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