Tuesday, 19 January 2021

mr verge's prize

mr verge has given us something to chew on in his choice of prize for unpicking the covert scottish nationalism embedded in the Scottish Makar's poem illustrated by a drone show over Edinburgh on New Year's Eve. I liked the drone show. 

"I vote for a recap of the Jimmy Galligan/Mimi Groves story (American madness, Mr Mike) with a John Cooper Clarke video clip counterpoint, say "Some Cunt Said The N-Word", which would also serve as a counterblast and antidote to that ghastly Scots Makar drivel...v./" 
 Here we go with the recap:

15 year old American Mimi Groves, on getting her driving licence, took a 3 second video of herself, saying:  I can drive, niggers. She didn't say I can drive, niggas, which is the spelling used by rappers and black chaps talking to other black chaps, in an allowed, ironic sort of way. I tried to find an unexpurgated video clip - but they have all been beeped over, however, you can determine the spelling from the lip movements. It's a triumphalist moment. It's not very nice. If she'd said: 
I can drive, fatties,  or I can drive, spazzes, that wouldn't have been very nice, either. She was 15. That's young. 15 year olds are often intemperate and characterised by immature judgement.

The habit that young people have formed of filming their lives, their meals, the patterns formed on the foam on their coffee, themselves, and then posting them on platforms that render them liable to be reposted has brought grief to many, especially when their dic pics are viewed by their employers. In Mimi's case, not only did it have life-changing consequences, but it triggered a massive, still on-going controversy, played out ponderously, academically and polemically in the United States. This was because her 3 second video was sent on to her fellow school pupil, Jimmy Galligan, who then complained about it to his teachers, who took no action. I don't think Jimmy liked Mimi. Jimmy, also a young teenager, kept the video clip for three years, when he used it to scupper Mimi's chances of entering the College of her choice - now 18, she was required to withdraw, because of the racism she had displayed in the 3 second video. Here are your Book Club Questions:
  1. Was Mimi a racist?
  2. Was Jimmy spiteful or motivated by altruism?
  3. Why would the College authorities pay any mind, when the High School teachers didn't?
  4. Can you hear a Bandwagon?  Or is that a Medicine Show?
  5. Why doesn't Mimi change her name and apply to Cambridge, or Luton?
 I have said many times that America is a foreign country, where they do things differently. There used to be dissenting voices, but now a vast porridge of uniformity clogs national debate, thickens individual thought and proscribes freedom of speech. Lenny Bruce challenged the thought police back in the mid century but he couldn't get away with it now. Well he didn't then - in and out of Court and prison cells. Here's a line or two from mr ishmael:  
Lenny Bruce was a little before my time and I discovered him through LP recordings and transcripts of his gigs;  he remains the funniest man I have ever heard, the most gracious and empathic, one of the connected ones, a warrior, as Joan Rivers described him. An accidental  martyr to his drug addiction and to his persecution by the US  authorities, Bruce's last performances were convoluted rants against his legal tormentors, harrowing rather than entertaining but his body of work - Didn't Ya Ever Piss In The Sink, He Said Blah Blah?, Religions Inc. and the rest are comedic scripture.  There is not much videotaped  stuff and the 'seventies film Lenny, starring Dustin Hoffman is just a Dustin Hoffman film but there are a lot of gig recordings and books about Bruce on How To Talk Dirty And Influence People..... 
The moral upheavals of the twentieth century - racism, Vietnam, Chicago were chronicled and stage-lit by Bruce and his followers. Like the Rolling Stones ripping-off Ry Cooder, successive generations  of UK and American comics have built careers on Bruce's improvisations. He influenced his contemporaries, The Smothers Brothers and George Carlin, and  his  black successors, Richard Pryor and  the ghastly, fabulously successful  Chris Rock and his actually humourless  automatism of shock, motormouthing offence without light, grievance without remedy.

Before he OD'd in Phil Spector's toilet, crazy-saint Lenny Bruce, well, he perfected the art of How to Talk Dirty  and Influence People.

