Saturday, August 30, 2008


My Great Aunt Maggie almost married a man who was "deciding how to spend my money!": but she didn't. This was a sensible decision, a fine display of rationality that had unfortunate repercussions for both herself and my uncles.

It wasn't that big a house, but it was Georgian: nicely proportioned; with a brook, and bells for the servants. Time had settled there, and the accretions of generations expanding their demesne had leant the place a reassuring solidity: clocks ticked, cornices crumbled, the anti antimacassars had less and less call for laundering.

Maggie ended up in an annex, what one would today call a granny flat. She didn't yell and flail, she carried herself magnificently even when stooped.

It was after the Great War, and most women couldn't afford to be choosy. Maggie was, and I salute her for it. She had a look about her, which my childish self saw as malevolent witchcraft.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Pigs are intelligent creatures, I've always felt guilty about eating them. Dogs are retards in comparison; you won't find your average porker licking it's balls, or chasing the postman's van in a gormless fashion. We don't eat Fido, although by rights we should.

I wish I could desist from eating pork. Very tasty it is, but I can't help but feel a bit of a cannibal as I tuck into a nice juicy chop. I have no doubt that were I to detach an infants limb with a chainsaw and roast it with some shallots the resultant meal would be as redolent with porcine unctuousness as Mr Piggy.

It's no surprise that Pacific island cannibals used to refer to Johnny sailorman as 'longpig' as they simmered him with some fragrant herbs in a big pot. Being a white fellah they probably thought he was an exotic variety of pig anyway, so you can't really blame them.

Perhaps the war on obesity could be won by forcibly detaching beer bellies and roasting them slowly with honey and star anise. Fat tasty grub would be guaranteed for all and there would be fewer wobbly folk ambling about.

That would definitely be a hog roast to remember.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Potency of Cheap Popular Music

Top tunes don't date, they don't evolve, they don't transmogrify; they remain in the cave of their making, working the dying fall.

Here are two that, if politics and ancestral hatreds are ignored, have the shared quality of yearning.

I quite like the latter because Stu is sat beneath an early 'Liquorice Allsorts' period Francis Bacon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Roman brings home the Bacon

I was interested to learn that Russian tycoon Roman Abramovitch recently spent $86.3 million on a Francis Bacon triptych. Of course that sum of money is a measly amount to Roman, who accumulates football clubs, trophy wives, and super yachts as mere baubles to display on the mantelpiece of his inflated ego.

I wonder what it is about Bacon that attracted Roman. Was it the nihilism? Was it the anguished depictions of the human form as little more than hunks of convoluted meat? Was it the despair at the futility of the human condition? Personally I doubt that it was any of these. When it comes to art I imagine that Roman would much prefer a tableaux of swaddled babushkas cavorting in the Russian snows executed in lurid acrylics.

I doubt that it was even seen as an investment; why invest in genius when commodities dug from the earth might provide a better return? Abramovitch is typical of the new rich: an uneducated, uncultured money grubber with about as much aesthetic vision as a myopic moose. Roman buys a Bacon because he can afford to. He hangs it as he imagines that he can bask in the glow of genius, a man of substance disporting his good taste.

I wouldn't want a Bacon; it's not just that there was more than a whiff of the devil about the man, it's also the horror that he depicts. His vision may have been an appropriate response to the violence and brutality of the twentieth century, but as much as I admire his visceral and startling images I certainly wouldn't want one hanging on my wall.

Call me an ignoramus if you like, but I'd much prefer this:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Credit Control

To: The BBC

The Bedford Hotel
Bognor Regis

Dear Sir,

In reply to yours of 17th January.

It seems to me that a considerable mistake, to put it politely, has been made. It was "mistakes" of this sort that caused me to tell Mr David Thomson when he first approached me to write a radio-play about Captain Kidd, that I was unwilling to undertake further work for the BBC owing to their slipshod methods of payment.

This script was only undertaken on the understanding that payment for my work would be prompt and expeditious. I returned your form to you only on completion and delivery of the script. No money was forthcoming under the terms of the contract.

On Friday last I made a special journey to Rothwell House to see the producer, who wanted some alterations made and one scene added. He assured me that if this was done the play would be definitely accepted. Mr David Thomson was present throughout the interview and will corroborate my statement.

But in view of the manner in which the matter of payment has been handled, I must be firm in requesting full payment (30 guineas) by Thursday next, or my permission to broadcast will be withheld. Of course half the fee will be forthcoming as repayment for my time and trouble. Please do not worry me with further correspondence – except a cheque for the sum stated as I'm a busy man* and detest writing letters.

Why, by the way, was your letter addressed to Bayswater Road when my telegram explicitly specified above address? Please rectify this additional error when replying to me, by cheque, this time.

Yours very truly,

J Maclaren-Ross

Some people just can't manage money. This may be due to sheer financial ineptitude, pie-in-the-sky insouciance, or an inability to recognize that a minus figure at the bottom of a bank statement is a very bad thing indeed. I can't claim to be a paragon myself in this respect, but having experienced financial misery on a number of occasions am rather more careful with my hard earned these days.

There is another class of person that spends all their money as soon as they get it, but does not allow their temporary embarrassment to compromise their lifestyle in the slightest. Friends are sponged off of, bouncing cheques are issued, and various creditors are led a merry dance in pursuit of what is rightfully theirs.

