Thursday, May 28, 2009

Clinton, Connecticut

What follows is taken from the account of my travels in New England earlier in the year. My travelling companion Sam L Page is also writing about our visit and we'll put out a zine telling all later in the year. A few people have asked what this travel zine will be like, so here's a taster;

If Clinton was moved atom by atom to the sound coast of England American tourists would visit it and comment on how quaint it is, tour guides would describe it as a ‘chocolate box’ scene and all the residents would wonder how their atoms were moved without them noticing.

We drove through the narrow streets willing the town to make an impression on us, but having driven through many New England towns like Clinton everything was becoming decidedly normal, wholly expected to our tired eyes. Following the urge to find the coast that coarses through the blood of all Englishmen (courtesy of our Viking heritage) I jabbed at the Sat Nav and ordered it to take us to the sea.

After picking and squeezing our way through some residential streets we bravely took the car over a narrow wooden bridge that looked ancient, and caused us to have grave doubts about whether it was really designed with little German cars like ours in mind. After a few hundred yards the road became more of frozen mud track we arrived in a large car park, and had the company of just one other vehicle. The car park overlooked a distant harbour and a wide shallow bay. The bay was frozen solid in parts – forming low discoloured mini icebergs.

Although this was early afternoon the light had a curiously subdued dusky quality to it, as if the firmament was tired, and resting. The low light gave the shallow water on the shale beach an air of dreaminess as it lapped and caressed the shore. The air was perfectly still, and although the town was less than a mile away we were wrapped in a silence so dead and absolute it conspired with the low vague clouds to give me quite a feeling of claustrophobia. Peaceful, but peaceful like a coma.

The large refreshments shack at the rear of the car park hinted at the popularity of this place at times when the air temperature is less likely to cause frostbite. A few yards behind the boarded up snack shack there was a wide channel of water weaving back inland briefly before heading back out to sea. Looking at Clinton on a map there are many of these inlets – some reaching quite far inland as if they are grabbing at the clusters of houses that flank them – it gives Clinton the appearance of having frayed edges, as if it is slowly dissolving into the ocean. After a quick snout around a large roofed barbeque area and a wee behind a wall we got back in our little car and rattled back over the wooden bridge in search of our next destination, Madison.

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Click here for more photos from this trip...

Spiders nest, evacute, retreat and recluster. | Screen Break Video #002

Some people create because they were born to do so, the joyful necessity to give the world something new and wonderful burns within their souls so fierce and deep they don’t see they have any choice – they must create, or expire.

Some other people make stuff because they’ve got a few spare minutes while they’re waiting for the kettle to boil. To that end, here is a short video I made of a spiders nest in my back garden.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Junk Culture biography

I've just found the biography my old band Junk Culture used to send out to people, we were really proud of it at the time!


Junk Culture were formed in the summer of 1995. At the time drummer Jon Aldous was looking for a guitarist to start up a 'punk' band. His ambition to be a rock and roll star and his sincere desire to never have to work for a living was and still is the driving force behind Junk Culture.

Eventually through the cider-sodden grapevine of Ipswich punk half-life the challenge was taken up by Graham Flowers. Although owning a guitar for ten years, the notion of actually learning to play it had never occurred to him. Considering Jon's level of biscuit tin banging hadn't progressed much further than that of a ten year old they felt that they were on equal terms.

So after two or three practices in his Woodbridge bedroom they decided that these two would-be stadium rockers needed a bass player.

Enter Andrew Laws.

A relative veteran at the age of nineteen, Andrew was in a band since the tender age of twelve and, after a chance meeting with a vomit stained Jon on a bus, decided that he would leave his more demanding band and join the then unnamed Junk Culture. His desire to sample the life of simple punk rock folk and the fact that he had a car made Jon and Graham induct him into the band immediately. Oh, and he could play bass well too.

So after various name changes (AK-47, This Perfect Day e.t.c.) and even more numerous singers Junk Culture was born.
The line up was eventually settled;
Graham Flowers - Guitar, Vocals
Andrew laws - Bass, Vocals
Jon Aldous - Drums

After a couple of gigs towards the end of 1995 Junk Culture went into Soundback studio in Ipswich to record their first demo with Pat. The four songs recorded were 'I don't wanna hold your hand', 'Tie', 'Wired' and 'Just me'. The session took them a mere four hours to complete. Although basic punk rock with little or no imagination it did show that Junk Culture were gaining a certain tightness and the adding of a second chord to Graham's first one was definitely a step forward.

Throughout 1996 Junk Culture did a few gigs in and around Ipswich (including a hilariously disastrous support slot at the Drum and Monkey). Along the way Graham traded in his £50 Les Paul copy and Eight watt practice amp for around one and a half thousand pounds worth of guitars, amps and effects pedals. Andrew acquired a shiny new bass (that made him feel warm inside). Jon still had the biscuit tins, until being run over funded a new biscuit tin drum kit.

So this brings us around to the new demo. Recorded on a four track in such rock and roll locations as bedrooms and lounges, with more time and effort put into both the songs and the recording. The backbone of the songs is undoubtedly a punk rock influence but the diversity of said songs is undisputed as well.

So there you have it, Junk Culture have gone from 'punk-rock' to punk rock influenced band. Instead of repeating the past they are attempting to acknowledge it and mix it with their own sense of identity.

Which brings us around to you, the listener, who is hopefully playing the aforementioned tape right now. If you don't like the music, well it is a free country and if you do - spread the word.

Thanks for reading and listening.

The strangest letter I ever wrote to a girl.

I have just found this letter in the depths of my computer files. I wrote it when I was just turned sixteen as a bit of English GCSE course work, strangely I think I probably also sent it to the Joanna it is addressed to. What's even stranger for you (the reader) is that this is a completely true story. I haven't read this for many years and had forgotten some of the more gruesome details. Physically I'm still paying the price for this moment of utter stupidity, it's the reason I wear glasses, it's the reason my teeth are badly chipped and it's the reason every day of my life is cursed with back pain. I would say 'enjoy' but that's probably the wrong sentiment for this piece...

Hello Joanna,
How are you ? Thanks for your letter, When I got it I was lying in bed and my dad threw the letter to me and it landed covering my eyes and nose I smelt it and thought ah yes a letter from Joanne ! I got out of bed said hello to my fish and fed them and then got back into bed and fell asleep again ! No not really I got back into bed and read your letter. It made happy to read it but I was a bit 'upset' that I was a last resort for a bored person but I'll forgive you!

Ouch! I have an explanation to make, The top half of this letter was written quite a while ago but I am now going to finish it ready to send to you. My excuse for not writing back is by no means a weak one I promise you. About about a week after a started this letter some I found horrific happened, I will explain... On returning from an adventure holiday with my c.p.v.e course (in the evening) some friends of mine came round to call for me and one of these friends drives, and we drove up to a local deserted airfield (Parma) anyway when we got their we all took turns to drive around in my friends fiesta (Gregs car) everything was safe and I was getting quite good behind the wheel. Anyway we stopped for a bit of fresh air and Greg and I stood on the back bumper leaning forward onto the roof pretending we were moving!?!?

Anyway the person currently in the driving seat (Ian) had the dimm idea to start the car and drive of, me and Greg had to cling on for dear life but loved it and the buzz of the danger of the car going just 10 mph. Over about an hour and a half the car got faster we got more daring. We started doing the more dangerous stuff like having the hatchback open and the seats down so that we could have the car going slowly and Greg and I would run behind the car catch up and jump up. The next thing we did was to just sit in the back of the car at around 30mph and dragging our feet on the broken concrete/tarmac surface of the airfield the progression from this was to stand in the boot, leaning out holding ourselves onto coat handles inside the car.

We did this many times and because we had slowly developed to this madness it didn't seem all that stupid. The time came to around 10:15 and I had to be home in an quarterhour little did I know but I wouldn't be home for at least another 3 1/2 . The car drove back to the far end of the airstrip with Greg and I hanging out sideways from the boot with our feet inside and our complete bodies outside. I was holding onto the little plastic thing surrounding the keyhole for the hatchback and the car turned round and without any time for a rest it sped of faster than it had before at around the 40 mph mark things were 'fine' until Ian the driver started to swerve violently from left to right. If you have ever seen a car going that speed swerving then you probably know how violently it throws its weight around. Because of this one time it swung particular hard to one way (the opposite to the side that I hanging on,) as it did this my hands slid of my anchor and as the car swung back the other way my hands completely missed the key thing that I was holding onto and I was thrown off the car....

