Saturday, 29 December 2007
THE ELSE - THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
Who would have thought that They Might Be Giants could team up with The Dust Brothers and come up with something amazing. Well, to be fair, I probably would have thought that all along, but this is still pretty amazing. Their last studio album, The Spine, was a pretty hit and miss affair - it seemed to be cobbled together from bits and pieces and outtakes. This one is a hella more coherent. Many of the songs are built on loops and breaks, giving them a kind of menacing and slightly dirty feeling - very very different to TMBG's cutesy reputation. Highlights include Bee Of The Bird of The Moth (featuring an original Rolf Harris Stylophone, given to the band by BBC Radio 2 DJ Jonathan Ross), the Dust Brothers and crazy brass heavy Withered Hope and this song, the album's opener, I'm Impressed. And I am.
OVERPOWERED - ROISIN MURPHY
This is Roisin Murphy's second solo album and it's a bloody blinder. I think of it as being kind of like anti-opera (much as I love a bit of opera!) because it is, on the face of it, pure style over substance, but there are so many deeper levels to it. The title track, Overpowered (the video for which is below) is a stylish electro tune with lyrics about hormones and chemistry and hidden depths. Second single Let Me Know is a complete and utter 80s piano house romp, but it draws you in. There's even a bit of 90s cheese in there with the song about (possibly) porn called Movie Star. None of it is going to win the Pullitzer Prize, but I know from DJing experience that this shit really gets people dancing. Buy it now. You owe it to yourselves.
CROSS - JUSTICE
My album of late summer. This is largely due to the fact that I saw the band do a live set at La Route Du Rock Festival in St Malo, France. An amazing night if ever there was one. Even the fact that my friend Katty got knocked out and sent to the hospital tent while they were playing didn't stop me dancing. Even the fact that I had lost my other half somewhere and was on my own with a load of French people didn't ruin my enjoyment of it. I'm all heart like that, you see! Standout tracks include the duet with Uffie, The Party, which is pure sleaze, the absolutely brilliant electro funk of DVNO and the pure genius of this track, D.A.N.C.E.
FANTASTIC PLAYROOM - NEW YOUNG PONY CLUB
Another Route Du Rock moment, although I'd been salivating at their stuff for a long time on Myspace. New Young Pony Club came onstage before headliners, C.S.S. Let me just say right now that C.S.S. are one of my very favourite acts for years. I'd been looking forward to seeing them live for months. But as soon as New Young Pony Club had finished their set, Mark and I decided that we didn't want to see anymore. C.S.S. would have just seemed lame in comparison, and I didn't want that to be my experience of seeing them live. Do I regret that now? Yeah, kind of. But I HEARD C.S.S. as we staggered back to the campsite on mushrooms (uh oh) and that was an awesome enough experience in itself. Some people say the two bands are fairly similar. In a way that's true. Judge for yourself with this song, Ice Cream.
THE CASKET LETTERS - MONKEY SWALLOWS THE UNIVERSE
In 2006 Mark and I went to Sheffield on some nasty business. To chillout in the evening we decided to go to Club NME, not really expecting much except some crap bands and cheap beer. What we got were Monkey Swallows The Universe, a band so amazingly beautiful that we had tears in our eyes. We even blagged our way backstage to ask them if they would be interested in coming to play in Jersey. We knew we NEEDED to see them live again. Somehow we never quite managed to get that together (even though the band were keen) and, with the release of this album and their growing profile, I don't think this is likely to happen really. So maybe another trip to Sheffield on some more pleasant business will be in order in the future. Anyway, I think that this lot have, in the future, the potential to become my favourite band of all time. I'll let the very beautiful song Science speak for itself.
Friday, 28 December 2007
I did bloody well for Christmas presents, considering that I'm getting on a bit. My lovely fella bought me a huge bottle of Lolita Lempicka, a Chaka Khan T-Shirt (I did want that!!), a book and a box of kites - 366 kites to be exact - one to build for every day in 2008 (which is a leap year). Considering that we live on a beach, that's a pretty bloody awesome present. I also got various assorted bottles of booze and a really beautiful patchwork quilt, which are things that I have always loved - probably something to do with my obssession with all things Americana. And Emo made us a bottle of chilli oil, which was sweet and lovely and helped with Christmas dinner no end.
Later on Christmas Day we went to a party at our friends Ben and Stavros' flat. Some douchebag with terrible dyed hair (I won't name him because he doesn't deserve the infamy, but I will say that he has not accepted the fact that ginger hair looks loads better than ginger roots in a dyed black bouffe!) made a very homophobic comment to me. Cunt. He's done this before too. Anyway - Mark proceeded to try to beat him up. Probably not that good an idea, but I still love him for it. Since then I've been getting loads of messages of support from people on Facebook and Myspace and the like, telling me that this bloke is a knobhead through and through. So MEH to him.
