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The point of a spot of pointless nostalgia

OR Tapes, an apologia.

I've been indulging in behaviour which, in the mind of any sane observer, is highly likely to be symptomatic of a midlife crisis (you can have those at 36, right?). Some time back, my rational and sensible wife pointed out to me that I hadn't listened to a tape in years, and yet I had quite a lot of tapes. Meaningful comments were made about the space said tapes took up.

Now. Obviously I don't want to bin them. I'm not a hoarder as such, but I do place an undue sentimental emphasis on some objects (cue cry of "So you ARE a hoarder"). In the case of my big box of tapes there is a memory or story attached to most. I can remember where pretty much all of them came from, gifts, bought, mysteriously acquired during my brother's short-lived shoplifting phase. Compilations I had a good long think about, weighing the importance of one track or another, compilations thoughtfully made for me. These tapes are kind of the stuff of life. But yes…

Reading

For those so inclined I shall be reading this evening at the Edge Hill launch of this.I know, I know, a poetry reading scheduled against an England game, what could possibly go wrong?

Naturally 'll read the pieces I have in the antholgy (having been told I have to), but what else is proving problematic.You see, the thing with both my books is that the poems have been in my life for a long time, some of them are teenagers, but it took me a long while to get round to getting them published. So whilst I should, in theory, still be hammering the books at readings to rattle a few sales along I can't help but feel a bit guilty, like what, really? This one again? Still, as dilemmas go, this one is fairly trifling in the grand cheme of things. Best not to worry, eh?

Ten whole kilometres

This morning yours truly, along with another three hundred or so souls will be charging off round the course of the Ormskirk 10k.Not an overly momentous occasion, every weekend tens of thousands involve themselves in a competitive race of some ilk. But I'm up early due to a youngest son's determination to play with lego, and he has no interest in me joining in, so as is often the case on these occasions my mind begins to wander, and what with the impending race I've started thinking about running, about what it means to me.

Now, as a young boy I wasn't particularly sporty, I had a passing interest in it but no more, I was, however, fond of cake. And books. And being left alone in a quiet corner to eat and read same. The end result of which doesn't really need spelling out, suffice to say that by the time I had begun to notice that there were creatures called "girls" I wasn't really in much of a condition for them to notice me, other than,perhaps, to h…

Fame

So as of last weekend the list of vaguely well-known people your correspondent has cooked for stands at: various Liverpool and Everton players of the early 00's, Rick Stein, Steve Davis and now former world middleweight champion Steve Collins. Heady heights indeed, stitch that Indoor Market Cafe.

The Source crew decamped to Burscough's prestigious Stanley club and proceeded to knock out (small boxing pun there, pun fans) a bunch of roast pork for a sportsman's dinner featuring the aforementioned Mr Collins, who, it should be stated, is a thoroughly pleasant chap, and not merely because he's capable of battering me senseless in the blink of an eye. A moderately entertaining time was had by all. Though it was an altogether odd moment standing there and looking at him and thinking that I remember staying up to watch his fight with Nigel Benn in the nineties, sat on a sofa in Cornwall, and now here I am cooking his tea in a working men's club in Lancashire nearly twent…

A heartwarming tale of uplifting stuff

There are many dreadful things in the world, and Lord knows I don't need to enumerate them here. So I thought it worth sharing a brief story of something cheerier, it may seem inconsequential, in point of fact it is, but it gave me a lift which lasted all week.

I was off out running, as is my wont, and my phone was in my pocket. I should point out at this juncture that it was in there functioning as a stopwatch, I wouldn't wish to give you the impression that I'm the sort who can't bear to be parted from their phone. I can. I actively enjoy it. But that's by the by, off I went, pounding the pavements, up hill and down dale etc,my phone faithfully ticking the minutes by nestled snugly in my pocket. Until it wasn't.

And lo there was swearing and a gnashing of teeth, for whilst I am not inordinately fond of my phone, sadly it's a necessary evil, if only as a stopwatch. So I turned and started the long run back. It's nicely symbolic that when I discovered i…

What the fucking fuck

We are constantly told that we live in a free society. It's the outcome of those wars we're so proud of winning. It's the excuse we use when we support one side against another in internecine conflicts in other countries. Freedom, it's all about the freedom baby. Count yourself lucky you're not living in a police state like all those commies, or a crazy theocracy like all those wacky Muslims hey, guys? Am I right? Feel the freedom!