To the tell the truth I can't remember hitting the ground but the doctors later deducted and my witnesses in the form of my friends told me that I went up, came down hard landing on my face just next to my left eye, Bounced several times rolled and came to a gradual halt.

The first thing that I do remember is looking up and seeing the car 200 yards away and hearing a lot of noise. As I pulled myself to my feet my body throbbed all over and the whole left side of my face felt numb, an expanded tight mass. As I reached the car I stumbled and slapped down on the bonnet. As looked up to my horror I could see the people in the car staring at me open mouthed and silent the reason this shook me up so much is because they to me were blurred and somehow double, Greg came down from the position that I held a few minutes earlier and helped me into the front seat of the car. They wouldn't let me look at myself in the mirror and told me,"Your in a bad way,your face is all messed up." This assured me to no end and I just urged them to to take me home. On the way back in my ears all I could hear was an extremely loud buzzing like the feedback from a loud guitar and all I could see was a blur of lights and I felt so sick. I felt confused,panicy but a sort of drunken happiness. When I reached my house the other friend Paul helped me out of the car and to my front door, When my mum answered I held my gloves up to my face to cover it up as I felt some strange sort of shame over what I had done. I said nervously,"I have," I paused to try and think of a suitable explaination,"I've had an accident." By now I think my mum had figured this out and 'thanked' Paul and gently took me towards the car. We collected my dad from the local pub and drove to hospital. It wasn't until about half way to hospital that I started to notice the pain, I couldn't move my neck without feeling stabbing pains surrounding it and in my mouth I could taste my teeth like grit or sand in a sandwich and I could feel a gaping hole in my face on my cheekbone. I spent three hours in casualty that night and had fourteen x-rays. At breakfast the following morning I was still tired after an uncomfortable sleepless night with my neckbrace. I tried to eat some breakfast but apart from still feeling violently sick whenever I tried to bite my jaw together it felt as if it had rusty hinges. That Saturday I was at hospital for four and a half hours and I had another five x-rays to see if I had broken my jaw or cheek bone.

That day I was operated on, I had my face numbed by a cold local anaesthetic and then prodded around and emptied of any bits of the runway that I had taken with me. As he cleaned me up I could feel the skin being lifted away from my cheekbone and all the grit being emptied out. After much discussion between several doctors that I could see leaning above me staring into my face it was decided that I couldn't have stitches because there wasn't enough intact skin to attach them to, this meant that some bits of my face will be scarred forever. After being visited by other interesting people such as dentists and other clever people I was sent home with a out patient card in my hand. It wasn't until three days after my mishap that I was eating properly again.

I still have recurring night and daymares recalling the moment of desperately grabbing at the car as I fell away from it. Also as ever I am entriged and mystified as to the strangeness of an accident in the way that one second before it happening you are perfectly okay and they next your life can be totally change forever.

love from

The Creature

Wow, this is GCSE English Coursework from 1993 that I have just found! I have only corrected missing words, apart from this piece is entirely as the sixteen year old me wrote it! I'm pretty pleased with this short take to be honest, although I have no idea what I was getting at with the last paragraph!

I met him at a parents and teachers meeting actually, he was worried about his daughter. He came over to me after we had been served refreshments and introduced himself,
"May I introduce myself?" Certainly I said and he continued,
"My name is Bernard Butler, Burgess's father." I was fooled by his charm early on in our relationship,
"Ah yes your daughter is in my form," I looked up at him to make sure he was listening to me. This reflex came from teaching pupils with difficulties listening. At that moment I was hoping that burgess wasn't one of the awkward few. After feeling satisfied that he was listening I continued by enquiring as to what his problem was in the politest way possible. "How can I help you?" I asked with a well trained smile on my face. He frowned at me. I could see that he was mentally quizzing himself over my false smile. He consulted a piece of paper that he was holding and then looked up at me to continue,"She seems to be coming home with the same problem every evening." He paused as if he didn't want the next thing he said to spoil the first impression that I was getting of him. "She seems to be coming home every night very tired," he continued with a note of caution in his voice,"I was just wondering." He stopped and looked down at his scruffy piece of paper as if for some kind of childish comfort or security. I urged him on,
"You can discuss anything with me, a eight year old's education is very important and if things are not cleared up now then it could have a serious effect on Burgess's later education." It didn't seem to help and I felt snobbish for grabbing the chance to show off my public school education. After a while he continued but only then first putting in a apology for as what he probably saw as an insult to me and my teaching methods,
"Please don't think I blame you too much but," he stuttered again, "I was just wondering if it was if she was having any problems with you or any other members of staff or if she is being given to much work or anything," he concluded by looking up at me in a sorrowful fashion.

I could tell that he hadn't really said everything that he wanted to. It was as if he had sat at home for a long time thoroughly thinking out what he was going to say but when it came to saying it he failed terribly and surrendered to the pressure of the situation. I tried to help him out in the short time that was left before I had to be on my way home. I thought for a while and then said,
"Well I am afraid that I can't at the moment think of anything that is happening in my lessons that could be affecting her by making her tired but I will look into it for you." I felt as if I had been no help at all but he seemed satisfied. At the time I thought that this was because he genuinely contented with my reply but I was later to find out that it was because he had a heart cold as stone and the concern for his daughter Burgess wasn't genuine and the only problem was that it was keeping him awake or causing some other hassle that his ego considered damaging to himself.

I didn't think about him at all for at least the next two weeks and apart from the occasional check on his daughter Burgess it never crossed to think about him. A few days later it became clear why Burgess had been losing sleep. She had been out late at night and presumed that her father Mr.Butler didn't know this fact so I phoned him up to invite him in for a chat.

Anyway the matter with his daughter was soon sorted out and he invited me out to lunch as a sort of thank-you present. I kept putting it off but he seemed determined so in the end I submitted. He took me to a lovely restaurant and we had a nice chat and the topic of converse soon drifted far from that of his daughter and her academic abilities. We talked about past lovers and about the sort of people that we liked although we never actually got as far as using words as strong as love or romance. It was a pleasant meal and as I drove home I thought about how compatible we seemed. I couldn't help but feel a little bit attracted to him as he was the first man that I had met in a long while outside the school due to the new national curriculum coming into force. He seemed a nice enough eligible man but I decided I wasn't going to make the first move and if he never did then too bad.

For about two weeks he kept me waiting. For two weeks I was thoroughly going through everything that he said to me that evening. Every look, every piece of body language came under close scrutiny. My mind was trying to sieve out all the useless bits like the please and thank-yous and trying to decipher and pull out any hidden meanings that could be crucial to the next meeting (if there was going to be one that was). I was starting to decide after a while that there was going to be one. The reason for my subconscious deciding this was probably because being away from someone you totally forget all the bad things about them and just focus on the good things. I think that it had been made worse by me deciding that it didn't really matter if nothing became of it because frankly I didn't think anything substantial would. So I just sort of fantasized and dreamed about times that we could spend together or how we would look good together. But then there was the common sense side to my thinking considering things like if we did get together then it could be difficult with his daughter Burgess in my primary school class. Then the common sense side really took hold and reminded me that we had only met a couple of times to I was rather making some broad hopes that could to easily be smashed to smithereens so I tried to forget him.

I like to think that I have good will power so after putting Bernard to one side of my conscious mind you can imagine my surprise when he phoned me asking if I would consider seeing him about something totally unconnected with school. I of course agreed too quickly, I didn't even stop to think why if he was so interested what he had been doing for the last two weeks.

He took me out quite a few times but never confirmed my fears that he wasn't interested or my hopes that he was. This troubled me so I rang him up. To my horror I found out why he had always shied away from giving me his home number. When the phone was finally answered by an overjoyed Burgess she bubbled with excitement an thankfully she didn't recognise my voice,
"Mummy and Daddy are back with me," she blurted out. Assuming she was confused I asked her to get Bernard for me. Without prompting she explained her earlier outburst,"Mummy went but now she's home dad is really happy so am I, so is mummy!" Shocked and confused I hung up and sat down to think.

It later turned out that the reason for Burgess's tiredness and the reason that Bernard seemed to have no knowledge of her late nights was because she had been staying at her mother's temporary home. Her parents had split up and Bernard seemed only to have become interested in me when I was the only person showing him any affection. The two weeks that I didn't worry about was a period time when Mr and Mrs.Butler had been trying to sort out their differences.

