Villa away 16/03/19 and the ugly side of football

Yesterday I went to Villa Park to see Middlesbrough lose 3-0 to the Villains for the second time this season. It was one of the least enjoyable, most lifeless away days I’ve ever experienced. I won’t talk about my team’s management, tactics, and what went down on the pitch. But I will say Tony Pulis set up with the most defensive, most boring line up possible and the fans hated it. Despite being fifth in the league and having a strong mathematical chance of promotion it’s the most depressing time to be a fan of this football club for a long time. Hope and joy levels are well and truly sinking.

I arrived at the ground a couple of minutes into the match and was startled to see that a good portion of our allocated stand was empty. Much more concerning was that the fans were quiet. I’ve said on here before that as a fan who mostly goes to away games, I’ve hardly ever heard the home fans singing anywhere near as much as the away fans. I’ve always thought Boro fans were some of the best in the business at keeping the ballads firing throughout the match. For this match we were practically mute and there was very little to sing about. Everything we did sing was with little conviction and each chant faded away before it was completed. If you did sing you would be left feeling very self conscious about the sound of your own voice.

One chant we sang was the best we could offer

He can’t take a punch,

he can’t take a punch,

that Jack Grealish,

he can’t take a punch. 

but even that was a cheap shot. Come on you fools- Grealish took the punch exceptionally well considering it came as a complete shock. He didn’t rush to retaliate when many would have. He simply sat there, dusted himself off, got up and went on to score the winning goal (something we’ve not done for a while). So I can’t help but think the people who devised that one were a bunch of morons at worst, and desperate and devoid of ideas at best.

I was stood on the top left of the upper stand, away from the big bunch of fans to my right. This left me with maximum exposure to a few individual cretins who make me ashamed to be a football fan. Angry men who don’t watch the match, whose attention is focused on the opposition fans for long periods, swearing and abusing those who they know don’t know and will never meet. In this sense it’s like road rage or trolling, where people express as much rage at other individuals as they like while hiding behind the comfort of an automobile or a computer screen.

I understand a bit of jeering, that’s all part of the fun. But when the other team has scored and they’re pissed off, instead of keeping quiet like civilised human beings, they continue to express their anger by more violent swearing and insults, doing exactly what the opposition want them to do and paving the way to be mocked and abused themselves. The Villa fans absolutely terrorised us all game. I even chortled to myself when I heard them mocking the pig bag theme, singing

Du, du, du, DU…

Fucking useless!

Du, du, du, DU..

Fucking useless!

That was among the wittiest chants I’ve ever heard at a game. Whoever improvised that and got that one going- give yourself a pat on the back my friend.

They also sang 

Oh Tammy, Tammy…

Tammy, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy Abraham!

which was really good. The guy was absolutely lethal all game and looks to be the real deal.

I did something I’d never done before that match; left early. It got to the 85th minute and I just couldn’t see the point of staying anymore. I thought about all the times I’d watched from across the stadium as the home fans poured out of the stands

We can see you, we can see you, we can see you sneaking out!

And to think that I was one of those fleeing specimens now. It sits uneasily. But i’ll try and explain why.

I’d just seen a bunch of dodgy minors on my left, who’d been trying to cause trouble all game stood by the home fans getting escorted out, and as I gazed back up at to my right, a bit of a ruckus, a bit of infighting, and then down at the bottom a middle aged man was being marshalled away by the stewards while the Villa fans called him a fat bastard. We were a complete laughing stock.

I’d had enough of where I was. The atmosphere was so depressing it reminded me of fucking Barnsley away 2013. I was out of there. All this bollocks, it’s what throws the game into disrepute. It’s the ugly side of the beautiful game ladies and gentlemen. The actions of a few mindless yobs who do football for completely the wrong reasons.

As I walked out of the stadium I heard roaring, and for a split second I felt that hot feeling in my spine as I considered I might have missed a Boro consolation. Then I heard  “Oh Albert Adomah, Oh Albert Adomah!” and knew I’d missed Villa putting the icing on the cake. I remember that chant from the good old days, when we used to win at home, we had a successful formula in place and we used to approve of our manager.

Fair play to those who stayed until the end, and sang

we’re fucking shit,

we’re fucking shit,

we’re fucking shit

and supported us throughout. I’ll see you guys again soon, we will get through these ugly times together, preferably having a nice sing song while we’re at it. 

Macbeth: excerpts and comments

I had been planning on reading Macbeth for a couple of years and finally decided to do so last week. I absolutely fell in love with it, as I did with most of Shakespeare’s great tragedies- Lear, Hamlet and Othello being my favourite three. I highlighted a few lines that I found particularly interesting and comment on them. With some lines of course, I am lifting them out of context, but that’s the beauty of the exercise. Add to them what context you like. They’re rich, ripe and ready for transfer.

Alcohol, drugs, sex, murder, England, war, the news, the mediocrity and pointlessness of life. This one has got it all.

It really is true that Shakespeare is ripe for modern interpretation. What he says can be relevant and sometimes the resonance is startling. Whatever world Shakespeare was dramatising, so much of it survives in our world today, for better or worse.

Humans never change.

 

2.2

As Macbeth frantically broods on his fears and his desire to murder his nearest and dearest in order to gain power, his wife advocates mindfulness.

LADY MACBETH

                   … Be not lost

so poorly in your thoughts.

If only they had the Headspace app back then, everyone might have lived happily ever after.

 

When a naive Macduff (the play’s dullest, most flavourless character and also its hero) asks about the effects of alcohol, the Porter offers an extraordinary series of opinions.

MACDUFF

What three things does drink provoke?

PORTER

Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes. It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery. It makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

Alcohol makes you have a red nose, sleep long into the mornings, urinate excessively, and it drastically increases sexual desire, yet makes you very bad in bed (makes you ‘stand to and not stand to’, ie up for it but can’t get an erection).

 

2.3

MACBETH

‘Twas a rough night.

We’ve all had em, only difference is here Macbeth is playing down the fact he’s just brutally murdered the head of state.

