Tuesday Tactics

Well yesterday’s post may not have been political but today’s sure as hell is.  What in God’s name is going on?  We have a group of people acting in such as way as one can only ask,  what the hell are they thinking???  You start an ill-advised action, and when that doesn’t work you compound it with another one.  Then, when that is declared illegal you use the funds of the group to appeal against the decision: an action almost inevitably doomed to failure.  It’s as if they were on tramlines and once they’d started off, had no option but to go where the tramlines led.

It’s as if – oh, I don’t know.  Let’s just – let’s –

I know.  Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago – some time last year in fact, there was a government.  Now this government was voted in by a majority of the electorate.  But there were some people who didn’t like the government, and so those people decided they wanted another election.  ‘You’re not governing properly!’ they shouted.  ‘We don’t have any confidence in you!’  It didn’t matter that the government hadn’t been in power very long; or that lots of people had voted for them: these unhappy people didn’t listen to anyone.  So they called another election.

But in the meantime there were a lot of young people who had grown up; and these people were now eligible to vote.  And the unhappy people were worried that the younger voters would support the government.  So they decided that anyone who had turned eighteen in the last six months would be disqualified unless they paid some more money.  Then they would be called ‘associate voters’ and they would be able to vote.  The young people were very unhappy about this.  Some of them paid the extra money but some of them decided to take their case to the judge at the High Court.

‘What is the matter?’ the judge asked.

‘We are very unhappy, kind Sir,’ the young people said.  ‘For we turned eighteen last year and wanted to vote in the election.  But now the unhappy people have told us we have to pay extra money in order to vote.’

The judge listened; then he thought, and then he said: ‘the unhappy people are wrong.  You are able to vote in the election without paying the extra money.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said the young people.  And they went back to their constituencies and prepared for the election.

It seemed that everything would be fine.  But then the unhappy people decided to go and see the judge.  ‘We will go and talk to him,’ said the Chief Unhappy Person.  ‘We will appeal to his better judgment.’  But then they found out that their appeal would cost a lot of money.  We do not have enough money, they thought.  What shall we do?  And they decided to use some of the government’s money as if it were their own.

All this time the government was getting more and more popular, especially with the young people.  So the unhappy people said that the young voters had all been bewitched by wizards called ‘Trots’.  But the Unhappy People had done so many bad things that nobody believed them any more.

And still they went on being unhappy.

Kirk out


Monday Momentum

No, this is not a political post.  Regardless of what may be kicking off in the political arena, this is a writing post.  Since I don’t work at weekends, by and large choosing to mimic the typical working week (Monday to Friday, 9-5ish) by Monday my brain is fizzing with ideas and I am ready to hit the page running.  I write my best poems – or start them – on a Monday; I have my brightest ideas on a Monday.  The result can be that Tuesdays are a little flat.  I pick up on Wednesdays and sometimes go to perform at Sound Cafe too; then Thursdays are not too bad but by Friday afternoon I’m flagging and ready for the weekend again.

And there’s the rub: the work ethic.  The work ethic has its uses.  It’s useful for getting me to my desk in the morning and back to it after lunch.  It’s useful for getting me off Facebook and for dealing with distractions.  But there it’s usefulness ends.  I don’t need it to be nagging at me about how many hours I’ve done today or what I have actually achieved; because in theory although I do around eight hours, it is impossible to write (poetry at least) for that long, because it is so intense.  Actually I find prose almost as intense, so I tend to do it in short bursts.  But when I used to add up my hours and find that I’d only done 4 hrs of laptop-time or whatever, I’d feel discouraged.  I’d feel I wasn’t working hard enough.

But what is work, anyway?  In the field of ordinary employment work is fairly well-defined as tasks set by your employer (or, if you’re self-employed, by the needs of your business).  But how do you define it in the creative sphere?  Is it only work if I produce something that can be sold?  If I just fiddle around with ideas or stare into space or go for a walk, is that work?  Doing a cryptic crossword may not look like work but it helps my poetry enormously as it’s all about splitting words up: it’s about what they sound like and look like; how they live, move and have their being.  Going for a walk may not look like work but if I’ve been staring at a blank page for hours it can free up the mind and generate ideas.  Lots of activities – colouring, reading, listening to the radio, even sometimes looking at Facebook – can stimulate the mind.  And there’s the thing.  Creativity is sometimes like the wool-shop in Alice.  If you look directly at the thing you want to write, the mind goes blank, just like the shelves in the shop when Alice looks at them.  But if you look away; if you distract the conscious mind by ostensibly doing something else, the shelves become packed again.