Falling in and out of love can be traumatic enough but being played with is like being let down before you have been picked up.
I was heartbroken and I felt that I had to get away so I applied for temporary teaching in a small town in the Yorkshire Dales. In this town I became familiarised with an old lady that I felt I could confide in. She was always referred as The Creature by the townspeople, the dressmaker for whom she did buttonholing, the sacristan who used to search the pews for her on the dark winter evenings before locking up, and even the little girl Sally, for whom she wrote out the words of a famine song. Life had treated her rottenly, yet she never complained but always had a ready smile, so that her face with its round rosy cheeks was more like something you could eat or lick; she reminded me of nothing so much as an apple fritter.

The art of harnessing stupidity to end an argument.

Whilst I steadfastly believe that everyone on this green and blue ball of rock is welcome to hold their own opinions it is the negative expression of finding distaste in the pastimes of others that has always ‘gripped my shit’. While Mr.J.Bloggs of nowhere street, obscures-town may be entitled to his opinion that flying in aeroplanes is a foolish and dangerous act he somewhat diminishes my respect for his opinion by making statements like,
“If God had meant us to fly we would have wings!”
By the same token - Mr.J.Bloggs - if God had intended you to wipe your arse after pushing out waste digested food one would have bog roll instead of hands. Had god intended us to eat Soufflés evolution would have granted us dishwasher proof cutlery instead of these clumsy blunt fingers of ours. Reducing an argument to its base components in order to arm yourself with equivalent of a lyrical tantrum will immediately lessen the opinion of your debating skills that others may hold of you. But it is a lot of fun.

Not a lot of people know this; but I am pretty much fluent in sign language. To end an argument with a deaf person using sign language one simply turns ones back, you have placed a physical barrier on a disagreement that sound and reason can not penetrate. By representing your case in a debate using a ludicrous proposition (or example) throws up a defensive brick wall of illogic, in much the same way as turning your back on a an argument with a deaf friend puts up an impenetrable defence against further confrontation. If someone claims to me that horse racing should be respected and revered as it is the sport of kings, I can kill the debate stone dead by enquiring as to which monarchs history has recorded as being the most fleet of foot in a steeple chase. I will appear no more intelligent to my verbal sparring partner (quite the opposite), but I have made it perfectly clear this is a discussion in which I no longer wish to invest my physical presence nor my mental energy.

When faced with an opponent of obviously high standing on the IQ scale offering up a ludicrous retort can also be used to put out the smouldering of inevitable defeat before it develops into a fireball of humiliation that will be much harder to extinguish. However, there must always be a relevant thread to your reply. When asked your thoughts on the latest brain numbing supermarket marketed mega-best-seller the reply, “your mum smells of horse urine” will never gain the begrudging respect something like paraphrasing Groucho Marx will install in your unwelcome opponent:
“From the moment I picked up the book until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.”

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why life is so great, and why being poor is the path to happiness.

Originally written for Lights Go Out zine in February 2008.

With all this doom and gloom about the financial arse up we’re currently suffering (thanks to greedy banking sorts) it’s easy to temporarily forget just how great life really is.

Speak to most financially successful folk and they’ll quote either their childhood or a time of near bankruptcy as the happiest time of their lives. There must be a reason for this. Why do people that strive so hard to submerge themselves in a huge pile of cash revel so much in memories of poverty? It can’t be that musing on past poverty highlights just how much cash they’ve made can it? I think it’s because money brings hassle.

Now I’m as lazy as the next oik and to a certain extent the thought of unimaginable wealth makes me unimaginably queasy. I’m sure the average Joe Public idolises the lottery because they thing that more money means less work. Whilst it might be true that after even a modest lottery win the chances are you’ll never have to sit in a factory for twelve hours straight ever again, but the stresses of cash management can bring far more harmful health effects than you may think. For one thing the most you have the materialistic you will become, and therefore the further from happiness you will have travelled. Why do you think the hate filled piously unfulfilled folk that support the BNP (they’re ultra hardcore Tories remember) get so riled up about immigration? It’s because they are worried that Johnny Foreigner wants to take their STUFF, their things, their material possessions.

I’ll end this itty bitty column by taking this logic to its extreme; if you owned nothing, if you had no money at all what would your priorities be? I very much doubt you’d be worried about the local smack heads breaking into your house to nick your plasma screen telly! This could very nearly bring me to another point about the illegality of drugs being the main cause of drug problems, but that’s for another time and this was supposed to be a positive column!


Le chat est dans la fenêtre

Originally written in October 2008 for a Japanese zine about windows and views that was eventually published late 2010.

I’m fully aware that sometimes I might be seen as a male equivalent of a mad cat lady, and if being involved in IT doesn’t help, publishing a zine seals the deal. This window tells the story of the adult years of my life, which I will now summarise before your very eyes. Being the sort of lad that was happy to drift through school and college without exerting much effort it came as something of a shock to me that fingers were being wagged at me telling me I must get a career. I attempted to skirt around the issue for several years, spending my time on social security and well, not doing very much of anything at all, other than staring out of our window at our shabby garden.

Eventually the nagging voice of the Government forced me into doing volunteer work and this led to me being accidently employed to support adults with learning disabilities, or ‘special people’ as a kids TV presenter would probably call them. After a few years the fear of sleepwalking unwittingly into a career convinced me to seek an income elsewhere.

Having spent my teenage years quite effectively destroying my dad’s computer, I had become quite adept and also fixing said computer. This didn’t go unnoticed and a friend of the family gave me a job destroying other people’s computers, and then fixing them. After two years of whizzing around the county breaking and fixing things I was thinking back fondly to my school days, a time when I was persistently in trouble with those in authority for indulging with a passion in my favourite pastime, staring out of windows. The fact I was in the top sets for each subject didn’t trouble me, I think at the time I already had a strong grasp of the concept that all life on earth is fleeting. I wanted to sit back and enjoy life. When I was supposed to be taking a nursing exam at college I decided to stare out of the window and watch a large building being demolished rather than complete my exam paper. As far as I was concerned I only had this one chance to watch that very building being smashed down by a large crane, whereas I would have many more opportunities to fail an exam. My theory was validated when I re-sat that exam a week later and much to my delight all the questions were identical and I scraped a pass. I had proved to myself that I had wisely spent my time in the previous exam staring out of the window; watching lumps of concrete the size of small cars come crashing down.

When a small technical detail (like clients not paying us) led to me losing my job I accidently got a job sitting behind a desk in London. My initial excitement at having a new window to stare out of was quickly put down when I found out that for most offices in London all you can see when looking out of a window is someone else’s window. Two years of this proved too much (even although I had four hours a day to stare out of a train window) and I decided that if I was going to spend my time staring out of windows then I may as well do it at home, where I had a little more control over the view. In fact half the reason we bought our house is that from the vantage point of the toilet you can see half of my town out of the window!

So now here I am, and the photo you are looking at is the view through my study window into my office. Here I spend my days working on my own, talking to the cats and staring out of the window. It would be a terribly lonely existence if I didn’t have the biggest window in the world at my disposal, the Internet.

Stuff ‘em - a beginners guide to fleecing the proles/ the sordid truth behind the recession headlines.

Originally written for Mass Movement zine in October 2008, obviously things have developed a bit since then!

It’s not like me to write knarly fecked off columns but I’m getting increasingly bugged by something that everyone else seems happy to lay back and accept. So it’s either write this column or bottle up my anger until it explodes in some socially unacceptable way involving nakedness and yelling! Well maybe that’s going a bit far, and to tell the truth I’m a bit concerned as to why I keep bringing the threat of my own nakedness into every day conversation and writings! Maybe I’m a streaker in waiting, dunno what I’m waiting for though, it’s not like anything that could do with growing is going to expand, and nothing that is currently a bit too flabby is going to retract. I’m thirty two years old now; old enough to settle into the gradual death that creeps up on us men once we’ve hit our peak at eighteen years old.

I apologise if by the time you’re reading this column all this fuss has gone away, maybe you should treat this column as historical comment or something? I normally try not to write anything for a zine that will date; I like to think of zines as existing in their own timeless world, unaffected by the passing of time in the real world. To a certain extent this is true, if you grab an old copy of Mass Movement, one of the old ‘two parters’ then you’ll find it’s just as enjoyable to read as it was at the time, same goes for any old zine. So if the unbelievable pace of this current recession has long past I can only apologise for the time you’re spending reading this column, but hey, you’ve come this far so why not stick with me till the end!

