Not doing the twist

I’m back from my holiday in Greece, which was very enjoyable (thank you for asking). As George Michael’s ‘Outside’ played one evening, I thought what a clever and naughty twist on the local music. However, as soon as the song finished, a chap bounded up to the keyboard and began playing older Greek songs. He looked like an accountant who had been asked at the last minute whether he had any hobbies. The squelchy fuzz of his instrument was the soundtrack to a series of disappointing fairground rides you have thankfully never been on.

And while I was away, I wrote this:


We assumed it was a spelling error

And assumed it was a tribute act.

We sat in the second row in terror

As we realised that it was in fact

An unrhythmical mess

And a deliberate extra s.

Hot Hot Heat

I’m going on holiday soon. I read this today:

‘Numerous locations in the Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded over the past week.’

Brilliant – it will still be hot for my holiday! But…

‘These various records add to a growing list of heat milestones set over the past 15 months that are part and parcel of a planet that is trending hotter as greenhouse gas concentrations increase because of human activity.’

So, my holiday is part of the problem, and I thought my holiday was meant to be about getting away from problems! Argh! At times like these – when it’s really really hot and I torment myself with thoughts of our self-inflicted doom – I think of Roger McGough’s poem ‘At Lunchtime’:

‘…when word got around
that the world was going to end at lunchtime,
they put their pride in their pockets
with their bustickets
and made love with the other…’

Though I think it’s unlikely that we’d do that instead of freaking out and hiding in the shed. Or maybe that’s just me?

We’re going to a conference!

It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that conferences are good for free hot drinks and cakes. Indeed, I can’t deny that I was looking forward to some posh coffee at the conference I was on my way to earlier this week. Still, an obvious but muted appreciation of freebies is one thing; brazen public cynicism towards the whole venture is another. Here are some words I transcribed on the train from someone going to a conference (not the one I was going to) while they were glancing through the programme:

We’re supposed to go to some things that are relevant to us.

‘Fire safety: post-Grenfell’. We’d better go to that.

All these people we need to know to get a new job!

Why would you want a new job when you’ve just been promoted for doing nothing?

You’ve got all this in your diary. I haven’t got any of it in my diary. I’m just going to follow you like a sheep.

Everyone who works for them is 25, aren’t they?

He’s normally so photogenic. He’s got really good teeth.

I enjoyed the conference I attended. The coffee was excellent. And all the presentations and panel discussions.

Lots of folk live on their wits

Joe Orton wrote on 14th January 1949:

‘I wish I belonged to one of the idle rich and didn’t have to work.’

Philip Larkin wrote in a poem:

‘Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?’

I don’t want to be idle (though being rich would be nice), but I am frankly fed up of daydreaming about grand projects that cannot happen due to lack of time and funds. How do you get to become a star film director? Can you pay the mortgage as a poet if you’re not called Simon Armitage?

I read yesterday that a ‘Millenial Generational Expert’ is an actual job. ‘With millennials coming of age, companies need to understand how to engage them’. Hmm…Reading this makes me want to eat my own face in frustration. Perhaps I should try to make a living out of writing sarcy comments about fancy jobs that I can never have? Or perhaps I can stop writing this blog and dutifully go to work…

Endless Summer

University in June: bereft souls, nursing students and porters still moving heavy things. Occasionally I can’t help reading a title over someone’s shoulder: something to do with blood cells or pedagogy (does anyone like that word?) The gym is more clinically desolate than usual. The corridors seem wider. What would I have done if, as a student, I had stayed on campus during the summer? Probably much the same as what I did during semester, which is not to say write precocious essays about Shakespeare.

I enjoyed browsing a book recently about Renoir, the original: in his last years he moved to the south of France, where he painted constantly right up until his death. Imagine having such a sense of urgency in your 20s with three months of summer ahead of you? On campus there is filming equipment in cupboards being unused. There are locations with perfect light if you’re prepared to capture it…

‘…Then came the coolness of the salt water. We were laughing together, dazzled, languid, grateful. We had sun and sea, laughter and love. Would we ever experience them again as we did that summer, with all the vividness and intensity lent to them by fear and remorse?’*


*Bonjour Tristesse, Françoise Sagan

Autoportrait (Ferris in the Red Ferrari)

‘The period between the wars did indeed mark the end of the happy days of the fantasists, dreamers, utopians, creatives and the avant garde…They were coming to be regarded as people lacking the proper civic attitudes, egoists indulging in their private games…’*

This quote is from a book about the artist Tamara de Lempicka, who was a Google Doodle earlier this month on what would have been her 120th birthday. It reminded me of Ferris Buellers’ Day Off, which I watched a couple of days ago. Ferris says to camera:

‘Isms, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself.’

Not even capitalism? Not even Cubism? In a later scene, Ferris’ girlfriend asks his best friend what he’s interested in. ‘Nothing!’ is the reply. ‘Me neither!’ is the cheery endorsement.

