Monday, 28 January 2013
Having spent the best part of my life living in & around the fine city of Norwich, on Saturday I decided to take a whistle-stop tour of the old girl, in the old girl, whilst the old girl played ponies back at the homestead.
I chose my moment carefully.
The snow that had ground Norwich to a complete skid-pan had thawed, and the Canaries were playing host to the only non-league side left in the FA Cup competition. Knowing that the agitprop poet Helen Ivory was away from the country, thoughts of any disturbance were quelled, and I aimed to hit the 'Big Sugarbeet' around 2pm, just as the hordes of Luton Town fans goose-stepped their way from their collection of illegally-parked delivery vans.
To be fair to the miscreants, the queues for the John Lewis, Castle Mall and Chapelfield car-parks were so long, the visiting supporters must've thought they were in Lakeside Thurrock;
and no doubt many of them took full advantage of the post-Xmas post-NewYear sales-lull SALES- events that were happening in every cloned outlet, from Monsoon to Oasis; from Matalan to TK Maxx. Post-Snowmageddon panic-buying had evolved into a slightly uglier style of consumerism.
As I dawdled in first gear for what seemed like an hour (but was in fact an hour & a half), I began to mentally note all the changes that had occurred in the city of my alma mater.
Ber St, once notorious for it's post-pub activity, had risen from the ashes of a car-dealer nightmare, and was now akin to a micro China Town, bustling with tea-houses, Asian grocers and martial arts centres.
The gaps that were once empty shops, were now filled with tanning lounges, hairdressers, nail polishers and more tanning lounges.
But the queue for the John Lewis car-park was as long as ever.
4x4's and Lexi belching their way to a safe spot underneath their retail nirvana, holding the duality of traffic-flow to ransom, with width and power and ignorance.
Yet the Anglia Square car park still had 480 spaces, and was only a short walk from anywhere.
I was happy to find that the City Gates pub had been put to sleep.
Students at UEA were often told that Norwich had "a church for every week of the year, and a pub for every day". During my time at the University of Exaggerated Abbreviations I found this not to be true.
But what I did discover was that the city had more Wetherspoon's per capita than any other town in the UK.
The fact that the former JDW City Gates' building had been re-invented as an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, ladled irony onto my sticky rice in heaps.
As I passed the monolithic building that once housed 'the old model shop', I couldn't help thinking that a lot of this change was probably for the best.
The queue for bespoke coffee and naff Neff, smug Smeg and Moben design, was populated by men who shouldn't be wearing skinny-fit jeans, and their girlfriends who shouldn't encourage them.
But there was a middle class defiance in their queueing, that said more about Norwich than the gas-guzzling numpties that stalked Ber St.
If it really is the 'economy stupid', then we probably need these affluent foot-soldiers and their disposable income now, more than ever.
As I went around the confusing Anglia Square one-way system, I noticed that in amongst all the building-sites and new development, the independent shoe shop in Edward St.was still open, defiantly opposing so-called progress, with less than three pairs of shoes in its window, and one of them a pair of classic cherry red DMs.
The smile and the warmth this gave me were only lost when I turned onto St.Augustine's St. and was confronted by a huge billboard advertising "PMT - Let's Rock!"
I sincerely hope PMT is an acronym for something far removed from its common acronym usage.
But then, Norwich folk are a funny old bunch.
**I would really like to know the name of the shop in Edward St. if anyone has it? I know there was a similar shoe-shop in St.Augustine's called 'Yallops'. Not sure if it's still there.
Saturday, 1 December 2012
I threw away my funding application for this year's Edinburgh Fringe when I realised (again) that I didn't really want to go.
It felt like a terrible shame to waste all that creativity, so here is a condensed version of my submittal.
Title: Cunt In A Pac A Mac
Genre: Interactive street theatre
Plot: It's basically me, Yanny Mac, in a Pac A Mac, behaving a bit cuntishly.
The audience are intrinsically involved, but unaware of the denouement (obviously - it's a denouement) until they realise that they too are cunts in Pac A Macs.
Benefits: It is a piece of theatre that invokes social & cultural observation through the prism of art.
Funding required: £2000 (travel & accommodation) + £10 for a Pac A Mac
Possible problems & resolutions:
Edinburgh experiences its warmest summer on record, and it doesn't rain for at least a week.
Would require changing title of show to Cunt In A Pair Of Crosshatch Shorts.
Will need £40 for a pair of Crosshatch Shorts.
Saturday, 18 August 2012
To the peoples of London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Edinburgh and other great cities:
It was 32oC in Suffolk today.
It was hotter than the Caribbean.