A few months ago, I was happily telling anyone that would listen that there wouldn’t be a recession in the UK. I vividly remember the last recession, in the bigger scheme of things it really wasn’t that long ago, and it certainly felt very different to current days. The recession of the early 90s was the final nail in the coffin for the majority of small ‘mom and pop’ businesses in the UK. I can remember corner shops just like the one in ‘Open All Hours’ all disappearing, sometimes when the frontage was bricked up it was quite literally like they had dissapeared. The days of being able to go into a small shop run by the owner (and with no employees) were finally dead. Strainsburys and Strescos had shot them in the knees, and the Tory government had kissed them full on the lips then terminated them with a thousand tiny cuts. The media at the time on the most part lamented this loss, others declared the loss of almost independently owned business the price of progress.

Eventually things levelled out and we got on with our lives, the choices we made were irrevocably reduced, the personality of private commerce stifled, suffocated with a large branded pillow until the feet stopped kicking. Progress. Death. So whilst I was in the throws of closing down the punk rock shop I ran with Rikki Flag was I still so insistent that there would be no recession this time? Northern Rock had messed up royally only to be nationalised, so no great threat there. My own mortgage is with Northern Rock, and barring a letter from them telling us to arse off elsewhere nothing bad happened. So another bank or building society will own my soul for the next twenty years, big deal. The reason I was confident that there wouldn’t be another huge downturn is that it just didn’t feel like it did last time. In the early 90s most of the businesses that went under had been struggling for some time. Maybe they hadn’t changed with the times, maybe they were stuck in their ways and reluctant to react to a changing world?

Sooner or later something was going to happen that would wipe out independent commerce. Nobody wanted to see it happen, but as a nation it was almost like we had already said goodbye long before this way of life died. Ignoring the local corner shop or co-op and taking a trip to the new local megamart was like visiting a relative in a hospice, then kicking out the plug to the life support on your way out of the room.

So how could we have a recession, there was no small business left to die!?! I was confident that all this talk of recession was a vehicle for selling newspapers, created by the right wing rags. It’s long been known that putting the frighteners on people is the fastest way to shift papers. Print a headline about aids riddled asylum seekers raping old ladies with the aid of paedophiles and copies will just fly off the shelves.

Why should we care if a bunch of banking executives had managed to sodemise themselves by lending stacks of cash to people that could never afford to pay it back? In fact when these tales of large banks going under first emerged I thought they had a ringing sound of justice about them. Not content with driving people into a situation whereby all their wages are promised to hire purchase/ car loan/ student loans/ buy now pay later/ credit cards these cunts found a way to rape them of even more money, give them a mortgage! This was the real golden goose, give someone that has defaulted on every loan they’ve ever had a mortgage and you’ve got them all sewn up as your bitch. They can’t shop around for the best deal so you don’t even need to be competitive, charge them ten times as much interest as any other mortgage and wow, your bonus this year is gonna be killer! Problem was if you lend money to people who have already proven they can’t repay credit then you can charge what you like, it’s not going to make any difference if they can’t pay you back! Traditionally this was still a win win situation for banks, if you lent someone X amount of cash to buy a house, even if they defaulted after just a year then the value of the house you’ve just repossessed is already far more than the value of the mortgage you’ve given these poor souls.

Let’s get one thing clear; these banks were already making obscene amounts of money. It’s not like they were a failing business that decided to take a make or break risk to stay afloat. They had exhausted all conventional means of making stacks of cash, and then they got greedy. Something went a little wrong that spoilt this orgy of greed, in just a few places in the world, for reasons unclear property values dipped a bit. Suddenly these defaults weren’t making you any cash, and oh, you didn’t have the cash to lend these poor bastards in the first place, and you borrowed if from some bigger boys in exchange for a cut of the profits! Now the bigger boys want the money back because they’d in turn borrowed if from some even bigger boys who now want it back, with profits! So at first I thought stuff em, serves them right. Then things started to get really weird. I don’t think many of us mere members of the public could quite fathom why the newsreaders were talking in such grave tones about banks in Iceland going under. Fewer people live in Iceland than live in Manchester, by quite a large margin. I know beer is about £10 a bottle in Iceland, but surely that was no reason for people to over borrow? I nodded in confident agreement as my mate Dready John declared that he welcomed the recession, as only those with material wealth had something to lose! Then things got even weirder. It turns out that when us drones have been paying our council tax local government and police forces had been investing the money in banks, not just any banks either, banks in Iceland! So as I write this that money appears to have gone. The money we have paid in good faith to public bodies in order to empty our trash, heal our sick and generally protect us has gone. The government has said something along the lines of, “well they’d better get it back!” which is about as useful as drink driver wishing they’d skipped the whisky that night they killed a child.

So by the time you read this hopefully everything will have levelled out, you’ll able to laugh at just how grim a picture I painted. Or maybe we’ll all be bolting shut our front doors and sharpening our kitchen knives, waiting for the inevitable slow knock of doom at our front door. Stuff ‘em.

Thanks to Graham Birks for the lovely photo of me at the top of the page.

The Importance of Paper

Originally written for Debunk zine in July 2005.

Okay, lets get something clear straight off the bat, I write a zine so this column is going to have just an itty bitty bit of bias, in fact saying this column is going to have a bit of bias is like saying catching your nuts on a razor wire fence may lead to mild discomfort. The whole ‘real zines vs. webzines’ thing has been done to death so this argument is going to be slightly different, in the way that wearing your shoes on the wrong feet is different. You know where the shoes go; it’s just an intangible ‘something’ is out of kilter. Right then, there’s two similes in the first 100 words, this column is going well!

My planned theme for this column is a random splatter of reasons I feel zines are more important now then ever. I do sense the irony of writing this for printing in a zine, but we’ll gloss over that in the same way American presidents gloss over interns (blimey, that’s a simile and a double ententré; I’m on top form today!) Anyhew, just as France and Austria once said, let’s get started...

When I was about 13 my obsession with music really kicked in. Bar three mates that lived in my village I figured that everyone else in the world was only half interested in music and bought whatever they felt was appropriate for each social event. This is the only way I could figure out status quo at barbeques and other musical anomalies. So upon stumbling across a zine I was overjoyed to see that other people in the world lived and breathed music as much as I did. I gleefully pawed through the photocopied pages wondering who all the bands were and tittered at the creative swearing and the like. Plus when I was that age zines seemed to half consist of pictures of lasses norks, which at age 13 was a definite plus! The quality of these zines was shite and most of the pages unreadable, but they held some sort of magic over me, like a window into an entirely different world that was exciting, rocking, friendly (and full of norks). Actually looking for these zines was like hunting for hen’s teeth, they only seemed to make it to about issue 2 or 3 then would disappear. As the years rolled by they just kinda disappeared. I assumed with the pritt stick and photocopying costs they just kinda went bust or the authors somehow because permanently stuck to something with pritt stick! It wasn’t until the Internet got big that I found out zines were very much alive and kicking and eventually started my own.

Zines give you the truth more than any mainstream magazine could, there are no big label kickbacks pushing bands that don’t deserve much more than being on that stupid MTV show where a bunch of losers get dressed up like a band they are into. Read a zine and you’ll get the whole (badly printed) truth, and nothing but the truth, and maybe some norks. Actually I shouldn’t say zines are badly printed, there are still a few photocopy jobs in existence (and long may they live) but on the whole zines appear to be professionally printed and look bloody great, like this zine!

So there you have it, if this is the first zine you’ve ever read then there’s a whole world out there for you to discover, so grab your SSAEs and get reading!

Thanks to Graham Birks for the lovely photo of me above.

The perils of Betterware

Originally written for Debunk zine in October 2005

They say that everyone Englishman’s home is his castle. In addition to the little forts I’ve built a few times out of clothes horses and sheets, the siege mentality is sometimes brought on from living in a town.. Admittedly sometimes I’ll leave the front door if someone knocks, the logic being that there’s no point in my expending energy only to get asked who my gas company is, I figure if it’s someone important like the Dominoes delivery guy or someone from environmental health telling me they are evacuating the area then they’ll knock at least twice. The gas thing is getting beyond annoying. I actually tip-toe to my front door when someone demands my attention by knocking at least twice.

