Monthly Archives: May 2014

Not knowing

Last week there were 10 eggs. This went from 10 to 8, then 8 to 4, then 2, then 1. Just one remains. And now it is back home: a half, or 0, or 1.

You don’t dare hope.

A rainy car park. Silence. Both thinking. The touch of a warm hand. An ordinary day. Everything, or nothing, happens on ordinary days.   

The pain is exhausting. Every day, the grief of the life you want but don’t yet have, and might never have. Trapped in the space between two worlds, two outcomes. It can only be 0 or 1. There is nothing between, but there we are. Somewhere between, but we don’t know where yet. It could be a beginning – the beginning – or another little death. 

It hurts so much but you have to know. You can’t not know. You have to know. And try. 

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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized


Chasing Kippers

Don’t chase the Kippers, people say. Chase me. Coax my perfect unicorn vote from my tightly clenched hands and I will willingly deliver a pristine snowflake shaped X next to the right place on the ballot form. Why is politics shifting to the right just because some tweed-clad men managed to get a few racist nutters to go to the polls? What about the 60-odd percent who didn’t vote and who were disenchanted with the big players… Why is no one beating down their doors?

Which is all very well Goldilocks, except you couldn’t be bothered to vote last time. Did we not deliver, among the 10-15 candidates you had before you, a single one capable of stirring you into performing your democratic duty, even if you had to do so with a slightly heavy heart or – worse still- holding your nose as you walked over to the ballot box, flinching at the stench of your own messy compromise?

Why should anyone chase my vote if I’m going to coyly say “no thank you” and sit at home eating crisps instead? The maths is quite simple: the Kippers – those who haven’t died off in the meantime from an overdose of spite – are going to be voting next time. They’ll be out. Because they could be bothered. You couldn’t. Whose vote is worth more time and effort?

Yes, the Kippers have dragged politics to the right. Through simply turning up and coming through the curtains to vote. Of course the main parties want their votes. Because they voted. Imagine if a similar number of people as them had voted green, or some other alternative vote – what then? Would we still be being dragged to the right? Not to the same degree, that’s for sure. It’s not about the Bearded Rubbish Actor, it’s about apathy in general. Who will put the bell on the cat? Well, how about you?

People talk about Boomers and how entitled they seem. But at least they vote. At least they bother to try and make a difference. At least they take part. That’s one half of the deal. The other half is being given someone to vote for. But that can’t happen unless you start to vote anyway. And that’s my generation’s failure, expecting everything to be handed to us in a neat tailored package tied up in a bow. It’s not going to happen.

Chase the Kippers? Why not. Who else is giving the parties sometime to campaign to? 

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Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Uncategorized



A comedian said we shouldn’t vote. We didn’t vote.

There’s a difference between choosing to not vote, and choosing not to vote, and it’s not clear which we did. Even less clear whether we chose to not vote, or not to vote, based on the sage savouries of a comedian. It’s hard to imagine the power this one amazing man might have, persuading millions of us not to use our democratic right thanks to an interview that a hundred and five people saw and an editorial that sixteen people read (and as one of those sixteen, I’m here to tell you that it didn’t tip me over the edge.)

If apathy can be an active choice, rather than apathy – that you actively fold your arms at the polling station and say “no guv, not for me this time” rather than staying at home and watching unfunny remakes of Dudley Moore films – it’s hard to measure its impact or “success”. It’s so hard to tell which non votes were protest non votes rather than not being bothered, not understanding, not caring.

Now ukip is here, like a racist runaway train, barrelling towards disaster as Nigel The Tank Engine’s cheery fagash grin leads it on. It’s tempting to connect one thing with another and imagine that the apathy urged by the barbed clown has allowed the train wreck, or plane crash, or earthquake, or towering inferno, or whichever traumatic multiple death event you want to call it, to happen. But there’s a chance that the millions who didn’t vote in a European election aren’t all that keen on Europe anyway, and might be more sympathetic to an anti Europe party. They might not all be a liberal-left army in waiting, I’m afraid.

When the TV is on, research suggests we seek out the least annoying programme we can find it we can’t find one we really want to watch. The remote control attitude is the one I try to use for selecting candidates: I might not find one who’s a perfect match for all of my beautiful special snowflake opinions, but there will be a least worst choice. Not none of the above, but the least worst of the above. That’s all I’ve got. Does it make a difference? Does not doing that make a difference? I don’t know. It just feels wrong not voting. I’m no comedian, but that’s all I’ve got.

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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Uncategorized



English literature is no longer literature written in English: it’s literature written by British people. Confusingly. British literature, then. Briterature. Never mind the quality, feel the provenance. Don’t look out; look in. Don’t welcome words from around the world: ours are enough.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the writing of men and women who had the misfortune to have been dragged up in this rather glum collection of decaying islands. We (if there is a “we”) have produced some delightful things to touch the soul. There’s that shared cultural heritage, the slight memetic experience embedded in our souls, even if, say, the Britain of the Brontes might seem sometimes harder to imagine ourselves in than the United States of Arthur Miller.