Boxing Day we had our cocktail party. Complete and utter carnage. Several people fell down the stairs, random strangers got off with each other and someone decided it was a good idea to put Absinthe in the punch. I was watching people, completely sober, go up and take one small glass of punch and go from sober to steaming in ten seconds. In the end I decided that it really was a case of if you can't beat them join them! Don't remember much about the latter part of the party, but I do know that I was talking to my friend Lucy in a completely incoherent Ulster accent about CLOWN SHOES for about an hour. Then I collapsed. Everyone else left about 5:30am in the end. The next morning the house looked as if an episode of Skins had been filmed in it (see the video below for an explanation of that, non UK peops!) It was all good. All worth it. But I am really looking forward to a completely sober few months in 2008.
The really big Boxing Day dramas happened hundreds of miles away, in my home village of Bispham Green, though. And those dramas are haunting me still. There are two people I used to know called John and Jeanne. I was friendly with them and in the case of one of them I was very friendly. I won't say any more about them, except to say that it all turned nasty and we ended up falling out big time. I was very hurt by it all at the time and felt as though I would never be able to turn my life around, but I did - I moved on, found a man I adore and live in a place far away that is beautiful and suits me down to the ground. I have had no contact with them at all for nearly four years. But it seems as though they are unable to move one. Jeanne's sister decided to attack my sister in law, Sarah, on Boxing Day. It all turned really nasty and my brother, Ian, hit John. And knocked his front teeth out. I was really shocked by this, but then it turns out that John and Jeanne and co have been threatening and abusing my family for months. And I can see absolutely no reason why. Maybe there are reasons and Ian and Sarah just haven't told me about them to protect me.
But Ian was arrested today. The police have told him that it sounds as though he was provoked and that he would probably get a caution. But they can't guarantee that. So it's all kind of up in the air and I feel a bit numb that something that I though was ancient history is still haunting my life in various ways. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that the situation doesn't get any worse.
So - yeah - that was my little account of the last few days. Quite therapeutic actually. Expect some more rambling, random thoughts soon.
And now, Skins.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
I've not written anything for a while, which kind of annoys me because I started out with really good intentions. But, meh. I've just been watching a Channel 4 show about women's sex blogs, and that has inspired me to get the keyboard out again, which is kind of ironic, but here we go...
So there was this woman, who wrote, under the pseudonym Abbey Lee, a blog called Girl With A One Track Mind. This blog, by all accounts, documented her sexual frustrations, fantasies and misadventures throughout 2004. Eventually she was exposed by a tabloid newspaper as being a nice middle class Jewish girl who worked in the film industry. Tabloid newspapers think, of course, that nice middle class Jewish girls thinking about sex is front page news.
Anyway - on this programme, an array of former bluestockings now running clit-lit magazines and lipstick lesbians, twatted on about how Girl With A One Track Mind was revolutionary because it showed the whole world that women do think about sex. It challenged the prevailing view in society that women are not sexual beings and it said to me "Hey, you guys! We've got news for you! Women like fucking too! Get over it, losers!" This is, of course, the very worst kind of Channel 4 style lazy journalism, made by people with Cultural / Women's / Media Studies degrees. And it's a load of complete and utter total and absolute bollocks.
Firstly, there is no groundswell of opinion amongst the male population that women don't like fucking. Just the opposite, in fact. I think most straight men I know have an over inflated sense of how much women think about sex. They like to think that most women are up for it all the time. I think this probably isn't true, but men convince themselves that it is and it's what stops them losing all hope.
Secondly, where I grew up, there was never any demonstrable way in which women's sexuality is supressed in the way that these University Sex Kittens would like to think it is. Women in working men's clubs in Wigan are more than happy to say "Nice arse, love!" and grab a fella's butt - and no man they do that too is likely to be shocked. They're not likely to get raped because of it either - though if they both fancy each other, it could end in a nice fuck!
The only reason that these Katie Puckrick lookalikes think that this doesn't happen is because they really want to be Betty Page but they're stuck with being...well...erm...Katie Puckrick. Which is likely to be a cock block for any man, I would have thought.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the kind of women who are remotely impressed by this academic nonsense about women's sexuality fall into two camps. Either they are academic types themselves, who see an opportunity to tubthump about yet another oppression of women - or they are nice middle class women, who hide the fact that their biological clock is ticking away by pretending that they are fiercely sexual and predatory and not at all interested in marriage and children, when, in actual fact, what they really care about is making sure that they can have skinny milk in their lattes. And decaff too. Or even soya. No - not soya. Make that rice milk - because Gillian McKeith says that rice milk is better.
I think that the sad truth is that women have gone from being oppressed by a patriarchal state apparatus, to being viciously and relentlessly oppressed by each other. You only have to glance through the pages of Cosmopolitan to know that this is the case. The basic ethos of this dreadful rag (and many others like it) can be summed up thus: men are all bastards, they are only fit to be mocked and manipulated by their female superiors - but here's how to get one anyway. Or thus: It's okay to be fat - look how cool Dawn French is. She's funny and successful and amazing. But her clothing range is shit. All clothes bigger than a size twelve are shit. So give up chocolate and wheat and dairy and fat and sugar and alcohol - drink a soya decaff latte. But it's cool when a man buys you chocolate. Even better if it's a chocolate cake. With cream. At the staff do - where you can get really drunk on champagne and shag the office hunk. Who won't fancy you in the New Year when you are a fat munter who can't fit into her fabulous Karen Millen dress anymore. So you'll have to go back to the soya decaff lattes again. You see how ridiculously circular this all is?
Of course, there are some feminists who say that the real people behind this new oppression of women are fatcat capitalists who want to sell things. They're right, of course. But women are not stupid - and there are plenty of reasonable voices saying to them "Come on, girls! Don't buy into this bollocks anymore!" Look at French women - they eat cheese and bread - they drink wine - they can even get red wine and steak on prescription when they're feeling a little depressed. But they have a healthy approach to food and sex and life. So they do nothing to excess. Consequently they're as sexy as fuck for the most part.
So here is my sex blog advice to my female friends - if you think that sex blogs or soft core porn written by women who wear way too much red lipstick are sexy, then you aren't; if you insist on skinny or soya milk in your coffee, then you're frigid; if you read Cosmo and take seriously absolutely anything you read in it then you will be getting divorced before your kids finish University. Eat cream. Give blow jobs. Gorge on chocolate. Find your G spot. Have a fucking massive sarnie, for fuck's sake!!!
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Music is my life. It's something that you see on countless social networking site profiles everywhere. People say it and I'm not sure what it means. So I've been thinking alot about it lately and I've come to the conclusion that music isn't my life at all.
But let's get one thing clear from the outset. I love music. It enriches my existence more than I can possibly say. An example - yesterday I had my ipod on shuffle and Nothing But Flowers by Talking Heads came on - a song I would never have specifically picked to listen to. And then I heard the lyrics:
Years ago I was an angry young man I'd pretend that I was a billboard. Standing tall by the side of the road I fell in love with the beautiful highway.
It literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. There couldn't be a more thoughtful, caring, poetic, generous admonishment to tubthumping youngsters anywhere. And all this set to Johnny Marr's glorious guitar, ringing like a bell, coupled with the best rhythm section in rock history. Make no mistake - every single day there are moments when music fills me with complete and utter joy and love.
But music isn't my life. In fact - there are moments when I just want it to go away. I hate it on a Sunday morning, for example. I just want quiet. I'd rather listen to the sound of the waves when I'm walking on the beach. I like to go drinking in places where there is no music, just the gentle hum of conversation and the chinking of glasses occasionally. And is there anything more irritating than being forced to listen to music that you despise? Well, yes, of course there is, but sometimes it doesn't feel like it. At the moment my bugbear is that (I think) Killers song with the line it's indie rock 'n' roll to me. There are few things in the cultural world more lame than that song. And that's another reason why music isn't my life - though I hate that song and hate it when colleagues at work put it on, it doesn't inspire huge feelings of ire in me. I don't really mind - I know that it will be over in four minutes at the most and then I can forget about it.
You hear people who act as though it really is the apocalypse when they are forced to listen to a song they don't like - or even a song they don't know. These are usually people who like to use music as a weapon - to prove to people how much cooler than everybody else they are. Sorry - but music can't do that. Liking Devo doesn't make you cool - Devo are cool, but you aren't. There are millions of Devo fans all over the world (including me) and they can't all be the coolest person ever. Fact of life I'm afraid. Conversely, thinking that the end of the third act of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro is one of the most sublime musical inventions ever (as I do) does not make me naff. I reckon the only people who would think it does would be people who haven't heard it and who don't want to hear it. That just makes me more musically literate than you, I'm afraid.
So. No. Music isn't my life. I'd hate to have to live without it, but it's not that high up on the list of things I would rather die than give up. I fell in love with the beautiful highway, I'm afraid.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
OK - so this is a profoundly serious post for a change. I've been watching with horror the awful circus that has been surrounding Oxford University Union's decision to invite Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak there last night. For those of you who don't know, Nick Griffin is the head of the neo-fascist British National Party and David Irving is a historian who is also a holocaust denier. He was actually imprisoned for being a holocaust denier. They are a pair of undoubted fuckwits.
But I think this fuss that is being made marks a profound shift away from values which I hold very dear indeed - to paraphrase someone else, it doesn't matter how much I despise what you say to me, I consider it my duty to defend your right to say it.
I saw a girl on the BBC News last night saying that she objected to them being asked to speak at the Union because she is mixed race and she is subjected to racism every single day of her life. I won't argue with that assertion (even though I don't believe it - she looked like a perfectly privileged middle class girl to me - and she's at Oxford University, for fucks sake!) but this still doesn't make her position any more than absolute nonsense. Do we want to drive racism underground? Do we want the issues to foment in secret meetings, not being properly debated by people who have a more rounded view of society? Do we want anger and tension to build up until it explodes into violence and insurrection?
If she is really subjected to racism every single day of her life, then she should be glad that this pair of racist bigots have been invited to speak at the Oxford Union. She should be glad of the opportunity to paint her banner, to voice her disapproval, to have the whole debate aired on the BBC and beyond. It can only help the anti-racism cause.
That's why we all have a duty to defend the rights of people to say what they believe. It means that really evil things can be debated and dismissed right away. And there is no logical reason to tell people that they cannot be racist without also telling them that they cannot be tolerant. They are two sides of the same coin. I fear for a day in the future when we are told that we cannot voice our beliefs at all - whether the majority agree with them or not.
To make it a bit more personal, if someone I knew really hated poofs, I would rather them just say it. I would be glad if they did. It would give me the opportunity to make them look foolish and it would also give other people the opportunity to rally to my defence. I certainly don't like to think of an army of homophobes walking round feeling resentful about the fact that they cannot speak their minds.
So please remember that we must uphold the freedom of people to talk a load of bollocks - because that's the only way that the sensible counter-opinions are going to get heard as well.
Saturday, 24 November 2007
Emily left The Bean today. She didn't leave for a new job or to leave the island or anything dull. She left to have a baby Emily and Neil. She left for the best reason in the world. This is my tribute to my bestest Bean Babe.
I can't remember the first time I ever met Emily. I bet she can't either. One thing I know for absolute certain is that we were both completely and utterly steaming and I am 99% sure that we were probably in the Live Lounge. And it was most likely August 2005. That was the first time I came to Jersey (well - as an adult, anyway). The first time I remember meeting her was on a very depressing day indeed. I was waiting at the airport for my flight back to Lancashire - my flight that was delayed for five hours. Emily was there with Bourgeois and some other girl who had missed her flight back to Wales. This was after Jersey Live 2005. Emily had blonde hair and she was getting in a sweat because Bourgeois and the other girl kept nicking her chips. But apart from that she was shy and quiet and probably very hungover. She also drove a little yellow mini. I thought that was cool. Cool beans.
After I moved to Jersey, Emily fast became very important to me. It was bloody hard work going out with a group of people who were all at least ten years younger than me. Emily was always pleased to see me - she always had a smile and a hug for me. That meant more than she probably knows. (I should point out at this stage that I am well aware that Emily is sticking her fingers down her throat right now if she is reading this).
It was when Emily starting working at The Bean that I really started to get to know her properly - it was probably the first time that we ever spoke to each other when we were both sober - when EITHER of us was sober. She can be a sassy bitch at times - and this often leads to her being misunderstood. There are times, I must admit, when I want to throttle her. But, actually, that's good because, in hindsight, my getting in a sweat about it makes me laugh.
So. Here is my definitive list of reasons why Emily is the bestest damn girl in the whole wide world.
1. She likes The Wizard of Oz. Hell - she even has a pair of ruby slippers and a quote from the film tattooed on her foot. You can't get much cooler than that.
2. If she thinks you look like shit she will tell you. And that IS a good thing because it means that, when she tells you that you look good, she really means it. And you know you look good.
3. Nobody - and I mean nobody - can cheer people up like Emily can. She doesn't always want to, but when she does, she does it brilliantly. I have seen our friend Nathalie have to run into the toilets because Emily made her laugh so much it made her mascara run.
4. She won't suffer fools at all. Piss her off and you know about it. Conversely, if you do something to make her happy then it's the most satisfying thing in the world because her face will light up and the room with fill up with love and warmth.
5. She really, truly and genuinely loves music. Not many girls love it as much as music obsessed boys do - she does and I like that because it totally gives the music geeks a run for their money. Her musical adventures includes Fix Up Look Sharp by Dizzy Rascal. She even has a dance for it. If that's not enough to make her your best friend, then nothing is.
6. She says "Hoof off!" When she says it, it makes my heart do a little joy leap.
7. There are times when we can communicate without even speaking. When we can start giggling like a couple of girls (as opposed to one girl and one homo) without even saying anything. We know what each other is thinking at those times. I call it our vibes.
So that's 7 things I love about our Emily. I could think of more, but there would be no point. Everyone who knows her knows Emily is not perfect, but they know why they love her. I'll miss working with her so much that it's a little bit scary. But I think she's going to be the best mutha in the world, with the cutest baby in the Universe.
And if she doesn't like this blog post she can hoof the fuck right off.
Good luck, Poo Poo.
Friday, 23 November 2007
Complete and utter juenile nonsense today - my favourite swear words in other languages.
Afrikaans - Diep in die kak (In deep shit)
Brazilian Portugese - Vai peidar na água pra ver se sai bolhinhas (Go fart in the water and make bubbles)
Mandarin Chinese - Cao ni zu zong shi ba dai (Fuck the 18 generations of your ancestors)
French - Sais-tu combien de temps ta mère prend pour chier? Neuf mois! (Do you know how much time your mother needs to take a shit? Nine months!)
Hebrew - Ya smark shel ez! (You piece of goat's spittle)
Italian - La tua madre puzza di pesce (Your mother smells of fish)
Japanese - Gokanma (Rape devil)
Icelandic - Ef ég myndi hitta þig úti á götu myndi ég skíta framan í þig (If I met you in the street I would shit on your face)
Lowland Scots - Ul wham yeh, yeh fuckin' wee basturt (I'll smash your face in, you fucking small bastard)
Portugese - Que se foda essa merda! Tô caindo fora! (Fuck this shit - I'm outta here)
Slovak - Vyser si oko (Shit your eye!)
Welsh - Cau Dy wyneb a Ffwcio dy ewyrth! (Shut your fucking face, Uncle fucker!)
Look out for some more constructive blogging soon!
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Michael Douglas is a happily married family man. His domestic comfort represents a barren emotional wasteland which must be made fertile by the quest, or journey, of our hero, Douglas.
After consciously allowing himself to be seduced by Glenn Close, he enters "The Belly of the Whale", a torrid and turbulent maelstrom from which there seems little or no chance of escape. Close's role compounds many characteristics of Campbell's Hero Myth, most obviously "the meeting with the maiden", a woman who is both liberating and dangerous.
This duality is the teetering and transitional point in the hero's journey. For example, Close's increasingly obsessive behaviour marks the curve of Douglas's return - that is to say, it is the acquired knowledge that he is destined to carry back to the homeland in the hope that its application will invigorate and empower his "tribe".
Blah blah blah... Douglas' wife kills Close and the rest is a crass fairy tale.
Stay tuned for news on why Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is actually about The Military-Industrial Complex! (Or something).
For more on Campbell's Monomyth (assuming you have absolutely no idea what I am twatting on about) CLICK HERE
Monday, 19 November 2007
It doesn't, of course. It's just that, no sooner have we got the inevitable Indian Summer out of the way, it's Halloween and then Bonfire Night and then there's really nothing else to occupy us other than remarking on how early it's going dark and preparing for the orgy of over indulgence and being nice to people.
Every year I tell myself that I'm going to do things differently this year. I resolve to only go to parties with people I love and care about - to not give Christmas kisses to the people who, for most of the year, I consider to be a bunch of twats. But the truth is that I really like the fact that Christmas is a brilliant excuse to bury hatchets and start afresh with people. I like the fact that it makes people more open to reconciliation and all that rubbish. See? I can't fully admit it to myself - I have to throw a bit of a downer in there to make it sound like I'm not being a sentimental old queer about it. I gave up giving Christmas cards years ago. I would have given up all the other stuff too by now if my heart was really in it. So I suppose I just have to resign myself to the fact that my heart isn't in it - I am a Christmas-phile and I always will be.
Anyway - here are my top tips for having an amazing Christmas. You can start them all right now.
1. Fight the urge to say "Bah! Humbug!" or anything similar. It only makes you sound like you are repeating a line. It's better to say nothing and even better to focus on the things about Christmas that you enjoy. For me, these are sparkly things, presents, getting tanked up and eating absolutely loads and loads.
2. Make some Christmas decorations. You'd be surprised how much fun it is. If you can borrow some kids to help you do it, you'll enjoy the whole experience even more.
3. However, don't believe the lie that Christmas is really just for kids. Bollocks to that - can kids drink too many shots at the office party and end up copping a feel under the mistletoe? No they bloody well can't. In your face, kids!
4. Cop a feel under the mistletoe. Just make sure that the other party involved is happy for you to cop a feel. Or use Rohypnol. And a giant pinch of salt.
5. Have a real Christmas tree. Don't listen to the killjoys who tell you it's bad for the environment and the squirrels. Plastic trees smell like shit and real trees smell like Christmas. Imitations just will not cut it.
6. Spend as much of the festive season (when you're not in licensed premises) as possible in front of a real fire. And have a yule log. I intend to go to some woods this year and get a really big one that will last for the whole Christmas period. It's pagan but in a cute way
7. Go to every single party that you're invited to. It's the one time of year when you can do that and not feel remotely guilty.
8. When you go to those parties, wear something extremely glamorous or extremely stupid. For the same reason that it's important to go to the parties.
9. When you're not partying, do really self indulgent things that give you pleasure, like baking cookies, or having a mammoth bubble bath, or shagging, or spending hours looking at porn on the internet. Why the fuck shouldn't you?
10. Finally, always - and I mean ALWAYS - cultivate the idea in your head that it's not that often that everyone you know is celebrating the same thing at the same time as you. Make the most of it. Know that it will soon be over and that January is super depressing. This is fun time.
So. What are you waiting for? I insist that you go right away and find some kids, some crepe paper, a Pritt Stick, some cotton wool and tons of glitter. Those Christmas decorations won't make themselves!
Sunday, 18 November 2007
Now, I know that this is going to be contentious. It’s pretty obvious that I know that, or I probably wouldn’t have chosen to call it “Why Vegetarians Suck.” Let me say from the outset that I know lots of vegetarians who are perfectly lovely people – my life would be an awful lot poorer if it didn’t have them in it. But I take issue with 99% of them when it comes to their eating habits and their ethics. I’m going to try to make my position on it clear. Bear in mind that this is written by someone who would happily eat foie gras or veal – and if that turns your stomach, then don’t read anymore.
Let’s get my most important objection to vegetarianism out of the way first. Presumably, vegetarians would like the whole world to follow their example. What would this mean? Well, it would mean global environmental meltdown, that’s what! A lot of vegetarian propaganda states that the meat industry is damaging to the environment – and it is. But consider the consequences of the planet having to produce enough plant matter to feed the entire population. The only way it could be done is through intensive farming, relying on huge amounts of chemical fertilisers and fossil fuels. We just couldn’t produce enough to feed everyone otherwise. Most of the vegetables we eat are produced like that, in fact, unless we buy organic ones. But the simple fact is that we couldn’t produce enough organic vegetables to feed everyone – it would be too labour intensive and a lot of people would starve.
My second objection is probably just as important, though it doesn’t apply to all vegetarians. Just the vast majority of them. They drink milk and they eat cheese. Well, the dairy industry IS the meat industry. The two serve each other. By drinking milk you are condemning animals to a life of factory farmed misery just as if you were eating a McDonalds. Your average pint of milk is produced with a hundred times as much suffering on the part of the animals as any organic and ethically reared slab of steak. But they don’t kill animals to produce milk? Oh don’t they! What about all the male calves that are born? At one time they would have gone to produce veal. But people are so anti veal nowadays that most of them are just slaughtered for nothing. One a related note, most booze isn’t vegetarian either. It’s got fish liver in it. And so to vegans. This goes back to my first point – the whole world could not be vegan without intensive growing and harvesting procedures. And loads of little animals are killed by that process – field mice are not that good at knowing to get out of the way of great big combine harvesters. You cannot produce food without killing something unless you do it yourself. I suppose we could all go stone age and do that – but you’d have to wave goodbye to all the mod cons. No-one would have time to make computers or generate electricity or design organic cotton clothes.
And so to vegans. This goes back to my first point – the whole world could not be vegan without intensive growing and harvesting procedures. And loads of little animals are killed by that process – field mice are not that good at knowing to get out of the way of great big combine harvesters. You cannot produce food without killing something unless you do it yourself. I suppose we could all go stone age and do that – but you’d have to wave goodbye to all the mod cons. No-one would have time to make computers or generate electricity or design organic cotton clothes.
So what should you do if you love animals and care about their welfare? You should buy organic meat – meat that has been produced ethically, without cruelty and without intensive methods. You should resign yourself to the fact that this meat will be more expensive than the factory farmed mush that most people buy nowadays. You should write to your supermarkets and demand that they stop selling intensively farmed meat and that they start paying farmers a fair price. You should only buy free range eggs and you should buy your milk from a local farm which treats its animals well and doesn’t exploit them for high milk yields at low prices.
What you should NOT do is give up eating meat altogether. If all the people who care about animal welfare take that muddled and easy way out, then there is no pressure on the farming industry to change its ways. All you vegetarians – it’s because of you that factory farms exist – think about that next time you tuck into a cheese sandwich.
Steak and Kidney pudding should, truthfully, be the National Dish of England. Even to cook it fills your house with the wonderful, warm and comforting smells of Grandmother's kitchen. It's good food. It's honest food. And it's food that cooks slowly and can look after itself whilst you're off saving the Home Front from the Nazi menace.
In her 1845 book, Modern Cookery, Eliza Acton describes this dish as John Bull's Pudding. Jane Grigson in "English Food" (Penguin, 1974) suggests that this meant it had been around long enough for us to be known for it abroad. Anyway, it's delicious. Try it. This is my recipe, which is adapted from all the many recipes for it that I have read and experimented with. I'm not convinced of the merits of adding oysters, which is, by all accounts, traditional. If you are, you will have to look elsewhere for the method, as I think 5 hours cooking time would destroy them!
For the Suet Crust:
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g (5 oz) chopped suet
For the filling:
1 kg (2 lb) rump steak
500g (1 lb) calves' (Ox) kidney
2 tbsp seasoned flour
1 large onion, sliced
300 ml (1/2 pint) Beef stock
300 ml (1/2 pint) red wine
250g (8 oz) large field mushrooms, sliced
To make the crust - mix all the dry ingredients together, then gradually add cold water, mixing with a knife, until you have a firm dough. Roll out into a large circle and cut a quarter out of it, for the lid. Line a 3 pint pudding basin with the pastry, allowing a generous overhang at the rim.
For the filling - dust the steak and kidney with the seasoned flour. Pack it into the lined basin, layering it with the onion and mushrooms until the basin in packed tightly and full. Now carefully pour in enough of the wine and beef stock to almost cover the filling.
Roll out the quarter of pastry you put to one side to make a lid for the pudding, and seal using the overhanging pastry you left and a little water.
Cover the pudding with a tent of foil, being careful to leave enough room for the pudding to rise. Tie a string handle round the basin.
Now gently steam it (preferably in a steamer, but standing the bowl on a saucer in a large pan of water also works) for five hours. No more. No less. Your mouth will start watering after three hours, but you must resist!
It's traditional to serve this straight from the basin. Do it that way. It's best served with thick chips and marrowfat peas.
This amount serves three greedy people. I wouldn't recommend stretching it to four.
The joke about the man from
It was in
"My boy," he boomed over a glass of gin and tonic. "I came to
I sat open mouthed listening to him. What a success story to give incentive to the restless youngsters of today. I leaned forward in my chair, pencil poised, and I said to him: "Tell me, sir, what did you have in the bundle on the end of the stick?"
He yawned and replied:
"Fifteen million pounds."
The best photograph I ever developed was the one taken by a woman two minutes before she murdered her husband. Few things to say first: the picture here isn’t the actual photograph – that disappeared long ago into a file of evidence held by the Crown Prosecution Service. But I was reminded of it because this picture looks remarkably like the one I developed. Which brings me onto the second thing I need to say – when I say I developed the picture, what I mean is that I fed it into the Kodak developing machine in the shop I worked in at the time and then watched all the prints pop out one by one.
We used to do the picture developing towards the end of every shift – at about 9pm when the only people really coming in the shop were hardened drinkers after White Lightning, or people needing cigarettes. It was mostly a newsagents shop – you get very few people wanting to buy The Daily Express at .
So, anyway – me and Elissa (my co worker) would feed the rolls of film into the machine and then wait for the pictures to pop out – it was that simple, so neither of us could ever really claim to be professional picture developers. We were great critics, though. We would Oooooh and Awwwwwww over pictures of cute kittens. We’d bitch mercilessly about the Mother of the Bride’s hat. We’d laugh for ages and ages about a bad perm. We’d get very excited about a hot man – and Elissa would sometimes even do an extra print for herself if he was particularly cute. I was never tempted – I just thought it would have been a bit weird – and it would have been. But I wish I had taken a copy of the picture of the hot man asleep on the sofa.
So, anyway – I knew him and his wife. I’d spent an evening in his company (along with some other people) indulging in huge quantities of coke. We were all doing this on top of huge quantities of Warsteiner. I think I was a little bit in love with him that night – but only because of his beard and his black hair and the fact that he was so totally and utterly wasted and I found that charming. I knew it must be a nightmare to live with. And it turned out that it was.
His wife was a dog sitter. Strange profession, but the truth is that they had got married because she was up the duff and we lived in the kind of area where marriage was expected in those circumstances. She was pretty and small and she occasionally did some dog walking for my sister, who ran the local boarding kennels. None of us knew this, but her husband used to batter her so hard that he broke ribs. He would come home from the pub, completely off his head on a cocktail of drink and narcotics, and then take out on her the fact that she didn’t have the money, energy, time or babysitter to come out and get as wasted as him. Then he’d get another can of beer from the fridge and fall asleep drinking it on the sofa. The fact that he then managed to get up every morning and go to work on a building site tells you how young he was. He was 24 when his wife murdered him.
You can guess the circumstances – I don’t need to go into those. She said in court later that she took the photo of him asleep because that was the only time he ever looked like the lad she had fallen for big time. It was the only time she could ever imagine having sex with him in the cricket pavilion, which was why she had been transformed from pretty young hairdresser to human punch bag in the first place. Then she stabbed him three times with a kitchen knife. He never woke up.
The next morning, she brought the photos into the one stop shop to be developed, bought some credit for her phone and called the police. She didn’t deny anything. She was convicted of manslaughter and given seven years, I think. She’s probably out now.
That night we developed the pictures. We didn’t know anything about what had happened, so to us, it was just a picture of that cute pisshead, asleep with a can of Fosters next to him. She never collected the pictures, of course. CID did.
So the whole point of this is to say that photos can be dangerous. They can capture moments that are so very different to the pictures of you on a church tower in
This week I bleached my hair. It was a moment of madness. I’m glad that my moments of madness only lead me to do strange things with my appearance – they don’t lead to murder or wife beating. But, still, there will be no pictures of me with bleached hair on this blog, or on Flickr, or on Facebook, or on Myspace. At least not until the roots start showing, which is when I think it will look really cool.
As a way of compensation, though – here is a video of another moment of madness. It’s me and my friends and colleagues, Dave and Alex, spraying a BBC Radio reporters hair mad colours for Children in Need. You get a glimpse of the blond here.
Friday, 16 November 2007
Poor Billy Wignall. How was he to know that a slice of Manchester Tart would end up summoning the devil?
Billy was the landlord of The Black Bull pub in Mawdesley,
The trouble started one Sunday afternoon in December. Ged Maher and Arthur Swarbrick had been supping in the public bar since they'd left church. And, being unmarried men, they were hungry.
"Give us a slice of Annie's Manchester Tart, owd lad," Arthur says to Billy.
"Aye - that sounds like a grand plan," says Ged, "I think I shall avail you of a slice too, William."
But there's nothing but one slice of Manchester Tart left and, this being the Lord's day, there's no way on earth Annie is about to set about making anymore. So Billy has to break the truth to Ged and Arthur - either they share, or one of them has to do without.
What do they do? Why! They start fighting of course. Vicious fighting it is too. And then Martin Vickers joins in...and Peter Gill...and Victor Alty...even Phillip Ackerley has a go.
Pretty soon the whole pub is brawling. Billy's pleading with them to stop, and Annie's on standby with the rolling pin. But nothing seems to calm them down - some say it got so out of hand that Billy had to dig a pit out back to bury the pieces of ear and lips and finger that got lost in action.
But the revellers were unaware that in Mawdesley Hall, just next door, there was a boggart. And boggarts love a ruckus, so this one thinks he might fancy a pint of ale or two when he hears the commotion coming from the Black Bull.
Mr Boggart floats under the door and is shocked at the utter carnage and devastation he sees in front of him. He can't bring himself to make more mischief - it seems wrong somehow, because enough mischief is being made as it is. So what does he do? He takes the poker off the wall and starts flinging it round the place, to split the brawlers up. It works, of course, since to all mortals present, it looks for all the world like the fire iron is flying round the room of its own free will - men cannot see boggarts, you see.
Well, it's said that the devil himself found this whole spectacle very entertaining indeed and from time to time he would have a play about with the poker himself, for his own amusement. It's because of this that locals started to call The Black Bull "The Hell Hob" - a nickname which still exists for the pub today.
NOTE: You can visit The Black Bull and still enjoy a fine pint of ale, although the devil's poker is now bolted to the wall to avoid accidents (find it in the snug area to the right of the bar). It's on
As for Manchester Tart, here's a slightly simplified version of the recipe as found in "Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery" from the 1880s.
Strawberry or apricot jam
1/2 pint milk
Thinly peeled rind of a lemon
2 oz white breadcrumbs
4 oz caster sugar
2 oz butter
4 tablespoons brandy
2 large eggs, separated
Line an 8" tart tin with the pastry. Spread it with the jam, fairly generously.
Place the milk, lemon peel and breadcrumbs in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and extract the lemon peel.
Add about a third of the sugar, the brandy and the egg yolks. Pour this mixture into the tart tin and cook at 180 °C (350°F or Gas mark 4) for thirty minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites and remaining sugar to the stiff peak stage, as if one were making meringues. Spread this mixture smoothly over the tart and bake for a further twenty minutes, until golden brown.
Serve hot or cold, with thick double or clotted cream for preference.