Tuesday, 17 December 2013


I’m often accused of humbug behaviour at this time of year.
My misanthropy  borders on the evil side, and I moan and grumble my way through the season of good will, hoping to achieve a sense of relief come twelfth night, and hoping to avoid the inevitable stress-related flare-ups.

But it’s not the season of good will I detest.

It’s the people.

Today I tried my hardest, with my last remaining fiver, to do a ‘Jack Monroe’ in order to feed my family and cats, until the next ESA payment comes in.

And I failed.
I ended up buying value pizza and out-of-date sausages.
(But I also managed to secure a massive bag of reduced sprouts, so that at least me and the wife and the vegetarian lodger can keep the fresh veg intake up for a week or two).

And today, before I left the house, I resolved to smile at everyone I came into contact with.

I felt today I should be glad to be alive, and walking, and warm
(the shops are a great place to go if you can’t afford to have the heating on at home!)
So I smiled and I waved.
I even patted a dog.

But everyone seemed terse and brusque,  fretful, worried and dare I say it, downright miserable.
It was the alarm before the swarm.
Panic filled their eyes and slumped their shoulders.

I let a kid past who was scootering on the pavement, and even though he thanked me, he got scowls from the lady on the motability scooter and “oi”s from a man with a big box of something electrical.
The post office queue was as long as it had been every day of this month (very lengthy) but it was filled with muttering o.a.p.s, angry men in suits and mothers talking out LOUD to their errant children

“ PUT that down!  Why? WHY? Because mummy has to stand here darling. Because we’re in a QUEUE and have BEEN for quite some time now.  PUT THAT DOWN!”

It was only a biro on a chain.
It’s Christmas for fuck’s sake.

Everywhere and everyone was glum, and by the time I smiled at the scruffy chap picking through the bin outside Laura Ashley, I was all smiled out.

Maybe feeding a family of three( + 2 cats) for under a fiver makes me happier than most?
Maybe Xmas has just run out of joy?
Maybe I really don’t like ‘other people’?

I’m not really sure, but I’m glad to be home again.
In bed.
In the cold.
With my emaciated cats and my vaginal knitting.

And according to my email inbox, Mehdi Hasan, Owen Jones and Clare Balding have got tweets for me.

Merry Xmas.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

No Future.

A friend of mine was invited to Buckingham Palace last night, to meet the queen of Britain & Scotland.

In fact several of my friends were invited.

But this particular friend didn't go.

A lot of my friends talk-the-talk.
A lot of my friends are poets, and therefore are required to talk-the-talk on quite a regular basis.
In order to be zeitgeisty, fresh and 'down with the kids', a lot of my friends decry this government, and openly abhor anything that is marginally right-of-centre in the world of politics.
A lot of my friends are anti-establishment, and use their words as weapons or tools to joust and hustle those that run our country.
A lot of my friends are fiercely republican, anti-monarchy and repulsed at the thought of titular inheritance, silver spoons, old money and the nepotism that pervades the British class-system.

Some of my friends went to London to visit the queen.

One of my friends didn't.

Friday, 12 July 2013


I don't want to bang on about the ever-increasing wealth gap in provision of/attaining the arts. I did it last year (and the year before) and it's out there for everyone to read.


The gap gets wider by the day, 'culture' is mainly unaffordable to those on low incomes, and the middle classes still pretend to care about Oxfam, Greenpeace, Water Aid and environmental issues, whilst littering the land with disposable barbecues, gazebos and tents.
The ticket prices for the modern day arts festival are now astronomical, and in order to stay for the duration, one would need an overdraft the size of Bristol just to survive.
The irony is that the only low-income attendees at these orgies of excess are the performers themselves.
And their guests.
And one wouldn't blame them, if after all the hard work & effort they have put in, a Penguin Publishing or SkyTV corporate-type came along and offered them a chance to escape the seemingly endless void of poverty. Only for they themselves to leapfrog aforesaid gap, and suck on the teats of the overlords, until the milk runs dry, and someone else is commissioned to entertain jester-like for the chosen few.

I do however want to have a pop at Festival Republic.

I'll get straight to the point.
The profit-obsessed promotions company who entertain us yearly with events such as Reading, Leeds, Berlin, Hove and Latitude (notice the last one isn't called 'Beccles' or 'Wangford') are a bunch of wankers.
They employ incredibly low-paid staff to do the jobs of people who should be highly paid within their profession; they charge punters ridiculous sums of money to stand about in their own shit & piss, in a field that suffers the degradation of human excess, every fuckin' year; they over-hype their events to the point where we all feel like failures if we haven't attended, and they cheat us out of our hard-earned cash through being coralled into a open-prison, where the only escape is to over-consume, over-inflated food, over several days.

