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Showing posts from 2021

The Exhausting Lies

It is a truth universally acknowledged that starting pieces with the phrase "it is a truth universally acknowledged.." is tired, hackneyed and bad writing. It's also fairly widely acknowledged that one of the most overused, and misused words in the tiring, tear-inducing forever war that dominates online political is "Orwellian." Generally by someone who a) is unaware of the the low-wattage of their personal intelligence and b) has never actually read any Orwell. Something something vaccines? Orwellian. Something something right to protest? Orwellian. Disagree with something the state has done? Orwellian Outraged that the state hasn't done something you wish it to do? Orwellian. I'm not much of a one for both-sidesing arguments, generally being of the opinion that there is a right side to most issues, but both sides sling the O word about with gay abandon, and generally entirely wrongly. Well, I have read a bit of Orwell (and I am entirely in concurrence

Happy birthday to me

 Coastalblog is 18! Yes, in a quite surprising turn of events, I note that this wheezing, hoary, web 1.0 dinosaur has reached the age of majority. Older than my kids, older than my marriage, it's outlasted countless jobs, one whole business and the entirety of what one could laughingly refer to as my academic career. It is also, I can't help but note, considerably older than faceboko and twitter, meaning I get to shake my head wisely and sadly at the excitable behaviour of these upstarts (I am too old to even acknowledge the existence of tiktok, believing firmly that there's nothing worse than adults trying to muscle in on the kids stuff, and the less said about snapchat, the better*). While the world has changed considerably since then, with a much more widely varied and exciting menus of threats to bring about the end of humanity, some things have remained much of a muchness. The  very first  post here asked what the point of it was, so I probably wasn't off to a flie

Send in the troops

There comes a moment in every national emergency/crisis/brouhaha/mild inconvenience/storm in a teacup that someone, somewhere in the offices of a national newspaper will float that idea that it's time for the Army to be sent in to sort out the floods/pandemic/lack of toilet roll/desperate shortage of Peanut Butter Kitkats. The idea is generally most loudly trumpeted/suggested/threatened by the sorts of papers that still haven't quite got over the fact that WW2 is no, longer happening, viz. most of them, and is often enthusiastically taken up by the sort of junior minister who has ambition which, shall we say, over-matches their actual ability. Send in the troops, that'll sort out whatever this  is. And so, with crushing inevitability, there are calls for the army to plug the gap left by the shortage of HGV drivers, because there is no policy failure which can't be instantly solved by the arrival of the boys in camouflage gear. I've never understood this. Requiring t

Sacred Cows

I had a little innocent fun on twitter last night, inspired by a tweet from a writer who said he was going to dunk on some literary sacred cows for traction and clout. The idea amused me, after all, social media can sometimes seem like no more than wilful controversy for clicks (how else to explain some of the more outre positions taken by Daily Mail columnists? Outrage sells, baby). I enjoyed the implied suggestion that he didn't believe a word he was saying, and in that spirit suggested he rip into Thomas Pynchon, not because I think Pynchon's a bad writer, I don't, I love his stuff, but more because I thought he'd be the most likely to have an easily riled portion of his fanbase. He was thinking of going for Alice Munro, a bold choice; she's difficult to lay a glove on, being to my mind, a fairly supreme prose stylist, not showy, maybe you could make some jokes about only ever writing about Canada. After all, if you want to invent a beef, there's always an ex

Cancelling Cancel Culture

There is no such thing as cancel culture. This is bad news for columnists, who need to find new things to be angry at on a weekly basis to justify their pay, but it's good news for the rest of us, who'd quite like to get through to the weekend without anybody else shouting at us, thanks very much. There's been a lot of earnest debate in the last few years devoted to the subject; long story short someone says or does somethingn problematic, or is found to have done so inn the past, and "The Internet" (whoever they are) deem them to be "cancelled" that is to say, no longer a thing, don't watch / read /buy /enjoy their stuff, they are persona non grata. The only problem is, it doesn't actually happen. Take, for example, Cristiano Ronaldo, a man who has essentially admitted that he's a rapist. Back at Utd with nary a mumur, watched approvingly by domestic abuse enthusiast, Ryan Giggs. No cancelling there. Likewise JK Rowling's sales have bare