We had our knackered old sash windows replaced with nice warm non-leaking plastic jobbies recently. The brain dead oik that brokered the ‘deal’ said he could offer us a nice glass front door. I politely pointed out (using manly one syllable words to ensure penetration through his gelled head) that I could think of nothing worse than bastards with clipboards seeing that I was actually at home when they want to quiz me about who I buy gas from. There’s a lot to be said for crouching furtively behind your good old fashioned (reasonably) solid wooden door trying to peer through the cracks at who/ what is waiting for your time and attention outside. The other reason for not wanting a glass front door is the view. Were our main entrance to be a plastic and fake stained glass masterpiece it would afford us panoramic views of the side of a van that always seems to be parked on the kerb outside our house, well that and a seemly unending stream of arguing track suited yoofs that appear to have nothing better to do than buy Tennents Super and walk up and down my road smoking cheap fags (I can only assume from the smell, that they are filled with sweepings from a donkey abattoir instead of tobacco) and shout at each other. The arguments never seem to resolve, mainly because deep down below the intricate layers of swearing nothing is actually being said. Crouching behind my door trying to figure out if even I know who our gas supplier is I’ve heard good long segments of these arguments. Whilst I applaud the preservation of regional dialects they are useless at solving arguments as no information or opinions are actually exchanged. A typical mid rant volley round my part of Ipswich may sound something like this, “f**k, c**ting f**king didunt, f**king f**k you f**k. I f**king c**ted the f**k, so f**k you c**t.” Admittedly I’ve embellished that sentence a little to drag it from the depths of total meaninglessness.

The fort mentality is enforced by the fact I work from home which means I’m here pretty much all the time. As a daytime castle dweller I join the leagues of house mums, professionally unemployed and drunks that are all perpetually confused by the whole phantom Betterware agent phenomenon. Despite the fact I spend 90% of my life less than four metres from the front door, and can hear mumbling morons pass my front door even when I’ve got loud music on I never seem to hear the people that drop off and attempt to collect these wee catalogues. One day the Betterware catalogue plops through the door, and there it stays until we get fed up of using it as a doormat or one of the cats pisses on it. Usually somewhere in-between the initial landing of this catalogue of modern wonders (and it’s inevitable destruction) little slips of paper start coming through the door telling me that they want the bloody thing back. They normally say something jaunty like ‘we called but you were out’, which frankly is dogshit as I’m always here!

Recently I think they’ve been getting inpatient with our lack of purchasing and the wee notes come quicker and in greater numbers. Fortunately we don’t have a carpet in our hall yet so most nag notes simply drift down between the gaps between the floorboards to befuddle the archaeologists of the future.

I am specifically banned from ever actually reading the Betterware catalogues these days. As far as my wife is concerned it would be the equivalent of sending me to market and having me return with some magic beans. Sometimes I swear I hear the Betterware catalogue taunting and calling to me from its resting place behind the front door. I have to resist the temptation to slide the brightly coloured catalogue from its ill fitting plastic sleeve. I have to resist it because I’m always really impressed by the kitchen gadgets contained therein.
Emma (my wife) is busy upstairs doing something important like deciding how much of the crap I’ve stashed in the loft I actually need to keep so I’ve tip toed to the front door and back hiding the Betterware catalogue up my jumper in a style akin to a teenage boy trying to smuggle a grot mag past his parents and up to the secrecy (and ahem, ‘comfort’) of his bedroom. Flicking through the pages (printed on the thinnest paper known to man) I’ve already spotted some things I want to buy. I wasn’t even put off by the gurning Gloria Hunniford on the front cover, which incidently was hidden by the note from the distributor letting me know when they will be returning to collect said catalogue in less than 48 hours!. I know they won’t knock, and they will never see their catalogue again, in fact I’m also pretty sure they are actually incorporeal in some way. Just like TV detector van, I’ve never seen a Betterware agent, seen a photo of one, or indeed met anyone that knows or is related to one. I’m totally convinced they are some sort of phantom beings wandering the earth with armfuls of kitchen gadget catalogue, cursed with an inability to knock on doors or ring doorbells. Oh, maybe that’s hell? Anyway, back to the catalogue; the first thing that impresses me is the calibre of the free gifts. Spend £15 and you’ll get some needles, some wee discs for labelling your keys (handy for thieves that steal your bag obviously), and some sort of device for keeping a seat belt off your massive boobs. Well at least that’s what I gather from the photo, and boy oh boy does the buxom lass look so happy that her chest is no longer defined by a strap of live saving webbing, never again will a truck driver be able to gawp through her sunroof and see exactly how big her boobs are. Frankly I’d gleefully forfeit all these free gifts if they could promise to never send Gloria Hunniford round to collect the catalogue, frankly the though of Gloria Hunniford being of incorporeal form with powers over printed matter is enough to put me off my supper. Let’s trip the plastic fantastic here, join me (before my wife catches me and punishes me) as I skip gaily through the pages of this Betterware catalogue.Right off the bat we have a fake pebble, now why might you wonder would anyone want a fake pebble? Ah, well flip the pebble over and under a handy bit of plastic emblazoned ‘SLIDE HERE’ and a helpful arrow informing you of the correct direction is a cavity for hiding your front door key. Genius, absolute genius. Consider for a moment that this catalogue has been jammed through every letterbox in a ten mile radius, and barring rabid dogs, local low levels of literacy (and people with better things to do) a whole load of people are going to know that I don’t in fact like to keep an ornamental pebble by my front door, and that I am in fact a moron inviting a burglary that would only require a additional written invitation to be considered by the police as less a crime, more a housewarming with a poor choice of guests. That aside I don’t have a front garden so upon finding a mystery rock on the pavement outside my house the local kids would do much the same as they do when someone lets their dog park it’s breakfast in front of my house, and boot the object down the road with all the style, skill and panache of Bobby Moore. Bobby Moore in his current condition that is.

On the opposite page to the rock of stupidity are some small glow in the dark pebbles. What is it with Betterware and fake stones? The idea of these small wonders is that you put them in the gravel next to your garden path as a guide in the dark. My cats would love this, no more need to stumble around the garden looking for somewhere to shit; these glowing beauties would guide them in like Oprah on a ham.

Next up we have some no doubt fantastically toxic fluid for removing oil stains from your drive. As community minded as I am I’m afraid not giving a shite about leaving drops of oil on the road where I park my car is a small luxury as far as I’m concerned. I recycle pretty much everything that enters my house, conserve electricity and use recycled bog roll so rough that I constantly seem to have a ringpeice like a tail gunner’s thumb; a drop of oil every few months doesn’t have me waking up in a cold sweat. I used to own a really old Land Rover that used to leave so much oil on the road where we parked the road looked like it had been painted to be camouflaged from itself. Although of course I’m certainly not proud of that fact it did discouraged the kids on our street from playing street footy outside our house, a point that I’m sure my windows are eternally grateful for. I think if I was to use this drive cleaner on the road most of the kids down here would go blind. But at least they wouldn’t kick my secret pebble around.

Page 9 tempts me to buy a device with the tagline ‘Move heavy objects easily’. Now as much as I can convince myself I need things from this catalogue I know I don’t need this. My solution doesn’t cost me a penny, it’s a simple system consisting of me having a spinal injury and my friends all being nice people. The fact I’m a bass player and have a huge Trace Elliot stack is starting to scratch the sheen of this plan as far as my band-mates are concerned. But still £4.99 for what essentially looks like the worst skateboard in the world, I’ll pass this time if it’s all the same to you.

Bags seem to be another big thing in this catalogue. Bags for things like bread, so your £4 buys you a bag, wait for it, a bag with the word bread written on it. I’m glad I’m writing this column, and thanks to you all for sitting in on what is rapidly turning into some sort of public intervention to stop me buying shite I don’t need! Actually just for the record I don’t think I ever actually successfully bought anything from Betterware. It would involve leaving some cash in the bag with the catalogue on our front door step, surely that’s a massive floor in the big Betterware plan to dominate the world? We had to cancel our milk as it couldn’t survive for more than 30 minutes on our doorstep without satisfying some insatiable desire to see more of the world and disappear from our lives forever. There’s no way in hell cold hard cash is gonna last at all on our street! I’ve actually run several experiments on just how light fingered the travellers through my neighbourhood are. I should explain at this point that I am positive that it’s none of the residents of my road getting involved in this tea leafing. We removed the patio in our garden once and so hired a skip to depose of the smashed remains. The fact we found another two patios under that first one is a story for another time. Before long the skip was full, and acting as an excellent traffic calming measure on our street. The cars hack down our street so fast it’s nearly as hard to hang onto wing mirrors as it is freshly delivered pints of milk. Atop the pile of rubble I placed an old car stereo that we’d had knocking around in our loft for years. It was so old in fact that it didn’t have FM, and the radio tuner was one of those precarious wobbly needle affairs. For good measure I twatted the stereo hard and square in the middle of the top with a lump hammer. This left a dent in the top of the device large enough to serve as a fairly passable ashtray, as well as bulging the sides of the stereo out and spewing some of the useless innards out of a few gaps in the casing. So all in all it looked a bit like a metallic spring roll that had been stamped on good and hard. Standing back and admiring the positioning of this bait, (just out of reach of anyone under six foot tall) I realised that something was missing; I had to record this experiment in some way. I nipped back indoors to grab our camera. Our house is pretty small and I was only gone no more than ten seconds. I hopped gleefully out of my front door, pausing only to avoid a few dog turds and a strangely familiar rock that my neighbour had left on the pavement only to discover the knackered old car stereo had already gone. Impressed but a little disappointed I glanced up and down the road expecting to see a cackling hunchback in a stripy jumper skipping away on tip-toes furtively looking out from under his black cap. But alas, there was nobody to be seen. I looked around the edges of the skip to see if the stereo bait had simply fallen off, but no it had gone. Maybe it had been chatting to a milk bottle? At that exact moment, and even although I had failed to grab a photographic record of events I was pretty amused at the speed of the outcome. On retrospect I think I’d probably been a been too much of a tease as a few weeks later my car was broken into and my stereo stolen. They wrenched open the driver’s door and so the car was a write-off. The bastards even took a Replacements tape that a friend had just made me. And so ended my enthusiasm for social experimentation.