Pardon me for looking at the film as a whole and trying to reduce it to a core message, a label, an ism, but aren’t these messages contradictory and depressing? What is believing in yourself if you’re not interested in developing yourself? European socialism may not have been immediately relevant to a teenager in mid-80s Chicago, but perhaps what happened in Europe several decades ago had at least some influence on the wonderful paintings that Ferris and friends go to see at the museum. From the aforementioned book on Lempicka:

‘All these isms, from expressionism and fauvism to Dadaism, surrealism…’

Ferris would have sneered at the mention. An ism encapsulates a substantial period of time in the past, and Ferris doesn’t do the past: it’s all about now (not carpe diem – too European for him). And I would be OK with this if there was at least some acknowledgement in the film that what other people do is important, and that life is more than the pursuit of pleasure. Again, this about Lempicka:

‘…Thus giving her everything which she had always craved, namely a title and a lot of money.’

But I don’t mind Lempicka’s Gatsby fantasy as much as I do Ferris’ because at least she had a talent and was prepared to work at it. Ferris is an egoist indulging in a private game, yet we are meant to root for him. I had been rooting for his mate until his smug shrug ‘nothing’ comment. They are lacking the proper civic attitudes! But it’s a film about escapism! But, yeah, whatever…


*Lempicka, Benedickt Taschen, 1993



Watching people cheer and clap at the Royal Wedding reminded me of my clinical depression: the utter lack of enthusiasm for other people’s enthusiasm.

I had walked into a room to wait for my daughter to finish her dance lesson, expecting to see parents staring at their phones, but instead they were staring at a large screen on the wall. It took me a couple of seconds to realise what was going on and then I shook my head in the direction of my wife in the most exaggerated way possible, with bulging eyes and everything. At one point the pictures went missing and someone loudly moaned, ‘But we won’t see the kiss!’ I wanted to cry, but not for the same reason as everyone else. I started reading about Michael Haneke, as you do, and this quote amused me:

“Consider the pigeon just a pigeon…There are lots of pigeons in Paris.”
—On the meaning of pigeons in his movies

Consider the wedding just a wedding, consider the kiss just a kiss, consider me an absolute misery.

Meanwhile, in Belgium…

There’s a strong continental streak in this week’s top ten, with Flemish bedroom house making a bit of a comeback…

10. Dishwasher Tax – Crunkin’
9. Minty Sod – Papua New Guinea
8. Funky Parliament – It’s All Gone Metric
7. DJ Conundrum – Feel Ja Bütz
6. Peace ‘n’ Riot – Awkward French
5. Plain Biscuits – It Ain’t Stealin’, It’s Borrowing Good Practice
4. Back of The Van – Didn’t Order That
3. Krude Kidz – Snack Crackle Plop
2. Defribillator 49 – Well Developed
1. Sufficiently Rhythmical – Turn Me On Twice

Great Sporting Moments: The Treble & Bass

What is ‘cool’? Apparently playing music to jazz up golf events is not cool – ‘the music gets in the way and it must be remembered Coldplay is not cool golf.’ I think Coldplay is a sound choice for golf, don’t you?

‘The notion that songs piped through a loudspeaker can enhance a golfing experience is hard to fathom.’*

Maybe music should be used to soundtrack all sporting events? There’s still plenty of fuss about the use of VAR in football: it slows the pace of the game and reduces the excitement. Well, the genie is out of the bottle now – if technology is being used to ensure the correct decisions are made, why not use it for a cooler function: sound effects. Actually play music during the match. A Calvin Harris crescendo while a player dashes up the wing. Or the start of Kashmir as a player composes themselves before taking a penalty. Cymbal crashes for bad tackles. Synth arpeggios for tika-taka. Cannons for goal kicks.

I’ve seen contrived flames at a twenty-20 cricket game. Why stop with sounds? Sport could be enhanced with fake weather, holograms…Why stick with the old rules? And to return to music: all of the time, I see people with headphones in, soundtracking their walk along the pavement or ride on public transport. So, let’s try music and sport simultaneously. You heard it here first…



Plane Truth

In 2012, our current Prime Minister said that the aim of the ‘hostile environment policy’ is to create ‘a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants’. As poet Matt Abbott said: ‘Can we all just take a moment to fully confront the fact that “hostile environment” is not a soundbite…but an *actual* Home Office policy launched by Theresa May in 2010?’

It is bizarre, but unusually transparent: isn’t creating a hostile environment while looting the world on behalf of the rich the central purpose anyway? Of course, the assumption all along was that a hostile environment would be created for legal immigrants as well. So, people who were encouraged by the government to come here to rebuild the country after the Second World War are now being repaid by being put through a living hell.

Luke de Noronha, an academic who has researched UK deportations, said: ‘People are being deported who have lived in the UK for a long time – people whose parents, children, and siblings are British citizens. The issue with Windrush migrants doesn’t begin or end in 1973. These transnational family connections continued and will keep going…It does feel uncomfortable that the UK is forcibly expelling people to former colonies on these flights, in secret, in the middle of the night, where full body restraint belts are used.’*

Uncomfortable? Being tied up on a plane and sent thousands of miles away from your home sounds uncomfortable to me. But does it sound uncomfortable to a government minister tasked with defending this official horror? I suppose they would be more concerned about the discomfort of sitting through an interview to explain it.

And here am I, labouring over a blog about this scandal, enjoying my privilege and not fearing a knock on the door. Also, earlier this week I went to my first Happy Café meeting. The purpose of a Happy Café is ‘simple and inspiring: a friendly and welcoming place to meet other people with a shared interest in promoting happiness and wellbeing.’ Though I can only imagine the reaction to our current Home Secretary being in such an environment. Would we tell her to leave or offer her a cup of tea?