to the term 'Randomly Selected' (in relation to searches before flying) = ‘HIM’. It makes me all sentimental as it reminds me of the days when my lot filled this slot – ah the good old days.
In second First Place is Oonagh Joslin (poet, flash fiction champ, editor of Everyday Poets, baker of the finest roast hazelnut shortbread ever) Oonagh’s euphemism relates to the competition reference to a ‘Fair Judge’ = ‘dark haired, dark eyed, dark skinned, ex solicitor, solicits 'takers' for a book she can't give away and a cupboard full of out of date biscuits’.
In first Second Place is John Martin Johnson T.V. screen/script writer with such series as Call the Midwife under his belt who is now doing an MA in screen writing at Goldsmith’s. He did not indicate if this was his own euphemism – he merely says it’s his favourite – but I don’t care. ‘Hard working families up and down this country’ = ‘People I've never met’
And finally – in second Second Place is Dan Mc Cole creative, Limerick wizard and fellow outsider, ‘It's been suggested I do a stand-up comedy course’ = ‘people at work are fed up with me being rude’.

Anyone claiming that these were – in fact – the ONLY entries will be sued!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

14.Death, Existence, Futility, Human Arrogance & the Universe

This week – a short poem about death, existence, futility, human arrogance, the pointlessness of vanity, war, greed etc and so on and so forth…
I once read that an introduction to a poem should not be longer than the piece itself. The great thing about a blog is that you can ignore the arbitrary rules made up by other people; you might bang on for pages about a piece that is only a few lines. Also you can take very large subjects and hammer them in thirteen words as in this piece called Clock or you can take well worn subjects like dragons or contemporary relationships and ramble on for hundreds of thousands of words like I do in my novels and no one can slap you on the back of the hand with a ruler (like my piano teacher used to do - not for rambling obviously but for playing really badly and not practising).
No tic will ever return
The toc will burn
Only the sigh
(by amanda baker 2012)
As for last week’s euphemism competition, in honour of the British Honours system I think I’ll just ask my friends who would like to win and who is most likely to take me out for coffee and a bun and post the winner next week. I think that’s best.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

2012 International Euphemism Competition

13. As Promised…
The 1st International Euphemism Competition (run by this blog)!
To make up for the gloom of last week’s blog and as a cheerful counterbalance to the US elections here it is. *Bleaders are invited to submit for my perusal, themed euphemisms which will be judged randomly and when I can get round to it. The best one or two or however many I feel like, will be awarded fabulous prizes. The euphemism could be political – like the two referred to in last week’s blog. It could be a Spoophemism – something that if we weren’t polite we would just call a lie e.g. the claim that this would be ‘the greenest government ever’ = actually not green at all! They could be euph-homme-isms e.g. –‘T.V. chef’ = bloke who can’t cook without an audience. They could be eu-femme-isms e.g.  ‘Witch’ = smart woman from the Middle Ages. The main thing is they should have a slightly cynical cutting edge to suit the current climate; humour would be good but is not essential. They will probably not be actual euphemisms in the actual sense of the actual word but euphemistic euphemisms so to speak. You could choose a social euphemism e.g. ‘credit’ = debt. It could be an artistic euphemism ‘brave theatre production’ = you’ll be crying with boredom by the interval - and so on and so forth and so on.
The Rules
In the interests of realism, I reserve the right to choose people I favour or people who are reassuringly like me (so mixed race ex lawyers, ex councillors, ex arts officers, ex waitress author poets stand a good chance). The closing date will be a moveable feast but possible about 10 days after the posting of this blog. Winner or winners will have their euphemism in a future blog credited with their name and any basic personal info they provide and that I deem suitable. I may or may not read all the entries and if there are no entries I may make them up – along with the entrants. Winner or winners will receive one of my books (see right hand blog column). If the prospect of that prize reduces any real winner to tears an alternative will be offered in the form of a digestive biscuit with the winner’s name written on in coloured icing sugar (depending what I have in the cupboards) and only if the winner has a reasonably short name. The biscuit will be posted to the winner and I take no responsibility for the state of the bicky on arrival – or non-arrival.
The competition is free to enter (I’ve no idea how to attach PayPal to a blog) but anyone entering – even if I don’t read their entry - should consider themselves beholden to me for at least a cup of tea at some unspecified time in the future.
Euphemisms should be mailed to the e-mail attached to this blog in any font you like and any language (but if it’s not in English you won’t win).
*Blog Reader

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

12. Armageddon will not be Televised

This week – a gloomy rant…

I enjoy a pacey paranoid action movie as much as the next person.  Give me Bruce Willis saving the world at the last second with a self-satisfied smile any day over another Jane Austen adaptation. Show me silver screen worlds exploding in Technicolor, tidal waves engulfing everyone apart from the main character plus love interest, asteroids missing the earth with only meters to spare, sudden freezes that only the good-looking survive. Dish up alien invasions from creatures able to cross galaxies but unable to anticipate a sucker punch from Will Smith. Tremendous. In reality the four horsemen of the apocalypse aren’t galloping out of the gates of hell on their white, red, black and pale green stallions, they are plodding about even now on knackered old nags in a dull, bored way because frankly they’ve nothing to do.

