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Sunday, October 29, 2006


no not the band, though they were awesome. what is more there is apparently a lot of "rainbow rising" 30th anniversary stuff coming out. makes me happy.

no not the tv show, though it was fab too.

it is a real one.


words fail me.
no they really do.

have fun.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


mostly i remember my friends.
i remember the people who have made a difference to my life, either through kindness, through humour, through advice or for just being there when it mattered.

on this my day of days i thank you all.

here is to the next 45 years.

- 1

i remember: my parents.

i have always envied those of my friends who have warm loving families.
mine wasn’t like that.
don’t worry this isn’t going to be and doom and gloom piece about how i was mentally or physically abused.
the space between me and my parents happened as i got older, both my parents were alcoholics, it is one of the prices you pay for being publicans. the booze brought out the worst in them. dad was a quiet drunk and for the last 10 years or so of his life i doubt there was a day he was sober. mum was a binge drinker and when she decided to hit the bottle she would down it greedily and guiltily, hiding her scotch in a cup and pretending she was drinking tea. when mum had a skinful she would turn on dad and the litany of wrongs would issue forth. mostly dad would soak it up as payment for any wrongs he had committed, occasionally he would enter the battle.
the next day it was as if nothing had happened.
it put a strain on my relationship with them.

i know they loved me. i know they did everything they could for me.
i loved them as well.

i fell out with dad one night when he drunkenly made his way over to annemarie’s flat. we got into an argument about something stupid and he walked out. we never repaired the damage of that evening.

my mum came over to england back in the 50s and there she experienced the racism of the time: no dogs and no irish. later on she would be a mild (if there is such a thing) racist herself. she studied to be a nurse but ended up working in hotels. where she met dad.
dad was the son of a docker, who fought in the battle of cable street. dad was in the leisure industry all his life. either in pubs, clubs or hotels.

they were both very intelligent, but with only a moderate amount of schooling. they encouraged me to be as good as student as i could be. they made sure i could go to polytechnic, i am sure they would have preferred to have a lawyer or a doctor for a son, but they didn’t care as long as i was doing what i wanted.

they encouraged my silly dreams of being a rugby star. dad turned up to all the school games shouting from the touchline, much to my embarrassment. he tried to get me a schoolboy trial with wasps. mum on the other hand made sure my kit was clean, and took me out to get the right boots and such like.

they made sure there were books in the house. true they may have encouraged me to read the wrong things, but i have never looked back on my crime novel and sf reading habits. they taught me a love of books.

they appreciated my feeble attempts at writing. they smiled at my photos. they made it seem worthwhile and something that had merit.

mum never quite understood why i wanted to have long hair and a beard and nagged me from my teenage year right through until she died. once even saying i should have a haircut like the nice mr griffths who played snooker (it was a foul mullet lite affair). she never gave up on her quest to have me suited and booted.
dad never understood why i never became a publican. the truth was twofold. i had seen what the booze and pressure had done to them and i never had dad’s ease with people.
if my parents were genetically predisposed to create one type of child it was one who had the gift of the gab. both of them could talk for england. i have inherited the ability to talk constantly but not their skills with the storytelling. both of them could spin a yarn or three. in that list of long regrets i have: one of them is that i never wrote their tall tales down.

they both had full laughs. they both had the ability to find a lot to laugh at.

i got my first tattoo after my dad had died. i could never told my mum i had one (and then 4), the one time i tried she told me that if god had intended us to have tattoos he would have painted us. there was a night i was staying over at mum’s, as was my wont i had a late night bath, went back to the living room to watch some tv and then fell asleep naked on the floor. around 2am mum comes into the room to find out what was going on – i wasn’t sure what to cover up my family jewels or the tattoos.

they both smoked a tremendous amount, on average 40 a day. towards the end of her life mum had cut down to a few a day. the only reason i didn’t smoke was because i couldn’t get the fags to light, i doubt either of my parents would have told me it was a bad thing to do.
the rules they gave me to live buy were the ones they lived by, so there was little of the do as i say and not do as i do, school of parenting.

mum put up with me becoming a veggie. she put up with me going back on meat.
she worried when i lost too much weight, then worried when i put a lot back on.

they provided me with my moral compass, although i didn’t follow their support of small c conservatism.

i never got a chance to say goodbye to either of them. dad worked, drank and smoked right up until the day he was taken into hospital. a week later her was dead. mum had dressed him for the hospital and when she was going through his stuff at the hospital she found enough money for a cab fare home and a half bottle of gin. he had planned to come home in his own way and in his own time. he died the way he wanted to.

mum died at home, she died in her sleep. when i found her she was asleep on the couch, the tv on. she looked like she did so many other evenings. finding her like that was the closest i have ever come to drinking, well she wouldn’t have wanted me wasting the scotch she had in the kitchen.

i found gallows humour in their funerals. dad’s funeral director was frank black. mum’s priest had trouble with her full name.

i was proud to know them. all the good things about me came from them. i doubt i have been the son that they wanted, but there is still time. all in all i miss them, and i wish they were still here. i remember my dad talking about some trees he saw on his way to work. there were just three of them in a field. to him they represented his family. whatever their differences they loved each other, and i know they loved me. i guess that all any of us can ask.

mum, dad wherever you are i hope that you are both raising a glass (or two) in celebration. i thank you and i miss you,


i remember: the break up.

there are several points about the break up.
1] it was a protracted affair. annemaire and i had broken up earlier in the year. i went to warwick patched it up (my mistake). in order to carry out this mission of reconciliation i had to contact work and call in a sickie, it remains the only time i have faked illness at work.
2] both times it happened it came out of the blue and caught me by surprise. i am a man with his finger on the pulse.
3] there was no reason given for the break up. it seemed to boil down to “i’m bored of you, it is not your fault”. oh well that was fine then.
4] i took it very very very badly. to say i was childish about it would have been an understatement.
5] it was made worse because we lived together for a few weeks after she dumped me, once she told the kid that was when i left. (when he found out we had some hugs and tears and he utter the words that took what was left of my broken heart and crushed it a little more “i love you more than my real dad….” right there you have your field of dreams moment. it is the reason i will blub every time i see that film.

but in a sense this isn’t about the break up as such, it is about why i hate gareth.

the second time annemarie dumped me i knew there was no saving it, oh i tried but it was very much a tilting at windmills moment. so unlike the first time i fessed up and let everyone know i was no longer part of a happy couple.
i got some sympathy, i got lots of questions about the whys and the hows, and i got advice.
i was not just a bear with a sore head, i was a bear who had a sore head, toothache and dodgy joints. i was the most miserable fucker in the world.
but i had a plan.
it was a doozy.
it was a plan that sun tzu and wellington would have been proud of. what was my plan? friday night i was going to go to the pub, the beehive, straight after work. no i wasn’t going to get drunk, but as the boys poured booze down their throats i was going to pour out my heart. as they got drunker i could get more purple in my prose and i could exorcise the demon of annemarie.
see plan of pure genius.

but not even general montgomery could have prepared for gareth.

gareth was one of the people i worked with. he was also one of the most intensely boring people you are ever likely to meet. i worked with people who could tell a taut, tight funny story. i worked with people who would embellish that story and tell it as if it were their own, but they managed to keep the humour. i worked with people who could tell the same story in the director’s cut version, it was longer but not as good, but still mildly amusing. on the other hand gareth would take the story and stretch it to breaking point and in the process he would lose all the humour.
gareth was the betamax of comedy.

friday night arrives i am off to the pub. i am ready to get all kurt cobain and trent reznor on people. i am full of woe. i am full of self-pity. i am ready. i was born ready for this moment.

but no. i get stuck with gareth.
i am in the start of the “she’s a bitch, but i love her.”, “she’s a cow, but i want her” riff. the i love her i hate her line. the i did everything for her song and dance. i am ready to spit bile, i am ready to hurl verbal volcanoes in her direction. i will spill venom and get the poison out of my system.
i am going to get all jazzy and bluesy with a touch of goth grunge.
i am a ready for this cleansing.

but no. no sooner had i started than gareth interrupts and tells me that he had it worse. and suddenly i am wile e coyote outmanoeuvred by the roadrunner.
instead of me pouring out my woes, i am listening to his. worse still i can’t escape, the pub is full and i can’t get away, even worse i am like a bunny in his headlights and i am trapped listening to him.
he tells me how his wife left him.
how his wife took the house.
how he had given up his job to look after the kid while the wife worked.
how the wife took the kid.
how he was prevented from having access to the kid.
how the lawyers screwed him over.
then he told me it all again, but this time in detail.
then by fuck he told me again, this time we were in the minutiae of it all (i swear he gave me details on the shoe sizes of the lawyers).
in-between all this he gave me the “i hate her, i love her, i did everything for her” riff.
the bastard was stealing all my lines.
my suffering was compounded because i was sober.
i confess i did have some admiration for the fact he was relentless in his retelling of his tale. he had a campaign worked out and nothing was going to deter him, no obstacle, no objection, nothing was going to prevent him telling me his misery memoir.
all the while i have a gut full of self-pity boiling away, festering poisoning every fibre in my body.

the end of the night couldn’t come fast enough.
not one of my so-called mates came to rescue me.
that week i suffered annemarie dumping me, that night i suffered gareth. in that moment i knew my life was shit.

the upshot was i never got to pour it all out, i never exorcised it. i got to carry it around with me forever.
the break up scarred me for life. in truth i let it and i have spent many a night thinking about what i could have done to have made sure annemarie stayed in love with me.

every now and then i remember that night in the beehive pub and i know in my heart of heart if it wasn’t for gareth i would have gotten it out of my system and i would have been a much happier person in the years that followed.
i confess i have never really gotten over annemarie, but as billy bragg says i am a big boy now and i can sleep without the light on.

buy by jiminy i still hate gareth.

