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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Best Blogs 2014

Another year has slooshed down the plug hole of life and I just want to say thanks to all BG bleaders (blog readers) for visiting here each Tuesday. 

While you’re deciding whether 2015 is a scary abyss or an exciting blank slate here are the three most popular blogs from this year...

The most popular 2014 BG blogs (in no particular order) were -

71. Scotland is a Strawberry Tart
88. Off with their Eds
113. The Crap Gap Club

THANK YOU for reading.

Amanda :)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Blog 115. £1.3 billion - Thank you Lord

It dawned on me with a flash of brilliance - like a bright star in the sky you might say. As I was elbowed by one desperate shopper after another – all madly focused with that crazy glint in their eyes – there could be absolutely no doubt - Capitalism Works.

Today (according to people who work these things out) Brits are going to spend £1.3 BILLION. Just today. And I am fairly sure (though I’m just guessing – I am not one of the people who do surveys to work these things out) relatively few will feel better on Boxing Day for having spent that money. In fact some folk are going to feel much worse.

I recalled a very odd recent church service. A young preacher wound on for a while in an entertaining manner about her shopping, her gift-wrapping, her fear of putting on those ‘Christmas pounds’, the stuff she was going to watch on telly etc and finished up with an authentic -

“Thank you Jesus”

I listened hard for the irony. There was none.

I gazed around the congregation and saw a few smiles, the occasional appreciative nod. Some were glazed over and had clearly already gone to the land of when-is this-over but no one else seemed to be squirming with discomfort.

After a few days of stewing about this I realised that Christmas really is the ultimate proof that Capitalism Works.

At no other time of year is it more evident, at no other time are the masses so eager, nay desperate to fulfill their role as cash cows.

I was humbled.

For the fact is that the whole point of Capitalism (as surely we know by now) is to make a few people at the top rich while keeping the rest alive to service that wealth. This happens because the vast majority of those below them are exploited and the money travels up up up. It is not pyramid selling but pyramid economics. This Free Enterprise defies the laws of gravity, humanity and morality.

In its mildest forms and usually when economies are developing, enough money and resources stay at the middle and lower levels to muddy the inequalities and we rub along (Britain between WWII and Thatcherism). But we are past that stage.
At no time since WWII has there ever been greater inequality between the tiny percentage of haves at the top and the have-nots at the bottom. And the rules are – as we've known in this country since at least The Industrial Revolution – when economies contract or cease to expand the only other way to squeeze out more profit is to exploit people more.

Capitalism Works. Capitalism ensures wealth for the few. What we are experiencing at present is Rampant Capitalism that ensures obscene amounts of wealth for those at the top whatever state the economy is in and scraps plus debt for those at the bottom. 

As people scurry round buying gargantuan piles of crap in the name of that thing we call Christmas, stuff made by people even more exploited than they are and eat/drink themselves into early graves (yes this is my jolly yuletide message) they are proving with every penny borrowed, every credit card burnt that CAPITALISM WORKS. Capitalism is alive and kicking our heads in.

The question is not does this out of control free enterprise monster work. The question is – is it what we want.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Blog 114 WHO ARE THEY?

Today was going to be a titanic tirade about Scottish Power but the compensation (sorry – good will gesture) they told the Ombudsman they’d paid me in September finally arrived today after more hassle and phone calls. I've escaped from them now so  let’s not waste lovely blog space. Instead – a short poetry rant about the vacuous nature of modern living.

Who are they?
You’re ‘amazing’, famous, a mega superstar
But I don’t know who you are
Nor do I care

You flog perfume though once you kicked a ball
I have absolutely no Idea at all
How this all works

Your bum appeared in a gyrating tweet
But I wouldn't know you if we met in the street
What’s your point

Did you do something worthwhile
Like a 4-minute mile
In the days when athletes’ shorts went to their knees

Or maybe you’re in prison for strongly held beliefs
I can’t admire you because you posed in your briefs.
Get real.

That song you're killing has been done a dozen times
By vaselined boys miming nonsense rhymes
Into a mic

My ring my marriage my baby my divorce
My love my loss my scheming my remorse.
It’s all dished up in a stinking slop
Make it stop

Unplug yourself and learn to think

It may be painful
At first


NB. For some nice energy company cartoons click in the right hand column on my name in orange and scroll down the post list to the political cartoons.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Blog 113. The Crap Gap Club

This T O T A L L Y private, elite, select club is so unbelievably exclusive that it will, I guarantee, be tongue-hanging-out-fashionable by Friday. The jet set will be splitting their face-lifts to get membership.