Is it too extreme to suggest that the woman parading down the high street with the $1,000+ designer handbag may as well be walking round with a sick child under her arm? Might the guy driving the sports car fuelled from products that could have fed people, just as well line up twenty sub-Saharan villagers and run them over? Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic for this blog space especially when theorising that Armageddon could be a surprisingly limp affair. All I’m suggesting is that like a Hollywood blockbuster, the event in all probability will not live up to the testosterone-charged trailers. It may just be a metaphorical dismal couple of hours in the dark where nothing significant happens and then it’s over.

It’s not that designer stuff is intrinsically bad nor is the fast car or any number of things that we don’t need; it’s just that life has a very simple equation to offer us, one we are constantly told is more complicated than it is. If some folk have too much others get too little. Let me say that again – if some folk have too much other folk have too little. There is no getting round it or under it. There is a connection between some people owning three cars and living in mansions and other people living on less than a dollar a day. Why does saying that feel like claiming moon is made of cheese? Perhaps because vast amounts of energy and money go into maintaining the more comfortable collective falsehood that there is no direct connection. We believe the world somehow got so complicated that 2+2 no longer = 4. But is it an unfathomable mystery that desperate farmers grow cash crops such as tobacco and coffee instead of food for their families?          

During the Blair affair with Britain we got used to the phrase “difficult decisions” which was euphemism for ‘the wrong decisions made in the face of the absolutely bloody obvious’. Though he was not the first to employ this euphemism it settled, through persistent use, as a staple of political rhetoric. In the same way that Cameron’s “I’m absolutely clear on this” as double speak for ‘this may sound like bollocks but I’m saying it anyway’ is bedding in. The idea that things are way more complicated than logic or common sense suggest is a notion we are force fed to steer us away from seeing that the emperor is wearing no clothes. The brother in arms of this falsehood is that someone who makes ‘difficult decisions’ is off the moral hook.  Sister to these two bastards is the notion that ‘there isn’t anything we can do’.

Let us deal with the first tired old horseman representing conquest and social inequality. Has there ever been an era where inequality has, in the light of our knowledge and technical skills, been more inexcusable? What I’m saying is that if our Victorian forebears could see that it was wrong, it’s got to be more wrong now. Close to home, how many of us have considered, when choosing a bank or law firm, checking what proportion of senior employees are state educated before giving them our business? I’m state educated and I haven’t.

As for war – there are more conflicts raging round the world than you could shake a stick at – using more sophisticated technology and on-going for reasons that defy not just ethical considerations but basic common sense. Death and disease are bestial bedfellows and never more so because we know so much about preventing and avoiding much of the disease that leads to premature death. Do you need to say more than that we have Viagra but no cure for Aids? The new strains of deadly malaria were upon us without adequate medicines when we’d known for years that they were heading our way or at least their way. Now that aesthetic (cosmetic) surgery is spoken of as if it’s as normal as going to the dentist, it seems outlandish to ask why personal or public resources are being spent in this direction when children die in obscene numbers for want of a diarrhoea tablet costing pence. When I was last asked my opinion on animal testing I had to say I might be more positive about it if the medicines and knowledge we already have were being used to their full effect and for everyone.

Stuff Botox and ‘shopping therapy’, if you want to feel better about the life you have, spend a week in a refugee camp and it’s likely you will have a very rosy view of your existence when you return. You may even have younger looking skin; certainly you might lose some weight. Meanwhile the bees are not pollinating properly, the ice caps are reducing, the coral reefs are dying and a huge percentage of preventable western disease is the result of affluence. The system we idolatrise is based on shoring up this monstrosity. It is ultimate pyramid selling and the pyramid is one of humanity. The world will not go out with a bang but a whimper. The four horsemen of the apocalypse returned to their hellish caverns a long time ago and are playing scrabble to pass the time. We have unemployed them.  The world is already the cancer patient in denial still puffing away on that cigarette. Armageddon will not be televised because it will not happen in a sudden identifiable place or time, it will not be dramatic and it will not star Bruce Willis. It is happening now in a bland, slow, miserable way. If you stand still you can sometimes smell it in the air, sense the paradigm shift, feel it like a depression.  At some point we will become aware that we recognise the plot and the narrative is near the end but there will be no one around to see the credits roll.