He was a profound influence, his raps accenting  much of what appears here. I heard somebody say shagging, in a BBC play the other day, they meant fucking; contextually, fucking was the right word but they said shagging, shagging just wasn't right. It was a bit like when people of a certain age say Oh Shh --ugar, everybody knows they mean Oh Shit, everybody hears Oh Shit in their minds; the person who said Oh Shhh-ugar wants people to think Oh Shit without them having to say the filthy word in their nice clean mouths but nobody has actually said or heard Oh Shit, even though, in code, they have. Coded swearing, that is some fucked-up shit.
Now, what if young Mimi had said,  I can drive, n..ninjas. Coded racial slurring.
mr ishmael profoundly admired John Cooper Clarke,
 born 25 January 1949, he is an English performance poet, who first became famous as a "punk poet" in the late 1970s. mr ishmael was so moved by Evidently Chicken Town that he read the poem to the ishmaelings when they were about 14, and told them there are no dirty words. Just dirty minds and evil intentions. Here's an extract:  
The fucking cops are fucking keen
To fucking keep it fucking clean
The fucking chief’s a fucking swine
Who fucking draws a fucking line
At fucking fun and fucking games
The fucking kids he fucking blames
Are nowhere to be fucking found 
Anywhere in Chickentown
Here's the great JCC in performance:

mr ishmael again:
And this, as the world is barracked and harangued, fettered and coralled, lectured, abused and short-changed by pinstripe, banker mafiosi, is our ration,  white male millionaires, interviewing each other in deathly non-debate;  white male hacks scribbling to order for their whoremasters and  white male comics, like The Crazy Gang on valium, wanking away there, on telly, at their failed, limp, geriatric crotches, as funny as cancer, rank and cloying, like piss in an old people's home.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

The Sunday Ishmael 17/01/21

 Sunday Morning Telly
Determined not to be accused of broadcasting from his toilet, unlike Matt Hancox last Sunday morning,  Dominic Raab presented himself to the nation in a manner commensurate with his important position as a Great Officer of State. Didn't even doff his tie for Sunday. Properly suited and serious, with the Union flag furled behind him, his stage management made him look positively American.
Bravely laying himself open to accusations of flouting the Covid regulations by travelling unnecessarily - what do you mean, that's his sitting room, Dominic had his serious-but-approachable  bigboy pants on, the very picture of a future Prime Minister. As usual, he didn't actually say anything.
And then, in the interests of balance, having grilled Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer over the previous two weeks, Andrew Marr interviewed the leader of the Liberals, Sir Ed Davey. 
What's that? the nation will be saying, bemusedly. 
Much more interesting was 59-year-old Nicky Campbell's Big Issue show. (sorry, Questions) Hasn't he done well since his Wheel of Fortune Days
He had Professor Simple and Lord Sumption elegantly biting each other, in a socially-distanced manner of speaking. Jonathon Sumption, twitching and controversial as ever, has guaranteed his lucrative future appearances on television as the contrarian spokesperson. Shocked participants indignantly shouted How dare he say that dying is something that people in their 80's do, and their lives are less worthy than those of twenty-year-olds because they have less life left than the youngsters? Aren't all lives of equal weight? Jonathon, himself a gentleman of advanced years, unapologetically stuck to his guns. To protect the lives of elderly people, lockdown is fucking the life chances of a generation of youngsters. My life is less valuable than that of my grandchildren. Nicky, acutely aware that he is approaching the age at which his life might be seen as less valuable than that of his many daughters, found this to be strong stuff. Grimly, but politely rigorous,
Sumption did not deviate from his mission to tell the simple truth and cut out the sentimental guff, despite being hysterically accused of legitimising eugenics arguments. Throughout the coronacrisis, he has also never deviated from his firmly expressed opinion that the removal of our civil liberties has been far more of a disaster for the human race than COVID-19. He is a bit of a tart, though, popping up all over t'telly.  His whole argument was then  to'ly undermined by a student advancing her opinion that adults don't understand what the students are going through. She demanded proper funding to compensate for the dreadful trauma they are going through in not being able to go to the pub, because going to the pub is about so much more than getting drunk. It is a therapy session for students. No, Jonathon, if she is an example of these youngsters whose life is more important than yours, I'd have to disagree with you.

The closure of the schools, a matter of the deepest regret by everyone forced to do it, calls to mind a crisis in 2014 when schools were not available and parents were required to stay at home with the fruit of their wombs (and loins). mr ishmael commented on that disaster:

This is the PBC lunchtime news with me, Jayne Tits, and the top story of the day is that decent hard-working working parents all over the country have been forced to look after their own children, themselves.  For more on this story, over to Birmingham, where Samantha Tits has the latest for us.
Fifth columnists, marxists and paedophiles gather in Brum to molest children and undermine long-term economic reform and  growth and whatever.

Thanks, Jayne, and yes, that's right, this is the news that communist teachers, many of them of interest to the security services, have betrayed those many parents who expect teachers to do as they're told by the gabshite, mutant  lunatic,  Mr Spit, the education seckatry.  