Friday, October 27, 2006

- 3

i remember: northolt.

the most important years of my life were spent in northolt. it was not much of a place, it was not a hive of activity but it was pleasant. it was where i spent my teenaged years.
in northolt i learnt the value of friendship. i also learnt that friendships could be shattered by jealousy. i learnt the value of creativity, ok i abused that creativity by some truly horrid poetry. it was in northolt that i indulged in teenaged angst. in northolt i dreamed the big dreams of youth.
mostly northolt was a place where i was content the biggest worry i had was would i get my homework done.
for various reasons i think i will always consider it to be my home.

at the time i was there northolt itself had little in the way of attractions. a few pubs, a bunch of shops and that was it. but a bus ride (the 140 i believe) would take us into harrow and we could go to two cinemas, the abc or the granada. the granada was where i saw my first x movie (a double bill of the mean machine, starring burt reynolds, and death wish, with charles bronson). the granada was where adam and i saw star wars.
i saw hundreds of films in those cinemas. it was where lifetime passion of going to the cinema started.
most saturdays we would see a film and then we might get a pizza and then walk over harrow hill to get back to northolt. the journey would take us past harrow boys’ school, my dad was always upset he could never send me there. though the connections i might have made there would have meant i was better off than i am now, i have to say i was always glad he could never get it sorted to have me go there.

it was in northolt i was introduced to music. most of my school contemporaries were already fully immersed in music. several of them following punk bands and being avid readers of such music papers as melody maker, sounds and nme. me the last record i had bought was probably an osmonds single.
it was probably adam or andy corsham who showed me the jewel in northolt’s crown: the record shop selanby (adam will correct the spelling, if it is wrong). just as the name sounds it was a new and used record shop.
it was a treasure trove of music. thousands of new and used lps to look through.
it was in these hallowed halls a new obsession was born.
now i could add music to my collecting habit. comics and books had a new rival.

pretty much each week we would make the trip up to selanby to see what we could find. we would look through all the used lps hoping to find a new treat, a new treasure. rarely did we come out of there with nothing in our grubby paws. most of the time the problem was making the choices over which one we could buy.
i remember the yes 12-inch blue vinyl release of going for the one, i remember being told that coloured vinyl was rare. i remember how excited andy corsham was that he had gotten it the day it was released. over the following weeks loads of copies of it would turn up at selanby and we would tease him mercilessly over it.

it was in selanby i discover king crimson, i bought “the young person’s guide to king crimson” i liked the cover, it was a double lp and i had heard someone mention them in conversation. i loved it. have never looked back. same with frank zappa, i liked the cover of “one size fits all”, within a listen i was hooked and the man fz became a staple of my musical life. the same with bands like rainbow, blue oyster cult, rush, cheap trick, genesis, yes and many many more.
here i found live lps, gatefold lps, concept lps, double live concept lps, and they are still the cornerstone of my music taste.
the majority of the vinyl i have was bought from there.
selanby granted me the chance to explore the world of music, and i jumped right in and haven’t looked back since.

it has been a while since i have been back to northolt. to be honest there is nothing there for me now, aside from the memories. i am not sure i will ever go back, but the carefree days of northolt will live on in my memory.

and i have to admit i do miss walking through the green gates. (sorry only adam is going to understand that one…)

- 4

i remember: coffee.

i love coffee. i would go as far as to say i am addicted to it. luckily for me i do not have to get my fix from a strange dude who cuts my dowe and egberts with birds coffee no i can get my drug of choice pure from any supermarket or coffee shop in the country. life is good.

a day isn’t a good day until i have had a cup of joe, and frankly i am not at my best until i have had at least two.

i can remember where the addiction took hold of me.
it was when i was working at the bbc. no i wasn’t anyone famous or important at the bbc. i was a humble kitchen porter. so i spent my days fetching and washing the cups and plates the great and the good of the bbc used.

it was a summer job; my dad got it for me. i can’t remember what it was he was doing there, but i am sure it was a variation of doorman, a career he took on in the last years of his life. with a word in the right ear i was employed. while not quite worked to the bone in a dickensian way it was bloody hard. the lunchtime traffic at the beeb was huge and the lunch hour was more like three.
so there i was either running between tables getting the finished plates off the tables or i was elbow deep in hot water scrubbing to make the crockery fit for use again.

true the job had it’s compensations: good money (i was a student, so i didn’t pay tax on my earnings), free food (always a bonus) and lots of lovely ladies to look at (i even made a total fool of myself over some lovely posh blonde – oh well at least i got to use my sixth form poetry skills on her…)

most importantly it was here i discovered coffee.
while i was having my lunch (normally fresh thickly cut turkey on still warm fresh made rolls) i was introduced to coffee: black and strong.
even better it was free and on tap.
now i am the first to admit i am a bit of a pig, and in this case i was and i wolfed (see that – clever huh!) the coffee down. cups and cups of it.
lovely jubbly.

it took me a couple of weeks to realise why i wasn’t sleeping as much as i used to, but by then i was hooked.
years later i am still drinking far too much coffee, it no longer keeps me awake. coffee has sustained me through long nights when i have been revising for exams. i have had times when i have had a detox from coffee. i become even more grouchy than normal, but it is worth it for the taste of that first cup once i go back on to the java.

for the population of the uk the bbc is an important institution it helps educate, it helps inform and it entertains. if you needed one reason to be proud to be british then the bbc could make a strong claim to be top of the list.

for me it was where i fell in love with coffee. it’s one of the few love affairs that has last.


i remember: the isle of wight.

all epics have their basis in the small things in life. well our trip to the isle of wight was indeed a small thing, that in the eyes of the paticipants now matches homer's iliad for breath, scope and adventure.

one of our friends, bluey, had moved into his new house on the isle of wight. we had been invited over to celebrate this fantastic achievement. there were four of us: monty, yorkie, he who can't be named (more commonly known as joel)and me.

(now i have to pause here and admit to another aspect about epics: there is a chance that this story will include strands from several adventures, but they all happened in a house owned by bluey and they all occurred on the isle of wight, but as with epic and myth the truth should never stand in the way of a good story. or in this case a bad story).

this would be one of the last times that i would see monty, but to his credit he provided us with material that has kept us going for years and years.
his first impressions of the isle of wight were prophetic and accurate and destined to endear him to bluey who was about to make his life there: "it's a shithole" was the mont's immortal words.
and to be fair little i saw that weekend would make me want to spend too much time there.

bluey is one of the few friends i still have from school. he is an amazing man. very intelligent but able to be very silly at the same time a cross between stephen hawkings and spike milligan - but with none of their problems. he is one of the most decent people i have ever known.
we were all there to support him in his new adventure.

we were all going to be bunking in the same room. but that was not a problem. we were mates. this was a boys weekend out.

the weekend started off right when monty saw bluey had some weights, so there he was in his neat cap sleeved t-shirt pumping iron. his cute cherubic (almost hobbit) face scrunched in effort. the rest of us just laughing.
then there was marco. he was a mate of bluey's from college. he was now making a fortune in the concert lighting business. sadly we got no tales of rock star debauchery, but we did hear about the latest bulbs that were being used and the kit car he was building. proving that it isn't just everyone who can live the rock and roll lifestyle to the fullest. so lets raise a toast to jimi and keith for doing it right.
true marco scored some cred points when he joined in the victimisation of yorkie. i have no idea why we picked on yorkie as much as we did, but we did. if yorkie had been born into a titled family he would be seen as a national treasure. as it is he is one of the true eccentrics i know. he can go from being serious to surreal in a heartbeat and not know it. he has held down super responsible jobs but seems incapable of ordering a coffee in a coffee shop. his humour is juvenile in that he delights in the jokes that have kids giggling like drains. he is in a word: odd.
this particular weekend we decided that the one thing we need to do was to tie phil up. so we did. he did struggle, but there were 6 of us. we left him at the top of the stairs like a trussed chicken, crying out for his mum.

yorkie got his own back on us all later on when he kept annoying bluey's girlfriend's dog. this meant the dog kept barking and it meant we all kept getting horrid looks from the gf.
the gf was giving up teaching for accountancy, yorkie was an accountant. so he managed to annoy her hy pointing out her exams and course was for accounting divs. she took umbrage at me because i defended sociology against maths and accountancy.

because most of the people who were at the party were the isle of wight contingent it had to be said that we didn't fit. he who can't be named (or joel) was an arty type designer, i was a humanities student, monty was on the pull (more on this later). only yorkie as an accountant could fit in (but he does have an ability to fit in everywhere).
we knew monty was on the pull because of the effort he had put in to get ready including his speedo style red pants - whcih elcited a cry of "they are so tight" from all us, echoing monty's description of every band he liked.
we had to suffer his aftershave and his manly perfume, all of which made the room we were in smell like a knocking shop.
he was mightly upset when none of the ladies of the isle matched his standards (or said yes), so the only people who got to see the pants were those of us in that room. it is a sight that has scarred some of us for life.

the party was so so, but then i am not a party person (bet you never guessed that).

the trying to sleep was a nightmare as yokie and monty bitched at each other (yorkie winning the verbal battles), while he who can't be named (or joel) didn't so much as join in, but kept baiting them. sleep was fitful that night.
i am sure bluey's girlfriend was less that impressed with us.

still it was a nice house.

the isle of wight is due for another visit sometime soon.


i remember: enemas.