Sorry this was going to be a mainly comedy blog so in the interests of humour and more randomness, next week will be a fabulous Euphemism competition with hugely desirable prize.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A Draft from the Attic...

In the interests of Randomness
A Draft from the Attic
For my 40th birthday I ran away from home to the middle of not quite nowhere.
Leaving the official writing project anaemic and gasping for oxygen, I scribbled an idea and sample scene for a BBC sitcom writing competition I’d found on the net. Four months later and I was down in London with 7 writers who also crept past the other 4.500 entrants and snuck through short listing. The reward was 5 days at licence payers’ expense discussing comedy writing with BBC comedy glitterati  in-between breakfast, coffee, lunch, coffee, tea etc etc etc.

Apart from the deliciously uncomfortable guilty deceit of pretending to be interested in T.V. (see blog 6.) it was a really lovely holiday which I obviously deserved.

Fast forward to now and a fried computer. Rifling through my IT ‘attic’ i.e. the files that survived on the hard drive, I came across a bit of a draft of one of the scenes from that project. It’s not in telly script format but in the interests of randomness, which is ever a good cause, here is a bit of that draft from my attic…

circa 2004/5
House Normal

CATH.        John I think you are overestimating the importance of what you define as normal.

JOHN.         Am I? How many of your clients have a mother who takes her dead husband’s ashes on church picnics? How many of your clients have a white brother who thinks he’s Bob Marley and a black sister with an Anne Widdecombe complex?

CATH.        Okaaaay – what about work?

JOHN.         Better. (he smiles in what he hopes is a modest way) Did I tell you about the management training course?

CATH.        Yes – that’s really great (cath yawns)

JOHN.         New opportunities, prospects, horizons, goals…

CATH.        (impatiently) Yes, yes, yes, and Bob? (john is momentarily lost) …the guy you share a work room with?

JOHN.         Yeah, yeah.

CATH.        Well last time you were here I suggested you listen more carefully when Bob was stretching his mind and try to understand him. You had said that his ideas got your brain into “spaghetti”.

JOHN.         Did I?

CATH.        (referring to notes) Yeeees.

JOHN.         Oh right yeah.

CATH.        So?

JOHN.         So I tried.


BOB.           …it’s really straight forward. In ‘The Lord of the Rings’ the ring represents the anus and or vagina. The whole purpose of casting the ring into the fires of Mount Doom is to obliterate degrading, base physical sexual desire. The towers equal erections – yeah? You know if people would just accept that all art and by definition therefore life is about the desire to have penetrative sex followed by death the world would be a less confusing place. (once again john can think of nothing to say)


CATH.        Wow – I’d really like to meet Bob.

JOHN.         You see that’s my point.

CATH.        What is?

JOHN.         Bob wouldn’t come here because he thinks he’s normal.

CATH.        We’re going to have to deal with this normality obsession John.

JOHN.         Yes that’s what I -

CATH.        Time up.

JOHN.         Sorry?

CATH.        Time’s up. I’ve got two OCDs and a Bradd Pitt fixation to get through before five. See you in two weeks. (John looks as if he had something significant to add but thinks better of it and leaves)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My One Night Stand with the Ghost of Bill Farrell


If a ghost is a manifestation of a restless spirit then I’d bet my last sonnet that Spennymoor Settlement is haunted by the ghost of Bill Farrell.

Toynbee Hall, earliest and most famous establishment of the Settlement Movement was inaugurated in 1883. The idea was simply that forward thinking men and women of talent, altruism and education should,
“…share themselves with their neighbours”
                                                Cannon Samuel Barnett 1883

As parts of the North East fell into the mire of mass unemployment, exacerbated by the 1926 general strike, a very special man found his way to S.W. Durham. That man was to do much more than share himself – he gave over the vast proportion of his energy, creativity, intellect and working life to a small industrial area called Spennymoor. William Farrell established a Settlement in April 1931 that exists today primarily in the guise of a modest amateur theatre but which gave birth to much of the artistic and creative brilliance which is recognised internationally as emanating from that era and area vis-à-vis the Pitman Painters.

With what we in poetry circles refer to as an ‘intimate’ audience, I found myself performing in that history-weighted venue wondering a little nervously what Mr Farrell might have made  of a mixed race woman entertaining with comedy performance poetry. Ever the innovator, broad minded and egalitarian, I can only surmise his welcome would have been warm and encouraging.

