Friday, 21 July 2017

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Before I get cracking, this is not a literary review. I know a lot of you come here looking for high-brow criticism and insights, so, you know, I just wanted to let you down gently.

I'm going to be talking about Robert Sheppard's Petrarch 3, though, which is literary. I'm a big fan, I must say. I've been to a few readings and seen him perform from this, and it was brilliant, from the laughter at a poem from a dog's point of view, to the particular silence one feels after a sonnet addresses Jimmy Saville in, well, in quite the way he does... I'm sure there's loads of people more qualified than me that have reviewed his work, so I'm not going to do that here. Instead, I wanted to say how refreshing it was.

I've been in some trouble lately. Almost everything has been getting me down, from sunsets to birds gaily tweeting, and the carefree way a child, er, bounces a ball... Or something... But the things that really trouble me are love songs (though music in general has plenty of thorns). Whether they're about unrivalled beauty and devotion, or about the hurtiest pain and wanting to end it all, they've all been getting me teary. It seems that when you're bleeding, the world is full of sharks sniffing your lost liquids (or a more appropriate and well-formed analogy).

When Petrarch 3 came in the post the other day, though, it was full of pointed references to pain, to loss, to love, to awe and more, and yet it did not cause an avalanche in me. Here was love and its process presented, despite having been processed, in all its allusory [to the 'original translation' - the one Sheppard uses, anyway] and thematic power, yet I enjoyed it without pain. The idea of being stung after self-acknowledging your supposed sense of security - the way it happens in Petrarch's third sonnet - is real for many of us, and certainly made me think back to just over a year ago, but it didn't pull at the thread of me, making me fall apart.

I'm not entirely sure, but I don't think it was Sheppard's original intention to give me work about love that didn't upset me. I might be wrong, but I think he just wanted to write good poetry. Well, he's done both, just in case you wanted to know, and I think it's a welcome change.

G'night folks! Peace, love and light.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Irony o'Clock

I was recently lucky
enough to go to Italy to one of my friends' weddings. It was a lovely time, and if you're friends with me on Facebook then you can have a gander at some of the pics I took. The purpose of today's post, tho, is to look at what went on during my connection at Munich.

I had about an hour in Munich to spend before my regional flight to Trieste, so didn't fell I needed to hurry. Almost straight out of the arrivals gate, I saw this wonderful wall (not a Wonder Wall, I hasten to add), pictured above, in front of me. I sort of smirked and thought, 'hey, language... That's one of my main interests,' and carried on walking. Then I realised that I was looking at words to do with time, and time is one of my biggest preoccupations, too, so I stopped, went back, and took the photo.

Just out of shot (to the Zeit), was (is?) a wee entry hole, a doorway without the door. I nearly walked off again, because this white-walled area looked like a security station. I got a bit bold, though, and thought 'well the worst that can happen is that I get looked at oddly by some airport staff, and maybe asked what I'm doing and/or told to piss off', but the possibility of being rewarded by embracing the spirit of adventure, which I am so often too scared/unable to do, spoke louder to me. So I edged my way towards this entrance-to-what, and, without wishing to spin this out to ridiculous levels, saw that what was inside was actually an exhibit.

I was genuinely very excited. As I've said, it was ticking two of my main interest boxes, but also there was the thrill of living in the moment, listening to my gut, and being lucky enough to have this mini-museum there for perusal in what I thought was just going to be a grey old run from gate to gate. To your left - as you went in - there were three mini sand-timers that you could spin round, and I took the opportunity to 'childishly' interact with what was on offer, and watch their contents trickle.

I was still aware, however, that I couldn't spend all day here. At that point - because I hadn't been told when I checked in at Manchester - I wasn't sure if I needed to get my bags back at Munich, then check them in again. I wasn't sure how big the airport was, how long it takes for bags to reappear from the plane (it seemed to take forever when I was going on family hols as a kid...), or how big the queues would be around the place. When I thought about it like that, panic revved its motorcycle in the garage of my gut, so I decided to take pictures of all the info boards and read them later. As I turned my camera on and waited for it to warm up, I read the first line of the introductory panel. It outlined the broad strokes of 'the' philosophy of time. I got that pre-tingle one gets when one feels horny and has decided what porn one is going to watch - and I couldn't wait to get to the money shot.

I readied my camera, and was about to focus the first shot, when an airport employee stuck his head through the entrance, said something in German, saw my blank expression, then said in English "Sorry, we are closing."

He apologised again and escorted me out.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Sorry Tom Bradby, but You Need to Get It Right!

'Tom Bradby'
I was watching ITV News at Ten on Wednesday night, and there was an update on the latest political developments in Britain. I didn't actually catch the story (though, presumably, it was about the cap on public sector pay?), just the presenter - Tom Bradby - and some middle-aged white 'expert' chatting about it afterwards. Anyway, this post isn't about the politics per se. Come on, this is Blogtastic! Nothing of worth ever happens here!

