Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Old Man

I was once told by my ex-girlfriend's Dad on my twentieth birthday that it's all downhill from there. That's quite a message of goodwill and optimism on the anniversary of my entrance to this bitch, I retorted. What gives, man? From here, my boy, your physical condition declines, you've reached your peak, you've stood proudly at your Everest; now you must descend and walk the slow and painful walk back home.

Lo and behold, he was bloody right. When I was a miniature, I could run about all day, pronking like a springbok, no stretching, no rehydrating, no warm downs or ice baths. It was jumpers for goalposts and off you went. I've since spent the past four years nursing a series of groin, hamstring, calf and back injuries putting my promising football career on the backburner. These days, I gotta stretch before I stretch and when I do a get a stitch. And I'm only 24. What's it gonna be like when I'm 44? Or 84?

Imagine being 84? That's probably why old people are so rubbish. They've spent most of their years in terminal pain and after a while, I suppose it takes its toll. I've always had a bit of a hate-hate relationship with old people. For a start, they're a bit racist, but it's apparently not their fault. They're set in their ways. They're from a different time. They were brought up that way. You're also brought up to shit your pants but you soon grow out of that when you realize that you get a lot of reading done on the toilet.

I understand when you get old, the world becomes a scary place and you worry about your personal safety, but after a while, it becomes quite disheartening having old people cross the road when you approach or change carriages on the Tube when you're left alone with them. They could try and be surreptitious about it, but they're proper bait. My chagrin had been stroked too far and I invented a game called Scare The Racist Old People, the main objective being to scare racist old people. Often, I would find myself walking down the street behind an old person. Hearing the foreboding clippety-clop of the Black Man's winkle pickers would oft elicit a few worried revolutions of the head to scout my proximity. The old person would then stop and look in their bag for stuff and shit, wait for me to go ahead and then carry on walking.

Around that time, my shoelaces would magically come undone and I'd have to stop, bend and re-tie. That would take about the same amount of time it took for the old person to overtake me and we were back to square one, with the clippety-clop of the Black Man's winkle pickers behind them, unreasonably apprehending a mugging. The irony is that for all my buff and intimidating henchness, I'm the whitest black man alive and a bit of a pussy, let's face it; the point is, I'm not going to mug you and don't assume I will 'cos I'm dark as the night. That said, it is a mean game and I've since retired.

My other beef with Old People is that they're also a bit rank. I was sat on the Tube the other day and there was one man playing with his dentures, letting them hang out then sucking them back in again like a set of those joke chattering teeth, phlegm dripping from his mouth like the St. Bernard that plays Beethoven in the eponymous 1990s film. On the same train, I saw a lady rubbing E45 on to her eczema neck. Eczema's one of my bug bears as it is without her soothing her crust-neck in my face. Get a bloody room, says my mind, I'm trying to listen to Yeasayer in peace.

The other thing about Old People is they go a bit mad. The last time I went to Nigeria, I was greeted by my nan and her swinging disco tits as she staggered about the compound topless. Oh nana, I said, do cover up, your nipples are tickling your belly button, and she just stood there. Smiling. Vacantly. With a yam in her hand. That's the last and most enduring memory I have of my paternal nana. The mad bush bitch is dead now, God rest her soul.

Even Shakespeare reckons they're a bit shit. One of my favourite Shakey soliloquies is the one from As You Like It, where Jaques goes on about the Seven Ages of Man. All the world's a stage, he mopes, and we're all actors in it, playing seven acts or ages, if you will. The last age of man is "...second childishness and mere oblivion/Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." Now bear in mind Jaques describes the first childishness man experiences as "mewling and puking in the nurse's arms", so I think we can deduce from that that he meant that you're born shitting into your nappy and you'll leave as you came in.

Now, the other day, I'm on the platform waiting to go home. Yeasayer was on the iPod as I had to cheer myself from the ignominy of having to sign on again (I've got a law degree for Christ's sake, what am I doing on the dole? Oh, I know, I'm lazy) and before I know it, there's an old chap dressed in an ill-fitting mismatched blazer-tie-trousers combo remonstrating with me (why do old men always dress in suits? Where are you going dressed so smart?). What's your beef, Old Man, I asked him as I pulled out the headphones from my tiny tiny ears. Where's the bloody train? he says, over and over again. I'm sure it'll come soon, I reassured him. Some time elapsed. Well, where is it? he kept barking. And he had a point. The train was taking longer than usual to get here. And it was quite cold. And it was starting to rain.

