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Showing posts from 2019

Angry people

There's a fairly atrocious advert doing the rounds on commercial radio at the moment. In it, a man with a warm Northern voice (the voices are always warm and Northern for ads of this ilk) extols the virtues of sitting round the kitchen table and airing your differences over a proprietary brand of convenience food (which, for obvious reasons I won't name - not least because I'm always too busy boggling at how bad the ad is to actually notice who it's for). Maybe you say dinner, or maybe you say tea, it says, but you can still shove our fat-sodden shite into your uncritical maw (I paraphrase). Leave or remain sort of differences, it says, cheerfully exploiting the imminent collapse of the country to sell chips (which seems fitting, to be fair). The message, as I understand it, is that it's good to talk stuff out, and preferably do so over some poor quality food. Whilst I can't subscribe to the latter part of their message, I do enthusiastically endorse the first …

The decline of Western Civilisation as evidenced by the tea available in the Morrison's Cafe.

One of the less edifying aspects of the culture wars in which we find ourselves more or permanently (and tiresomely) embroiled in these fervid times is the concept of keeping it real. That is to say, "authentic". A peculiarly modern notion which sniffs at any evidence of artifice, of pretension, of (whisper it) thinking you're better than other people. It is this tendency which makes Love Island the love that dares speak its name loud and long, and woe betide you if you think it's a bit rubbish. It is this tendency which saw poor old Lucy Mangan get pilloried on Twitter for admitting that she'd never seen Dirty Dancing. Get back in your ivory tower, you speccy pseuds, you're not REAL.

In a country where the PM derides a recent predecessor as " a girly swot" and popular culture is celebrated and seriously engaged with as never before, it is indeed a brave person who sticks their head above the parapet to criticise any aspect of the quotidian. Because…

The tragedy of Boris

Cast your mind back to those hazy, pre-referendum days, when all we had to worry about was whether or not our Prime Minister had put his penis in a dead pig's mouth. They were innocent, pre-lapsarian days, and on one of them, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson sat at a great desk, dappled with the late spring sunshine and wrote two essays.

Utilising all of his famed powers of rhetoric, and employing his considerable gifts for applying the lessons of the Classics to a modern milieu, this acolyte of Pericles, the great soldier-statesman, applied his vast intellect to the problem of Leave vs Remain. Long, long into the night he wrote, evaluating each case forensically, weighing the pros and cons of each outcome, projecting their ramifications and repercussions down the ages before finally deciding, with a heavy heart, that the case for Leave was unanswerable, and he must go against his great friend for the good of the nation. It was a tragedy which was pleasingly Greek in its scope, …

A fresh start

Sometimes an idea has a moment, and one which I have heard floating around a lot recently is the concept of an autumn reset (there's probably a piece to be written on how, in this information saturated and algorithmic age, it's unsurprising that you hear a few people talking about the same thing at the same time, but this isn't it) or fresh start to the year. I was reading an article (which I won't link to, as frankly it was too stupid an idea to deserve the clicks) which was pushing the idea of autumn as being the ideal time for this, a new you, a reset after the excesses of summer. The reason ran thus: it's the start of the academic year, freesh starts for kids and young adults, why not for the older ones, too? To which I can only reply: New year's resolutions are a bad enough idea in January, why on Earth would you want to do them again?

To which, of course, the only reasonable response is that nobody ever got poor by copying. The attempts to rebrand Easter …

Only the pure

Now, this may come as something of a shock, but according to the internet, Caroline Lucas is a Nazi, who knew?

That's right, this country's one and only Green MP, the sole Parliamentary representative of a party which even the Labour Party routinely dismisses as flaky, the epitome of everything that hard-headed political animals like to deride as woolly-thinking, woke, soft, unfit for governance is, as it turns out, marginally to the right of Goebbels. This, it's needless to say, is something of a considerable turn-up for the books; those who thought Lucas was more interested in renewable energy than mass incineration of her enemies have been exposed as hopelessly, wilfully naïve.

Her crime, of course, is the suggestion of a temporary Cabinet formed to stop a no-deal Brexit. A short-lived government of national unity to exist purely to guide us through what promises to be the choppiest waters yet seen in the whole farce that Cameron set in motion all those years ago (yes, …


I'll say one thing for the six-lane pile-up which passes for UK political life these days, it's given me a bunch of entertaining stuff to blog about. Indeed, with the hounding from office of Kim Darroch, the UKs ambassador to the US, it appears we've reached an exciting new low in what, when it comes to be written, the definitive history of these benighted times will probably refer to as A Series of Hideously Embarrassing Events, in which the poor, orphaned, put-upon electorate are repeatedly forced to bury their heads in their hands and sob whilst an army of Count Olafs fuck about with their future to serve their own political ends. Yes, even more embarrassing than those Animatronic zombie thundercunts from the Brexit Party who had as all gnawing our knuckles in gut churning angst last week with their utterly ridiculous back-turning nonsense (though in fairness half of them weren't really sure which way they were supposed to be facing anyway), and that was your dad da…

The dark ages

I had an interesting conversation with Mrs Coastalblog a couple of nights ago, which revealed a certain, hitherto-unrealised difference in the way we approach what we want to watch on those rare occasions when we're at home at the same time and there's nothing more pressing to do. Having been meaning to get round to it for ages, we finally sat down to check out the first episode of the Beeb's alternative-future drama, Years and Years. No spoilers here, because it's worth a watch and I wouldn't want to spoil it for you; but whilst we both agreed it was excellent, brilliantly acted and intriguingly plotted, I was all for watching another one, and she said that she never wants to see it again.

I was slightly surprised by this, as Mrs Coastalblog and I generally enjoy fairly similar things, and this was, she admitted, engaging, interesting, well-made telly; but over the course of our post-match analysis it emerged that the reason that she didn't want to see it agai…

The unedifying defence of Boris Johnson

You would, I imagine, be a little surprised if I wrote a blog in defence of Boris Johnson and his recent brush with the law; a piece which highlighted every individual's right to a private life and pointed out that we've all made mistakes, which argued that what goes on between a couple in their private residence is no business of the wider public.

And you'd be right to be surprised, because I wouldn't, and the reason that I wouldn't is that that position is spurious bollocks being spouted by Johnson apologists who wouldn't know a moral if it bit them in the arse.

You are doubtless aware of the bare bones of our PM-in-waiting's imbroglio. Neighbours called police after hearing shouting, breakages, a woman screaming "get off me". The police arrived, decided there was nothing to worry about and that, as far as the Johnson camp is concerned, is that.

Except, of course that it isn't, in these tribal times, it's not enough that the matter's…

Relax everyone, it's Coastalblog's guide to the culture wars!

Hey now, the Trumpster's in town!

I'm sure that you, gentler reader are as consumed with interest as I am at the visit of the Orange one to our fair shores. Indeed, so interested am I that I spent most of this morning in Magnet trying unsuccessfully to exchange some kitchen cupboard handles. But here he is, the red carpet has been rolled out, various royals have been deployed and many of my fellow countrymen seem somewhat exercised by his presence.

And why wouldn't they be? The Donald has, after all shown himself to be even worse than we feared when he breezed into the Oval Office on a tide of alternative facts and intriguing disability impressions. I'll not stop to bother listing his crimes here as I don't have all day, besides, this is a liberal echo chamber where I'm preaching to the converted, I very much doubt any MAGA hat types are generally tuning in for my patented blend of tired social commentary and wilful meandering. So I'll assume we're all…

Nobody's fault but mine.

I've been saddened and aggravated this week to read about the closure of Wenlock Books. Saddened because, as a life-long lover of books and bookshops, it always hurts me a little bit to see one go under, aggravated because, as is so often the case, the story is accompanied by people blaming Amazon for its closure.