(And with no disrespect to the lovely people of St.Kitts & Nevis, we do make better cyder than you).
And in Beccles we have probably one of the best outdoor pools in the UK.
And we've got a ferry that takes you from the lido straight to the best pub in East Anglia.
And it'll take you back again.
Beccles Public Hall will be showcasing some of the hottest acts on the circuit this year, and our nearest beach at Lowestoft won the lauded Blue-Flag award this spring.
We've got some of the quaintest craft-shops in the land, we played host to Aussie ne'er-do-well Julian Assange, our church was where Lord Admiral Nelson's parents were married, and every year we play hard & fair in a Duck Race and a Conkers Tournament.
And we're less than 15miles from Southwold if you need a Waitrose or a new aga.
The question is;
Should I staycation?
Of course you should, you fuckwit.
Friday, 13 July 2012
I can remember where it was exactly
a former field, in a state of a home
off the A12, twixt Southwold and nowhere
at the end of a tree-lined boulevard
full of brand new wheelie bins
and busy, baked and blustery hi-vis volunteers
I remember who was there the first year
a full set of friends and Patti Smith’s rider
a caravan bulging with flowers and vodka
an angsty Trigger from Dibley droned
whilst DJ78 spun shellac
and we danced & danced, our pleasures abundant
and just the tiniest bit guilty
I remember the air crackle with expectation
as the sun shone in buckets & spades
we all drank bottomless cold lager
and discussed poor Kylie’s cancer
in the shade of a backstage green-room
from dawn until dusk and then way past noon
until the day-glo sheep were safely home
And I don’t remember why, but the rains came the following year
and with them came the profits of doom
there was money to be stolen and the Sky was the limit
executives in Barbour twittering endlessly
their subjects feral punters
trying to escape the deluge,
the fug of burning plastic and the enmity
A dystopian nightmare played out
against a boundless and pregnant
East Anglian sunset
angry mud and fatigue won over
but not a toilet to be seen with
amidst the relentless overwhelming stench
of shite and doughnuts.
And The Levellers.
Can you remember your first time?
I'm glad I can’t forget.
A lot of my friends & colleagues are heading to the major music festivals this year, and good luck to them.
Some of them are working there, some are just enjoying the fun.
I have been outspoken in the past about the ever-increasing corporate nature of the majors, likening some to 'mobile clone-town shopping malls' fearful of the lack of choice that's actually on offer, once one becomes a captive market.
I particularly have a problem with the new co-promoter set up, where (invariably) Sky Arts takes over the wall-to-wall coverage of the event, so we can sit at home and watch the muddy revellers dance in their own piss, for the meagre price of say £200 + necessary essentials.
We at home, by & large, can't afford a few hundred quid to waste on a few days in a boggy field.
We still get to see Download 'live' and we'll definitely get the best bits from the Isle of Wight, but we won't get the true festival experience, because sadly, we need that money to pay bills and put food in the mouths of our children.
Or will we?
Because the problem with Sky Arts as co-promoter is, unless you subscribe to Sky Arts (currently approximately £60 per month inclusive bundle) you don't get to experience Download, Latitude or Cambridge Folk.
It could be argued that only a certain section of the public get to see it; those wealthy enough to afford the ticket, or those wealthy enough to have subscriptions to Sky.
And I liken this to affordability of health care.
If I personally didn't have to pay for food and electricity, or could afford luxuries in these times of austerity, I would spend my money on private health, as I'm sure a lot of Sky subscribers and festival revellers do already.
I am desperate for an operation but way down the NHS waiting-list.
There will always be those however, that can't or won't have private healthcare, because it's an impossible dream.
If Murdoch, or News International, or BSkyB or McDonalds became co-promoters in the running of private health companies there would be outrage.
We would see the whole system as profit-driven for the benefit of the rich.
So why do we not feel the same about the arts?
There are those that can appreciate art, without feeling the financial pinch.
The rest of us are left with Snog Marry & Avoid, Take Me Out, street buskers & graffiti
(I deliberately left out prime-time talent shows because it would be too easy to underline this argument).
The galling thing is that my friends that work at or attend these corporate functions
(and make no mistake, they ARE corporate functions - the sponsors for the Latitude Festival in Suffolk are Vodafone, Pepsi Max, Lucozade, Spotify amongst many others)
are vehemently against fat-cats, global capitalism, the ever increasing wealth gap and the Rupert Murdoch empire;
yet give them a bean-bag with a logo to sit on, when everyone else is upright in shit-coated wellies, and they'll forgive just about anyone.
And I know that art is accessible elsewhere.