It’s a hell of a job trying to understand this process, but anyone who’s creative will recognise it.  And one thing I can really do without is the work ethic nagging at me and telling me I’m not really working or I haven’t done enough.

So the work ethic can **** right off.

I don’t tend to read a lot during the day but as bedtime reading I’m into Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  At the moment I can’t decide whether it’s a corny rehash of the books or an exciting new venture.  Watch this space…

Kirk out


Iraq Inquiry? Just Chil…

Wow!  Someone is reading the Chilcot report in toto at the Edinburgh Festival?  Sounds improbable but it just goes to show how people are taking information into their own hands.  Noticed how the mainstream media have gone quiet on Chilcot?  They’re too busy focussing on Trump and Corbyn/Owen Smith tussle.  A propos of which, I watched a video of a debate yesterday between the two contenders.  Owen Smith seemed to me highly implausible (and I did try to put aside my prejudices and listen, I really did) but Jeremy only had to open his mouth and say one sentence before you knew he was for real.  The -crowd were on their feet at the end – oh, all except for a little phalanx of people who had clapped in unison when Smith spoke and who stayed sitting when Corbyn had finished.  A bit obvious, dontcha think?  You’d think they’d have the wit to spread themselves out a bit, instead of all sitting together, wouldn’t you?

It used to be that you never knew what you could trust on social media.  Photos could be photoshopped, videos could be doctored.  But more and more people (especially on the left) are coming to distrust the main-stream media (MSM) and doing it themselves: and although I don’t believe everything I see I do believe these videos of Corbyn’s rallies showing thousands queueing to get in; I believe the live streamings of debates, and by and large I believe the quotes.  I believe it because it’s all of a piece with what the man stands for – or perhaps what he doesn’t stand for.  He doesn’t have an image consultant; he doesn’t hire spin-doctors – he doesn’t need to.  All he needs to do is stand on a platform – or sometimes outside, addressing the crowds who couldn’t get in – and say what he’s thinking.  And that’s enough.  Because he speaks for us.  Time after time I read people’s reactions and my heart leaps because it’s stuff I’ve been thinking and feeling for so long now that I almost thought I was the only one.  I thought it was just me and a few friends.  But as more people join the party than ever before, as more funds are raised and as Corbyn gathers momentum (no pun intended) and transforms from a leader with ideas to a prospective Prime Minister with policies, I realise it’s not just me.  It’s not just me and a few friends.  We are legion.  And we will win.

Kirk out

Caveat Vendor

I hate haggling.  I really, really do.  What I like is to walk into a shop and look at the price of something and then buy it.  If I don’t like the price I can walk out.  But I’m uneasy if the prices aren’t displayed, because then I’ll have to ask someone and if it’s too expensive I’ll have to invent a reason why I’m not going to buy the thing.  I simply cannot bring myself to say ‘that’s too much’ or ‘I can get it cheaper elsewhere.’  And let’s face it, a lot of shopkeepers take offence at that sort of talk: I had one shout at me once because I said no thanks after he’d told me the price of something (I think it was fruit).  ‘You can get a load of crap for a pound at the market!’ he yelled at my retreating back.  Oh, the shame…

The thing is, I’m just too embarrassed.  I don’t mind asking the price of things if I’m just browsing, but if I’ve come into the shop wanting just that one thing and I consider that the price they’re asking is just extortionate, I have to invent some reason for not buying it.  ‘Oh, I’ll just have to go to the cash point,’ I say lamely, or ‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ or ‘oh, thanks, I was just asking for a friend.’  It’s ridiculous.

But when it comes to haggling you have a whole nother layer of embarrassment.  Now, surprisingly, when I went to Morocco and then to India, I got quite good at it – though I still considered haggling to be an unwarranted intrusion into what would otherwise be a perfectly straightforward transaction.  And I didn’t feel awkward at all, because everyone was doing it.  But what really does my head in is when you have a private sale, when the buyer comes round and you talk face-to-face.  For instance; I just sold an old bike of mine on Facebook.  I wanted to get rid, plus it had a puncture, so I was only asking £20.  A woman came to buy it, having agreed the price, but then when she couldn’t get any air into the tyre (I had told her there was a puncture) she tried to haggle me down to £15.  I was completely thrown.  I felt as if some unwritten rule had been challenged.  I felt at once both very awkward and slightly miffed.  The buyer was from the States, which I think makes a difference: Americans seem able to be your best mate whilst simultaneously haggling you down to rock bottom.  It wasn’t as though it was terribly unfair; nor did I end up losing much money once I’d haggled her up again – but what stuck with me was the sheer awkwardness I felt in doing it in the first place.

