Monday, 26 December 2016

The Dead Celebrity List Song

(to the tune of Good King Wenceslas)

Bowie, Burt Kwouk, Rickman, Prince
Boutros Boutros ghali
Fidel Castro, Rick Parfitt
and Muhammad Ali

All these folk dropped dead this year,
doesn't seem quite proper.
Celebrities must fear who is next
to come a famous cropper.

Corbett, Daniels, Andrew Sachs
Glenn Frey of The Eagles,
Terry Wogan, Jimmy Young -
all dead famous people

Caroline Aherne has gone
George Michael and George Martin,
Gene Wilder and Victoria Wood,
the great they kept departing.

Umberto Eco, Harper Lee
Prince Buster, Leonard Cohen
Sharon Jones, Edward Albee,
the talented kept going

So 2016 takes its leave,
its list of dead a barrage.
Who next year will we all grieve?
Please take Nigel Farage...

Friday, 28 October 2016

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Mr Cunt.

Mr Cunt wakes to the sound of the his newspaper hitting his doormat, the crunch of the paper boy’s footsteps on his gravel drive a forewarning of the teeth gnashing shite the paper specialises in.

After a demonic shit and a cursory wash of his hands, Mr Cunt walks downstairs to the kitchen. He puts the kettle on. He gets two slices of bread and places them in the toaster. He farts the first six notes of God Save The Queen.

He picks up the paper. On the front is a story about children in Calais being 63 years old. On page 3 there is a picture of Kate Middleton with her two small children. The picture gives him an erection. The toast pops.

Mr Cunt gets the butter out, gets the marmalade out. He still buys Golden Shred in the hope that collective sanity will prevail and they will once again have golliwogs on the tin. He makes his tea and returns to the newspaper.

Page 4 is a story of a sex change Nigerian family of health tourists who have been put up at taxpayers expense in a purpose built mosque made from the wrecked Mercedes Diana died in. It costs £100,000 a day to house them.  On Page 5 a BBC presenter is being called a shithouse by a veteran of four World Wars for not wearing a poppy whilst presenting the Goal of the Month for August.

Mr Cunt chomps away at his toast, growling in between mouthfuls, harrumphing at every news story his eyes feast upon. “We’ve got our country back, fucker” he belches at a picture of a Polish woman who’s been beaten up outside a Wetherspoons.

On Page 26 there is a review of a film called Death of A Sponger. It is a film made by Mr Cunt’s hero, Leonard Cock. The story is about a man who has never worked a day in his life, living on benefits of £800 a day in a luxury yacht off the Isle of Sheppey. A brave civil servant heroically brings a stop to this nonsense and, on his first day in work at a Burger King, Mr Cock’s protagonist accidentally falls (or is he pushed) into a deep fat fryer and is eaten by his fat kids. The review is by an old classmate of Mr Cunt’s and is given 5 stars out of 5.

Mr Cunt applauds this review. He punches the air. He walks to the lounge and gazes upon his beautifully manicured lawn and weeps for what this country has become.

He gets dressed, smart shirt, suit and tie. Polished shoes. He recycles one of last year’s poppies and buttonholes it to his jacket. He kisses his wife goodbye.

It is about 800 yards walk to Mr Cunts office but he doesn’t walk. Why buy a Bentley if you’re going to use your legs.  As usual, he is immediately stuck in traffic.  He phones his secretary and advises her that he’s going to be late. He does this whilst steering the car with his knees and turning up Born To Be Wild on the radio.

To be fair to Mr Cunt, the cyclist he knocked down thirty seconds later was exactly the kind of hipster arsehole that unites us all in hatred against him. He was stupid enough to be listening to his iPod, when Mr Cunt’s powerful motor car, freed from the ignominy of first gear, excitedly bumped the cyclist fifteen feet into the air.

Mr Cunt phones for an ambulance. Police come. Statements are given. The whole thing takes up all of Mr Cunt’s morning.  It’s an absolute nightmare. People are gawping, filming the frantic CPR on their mobiles, staring at Mr Cunt as he explains to the policeman exactly what happened.

A gust of wind sends various bits of crap tumbling out of an overfilled bin. The green plastic stem of a dropped poppy sticks to a dog turd, straining to be free.

