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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