Monday 7 September 2015

Nobody Likes Your Facebook Posts Either, Stop Moaning.

Do you, like me, occasionally find yourself scrolling down your facebook feed and getting thoroughly annoyed at pictures of babies, legs on beaches, gurning selfies with cocktails, inspirational phrases on pretty backgrounds, check-ins at every pub on the pub crawl or whatever it is that grinds your particular gears? Of course you do, we all do. However, do you ever take the time to think about the effect your own posts are having on other people? Of course you don't, nobody does.

As a pet owner, writer and musician, I am constantly bombarding people with pleas to read my crap, or listen to my songs, or just look at cute pictures of my Cats. In the same way as my eyebrows go up and I moan “oh for fuck's sake not another picture of a baby” I suspect the people posting the baby pictures think the same thing about these blog posts, and endless rewordings of the phrase 'please just listen to my song, it will only take you three minutes, you bastard'. I can't really blame them, especially since just today I was enough of a twat to post a picture of me in my new hat because I am so pleased with my new hat. I mean how self-absorbed do you have to be to think other people are going to give a shit that you got a new hat (5 likes and rising so far).

A lot has been said over the last year about the echo-chambers of social media. But mostly to do with politics, and the left in particular. There's also a baby echo-chamber, a pet echo-chamber, a pictures of your dinner echo-chamber and so on and so on. Luckily for you, there will always be people who like different things, and so your marathon posting of every song the new kids on the block ever did from youtube will find enough likes to convince you that people are enjoying it. I am not. I don't even enjoy people posting songs I do like from youtube in massive blocks of 5 or more. Other people seem to though, here's a really great song by the Trees, post this, and I might click like on it.

I know a lot of people are fond of the unfollow button to stop seeing all the baby pictures/right wing propaganda/keep calm and do something asinine pictures (seriously, if you don't know about the unfollow button, google it, you will be much happier). I'm not one of them, I like to see all of it, otherwise I will end up in an echo chamber of people who talk boring crap about guitars, comic books and save the whales left wing hippy shite. I like to see the right-wing propaganda, so I can challenge it a bit. I like to see the baby pictures (well, I don't, but it means I know who not to invite round for the next 18 years) and even the game invites let me know another thing about somebody (that they have nothing better to do with their time than keep a pretend farm, or throw birds at pigs, get a proper hobby). And surely the whole point of facebook is to know things about people so that we don't have to have conversations with them anymore?

Facebook are not making it easy for me these days, since they now seem to insist on showing me every picture that my friends have liked from their other friends, with not one toss given as to whether I know these other friends or not. This week is always a difficult one for those of us who aren't fans of gurning children in front of doors wearing freshly labelled school uniforms, as yet unripped or stained with the heady mix of grass, chocolate and other children's blood/snot/faeces that they inevitably will be. Especially when now we get to see the children of people we have never even met. Although I have to accept that my niece looked wonderfully psychotic in her first day at school photo this morning, so I am glad I don't have a children in school uniform filter fitted yet.

 (Thanks to my Sister for letting me post that picture)

Strangely eloquent minions will always annoy me though, and you may get unfollowed for posting them. Possibly unfriended, I may even come to your house and slap you. I have never heard a minion utter a coherent phrase other than one of their own names, banana, or bottom, so the minions who are currently telling me that they are strong women who will cut me up like a muppet if I say anything mean about their friends/children/hamsters/bananas are a total mystery to me. I am occasionally tempted to start my own minion quotes account that just says 'bammely boonage, bap mee barappta binkydoo woonits, bottom' next to a picture of a grinning twinky wearing goggles.

I mean, seriously? I've seen everything the minions have done, I like them a lot, I even sing like them when I am drunk, but this is worse than bitstrips were.

I know that most of my friends list is a little lefty bubble of do-gooding-hippies, and that's good. But luckily it also has a smattering of casual racists, gun fanatics, smug capitalist fatcats and people I have never met and have no idea why they sent me a friend request (but you all seem lovely). This is even better, as it gives me a wider perspective on the human condition, and I don't even have to leave the house, or get into arguments in pubs anymore, I have not been punched in the face in over a decade for laughing at somebody's genuinely held beliefs now, which is lovely.

Next time you are wanting to strangle somebody who believes that the only way they can truly express themselves is by sharing a picture which is just some white writing on a black background that tells you how how crazy they are (I know how crazy you guys are already, you're crazy enough to express yourself through a black and white gif somebody else made in ten seconds, you mad fuckers you) remember that they think your kitten is a wanker, your band are shit and the pictures of you and your wife on the beach make you look fat.

By the way, listen to my new song, it's about my cat, it's quite funny, and it's only three minutes long.

Thursday 20 August 2015

A (Not So) Brief History Of Pets I Did Not Want

I never really wanted pets, let me make that clear from the start, I had rodents as a kid, all of them met unpleasant ends, one rabbit fell from the roof of its hutch and broke its back, two of them got set free by a stoned fourteen year old (might have been me) and were shot by the neighbour, and the guinea pig committed suicide by throwing itself from a chair. Unperturbed, I went on to have two gerbils I quite liked. Despite my accidentally cutting one of their fingers off, we had a nice couple of years and then they died. My then girlfriend bought me two more to cheer me up. This set a pattern for my life, they were not nice, and they had sixteen babies. They ate eight of them.

I always say we had dogs as kids, but the truth is that our first dog ran away when I was three so I barely remember her, and my parents gave the second one to my grandparents when I was about six, as they had no time to look after him. So I did not really want a Dog when I was 21. My then girlfriend (different one to the gerbil one) and I lived in a third floor flat above the pub we ran with no garden, it was not a sensible place to have a dog. She really wanted one though, and when he sauntered over and gave a half-hearted woof in the middle of all the other leaping, barking, attention-seeking dogs before buggering off back to his bed, I realised that Rambo was probably my real soul-mate, rather than the girl.

Truthfully it took longer than that. When we broke up and I asked the 'who gets the dog?' question, I was half-hoping that she would say 'you can't take my dog!' as it would make flat hunting much easier, and I could be mobile again, rather than dog-bound. Sadly, she said 'I don't have time for him, you'll have to take him' and it was lying in my parents spare room, listening to his plaintive howls from downstairs as he spent his first night sleeping away from me (no dogs upstairs at Mum's house) that I realised he was the one for me, not her.

Rambo was the first animal to properly break my heart when he got old and died (in my arms, at the vets) probably because it was just me and him for quite such a long time. I could probably write a book about him and all the stuff we did, my old house mates will fondly remember the time we thought he'd eaten the stash. He hadn't, he was just tired, it was down the back of the sofa. The old neighbours will remember wanting to phone the police over a domestic row that turned out to be me and Rambo having a bit of an argument after I got drunk, and so on and so on. But this is not just about him.

Me and Rambo moved in with the current Mrs Doesn't-Write-Anything-Ever and the kids, and discovered we now had three cats to put up with as well. We didn't like cats, the local cats in Bideford used to bully Rambo when I wasn't watching as they knew he was scared of them. Duchamp, Dali and McCartney were no nicer to him. He bore it well, as did I. It took Rambo dying for me to develop a bit of a fondness for cats, and McCartney (hereafter known as Carty, cos that's what we called him) in particular. He was also old, black (well going brown round the edges) and a bit grumpy, just as Rambo had been. He refused my constant invitations to him to sit somewhere other than under my coffee cup, and we bonded.

Duchamp and Dali (that's them in the boxes up there) couldn't have been more different, despite being from the same litter. Dali was a tortoise-shell who was allergic to her own spit. Whereas Duchy is a beautiful tabby cat and always spotlessly clean, Dali was usually scarred, ridgy, losing bits of fur, and relentlessly skinny. She would not leave anybody alone, and would generally push at you furiously with her head while miaowing as if you were pulling her head off. We often described her as having no redeeming features but meaning well. Duchamp on the other hand, doesn't really like anybody. He had a couple of bad experiences with a hot sausage and a skipping rope when he was little, picking up a few trust issues, but he does tolerate me, and almost nobody else. So much so that he tends to hide if anybody comes round, and people think I have imagined him and only own two cats.

Apparently I didn't get used to cats enough, as after a year of no dog, Netty decided I had to have one or I would drive her nuts, so she made me get Rizla. She is a collie, she is now 10 years old, and she was proper crazy. I had never had a puppy before, she was the first animal I had to train, it was hard. She got stood on a lot as she ran around my feet, I tried to squeeze the wee out of her at night so she wouldn't wee on the floor (almost literally), I once spent 3 hours in the middle of the night sitting on the kitchen floor with her, a toy monkey and some leftover chicken because she looked sad, and when she had to wear the cone of shame after being neutered I spent a week sleeping on the sofa with her so she wouldn't be alone. I am clearly a dog person right?

Then came Schrodinger, a waste of a good name (that's him with Rizla above). He was a wedding gift I didn't ask for from my mate Gez, Netty was pleased as she wanted another black cat. Carty was very upset to see that we had got a little black kitten, he thought we were replacing him. The kitten thought it was a dog, he played fetch and did massive shits in the middle of the lawn. And then he got run over. I was not terribly bothered, as at this point, I was still not fully cat converted, we didn't even have him for 5 months, and I was in London at the time and missed the initial unpleasantness. I did have to bury him twice though, due to a new fence post having to go in the same place as him.

We lost Carty eventually, he got a brain tumour, it was terribly sad, as we always had to stop the car on the road and put him in the house before parking on the drive, as he used to walk round in circles there, unable to stop. He also looked like he was wearing a funny hat, but I stopped making jokes eventually. I had to go into the vets with him, and he died in my arms. He didn't break my heart like Rambo had, but then he was Netty's cat, not mine.

Apologies to Rudi, but this is the only photo of Carty I've got.

Bam Bam's family were moving to Saudi Arabia, so Netty adopted him. He was so very surly, and arrogant, and gave not one fuck about anything. It did not take long for him to worm his catty way into my heart. Every time he bit me for stroking him, every time he nicked bits out of my sandwich, every time he clung resolutely to the window sill refusing to go outside, I liked him more. Eventually Dali and Duchamp grudgingly accepted him. They had to, the pair of them were always natural followers, whenever there has just been the two of them they have had no idea what to do, a bit Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to various Hamlets.

We moved from the housing estate to the moor, and Bam Bam was in heaven, he brought me dead mice every day, disguised as bunches of flowers. Then he suddenly developed a terribly rare cat disease and died the next day, once again, in my arms at the vet. It had finally happened, a fucking cat broke my heart. I decided that Duchamp and Dali were in fact devious murderers, and had probably pushed Schrodinger under that moped as well as poisoning Bam Bam. They were nothing of the kind, they were homely cats without a leader again, they had looked at the moor from the window and decided it was nicer on the radiator.

This is Bammy, caught looking at himself in the mirror again.

Last year we decided that since Dali and Duchamp were getting on a bit, we needed to get kittens. This is the only time in recorded history that it has been my idea to get an animal, rather than having it forced upon me. So we got Heisenberg (not Breaking Bad, he was named for the Schrodinger reference) and Kahlo. Duchamp and Dali were grateful not to be in charge of themselves any more, and immediately acquiesced to Heisenberg as the kingpin he was (I think he thought he was named for Walter White). And then they destroyed everything, they got everywhere, they left live rabbits in the living room when they were bored, and they once managed to push my telecaster into their litter tray.

I began to give all the animals Indian names as well, Rizla has been known as ‘The Bear’ since the day we got her, so she became Running Bear, Duchamp is Crying Owl, Dali - Crazy Tortoise, Heisenberg – Tiny Air Raid Siren, and Kahlo – Startled Batman Face. Though Kahlo is still called Bitey more than anything else, while Heisenberg was mostly known as Twatface until he decided that me putting magnetic locks on the food cupboard to keep him out was a step too far, and got himself run over in protest. I am not naming any more cats after physicists, finding his sad little corpse outside the house on a damp monday morning confirmed my newfound cat person status.


This was when we found out that it was Heisenberg that did all the bad stuff, Kahlo is pretty good really. She does bring in a lot of dead stuff (but where are the heads Bitey?) she costs me a fortune in all the collars she loses on the moors and she comes for walks with me and Rizla all the time, miaowing at us constantly as if she is hating every minute (Heisenberg used to come with us too, I think she is just doing it in memory of her brother). She goes out in the rain and the mud, and then comes in and jumps on me for a cuddle, and runs off again once she's dried out.

After Dali died of kidney failure (I was again, overwhelmed, I was beginning to think she was some kind of immortal demon, but I do miss her) Kahlo and Duchamp really bonded, they spent all their time curled up together on the sofa. Mostly because Kahlo likes to lick everything she can get her paws on, and Duchamp likes to be clean. He used her like a hotel shoe polishing machine. But then we got George Orwell, and it all changed again.

Whenever there is some kind of calm and equilibrium among our pets, we like to chuck a new one in to make it crazy again. So Netty got me George Orwell, another little tabby cat, for my birthday (briefly known as Hugging Leopard, now Screeching Pterodactyl). Duchamp is annoyed at being replaced, Kahlo is sulking about not being the littlest kitten anymore, and Rizla's pleading eyes are begging me to stop forcing animals on her. She has an enlarged heart now, and is supposed to avoid stress, is only allowed short walks, and is on medication for the rest of her life, so she felt that making her put up with another kitten might be a step too far. But I still catch the two of them cuddled up together all the time. Rizla loves everyone, because she is a doggy slut.

George Orwell does not come for walks with us, he is scared of everything, which is good. As if me, Rizla and Kahlo were inclined to play at being the three musketeers on the moor (we would naturally all want to be Aramis, but they would make me be boring Athos, and Kahlo would have to be Porthos as she is the most murdery) we would be glad not to have an over-enthusiastic D'Artagnan running around after us. Not that we would do such a thing.

And that's my many pets, none of which I asked for (except for Bitey). Apart from the chickens and the ducks, and the guinea pigs, and the rabbit, and the fish, and all the hamsters, mice, stick insects and various other things I have probably forgotten. All the furry people who I share my life with, and probably talk to more than the real people in my life. It's been a bad couple of years, we've planted 3 cats in this garden and we've only been here for two years. I'm preparing myself for the worst with Duchamp and Rizla, while simultaneously planning what to get to replace them. I realise it won't be my decision, but I long ago stopped planning what I might do if I had no animals getting in the way.

My advice, get pets, or at least, get people who force them on you, they will drive you mad, and make things difficult, but even when you're wading through a kitchen full of dog piss with a kitten leaping through it to take a crap off the side of the litter tray into your flip flops it is possible to see the funny side, and enjoy it for what it is. Honestly.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Feel free to tax me a little more, I think I can take it

I found a blog hiding on my hard drive that I felt was the most important thing in the world when I wrote it. I came in drunk one Saturday night, and decided that the reason everything is wrong is that we have been conned by the ruling classes into believing it is crass to talk about money. I decided that I had to write a blog detailing the financial ins and outs of myself and my family (to the best of my knowledge) thus setting the snowball rolling so that we can all understand each other better.

I wrote it, it was very sweary (and written a few nights before the recent budget, out of annoyance about inheritance tax cuts) and then decided I should at least hold off and edit it a bit before publishing. When I read it in the cold light of day I decided it is crass to talk about money, my family would be very unhappy with me for broadcasting their finances to anyone who wants to read it, and left it on the hard drive.

I have changed my mind about it again now.

There follows a heavily edited version, in which I wimp out, and miss my own point entirely.

Dear Messrs Cameron and Osborne, please take back your tax break, I don't need it, or even qualify for it, and if I don't need it I suspect nobody really does.For clarification, I have been very lucky, along with the rest of my family. My grandmother died a year ago, and left us a fuck ton of money, hoorah! I miss my grandmother every day, like all grandsons do, but the xxxxxx quid she left me makes it a bit easier. Not all of us can say that right? (I really do miss her by the way, she never meant to get all that money, and while she was alive she gave everything she could to anyone she felt needed it, and was the kindest human being I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, but a house in walking distance of Guildford Station, is a house in walking distance of Guildford Station, and this is a different world to the 1950s).I know it isn't very British to talk about money, but that might be what got us into all this shit in the first place. To me, xxxxxx quid is genuinely, a fuck ton of money. I put it into a deposit on a house I really liked. I live in it now, it is brilliant. I am still the same sad, miserable son of a bitch I was when I lived in a council house on the other side of town. But I have a nice house now. I also feel horribly guilty for all the people still living on the estate we used to who can't afford their rent, let alone the price of getting out of there.The point is, I would have been more than happy to pay tax on that money, and have a smaller deposit. It would not bother me at all, and that is on a mere xxxxxx pounds. Take 40 percent of that, I am poor(ish) and don't understand numbers that big anyway.My Dad is an accountant, he dealt with my grandmothers estate, he might well think differently, since I only got a certain percentage (which I am still doing little happy dances about). He might not, because he can do maths, and knows that under Mr Cameron's new inheritance tax laws, we might not be paying tax on it. I think that we did at the time, but we were fine with that, because it is, as I said, a fuck ton of money that we didn't have before. And unexpected, unearned fuck tons of money are exactly the sort of things that should be taxed.I bought a house, my sister did some things, my brother did some things, my mum and dad did some things. None of the things we did were life-saving, and we would all be fine without it. (Apologies, a lot of the important stuff is being edited out for the sake of family harmony, this is ensuring none of this makes sense anymore, I could have spoken to everyone individually and asked if they minded me spewing their intimate details over the internet to make some useless socialist point, but I thought it might create the very problem I was trying to avoid, so I didn't).

Seriously, this is what happens to fuck tons of money.And they want to move the inheritance tax threshold up.Really.I would not benefit from it,I would happily pay tax on what I have already inherited.Inherited wealth is not earned wealth.Fuck you, pay some tax on your mum's house, you are not entitled to anything.Yes I am a socialist, and possibly worse (no, I don't know what I meant by that either) and I know that owning my own home from inherited wealth is probably against everything I believe in , but I live in a capitalist society and can't change that, so I decided not to suffer on principles (Dad taught me that too).Apologies to my entire family, I hope you don't think too badly of me for actually using numbers for once (I haven't, I edited it out, I am a total wimp, sorry to everyone else).Power to the people (not a joke, apparently)

And there you have it, a genuine drunken rant, edited for Britishness. Maybe one day we won't find it crass to talk about money, and people will openly discuss their salaries by the water cooler, and realise that that is why the 'crass to talk about money' thing came about. So that employers can pay some people much less than others, safe in the knowledge that they will never find out. I once worked somewhere where it was written into my contract that I could not discuss my salary with any other employee. Nice trick, didn't work, most of us were on less than the original minimum wage (this was before it came in) a lot were proper Essex council estate boys, and they just can't help themselves but tell everyone what they earn (can I still stereotype Essex council estate boys? Well I'm going to anyway). So we all knew, and we all used it in wage reviews to make sure we didn't get skinned any worse than anybody else.