So it comes as something of a surprise, given how up we all are on freedom and whatnot, that a Brazilian national, David Miranda, was detained at Heathrow for nine hours under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, a decidedly unfree spot of legislation which denies detainees access to lawyers or family members for nine hours, after which they must either be charged or reeased. Miranda wasn't charged, he was released. He was released, however, without his laptop, various USB sticks and any device which may have had memory, those, the rozze…

The white hot heat of commerce.

Now the eagle eyesd amongst you will note that I, cold -eyed commercial jackal that I am, have got round to sticking up a link whereby you could, should you so desire, buy my most recent book. A mere four months after it came out, this strikes me as pretty rapid work by my standards.I'm like Goldman Sachs or something.

Also more rapid than usual is the whacking in of a lazy placeholder piece like this when the blogs been dormant for a while, I normally wait about eight months, whereas it's only been a couple of weeks this time. Not sure what this signifies, but I'm sure it means something. Should you be wondering your humble correspondent has generally been found sweating like a bastard behind a stove, things in the deli being surprisingly busy for the time of year, and I have, joy of joys even been carving out the time to do a spot of writing, not enough, but a spot.Of which, hopefully, more soon. Or if not that, then at least another lazy placeholder piece like this one.…

Early in the morning

It's unlikely that you've noticed, but this blog is into its tenth year now, I imagine I'll post more about that nearer the time, but I was reflecting this morning that the guy who started writing it back in the heady pre-crash days of 2003 would be slightly bemused by the one who writes it now. The "morning" part of that sentence is key.

25 year old me did not get up early. 25 year old me went to bed very late indeed. 35 year old me, however was out running at ten to six this morning. What started out of necessity (I was too tired of an evening and too busy a crucial half hour later in the morning) has become one of my favourite parts of the day. There is a stillness to the world at the crack of dawn, those few cars that are about seem to move silently, you are aware of how quiet the world is once human noise is removed. There no dog walkers in the park yet, the playground's deserted, as I run up the path beside the church there's an explosion of song, t…

Perception, eh?

Sometimes you don't need to rant (actually most of the time you don't need to rant, but hey, it's fun!), sometimes it's simply best to let the numbers do the talking. So the social research institute at IPSOS MORI conducted some studies into the public's perception of social ills, then contrasted them with the actual figures. My favourites:

Public perception of pounds in every hundred of benefit claimed fraudulently? 25

Actual amount of benefit claimed fraudulently per hundred pounds? 70p

Public perception of percentage of the population that are immigrants? 31%

And the actual percentage? 14%

Public perception of the percentage of the population that's Muslim? 25% (One in FOUR? REALLY?)

Actual percentage at last census? 5%

Course this is only a representative sample indicative of my left wing bias, but that's statistics for you!

The question of course is WHY these are the perceived figures, but frankly it's too hot to think, so I'll leave that one f…

Not on my green belt

I've sent a piece off to the seemingly tireless Lindsey Holland in response to her call for submissions for a pamphlet of protest, entitled "Not on my green belt". The reason that she's put it together is a proposed housing development in Aughton, earmarked for land previously designated Green Belt. The breathtaking insouciance with which our council has brushed off a 98% vote against the proposed development calls in to play fundamental questions about the whole point of the democratic process. Public opposition to these moves is easy to dismiss as nimbyism (though in my case it's nowhere near my own back yard). For my own part I'm astonished at the unthinking destruction of countryside when so many brownfield sites in Ormskirk lie empty and undeveloped. With developers sitting on them until the cost of land rises. For that matter I never cease to be astonished by the planning processes lack of flexibility, unit after unit lies empty in Ormskirk, why not all…

Readings, writings, religion

A rare occurence for me yesterday, a saturday off. Doesn't happen terribly often and, much like Tony Bourdain feeling guilty about the ease of his new life post Kitchen Confidential I did have the odd twinge of anxiety about leaving the kitchen behind on what's normally our busiest day of the week. Not enough to stop me though, as I was indulging the other part of my split work personality, getting back to being a writer for once.

Yup, yesterday afternoon found me upstairs at the mighty Ship and Mitre (Coastalblog passim) reading away from my last chapbook "Delete, recover, delete". Fun enough in and of itself, and it felt good to be stretching the poetry muscles again, but a reading's only as good as the other readers, and sin this case I was in excellent company. Honourable mentions to Colin Winborn, but the show was stolen by Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayer, reading from their joint work "Signs of the Sistership" (availablehere). Both compelling readers…

The victory over fundamentalism is almost complete.