 

DONALBAIN

Where we are there’s daggers in Men’s smiles.

That’s London today.

 

3.1

SECOND MURDERER

I am one, my liege

Whom the vile blows and buffets of the world

Hath so incensed that I am reckless what

I do to spite the world

Here Bill was onto some very early psychodynamic theory. This is the explanation that lies behind every murder. The killers certainly did not have nice, pleasant healthy upbringings. They were abused- they’re angry, confused and unbalanced, so they lash out at the world.

Spoken by one of three characters with no names, they are simply Murderers.

 

3.3

THIRD MURDERER

There’s but one down. The son is fled.

I include this one only because I like to think the phrase ‘one down, two to go’ originates from this third murderer commenting on how he has killed Macduff’s young son, but not quite yet managed to get to his wife.

 

4.1

In act 4 a group of witches erupt into rhyme while working their twisted magic. I’ve included it all because I think it’s a display of poetic mastery.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

THIRD WITCH

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,

Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,

Make the gruel thick and slab:

Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,

For the ingredients of our cauldron.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH 

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

 

Enter HECATE to the other three Witches

 

HECATE

O well done! I commend your pains;

And every one shall share i’ the gains;

And now about the cauldron sing,

Live elves and fairies in a ring,

Enchanting all that you put in.

 

Where does invention come from? It’s certainly not the poetry of any man, but some kind of God. A minefield of powerful imagery, short one syllable creatures and things. It’s an expedition.

Read it and speak it aloud, it’s one of the best adverts for our language you’ll ever see.

 

4.3

MACDUFF

Each new morn new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face, that it resounds as if it felt with Scotland, and yelled out like syllable of dolor.”

This is the world we live in, relentless pain and suffering going on in the background. See the news.

When Malcolm and Macduff are contemplating how screwed the country is. Again, a relatable state of affairs, with Brexit sucking the life out of British politics, our national health service on its knees, knife crime epidemic in the capital, increasing homelessness, terror attacks, Islamist rape gangs…

MALCOLM

I think our country sinks beneath the yoke

It weeps, it bleeds, and each day a new gash

Is added to her wounds.

If you ever want to describe someone you think is really bad, simply replace Macbeth with whoever you’ve got in mind.

MACDUFF

                                 Not in the legions

Of horrid hell can come a devil more damned

In evils to top Macbeth

If ever you want to issue a caveat for some extremely bad news, like your wife and only child have been ‘savagely slaughtered’ in your own castle or there are no snooker tables available at the club

ROSS

Let not your ears despise my tongue for ever,

Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound

That ever yet they heard.

 

5.1

DOCTOR

Foul whisp’rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds

Do breed unnatural troubles; infected minds

To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.

Everything is so extremely fucked that your wife or husband is probably dead, and you’re so desperate and insane now that with no one to turn to, you are sharing your own nastiest secrets with your pillow.

 

5.2

On the decline and impotence of Macbeth

ANGUS

Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

What an excellent metaphor to describe the Joffrey Baratheons of the world, in power but unloved, despotic and weak.  

 

5.3

A servant approaches Macbeth with the news that an army of ten thousand English have turned up ready to dance. A truly hilarious exchange, Macbeth really, really does not like this man, specifically, he doesn’t like many aspects of his visage.

MACBETH 

Where gott’st thou that goose look?

SERVANT

There is ten thousand-

MACBETH

Geese, villain?

SERVANT  

Soldiers, sir.

Macbeth’s response is venomous

MACBETH

Go prick thy face and over red thy fear

Thou lily-livered boy. What soldiers, patch?

Death of thy soul, those linen cheeks of thine

Are counsellors to fear. What soldiers, whey-face?

SERVANT

The English force, so please you

MACBETH

Take thy face hence.

Can we ever know what he meant by whey-face? Probably not, but it’s extremely funny.

 

Maccy- B has just been informed that his wife has well and truly lost her marbles. He is talking to the doctor

MACBETH

     Cure her of that.

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart?

 

Can we cure mental illness, a bit of the good old mind crushing depression perhaps, with the use of the good old narcotics? Bit of Prozac to balance those serotonin levels, nice dose of psilocybin or LSD to change the way you look at the world, or maybe just a big, no bollocks hit of smack straight into the cephalic vein?

Many people try. Does it work? I don’t know. Interesting question.

 

5.5

I presume this next part is one of the best known parts of the play. Dick Dawkins even took Brief Candle for the title of his memoirs. This angry nihilistic monologue is something we can all relate to, the atheists among us. The absurdity of getting out of bed and going to work each morning, the relentlessness of existence, the only true respite occurring when we are dead in the ground, when everything that went before gets chalked off the board, rendered completely and utterly meaningless.

MACBETH

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time.

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

 

This is coming from a person who has reached the apex of human suffering, as any protagonist of any tragedy invariably achieves. A tragedy is guaranteed to display pure, abject misery. That’s why when the Greeks started it up, it was so good to watch. Because it made the spectators feel lucky that they themselves had such pleasant, calm and positive lives in comparison. Macbeth- this is what could happen folks. This is what happens if you overreach, if you one day get out of bed and decide you’re not going to go to work today, you’ve decided you’re too good for that and you’re going to be the King. 

Aristotle claimed tragedy served the purpose of purgation. By watching it and being free to enjoy such a ludicrous display of agony, crime and misery, we are indulging our own violent impulses without acting on them, and in doing so, purging ourselves of them. By watching this play, we are cleansed and purified. It’s the same as watching a horror movie. Why do you get pleasure out of that?

Because you’ve sampled a slice of hell, you’ve ventured there in your mind, you’ve seen what it looks like, you’ve observed its character. But when the movie is over, there you still are, sat on your sofa, in the real world, with something to live for; a family to love (they haven’t been brutally murdered by your enemies, or cursed by witches), friends to hang out with, food in the cupboards, water in the taps to keep you alive. The world we live in is bad, but it’s not Macbeth bad.

Gratitude is everything.

 

I loved writing this. If you like what I’ve done her make sure to show that so as to give me the energy and motivation to move onward and do more. Much appreciated and thank you for reading.

