Thursday 29 January 2015

A GRECIAN EVENSONG. Van Morrison - These Are The Days

When I was a kid I knew a fine Belfast soul singer, the late Sam Mahood. Sammy and his brassy band, the Soul Foundation, could sing Sad Song sweeter and sadder than Otis Redding, himself. 

I was with Sammy the night Otis Redding died and he showed me how Otis Redding's guitarist, Steve Cropper, played Sitting on the Dock of the Bay in open E. Tricksy, secret stuff, then but he was a lovely, generous man, Sam Mahood, from Banbridge town in the County Down but like my street-child self, 

haunting the University quarter of Belfast.  
Sadly, there's nothing of his sweet, soul music on youtube, just some poorly-recorded blues jams that would be better deleted.

Sammy never made it big 

but the pushier, rowdier Van Morrison did
 and as with so many whose audience only listens to pop music, Morrison's output is significantly over-valued, much of his stuff is shouty, sub-Ray Charles  R'n'B that was shit even when Ray Charles did it  but there are gems, especially on Astral Weeks and this, from much later, is almost enough to make one forgive his churlish, shouty abominations.

My friend, the poet, Felix Hodcroft, bought me this, even though, like mr bungalow bill, he probably preferred Mahler's Ninth. Instrumentally, this sounds more Aegean than Strangford Lough-ish, and the arrangement, especially the sawing strings in the coda,  remind me of Wagner's Tannhauser overture. The Christian leitmotif, too, probably transfers to all faiths, even to that greatest of all, fervent atheism.

I don't know what's going on in Greece,
 how would I ? 
Certainly skymadeupnewsandfilth are preaching the one true gospel of Greed uber Alles and foretelling cataclysm for non-believers but they would wouldn't they; mr mongoose, a thread back, was a little more plaintively optimistic, admitting at least to Punishment's Alternative, for Greece and for us  all.

I don't know, either, about the new Greek government, as Mr George Showbiz Galloway constantly proves, it takes more than suits without ties to denote a revolutionary 

but at least they're not Angula Merkel and Christine la Vache.  

Mad crow blues.

Good luck to them, the Greeks, in pissing on this pair;
turning the water
into wine. 

Shit or bust, these are the days.

Wednesday 28 January 2015


The telly is profiling the super rich at the moment;  there is a great, angry show on one of the outlets, The SuperRich and Us,  there has been the exposure of the unspeakable and vile TatlerFolk, who should all be summarily executed and PBC 2's carefully restricted view of Richard Branson's Caribbean island, Nekker, Billionaire's Paradise, despite all the inevitable fawning, 

reveals him to be a cheap and not very bright narcissist and a bit of a snorting bully.  

Oh, mr ishmael, he can't be stupid, look at all the money he's made, plus Tubular Bells.  Right, that's me told. Robert Maxwell, Alan Sugar, Rupert Murdoch, you are my sunshine, all of you.

When I was in business, myself, retailing furniture into prosperous houses, I would always pay attention to anything the customer chose to say to me, I was always curious. Some were self-made businessfolk, engineers from the Back Country, fishmongers from the Cotswolds. Many were senior health professionals grown  wealthy in private practice.  I sold a beautiful, extravagant five-mirrored dressing chest,
It was like this but much more grand  and florid.

one time, to a regular customer, an anaesthetist, and in the shop she said to her brat of a 12 year old daughter, for whom she had made the purchase - £1250 - Now, darling, mr ishmael has gone to some trouble to find us this and it just so matches your other bedroom furniture,  you will take good care of it because it's quite a lot of money........Oh, mother, it's only what you make in a morning.  Well, not every morning, darling. 

Another time, a brain surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth, wanting to buy a big fuck off compactum wardrobe went into one of those spiv spiels, Oh, come,we are all men of the world, surely you can lose the VAT. For cash.  We're talking cash here. Pound notes. There weren't any pound notes, then, but never mind, I assumed he knew his neural pathways better than he knew his currency-argot.

 I happened to have a couple of grand in my back pocket. Cash, I said, showing it to him, I have enough cash for today, thank you, and anyway, cash sales have to go through the books, too, whaddayathink I am, a fucking crook, like you, and where do you suppose your NHS salary comes from, if it's not from VAT, eh? I fired a round of fucks into him and off he went, a sadder and a wiser man; he came back though, muted, and bought the wardrobe, 'sany number of brain surgeons around, but this wardrobe - it had been a bishop's - was the only one in the world.

Another time, I bought  another compactum wardrobe - I restored and sold  loads of them - at auction, one night, bought it for a song, don't know why, nobody wanted it; it was what the trade calls Edwardian, that fabulous inlaid mahogany, unshowy, with a flat pediment, simple but high quality brassware, masculine, with beautiful grains and colours. 

Anyway, I had this, one like this,  in the shop for ages, at £450 and I couldn't sell it but I liked it so much that I took it home. And for about a year, I used to wake up and look at this thing, in awe. I had sold hundreds of flashy Victorian wardrobes but these turn-of-the-century pieces were and still are, in terms of materials, design and cabinet-makers skills, a special case;  the Italians used to love this stuff, shipping it out by the tonne.   Time came, anyway,  that I was moving house, myself;  I'll just drop this back in the shop, I thought, until we're settled-in at the new place.  The piece still had it's £450 price ticket on and when I put it in the shop I just thought, maybe it's too cheap and so I squeezeed a 1 in front of the 450 and fuck me, it sold within ten minutes. Woman walked into the shop and said, can you deliver that?  Sure can. Right, she said, taking out her cheque book, how much is it?

When we delivered it, to a Victorian millionaire's  mansion in Farquahar Road, Edgbaston, I realised that these people had better things to do than involve me in a tax fiddle, money wasn't their thing, they already had money; fine things, rare, unusual, preferably unique, that was their thing. And sitting in their then two million pounds house, this would have been cheap at twice the price. The barrowboy surgeon, however, he was still on the make, probably always will be, although he will always, also,  think twice about saying Can we lose the tax; by we, he meant me, he meant me going to prison, cheeky cunt.
The are not all like him, forever holding their hands out, scowling;  I dealt with scores of them and some were just like you and I but there were enough of them, like him, to give his game a bad name.
My business life persuaded me that for most of us, despite the efforts of our masters to persuade us otherwise, money isn't actually everything.  

The Branson show, however, the existence and celebrity of a prat like Richard Branson, provides a counterpoint;  depressing, vulgar and trashy the super rich, whilst depriving so many of what they need have nothing that I want.

In addition to running late and overcrowded trains, Beardy also makes a packet from hiring his island home to stupid arseholes who would disgrace Butlins and this show took a look at them and their costly experence in Paradise. Branson always walks and talks flash insouciance, doesn't he? Nobody loves the rich, apart, maybe, from themselves and Beardy's chums seem to be arseholes, like himself, chancers, like Tony and Imelda, who knighted him after a free holiday in his island shithole.  

This is all free, Richard, right?  
I mean everything?
Knighthoods don't come cheap, y'know.
I may be a pretty, straightguy 
but I still have to turn a profit.

And, look, I simply say,
Imelda, she doesn't come cheap.

Beardy has, in pride of place in his beach hut, a letter from Diana Spencer-Battenberg, a knob-sucking-promissory-note, a  paean to his generosity, in letting her, her brats and her team - servants paid for by us - crash-out there, she hadn't met the al Fayeds at that point.  Beardy simpers, in his wet voice, that it was just perfect for Diana, 

took the pressure off, and for the kids, too, took the pressure off princes Gormless and Hooligan, because they were people like him, people like Beardy, in the public eye, what they need and deserve is a ShitIsle in the sun, away from the rest of us, who make their lives a misery. And that's what he's got, palm trees, lizards and a poxy wee beach, which employs a handful of slaves-with-JCBs from a neighbouring island, desperately trying to stop the sands slipping into the sea. 

This portrait of  the mad aviator on his Caribbean home did him  no favours, even relaxed, fending-off no questions about VirginSpace or his shitty train service  and half-pissed, even on his own turf he looks and sounds shifty and unwholesome. 
No, no (giggles wetly), 
it's just a metaphor for me pissing on you.

The white staff,  all youngish, all prettyish, all unfathomably stupid and starstruck, 

live-in on Party Island, within earshot of their  master's wet voice, the better to serve him, 'cos that's wot Richard needs, opined some pimply rentboy, cos he's so busy an' works so hard;  the black folks  are boated-in, daily to make the beds, haul the shit, chop the wood and dig the sand;  Richard allows them a wee party of their own, now and again, a glass of red wine and a jump in  Branson's ocean; they must think they've died and gone to Heaven, jumping in the sea, eh? Caribbeans?
Another Beardy Bimbo,
they all look like her, his Apartheid inner sanctum.

Looking uncomfortably like a pimp, Biggles  insisted that not only should his staff members drink with paying visitors but have what he called relationships with them, boasting, with a snort, that he had sacked, after two days, a manager who had suggested otherwise.  

Branson's accountant, above, relaxes by leting his customers nibble  sushi off her warm body, it's really career-expanding, she pouts, to have soy sauce licked out of my bellybutton. 
Honest, not invent.

Said visitors appeared to consist, on this occasion,  of older, rich women, drooling over the Watersports boy, just think, one of them drooled, today he was teaching me to water-ski, tonight he's pouring my drink, nudge-nudge.  Others would call for drinks to be delivered to them as they sprawled on the dwindling sands, and can he please take his shirt off before he comes. Splashing about in the sea, drinking too much booze, eating too much food and the ogling of young flesh, far from the prying eyes of others,  that seemed to be the Nekker Experience.  Twenty grand a week, or thereabouts

At the whites only staff barby, the boythings and girlthings prepare Richard's favourite for him -  chickens are broiled, stood vertical over the coals on a beer can which is opened and stuffed into their  aperture; the top removed, the beer is supposed to boil, flavouring the flesh.  It was an oddly obscene sight, a dead chicken, cooking  with a beer can thrust up it, and not just for vegetarians. And one can't help but suspect that, never mind his wet grins,  this ghastly fuck-up of a man would like to see us all with a redhot beercan up our arses.

Despite all the conditions he would have imposed, in this startling show  Branson could not help but expose himself, wanking away at the White Man's Burden.

My old friend Gauguin used to fume:   Life being what it is, one dreams of vengeance. A hurricane would do, sweep all this vermin into the sea,

Sunday 25 January 2015



Tory Klansmen in bid to undercut Poundland.
 No, no, Eric is quite right, 
the Pakis need to stand up and play the white man.

I'm sick of these Tory bastards, 
 Govey and the fat fucker and that fucking clown, Cameron.

 It's not the party I joined,  as a young Tory Muslim bint, fresh-faced from t'mill, 'ikin'  over t'Pennines t' t'constituency meeting, nowt burra bag o' t'pork scratchins  to keep me goin',  like, only not pork, obviously, on account o' me faith, like  

Yeah, Fred Dibnah, 

'e wurra constituent o' mine, 'fore 'e died, like,  aye, as it 'appens, 'e did ask me t't marry 'im,  'n travel t'country, perched on t'hot part of 'is steam engine, an' share in is bacon sandwich,  like,  an' his sausage butty

worree cooked on't shovel,  like. 

But I  couldna married Fred, aye, on account o' me faith, like. 

Well, I say he wurra constituent, like, but I were never achelly  elected to owt, it were just 'andy for that Cameron t'have a token Paki bint in t'govament. 
And on t'telly. 

An' so 'e made me a Baroness, like a memsahib, yeah. Aye, a sort of a Muslim Gracie Fields if you like but it all went sour, like, when they sacked me, 

on account o' me faith, like....

  And here, on Question Time, we are joined, now, for only a very few pounds, by Britain's greatest professional Muslimwoman, Yasmin Alibhai Muslim. 
Yazza, what's your take on all this?

Well, David or Jonathan,
 speaking as a career Muslimwoman.......

Yes, yes, that's why you're here.

Yes, as I was saying, speaking as the nation's leading career Muslimwoman, I have to say that Baroness Wogsi is absolutely right. Israel IS the only democratic state in the region, is our ally, and has every right to kick out the wogs and build settlements on their land, and yes, eventually in Jordan and Syria and Lebanon, anywhere they want. And if I might just say, David or Jonathan, anyone who disagrees with me is clearly a fucking Holocaust-denying fucking racist fucking Nazi fucking terrorist fucking bastarding anti fucking semite fucking arsehole. Muslims are all paedophiles, cartoon-hating, head-chopping fanatics who bathes in ghee and spends their spare time hacking goats to  death with rusty knives, fucking raghead bastards, yes, and killing their own daughters,  Oh, whoops, fuck me, Allah, what am I saying, David of Jonathan, I just slipped into being my colleague, Mad Melanie Philips-Rosenberg-Gefeltefische for a moment; 
Jehova rules,  grrr-arrgh.
'seasy done, same difference, same script, gobbing-off, feigning moral indignation, peddling racist codswallop, dressed-up as sweet reason. That'll be twelve hundred pounds, please, from the BBC. 

Did I mention that my son's a lawyer?
I did? Every week?
Well, speaking as a Muslim woman, I do think it bears repeating.
My son, the lawyer.
Eat pigshit and die, Melanie.

Over now to KiddyNewsnight's Evan Sphinter, yes, that's him, in the tight little rentboy suit,  and all I can say is that  you'd never see Jerry Paxman dressed up like a male prostitute.
Evan,  whaddayou make of all this? Storm in a ghee-cup? I mean tea-cup?

Well, Huw, all I know is that capitalism is just the greatest, most best thing ever and I just love rich businessmen, who wouldn't, with their bulging wallets and trousers. ( grins inanely) 
That's My Bottom  Line. (sniggers)  
Muslim Women? Not a fucking clue, me. That's a matter for Emily, she's a woman. 
At least she says so, (grins and sniggers) although there's more than a whiff of the tranny about her. 
Or is it him? 
 Her she comes, now. 
(sings) (and grins) Now, I'm not dumb, but I can't understand, how she walks like a woman and talks like a man.....

Thanks,  Evan, you little minx, 
but you're  not the only PBC Queen of the leather trousers,  you know, and yes, this is the story of Tracey Warsi, the crooked PakiPeer, as she's known, gobbing-off about the Tories sacking her, although ostensibly her grievance is about equal opportunities. As if.  

And while we are on the Tories, the Poundland  leader,  Sid Faridge has just issued a statement relating to the  news of a so-called Muslim defection, from Poundland to the Tory Klan.

These fucking nignogs,
they should all vote UKIP,
I mean Tory
and play the white man,
like me.

Well yes, we are a broad church, in my party, and Mr Ali Baba is very welcome, even if he is a fruitcake, as he clearly is.  Nothing like a turncoat. Look at me.
 The Tories ? Oh,I don't know what they'll make of him.
 Don't have much to do with them

Sid Pimp and Mr Ali Baba
in happier days.

Well, yes. Look, do you know what, it only goes to show what I've always said about immigration. Let's be dead honest about this. Just for a change. And do you know what, this bloke, this darkie defector, he started off  with Labour, then he went Tory, then he came to me, looking for a home, and when I gave him one, a home, I mean, not that other sort of give-him-one, not that I know anything about that, illegal in The Poundland party,  it is, travelling on the Brown 'Bus. I mean, let's be fair, who'd want to do that, when the taxpayers pay for your mistresses.  And do you know what, after a busy day not working in the European parliament but just filling in all my expenses claims, a decent, honest, straight-talking  politician such as myself needs a little comfort.  Let's be clear, it's why we're all in it. But no, this  Paki who defected, when I gave him a home and a decent salary, what does he do? I'll tell you what he did, he turned his coat and betrayed the very party which gave him his chance. Yes, exactly, exactly like Douglas Carswell. Who's he, anyway, Douglas Carswell? Is he really?  Well look, do you know what, Emily, I can't be expected  to know the name of every single two MPs we have in Westminster now, can I? I mean, let's be fair, the only one that really counts is me. And do you know what, I'm not even there. What, not likely to be?  Well, not to put too fine a point on it, Emily, do you know what,  I'd rather be the leader of the fastest  shrinking I mean growing political party in my own mind than be a transsexual working for the PBC, who has been, let's be fair, almost entirely replaced by a grinning rentboy. 
Wouldn't you? 
Do you know what I mean?

Friday 23 January 2015


I'll try this again, gremlins ate it, the last time, just as I finished;  the Accursed Universe,  made infinitely more accursed by our steps in cyberspace.  I loved the film and the more distant it becomes the more I dwell on it, speak of it and love it the more; maybe, this time of writing, ten days on, I'll figure it out, more better, as the NewPeople say.

Anyone who saw even a fragment of an episode of the series in which Timothy Spall and his ditzy wife almost suicidally sailed their decrepit Thames barge, Matilda, around the British Isles 

Look, dear, ain't them rocks, dead ahead?

 would have been amazed that he could remember a line, hit his marks or manage to do-up his flies when appearing in a proper film.  Tim was paranoid ineptitude personified and

Where are we?  'Ow should I know, sweedart?
Don't you know?

 if, messing about in boats,  you ever see the Princess Matilda bearing down on you,
give her a wide berth. 

 Tim, however, in Mr Turner, Film Four's Mike Leigh biopic of the painter,  gave a thundering performance, proving mrs ishmael's dictum that they are just dumb, empty vessels, luvvies, there to serve writers and directors and all the other properly clever people in cinema - the costumiers and set-builders, the make-up artists and the dialogue coaches;  after two years preparation, Tim, as Turner,  never put a foot wrong.

 Benny Cumberbatch, as long as he lives, will never turn in such a performance, it takes a rare dedication to immerse one's own self so, maybe it is that  emptiness within those capable of great cinema acting which we see here;  those deemed great - or at least greatly popular - stars like Michael Caine, manage, in everything they do,  to be enough of themselves, enough their own brand to satisfy their fans  and producers and Caine, always threatening to leave the UK should Labour regain power -  never mind, Mick, you'll be off soon enough, anyway - Caine is on record as saying that all he ever wanted was lots of money and some Oscars, and now I got 'em, a cheap, vulgar man; can't quite see Spall having the nerve to say that and as Turner, he was absolutely nothing of himself or any of his previous characters; instead,  he was a succession of contradictory characteristics which we must assume contained Turner - 

a devoted and dutiful son,

a neglectful, tight-fisted  husband and father, 

   an  ebullient Royal Acamedician

a brutish lover who  cruelly  betrayed his Chelsea housekeeper-mistress, not before giving her syphillis,

yet finding Thames-side domestic harmony 
 " with you, woman, and bustle about."

as common-law husband 
to his former Margate landlady. 

Turner's reputation rises and falls, at one time he is seen as the butt of cruel music hall jokes about his increasing fascination with splurges of light  

which he executes

 instead of continuing to paint the representational land

 and seascapes for which he is famous.   

Skulking out of sight at an exhibition he overhears a youngish Queen Victoria and her ponce, Albert, deriding his art like the dreadful, crass German philistines they were.

Train, rain, steam and speed, 
Great Western Railway 1844;

Their Royal Krautnesses were not amused.

 Neither loveable nor honourable, Mr Turner is a hugely gifted Everyman, played without hauteur or artfice by Spall, farting, grunting, phlegmatic and taciturn, yet dazzling for all that.