I have had many issues with Festival Republic in the past.
Not least the time that Melvin Benn's storm-troopers threw my tent into a ditch, in order to accommodate Rufus Hound's camper-van;
or the time I left the site to go home, only to find on my return, that in their desire to get more & more Day Ticket punters onto the rain-flooded site, they had gone through three temporary car-parks, and were unsure where to put the fourth, resulting in a five hour trip for me, from house to tent.
I live in Beccles - nine minutes away!
The following day it took me a further seven hours to get home, but at least the AA were doing a roaring trade.

My issues this year are ones that will not arise from my attendance at Latitude 2013, but from details on the ticket itself.

There is now a "£30 Compulsory Donation to Charity" on the FREE tickets for guests.
Apart from the fact that this donation used to be voluntary, and by definition can't be 'compulsory', this figure has increased from £10 in 2007 to a sum that is way out of line with inflation (and welfare benefit increases), despite the fact that they have increased the number of guest tickets allocated by several thousands.

If you refuse to pay your donation, you are immediately asked to forego the Performer's Camping facilities (overflowing toilets & an angry barbecue chef) and pitch your tent in 'Normal Camping', away from your performer friends, and by the fifth day, in a zone that resembles anything other than 'normal camping'.

QUESTION 1: What are the charities that benefit from these donations? Trying as hard as I can with the search-engines and information supplied to me, I can find NO indication as to where this money goes, or who it benefits?

Several years ago I took my daughter to Latitude.
She had a lovely time, and I took advantage of the 'Under 14's Go Free' policy.

I note this year that the policy is now 'Under 4's Go Free'.
The very fact that this information on the ticket is proceeded by (Must Be Accompanied By An Adult At All Times) and even the feral yuppies of Latitude know that Under 4's need parenting, can I suggest that your profit-driven obsession with costs has stooped so low, you did a bit of a cheat on the ticket info?

QUESTION 2: Did you just scratch off the 1 from 'Under 14's' rather than re-write your T&C's to reflect your new policy?

QUESTION 3: In the light of Vodafone being exposed as Britain's largest tax-shirker
(£294m operating profit - NIL tax paid) couldn't you find a slightly less despicable sponsor for your festivals?

QUESTION 4: Why did Glastonbury drop you as a promoter after 12years?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


We've come a long way since Woodstock, and the doling-out of soup & rolls at Yasgur's dairy farm in 1969. 
Food is big business within the bigger business that is the modern day pop festival.

There are now over 250 food stalls at Glastonbury alone, ranging "from the Far East to the Wild Wild West to good old proper English Country grub".
The television & radio host Jonathan Dimbleby once famously sold his own organic 'Dimbleburgers' at Worthy Farm in 2002, although there is very little evidence to substantiate this.
It was the year that the 'ring of steel' prison fence was erected, Rod Stewart and Mis-teeq headlined and tickets were over £100 (for the first time in any UK festival's history).
Very few people went.

And with the festival's alcohol-policy very much in the news this week, ahead of next weekend's 5 Day Strictly Bruce Forsyth Show, our attention has turned towards the provenance, provision and purveying of food at Britain's must-do-staycation events.

Glastonbury prides itself that it is one of only a few festivals that allows personal booze on site. This was one of the reasons why Michael Eavis jettisoned the party-pooper storm-troopers at Festival Republic (formerly Mean Fiddler), in favour of running his own show again.
It would seem that Festival Republic have a profit-driven agenda, banning all types of food and drink substances on-site, whilst using the same bland, but expensive suppliers and stalls at every event they manage.
You will be sick of the sight of over-priced Tuborg lager, Lucozade Jaeger bombs and Pepsi Max if you follow the Fiddler to the cultural behemoths that are Reading, Leeds and Latitude this year.
And if you can swallow the fact that massive tax-dodgers Vodafone are the major sponsors, you'll probably be faced with very similar 'boutique' food options;
The Australian Pie Company, The Square Pie Company, Jay Rayner's 'Kitchen Cabinet' etc.

This is why the independently run festivals such as Glastonbury, have a culinary edge over the corporates.
They can pretty much put catering out to tender; and if you're prepared to serve up hot, sticky stuff, to cold, sticky punters, some of whom can hardly say their own names, then these bizarre British summer events can be the making of you financially (especially if you serve up chips and/or noodles).

A word of warning however.
Hiring or taking your own trolley to & fro' the distant car-parks of the Avalon Valley can be very time-consuming and energy-sapping.
Filling up your trolley with tents and slabs of canned lager will mean little space for your own food.
Once inside the arena you are pretty much a captive market.
No amount of Class A drugs will take away the pangs of hunger after five days, and it's at this point that you realise how expensive the food really is!
You will no doubt have spent all your money by now, so prepare for a three hour wait in a cash-point queue, that may or may not provide you with the amount of dosh required, but when you return to the catering stalls, there may well be nothing left but chips.......

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.