Sunday, 31 May 2009


SUNDAY: Put on a gig at Geldeston Locks Inn.
The first real 'summer's day', and therefore a huge crowd.
Beautiful weather, beautiful people and a beautiful time had by all.

I have fun, but decide that being a compere/promoter is not for me.

MONDAY: My friend John Osborne's book Radio Head is Book of the Week on Radio4.
It is a wonderful book. I have a signed copy, inscribed with the command to 'read it in your shed'.
My shed is my sanctuary. It is my space, that allows me to smoke my pipe, drink homebrew and paint things. I take it upon myself to listen to John's book being read, in as many places as I could.
I manage shed, kitchen, living room, bed alone, bed not alone, and bath. I also discover BBC iPlayer, but fear that this discovery can only encourage further procrastination, in my already halted life-progression.

Now that I have 'retard', my main aim is to get my anthology published.

TUESDAY: Another friend, Tim Clare, is also launching his debut book this month. I have yet to read We Can't All Be Astronauts, but the excerpts I have been privy to, have only gone further in confirming what I already knew; Tim is a tortured genius.
He has asked me to read at his book-launch at Borders next week. This, I feel, is a great privilege. I have spent the past few weeks agonising over what to read & what to say. Today I realise that I have nothing.
I haven't read the book, so I cannot really make a comment.
I should really buy it but I haven't paid cover-price since the heady days of student-loans.
My poems are tired & in need of a rest.
My new show hasn't really developed further than a title & a flaky idea.

Professional jealousy is now bordering on resentment, and I set about scrubbing the limescale off the shower walls, until my fingers start bleeding, and I'm overcome with the giddiness of chemical fumes.
Guilt, at my overuse of industrial-strength cleaners, overwhelms me, and I rush outside to my organic kitchen-garden (aka Hotel Slug), where I furiously start earthing-up my potatoes.
The kitten senses danger and thuds her way into the dining-room, heavy-pawed but athletically quick.
This starts a chain reaction of degus squeaks, rabbit panic and general pandemonium, with a volume even high enough to wake the hamster.
I run inside, just in time to catch the kitten mounting a rabbit.
I lunge for the water-spray deterrent, chase the suspect up Bedfordshire's steepest 'wooden-hill' and catch sight of myself in the bedroom mirror.

Eyes streaming, heavy breathing, rapidly greying and fingernails heavy with muck.
Water-bottle brandished as a weapon, and a scowl that says "Is this it? Is this really fuckin' IT?"

I move to go back to the bathroom and start all over again.
My first step goes wrong and I fall, rather heavily, down the stairs.

I won't be going to sauna tomorrow.

WEDNESDAY: I won't be going anywhere today.

I panic slightly about what to cook for tea, then realise our freezer is full of Linda McCartney.

Inspired by seeing my name in print in the Guardian Guide (on a tour poster for Latitude, alongside Grace Jones, The Pet Shop Boys, Pretenders & Squeeze - if only I could re-visit my 80s life for just one day, and tell them what I know now!), I set about writing some poems.

By 4-30pm, I decide I can't do this anymore.

THURSDAY: My friend Dick York, whose band 'headlined' at the Locks Inn last Sunday, is in the paper tomorrow. It's a double-page spread detailing his career as a mod-god with Sta-Prest, a Met. policeman and a subsequent mid-life crisis, that has led to a reforming of the band.
The kitten came from Dick.
I love the bloke. I'm constantly in awe of his energy & enthusiasm.
He too had to change careers due to illness, but it doesn't 'define' him.
Nothing seems to phase Dick. He gets on, offers everything, asks for nothing in return, and does it all with a smile on his face.

I'm going to try and be a bit more like Dick.
I owe it to the kitten.

FRIDAY: Luke is on the telly tonight.
I'm reminded while reading the TV guide, as I have my morning poo.
He's been doing a lot of commercial-telly recently, but tonight he's on the BBC.
Channel4 news have beamed his big shiny face into our living rooms twice in the past fortnight, firstly with regard to the appointment of a new poet laureate, and on the second occasion with regard to Ruth Padel & something to do with dining-room furniture.
I like Luke on the telly. I've always felt he was destined to be on TV.
He has the cheeky charm of a gay Russell Brand, and the boyish smile associated with a CBeebies presenter, but he also oozes sagacity, knowledge, erudition and wit.
I get excited when the Beeb ask Luke for some more of his wit.