Recommendations

I feel strongly that in our society we don’t treat the recommendation with enough respect. Recommendations are like gifts that enrich our lives in ways in which previously we could not comprehend.

I give a lot of recommendations out to my friends. I consume a tremendous amount of content, books, music, podcasts. My desire to listen to a podcast or video while I do the washing up, or listen to music while I move from one place to another is every bit as strong as my urges to eat and drink. Which isn’t good I know. What’s so bad about silence?

But it does mean that due to the amount of content I’ve got through, I find loads of stuff which is tailor-made for the people I know.

If I encounter something that invigorates my brain enough, I send it over.

Opportunities- Consider how much content is in the world, ripe for you to obtain from your home at the touch of a few buttons. With the fraction of this billion, billion resources, we select our own completely unique paths of content. We navigate through the wilderness all on our own, consuming this berry, that berry, a bit of this fruit, a bit of that fruit. You’re going to go to some wonderful places, why not bring a friend with you? What better way to share a relationship with someone than to be journeymen through the unknown, sharing knowledge, laughs and perspectives along the way.

Drawbacks- Recommendations are like gifts of the mind, but they can be hard to get into. What if I’m busy with my job, wife and kids, I don’t have time to listen to a 4 hour Neil De Grasse Tyson babbling on (in what might as well be tongues) about particle physics? But podcasts are easy, you can listen to them while you’re in transit, music is even easier, you can listen to music in social situations. It’s the books where you have to put in the hard yards. Take Better Angels of Our Nature by Stephen Pinker, for example. I’ve got that. It’s 600 pages long, it’s Biblically large, and it’s been unopened on my book case. I’m terrified of it. Thinking about it brings me stress. But think about what those 600 pages can offer me, think about where my mind is going to go, reading him. You’ve gotta dive in I’m afraid, the more work you put in, the more you get out.

I know that’s a cliche but it really is true. One thing I’ve discovered is that just a little bit of work in any area of life, a few press ups, the odd ten mile jog, making an effort to read a poem a week, writing a page or so about whatever is going on, it goes such a long way. The different between doing that stuff and doing nothing at all is absolutely enormous. So ask yourself when you’re at your lowest points, have you really made an effort to do the things you need to do? If not, then it’s time to do something, even though you couldn’t want to do it less at these times. This is where the challenge presents itself. Will you climb up the long, steep hill? Will you smash the wall? But anyway I have digressed, we shall return to our original business.

Hidden motives- You happen to stumble upon something you think is really cool. You send it to your friend so he can have it. How selfless and generous of you, right?

Nope, not always.

Maybe I’ve not really wanted to gift you, maybe I don’t even care if you like it. I just want you to associate that cool thing with the idea of me, or see how much of my time I’ve sacrificed, how skilful is my eye. I am merely signalling something I want you to think about me. We might not acknowledge it in our heads but it’s what’s going on, it’s how we have evolved, how our ancestors have survived.

We have hidden motives to look cool . There are times when I’ve discovered a mix from an artist I’m highly invested in, and I’ve sent it over before I’ve even finished the first ten minutes. My friends have done it too. This is an example of a hidden motive that propels an individual’s actions without their knowing what they are doing. The same way that when people post photos of themselves in fancy global locations they won’t admit it, but they’re blatantly trying to signal their own mental well being, affluence, and cosmopolitan tastes. What they aren’t thinking is hmmm this is a nice photo my friends will enjoy seeing.

Remember the material is king. It should never be used as a vehicle to enhance your own reputation.

Warnings- Don’t keep stuff to yourself, don’t be tight, it’s not fair.

Don’t ignore recommendations because you have no idea what they are and what they might do for you personally.

We’re all in the dark, and there’s so much light to be had out there, so many glowing and dazzling contributions to the world from the world’s greatest minds.

Discovering them and devouring them is one of the most enjoyable and edifying experiences our brains allow us to do.

Now go forth, and recommend, my children, recommend until you are blue in the face.

Hedgehog Population Balloons in Leicestershire Villages

‘How good is it to be one of you at the minute?’ You might ask a hedgehog somewhere. Well, the answer you get could be awful or brilliant, depending on where you’re asking.

In urban areas across the UK, the big cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham the population of hedgehogs has been in serious decline. This is due to the many roads they must cross, and the preponderance of vehicles driving on them. In London in 2018 it was estimated that 96% of hedgehog deaths are caused by being ran over by automobiles.

But if you went further away from the city, into small villages like Barrow Upon Soar, you might find that the hedgehogs are happy and thriving. Why? simply because of a lack of busy roads and cars to kill them with.

I spoke to a man in the Co-op on the High Street the other day who said that the previous day when exploring the cupboard under the stairs, he found a hedgehog feeding a litter of eleven baby hedgehogs, which had well and truly soiled the carpet. In a video that went viral, a very angry middle aged man spoke to BBC Leicester, advocating a cull approach.

“I keep finding I can’t leave the house without coming across multiple hedgehogs now, only the other day I found one in me van. Tripping over them on the pavement. It’s beyond a joke now, we’re becoming a laughing stock in Barra now, the hedgehog village they’re all callin us. Nicky Morgan knows it’s appening but she aint done nothing, It’s disgusting. And I say Theresa May needs to develop a backbone and get culling. ”

Another very confused and upset lady submitted a post to a local Facebook Group called Spotted Barrow in which she claimed that a gang of hedgehogs had gone in through the cat flap one night and eaten her cat, though she had no evidence to support this claim.

It is estimated that in Barrow Upon Soar today, which has a population of 5000, there are 700,000 + hedgehogs disturbing the quality of life. A prominent zoologist with a speciality in hedgehogs said

“As long as the hedgehogs outnumber the humans, the hedgehogs will continue to dominate the village and multiply, whereas in major cities, where humans outnumber the hedgehogs, the humans will continue to multiply and exterminate the hedgehogs until there are none left. ”

I asked the man “if the hedgehogs were to continue to multiply at such an alarming rate, what do you think would happen?” I was shocked to hear his response.
“It works the same way. They would drive humans out of the area, or worse, if they refused to leave, gang up on the humans and exterminate them until there were none left.”