Why is this?  Do other readers feel like this?  If so, why?

I think we should be told…

Kirk out

It’s Time to be Insecure Again

Yes, it’s that time of the month when insecure writers of the world unite and state that they have nothing to lose but their fears…  This month I am feeling insecure about politics.  There’s so much hostility flying around in the political arena, what with post-Brexit recriminations (and racism), Labour Party factionalism, Donald Trump ghastliness (and Hillarious beastliness) that it’s hard to know where to turn.  It’s tempting, in fact, to turn right off and say nothing whatever about anything as the fear of being shot down in flames is too great.

But when you feel passionate about something you can’t just shut up and go away.  And there’s the rub: because in expressing passionate opinions you lay yourself open to all kinds of responses, from the enthusiastic to the Eeyore-ish, from the respectfully disagreeing to the abusive.  So whereas I feel more secure than I did about, say, my poetry, and I don’t mind so much if people don’t like it, I do tend to feel insecure when I express political opinions.

Aaand talking of a range of reactions, get a load of this then:

your profile photo

Yes, it’s my latest haircut (well, not so much a haircut, more a close shave.)  The other day I was lamenting the lack of dosh to visit the hairdresser’s.  Then I reflected that I didn’t really know what sort of haircut I wanted anyway.  So I got out the clippers, intending to cut a bit off the bottom and maybe shave the underside to cool off a bit.  And I just got carried away.  It feels great, as if a weight has been taken off my mind (!) but what’s interesting is the range of reactions I’ve had from people, from outright enthusiasm (Wow!  It looks great!) to a somewhat more wary (gosh, isn’t it short!) to the frankly scared.  Drastic changes do tend to evoke strong reactions in people and you can’t always predict who will react in what way.

But I digress.  This month we Insecure Writers are asked to blog about our first writing project: what was it, when was it and, most crucially, where is it now?

Well, I’ve blogged about this before, but here goes.  My first serious writing project began in about 1981.  It was a novel called ‘Seven Days’ and concerned a woman trapped in a nuclear bunker (remember, this is pre-glasnost.)  When no-one else comes, she concludes that they are all dead and that she is trapped alone in the bunker until it’s safe to go out.  To prevent herself from going mad she starts to write her memories.  Each day she recalls a different stage in her life, leading up to the recent past when the plot-twist happens and on the last day, Sunday, she leaves the bunker.  Sadly this novel has remained unpublished as I haven’t been able to do enough with it.  But I haven’t given up…

Happy Insecure Wednesday, fellow-writers!  And here’s the obligatory link to the blog:

Kirk out

So Long, So Long Marianne

I just found out today that Marianne, the inspiration for Leonard Cohen’s ‘So Long, Marianne’ has died.  Not everyone knows that ‘So Long Marianne’ was about a real Marianne, but in the ‘sixties Cohen lived with her for a while.  She was Norwegian and in this memorial he describes her as ‘a beautiful soul.’


I keep thinking that any day now we will hear the news that Leonard Cohen is dead.  But the guy just keeps going on.  He’s a sort of guru of mine: any time I don’t know how to deal with a situation I think, ‘What would Leonard do?’  Of course, Leonard doesn’t want to be anyone’s guru – but that’s exactly what makes him perfect for me.  I have a sort of Groucho Marx approach to discipleship – I wouldn’t choose as my guru anyone who actually wants to be a guru.

There’s a nice joke in ‘Finding Dory’ – which we went to see for Mark’s birthday (his choice) where the heroine, whenever she’s lost and doesn’t know what to do, thinks ‘What would Dory do?’  The eponymous blue john dory suffers from short-term memory loss, but what was a brilliant joke in Finding Nemo turns into a rather dull, overworked trope in this follow-up.  It had its moments – I liked the character of the octopus with seven limbs – but basically it was lame.  Which, for film featuring a load of fish and sea-creatures, is some achievement.  Don’t bother.


What you should bother with, though, is ‘Spotlight’.  I’ll probably come back to this as it deserves a full review and deeper consideration, but the 2015 film of the Boston Globe’s uncovering of mass abuse by Catholic priests in Boston and how it opened a can of worms far larger than anyone could have dreamed, is a masterpiece.  Beg, steal or borrow (but not from me).

That’s all for now folks.  I’m in summer mode which means that posts are sporadic.  Sorry about that, but I expect you’re all sunning yourselves on some strip of sand somewhere in the Med and don’t need me anyway.

Kirk out