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Showing posts from 2019

Coastalblog's belated pitch for the wellness market

So the end of the year is nigh, possibly also the world, but fairly certainly the year, provided we manage to make it through the next week or so, and I think most readers will agree that 2019 has made for fairly grim viewing. The 2018 season was bad enough, but 2019 has basically been a series of increasingly unpleasant plot twists; in fairness, the shark was jumped back in 2017, with that unbelievable call-an-election-from-an-unlosable-position-and-then-nearly-lose-it plotline (though I wouldn't have minded that one getting an airing again), everything since then has been increasingly unrealistic, as the showrunners have leapt for ever more implausible narrative arcs in order to keep the show on the road. Now, last year I started one of my last blogs of the year in similar vein, only to then turn it into a number of reasons to be cheerful. I started this particular blog a few days ago in a fairly grim mood (trying to get round to doing anything other than work at this time of y

One last politics one, I promise

Okay, it's nearly here, and so I'm just going to talk politics one more time, and this is it for a bit, I promise. This has been the least edifying electoral campaign in living memory, and it's been a struggle to rise from the mire. Claim and counter-claim, smears and lies, armies of bots, rancour, bile, general unpleasantness on all sides. It's very very easy to throw your hands up and go you know what, I'm sick to death of all of it. And I am, but I'm still going to vote. And I'm going to vote Labour. I'm not going to pretend that this isn't something I have some reservations about, but I have greater reservations about the other parties (bar the Greens, and if it wasn't so important, I'd seriously consider them, but this constituency is a straight fight between red and blue, and I'm absolutely fucked if I'm helping a Tory get in). I'm voting Labour because it's absolutely vital that the Conservatives don't win,

Unreliable narrators

You, being the highly literate soul that you are, are undoubtedly aware of the concept of an unreliable narrator. The person telling the story who, for whatever reason, be it madness, duplicity or naivete, cannot be relied upon to be telling the truth. The narrator that the reader believes at their own peril. As a fictive device it has a long and noble tradition: the teller of tall tales, the braggart, the fantasist are all staples of storytellers throughout history. The unreliable narrator spans genre, mode and discipline, from Roman theatre to post-modernist detective novel. Sometimes the author deliberately lies through omission, think of the narrator of Vanity fair, who admits that not only is the story second -hand, but that he glosses over the worst of Becky Sharp's behaviour. Sometimes the unreliability is part of a deliberate campaign of misdirection, think of The Usual Suspects, and Verbal Kint's complete fabrication of the entire story to fool both the cops and us (

Memory Tapes

Nostalgia, as a lot of people have said, is a hell of a drug. This post could be about a number of things, it could be about the way we deal with memory, about how artefacts can bring moments back to us instantly and vividly. It could be about how I'm a lazy swine who never got round to binning stuff which should have been got rid of a long time ago, or it could be about how I, as a middle aged man, am in danger of spending too much time in the past when there's a perfectly good present to be getting on with. It could, viewed in a certain light, be about the power of music to transcend time and space. It could be about a lot of things, it depends which end you're looking at it from, I suppose. I'll explain: a few weeks ago, on something of a whim (though it's a thought that I instantly recognised as having been buzzing round the back of my head for a while), I bought a CD player (with, would you believe, a tape deck). I had known, of course, that I didn't

Arrested development

I'll start by apologising sincerely. I've been consciously trying to avoid the political blog posts for a while, they weren't doing either my writing or mental health any good whatsoever. Plus, it does you good to have a bit of a think about other things. But, to paraphrase Michael Corleone: just when I think I got out, Michael Gove does something stupid and it pulls me back in. You see, I've been trying to put my finger on what, beyond the obvious, has been aggravating me about the conduct of the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain in this election so far. The general high-handedness, boorish sneering and pompous insincerity is pretty much par for the course. Yes, Rees-Mogg's cracking Grenfell zinger was a pretty spectacular example of staggering insensitivity, one for the ages but given that he was whisked swiftly away and hasn't been seen since it seemed that someone at CCHQ had their head screwed on, it's all been fairly muted, safety firs

The 5%

There is, as there so often is, a clip doing the rounds on social media, you may have seen it. It's from the BBC's irksome Question Time and in it a bearded chap berates Labour's Richard Burgon over the party's manifesto. Labour have promised a whole bunch of stuff, and they're proposing to pay for it, in part, by raising taxes for those in the top 5% of earners. They're not aiming at the taxing the top 5% he says, angrily and pointily, they're going to tax ordinary folk, like him, the man with the beard, he's not even in the top 50% he says. He's heard that they're increasing taxes for everyone earning over £80K. He earns over £80K and he's an ordinary working man. It's a disgrace. He remains hilariously disbelieving when it's pointed out to him that a salary of £80K outs him firmly in the top 5% of wage earners. He can't be. Doctors earn more than him, Solicitors earn more than him. It's an outrage. Now, leaving aside th

Late Autumn light

Walking back from work in the mid-afternoon, there's a filtered golden haze on the few leaves left. I recently read Jun'Ichiro Tanazaki's essay In Praise of shadows , a thought-provoking, at times surprising study of aesthetics which was a lament for a lost world even when it first appeared in 1933. An amusing mix of the sacred and profane, Tanazaki circles obsessively round the subject of light. One central thesis is that one's appreciation of beauty is formed by circumstance, and as such the traditional Japanese homes of the time, with their paper walls and muted colours are to him more aesthetically pleasing than western ideas of beauty. As traditional homes admitted little light, he describes the beauty inherent in dim lighting, the flecks of gold in lacquerware bowls, the indistinct charm of traditional scrolls in unlit alcoves. He argues that the development of Japanese aesthetics springs from the low eaves of their houses, the interiors designed to make the mos

The pond at the end of the road

There's a pond at the end of my road which is on my way to work. It's not much of a pond, it started out as a depression in the corner of a field, and I'm not even entirely sure if it's supposed to be there, we've had a fair whack of rain over the last few years (the water table is currently higher than it's ever been) and I think it just sort of made itself; there's a stand of beech trees more or less permanently in it, which rather suggests that it wasn't always there. I've watched it change and grow with interest. I lamented last summer when a long dry spell dried it out, I was concerned when I saw piles of earth nearby, thinking the farmer meant to fill it in, relieved when these piles were left untouched and became a series of small islands in the pond, quickly colonised by a variety of plants. It's part of my morning routine, on my walk to work, look over, see how the pond's doing. One morning some fox cubs were playing on its muddy sho

Surprise! Rees-Mogg's a callous bell-end!

It would be reasonable to say that yesterday was not a great day for the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain. I mean, today's not been great so far, what with the Welsh secretary having to resign after lying about his aide sabotaging a rape trial, and the boy Johnson comparing Corbyn to a man responsible for 3 million murders, forcing poor old James Cleverly (God alone knows what he'd done to have to come out and try and defend this stuff) to do the interview round and get roundly trounced by everyone from Nicky Campbell to Kay Burley (who no-chaired him after he hid in a dressing room and refused to come out). But yesterday was a proper stinker, and not just because the Tories got found out doctoring a video of Keir Starmer . In years to come, when the history of these strange and fractious times comes to be written at an appropriate distance, I have a hunch that the mystifying rise of Jacob Rees-Mogg will be a reasonably entertaining chapter all by itself. A

Happy Brexit day, everyone!

Have you put the bunting up? Have you baked the Brexit Cake? Well, I couldn't just let it slide past without comment, could I? So, the thirty-first of October is here, When we would be out of the EU "do or die", the date when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson would rather "die in a ditch" (bit obsessed with the old death, that lad. I can relate, as a fellow fat bloke I, too, am preoccupied with thoughts of mortality), and I can't help but note that we're still, um, in the EU. But wait, what was it that everyone's favourite one-time Territorial globe impersonator, Mark Francois said, shortly after brushing fried egg off his tie. I'm pretty sure he said there would be riots, if we weren't out by now. I think.....I think he said the country would....explode? Something like that. Come to think of it, animatronic frog-corpse, Nigel Farage, said something pretty similar. We had to leave by now, or this nation was going to rise up in bloody rev

Redlines, absolutism and the rise of inelastic thought.

I imagine that you're pretty bored of blog posts about Brexit. In truth, I am too, a bit. It's sucked the life out of the room for so long now that it's difficult to conceive of a time when it didn't dominate the conversation, it's even more difficult to imagine that there's anything left to write about it. Which is fine, because this post isn't really about Brexit as such, but more about the rise of a peculiar strain of thought that it seems to have engendered and enabled, one, which was until quite recently considered a byword for naivete at best, stupidity at worst. I speak of course, of red lines. They're all over the shop, one can barely move for them. There are so many red lines that the floor of parliament resembles nothing more than one of those multi-sport indoor centres, where the markings aren't just for badminton, netball and five a side, but korfball, handball and possibly the Eton Wall Game. And what no one has yet gathered is tha

Condescension, that's all you've got.

I've been watching the reaction to the various Extinction Rebellion protests with a degree of interest over the last week or so. Not the protests themselves as such, though top marks for variety, more the chorus of voices predictably raised against them. When there are events of this sort, it's always instructive to watch the people criticising, and how they go about doing it. There's also a deal of innocent entertainment to be derived from wondering why. I should point out at this point that I'm talking exclusively of people who are paid to have reactions and opinions, I fully understand the disgruntlement of commuters and cabbies, of which, more later. That the climate is changing is now undeniable, it has been for a number of years, it's just taken some people a lot longer to catch on than others; and now that the effects are visible with every record hot summer, every biggest typhoon ever, then the people who are going to be left with this world to live in are

The week that was

As coastalblog has always been as time poor as it is ego-rich, I've started a bunch of blog posts this week without ever actually having an opportunity to finish any of them, so here they are, hastily lumped together to give me some vague sense of having accomplished something this week. What's the sodding point? Blogging is, as I am painfully aware, a monstrously self-indulgent exercise, but it seems to have been rendered even more pointless over the last couple of years by the astonishing rapidity of the news cycle, from the what's-he-done-now permaspaff of Trump's disorienting outrage-spray, to who's-getting-cancelled-by-an outraged-Twitter-mob-this-minute it's been a time when even the most comitted hack could be forgiven for only filing at around half-four in the morning, the only time of the day when you might get ten minutes without something unprecedented happening. This dizzying whirl has reached yet further levels of oh-sod-this this week, which th

VAR: the real societal schism

It has become fashionable over the last few years for bien-pensant political commentators to stroke their beards, either real or imaginary, and declare ruminatively that the real divide in society's fabric is no longer Labour or Tory, but Leave or Remain, the referendum having proved so divisive that it transcends traditional political affiliations. This is an argument which has a little to recommend it, certainly the big B seems to be the issue which will swallow both of the old major players whole (as I type, Labour are cheerfully shooting themselves in both ankles at their conference)*, but crucially, to my mind, it ignores a vital part of the thinking which makes up the British body politic: People Who Can't Be Arsed. That sizeable portion of the electorate who, each election day can be relied upon to fuck the whole thing off, or who weren't aware that it was happening in the first place, or who meant to go and vote but went to Gregg's instead. So it was a misnome

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 p

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. Becau

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