(author’s note: this is probably not for those of a weak disposition.)

freud, jung and klein all banged on about how our formative years are so important to our future personalities. to an extent these concerns of psychoanalysis are mirrored over in sociology in the nature vs nurture debate.
i can hear you thinking what does this have to do with enemas?
to be honest i am not sure, but if freud et al are to be believed then my early experiences will have had an outcome on the person that i am today. they may be right, but then perhaps that cigar is just a cigar.

anyway back to the story. when i was kid i went through a period when i had real trouble controlling my bowel movements. there were weeks when i wouldn’t shit, and then there were times when: oh my lord i have just erupted and filled my pants (luckily i only got caught short a couple of times, but i am sure that sort of public humiliation scars a chap). oddly this wasn’t what caused the concern of my parents and doctors, it was my persistent inability to have a regular dump.
not having a regular movement is dangerous kiddies; always make sure you go when the urge strikes.

so off to the doctors i went. at this time i was living in a very large pub in greenford and the doctor was just across the road. now like my trip to the dentist, this may have been the moment where i decided: doctors are a necessary evil and you should only see them if you really need to.
mum explained to the doc what she thought the problem was. he nodded sagely. next thing i know i am on the examination table with my shorts down, the doctor is slapping on some rubber gloves, applying lube and starting to play “hunt the turd”. now i am pretty sure that this private humiliation also scars a chap. given the doc was trying to be gentle i am pretty sure i never want to experience an alien probe.
if the finger probe wasn’t bad enough i had to walk home with the lube still coating my arse, so i had a slippy slidey feeling as i walked.

next stop was the hospital where armed with the prescription from the doctor my mum picks up the copious quantities of meds that were going to cure me of the bowel problems.
the pharmacist happily pointed out that if this little lot didn’t work they would have to use explosives.

first a course of medicine that was supposed to make me want to sit and crap. no luck. then a stronger oral laxative was used. no luck. finally it was the enema.
having an enema meant having a district nurse visit to administer the solution. if you have never seen an enema, imagine a small hot water bottle filled with a liquid, which will be forced through a small nozzle. the nozzle is inserted into the anus; the liquid is squirted up the nozzle and into the bowel.
the district nurse is there to make sure the temperature is right on the liquid before it gets to go into the bowel. she is there to calm my mum down, she is there to insert that nozzle and flush that water into my bowel.
i am on my bed, once again my shorts are down and my arsehole is being invaded, but this time it is an inanimate object.
ooh in goes the first wave of liquid. give the district nurse credit she kept up a steady flow.
now you have to remember i haven’t shit for a while, so i am pretty full already. now i have a lot of sloshing fluid in my guts. i am feeling a little bit off. but my moaning gets me nowhere; the district nurse is going to give me it all.
i know what you are thinking – if this is being done on your bed how do you get to the toilet. i’ll tell you: with great speed but with very tight clenched buttocks.
now during all the chit and chat that went before no one bothered to tell me the secret of having an enema. this meant that once i got to the toilet i let out a sigh of relief as i let loose with all the liquid that had been hosed into my guts. it was a mini niagara coming out of my arse.
ah bliss. i felt normal again, no distended tummy, no sloshing around.
all i have to do is wait and i will pooh.
now the secret to an enema is you keep the water in as long as you can, because while it is in there it is softening up the backlog (see, now that was clever…) before it has to exit. how i wish someone had told me that.

i sat on the toilet waiting and waiting. i wasn’t bored because i had a pile of comics to read. one after the other a comic would be read and placed in another pile.
no movement. another comic. still no movement. another comic. was that a twinge? no false alarm. another comic. oh no that was a rumble. here it comes the start of the rock slide. except i don’t have a few rocks what i have is a very large boulder and it wants to get out of a hole that is so much smaller than it is. ok, it hurts, but there is no stopping it. the enema has done its job and this thing isn’t going to stop until it has escaped. this is an alien moment but we have an arseburster in the house. ok now this is pain. it feels like i am having my arse split in two. i am doing some muscle tension things trying to squeeze this boulder into an arsehole-sized log. squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze, squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze, squeeeeeeeeeeeeze. i can see a red mist before my eyes. the veins in my neck are bunched in effort. my forehead throbs. i would scream out in pain, but it hurts too much. the battle between the turd boulder and the arsehole continues. i have my arms out to the side pushing against the wall, there are stars in my eyes, and my breath is coming in strained gasps as i try to expel this evil thing from my body.
a splash. some has broken off, but there is still so much left inside.
concentrate, concentrate. another hard squeeze. come on come on.
another splash.
i can smell something, it is not victory, but the hint of it.
my fingers are digging into the walls. this is as much agony as i ever want to feel, the worst is yet to come, i know this but i also know it will be over very quickly when it happens. pushing and squeezing now. get this thing out of me. expel. void. evacuate. clear the area the turd is coming out and nothing is going to stop it.
nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo it hurts, far too painful.
do it get it out, finish it.
and then like a runaway freight train exiting a tunnel a whoosh and splash and it was all over. tears of pain mingle with tears of relief. i feel 20 pounds lighter.
i am calling for my mum to come and see what i have done.
a certain sense of pride over a job well done.
over. relief. joy.

sadly in a few months i have to have a course of smaller enemas, but this time i know the secret. i am prepared. but that’s a story for another day.

on that day i produced a log to be proud of.


i remember: the date

i met annemarie when i was at poly. we occasionally spoke to each other, but we were not friends or mates. i remember she wore a large duffel coat and always appeared to be shy. she never completed the course; unusually for me i did indeed finish the course.
i met her again when she was working as a sales assistant at a comic shop i frequented. it was there that we developed a friendship: she was pretty, she liked comics, she was into sociology and she gave me a great discount: what wasn’t there to like. as i went to the shop each week we got quite friendly, we went out a couple of times for drinks.
one christmas she invited me over to her place. i said no (hey i never said i was good at reading the signs).

it was several months later when we next met. i am not sure how i ended up in highbury but there i was and as i walked over to holloway road i met annmarie. we talked; we went back to her flat. had tea, and i told her how i had fallen for a girl at the london school of economics. naomi was an american student who was exceptionally cute, and ferociously clever (and is probably running the world right now). there may have been chemistry between us, but as ever i missed the signals and fluffed my chance and naomi remained no more than a dream. my tale of self-pity was accompanied with sympathetic cups of tea from annemarie.
after a few hours i left and she went to pick up her kid.

in the way of such things i didn’t think much more about it.
a few months later i am in my bedroom, i had just come back from a run and i was still in my sweaty sweats lying on my bed when the door opens and in walks annemarie. to say i was shocked was a bit of an understatement.
i was also impressed she found where my mum’s place was.
we chatted for a couple of hours and then i took her home (which meant catching a tube from south harrow to holloway road – or pretty much all the way across london, but i am a gentleman).
i realised then i was smitten.

when she called and asked if i wanted to meet up after christmas i said yes (i am slow but not that slow). date and time arranged. countdown began, christmas dragged, and then off i went over to holloway road for the date that would change my life.

strangely i arrived early, a rare feat for me, as most will testify to. now i will be the first to confess that i am not the most socially functional person in the world, that plus the fact i realised that i was very keen on annemarie, made me incredibly nervous. i wasn’t quite shitting my pants nervous, but i wouldn’t have chanced a fart at that very moment for fear of kissing cotton.
she lived on the fourth floor of a set of flats. i climbed the stairs in eager anticipation and mounting dread. i know what film we were going to see, even knew where the cinema was, all was set. i arrived at her door. knocked. waited. knocked again. waited. mmm the tendrils of mounting panic were climbing up my spine. knocked. waited. joy, i had been stood up. oh one last knock. an answer. annemarie’s flatmate let me and told me she had gone out to do some shopping.
we watched a little tv in embarrassed silence.
double relief when annemarie returned.

we went to see “back to the future” at the screen on the green. we both enjoyed the movie. it was now officially our movie (and to this day i haven’t watched it since she dumped me – hey i am not spoiling the happy ending you knew this already). we walked back to her place. we told each other we had a good time and we should do it again. i caught the tube home, the journey seemed to be over in a flash but then i was as happy as a pig in shit.
i went back over the new year and shared the new year coming in with annemarie and some canadian girls she knew. i slept on a rickety camp bed that night, somewhat in fear that it would collapse.
we spent the next day talking and talking. we talked through the next night.
i went back to my parents.
then went back to annemarie’s, and we admitted to each other we wanted to be an item.
in that instance i was as happy as i think i have ever been, to misquote calvin and hobbes: it was my pony moment.
in hindsight i wish i had known how quickly things go wrong, as i would have savoured it much more than i did.