Mr Cunt thinks about his friend the Chief Constable. Everything will be fine. It always is.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Those Young Etonians - a guide

1 – Rapacious Dong. Son of a Malaysian child trafficker and keen monkey pornographer, Rapacious is already captain of the Eton Yachting Club and the prospective Tory MP for Avarice-upon-Thames. Just 15, he is a wow with the ladies according to his lawyer.
2 – Charles “Gobbler” Goldberg, Little is known about “Gobbler”, nicknamed for his late mother, Lady Evadne Goldberg, owner of South Yorkshire Police and infamous hostess on the Chiselhurst Hot Tub circuit.
3 – Willesden Goretex-Piss. Nicknamed the Diamond due to his resemblance to forgotten TV presenter Dominik and also because it was his first word. “A shithouse of the highest calibre” according to pension-guzzling Philip Green.
4 – Roger Heathcliff - Roger’s Eton yearbook describes him as “possessing the ambitions of a Kennedy and the morality of a Murdoch”. Not this year’s either. This was his kindergarten entry.
5 and 6 – Bromley and Croydon Gourment-Clench. The Gourmant-Clench brothers are charismatic, fun loving young bucks around town with a highly paid retinue of round the clock lawyers and birth-control advisers.
7 – Debutante Chargesheet. It was “DC “ who famously brought The Bullingdon Club kicking and screaming into the 21st century by introducing a ritual of burning a tramp in front a pile of untouched £50 notes.
8 – Stanislaus Von Himmershmilt.  Family became rich off constructing the Berlin Wall and are already in negotiations with regular customer Donald Trump for any Mexican projects in the near future. “Standard” as he’s known enjoys shooting and heroin, thus separating the destructive influence on his late father’s life.
9 – Hercule Cummerbund-Cunt. Master of the Penge Hunt at just six years old, and revitalised after a spell in the Kloisters Borstal, “Cummers” has already waged a £1 million bet with Coral that he will own the Moon by his 25th birthday.
10 – Paralysis Montcrieff, the 17th Earl of Sheppey. Parents own most of the Isles of Wight, Sheppey and Dogs. Family made their money from bespoke torture solutions for emerging African nations in the 1960s. “The cunt’s cunt” – Tatler.
11 – Vatican Hellstooth. Just look at this bastard. Fuck me ragged, what an absolute fannyslap. 

Friday, 19 August 2016

Camping is Shit - part 2

Our first day in the hell that is camping ends with a lovely dinner at friends. I eat heartily, get slightly wankered and look forward to a good sleep.

No one tells you that sleeping whilst camping is impossible. Sleeping bags are miserable places. A sleeping bag placed on a thin yoga mat in a flimsy tent is Millets contribution to the history of torture. Add a child rendered near hysterical with tiredness and it's no wonder that men such as Raoul Moat had a history of owning camping equipment.

Groggy with exhaustion and the mildest hint of a hangover, I heroically make my way to the campsite shop to buy two hot teas. After nearly 24 hours without wi-fi, my grasp of world affairs worryingly thin, I decide to treat myself to a Daily Mirror. The front page brings sad news. Dalian Atkinson, a former star at my beloved Aston Villa, has died in a police taser incident. This is a third omen. Today promises to be the hottest day of the year, I fear the worst.

As it turns out, we have a nice day and you dont want to hear about that. We visit Hay-on-Wye and I somehow resist the temptation to spend our entire holiday budget on books. We see ducklings on a late night chips-fuelled walk along a canal. We witness one of sport's great grudge matches - the petanque battle between Brecon and those upstart fucks from Crickhowell.

Then we try to get to sleep. One night without sleep will make a man grumpy, a second consecutive night will make him close to psychotic. What we don't realise is that we are about to learn the downside of letting a small child book your holiday location.

En route to our second spot, we make a quick stop in Crickhowell. A beautiful market town bustling with early arrivals for the Green Man Festival, who this year seem to be hosting all my favourite bands as some kind of punishment for me being in a tent round the corner. I take turns to insult locals as to the piss poor petanque team that represents their shitty little Brexit town as a small act of revenge*

Campsite two is in the small village of Llanellen, near Abergavenny. We find the village shop to ask for directions. The proprietor is only too delighted to be disturbed from building a papier mache model of the Guernica massacre by three lost people. We buy a cursory carton of orange juice and make plans to go to Abergavenny for supplies later. It is a journey we will never make.

Middle Ninfa is a wonderful and remote place high on the Blorenge. It is accessible only by the steepest, narrowest road I have been on in this country. A road for 4 x 4s, not 11 year old Peugeot Partners filled with camping equipment, driven by my increasingly terrified wife. The screaming, luckily, is only made by the car as it finally comes to a stop at the beautiful farmhouse after driving at 30 degree angles. The owner, Richard, as pointed out by our daughter, looks like a weather worn Jeremy Corbyn. Before he can show us our pitch, he parks our car for us as my wife is still in a state of polite catatonia. With directions we are pointed to a place I presume is reserved usually for trainee sherpas. To get our stuff to this giddy height I need to wheelbarrow our stuff up another hill.

It is at this point that the sun decides to turn itself up a notch and my transformation from reluctant, miserable camping Dad to Sisyphus of the Sleeping Bags begins. A miserable 45 minutes making repeat journeys to our pitch ends with me finding our child crying at the thought of a night recreating some of the less awful moments from The Road.

Why has my daughter chosen this place? Because a horse visits this field when campers come. The horse, I guess, is unimpressed with the remarkable panorama afforded those who visit. The Skirrid overshadowing the little market town, the trains to civilisation a tiny distant line of hope. Hot air balloons soar close by. It is a place of absolute wonder. My daughter begins to cry.