Before you know it, Old Man was busy marching up and down the platform looking for someone to complain to, and remonstrating with the other would-be passengers about the whereabouts of the train. There's quite the immigrant population in Barking and all these Bosnians were kinda looking at him like he was bonkers. And he was bonkers, don't get me wrong. But I'll tell you something, he had the Glint in his eyes.

The fact that that train was late was a complete and utter irrelevance to everybody but Old Man. We'd all accepted our fate, but he, and he alone, railed against the machine. I always say of old people that they've got nowhere to go and all day to get there, but this man, he was a rebel with a cause. He was going somewhere, and he had to be there. He demanded the answers to questions that no-one else dare ask. Or could be bothered to ask. He spent about ten minutes trying to mobilize people to give a shit, but we all sort of stood there and looked at him.

And that's us, isn't it? That's our generation. We just kinda stand there, looking on, accepting our fate. So many people just settle for whatever's going. We're blunted on reality. We can mobilize ourselves enough to go out and get lashed on a Saturday night, but we can't go out and vote. It's odd to think that only eighty years ago, people struggled for suffrage, threw themselves under horses and shit and we repay them by sitting on our asses come polling time.

Old Man, there and then, spat in Shakey's face, he wasn't just going to slip into oblivion. He was like the geezer you see getting booted out by an unnecessary amount of bouncers, kicking and screaming because he'd been caught sniffing some sniff in the toilets at The Tuesday Club. If you're gonna go, go out with a bang. Old Man proved Shakey and I wrong. Maybe old people ain't that bad. The train came and I was chuffed for Old Man. He was going to get to wherever it is that he desperately needed to get to.

I got to my stop and I was about to bid adieu to Old Man for he had taught me a lesson and shamed me out of my own apathy, and there he was, shouting racist abuse at a Kosovan.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

For Doris

I’ve come to a decision.
I must make a tiny incision
Crawl inside your belly button
And live in there.
Like a joey.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The Final Section

I think last night we all had what I would call a collective moment of clarity. We’ve cleared a few things up. We’ve confirmed that giving Nick Griffin public pulpit only serves to do himself and his party the true disservice we knew it would as he confirmed he hangs out with members of the Ku Klux Klan, albeit non-violent ones. We’ve confirmed that the BNP only has its support through dissatisfaction with mainstream politics and because Jack Straw looks like the Demon Headmaster. And we’ve confirmed that Bonnie Greer’s got the sexiest voice in the world ever. So that’s everything cleared up then? Or not.

One of the sidelines to the wonderful freak show that was Question Time last night came towards the end when David Dimbleby suggested we lay off Nick for a bit and talk about actual real life stuff. A young lady queried whether The Daily Mail should or should not have published Jan Moir’s horrendous conjecture piece on the supposedly unnatural nature of Stephen Gateley’s death. Nick’s nadir came when he suggested that gays can do what they want at home, but he doesn’t want them teaching homophobia in schools.

And this is where our clarity becomes opaque again, because I’m not entirely sure how one goes about teaching homosexuality. Would we have Double Maths followed by Double Homo on the timetable? Instead of assembly, would we just have a bitchy chat about what Miss Jenkins, the New Zealand supply teacher, wore yesterday? Would rugby matches in PE just turn into a load of posh boys all rolling around in the mud and touching each other’s willies?

This all stems from Section 28, a piece of local government legislation from 1988 that outlaws the promotion of homophobia to the public. This means that any council funding of any literature, film or theatre that tries to promote homosexuality as ‘normal’ is to be outlawed, with a special subsection making sure that schools aren’t privy to the peddling of homosexuality.

The irony is no-one’s ever been prosecuted under the Section because as gays are so bloody promiscuous and they’re constantly getting AIDS, there’s a cheeky loophole which means that anything promoting the prevention of disease is exempt. And all gays get AIDS. So that’s lucky for the gays. Isn’t it? But while there’s plenty of homosexual literature about, the sentiment remains the same; that gays ain’t normal and we shouldn’t be promoting that shit.

The thing is, surely Section 28 is now a bit anachronistic. Homos are bloody everywhere now, mincing all over the shop. Will, from Will and Grace. There’s one. A gay in power, Peter Mandelson. There’s another. Robbie Williams, when he finally admits it. There’s even two in Sex and the City for Christ’s sake. Hell, when I was younger, I used to be the Gay Best Mate to get girls. I mean, I didn't work, but the sentiment's there.