However, it is so devastatingly rarefied that yours will be the only name on the roll call.

There is no on-line join up because it is so de-rigueur. Nor is there a sign-in or membership fee. You don’t need an enigma-level password or to remember your mother’s maiden name. You don’t need to search in your memory for the place you used to go on holiday back in the day when holidays meant going to the beach and not being herded worse than cattle through barriers, into holding pens, hauling coffin-sized trolley suitcases full of rubbish you could do without for a fortnight – or half full so that you can return with holiday junk.

No no.

The Crap Gap Club exists in your mind and permeates your life and involves only you but you will be the epitome of infra-dig if you don’t join. You will be a social reject within a month like someone with an out-of-date mobile phone that can’t remotely control the fridge (woops that’s me). You don’t need to tell people about it every ten minutes (like  on twitter) you don’t need to post photos of it (like facebook) No one will collate your private but freely given details and flog the resulting data to firms who will target you with their own special brands of shite. It’s not ‘secret little clubs of the invited and the chosen’ like LinkedIn. It’s just YOU and an absence of clutter – physical or mental.

There are rules of course.

  • ·        You must not put up with abysmal so-called customer service from profiteering energy companies.
  • ·        Clear STUFF out of your house/place of work (ornaments, keepsakes, paperwork which will never be looked at by you or anyone else).
  • ·        Get angry (but not aggressive) when you hear people talking nonsense (racism, homophobia, misogyny, fracking).
  • ·        Clear rubbish in all its forms from your life – be ever vigilant against its incursion (especially watch out for the effects of all fuzzy-edged TV advertising).

There are also levels of membership.

For example – Exclusive membership – let’s say tea and toast level - would be reserved for those who don’t know the names of more than two brands of cars and have never bought a handbag for any reason other than essential stuff fits in it.
Pinnacle membership – shall we call it – fresh homemade cake level – would be someone who can’t summarise the plot twists of more than two soap operas and is totally ignorant of the relationship scenarios in The Archers
Supersonic membership - I would like to name – freshly ground Colombian coffee level. Coffee that you made yourself though, not stuff you parade around the street in a corporate logo'd cup putting other citizens at risk of serious scalding. This membership level would be for those capable of sitting n a room without any electronic communication device on for – ooh let’s say 10 minutes.

There will be rewards too.

You are allowed at least one mean thought per month with absolutely no guilt. So for example I might treat myself to a fantasy in which Tony Blair is stuck in a sky scraper lift. The only other occupants of this small lift are three grown men who were children in 2003 and whose families were wiped out in the Iraq invasion and who are affected by powerful psychotic episodes as a result.

There must be a complementary physical clear out too (no I don’t mean with laxatives). Chuck out all the detritus from your house. Start with ornaments, then move on to knickknacks, clothes that don’t suit you/fit you, games your kids never wanted, kitchen equipment that actually make jobs harder or take too long to clean (electric carving knives) and things that never should have been invented (melon ballers). If your TV screen can be seen from the moon it’s too big, it has more influence on your family than you do – get rid.

There are little membership behaviours and tics – like the Masonic handshake - that will single you out. You may indulge these once you are properly affiliated to this non-affiliate non-organisation. For example, next time you are on a bus and someone is wearing so much make-up, hair spray and perfume or aftershave that your eyeballs start to dissolve and you find it hard to breathe – vomit on them.

Avoid the yap, clear the crap, zap the pap, shun the clap trap, join the CRAP GAP CLUB.

If you have a nervous breakdown and end up running down Princes Street naked but for a Tam O’ Shanter with your bagpipes swinging in the breeze because you suddenly found yourself alone with time to have a coherent thought - DON’T BLAME ME

This week’s recommended blog from the archives,

blog 12 Armageddon will not be televised

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Blog 112. Black Friday Lament.

With the current state of the world I wondered whether the latest hideous US import was worth getting agitated about. It is. Humans fighting over Christmas crap, on a day orchestrated by the retail industry, is truly a gruesome, miserable, degrading thing.