Certainly my father, had there been a Settlement to attend and a figure like Bill Farrell to encourage him, might have fared better in a world of rigid strata which was the post war, pre flower power England. Fourth son of a foundry man who suffered debilitating workplace injuries, my father was in many respects the epitome of a Whitenigah. Viewing him posthumously and with adult eyes, I no longer find it strange that a white working class boy, who may never have spoken to a black person, should fall for my mother – a black immigrant from the colonies – different from him in every conceivable way – even down to class and education. My mother was educated at a colonial girls’ school where only the King’s English was spoken. I suspect it may partly have been her otherness that drew him. If you feel rejected or an outsider in what is supposed to be your own community, isn’t it easier to be a genuine outsider in someone else’s? Though he had a couple of very close friends from his boyhood, my father was never happier than in the company of my step-grandfather who was from St Kits. He was completely content and at ease with my grandmother’s large social circle from Guyana, Trinidad, Tobago and Jamaica. He danced to Reggae, drank rum and ate black eye peas ‘n rice with fried chicken as if he too was a descendant of slaves.  At his request, his ashes were scattered over Kaieteur Falls.

Pivotal in his life was something which happened at a tender age. Despite passing the infamous 11+ exam with flying colours, he failed the nastier and less official social test. Having been denied a place at grammar school by his social betters, his natural intellect was forever frustrated. If only my father had met a Bill Farrell – someone who would have looked beyond his background and the state of his shoes.

Although from the intelligentsia, Bill Farrell motivated the Whitenigahs of S.W Durham and I was fortunate enough for one night to have my mug shot on a poster with Arnold Hadwin’s Settlement motif depicting the masks carved by the artist and sculptor Tisa Hess.

In its heyday, Spennymoor Settlement provided an educational and creative outlet for adults, developmental play for children and hope for the future. Looking through my local Adult Education leaflet recently, I noted that even if there had been a course I fancied there were none I could afford; depressingly there was also an obvious grammatical error on the first page.

I find it hard to believe if my father were alive today that he wouldn’t have benefited from a Settlement setup. Much that culture has to offer now seems derivative to the point of dizzying nausea and the most enduring thing the current education system is giving many youngsters is debt.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Mass Market Martyrs & Fast Food Fundamentalists

Surely you must have noticed it? I don’t mean the Joan of Arc type – she would have been sectioned not burnt these days – and who’s to say that wouldn’t have been a worse fate. I’m not talking about those other women either – the ones who should be put out of their misery – or ours. The ones who whine on about having to fetch and carry for a child or partner or other and get to do nothing for themselves (ok I admit I’ve complained that way once or twice or thrice). Frankly I wonder if the relative or neighbour or child wouldn’t welcome some good natured neglect in place of the pursed lips and the dutiful attention. But no, I’m talking about the new martyrs, women and sometimes men who daily and uncomplainingly martyr themselves to a cause so all-pervading you may be shocked that it has gone relatively undocumented.

Travelling home last Saturday night I observed some shoe martyrs. They have always existed but their sheer numbers and uniformity must now constitute a phenomenon and they are just one element of a very broad church.

The shoes required for this ritual suffering are so aesthetically hideous I feel it would be worse than a misnomer to simply label these people fashion victims. Fashion victim suggests some visual gain for the distressed wearer. Stacked, clumped, blocks of wedged, solid, cartoon shoes with heels, make the feet appear like stilted hooves. Also, they cause the wearer to walk like a cross between a giraffe and an elephant on a rope bridge. The shoe martyrs clearly belong to some mysterious sect much weirder and wider than anything imagined by Scientology. This cult, through collective pain, podiatric ugliness, broken ankles, damaged hips and tilted wombs, will eventually decrease the overall suffering of mankind. The shoe martyrs act regardless of age, shape or size. Some, in their zeal, go out in the modern spiritual equivalent of a hair shirt – otherwise known as ‘almost naked’. Presumably so that when their shoes pitch them into the nearest gutter, legs akimbo, designer handbags somersaulting through the air, their humiliation will be complete and the fashion god of consumer mentalness will be sated for ever amen – or until the following night.

Sadly there are many who fail, they fall by the wayside (both metaphorically and in contradiction to what I’ve just said!) and let down their fellow martyrs. These can be seen creeping along the streets of towns and cities at about 9.30 p.m. HOLDING their shoes and walking in their BARE FEET. I’m too ashamed for them to go on.

But the shoe martyrs pale into insignificance against the fast food fundamentalists. These much quieter, less gregarious but even more dedicated characters are – in my view – more suited to martyrdom and the noble silence and sombreness with which we historically picture such individuals. They can be viewed any day of the week at any time through the windows of the burger/chicken/general-eyelid & offal-fried-in-fat outlets where the faithful worship. They subject themselves to the misery of eating shit so quietly, with such glum faces and slack-jawed, dull-eyed passivity, lack of conversation, animation or any other sign of enjoyment that they would make Joan of Arc blush.

Unbelievable as some readers may find it – and I forgive those who read my blog and conclude that I bear false witness – I have seen, double martyrdom. NO, you shriek in ecstatic horror. Could a mere mortal truly assume such a mantle even for the God of Consumerism. But I say unto you now, verily have I seen it with mine own eyes – a person both wearing the hoof shoe and eating salted, fat-saturated, compressed bio-waste in a bread bun.

Before you dismiss this claim, bear in mind that world economic growth is largely based on people buying crap they don’t need and didn’t want until the advertisers convinced  them they’d be less than nobody if they didn’t’ have it. It is, I suppose, just possible that these are not martyrs but mass, brainwashed consumer fodder.
But no – that would be too ridiculous and nightmarish!

Next week
My One Night Stand with the Ghost of Bill Farrell.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


‘Concretized’ by New York Literary Agency

Like a friendless lottery winner or Pinocchio or Katie Holmes, I learnt the hard way to – ‘be careful what you wish for.’

After five years bashing the keyboard in a lonely why-am-I-doing-this delirium, I landed contracts for two completed novels with a New York agency. I was able to read,
          “…we love your work. It translates brilliantly to both U.S and U.K audiences   and should have great international appeal.”
                                                Rights Unlimited - Thursday Sept 1st 2005

Having eaten my quota of bitter tasting rejections, I was not willing to believe that this was just the guff they must send out when trying to get an author on the contractual hook. My favourite reject letter was one closely typed, filling two sheets of A4, from a U.K agent, explaining how busy they were!

For weeks I found it hard to utter a sentence which did not bump over the phrase “…my New York agent…” even though New York is a place I only know from Bruce Willis movies.

In a world where bankers think they are the point of commerce and supermarkets crack the whip over food producers; where insurance companies stand between you and your healer – in other words where the middle men have become pre-eminent – why did I think I would be treated even with civility? Bankers and supermarkets may get between you and your life but agencies get between an artist and their soul. The meanest of them can blot out the sun.

Between contact and contract I was treated like a princess. For two months post contract I was treated like the bastard offspring of minor dignitary who needed to be kept sweet. Lists were changed round during Winter 2005/06 and I was put with a slippery, fishy guy. This whiny individual could not pronounce my name without sounding like someone stuck a pin in his bum on the last syllable. From then on I was treated like the leprous peasant that no one would even kick because the effort was too great.

The twelve months in contact and contract with this agency has been the only year since I started regarding myself as a writer where I achieved and created nothing.

All antennae should have been twitching when Mr. Pin-in-arse announced he wanted to “concretize” our relationship. I should have responded,
“You want to solidify our new acquaintance in a toxic restrictive immovable grey substance that would cause any vibrant organic creative living thing to suffocate, sink and die?”
Instead I said,
“Is that a real word?”

Waiting not hours or days but weeks for a simple e-mail response I would then crucify myself doing re-writes that in turn went unacknowledged for further weeks. After a demoralising, debilitating, depressing wasted year I serendipitously encountered Kitty Fitzgerald, U.K author, playwright and publisher who’d had an identical experience. She walked away. After a brief but violent internal conflict I did too.

The immediate result was that I was able to write again, the books listed down the right hand column of my blog plus dozens of poems. Though I am shy about my page poetry and they generally don’t see the light of day, one does appear in the 2012 Winners Anthology of the International Bridport Poetry Prize. My performance poetry I regularly perform up and down the country in varied venues from theatres to comedy clubs and also at the last three Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. And now I have a blog – my weekly word cream cake. The income is patchy but I am no longer CONCRETIZED.
And so to the blog flog – available in traditional format or as an e-book,

The Companion Contract
(go to My Books - right hand column of blog - click on the Amazon link)

Sample -
Chpt. 1.

No V.A.T.

‘I sold my accidentally preserved virginity at seventeen to senior equity partner Robert Avery.  The arrangement was made by my disabled neighbour’s divorced daughter’s gay hair stylist’s boss - Richard Le Bon; Ricki to his mates.  Even in Ricki’s indiscriminate world, there were no other young female heterosexuals in the market for such a deal.  His flat fee for arranging the transaction was a mere £700.  If you work out the hours he’d spent developing the idea, co-ordinating meetings and sorting things out, it was a lot less per hour than solicitor’s fees. There was no V.A.T.’