Could hedgehogs be capable of human massacre? It’s impossible to say.

The hedgehog is known to zoologists as a ‘complete fuckin badass’ and not without good reason. Did you know hedgehogs have been around for 15 million years, are able to swim and scale near vertical wire fences, they kill and eat snakes, and travel at speeds of up to 6 mph? So next time you hear about a zoologist ranting passionately for hours about the creature, you’ll have a clue of what it’s all about.

So what can be done?

The government issued a statement declaring that a cull would be too difficult to execute due to how intelligent, fast, and crafty the species is. No body wants to risk their life fighting against a hedgehog, as nobody knows what it is capable of in situations of human combat. Also- among many, far from being considered vermin, the hedgehog is revered as a graceful, beautiful and almost holy beast. A true symbol of British patriotism.

So a cull is off the table.

Option one of course is to move to a big city. But this seems like a drastic approach, not everybody wants that much concrete for starters. Barrow is a decent, clean, green and safe village, not like neighbouring villages such as Sileby, which is crawling with barbarians. Besides, it seems very much like upping sticks means letting the hedgehogs win. We survived the black death and the first world war. We’re better than this.

Option two is to learn to live with them. The government said that residents of villages such as Barrow Upon Soar facing this problem buy vehicles with quattro such as Jeeps and Land Rovers to maximise hedgehog fatalities as well as for their own safety.

“Land Rovers and Jeeps are good, but by far the best option is to buy a tractor.”

Selling your car and replacing it with a tractor might sound great but most are only built to carry one-two persons, and it might entail having to leave a bit earlier in the mornings for work.

The government also recommended that villagers wear large, horrible leather boots that go up to the knees to protect the legs and feet from spikes. Boots such as these

https://www.sportsbikeshop.co.uk/motorcycle_parts/content_prod/354697?r=GS&gclid=Cj0KCQiA-c_iBRChARIsAGCOpB2pDdDJDk7eKQRjqrlnPPiY9Odx5-7rVbvrhBkLQsTK78cmBLCPWQ4aAto_EALw_wcB

Whatever you do, remember to respect the hedgehog, but above all, yours and your family’s safety.

 

 

Nation of the UNMARLED

On the first day

 

An inconsequential man

completely unremarkable

couldn’t be less emphatic.

By the kindest people’s standards

he might as well be dead

slept for fourteen weeks

then woke up in his bed.

Sits up, folded at ninety degrees

arms in the air, mouth wide open

sucking up the dust like

a whale shark sucks plankton.

 

He sits there until the sun gives up

waiting for something unknown

unstirred, at a perfect right angle

his joints forgot what they were for.

You’d doubt he’d ever change his ways

but he might.

 

On the second day

 

His body starts to move

listen to the creaking and clicking

as he unlocks his unremarkable

skeleton, a stalk of oxygenated blood

And muscle. The whole vessel revives.

Brain and body ready to fuck the world,

kill it, or at least run away from it.

 

“I am the UNMARLED man.”

Gets out of bed without making it

leaves his boring flat

marches down the street

with that UNMARLED look in his eyes.

Finds a large Government Building

sits down in front of it, at a right angle

hands in the air, goes sharky again,

mouth sucking in the urban particulates.

7 times worse than smoking a cigarette

but for the moment he does not care.

Leers at the receptionist through the window

as she rummages through the files

on a Government Computer.

 

Unlikable security guards appear,

in their serious Government Uniforms.

Can’t get a word out of him, so they pick

him up and throw him down the road.

 

He freezes, everyone thinks he’s homeless

but soon he will be revived again.

 

On the third day

 

Creak, creak. Ventricles fire UNMARLED blood

through the arteries, the UNMARLED Man

gets up and plunges through the market

leg after leg, looking like he wants it.

Battering through the bodies, the perfect skittles throw

crashes into a melon stand on purpose,

Melonskulls crushed and split on the cobbled

market floor with the labels and pieces of cardboard.

The melon man is not angry, but intrigued.

“Look at me. You are now UNMARLED.”

And with that the man sat on the floor,

90 degrees, arms, mouth, shark….

“Come with me. Bring your melons.”

They walked through the market

dumbfounded faceless civilians.

Nothing was said and all eyes stare at the UNMARLED,

The crowd step back, giving them their

own path, like they were war-lords

returning from a long and historic victory.

 

On the fourth day

 

Outside the Government building

the UNMARLED sit, this time- with melons.

Sitting together facing the glass. Unmoved.

The receptionist lady sighs, she can’t find her file

so she sits down at the desk, sees what’s outside.

Realises she’s UNMARLED, switches her

computer off at the button, and wanders out.

Joins the pair, and sits, like them,

With melons, becoming them,

staring through Government Glass.

The security guards don’t last long,

They throw their ID badges down the drain.

 

After hours, the Original UNMARLED man turns to

all, and cries “we are the UNMARLED, throwing Melons!”

and with that they were thrown, they smashed against

the building, melon flesh and water falling down the panes.

The siege lasted 9 hours. Melons were restocked faster

than they could be catapulted and thrown.

The building defaced, humiliated, crying melon juice tears.  

The UNMARLED growing in numbers, faster and faster.

Men, women and children of UNMARLED.

 

On the fifth day

 

It’s all getting out of hand now.

A scruffy man, desperate, losing the will to breathe

arrives at the automatic doors, hands up,

He’s practised his speech, he greets the UNMARLED

falls to his knees. “Let us go! You can have our building!

Please! I am unmarled, just like you!”

The UNMARLED did not like the way he talked

the way he dressed, the way he moved, or his face.

“This man is not UNMARLED. Show no mercy!”

they stoned him to death with cantaloupes,

stampeded over the body, and bundled through the doors.

Government Bodies pleaded to be spared, but

All were torpedoed and rocketed by the watery fruits

(it takes a long time to kill somebody with a melon)

and cast from the windows, to be discarded in the rivers.