The most resounding evidence to prove it is that gays are now allowed to get married. If there’s anything which promotes a relationship as normal, surely it’s walking down the aisle as wife and wife? Civil partnerships are proof that gay is good, it’s ubiquitous and it’s here to stay.

So while Nick Griffin took all the flak last night, Baroness Warsi, the Tory peer who had earlier defended Islam with distinction and provided some of the most eloquent retorts to his intolerant views, intimated, albeit more tactfully, that she might share the same homophobic views as Griffin. And she’s got previous as well. When she stood for election in 2005, some of her campaign leaflets could have been mistaken for BNP filth.

Quotes from Nick’s racist past got brought up, and rightfully so, but Warsi’s odd views got glossed over. How she can share a platform with a man and denigrate and latently support him all at once, and get away with it, I will never know.

I know Question Time is just a fun way of watching politicians squirm (did you see Nick shaking? And Dimbleby made sure the Demon Headmaster didn’t have it all his own way), but sometimes they are allowed to circumnavigate questions too easily and they conceal their actual views, and Warsi proper blagged it last night. Gays might mince about all over the shop, but she was proof that we still have a way to go when it comes to getting everybody on board the Toleration Train.

So things may still be a little ambivalent but one thing is for certain; in an unprecedented week for liberals everywhere, with 22,000 complaining against Moir's article to the PCC and bare people storming Wood Lane, we have proved that intolerance will be met with intolerance and I’m proud of you freakin’ honkys.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Me old muckers, Senor Chorizo and Signor Prosciutto, wave to me from the continental meats fridge in Somerfield’s. I shouldn’t, but I do and they go in the bag. As does the buffalo mozzarella. And the avocado. And the bag of baby spinach, ‘cos adult spinach is rank. I hopscotch to the fruit squash and help myself to a Ribena. I skate round frozen and pick up some Phish Food for the Doris. I mince past the mince, past the security guard and before you know it, I’m past the door. All paid for with the £0 note, mind.

The germination of my criminal career can be traced back to 2001, as I sat swinging on my chair in Mr Bryant’s Sociology class. Emile Durkheim purported that crime is inevitable, normal and even functional for society. That seed grew into a fully-fledged redwood six years later as, inspired by Naomi Klein’s No Logo and a penury fed by my diligence to indolence, I began to shoplift.

I’m very easily led astray, and seduced further by the works of Oscar Wilde, John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester and lysergic acid diethylamide, I managed to convince myself that I was a poet living the deviant lifestyle of the rake.

This culminated in the summertime in the Peak District where I thought that I was the living embodiment of what every Citiboy wanted to be – a young artisan with a thirst for wanderlust. It must be put into context, however, that at the same time, I was staggering round a field in the genuine belief that my hands were made of paint.

LSD notwithstanding, I genuinely see the job of the artist as living a deviant lifestyle that we as the hoi polloi can vicariously lead. Russell Brand’s conquests are a victory for men everywhere and London’s commuters huff with every puff as Amy Winehouse’s dragon-chasing exploits are detailed in the London Lite. The artist gets into trouble on our account, so we don’t have to, and then they regale the glorious tales in works of song, film and literature.

Oscar’s latently homosexual friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, which in turn inspired The Picture of Dorian Gray, led to us being privy to salacious accounts of steamy romps which were uncovered when Oscar got sent to chokey for being a bummer.

From there, Oscar waltzed across the Channel where he could fill his boots, away from our puritanical shores and off to the liberal and Sapphic-friendly French. Seeing as homosexuality is now legal here (it did take until 1967, mind), it seems preposterous that Oscar was ever sent to jail, further corroborating another of Emile Durkheim’s ideas, that deviance is also a social construct.

The classic example given in Sociology class was that of the soldier who kills in battle is a war-hero, but the Saturday night reveller who kills in a street fight is a murderer. It’s the same action, yet it is treated differently.

Oscar’s defection from here to France is a typical example of how geography can determine the social construction of deviance. London to Calais is 91 miles apart, and London to Manchester is 165 miles apart, yet Oscar could carry on in Calais but not peruse the canals of Manchester.

Parallels can be drawn between Oscar and critically-acclaimed Oscar-winning director, Roman Polanski, as both of them escaped their adopted countries in favour of France’s more accepting shores.