The freedom of mediocrity

I don't remember precisely when I worked that I was a mediocrity. I think the realisation slowly crept up on me over the course of a few years, much in the same way as one turns round at forty and wonders where the body of the twenty eight year old went. Christ it was a relief, though As I've probably mentioned countless tedious times, I was fairly high-achieving at school in some areas, mostly English, and spent a lot of time being told how brilliant I was (I wasn't, I was good at seeming brilliant), when all I really wanted was to be good at football so girls would like me (I wasn't, they didn't). Still, due to my sporting ineptitude, I eventually learned to be proud of the fact that writing-wise, I was quite The Thing, the solipsism of youth meaning I lacked the perspective that this was a pretty small sample size at my tiny Cornish comp (we punched above our weight though, a good smattering of high achievers among my contemporaries, maybe it was something in the

Poster Culture

As one fat bloke enters, another one leaves. It's like Thunderdome, but with ham. In among the various crises and strife which make up the hellscape that is the current news cycle, you've got to find your jollies where you can, and I''ve been deriving some gentle amusement from two entirely unrelated stories this morning. The repeated entrances of Jarvo, and the very final exit of Andrew Neil, two stories which, while they bear no relation to each other on the surface have the same, slightly sclerotic, struggling heartbeat. Unless you're a cricket fan, the Further adventures of Jarvo will probably not have crossed your radar. In a nutshell, he's a serial pitch invader. He first did it a couple of matches ago and it was....mildly amusing. The sight of a rotund white bloke pretending to be an Indian player, pointing to the badge on his shirt was absurd enough to raise half a smile. If he'd left it there, that would have been fine, but he's repeated the tri


Odd how life seems to occasionally throw up these strange synchronicities. I wrote, somewhat intemperately and grumpily  last week about the animal based hoo-hah surrounding yer man Pen Farthing and his collection of waifs and strays. Well, not about them so much, more about the Great British Public's somewhat mystifying preference for saving animals over actual people. And blow me down with a feather if I'm not about about to make a highly similar argument this week. For this is the week which has seen everyone's favourite  Alpaca, Geronimo  dragged somewhat dramatically off the farm where it had been blamelessly pottering about these past few years and put down by Government vets to avoid the spread of bovine tuberculosis, with which the poor little sod was riddled, apparently. Now, I'm not going to deny that the sight of Geronimo, clearly not down with what was about to happen, getting dragged away was pretty distressing. And I'm also not actually going to defen

Wilful controversy

 I'm going to stick my neck out a bit here and venture an opinion which, given that this is the internet, some may consider controversial. The opinion is this, I, personally, don't give two shits about the Pen Farthing story and regard it more as an annoying side-note than anything else. If you're unaware of the latest farrago exercising the finest minds of Twitter, count yourself lucky, stop reading now (it already counts as a view, so it makes no odds to me), and go and have a nice time elsewher;e knock yourself out, go and have a nice cup of tea and a sit down instead. There's an incredibly annoying interview with Sally Rooney in the Guardian, try that, or maybe watch match of the day and howl like a drain at the enduring performance piece of absurdist art that is Arsenal football club. Whatever. If, however, you  are  aware, then indulge me for a moment while I explain that, while the whole thing is undoubtedly absurd, it's probably not worth spending your day s

The Christmas Prism

 So the shelves are emptying. You'll have seen it at your local supermarket. Gaps, where things used to be. A disruption of the usual service. It's disquieting, as consumers we are, perhaps wrongly, used to abundance, to the availability of all things. This carries echoes of those news reports from the end of the Soviet Union. An intimation that all is not as it normally is. The strange, seemingly arbitrary nature of the disappearances hides, to an extent, their cause. That's weird, this week the mayonnaise is missing, this week the cucumbers. McDonald's has run out of milkshakes. Nando's hasn't got any chicken. Each discrete news story a puzzler. The story, of course, isn't what's  missing, it's that things are. The reasons are various and  manifold, but they essentially boil down to Brexit. Yes, you might have a little bit of a Covidian fig-leaf covering our national embarrassment, but the brutal reality is that the haulage industry, the seamless t

Apple Pie

An unusual occurrence for me today,  I baked an apple pie. Three of them, in fact. And? You might reasonably reply. You are, are you not, a professional chef? Making food is pretty much your thing, no? Perhaps if you had been wrangling stallions at Appleby Horse Fair, or been improbably called up to the England Test team, that would be noteworthy, that , I would pay attention to, but cooking a thing? Pfft. And this would be a reasonable response. But the thing that makes the baking noteworthy was the reason. We do a lot of wakes at the pub, we're the nearest place to the crem and we can hold a lot of people. I'm used to booking them in, and generally try to  do so with as little fuss or questioning as possible, we have a few off the peg options and people generally plump for one of them. The way I see it, this is not a time you want to spend fretting about canap├ęs. So normally it's pick an option and then I'll make sure there's plenty of it, for one of the most cert

Someone to blame

 Oh right, now  we're talking about incels.  The horrors of Plymouth, when some arsehole who's name I'm not going to bother remembering because you shouldn't  decided the right course of action was to kill some innocent people are too fresh and too raw to consider with an objective eye, but the story is one that's as old as time itself, a sickening rehash of a theme that we've heard many, many times before. A fragile male ego snaps, women are blamed. I've had enough of this shit. In the immediate aftermath, it took only the width of a second for various chin-stroking male wankers to start opining about the causes of the incel movement, the poisonous kool-aid which beardy mc fuckface who's name I'm not going to bother remembering had been glugging. Unsurprisingly, they concluded that it was the fault of women. If you're unfamiliar with it, the term stands for "involuntarily celibate": that is to say, no sane woman would go near you with

More Blokes

 He's at it again. Yes, Piers Morgan, currently locked in a death battle with Piers Corbyn for the uncoveted title of "UK's most irritating Piers" has been flapping his jowls about the mental fragility or other wise of otherworldly, gravity-defying gymnast, Simone Biles, who, reasonably enough, given one wrong move could break her neck, has decided to sit the bulk of this Olympics out due to her mental state not being of the best. Never having been an elite sportsperson, or been in an Olympic final, I'll confess I feel underqualified to comment on the stress levels that such a situation entails. If only Piers did. He is, however, quieter on the subject of England's all-round behemoth, Ben Stokes, to take an indefinite time out from the game to look after his  mental health, (Unsurprisingly, others who weighed on on the mental health of young female athletes are also being somewhat reticent on the subject of Ben Stokes, probably because there's a very good

Just doing what you can

A pandemic can lead one to think in apocalyptic terms, I concede, but it's hard not to witness the US heatwave of recent weeks, and the unprecedented flooding in Germany, and not get a sense of unease, a tiny conviction that the Earth's had enough and decided to get rid. No? Just me then. Hyperbole aside, you'd have to be particularly cloth-eared and uncomprehending not to have noticed the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. It would seem that anthropogenic climate change is here, and it's not fucking about. And yet, many people don't seem to have noticed, or to have only noticed in the vaguest and most abstract of senses. Because....well, life just goes on. I can understand to a degree, we've all had a lot on our plate recently, but either a lot of people are in denial, or have yet to drawn the link between their own lifestyle and the hatchback that just floated down the High street. Life goes on, the news is full of stories about where we can go on

Keep politics out of sport? Bit late for that.

 To me, a child of the eighties, the last few days have been extraordinary. When I was growing up, sportspeople tended to keep their political opinions to themselves, if they expressed anything, it might have been some vague admiration for Margaret Thatcher, but that was the end of it. Sport and politics were, for the most part, separate, at least as far as the players were concerned. Even the rebel cricketers who went on tours of apartheid South Africa were, as far as they were concerned, only doing it for the money (that it was a political act in and of itself never seemed to enter the discourse). This was helped by having, in Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives, an administration which abhorred football. This was the era of Heysel and Hillsborough, of regular rucks on the terraces and in train stations, the hooligan was king, football was something to be kept at arms length. (When politics did enter sport, it was big, scary Cold War politics, it was the US boycotting the Moscow

It's my England, too

 In my more paranoid moments, I do sometimes wonder if the Universe is largely a joke at my expense. (Yes, I am aware of my privilege, health, status, all the things I need to check before starting with such an absurd line, I know, but I imagine that we all feel like this at times, you know what I mean) The Tuesday before last was just such a moment, one of those moments where the fates conspire and a moment which should have been sublime, was rendered, well, less so. The Universe went ahahaha, don't imagine you can have nice things. I refer, of course, to the sodding football. I am, for my sins, a football fan. Not of the every two years kind, but a card-carrying sad case, wedded to the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur and, to a lesser extent, the national side. I always affect not to be arsed about England games, but, at every international tournament , the old excitement rises, the proustian rush of memory, of summers long past, and before you know it I'm screaming at the telly


 I regret to note that Piers Morgan and the middle aged blokes of Twitter are at it again.* This time criticising the sensation of this year's Wimbledon, the break-out star, 18 year old Emma Raducanu, who came from nowhere** to storm through the first week, before pulling up short, unable to breathe properly. Superannuated personality-bypass John MacEnroe was the first to weigh in, opining that it was because she couldn't handle the pressure and Piers, never shy of an opportunity to criticise a talented young woman (Can't. Imagine. Why.) was soon honking his patented brand of toxic masculinity all over a screen near you, warbling on about resilience and toughness, this from a man so fragile that he flounced off his own show when the weatherman disagreed with him; soon to join in was the notoriously hard-bitten Kevin Pietersen, whose ego was such that he slagged his own team off to the opposition when he felt slighted, and who kept getting out the same way for years. Now, in

The mid-life crisis of Government

It's been quite the week for fans of politics as theatre. Without wishing to recap details of the Hancock saga, which which you are all doubtless more familiar than you wish to be (I,like many others, strongly considered giving up kissing after seeing THAT video, yeech), the story of where Matt puts Little Matty of an evening has been the only game in town the last few days; I suppose I ought to touch on it in brief, so, to summarise: 1) Don't care about his private life, other than it confirms that he's not bright enough to realise the consequences of his actions. 2) Do care about corruption and cronyism, her appointment as an aide is the actual scandal here, in terms of public interest. 3) He should have been sacked for the deaths in care homes / failure of PPE / blatant misuse of public funds in handing out contracts (including to companies owned by the Landlord of his local, and one owned by his sister) / Dido fucking Harding. Seems a shame that this is what got him. Re

No-shows, deposits and trust

Sigh. It's an old story. A fully-booked restaurant, a busy day, and in the middle of it, like a gap in a row of teeth, a table that,for whatever reason, hasn't turned up. Or, in the case of the Father's Day just gone, three tables. I've blogged about this  before , it's a recurring problem that bedevils the hospitality industry. As I observed in the last post, it doesn't bother me so much for the financial hit we take (annoying though that is), the staff will still get paid and I've never known a kitchen that didn't jump at the chance to have a quieter half-hour than they were expecting. I had a good day on Sunday, I took enough money, the few hundred quid I missed off the absent tables was mitigated by a few walk-ins I was able to squeeze in. What's annoying is you remember all the people you knocked back.All the times you said sorry we're fully booked, the people who wanted to come,and couldn't. Some of them were regulars,and any hospitalit

Pissing in the wind.

I'm fairly fond of a lost cause, it's probably something I need to seek help over. Lost causes I have espoused down the years have included: wouldn't it be nice if everyone drove less, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, writing, reading and enjoying poetry, Somerset County Cricket Club, trying to pick litter up faster than it gets dropped, advocating councils mow less because I prefer wildflowers to barren verges (at odds with most angry letter-writers to local newspapers on this one), maybe don't fly for your holiday? wishing people would put dogs on leads near ground-nesting birds and hoping against hope that people don't eat so much bloody junk food. As I've aged I've realised that my tastes are generally fairly divergent from the majority in a number of areas, be it books, music, politics,food, whatever. I'm used to it, and while I wouldn't wish to imply that being wilfully at odds with people is an essential part of my personality(it's certain


Exciting new ground being broken in our seemingly forever culture war this week, as HMG got itself into a bit of a semantic tangle defending the rights of racists  concerned and politically aware citizens who wish to resist the creep of *checks notes* Marxism? Really?  No point recapping the history too much, you are doubtless aware that the England team is continuing to take the knee as an anti-racist protest at the start of games, and you are doubtless also aware that a peculiarly racist   politically engaged section of their support has protested this stance, viewing it as deliberately divisive and in itself racist. They argue that BLM is a marxist movement that seeks to defund the police and alter our very way of living, and, as such, the England football team are making themselves stooges of a far-left cult who... No, sorry, can't keep a straight face. Right. This is a pretty clear-cut situation. If you're booing an anti-racism gesture, you're a fucking racist. There w