The news that those wacky Taliban have taken the bourgeois imperialist capitalist pigdog move of opening an honest to goodness office, where like, they can be faxed n'stuff should be cheering to all those of us who believe firmly in the power of office mundanity to dampen any fire in the human soul. Sure, the Taliban think they're engaging with the world, but all they're effectively doing is allowing the world to seep into them. Their unique brand of religious insanity will inexorably be subsumed beneath a tide of petty arguments about stationery, arguments over who has yet to contribute to the tea kitty and fretting about whose turn it is to wash the mugs with "old men make better lovers" and "world's greatest dad" printed on the side. The fires of righteousness may yet burn strong in these crazy kids, but can they survive a team-building weekend in Wales?

Giving the wrong impression

So the G8 are meeting in a secluded island hideaway just outside Enniskillen. Anti-Capitalist protesters converge on the locality, local police stockpile paracetamol and rennies, local shopkeepers gleefully anticipate the sales of thousands of wellies to ill-shod protestors if the weather, as is its wont in that neck of the woods,is a touch mardy. Doubtless much Ballykissangel style whimsy will ensue.

However,one aspect of the imminent wingding rather jarred with your jaundiced correspondent. The town is marred, as are many in these straitened times by a bunch of empty shops. A bleakly eloquent statement on the current state of the ecoomy, gaps in the high street. Yet, mystifyingly, they're being tarted up by the local council to attempt to give an impression of being in use, so the world's mighty aren't upset by the visible effects of their relentless buggering about with macroeconomics. Which rather begs the question,if these are the guys who have to sort the whole sorry…

Overly simplistic, smug, and pat comparison.

I have, as is do often boringly the case, had politics on my mind of late. In my defence, the westminster scene is currently an absolutely delicious melange of bitterness, backbiting, carping and generalised chaos. It's fascinating stuff. You've got ministers, actual MINISTERS briefing against the government line (hello, Govey, what up, Hammond), you've got the Lib Dem division with their partners deepening by the second, you've got Simon Hughes sounding increasingly pissed off with every interview, you've got Vince Cable growing a pair on immigration (too little, too late, Vince, but nice try). You've got the office for national statistics threatening to send their inspectors into the DWP because Duncan Smith has basically been lying. Not even massaging the statistics, just plain lying (for those unaware, he claimed 8000 people had gained employment due to a legislative change WHICH HADN'T ACTUALLY HAPPENED YET) and, of course there's tonight's hil…

Spring, sap rising

Sun shining, brds singing etc etc. I have very little of interest to say, to be fair, other than to note in passing that I managed to complete a cryptic crossword, about which I am absurdly pleased, to the point of pathos, and furthermore that coastalblog's sister blog, the long dormant Ormskirk short stories is, as of today,once more a going concern. And about time too. All told, a reasonable day, though I gather it's all going wrong tomorrow. Sunrise, sunset.

Yes, yes, Thatcher died

Now I'm not much of a one for the instant response. Have a bit of a ruminate, possibly a lengthy sit down is more my plan as a general rule. I'd like to tell you it's because I have a long-game type of mind, a chess players mind, one that deliberates before coming up with the incontrovertible, but if I'm being honest its mostly because I am a) lazy and b) thick. And also fond of a bit of a sit down. Maybe involving wine.

And Thatcher died. Now, believe you me, this is not something I'm inclined to sit on the fence about, catch me in the right mood and I'll bore you for hours about the evils of Thatcherism, it's not like I couldn't have posted a lengthy screed within minutes. But yet...

well...doesn't it seem kind of obvious? I feel like I did when (unnamed former girlfriend) first offered your humble narrator unfettered access to her, well, her...yes, this would be great but, do I really deserve this? Surely others are better qualified. And in this …

Oh placeholder, I love you

Lazy, lazy, lazy, that's me.

The more astute amongst you will have noted that there's a tad more coastalblog activity than has usually been the case over the last few years of late. Well, there is a reason for that,which has been alluded to a few times over the last few postings. In brief; in an attempt to recover something of a sense of my old self (i.e. the pre-business, pre-kids self)I set myself the task of writing something, anything, daily. It's kind of like a mid-life crisis only I've not bought a motorbike and I'm not cheating on my wife. In a more constructive vein it's am extension of an idea that I used to drum into my students in my lecturing days, the concept of being "writing fit", like fighting fit, only with more whinging. You write enough and eventually some of it's half decent.

And, do you know, it's been working. The last book only contained a couple of poems from the last few years, but a reasonable amount of stuff has accu…

Acting qualified

Stride magazine has done me the honour of publishing a couple of reviews, Alec Finlay's Be My Reader and Skip Fox's Sheer indefinite. The results of which can be found here. First time I've done anything like this, and I must confess it was a nerve-wracking process at times.

You see, what's always puzzled me about reviews, and for that matter any sort of cultural commentary is that there seems to be a giant, studied indifference on the part of all reviewers that taste is subjective, I instinctively feel that all reviews should come with the disclaimer "other opinions may differ". Yet, for a reviewer to be a good reviewer I feel they need the ability to beconvinced that their view is the correct one, that to acknowledge the existence of divergent schools of thought is to show weakness, let cracks in the edifice of the reviewers unassailable opinion. No one reviews by consensus. This, for me,was the hardest part, the temptation not to scream "but don't…

It's Budget Day!

Happy Budget Day everyone!

So after I'd dressed the kids in their Budget Day costumes and made sure I'd done the shopping for the traditional Budget Day dinner I settled down to listen to some Budget tunes and eagerly awaited The Details.

Now, I've not had a chance to go over The Details with a fine tooth comb but on first glance it appears that a bunch of stuff is going to happen in a couple of years time. Nothing like planning ahead, and this is nothing like planning ahead. It does appear, however, that all of the sweeteners are timed to drop oooh, just in time for the next election, top work Gideon.

The raising of the baseline for income tax to ten grand is to be applauded, whether it stacks up fiscally versus the money already taken off the poorest in terms of benefit cuts is, as yet unclear. House building could indeed do with a boost, and the government backed mortgages may provide this. What happens if the housing market continues to slump (a trend which could be ex…

Just......ugh

As the press over here wails and gnashes its teeth and the corridors of power resound to the sound of hand-wringing, I thought it might be a salutary time to give you a couple examples of journalism from over the water.

Now, you may or may not be aware of the Steubenville rape case. Basic facts are as follows: girl is blind drunk at party and therefore incapable of giving consent. Girl is raped and sexually humiliated by two local high school football stars. Said rapists are subsequently found guilty. There is the normal wailing from some quarters that convicting rapists is somehow unfair, she was "asking for it", all the usual bile and filth. Some choice examples here. The case gains an added piquancy from the whole fractured small-town narrative, is seasoned liberally with issues of athlete-worship, and given a shot of social media tequila just to crank the whole thing up a notch or three.

So far, so depressing. Though I confess to some pleasant surprise at a guilty verdic…

Climate change as realised by the state of my bloody garden.

Hello you.

Now, what with one thing and another, I've not had much opportunity to get out in the garden this year. Spring has resolutely failed to spring, or I've been up the wall with something, or it's been unreasonably dark, or something needed typing. The only occasion I managed to spend an extended period of time there was notable mostly for the length of time needed to persuade my sons that the mass murder of the innocent worms in the compost heap was perhaps not in the best interests of family or planet, so no, I've done little, despite listening yearningly to the GQT panel tell me what I SHOULD be doing. Wevs, as I believe the kids say, couldn't be done. The upshot being I am perhaps a trifle behind with the old maintenance.

And, dear sweet zombie Jesus, what maintenance is required.

Now, the coastalblog garden, a fairly comfy space divided reasonably equably between amusement of small boys, convenience of wildlife and growing of veg is perhaps unlikely to …

What to do, what to do...

So I've actually hit zero.

Y'see every week blogger faithfully emails me about the hot blog action I've been getting. And even through my longest hiatuses (hiatii? probably not) I'd see the odd random googler appearing. Last few weeks? Nada. Average per day 0. Page views 0,not that I blame you, there's been nothing to look at. Now this thing of mine's been trundling along for a fair old while. It's older than my marriage, a lot older than my kids, but now I've allowed it to run down to the extent that not even those looking for something else entirely can stumble upon it. My lofty position as the internet's number one Matt Fallaize has been entirely ceded to the Continuity Matt Fallaize. Merely by virtue of him being quite important and me being a shambling berk. Will this stand? Can I be arsed? How many posts like this have there been over the years? Hmm.

Oh, I've got a new book out, by the way. You can buy it here, should you so desire. But th…