That was the way Jennifer remembered it.

Next week’s blog may be entitled
Martyrs Are Better Dead.
or not.

And hopefully someone who knows about the horrors of IT will have helped me fix the profile box by then. I dunno what I did to it but it broke.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Amanda’s Royal Rejection by Richard Maidley...

Amanda’s Royal Rejection by Richard Maidley
on the Chris Evan’s showSHOCK REVELATION!

Only now can my bleaders (blogreaders) judge for themselves whether my topless poetry deserved to be suppressed by Stepfordian celebrity presenter Richard Maidley on BBC Radio 2.

(Only now because I didn’t have a blog then)

While standing in for irresponsibly absent Radio 2 D.J. Chris Evans in April last year, Richard Maidely suffered a mad fit of artistic zeal. Mr Judy put out a call for creativity of a poetic nature to celebrate the impending nuptials of Willandkate. Bleaders may note that there was no such call in relation to sporty royal later in the year!

Friends who listen to Radio 2 (I’m not judgemental) sent off a four-liner of mine, hardly even a poem just a little itty bitty ditty. Time elapsed as it has a habit of doing and I was accosted in the local library. Had I left my memory stick in the computer again? No. Had they located the DVD of the Japanese version of Macbeth (Throne of Blood)? No. Hey ho. Had hordes of righteously indignant salt-of-the-earth types stormed the building with the literary equivalent of pitchforks demanding that the library authorities stock multiple copies of my books? Strangely - no. The librarian had heard my name in reference to the call for royal nuptial verse. My name and location had been referred to by a giggling Maidley who declared that he liked the poem (high praise indeed!) and found it very funny. He may have said it was the best thing he’d ever read bar nothing or that could also just be in my fantasies. However – and this is the part bleaders may find shocking – he would not, could not read it out on air. WHY? I hear you cry / blog / tweet (actually I’ve never seen a tweet) / e-mail / facebook / carrier pigeon / smoke signal…

Why indeed!

To this day no plausible explanation has been forthcoming. The short piece did not contain sex or violence. O.K. it mentions sex but there is no violence. There is absolutely no bad language. There is no horror or gore or sustained threat. There are no disturbing images – well maybe one. It’s definitely no more than a P.G.

I most humbly lay the piece before my bleaders now. Like me, the piece is without a title. It had one but I didn’t like it so it was decapitated. Here is the body of the piece.

When royals have sex we pay
In deference to the constitution
What an ingenious genteel form
Of privilege prostitution

Next week’s blog will be a blog flog,

“…she sold her accidentally preserved virginity…”

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Please Get a Bigger T.V.

I walked past a house window last week that was filled with a television screen. Probably the T.V. was on the far wall but the quality of modern domestic electric equipment is such that if the T.V. was just a tad larger and turned up fully I could sit on the wall opposite this house and watch it. Then for maybe 10 minutes every month, I would get a free reminder of why I’ve not reverted to telly in 12 years.

Everything is getting SO BIG – like the wheelie suitcases – the ones the size of coffins that are the scourge of railway stations. I’ve never asked but something tells me the people trundling these behemoths behind them, are not actually leaving home for the decade that the size of their luggage suggests.

Once on the train these passengers cannot be parted from their caskets-on-wheels so the rest of us are now investing in mountaineering gear and abseiling paraphernalia in order to get to the loo. WHAT THE HELL IS IN THEM? I didn’t know hair straighteners got that big…

Sorry – back to televisions.

According to Donny Osmond - and he should know - there are 76 million comments about T.V. on social media each week – made while the programmes are airing. He didn’t say who counted. However, what this means is that some people – quite a lot of people – can sit in the presence of these monstrosities and still have brain function enough to connect nerve activity to thumb movement. Now that’s impressive.

Programming and general content, format, style has altered so much in the last dozen years that I have developed Z.T.T (zero telly tolerance). If you don’t believe me, try this little experiment. Keep away from television for a year or even six months then try sitting through a soap opera or a reality T.V. show and see if your insides don’t rupture.

At a friend’s house I was exposed to 3 minutes of X Factor and found myself pressed into the back of the sofa as my whole being revolted against it. Any longer and I think green smoke would have erupted from my nose and ears. I also had the experience of T.V. ‘possession’. Several months ago I viewed Come Dine With Me at my mum’s. Some mad bitch who looked like me, sounded like me and moved like me started uttering comments like,

“That’s the third chicken dish for heaven’s sake…”
“Well… if that’s her idea of an appropriate pudding to serve after risotto!”
“Tut, tut, tut, cold plates!”