Whilst my friends will be chuckling at Lee Nelson or swaying to Elbow tomorrow night, I will be 9miles down the road, volunteering as a waiter at my local public hall, for an event that features an up & coming spoken word act. If they are successful at this years Edinburgh Fringe, chances are they will be booked for the summer festivals in 2013. Part of their fee will be free guest tickets, some would say with a face value of nearly £200.
But 35,000+ paying punters creates a lot of profit. As does sponsorship. And the majority of the acts at the festival see very little of that.
A lot of my colleagues agree that it is a false economy to say
"300 live acts - £150 ticket - that's 50p an act and great value!"
because not only will you NOT see all 300 acts, but the ones you do see will have tailored their art to a festival sized slot.
You get to see twenty minutes of John Cooper Clarke at Latitude (if you're lucky), standing room only, most likely in damp & smelly clothes, for nearly two hundred pounds (inclusive of booking fee etc.).
You can see an hour of John Cooper Clarke at Colchester Arts Centre for less than fifteen quid.
And a lot of the acts you could see in their entirety for much less than that.
The one thing you are guaranteed however, is to see the Sky Arts balloon towering above the corporate executives marquee.
The big screens will fill the interval gaps with the latest ads from Pepsi.
And even at the marvellously quaint Port Eliot Literary Festival, Barbara Hulanicki's Biba revival has been replaced by those nice chaps at Topshop.
The Edinburgh Free Fringe runs from August 4th 2012.
Thursday, 12 July 2012
Although afflicted & cursed with many an ailment, my biggest personal health problem is my sense of smell.
Unlike a colleague who, along with the liberal lefty whinger Lucy Mangan, has anosmia (no sense of smell whatsoever), I have the complete opposite.
I can smell a cigarette from over 100 yards on a still day, and I know when a nappy needs changing way before the mother & child do.
I empty my kitchen waste on a daily basis, and wash out my wheelie bin fortnightly.
I can smell anything that has been rightly or wrongly flushed away, or washed down a sink.
And in springtime I can smell bluebells before they are in bloom.
Although some would think this a minor super-power, I consider it an affliction.
As a writer of many poems in my past, it's easy to see which of my senses made the most impression on my work.
One of the principle reasons for no longer attending pop festivals was the 'overwhelming stench of shite & doughnuts'.
I would refer to my domestic situations (and past girlfriends) in terms of aromas and whiffs, and the analogous use of bleach in my later work said more about my addictions than any reference to illegal drugs.
So it is today, with great pride, that I present to you my Top 10 Most Offensive Smells.
I have been harbouring a lot of this information for several months, but deep inside I knew there was at least one smell missing.
Because of its lack of appearance in my life for many a day now, I had forgotten how utterly repulsive this odour was.
It is so vile and obnoxious, that I have deliberately encountered loss and pain as a consequence of its recent renaissance.
For those of you reading this that do not currently reside in the UK (Hi Russia! Hi Taiwan!) we have recently had the wettest summer on record.
We have had flooding on a major scale, and very little sunshine.
The temperatures however have remained pretty constant.
As it is technically warm, nearly every great British citizen has turned off the central heating.
We should be drying our laundry on clotheslines, balconies or Hills Hoists (Hi Australia!), but due to the persistent rain, we are merely marinating our clean garments on cold metal radiators or clothes-horses.
And whilst taking the time to ensure my washing is clean & conditioned, and my washing-machine is fully functioning (totally clean fluff filter/no black mould/vinegar & baking soda applied), after 24hrs of sitting in its own cold, wet lethargy, my laundry has 'that smell'.
I have washed & re-washed several tea towels, only to throw them out yesterday.
I refuse to dry my dishes in a rag that smells like a 1st Year university student without an umbrella.
I grab every opportunity to peg out my bundles, but the rain just keeps coming, and that adds to the problem with its own particular odour.
I'm even considering buying Febreeze - this was never an option in my household before!
And as a consequence, this is my Number 1 Most Offensive Smell.
YANNY MAC'S TOP 10 MOST OFFENSIVE SMELLS
1. (See above)
2. Muck-spreading with human waste
3. Cider, weed & doughnut fuelled human waste, left to simmer for 5 days.
6. Rape Seed.
7. Sugar beet extraction.
8. Brothers Bar Flavoured Cider.
9. Any cigarettes smoked before 6pm.
10. Single mens' trainers/socks.
Sunday, 13 May 2012
As the season draws to a close, and the finances for this particular project dry up and disappear completely, this week we continue with the singular ad hoarding theme.
(Apologies to those of you expecting three hoardings)
BOGANS CARPETS: CARPET SUPERSTORES - Tranmere Rovers