 

On the sixth day

 

After the fighting and the capture of the building,

the original UNMARLED man, washed the melon off his

clothes and climbed the stairs and stood on the balcony

facing the thousands of UNMARLED. All sat at 90 degrees

hands in the air, mouth open sucking in each other’s

UNMARLED breath. As he began to speak,

the flag of the UNMARLED was pitched on the roof.

 

“We are the UNMARLED men, women and children.

We have taken the building

we have taken the city

we have taken the GOVERNMENT,”

It couldn’t have been less spectacular.

 

On the seventh day

 

Nothing but, absolutely nothing but

 

Nation of the UNMARLED.

 

A Christmas Caution

If you’re like most people you’ll be approaching the two thousand and eighteenth anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ with a sense of excitement and joy. And yes, Christmas is a time of the year when it’s very easy to manufacture a sense of happiness, so feel free to celebrate. By all means do the usual things. Buy a chocolate advent calendar, listen to Christmas songs, pretend to be a Christmas tree in the town centre, decorate the dog in tinsel and do the Christmas dance in the lounge with your family. All of these things are good. Give yourself a treat, you deserve it. But I’m going to explain why it’s still important to take a cautious approach to Christmas.

The well known, determined critics list the potential damages of Christmas and reference consumer capitalism, the toxicity of Abrahamic religions, fiercely annoying music, and ruthless international turkey massacre, not to mention the ethics of lying to children about the existence of flying reindeer. But if this all doesn’t put you off, and Christmas is really what you’re into, you might be considering doing what seems to be all the rage at the minute; the phenomenon of the multi-Christmas. Be miserable this year, and don’t celebrate Christmas at all. By saving it til next year, you can have yourself a nice big double Christmas the year after.

This is a great way of being kind to your future self. If you want to teach your children the crucial life lesson of suffer now, reward later, I can think of no more effective method than completely depriving them of Christmas altogether for at least 3 or 4 times during early childhood, in promise of enhanced Christmases in the future. They’re guaranteed to be extremely unhappy and resentful about it, but my God will they be thankful in adulthood, when they are morbidly obese and need to lose 10 stone in order to avoid heart disease and death, or perhaps when they are having to shop at Lidl in order to pay the rent for a musky one bedroom flat in Shepshed. But more importantly, the Christmases they do have will be the most profound and memorable Christmases of their lives.

But it’s not all jingle bells- and that’s what this is about. We all watch the news. We all know about that Christmas man who got carried away. A perfectly nice, healthy and sane man who had friends and also a job, but a man who really, really loved Christmas. And I mean, really, really got off on it. Rumour has it he locked himself away every December for ten years so he could do Christmas good and proper. It doesn’t matter how psychologically robust you are, having ten Christmases at once will be far too much for any of you to bear.

The man was never seen again.

Don’t let Christmas have it’s wicked way with you this year. Enjoy thoughts about Jesus and the Christmas smells and the Christmas food and the Christmas songs and the jingle jingle. Have a delightful break from it not being Christmas. But for God’s sake make sure you behave responsibly and have a moderate, safe and cautious Christmas this year.

 

UFC 229: The Character of McGregor

The best part of UFC 229 was Derrick Lewis’ fight with Alexander Volkov. Lewis was getting absolutely blasted by the Russian, I was watching the odds and after round two Lewis was at 6.5 to win the fight. Lord knows what he would have been by the last round after suffering a further onslaught. Lewis then must have got quite bored and decided to finish the fight in Hollywood style. His right hook made the Russian’s head pirouette in the air. His post match interview is 24 carat gold. 

Onto the main article. I don’t know what to make of Conor McGregor. Every time you see him you are made aware of his Trumpian arrogance. He actually describes himself as ‘the King’, seemingly without irony. From him one can expect lots of mouth, threatening his opponents and confirming he will win the fight before it has happened. He also vaunts about his wealth, endlessly. All of that stuff with the bus is beyond cringeworthy. On top of this he does that walk with his shoulders when he gets into the ring, which does him little justice.

These are not endearing qualities. If they were present in the man who lives across the street from me, I probably would not say hello to him in the mornings, much less desire to have a conversation with him.

But Conor is an exceptional beast. The man draws himself to you with his brutish good looks, witty one liners, his strident patriotism, even his accent is true wonder to behold. He knows you can’t but be interested in him. Unlike Trump, who was a millionaire by the time he was 8, McGregor has clearly worked like an absolute lunatic to get where he is now. And you know with MMA fighters and boxers, their grotesque levels of affluence are at least partly justified by the nature of their work.

 

By this I mean, the brutality of getting pounded repeatedly to the head, often until the brain actually loses consciousness, known in the business as a K.O.  If I said to you

“Right, I’m gonna offer to bash you around a bit, clobber you around the head a few times. You won’t die. But you might be a bit brain damaged. What’s your price?”

At the risk of being presumptuous I would claim that you would also think that your own brain probably ranks among the most valuable objects in your life. There can be no price.

That’s just one of many, many reasons that MMA fighters are absolute freaks.

Aside from the sheer bravery of fighting humanity’s most lethal machines, I also think about how much labour, how much gym-drudgery, and indomitable cardio any fighter of this level must endure. The thought of going to the gym four times a week is enough to fill me with a cloud of dread and anxiety. 

McGregor clearly loves what he is doing, which he often says himself. I take a lot of satisfaction from hearing from people that they love what they are doing. From train drivers through to teachers, through to UFC fighters. This is one of the most satisfying triumphs there is. If you have found something you truly love, you have navigated through the labyrinth. And we all know how tedious, depressing and seemingly inescapable that labyrinth can be. Keep going folks, because you never know what might be waiting at the end of it.

After the second round you see Conor smiling despite being mutilated by Khabib. It was like watching a grizzly bear having its way with a fish. It looked like the referee was going to call it off, but somehow McGregor pulled through.

He cheated continually, locking his toes in the fence and he threw a knee off the ground. It soon became quite obvious these were the actions of somebody who knew that he wasn’t going to win the fight. By the fourth round he had nothing left to offer and was submitted with a rear naked neck-crank.