I talk to plenty of people who say 'oh I'm not really that well off' when I know that their household income is at least four times larger than ours. I claim to not be that well off myself, when compared to my former neighbours, I am pretty damn good thanks. Relativity is everything, and the more we have, the more expensive our lives become, bringing the illusion of poverty. It is just an illusion, trust me, I did the real thing for long enough.

I may be sober now, but I still say you can stick your inheritance tax break. Take the lot, I don't need my parents stuff, and the illusion of a meritocracy is a little shakier than it was before the breaks.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Close the Libraries then, we don't need them anyway

I get the feeling that libraries are obsolete, like public baths and most other great victorian philanthropic institutions. Don't get me wrong, I love books, and I loved libraries 30 years ago when I needed them. But now even the poorest in our society has a device in their pocket capable of downloading and reading more books than you could ever hope to finish in a lifetime. And the best of them are free now.

There may be an element of playing devils advocate here, since I have friends who are librarians, and I love the concept. However, we keep being told that cuts must be made, and I would rather we found other ways of borrowing books than trying to find other ways to stop depressed people being left all alone to finish themselves off. And in the same way as live TV broadcasts will probably go the way of the dodo, so will the printed word, and if not the printed word, then certainly the big, beautiful cathedrals to it that we have built for the purposes of never having the thing you wanted to read in at the moment (but I can order it for you dear, 2 weeks tops).

I have not had access to a library since I moved out to the sticks 11 years ago. We have a library bus that comes by on a Friday, but I'm at work then and can't use it. This doesn't bother me as I have been using the charity shop/car boot sale merry-go-round book reading method instead, which does a bit of good at the same time, and generates money for good causes, while also ensuring I always read the latest must-read book club type books a year or so after everyone else, and for only 50p.

When I was a kid though, I went to the local library every week, grabbed a huge pile of Doctor Who novelisations, rapaciously read them, and eventually got a gold book track badge for my troubles. And while I was doing my A levels I borrowed many piles of weighty textbooks that I couldn't possibly have afforded to buy in order to plagiarise them for my extended essays (which I got As for by the way, no internet to check if I had cheated back then, it works both ways). So I do appreciate their uses.

But now it is different, we have e-readers and the internet, I can read anything that is out of copyright for absolutely nothing (thank you Project Gutenberg) and while I could not plagiarise it as blatantly anymore, I could find all the source material I could ever need at the click of a button. And it wouldn't just be those books on the subject that my favourite head librarian in Bideford had chosen to put in there (Hi Rose, your books got me those As, thanks, good choices) I now have access to everything ever written, which is a little daunting, but equally brilliant.

So in the same way as public bathhouses were made obsolete by all of us having plumbing and soap in our own homes, the availability of information and books to all and sundry that the internet has set free has probably made libraries as we know them obsolete. I shall mourn them, as an integral part of my late twentieth century youth, but like those stove-pipe hatted philanthropists who set them up, I think their work is done. Maybe we can re-purpose the buildings as community centres instead?

Please tell me I'm wrong.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Things on the Internet that will never change Part 1: Moaning about the Glasto Headliner

Once a year, without fail (except on Old Farmer Eavis's fallow years) the headline acts for Glastonbury festival are announced, and the internet explodes with outrage. Whether it is because somebody has had the temerity to book a hip-hop act, or somebody your Dad has never heard of, it is a near certainty that those complaining are probably not going to Glastonbury anyway. There have been more than enough words wasted over Kanye West's booking already, but if you think a festival that encompasses all musical forms should ignore what is arguably the dominant and most innovative form of musical expression of the last three decades then you may not be paying attention. Or you may be paying too much attention to an idiot with an agenda and an outlet. The kind of deluded idiot that sends death threats to festival organisers.

Any discussion of Rap on any musicians online forum I frequent will end up with someone making the old 'rap is spelled with a silent C' joke, which has never been funny. And there are those still claiming that it is destroying the moral fibre of our youth. If you are one of them, then this is akin to those old men who said Elvis and Rock and Roll would bring about the apocalypse, except that you are saying it in the early 1990s (figuratively speaking, more of this kind of thing later). The possibility exists that because it is a predominantly black form of music that was introduced by black culture without a nice white Elvis, or jovial old cuddly Bill Haley to front it, there are racist overtones to those who hate it so vehemently. Of course it’s just a possibility.

I find it hard to believe that people can be so outraged by a choice of headliner at a music festival that they start up a petition to get it changed, but it happens. And it is shared all over my social media timelines, mostly by the ubiquitous old, straight, white males of the world. And the greatest percentage being those who are not, and probably never would be, attending anyway. I am also quite tired of hearing how music needs to be “authentic” and “real” (apparently that means it has guitars in it) and wondering if that actually means I have to get rid of all fakery and artifice (like my amplifiers and effect pedals) and just sing hey-nonny-fucking-no in a field with a mandolin to be genuine.

Kanye West is a dick yes, but so was John Lennon (sorry to attack your sacred cow, but if you really want to imagine no possessions, maybe offload the Rolls Royce John) and nobody would pipe up about the Beatles playing would they? Jimmy Page is also a crazed fantasist living in the past with a very dodgy record (I am referring more to things like the infamous mudshark incident rather than outrider, though it applies equally to both) but a Zeppelin reunion would not attract a petition to change it would it? The signees, I suspect, would be more than happy to see corporate whores like Dire Straits or Fleetwood Mac headlining, claiming that they had earned their place by virtue of being straight, white and middle of the road. They would be wrong, festivals should be new and exciting, not old, stayed and frankly dull.

I think the outrage may be a result of the fact that you buy your tickets (which you can't then sell on easily anymore) without a clue as to who is going to be playing there at all. Now, if you are going to festivals for the music, then you are going for the wrong reasons anyway, they may be music festivals, but they are about meeting crazy people, doing crazy things, and forgetting that there is a shitty real world out there waiting for you when you get out (and buying hats, obviously). The music is just background to the rest of it. Glastonbury know this, and don't need a line-up to sell tickets. Not everyone buying them has cottoned on to this yet though.

It is the new breed of festival goer that fuel the outrage, the rush for tickets, and the extortionate prices. The wealthy city types, who crave shower blocks, and constantly take selfies in front of the stage without listening to a note, desperate to make sure everybody knows that they were there. The middle-aged men, desperately trying to seem cool still in their flowerpot hats and tartan shorts while refusing to relinquish their grip on everything, so you get to listen to Oasis, and pasty interchangeable indie bands forever and ever and ever (they did say they would live that long remember). And then there are those baby boomers again, they priced you out of the housing market, and now they've got your Glastonbury tickets, and they want to see the Rolling Stones and Kenny Rogers, so you can take your Hip Hop music, and your Electro-Gypsy-Dixieland-Funk and fuck off back to playschool kids.

My own generation may be to blame, we took festivals over in the 90s, we decided there should be a different one every weekend with the same line-up, we added a ton of corporate sponsors, accepted that food and drink should cost roughly four times more than in the real world and ensured that the line-up remains the same to this day. I am sorry kids, we broke it for you, maybe you should fix it again.

I was more upset by the booking of the Rolling Stones in anything other than the Sunday afternoon nostalgia spot than I was at the Kanye booking, at least he is vaguely relevant. Don't get me wrong, I love the Rolling Stones, but having them headline a festival in 2013 was equal to Irving Berlin headlining at Woodstock, wrong time, wrong place. Still the target audience seemed to enjoy it. Music festivals are now the preserve of the wealthy and well heeled, not the turned-on, tuned-in and dropped-out youth that dreamed them up in the first place. They can't afford Glastonbury, or get their heads together enough to go through the ticket application process.

On a more current note, a lot of people got really upset at Florence and the Machine taking over the Foo Fighters headline spot. Those people were also wrong, to continue my Woodstock analogy, the Foo Fighters are Frankie Laine, Florence is Jimi Hendrix. The first Foos album is twenty years old now, while Florence has only just released her third hugely acclaimed album, on top of two innovative, interesting, and frankly brilliant number one albums. I can’t help feeling that if it were someone less female and interesting, like Jake Bugg or Mumford and sons perhaps, there would be less outrage, can I scream guardianista-like about inherent misogyny while I’m here? And again, to complain about one band playing at an event on the scale of Glastonbury festival is entirely myopic, there is so much to see, and such variety, that complaining about one band, on one stage is like moaning about what is on Sky Living at 9 o’clock this evening (apparently it’s a new show called Chicago Fire, no, me neither).

Music festivals should be about, new, current interesting music, not the same old shit your Dad used to listen to. If you are moaning about Florence's style, then remember your Dad moaning about Boy George looking like a girl, that's you that is. Glastonbury is for your Dad now (and you might well have become him) at least Babylon is anyhow, and remember that in our Woodstock analogy, even Muse are now Bill Haley and the Comets. If you're actually there, go in to the deep dark weird places and go find new interesting stuff, there’s loads of it, everywhere, music is brilliant, new music is better, you can hear things you know on your iPod/Walkman/gramophone any time you like. If you're not there, shut your mouth and stop worrying about it.

Disclaimer – A lot of my views are not my own, and are merely voiced for comedic effect. I honestly do believe that Glastonbury, and all music festivals should be inclusive of all ages, all classes and all music tastes, we are never more all the same than when we are naked and covered in shit.