Here’s ‘Black Friday’
It feels so grey
Queue. Charge. Grab. Buy
Plastic rises sky high

Saturday teatime
Could be bee time
Make it compulsory
To bath in warm honey

Why can’t we say            
It’s Sweet Sunday
All shops will close
For calm repose

Monday’s  Kiss day
Don’t avoid this day
Stop. Breathe. Think.  Smile
Look around a while

Tuesday let’s say
It is Mates’ day
Hug a close friend -  
Remember hands are there to lend

Wednesday morning
Without warning
Paint ‘my mum is fantastic’ on your face then take a picture and instagram it to
Everyone that you know

Yellow Thursday
Mellow Friday
Not black
Like depression

Bless the days and coulour them bright. Then spangle them with hope and light


This week's recommended blog from the archives is, 
blog 58     Chri£tma£ we who are about to buy salute you

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Blog 111. BBC promoted Hitler – lite...

...then were surprised!

While I try to decide whether this is depressing or perilously crazy or a mixture of both let’s just have this out.

As a long-time BBC radio listener I have been gobsmacked over the past 18 months as the BBC, to my ears, mindlessly given unprecedented amounts of air-time to diddy-Hitler. Then after the endless showcasing – the same corporation are claiming astonishment at the results in Rochester and the new stranglehold on the political system.

It’s as if someone farted in a lift then acted surprised at the smell.

With the occasional nod to the skeletons in the cupboard, a passing mention of, for example, siding with fascists on the European Parliament and a slight tut and a sigh whenever any of the party members show their true, nasty selves, the BBC sailed on blithely. Without heeding the small army of bigots and bad-mouths, the publicly funded BBC has celebrated, by disproportionate platforming, the wide-grinning, yellow-trousered, deeply unpleasant con-man-with-a-pint, I’m-an-ordinary-bloke-like-you, oik; the worst joke that has slimed across the political landscape in a while.


That is not a rhetorical question – I'd really like to know.

A few months back I was listening to Radio 4. An item came on about the environment. Ah, at last, I foolishly thought, they will interview someone from The Green Party. No! They wheeled in mini-Hitler – for the umpteenth time.

I’m not saying other news reporting media haven’t been as bad but – and here is the rub – by receiving a licence fee from the public (though not me thank God) the BBC automatically have a duty to behave with a bit more savvy. They are under an absolute obligation not to collectively act like a moron.Delve not too deeply into the phenomena (as it is referred to) of what seems kind of bonkers and you soon find something that takes on the profile of utter insanity.

No one interested in politics was surprised that the Tories did a massively successful mind job on ‘hard-working’ Britain when they set out to protect their own after the banking crisis (was there ever a more misleading misnomer?) But this time they opened some portal to the dark side which they can’t close.

Yes – with the use of tried and tested tactics of innuendo and sound bites and proposals for (and actual) legislative changes e.g. bedroom tax, they successfully shook off responsibility. They hung the country’s economic and social woes on the poor, vulnerable, disabled and yes – of course – the oldest trick in the book – immigrants.

Never mind that the bankers go unpunished (remember them – they ACTUALLY wrecked the economy) never mind the warmongers (how much did Iraq cost us again?) Never mind the tax-avoiders and those creaming off massive profits from dodgy deals done with private contractors in what are supposed to be public services.

Bigotry has followed hot on the heels of fear, insecurity and jingoism. It’s always been a noxious mix. The problem is that having taken the lid off the box the Tories can’t get it back on – in fact the lid is broken and Hitler’s grubby, faded, diminished shadow has oozed out of the cracks. The objectionable hangers on polished up racism, homophobia, misogyny and somehow made New Bigotry all shiny and acceptable.

And while we are on the subject – it IS inflammatory, tasteless and crass to drape national flags all over your house. Did we not accept years ago that similar behaviour helped to inflame sectarianism in Northern Ireland?

But, however sanitised the new nastiness is, it’s still nasty and dangerous.

I get where the Tories are coming from they just misjudged the situation.

I can see what the gurning rich guy with a pint and a fag is (and it’s not pleasant).

But what the bloody blue blazes have the BBC been playing at?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Blog 110 Philae lander & me!

The little Philae lander metal thingy that hurtled through space so spectacularly from Rosetta, has something in common with me – or I with it. Our similarity, our resemblance, our parallel experience brings me out in goose bumps; it’s just lovely because I am so ridiculously INTERESTED and impressed. Considering how little I actually understand about anything that is going on out there on scruffy little comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko – it’s a miracle.