Bookshops are, of course, wonderful resources, and even the chains hold a kind of magic (my avowedly digital-generation children still love a trip to Waterstone's). At their best, local independents can advise , inform and guide a life-time of discovery through books. But they, like so much else of the High St, finds itself under relentless assault from the online competitors, with their low overheads and cheerful willingness to employ people in conditions which border on serfdom. When even as lively and well-loved a community resource as Wenlock books seems to be goes under it's hard not to feel a bit helpless. It's impossible not to assume that this is just…

99 Postcards for Georges Perec

I am fairly woeful at self-promotion, having long tended to the view that I don't particularly wish to impose myself unsolicited upon people (as it's something I find aggravating when done to me)and so my books, when they infrequently appear, tend to sidle apologetically into existence with little to no fanfare. It's amazing that I'm not better known, I know. That said, I suppose that in these days of social media saturation, the cacophony is so great that it doesn't really add that much to the general cacophonous boosterism if I stick my hand up too and say Oi! I've got a sodding book out!

Well, pamphlet, to be precise. And here it is. A sequence of 99 short poems inspired by Georges Perec's "Two hundred and forty three postcards in Real Colour". I've long been a fan of Perec's attention to the minutiae of daily life, and his ability to organise the quotidian, observing day to day life on its own terms. This, however, is not exactly what …

My enemy's enemy is my friend, uh, enemy's friend's enemy, um, where was I?

I have a lot of admiration for Diane Abbott.

A pioneer for black women in parliament, for her to have risen as far as she has in the face of the twin obstacles of racism and misogyny speaks to a canny and formidable political operator, for her to have held her ground in the warm beer and curly sandwiches Labour party of the 1980's speaks to her tenacity, courage and intelligence. She has been much traduced, unfairly vilified and highlighted by a media which has carried at times an only thinly veiled racist subtext. Which is why it was all the more disappointing to hear her making an absolute arse of herself about everyone's favourite toxic truth-seeker, Julian Assange, on the radio this morning.

You see, I get entirely why the Labour line has been to oppose the extradition of Assange to the US, her equivalence to the case of Gary MacKinnon has some merit, his crime there is essentially to have embarrassed the military, something which is generally to be applauded. It would be …

Amateur Hour

As some of you will doubtless be aware, in my professional life I work as a chef. It's not something I tend to write too much about, as the industry can be arcane and opaque, and as the inner workings of my kitchen are of little interest to anyone other than other chefs, so I have tended, in the past, to keep details of restaurant life away from the blogging beyond the occasional inchoate howl of tiredness and desperation. But, two days out and suitably calmed from Mother's Day, one of the most fraught days in the catering calendar, there is one aspect of the trade which I would like to share with you all, if only as a cautionary tale, and possibly an injunction not to do This Sort of Thing.

Because Mother's Day, you see, is Amateur Hour. By which I mean it's one of the three days of the year, the others being New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day, when you can be certain that you're going to be packed full of the dreaded tribe: People With No Idea How To Beha…

The long march to nowhere.

It's so easy to forget that they exist, poor sods. In amongst all the sturm und drang of this week's "Previously on Brexenders", the midnight meetings behind closed doors, the patently unhinged press conferences, the breathless media coverage, the rancour, the name-calling, golf-club bore Mark "TA" Francois cropping up absolutely sodding everywhere (rumours that it's because his interview fee is only a jumbo bag of pork scratchings, thus making him a reasonable option in these licence-fee straitened times, are a vicious falsehood started by me, just then), the giddy excitement of signing petitions and all the rest, one forgotten band struggles on, ignored and, if remembered at all, only with a mixture of pity and contempt.

Yes, Nigel Farage's Brexit march, for it is they, gamely struggling on somewhere in England's racist East, sustained only by the occasional lay-by snack bar. And to treat them with disdain is, I would argue, largely unfair. Wh…

The Fear

As Brexit day draws nearer with the fetid inevitability of a drunken sales rep making a pass at your wife at a works do that you really didn't want to go to but you'd made excuses for the last five, it is reasonable to say that I've been, at last, gripped by The Fear. Not of the day itself, or it's aftermath; it's been patently obvious to anyone with half a brain that THAT was going to be the biggest clusterfuck since the Somme since the get-go (though argument could be made for mid-nineties Tottenham Hotspur, I still wake up in a cold sweat at the memory of a team containing Dean Austin AND Justin Edinburgh). No, I've long since reconciled myself to having to go to war with neighbouring tribes for the last box of Ventolin inhalers, and have been busy collecting beads which I can trade with gullible natives of richer pastures who I can then infect with my advanced diseases.

