Date Archives November 2017

Poetry in a miner key

Some students thought it would be a good idea to host a miners’ strike-themed event, at which guests would have been dressed as miners or members of Margaret Thatcher’s government.* In other news, Prince Harry will be getting married. A few years ago, he went to a ‘Colonial and Native’ party dressed as a Nazi. It doesn’t seem to have done his CV much harm.

I was struck by this poetry in the invitation to the miners’ strike event:

‘…a few working class beating bobbys (sic) wouldn’t go amiss
Nor would a few Falkland war heroes.
You get the gist…’

Ah, poetry…But hang on. Of course, this is repellent: how could anyone ever think that such an ‘event’ would be a good idea? The organisers attempted to whet the appetite by stating in the invite that guests should ‘expect a confrontation bigger than Orgeave.’ Wow! Why stop there? Next up: an ‘event’ modelled on the massacre of 642 people in Oradour-sur-Glane in 1944.**

‘…a few villager murdering Nazis wouldn’t go amiss
Nor would a few students with a general disregard for common decency.
You get the gist…’




Are there cats?

On the same day that I read that a dog who was abandoned by her owner at an airport had died of a ‘broken heart’, a majority of MPs voted to reject the idea that animals feel emotion and pain. Perhaps the MPs would say of the dog: ‘But her heart was not literally broken!’ Indeed, but three years ago my cat literally curled up in the shower and waited to die. The £80 spent on the emergency appointment that ended his pain was the best £80 I will ever spend. A friend wrote: ‘Animals are sentient beings. This is a scientific fact,’ which reminded me of John Oliver on climate change:

‘You don’t need people’s opinions on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking, “Which number is bigger: 15 or 5?” or “Do owls exist?” or “Are there hats?”’*

One assumes that the MPs who voted to reject animal sentience are in fact sentient themselves: if you hit them in the face, they would say ouch; if you scratched their car, they would feel upset. So, surely there can only be one reason to deny animals sentient status, and that is to exploit them. Therefore, would it be a surprise if we woke up tomorrow to the news that the poor will no longer be classed as sentient?


Note, 27/11/17: I have been advised today that the vote against Caroline Lucas MP’s animal sentience amendment is not the same as voting against the idea of animals being sentient. Happy to be corrected, but after seven and a half years of the present government, is it any wonder that people would interpret it as such? Isn’t it all rather plausible?

Sorry, back to poetry… 

Bop! Oh! And the money men…

I read in the latest edition of Cambridge Alumni Magazine (CAM) that ‘the weekly College bop has been a mainstay of student life for almost 50 years.’ My nostalgia for those ‘halcyon days’ clashes with the irritation caused by the word ‘bop’. I think I probably thought at the time that it was quite charming: the word ‘bop’ was uniquely Cambridge and we were going to jolly well enjoy living in this fake twee universe we had created for ourselves. More recently, I have read that Cambridge (and Oxford) have secretly invested tens of millions of pounds in offshore funds, including in a joint venture to develop oil exploration and deep-sea drilling.* Oh, how wonderfully cute! I remember going cap in hand to an official to ask for some hardship money and being refused, despite the stench of poverty and BO and a big toe poking through a shoe. No money for me – it’s in the Cayman Islands! No money for hospitals – it’s in the Cayman Islands! Ah, shut up, Neil – play the theme tune from Inspector Gadget and have a little dance, won’t you? Call it a ‘bop’, there’s a good man…



The dogs go on with their doggy life

If only Anthropocene was just the name of an album by Muse. I wander around town and observe people being dazzled by things in my aloof way…

‘…the dogs go on with their doggy life…
…how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster…’*

It’s tempting to stand by the preacher and demand a little more interest in the sixth extinction of the species. I’m torn by eternal worry and the impulse to find sanctuary in art. Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Jim Jarmusch. I’ve just seen the film Paterson and now I think he’s the coolest person on the planet.

‘For us human beings, time is limited on this planet. There are too many people and nature is soon going to rectify this. It is going to be difficult and tragic…We have to be very grateful for very small details of life…’**

Like poetry and films, I suppose. Poetry and films, poetry and films…Repeat whilst skipping to the cliff’s edge…




A line of staplers is a line of staplers

‘Believers see what they believe in. Non-believers believe in what they see…And a line of staplers is a line of staplers.’ So wrote Jonathan Meades in an article on ‘the gulf between the arts and art’ in the 20th October edition of The Times Literary Supplement. This reminds me of when people at an art gallery took photos of a pair of glasses that were on the floor, assuming that they were a piece of art. Ah, but maybe they were?

‘The glasses appear to be discarded and therefore exemplify our wasteful culture. The lenses are a stunning metaphor for the transparency of this reality. And the frames? The frames constitute a fragile scaffold, giving the impression of unity – a unity that we know to be inauthentic and intrinsically vulnerable…’

And reading that back reminds me of Andrew Graham Dixon talking about Marcel Duchamp, he of the urinal. Talking of extracting the urine, Meades also wrote in the aforementioned article that ‘satire is not to be confused with parody, which is a mere lark.’ And there was me thinking that my poetry is as cutting as Private Eye and Jonathan Swift combined. Ah, but maybe it actually is?