As I have told the children who ask me how long it took to write Casey and the Surfmen – it took a decade to get from a first draft of the first half of Casey to the version I now have available for download on the internet. And really – 67P/CG may be an achievement for the ESA but if you’ve read blog 53 I suffer from PANTS (persistent aversion to new technology syndrome) – you will know that successfully doing anything with the internet is nothing short of a marvel pour moi.

Also – my granny is short of one leg – just like the little Philae probe. Unlike Philae she would never ever be foolish enough or self deprecating enough to land in the shade on 67P/CG. She would always land right side up in the sun and be the centre of attention. And there is no sign of her batteries running out.

And yes – I am going to continue shamelessly to find ways of shoe-horning Casey and the Surfmen into the limelight. After 10 years it needs showing off.

Where we are different is that the splendid little metal thingy has travelled billions of miles across the galaxy to search in infinity for answers to where our world began. Casey deals with the more pressing problem of  what the hell are we all going to do if we don’t look after the planet we are precariously perched on at present.

I would not be crass enough in this time of celebration at – what is undoubtedly an outstanding achievement – to ask how/why we can do the equivalent – as one scientist put it – of “landing a fly on a bullet” (crusty the comet is moving at 35,000 MPH or there abouts, depending on which report you read – and to get on her back after 4 billion miles of space travel is truly mind-boggling). How and why can we do this and not feed people? How and why can we do this and not get out of the habit of killing civilians? How and why can we do this and not make sure everyone can read – be warm – feel safe?

Are those questions too big? Is the world too small? Are we too stupid?
I don’t think so

So what is the problem?

Philae lander may or may not answer questions about where the earth came from and how life got started but who is going to sort out why we can’t behave ourselves with a bit more humanity?

So this is Casey

and thanks to everyone who viewed and ‘liked’ the 2011 recording put up by poetry pal Steve

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Blog 109. Don't let Christmas spoil December 25th.

Whether you’re going to cook up wild boar, goose, reindeer/kangaroo steak, venison or any other fancy bit of flesh (I note from the supermarket hard sells that a bit of old turkey no longer suffices) don’t let Christmas spoil December 25th.

What I mean is do not let the national psychosis of the Christmas phenomena ruin the wonderfulness of midwinter. To help you through, there is a little humorous offering at the end of today’s blog.

I know it's too late as the real pressure began some time back in September, before Halloween and Bonfire night were out of the way. But, as we spiral towards oblivion, emotionally and spiritually crippled by capitalism-gone-crazy, try to cling onto some tether of normality. 

As the urge to spend and wrap and spend and eat and spend and get-in-the-mood (by which people surely mean black depression and weepy hopelessness) and spend and drink and spend and eat and spend and HAVE A GOOD TIME, leads inexorably to the implosion on the 25th we seem closer to losing the plot now than ever before.

Yes I've banged on about the idiocy of Christmas, our Christ-less-mess, on this blog before -

Blog 22 Drink Driving with my Dad
Blog 55 Free Christmas Feel Good
Blog 58 Chri£tma£ - We who are about to buy salute you.

but really... my ‘c’ word radar is positively pulsing with radioactivity and agitation this year.

I know I have it easy being T.V-free I am not actually having the-way-you-must-do-Christmas pumped into me intravenously. But even I cannot avoid all the shop ads for twee crap that you must have to make Christmas ‘perfect’. The unbelievably ridiculous food you would never usually contemplate in gut-straining quantities – the gold table runners (excuuuuse me!), scented candles, dresses, gross hat-glove-scarf combos, bad shoes, idiot jumpers (ironic idiot jumpers), weird coloured alcohol, themed serving plates, enough meat to make a lion puke, ‘party food’ (what is that?) tree decorations (what -  the ones you bought the last 20 years are the wrong shape?), puddings, cakes, hams (in case you haven’t had enough meat already to ensure bowel cancer by boxing day), tapes of Christmas music (actually I quite like those), Christmas story books, Christmas stockings (like the amount kids get is going to fit in them), Christmas cards, bows, paper, tags, crackers, spare shit in case people just turn up, CRISPS AND SNACKS IN CASE ANYONE GETS HUNGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that is before present buying for all those people you are worried are going to buy something for you...

Just stop
Just stop.

You can’t afford it; you don’t want to do it, the more you do it the more you have to do it.