Page 13 has a plastic cracker storage system, which in my house would be nothing short of cheerfully optimistic.

Page 14 has some sort of device for dispensing cold drinks. Now I know mankind has evolved considerably over the last twenty years. We live in an age of mobile phone, the internet, unisex underwear and more importantly we live in an age of enlightenment that has finally admitted that the femidom was never a good idea. It may have seemed like a good idea (more so to the man), well it may have seemed like a good idea till the time for standing up comes. Have you ever tipped a plastic bag full of water upside-down? I should state at this point I speak from no personal experience whatsoever in a field report type deal with Femidoms. It was my job at a sixth form health fair to demonstrate how to apply/ insert femidoms, ably assisted by a giant transparent plastic pelvis. I was at a formative age, and sticking my fingers inside a plastic vagina for days on end could frankly have sent me one way or the other. I fought for days to avoid the formation of a mental image in my head of what a femidom might look like in situ. Eventually whilst packing away my perspex partner I had what can only be described as a horrible moment of mental clarity, I suddenly put all the jigsaw pieces together and had a realisation of what a fitted femidom would look like. From what I could gather, and bearing in mind I’d been more intimate and inserted more femidoms over the previous few days than more men would in several lifetimes, (and with far less finite satisfaction) here is what I realised the device would look like were I at that age lucky enough to get the chance to use one on a woman with a genital region not comprised entirely of plastic. To help you form this retina burning image in your own minds (and you may not thank me), I’m going to talk you through it step by step. Take one plastic bag, take one large stone (just look for one on your neighbours doorstep). Put said stone in said bag, and set off for your nearest large river. Upon arriving at said river throw bag containing stone into deep mud. Stand back and gaze upon the half submerged plastic bag, and what I can only fear is what femidoms looked like in use. Incidently the applicator ring part of the may have been their biggest downfall. Apparently few men realised that this small rubber ring was only for inserting the femidom prior to getting carnal. Leaving this ring in place tended to lead to a strangulated penis. Far more intelligent men removed the ring, they made fantastic pick holders for your guitar. I actually finally lost my applicator/ pick holder just a few weeks ago and was royally gutted. So there you go, the drink cooler was such a dull product I had to spice it up with talk of experimental contraception! Anyway a device for dispensing cold drinks has been around for years, it’s called a pub.

Page 15, a bag with ‘Potato Bag’ written on it, only £4.99 well my goodness!

Page 20 has a device that I actually think looks pretty cool. It’s a small bin type thing that fits over the middle console in your car. The front actually is a bin, the top has drink holders and a space to put sandwiches or a burger. If I fitted this to my car I wouldn’t be able to use the handbrake, gears or to a certain extent the steering wheel. So if I buy this product the likelihood is I’ll die, but at least I’ll have a full belly and be well hydrated.
Something this catalogue has brought to my attention is a lot of problems I never realised I had in my life. Apparently hearing things slide around in the boot is a real problem in today’s society. Admittedly if my bass amp was sliding around I’d be concerned, with the size and weight it represents it’s likely to go through a window and cause untold devastation to whichever of our nations roads I’m hurtling down at the time. But a few empty drinks bottles and fag packets don’t really concern me. Something even great that this catalogue has taught me is that the solutions to these problems I never knew I had are even more tangible and logical. If I hear stuff sliding around in my car boot in future I won’t do a u-turn on the motorway, and head home to by a Betterware boot caddy, I’ll just turn the music up so I can’t hear said items. I don’t know if I’m just a raging simpleton but a lot of these products simply don’t make a lick of sense to me. A fine example would be the secure pillow storage system (why is everything a system?), now excuse me, but when my pillows aren’t supporting my dribbling unconscious head I’ve never given a thought as to their security. Are there pillow thieves out there akin to the hair thieves that Eddie Izzard warned us about?

‘The quick and easy way to remove pet hairs and lint’ declares the product on page 29. Well thank god for this, I thought there was only the hard method that I’ve been using, well away goes my electron microscope, tweezers and blueprints for a hairless household pet. Yes before you mention it I know there are plenty of hairless pets, but this is my column and you’ll have to tolerate my slightly unusual comedic vehicles while you’re reading it! I’m interested to know if anyone ever challenges these claims. A radical new needle design declares that I’ll never have trouble threading a needle again. I wonder if anyone has ever tumbled through the doors of Betterware HQ pissed out of their mind clutching in one hand a thread of cotton, and one of these marvellous needles in the other hand. Screaming that he feels cheated, try as he can that needle just will not be threaded. At which point the Betterware staff member sent to deal with this intrusion may well point out that said drunkard is in fact holding a puppy and kebab. I think I’m suffering here, as I haven’t dived into one of these catalogues for sometime I think I’m getting over stimulated, hence the puppy and kebab comment, I’ll do what I can to get it back together.

Page 31, arg apparently there are evil looking mites in my pillows, this isn’t helping me come back down to earth. Maybe that’s what the secure storage for pillows is for, to stop these wee buggers from taking over the earth. Just above this product there’s a cheapo burglar alarm that you can stick to your door. To illustrate the point there’s a burglar’s hand creeping round the edge of the door. I’d love to find out whose hand it is; I bet they’ve got my car stereo the bastard!

Page 31. ‘make better use of your bed’. No comment.

Well there are 100 pages to this catalogue so you’ll probably be pleased to know I’ll go no further. I’m starting to fear for my grip on reality, and I think I’m going a little cross-eyed. There’s no moral to this tale, apart from maybe that you should look around you, it’s an amusing place we live if it you look at it from the right angle. Actually scratch that, this tale has no moral at all, other than ‘buy me something nice’.

Thanks to Graham Birks for the lovely photo of me shown above.

If all political parties are now the same, why do I still believe in the English political system, or do I? I'm confused!

I can't remember who I wrote this column for, or when, but I thought I might as well post it on the blog anyway! Oh, I'm assuming I wrote this during the second Bush administration, and certainly before the English MP expenses fuss.

I remember when I growing up, the political parties in this country were easy to tell apart. I knew this because Harry Enfield told me all Tories were fascist snobs blaming all the ills of society on single mothers and dole scum. The news told me that all Labour supporters were miners on strike in Yorkshire and Lancashire. If you were a Conservative then you were well moneyed, drove a posh car and live in *gasp* a detached house! If you wore the red Rosette you lived in a two up, two down terrace house with at least four generations of your family, your ten (or more) grubby faced barefooted scraggly little urchin offspring and a comfort blanket of thick smog.

Not often spotted on television, the rare Liberals all drove 2CVs, stunk of body odour and ambling around in their Jesus saddles stoned out of their whacky minds. Now of course I know there is no longer a defining difference between who puts a tick by which box. Of course the truth is you probably never could.

Whilst trade union members are more likely to vote for Labour candidates they appear to do so because they may have a member of parliament in power that they can control. Trade Unions may financially support Labour candidates as they can be used once in power to push the interests of that union’s members. That’s surely no different to rich businessmen ploughing cash into Conservative campaigns in order to get tax breaks? I believe that there are people in politics because they genuinely believe they can improve our lot, or better represent the oppressed.

But the media view given to us is that most members of parliament are fairly idle, if they’re not snorting crack off a prostitute whilst taking cash for questions then they’re involved in dodgy property deals or shoplifting posh booze. And therein lies the problem, we are only given the identities of public figures that support the current marketing slant of any media corporation that is trying to relieve us of our money. There was a case recently of an MP who was ‘disgraced’ for having a gay affair. He has been a faithful parliament representative for many years, and probably helped more than a few doddery old dears with banal rights of way issues, but for some reason this appears to mean that he’s not allowed to get his end away in the manor he sees fit!