I don’t get it - with the exception of  bid T.V. and other shopping shit, which I would highly recommend for the sheer unadulterated comedy value, no seriously – bid T.V. is funnier than any comedy act I’ve seen in recent years, guaranteed to have you – or at least me – rolling off the sofa gasping for breath and screaming for more.

I’ve no scientific basis for what I am about to say but I’ll say it anyway – I’m like that. Staring at the space behind the T.V. for half an hour each day would be more likely to add something to most people’s lives than the (average) 37 hours per week T.V. viewing that people apparently do. The bigger and more domineering the set, the harder it must be for any other sensory intrusion, positive or negative. The ridiculous number of home-improvement shows in the scheduling is surely ironic. Frankly, once a T.V. set reaches a certain size, I’d challenge anyone to notice if the remaining walls were smeared with camel dung.

Last Saturday I spent half an evening at the Star & Shadow in Newcastle, a fab indie venue – with wild, wonderful drummers, a frantic fabulous guitarist, and comedy Marge (!). I then dashed over to Jibba Jabba open mic at The Trent (making the most of a rare Saturday night out). Here, though I didn’t catch it all, there was improvisation, comedy, singer/songwriter music, poetry, and sketch monologue. The showcase performer of the night was a Yorkshire based poet, erudite, interesting, delicious to listen to (even with a hint of a brummie accent!). Not everything would be everyone’s cuppa. Some of the experimental stuff verged on chaotic but the least of it, the most inexperienced performer, the most nervous act, the rawest newcomer was worth a night in front of X Factor any day of the week and this was just one small indie venue on one night in one city.

There is so much creativity out there and telly is so all-consuming, how come the two keep missing each other?

My nightmare scenario is that one day I am on a train and someone with one of those trolleys takes out a monster T.V. plugs it into the carriage socket and I’m blasted into a parallel universe by Strictly Come Dine With Coronation Factor On Ice.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Mistaken for Jordan AGAIN!

Amanda Baker, Comedy Performance Poet says she’s dazed and confused (no change there then) as another mix-up occurs.

Ms Baker’s conflicted personal identity can be clearly demonstrated by the fact that, in just one life time, she met with Nelson Mandela (Glasgow October 1993) but also deliberately obtained Aled Jones’ autograph (Morpeth April  2012). Amanda met Nelson Mandela when he toured Britain after his release. She was then a member of Newcastle City Council Race Equality sub-committee. It was a sub-committee of the main committee - Generally-Don’t-Be-an-Arse. There IS no explanation for the autograph. She is currently the subject of an X-file. Scully and Mulder believe Ms Baker to be the genetically spliced offspring of Desmond Dekker, Pam Ayres and a fried egg sandwich.

Courageously putting aside her personal challenges, Amanda will be performing at the Star & Shadow (Stepney Bank Byker, Newcastle) this Saturday 15th Sept as part of the evening’s entertainment following the N.E. Feminist Gathering events. Don’t worry, she will only be doing a 15 minute set and there is other good stuff on…

To celebrate the N.E.F.G event Amanda hopes to be outing a new comedy piece ‘Magazine Misery’

If I get my PC back from the morgue - Next week’s blog may be entitled
Please Get a Bigger T.V.
and when I found out how this blog thing actually works I hope to make it more interactive...

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Dinosaurs Cured my Performance Angst – it’s true!

Inconsequentiality can be strangely uplifting. I put it to you with the greatest respect that a grasp of personal insignificance may be liberating. More than that, it could be the answer to those whose ludicrous self confidence went down the pan with their random youth. Are you someone who finds yourself gripped by the urge to express yourself creatively but discovers you are not fortified with an ego that would make Attila the Hun seem shy?  Appreciating the utter unimportance of your existence, the sheer nothingness of yourself, the absolute no-point-to-you essence of who/what you are may be the answer. No really - hear me out.

I have form when it comes to cringe-worthy scenarios. I am no stranger to please-let-the-ground-swallow-me-up situations. Having made a total arse of myself on more occasions than I care to mention (and I won’t catalogue them all as this is a blog not a thesis) I feel that my theorem deserves a hearing. For the sake of intellectual rigor – and not just to make you smirk – here are a few examples.