but in that wonderful fleeting moment i was living a technicolor musical and i sang and danced like fred and gene combined.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


worry not fair reader i haven't given up on political posturing.
although i have refrained from having pops at blunkett and short, two very principled politicians who seem to be doing their best to make sure that the one party who might do some good for the general public does not get re-elected.
david cameron and his tory friends do not need to campaign against new labour, by the time the election comes around they will not need to as new labour will have committed political suicide.

but i couldn’t let this story go. greg barker is one of the tory shadow front benchers. he has recently ended his 14-year marriage, leaving his wife for another man. he is asking that the press respect his privacy. i agree with him, he should be allowed to get on with his life without the public knowing every last little detail of his private life. my one caveat to this is we are entitled to know the broad brushstrokes of an mp’s life as we entrusting them to make laws on our behalf.
we may not know the full details of david cameron’s use of drugs, but we know that when he speaks on drugs or when there is a tory drug policy we can view it in light of the fact that david cameron has been cagey about his use of drugs.

i don’t expect mps to live perfect lives, but all i want from them is that they are not hypocrites about the way they live their lives and the way they expect us to live ours.
so i hope greg barker is afforded the privacy he seeks.

though i couldn’t go without mentioning how carefully the bbc worded their reporting of cameron’s support of barker

“newspaper reports suggest mr cameron will stand by mr barker, who was elected to the house of commons in 2001. “
cameron isn’t behind barker as that would just lead to too many chortles, at least from those of us who are fans of carry on movies…

- 8

i remember: ireland

there are a few things you need to know about me: not a great traveller, not a great family person and i am a klutz.

when i was a kid we didn’t have too many family holidays. at one point it was because my parents were too busy being publicans and then it was because they were too poor (though in hindsight i suspect it was more to do with the fact that they liked to have their barneys* in places they were comfortable). to be fair i can’t remember ever feeling deprived by the lack of holiday trips, but i suspect it has meant that the lust for travel isn’t in my bones.

one year i went with my mum to visit her family in ireland. her dad had a farm on the west coast of ireland. in it he had raised 14 children and countless cows. the farmhouse was old and traditional and to my young eyes it was going to be hell: no tv.

i didn’t fit in with the local kids and i didn’t really get on with my cousins. i was in the middle of nowhere.

there was a night we went into town; on the long walk back down the dark country lanes my granddad told horror stories. i didn’t sleep that night.
then there was mad uncle peter (big families always have the mad uncles), one night he stayed in the farmhouse to baby-sit me, he told more horror stories, but some how being next to the roaring fire it didn’t seem so bad. when i fell asleep he put me to bed fully dressed, including my dirty shoes. this went down well with my mum when she came back from her night on the town.
mad uncle peter also took me to the coast, a few minutes walk across the fields or a longer hike if you went exploring. we went exploring and ended up going through nettles and brambles. no problems for him, but i was in shorts… mind you he made a phenomenal mashed potato dinner with plenty of butter and fresh from the cow milk.

ah the cows. there i was in my little converse ankle high trainers (they may not have been converse but of that style) running around the fields. running like the wind, galloping freely (alright i wasn’t going that fast) and then bish bosh one foot goes into a cowpat. cow shit all over the trainer and down inside of it. i am not ashamed to say i cried. it was horrid.

still it was when i was over there i learnt of my uncle mick, he was blind but didn’t play the blues, however he did catch a leprechaun and kept hold of the little fella all night long. his reward for this amazing feat was the golden shoes of the leprechaun. which he wore proudly on his watch chain.

i only met the granddad the once. when he died the place just became a home for the family. i never went back; i never kept in touch with that side of the family. i don’t really miss it.

but that one trip allows me to say musha musha wira wira and mean it.

*for the american readers a barney is an argument and not a dinosaur.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

- 9

i remember: violins.

when it came to being a musician i sucked, and sadly there are few instruments that involved sucking. i tried to bass, i could barely keep a plodding 4/4l, ask for frills and i was in danger in breaking my fingers.
no chance of a rock star career for me.

when i was with annemarie one of the important lessons i learnt was: parents want the best for their kids (true both of mine told me this time and time again, but i just thought at was parental propaganda).
the other lesson i learnt (and perhaps a subsidiary) of the first lesson is that parents want to live vicariously through their kids.

hence the violin.
no it wasn’t my idea.
annemarie was a scouser (i am guessing she still is) and they think music is in their blood. matching me for having no musical talent it became the task of the kid to become a musician.
hence the violin.

now you have to remember that i was a surrogate guardian to the kid, which meant i didn’t get consulted about stuff, but i was expected to be supportive of what annemarie wanted to do. i entered the kid’s life when he was 4 so i missed his first words (also missed the shitty nappies: yay!) now was a chance to hear his first perfect note.
given the nature of my relationship with annemarie and the kid i need to explain the very special demarcation of tasks that annemarie had developed: i got the shitty tasks.
it soon became apparent that supervising the violin practice was a shitty task, and guess who got to take the nightly practice. yup that would be me. now practice was just 10 minutes, 10 minutes of doing scales and going over what he had learnt in his lesson the week before. 10 minutes. not much time at all. well that is the case if you happen to be an adult, if you are a 9-year old 10 minutes is an eternity.
so we would sit there. i would ask him to practice, he would say no, i would explain that if he didn’t practice it didn’t mean that i would read to him or play with him. i would explain that if he did the 10 minutes that he was supposed to do he would have the rest of the evening to play, to read, to visit friends. i would badger, cajole, hector and harangue. it all fell on deaf ears.
sure he would tease with a few lazy pulls and pushes of the bow across the strings until eventually he had done enough to qualify for 10 minutes. except that it would take anywhere between an hour or two to get done.
i wasn’t adverse to listening to the screeching of his violin (hell i have cds based around looped screechy noises) what i resented was the fact i was having to give up so much time to something that i wasn’t keen on.

but i tried my best. i tried to show the kid that the violin was cool. look at how the violin player of horslips rocks out, check out the violin licks from david cross on king crimson records. tried to amaze him with jean luc ponty’s playing on zappa records. it was all met with a stony silence….
i was encouraging, i was enthusiastic i was the energiser bunny of violin practice, but you have no idea how painful it is to listen to someone scratching their way through “baa baa black sheep” or “twinkle twinkle little star” (both of which are so similar as to be almost indistinguishable if the player has little talent…)

many years after annemarie had booted me out i got a call from her. she wanted to borrow some money from me (it made me all warm inside to feel so needed). it was the kid’s 18th and as part of the reward of loaning her the cash i could meet up with him if i wanted to. i did. i was gratified to discover that i still loved him (i am not ashamed to admit i teared up at the meeting), that i had cursed him with the love of star trek and that he was a guitarist in a rock and roll band.

but i will never forgive him for those hours wasted with the violin.


i remember: farting

i have been a decent farter throughout my life, true i was no la petomane and never saw a career as a fartist, but i could let rip with the best of them. alas as with all things bodily as age draws on physical abilities wane and now i enjoy the farts but they are no longer humdingers.

there was the time at the london school of economics when after a particularly bad lunch that involved a salmon sandwich i was searching out an obscure article on sociology in the library. searching out the journals i was bending down to pick up a copy of the american journal of sociology i felt a rumble. standing up to check the contents page i felt the explosion and as i turned to the article i needed i puckered up my arse and let slip a note that miles davis would have been proud of. long, low and piercing.
pressure removed.
time to get back to the journal and the assignment in question.
oh my fucking good googly moogly what is that smell. it was like all the demons in hell had defecated on to a giant george foreman lean mean grilling machine and let is sizzle….
it was the most foul smell i had ever smelt, and there was a fleeting shame that this smell had come from me.
now the library was quite busy, and for anyone approaching the journals it would be so obvious that i had just let fly with eu du sewage. i did the only thing a sensible man could do: i legged it. the problem was it meant that i had to walk through the miasma that was my fart.
i went to the second floor and waited the smell out.

the next fart i did that was of a similar potency was years later when i was working in the warehouse. thanks to the interference of her majesty’s customs we would sometimes have to work a long night and have an early start. the joy of working late was the company stumped up for food. that meant a late night curry.
the next day was always a succession of lads letting fly with farts of varying sounds and smells. we were living in a benny hill show.
this particular day i was packing.
and i was farting.
all around me the lads were wilting and complaining. oh well i had to suffer their house music they had endure my arse music.

now i will have a little digression here. at this time our general manager was a posh rotund chap, who gave the impression that he was a captain of industry rather than the jumped up used car salesman that he had been (ok they had been classic used cars). aside from the bellowing blustering voice, the other thing that jd was noted for was his large hooter. jd was affectionately known as bnfc or big nosed fat cunt.

so there i was packing away. as soon as i packed a box i would slip a parp out. a few gasps from my fellow workers. their exclamations of horror would be met by an apologetic smile from me. slowly the lads either side of me moved as far as way from me as they could.
i continued packing.
another box was finished, at that point i let rip with a killer fart, it wasn’t loud but it did announce itself. it wafted out as a shock wave of smell. even as it exited me i felt a sense of pride. imagine my surprise as i heard the voice of bnfc wailing “good god what is that smell.” jd had walked straight into the slipstream of the fart his hooter had hoovered up more than a lungful of the pat perfume.
his normally ruddy face had taken on a little green sheen.
it was a moment of pure triumph for me.

