Friday, 10 December 2010

I couldnt be arsed in the end

..somewhere between the initial euphoria of getting a first, getting published by a proper paper and having a piece in a proper book the horror of finding proper jobs and real life kicked back in. Anyway, I'm going to start afresh on 1/1/11.....A million words in 2011. 365 days. What's that, 3,000 a day. Piece of piss.

And I've started a novel too. That took up some time. And working. Shit, working. Misery, thy name is Employment.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Cormac McCarthy reports from the second day at Lords

See the boy. Born these eighteen years past in the time of Imran. And like Imran, he is a cricketer. What a time it was this morning to see him bowl. To watch a boy with the red sun spinning in the universe of his own delivery.

Not much of play possible in the day previous to this. The ground now wet by the cloud’s own googlies. Rain like none seen in these parts for some time. The groundsmen protect the pitch overnight with a wheeled contraption. Strauss the day’s sole slaying one short of forty and another one short of forty one.

The first over of the day given to the boy. That young slight thing not yet prone to the tears of men but tied to the tears of a childhood he will not see again. First two balls are good but the third is the one they will talk of in Islamabad. Cook gone again. His ashes in ashes so they say though it is not the done thing to speak of such things before a second innings. Though in his own walk back from the crease his eyes spoke not of ashes but of cinders. A burnt Christmas lunch at his mother's. Sympathetic telegram from one they called Trescothick. The unused sunblock crusting in the car boot.

Pietersen, Collingwood and Morgan. All men of the same company. All taken by the boy without so much as a run between them. Sitting ducks. The umpire’s finger raised like a sermoniser’s. Three men fallen to a child. The stripling tires, the captain rests him. A man named Trott steps forward and adds runs with the man Prior.
The man Trott and the man Prior walk on the umpire’s signal towards lunch. Ninety seven runs on the board and half the team already vanquished, such has been the work of the boy.

What is a sandwich but some foodstuffs placed between the parameters of two slices of bread? None can doubt it. Though others experiment with pancetta and Panini, whores of wheat from some land not yet familiar with Wisden, the cucumber green as an outfield lies between thick slices of bread carved from the same whiteness as a wicket keeper’s pads. The flask of tea a joyous sign of some benevolent God not yet revealed.

I will reach my millennia, says Trott, gazing out across the meadow as he descends once more unto the field of battle. But the boy, now fully rested, returns with the afternoon sun hot in his earth-scorched maw. Released with speed and guile, he takes out Prior. And soon Swann is gone and the angelic one they called Broady stepped into the line of fire.

And now these two men begin to score runs, they bat away the redness of the sun, the light that sat with the boy now a scorched shadow in his own dark hands, the clapping of the members becoming louder and more appreciative as the man Trott and the boy Broad begin to build a partnership. A century follows in those floodlit minutes after tea. And then another. And the end of play fallen upon the batsmen, bowlers and fielders. Walking away to the gunfire of the crowd’s approving hands, the boy’s work all but undone and Trott one short of a century plus half that score again and a record eighth partnership just two away. Forecast good for tomorrow, though I’ll have to catch the fucking highlights on Five.

Sorry, I meant to say, the red evening canvas spoke of wickets and runs once the stars had spun themselves another hemisphere hence, though the witnessing of sport would only be a listening to as the man Murdoch set the tariff in these parts and it was higher than most poor folk could stand.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Eight Habits of People Not Achieving Much.

Introducing the first in an occasional series of business-minded articles encouraged to take the pro out of productivity.

Habit 1: Do Not Have Personal Goals

The best way to stop worrying about hitting personal goals is not to have personal goals. Seriously, what’s the point. Oh, in five years, I have to be running Marketing – North and Midlands or I am so out of here. See that guy leaving early, grinning at the thought of a night on the piss. Guess what, not only is he not going to get that job either, he doesn’t give a fuck about it. If you're going to miss out on a personal goal, you’ve got two choices. Either work really hard, engaging with all the right contacts, widening your circle of influence only to be screwed over at the interview stage when they give the job to the MD’s daughter-in-law with the amazing ass or you can go to work late most days, never go the extra mile and always keep Sunday evenings free as another opportunity to get wrecked.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

In his pile of shit nonsense manual, Covey says you should consider your own death. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? How will you be remembered? Hey, he was an amazing Head of Human Resources. Whoo. Build a statue. We all love administrators, right? Fuck that, my friends. Consider this instead. Tomorrow you could be on the way to work, hangover stamping in your head like a roomful of toddlers in Gary Glitter stack heels, thinking of how you could just murder another nineteen hours of sleep and maybe just a bacon sandwich, and guess what – that selfish terrorist next to you has blown you to fuck. We can die anytime, life is precious, and if you want to waste it working your tits off just so you get a parking space outside the office, well more fool you. Do you know the majority of people killed in 9/11 were people ON TIME? Promptness kills, people.

A lot of successful athletes use visualisation techniques. I do. I get to my job and I imagine myself on Friday, smashed with some friends watching Sean Connery’s Medicine Man on DVD and sniffing pretty much anything I can find in the bathroom. Oh yes, visualisation helps me achieve my goal. Who are the nation’s favourite sportsmen? Is it Gary Lineker or Jimmy Greaves? Stephen Hendry or Alex Higgins? Who needs a trophy when you can have the love of the nation and a taste for mid-price cognac.

Habit 3: Shit That Needs Doing Will Always Be Done By Somebody Else

You’ve all seen the film. There’s this hopeless military or armed robbery situation and basically some guy has to throw himself onto the grenade or into a shitstorm and get himself killed to save his friends. Don’t be that guy. Yeah they’ll remember you forever but being remembered isn’t as good as remembering.
Put into the context of work, it’s simple. How many times on a Monday morning have you gone “Ah shit, I forgot to compose that spreadsheet full of the February accounts.”

Again, you have a choice, eithgo into a panic, do a half arsed job and get shouted at. Or you can phone in sick, text an ambitious colleague saying “Yeah they’re on my desktop but IT had a problem when we had that crash on Friday, could you see if you could make a start on it for me. I’ll finish it tomorrow. Got to get it done by tomorrow afternoon cos Sir Doug wants to see it and it’s a chance for me to shine. Typical I should go down with the flu...”

What happens? Your colleague does the job for you, twice as well as you ever could have, saves your arse, raises his profile and everyone’s happy. Even better, it’s now quarter to eleven, the cricket starts in ten minutes and the pub is open.

Habit 4: The Customer Is Always The Customer

The customer is King. How many times do you hear that from some fucking idiot? “Ner, ner, ngggh, I want to speak to your manager because I was promised chicken and liver risotto/the February accounts/a working wheelchair” The Customer is King is a) sexist because women dig being equal and stuff, b) Shit. The Customer is just like you, a human being. So what if they don’t come back. Good. You don’t have to put up with them anymore. But what if we all behaved like that, I hear you cry. Well, nobody would complain. That’s got to be progress.

Habit 5: Listening Is Not The Same As Hearing

Blah blah blah. Sixty two percent of communication is physical. Whatever. The reason listening is not the same as hearing is this. If I wanted to listen to your fucking soul destroying quarterly management brief about the roll out of the Devon and Cornwall Synergy Map then I wouldn’t have invested in these practically invisible headphones for my iPod. No one cares. Well, I don’t.

Habit 6: Synergize

What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I have no idea what that means but I think that roughly it equates to - the company couldn’t give a fuck how many extra miles you do, it’s a great lumbering shit monster with the heart and soul of an enthusiastic gasman at Auschwitz.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Just as a machine will wear out quickly if not properly maintained, the same is true for your own personal productivity. You must take care of yourself. Stay in practise. That guy with the eye on your boss’s job, what are they like when they come out on the town with you and the gang. That’s right, they’re the one puking everywhere after a couple of drinks and boring you all shitless with work talk. Fucking loser.

Your body is the machine. Just as you can’t pour diesel into erm a thing you know a car that doesn’t need diesel, so equally you can’t spend your week drinking hi-energy smoothies and ristrettos like the boss does and then expect to hold your own at drinkies. Anyone ever take a photo of everyone writing reports? No. Anyone take a picture of you all holding drinks that are ON FIRE in the air? All the time. Stay sharp, like the saw, and you too can stay in the picture.

Habit 8: It's not Laziness, it's Altruistic Career Advancement

See, when I fuck up, delegate or just plain don't do something, it gives you the humble wannabe the chance to shine. If we were all determined and dedicated, nobody would get anywhere, nothing would happen. For every Neil Armstrong, there's a million guys in burger stained t-shirts sitting in bars telling anyone who'll listen that they could have got a shot at the Moon if they hadn't fucked up their knee playing drinks golf that one time. It's not that I'm lazy or that I don't care. Alright, it is those things but fuck it, I'm presenting you with the chance to shine. One man's delegation feeds another's dedication and all that.

Next week, in Business Seminars, I'll be showing you the Nine Thought Streams of Barely Solvent Kings of the Bar.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Land Of Piss

The genius that is Simon Croppier has ventured into the land of children's songs with this offering, a piece of work that pisses all over Puff the Magic Dragon and The Wheels on the Bus.

My Favourite 365 Songs of All Time Special - Seven Slices of Indier than Thou Joy

On the sleeve of the Fall's 1995 live album, The Twenty-Seven Points, there was the warning sticker: PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT, INCOMPETENT MUSIC. Which, for sheer honesty, takes some beating.

My love of such wanton amateurism has led me down some shoddy lanes of listening down the years. For every endearingly shambolic Pavement single, there was also a Trumans Water CD you couldnt give away. But these seven slices of badly played cake will stay with me for the rest of time.

1: Royal Trux - Stevie (Song for Steven S). What's that, you say, heroin addicts rip off Richard Branson so much he pays them to fuck off forever. And then release a crack-addled tribute to shit movie legend Steven Seagal with the money he gave them. Sold, sir. Don't tell me the White Stripes haven't played this to death.

2: Guided By Voices - Game of Pricks. Basically what the Beatles would have sounded like if they came from Ohio thirty years or so later. A ridiculously prolific band, all the albums had about 98 songs on called things like "Man called Aerodynamics" and "The Official Ironman Rally Song", all of which sounded like a band who didnt know if they liked the Byrds, the Who or the Stones best and just decided to crash through their own impression of each band at the same time. This is a live version so you can see the joy of middle aged men being part time rock legends.

3: Quickspace Supersport - Do It My Own Way. A call to arms for people not easily put off achieving things despite the evidence of their musical limitations. Features an appalling recorder solo and perhaps the greatest one fingered guitar incompetence ever.

4: The Fall - Idiot Joy Showband (live) From the album mentioned in the opening paragraph, this is the Fall at their purest. Some soundman's fucked up, Mark E Smith leads the band off, puts a tape recording of him ranting over the PA, band walk back on and start again. Few bands would let this recording get out. Only one perhaps would release it as part of a live album.

5: Wesley Willis - My Mother Smokes Crack Rocks The title would be enough to tempt me at the jukebox but when you hear it's some fucked up homeless guy with even less musical talent than bedding, it's a guiltier pleasure than you anticipated. Like Daniel Johnston below, you think I shouldn't be enjoying this, this is like indie Susan Boyle. And then you think, indie Susan Boyle, yes I'll have a cup of that.

6: Daniel Johnston - Some Things Last A Long Time. In which the clearly troubled Mr Johnston sings yet another love song for the unrequited love of his life. And if this song had been at the end of Toy Story 3, there would have been public suicides.

7: Steve Bent - I'm Going To Spain. Like some kind of new genre, uneasy-listening, this kept Steve Bent going for weeks on New Faces back in the mid-70s. Covered by The Fall, this is a masterpiece of musical travelogue very much of the time. Y Viva Espana and Typically Tropical were the sound of the package holiday summer and Bent plummeted into obscurity after just one single. And it has to have been an influence on this legendary Reeves and Mortimer song from 1990....

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Card - 1st draft

NOTE - This is the first draft of a short story. Comments welcome. Even ones about Tenby's nightlife and the album cover art of the Police.

The Card

In the weeks before the Last Crash the powers at Bank decided to launch a new product. Their cash points, though they had adapted to the various needs of the people in the previous decade, were still little more than holes in the wall filled with steel and paper. The banks were proud of these machines, with their shiny screens and fluorescent lettered buttons. The machines were their best employees, always on hand to dish out money for drinks and trinkets. Sometimes the machines dished out bad news, and sometimes they took a punch for their troubles, but usually they generously gave of themselves, neatly stacked bundles of faith for every denomination.

Things changed, the powers at Phone had produced little hand held phones and people became obsessed with them, wailing at night with terrifying dreams of separation from their little hand held children. The powers at Bank agreed to put an option on their cash machine screens to Add Phone Credit so people could chat and drink.

Then Internet came along. They made friends with Phone and Bank but the Cash Machine department never got invited to their glittering party. All the other departments at Bank knew it was only a matter of time before Cash Machine would be closed down. Physical money was disappearing. It was all in the ether now. And that would be for the better. No one could lose something that wasn’t there. No one could be mugged for the contents of a non-existent purse. On Fridays, the bars filled with people with tiny phones and money you couldn’t even see. The people who worked for Bank Machine would sigh and remember better times.

My father worked for Bank Machine. He installed the first notes in the first machine. The world’s press had been invited. People peered through the window as he switched the machine on in front of all the Bank employees. He was carried on the shoulders of cheering men and women as the array of lights and mechanised whirring began the revolution waiting to happen outside. It was half past five on a Friday night. My dad was lowered down to the street as he produced the first cash card from his wallet. The crowd went silent. Across the world people watched on their Televisions. People openly wept as he held up the ten pound note to the floodlights.

That was how things stayed for so long. People had their cards and took money out of the wall. It went from status symbol to everyday item in the blink of an eye. And once that had happened, the celebrity that my father enjoyed (and the acclaim that came with it for all who worked in Bank Machine) dwindled and died.

Until, the people at Bank Machine invented the Card. The Card would do everything. It was financial, telecom, entertainment and above all, it was doctor and sage. The Card would follow your transactions, your movements, make calculations arrived at from food receipts, altitude and speed of movement and give you your Life Score. People became obsessed with their Life Score. The queues at cash points once more reached the Biblical lengths of yore.

My father would tell me the Card was madness. He wondered when it would be that the madness would begin. The Card, he’d say to me as I came home late from school, will cause more wars than the Bible and the Bomb put together. I’d hear him downstairs at night, shouting at salesmen on the phone.


Although my father had warned against it, my mother had still bought me a Card for my 14th birthday.

“All his friends have one. You know how important it is to fit in at his age.”

It was slim silver. The 4th best on the First Card index. Everyone knew it was good.

My mum smiled as my dad begged me to be careful.

“I won’t lose it.” I said and my parents blinked back tears just like in the advert.


When you insert the Card for the first time the screen lines up a small beam of infra-red light that you must look at directly with your left eye. The screen clears and soon fills with all kinds of physical data about your body. It tells you your height and weight, your BMI, pulse and scans your brain for tumours. It tells you how much Money you have at that second and tells you where you could eat a good meal near to that Cash point. It books the table if you want. You already know that, though, don’t you.

I ate a burger and fries and twenty minutes later the Card told me to walk briskly home before the rain came.


The first incidents of Card Rage were dismissed by Cash Machines as myth and mischief-making by The Other Corporations. My dad was retired early by Bank for bringing it up at a board meeting. A man in Dusseldorf had left a print out of his Stress Levels on his desk in error and had been summarily dismissed from his job with Sport Clothing. He inserted his Card in a machine on the way home and was recommended a sushi restaurant for dinner. Raw fish, said the coroner, contains vital decoagulants for those with looming coronary issues. The man, a Herr Allofs, plunged a knife into the face of the waitress who brought him Drinks recommended by the Card.

Seventy four people, mainly Card users, died when the jet that took them to a new zoo in Utah plunged into a popular ski resort. Until the article was removed, an online journalist reported that the pilot had used his Card a mere ten minutes before takeoff and had received a horoscope he had badly interpreted. There were Card-related suicide cults in Uppsala, in Murmansk and Cleveland. A dentist in Cork removed all of his own teeth in despair when his Replacement Card was delayed.

Looking back now, we can all see that something truly bad would happen. My father said it would happen and we chose to ignore him. My mother left him for another woman after choosing Love Sage on the Card. They burnt to death when their car left the road near the Festival of Marksmanship at Sacramento. My father took the call in his study, I was sat upstairs framing my Statements; he put the phone down and sobbed loudly and pitifully. Eventually I went downstairs and took the news from him. My Card had just enough credits for chrysanthemums.


Ignacio Urfate Lopez was drunk the evening he was murdered for his kidneys. He was the owner and manager of a small bistro on the outskirts of Palo Alto. It was a dirty, dim lit place but popular with the local poor of whom Lopez proudly declared his membership. After each Saturday evening shift, he would clear the last of the customers, sweep as much of the floor as he could be bothered and pour himself a large wine glass of dark rum.

One of his staff, an elderly tall fellow of pale skin and yellowing eyes, a man named Suttree complained that he had not been paid that week and asked if Lopez would pay him from the till instead. Lopez apparently had cashed up and emailed Bank but said that if Suttree would wait ten minutes he would switch Credit from his Card to Suttree's via the Cardpoint on Utrillo Square.

What happened next depends on your point of view. Lopez was pretty drunk as he wandered over to the square with Suttree. It was gone midnight, not a soul to be found. Suttree claimed, and there was a lot of supporting evidence for a while on the Internet, that Lopez dropped his wallet and everything fell out. In the ensuing confusion and, no doubt in a rush to be rid of the whining Suttree, an adjective which to his credit the unfortunate Suttree did nothing to disprove or deny in court, Lopez inserted a Donor Card into the Card slot. Apparently he laughed when he realised his error and updated his record to say they could “take every fucking thing they wanted. Who cares, I’m dead?”

Suttree claims that Lopez then put the Card into the slot and switched 250 dollars to his account. The police claim there was a further row about monies owed and Suttree followed him back to his apartment and took his kidneys, eyes, heart and liver out with knives stolen from the diner.

People say they saw ambulances arrive twice.

I don’t know which people anymore. The Donor Card Company agreed to the Merger and everything appears to have gone back to normal.


Tonight the execution of Joseph Mark Suttree will take place on television. Firing squad as voted for by the people after the Justice Count. I myself voted against the Execution. I have a receipt for that Transaction framed upon my wall. I have a copy, as per the Regulations, filed away. But the important receipts I keep. In this, I am not alone. The disbelievers talk of the death of photo albums and letter writing; mock our electronic mementos and digital memories. Everyone has their favourite Receipts. I have my Marriage Bond, I have my Good Attendance Riband Receipt from the Bank, and I have a Loyal and Careful Driver Certificate from the Road Organisation. These are all framed and hang upon my study wall.

On the desk, the computer sits. I will switch the monitor off in a second. The execution is being streamed with a five-second delay, I won’t watch it. I have cut up my Card this evening and it is framed with the last receipt, a bottle of an excellent Chilean red which should improve my Heart Score.

To the left of the monitor, there are scissors. Underneath the scissors, there are tonight’s receipts which I will frame this evening. One for my updated Donor records, one for painkillers and another for chrysanthemums.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Sex and Drugs and Toy Story 3

The final segment of Pixar’s generation-spanning Toy Story trilogy has rightly attracted a great deal of praise for pulling off the rare feat of making a heart warming film that stays just the right side of sentimental without ever veering into histrionics or cliché. A number of theories have sprung up on what the stories themselves actually symbolise. In The Guardian, respected film critic Peter Bradshaw suggests that the discarding of one’s childhood toys represents our mordant fear of being rejected by our own children in our twilight years.

Elsewhere, some people seem to think it’s an endorsement of the pro-life, Papal approved side of 21st century living.

With the kind of what the heck enthusiasm I used to reserve for swallowing shit E’s in the 1990’s, I’ve decided to throw my own two pennorth into the ring. Never mind the fact that with my paltry A-level in Film Studies (grade A, suck on that Kermode) and a knowledge of cinema summed up by only six visits to the pictures (the pictures!!) this century, I’m as well-qualified to comment on film theory as Martine McCutcheon is on the Korea crisis. That doesn’t matter. For, as Simon Cowell surely said of Alexandra Burke, “talent is not necessarily the issue here.”

My theory is basically that Toy Story is essentially a film about the mortality of masculinity. It’s a theory that evolved over a number of half-drunken minutes contemplating the marketing possibilities of my almost-written film Titantric, in which Leonardo Di Caprio fucks a boat for hours without coming. Don’t tell me that won’t work, he’s in a film where he walks around in people’s heads right now. Ludicrous. And don’t tell me you’ve never found yourself looking longingly at a catamaran and found yourself in a need for a cold compress.

Basically, how it works is this. Andy is an Everyman figure, we barely hear him talk but we do hear the voice of that most recognisably Everyman of contemporary American culture, Tom Hanks. Tom is the voice of a cowboy, Woody. Now we can all go on about Woody representing some kind of homespun version of traditional Americana but he’s not. Woody is a penis. He’s Andy’s favourite toy in the first film, always playing with him. But what comes along to threaten his love of playing with his old chap. Buzz Lightyear. Buzz is drink, Buzz is drugs. Buzz is the distraction, the shiny new plaything. Andy goes from thinking about his old chap all day to reaching for the stars. There’s probably something important here about all of this being meta-textual and what have you but I’m on a roll now, this bong is starting to kick in and you’ll just have to bear with me.

Woody’s not physically attached to Andy but he might as well by, his dilemmas all spring from separation from his owner. Fear of castration and all that, a fear better symbolised by Woody’s continual losing of the hat. Yeah, yeah it’s Indiana Jones again I know but Indy’s hat symbolised a longing for being buttfucked. I read it in Take A Break. When Woody loses his hat, it’s a metaphor for being castrated.

Buzz is so clearly a cipher for hedonism. Like the erectile pun of Woody, Buzz’s name springs from the spine-tingling adrenalin rush one can only get from sitting around in the same clothes for five days straight smoking something you think might have been called “Summer Storm” but are now beginning to wonder if he didn’t actually say “Domestos”. Who in all three adventures goes mad, Buzz does. Buzz is the one who most clearly wrestles with his ego, his id. Buzz is the one who gets to go all Mexican, express his feminine side, and of course, convince himself of his ability to fly. He’s a space cadet.

Back in a sec, I just kicked over some Lilt. Fuck it, I’ll do it tomorrow.

The trilogy is basically still a story about growing up but it’s not so much the transition from childhood to maturity, as the rite of passage we must all make in between impregnating our first wanksock and gassing ourselves in a garage before the grandchildren come round for tea. It’s the hell of domesticity that Woody and the gang find themselves in constant battle with, despite the fact that that gang contains Mr and Mrs Potato Head whose love for each other is depicted in an endless display of self-harm, accidental disfigurement and transubstantive tortilla-based shape shifting. Suck on that, Mike Leigh, suck on that.

Anyway, that’s it. Andy’s toys represent all the conflicting fun urges he could be acting upon. Apart from Woody and Buzz, there’s cars (Bullseye), girls (Jessie), munchies (Ham), erm green dinosaurs. Look, I know I’m right. Science is just what they think they know and all that. And the journeys the toys make in each film represent the various forces stopping Andy from getting as much drunken action as he can be. In the first film they have to escape from the neighbours (SOCIETY) the second they have to escape from a wicked businessman (WORK) and the last, they have to escape other toys (PEER PRESSURE). When Andy says goodbye to the toys, it is a genuinely sad moment, because Andy is basically finished as a human being. He’s off to college. He’s off to get a mortgage, a middle management job with Pepsi Burger. His life is over. Cry much? I know I did.

Next week, I’ll be discussing The Cannonball Run with a view to expounding on my theory that Burt Reynolds moustache grew thicker and more lustrous after Deliverance and that’s because he basically liked the squeal piggy bum rape stuff.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Getting Off

It’s not a secret where I work. It’s not a secret because I don’t have anyone to keep secrets from. The only people who I ever see to talk to are the customers and they clearly know where I work.

The name of the shop is Unknown Pleasures and it belongs to my uncle Danny who broke his back in a car crash two years ago and probably isn’t going to be coming back soon. Don’t know why, I mean, even before the accident, he had to have the place all bloody wheelchair-access friendly and all that cos of the regulations now so he could conceivably get here. Maybe it’s an image thing. I’ve not seen any wheelchair guys come in since we had the ramp fitted anyway.

Perhaps they’re too fed up to, er, you know.

I had always known the name of the shop but somehow the nature of the business had always managed to evade my ears until the night I agreed to step in for my uncle. I thought it was a bookshop. I thought it was named after that Joy Division album.

Just goes to show how wrong you can be.

I went to visit my uncle in hospital a couple of times after the accident. He was pretty badly smashed up; all his own fault like. I can’t remember anyone successfully defending a drink driving charge by blaming the drink. He’d had eight or nine pints of wifebeater so he was pretty well lubricated.

But still, they say even Hitler liked dogs and I know my uncle isn’t that bad, despite what my parents say about him. He always bought me cool presents when I was a kid and always looked out for me when I had a row with my dad. When he asked me to mind the shop for a bit I’d just failed my finals so I was at a loose end anyway.

Two years ago that was. Two years in this dingy hole, not even the slightest bit of daylight creeping in except when following the customers in and out of the premises. Like this one bastard. Comes in three times a week. Slips me the wink like I was his mate. I don’t know what he does for a living but I just know it involves fucking people over. He’s probably a landlord or a loans manager or something else that profits on the currency of human vulnerability.

Mind you, I’m a fine one to talk. Look at me, fucking running a porn shop. If I had any friends I’d tell them the truth and hope that they understood my answer to mean working in a business where people trade possessions in for temporary loans. Not that there’s a world of difference between the two. When you’re broke, fifty quid’s fifty quid. Might be the necklace your nan gave you in the hospice before she slipped into flatline country, might be two cocks in your mouth. If you’re broke enough, you’re broke enough.

No windows in these shops. By law. Just so the moral majority are spared the sight of dildos and gimp restraints on their way to work each morning. Fair enough. I mean you turn on the telly or pick up a paper in the morning and it’s all murder, famine and ethnic cleansing so why really ruin your morning by seeing a naked woman or a device to help lonely people achieve sexual satisfaction.

Don’t talk to me about fucking lonely. You don’t know the half of it.

Before I go on, I better tell you, I’m no prude but I don’t really like pornography. That might make me a hypocrite but there’s fuck all else in this town except bar work and call centre work. I did a day in one of those call centres once. Some guy trying to tell me that the ultimate product I can sell is my own personality. Fucking no-mark. And I couldn’t go into a bar knowing that I wasn’t there to have a good time.

I’m only 23 but I reckon I’m the oldest virgin in town. The irony kills me. There I am, all day surrounded by magazines and films showing nothing but endless variations on the themes of fucking and sucking, and I’ve never had it off in my whole life. I don’t even feel like trying any more. You spend a year surrounded by jazzmags and fucktoys and see how horny you feel.

I had a girlfriend once. Met her at uni. Went out for six months but she was a fucking Godhead. Let me bastard finger her a couple of times but that was it. Wouldn’t fucking touch me anywhere erotic at all. She dumped me for Jesus and the precious little confidence I had in my looks and personality pretty much died on me then.

That’s it. My whole experience of women right there. I don’t think I’m that bad looking. Christ, my mate Ben Salmon, he’s got a face like a rhino with backache and he’s practically beating them off each Friday night in town. Got one of those silly angular hair cuts and his jeans start past his bollocks. Maybe that’s it.

Yeah, right.

There’s this girl works in the same arcade as the shop. Works in the bookshop up the road, Tall Stories. Small place. I think they sell a lot of sci-fi, fantasy sort of stuff. I keep meaning to go in there but she’ll be there so I daren’t.

She gets the same bus to me to work, gets on the stop after mine. She’s quite tall, skinny, always got her big fuck off headphones on. Sometimes she wears this psychedelic tartan dress with these big mad black futuristic boots. She looks like she’s all alone in this world but I can’t believe she is. I mean, she’s beautiful. Well, she is to me. I once caught her eye quite by accident and she shot me a smile which made my day and ruined my life all at the same time.

Ben Salmon would talk to her. He wouldn’t have second thoughts.

At least twice a week I’ll get off the stop before her and carefully follow her from a distance just to see the way she walks. Even her shadow, in summer, drives me crazy. I’m sure my shadow fancies hers. It must do.

Yeah, I suppose it is stalking. But it’s limited stalking. I don’t follow her home, I don’t know her name though I often see her in the sandwich bar at the end of the arcade spilling money all over the counter and apologising to everyone behind her in the queue without ever looking anyone directly in the eye.

Cheese and pickle. No margarine.

If I could just close the shop in time to catch her locking up behind her and get on the bus at the same time as her. Maybe have to sit next to her, strike up conversation. I think I would pretty much do anything for that.

Except of course, grow some fucking balls.

Every night, we close at fucking half five and there’s always some bastard trying to get in who’s sneaked off work ten minutes early just to run down here and buy a couple of sleazy looking magazines and a horrible film.

Night before last, it was that bastard I was telling you about. Mr Slip Me The Wink. Fucking hell. Six months or so ago the twat comes in, just as I’m trying to flip the sign in the tiny rectangle window to CLOSED. He says he won’t be a minute, wants to ask me something. There’s nobody else in the shop. I answer his second question.

“No we don’t stock rape films. Not even out the back.”

Anyway he was in again last night, making all the usual conspiratorial facial gestures. I think he thinks I won the job lottery. Like every night, I can’t wait to chuck people out the shop so I can suck on a dildo and knock one out in my leather bodice to Hospital Homos or No Cunny For Old Men.

Fucking prick’s got his head turned behind him as he’s halfway through the door.


He makes this noise like buses do when they’re letting people on and off. He looks at me, junks a thumb backwards behind him and, making his way into the shop, says to me.

“Fucking make a mess out of that.”

I’ve already shut the door behind him. I don’t want her to see me here, not ever. I could be strong one day, buy her a sandwich and take it to her shop. Send her a flower. I’ve seen it in films. Nice films with proper lighting. Films that don't end with five blokes casting diaphanous streams of spunk across the same face. Nothing like the nasty shit I sell.

Bus Noises is at it again.

“Twffffffff. That tall girl from the bookshop. Imagine hanging out the back of that, eh?”

He doesn’t stand a fucking chance.

I pick up a couple of gimp balls (£8.99 each, 2 for £12)from under the counter and slip them into one of the little sacks I use to take money to the bank on a Friday lunchtime. He’s trying to choose between Swallowing Amazons and Thelma Loves Louise and he’s practically wanking in his pocket. Before either of us can think our choices through my wrist has completed its own frantic circular motion and I’ve smashed his skull in with a wrapped-up sex toy.

The next thing, I’m dragging his body into the basement down the secret staircase behind the till. I run upstairs and I’ve got some novelty tissues (Wankerchiefs – scented with balm for your loving palm) out of a packet and cleaned up the blood from the display racks. I put the money into the safe. I go back under the stairs and I make sure he’s dead before switching all the lights off and locking the door behind me. He’s fucking dead all right.

It’s my lucky night.

I’ve locked the door behind me, I can hear the alarm going as the shutter goes down and, as I turn to walk to the bus, she’s forty yards ahead of me. She walks beautifully, like a gazelle or something else that doesn’t know it’s being watched. She’s got her headphones on and this mad gingham dress that I haven’t seen before. I feel my heart racing even faster than it was a few minutes ago when I was wiping blood off the cover of Julie Ate Romeo. I feel like a hunter. I follow her to the end of the arcade where the wind always takes you by surprise and the traffic sounds like an alarm clock and I think about that awful dead man in the cellar of my shop.

I would buy this girl flowers. I would tell her how I felt. I would ask if I could name and number each of her eyelashes and never put margarine on her bread. I would do anything just to know her name.

She gets on the bus, I am behind her but as I go to get on, this old lady steps in front of me and though I know what will happen, I have to let her on first. I mean, I just have to. The old lady takes the last available seat next to the beautiful girl from Tall Stories.

It starts to rain as we pull away. The bus heaters are on and I feel stupid hanging on to one of the little joke ropes at the front of the bus. We stop at the girl’s usual stop and as she brushes past me, I feel the momentary warmth of her body touching mine despite all the layers of clothing between us. She is gone and I remain, clutching onto the baby noose.

We pull away from the stop and I watch her adjusting her headphones in the drizzled lamppost light. I think for a moment of sitting where she has sat. To have a second moment of her warmth in my life but it’s my stop next and this is where I get off.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Cop Out

Like most boys at the time, one of my favourite playground games when growing up was cops and robbers. Basically, this mainly involved running around making high pitched siren noises if you were a cop and squealing brake noises if you were a robber. Invariably, these games would end in childish debate about whether or not a cop was allowed an invisible gun to shoot back at the robbers, another about whether we were playing British rules or American rules and so on, eventually there’d be a drawing up of some sort of cop/robber game rules and then Mrs Murcott would ring the bell and we’d go back inside to learn the nine times table.

Every playtime was basically the same, a mob of boys running about childishly lashing out at each other with skilfully aimed blows so as not to actually hurt one another. Bad American accents and dodgy car noises aside, we were a perfect simulacrum of the police as we understood it – a non-violent force for good against the tide of crime.

Now, of course, the kids would have to be turning their school badges inside out and striking innocent protestors as they walked by.

The decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute Simon Harwood, the policeman widely acknowledged as behind the assault on Ian Tomlinson moments before the latter’s death, is as depressingly predictable a decision as could have been made. Despite a seemingly strong body of evidence, such as the video footage of the unprovoked assault, the coroner’s own report and an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, it seems there is little stomach for the political carnage that would inevitably ensue should a trial for manslaughter at the hands of the police arise.

The tragedy of the decision is two-fold. Firstly, it means the Tomlinson family, who have so far acted and responded with a dignity not always seen by those caught up in high-profile police stories, are denied the opportunity to see justice done for their late relative. More importantly, perhaps, it means the rest of us, the people who presume that the police are employed for their protection, are themselves denied the necessary debate about the nature of 21st century policing, about the extent to which the police are involved in helping to stifle legitimate protest about issues of public concern.

Tomlinson’s death came at the end of a day when police tactics were under heavy scrutiny. The G20 protests were overshadowed by debate about the tactic of forcibly detaining large bodies of protestors with the tactic of “kettling” and the relationship between big business, government intelligence and police brutality seemed no longer to be the paranoid preserve of conspiracy theorists.

In 2008, the protest group Fit Watch, a group opposed to police surveillance being used at public protests, found themselves at the sharp end of this relationship. Two women were assaulted and subsequently held without charge for four days for asking policemen present at the Bridgnorth demonstration to display their badge numbers.

Police presence at demonstrations is an obvious necessity. All protests attract an element of trouble-makers, some more so than others. But the police are increasingly employed as a means of stifling such protest in the first place.

It is right that the sentences meted out to those found guilty of seriously injuring or murdering police men and women in this country is severe, those charged with the responsibility of keeping law and order in our streets must do so in the knowledge that the public they serve will stand firm with them in their time of need. But the status of the policeman has a flip side, the badges they wear with such pride must not protect them from the law they are sworn to uphold.

Nominally a member of the party most traditionally associated with civil liberties, our deputy Prime Minister would seem the person best placed to address your protest to. From his offices this week, he may well have observed the peace camp at Parliament Square finally being disbanded. Clegg recently urged the public: "Be demanding of your liberties. Be insistent about your rights." But you'd be well advised to do so in an orderly fashion.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

My Favourite 350 Songs of All Time. #334

Seriously, come on. How can anyone fail to like this?

Works best in a club, very loud, slightly but not too drunk/drugged, preferably surrounded by hundreds of beautiful happy people.

Which, in Saundersfoot, takes some fucking doing.

My Favourite 350 Songs of All Time. #335

The Smiths - Rubber Ring/What She Said (live)

I'm ashamed to say I didn't get the Smiths until a few weeks or so after they split up. Living in a derelict cottage in mid-Wales was hardly the perfect arena for a musical education and that, combined with a radio reception that amounted to getting Radio 1 if there was the right amount of fog in the air, was mainly my excuse. Late eighties two things happened round about the same time, radio 1 went FM and suddenly I could listen to Peel amongst other things. Two, I went to sixth form where much cooler people than myself introduced me to, amongst other things, The Smiths.

I'd seen them a couple of times on ToTP but I just didn't get it. Now, in majestic stereo at my mate John's house, I got it. A couple of blissful summers ensued and at every single party we went to, this live version of two of my very favourite Smiths songs was met with a soon to become traditional removal of shirts and spinning them Moz-style around our pigeon-chested torsos.

Pisses me off when people write off the Smiths as weak, limp miserable bedsit student wankery. It's a bit more substantial than that, and this proves they could rock out with the best of them.

Johnny Marr was on the radio this afternoon, talking about his musical education's reference points. He talked about the Shangri-La's, glam rock and 70s disco. The man's got style...

My Favourite 350 Songs of All Time. #336

David Bowie - Watch That Man

Me and Bowie go way back. Born in the same town (well, kind of). My dad went to school with him. And his mum used to get her newspaper from the paper shop where my mum worked. And it was me who lent him a copy of Surfer Rosa when he was short of inspiration after Tin Machine. Alright, the last one isn't true. But this was the first pop record I vividly remember hearing. I'd be about four years old and my mum put this on our tinny Fidelity 4-speed record player, a device so old it actually looks like it was made out of black and white.

The album was Aladdin Sane and I was terrified and secretly a bit excited about the famous sleeve. I'd never seen anything like that in my life, all the blokes in my family were hairy fellas whose idea of androgyny roughly equated to listening to 10cc whilst drinking a sly shandy bass.

It's one of the best starts to an album ever, big power guitar chord into some glam nonsense punctuated with the kind of honky tonk piano and excited backing vocals you just dont get anymore. I bought the CD a while back and I hated it, I wanted the cheap tinny sound of my mum's record player, some things age badly, this still sounds fresh as a newborn's toenails but it helps if you play it on something pre-war.

My Favourite 350 Songs of All Time. #337

The Shangri-La's - I Can Never Go Home Anymore

In the film of my life, the person who introduced me to this song would be some impossibly Jarvish bohemian, a hermaphroditic dandy with bisexual eyes or perhaps some lovesick Argentine peasant girl.

It certainly wouldn't be my mate Mike, who looked a bit like a Muppet version of Fagin, and dressed like a Moldovan geography teacher. We used to swap compilation tapes and I always came out of the exchange much richer than he did, what with me pilfering him off with obscure electro and Fall B-sides and him swamping me with the golden goodness of Glen Campbell and the vampish hysteria of the Shangri-La's.

We were out once in Dempseys in Cardiff, arguing as usual about music and films, Mike (not the best of drinkers it has to be said) comes back from the loo with his old boy hanging out.

ME: Mike, your cock's hanging out.

MIKE: Nggh, errr.

At this point, he merely dragged his shirt out of his trousers to cover it up and sat back down. It was about half four in the afternoon.

How a man capable of such drunken indecency ever stumbled across the Shangri-La's, I'll never know. Anyway, if there's nothing in this song that touches a part of your soul, then you don't have one. I haven't seen Mike in years, he's gone a bit doolally apparently but I hope he's ok. Or at least hope he's worked out how to put his cock back in his pants.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

My Favourite 350 Songs of All Time. #338

THE BELOVED - Scarlet Beautiful.

Terrible thing, nostalgia. Coming from the Greek word “nost” meaning “no longer able to see one’s toes” and another Greek word “algia” which probably has something to do with a love of cheap headphones, nostalgia is basically Alzheimer’s more successful, better looking older brother. Actually, that's an amazing idea for a sitcom, Alzheimer and Nostalgia, two young boys being raised and hit about the heads by a CGI Denis Nordern.

No-one’s ever written a book about the life they’re going to lead, unless my decision not to research that particular fact was a poor one (in which case, fuck it, it’s not meant to be taken seriously), but plenty have been written about one’s past. Nicholas Parsons, Lewis Hamilton, Lulu. They’re all it, writing about their past. Fuck, even Nelson Mandela’s written one.

Anyway, nostalgia. In his poem, Piano, DH Lawrence reflects on the awesome power of music to transport oneself back to one’s childhood, the sound of a particular song takes the speaker “back down the vista of years” and makes him “weep like a child for the past”. This particular song isn’t from my childhood, nor is it a particular classic of the era; it’s just something that reminds me of a certain time, place and emotion. Which is the kind of Proustian rush you just don’t tend to get sitting in front of old episodes of ToTP 2 watching Bad Manners mime to Lip Up Fatty. Not unless you were fucked silly by a gardener whilst it was first broadcast at any rate.

In March 1990, the Beloved released an album so absolutely of its moment it’s a miracle it didn’t come with a Best before date. Happiness is so drenched in a vaguely Balearic, slightly contrived House feel that it’s very much a guilty pleasure to listen to now. Eyes closed, I’m going back down my own vista of years, though the vista’s more of an eyesore than most, my knee feels a lot better, I’ve lost a few stone, gained a few teeth and suddenly found myself dancing with some horrible tie-dyed t-shirt on in a West Wales student union. I’m still fucking broke, mind.

People remember the singles from the album, Hello with its name checking of the good and the bad of eighties Britain, and The Sun Rising which ended up on an advert for Dignitas*

Scarlet Beautiful
is ridiculously good. And a bit shit. Lots of positive loved up vibes, cheesy rhyme schemes and even a tart nod to Blue Monday in the song’s climax. I can say that now, climax, couldn’t say that kind of thing in Lawrence’s day, no you had to dress it up as a flooded dam bursting or some such. Anyway, there we are then, Scarlet Beautiful by the Beloved, a song that practically reduces me to tears when I listen to it because well, it just does, right. Even though, as it often is when looking back at one's past, it isn't the fantastic place you've cracked it up to be. Right, I’m off to write something with lots of foul language in it to calm down.

*Alpen, sorry. I always get those two mixed up. Speaking of which, where’s my mum. I’m fucking starving.

P.S The singer of Beloved looks like an even smugger Richard E Grant. And his middle name is E. Spooky....

Monday, 5 July 2010

Short Story: A Better Place

At the home, there were a great many forms to be signed. Signed and counter-signed. Things that came in triplicate. A copy for ourselves, a copy for themselves, a copy for the insurance people. As if all this wasn’t hard enough.

The man had a fear of all forms of administration. He kept looking at his father sat there in the wheelchair with a thick green woollen blanket over his legs, staring out at something with those cold, empty pools of his. Up against the large back wheel of the chair there was a large suitcase of a fading reddish colour and a rubber plant. This was a very reasonable place. Some friends of the man’s wife had recommended it when they had recently made a similar decision. It was more than they could afford but the man could not afford to lose his wife. This thought alone seemed to bring him back to the paperwork on the receptionist’s walnut desk. All these boxes to be ticked. The time was getting on but he felt that, with his father behind him, he should at least properly read everything in front of him before signing. He thought he could hear his wife sighing each time he lifted the pen back off the pink form. He felt watched, like he was in the school gymnasium sitting an exam and being watched by the teacher sat below the big white clock with its unforgiving ticking. The man put his new mobile number in the emergency contact box. He had listed it on his phone that day, under the name me. He kissed his father goodbye and looked at his wife. It was time to go.

“Here they come,” said the little boy.

“Thank God,” said his sister.

The children had wanted to come but they were told to wait inside the car. It was late and it was raining. They sat in the back seat and played on their consoles.

Their mother entered the car first; she sat in the front passenger seat. She looked at the children.

“Granddad will be fine here. We’ll all miss him, but this is a better place for him,”

The man got back into the driver seat. He looked at his wife and then at his children. He didn’t know what to say. He sighed loudly and went to start the ignition and then stopped.

“I still have the receptionist’s pen,” he said, and made to leave the car.

“She’ll have another. Let’s just go. It’s late.”

The man looked at his children.

“Let’s go then.”

On the way home the children bickered about who would have use of the new bedroom. The mother occasionally shot them a look of reproach but more often she would put a consoling hand on her husband’s shoulder as he drove through the rain. All the man could think about was the receptionist’s pen. He could feel it in his shirt pocket, it wasn’t a feeling he was used to. This little silver ballpoint so close to his heart. It wasn’t a feeling he liked. He wished he could go back and return the pen. But that was impossible, for now.

Each time he turned a corner, he’d indicate and that little ticking noise would start up and would infuriate him for no reason he could properly articulate. So he said nothing.

They got home and ordered take away food.

In the morning the man woke earlier than he normally would on a Saturday. His wife was still fast asleep, his children too. He peered in on his father’s room. The thick curtains were closed and only a thin lip of light from above the rings permeated the gloom. He sat down upon the little single bed and placed his head in his hands. A clock ticked on an old side table. He knew that clock from his childhood. It sat above the old fireplace in the kitchen. He would use it as a guide to the bathroom if he needed it in the night when he was small. He breathed louder to see if he could stop hearing the ticking. It was impossible.

“I’m going to take the car for a wash, maybe get a service.”

“Why’s that?” his wife replied.

“It was making a weird noise last night on the way home. I just want to get it checked out.”

He checked again that he had the receptionist’s pen in the inside pocket of his coat and shut the door behind him quietly.

He rang the little bell on the receptionist’s desk. There was a room behind the chairs and he could hear a woman speaking on the telephone. She was giving directions. He thought perhaps he should just leave the pen there on the counter and go but he felt bad about ringing the bell for now he could hear the woman politely but clearly trying to end her telephone conversation.

The man remembered the first time that he had entered the building a few weeks previously. He had finished work early that day after having had a sympathetic chat with his line manager a few days before. His wife had been supposed to meet him here at two. She was running late. So he took a seat in the waiting area and started flicking through some magazines. In the background he could hear some music coming from a radio in the office. It wasn’t loud but it felt disrespectful.

The man started reading a short story about a guy who decides to kill a few hours in a strange town by visiting his father. In the story this guy mentioned that the song “Downtown” was playing on a radio in the background. At that very same moment that he read that line “Downtown” came on the radio in the office.

It was a coincidence that made the man’s head hurt. He put the magazine down. He didn’t like the way he felt. He never wanted to hear music again. Eventually his wife had arrived. They took a look around. Said they had some other places to view but they knew. They had decided things.

The man could see his surname written on a folder just beneath the counter. It took him a while to realise that this was also his father’s name. Eventually the woman came out of the office. She had beautiful red hair and spoke like she was about to serve fries.

“Sorry about that. How may I help?”

“I brought my father here but I took this pen by mistake. I just wanted to return it.”

“What’s your father’s name?”

“Oh. Erm. Yes, of course. Johnson.”

The woman picked up the folder.


“I was going to call by later, I just wanted to return the pen now.”

“I see.”

“Because I was passing.”

On the drive back home from the garage, the man refused to indicate. As the car slowed outside his house, he saw his wife cleaning in an upstairs room. The thick curtains had gone and she knelt upon the sill, spraying and wiping the glass. She had the radio on, which was odd, because she didn’t like music that much usually. He shut the car door loudly to show he had returned. She waved back for a split second and returned to the chore.

When he got inside the house, the first thing he could hear was his kids arguing on the second flight of stairs.

“Mum said I could have it for studying.”

“You liar. I need it for all my things.”

“Granddad said to me that I could have the room. Ask Mum.”

“He didn’t say that. He never said anything.”

“Dad said too. He said. He said. Ask Dad when he gets back.”

He got to the middle landing and everyone shut up. His wife came out of the bedroom where he had sat that morning and the house was filled with light from that side. He felt breathless. He walked into his father’s room and sat on the bare mattress. The clock was still ticking loudly upon the side table.

His children walked in after him, quietly with their hands locked together. The man looked into his children’s eyes and he was suddenly afraid.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

My Favourite 350 Songs of All Time. #339

Bobby Lewis – Tossin and Turnin

Two and a half minutes of the kind of music they just don’t make any more. An unbelievably feel good piece of old fashioned RnB, Bobby gets away with the most blatant wanking euphemism ever captured on vinyl. A paean to the sexual frustration of adolescent men in late 50s America, the song also contains a kind of ridiculous Benny Hill style musical interlude just to add to its sophistication. Verse Chorus Verse Chorus Silly Brief Middle Bit Chorus Fade. That’s all you needed back then. Muse, take note.

Although to be honest it really could just be about being unable to sleep because you were thinking of someone special.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Littlejohn - His Struggle

With his customary subtle touch, Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn has chosen to put forward his feelings this morning on England’s capitulation in the World Cup.

“Thank Heaven The Few didn't defend as badly as England's footballers in Bloemfontein yesterday afternoon, otherwise we'd all be speaking German,” says Littlejohn taking the unusual option of comparing an aerial military battle that cost hundreds of lives with a game of football played by millionaires.

You can’t help but think that Littlejohn has planned this article ever since the USA topped England’s group, putting Germany, Argentina and Spain as likely foes in England’s path to World Cup glory.

If England had beaten Germany yesterday, no doubt the Littlejohn typewriter would have been preparing sentences like

Thank Heaven The Falklands Task Force didn't defend as badly as England's footballers yesterday afternoon, otherwise we’d have lost possession of some barely populated scrubland in the South Atlantic and Thatcher might have lost in 83.

A victory over “the Argies” as Littlejohn still calls them would no doubt have led to something about the Armada and everyone north of Calais going through the unbearable hell of speaking Spanish. Ironic, of course, that Littlejohn has taken the option of using WW2 imagery to talk about football seeing as he writes for a paper that famously thought Hitler was the bee’s knees. The rest of the article is typical Littlejohn, using the flimsy pretext of sharing in England fans disappointment to inform Mail readers of his views on lesbianism, the French and the Labour Party.

Basically, it’s not hard to imagine there’s a Littlejohn Column Generator at work. Type in a sentence about a current affairs event, punch it in and the LCG does the rest sprinkling Littlejohn’s clunking prose with lashings of bigotry.

Still, he is right on one thing, England were several shades of shit yesterday. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Capello, Terry, Lampard, and co. Golden Generation? A Golden Shower more like. Except the only ones getting pissed on were the fans.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

A Very Short Story What I Just Wrote

NOTE: A first draft. Trying to come up with something of 500 words or so for a competition. Feedback welcome. Especially the MBV/JaMC variety.

My Pocket Bible Is On Fire

Many are the ways in which this tale will be written. I want to recall it perfectly, write it purely as I see it from the distance of the sole hour that has passed since the occurrence. For, despite the warnings, already I imagine the interpretations taking place, the calculated Chinese whisper passing from powerful ears to weak ones.

At three minutes past noon today I went to a cash machine a few yards from my office. In error I asked for a receipt. There was a queue so I waited till it came lest others discover the extent of my poverty.

I bought a cheese and onion roll from a nearby baker’s shop.

Opposite the baker’s there is a pub that sells cheap beer all day and cheap beer all night. Outside there were the usual crowd of refugees from the world of work. There’s a bench a few yards up from the pub where I like to sit with my lunch if the weather’s not too bad. I took a seat and opened up the paper bag from the baker’s. A pigeon heard the tiny crackle of bag and landed close to my feet.

The pigeon looked at me. I thought about shooing him.

And then it happens.

I knew it wasn’t just happening to me because of all the crashing cars around me, the dropped beers and stumbling women, the way that people clutched their heads to listen closer to the voice, to protect themselves from the sudden madness.

A voice, a voice like none heard yet in the sane world, spoke in all the heads on Earth.

I am the Creator.

I made you and I can unmake you. Abandon your churches, mosques and temples. Destroy your banks. Eden exists. It is all around you. Your beliefs are confirmed but do not become complacent for your rituals disappoint me. Put down your weapons and feed each other. Abandon your wealth as you would your worries for the two are one. The next time I speak will be the last.

I heard the church on the hill at the top of the town smash, we saw the smoke rise from here and turned as one by one, churches and banks fell into dust. I felt the coins in my pocket become hot and burn through the lining, falling to the ground and melting into nothingness.

As I speak, the televisions are beginning to crackle back into life silent. I can hear sirens and gunfire. The sky has emptied of clouds and the streets are filled with wondrous, upturned heads. A man on the radio is crying. There is talk of rioting in Rome.

I sit and watch and wait for something to happen.

A pigeon nibbles at the dropped roll by my feet.

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #340

Hot Chip – Playboy

A lot of people don’t like Hot Chip. Fair enough. I’m sure that it’s got something to do with them all going to that school that all pop stars seem to have gone to the last few years. Maybe it’s something to do with the singer being called Alexis. Alexis, for fuck’s sake.

Then there’s the fact they look like a Christian Union Depeche Mode covers band. A bit of classism coming in, I reckon. Fact is, the working class don’t produce bands any more. The equipment’s too expensive, it’s all kids called Giles and Harvey buying drum machines on their parents credit cards and spending their gap year in India sampling Sufi choirs or something.

I could have gone with their Blue Monday moment, Over and Over or the electro Housemartins (and I can’t be the only punter who’d be tempted by that on the menu) stylings of Slush but it’s Playboy that moves and grooves me.

Playboy. Which to me still sounds like Ghost Town by the Specials remixed by Arab Strap. There’s the asthmatic fairground melancholy of the former with the metronomic menace of the latter. There’s a dash of knowing wit about their middle class beats – “Blazin’ out Yo La Tengo hey yay, drivin round Putney with the top down hey yay...” which makes the whole thing worth a million of anything that Vampire Wankers* will ever come up with.

*Yep, it's the first thing I could think of calling them. Apart from the Preppy Wanker Showtime Band.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #341

Down Down by Status Quo

I mean, seriously, how can you not love this song? For all the dreadful shit they released otherwise, this is dumbass genius. Even John Peel loved this song for christ’s sake. And in this video, Francis Rossi is basically Steve Martin in a wig. I was in the Butchers Arms in Canton a few months back and I heard a group of twenty ukulele players do this and it was still brilliant. I wish that last sentence doesn’t indicate my drunkenness but it was ace regardless of my booze intake that evening. And there’s not many songs you can say that about.

Play it. Play it loud. Put your snobbery and prejudice to one side. Put your thumbs in your pockets and shake it bitches.

Monday, 21 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #342 and #343

Two songs, one shared title. And though that should be all that connects a gloomy guitar-free indie band named after a powerful anaesthetic with one of the original boy bands, it isn’t.

Morphine’s "The Night" is something so utterly bereft of hope, a shuffling end-of-the-evening blues punctuated with a saxophone seemingly played by Lisa Simpson in the aftermath of discovering her parent’s death. The lyrics speak of the same American wilderness of Cormac McCarthy, a place “too dark to see the landmarks...unknown unlit world of old...the awful dark.” But this is no faux-barfly exercise in self-pity, this is an almost sexy declaration of weakness in the face of one’s personal demons – a sultry confident swagger underpins the whole thing.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons approach the night at a faster tempo but it’s still a dangerous place – a place where love is always at danger from someone or something else, perhaps the night itself. It's a completely different song but coming from the same direction, a place of inarticulate longing, fear and mistrust.

Despite the warnings it’s true that each time I hear the former, I want to go out and get drunk, and each time the latter I want to go out, get drunker still and do some dancing.

England Half Volley

“I used to want to plant bombs at the Last Night of the Proms”.

Billy Bragg said that. As apologies for no longer being a Marxist proto-revolutionary go, it’s quite a tender one. And while I still indulge in fantasies about stamping on George Osborne’s face, I admit that I’ve softened a little in my extreme views.

I’m still anti foxhunting. But these days it’s based more on my opposition to what other people consider sport rather than a kneejerk reaction to what posh people enjoy over the weekend. I can enjoy Last Night of the Proms, find myself touched by the ironic sight of Jerusalem being sung by people who own property portfolios rather than being merely convulsed in anger at the televised coverage of a roomful of young Conservatives waving Union Jacks.

So far, so mature.

However, Wimbledon still inspires something of the young would-be terrorist in me. Just the sight of Centre Court and all those braying wankers wants me to indulge in a spot of gentle machine-gunning. Wimbledon is one of those “blue-riband” events that we, the British public, apparently have to keep safe from Murdoch’s clutches. I’d swap it in a heartbeat for Premiership rugby or football. The people who go to Wimbledon are mainly middle-class wankers, people who have no interest in tennis the rest of the year.

Neither do I. But Wimbledon affords me the chance to indulge in one of my own favourite annual activities – the Cheering On of the British Hope Until The Semi-Final.

As soon as Tim Henman got to a semi-final, I would cheer his opponent. Nothing against Tim, who couldn’t help being born to a Retired Aircraft Carrier or some other such military man and his Laura Ashley automaton wife. I loved the annual strained anguish coming from Centre Court as Henman valiantly lost to someone better than him. Henman Hill was a delight to witness, a whole Golgotha of insufferable flag waving Young Conservatives, wallowing in the kind of misery that only watching someone posh playing badly at tennis can bring.

Millions of pounds are pumped into British tennis each year in the hope of producing our first Wimbledon champion since Princess Margaret won it in 1917 or something. The reason we’ll never win it is simple, OTHER COUNTRIES POSH PEOPLE ARE HUNGRIER FOR SPORTING SUCCESS THAN OUR POSH PEOPLE. Accept it.

Wimbledon is basically a Glastonbury of the Suburbs, a gathering of the privet-hedged, golf club member, stockbroker set. Their agonies have increased since the retirement of Tim Henman as British hopes lie mainly in the hands of a Scot, Andy Murray.

The discovery of Murray’s tennis skills as he deflected Thomas Hamilton’s bullets with a board rubber have passed into folklore, as has English tennis proficiency. There are no Englishmen in this year’s draw, an announcement which has upset the Express-reading colonels who make up most of the crowd.

But there hasn’t been an English male tennis player in any competition since the war. There have been lots of awfully decent Hugo’s, Guys and Nigels around but they weren’t tennis players. They were cannon fodder, the sporting equivalent of our brave young men sent out over the top in the final episode of Blackadder. But no tennis players. Tim Henman was ok but he never won the bloody thing. If you picked up a racquet for the first time tomorrow, you’d be as good as he ever was by the weekend.

In his excellent book England, Half English, Bragg bemoans the fact that it is the far right that are making the running in terms of celebrating Englishness. But it’s not all yobbos who spend their summer hurling European garden furniture at each other. It’s the Wimbledon set, it’s the BBC (who despite Cameron’s protestations that the BBC is some kind of Leninist kibbutz, still send squadrons of weathergirls to fucking Ascot each year), it’s the denizens of Henman Hill who sing God Save The Queen and tuck into strawberries, blissfully unaware that said fruit was probably picked by an underpaid Polish girl that very morning in Kent, the kind of person who they believe is ruining this country.

No, it’s time to paraphrase Betjeman. Come friendly bombs and fall on Wimbledon....

Come friendly bombs to Wimbledon!
It can't be won by Tim Henman
And Murray is no Englishman.
The World Cup's so much better.

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those queuing in SW19,
And those who sell strawberries and cream,
For just under a tenner.

Mess up the mess of the LTA-
And the chief on quite ridiculous pay
Not a single champion since Virginia Wade
Nearly forty years.

And kill that man with double chin
Who'll always lose and never win,
The wild card ranked at 519 -
His best in years:

And smash the fans, sitting grinning
Who call his name out when he's winning
Like they've been there since the beginning
And not merely fickle fiends.

But spare the ballgirls and ballboys
Middle class angels in their poise;
Trying to ignore the orgasmic noise
Of the ladies second seed.

It's not their fault their parents dream
is to see their offspring on the screen
holding a towel for an Argentine
To mop his sponsored head

And talk of British hopes this year
Will once again be disappeared
Before the weekend rain appears
Like Fred Perry, the hopes are dead.

In straight sets filled with double faults
The Brits crash out on outer courts
And finally the nation's thoughts
Return to other things.

Come friendly bombs to Wimbledon!
Make Armageddon suburban
For if the covers come back on
Cliff Richard says he'll sing.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #344

Captain Beefheart. A name to strike fear in the hearts and minds of the adventurous pop fan. I’d always presumed he would be a bit like Zappa, a self-satisfied riot of supposedly ironic bigotry and smug musical pastiches. So he wasn’t someone I set out to listen to. I’d see his records at the houses of people whose tastes I’d precociously learnt to automatically distrust. I’d shanted (passim), I would not be dining at the Heart of Beef.

Until one Saturday evening maybe twenty years ago, a blissfully early time of day for John Peel to be broadcasting. After some mumbled nonsense about the defensive frailties of Liverpool that afternoon, this extraordinary noise belched forth.

Like a field recording from some LSD-baked shack in the Ozarks, The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back depicts random scenes from an episode of Little House On The Prairie directed by David Lynch. Sewing machines, grain silos and naked fishermen letting the cool wind get to their bollocks. There’s no musical backing, just the sound of Beefheart’s frazzled, grizzlish drawl warping over scratched vinyl.

Listen to this and it’s not hard to imagine a young Beck being both traumatised and inspired enough to plan similar manoeuvres one day himself.

The album it comes from, Trout Mask Replica, is one of those records that crops up in Critics 100 Albums to Hear Before You Die. It isn’t. It’s mostly unlistenable shit. This, though, is the shizzle.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

His Master's Vest

HMV have decided not to sell a range of T-shirts that declare that the wearer would rather anyone but England win the World Cup. It’s a sad day for pessimists. Apart from the fact that that particular T-shirt slogan is on a par with “I Hope Nick Griffin Is Not Elected Pope” and “Please Please Don’t Let The Beatles Reform” when it comes to announcing a fear of unlikely circumstances coming true, it seems that HMV have caved in to pressure from some unpleasant sounding pressure group called Campaign For An English Parliament.

The T-shirt was available in Scotland and Wales and comes hot on the heels of other such allegedly “anti-English” merchandise. For centuries in Wales, it’s been possible to buy all manner of goods emblazoned with the slogan “I Support Two Teams In Rugby. Wales and whoever’s playing England.” A few years back I was in Cardiff market with a Welsh friend of mine who decided to have a bit of fun with the bloke selling these things.

“Do you do T-shirts saying “I Support Two Teams In Cricket. England and whoever’s playing Pakistan?”

“No. That would be racist. This is just a bit of fun”

At the time our smugly liberal consciences were cleared with the joy of making someone make racism out to be a bit of fun. However, I’m not so sure I was right.

I won’t even begin to try and compare the low level of discomfort felt by someone English seeing such merchandise available with the effects of genuine racism. But there is a problem here. It’s important that we stamp out racism and racist language wherever we see or hear it, but at the same time we would appear to be in danger of eradicating one of the most exciting and enjoyable aspects of being a sports fan – namely rivalry and the “banter” that goes with it.

The chances are that many of the people who want anyone but England to win a football match are racists but it’s unlikely that they’re the majority. I’ve lived in Wales for nearly thirty years, and whilst it’s true that you’d be unwise to sing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” in an Aberdare pub the evening of a Wales defeat to England, it’s also true that most Welsh people harbour anti-English sentiments only for the duration of a match.

If someone wants to wear an Anyone But England t-shirt, let them. Let them bang on about how England raped their country, plundered their natural resources, killed their king, stamped out their language, closed their mines, etc. Fuck it, let them. Chances are they’ll have got it out of their system by half time.

Predictably just about everyone in the Cardiff pub where I watched the England/USA game was cheering on USA, screeching with delight as Robert Green suffered the seconds he’ll most be remembered for. A few English fans took offence at this but there’s no point, it’s just sport. My Welsh friends quite often tell me it’s the casual racism of the England supporters that gets their goat, unaware of the ironies inherent in such generalisations. Or they’ll talk about the stupidity of seeing white flags in every window forgetting that 85% of Welshmen think it’s perfectly natural to wear the same clothes as everyone else on an international day.

I have never felt the urge to own an England flag or football shirt. I think I had my face painted once but both painter and myself were fucking wrecked at the time and ended up wandering around Carmarthen looking more like a pair of recently mauled mime artists than patriotic scoundrels.

Anyone But England isn’t a racist slogan. It’s not worth getting upset about. HMV, like Morrison’s before them, have let the idiots win. I quite like people wearing them, it makes me know who to avoid jumping up and down next to should the miracle of an England goal occur, it highlights the person in the room most likely to provoke a fight with me, the person most likely (should they have been born English) to join something as predictably right wing as the Campaign for English Democracy.

Your true fan doesn’t want any part of that, just enjoys the banter. And if I was secretly a bit pissed off at the pro-Algerian chanting coming from my neighbours last night, I’m sure he will have seen the funny side of me doing the haka in his back garden this morning.

Although, looking back, perhaps I should have kept my pants on in front of his kids.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Your Mother Should Know

The first thing I thought when I saw this was “well, who have I upset this time?” Cos, you know, this is a cut throat business. What was that Morrissey song? We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful. Well, if that’s the case and let me assure you that it is, then our enemies go way past hate. They come into your home. They come into your home and they do this.

But then, I didn’t get where I am today without attention to detail. I see the blood in the snow. I see the message. You know, Fuck You. Written in blood etc. I’m like, hey wow, you have my attention. But then, I see it. Written in, I mean, is it human shit? I hope it is because well, I’ll be honest I don’t have a preference when it comes to what species of faeces people plump for when autographing their work but somehow it seems worse to use animal shit for this.

Hey Species of Faeces. That’s cool. I’m mentoring this metal band right now. Their name sucks. Desert Pilgrim. You know, sounds a bit Islamic or something. Species of Faeces. That’s gross. Kids love gross.

Sorry, officer, you’re right, I’m digressing. Daddy. That was the last word of the message. Fuck you written in blood in upper case. And erm Daddy in shit in lower case. Which, you know, narrows it down in terms of suspects.

How many children do I have? Five. Yep, the Washington Pentagon. Yeah, they’re my kids. I made them, my wife gave birth to them for sure but I made them. My sperm. My sweat. My relentless coaching. All those singing lessons, music lessons. The gigs. The tours. Biggest band of the eighties. Eighty million sperm times five kids equals four hundred million albums. That’s what I always say to the journalists. You know. Yeah, write your little hack job on me. I’m the one playing golf with Mel Gibson this weekend.

Okay. Kid number one and my number one suspect is Kennedy. Yep. As in the president. You don’t know much about music do you? Kennedy Washington. Date of birth, erm. Hang on, this was well we released Jailbait No More in er 1984 when she was sixteen. So it’s something 1968. I’ll have to ask my people, I’m hopeless with birthdays.

Why do I think it was her? Don’t you watch television? I ruined her life. She said so on Oprah. I’m a control freak apparently. Apparently she didn’t want to spend her childhood touring the country playing shopping malls and making hit records and becoming incredibly rich. She says that. You know, no one bought her last album so it’s Daddy’s fault. She’s the one who went solo. Broke the band. Broke the family band. Broke all their fans hearts. But no. I was ambitious for my children, I wanted them to have the life I never did and so I destroyed her life.

Do you have any kids, officer? No? Want some? I can buy you one. I’m joking officer, I know what you’re thinking, look at this rich asshole up here in the hills thinks he can buy children. I mean, there was a time when, quite frankly, I could buy nuclear weapons there was that much cash about but now you got to be Madonna to purchase a kid to go with the stereo.

Last time I saw her? I’ve never met her.

Oh, Kennedy. Right, sorry. Well, this would be last Christmas. She popped by the house and she freaked out because I went to pour everyone a drink with the dinner and she’s like going crazy about the 12 steps and this and that. And I was like woah calm down, chill out. It’s Christmas for Christ’s sake. And then she goes on about the time we did a live Christmas special for MTV in front of the fire, singing disco versions of all the classic Christmas songs despite the fact that their grandmother had died that very morning. Kids don’t understand contractual obligations. They understand having fucking limos and not having to go to regular school and having Michael J Fox come round to hang out at weekends but they don’t understand 150 million viewers being disappointed just cos of some family bereavement.

Then well, there’s Jefferson and Lincoln, the twins. Could they have done it? Yeah, I suppose so but it would have been a team effort. I can imagine Lincoln curling one out on the lawn but he’s thick as shit. Could he spell Daddy. I doubt it. I don’t think he’s ever called me Daddy either. Why? Why not. After the split, the twins wanted to do their own project. But you know, the twin thing wasn’t going to work. In order to market boy bands you need an ugly one. Not two! I’m joking, they’re beautiful boys. I love them. I promised them I’d get them this movie deal. Had it all worked out, it was a musical version of Rainman. I had Jefferson doing the Tom Cruise obviously but Lincoln got all pissed, saying I didn’t love him and that was why he had dyslexia.

Dyslexia, pah. Einstein was dyslexic and he invented the theory of relativity. Lincoln’s more dysfunctional than dyslexic, I can tell you. Used to wet the bed. And on a tour bus driving through the night to Tuscaloosa, you don’t want to wake up with your kid’s piss coming through the ceiling at you. I mean, hello, did I ask for the convertible? Is it raining?

I can laugh about it now but there was not a lot of laughter back then. The Rainman musical thing fell through and, even now, Jefferson still won’t return my calls.