Simon Armitage, probably my favourite living poet, comes across as a bit pompous.
He refers to Afghanistan as 'an apocalyptic Narnia', and I feel this may haunt him for a while. The Irish lady scares me like Mother Superior scared my sister at Farnborough Hill Convent. The other dude seems uncomfortable in his threads 'n bling. He does Shakespearean-Rap stuff and it all seems pretty worthy, although I couldn't help thinking that he was dying to get back into his grammar-school blazer & slacks.
Presenter Martha Kearney seems most at ease when turning to Luke.
She asks a relevant question, and Luke tells it like it is.
No doggerel, no self-aggrandisement, no promotion of his next show.
The Irish lady tries to match Luke's sincerity with some heartfelt opinions of her own, but she just gets fidgety, and Simon Armitage talks over her, as if he's the most important person in the room.
In between the less than-heated discussions, images & poems supplement the theme of this Newsnight Review 'poetry special'.
Footage of a recent 'Homework' gig delivers pictures of my other friends into my Friday-night-at-home.
I'm surrounded by Ross Sutherland, Joe Dunthorne, Chris Hicks & Laura Dockerill, and I'm in my nightshirt, eating potato chips & dips.

I text Luke, who is sharing a BBC Mercedes, back to East Anglia, with Martha.
I ask him if they'll stop for a KFC at the M11 Services?

I don't wait for a reply.
I go to bed happy.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Total Breakdown

My vacuum-cleaner broke today.

For those of you who know me (and I now have 5 'followers', one of whom is me, and one of whom may know me, but without a photo or biog, is just a name) you will know that my vacuum-cleaner is my life.
It's difficult to refer anthropomorphically to a household cleaning object, but my hoover is the nearest thing I have to a wife. We spend everyday together, sometimes for long periods. I care for her over & above the level of care I administer to dishcloths, or the washing-machine. Her bags are regularly emptied with nothing but a sense of duty on my part. I have searched high & low for replacement bags that compliment her foreign nozzle, and have immortalised her in verse in my last show "Yanny Mac -Domestic Goddess". And, despite being a cheap cylinder option from Argos with a wet/dry function that has never been utilised, I love her unconditionally.
As a team we suck.
Everyday, without fail, we wade through (and dispose of) the waste-products from a duo of houserabbits (litter-trained, but clumsy), a trio of degus (possibly the dirtiest bunch of shit-flinging rodents ever to bear the names of BBC regency period drama queens), a very white kitten called Richard, and a hamster with a penchant for kicking-up sawdust (probably as way of impressing the degus, but more likely just to piss me off).
At least an hour & a half of our day is spent tackling animal mess, and that's before we engage with the everyday dust & detritus produced by a rural Victorian property with a constant throughflow of horse-lovers, builders & children.

My hoover broke down today.
And with it, I broke down too.

Now let's deal with the semantics here. A hoover is the infinitive verb of vacuum-cleaner. Like Google, Xerox, Velcro & Kleenex, Hoover should always really have a capital H. I was brought up to say "doing the vacuuming", but this was soon kicked out of me at boarding-school, along with the short, harsh A's in my baths, glass & grasses.

"What do you intend to vacuum McKenzie?
The space in your empty head!?! Ha-huh-ha ha!
Now clean my shoes"

I have since learnt that it is grammatically correct to vacuum-clean, but not to do the vacuuming.
In a world full of LOLs, LMFAOs, kids that can't spell 'definitely' and mass confusion over the words their, they're & there, I make no apology for using all forms of reference to a machine that sucks proficiently.
Until now.

We have no money. The thought of having disposable-income to buy a new hoover leaves me with a giddy-sick nosebleed.
I go through the checklist.
Everything else works in the room. The fish are bubbling, the man from Classic FM is desperately trying to be heard in between adverts for Tena Lady confidence and obese-dog insurance. The washing-machine hums an assurance that my net-curtains will be sparkling clean before the rain comes to spoil our day-glo garden party.
I open the lid.
The lid covers the mechanics that none of us understand, yet men pretend & women pay good money not to comprehend. The kitten gets inside the cylinder and reconnects with her winter coat. I think I hear her scoff at my inability to fix the useless piece of mass-produced, mass-marketed, built-in obsolescent, foreign shite, and I find myself explaining that I left school in the 80s, just before compulsory Computer Studies, and just after compulsory Latin. I can spell y'know!
And I once made my mum a jewellery-box in woodwork!

And I don't lick my own bum!
Richard! Stop it!
And get out of there!

I make a coffee, tug on a lungbusting cigarette, and decide to change the fuse in the plug.
The vacuum-cleaner starts up first time, and literally scares the shit out of the kitten!

Tomorrow we dust with feathers................