25th December is actually a lovely holiday; the Winter solstice overlaid with hark the herald angels singing. Cold, a holiday and a nice singsong in church – what’s not to like? Where the bloody hell did all the other stuff come from? It’s the other stuff that ruins it.

Ease up.

Enjoy the dark which can make things seem cosy. Enjoy the longer nights the urge to eat/drink hot stuff (homemade soup?) and wrap up and cuddle. A little bit of something yummy is lovely especially as we know from all the news we haven’t been able to ignore that we are incredibly privileged not to be out on the streets starving and scared.

Give your purse, yourself and your mental health a break.

And here’s a sort of relevant humorous treat featuring yours truly that a poetry pal posted a while back

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Blog 108. Crazy Car Con!

Cars can shorten your life AND lengthen your journey. The irony lies in the latter.
Nowhere has this been more evident to me than here in Edinburgh.

Hurtling round schools and libraries for the Casey & the Surfmen launch events, I’m realising that some places that seemed far away on a road map and felt distant when I was on the bus (or once getting a lift) are in fact ridiculously close.

OK Edinburgh is geographically small. The bus service is a wonder – especially compared to my most recent other experience. In Northumberland you could go into rigor-mortis waiting for the no 35 even if you weren't dead when you arrived at the bus stop. However, having been put off a bus so far from one school that the walk there was longer than the bit of the trip I’d paid for, I decided to take a punt on an away-from-the-road-path on the way back.

These paths augment the public rights of ways – the river paths – the canal paths and the ordinary paved paths. I arrived home more comfortably and in about the same amount of time as the trip there that had been half bus (half by bus you follow? Not on an unfinished bus or one that had been sawn in half...)

So the next school I went to, following the easy road route, took 40 minutes at a very comfortable unhurried pace. On the way back I noticed that there was a public footpath over Corstorphine hill. Now I know that I live on the other side of that hill so off I plodged.

The great thing was no car fumes. Then there was the scenery, then there was the reduction in noise. Then there were the birds and squirrels. Squirrels are really God’s joke. Very funny creatures – skittish and mad looking and totally made for us to laugh at – almost as funny as the golfers who could also be viewed from half way up the hill.
It was the kind of walk I would usually treat myself to only when I had time.

The thing was that taking this beautiful route cut 15 minutes off my getting-there walking time. I estimate that it also then put me in pretty much the time scale of either sitting in traffic or waiting at a bus stop and taking the road route that inevitably means going around things like hills and buildings.

Now translate that into rush hour in a car – not a bus that can go fairly smoothly along the bus lanes and really should be used for those journeys that are impractical by foot or bike. Also buses relieve you of some of your environmental angst because it is multi-occ transport.  Though on a bus, you can’t generally get a chuckle at some squirrels. In a car you can’t listen to birds or have a smirk at the golfers unless you want to end up in the boot of the car in front.

But then there is the time con. You jump in the car because you think you’re in a rush and it’ll be quicker. But a journey on a map that claims to take 10 minutes will – predictably – take twice as long if you are driving at those times – school run or work run – and let’s face it – that is when most people are in a hurry. That journey time will at least double. Why? Because everyone else is on the road – in a hurry. While you are at the junction breathing in the car fumes from the vehicle in front, building up your stress levels for your first heart attack or stroke and you kids are getting fat in the back seat, walkers are pootling over the hill on a SHORTER route.

Yes it might rain. But here’s a big secret – you can wear a coat. I know. Radical.
Ok – I can’t afford to run a car so you could dismiss this as trying to make the best of my situation. But I have to tell ya – walking over that hill with the hum of traffic at a nice distance and the squirrels being bonkers – it didn’t feel that way.

N.B sorry to squirrel lovers but one ate the head off my only sunflower this summer so – ya know...

This week’s recommended blog from the archives is
Blog 86. Edinburgh is tram-endous(?)

Also do please check out the website – my favourite quote from a little person so far is now on the homepage.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Blog 107 Labour's gift to the Tories (another one!)

Isn't it obvious to EVERYONE that the wrong Labour leader has resigned. The wrong head is rolling down the path. There is blood on the floor but the wrong sacrifice has been made.