Their dates of birth are probably on the internet.

Child number four. Monroe. Ha! Let’s face it, she had to be a stunning looking girl to get away with a name like Monroe and she is. Well, she is now. Is there, er, like a statute of limitations on certain misdemeanours. Look, I’ll be honest with you, we did a bit of work on her face when she was like five years old. It wasn’t a back street job but we flew to Amsterdam. Yeah Europe. There’s some fantastic cafes there, you should go. Fascinating people. You know, Anne Frank. Rembrandt. All those guys. Anyway, we get out there – it’s just a chin job. Forty minutes. She wakes up, we tell her she fell over and banged her chin and we stitched it all up. Best nine thousand dollars I ever spent. Well, up till then. Let me tell you, I’ve had nights since then where you need nine thousand dollars just to shut the driver up. It can’t be Monroe cos we talked just yesterday and she seemed fine. She’s been upset lately but yeah I think she was ok.

Their mother died. Heart problems. It was terrible. I miss her. Still.

Just leaves Franklin and he’s in jail. So it can’t have been him, right. I mean, he better not be out cos you know, attempted murder!! That’s why I got the gates. Jesus. Blood is thicker than water but you know a knife’s a knife. I told the District Attorney I don’t want him on Death Row or nothing, just stick him somewhere far away from me for 99 years. Kids. You raise em, you have to take some of the responsibility. I am not flawless. I am familiar with flaws. Yes, I suppose I screwed him out of two million dollars on a publishing deal. But its business. You can’t allow family loyalties to get in the way of business. Otherwise where would we be? I tell you where we’d be. We’d still be playing the Silver Nickel Casino in Box Elder, MO for fifty dollars apiece and no free beers.

So there’s the kids. You know. I love them with all my heart but we have differences of opinion. What family doesn’t?

Just the five kids. Well, just the five I know of. I mean, come on, all that young skirt hanging about in the eighties. Jesus, I’m human. Touch me! I bleed! Franklin proved that. There was this one tour, I think it was just after Family Values came out, this would be 1988 and well, let me tell you I was auditioning a lot of raw talent if you catch my drift, eh? I was like the access to Franklin and Jefferson. I was like the troll on the bridge man!

How old are you anyway, officer. You can’t be more than nineteen. Let me see that badge again.

What happened to your arm?

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #345

Night Vision – Super Furry Animals

The Super Furry Animals are an odd bunch. Like a cross between the KLF and the Beatles, they write astonishing pop songs for people who hate pop music, political dance anthems for apolitical discophobes. Welsh language champions and patriots to a man, but banned from Eisteddfods for playing songs in English – an unruly bunch with a fine line in sardonic wit, Night Vision is one of those songs that sum up the Furries best. It’s almost an irresistible party rock anthem, gleefully sabotaged from within by a middle section that sounds like a squadron of depressed vuvuzela blowers chasing bees down a wind tunnel.

Taken from the patchy Guerrilla album, their last for Creation, this song is basically the sound of a hyperactive child’s dreams after drinking a shitload of Sunny Delight whilst being forced to watch Apocalypse Now with a room full of drunk and randy clowns.

Or something called DukeNukem.

I was either going to write about that track or this one, which sounds like Boards of Canada having a crack at Atmosphere by Joy Division.

Monday, 14 June 2010

My Top Favourite 350 songs of all time. #346

The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog

Being one of those songs that changes everything. Like Hound Dog or Blue Monday, a template for much that is to come, one of those songs that when you find out when it was recorded, you feel the need to verify that information somewhere. Listen again to the first thirty seconds, the most exciting, visceral, gut wrenching, bollock pumping half minute of recorded music up to that moment in time and it’s like what, 1969? No fucking way. A fuzzy distortion, a whine of feedback, a menacing bassline, some insistent and irresistible drum beat and the best one note piano riff in history – it’s the kind of song that acts as a kind of litmus test for your humanity. Do you like this song? No? Kill yourself.

A couple of years earlier the Rolling Stones had written a song called Let’s Spend The Night Together which was too explicit for mainstream America to handle. And that was a fine song, almost sweetly conservative by today’s standards. Iggy wants to spend the night together too and he isn’t being too coy about it either, sounding desperate and testosteronic at the same time. Iggy knew what mainstream America could handle and went way beyond it.

Even Guy Ritchie, a man synonymous with the reverse Midas touch, couldn’t ruin this song, introducing it to a new generation of kids in Lock, Stock And Too Much Shit Acting. Yeah we can mock Iggy now for doing insurance adverts but fuck it, the guy wrote I Wanna Be Your Dog, an ode to dysfunctional yearning as eloquent as any in history which, in my book, means he can pretty much do whatever he wants.

I Don’t Like Mondays (And I Need A Scapegoat)

Like most England football fans I was initially dismayed at the draw with the USA on Saturday night. England created enough chances to have won it but so did the opposition and a draw, on reflection, seemed a fair result against a side that have beaten Spain in the last year amongst many other supposedly big scalps.

Robert Green made a calamitous error on the evening but you can’t help but think his devastated reaction to it was as much to do with what he knew would be meted out to him by the national sporting press.

For papers that make much of their devotion to all things Eng-er-lund they did a pretty good job of humiliating the family and friends of the England goalkeeper. “Hand of Clod” was a pretty common headline on front and back pages, the implication being that somehow England are already good as out of the tournament because one player made an idiotic error.

How constructive that criticism will turn out to be we have yet to find out. Capello now has a dilemma. Stick with Green and he shows his support of the player. Drop him and probably finish him as an international goalkeeper. If Green plays and drops another clanger, Capello will probably lose his job and the consequences for Green will be disastrous.

The hype surrounding England’s chances get more ridiculous with each tournament. Some facts – we don’t have a team filled with world-class players, we have a team filled with exceptionally well-paid ones. The obvious goalkeeping issue aside, in the defence probably only Ashley Cole might get into a world XI. In midfield Barry is no Veron, Lampard is no Kaka and Gerrard would probably make a World sub’s bench but no further than that. Up front we have our one unarguably world class player, Wayne Rooney. That’s it. And if Rooney has a poor game, England have a poor game. For a team that couldn’t qualify for the European Championships two years ago, talk of emulating the “heroes” of 1966 is frankly embarrassing.

To make Robert Green the scapegoat for not winning a football match is to deliberately miss the point about why our* national football team has so consistently failed. The Premiership has made millionaires of a great many very average footballers, and money and success are not the same thing. Footballers now routinely take home tens of thousands of pounds a week thanks to the largesse of Rupert Murdoch – a man who feels, perhaps not unreasonably, that as he bought the no doubt very expensive house Robert Green lives in, that he can take a shit on its doorstep.

The culture of blame that we currently find ourselves wallowing in isn’t merely Murdoch’s fault. It can be seen in many of the BBC’s flagship programmes. The Apprentice is a triumph of editing, a choice compilation of people making bad decisions before going into a boardroom to find the weakest person so they can be humiliated on national television. Of course, nobody forces these deluded people to go onto these shows but TV is increasingly a wall-to-wall broadcast from Bedlam.

The massive deterioration in the quality of the quiz show Have I Got News For You is a case in point. Clinging to its satirical status only by dint of its close to filming broadcast slot, the show has turned into a weekly opportunity to smugly bait which ever bear is foolish enough to take part that week. The recent show hosted by John Prescott was a classic case. Prescott is a walking disaster at the best of times but his treatment at the hands of Ian Hislop was less satirical and more a personal assault with Hislop repeatedly making references to Prescott’s various misdemeanours whilst turning his smug goblin fizzog to the joyfully whooping crowd knowing that Prescott wouldn't dare rise to it and smash his face in.

The talent shows with which ITV gleefully saturate their weekend schedules spend more time showing us possibly disturbed people lining up to be nationally humiliated is another obvious example of the chase for losers.

Even the news seems to be looking for victims. The appalling tragedy in Whitehaven would seem to be a story with enough victims and a clear scapegoat already but when the news channels began to suspect this was a tale with perhaps not enough momentum to keep it as a lead till the weekend, questions began to be asked about whether or not it was the fault of local unarmed policemen for not finding Derrick Bird quick enough. Had an unarmed policemen challenged Bird of course he would probably have been gunned down and then he’d be a hero and another story within itself. You can’t help thinking that, in the press’s eyes, that this is really what the police are guilty of – not laying down a sacrificial lamb or two on which a follow-on story might be built.

Good journalism is about asking questions, is about challenging figures of authority and examining a story from all angles. It’s a truism that no news is good news but does that mean the opposite must be the only way in which to form a journalistic narrative.

Comparing a goalkeeping error to a rampaging gunman may be trite but the coverage remains essentially the same – find someone to blame and start from there, and if an obvious target doesn’t immediately present itself, focus on finding or inventing one.

The news media has essentially turned itself into a kind of journalistic version of those ambulance chasers that promise compensation for people injured in accidents over the last five years. If you’ve been in a tragedy in the last five minutes and you haven’t found someone to adequately blame, call this number.

It is often said of us British that we like to laugh at ourselves. However, it certainly makes for a better joke if that laughter is unprompted. These days we like to laugh at others and invite them to join in later.

Rather than look for someone to mock, perhaps we should all indulge in a collective navel-gazing, wonder perhaps if we aren’t all to blame for Robert Green’s human error and Derrick Bird’s atrocities. Maybe we could consider the idea that by buying the Sun and subscribing to Sky, it’s us who are responsible for funding a lavishly rewarded clique of average footballers with more ambition than ability. And when we fail to adequately punish those MPs who cheat the taxpayer, we mock our precious ideals of democracy and justice, and inevitably that leads to men like Derrick Bird deciding to mete out their own form of punishment.

Just as we get the governments we deserve, we get the football team we deserve and the press too. Cancel your subscription to Sky Sports, arrest your local MP and get angry at the right targets, starting with yourselves.

*Admittedly only if you're English, other UK nations are advised that although supporting whoever's playing England can be defended on grounds of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" it probably stems from a sense of inadequacy.