I wrote the Bible, you know, children. Let's see, now....
  Chapter one, verse one, in the Beginning there were  Free schools.
And God looked on Mr Spit and was pleased.

Mr Spit has, today, reiterated his delusion that it is quite clearly the teachers' reponsibility, first and foremost,  to look after other citizen-suspect's children for them, while they, the hard-working parents, pursue their rewarding and important careers down Tesco or in the call centre. If it wasn't for their child-minding capacity, said the diminutive education seckatry, why, I could dispense with them and teach the nation's children myself, via television screens in their classrooms, bedrooms, nurseries, prams, buggies and so on; just imagine,  a constant LoopOfLearning,  A nineteen-fifties curriculum, for which we are all so nostalgic, for which the nation cries out  to me; me, Mr Gove, the nation's teacher.

  And I am joined now, Jayne, here in - whereisthisplace? - here in Birmingham's Victoria Square  by a local grandmother, Mrs Maxine Cough. 

Maxine, you're a local grandmother,  tell us what this strike has meant to you,  how has it impacted you? 

 How'sitwot, love, impacted me? 
 No, Oi'm a bit old fer that lark, me, bein' impacted.  Although there's them as does say, loike, that there's manys a good tune what gets  played on an old wossaname. But no, moy grandchildren, luvemtobits, me, doanyfinforem, 'snuffin's too good for 'em, phones, games, chips, pizza, if I got 'em, they got 'em; what's their names? Well, there's Delroy, loike, an' Winston an' Chardonnay an' Kylie an' Jason an little Manjit, only he lives wiv 'is dad, loike, in Pakistan. Never could take to 'im, Manjit's dad; nuffin' against them people, honest I int, right 'and up to God, so 'elp me, I int racialist, no way, Jose,  but they smell different, knowharramean, love, different than what we do.  Must be all them spoices, loike, what they 'ave in their dinner, Oi mean, you wooden wanna go in the smallest room, not right after Manjit's dad's been in there, prayin' to Allah, so to speak, break the 'eart of a bleedin' wheelbarrow, it would. Gorra face as  long as bleedin' Livery Street, they 'ave an' all, most on 'em, all beardy an' wearing frocks, loike, over pyjama bottoms.   An the blokes is just as bad. But 'ark at me, here's you wanting to know about the school stroike and I'm  gooin' all around the Wrekin, moaning about our Tracey's last husband, partner, achelly, don't seem no point in 'er marryin' em any more, all ends in bleedin' tears, dunnit? Well, what can Oi tellya, love, it ain't roight, is it, them teachers'm  s'posed to look after the little uns, int they, I mean, swot we pay  'em for, innit?  Take me, Oi should be at 'ome doin' me online Bingo an' instead I gorra go traipsin' over to Druids 'eath and help our Trace out wiv the little darlins, and she ain't used to bein' up so early, at lunchtime, loike.  Diabolical liberty, 'sworrIcallit, them teachers gooin' on stroike an' expectin' us to do their work for 'em, idle bleedin' gits. That Nigel Fruitcake bloke, 'im wots on the telly, wiv 'is pint, loike, an'  puffin' on his B an' Haitches, he'd soon sort 'em out, send 'em all back where they come from, shouldn't wonder, send 'em all back to TeacherLand, or wurevver it is.

That was Birmingham grandmother, Maxine Cough,  there, telling us what, frankly, Jayne, we are hearing from all over the country.  People are utterly dismayed at being dumped with the care of their own children; it's absolutely not what we had them for, complain many, to look after them,  that's why we have teachers in the first place,  as child minders, so we can go out to work to pay the mortgage; isn't that what the property ladder is for, isn't that where it leads, slavery?

Thanks, Samantha, that was Samantha Tits for us there, in Birmingham or Wolverhampton, one of those dirty places, anyway. 
New Variant Service will be resumed one day.

On Friday, I waited in for the meter man to visit to change my Economy 10 meter to a standard single rate meter. Got up promptly, warned Harris that we would have a visitor, cleared out the meter cupboard under the stairs to give the chap room to work, washed up, cleared out the fire, vacuumed. Two hours past the scheduled arrival time  the chap had not turned up - despite the company having sent me two letters and  four automated phone messages during the two months since I booked the appointment,  alerting me to remember the appointment, ensure easy access to the meter and lock away my pets. I phoned. For 20 minutes they played music at me, told me my call is important to them and explained how they are very busy with unexpected levels of calls, and thanked me for my patience. I did  need to know if I was still expected to stay in because the chap was on his way, or if it had all been forgotten about, and I could reschedule and take Harris out for his walk. He was most disgruntled that he hadn't been taken out yet. He'd been gazing  out of the window from his look out position, looking for people to warn that he's on duty and they'd best be careful and move rapidly on. I tried to distract him by giving him some paperwork to do - I had some brown paper parcel wrappings to be dealt with by my Admin Dog. But he only ripped it a little before abandoning it and saying, plaintively, big-brown-eyesing at me, how can you expect me to do paperwork when I've not had my constitutional, and dealt with all my dog emails in the neighbourhood with copious quantities of pee??
 Eventually, I  get through to a human being with a strong Punjabi accent. I explain the reason for my call.