Something the Tories have (or should have) worked out is that with a Labour ex-leader taking the blame for conning the Scots out of a Yes vote up here and the current leader disconnected and un-electable, Cameron has now been handed the chance of a majority at the next election. Is that not why the Tories are light on Miliband bashing and serious about poking Farage? They appear to goad Miliband just enough to look as if they are serious but must go to bed every night praying he’s still there in the morning. If asked by the politics fairy what they want for Christmas the Tories reply ‘we want Ed M gurning at us across the political divide two beats behind the rest of the nation on what really matters - pretty please’.

During the recent referendum, Labour was so intent on keeping the union because they need their Scottish votes, that they forgot that the votes they've had in the past are not a foregone conclusion. And it wasn't the Labour party sounding like they cared for the ordinary folk of Scotland in those last desperate weeks. What they showed us – as Ms Lamont pointed out – is that Labour HQ is mesmerised by the Westminster machine and interested only in keeping those cogs turning. Arriving during the end game as part of that horrible trio, sucking down some iron brew while trying not to gag was far, far worse for Miliband than the other two. They already have nothing to lose in Scotland when it comes to the general election.

When Labour also boast an ex-prime minister who helped kick off Armageddon, every Tory drawing down an MP's salary must be secretly planning to poison any non-male – non-white contender who looks like they could pose even a half serious threat to D’Ed man walking. There is no point now going over what could have been (see blog 88 Off with their Eds). However, it can be fun to play woulda / coulda / shoulda / what if / perhaps / maybe so if you like mathematical equations here are some simple ones to play with -

General election lethargy + Miliband = Tory win 2015

New Labour leader + UKIP effect on Tories = Labour minority government 2015

New Labour leader + alliance with Greens + Labour ditch support for HS2 = Labour majority win 2015

New female Labour leader + alliance with Greens + apology to Scots + public finally sickened by Tory wetness and UKIPs Hitler/light + ditch HS2 +Labour rule out every having ANYTHING to do with Libs while Clegg is still sliming round = Labour outright majority.

But no – Johann Lamont fell on her sword. Ed grabbed it up in a flash, wiped off the blood, stepped over the body and carried on in his I-don’t-really-get-it gonkness. He got his big brother’s toy and he don’t care. It may break, it may run out of batteries, he may not know how to play with it anyway. That is not the point. It’s his now and he aint giving it to anyone.

Oh boy

Anyhooo – on a lighter note – the first launch events for Casey & the Surfmen are underway for me. It’s been fun so far. When I did the Q&A after one reading, a cute little boy put his hand up and asked “How old are you?” so this week at the next tranche of schools and libraries, I will have to explain that when I say ‘you can ask me anything’ what I mean is ‘ask me anything about the poem-story.
Check it out, help yourself to a free listen and/or download it for the kids.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Blog 106. The Protocol Predicament.

The problem with politeness, the maddening thing about manners, the quandary you can get into with kindness is that you may be left wanting to eat your own head.

To be fair, facebook now acts as a reliable dumping ground for much of the mundane detritus of people’s lives and delusions. This can save the frozen grin we used to suffer when being told details of someone’s last meal out or what they enjoyed about East Enders last night.

But we seem to have our when-to-be-polite radars turned off.

What part does politeness have to play in the area of public performance? I don’t mean not shuffling your programme while watching a live show or unwrapping sweeties during the quiet bit of a film (or answering texts or phone messages etc). I am talking about the politeness that leads to audiences sitting passively while someone serves up a massive heap of crap.

The crazy part is that people are prepared to be rude in almost every other arena these days. From social media to politics, from shops and buses to the people in your own street - foul language, lack of consideration and abuse are a la mode. Bigotry is in vogue (thanks Nigel). Callous attitudes are no longer something to be frowned upon (thanks Dave). Even dishonesty (Nick) and lack of principles (Ed) are nowt to be ashamed of. So why the sudden politeness when we find ourselves at a live performance?

A while ago (I won’t be too specific because this is a general point [see I am doing it now...]) I was at a live performance. There was open mic stuff which is always a mixed bag and all the more entertaining for it. Usually there will be a good tumble of newbies, experienced and/or talented and the hacks who've been doing the same stuff for two decades but we love anyway. There can often be a wildcard surprise that seems to make the whole night glow. But then there is the feature slot; the performer who anchors the night and is supposedly relied on to provide at least the level of quality or freshness and originality which makes leaving the sofa worthwhile. Clearly the feature slot cannot be expected to suit every taste.

