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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

man with gun

*

 

Man with gun enters room. Fully grown, mature, adult, man with beard, known to friends simply as ‘that man with the gun.’ Everyone immediately acknowledges man and gun, exchanging formalities such as – Good to see you man, it’s been too long, and nice gun bro, where did you get it? Man with gun stands by television, picks up remote in one hand whilst still carrying gun in the other. Points remote at television. ‘Whatever you do, don’t get them mixed up!’ I joked in an attempt to make him approve of me slightly more, so as to lessen the hopefully very slim chance that he might use his gun on me for whatever reason.

He flicks through TV Guide and finds show about monster trucks. Really big, massive, nasty TRUCKS like MONSTERS with really big, massive wheels crushing things forever, on camera. I start to wonder why man thinks it is necessary to carry large, metal gun, possibly loaded and with bullets. Maybe man thinks of gun as fashion accessory, like bracelet or watch. Maybe man feels like 007 with gun. Maybe the ladies are into the whole gun-thing…

 

**

 

Man with gun wears leather jacket inside and likes to talk about politics and football, sometimes momentarily making people forget the incontrovertible fact that he is still definitely, 100% in possession of deadly weapon, more specifically; gun. Everyone agrees strongly with man’s opinions, no matter how extreme or uninteresting, partly because man with gun is perceived as edgy and likeable, partly through fear of being shot with gun. Friend Steve asks man when he got gun and man says that he has had it ever since man was child. Man changes subject and mentions that he enjoys ice skating. Friend Steve asks if he skates with gun in hand and he says yes, obviously. It can’t be easy, on ice with big heavy, metal gun in hand, friend Steve says. Man comes out with, it’s actually a lot easier than you might think, holding a gun at the rink. Haahaa very lyrical. I carry on thinking about why man feels urge to be constantly armed with gun and think maybe gun is an anxiety-thing. Life can be very stressful for most people and maybe carrying gun just takes edge off. Friend Steve then says (quite sycophantically) “I can’t get over how cool that gun looks on you man. It really suits you. Damn I wish I could pull that one off.”

“Thanks dude” the man replies. A very long silence, then-

“So… shot anyone good lately?”

 

***

 

Man with gun’s wife comes into the room and sits on man’s lap then asks, “how are you both?”

“Fine thanks.”

Man puts arms round wife’s waist and holds gun with both hands pointing forwards, forefinger relaxing on trigger. He says they’ve been together for six years now, and got married the year before. He opens up wedding album on mobile phone and shows us endless series of photos taken somewhere in France of man, wife and gun together in state of perfect contentment. Man sheds tear whilst showing photo of man kissing bride at altar with left hand on wife’s cheek and right hand holding gun by side. Emotional Friend Steve also sheds tear.

I’ve had many rum and cokes at this point and can’t really hold it in any longer so I ask man, “this might seem like a personal question, and you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to. But when you both…you know… in the bedroom…together,” I point at gun “does the gun stay or…?”

“Yes that is very personal and actually quite rude,” wife nods head as answer, “and I’d also like to add that I may have a gun, but other than that I’m just a normal human being like everybody else. A human being with a job who likes to do things like watch television programmes about cars, spend time with my wife and children and have a beer at the weekends with friends. Why does the conversation always have to be about the fricking gun? This does NOT define me!” Man with gun is now red-faced and angry.

“You’re not going to shoot us are you?”

 

****

 

Man with gun has hair played with by wife whilst man gulps large mouthful of whiskey with grimace. “They aren’t trying to upset you honey. Don’t make a big deal out of it. The whole gun thing is just a bit unusual for most people at first, that’s all.”

“It’s fine. We can just draw a line under it now. Honestly.”

Friend Steve leaves room.

Big, massive MONSTER TRUCKS jumping off bales of hay and smashing into each other to loud AMERICAN ROCK MUSIC nobody knows. Friend Steve casually comes back into room in with large carving knife in hand, pointing downwards like dagger, sits down and scrolls through social media on mobile phone whilst humming. Everybody looks over and sighs. Man with gun scowls.