"I dont like it, I want to go home."

At this point I am trying to mallet tent pegs into a ground that has not seen rain for several weeks. Already rendered breathless by wheelbarrowing our stuff to this hellish place, I am mentally calculating how far my screams will carry across the valley. My wife, finally capable of speech again, says she cannot drive up that hill again and we will have to survive on whatever food we have on us. Too proud to admit defeat to the farmer, we resolve to stay and see the night through.

Then we are attacked by a plague of horseflies.

Our tiny purple tent has clearly been advertised in the insect world as hosting Horsefly Glastonbury. Thousands of flying bastards have flocked to see Midge Adele or something. It is horrific. We decide to build a fire. I venture down with my wheelbarrow to buy firewood. Now we are no longer campers. We are soldiers in a war with Mother Nature.

Incidentally, the Blorenge is said to be the inspiration for the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful. The Lord God may have made all creatures great and small but I'm determined to be Lord of the Horseflies. Our fire is quickly built, soon the midge scum will choke on our mighty smoke and perish in our triumph.

Except a breeze has begun and is taking the smoke away from the flies. Advised by the ever patient Richard that the horseflies will disappear at night, we decide to see what food and drink we have to survive the evening.

Crisps for tea it is then.

The evening, as it turns out, isnt that unbearable. The thought of leaving this god forsaken place in the morning acts as a protective blanket over the three of us. That and a solemn promise we can have a fry up first thing tomorrow. Our daughter, for whom an evening meal of crisps and Party Rings is nothing less than culinary heaven, has cheered up no end. For we have been visited by Fly the Horse.

For an hour this beautiful creature stands over us while we eat. We take turns to feed it handfuls of grass torn from the hill. We are at one with nature. We would survive a return to the wild., we are made of tougher stuff than most of our pathetic home-comfort dependent wage slaves.

Where's the toilets?

A seemingly unending torrent of horse piss from Fly, whilst entertaining in the sheer couldnt give a fuck nature of its delivery a few yards from our tent, has inspired in our own bladders a sudden desire to visit the loo. The toilets were indicated on our arrival as being over there....

The distance was one of several technological generations. A compost toilet whilst clearly kind to Mother Nature, is a shock to anyone who has never wanted to make stuntmen of their bowel movements. Struck by a mutual poo fear, we return to our tent and blessed with traumatic exhaustion, we sleep soundly.

(A QUICK ASIDE HERE - Middle Ninfa is a beautiful, magical place. And for people with proper vehicles, camping nous, equipment and all that it's a wonderful experience to be treasured. For the kind of idiots who leave booking such places to a primary school child, however, it's a trial with a deserved punishment. Don't let our idiocy and my cynicism deter you.)

Morning comes and we pack and depart with a haste that we disguise with jaunty small talk about checking out Abergavenny's reputation as a real foodie town. The £4 fry up I enjoy half an hour later tasted all the better for it's lack of anything foodie about it.

(A SECOND QUICK ASIDE HERE - I am using the term foodie here ironically. I fucking hate foodies and anyone who uses the term. Nigel Slater, Yotam Ottolenghi, Jamie Oliver. These people are utter bastards. Ooh what's for lunch, Nige? A quinoa and snail piss salad atop Mongolian yak bread. Fuck off.)

Our final campsite is Broadstone, near Coleford. A campsite that straddles the Welsh/English border. It is a beautiful place, I can honestly say it was the most I have ever enjoyed a night beneath the stars. With a
beautiful barbecue provided by Chef Wife and cold lagers courtesy of a Monmouth supermarket, I almost started to believe I enjoyed this nomadic lifestyle.

Before we settled down for the evening, we decided to visit the historic market town of Coleford. A quick tip for anyone, dont visit Coleford. There's nothing there except charity shops. Go to Monmouth or Ross instead. They're much nicer.

We awoke to the most beautiful sound a reluctant camper can hear. Torrential rain. Followed by another camper saying "We're going home. There's a terrible storm coming." In between packing various wet pieces of tent into the car, we chatted with a semi-permanent resident of the site, a lovely, gentle soul called Herb. A former soldier, he spoke to us about the local geology, the cyclical nature of life, the dangers of unchecked materialism and the joy of the occasional toke. This is usually the exact sort of talk I would walk into a burning abbatoir to avoid but he did all this whilst making us endless cups of tea.

Car finally packed, we returned home. The cats had survived. No other neighbours had died. The grisly omens of the week amounted to nothing. Our kettle sang with the joy of a busy hour ahead.

But best of all I could take a shit whilst checking my text messages.

* I don't really. I don't even know what petanque is, or how to say it. It looks well Brexit though.

Camping Is Shit - part 1

There had been talk all summer of going camping. I dismissed it in much the same way as I dismiss talk of decorating and Christmas shopping - the cavalier ignorance of a man who senses that these things may come to pass but probably without too much of his own input.

Now, I dont want you to think that Mrs Fourfoot does everything around these parts but as she is the practical, sensible, driving licence owning half of the marriage it will look like that to the uninformed. For example, it fell to our daughter, already at 11 a cross between Dorothy Parker and Lisa Simpson, to source campsites within a 50 mile radius of our beautiful, waterproof, wi-fi ridden flat.

Campsites duly chosen, I spent last Sunday evening analysing 5 day forecasts with an intensity previously saved for things like running around High Street shops half two on Christmas Eve. The forecast was as poor as it was bright. Nothing could be done, I was to go camping.

Camping, as anyone fortunate enough to live since the advent of the brick knows, is about as relaxing an activity as documenting mass graves in regions devastated by war. But having promised our daughter some sort of getaway experience and armed with a holiday budget of around £3.56, the world of tent pegs, disposable barbecues and chemical toilets was our only option.

Packing the car, we noticed a higher than average police presence in our street. It transpired that one of our neighbours had lain dead in his flat for several days. Seizing upon this as a bad omen, I broke down and begged my family to reconsider this reckless proposition. Soothed by my daughter with the promise of cold beer and burnt meat, I was soon strapped in to the Peugeot Partner and bound for the Brecon Beacons.

The Beacons have had a bit of bad press of late what with our armed forces hellbent on training our soldiers to die there and the A470 that winds past it acting as a Mecca for suicidal motorcyclists but, all that death aside, it really is a place of outstanding natural beauty. To pass Merthyr Tydfil and chance upon this timeless vista is like leaving a Chubby Brown concert and finding oneself, well, anywhere else really. With the sun shining and the sky full of roadkill chasing buzzards, I began to relax. To ease myself into a week of sleeping beneath the stars, we had arranged to meet some old friends for dinner in Brecon. I looked adoringly at my family and smiled. This could be fun after all.

I knew, before I had been in Brecon three hours, that they meant to kill me.

Stopping for supplies in the town meant trawling through many many charity shops for holiday reading and a chance to discover my daughter's "amazing" game. This game is called Charlotte Church and involves holding up any copies of Charlotte Church's Tissues and Issues CD found in a charity shop's CD haul. The insolence of youth, I suppose. Suppressing the urge to tell my child the game is actually called David Gray, and ignoring the plethora of White Ladders on the shelf of Save the Children, I decided to phone our evening's dinner companion to inform them we had arrived safely and could we stay in their house for a week. It was at this point I discovered that Brecon, clearly recovering from the hell of the just finished jazz festival, had forgotten to have a mobile signal.

Still in a state of shock, I sat in silence in our short drive to our first campsite of the week, Bishops Meadow. We were greeted at reception by an elderly man in a golf buggy who looked a bit like Chris from Eggheads. He pointed to a large field and told us to camp where we liked. Seizing the opportunity to contribute something to our campaign, I pointed to the huge shady area beneath a great solitary oak in the middle of the field. With the temperature already in the high 80s, and proud possesor of a complexion somewhere between Moon Shimmer and Frosted Dawn on the Dulux paint chart, I feared anything else would mean utter misery.

To my surprise, Team Fourfoot agreed. And so, to the task of erecting a tent. There are three stages to erecting a tent. The first stage, which I admit to being rather excellent at, is Staring At All The Constituent Parts on the Ground and Saying Well I dont fucking know do I? This, despite, possessing one of the less complicated tents £3 can buy at a carboot. Second stage is Helping Someone With Common Sense Put The Tent Together As It Really Isnt That Hard. My main contribution to this bit was hammering pegs in to the hard ground with a mallet and swearing throughout. The third stage is Silent But Still Undignified Weeping.

Our home thus built, it was time to enjoy a picnic. Alas, daughter had other ideas. In her research for sites to visit, she had identified items of specific interest to her at each potential destination. And this one had been chosen for its swimming pool.

Having done nothing of much use so far on the trip, it was inevitable that I should be the one to accompany child both to and into the pool. As I went to the car to look for towels, I chanced upon a face down playing card with the WWE logo. Hypnotised by its incongruence, I turned it over. It was a picture of somebody called The Undertaker. Seizing upon this as a bad omen, I broke down and begged my family to reconsider this reckless proposition.

Moments later, I was in the water. There are few things more horrific to me than the prospect of a swimming pool filled with screaming children. The best place for water and screaming children is a screening of Jaws or an old We Are The Champions. Needless to say, despite the temperature now well into the 80s, stepping into the pool was like stepping into Captain Oates miserable, frozen shoes. After some minutes of screaming, I settled into that age old pastime of Waiting For My Child To Get Sick of Splattering My Face With Frozen Chlorine.

Several hours later, we made our way back to the tent. To do this, we had to go through the Caravan and Camper Van Zone. It seems that caravanning has come a long way. Everywhere we looked people sat in awnings with laptops, wide screen televisions and snooker tables. I felt a mixture of awe and pity at these people incapable of surviving in the wild without every modern conveniece usually afforded to them. Emotions which I quickly disposed of when I remembered we had no mobile phone signal....

Coming up in Part 2: Sleeplessness! Wheelbarrows! Corbyn Lookalikes and Horse Piss As Entertainment!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Elephant and Castle

A few years back I wrote a series of semi-fictional stories about the six years I spent in the curious west Wales town of Carmarthen.

This particular one seemed to strike a chord with a few people so I thought I'd share it. As I have nothing else coming to mind to fill my 100 days of happiness attempt!

The names and streets were changed to reflect the alternate vision of Carmarthen I had, a kind of narcotic theme park, a Shangri-La. The Elephant and Castle was a real pub, and was a home from home for me and several others like me. I miss it still.

Last Night An Elephant Died or Why I Can’t Bring Myself To Watch Terminator 2.

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes , and joys, and cares long, long forgotten.
   ``Your lip is trembling,'' said the Ghost. ``And what is that upon your cheek?”
   Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where he would.
   ``You recollect the way?'' inquired the Spirit.
   ``Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!'' observed the Ghost. ``Let us go on.”
   ``Remember it!'' cried Scrooge with fervour; ``I could walk it blindfold.”

                                                                                    Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

The Elephant is a strange pub. I say is, though it hasn’t opened its doors since 1992. It doesn’t exist anymore, it’s a block of offices now which, considering its previous incarnation as a shelter for those hiding from the worlds of effort and responsibility, seems a cruel joke.
            Walk through the town centre, up past the Town Hall, left into George Street. Ignore the nicer pubs, the wine bar, the cinema and the theatre – greater entertainment lies beyond. Keep going to the end, there’s a grim little side street called The Calling, like something out of an Expressionist film – crazed diagonal walls leaning into a path designed for drunks to automatically straighten themselves. At the end of this path lies The Elephant.
            The Elephant has a thick door made of oak and reinforced with the kind of metal you’d see on a medieval castle. It’s open most hours though. Step inside and you’re greeted with a dimly lit paradise, a glaucomic Heaven. The bar is U-shaped. It is a place that could not survive in today’s age of ubiquitous chain-pubs with the disgusting aroma of microwaved food. The Elephant doesn’t serve food; it’s here to get men pissed. No women drink here. It’s not a rule; it’s just something you don’t see.
            The landlord, Graham, looks like Jimmy White. That’s if Jimmy got bored of snooker and snazzy waistcoats and had decided that a day spent behind a bar reading The Sun and shouting at invisible snappy dogs was a better life.
            Nobody under the age of 50 drank here. This was a pub for the vocational drinker. Men who had seen their best years slip away in a long drawn-out haze of divorces, sackings and enormous bar tabs. Guys like Hywel, a man who you could see must have been handsome once but now, in his autumn years has the red jowls of a bloodhound stood too close to a sunset. Or Johnny Horses, a man who I presumed had a thing about the nags or connections to some of the successful stables on the outskirts of town, but who merely turned out to have the coolest name ever.
            Me and my mates drink here. We should, of course, be at college. Or doing something constructive with our youth but we’re here. I should introduce them really. Garry’s wiry, whippet-thin with a permanent rollie hanging from his lips. He’s only 21 and already he has smoker’s fingers, permanently stained with the same faded gold you get in old books. The Monk’s carved from wider wood than Garry. He’s a year older than me and Garry; this is enough for us to call him Dad sometimes. That, and the fact that he dresses like a Dad. He’s always got a cardigan on or a nice shirt from Marks and Spencer. Proper shoes, no trainers.
            Whenever we enter the Elephant, we respect the unwritten rules of the establishment. We don’t sit at the bar; we sit round the far side by the jukebox and the pool table. The scruffy end. The tables are giant pennies. We sit on old milking stools. The pool table has bright blue baize which is Graham’s idea of decorating. The jukebox is old school. Vinyl. The most recent record on here is ten years old, Going Underground by the Jam. The rest is classic Sixties pop and rock – Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, Kinks. We feed the jukebox with fifty pences and he nourishes you in return with seven songs. Crackling through the speakers like a transmission from sometime before you were born, the music helps to give you the impression that the Elephant is a time machine.
            Not just travelling to the past, mind. To go to the bar is to stare into your future, ordering your fourth pint of the afternoon you’d sometimes find yourself staring across at Johnny Horses or Bill or Jock or Dai – guys sat in the darkness, silently contemplating their mortality through the muddied reflection of their stouts. They look back at you – you are the ghosts of Christmas past.  But the pints come, Graham gives you your change, asks you to pick a number for the Christmas raffle game he’s pinned above the till, and you think about Christmas and your mates and it’s all good again – Marley’s ghost has gone back to the spirit row.
            Years pass in this fashion, endless games of pool, drunken conversations about everything from the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the pointlessness of owning a kite. When you found out you were going to become a Dad, you came in here. When your son was three weeks old, this was the first pub he entered (don’t tell his Mum). All manner of celebrations, consolations and consultations took place in this church.
            Gradually, the regulars accepted you. Accepted a pint from you if you were buying. Offered them back. Nodded by means of greeting as you stumbled in, and by means of farewell as you staggered out.
            You invented your own games here. Such as Cross-Country Darts. The rules of Cross-Country darts were not dissimilar to the traditional game. Three arrows. One dartboard. It was the distance they had to be thrown from. That and the run-up from outside the pub, around the bar and at the exact moment the ancient dartboard came into view; the darts must be released at once, not individually.
            The best score was an astonishing 73 from the Monk, involving a triple 20 that brought tears to the eyes of all who witnessed it. A 13 proved an unlucky omen and the third dart smashed the little light bulb above the scoreboard.
            In the Elephant we were accepted.

A typical Carmarthen summer morning. Me and the Monk are standing underneath his enormous umbrella outside Smiths when Graham runs up to us.
            “You coming tonight lads?”
            “Not tonight, Graham. Bit skint this week,” I say.
            “Try and come, it’s invite only. Special occasion.”

The Elephant doesn’t do weddings. Or birthdays. It’d be hard to tell if there was a wake taking place there. Special occasion? Poverty be damned. It’s a date.

Later that evening, the three of us are making our way down the Calling in single file. As we finally turn the corner onto Catchpole Street we notice the Elephant’s lights are off and the curtains are shut. The medieval style fortress door is closed too.
            I knock.
            The little window at eye height opens, and then shuts. The door is opened and we are ushered in. The door clangs behind us.
            Before us, the Elephant – always dingy is now positively subterranean. Candles are lit across the bar. This isn’t a pub, this is a séance.
            The big telly has been taken down from the corner and placed upon a table opposite the bar. They don’t show football or rugby here as that might attract the wrong sort of crowd. People. The only thing that’s ever on that telly is old Westerns or American daytime dramas like Quincy and the Rockford Files. They had Strike It Lucky on one night and a lot of money changed hands with Johnny Horses leading the betting.
            All the old boys are here tonight. Graham’s laid on a spread. Homemade cawl, fresh rolls and, it transpires, free beer. The telly is showing a video of Terminator 2. The old fellas like a bit of nuclear holocaust with their soup.
            “What’s all this in aid of then?” the Monk asks.
            The old fellas turn for a moment and, on realising that it’s us, go back to watching children evaporating on the telly.
            “I’m doing a bunk, lads.”
            “This is the last night. I’ve got a taxi coming at midnight and I’m off..”
            “Have a few pints on me, lads. You’re good guys. Have a drink.”

We drink like condemned men, I feel like something terrible has happened. The scruffy end of the room is in darkness, the dartboard and the big pennies already falling into memory. Doesn’t seem right sat here without music. All we can hear is gunfire and the slurping of soup.
            When Graham lets us out, we say goodbye like we’re going to see him in the morning. No one says anything as we trudge our way back up the hill through town. It’s dark, it’s wet and it’s late. Everyone goes to bed without saying anything.

The local paper the next week mentions the closure of the Elephant. There’s rumours of hundreds of thousands of pounds owed to the brewery. Talk of drug dealers, gambling debts and vengeful ex-wives. Taxis to Heathrow, flights to Brazil.
            The letters are taken off the pub and a for sale sign drilled to the wall. Occasionally we saw Johnny Horses in the street and would exchange cursory nods.
            I failed my degree and the Monk failed his.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

British Passports for Beautiful British Hands

Well done Britain. Looks like you’re gonna do it again.

You’re going to do what you always do and take as your source of information the same elite bunch of very rich, ambitious, powerful liars you always do.

And now you’re going to get what you always get in return from that lot.  Nothing, zilch, nada. Probably even less than that.

We’re about to tell the second largest economy in the world to go fuck themselves.  And why? It can’t really be because of 1,000,000 immigrants waiting to scale the White Cliffs of Dover, or the apparent myriad forms of red tape that prevent us Great Britons from living a life free of political interference. It can’t be because of that, because they’re both inventions of the media, and you’re intelligent people trusted with the vote.  So why?

Leaving the EU won’t solve your concerns about immigration. Incidentally the phrase “concerns about immigration” – that’s the new “Some of my best friends are black” and saying it sets off alarm bells. Leaving the EU will absolve a few British politicians of any desire to show distress the next time (and there’ll be plenty more next times now) a few kids drown on a Mediterranean beach.  “Not our problem” Nige will say, now that his dog whistle racist bullshit has been validated.

Leaving the EU won’t make us any better equipped to deal with terrorists. You know, the terrorists we helped create with our attempts to destabilise the most volatile region on Earth. Those guys, the ones the “immigrant problem” are running for their lives from. But we’ll be able to extradite people on the flimsiest of pretexts now. No more pesky European Human Rights to hold us back now. And now there’s a CCTV in every home (although you call it your internet) we will all be safe. Safe from the ideological madmen hell bent on ruining our way of life. Or at least the Muslim terrorist flavoured ones, right?

Leaving the EU won’t protect our borders.  5000 miles of beach. That’s quite a lot of water to patrol. Where’s the profit going to come from? Because that’s the only thing that really motivates your Borises, your Nigels. Where’s the moolah?

Leaving the EU won’t solve our housing crisis. Building homes will do that. Affordable homes. Leaving the EU won’t solve the strain on the NHS. Properly funding the NHS will do that. That money we’re apparently going to save on EU membership isn’t going to the NHS. That’s going to fund further tax breaks for the richest in society – the only people Boris and Nigel ever care about.  And if you believe otherwise, well more fool you. Best of luck with avoiding illness, unemployment and other woes that can befall pretty much anyone.

Oh, do you think they really give a shit about you? Do you think the UK is now going to suddenly fly all the foreigns back to where you think they came from? Oh, bless.  It isn’t going to happen. And now the funny man with the silly hair is going to be Prime Minister soon. He is funny, isn’t he?! So funny. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about the funny man and all the hilarious things he’s going to do when he’s in charge.  And soon lots of other people will have those tears too.


Monday, 13 June 2016


(OFFSTAGE - an insistent bass drum bangs, a sole trumpet plays the refrain from the Dambusters March, the sound of smashing glass, of screaming. An idiot choir bellows the strange and primitive chant of ING-UH-LUND)

There is a violence and a racism ingrained at the heart of much of what might be called English culture. That's what's shaping this referendum, that's what's fuelling these idiots in France.

It starts with the royals, works down through the politicians, cops and media and ends up with pricks in Union Jack t-shirts singing Ten German Bombers and No Surrender to the IRA. We commandeer the local pubs, chuck a few chairs about, and it's all OK because its banter and lads and all that fucking tired shit.

Our royal family hunt defenceless animals and get celebrated as "characters" when they make racist gaffes. Our captains of industry fleece pension funds and dodge taxes, our media hack dead kids phones and ruin countless lives. We celebrate wealth and privilege without challenging it. We have Children in Need as an annual event, a fucking televised celebration of our continuing to elect governments in thrall to the idea of a Great Britian with a seat at the Security Council and a fuck off warship ready to send innocent kids to their maker at a moment's notice. Paedophilia isnt a barrier to office, it's one of the perks. We call our soldiers our brave lads and then fail to look after them when they return home. The two best selling papers in the UK are obsessed with demonising foreigners as terrorists, thieves and cowards.
Our nation's greatness, politically speaking, came from building an empire based on exploitation, enslavement and murder. We didnt fight the Germans in two World Wars for any other reason than that they threatened our cash flow. We didn't defeat them for any other reason than the intervention on our side of bigger military forces. And yet, our obsession with the myth that we showed Europe who the top boy was, that we were the sole saviours of the day persists.

No surprise then that when our football fans go abroad, they feel entitled to wreck the place and get caught up in all manner of idiocy. The Russian hooligans came with an agenda, getting a reputation as the "top boys" of Europe. Had our own "top boys" not behaved with such vicious recklessness the last 40 odd years, the events of the last few days may never have happened. The parallels between hooliganism and our colonial past are clear - we cover up the crimes of Empire with "Boy's Own" adventures, we let our hooligans off the hook with adjectives like "laddish", "high spirits" and "boisterous".
Quick aside - hey Wales fans - when you stop needing police shipped in from other parts of the UK whenever Cardiff play Swansea, when there isnt a single sad little SOUL CREW book for sale in every bookshop in Cardiff, when you've sorted your own little hooligan problems out, feel free to tell us how great your fans are. You've behaved impeccably so far this tournament, and credit to you for that, but let's not pretend that this somehow makes you the better nation. Because once you start to believe that kind of stuff, you're on the road to being just like the hooligan neighbours you affect to despise. It's not such a great leap from Facebook groups like "Welsh not English" to ones like "Britain First."
Our arrogance, our much trumpted superiority to "Johnny Foreigner" couldn't be better summed up than by us having a referendum about being part of Europe - shouldnt it be them having one about wanting us there at all?

Come June 23rd, there's a reasonable chance that all 3 British teams will be out of the European Championships one way or another. I suspect that the relief felt by terrified locals, sick of cleaning up after us will be echoed all across Europe if we kick ourselves out of the EU too.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Alan Shearer's Euro 96

Being the kind of wallow-eyed sentimentalist that gets all emotional over hearing the theme tune to Animal Magic or stubbing my toe on a discarded DAT player, Alan Shearer’s Euro 96 on BBC last week was the kind of television designed to fill my Proustian jug with alcopops and tears.
20 years on from the last time that England reached the last four of a football tournament, big Al took a road trip to meet various survivors of that glorious summer that made Gina G a household name.

Alan met Terry Venables at his worryingly remote hotel in Spain, Paul Gascoigne on a symbolically empty stage in Newcastle, David Seaman in a haunted dogging spot.  Only the perennially 30 year old Teddy Sheringham, swinging his way round a golf course, seemed relatively untroubled by the events of 20 years ago.
Venables, who now resembles a kind of semi-retired owl, claimed that it was the best time of his life but his eyes spoke of sleepless nights filled with what-might-have-beens. Gascoigne’s demons go much deeper than footballing regrets but the agonies felt by us all as his outstretched toe failed to connect with that Shearer cross seemed to still be terribly close to the surface 20 years later.
Contributions from Baddiel and Skinner, whose “Three Lions” became the anthem of the tournament, and commentators John Motson and Barry Davies added some nice perspective but it was interesting to note those absent from proceedings. England’s captain Tony Adams, whose own troubles with alcohol peaked soon after the tournament wasn’t included. Stuart Pearce, whose penalty against Spain was perhaps the most gutsy kick any footballer has ever made, and Gareth Southgate whose penalty miss proved fatal to England’s hopes – these would have been the ones to catch up with, to see how it feels to carry those burdensome memories alone for so long.
And without these perspectives, what could have been a genuinely interesting programme, proved to be a little bit of historical revisionism. Feel good stuff admittedly, for which fan cannot resist watching Gascoigne’s impudent brilliance against Scotland again and again, but detrimental to the programme overall.
There can be no denying that Euro 96 was a wonderful tournament to be an England fan. It was mainly because of the dross served up since Italia 90 up to and including half time against Scotland that made what happened in the following 10 days or so feel so special. This was a country celebrating not being world beaters but not being entirely shit either. Those ten minutes against Holland remain burnt onto the retina as being a moment when pre match optimism seemed delightfully negative. Sport is full of who knows and what ifs. It's what makes remembering events from 20 years ago such a bittersweet experience. But to gloss over the past is damaging and makes our memories less valid.

If Italia 90 was the start of football's image rehabilitation then Euro 96 and Three Lions was the last piece of the jigsaw. Within a year of Southgate's penalty miss we had New Labour in power. A repackaged working class product sold to the middle classes in an acceptable form. Just like the Premiership. After Venables, England went for their own Tony Blair figure in the form of Glenn Hoddle, a young, confident purveyor of vaguely Christian-bollock-speak. When Diana died, Michael Owen filled the void. When England shellacked Germany in 2001, the possibilities for the national side seemed limitless. 10 days later was 9/11 and England sneaked almost apologetically into the World Cup thanks to a 93rd minute free kick from David Beckham against those titans of European football, Greece.
And just as we flexed our shoulders on the world stage and pretended to be a minor superpower, so our footballers went to tournaments and did likewise. We have only won one football tournament and that was down to a home draw and a beneficial linesman decision. 1966 was the start of something awful in this country’s psyche, the beginning of a national obsession, the idea that our optimism could somehow manifest itself in the England team not being rubbish at football, that Johnny Foreigner could be subdued with rolled up sleeves and robust tackles, that the only thing that stopped us winning trophies was corrupt officialdom, foreign underhandedness and just darned poor luck.

It wasn’t just a patriotic short sighted devotion to our national team that was born in 1966, David Cameron was too. And if you can draw a comparison between an overpaid, undertalented, PR obsessed loser like him and Roy’s lads then you’re a better man than I.

We’ll come second in the group and lose to Portugal on penalties. But I'm more worried about Brexit in the group stage.



Saturday, 28 May 2016

With Apologies to Bob Dylan

Seeing as it was Dylan's 75th birthday this week (and anyone who doesnt like at least one Dylan song is lying btw) and the Chilcot report is imminent, I tried to combine the two with a rewrite of one of my own favourite Dylan songs.

It's all over now, Tony Blair

You must sssh now, save your words, the time’s arrived.
But whatever you wish to say, it’s not a time for lies
Yonder lie the orphans in the sun
Stolen from their parents by your gun
Look out Chilcot’s bout to lay it bare
And it's all over now, Tony Blair.

The dossiers were dodgy, still you spread alarm
So take what you have gathered from Kazakhstan
The suicidal expert neath the tree
Is waiting for your date with history.
Those WMD’s were simply never there
And it's all over now, Tony Blair.

All your wounded sailors, some without a home
Sit unloved and unwanted like a millennial dome.
The bodyguards that stand outside your door
Will not take bullets for you anymore.
You went to war before the enemy was there,
And it's all over now, Tony Blair.

Leave London behind, the Hague it calls for you
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you
The hate cleric who’s preaching holy war
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
A million dead but you simply didn’t care
And it's all over now, Tony Blair.