Nowhere is the artist more sacred than in France. Film festival curator and French cinema commentator, Edouard Waintrop reckons that in France “...there's the notion of art for art's sake, a certain leeway that's always allowed to the creative artist. In the 19th century it was elevated into an ideology.” If the rallying around Polanski from the Gallic glitterati is anything to go by, it appears then that the French Revolution succeeded only in removing one set of tyrannical rulers for another set made up of artists and cineastes.

When news first broke of Roman Polanski’s arrest at a Zurich Film Festival where he was, I am ashamed to admit, I was a bit gutted for the man. The rebel in me myopically saw an artist castigated for his minor deviant spirit. Heroes of mine, such as Pedro Almodovar came out in his defence, citing the fact that it’s raking through old mud, the victim, Samantha Geimer, had forgiven him and that it was retribution for retribution’s sake, and also that he’d had a hard life.

Now granted, a Holocaust upbringing is about as grim an entrance as one can make into this world and the brutal murder of his then-pregnant wife Sharon Tate at the hands of the Manson Family was pretty harsh too. Since 1977, he’s had an especially hard time, skipping the country and sentencing, swanning round Europe, winning Oscars and lifetime achievement awards. I must have missed the law lecture which suggested that you get one rape, on the house, if you had a disadvantageous start to life.

If anything is myopic, it’s those who defend a man that groomed a 13 year-old girl by telling her he could make her famous, plied her with alcohol and sedatives, then forced cunnilingus on her before vaginally and finally anally raping her. His misguided defenders would probably argue that he was at least a considerate rapist because he licked her out first such is their fervour to defend the indefensible.

It has got to the point where you’ve got such legal illuminaries as US Chief Justice Whoopi Goldberg, chucking her two cents into the hat by suggesting that he didn’t actually rape her and that a little known subsection meant that in order for him to be convicted of rape, he needed to do more than just rape.

“I know it wasn’t rape-rape,” says Whoopi on American chat show The View. As opposed to what, Whoopi? Rape squared? Or rape-rape-rape? No, Whoopi, he didn’t rape-rape her, did he Whoopi? He just raped her. It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, Whoopi, it is what it is.

He has not even had the gumption to admit it either, with the lesser charge of unlawful sex with a minor being the charge he was due to be sentenced for. This suggests that it was a love affair that was misunderstood by the masses, and that their forbidden amour could not prosper where there were legal eagles keeping a keen eye out. Samantha Geimer has said many times that she said no, which means it wasn’t consensual. Which means it was rape. Or rape-rape, if you prefer, Whoopi.

The fact he admitted a lesser charge further suggests that he has shown no remorse for his actual actions. Unless remorse means jumping jail, hotfooting it to Europe and dating 15 year-old actress, Nastassja Kinski, and then claim in an interview that "everyone wants to fuck young girls.”

Geimer has forgiven Polanski and insisted that she wants the case dropped. This isn’t a benevolent plea for leniency for Polanski, rather than a desire to keep her and her family’s dignity as the case gets dragged up again. Rape trials are brutal as the rape itself – not only do you as a victim have to retell your ordeal in pornographic detail, but your sexual history is cross-examined which perpetuates the view held by middle-aged, middle-class white men in fancy wigs that if she had a short skirt on, then she probably was asking for it. I don’t believe Geimer wants the case dropped; she wants the way in which legal systems deal with rape revamped.

And even if she did want the case dropped and Roman Polanski exonerated, this isn’t for her anymore. If we had a system where victims decide on the fate of their perpetrators, what would happen to murderers? No, this is for every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted and didn’t have the courage to report it. This is for every woman out there that did have the courage to report it, but inept policing and a laissez-faire judiciary botched her chance of justice. Moreover, this is for every woman who walks the street apprehensive that she might suffer the ultimate violation without reprisal for her assailant as it sends out a message that this will not be tolerated.

We live in a society where in my lifetime it was not a criminal offence to rape your wife. Seventy years after Woman achieves equal suffrage and she finally is allowed by law to refuse sex with her husband. We live in a society that won’t fork out £500 for a DNA test to look into the attempted sexual assault of a young woman ‘cos it ain’t worth it. And it appears now that we live in a society that allows rapists, so long as they direct Oscar-winning films.

Jean Cocteau stood in the dock in 1943 and gave an impassioned defence of Jean Genet, claiming he was the country’s greatest scribe and that his petty offences were to enrich his soul and inform his writing. There are some mishaps that I think it is fair to forgive the artist for. Rape don’t come under that jurisdiction, I’m afraid.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Jess Hartley Is A Cunt

I am a magnificent water feature
A feat of engineering
That belies the very nature
Of how you manipulate water
I'm comin' at ya.