The Fear that has clasped me so implacably has been more of an existential funk. It'…

On Failure

I knew I'd have to get round to it eventually, and a rainy Tuesday morning with the conservatory roof making even a light shower sound like the end of days seems to be as good a time as any. I'd like to talk about failure.

Regular readers will recall that at the start of last year I set myself a variety of challenges to accomplish in 2018: reading fifty books, running 1500 miles and spotting at least 200 separate bird species. You will be unsurprised to hear that I failed signally in each and every one of them.

For the record, I managed just over 1000 miles, read 32 books and saw about 102 species. So, by any stretch of the imagination, I fell a long way short. I failed. But then, I always rather suspected I would. the purpose of these arbitrary targets, as I wrote at the time, was more to stimulate myself into getting stuff done; getting out there and interacting with the world with the running and the birds, enriching my inner life and getting back into reading as opposed to…

You're hard.

Sajid Javid, Sajid Javid, you're hard, you're hard, Theresa May, Theresa May, you're hard as well.

Yes, belatedly, here's the Coastalblog take on the Shamima Begum farrago, not so much a hot take as a lukewarm one, I grant you, but what the hell. Now, I hate to be so predictably on-brand about this, but, as I'm sure you've already guessed, I tend towards the view that the whole thing's a misconceived pile of easily-avoided fuck-up with a nice cool glass of racism on the side.

It was when I noticed normally sane people starting to share Katie Hopkins videos that I realised that there was a disturbance in the force. Friends who I know to be mild-mannered and reasonable were quietly muttering about how she shouldn't be allowed back. What on Earth was going on? The facts of the case seemed pretty straightforward: idiot goes and joins ISIS, has a traumatic time of it, loses two children, figures baby number three will have a better shot back in the UK and sa…

Cheers, Andrea

You may remember, back in the dim and distant mists of time, the rise of David Cameron. As he clambered to the top of the landfill pile which passes for the modern Conservative party, David enjoyed warbling about green issues. he would lead "the greenest government ever" he twatted about in the Arctic Circle parping on about huskies.

Whilst this was clearly a focus group inspired shift in the Tory line designed to attract a few Centrists who like to congratulate themselves for doing their recycling (and it worked, to an extent) it did at least signal that the conservative Party had belatedly grasped the idea that environmental issues were a concern for some of the electorate. as time has worn, and the situation has been revealed to be even worse than we thought back then in the heady days of the noughties, this has only grown more true.

Which is why any politician with even the vaguest sense of how the electorate feel would have applauded yesterday's climate strike, in w…

Keeping it in a box

It's coming close to new computer time, and, as happens each time this question rolls around, I toy with the idea of a laptop, temporarily seduced by twenty year out of date images of sitting around in coffee shops writing the novel which I realised ten years ago I was never going to write. It is a sign of how divorced I am from the modern world that this is the debate I have with myself, a choice between two dinosaurs of computing, with my preference inevitably being for the older and hoarier of the two, the good old-fashioned desktop PC.

Why am I not even entertaining the idea of something newer, shinier, smaller, whizzier? And the answer is simple, I don't want the sodding internet with me everywhere I go. I quite like viewing the world as it is, I like a bit of haphazardness, I like accidental discoveries, I don't want to read a fucking TripAdvisor review before I decide whether to go into a café or not. I also cherish retaining the ability to do things myself, rathe…

Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 2)

What with extreme tiredness truncating my previous list of personal reasons for failing to acknowledge that all is lost last year, I thought I'd better do a second post. I mean, four things doesn't seem like very much, doesn't even seem like a reason to get out of bed, not when faced with the utter shitstorm which comprised the vast majority of 2018. There surely must be more, I here you cry, and, gentle reader, you'd be right....

5) Not everyone's a bell-end

There were a few victories won by the forces of good in 2018. This was one of the first years where I started to feel that a majority of people were starting to get the point that we're heading rapidly towards disaster if we don't start to do something. Now, granted, this, for the vast majority, meant vaguely thinking that they might google some vegan recipes at some point immediately prior to heading out for a cheeky Nando's, or booking the flight for that edgy weekend break in Berlin but at least…