it was also at the warehouse where i met maybank. he was one of the young lads who got the job because one of his mates also worked there. now maybank was notable for many things (i will forever be in his debt for the term “wankbank”) but he was probably most famous for his ability to drop farts that hans blik would have described as weapons of mass destruction. if saddam had known of the existence of maybank he would have kidnapped him and used him in experiments in order to discover to the ultimate in toxic warfare.
judging by what came out of his arse one could only believe that maybank was fed ripe road kill. he was at his worst in the early morning when he would just drop farts as if he was a b52 unloading over vietnam.
he once told a story of how he felt sorry for his mum who would wake him up in the morning by lifting up his duvet to catch a full face of his morning guffs.
just hearing that brought tears to my eyes.
as good as i was at farting i had to take my hat off to maybank (mainly to cover my nose).

but i can’t complain i have had many good years of cutting the cheese.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


i remember: catching.

my great strength as a rugby player was not in catching the ball. in fact i lived in fear of being on the receiving end of kick offs in case that ball game spiralling towards me and i would end up fumbling it. i can’t recall ever missing the ball, i am sure i knocked it on a few times. hell i was a forward i wasn’t supposed to catch the ball i was supposed to pummel the opposition.
but all of that is by the by as far as this is concerned.
one year my pal adam got me a rugby ball for a present, it wasn’t a real leather ball but like the ones we used in school for practice: orange and rubber. adam had personalised it, in his own inimitable fashion, with lots of drawings from the various projects we were doing at the time (chunderbirds, the runeleek and jmh space hero: trust me when i say to us they were very funny and very important), there was also a drawing of helen jones, who i had the most amazing crush on and is perhaps one of the prettiest girls i have ever known. helen had a starring role in the runeleek (i am not sure if she knew she was featuring in our epic fantasy rock opera that combined moorcockian fantasy, welsh mythology, terrible puns, awful lyrics and a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel – art by adam), why did she have a starring role in the runeleek? well aside from the fact i was smitten with puppy love for her, she was also welsh. see obvious really.
now adam and helen lived in the same road, ribblesdale avenue as i recall (adam will correct my errors here).
just across from where they were was a large expanse of grass that served as a break between the racecourse estate, where i lived, (and where most of the streets were named after… well race courses) and private houses where adam and helen lived.
we used to end up on that expanse of grass and spend a lot of time playing catch. mainly it was with the rugby ball, one year adam introduced a glow in the dark frisbee. we threw that ball in the bright sun, we threw it in rain, we threw it in gales and in one memorable year we threw it in snow drifts (that was also the year my very full and very brown beard froze and dreadlocks of ice in it…)
as we threw that ball (i guess we caught it about 50 percent of the time, maybe a bit more..) we would also be throwing ideas back and forth about comics we would create, books we would write, films we might make. back then we weren’t interested in changing the world we were looking to entertain it.
now i am sure that this will come as no surprise to adam, and sadly i guess many of my dear readers know me well enough to know at heart i am incredibly shallow, so not only was this a creative throw-about but there was also the ulterior motive of impressing helen jones.
how? i can hear you ask.
my answer is simple: she was welsh. it was a rugby ball we were throwing d’uh.
hey no one said i was sophisticated … needless to say it didn’t work and my love of helen remained unrequited.

look i know you want samples of the gags and puns we came up with but i can’t remember them, well except for a few that were all puns based around wales and songs we were listening to at the time.
“stairway to helen”, “cold as dai’s” and “live and let dai” (feel free to add your own.

i miss that ball and i miss those puns.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


i remember: fireplaces.
as my relationship with annemarie declined and entered a period of total meltdown (not that i realized this was happening, i just thought it was a blip…. how stupid i was) she dealt with her growing dislike of me in some odd ways.
we lived in a council flat. now i have to confess i have nothing but praise for the council flats i have lived in. both my mum’s and annemarie’s were solid pieces of building. you felt safe in them. little went wrong with them and when it did the council was there to repair it.
we were never very well off, so the flat was not filled with all mod cons, it was very basic, but hey ho it was our home.
the living room had a three bar electric fire on the wall, you could see that there had once been a real fireplace there in days gone by. annemarie has often gone on about have a roaring fire there.
once she had got her degree she got a chance to do a masters degree in warwick university. she went off. she came back. our relationship had changed.
one day i come back from work and the “honey i’m home” is met with a silence. i walk into the hall and all i can say is “what the fuck….” in the hall is a mantelpiece standing there. annemarie had decided to create the fireplace she so wanted, even if we couldn’t afford it. there had been no discussion, she had just bought it. the grumbling from me was soon pushed aside. we spent the evening screwing it into the wall.
it looked ok. annemarie was happy. as ever the promises made earlier in the evening were forgotten that night (ah well i was a sucker for those promises).
i suppose if was i wasn’t so complacent about the relationship i would have realised something was wrong.
what a joke i made of the mantelpiece at work for the next couple of days.
the joke was on me.
the following week i am return home and bugger me senseless but there is another mantelpiece standing in the hall. the “what” i wanted to say couldn’t come out, my mouth was open and i was speechless.
did i say we only had the one living room?
did i mention we had central heating?
no matter annemarie had a plan – it could go in the bedroom, where it would frame the bed.
i was nonplussed, but not much i could do as, once again, it was a done deal…

is it any wonder i have always shunned home improvement tv shows.


i am getting tired of hearing drivers moaning about speed cameras. they are always going on about it being about revenue rather than keeping people safe. their complaint seems to be twofold: they have been caught and they are being charged for it. so here is a tip for the boy racers on the roads of the uk don’t speed and you won’t have to pay anything. simple really.
even better you will be sticking it to the state!
viva la driving at the correct speed revolution.


i remember: soho. 

i remember the first time i went to soho. my dad took me. the purpose of the trip was to visit the 
comic shop dark they were and golden eyed. for the first couple of my 
trips to soho dad came along as a guide and a protector. 
 each trip was one of magic and adventure.

it was only when i started being allowed to go to the west end on my own 

that i discovered the seedy side of soho.
 back then old compton street was awash with porn shops, a boy could go 
blind just looking in the windows. the porn was clearly displayed 
and it was quite hardcore. as fifth and sixth formers we would make our
 pilgrimage to the west end where we would buy records and comics and then 
spend a happy hour or so walking both sides of old compton street 
window shopping porn.

the first time i ever went into one of the stores i felt a mix of fear
 and power, it was my rite of passage (for most of my peers it was
 getting their first drink in a pub, but i had lived in them so no
 adventure there). the first time i ever bought some magazines home i was
 scared shitless that my mum would realise what i had in the bag, while
 she never caught me bringing the stuff in i am sure she found my porn
 stash at least once.
 porn back then could only be found in such shops, no downloading for us
 then. so it meant that there was pretty much something for everyone to browse and buy. and browse i did. some eye-opening moments i can 
tell you. then there was the fear that they would realise that i was
 underage and kick me out, even worse that they would do it before i got 
to buy the stuff i wanted.

soho was also where i first discovered the existence of prostitutes. the first time i saw them was walking towards archer street, at the time there were two casinos located there, so it was a place where money was prominent. it also meant the ladies of the night would congregate, and could be found all day. i was too young to realise what the young ladies were doing hanging around street corners and lounging on cars. it didn’t take them long to alert me to what they were offering: “do you want a fuck guv”. i politely declined and hurried on my way. like many things once you have been made aware of them you can’t help but keep noticing them.
they seemed to come out in droves whenever there was a big sporting event at wembley. they needed more out on the streets as there would large numbers of visitors working their way through soho – either as a pre-game ritual or as solace for not having a ticket. how the income of the working girls must be suffering with the delay to the stadium being built, you would think the english collective of prostitutes would put in a compensation claim.
prostitution in the area has changed dramatically, no longer quite so public and in your face, now the discreet red light and handwritten sign promising models upstairs. not to mention the proliferation of call cards in telephone boxes.

soho is also where i discovered that i had no aptitude for computer games. i am not sure what dragged me into soho’s amusement arcades? maybe it was the bright flashing lights, maybe if was the sounds of the games or the jingle jangle of the one-armed bandits. once i went in i was hooked. the games were 10p a go. sadly i could spend pounds and never really get very far in the games. i quickly realized i was no good at the fighting games, too many buttons for too many combinations. i was quickly bored by the puzzle games, not because i easily solved them, but because i never got beyond the early stages. i was doomed (geddit!) to be a player of straight forward shoot ‘em ups. i was never very good at them.
more often than not i would end up watching the other gamers, people who would stand with a zen like patience as they worked through the levels of the game that they had memorized like the backs of their hand. some would just smoke endlessly watching other gamers around them. others would stand and chat with their friends. many, like myself, would stand in awe and watch, hoping to learn how to play the games.
i never learnt.
but i was a frequent visitor to the arcades of soho. the games got more spectacular – more colourful, more complicated, more sounds and more money. slowly but surely the prices crept up from 10p to 20p to 30p and eventually at 50p i decided that this would be me wasting money at a rate that was stupid.
the last time i wandered into an arcade i was disappointed by the games and by the fact that most of the space was now devoted to one-armed bandits.
but then how can they compete with the explosion of gaming consoles.

soho has changed since i first started going there. the porn shops have been replaced by lots of restaurants, coffee shops, bars and fashion shops. the locals now complain about the noise rather than the low life elements. the magic has changed from something that attracted a young impressionable teenager and is now aimed at the young mid twenties clubber.

given i am mid 40s dirty old man i miss the old soho.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I remember: zen

For a brief time in my life I was a competent martial artist. I could ki-yay with the best of them. High kick? Not a problem. Side kick? Easy. Double punch? Nailed. Roundhouse kick? Getting there. Splits? Forget about it.
I enjoyed the training. I enjoyed the discipline, I enjoyed the philosophy, I enjoyed the honour and I enjoyed the skill it took to be a half way decent martial artist,
My sensei was a cross between david caradine and peter fonda, a rangy south African guy who was as hard as nails. He was happy to work his students until they cried (and several did). For him it wasn’t just about the fighting it was about the code of the warrior, it was as much about the spiritual as it was about the kicking. If we did not show respect to our fellow students or the dojo we were punished.
One day there was a small class, so instead of training sensei decided he would talk to us about our ki force and zen.
He told us of his sensei, who the ubiquitous wizened old oriental, who would challenge his students to move him. He would centre himself and they would push him. No mater their physical superiority they could never move him. He would not use muscle strength to stay in position but the force of his will. I read comics and this is that shit right there.
So after telling us about the strength of will power, the sensei decided to demonstrate. He knelt down and several of us started to push him. All we succeeded in doing was getting out of breath.
Then he told us to have a go.
We did.
I knelt down. I focused. I centred.
I felt hands on my shoulders. They pushed. Nothing happened. I gave no physical resistance but I was not moving. I was the rock.
Another pair of hands – more force being pushed against me. I could feel the energy in me. I wasn’t moving I was set. Wooo hooo. I was at the centre of the universe, it was nirvana. Lost horizon and liv ulman here I come. To use a much-abused word it was awesome. Not quite the cosmic consciousness of Castaneda or icke but close.
It was pure and beautiful, an experience of inner peace and internal power.
Then some bastard pushes from the side and I tumble like a house of cards.
The moment gone.
The magic lost.
The memory, though remains.

It was a much better experience than the time I missed a block while sparring, got kicked straight in the bollocks and was walking like john wayne after a long day in the saddle.


the tories have released their tax consultation document. cameron and osborne are not agreeing to anything in it, but nor are they denying it. instead they are talking about how they want to be seen as the economically sensible party of stability.
the document talks of a virtual flat tax (this means the rich become even richer and the rest of us get a little more, which we will lose in other ways…) osborne says they are not making policy now, waffles on about green taxes (which while noble have two problems: firstly will hit the poor most and if they succeed they will discourage the behaviour that generates the dosh in the first place…)
closer they get to the election the more pronounced will be their need to cut taxes in order to win (buy) votes.
remember that tory tax cuts just mean the rich get richer and our services get worst.


one third of the world agrees that torture should be allowed in the case of pursuing terrorism.
one in 4 in the uk agree.

my head says no to torture of captured terrorists
my heart says you have to get as much information from each one as is possible. if that involves a tad of torture then do it

of the reasons why we shouldn’t use torture the least persuasive was the torture creates terrorists, as we must keep reminding ourselves that all of this is a result of a terrorist attack on america.
the other lame excuse is that we shouldn’t become like “them” but more and more this is an asymmetrical conflict and we may need to become more like them to find a resolution.

the one thing that makes me think that torture is not all that good for intelligence work is because people will say whatever they think is wanted in order to stop the pain.
but rather than throw the option away i currently believe that if the need arises then the relevant powers can use sanctioned torture, but all the relevant parties have to sign off on it, so we have an audit chain of who agreed to issue the warrant for torture.

it strikes me that on some things i am not as liberal as i should be.


i remember: brainblast.

how do you tell a story like monty?
monty was a school friend, but more than that he was a legend to many of us.

when we first met (and i will have to defer to adam to relate exactly how we met) he was a mini leo sayer, the last time we met he was a pumped up semi muscled leo sayer with a receding hairline.
we shared a love of comics, rock music and science fiction and fantasy.

the 6th form was when we read sounds and monty could qualify for a wanger of the week. it showed our innocence that back then monty was embarrassed by the fact he had a lunch pack the size of a three-course meal.

adam and i did despicable and cruel things to his vinyl copy of rainbow’s “long live rock and roll”. it started innocently, as all such things do. we cut an additional grove in it so it jumped on the on the first track, (it had to be said it added to the overall sound of the album). but we were young and rather than stop there we went for it. we baked it, we glued, we skidded it across the floor, we used it as a frisbee, we stood on it and we even let adam’s dog take a leak on it. it was somewhat overkill. (to be honest i think this is where all my bad karma started from.

monty used to come around to my mum’s place (oddly i never really thought of it as my dad’s, always my mum’s), where we would listen records. where most heavy metal fans might indulge in some air guitar histrionics monty would arrange objects from my room into a drum kit and then he would “drum” along to the track that was playing.
now monty wanted to be a drummer, somewhere between neal peart and cozy powell, but he also wanted to be a vocalist, a cross between geoff tate and ronnie james dio. i never got to hear him sing, i did get to hear him drum.

it was a night that will live on in the memories of those who were there, and many now claim to have been there who obviously never were. for this one night alone monty deserves to be a legend to be held in awe until the end of time.
in bumbles wine bar in acton a legend was born. he who cannot be named (or joel for short) was playing with his band “the moonsters” they were an effective punk 4 piece. the venue was crowded. monty, yorkie and myself were there. the set was coming to a close. yorkie was crying out for their rendition of “english country garden”. monty was banging the life out of a fire extinguisher (which he had been done pretty much all through the night). joel (who really can’t be named) saw an opportunity to create rock history and got monty up to play the drums. now picture this: a sweaty cramped wine bar, jammed to capacity with 60 or so people, a drum kit that comprised of a bass drum, a tom, a snare and two cymbals and monty sitting astride the drum stool. joel (who is here under a false name) hits the first chord of the tune.
instead of a plodding 4/4 beat, monty unleashes (and truly that is the best word to describe what issued forth) a drum sound that shook the very foundations of the earth, waking the demons that slumber in the bowels of the earth.
in an instant bumbles wine bar was transformed into madison square gardens and monty was playing in front of an orgasmic crowd who worshipped every roll, beat and paradiddle he could muster. it was magnificent. the drums roared. the drums called forth the thunder. it was a cry to rock and roll war.
it was such a shame he was out of time with the rest of the band.
yorkie made a bootleg of the gig. we still smile like cheshire cats when we listen to it.

for one man that would have been enough but monty still had more to offer.

we still have memories of him in his tight red pants (a tale for another blog).
we still fondly remember him saying “they are so tight” (this was of rush and not of his tight red pants…)

but it is his love of rush we come back to.
i have already mentioned he had a receding hairline. for some reason, and i no longer know if it is based in fact or just some bizarre schoolyard logic, but we believed this phil collins like loss of hair was due to monty rubbing his hands on his forehead.
he had coined the phrase “brainblast” for star wars, somehow (and again i have no idea if it is based on reality or we just made it up) it became associated with rush. to this day you will see grown men, who should know better, raising their hands to their foreheads, rubbing them backwards and forwards while chanting (in a strained and slightly high pitched voice) “rush they were a brainblast, so tight, a brainblast…”
this was the cult of monty.

fast-forward a couple of years. i am in the virgin megastore and i buying a copy of rush’s, then, new album “moving pictures”, i hand over the disc and i am ready with the money when all of a sudden the shop assistant went “rush rush brainblast…”
it was an indescribable moment of wonderment on my part.
his legend had spread.

i haven’t seen monty in close on 20 years. but his memory lives on.
and now you dear reader are touched by his magic as well.
“ooh so tight.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


branding can be utter bollocks, and just to prove it here is an example.
the european union is about to celebrate 50 years, in order to do it in style they held a competition to design a funky logo.
1700 students entered and the result is breathtaking.
breathtakingly bad.
the winner is szmon skrzypczak.

the design is supposed to encapsulate the idea of european co-operation and the future of europe. now i am no designer, but i can see that is going to be a hard one to capture in a static logo.

in fact what we get is some dodgy typefaces and accents that are used in european languages that come together in a colourful mess that spell “together” (ignoring the fact that all the letters do not hang together very well, and in fact look like a mess. though someone could argue, but they would be clutching at straws, this demonstrates the differences within the union and the fact it can work in harmony. but we all know that would be bollocks).
also it has to be noted that the logo will look different in each country as it will be translated and each one will have the “correct orthography” so in fact they will all be different and not together…. my head hurts.

the “since 1957” tagline refers to the signing of the treaty of rome. it also plays two other functions 1] one it gives a tacky air of being a retail chain logo and 2] it will remind people that it is a 50 year anniversary logo.

mr alejo vidal-quadras, first vice-president of the european parliament, said of the logo " i congratulate the winner for the very nice result, which expresses very well our common destiny".
while vice-president margot wallström said: “the winning logo represents the diversity and vigour of europe and at the same time it underlines the desired unity and solidarity of our continent.”
both demonstrating the ability of politicians to talk meaningless bollocks while making it sound important. (press release
to be found on the competition website)

the bbc ) also has some quotes which it says is from the competition website but i can’t find them there, but here there are from the bbc:
"this logo gives a graphic interpretation to the voice of all europeans, especially the new generations.” i am sure they don’t mean it, or even know what they are saying but then they had to say something.

"the word 'together' expresses in a simple and immediate way what was originally bound to the idea of europe: not only politics, or money, or geographic boundaries, but most of all co-operation and solidarity." and just in case we hadn’t picked up on what “together” might mean in this context they spell it out for us…
it also praises the irony "inspired by fashion labels". i have no idea what they are going on about here. but i suppose it is better than the ukip proposed design “fcuk europe”.
my pal jay
was most impressed that the winner was a pole and heaped lavish praise on mr skrzypczak. i would have let mr. skrzypczak have the last word but his logo is so fucking awful in this case i will let a picture paint a thousand words.


enjoy this pic of the urban landscape and cranes: a double bubble hit for me.
i don't think it was quite this dark when i took the picture.


i remember: superman.

for as long as i can remember i have read comics. i don’t think i have ever gone through a phase where i was ashamed of being a comic geek, and i don’t think i have ever fallen out of love with comics.
i remember the thrill of finding a corner shop that sold american comics – where i could buy copies of superboy, superman, action comics, adventures comics and more. (if memory serves this shop also sold sea monkeys but i never bought any, imagine my disappointment when many years later i discovered that they did not wear crowns and hang out as the perfect undersea nuclear family and were in fact like strands of snot in water….)
i remember discovering another shop that has a spinner rack of american comics, not only were there my old favourites but there was a whole new range of comics by a publisher called atlas. all i could think was “wow”, and i loved some of those books: “planet of the vampires”, “ironjaw”, “morlock 2001”, “demon hunter” and many more. several weeks’ worth of pocket money was spent in that shop.
(true there was another reason for wanting to frequent the shop – it also had a spinner rack of porn, and to teenaged eyes quite hardcore porn. including a cover that has stuck with me since then. picture, if you will, two naked couples the women are kneeling down, the men are standing behind them one bloke has his tackle on the top of one woman’s head, the other bloke has his crown jewels resting on the shoulder of the other woman. most bizarre and totally unerotic.)

i remember my first trip to dark they were and golden eyed. there i bought some new comics and the first issue of jack kirby’s “forever people” and steranko’s “nick fury agent of shield”. it was probably that day my interest in comics became a passionate affair.

i have been lucky enough to spend most of my working life involved with comics. through work i came to know people who shared my unabashed love for comics, people who knew more about comics than i could ever hope to know (hi jim. hi kenny. hi paul).

now when superman the movie came out i was less than moved by it. true i was excited about the whole now you will believe a man can fly. but the film just didn’t work for me. i did love the battle between superman and the criminals of the phantom zone in the second movie, but it was not the superman i loved. it was not the superman i wanted to see on screen.
i grew up reading cary bates’ superman with the wonderfully solid work of curt swan. superman was my favourite hero.

in 1986 dc comics rebooted superman, like the movie this was not the superman i liked or wanted. no matter i am a comic geek so i keep getting the comics, somewhere along the line what i wanted from the comics and what the comics were doing merged and once again i was enjoying superman.

fast-forward a few years.
it is late night in the office. the only two people still “working” are paul and i. somehow we have gotten into a discussion about comics (nothing new about that, we were always talking comics, well except for the time when we didn’t talk… and that
was paul’s fault).
now i can’t remember the exact debate we were having, it was something to do with superman’s powers and superman’s reasons for being a hero. we started it as a friendly to and fro as we got on with our work, something that could be done without taking our attention off our computer screens. a coffee break and the discussion continues at the coffee machine (it produced the most foul coffee but it was free). back to work but now it couldn’t be dropped. work was forgotten about. the question of superman had to be resolved. standing now, orating at each other. long drawn out arguments and theories of superman’s motivations and actions. voices impassioned, we could have been debating reducing third world debt to the world bank, but instead we are arguing the personal characteristics of a fictional character, and comparing him to other fictional characters. (for some this would be postmodernism at its best, meta narratives taking over, for sane people it was two fanboys who lost the plot..)
it gets more and more heated. voices raised, chests puffed, fingers jabbing. this is full on arguing mode, heading for meltdown.
while we never quite got to head butting and frothing at the mouth we came close.
not sure who won the argument, or whether we agreed to disagree.
i suspect it came to a halt because we both wanted chips.

that is the power that comics have on fanboys the question of who is stronger superman or thor is important to us. these are the questions and debates that have us coming back to comics time and time again.

no matter what happens superman is still the hero i love the most.
up, up and away!

Sunday, October 15, 2006


lichtenstein was one of the most famous of the pop artists. he shot to fame with is appropriating the art of unsung comic artists and turning their work into art with a capital "a".
his work is wonderful and his later work moving and inspiring.
i would like to think he would enjoy seeing his art used as graf.
seen on a wall in sclatter street. (again i had the wrong lens on the camera, i may go back with a wide lens).


lichtenstein was one of the most famous of the pop artists. he shot to fame with is appropriating the art of unsung comic artists and turning their work into art with a capital "a".
his work is wonderful and his later work moving and inspiring.
i would like to think he would enjoy seeing his art used as graf.
seen on a wall in sclatter street. (again i had the wrong lens on the camera, i may go back with a wide lens).



some more graffiti from around the place.
this was a wall near liverpool street. unfortunately i didn't have the right lens to capture it all. i will be going back as it is very vibrant but enjoy these snaps of it.
(there will be more such stuff from that walk out and about at a later date).


i remember: dentists.

from an early age i was scared of dentists. i blame my dad. dad was a handsome man when he was younger before the booze, fags and the worries of the world wore him down. he was also a bit of a hard man as well; you had to be to be a publican, who knew what fights you might have to get into.
when we were living in greenford he had to go to the dentist, i think he was having a tooth or two taken out in preparation for his false teeth. i remember it being a small little surgery that was very much like someone’s front room (the flock wall paper sticks in my mind).
now dad did want to be there, and i am not sure if i was there as moral support or he was trying to teach me an important life lesson. i was too young to be much support and the only lesson i learnt from it was the wrong one.
so we sat there waiting for dad to be called.
he was smoking a cigarette, a player’s senior service. (remember the days where you could smoke anywhere?)
the dental assistant came in and said “once you have finished your cigarette the dentist will see you.” she left.
dad took out the packet and lit up the remaining fags and started to puff.
for a young child it was amazingly funny.
(he got his false teeth they were horrid they made him look like a little like ken dodd. he only ever wore them as a joke. one of the things i wish i had remembered to pick up when my dad died was his false teeth).

i learnt from that dentists were nasty people.
i have never forgotten this lesson, which explains why my teeth are in horrid condition.
i am scared; no make that shit scared of the dentist.

i remember being at my dentist and telling her that she should just drill the tooth and forget the needle as i was too scared of it.
i remember being so scared that i didn’t even want to get a gumshield made up by my dentist (my goofy like front teeth made the cheapo ones no good). even that was a painful experience and all she had to do was make an impression of my teeth.
i remember having to come to an arrangement with the dentist that i would have a check up one week and she would do nothing to me at that meeting, and i would come back a week later for treatment.
i remember sitting in the waiting room panicking because i was going to have a filling while two young children went in with a smile for fillings and extractions. then they came out with a smile. scary kids.
i remember telling dave ellis how much i hated the dentist, he told me how he thought it was ok. i then told i was always scared of the needle breaking off in my gum. he wasn’t quite so complacent the next time he went to the dentist.

the dentist is the only place i think i am dustin hoffman.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


i remember: nipples

i was bitten by the tattoo bug close on 20 years ago. i went to a tattooist in camden called bugs. he was french and looked like he could have been in the proclaimers, but he could sling the ink like few others. back then he was a known tattooist, now he is a superstar tattooist and is referred to as evil in the ink.
my first tat was done on my shoulder blade; it was quickly followed by one on my arm, then one on my chest and then one on my other shoulder blade.
all done by the same guy.
all superb pieces of work (if i say so myself).

the last one was a hopi indian symbol (yeah i am pretentious, so sue). it was a simple design that i had coloured in red and yellow. striking. it was a tat i really wanted. i was up for it. it was the time i least liked in mr. scratchy’s chair. not sure why but it hurt like buggery and seemed to take forever. i didn’t enjoy the experience.
luckily the tattoo is fantastic.
it was my last tat.

a year or so later i wanted more body art, but i couldn’t find a piece i wanted. so i chose a different route. i went for a piercing.
now i have make a little digression where i was working was filled with people who were seriously into body art and a few who were interested in it so as to look cool. so i made the big decision and decided that as i had tats i would go the piercing route. i chatted to a few colleagues, got a recommendation for the place to go. booked a day off work (we were probably one of the few companies where staff did actually take time off for such activities…)

so off i went to smithfields. i had booked in for a having both my nipples pierced.
i confess there was an element of fear and trepidation about the whole thing, but i was there and no turning back.

stripped to the waist sitting in a dentist chair i was beginning to sweat a little bit as the bloke started to get the nipple ready. a clamp put on the nipple, well he tried to but i was sweating so much it slipped off. another attempt and there it was on. the clamp had holes in it so the needle could go through the nipple and a ring put in.
shit! shit! shit! look at the size of that needle.
more sweat.
the needle goes in, not quite like a knife through butter…
the thing that has stuck with me was the sound it made – think of biting in to a ripe peach, well that is the sound a needle through a nipple makes.
one done. one to go.