Now if you are filling a night on a monthly basis or more frequently, you can get sold a pup. It happens to the best. But what I have noticed in recent times is the audience’s unwillingness to trust its gut instinct (or act on it) and show this person what they think.


So on this night the feature turned up late but the promoter was relieved he’d arrived at all and we all settled. He was worse than awful. He was ghastly and gauche. Clearly he loved himself immensely and that made his lack of talent, stage presence, audience connection, disastrously miss-aimed attempts at humour - worse. What began masquerading as wacky ran on and on and on revealing itself as self indulgent pap. The initial thin titters died out. Soon it was left to the drunks to emit the occasional fneeer while everyone else – including me – stared in cold disbelief at the stage. My friend left but I did not want to seem rude. Why? Why was I worried about making a bad impression? Plenty of times in the past I have had to rush off at inopportune moments because of childcare issues. But without that imperative my conscience forced me to stay. Why wasn't he booed off the stage? Why wasn't he pelted with rotten vegetables? Why didn't people just start talking among themselves? Time is so precious. And he abused and wasted and stomped all over the time we had on that night to forget the shitty state of the world (see last week's blog).

In the end as Mr Ilovemyself wittered on and on over his allotted time, I eventually snuck out only to find a gaggle of performance refugees huddled in the cold. One approached me,
“Has he finished yet?” he begged hopefully.
“No” I said in funereal tones.

And none of us stormed the stage or tarred and feathered him or phoned his mother and demanded that she come take him home.

But – though it was torture for us – maybe he went home and had a really, really good laugh.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Blog 105. Ebola – what’s really gruesome...

What is really gruesome about Ebola is that for the four+ decades we’ve known of its existence, the West has been kind of ok with it – because it was just killing Africans. And let’s face it we are used to watching desperate foreigners die of poverty or disease or preventable illnesses or the results of the exploitation of the developed world – and getting on with our tea.

Suddenly we are interested because it looks like the virus might have the bare faced cheek to come over here. (For previous comments on this issue check out blogs 12. Armageddon will not be televised and 95 Trump is a chump – again).

In lieu of anything new to be said about this disaster and certainly anything humorous, I will instead insert here an excerpt from my short story The Remainder published last year in ROOT.
(entry - 223)
I hoped the false lavender would trigger a sensory memory of the real thing but it’s too long ago.... The material disintegrated even though I tried not to handle it. During the great plagues of 2103 when a cloying, fetid stench fouled the air for months, I forced my precious lavender pouch to my nose even though there was only the faintest trace of its aroma. I tried breathing through it, ignoring the muggy brown air which was like my own fear. In those days the air was always adulterated with some chemical or other. Every year the food developers created new seeds to keep ahead of the mutated crop diseases. I vaguely remember a seven-year cycle. But eventually the developers found they were only two seasons away from earth zero. That was when the super-plagues arrived. Also the nightmares that I still have. Millions were already weakened from unwholesome synthetic nutrition. It was in 2103 that we took our biggest hit. Food supplements could not prevent starvation, even in the Priority Nations. The Sub Nations ceased. I can hardly visualise a Sub Nation now. They are a shameful footnote; areas bombed for their oils and natural resources by coalitions controlling the peace weapons. Even in grandmother’s time it was accepted that there was little practical purpose in shoring up the fragile populations of countries that, in the pre-plague years, failed to hand over resources to the Democratic Council of Nations. We were taught at school that areas of the globe historically suffered from famine and various economic and geographical crises. There was an unspoken understanding that it was the natural order of things that these branches of the human tree be allowed to whither for the benefit of The Remainder. Lots of things are unspoken now. These are the things that hurt my head. The ‘natural order of things’ isn’t much used as an argument the rest of the time.
If you haven’t already downloaded Casey & the Surfmen for the kids DO -
Part 1. Down by the Sea
Part 2. Ripping the Earth
can both be found at

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Blog 104. Surprise, Surprise!

You wouldn’t think I’d be easily surprised. If you are a regular bleader you will know I suffer from a certain scepticism which is nevertheless useful for a broadly satirical blog.

I’m not surprised that my soon-to-be-ex energy suppliers Scottish Power are even more crap than my previous one npower. I’m not surprised that trying to communicate with the Ombudsman service was nearly as frustrating and like talking-to-a-brick-wall as efforts to deal with the initial problems.