Didn't you know that you guys are in tight Lockdown?
No we're not, we're in Tier 3
No, Missuss ishmael, all Scotland is in tight Lockdown. Ve haff to protect you and protect our engineers.
No, I live in Orkney.
Aurkeney? But vhere iss dat? Is it not in Scotland? You guys are in tight Lockdown for your protection.
Yes, Orkney is in Scotland, but it is a group of islands and we are in Tier 3. Tradesmen can visit the house.
Ah, our system did not recognise that.
Well, is he coming to change the meter this morning?
No, Missus ishmael that vhill not be happening this morning.
Can I reschedule the appointment?
I vhill put you on hold, Missus ishmael, whilst I attempt to reschedule the appointment. Is that all right? Is that all right?

20 minutes ensues, with more of the music and gratitude for my patience. Then Kalinder is back on the phone:

Well Missus ishmael, I cannot reschedule your appointment because our system says that you are in tight Lockdown and we have to protect you and our engineers.
We're not in Lockdown, we're in Tier 3 and tradesmen can visit the house.
Unfortunately, Missus ishmael, the system vhill not accept that because of the current situation. You must phone back in several vheeks to reschedule your appointment.
But I've been waiting since early December to have my meter changed. And I've been waiting on the phone this morning for an hour. And I've stayed in all morning waiting for the meter man. And cleared out the cupboard under the stairs so he can have access to the meter. And put my dog away - all in compliance with the several automated phone messages you have been leaving on my answer machine on many occasions over the last 6 weeks since I originally booked the appointment. Why did no-one phone to tell me my appointment had been cancelled to protect me?
Ah, Missus ishmael, I understand your frustration. These are difficult times for all of us. I vhill help you out here, by placing a note on your account that Missus ishmael is frustrated. That vhay, you vhill receive an excellent service vhen you telephone in several vheeks to reschedule your appointment for your Smart Meter. 
But I've requested the removal of my dual Economy 10 meters and their replacement with a Standard single tariff meter so that I can change my provider. I did not reqvest - sorry, request, a Smart Meter.
Missus ishmawel, I regret to explain that you have misunderstood. it is a Smart meter that vhill be installed, in compliance with our current operating protocol. I am sensing your increasing frustration and I am very sorry for that. Would you like me to escalate this matter?
Yes please.
Very well, Missus ishmael, I vhill now put you on hold while I escalate this matter for you.

A further 10 minutes of playing music and gratitude for my patience. Kalinder returns.

Missus ishmael, thank you so much for vhaiting. I haff now entered a note on your file that you vhould like this matter to be escalated. You must now go to our website vhere you vhil be able to make a complaint. Is there anything else you vhould like me to do for you today?

I put all the stuff back in the meter cupboard and did a bit of comfort eating. 
mr ishmael's essay today was :

Honest, Not Invent is an anthology of essays by stanislav and mr ishmael. It is  available from lulu.com  and  is listed by both Blackwells and the Book Depository. Lulu assures me that it is shortly to be available through Amazon.
To buy a copy:
please register an account with Lulu first.  This will save you a couple of quid, as going straight into the links provided below seems to make paypal think it's ok to charge in dollars, and apply their own conversion rate, which will put the price up slightly for a UK buyer.  Once the new account is set up, follow one of the links (to either paperback or hardback) or type "Honest, Not Invent" into the Lulu Bookstore search box.  If you follow a link, a pop-up box asks for age confirmation - simply set the date to (say) 1 January 1960, and proceed.  If you type the title, the anthology will not appear as a search result until the "show explicit content" box (found at the bottom left by scrolling down) has been checked.  You may also see the age verification box, as above, at this point.
Honest, Not Invent is available in paperback or hardback.
Link for Hard Back : 
Link for Paper Back : 
There may be a 15% discount try the voucher code = TREAT15 in the coupon box, which takes 15% off the price before postage.  If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for "Lulu.com voucher code" and see what comes up.   