first i had to get up and walk around, calm down and prepare myself.
second one was a little easier.
i was sweating like a pig throughout. the poor piercer had to wash the chair down.
he told me i would be high as a kite from the endorphin kick i would get later on in the day.

i remember i went into the west end and bought my first modem. went home and fell asleep.
so much for the kick.

i loved the nipple rings, even if it meant i had permanently erect nipples.
sadly i didn’t look after the rings and nipples properly and soon i was waving bye bye to the rings as they grew out through the nipples.

now i am piercing less, but i do have smiley nipples.

they still get erect though.


i saw this while out and about.

now i have to confess that i think the west is losing the plot over the question of islamic fundamentalism. in trying to be moderate and liberal (what used to be known as "playing the white man") we are in danger of ignoring that we are on the cusp of a battle of cultures and ideas. ironically it is our very ideals and beliefs, our freedoms and principles that may weaken us in the face of the, potential, oncoming battle. the reason i say this is because as we try to accommodate the requirements, for want of a better word, of the islamic fundamentalists it means we give up some of what we are.
(this is not to say that our own governments are not quick to remove our freedoms, and it is not to say that we are perfect.)

when jack straw raised the subject on veils on muslim women the reaction was out of all proportion to what has been asked. the question becomes not just an attack on the personal choices of the women, but an attack on all muslim women and all of islam. not only does jack straw have to be defended for asking the question, he must also be proved not to be a racist.
when there has been criticism of muhammad or the islamic faith the response has not been one of reason but one of bullying violence.
for some islamic fundamentalists the freedoms of the west allow them to go about their lives enjoying the fruits of the west while all the while crying out for sharia law to be part of the legal landscape of the west (true some aspects of it will appeal to the hang them and flog them tories, but….)

it is not a question of being against islamic fundamentalists it is more about being for the freedoms that we cherish. we can find it in ourselves to protest out governments trying to take those liberties away from us, yet we shy away from it when they are threatened by a group who will happily persecute gays, will subjugate women and curtail democracy.

the irony is never more apparent than on the whitechapel high street where the swp newspaper sellers embrace the islamic fundamentalists as their friends and allies in the war against capitalism, except one wants a workers participatory democracy the other wants a theocracy.


i remember: gigs

i love going to gigs. these days i tend to go to small gigs, they tend to be more exciting, they are less hassle to get tickets to, there is always a chance to discover something new and more often than not they are cheaper.

over the years i have seen some great gigs and some truly duff ones.

there was the time i agreed with the ex that i would try to make a career in rock journalism (hey we were young and we had dreams…), so using one of my nights out i went to the marquee club in order to see guns and roses on their first ever london gig. now the marquee was steeped in history and soaked in spilled beer and puke, but for a rock fan it was the best venue.
i get there. the line is long but moving steadily. one by one people enter the doors. anticipation is growing. i can count the number of bodies in front of me. no. no. no. big burly bloke is standing in front of the door telling me and 3 other people the venue was full.
that is my “i was there” story.

then there was the time at the hammy odeon, as we affectionately called it, that myself and dave ellis turned up a week too early to see toyah. needless to say we didn’t wait.

or there was the time when i was watching rush at the hammy on the permanent waves tour. i was there with monty. the set was in full swing. like all good gig going fans i was doing air guitar, in my case it was bass guitar and was i playing some monster riffs. i was smokin’. looking around i can see others throwing shapes and pull poses; we are all in air guitar heaven. but hold on what is this i see? down the row from me are three guys all doing synchronised air drumming? it is pretty funny, i love it, i am smiling broadly. i turn to monty and i point them out to him. he looks. he studies. he ponders and says: “they are a beat out.” once he had proclaimed he goes back to watching the stage.
me i nearly piss myself laughing.

then there was the time i was at a club with he who can’t be named (or joel), and as we chin stroke our way through a complex electronica set i am approached (well if memory serves me right she made a beeline from one end of the club to the other to get to me) by an elfin ethereal east european girl. she is pretty in a painfully cute way. she asks, “who are you?” i tell her. she leaves. joel runs after her to get her phone number for me…
fast forward a month we have arranged to meet at another electronica night. joel has been winding me up over it. first set is done and dusted and the second set is about to begin. i turn to joel to tell him i have been stood up. no sooner had the sound from my lips died than she pops up to say hi.
sadly we never got together, but she was pretty and mad and that is the way i like them.

rainbow at wembley was perhaps one of the worst gigs i ever went to. now i have to admit my memory of who was there that night is messed up. i thought that adam was there and it was his last night in the country before he went to become american. joel says he wasn’t there. all i can remember was rainbow were shit.

while madame x at the marquee was a great night. so much so we all decided to see them at the dominion later on that week. except we were probably half of the tickets sold. madame x cancelled but another band decided that they would play the night. we stupidly decided to stay. so the dominion had the bands parents and coach load of mates and us in it. i am not sure who were more embarrassed the band or us. credit where it is due they did rock out, just not very well.
i would salute them but i can just remember they were called battle something or another.

i remember great nights seeing the tubes (who were my first big gig alone and i went wearing a kipper tie and a hideous jacket – the closest i ever came to being a punk), seeing the manhattan transfer, frank zappa and the kodo drummers.

the best night of all was seeing ronnie james dio at the astoria back in 2004. the little man gave a towering performance. the few hundred people who had gathered to hear him sing songs from his then new lp were treated to a night they would never forget.
what we were treated to that night was simply an almost perfect greatest hits of ronnie james dio. it was rock and roll nirvana. we heard classics from his time in rainbow, his time in black sabbath and his key songs as a solo artist. he roared the songs out; we shouted our praise and our thanks. we listen with rapt delight as one gem morphed into another one.
we got heaven and hell, we got stargazer, we got sign of the southern cross, we got gates of babylon, we got holy diver, we got neon knights. they just kept coming.
we got more than we bargained for; we got a night we would remember for always.

the next time dio played the astoria the place was packed out with people hoping to experience what had heard, but it was a once in a lifetime occurrence. and i was there.

as the man himself has sung: long live rock and roll…

Monday, October 09, 2006


i remember: field of dreams.

i am an avid cinemagoer. i love the cinema experience. the sitting in the dark. the anticipation of the movie. suffering through the ads (mostly they are never very good, and i never thought i would say this: but i miss pearl and dean). getting excited by the trailers for forthcoming films and then the lovely hush as the feature begins.
yes indeed i love the cinema.

way back when i used to go to the cinema a lot with paul. we would finish work and pile into the west end and see a movie. before the movie we would stock up on chocolate (and quiet a lot of it) and the obligatory diet coke. neither of us thought of the drink as being part of a calorie controlled diet thing – we both just liked the taste. but we both got funny looks.

(a bit of a digression we did work with a bloke who was almost spherical. when he went on a diet he loved his diet slimline tonic when he was eating, sadly he ruined the effect by ordering his dinner by the inch rather then calorie count. last time i saw him he was like a space hopper.)

armed with choc and pop we would go and see the film of the day.

1989 and we go and see “field of dreams”. to be honest i can’t remember what i expected of the movie. it was a film i was enjoying all the way through and then at the end it went from being just a film to be one of those films that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“field of dreams” the film someone told me was about baseball has an ending that choked me up.
with the following exchange the tears were in my eyes.
john kinsella: well, good night ray.
ray kinsella: good night, john.
[they shake hands and john begins to walk away]
ray kinsella: hey... dad?
[john turns]
ray kinsella: [choked up] "you wanna have a catch?"
john kinsella: i'd like that.

like a good mate – paul took the piss.
i had to hear about it for days on end at work. paul did redeem himself by getting me a copy of the video for a birthday present.

the above scene hit me hard because i had only recently broken up with annemarie and was no longer in contact with the kid (i wasn’t the genetic dad, i was just borrowing him while i was dating annemarie).
i had a lot of trouble coming to terms with the fact that i had been dumped; surprisingly i was having even more trouble thinking about the fact that i was no longer a dad.
“you wanna have a catch,” reminded me i was never going to be a part of the kid’s life.

it also reminded me that my relationship with my dad was not the best, and hadn’t been for years.

in short it was a blubtastic moment.
because as i watched i knew i would never play catch with the kid again nor would i ever repair my relationship with my dad.

but with the video in my grubby hands i found myself crying at the film earlier and earlier in the film.
there was the moment when moonlight graham gives up the dream of playing baseball so that he could save a young child from choking. sob.
there was the moment were terrence mann explains about the dream and how they will come. boo hoo.
the moment when moonlight graham talks about his departed wife. blub.
annie kinsella arguing for the freedom of speech “at least he wasn’t a book burner you nazi cow…” weep.
terrence mann going to find out what is out there. snivel.
ray kinsella admitting he had never done anything crazy. bawl.
and many more.
hell i can’t even look at the dvd case without tearing up.

fuck i am man enough to admit that even typing this has me choked up.

“field of dreams” is the film that affects me more than any other film. it is a film i love. because of it kevin costner can do no wrong in my eyes.
it is a film that makes me cry like a baby, it is a film that makes me happy, it is a film that gives me hope.

for some it is a film about baseball – but those people are wankers.