Posts from 12th April 2005

Apr 05

Day 34: Walking In Memphis

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 353 views

Nashville was as horrific as I expected. You could smell the rotten, fetid, stench of country music. People have often asked me how something which is composed of sound can have a smell. Maybe I have an advanced form of synesthesia, but to me all music stinks.

Agent Turner had me and Crispian strapped down in the back of a van on route to our final destination. I know a little about escapology, but our shackles were very professionally tightened. Left on our own for much of the journey, I managed to chat to Crispian, and make it very, very clear that this is was all his fault, and that any pain I was put through would be taken out of his wages.

“No point asking you questions now,” Agent Turner said after our transfer in Nashville. “We are taking you to a special facility in the area, perfect for prisoners like you. But before we get there I like to butter you up a bit. This afternoons round trip will take us though Chattanooga – for the Choo Choo, Union City for its Blues and of course we will allow you to stretch your legs in Memphis.”

“You fiends,” I said. And I refused to do any walking in Memphis. Just to make a point.

CHER – Walking In Memphis

This was Cher when her larynx was replaced by a voice synthesizer and a penny whistle so no wonder it is so poor. The original song was so rubbish that it was improved by being turned into a bog standard rave anthem: “I’m Raving I’m Raving”. The admission of being stark bonkers acted as a useful deterrent after all.

However, to the photofit woman, Cher. A woman who was so loathsome that her ex Sonny not only legged it from her but killed himself skiing into a tree to get away from her (and that nasty voice). Why she felt covering Mark Cohn’s tedious dirge about Tennessee rambling. Can you even see Cher wearing Blue Suede Shoes? Not to mention the trouble they would get in if it is raining. The fashion faux pas does not bear thinking about.

Realistically Cher would have known Elvis, not to mention Reverend Al Green. So her singing a hero worship song about these people seems very odd. Perhaps she is trying to remind us all how great the early sixties musicians were, and then hint to us she was one so she must be great too. No lines of this argument work as:
a) Early sixties musician were rubbish then
b) Even they were good then, they would probably be rubbish now
c) This is Cher: the human equivalent of a blow-up vinyl armchair.

The World Is Orange and Black

TMFDPost a comment • 369 views

Since I was 13 years old, I’ve spent each season obsessed by the trials and tribulations of Barnet football club. So says Adam Blenford on the BBC website and so I could say. Except it would not be true. Admittedly I started supporting them when I was thirteen, and for a couple of years there were really important to me. Adam rightly picks on the Barry Fry years and the initial promotion as very exciting times. This was just as the Premiereship started after all, it was suddenly cool to like football.

This was when I stopped going.

Do not think of me as some sort of non-league snob (and trust me, if you read the non-league paper there are plenty of them). The reasons I stopped were all very understandable.
a) I went to university. Which was 100 miles away.
b) I no longer qualified for junior tickets. And the club had ramped the price up with entrance to the Football League.
c) I could legally sit in the pub all day. And did.

Since then I have been to a few games a season, and occasionally got inspired. In the end though my support is that of many people in this country, a Sunday morning statistic hunt. It is also just another facet of me that people know and can use as a conversational gambit or take the piss. I am glad of what Barnet meant to me, those pre-pub drinking Saturday afternoons would drag when we played away. And I am pleased we have gone up this year. But not so much for me now, rather for Adam, and me fifteen years ago.

And it means I can go back to being genuinely interested in how Exeter are doing without sounding disingenuous.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 328 views

Just because we forgot to blog it last week. Three days after discovering the pie heaven that was the Pillars Of Hercules, we returned to find: all the pies were gone. We wondered if Wiley had popped into the PoH so altered was the pie situation. So we ask with all seriousness. Who Ate All The Pies?

My Party Activist Memoirs

Blog 7Post a comment • 218 views

Dave’s evocative piece of party activism, reminds me of my own stint as a party activist. I joined the Labour Party when I was 18 (really cheap youth rates) and had been mailshat before the 1992 election so see if I wanted to volunteer. I had just returned from University with a couple of weeks left to go, but I made it down to the office: which was squatting in an ex-bookshop.

Hertsmere is and was a pretty safe Tory seat. In as much as it is made up of three towns, Bushey, Potters Bar and Borehamwood. The first two are resolutely Tory. Borehamwood, where I lived, was actually Labour. But the two against one numbers game always scuppered my town. So I went down to see what I could do to chip away at the majority.

I entered the makeshift office. There was no-one there. I could hear some people in the back office, behind some screens, laughing and joking. I distinctly remember standing for over a minute waiting for someone to come out. Finally they did. A tall, gangly, heavily acned bloke with loads of badges on.
“Oh. Er, can I help you,” he said, only really emerging a quarter from the screens.
I fumbled with my membership card, and the letter that had been sent to me.
“I, um, am here to -” I did not quite get the word volunteer out before he vanished back behind the screen with a, “Be with you in a mo.”

Uncharacteristic shyness came across me as I waited for much more than a mo as an odd yelping came back from behind the screen (I also think I remember someone doing a Tony Benn impersonation). I tried to look businesslike and check my watch. I must have done this five times at which point I knew that I had been waiting there for three minutes with no more contact.

I took a Kinnock faced leaflet off of the counter and turned to leave. This was obviously a bad time, and I could always come back. But it did feel like I club that I was not allowed to be a member of. And I never went back. So I guess I was a potential activist for five minutes.

He draweth out the thread of his verbosity*

Blog 72 comments • 272 views

I was doing a piece on the 2001 election in a similar vein to the one I did on 1992, which has turned from a post into an essay.

* Probably John Major’s best set-piece gag, when he said to Neil Kinnock “‘He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument.’ Appropriately, that quote comes from ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’- and Labour will lose.”

Anticipation can be hell

Do You SeePost a comment • 179 views

Two films I saw on Saturday both full of the hell of anticipation. Both dripped with potential tragedy, pre-dripped if you will by their trailers. One worked, one didn’t. The films? The Assassination Of Richard Nixon and Bullet Boy.

TAORN has obviously watched The Day Of The Jackal and assumed that knowing the ending (that Charles De Gaulle is not assassinated) is no bar to suspense. The big difference is simple: in The Day Of The Jackal we want to know how this extremely competent assassin is going to be stopped. From minute two of TAORN we know how Sean Pean’s character will fail: he will fuck up. Like he fucks up at every single aspect of his life for the almost interminable hour and ahalf the film runs for. It is well acted, it is well shot, it is well plotted: but watching a mans self led decline into madness due to being rubbish at everything is no fun. Penn plays a man with absolutely;y no redeeming qualities to a tee. But as yet another scheme fails you keep cringing. It is like The Office without any of the humour. Except the gag about the Black Panthers accepting white members and changing their names to the Zebras. That is funny. The rest is depressing and excrutiating.

In Bullet Boy, we seem to have a similar set of cards set up against Asher D’s recently released youth. Picked up by a friend who almost instantly gets him into trouble: it is clear where this film is going. He is trapped in a cycle of violence, no matter how much he wants to go straight the area sucks him in. And will probably suck in his little brother too. However, and this is where Bullet Boy scores highly, the film always gives you a bit of hope. He wants to get away, he is protective of his brother. The trailer suggested a very different ending to me, something more tragic and trite than that which actually happens. There is almost a moment when you believe this might have the happiest ending possible. It keeps it real, but it does that by keeping you guessing.

All Politics is Local

FTPost a comment • 1,126 views

The 2001 Election by Dave Boyle

I was on pins for the 2001 election. For most of the country, it seemed a foregone conclusion, but the marginal I was working in, we didn’t have a clue. We knew that ultimately, the ability to form a government wasn’t dependent on holding seats like that. It was knowing that the MP was a good guy, that he’d made a difference and he was a bloody good constituency MP and deserved another 5 years.

It was always going to be tight. Lancaster was one of those that wasn’t in the wildest dreams of 1997 party planners. It had only ever had one Labour MP since 1832 – from 1970-1974 – and had briefly achieved fame through the efforts of the insanely bigoted dame Elaine Kellet-Bowman, who commented that it had was good to see ‘an intolerance of evil’ when the offices of Capital Gay had been firebombed in the 1980s, and before that, the flamboyant tory Humphrey Berkeley, creator of the electoral system for the Conservatives that eventually proved Thatcher’s undoing in 1990.

It was an interesting place, sociologically and demographically. The urban parts of the seat where Labour, whilst strong, had never been as strongly Labour as many an industrialised town. Lord Ashton, the local Baron of Industry, was the classic paternalist; he gave banquets for 1000s but threatened to close the factories if anyone had the temerity to vote Labour. There wasn’t as great a Trade Union tradition in the place, which surrounded by villages and hamlets, wore industrialisation like an ill-fitting winter coat rather than new wardrobe.

A big factor was Blobbygate. The MP had been one of the leading Councillors when they’d signed a fateful deal with Noel Edmonds to develop a scraggy park in Morecambe into a Crinkley Bottom theme park, with the theme apparently being ‘rubbish, unimaginative’ and ‘past its sell-by date’. The resulting furore had still to settle down, with District Auditor’s reports expected to be critical. The local Labour council had been routed in 1999 by the motliest crew of 1974 Local Government boundary refusenik poujadists and the Green Party.

Another factor was the bypass. Lancaster is a medieval City, with roads built for horses and carts. There’s been talk of a bypass since the thirties, and a lot of the constituents thought it was the absolute priority; an alliance of personally affected nimby voters and green voters were also sizeable. The MP had robustly held the line that it was necessary, but changed tack in the days leading to the poll. The Greens were standing a candidate and there was a fear they’d take votes from the left and let the Tories in. I recall urging green voters to split ticket when it came to the County Council Elections being held the same day, which as a Labour canvasser wasn’t something I should have done. Needs must.

Despite this, the canvassing was going reasonably well. Most were supportive, but there very much an air of one more chance; people hadn’t felt like they’d had a Labour government and wanted more, much more, for a second term. But in a marginal, reports and returns are one thing; it all comes down to getting the vote out.

Party volunteers often have to be reminded to vote themselves, so we decided to vote early. Too early. The Polling Station hadn’t opened, as the school caretaker had overslept, so the poll clerks set up a temporary station in the boot of the estate car belonging to one of them.

The school was on estate itself that was a heartland area for Labour, having amazingly (to us) gone Green in ’99. Canvassing then, I’d seen a dead body, and overdose victim, in a garden. It’d been there for longer than a good neighbourly neighbourhood would like. I’d be spending a bit of time there during the day.

That always worried me, because in addition to strong Labour voting, council house estates have a strong correlation with dogs that seem very aggressive and often not tethered. They roam placidly, until you approach the house where it lives, when it reacquaints itself with its defensive security role. And as it’s roaming around, the owners are often away or out or don’t care, and so no owner comes to rescue you as you wonder whether the dog can smell your fear, or sense your legs shaking nervously despite straining your muscles to keep them still.

According to those who’d canvassed in 1997, there were more people out during the day this time around. A telling sign of the fact that more people had jobs than in 1997, we speculated: would they draw a link between what happened in 1997 and their situation now? Or would the inflatable pink doll dominate?

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