But then, isn’t literature about travelling – not just in time but space and imagination? I’m reading Moby Dick at the moment. There might be a huge cultural gap between Herman Melville and me, his reader, but isn’t that the point? I can transport myself to another time, another place, another story, another world, thanks the power of a book – and my own mind – thanks to the magic of reading. I’m really there, in a whaling town in a far off land hundreds of years ago.

There’s a good reason for celebrating wonderful British (and Irish) writers, but another good reason to look further, to the US and Canada, to Australia and New Zealand, to India… But I wouldn’t stop with books written originally in English either. Why deny yourself Gunter Grass, or Peter Hoeg? Why stop there? Why not look beyond Europe to stories beyond white folk and their former colonies? Literature isn’t just about the language; it’s about the power of the story, the joy of imagination, the transportation in the mind.

Or, you could just study British writers only because you don’t like Of Mice And Men. You know. That.

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Posted by on May 25, 2014 in Uncategorized




Data: England will probably get through the group stages in the World Cup; beat probably Ivory Coast in round of 32; lose to Spain in the quarters. Punditry: SUAREZ SUAREZ BALOTELLI I’VE HEARD OF THEM SUAREZ BALOTELLI HODGSON BALOTELLI SUAREZ SUAREZ SUAREZ SUAREZ HODGSON.

Punditry and data don’t really talk to each other enough. I don’t know if they should, but they don’t. As someone with a passing interest in both I’d like a bit of both. But I seem to read a lot more punditry than I do data. Punditry seems louder and seems to be given more volume, more importance, more predominance. Journalists interview pundits – usually other journalists – first, then might ask statisticians afterwards. But punditry is LOUD. It’s uncomplicated. It’s one big story at a time. It’s “a good tale” and “the strong line”.

Of course my view of punditry is just the sort of unanalytical punditry I’m complaining about. I’m using the very techniques I’m decrying to make a point and being far too simplistic about it. But that’s all I’ve got. I’m just one person with a phone. I’m not a major news organisation and I don’t have the resources to do anything else. But… But shouldn’t they have the ambition to do better…? No…?

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Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Uncategorized



Earthquakes are, quite often, considered to be rather bad things. You wouldn’t choose to be in one.

But here it is, the Ukip earthquake – at least it resembles a traumatic disaster according to seismologist-in-chief for the BBC, Nick Robinson. I wouldn’t want to doubt his assessment of what did and didn’t make the earth move for him. I imagine he’s like one of those budgies that knows when there’s about to be a rumble on the San Andreas fault. Nick Robinson is chirping from his millet-crumbed perch in Westminster.

Chirpychirp! What’s that Nick? The party who spent millions of pounds on advertising and have been on television and radio every day forever have somehow been noticed by the public! But… How? Chirpychirpychirpychirp! Wow, well that does represent a real turning point. Plucky old them, somehow managing to use the disadvantage of blanket coverage and millions of pounds of funding to get noticed! Chirpychirp Chirpychirpychirpychirp! No, that’s not another bird in the mirror.

If it is an earthquake, it’s not one of those benign, delightful earthquakes. See you in the rubble.

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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Uncategorized


Bacon sandwich

A bacon sandwich looked awkward next to Ed Miliband yesterday. Awkwardly, the sandwich buckled between the Labour leader’s sausage fingers, dripping BLOBS of ruddy KETCHUP onto a grease-translucent paper napkin. Onlookers and press photographers laughed at the weirdness of the whitebread snack as it was torn into by the perfect awkward white awkward teeth of the awkward man’s mouth.

In a way, we are all that sandwich. We are all that man biting into it. Dare we vote Labour and risk a spill of creamy crimson ketchup onto our trousers? Do we dare eat a bacon sandwich? Must we shun the breakfast meats in favour of, say, a box of Shreddies? These are the problems we face. Answer us, Ed, with your ever-blinking awkward eyes.

I don’t know about you but before I vote for anyone I tend to ask myself the question: what does that person look like when they’re having breakfast? I may even ask a supplementary question, for example: does he prefer ketchup, or brown sauce? Or is he one of those savages who wants the bread of a bacon sandwich buttered? Vermin. Lower than death himself. I don’t tend to care about what he’ll do to the country or anything that matters because it’s too hard.

I might, if I thought about it, find that a relatively very rich country not giving as much money to people who are desperate and miserable and in need, not because it’s unaffordable, but to punish them, might be “weird”. I might think that’d be odd, or awkward, or strange or whatever. But then that would require thinking. Why think? Just look at the pictures and point at the man.

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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


Dunce politics

What a lot of choice there is nowadays in elections!

Well, not for me. For me, it’s the Greens or nothing. Or maybe a clothes peg on the nose and look at Labour, an awkward, looming flush of shame and unhappiness filling my face.

On the other hand, if you’re a racist, an idiot, a scumbag or a jerk, a bit suspicious of foreigners, are worried about women starting to become a little too equal with men in the workplace or you’re generally a reactionary, hateful, horrible little turd, then bully for you. What a wealth of choice you have! Never before have there been more options for the bigoted, terrified, worried little Briton. The only problem now is that the sheer range of candidates, all with relatively similar manifestos, makes it hard to put an X in the right box.

On my ballot paper, which plopped apologetically through the letterbox the other afternoon, there are four flavours of swivelling wonks before you even consider voting for the Conservatives.

There’s the Ukips, of course – we’ve all heard of the Ukips, with their colourful pound symbol logo, their lovely tweed jackets, their bright red faces and their troublesome relationship with not being able to make a tit of themselves by saying things on record that make it sound like they might very well be racists, blowhards and assorted misfits. Even when they’re trying to make themselves seem presentable, they look like they’re a scruffy, risible bunch of losers taking out their collective failure of privilege on everyone else who isn’t slightly like them.

That’s the impression they seem unable to stop giving, anyway.

But it’s not just the Ukips. There is, out there, a whole raft of divorced Top Gear fans crying into their tankards down the Dog and Duck and trying to create even-more-daft policies to appeal to awful, horrendous, xenophobic men like themselves. If you happen to be suspicious of brown people, or even pale people who don’t look exactly the same as you, you can rest assured that even if everyone in the Ukips fell down a well and was crushed forever under a mountain of human excrement tomorrow – a nightmare scenario that no-one, of course, would ever delight in imagining – then there would still be at least three parties to vote for. Phew.

What I like about the English Democrats is the dog’s dick. “Putting England First!” says their cheerful (or is that shouty?) slogan on the ballot paper. There’s a touch of class there, like Westward Ho! or Oklahoma! – a little bit of levity among the thinly-veiled policies that involve, let me see, making St George’s Day a public holiday, an English parliament and… well, here’s a thing… controls on immigration. Surprise surbloodyprise. “It’s time to put an end to mass immigration!” (note the exclamation mark again) says their website, above what appears to be a photo of people waiting to go on holiday from an English airport. Never mind, though, they’ve made their point.

To be fair it’s not just immigration, though, that the English Democrats have in their sights, but that other blight of modern life. The thing we’re all worried about, that makes us lose sleep. “Let’s put an end to political correctness!” roars their website again. “We unreservedly condemn this intolerant creed, and reject the self-righteousness of political correctness and condemn the ideology as an evil”. Imagine that! Having to watch what you say around other people. Being nice. Not being a bastard. Thank Christ someone is finally targeting the real villains.

The bigots I really feel for in all this are the BNP. Time was when you hated other people because of who they were but couldn’t articulate your thoughts beyond “Send em all back!” you only had one choice on the ballot paper; it was them or nothing. Now, they look almost genteel in comparison to the others – there’s something approaching charmingly naive about their union jack heart logo. Aww bless, you want to say, squidging their chubby cheeks, you! You silly old unreconstructed fools, you. How sad it must be to have fought for intolerance and unpleasantness for so long, only to see your policies plucked from your grasp by a few posh types in wax jackets and wellies. How galling. And you kind of knew where you were with the BNP – you’d get the shaved heads and bomber jackets, obviously, but more than that: they weren’t shy about what they felt. They didn’t pretend their intolerance was all about wringing hands over precious resources. It was about intolerance. They were the gentleman racists, if you like: a dying breed. And of course, we shall mourn them.

Which leaves me with the astonishing An Independence From Europe campaign. Of all the dunces crowding for the dunce vote this time around, these are the most brazen. Their policies don’t seem to extend beyond getting their name on in front of the Ukips on the ballot paper and hoping that their voters won’t read down that far. Do you know, it might even work. Big EU flag with a line through it? Hmm, that sounds like the Ukips on the TV every five minutes; I’ll vote for them. On their election leaflets, there’s a design that looks like, well, a beermat – the beermat on the back of which they presumably wrote down their ideas*. Or idea. “Make another party that doesn’t like immigration and make it begin with an A. Lolz.”

So many questions. Are righties the new lefties, splitting into smaller and smaller hair’s-breadth differences until you’ve got a hundred different splitters representing largely identical views, but who can’t bear to be in the same room as each other? (It might raise a wry smile from anyone who’s ever spent more of their time than they should have done in leftist politics, trying to get two people who agree on EVERYTHING except one sentence of Marx to stop arguing and bloody well do something.) Is this how our politics has been shunted to the right? Is this because Labour consistently refuse to give anyone who (a) doesn’t hate immigrants and (b) would really, really like to vote for a genuine left-ish alternative something they can actually vote for?

But there are no answers, not yet. There are only questions. And names on a ballot paper. So many to choose from, if you don’t like people being different. Ah, now there’s an irony.

*h/t @FelixRatbastard for pointing this out

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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized