Tomorrow Night Have a Good Time With This App

As I write to you I am listening to what OH calls ‘the only right-wing pop song ever’ (though I think OH may have forgotten ‘Sweet Home Alabama‘ or anything by Ted Nugent) in other words, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again‘ by The Who.

I absolutely love The Who, not least because they are from my home town (though I was far too young to see them play at the White Bear in Hounslow) and I don’t consider ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ to be a right-wing song so much as a cynical take on revolutionary politics, more in the vein of ‘Animal Farm’.

I’m pausing for a moment while I wait for Roger Daltrey to scream.

OK that’s done. I’m now trying to think of some way of celebrating the New Year whilst realising deep down that having woken up at 5.30 this morning, I’m 99.9% certain to be asleep when it comes (I’ll be pushing out the zzzzz’s when it comes; I’ll be pushing out the zzzz’s when it comes….) there are times when I really do feel old and pathetic. But hey, it’s not as if a jumble of events are competing for my participation; as far as I can see folk in Loughborough are all asking themselves what’s happening for New Year and the furthest they’ve got is someone saying they’re going to Diane’s house. I don’t know Diane so I’m stuck. It would be nice to have somewhere at least to pretend to go even though I know I’ll inevitably fall asleep on the sofa before 10 o’clock.

In 2020 I’ll be there for a while but I don’t think I can have a drink or any dinner tonight or tomorrow night if I don’t have a drink or tomorrow night if I don’t have a shower then again I have a good time to do with this app.

That is what I’ll be doing next year according to the predictive text on my phone, which gives a rather dispiriting insight into the type of words I use most often and what a rock-n-roll life I lead.


Ah well. Happy New Whatever.

Kirk out

Falling Towards the Twenties

Like many people at this time of year I’m starting to think about the New Year and decade!!! and what both might hold. It’s also a time to look back at goals set at the beginning of the year and ask if they were achieved – and the answer is no, at least for one major goal. But as with many things in life the outcome is not always within our control, and I have done a fair bit of submitting work this year but to no avail. On the other hand I have also done Nanowrimo and I’ve sent ‘Tapestry’ to a number of readers and received some positive feedback. So things are progressing.I have also, one way or another, managed to make a lot more money than in recent years which I put down at least partly to Paul McKenna’s ideas here). His book on sleep has also helped and even though I still have problems the zzzzzzituation has improved enormouzzzzzly.

Levels of confidence have also improved, leading to the ability to ‘see’ success, in other words, to visualise myself as being successful. I believe visualisation to be hugely important: nothing can be achieved without first being visualised – or, to put it another way, everything starts with an idea.

So, what are my goals for the next decade? It won’t surprise you to know that they involve being published and establishing a solid reputation as a poet and author. What lies between me and achieving these goals is a complex mixture of the state of publishing today and my own fear of success.

The next ten years are crucial for climate change, so that needs to go on my list of goals. If and when we buy a house it needs to be made carbon neutral within five years. When the car conks out I shall not replace it but join a car club instead: I may also fulfil a long-held ambition to get a motorbike and pass my CBT (OH utterly refuses to ride pillion so the bike will have to be for my own use.)I don’t intend flying anywhere in the future so journeys will have to be made by train and/or boat. As well as all these changes there will need to be moves to more sustainable food, clothing and packaging – some of which are already under way.

How are these goals to be achieved? Will-power is one thing and on the whole I have plenty of it, but will-power can only take you so far: at some point my inner hang-ups and obstacles will need to be tackled otherwise I may end up sabotaging my own efforts.

So there it is in black and white: my goals for the next decade. Brian seems to be doing fairly well with his – what are yours?

And if I don’t see you before Jan 1st, Happy New Year!

Kirk out

Bar Humbug

This will be my last blog post for a few days so I shall take this opportunity to wish all my readers and followers a very happy Christmas. Thank you for being a part of this small but perfectly-formed community and for all the likes, comments and links to other blogs which I have enjoyed reading. So whilst we gear up to enjoy the televisual and culinary delights of the season I shall leave you with a few suggestions for the festive period.

If you have time with family, enjoy. If you can’t enjoy, be both true to yourself and compassionate towards others.

If you see a homeless person, be kind. Offer a coffee and a mince pie. If you have time, help out at a homeless centre.

If Christmas is hard for whatever reason, look after yourself. And don’t forget the true meaning of Christmas which is, of course, the new (and slightly delayed) series of Dr Who!

Merry Christmas. May Santa bring you all you desire

Kirk out

All Aboard the Acronym Train!

I’m taking a deep breath as I write this because I suspect it’s going to expose me to some criticism. But here goes: today I came across the acronym LGBTQIP. Now, most of us are familiar with LGBT; it’s an alternative to saying ‘gays and lesbians’ whilst including bisexual and transgender folk. So far so good. But this train gets ever longer with more and more coaches being added; hence ‘Q’ for ‘gender-queer’ which I think means people who don’t conform to one gender or another, and ‘I’ for ‘Intersex’. OK fine. But what about the P? Well, this is where it gets complicated because according to OH, the ‘P’ stands for Paedo-sexual which if correct is obviously problematic, to say the least. (OH prefers the much more elegant ‘GSM’ – Gender and Sexual Minorities.)

But leaving that aside, there is an issue here. I have no problem with saying that people are acceptable in themselves no matter who they are or how they ‘present’. Hate crimes are wrong no matter what the context. But whilst as a society we have had the debate about sexuality, feminism and racial equality, and as a result of these debates have come to an agreed position, this is not the case with gender. Yes, there will always be haters and yes, those haters are coming more confidently out of the woodwork since Brexit and, worse, last week’s election; but the position of tolerance, acceptance and equality is enshrined in law and upheld as reasonable by a vast majority in this country.

However, no such debate has been had about the issue of gender and specifically, whether it is possible for a person to ‘change sex’ – or, to look at it another way, whether a person who feels they have been born in the wrong body can legitimately be considered to be a full and authentic member of the opposite gender. (I am aware that this begs the question of how many genders there actually are, but I can only deal with so much in one blog post.) The position of many has simply been to tack the T onto the end of LGB and basically tell people to accept it without question. This I do not like.

It is not a healthy situation when a person is labelled a TERF or transphobic simply for questioning whether a change of gender is real or possible. Yes, I understand that these questions can hurt, but take it from one who knows, there is hurt on both sides and until we are able to debate this topic respectfully and without fear of labels, those of us who are baffled and confused will remain so.

This is a complex and nuanced issue with implications for people beyond those transitioning or wishing to transition. How many partners or spouses have been faced (as I have) with the impossible choice of leaving or putting up with the situation? It may be that people have the right to define themselves as they wish, but these definitions have implications for their relationships and for society as a whole. There are no rights without responsibilities.

We have not begun to touch on these issues and it’s hard to see how any kind of nuanced debate can occur in the current climate. Debate is polarised on just about every topic and gender is no exception: if you are not wholeheartedly in favour of a person’s right to transition you must be a transphobic TERF. End of story.

I welcome respectful debate on this topic (that’s the point!) but please note that rude or abusive comments will be deleted.

Kirk out

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby – a Brief History of My Time in Writing

I have blogged before about the moment on a German mountainside when I began to write again after years of being blocked. Back then my work consisted of ‘diary’ writing and I’d be happy if I wrote a page or two each day, doubly so if there were some good ideas in it. Back then I couldn’t even imagine writing something so coherent and structured as a short story, let alone a novel. This state of affairs continued for quite some while: I’d write fragments of description, dialogue or characterisation but no matter how I sweated and groaned and prayed, nothing hove into view which might remotely be said to resemble a Plot.

Gradually these fragments began to weave themselves together and eventually some sort of narrative emerged and I began to write short stories, a couple of which were even published. But I still couldn’t imagine writing anything as vast and complex as a novel. What would I write about? What would happen? But over time the stories wove themselves together and somehow out of nowhere I wrote my first novel. Then I discovered Nanowrimo and wrote three or four more but still I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read, let alone publish them. Then I wrote another novel, sent it to a dozen friends to read and got some positive feedback. But still I couldn’t imagine having a publisher or an agent. Now I’m starting to imagine what it would be like to have a publisher and agent – but when I get there I’ll probably struggle to imagine being successful. And so it goes on.