Oh my GOD! I am magnificent.

You are a tap.
At midnight.
And you drip. Drip. Drip.
When I'm trying to sleep.
But I can't be arsed to get up and turn you off.

I suppose
In your own way
You too
Are magnificent.

Tasty Shit

“I can resist everything but temptation and boys,” said Stephen Fry wannabe Oscar Wilde one time whilst probably recovering from a clammy Caligulan orgy in a Whitechapel opium den. Personally, I can resist everything but temptation and cereal. At about three in the am, when the hotbox is at its hottest and hunger begins to strike, albeit with a distinct lack of perspiration from the saliva glands, only a bowl of Tesco’s Oat Crunch set upon a bed of yoghurt and a generous dusting of brown sugar will do.

Problem with this particular temptation is that I suffer from Crohn’s Disease, an auto-immune arse ailment which causes regular and er, sanguinary bowel movements exacerbated in my case by a precocious lactose intolerance, which means my days of suckling on Daisy’s mammary goodness are all but over. Except they’re not, and I’m often caught relapsing into a maizy utopia.

Needless to say, I suffer in the mornings. Crohn’s has meant that the peculiar yet strangely crossover idiosyncrasy of inspecting one’s poo has become an obsession, and I can oft be found, head down bowl as if diligently sweeping my shit for fingerprints.

It was there, somewhere between the U-bend and the toilet cookie, that it popped into my head – if a Jackson Pollock can get sold for £60 million, how much would someone pay me to eat my very own Jackson Pollock copy? Or for those who have never set foot into the Tate Modern, how much to eat my own poo?

I hate money. I hate spending it, I hate looking at it and I hate how much we all covet it in spite of the fact that it doesn’t compensate for ill health or lack of meaningful relationships in our lives. So, whilst I am acutely aware of the fact that money does not equate to happiness, the fact that I have none means it is often on my mind.

But whilst other people, in times of penury, dream the American Dream, think about promotions, new business ventures or inventions to embarrass themselves on Dragon’s Den with, I dream of a wealthy benefactor dangling a fiscal carrot in return for my dignity and a bad case of Hepatitis B.

And it’s taking me over. I was walking through the park the other morning picking up ingredients for a roast and I saw a couple of rapscallions in their mid-Twenties, sat on a park bench in their Sunday best of Lacoste trackie bottoms, Lacoste trackie top and Lacoste trainers, drinking a few cans of Nelson Mandela. A shower of spittle sprayed through the air from one of them and settled into the perennial trail of phlegm that can oft be seen accompanying a chav. I asked myself then, how much? How much to lick up that entire trail of chav-phlegm?

The tasks that my imaginary sugar-daddy sets me lead to greater degrees of degradation and ever more fleeting flights of fancy as I imagine all the toys that I could buy with all the money that I’m gonna get. I’m back to the days when I would meticulously scour the pages of the Argos catalogue at Christmas and circle everything I wanted from Santa before I left it ostentatiously on the living room table.

Then, like now, I end up with nothing. Because Santa doesn’t exist and neither does my sugar-daddy. The chances of getting hit by lightning are one in three million. The chances of winning the lottery are set at 14 million to one. There have been no reported cases of rich oligarchs paying people money for a series of degrading tasks. This means that on the balance of probability, I am more likely to get electrocuted whilst buying the winning lottery ticket than I am of ever being even asked to eat shit for millions.

A depraved version of the Apprentice where SrrrAlan, Nick and Margaret set bogie-eating tasks for twelve plucky hopefuls to battle it out for the chance to become SrrrAlan’s bitch is never going to happen (is it?).

The comforting thing in all of this is, no matter how much Daddy offers, I always say no. I will not eat my own poo for any amount of money. I will not lick up chav spittle for stacks of cash. I’m not here to make money, nice though it would be to have some. I like the fact that I’m skint. It means that dreaming about getting rich is always fun. It’s not the end, it’s the means to that end which make it all so worthwhile.

There’s that episode of Only Fools And Horses where the Trotters finally hit the jackpot, only for Del Boy to want to get involved in one last deal. And that’s the problem – getting rich is more fun than being rich, so when you get there, you wanna press restart and do it all again. We have an insatiable desire for more; it’s how we’re wired. It’s then that you ask yourself, how much shit do I have to eat before I’m done?