Earlier this year I fell on my face at Northern Stage in Newcastle at a high profile event called ‘Meet the Promoters’. Desperate-for-a-gig critters like me were given 3 minutes to impress a setting full of the key holders to most of the decent venues in the N.E. Mounting the stage from the front meant that as I tumbled forwards – not only did I suffer the ignominy of making it clear I couldn’t get on a stage gracefully – I had my rear end to the audience at quite close quarters. I gave national literary treasure, Harold Pinter, a new first name at The Lamplight Arts Centre in front of people who would notice his first name isn’t Allan. I’ve had to excuse myself mid performance when a programme was running late as I was about to miss the last bus home and I didn’t have taxi fare. In 2010 on the Saturday before the elections, I was walking through Alnwick prior to performing on the experimental People’s Plinth. At a BNP stall were three individuals dressed to resemble humans so obviously I said a few words to them as I passed. Standing on the plinth in the cold, wet, almost empty market place I realised that they were in my line of vision – they were in effect – my audience! In a hotel in Morpeth I once took part in a surreal performance in the round with some Folk types (and they are weirder than poets) while small muscle-bound men in tiny lycra knickers and makeup wandered through the performance area. There was a wrestling match taking place in the adjacent room to raucous applause. I’ve fumbled lines, forgotten lines, muddled characters, realised after leaving the stage that something about my person wasn’t where it should have been. It’s really quite an extensive list but I’ll stop there. The thing is IT DOESN’T MATTER and I learnt this from dinosaurs.

The first dinosaurs were around during the Triassic period when the earth was a single land mass, Pangaea – 220 million years ago. Coelophysis was one of those early ones. So let’s just say that there was a coelophysis who got the urge to scamper about in a meaningful way for her own creative elevation and to entertain other Triassic weirdies. We wont call it dancing because this is an analogy not sentimental anthropomorphism… so anyway – the coelophysis – lets call her Annie – is put off her prancing because she worries she’ll fall or make a Triassic twit of herself by drooling at the wrong moment or rushing off suddenly, mid prance, to claim her share of some nearby carrion or she gets cross with some dung beetles then finds out they are her audience. So she decides it’s all too much and doesn’t do her thing any more. But what is the worst that can happen? And if it does happen – so what? Annie is not only dead she is extinct. The dinosaurs who knew her are dead and extinct as are the dinosaurs who knew them. She doesn’t even exist as a genetic memory. Her lot were succeeded by the dinosaurs of the Jurassic and they were replaced by the leathery bods of the Cretaceous. And you know what – they are all dead and extinct and have been for the past 65 million years. So ok – if you want to hijack my analogy you may conclude, what is the point of anything. But you are just being silly and Nihilistic. Dinosaurs were around for unimaginable lengths of time and even they weren’t the first creatures on our planet. They are not around now because a bit of rock bumped into the earth - apparently. We’ve been around for a measly few thousand years and – let’s face it – we are actively and effectively working towards our own destruction. As a species we are unlikely to enjoy dino-longevity. So – I suppose what I am saying is – if you want to do it get on with it and don’t be held back by any sense that it matters.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Depressed Poets' Society!

A poet telling you he is depressed is like a dog admitting it likes peeing on lampposts

The issue of poets and depression comes up often – as it did at The Lamplight Art Centre, Stanley on 25th August. The ‘Black Dog’ though it has varied tastes, seems particularly partial to poets. It is, ironically enough, a joke among us. At the afore mentioned gathering, I referred to a young man who approached me at a previous event of the verse-full, showed me some of his lines on a piece of electronic wizardry then declared that he suffered from depression. It was so unremarkable (the declaration of melancholy not the poetry) that it dawned on me that gloom might be part of the job description. I wonder whether poets might even start boasting about their depressive bouts as a sign of poetic virility. We may flaunt our dark moods the way inadequate men with money flaunt expensive cars or inadequate men without money flaunt their dangerous dogs. We may start pretending to be more depressed than we are! N.E. streets may be strewn with moaning, wailing, dull-eyed, zombified, limp beings all craving poetic credibility. Sod writing good verse, just hang your head and groan. In case groaning and breast beating doesn’t work I’ve tried the less tiring method of writing a piece based on the above. Below is a first draft. I don’t usually show my page poetry so this is exposure aplenty.

Exposed Poet

Grey toad in compost heap
Slumbering deep
When I invade
With sudden energy
Good intentions and

I apologise
Salute your size
Humbled before
Your truly amphibious

Pathetic fallacy indeed
As I in need
Of list-crossed-off
Should dig

Your seven year heap
Your August sleep
I’m so sorry
A sorry specimen
Unlike you
Grey / green fiend

Surprising interference
Grudging disappearance
Through the fence, hence
Waiting no doubt
With condescending pout
To return

Which will happen soon
F---ing stupid poet
Looking for release
In compost?
A much better idea
Hide in it.

Inspired by the stage angst of performance poets, next Tuesday’s blog will be entitled;

Performance Nerves Cured by Dinosaurs!