Julian Maclaren Ross was an exemplar in this field, not slow to take umbrage when payment that he felt was his due was not dispatched swiftly, but a total amnesiac when it came to paying hotel bills, boarding house landladies, or publicans who were foolish enough to allow him a bar tab.

You have to admire his style.

*in the pub.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ever wished you'd just stayed in bed?

Poor Jim Reid. All those years spent in a Scottish council house perfecting your Lower East Side Manhattan cool in front of your bedroom mirror have come to naught. Not only does the dickhead Letterman introduce you as an 'English band', he also lands you with the bass player from hell.

It's ok for William Reid, he can just gaze at his shoes and get on with his twiddly business. There's no escape for Jim, his studied 'I wear sunglasses indoors' cool is well and truly punctured by a pony tailed dork in a red jacket jumping up and down like Tigger on amphetamines.

If you watch carefully you can clearly see him making a 'you're a wanker' gesture at Tigger.

It's only rock 'n' roll boys and girls.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

1966 and all that

Having been born at the extreme fag end of the 1960's I didn't make it to San Francisco to wear some flowers in my hair. I didn't have the opportunity to drop acid with Timothy Leary, nor did I have a backstage pass to Woodstock. The nearest I got to turning on, tuning in, and dropping out was a Farleys rusk and a dummy tit.

Likewise, I missed out on Punk, being at the age where Brotherhood of Man's 'Kisses for Me' was the acme of musical cool. I didn't see the Sex Pistols at Manchester Free Trade Hall, I didn't start my own fanzine, and the nearest I got to sniffing glue was an Airfix kit.

All in all I missed out: the Smiths did provide some compensation, but the ghastly Duran Duran and assorted permed hair guitar soloists more or less ruined everything.

Of course every decade is essentially shite. As far as I can see most people in the 1960's dug coal out of the ground for a living, holidayed in Skegness, and wore nylon shirts. The food was inedible, the cars were crap, and small boys were forced to wear NHS specs and Startrite shoes. The 1960's sucked, big time.

Here's Grace Slick, who used to be a cracking bird before she got fat and old, giving her view of 1966.

The other bad thing about 1966 was England winning the World Cup, an achievement they haven't had the good grace to shut up about since.

I suppose this was OK.

Not much else was.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Cheer


I'm standing in Paphos market marvelling at the shuffling masses of British tourists leering at cheap booze, fags, and leather belts with Man Utd buckles. An acrylic silkscreen Madonna sways in the dessicated breeze, a Cypriot crone languorously scratches her arse.

It's the dryness that gets to you, the sense that your innards are a reservoir on the verge of permanent exhaustion. Everything aspires to dust, is working towards its own depletion. The power shower in the hotel still functions, the water slides are still alive with yollering children, but the air has almost surrendered.

And then a shower, a brief belligerent flurry that would delight a parched Yorkshireman's whiskers batters the stones. Everybody cheers. Not a football chant, more a communal cathartic yelp of deliverance.


Weather sets in from the west. The average will be well maintained.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Olympic Tiddlywinks

I hate all team sports with a passion. I put this antipathy down to being forced to play rugby by a perverted little games master who liked to watch our blue limbs as we skidded across the perma frost. I've equated moustachioed dwarves with sadism ever since.

I suppose individual sports aren't so bad. At least you can watch cute birds in tight lycra disport themselves gymnastically, or marvel at the girth of female shot putters thighs. To be honest I don't know why they go to all that effort to try and win a gold foil wrapped chocolate. It's not as though you can spend it or anything.

Tiddlywinks should definitely be an Olympic sport. It requires skill, dexterity, and steely eyed determination. I think I might have what it takes to represent Britain at tiddlywinks. It would be good as I could chain smoke while playing and put off the dastardly Chinese competitors by blowing smoke rings in their eyes.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Feck Off

I like to think of myself as a reasonably generous individual, always ready to lend a hand to needy souls. Unfortunately some people just take the piss and are in need of a good slapping. I'm thinking in particular of the guests a couple of years ago who booked a lodge for four and then arrived with a caravan. They seriously expected me to allow an additional three people to stay in the caravan.

Unbelievable, although I suppose I should have allowed them some points for chutzpah.

Here's some caravan hell.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dutch Cap

You can't really have a go at the Dutch because they're just so inoffensive. What is there to criticize about the culture and habits of hurdygurdymen who like 'guitar based 1970's rock music, yah!'?

Even their well known tolerance of deviants isn't an outcome of prurience or hedonism, but the manifestation of an ingrained Calvinism. Not the hair shirt and 'ban all pictures of boobies' Calvinism of your average Scots Presbyterian; rather the 'each man shall seek out his own salvation' variant. This means that you can get up to anything you want. The Dutch live in 'the low country' and have no objection whatsoever to you going down.

It makes sense: what could possibly demystify drugs more than the soporific sad old hippy boredom of a Amsterdam dope cafe? As for the fat bints displaying their cellulite in shop windows, nothing could dissuade the average Joe from visiting prostitutes more.

The Dutch are also all middle class and determinedly unflashy. They might own just about everything in Europe but you won't catch them flashing Rolexes and boasting about their Bentleys.

The canals of Amsterdam may resemble the concentric circles of hell to some folk but the place gets my vote every time. As far as I can see the only drawback with being Dutch would be speaking English in a ridiculous accent. That would be a big drawback, but not as big a drawback as coming from Birmingham.