Monday 15 June 2015

You are not your job (unless you want to be)

When I moved into my first flat twenty years ago, a very nice lady who lived upstairs (I think she may have been the one playing all those hawaiian guitar albums really loudly, but I'm not sure) asked me what I did. I told her, 'I work up at Heathcote and Ivory, you know, the pot pourri factory on Alverdiscott Road?' And then she said something that has stuck with me ever since. She said, 'I don't mean where do you work dear, I mean what do you do? What do you get up for in the morning?' or something similar, I am paraphrasing, it was a long time ago. I was quite taken aback, and told her that I was a musician, I may even have claimed to be a writer, I was a pretentious twat at eighteen, but then who isn't? I have since realised she may have just been trying to find out who the noisy git with the electric guitar was, but she seemed genuinely delighted to know that I was not just a factory worker.

At the time I was constantly saying that I had to do something worthwhile with my life. I'm not sure I even know what that means now, and a girl I was seeing at the time asked me one very important question. Why? She had a point, define worthwhile, to my pets, wife and stepkids I am very much worthwhile whatever else I am doing (I am a God to Rizla and the Cats, the big hand with the food). To people I hold doors open for, and smile and say good morning too I surely make a difference. Even to those who say they can set their watch by me walking past their house every morning I have worth. But when you're eighteen worthwhile has more weight, expectations are set much too high, at least mine were, probably to justify some of the decisions I made. If you are happy, and enjoying what you are doing, even if it is just watching funny cat videos every spare minute you have, then that is worthwhile.

Ever since then I have steadfastly refused to define myself by my job. Or even bother asking other people what they do for a living. If they want you to know, they will tell you (and how). Full disclosure, I run a print department for a living, this sounds more impressive than it is. There's just me, and a room full of printers and computers that occasionally work. If I need a holiday, the company's technical director comes in and runs it for me, and when it is busy, he comes in to help out and is my bitch. He's also my boss, which makes for some wonderful tension, but after two months of me swearing at him over the Christmas rush, he gives me a bonus, and usually buys me something nice as well, so he must enjoy it really.

Like a lot of people, I do not really love my job, I do it so that I can afford to live, and I kind of fell into it by accident. Occasionally I get caught up in it, as when it does get busy and I am trying to make sure that every one of the 12 printers in my print room is doing something it is a little like conducting an orchestra, and I very nearly enjoy the sensation of doing something well. I have been known to wave my arms at them like a conductor, which alongside my constant muttering to myself and occasional sweary outbursts at inanimate objects makes me look completely insane. This may explain why I am mostly left alone in my little domain.

The company produces novelty jigsaws, coasters, placemats and suchlike, which is exactly the sort of thing I have always set myself against, we are producing tat for the overpaid to buy and give to people who will probably never even look at them (if my boss is reading this, I am sorry, but you knew all this when you hired me, the anti-capitalism never bothered you before). It is easy to get caught up in it, and believe that it is important. Without it I would not be able to keep my home, so in that sense it is (ethics are ethics, but you do need to eat) though when someone is screaming across the office that there is an urgent jigsaw, I still find it hard to stifle a laugh at the very concept of a jigsaw being urgent. It is certainly not a calling, but it is the job I have hated least of all the jobs I have ever had.

Far too many people are guilty of calling themselves musicians or writers these days, and very few of those who claim those titles in their twitter bios make any kind of living from it. This only came to my attention while reading Dan Brown's Inferno (you won't tell anyone I read Dan Brown books will you? Thanks) when Robert Langdon is surprised all the hands that go up when he asks if there are any writers in the room, and blames amazon kindle direct publishing. If you don't get paid for it, it is a hobby, not a job. By the way, in case you haven't seen it before, my twitter bio quite specifically describes me as a not-quite-writer and almost-musician. An important disclaimer I hope.

But then I started this by saying that you are not your job didn't I? So if you play music and you write stuff, and that is what you do, whether it pays or not, you can certainly call yourself what you like. No matter how elitist Dan Brown wants to be about it, it is not a closed world anymore, and anyone can write and publish a book if they want. Doesn't mean that it will be any good though, at least traditional publishing filters out all the crap, saving the consumer a great deal of time.

I am writing this on the eve of my 38th birthday, which has put me in the mood to reflect that if I had done things differently, I could maybe be one of those people who have a career, rather than a series of jobs that they fell into. I always assumed my Dad had been the career type, as he has had a very successful career. But in a recent conversation with him I discovered that he only fell into accountancy because he didn't get into University to do History like he wanted to. This may explain why my parents got so annoyed with me for not taking up my offered University place back in the 90s when it was all still free, sorry Dad.

I hadn't realised how much my conviction that your job does not define you had taken hold until my very favourite editor pointed out to me that very few of my characters mentioned their jobs. Didn't occur to me that anybody would be interested in what fictional people did for a living, as I felt their character would be defined enough by their actions and words. I think I was probably naïve and wrong in hoping for this, as my favourite editor is generally right, and knows an awful lot more about what makes a decent story than I do.