 

His tweet was a great thing to see. He didn’t moan or whinge, despite the fact he was attacked by some cowardly yobs unawares after the fight (I do suspect that some retaliation might be in the post). I expected him to be a bad loser, but he couldn’t have been more humble in defeat. 

Regarding Khabib, I initially wanted him to win, him being the quiet and modest one, fighting against an annoying peacock sponsored by Monster. But his actions after the fight were beneath dignity. Could he not simply have used his unfathomable winnings to get a hit on the dissenters from the crowd? I’m sure he knows many guys who would bite his hand off to do that for him. 

It would have been great for him to just take the belt, have a chat with Rogan and say ‘Who’s the cocky one now?’ or “Oi Conor your whiskey tastes like shite.” But he wasted a killer opportunity to put an inferior fighter in his place after a dazzling victory.

I sense that in a way, Khabib might have been doing a Zinedine, knowing that that was his last fight. Flying out of the Octagon to assault someone who said some nasty things about him that hurt his feelings (whatever happened to the good old phrase ‘Punching, kicking me and elbowing me repetitively in the head may cause me cerebral damage, but words will never hurt me?’). Like putting gravy in the photocopier on your last day of work; attempting to sign off in style. With a record like 28-0-0 who the hell needs to even think about a cage again?

Conor, however will be back, I’m sure of that.  And I will probably be just about supporting him.

 

Voyage to Middlesbrough

8.40- I’m on the train to Sheffield, to get another train which will then take me to Darlington, to get another train which will then take me to Middlesbrough for the Playoff semi-final match against Aston Villa. I will be there five hours before kick off. Lord knows what I will do, but I promise to write about whatever wonderful things I happen to experience.

As is often the case the night before a planned and suitably momentous event, I had a dream as precursor-

I was at a mostly empty football ground full of musky smog. I was standing on a small platform with a group of energetic football goons behind the goal. I never looked at them, they were just faceless goons.

It took a long time for us to score but eventually Adama got the ball in the middle of the box and caressed it into the right corner. The goons on the platform got animated. We started jeering an extravagantly dressed ballboy who seemed about the age of 25. He was hating his job, desperately retrieving the ball for his keeper to restart.

The dream ended with the ball-man goading us while Villa scored up the other end with a tap-in in a crowded box for the last kick of the match. The environment was so dead we didn’t even realise an attack was on. That was full time, 1-1. Not a bad prediction from the dream I think.

9.15- I have a very nice limited edition 2015 Boro shirt, worn only twice by the players for kit clashes against Brentford. The only trouble with it is that it’s got Adomah’s name on the back, who coincidentally is now banging in the goals for Villa. We pretty much swapped him for Adama (the fastest and most skillful player on the planet). He is of a mercurial temperament. There were some games where he looked like he’d never played football before, others when he would skip past Premier League players like they were plastic cones. This inconsistency continued through the Monk season, then Tony Pulis came in in January and really fancied him, and he’s been our finest player ever since. He’s a rocket. Apparently Chelsea want him for 30 million. So today could well be the last time I see him play in red.

dav

dav

9.24- I just got a call from an unknown number. I didn’t answer of course but I did check the voicemail about twenty minutes later. It was from a smoggy lady saying it was about my ticket. What the fuck is that about? I wonder. I check the front compartment of my bag and notice that my ticket has gone. I call the nice lady on the Boro helpline and she tells me Loughborough station just called to tell her they’ve found my ticket, but it was fine, she said. They’d duplicate it for me.

The modern world is full of safety nets. In the olden days about forty years ago they probably wouldn’t have been able to do that and I wouldn’t have been able to go to the match at all. That would be all I deserve really. That and no anaesthetics.

9.28- The last time I went to the Riverside was when I was just turning 15, in 2008. We got hammered 5-0 by Chelsea, Juliano Belleti scoring the finest 40 yard strike I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. The first time I went to the Riverside was 2007 vs Aston Villa. We lost 3-0.

10.55- Do you know what? I think I might treat myself to a nice refreshing lager beer soon. Do you know what also? I don’t think I’ve had a weekend without a beer this year. I know this because I last took a mental note of this in January, and since then the pattern hasn’t been broken. Something tends to happen every weekend, and when things happen you just have a beer. That’s just what you do. It’s quite sad in a way.

I bet for most people it’s been like that for forty or fifty years. People complain about not having enough money, but if you can afford a beer most weekends you should be very grateful to be a citizen of your country and not one of North Korea, eating rice and oats for breakfast, lunch and dinner and getting shipped off to the gulags for saying you’re not that much of a fan of Kim Jong’s hairstyle.

Which brings me to what I’m reading. I’m reading We by Zamyatin. This is a largely under-known and underappreciated text that was instrumental in inspiring the two powerhouses of modern literature- Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. I loved both of these other texts, particularly Brave New World which was more humorous and mind-boggling. The text is a satire of communism, and exists at some point in the future when the world is One State. Everybody is named after numbers, all buildings are made of glass so that all behaviour can be observed and everything is dictated by the Supreme Benefactor (some Russian version of Jeremy Corbyn). It’s very prophetic of North Korea today. I do enjoy it. My affinity with Russian Literature grows still greater by the year.

11.40- Today is a thirteen hour solo quest; a chance to get in some quality Jamo time. Sometimes it can be very good to spend a bit of time with yourself. Sitting on a train, reading, listening to electronic music, staring out of the train window like you’re being filmed for a documentary.

I actually enjoy my own company most of the time. It’s just the anticipation of it that fills me with dread. Hanging out with other people is much easier.

We often have a decision in life, to do one of two things. One of these is to go out and meet friends, have a few drinks and a few laughs. Needless to say this is an easy, enjoyable option. But alternatively we can sit glued to our desks battling with King Lear. Which is not something to look forward to, is difficult to persevere with and is enjoyable only in a few fleeting moments. But when we take the latter option, we can enjoy the next day much more, and we lubricate our minds with new ideas that refresh us in ways we couldn’t imagine if we just took the easy way out. The people who spend their lives on their own, reading, meditating, wandering through distant lands. They’re the mad ones and they’re the real ones who vanquish the tedious difficulties of human life.

Today I am simply in the North, completely unshackled, free to roam wherever, whenever I choose. And for this opportunity I owe life a lot of gratitude.

11.32- Just got into Darlington. If there was one thing I would say to summarise the North it would be that there are considerably more red bricks around. And viaducts, the cities are all full of viaducts.

I just bought a can of IPA for £2.50 from M+S. I remember somebody or other in politics- some fucking idiot, saying that us millennials should stop buying coffees from Starbucks if we want to get on the property ladder. He could equally have been talking about beer as well which is more expensive. My only point to add is; what kind of psychopath thinks houses are that important?

dav

dav

13.00- I’m in Boro now. The streets are very wide. It took me a while to find real civilisation. I’m sitting in a courtyard with another pale ale. I found a street where the pubs are all like boutique shops. There was a pub called The Devil’s Advocate, which is probably among the best pub names I’ve ever heard. But for arbitrary reasons I didn’t go there, and settled for the Slater’s Pick, which is a mediocre name in comparison.

There’s nobody in the courtyard except a headless multi-coloured manikin, with a motorbike t-shirt. I’ve had worse company in recent weeks.  

13.57-  I went to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. As soon as I got in there some middle-aged smoggy with red hair on both sides of her head like rose petals kept talking to me about a couple of Lowry paintings. I felt mostly ambivalent towards this artist. Apparently he painted his paintings by commission mostly, some of them taking less than an hour each, which was something at least.

In another room there were a few strange Chinese videos, one of a naked woman devouring a variety of cosmetic products. Another of a woman, probably the same one’s feet, in ice skates as she is dragged by a trailer across the ground. There was also a photo of thousands of bikes piled up on a landfill site. Conclusion: China has got some serious problems.

14.48- I’ve still got a lifetime before kick off so I find a nice place on the grass nearby to bask in the sun in. I soon discover I’m not alone- there were lots of gangs of rowdy little smoggy kids waddling around making noises at each other. I was listening to music so was alarmed to find a particularly ugly child, covered in freckles and with two very prominent front teeth like a beaver trying to communicate me. He was with a posse of fellow juveniles but I didn’t look at any of them.

“Why have you got eggs?” he asked in a really high pitched, really northern accent. He was pointing to the boiled egg next to me. It had crushed in my bag, so I was planning on disposing of it.

“Just boiled eggs for a snack.” I explained.

He crushed it up with his hands and threw it down the hill.
“That’s fine, I wasn’t going to eat it anyway. “

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh just relaxing on this hill.”

His faceless minions remained completely silent except for a few giggles. The little brat then turned around as if to go away. They found something better to do than pester an innocent young tourist like myself. 

It went completely quiet, oh for fuck’s sake I thought. I turned round to see in the corner of my vision that the freckled brat had exposed his arse to me. As I turned his cretinous gang then cackled to themselves and scurried off back to a nearby garden with a trampoline.

For about five minutes I reclined on the hill and thought about what I was going to do to entertain myself for the next three hours in this crazy northern place.

Then a small rock landed on my rucksack by my side. I turned round and saw the freckled brat’s head peeping round the garden fence. I wasn’t welcome. It wasn’t safe. I grabbed my sack, got up and left.

16.30-  Is drinking on one’s own permissible? It always seems so in the books. Maybe the literary guys get a free pass in that regard. Maybe I am just one of the ordinary losers.

19.00 –The game was terrible to watch. Villa mugged us off, scoring a header from a corner and then shutting up shop. Boro all over them but never looking like scoring. My seats were wank as well, I was lodged in between some bloke and an absolute meat-sack. I could barely move my knees. Nobody around me was singing. It must be policy for the fans on the horizontal sides of any grounds not to sing. And let’s face it, most home grounds don’t even sing from the vertical ends. That’s why away games are what being a football fan is all about.

I still love the Riverside though. It’s paradise. You can’t beat this for pre-match music. Stolen by many inferior clubs. I hope they paid us for it.

19.43- The train journey back was long and left me much time to ponder my own past, present and future. Swathes of drunken thirty somethings carousing down the carriages drinking pink cans of gin and communicating with extra volume. I found a peaceful carriage to relax in and listen to Valvate by Recondite on repeat until I got to York.


A group of wankers with IPhones sat next to me and turned out to be Villa fans. One of the wankers referred to me as Bamford. Whom I’ve been likened to before. He started attacking me saying every player in Villa’s team except Gibson was better than Boro’s. 

“What you’re saying is just bollocks, just argument without substance. You’re just trying to provoke me, ” I said.

I was glaring at him the whole time. Giving his eyes no peace whatsoever. I think he respected me a bit more because of that. If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, you can win an argument with those strange balls in the middle of your face.

22.10-  I can now say that I’ve been to Chesterfield, York and Doncaster stations. Now I can add those Leviathan public transport bases to my checklist. The day was extremely deflating over all. By voyaging to the Middlesbrough town I gambled on a result and didn’t get one. But I experienced a few new things, and jotted a few of them down here so it’s not all crushing disappointment.

Until my next venture into uncharted lands, my imaginary readers.

 

Your reasonable job application

Dear insignificant candidate,

We were desperately sorry to receive your application for the position of Reasonably Successful Career in London with Reasonable Salary and Benefits. Unfortunately,  after extremely careless consideration and due to the record low volume of applications and the exceptionally poor quality of these applications, we are sorry to say that you have been successful on this occasion.

Here at R.S.C.L.R.S.B we were deeply amused and impressed that a person of your qualifications, skills and professional stature could ever dream of becoming like us, living and working in London, with reasonably impressive bank balances and reasonably exciting recreational and sex lives.

We sincerely hope that you didn’t spend much time on your application, time if you had better management skills you could surely have spent doing more productive things with, such as drinking to excess and humiliating yourself in public, wasting what little money you have on things that make your life categorically worse, injecting heroin with friends,  and vigorously wanking in your bedroom (which is technically your mother’s because she pays the mortgage, and incidentally the house you will live in until your mid-late thirties).