Mr Turner, as you would expect, was painterly from the opening shot, two Dutch matrons walking a canal bank while Turner sketched a windmill; exquisitely located, set, costumed and lit, it was as though in every scene a Vermeer or a Rembrandt had come slowly to life;  every  scene  emerging from a composed and framed moment.

Mr Turner was as lovingly coloured as was Peter Webber's 2003 speculative study of Vermeer, 
 Girl With The Pearl Ear-ring,
and although the Turner interiors were more flatly coloured, more distempery, they were probably more accurate, you could almost reach in and feel the crackling, the imperfection.  The furniture, too, was what we would now call distressed, it being a utility common-place to the Victorians, the mahogany sideboard we would these days cherish,
 as I do, here,

 was all kicked about and scuffed, scratched to fuck.
Just in its portrayal of the daily, Mr Turner was a message from another world. Mr Death appears three or four times and his recruits are accorded a deep, unsentimental respect, a sensibility galaxies away from the crazed, mawkish garage-floriculturalism of our trashy times.

There was much, also, of the painter's preparatory doings, 
sourcing the paints, 
Cobalt Blue from far, expensive Afghanistan, 
 and securing  the canvases

and most importantly finding, chasing the light
and being its servant

windows loom large in this telling of Mr Turner's life and death, as they did, anyway,  for nineteenth century man and woman but especially so for a painter. Damien Hirst 

Tracey, a portrait of the artist as a young drunk.

and Tracey Emin and their brutish  patrons, 
worthies such as Saatchi and his trollopy cook wife.
An art collector's caress.

would have us think that art was simply  whatever you can get away with, in exchange for whatever you can charge; 
indeed Saatchi and his grubby mates have ensured that these days people applaud not the work but the price it fetches at some crooked auction house, like Sothebys, peddling investments to Russian criminals. Y'know, Tatler people.   They do do that, they stand up and clap the money.

Mr Turner reminds us that there is a good deal more to it than spunky sheets and bifurcated sharks; technique, knowledge and practice not being Oh, y'know, like s-o-o-o optional.

And however unwholesome his customs and practices,  Turner, towards the end, decidely unEminently, eschews a proferred fortune and instead bequeaths his collection of canvases to the British people, the Turner Rooms in the Tate Gallery 

now a series of spaces transcending the normal boundaries of painterliness.

There is a scene in Mr  Turner in which he and some friends are rowed across the path of the Fighting Temeraire, being towed by a steam tug to the scrapyard and which, taken with the dialogue, is more movingly expressive of change, decay and progress  than anything Turner, himself, painted; one could weep, foolishly, for a pile of old timbers and ropes. Stuff, by its familiarity, imports a value much greater than its assumed value, by owning - or stewarding - something, we add value; Time and familiarity apply their own burnish. Turner's desolate view, in the original,  of the redundant Temeraire, teaches us that. 

 It is often said that the truly honourable among us are those who decline the baubles of the Queen's Birthday Nonsense and that must also be true of LuvvieWorld. Save for some at Cannes, Leigh and Spall won no  glittering prizes, yet theirs is one of the most powerfully moving, informing and utterly charming films ever to have lifted me upwards and onwards.

If only Mike Leigh had spent his creative life on subjects such as this, instead of the perfectly horrid Abigail's Party and Nuts in May...if only, but then, those horrors led him here. He wins no Baftas or Oscars.  In Mr Turner there are no car chases, no porn, no violence, unless, of course, you count Life's inevitabilities - the passing cruelties of the Accursed Universe.

  These stills are an injustice; if you cannot visit the Turner Rooms, if you are interested in painting - or in the extra-Hollywood potential  of  cinema - you could do worse than losing yourself in this expert tapestry. It is the sort of art and craft which makes one consider buying a big home cinema system but it'll do on any old DVD player.
Mike Leigh's Mr Turner is a picture no artist could paint.