The identity of entire nations can be dictated by the press. Currently America is portrayed worldwide in the American media as some sort of crusader for the cause of good, whilst everyone in the known world sees the country as being a self serving, self interested peddler of horror and death. Now a helluva lot of people live in America so surely not all of them are flag waving Bush fanatics? In our hearts we know this isn’t true, in fact I think this is the issue that has finally tripped up the media at large. For the first time (as far as I can remember, although probably since Vietnam) the world at large views the message of the news media with phenomenal scepticism. We simply don’t believe the hype, and all Americans I know are horrified at the way their country is represented. In fact some USA citizens I know now lie about their nationality when abroad!

So what’s the answer to inoculating ourselves from all this financially guided misinformation? Well we already have the means if we haven’t grabbed hold of it for the purpose of good. The internet has become our alternative communication network, but how accurate is the information we have? Sure it’s not filtered and guided to the same extent as anything on say, the Fox network but it’s inaccurate in a whole different way. With billions of people tip tapping away at any one time online we have created ourselves the universes biggest ever game of Chinese whispers! So the responsibility for accurate news now lies with us as individuals. It’s our job to research and filter any news we get before we pass it on to our friends and colleagues. By doing this we may even find the truth. But do we really want the truth?

Cheers to Graham Birks for the lovely photo of me you see above.

Organic Gardener trial column

I've just found this really short column that I wrote as a tryout for 'Organic Garden' magazine about a year ago, so I figured I might as well post it here!

This isn’t the first time we’ve had a plot at our local allotments. We lost the first allotment about eight years ago and have lamented it ever since. To be fair we had no idea what we were doing; I was primarily interested by the prospect of having a shed that I could sit in at dusk and sup Guinness, reclining in an old armchair. I might have even taken up smoking a pipe! My memory of the last plot consists of back breaking digging, collapsing sheds and very little produce. In the end the plot was burnt to the ground by allotment old boys, it was like getting the Mafia kiss of death. So what’s changed since that fist glorious failure and why am I involved in an allotment again? My wife now understands horticulture. She has won me over with the promise of a ‘no dig’ organic approach. Also appealing is the prospect of using our produce to make wine and beer! Getting a shed is a top priority, as well as finding an old armchair. I found out today that our old plot is now the allotment car park, make of that what you will!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Screen Break Video #001 | The Bluetones 'If'

I've started using a screen break timer program that forces me to take a few minutes away from the screen at least once an hour, so I thought I'd see if I could make a short video in that time. The actual video only took about two minutes to shoot, but the screen break plan kinda failed when I realised I'd have to edit using my pc! Still, even editing only took a couple of minutes, thereby provign just how easy and accessible making short crappy videos on your digital camera really is!

And here's the proper version;

This video was partly inspired by Peter Sellers spoken word version of 'A Hard Days Night'.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Little Camden was a site I built in 2006 after opening a shop called Know Your Product with a friend called Rikki Flag in Ipswich. We quickly made friends with some of the alternative shops around us and someone came up with the idea that as we technically weren't competitiors we should really help each other out. Who actually came up with the idea of calling this area of Ipswich 'Little Camden' is up for debate, and quite frankly I don't care! I built the site to perform well when people searched Google for the term 'shopping ipswich' - the idea being that it would draw attention to our little group of shops that were just outside the main shopping district in Ipswich. The site worked very well, but sadly not well enough to keep most of the shops open. We closed Know Your Product nearly a year ago (as I write this), and after continuing to run for a few months I started to struggle to find the enthusiasm.

Where are they now?
  • Staunch Extreme moved to the other side of town.
  • Know Your Product closed down.
  • Cat Black closed down.
  • Ipswich Record and Tape Exchange closed down.
  • The Spread Eagle did close down, but is now open again.
So with so many of the core alternative shops going out of business I decided the dream was over and shut down the site. This blog post serves as a sort of archive of the photos I took for the site, as well as a last resting place for the map that showed where each shop was location.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dom's stickless drum solo

I seem to be posting a lot of drum stuff at the moment, and this post is no exception!

Filmed at the Bigger Picture practice rooms in Ipswich, this is ZEEB? drummer Dom practicing his stickless drum solo for the charity heavy metal covers night we played. The song you can hear us playing just before the solo is 'Camouflage' by Stan Ridgway, it went down so well on the night well probably keep it in our set!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Real Overdose Live Reviews

Here's something I wrote for the legendary REAL OVERDOSE zine years ago, I'll readily admit the writing isn't great, but hopefully I've improved a bit in recent years!

Ironically Maiden
Ipswich SteamBoat Tavern
24th August 2001 Okay so this night was always going to be an education for two major reasons. 1.I hate covers bands. 2. I have never heard a single Iron Maiden song! When I first turned up at the mighty StamBoat it looked like Ironically 'Brian' Maiden had enough gear to cause involuntary bowel movements through sheer volume (often a good thing!) Their mixing desk was bigger than my living room. Just before the band started I checked into the latrines to tinkle the ivories and was faced by the sight of four or five hairy men squeezing themselves into lycra leggings. "Fookin spandex," they could be heard saying in broad northern accents. Then they started, the lepricorn like singer bouncing round the stage in his studded cod-piece, and four other geezers including a mini drummer pulling 'I've got piles that are irritating my herpes' type faces. For the next few hours they did many songs, mostly about slaughtering daughters and running up hills or something. A lot of closet rockers turned out tonight, and the singer was forcing most of them to put one foot up on the monitors and play air guitars. If their guitarist can masturbate his organ as fast as he can his guitar it is no wonder he is built like a brick shit house! Anyway, a lot of people appeared to have a great time. Myself, I failed to see the irony.

Andrew Culture

Odd Man Out
2nd February 2002
SteamBoat Tavern
Ippo (and over to you Andrew,,,,)
Thank you Tard, you join me here the morning after remembering the night before when I was sat on a bar stool having dental surgery without anaesthetic and the queen mother was biting both my balls real hard and drawing blood. No matter how much I screamed or tried to break her away using her own gin bottle for leverage. Or is that just what I would have preferred to happen? When the band came on it became apparent that they were gonna be a rock covers band, how could I tell? There where at least three dead giveaways;
1 - Very Old man on Guitar, his guitar is an ultra heavy metal spiky job but he looks like a retiring bin man.
2 - a bassist who didn't just eat all the pies, he went out looting the pie shops for more.
3 - A singing bassist with a music stand in front of him and a very expensive five string bass. Somebody should tell him that the lower string is below the human range of hearing, or for that matter human caring, ho-hum.
We sat and watched as they murdered loads of songs that people loved. I could only tell this because of all the faces round the bar dropping. At the time I was going back over my life trying to think of something really bad that I had done, that I was now being punished for. Had I tripped over old ladies? Had I stolen a church collection box? No, none of the above so I can't be in hell, but it dam feels like it.
Within about ten minutes we had stopped watching the band altogether and turned to the in pub cctv to watch what later turned out to be the bassist's sons playing pool. The reason I found this out was that we invented a new game where you had to go find something to say to the kids in the pool room to get yourself on cctv! Really sad game I know, but with this band playing it was like back in the days before cable TV, you just had to make your own entertainment! We finished the night by having an after show party at my house without the band or anyone remotely connected to them. Spent a couple of hours saying rude things about the people on TV until one of the party started blowing chunks, then everyone started to stumble home. Who says rock and roll is dead huh! Well maybe after tonight it is just dead from the neck up.