We were so shocked by how poor and unprofessional your CV was, that we photocopied it and distributed it through all company departments. Everybody laughed, from the boss (to whom we are all abominable sycophants) through to Marta, the Slovakian cleaner with barely a basic grasp of the English language.

Please never apply with us again, and we wish you the worst of luck for your miserable future, when you will eventually inevitably have to settle for a much less reasonable job than this one, probably not even in London. We literally, could not care less about you.

Do let us know when you will be available for interview and congratulations again.

Worst wishes,

Mark ‘reasonable bloke’ Smith.

 Reasonably senior company executive departmental resources coordinator at R.S.C.L.R.S.B

BA utility subject at reasonable UK university.

 

 

 

Tim Clare DOTQ Couch to 80k Boot Camp: Review

I have been a fan of Tim Clare’s Death of a Thousand cuts for quite a long time, having had a piece of my own work gnawed to a pulp, spat out and incinerated on one episode. A bare-faced, unapologetic revelation about how sloppy a writer I was. This is the kind of revelation we all urgently need, the sooner the better, and one which we perhaps don’t get enough of in the safe space of creative writing seminars.

This happened when Tim was taking submissions from opening pages of novels (which I believe he is still doing, submit on his website if you dare) and analysing them section by section, taking no prisoners and crucifying them if necessary. Here he encourages a fierce and often careful critical voice when editing work.

In his latest podcast series (a whopping 53 episodes) Couch to 80k Writing Boot Camp, Tim encourages writers to tell this voice to shut the fuck up and get the hell out of town. At the beginning of the series he starts soft and eases you into regular writing, encouraging listeners to write lists of names, objects or scenarios. Later it develops to free writes. Tim says just turn up, and for ten minutes don’t stop writing. The words you produce might be sappy, incomprehensible, meaningless or preposterous.

You might produce something like this-

Stabbing scythosaurs with scientists in Seattle. Umbrellas with undulating udders. Swimming again, why am I always swimming? James, wherefore dost thou swimeth so? That ladies and gentlemen is the question in question. Or, no, no, no that is not true. That would be unspeakable. We must not go there and together we must move somewhere else….

Or worse-

The dagger of life or the dagger of death? The dagger of the east or the dagger of the west? The dagger of the unborn, and the dagger of the unworthy, certainly. Swimming in the swamp, arms flapping about like newspapers in a London breeze, floating down into the underground. A sack inside a sack, inside a sack, lumpy lumps of lumpy lump and lump, which lumpeth forth into the lumpworld, where all are the lumpiest of lumps. Creatures feathered and friends also now with feathers. All armoured and conniving for the death and the destruction. Wanderers, (Bolton) will win the title and wanderers will wander, in this world forever.
But the actual production of words is paramount. You might not like what you’ve written afterwards, but stare at the page after a ten minute free write and you will see paragraphs and paragraphs of your own signature creation. Some of which might even have potential to be used in later projects, or even better, just turning up to write might even create ideas for projects in themselves. It’s actually quite a crazy thing to do, to create in such a way, experimenting in the laboratory of your brain. Looking at the words, you realise that was in your mind at the time. You might have things like that in your mind all the time, but you let them die like mindless lemmings, queuing up in their thousands to leap off the cliffs of doom. But if you wish you can freeze them, record them and look at them, clear, shameless, naked and inviting you to inspect and play with them. After all, the human creative capacity is the most exciting and mysterious thing in the universe for us, it’s why we get out of bed in the morning. So why not prod it, squeeze it and push it to it’s limits and see what happens?

Tim’s exercises are like an obstacle course, encouraging writers to flex their creative muscles in entirely new ways and approach their craft from exciting new angles. This can be anything from writing a scene with monosyllabic words, to writing from the perspective of an assassin hiding in a nearby tree. The possibilities are endless. But also, Tim encourages a change of setting when writing, having recorded one podcast in the woods, another driving around in his car at night. He argues that toying with your environment, routine and writing apparatus is essential for keeping ideas fresh, and the process fun.  I don’t think anybody could possibly disagree. 

Aside from listing a multitude of fun exercises that conquer the boredom, mental lethargy and pure dread that writing often brings with it, Tim is a truly warm, empathetic and hilarious guide. Listening to him speak is simply a pleasure. He says he doesn’t script the podcasts but if this is true he has an almost unbelievable, superhuman ability to conjure up hilarious and outrageously detailed metaphors (‘popping up everywhere like mushrooms full of hallucinogenic word juice’) and analogies to suit what he is trying to explain. He doesn’t even edit, it’s just one take and there it is, bang on the money every time.

cof

Dali himself gave me the heads up for my marking structure. I’m sure Tim’s is very different. Red for exercise, green meditation, blue reading, purple writing, with a load of letters on top to indicate less healthy things. This method is so effective because you can actually see your progress, right in front of you, in your bedroom, on the wall. Your mind loves that kind of clarity.

Doing the exercises I grew to enjoy Tim’s insights about life as much as his ones about writing. He speaks about the benefits of having a calendar, and marking it with colours for achievements e.g exercise, writing, meditating. The idea never really crossed my mind before, but I am doing it now and I’ve never been anywhere near this productive in my life (I have probably NEVER meditated, written, and exercised in the same day. As you can see from my calendar I did this loads last month). He talks a lot about cold showers as well, which is a step I’ve not yet had the drive (or bollocks) to implement, but I will take his word and will definitely be open to blasting myself with a torrent of nipple-sharpening water in future.

If you are like me, you know that writing is the only thing you’re half decent at, but find writing, the thought of writing, actually writing and anything associated with writing tends to freeze your spine and make you want to run away as far as you possibly can and hide up a tree somewhere, then you couldn’t ask for a better course. This will make you realise, slowly that you can do what you want to do, and it doesn’t have to be agonising. Or boring. It can actually be rather fun.

Who knows? one day you might even publish a novel.