No but seriously... Tom was talking with this guy about the Tories making a U-turn on an issue they'd already made a U-turn on. I'm sure he first called it a 'double U-turn', but then repeatedly called it a 'double-u (i.e. 'w') turn'. If you perform two U-turns, then you end up going in the same direction you were in the first place. A W-turn, though, means that you've U-turned three times and, compared to your initial vector, you are going in the opposite direction. Again. Am I making sense? Don't worry, you won't be tested on this...

My actual point here is that the stress he was putting on his words was, whether consciously (as part of the larger British media's impartiality in favour of the Tories - Murdoch-controlled rags such as The S*n etc being the most notable, the BBC being the most disappointing) or unconsciously, misrepresenting the mess that the Conservatives are dragging this country further and further into. If the turgid impenetrability of this post is anything to go by, then a lot of people watching it wouldn't have noticed, but I did. I think it matters, too, because these are huge issues, you know, obvious gaffes and horrendous disrespect shown to the British public by the 'professional' people supposedly elected to serve us (yes, I know...). These issues are already being lied about blatantly by some sources, creating a climate of mistrust towards information outlets, so all broadcasters need to be held to high standards. Again, I'm not saying that ITV are part of a conspiracy, but if one of their main presenters is being misleading, then we are right to ask questions about that.

Anyway, if you've made it to the end of this, then thanks. As a reward, here's a clip from one of my favourite childhood films, which is actually kind of relevant. Content note: anti-Italian slurs.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017


What a nice, polite sign. You don't see that anymore these days, do you? Well, it's either that or the name of the latest 'Britain Has Talent' act, whatever the kids are into these days...

Saturday, 17 June 2017


The idea of modernism and postmodernism have always fascinated me, to the extent where I have declared myself 'not interested' in reading all of 'the usual classics' (the Brontes, Dickens, y'know...), because they say little to me about my life, whereas the general jankiness of the more recent movements packs a properer punch. Anyway, here we all are, sitting in a rainbow, and then I read this article by Alison Gibbons, saying [postmodernism] is dead (though I guess certain people have been variously saying it was never alive, or died longer ago... Many opinions, I'm sure), but they're not saying it's dead they're just saying that its techniques are being used in different ways, and for different aims. The facets of production, style and whatnot can be the same, but the idea is that, rather than the literature (and the experimentalism) being the point in and of itself, now it is suggested that the helmsperson is steering the authorial ship towards specific issues, racism being an example.

I had a few problems with the article, not least that I've heard this argument for justice before, in some article about the necessity of climate change fiction, but honestly I'm not sure how much I buy it. I'm not convinced on the level of distribution (is fiction read by the people it needs to be? Obviously any one person can be inspired to make a change, but I'm talking 'will it convince Trump to stop being a nob, or will it make old Enid Fairbottom from down the road take her recycling more seriously?' Will most of the liberal folk that need no encouragement to consume literature not already have these views - much like sharing Corbyn memes on Facebook that only your similarly-minded friends see?) and the efficacy of the form itself (do we change our lives because of fiction, or do we feel stimulated, but not act? Do we, in the end, simply feel entertained? Of course that depends on the person (a lazy, narcissistic, anxious arsehole like myself is not moved to change very easily) and the potency of the piece (clearly your Margaret Atwoods are adept at creating narratives that get large swathes of people engaging meaningfully with topics and enjoying/getting freaked out by what she's saying).

Also, I question the labelling of it. I know this was quite a wee article, y'know, not some thesis dissecting millions of examples, but I wondered 'who actually says it's even waning in popularity?' Then I thought, 'you can trust the TLS, surely, they know what they're on about'. Then I thought that labelling something as dying, or whatever, could directly change someone's perceptions, even if there's no evidence. It's sort of like sticking a pube into someone's ice-cream. You made the choice to do it, and even if it's only touching one chocolate chip, the rest of the mint-choc-chip laden cone might well be chucked. Stupid analogy and an over-exaggeration, but, I suppose all I'm saying is, it's weird to call it 'as it's happening'. Feels a bit soon. Gibbons does address this, saying that the situation's "in flux", but if I'm writing a post, and there's a logical contradiction in the reason for writing it, sometimes I just have to say 'bin it'. What's the point in publishing it if you're not confident that there's any point, any benefit?

Though I suppose she's at least created debate. Which is more than I'm doing.

I'm just rambling.

Where's that delete button...

Friday, 19 May 2017

Scenes: Number Seventeen

There are large, flat, stone benches without backs periodically placed along Morecambe prom.

Today, there was a man sat on one of them, leaning back, using his arms to support himself. The sun's brightness bounced off the arms of his glasses. His hair was all grey, apart from cloud-white wings perched above his ears. His hair, his wrinkles, his woollen jumper and slacks all said he was seventy plus.

His lips were curled up a little at one side. You might think the word 'smirk', but there was much more warmth radiating from him than that.

Watching the distant waves and smiling - just how is he so at peace with the world?