Sunday, 10 January 2021

the Sunday Ishmael 10th January 2021

What could possibly go wrong? Here I am, at home, following the guidance. He won't make me cry this time.
You are in the toilet, Matt.
Yes, it's my safe place. Painted in Farrow and Ball's Womb Red, with my carefully-curated collection of normal-person objects and pictures. And my red boxes. Most importantly, it has a nice, strong bolt. He can't get at me in here.
It's the toilet, Matt.
No-one will notice, because I'm wearing my nice blue suit just the colour of my eyes.
But you are sitting on the toilet, Matt.
That's because it is kind of cosy in here. Oh, oh, is it my turn now?

Health Secretary, I put it to you that the majority of people can't stay at home because, as the TUC have estimated, the average worker will lose £690 per week.
Well, Andrew, we have got, look, some of the most generous support schemes in the EntireWorld. And most people qualify for full payment of their salaries.
No, Health Secretary, 7 out of 10 people don't. 
Well, Andrew, those one third can have financial support in our financiallyveryGenerousSchemes.
A word about your testing scheme, Health Secretary - are these the same lateral flow tests that didn't work in Liverpool? 
Andrew, the same lateral flow tests that worked effectively in Liverpool, Yes.
In Liverpool, 60% of positive tests were missed.
 Health Secretary, I have just read you your own scientists saying the exact opposite of what you have just said.

And having wiped the floor with the Health Secretary, who is following the guidance to stay on the toilet, I will turn now to Sir Keir Starmer

 I don't care what the question is, Andrew,  the answer is that it's a thin deal.
No, no. no, it is a thin deal.
Look, I want this to succeed and it is a thin deal. It is thin. But it is better than nothing. 
It is not what was promised. It is a thin treaty.

 Contest Prize Part Two: Mr Bungalow Bill has requested something about the Bracing Isles. 

 The trick is to get the windscreen wipers going and headlights on before driving across the Barriers.
wave breaking on the windscreen
When there's a severe weather warning, the police drive down to St Mary's Village and physically close the Barriers. If you are stuck on the wrong side, you just have to make other plans or sit in your car until the Barriers are re-opened. This is why property prices on the linked south islands are considerably lower than on Orkney Mainland. The police don't always get there in time and intrepid motorists, wanting to go to work or get home, venture across, risking massive damage. Those waves are heavy, man. And carry great rocks which are dumped on your car roof or smash your windscreen. When a wave drops on you, you can't see anything other than a world of noisy water. You are unlikely to drive off the Barrier and into the sea because there are low barriers on either side of the roadway, but you can be pushed into it. 
Here is one of the Barriers on a calm day:

to the right of the barrier  you can see the rusting remains of the Block ships that were the defence to the entrance to Scapa Flow.

Scapa Flow is one of the largest sheltered harbours in the world and home  to the Grand Fleet from 1914 - handy for engaging with the German Fleet based in the Baltic. There are four islands on the eastern side of Scapa Flow: South Ronaldsay, Burray, Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm.The narrow passages between the islands were blocked by sinking old ships. At the start of WWII further blockships were sunk and submarine nets were deployed, but were inadequate in the face of intelligence gathered by German spies masquerading as  holiday-making ministers staying locally. The ministers took out a boat daily, together with rods and keep nets. Whilst ostensibly and ostentatiously fishing, they surreptitiously depth-sounded the entrance to the Flow. This information was added to hundreds and hundreds of aerial photographs taken by low-flying German planes, which overlapped to form a complete, massive picture of the Flow and the surrounding land. The definition of these aerial photos was so precise and detailed that it showed Orkney farm-wives hanging out their washing.
On 14 October 1939, the German U-Boat, U-47, under Gunther Prien, made its way past the blockships at high tide and torpedoed the 23 year old HMS Royal Oak lying at anchor in Scapa Flow. The ship had been notorious in 1928 when her senior officers were  court-martialled, following the "Royal Oak Mutiny" - which started when Rear-Admiral Bernard Collard and two senior officers, Captain Kenneth Dewar and Commander Henry Daniel, disagreed over the band at the ship's wardroom dance and became a bitter feud. Dewar and Daniel accused Collard of "vindictive fault-finding" and openly humiliating and insulting them before their crew; in return, Collard countercharged them with failing to follow orders and treating him "worse than a midshipman".  Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir Roger Keyes removed all three from their posts and sent them back to England, on the eve of a major naval exercise, which he was obliged to postpone, causing rumours to fly around the fleet that the Royal Oak had experienced a mutiny. The story was picked up by the press worldwide,  reaching such proportions as to involve the King, who summoned First Lord of the Admiralty William Bridgeman for an explanation.
For their letters of complaint, Dewar and Daniel were controversially charged with writing "subversive documents". Both were court-martialled, found guilty and severely reprimanded, leading Daniel to resign from the Navy. Collard was criticised for the excesses of his conduct by the press and in Parliament, and on being denounced by Bridgeman as "unfitted to hold further high command", was forcibly retired from service.  One consequence of the embarassing, widely publicised and lampooned affair was an undertaking from the Admiralty to review the means by which naval officers might bring complaints against the conduct of their superiors. The first Grievance Policy.

The  Royal Oak was at anchor in the Flow when she was torpedoed. Of her complement of 1,234 men and boys, 835 were killed that night or died later of their wounds. The shock resulted in rapid changes to dockland security and the construction of the Churchill Barriers around Scapa Flow.

The wreck of Royal Oak, a designated war grave, lies almost upside down in 100 feet of water with her hull 16 feet beneath the surface. In an annual ceremony, Royal Navy divers place a White Ensign underwater at her stern. Unauthorised divers are prohibited from approaching the wreck under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

Within a month of the sinking of the Royal Oak, Winston Churchill visited Orkney and ordered that work begin on the construction of four permanent barriers.
  To form the bases over 250,000 tons of broken rock were dropped from overhead cableways into waters up to 59 feet deep. The bases were then covered with 66,000 concrete blocks in five-tonne and ten-tonne sizes. The five-ton blocks were laid on the core, and the ten-tonne blocks were arranged on the sides in a random pattern to act as wave-breaks. Material was quarried on Orkney, and concrete blocks were cast on an industrial scale on the islands before being brought to the cableways by a network of railways.
1300 Italian prisoners of war worked on the construction.The prisoners were divided between three camps, 700 in two camps on Burray and 600 at Camp 60 on Lamb Holm. These men also constructed The Italian Chapel. As the use of POW labour for War Effort works is prohibited under the Geneva Convention, the works were justified as ‘improvements to communications’ to the southern Orkney Islands.The work began in May 1940 and was completed by September 1944. The Churchill Barriers were formally opened by the first Lord of the Admiralty on 12th May 1945, four days after the end of World War II in Europe.
  There's a nice little fictionalised account of the construction of the Churchill Causeways by Philip Paris, called The Italian Chapel.

Talk about bracing - here's mr ishmael writing on the 24th December 2016.
Storm Barbara is battering us, a bit, presently; I think it's still Barbara, although it might be some other bastard;  I guess it's just the ongoing commodification of everything, this baby-talking of Life itself;  I preferred that Beaufort Scale  stuff - Force 10, Gale Force, Storm Force, Hurricane Force and so on but giving storms names probably makes the fuckwit newsreaders feel more important. We have weathered worse and don't usually complain but where once I might have charged out and tried to minimise ongoing property damage, now I just let it rip.  This is just an old shed, down the side of the house, collapsing outside my window:

it is used for storing rakes and flower pots and I'd rather let it just blow into the fields than try to go and lash it down. I'll use the timber for something, even for firewood and I'll build a brick one, next time, breeze blocks, anyway.  I say I but I mean some person masquerading as a builder, the world is full of them, even here, in Arcadia; a rusty Transit and a miniature cement mixer doth a builder make, those and the shameless cheek of the Devil.

We are past the darkest times, now, and the good Earth tilts lightwards;  the daffodils are already peeping through;  last time I counted there were about 5,000 of them, brightening and measuring my days,  there are a few hundred tulips, I suppose, never counted them, and they don't seem to spread as rampantly as the daffs and even though they come later their more exotic colourings - blues and purples and pinks and blacks - define and emphasise the warming Spring.

I love that piece from A Shropshire Lad, about the cherry blossom, and find myself more and more watchful of the seasons, their punctuation of my time.  

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now



Somebody pressed a book on me, a new hardback. You'll like this, ishmael, it's right up your street. It was by Dan Brown, the Da Vinci millionaire and franchisee and  Jesus, it was desperate stuff.

I had to read it, the donor was a fellow expat and you can't really say Thanks, most kind but Fuck off, this is shit, I know it's shit before I open it, I'd rather read a bus ticket. They are fragile, these expat relationships and slights have consequences.  The dinner parties,   for instance, lost souls, huddled together against  sourfaced Presbyteria and yokel incompetence would stop happening and one might decide, as do some,  to take up  goats and the accordion and start speaking in tongues, pompous and judgemental, about Quality of life and  about vehicular air-conditioning being nothing short of  grandchild betrayal; some  join the amateur dramatics societies and take up furtive wife-swapping and stagey exhibitionism.  Better not risk the delicate  status quo, better to read two hundred pages of occult-nouvelle tripe and keep on good terms with  acquaintances,  pressed by shared migrant despair, to each other's dining tables. Read the damn thing. Just look on it like a weekend spent wrapped in a cardy, at Mrs Dale's queer diary, reading his exclusive, gossipy burblings or at Col von Fawkes's, learning about how great capitalism is, how not taxing the rich is good, actually,  for the poor,  no, really, it is; about how wonderful, strong and vibrant is the Irish economy and how Codger McCain is going to romp the US election; there is no shortage, even in the massive, rambling cyberlibrary, of ill-informed shit to read, nor of contentedly ill-informed readers. Dan Brown can't be worse than that.

But bus tickets, I knew a guy one time, said that very thing, almost. Said that he couldn't even contemplate doing a sitdown toilet  unless he had something  to read.  Anything would do, anything was better than nothing,  even said he'd managed some good number twos by reading, in the cruel absence of anything else, his rent book and on one occasion a 'bus ticket which he'd found,  rummaging in his round-the-ankles trouser pocket, as he sat fruitlessly on the loo, despairingly, slammed shut constipated, not by diet or intestinal mischief but  by the absence of words on paper, the 'bus ticket was his laxatif instantane his thundering, flatulent deliverance,  although he preferred the Sun.

I don't think it's  a  fetish, bordering on LiberalCopraDemocratism, just a ritual  but then, as BB King says,  one man's  ritual is another man's  fetish, just ask FatherMcNonceULike, down at the Pope Nazi  Church of The Holy Infant Sodomisers. No, reading in the loo, it's sort of basic yooman rights with me, you know, without something to read I might never poo again, have to cut me open and fit a stoma bag, colostomised for want of something to read. I just wouldn't go in there without  there being a sufficient supply of reading material - Viz magazine, with a magnifying glass to read the speech balloons, some political biography, some head stuff, Zen or Tao or Ching and sometimes some fiction, although less and less.  I remember battering my way almost  through The Magus by John Fowles, one of those serious, irritable, beardy English novelistbastards  with a deep, brown voice and one of his characters saying Why on Earth would I read fiction,  it's all made up, maybe half a  page per hundred containing some insight I hadn't already seen-into myself, the rest of it drivel, words to that effect, anyway, and even though the character saying them was made-up and in a novel, they stayed with me,  a sort of a contradiction, a Medium is the Message moment; fiction, therefore, is not the first thing I would reach for, my head is full of my own, mad what-if and if-only and maybe-someday fiction, what do I want with somebody else's; in fact, most of the time, I think How Dare There Be Writers ?  I mean people who, that's all they do, is write books, poems, plays, you know, made-up stuff, and call it a job, work; Jeanette Winterface, Martin Teeth. I mentioned, before, that when I worked in a library, I met, lunched with a few writers, shifty, idle bastards, they were, good for fuck all. They need a good smack in the mouth and  a few days digging holes in the road. It's alright people writing stuff down, I love it,  levels my head and eases my mind but, you know, just think of any professional writer you've ever heard on Radio Four  or BBC2 and they'll be intolerable arseholes.

I saw that AS Byatt once, not sure what it was, may have been Lord Bragg's drooling, groupie, teeth-and-hair South Bank Show. 

Byatt was talking about her modus operandi, her creative process, she has a hubby-gofer called Peter, and he's an absolute treasure, rather like  a  little woman or little man, who does for her, drives her about the place, a housekeeper/chauffeur/confidante/whipping boy, she simply couldn't do what she does without him, ghastly. She and Peter were up in Yorkshire,  reee-surching  some load of pretentious, dreary old shite, some hokum set, where else, but in academe, which  she was dreaming up for her  readers and they'd done whatever it was they went to do, her local colour ree-surch,  and were on the way back to Hampstead  or the  South of France, when she realised that in some descriptive paragraph she'd Rushed the Gorse, hadn't quite got it down right, the Gorse - gorse, for overseas readers, is a tough, prickly shrub with yellow flowers which grows wildly in abundance, particularly in the North of the UK, it's like locoweed, only you can't smoke it - simply mustn't Rush the Gorse, crucial to the telling of the tale, it was and so she made Peter, the absolute treasure, take her  back so's she could sit and Be With the Gorse.  Shouting at the radio, I was; hopefully is a fucking adverb, ya mad, frigid old trout.

 Byatt says this of her creativity:

       " I think of writing simply in terms of pleasure. It's the most important thing in my life, making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them only because I am the person who makes these things. I, who I am, is the person that has the project of making a thing. Well, that's putting it pompously – but constructing. I do see it in sort of three-dimensional structures. And because that person does that all the time, that person is able to love all these people. "  ( trans: I am the fucking breadwinner.)

Driving back to Yorkshire, to do the Gorse-describing quality  control,   I woulda fucking killed her. And if I ever see her on the side of a Highlands road, Being With The Gorse, I will.

 These people see their lives in chapters, italicising the everyday. It's all pretence, artifice, conceit and its not as though a) there isn't already plenty to read and b) plenty of other shit that needs doing far more urgently than book writing. Or poems. Especially poems. That Roger McGough, what's he like,  primly, pompously  poetry-pleasing, behind his Radio Four microphone, when, once, he was a popstar, of sorts, drinking a drink, a drink to Lily the Pink, the Pink, the Pink. Silly old Prat.

In  the '60s US prison film, Cool Hand Luke, the redneck captain of the guard, having battered Luke, Paul Newman, to the ground, says jocularly, What We Have Here Is A Failure to Communicate

and I always feel like Luke, down  on the floor, bruised,  when I hear writers twittering tyrannically on about their fucking writing, like they were jailers, insead of layabouts, and we had to understand exactly, exactly what they meant, before we could be free, had to delight in their metaphors, gasp at their narrative twists. If you need to go on about it for years afterwards, then you  obviously didn't write it properly in the first place. Rather have toothache, me, than read Ian McEwan and hearing him talk about how he Does It, the writing, well........

My young friend, stanislav, the Polish plumber, has written extensively of  the crippling snobbery which surrounds the act of communicating by writing on the Internet, of the Apostrophe Jihadists, who, spitefully and stupidly, like Mr PTB's cruel and vicious dons,  stomping the vitality from their students,  would dismiss an enthusiastically expressed, original thought, merely because its thinker was improperly or not at all schooled in punctuation.  There was a blogger, currently absent and much missed,  Dennis, the cruel, bell-ringing pedant, who, a precise and elegant writer, himself, could not tolerate  what he saw as the deliberate, lazy shortcomings of lesser writers, misplacing or misunderstanding a colon, claiming, somewhat dictatorially,  that poor grammar invalidated everything wherein it appeared,  that it was incomprehensible unless grammatically flawless; utter bollocks, of course.

In the case of Dan Brown, though, I just had to read  it in order to stay on good terms with my fellow expat. Scotland is the best part of England but you need to keep close to other English -  those not gone goat-native - for its magic to work continuously and so I put it on the shelf in the loo, next to Viz and Lao Tzu's The Art of War  and Zen in the Art of Archery, between Imelda Blair's Big Book About Myself and Barack Obama's Big Book About Himself - Obama can write beautifully, if self-obsessedly; Imelda does complaining, just as you'd expect, her life is a complaint. And Dan Brown? He says of himself:

"I do something very intentional and specific in these books. And that is to blend fact and fiction in a very modern and efficient style, to tell a story. There are some people who understand what I do, and they sort of get on the train and go for a ride and have a great time, and there are other people who should probably just read somebody else." 

Yes, that's right.


 Mr ishmael's essays today are:

Storm Barbara                                24th December 2016.

The Book Page: mustn't rush the Gorse   27th April  2010

The Health Secretary and the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition contributed their own words and toilet. Honest, Not Invent.


 Honest, Not Invent is an anthology of essays by stanislav and mr ishmael. It is  available from lulu.com  and  is listed by both Blackwells and the Book Depository. Lulu assures me that it is shortly to be available through Amazon.
To buy a copy:
please register an account with Lulu first.  This will save you a couple of quid, as going straight into the links provided below seems to make paypal think it's ok to charge in dollars, and apply their own conversion rate, which will put the price up slightly for a UK buyer.  Once the new account is set up, follow one of the links (to either paperback or hardback) or type "Honest, Not Invent" into the Lulu Bookstore search box.  If you follow a link, a pop-up box asks for age confirmation - simply set the date to (say) 1 January 1960, and proceed.  If you type the title, the anthology will not appear as a search result until the "show explicit content" box (found at the bottom left by scrolling down) has been checked.  You may also see the age verification box, as above, at this point.
Honest, Not Invent is available in paperback or hardback.
Link for Hard Back : 
Link for Paper Back : 
There's a 15% discount for a couple of days: with the voucher code = TREAT15 in the coupon box, which takes 15% off the price before postage.  If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for "Lulu.com voucher code" and see what comes up.