But there’s another strand to this story, because it’s also a journey from prose to poetry and from the written to the oral tradition. When I started writing I assumed I would write novels. Short stories didn’t seem relevant and as for poetry, that was for another race of people entirely. I definitely, absolutely did not see myself as a poet, despite – or perhaps because of – having written comic verses as a child and love poems as a teenager. I just didn’t take them seriously as poetry.

Enter Word! I can’t remember what drew me to this (then) tiny group of poets in Leicester. Maybe it was that they met in a bar (always a plus), maybe it was that they seemed a refreshing antidote to the precious groups I’d hitherto encountered, one of which made a huge deal about me even attending, let alone reading. But going to Word! was like opening the doors and letting in the storm. It blew me away – and I came home thinking Yes! I can do this! The next time I took a poem I’d written and although the idea of reading in public terrified the pants off me, the group was so supportive that I never looked back.

In order to discover myself as a novelist I had to travel back in time to the beginnings of literature, to the sadly undervalued oral tradition. And that is where I found my voice.

Kirk out

My Table’s Wobbly, but I Live to Write Another Day

It seems to be my destiny to write in a series of crumbling, cobbled-together environments. My first ‘desk’ was a bureau in the hall on which I wrote in an old notepad with a school biro; later I had an old-style school desk with a sloping lid, impossible to write on unless propped up by books; after that I had my Dad’s old office desk which was held together with bits of string until it wasn’t, and had to be junked. That was a sad day. I’ve written at tables in the corner of rooms and for three glorious years I had my own study with a proper desk and bookshelves, just like I’d been dreaming of. But it didn’t last and after a year of trying to work in the library and using a friend’s spare room, I cleared a tiny corner of my bedroom from which I am now speaking to you.

The ‘desk’ on which perches my laptop or notepad is really a hospital-style table on wheels, the sort which fits over a bed. I spied it in the outhouse and thought, aha! I could write on this during the day and wheel it into a corner at night. So, for the last two years, this is what I have done. It’s cramped and far from ideal but nevertheless on this wonky table in a corner of the room I have written two novels, a couple of dozen poems, numerous short stories and of course my many blog posts to you, dear reader.

So here’s the thing; if I’d waited for the right arrangement during those years I’d have got nothing done. The thing is to write, no matter where you find yourself; so long as you have pen and paper (or laptop) and a corner of peace you can write. I have written on railway platforms and trains, on buses, in pubs and cafes, in libraries and parks and even in the middle of the street when an idea seized me and I had to write it down. Want to be a writer? Write. Accept no excuses.
image removed on request

Kirk out

We’ll Be There For You: The Play Wot I Wrote

Faced with a blank afternoon where I simply couldn’t get going on anything, I decided to make a list of short tasks I could do which might kick the arse of procrastination and actually achieve something. The list includes such activities as completing the Guardian Quick Crossword (done) doing a five-minute writing prompt (done), going through some mental exercises and writing a blog post. Hence this.

It’s time to move on from the election and allow its aftermath to unfold; as such, further comments on these topics are not invited and will not be approved. You can still post such comments on the two election-related posts below but please leave this one free for other topics. So: what else has been happening in the life of this blogger?

Well, Christmas shopping, for one. I have compiled an album of baby photos for my mother in law and have today bought other presents whose nature I cannot disclose because their recipients might read about them. I have also been visiting daughter and granddaughter in Doncaster where we did yet more Christmas shopping, but the main thing I’ve been up to is The Play Wot I Wrote.

About a year ago it occurred to me that Quakers are known as Friends, and that Ross, Rachel, Monica et al are also known as friends. Maybe comedy could be made! I started batting some ideas around and pretty soon a short skit was written. Set in Central Perk coffee house, it features all the characters dressed in 17th-century costume and saying things like ‘Greetings, Friend! I shall not doff my hat to thee as thou and I be equals!’ and ‘Hast thou ordered? I would not say no to a meatball sub,’ and other such Quakerly slogans. There are numerous references to fair-trade chocolate and Quaker oats (‘which are a marketing ploy and have nothing to do with Friends’) and I got a lot of fun out of writing it. When it was finished I began to wonder whether the local Meeting could perform it some time. It was too late for that year’s Christmas entertainment but in the New Year I sent it to a few people and they said they enjoyed it. There was an attempt at getting it off the ground in the summer but not enough people could commit to rehearsals so I gave up on it, but! thanks to the efforts of one Friend in particular (who ended up playing Joey) the performance was realised and it far outstripped my expectations. Everyone committed wholeheartedly to rehearsals and learning their lines and the wardrobe mistress dug out some authentic costumes including hats which, together with a Central Perk sign and the theme music played at the beginning and end, made for a brilliant half-hour (well, ten minutes.)

The other thing I’ve been doing is re-watching Grace and Frankie on Netflix. This is made by some of the same people as Friends, and it shows: imagine Monica and Phoebe living together in their seventies, having been married to Chandler and Mike for forty years, and having just found out that their respective husbands have been having an affair for twenty of those years and now wish to get married. Unlike the Friends characters, Frankie who is pure 100% hippie and Grace, undiluted work-driven WASP, don’t like each other at all to begin with but their friendship develops as the series goes on. There’s another series coming in January so I’d better hurry up and finish the first five.

So that’s me up to date. And how have you been?

Kirk out

Wot’s It All About Then?

An election like the last one makes you ask a lot of questions; such as, what is the point of democracy in a ‘first-past-the-post’ system? How are you supposed to do the right thing in what is basically a popularity contest? You can put together a manifesto which you believe is badly needed but if enough people don’t recognise that it’s the right thing, you won’t be able to do it. But if you change the manifesto to include what those people want, you’ve abandoned all your principles. Either way you don’t get to do what you want. A friend recently pointed out that, good as the Labour Party’s Green New Deal was, it slipped down the agenda in the final week or two, presumably because voters weren’t buying it. Yet if anything is desperately needed right now, it’s a Green New Deal: the Tories have the worst record and the most dismal plans on the environment of any party besides the Brexit Party: ‘carry on as normal and plant some trees’ about sums it up. Nothing must interfere with business, no matter that the disaster we’re heading for will interfere with a good deal more than making money.

Yes, it’s a terrible system, but apart from embracing some form of PR we have yet to devise one that’s any better, so all we have is that one tick in one box every five years. But it’s not nothing: as Tony Benn used to say, there are four questions we should ask of anyone seeking power, and the most important is, ‘how do I get rid of you?’ If we don’t have the capacity to get rid of people then a leader is as good as a dictator. So many dictators have come to power through democratic means and we absolutely shouldn’t think that it couldn’t happen here. Already Johnson is making noises about changing boundaries and rules (voter ID, for one) decriminalising non-payment of the TV licence thus preparing the way to open up the BBC to market forces, and making strikes on transport services illegal. I don’t want to make facile comparisons with Hitler but he, too, started off being democratically elected and making changes not too dissimilar to these. As for a community being demonised, Johnson is already famously Islamophobic and is now aligning Britain more closely with Israel as no doubt his pal Donald Trump would like him to do.

And I haven’t even started on the NHS and public services. Dark days lie ahead; we all need to be strong and look out for one another as best we can in order to defeat the bully-boy tactics of Johnson and his crew. Perhaps if I go around saying ‘Get Brexit Undone’ all the time something will change… after all, the opposite mantra worked for Johnson. It sickens me that all he had to do to win the election was lie, fail to turn up for important interviews, hide in a fridge and just keep repeating those three little words. The father of the terror victim begged us not to vote for him; Michael Heseltine and John Major begged us not to vote for him; hell, even Hugh Grant begged us not to vote for him. We don’t even know what his Brexit deal involves and I am utterly disgusted with us as a nation for electing him. Utterly disgusted. There are no more words.

Kirk out

Paint it Black

Well, there’s no putting a spin on this one: we lost. As for why, there are probably as many theories as there are stars in the sky – Brexit, media bias, the anti-semitism crisis, a more ‘extreme’ programme than in 2017 – whatever the reason, the result is clear.

I feel a sense of personal grief over this. It’s as if I had lost a very dear friend in sudden and tragic circumstances; I feel the need for a period of mourning before I can even think about anything else. But I’d like to explain in this post why I and so many others (I believe) supported Corbyn.

To understand this we have to go back to 1979, the beginnings of neo-liberal economics and privatisation. I was and remain utterly opposed to the privatisation of public services: I was and remain a believer in a mixed economy as the only way to ensure the viability of said services and to give government a hold over rampant capitalism. I believe unfettered capitalism to be fundamentally evil. The trends are well-documented and I’m too demoralised to go into them again but the rise of those few people at the top at the expense of the many at the bottom is clear for all those who have eyes to see.

This does not make me a communist. I have never believed in total state control of industry – I don’t think it works. A mixed economy was supported by all parties in the 1970’s and what is now presented as ‘extremism’ was then espoused even by one-nation Tories, a breed Johnson claims to represent but which he doesn’t seem to understand. Along with many others I was deeply frustrated by the failure of Labour, especially under Blair, to oppose this lurch to the right, and longed to see an opposition who would genuinely stand up for ordinary people.

Enter Corbyn.

As a man, Corbyn has been more vilified than anyone since Martin Luther King. He’s not perfect; he has flaws but, having seen him in the flesh a number of times as well as on TV and video, having continually asked myself ‘am I being duped? Is this man a charlatan?’ and answering ‘no’; my conclusion was that here was a fundamentally decent man who believed in what he was saying. I found it utterly scandalous that no sooner had he been elected, people in his own party were trying to get rid of him. There was no respect for the democratic process here. (Though people spoke out against Johnson, no such process occurred within the Tory party because they’ve always known how to stick together.)

Yes, we might have got a bit carried away towards the end (a four-day week was probably a step too far at this stage and, just and right as it was, it probably wasn’t good sense to announce that we’d help the WASPI women as this undermined our claim that all the policies were fully costed.) There was a lack of leadership over Brexit, where we should have had a policy in place in 2016, and over the anti-semitism scandal. There’s an excellent article about this here.

The extent of Corbyn’s popularity has been played down I believe, by the main-stream media, but it doesn’t matter now because we lost. However, to put Corbyn and Johnson in the same box as leaders disliked by their MP’s and unpopular in the country, is to miss a fundamental moral point: that they were morally opposites. Corbyn is a decent human being who stands up for ordinary people; Johnson is a self-serving bullshitter who cares for no-one but himself. And we’ve chosen him.

Right now I feel like a stranger in my own country.

More on that story later… in the meantime let’s be good to each other because we’re all going to need more human kindness.

Kirk out

As You Can Imagine…

Dear Friends,

As you can imagine, like many people I’ve been in a state of something like mourning for the last few days. Friday’s terrible results signalled not only the loss of hope but also the realisation of nightmare. The worst has come to pass and like Julius Caesar the terrible twinset of Johnson and Trump now bestride the narrow world like colossi. I won’t say much today as I am in the process of getting together some thoughts about why we lost, why I supported Corbyn and why I think Johnson won. I shall try to avoid an oversimplistic narrative, difficult though that is, and aim for understanding. Above all I shall think about what we can do to perpetuate a spirit of kindness and mutual tolerance in these dark days.

In the meantime many of us are going through what feels like mourning. It’s as if a much-loved friend has suddenly died in the most horrible circumstances – a motorway pile-up, perhaps, or a terror attack – and even though we knew they were in danger, we never envisaged the scale of it. That’s how it feels.

I won’t say any more now but, in the words of that abysmal series, ‘be excellent to one another.’

Kirk out