Andrew Culture

Music in the Park
Christchurch Park
8th July 2001 Okay so not your usual gig, once a year the local council set up about 6 massive stages in the park in Ipswich, and it's for free! Didn't manage to shift my lazy arse down to there till about 5.30, was gonna go watch JUNGLE TRAIN, but they were on at lunchtime when I was in bed with a hangover (dam that homemade wine). JUNK CULTURE did apply to play but to the wrong stage! We applied to the local tin pot radio station SGR (stands for Simply Grating Radio), but they are operating an anti-rock policy so told us to go get fudged! The first act I was dragged taken to was SUFFOLK SCHOOL OF MAMBA, bit weird, kinda like being beaten rhythmically about the head relentlessly by dustbin lids. But man cannot live on punky bread alone. Left abruptly when we realised that LOVE JUNK were on at another stage. Stumbled down a muddy bank to see LOVE JUNK thrashing it out on what looked like a butchers lorry with the sides removed! An astonishing amount or skater kids were going generally nuts down the front, along with some old bloke playing air guitar in front of Wolfie! Love Junk were up to their usual standard; fun energetic punk, Scruff confusing the crowd with banter between songs, Mickey and Wolfie tuning up between every song and the new drummer just making friends with the crowd. As usual they rocked, and it looked like a LOT of people enjoyed them, and quite rightly so. Made it home shortly after, pausing only to stare sympathetically at the poor sod who was in a portaloo when some yoofs shoved it over!
Andrew Culture

Extreme Noise Terror, Failed Humanity, Vessel.
The Square, Harlow
15th July 2001 Not usually a hardcore metal fan, and have to admit really that we went to try and get on film, as it was FAILED HUMANITY's video shoot. ENT were a no show (although ENT front man Dean could been seen rocking manically with a bottle of cider in front of the stage), and we got there too late to see VESSEL, which was a shame cos apparently their drummer passed out halfway through the set! Not that we delight in others misfortune, but it would have been worth seeing that SPINAL TAP type moment! FAILED HUMANITY ambled on stage and within seconds we all felt like that chap in the armchair from the old TDK ad! The band play at about 300bpm, and saying they are brutal doesn't do them justice. It was quite amazing to hear something so violent and see what looked like a bunch of friendly blokes on stage. As this was our first 'proper' metal gig a few things made us giggle, like when the crowd was clapping after each aural assault, and letting out a sub-wookie type growl, well it was new to us. By the end of the set I felt like I had been beaten up, and my mind was lying in the gutter bleeding to death, which to FAILED HUMANITY would probably be taken as a compliment! To their credit, for a band that played so inhumanly fast, they were dam tight. Other highlights included Dean apparently pinching the keys to his managers Jag to go get doughnuts, a bunch of fans from Walthamstow bitching about all the 'kids' at the gig and JUNK CULTURE drummer Jonny pissing down a hole where a toilet should be at a garage should be on the way home, er, guess you had to be there!

Andrew Culture

Dawn Parade/ El Spoonio
25th October 2001
SteamBoat, Ipswich Got there just as EL SPOONIO were wrapping things up, which was a shame 'cos they sounded quite interesting. Kinda a tunefull mix between a light Foo Fighters and a medieval banqueting band? I will make more effort next time!
In no time at all DAWN PARADE were flinging themselves round on stage and treating everyone to a dose of 'gutterglam'. Not so sure 'bout gutterglam, don't know many gutter bands to compare them too, plus they all looked quite well washed! Kudos to DAWN PARADE for having the COOLEST bassist I have ever seen grace a stage (sorry Tard), plenty of lurching about and hitting his bass (we like that!) Singer Greg was fighting imaginary cobwebs as usual and everyone appeared to be lapping it up. There weren't many people at the SteamBoat, but everyone that was there had crammed themselves into the little area in front of the stage, which was cool to see. DAWN PARADE seem to be getting a rep as a band to be seen with, other Ipswich notable bands seen there tonight included OK HOTEL and VIOLENT PLAYGROUND, in fact KATE and LOUISE from VP looked like a force to be reckoned with in the dance! Other Kudos point to be awarded to DAWN PARADE for playing a really cool JOAN JET AND THE BLACK HEARTS cover, getting away with dramatically leaving the stage through the patio doors and then triumphantly returning for an encore, in a venue that had about 30 people in it, I'm not being sarc here, they did get away with it! Also sad muso Kudos to guitarist MOLEFUCKER for using a MusicMan guitar! Above all I was left with a sense of general confusion, and I am yet to figure out if that is a good thing or not! Also because I planted the seeds of a fantastic hangover whilst watching them that I am suffering now as I write this, I might even write something that could be construed as negative! I think this band is about 70% style (and they do look cool) and about 20% content, the other 10% is the bit that I am still confused about. I keep going to see them because I can never really pinpoint their sound, or any particular song. Saying that though, the marvellous Emma Culture has been humming one of their tunes all day! I suppose you could describe their sound as being Suede and Marc Bolan having a punch up, with Johnny Thunders throwing bricks from behind a nearby hedge and laughing at them. I will continue to go see them, if only to try and figure them out!

Andrew Culture

Thoughts Of Goan Column 27/11/01

Here's a column I wrote for the legendary REAL OVERDOSE zine years ago, I'll readily admit the writing isn't great, but hopefully I've improved a bit in recent years!

First Of all I would like to say 'hello' as this is my first column in RealOd, and a pleasure it is too! This column's subject may sway a bit from issue to issue (depending on what mood I am in!) But for starters lets have a little celebration about what it's like to be in a band.
I went down to the only decent guitar shop in Ippo a few days ago and was a bit startled to find out that they would no longer be serving my bands piffly needs as they basically couldn't arsed anymore! They are running a studio out back in the hope that they will discover the next big UK garage unit shifter or something. It's real bastard actually, no other shop will let us go in and try out loads of really expensive nice stuff and then have us leave without buying so much as a plectrum or one of those stoopid egg shaker things. Whilst I was chatting to the owner who was trying to convince me to part with money to go record there (sorry we don't do garage, bedroom maybe, but not garage) I mentioned that I remember the shop first opening, to which he replied, "yeah, 12 years ago." This is when it struck me, have I really been doing this shit for twelve years? So what have I accomplished? Stardom? Riches? Chicks? Cocaine habit? Sadly none of those, apart form the cocaine habit where I am in agreement with the great Ian Brown, "Coke can fuck off!" If you want to have a small dick and talk bollocks do it for free, stand naked in the freezer section of your nearest hyper mart (dick shrinkage) and talk bollocks as you explain yourself to the boys in blue when they come pick you up! Anyway enough of my fantasising, back to the brief history of my musical career in a roughly chronic logical stylee, or maybe just chronic, we'll see!
The beginning. I was aged twelve living in a village where if you didn't spend all of your time standing on the bus stop staring at the co-op you were hated by the whole village. The only decent thing to so was to start a band with my three friends. Two of them were the vicar's sons so we instantly had somewhere to practice (the vicarage) and somewhere to drink cider and smoke pipes (the Sunday school rooms). I was the singer, but after our first recording session using someone's dad's camcorder I was asked to stop making the god-awful noises that I thought was singing! Still wanting to be in the band I sold everything that wasn't bolted down and took a trip into Ippo to buy my first bass. Although I couldn't play (and still can't really) I was allowed to stay in the band as my band mates found out they could turn my volume right down. Our first gig was in a local village hall that we hired for £10, and managed to fool about 150 people into cramming themselves in for the night. My dad was one of the bouncers and one of my fondest memories was him coming backstage (the kitchen) and holding up a west side story style broken bottle saying that we had better get on stage. That is still the most profitable gig I have ever done! The manager of an Ipswich guitar shop leant us all the equipment we need, and later got the sack for it. Next scene, three years later. I strolled into radio Suffolk and demanded that they give us a session, and for some reason they agreed. We turned up and they promptly confiscated our distortion pedals. What followed (completely live at lunchtime) I would rather forget. I later redeemed myself by taking over a show on ICR, Ipswich's only alternative radio station. Fast forward three years. After six years of playing shitty gigs and under 16's disco nights I was getting a bit jaded by the whole rock and roll thing. My band mates were all now grade 8+ on their instruments, not allowing me to write, and all about to bugger off to Uni to become doctors and the like. Enter Jon Culture. On the way back from college there always seemed to be this pissed up punk called Jon. After a while we got talking and he invited me to audition for his punk band. He enticed me in by saying that he had a guitarist that could play three 'para chords' intrigued I went to meet him. Enter Graham Culture, one of the cider swigging punks that hung out on Corn Hill in Ipswich. Leaving behind the musical virtuosos I entered the brave new world of punk. After the first practise I was asked to simplify the way I played, the biggest compliment I have ever had! A year later we played at the Drum and Monkey in Ipswich with a load of metal bands, one of which threatened to break our legs if we went onstage and played punk. There was only one solution, beer and lots of it! During that set we managed to break a hole in the stage floor, collapse the drum kit and not get all the way through one song. The two best things about that gig were Graham not finishing any song because he was getting bored and would much rather use his playing hand for picking up his pint, and the second was Graham screaming, "fuuuuuuuuuuuck off," down the microphone as the bassist of one of the other bands was leaning onto the stage trying to hit him! That is where we got our reputation from as being a 'get drunk band'.
So here I am, twelve years later. Still can't play, still playing shitty gigs and not making any money, and still getting up in the morning thankful that I am in a band!
One last thing though, "Do you really like it? Is it is it wicked?" NO, FUCK OFF! If you have no idea what I am on about, I envy you!