All this is not to disparage the many people happy to be defined by their job, I know teachers, doctors, lawyers, postmen, lorry drivers, mechanics and waitresses who fall on either side of my fence. There will always be some who work to live, and others who genuinely live to work. There will be those who enthuse and say that you must have a thing, a raison d'etre, some force that drives you to do stuff, but they are wrong too. If all you are driven to do is sit in front of the telly drinking tea, then good for you, do what makes you happy as life is fleeting. Most days I am only really driven to sit in the garden with a good book and a bottle of cider. If you keep working yourself into the ground for a better tomorrow that never comes then you did something wrong.

You are not your job, unless you want to be.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Farewell all, I am done procrastinating

I suppose it's all over then. As I plough my way into the final revisions of my novel, I realise that this blog no longer has any purpose. Dave does write stuff, he has written stuff, and now he has nothing to procrastinate over. Farewell to Dave Doesn't Write Anything Ever, and possibly good riddance, right kids?

Well, probably not, but I may run out of things to rant about eventually. I may have already, this is more of a space filler than actually something worth reading. It is in fact, an actual, genuine, bona fide, last ditch bit of procrastination, no word of a lie.

It has become painfully apparent that the book is going to need working on again soon. I realised this because despite having spent the last month (while it's been with my small select group of trusted proof readers) going over the plot in my head, thinking of ways to work in a couple of gags that only just occurred to me, and working out how to attack the next round of revisions with the least amount of distractions. This week, I have mostly been fiddling around with my guitar effects pedal board, trying to find the best sounds for songs I will probably never play, and restringing guitars I do not need for anything I am currently doing. I've also written a bunch of new Dave Not The Cat songs, always a sure sign I should be doing something else.

All this was prompted by the return of my manuscript from my favourite proof reader, it has some very useful notes scrawled on it. Along with a conversation last week with another of my trusted readers, this means it is definitely time for me to get on with it, and do the last couple of sweeps of this book before I have to actually decide where it is going to end up.

That's where the real problem suddenly reared its head. I have been so busy concentrating on getting the thing written, and as good as it possibly could be, and a thing I could be proud of, etc. etc. I had not really given serious thought as to what to do with the bloody thing once it was finished (probably because of the surfeit of unfinished novels I've got lying around the house already, I never thought it would get finished). It should have occurred to me at some point that just as many people are trying to get to be novelists as are wanting to be rock stars, and I didn't manage that one either. Once again I feel irony's bitter sting as I abandon one impossible pipe dream for another. There is a small (okay, quite big really) chance that an unread novel will sit on amazon's self publishing service alongside all the albums I have littered the internet with that nobody ever listens to (if this has filled you with sympathy there are some for download here).

I have also had to cope with a few truths about my writing style, and its unnecessary wordiness (which has been utterly deliberate so far in this blog, and shall remain so). There is a great deal of crap to scythe away from my tale of derring do, (not actual crap apparently, just excessive sesquipedalianism really) and with every stroke of the editor's pencil that I see, I realise how much needs to go. I apologise for the amount of extravagant verbosity that I am vomiting all over this piece, I need to get it out of my system.

It's not just that though. I have been alerted to some colloquialisms that I assume everybody uses (apparently not everybody is 'made up' when they are happy, and I should keep such things to the dialogue, and out of the narration really) my grammar is occasionally shocking (expensive education utterly wasted, sorry Dad) and certain things when seen from a completely different viewpoint look terribly wrong, or right, depending on which side you're on. I have however been very pleased to have the note 'unlikely' put to the side of an incident that actually happened in Barnstaple in 1997. I shall not recount the tale, but if you had ever been in Sherry's Tavern back then, it would not have seemed so unlikely that a bouncer would behave in such a fashion.

Equally, my own personality defects are affecting my characterisation somewhat. The fact that I do not ever remember what people look like, or ask them anything important about their lives has led to me sometimes forgetting to describe characters visually, or bother with what some would call their vital life details. It is genuinely just due to my own world view and priorities, you can ask my wife. If I come home and tell her that I have met somebody interesting in the pub, she will immediately ask me their name (which I usually have not bothered to ask) followed by what they do for a living (which I have never found important enough to ask anybody about) and whether they are married or not (similarly not interested). I can then go on to tell her their favourite episode of Star Trek, what they like to drink, what they think about the current government, and their top five track one side ones of all time. I think these things are more important, I am realising that not everybody does, and rewriting accordingly. Sadly, just like the rest of the country, many of my characters need jobs.

Anyhow, I am clearly just thinking out loud here again, sorry. I must get on and finish the revisions before deciding what to do with it all. Goodbye forever, I shall procrastinate here no longer, Dave really doesn't write anything ever.

Except he does, and he almost certainly will again.

:Edited for brevity, honest: