A roomful of elephants…

Blogging is a funny business.
The whole idea of having a platform that is unpoliced by the arbitrary moderators of taste and.decency who randomly patrol the virtual corridors of Facebook and other social networks is extremely attractive, especially if you’re the type who isn’t too concerned about what others think of your opinion.
The only problem is, after a very short space of time your blog becomes an incredibly personal thing, something to be inordinately proud of, irrespective of technical know-how or literary prowess.
It presents you with a private window on the world, inviting you to lean out and shout words of encouragement or scream abuse at passers by, depending on the view.

And nobody can bang on the wall and tell you to keep the noise down.

However, you do still want people to read it, that’s the thing.

Some writers, (like fellow blogger and ranter extraordinaire, Scorpion Sting) seem to revel in their licence to aggravate, making it perfectly clear from the start that they suffer fools not at all, let alone gladly and will happily join in slanging matches with spammers and offended whiners alike, ensuring a regular audience of like-minded followers who will tune in just to see who the latest target of their invective is.
I’ve always attempted to keep the tone of Diary of an Internet Nobody reasonably light, or at least not too intentionally confrontational, even if my natural instinct to take the piss does occasionally make me unpopular with the odd reader.
And when I do cover a serious or emotive subject I try to be respectful and mindful of the fact that I have readers all over the world (one of the things I still have trouble getting my head round) knowing that flippant remarks made about something I’ve seen from my little cyber peephole may well seem deeply offensive to others with a different perspective on the world.

Having said that, it would be dishonest of me only to write what I thought you, my readers wanted me to say, in case any of you felt included in the general group of people I may have pilloried or berated in a post.
So it’s sometimes a bit like trying not to talk about the bloody great elephant sat on the hearth rug, whilst simultaneously having the uncontrollable urge to poke it with a stick and pick its scabs.

Pachydermatitis if you like.

For example, I was thinking of writing a post inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of a friend on Facebook, which would have begun something like;

“There’s a lot of talk of religious extremism in the world these days and it impacts on our lives in various ways, some of them fairly minor but still unwelcome nonetheless.
I’m thinking of one group in particular who, not content to peacefully worship their chosen deity, must attempt to impose their outmoded and barbaric morals on others.
The complete insistence on unwavering adherence to rules that have no relevance to modern life and beliefs blatantly denying the evidence of scientific discovery is not the way to integrate yourself into society.
It won’t be long before they start to influence the laws of the world, forcing us to conform to their skewed view of the universe, citing theological dogma as justification for inflicting their values on everyone.

You know the ones I’m talking about.

That’s right, Christians.

No, wait! Come back!
I hadn’t finished, let me clarify.

I’m on about the sort of pious, fervent, utterly devout believer who, assuming they don’t try to force their views on me, I have only the greatest respect for.
If they are that devoted to a spiritual path, then it shows a dedication that few of us are capable of, or at least willing to demonstrate.
If however, they decide that I am for some reason “demonic” and need to be “saved” or “delivered” from the ways of Satan before I’m forever doomed to the fiery pits of hell, then we have a problem.

Who are they to decide that I’m risking eternal damnation for…”

And it would have gone on in that vein, ranting about how someone who claims “God created everything, even evolution”, and then used that statement as evidence that some Christians are capable of showing “common sense” is never going to admit they’re in the wrong about anything, or even try to see your point of view, so why bother arguing with them, it’s no fun.

I would have spent ages coming up with smartass, snarky lines that might have made me laugh but wouldn’t really address the subject in a sensible, grown-up way, thereby almost certainly pissing people off.

So it’s lucky I didn’t write that.

There’s no end of topics out there, just waiting to be written about, but I know my, um… “style”, for want of a better word, doesn’t suit every situation. No matter how interested I am in the material, I have realised that sometimes it is best to use social media for making political points and having theological debates.
At least that way, you’ve got a reasonable idea who can see what you write, it’s not automatically, instantly everywhere at once like an open blog, free to gallop around the internet looking for people to be friends with, like some sort of demented puppy with verbal diarrhea.

Take the situation in Israel and Palestine for instance, I’ve had a few good tempered discussions on the current conflict there in recent days, mainly on Facebook and mainly with people who side with the…

Oh no.
I’m not even going to try to tackle that one.
I mean, where would I start?
Two thousand years ago?

So for a lot of reasons I carefully tiptoe around some of the dangling trunks, every so often risking a gentle prod from an irritated tusk, but trying to avoid getting trampled underfoot altogether.
Because if using my own little corner of the blogosphere to poke the elephant every now and then helps to point out the differences between us, it’s only a way of understanding what makes the world tick the way it does.

Sometimes pushing people’s buttons until they react is the only way to learn a new point of view.

And (extremely tenuous link ahoy) speaking of pushing buttons, in an update to a recent post I am very happy to announce that my friend Lisa has finally bowed to the weight of public opinion and started a blog of her very own.
So you should push the relevant buttons on your electronic device of choice and head on over to read her inaugural post on Notes Dropped In A Well.

Coming up…
Another award and a spot of animation.
Stay tuned.


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The absence of Martin…

Should I feel bad?
Should I make a note in my diary to remind me?
Should I mark the anniversary in some way?

Death is a funny thing.
Not in a hahaha way, obviously.
But it’s one of those things that requires special treatment by the little people in our heads that are responsible for filtering our memories through the gauze of time, to enable us to experience the best bits of a person’s life without having to continually relive the gut-wrenching moment of loss when that life comes to an end.

In many ways, the unreal feeling of absence that comes with losing someone who has been integral to your life for so long becomes more unreal with the passage of time.
Initially, the shock, pain and sorrow that is part and parcel of loss seems like a comfort, almost as if the process of grieving is a defence in and of itself, a way of opening you up to any and all feelings you had for someone who is now gone.
This huge overload of emotion insulates you from the true horror of the situation, only letting you take in the full impact at a later date, when you’re better able to cope, more hardened to the terrible shape reality has taken.

The further you get from that awful point in time however, the less real it seems and, although you’ve known for years that they’ve gone and aren’t coming back, just occasionally something will generate a spark and that emotional tinderbox will suddenly burst into life, prompting a flood of nostalgia which can shock you all over again with the knowledge that you ran out of time years ago.

I got a message from my sister Kerry yesterday, saying it was 15 years since our father, Martin, died.
My first reaction was; “That can’t be right, it’s not as long as that”, but then I realised how long I’ve been living in Devon and that he became ill after I’d already been here nearly a year.
How time flies.


Dad and Ann, my mother.

As I have said before, my relationship with Dad was not the smoothest of rides, which explains why I moved away from home at 16 and subsequently, maybe why he didn’t really get to know who I was (i.e. not a smaller version of him) until it was nearly too late.

I think my spell of living in a coach was probably the thing that shocked him the most, possibly making him finally grasp the fact that I’d never have the ambitious, career-driven executive attitude I’m guessing he wanted me to aspire to.
I remember very clearly, after I made a rare visit home, he gave me a lift back to the apple farm on which our camp was pitched and dropping me at the gate, looked at the collection of ramshackle tents, benders and dilapidated vehicles and then looked at me with an expression that said; “Oh for God’s sake, what are you doing living here?”
How could I possibly explain to him, a respectable businessman, that what I was doing was having the absolute best time of my life, a period that taught me so much independence, hard work, self-sufficiency, about being who you are, and not taking too much notice of what others have in mind for you.

Of course, looking back, I can appreciate exactly what it must have seemed like to him, especially given the reputation that “travellers” had back then. He probably thought I was on a fast train to Junkie City, stopping only briefly at Unemployment Junction before continuing through Pariah Town to the end of the inevitable line.
Although I can’t help feeling slightly pleased that he must have by then fervently wished he’d been more enthusiastic about my desire to follow a career in the theatre.
If ever there was a lesser of two evils, grease paint beats fingerprint ink every time.

Where I was fortunate though, was that I had my very own reality filter working in my favour, my loyal sister, Kerry.
All through these years she had been slowly chipping away at Dad’s image of me, trying to persuade him I wasn’t the hopeless case he feared I’d become and in the end it finally paid off.
We did become more tolerant of each other’s personalities (which were, when all was said and done, the same) and reached an understanding of sorts.

I still recall the slightly surreal evening when Dad and I went out for a drink together at my local, The Wheatsheaf in Crowborough, not long before I moved away.
It was the first, and only, time that he and I went for a friendly pint (that being the intent on his part I believe, “a friendly pint”) and the suggestion touched and amused me in equal parts, bearing in mind the locals were rather more – how shall I put this? – colourful than they are nowadays.

There just so happened to be a wake going on that night, for one of the more conspicuous consumers in the pub’s recent history, featuring the intake of Herculean quantities of (insert your chosen poison here) and culminating in a cataclysmically loud impromptu firework display just outside.
To be fair, Dad took it in his stride, presumably thinking this was an average night at The ‘Sheaf and restricting himself to the odd comment, on the lines of; “You have some very,…um, interesting friends” for which I silently gave him credit and liked him that little bit more, because he had finally given up on moulding me and appeared to be content that I’d been finding my own way all along.

The saddest thing?
Probably that for the last few days in that hospital room in London, (where he’d gone after the treacherous cells in his body had finally won their battle to lay low this energetic, ambitious, driven and tireless man, a man who had lost his wife to the same merciless killer and not only brought up Kerry and I, but taken on a second family too) we were closer than at any time I can remember since I was very young, and I think we both recognised it too.

Too late to make anything meaningful from the realisation by then of course (and who’s to say whether or not it’s just those little people in my head, straining my memories through their gauzy soft filters?) and I’m sure everyone has those feelings that they shouldn’t have left things to the last minute, but I’m glad that we could look each other in the eye and know we had made that final connection, it’s what gives me the ability to look back and think; “Blimey, has it really been that long?” with a melancholy that is not sadness but the affection of absence.


With second wife, Sue, the year before he died.

So I don’t feel too guilty about not remembering the anniversary of his passing, just that we didn’t have enough time to further understand each other.
For good or for bad we were very alike, something for which I’m sometimes grateful, sometimes not so much, but if it wasn’t for Dad, I wouldn’t be me.

Thanks Martin.
We owe you, big time.


Posted by on July 13, 2014 in Blogging, Personal anecdote


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Rights, wrongs, guns, God and the wisdom of Lisa…

It doesn’t take a lot to distract me from a train of thought, (as anyone who has ever read this blog will be painfully aware) so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to you that, since I first hit upon a topic for this weekend’s post, my magpie mind has been turned this way and that by the innumerable bright, shiny things that we all have access to via the wonder (curse?) of mass-media and the Weird Wide Web.

The problem with the internet in general, and social media in particular, is that it has become more and more a tool that people use to influence opinion, rather than just air their views, on anything from tinfoil-helmeted conspiracy theories and medical quackery, right up to human rights, lawmaking and constitutional reform.

And all the fucking cats, obviously.

Which may explain the increase in posts by many of my American friends on Facebook recently, concerning two obviously hot topics that seem to prompt equally emotional responses from both the pro- and anti- side of the equation.

Now I can’t vouch for the whole of the UK, but I think that over here, very broadly speaking, Barack Obama is seen as a fairly decent, sincere and rational man whose presidency is largely a force for good. (Before I incite a barrage of political invective from across the Atlantic, I will happily admit that my grasp of the larger American political system is that of an interested but slightly bewildered observer and I claim no deep insight into the socio-political workings of the Land of Opportunity)
But to read some of the things that otherwise seemingly reasonable folks say about him on the internet, you’d think he was Satan himself, come to take away your freedoms and eat one or two of your children if he thought he could get away with it.

Quite a lot of people seem currently fixated on the idea that he’s on a crusade to remove their inalienable, God-given, constitutional right to go around tooled-up to the eyeballs with whatever hand held artillery they can carry, even when doing something as mundane as going to the grocery store or visiting the local burger joint.

In Texas especially, feelings were running high when the ironically named Target group announced it would allow advocates of the Open Carry laws to bring pretty much whatever weapon they liked with them to do the weekly shop.


Target – “Well, some of those TV dinners can get downright ornery.”

However, in a gratifying case of bowing to public pressure, including that applied via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Target have done a U-turn on that decision, leading to a raft of protests by open carry enthusiasts who can’t bring themselves to walk down the mean aisles of the mall without their trusty assault rifle to protect them from……..well, the hordes of heavily armed shoppers presumably.

Again, I’m not claiming to speak for the majority of my nation when I say this, but if I walked into Tesco and there were people walking around with hunting rifles slung over their shoulders, I’d quietly turn round, go home and lock the doors, close the curtains and try not to make too much noise gibbering to myself.

I know from many a heated discussion I’ve had with American friends that they just don’t get it when I say that we don’t have guns over here, not in the insane way they do in the States, and I find the idea of everyone being armed to the teeth a terrifying thought.
They always sound puzzled and say things like “But the criminals still have guns, right?” as if that explained everything.

I’m not saying that all armed citizens are crazy gun nuts, far from it, but you only need one or two examples that are particularly Twitter-worthy to piss on the collective gunpowder, so to speak.
My own personal favourite nomination for inclusion into Adam Pain’s forthcoming Golden Face Palms would have to be the decidedly white Open Carry Texas group from Huston.
To “educate people of their rights”, they planned an openly armed march through a black neighborhood. Not only that, but with added sensitivity and tact, they scheduled the march for June 19th, the day given over to celebrate the abolition of slavery.
That specific rally did not go ahead as planned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody doesn’t push their luck a little too far in trying to fully exercise their rights in the not too distant future.

Another hard-to-believe story that’s making the Fb newsfeed buzz this week is the one about the Christians, the craft shop and the government legislation.
No, it’s not the feed line to a joke, it’s the news that arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby have more or less unilaterally decided to flout the rules of the ObamaCare bill, by refusing to provide health insurance to female employees that covers IUDs or “morning after” contraceptive pills on the grounds that it contravenes their religious beliefs, despite the fact that an element of the insurance is paid for by the employees themselves.
This not only interferes with the woman’s right to choose, it also disqualifies a lot of women who need the same medication for non-contraceptive medical uses, and it isn’t cheap to buy privately either.

Strangely, they do provide men cover that allows for both a vasectomy operation and a Viagra prescription.

This may seem like a minor, under-the-fold news story, but the ramifications could be far reaching.
What if a Muslim employer insisted that all his staff had to wear a full-face veil?
Or that his employees all had to pray to Mecca five times a day?
How popular would that be in middle America I wonder?
And the case is already having an impact, with other companies questioning their responsibility to provide cover that may go against any deeply held beliefs they suddenly find they have they may hold.

It just seems weird to me that a shop that started off selling picture frames and modeling kits can now influence government policy.
It’s like the Women’s Institute lobbying the British government to ban fertility treatment, it just doesn’t seem right somehow.

But it was Independence Day this week, so I have tried my best not to start too many arguments with our trans-Atlantic cousins, even getting a few amused comments when I reposted this slightly cheeky old favourite that I made a few years ago to do my bit for The Special Relationship.


And just so it doesn’t give the impression that all I see coming from America is frightening, or insane, or both, I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine from over in the U.S. who I have been trying to convince to start blogging.
Her name is Lisa and she regularly posts these beautiful, emotive and reflective pieces on her Facebook feed and they invariably receive many compliments on how well she writes and that she should speak to a wider audience.

My favourites are the poetic, narrative pieces that detail the simple pleasures of observing nature, or just sitting on the porch listening to the night, but I was also enormously touched by the post she wrote the other day about how grateful she was that her husband, Joe was well again:

“My mind makes music of the dehumidifier’s white noise; one time it was strings, but lively, jaunty ones. When Joe was at Cornerstone, the air rushing through the tubes connected to his trach played long, slow cello notes. They never stopped. It was the saddest music I’d ever heard.

I could also hear the bangs booms pops of the fireworks that Fourth of July as I stood by the head of his bed and talked to him. I hoped he couldn’t hear them–Joe had always loved fireworks, loved setting them off, he could build a better display on his own than we ever saw at Island Park what with their tiny budget. Stuck in the hospital bed, he couldn’t even raise himself to look out the window, even if there were any rockets to be seen.

They let me stay in the room, sleeping in a recliner, eating the trays he couldn’t. The food was surprisingly good. In return, I helped the nurses bathe him, clean him, turn him every two hours, change the sheets. I didn’t know it then, but I was learning skills for when the insurance cut off and they sent him home.

I hear the creak as he turns over in bed. It’s better music than the dehumidifier.”

Lisa on man’s inhumanity to man.

“If you’ve read true crime, you’ve probably run across the statement that the killer “had to dehumanize” his victim, that some serial killers view their prey as little more than dolls to be acted upon, and this is always written in tones dripping with horror, that this is such a rare aberration. Some strange mental component that “decent” people like you and I (thankfully!) don’t have.

But we do.

Any time we indulge in racism, sexism, classism, religionism–any of the “isms”, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Any time we make another person “other”, not “one of us” that’s what we’re doing, and it enables us to wreak any violence we please upon them, whether it’s simply slander, or actual physical violence and death–we’re doing exactly what the criminals do.”

on the cynicism of Christmas.

“The surly, churlish “It’s ‘Merry CHRISTmas’, god-dammit!” fad is sheer hilarity on several levels. First being that Jesus, Himself a devout Jew, would have celebrated Hanukkah–one of those holidays in “Happy Holidays” that certain of His followers find so objectionable.

It’s doubtful Jesus would have approved of Christmas, it being a wholly manufactured holiday the later Church used to make Christianity more palatable to its colonized peoples. Pagans had their well-loved “rebirth of the sun” festivals at the Solstice and would have been highly (perhaps violently) resentful and resistant if the Church had forbid them. So, the Church decided that rebirth of the sun could be compatible with the birth of The Son, and permitted the traditional merrymaking under that guise.

If certain of His followers read the New Testament, they’d discover that Jesus viewed non-Jews with marked distaste, habitually making disparaging remarks about Gentiles. Jesus had to be at least tangentially familiar with Roman pagan celebrations during the Solstice. There’s little reason to suppose He’d regard Christmas’s purporting to be a “godly” holiday with anything less than disgust.

Last but not least, the Seventh Commandment prohibits taking the Lord’s name in vain. There isn’t much that exemplifies that better than slapping your lord’s name and endorsement onto a heathen celebration.”

Lisa on the moon.

“And of course I had to go look at the moon.

I missed her full; our sky was solid impenetrable cloud, but tonight they’re breaking up. They march Eastward across her face. She has a little sliver sheared off, looking like she’s peeking at me from under something, or perhaps only her hair falling across her face a little, if her hair was deep blue as the lapis lazuli beads you chose.

And she shines on the snow in the yard, and it does its trick with the Disneyland sparkles to show you that it’s magical, if you didn’t already know. And she shines on the icicles over the door, making them gleam a blue as cold as LED light, but somehow living while LED can’t.

I turn off the kitchen light so I can look out again and she’s printed light on the floor in the pattern of the French door’s frames. The clouds have moved on and she’s bright, it’s bright outside, it might as well be a parking lot, so lit up with the moonlight reflecting from the snow, and from the starlight and the neighbors’ yard lights. It’s cold, it’s a quiet night, but it’s lit up and waiting.”

…and on wacky wildlife.

“Okay, this must be Wacky Wildlife Day.

I look out and see the raccoon waddling up the walk toward the cat food. This doesn’t please me.

I buy cat food for the cats. The bag has a picture of a cat on it; not a raccoon, not the neighbor’s dog, it’s for the cats. Still, as far as raccoons and the mayhem they can commit goes, this is a pretty well-behaved raccoon. If it shows up after hours and finishes off what the cats didn’t eat, that’s more-or-less okay with me. I’m not going to stand sentinel all night to make sure it can’t scrounge the leftovers.

But daylight? Come on.
I open the door and it bounds off, but then stands up in the middle of the yard, looking at me. We stand there for awhile. I don’t have anything handy to chuck at it, so finally I extend my arm and point at it. A lot of animals who have had a rifle pointed at them don’t like that–they’ll run.

I point at the raccoon and it slowly turns and looks behind it, then turns back, like “Who, me?” So I laugh and give up and go back in the house.

Well played, raccoon. Well played.”


[If you, like me, would like to see Lisa spread her wings and start a blog of her own so that more people can experience her wonderful writing, please leave a comment and I will gladly pass them on when I next prod her into doing just that.]

And that’s about it.
Just time to fit in my pick for sunset picture of the week.


Until next time…


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Two years, Pooh sticks and park life…

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY said the WordPress notification I received last week, surprising me with the realisation that Diary of an Internet Nobody has now been ranting and musing its way across the blogosphere for two whole years.

My initial reaction however – one of surprise that I’d been writing for so long, (since I only think of myself as a beginner, still getting to grips with the discipline, so to speak) – faded, as it occurred to me that writing stuff down feels so natural now, that I can’t really conceive of not always having done it.
Although you only have to read that last sentence; well look at it, hyphens, italics, parentheses, mangled tenses, commas all over the place, to see that I still have some work to do in the rambling tangent department.

Only the other day I was reading a post on Being Ron about how many bloggers change the look and feel of their blogs on a more or less regular basis, and that Ron liked to give his blog a makeover occasionally to keep it fresh.
This is something that I’d never considered before, having settled on the desk diary-themed look (because, well, it was obvious) after stumbling upon it when looking for something to replace the very dark, red-on-black theme I began with, and now I can’t bring myself to abandon it.

Do these things really matter to you, my lovely, intelligent, extremely talented and good looking readers?
Do any of you actually click on that e-mail notification, thinking; “Oh dear god, if I have to read another witty and erudite article, surrounded by that faux-leather and digital stitching, I’m going to leave a pithy comment” ?
Your feedback is, as ever welcomed and appreciated…

During my recent brief sabbatical from the blog, I visited family and friends in Sussex, where I managed to fit in; my first visit to my mum’s new house; a pleasant stay with my sister, (I was there when she received her presentation copy of Ho’s “Spacehopper incident” cartoon that he kindly sent her by post, which she will apparently frame and proudly display); a few days in the company of my old friend Trevor, and a trip to Brighton to see Ho himself.

Arriving in Crowborough on the Tuesday evening to the faultless hospitality of my sister – meal on the go, cider in the fridge – I briefly saw my niece and nephew the following morning before they were whisked off to school and then made my way out into Winnie the Pooh country, Ashdown Forest, to where Trev was staying in Hartfield.
Unfortunately this normally simple journey didn’t go quite according to plan, featuring as it did, me crashing into the back of someone’s car as they braked in the wet at a narrow bridge I’d completely forgotten existed, having not been out that way for nearly twenty years.

The gentleman whose car I damaged was very good about the accident, saying only that he “wished you’d done it a couple of months ago when I had my old car, I could have made a killing on the insurance” and when it also turned out that he worked for the company in whose building I’d shared a flat whilst living in Crowborough, well, we parted on amiable terms.

My stay with Trevor was a predictably laid back affair, involving a few visits to country pubs, tooling around the countryside in his open topped sports car and making a special nostalgic trip out onto the forest to visit A.A. Milne’s hundred acre wood, where the actual Pooh Bridge stands.
A game of Pooh sticks took place of course, in which I claimed victory, although it was a close run thing.


Boys will be boys.


Into Hundred Acre Wood.


Eeyore’s house, possibly.


Pooh Bridge.


There was also a box of old photos to root through, yielding this gem from the turn of the millennium, when the pair of us were somewhat more hirsute.


I took my leave of Trevor on Friday morning, suitably refreshed and relaxed, returning to Crowborough to do the familial rounds once more.
I dropped back in to see mum, then to Kerry’s for one final chat with her and Oly, (a truly top man who has the irrepressible enthusiasm of a teenager, the enviable upper body shape of a weightlifter and both legs missing below the knee. In some people I imagine this would put a bit of a crimp in their style, but to Oly it seems nothing more than an excuse for jokes about not having to worry about smelly feet and numerous amusing anecdotes concerning uncooperative prosthetics falling off at inopportune moments) before taking to the road again for the journey down to Brighton and a Friday night out with Ho.

Ho is very switched on when it comes to local events, working as he does for an entertainment promotions company, so he had already got us tickets to a gig at The Haunt, a converted cinema screening room, on the seafront near the famous Brighton Pier.

There were three bands playing, but three weeks have passed and I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten the name of one of the support acts, although I do remember Milk and Biscuits and you can sample their material HERE.

The headline act certainly were memorable though, there’s no doubt about that.
Fujiya & Miyagi put on a great show. With stuttering, glitching visuals projected behind them they provided a pounding, mesmerizing set of precision-tooled, clinical synths, enigmatic vocals (some improvised from audience suggestions) and a great live drummer.
To give you a feel for the show here are the obligatory fuzzy gig photos and a link to a particular favourite of mine, the video for Flaws.




CLICK THE LINK TO PLAY Fujiya & Miyagi – Flaws.

So it was that, after breakfasting with Ho and saying my goodbyes, I left sunny Brighton on Saturday morning and made my way back west to Devon, arriving with only ten minutes to spare to pick up the keys to my new lodgings.
I am now located on the edge of a large park, one of my favourite parts of the town and, due to the smoking ban in the house, I have taken to strolling over the road in my slippers with a mug of coffee, to enjoy a smoke in the evening sunshine amongst the trees.
The park also provides me with free parking and the walk to the car in the early morning is equally pleasant.


The first few weeks in my new home haven’t been without the odd minor incident however.
Earlier this week, one of my fellow housemates was “entertaining” downstairs in his room when some candles apparently set off the ear-splitting fire alarms that are fitted throughout the shared house, deafening the other residents until someone worked out how to turn it off.
Fortunately I was in my newly adopted garden across the road at the time, so I missed the aural assault, returning merely to an ominously red-lit and beeping alarm panel in the lobby and a houseful of people with headaches.

Someone not so fortunate was the bloke who was driving his brand new mini along the road, just round the corner from where I was coming out of our front door on Wednesday evening.
I heard the most horrendous CRASH, followed by the sound of constant car horns and ran round the corner to see the aforementioned mini, no driver visible, airbags deployed, stopped dead in its tracks by the small hatchback embedded in the side of it.
Now, given that this happened on a straight stretch of road in daylight, and that the driver I saw being helped out of the hatchback by the staff of a nearby hotel was a lady considerably advanced in years, I can only assume that she had failed to see the mini entirely and turned into the hotel car park as it drew level with her.

Whatever the cause of the accident, it looked quite serious and I called up to fellow resident Rebecca, who had come to her window to investigate, to call the police.
They evidently asked her to give a first hand account of proceedings, as she appeared on the street and approached the scene, staying on the phone until the first of many emergency vehicles arrived to take control of the situation.
Both drivers seemed to have escaped injury and, although a fire crew turned up to mop up the petrol on the road and untangle the ruined cars, that was the end to the evening’s excitement.

As a bonus, Rebecca managed to snap a rather dramatic-looking photo of the emergency services in action, so the credit for this one goes to her.


That about catches me up to the present, but before I go, here are two great songs to play us out:



And I’ll leave you with this gorgeous sunset photo, taken in the park earlier this week.



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Sibling survivalry…

Before I continue with any more original material, I’d like to take the opportunity to repost the article I wrote recently for A World Of Pain, just in case anyone neglected to click across the link to it from Adam’s wonderful Fantastic Four post, (and I know from my stat counter that an considerable number of people didn’t visit his blog) including some extra photos from the family archive, plus one of Ho’s excellent, bespoke cartoons.

So, once again ladies and gentlemen, I give you;
Sibling survivalry…

There is a line in Baz Luhrmann’s Everyone’s Free To Wear Sunscreen that says;
“Be nice to your siblings, they’re the best link to your past and the most likely to stick with you in the future”

Well I couldn’t have put it better myself, and evidently neither could Mr Luhrmann, taking as he did the text of a Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich for the vocal on his 1998 hit, a song which I seem to be referencing a lot recently.
Maybe it’s an age thing. Much as I try to ignore the arbitrary application of numeric value applied to our lives, (my personal tally has just passed its 48th solar orbit) there’s no getting away from it, we’re all getting older and Ms Schmich certainly does dispense some good advice.

But no matter how many turns round that big fiery ball we take, the one thing that has been constant in my life, right back to when I was still in my terrible twos, is my little sister, Kerry.
(If this was a strictly accurate history, I would of course refer to her throughout by the full name that she answered to at the time, the hated, hyphenated, Kerry-Jane, but I value my life too much so Kerry it will stay)


Mum, Kerry and me.

So let’s get the other thing Kerry won’t like out of the way first, shall we?
When she was born, we lived in Colchester, which of course makes her an Essex Girl by birth.
I should (very hastily) point out that this was a quirk of history, geography, gynecology, call it what you will and she does not wear white stilettos and fake tan to go dancing round her handbag at weekends. As far as I know anyway.


The Essex Years.

Besides, she has spent the vast majority of her life in leafy Sussex and the rough edges must have been thoroughly worn off by now.
But before we leave Essex – where we resided until I was just shy of six years old – let me tell you one of my earliest memories of Kerry, typical of older brothers everywhere I suspect, it’s one that is at her expense.

One day I was playing in the front garden when there was a loud thudding sound from indoors which terminated with the arrival of my two year old sister.

Cut to…

Scene: House interior, stairs.

Kerry clumsily trips at the top of the stairs, losing her as yet partially developed sense of balance and plummets downward, cunningly striking the wall at the corner of the staircase, enabling her a straight run down the main flight to the glazed panel next to the front door, which she apparently takes like a human bowling ball.

Scene: Exterior, garden.

The thudding noise rapidly increases in volume and intensity, until it abruptly stops (as, it turns out, Kerry’s knees hit the hallway floor) and my sister’s startled but otherwise undamaged head suddenly appears, via a perfectly circular hole it has smashed in the glass door panel, looking for all the world like a confused punter in a seaside photo diorama. The most memorable thing was, she didn’t even cry. Not a peep.

Now, I’m not consciously aware of any thought processes that may have been going on at the time, but it seems as though I must have taken this as an unspoken challenge to test my unfortunate sibling’s endurance and indestructibility.


“I’m sure I can unscrew this…”

Over the next few years, after our family moved to Sussex, Kerry somehow managed to survive my increasingly bizarre (but involuntary, honest) attempts to maim her, such as the time I was pushing her on the garden swing and encouraging her to jump off on the upswing, a favourite stunt of mine at the time.

Kerry dutifully complied, unaware that I was giving the swing one last push behind her as she jumped.

Of course she didn’t have the sense to do a spectacular dismount manoeuvre, thereby clearing the danger zone, as I would have done. No, she chose to turn and grin proudly back at me like the girl she was…

Just in time to catch the wooden seat of the swing full in the face.

There was already a certain amount of bed-without-any-dinner in my dad’s expression, even as he marched down the garden to investigate Kerry’s blood-curdling scream.


“Now, you see that ramp and those buses…?”

Or there was the time that, just as an experiment you understand, I persuaded Kerry to stand at the bottom of our metal climbing frame while I ascended to the top, dragging the large, red, evilly grinning sphere of a Spacehopper with me.

I was interested in finding out how high it would bounce off my sister’s head.

I duly dropped the heavy rubber ball from a height of about seven feet, hitting my target dead centre on top of the head, narrowly avoiding driving her straight into the ground like a fence post, but failing to avoid (to my continuing shame) being responsible for compressing her spine and giving her a lifetime of back problems, for which Kerry, I apologise once again.


Kerry, me and THAT climbing frame.

The point is, I utterly failed to follow the – then unrecorded – advice from Messrs Luhrmann / Schmich and was anything but “nice to my sibling” for a considerable length of time, and yet, against all the odds she remains a source of friendship, comfort and advice that would leave an indescribable hole in my life were she not there.




The Spacehopper Incident, by Ho.



A lot of that sense of connection undoubtedly comes from the death of our mother when I was just nine or ten, taken by a brain tumour after a relatively short illness. (Her all-too-short period of remission marked by a final, happy, sun-drenched family holiday in France that will always be my abiding memory of her; Happy and content, with her newly short-cropped hair, the result of surgery, making her look young again, albeit for a painfully brief time)  The extra responsibility I was expected to shoulder, whether real or imagined, made me more protective of Kerry after that I think, to the extent that I even once got into trouble at school for dragging another kid across the playing field by his ankles because he’d punched Kerry in the playground.


That final holiday.

It often didn’t help my rather volatile relationship with dad that Kerry was the model child to my black sheep either.

When we were at school, teachers who had taught me would say things like “Oh, you’re HIS sister are you?!” when they spotted Kerry’s surname on the register, and keep a surreptitious eye on her, in case she was another bad influence.


While I was living in a coach, she was working in a bank.

When I was living in a flat that resembled The Young Ones In Commuter Land, she was getting married and buying a house.

In short; “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”


Me, dad and Kerry – Butter not melting in mouth, just out of sight.

Indeed, doing the exhaustive research on this post alone (amounting to a 45 minute phone call with Kerry prior to writing) I’ve found that she had more than one patient talk with him, trying to “explain” me to him, attempting to convince him that not wishing to be a carbon copy of him did not make me necessarily a bad person, just a different one.

Mind you, she also said he and I were “too alike for your own good” and told me that “moving out at 16 was the best move you ever made” so she’s pragmatic as well as sensitive. Not a bad mixture. For a girl.




Kerry – Clearly not impressed.

And now we live nearly 300 miles apart, but when one of us gets round to picking up the phone we very rarely manage to get off the line within the hour, with conversations that end about nine times with the words “Oh, by the way, did I tell you…” and only conclude when her battery goes flat or my ear does.

So if you have a brother or sister who you don’t speak to as often as you should, make the effort, don’t wait for them to do it first, you know they’re just stubbornly waiting for you to do the same.

Mary Schmich was spot on, they are the best link to your future and, if you’re as lucky as me, they’ll be the ones who stick with you in the future too.

For Kerry and Ann.


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Transition – Mea culpa…

No sob story.
No excuses.
No details.
No discussion.

I have hurt people who depended on me.
It was my decision, but I saw no other choice.
My hope is that eventually, everyone will be happier.

So for now, I continue on my own, in new surroundings and with a new routine.
Trying to get organised and waiting to see what the future will bring.

Thank you for your patience, normal service will resume shortly…


Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized



One of the fantastic four…

Once again I am collaborating with my friend and fellow blogger, Mr Adam Pain, this time on simultaneous posts for our respective blogs.
This time however, there’s a catch.

Previously, when it has occurred to me that something I’m working on may be on a subject that has also caught the ever-watchful eye of Mr Pain, I have enquired as to whether we might each take a different strand of the story and go in our own direction with it, coming at it from two different angles, so to speak.
We would then link our two posts, so that you, my lovely readers, could pop over to A World of Pain and get Adam’s take on the subject, and vice versa.
But this time Adam suggested we both write on the same subject, one that he would suggest, and post directly to each other’s blogs, thereby communicating with one another’s audience.

With me so far?

And so to the topic of this little challenge – Being a sibling.

I have submitted a piece that details the horrors of being my little sister, which you can read AT THIS LINK and which doesn’t even include the incident when she did an Exorcist / Mr Creosote impression (minus the spinning head, or the exploding) in the face of an unsuspecting dentist as she came round from being gassed. Aren’t I the considerate brother?

But for now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr Adam Pain…

Being One Of The Fantastic Four

When I was a kid at school, the last day of every term was marked by a delicious slice of perceived childhood freedom. Firstly, it was invariably declared a mufti day – a term I suspect is both archaic and quintessentially British, now likely to have been christened something depressingly functional, like ‘wear your own clothes day’. This was treated as an opportunity for ten-year-old girls to dress as their thirteen-year-old future selves, whilst the lads turned up in the replica football shirts they’d press ganged their parents into being shafted over a barrel for that season.

But it was the second treat bestowed upon us that was the most tantalising to me. We were all allowed to bring a game in. It was probably just an excuse for our frazzled teachers to take their feet off the educational accelerator for a minute, put them up on the dashboard and catch up on a few Reader’s Digest articles, but we relished it nonetheless. Who wants algebra, when Claire’s got Buckaroo under her arm, or David’s struggled in with a full set of Subutteo in his backpack?

There was always one kid who brought a game in that cost more than the entire contents of my house, complete with a power supply like a Ukrainian sub station. Most kids would coo, gasp and fawn in it’s presence, but I was always inclined to take a step back and let the others get in on the action. Firstly, because I’ve always had a deep-seated fear that I will break anything with substantial value the minute I touch it (one of the reasons holding other people’s babies freaks me out) but, also, because I often felt a little sorry for the owner. Sorry, because really expensive toy usually spelt only child.

I have always regarded my siblings as being my most precious possessions, and am fiercely protective as a direct result. We fought, squabbled and sulked as all siblings do, but my childhood is liberally smothered in memories of the four of us howling with laughter whilst playing silly buggers. Cats dressed as Victorian prostitutes; underwhelming but enthusiastic gymnastic displays in the back garden; water fights that lasted for days; pranking our parents by moving all of the lounge furniture onto the front lawn – tv, lamps and rugs included. These stories represent just the tip of a joyous iceberg that often lured the whole motley crew of kids on the estate into choppy waters. Local parents sometimes regarded us an utterly feral bunch, but it was water off a duck’s bum. We were the awesome foursome, the quad squad, an entire world of Pain – with our own ecosystem, honour code and secret handshake. A few disgruntled old squares weren’t going to ruin our adventures.

The tempestuousness of our teens led to adult lives in far-flung places (although I’ve ended up settling about three minutes away from my childhood home) but geographical distance has never dulled the homing pigeon instinct in any of us. When Mum died, we spent two weeks together – just walking, sitting, thinking and playing – because it was the only way we knew how to cope. Licking each other’s wounds.

When Katy got sick with the cancer that had first taken bites out of her in her early twenties, it slowly became apparent that the fantastic four might be in some serious trouble. All of the pissing about in the world wasn’t going to get us out of this one, and the gravitas of the situation made me feel emotionally bloated. Like turning the contrast down on the telly, whilst boosting all the greys. Saying goodbye to Katy in the hospice was unbearably grim, mourning not only the loss of an enormous part of the team, but the team itself. We felt like The Beatles without John – a shotgun sized hole blasted into the fabric of the family.

That feeling never goes away. We all think about Katy at various points every day. Not because we are trapped in some morbid cycle of despair, but because she’s so intrinsic to our cultural and emotional make-up. You can’t escape it – to try would be as ludicrous as attempting to recall Spain in summer without summoning a vision of sunshine.

This week, on my birthday of all days, Dad was taken into hospital with crippling abdominal pains. The three of us adopted the brace position that’s become so horrendously familiar to us, only to sigh in relief on finding out it wasn’t anything too sinister. A hiatus hernia sounds hideous, but the relief at the diagnosis starting with an ‘h’ and not a ‘c’ was palpable for all of us.

The remaining members of the world of Pain remain, our wizened patriarch fit to fight on for the foreseeable future too. Shields down, weapons set to stun.

So – I’m not bothered I never got to take in the world’s best toy on the last day of term. My most treasured gifts were dotted around other classrooms, playing the dog eared versions of Guess Who, Operation or Mastermind we’d carried into school that morning – together.



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