“Put the knife away Steve you loser.”

 

Cats and Death

Last Tuesday I witnessed the death of one of my cats at a veterinary hospital in Sileby. After a series of tests, results were inconclusive, but all the vets agreed that the cat was ‘not himself’, was suffering and should therefore be executed. This I found to be a surprisingly sorrowful experience, however, cat-mourning is far from a new phenomenon for me.

My family home has housed many cats over the years. At least ten since the millennium. Some of their tenures were much longer and their deaths/disappearances more tragic than others. I have never really had a connection with the cats themselves. I generally see them as passive, furry household ornaments. They aren’t intelligent, all they want from you is to give them food then they just do their own thing, whilst all the while looking like cats. I will give an account here of my family’s history of this pet, which I hope you will find at least mildly amusing.

When I was very young, and living at a previous house by the Soar with a massive garden, we lost our first feline. Ziggy, a kitten I seem to remember with white brown and black fur, disappeared one day and never returned. Speculation was that he/she may have been devoured by a fox.

I think there were more or less ten years of happy living for my cats following this omen. In this time we downsized to a three-storey on the new David Wilson estate. A shaggy black cat called Rowley, and nicknamed by my school friends as Dead-Cat (because he looked dead) was the next to go. He managed to survive until he was eighteen years old, two years my senior at the time. My father had a very intimate relationship with this cat, but as it approached senility and inevitable death, he lost interest, indifferently declaring ‘he is not the cat he once was.’ Rowley’s highlight for me was when at my sixteenth birthday party a friend of mine saw it lying on the sofa, went “awww a cat,” then went to stroke it and then famously recoiled in horror as his hand came into contact with its thick, dirty, matted fur.

Soon was a beautiful little cat called Maisie introduced to the family. She was black with a lovely little white patch on her chest. I was walked into the village one day, and I saw a congregation in the middle of the estate, they looked at me, then focused on something else on the grass by the roadside. I ignored them and walked on, and when I got home I soon discovered that she had been hit by a car. I remember her body on the sofa. I touched it, and it was here that I first understood what rigor mortis was, gaining hands on experience.

Next to disappear I believe was Daisy. She had an extremely thick black coat, with lots of brown hairs in and amongst it. Her disappearance is perhaps the most comic. The last time my family saw her was when she was on top of a neighbour’s car as it drove off. I can only hope it stopped at the destination she wanted to go to.

Another cat we once had was Dylan, who after pregnancy truly let herself go and became very overweight. She disappeared all of a sudden, and it was later discovered that she had moved to pastures new. A woman living at a house a few streets down had welcomed her in and satisfied her voracious appetite for food. She had no interest in coming back to visit her old home, or her son Barnaby, who is still with us today.

We had a cat named Cally for a very long time. She had a truly beautiful white and grey coat, and in her early days was named ‘the uncatchable cat’ for her lightning speed capabilities. I found her to be a particularly aloof and anti-social cat most of her life, but have an extremely fond memory of her. I got in after going to DBE whilst it was a good event in 2012, and couldn’t sleep, feeling pretty worn and torn. Cally came in to me and paid me a lot of affection, hugging me etc. It was very nice to have a reciprocated bond with such a soft and cuddly beast. She died about the age most cats should naturally expire.

Then we decided to pick a cat not based on aesthetic qualities, but perhaps a cat from a deprived background who nobody else would bother adopting, so as to give an undesirable, troubled cat a better life. The cat was originally found near the B+Q in Loughborough, which we were told is a particularly rough stomping ground for delinquent cats. Opinion on this cat was divided. It used to tear lumps out of an old and decrepit Cally. The screams were painful to hear. But I do remember once sitting in the lounge watching the television when a towering spider with terrifying goggly eyes thought it could casually dash across the lounge. Sydney cut it up with his claws and then devoured it piece by piece. He tragically died of AIDS, or some kind of cat equivalent that he’d has his whole life. Street life aint easy.

Then there was the cat in question- Dexy, an adorable cat, pictured looking into the camera above on the featured image, whilst spooning with a morbidly obese relatively recent acquisition called Marcy. She was seven years old when last week she stopped moving. We took her in to the hospital and in a couple of days it was declared that the best option would be to terminate her existence.

My mother, the archetypal ‘crazy cat lady’, had visited the cat every day since she was in the hospital, and said that she didn’t wish to go and see her final minutes. Myself and her husband John then resolved to go together. The evening was growing dark, and as we drove I was stuck by the gravity of the fact that these minutes now were to be her last ever experience of life on this Earth. We got in and he was in a cage, with a drip attached to his leg. He seemed quite fidgety when he saw us, but not altogether that bad. The vet asked us if we wanted her to leave us so we could ‘say goodbyes’.

We did and alternated at stroking her belly and neck.

“You’ve not had any of your water Dexy,” said John.

“I don’t think he’ll be needing that John,” I replied.

Strangely he started to eat his food at this point, which the nurse said was the first time since his stay began. There was a worry in the back of my mind that he might actually have been fine, but I soon extinguished this fear with the knowledge that the person with the degree in veterinary whatever will most likely know best.

Watching the cat eating had a powerful effect- here was a creature that had absolutely no idea that it was about to die, just going by the script, trying to protect its life, doing what life does best according to natural selection- soldiering on until the jaws of death come crushing down and leave it with no other option but to throw the cards away and let nature take its course.

The ten minutes or so was soon up, and the nurse came through. She asked if we would like to hold it during the process, we immediately dismissed this as excessive. I hoped that the cat might look at us both one last time, and as the lady came closer he looked at both me and John in turn, then sadly looked at the ground, defeated. It was like he knew it was the end. But I’m anthopomorphising…

Then it was absolutely, irrevocably, conclusively time to go. The vet got her syringe, plugged it into the tube, and pressed the plunger. The cat made no sound, and in an instant was reclining forward, paws stretched out, eyes stopping at half-closed. Then before we knew it, the vet said he’s gone.

By this point I was crying and I think John was too. It was the first time I had ever witnessed the death of a mammal. I never thought I would cry, its only a cat man, but it seemed so tragic. I barely knew the cat, it just happened to dine and sleep in the same house as me, but it was a real tragedy to watch it die. When I got home and was left on my own, I got very upset about it. I searched through the photos on my phone and set one as my wallpaper. This was perhaps most uncharacteristic of me, but the whole thing took on a deeper meaning and purpose.

I had just had the experience of a microcosm of death. A miniature, taster experience of death. The unavoidable truth that came bearing down was this- If I felt so sad about the death of this cat I barely ever associated myself with, and with whom I had very few experiences, how would I feel when I am confronted with the imminent deaths of my family members and later, friends? Everything will be amplified tenfold, the crying, the memories, the regrets. The intensity will be unprecedented and inescapable.

We have to benefit from these experiences, by contemplation and unfaltering engagement with the reality of it. What should naturally follow is that we prepare for it every day, by showing love and appreciation as much as possible, and undergoing new, unique and valuable experiences together with all those whom we love. With the inevitable distractions of our personal lives, this will oftentimes be highly elusive and impossible to achieve, but if we are aware of it, and we think about it, we can at least do as best as we can.

Death can not be overturned, it is coming and it’s final. To come face to face with death and endure the sadness that inevitably follows, is to realise the value of life is itself. Something we as humans struggle to appreciate, whilst tacitly believing that the time we are spending now is a rehearsal for some future main event, when all of our pressing desires are met and as a logical result of this will subsequently be in a state of complete and utter content.

You and I both know its all a load of bollocks. If we dare to peer beneath the surface.

Time is running out. Appreciate your family, friends and even your cats now, because one day they will disappear for all eternity and you alone will be left to ruminate on just how thoughtful, and charitable and brave you might have been.

There is no room for cowardice. Cowards will be due to pay a hefty price in later life. We must ask ourselves, is this a price we can afford to pay? And act accordingly.

Tamarite VI

The Spanish are no strangers to a party, or ‘fiesta’ rather. They do things very differently to us in the UK, where people either go to Revs on a saturday night, spend £40 on alcohol and ironically dance to Flo Rida, or the ‘cool cats’ who go to some sort of rave and dance until the early hours on a bag of cheap class As. In Spain, fiestas are part of the fabric of society, a way of life that everybody subscribes to. I’ll take you to one and show you what they’re all about..

It’s Saturday and this week the fiesta is in a place called Azanuay, which sounds very Welsh when pronounced, like it’s the kind of village Daffyd Thomas would live in. You find a bus that goes to the fiesta, whack your plastic bag full of booze in a plastic crate in the bottom compartment of the coach, then join the kids on board. You wanna leave this relatively late, about one o’clock would be ideal. In Spain, it starts late and ends late. We’re talking about 8-10 o’clock AM late. Because what kind of crazy party ends at a perfectly reasonable four, say o’clock?

From about midnight onwards, the streets will be adorned with gangs of teenagers sitting on the pavements, drinking a concoction of alcohol and pop from a giant plastic bottle they prepared earlier. They’re all wearing silly bright T-Shirts with skyscrapers on them and American City names in massive letters. They’re either very skinny or very fat. Many of them park up their cars, pop the boot open and play some of the most repulsive music you could possibly imagine, slowly bopping and laughing hysterically at something. Go a bit further through the winding streets, towards louder music, and you will find a stage where the real entertainment is. A band will play all of the Spanish school disco classics, which nobody seems to be getting tired of. If they don’t actually play Cotton Eyed Joe, they’ll play some Spanish equivalent to get the crowd moving. You don’t need to pay to go in, there’s no gate, no staff. You will, however need to buy some bingo tickets, and grab hold of the nearest translator you can find.

Now any accomplished Dionysian like you and I will understand that the essentials of proper party- alcohol, sex, drugs, rock and roll, and bingo. The lead singer of the band, a quirky young girl in a cowboy hat and vest, calls the numbers while the crowd are silent.

Unlucky. Someone gets a line almost immediately, and the house takes a while longer, too long. It’s like when the rickety old rope bridge you needed to get across the chasm and escape the monster is about to break, the rope fibres are slowly snapping. You have two numbers left to go. It’s only a matter of time before some crazed yob at the front makes the call and subsequently gets lifted up by his friends like a manager whose team have just won the Champions league. It finally happens, you sigh with disappointment, dream of what could have been. Then it’s back to business as usual.

At about two o’clock, the fourteen year olds’ mums turn up to pick up their disgraced little kids, who are still absolutely bingo’d off their faces. So what remains are a bunch of hardened party goers, the regs. The ‘DJs’ turn up, the family band goes home, and the music transitions into something a bit more adult. Near the stage area, there is a ring reserved for young bulls. There is seating all round, and professionals wind up the bulls, provoking them into a charge, then backing away at the last minute. The crowd is well into this of course, and occasionally pissed up people go into the ring and play around with the young toros themselves. The real mavericks get the baby bulls pissed first, pouring beer into their mouths. I heard from a lady that there has been a person who has ended up in a wheelchair from this in every town. This kind of stuff could only be normalised at a party in Spain. Have a go if you want, Jose says it’s definitely a good idea.

So the next few hours, until about five o’clock involve more drinking, and are therefore difficult to recall. For us it will involve asking a lot of people if they speak English, and being asked a lot about Brexit if they do, agreeing to go separate ways, receiving a grimace if they don’t. The music never really changes, it’s all just cheap Spanish crap like that Pitbull freak. One of the only songs I remember was that ‘Gasolina’ song. I remember listening to that on Now 62, when I was eleven years old along side ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Westlife, and thinking it was okay, in a jokey way. It’s not like they’re playing it at these fiestas as a one off either, I’d bet my left arse that it gets played every single week. Besides from being bad taste, to play the same old track week in, week out is nothing less than a sign of insanity.

When the sun starts to come out above the dancefloor, you begin to notice what you’re walking on, which resembles the garbage shoot in A New Hope. You are treading on all manner of rubbish and filth. Everyone is smoking, you, The DJs, your parents, your kids, the bulls. The personal space, which has slowly atrophied throughout the night, becomes almost non-existent. The environment is a bit like a rave, only the people there are one big family, there’s no drugs, and there was no DJ available so they went ahead and booked DJ Spanner, the forty year old with the baseball cap from down the pub, who ‘does the odd party’ when he’s not doing his normal job, which is plastering.

Before you know it it’s eight o’clock in the morning and you’re getting bored of it all. Everyone’s done with the bars now, and it’s onto the hot dog counters. They don’t have brown sauce in Spain, so you have to settle for loads of Mustard, or worse- ketchup. The bread is stale. There are some dodgy looking people around. You want to avoid Bethan as well. The night is over- it’s time to wait for that ten o’clock bus to take you home, get to bed, and then wake up at three o’clock on the day of rest, ready to eat paella, snails and rabbit.

So overall they’ve got the idea right with these fiestas. If I went when I was 16 I would have considered it to be paradise. It was what I was desperately looking for for most of my teenage years but rarely captured, a solid form of community with other kids. The kind that you achieve in holiday resorts, playing on the pool tables with new friends, drinking by the swimming pool together at night. The fiestas provided that. But you realise as you grow up, there are very few communities that one can truly belong to at all.

**

In Spain breakfast isn’t the norm. You might have a little something, like a peach or a coffee, but that’s it for the morning. What you’re waiting for is three o’clock, when it’s lunch time. Now I’ve stated before, it’s all about the meat with these guys. If it’s got flesh, eat it. They’d eat the stray cats off the streets if they had any meat on them.

As you might guess, rabbit tastes exactly like chicken, and is therefore nothing to write home about. Snails on the other hand, are the most pointless food on the planet. They come sizzling on a tray, and look exactly like the snails you’d find in your garden, not the giant ones from foreign lands. You get one, and find that it’s body has shrank almost entirely into its shell, then with your cocktail stick you are faced with a further challenge. That of scooping out the correct part of the snail, ignoring it’s digestive organs, which take up about fifty per cent of the pathetic little lump of mollusc flesh that remains. It’s then completely necessary to smother this all over in aleoli to mask the taste of it (which you should probably avoid at all costs) then shove it in your mouth and eat it, for some apparent reason. I had one and soon ruled out the possibility of tackling another.

The best thing about Spanish food is the watermelon, or ‘sandía’ en espanol. The family I lived with were provided with fresh sandías every week, the massive ones, with dark green skin, and perfect vermilion insides. You eat sandía for breakfast, after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, for dinner, after dinner, before bedtime. It’s so hydrating it’s crazy, and as someone who immediately after eating a meal– in spite of how full I am– has an insuperable craving for a dessert, it provided a very reliable, healthy, and delicious alternative to whatever shit I’d normally eat. I’ve taken my love for this fruit back home with me, and now try and ensure that my fridge is always stocked up with a nice big juicy sandía. It’s made my life all the better for it.

Why did I come to Tamarite? Something to do, mostly. But there are other underlying motives. I want to go to the quiet places, I want to go to my own places. A couple of years ago I went to Rome for a day. I walked on the streets that Julius Caesar once walked upon. I looked at the mighty Colosseum, and felt absolutely nothing.

Armies of tourists have murdered these cities, they are everywhere, inescapable, unavoidable, stealing it all for themselves and their camera phones. I’d sooner go to somewhere else nobody else is interested in, and see that culture, naked, free to be whatever it is natural for it to be, and blend in or stand out as much as I choose. Then the experience is my own, and what’s more I am not a mere cog in the tourist machine, but for a short while, a part of the system itself. Tamarite wasn’t Barcelona, or Madrid, Paris, Berlin or Rome, but you can’t say it wasn’t completely unique. For better or worse.