I was, however, surprised to find that it really did just take EIGHT MINUTES to switch to a new supplier – which is twelve minutes less than the last time I was in a queue waiting for a response from Scottish Power to find out why I still didn't have a bill - before I was cut off.

I was not surprised that within 24 hours of the results of the referendum Cameron had tied up the Brown bribes in so much obfuscation that it would take a hallucinogenic contortionist to unscramble the con. I was, however, surprised that Sir Ian Wood’s fracking intentions were not unearthed (sorry for the pun) when he was scare mongering about Scottish oil.

(for fracking cartoon go to 28th Jan post this year by clicking on the orange ‘amanda baker’ in the right hand column and scrolling down)

I am surprised at the new and ever more bizarre ways IT creates to allow communication between people who don’t or shouldn't mean anything to each other so that e-mail (which is still where I am at) looks like carving a note on a tablet of stone.
I am always surprised when the internet comes up with something that is actually useful especially if it’s useful to me and I couldn't find it in a book that I already had in the house.

A year ago, walking along the East Lothian coast I noticed the bright orange berries growing in abundance on smokey-grey-blue bushes with leaves shaped similar to Rosemary plant leaves. I could not help but think something so beautiful must be good (a mistake we humans often make).

So I looked them up on the internet. I discovered to my delight that they were not only edible but fantastically good for you and called Sea buck-thorn.
Fast forward one year and not only did I pick some (and they are horrible things to harvest) I went back onto the internet to discover what on earth to do with them. I needed pictures and descriptions and hints on how to pick and prepare them. I needed to know if they would make better jam or jelly.

And I found not just abundant information about this not-especially-common plant but more images and advice and step-by-step how to make jelly tips than you could shake a stick at.

I have to say, to the blogger with the fab coastal pics, that the stripping-from-the-branch-while-the-other-person-holds-the-bucket didn’t work for me. My berry pickin pal has the thorns to prove it. But we did manage to get enough to cover the bottom of the bucket to the depth of about an inch and a half (it was a good size bucket – we were very enthusiastic until we were reduced to one berry at a time).

After a ridiculous amount of physical labour – boiling then pressing reluctant berries through a sieve and boiling again with sugar to a temperature that would possibly melt lead and with my tiny kitchen spattered in sticky, scarily bright fiery orange goo – as if the sun had burst directly over my cooker and pans and spoons and containers and measuring jugs equally brightly painted, I finally ended up with 9 very small jars of deep orange brown STUFF. Now I have to wait and see.

And I can tell you – know one will be more bloody surprised than me if it WORKS.

In honour of the lovely afternoon by the un-frack’d coast in the surprise sunshine, do have (if you haven’t already) a listen to Casey & the Surfmen
Part 1. Down by the Sea
Part 2. Ripping the Earth
can both be found at

Tuesday, 30 September 2014


I know - you were thinking exactly the same thing – a poem is definitely the solution...

Government conferences don’t seem to work. International agreements are ignored. Whaling and deforestation and dumping and chemical contamination and melting ice-caps and car pollution seem to be madder than ever –
So what we need is a 22 minute audio-poem/story to sort it all out. And I just happen to have one here.

Casey and the Surfmen is an environmentally themed piece which only took TEN YEARS to bring to fruition (for heaven’s sake) and I am selling the audio download for £1.

Really if you think of it in poetry terms £1 is a fortune. Poets are supposed to be penniless and romantic and die in attics of TB so a decade’s sweat and tears for a quid is actually a bounty of riches.
Trust that I will spend wisely.

Casey and the Surfmen is a “spoken word treat”; “an exciting, beautiful, ominous story which celebrates the united actions of ordinary people, inspired by magic, mystery and the truth remembered from childhood”.

 “Enchanting, lyrical and highly topical! Certain to engage and delight children and adults alike”. Pam Gresty (ex-head teacher, Yorkshire)
Casey & the Surfmen sifts through the sands of time and finds the child in us all” Oonah Joslin Poet / Editor Northumberland

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a Luddite, as afeard of technology as rabbits are scared of foxes and Tories are scared of UKIP. (see blog- 53 - I suffer from PANTS). Do not fall off your chair then when it is revealed to you that there is a website for this new venture. And no – obviously I did not do the website. Thank you Chrissie. Also Thanks to ex-punk Gary for doing the recording/editing and background music.
Click on the ink and do check it out - 

And do please purchase a download. Ten year’s work and three downloads and I can afford a coffee!