National Poetry Day

As it’s National Poetry Day, I thought I’d attack  my moribund blog with a defibrillator, so that I could stick my latest poem on it.

I premiered this in September, at the excellent Howl spoken word night in Birmingham.

It was inspired by the meaningless phrase “Brexit means Brexit”, and by the fact that rather than evidence-based policy making, we seem to be living in an era of policy-based evidence making.

Here comes the minister and she’s cutting hard today
She’s cutting hard for harder cuts, for cutting is the way

You’re a shirker, not a striver, so it’s your fault that you’re poor
You just need an incentive to propel you through the door
You mustn’t let a little illness stop you getting on
We’ve got a test that proves that you can run a marathon

Here comes the minister and he’s cutting hard today
He’s cutting hard for harder cuts, for cutting is the way

Forget the maths you learned at school. No need to be alarmed
Five does go into seven, and no patient will be harmed
It doesn’t matter that the doctors say his facts are shot
He had an operation once, so he knows what is what

Here comes the minister and she’s cutting hard today
She’s cutting hard for harder cuts, for cutting is the way

Three letters known throughout the world help Britain make a din
Its culture is for all of us, because we all chip in.
Why would you destroy this treasure house and all that’s in it?
The answer burps up from down under, Rupert. Sky’s the limit

Here comes the ministers and they’re cutting hard today
They’re cutting hard for harder cuts, for cutting is the way

They’ll make the service fail so they can privatise by stealth
The way you buy your coffee will be how you buy your health
It breaks my heart to see these things we cherish being bled so
But all is fine, and all is good. The minister has said so

 

 

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See me in a fashion show

I’ve had a fair few jobs over the years, but I’ve never been a fashion model.

Until now.

I’ve been asked to don Versace and other designer brands for a charity fashion show in aid of Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, Selly Oak.

The show is on Monday 23 May at 7.30pm, at the Bromsgrove Hilton.

Tickets are £15 and all the proceeds will go to this very good cause. The hospice gave a huge amount of comfort and support to the mother of a very good friend of mine as she approached the end of her life recently.

No online ordering I’m afraid, but if you would like tickets then email me or get in touch via Twitter, and we’ll sort something out via PayPal or good old-fashioned methods.

Or you could get them in person at George Davis Hairdressing, 14 St. John Street, Bromsgrove, B61 8QY.

See One, Nineteen in Birmingham this weekend

My friend and fellow Archers writer Tim Stimpson has a play on this Friday and Saturday, at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham.

I saw One, Nineteen when it was premiered in London. It’s fast moving, funny and thought-provoking. It got great reviews, including four stars in Time Out.

Since then it’s been performed in Suffolk and Salford, and finally comes to Tim’s home city of Birmingham.

And given the news from the other side of the world, the subject matter is, to say the least, prescient. To quote from the press release:

“…Freak storms bring devastating floods to the English coast, but before the rescue effort arrives, the media are already in town spinning their story.
A play about the power of the news, the strength of the government, the question of climate change, and of course, and the search for Sam, Jack and little Chloe…”

See you there, I hope.

More details and to buy tickets

Flyer and production company details

Amazing YouTube mash-ups by Kutiman

I’ve been knocked out by an amazing YouTube mash-up project by Kutiman. It’s called Thru You.

He’s trawled YouTube for completely unconnected clips and then cut and mixed them to make entirely new tracks.

I can’t conceive of the hours it must have taken just to find the clips, let alone all the editing and mixing.  And the music he’s made really works on its own merits, not just as a novelty.

Once you’ve listened, click on the credits to list all the source material, then follow through to some of the clips to get a feel for what the job must have entailed.

Singles reviewed as if they were Archers characters

The Lipster has reviewed this week’s singles (well, some of them) as if they were Archers characters.

Morrisey’s new single is described “as all rather spineless, but in a pleasant enough way”, which equates it to “wet” Nic Hanson.

And Thunderheist’s Sweet 16 is compared to sexy Annabelle Schrivener.  “…Rather like Krystal Carrington with her high-falutin’ head for business and bod for sin, Annabelle also has a fearfully dirty way of intoning sentences about protection orders on local bird’s nests. She is, to use modern parlance, well fierce…”

It won’t mean much to non-Archers listeners, but The Lipster clearly knows her (I suspect it’s a her) music and her Archers, which makes her a top bean in my book.

(Do books have beans?)

Stephen Fry’s “L” competition – and the little voice

When I started following Stephen Fry on Twitter (and was stupidly chuffed that he followed me back), I was one of just a thousand(ish) who did so.

Unsurprisingly, this figure has grown hugely.  As I write, he’s being followed by over 63,000 Twitterers, and to mark passing the 50,000 mark, he set a competition for his fawning accolytes (one of whom I cheerfully admit to being).

You had to write a tweet (a Twitter message) which contained exactly 50 “L”s – L being the Roman numeral for 50.  Quite a challenge, given that tweets have a rigid 140-character limit.  Even more so, when spaces count as characters.

And you had to mark the message with a hashtag: #L  so that it could be identified as a competition entry.  So that’s two characters gone already, I thought (fatal mistake, as you will see).

What I wrote

A quick look at the entries as they enthusiastically rolled in showed a lot like this:

gavski82: #L illegal llamas loll, a ball?hells bell!all call a folly.a hill will roll,willy nilly.bill fell ill, all still.a pull will lilt,will fall.

Doesn’t make a lot of sense, really.  Nor did most of the others.

I thought the only way to stand a chance of gaining Mr Fry’s approbation was for it to be about something, and ideally to have a bit of rhythm to it, like a poem.

So after a bit of scratching about, this is what I submitted:

Ill,dull lull. Poll-all well,lol! All hail jolly poll!All roll pell-mell,all ululate,all lalala!Hail BHO!Hail Michelle!Tell world,allswell#L

BHO, I hoped, was recognisable as Barrack Hussein Obama, whose inauguration had just taken place.  And I used as much punctuation and spaces as I could spare to indicate the rhythm of the piece (piece?  tut, pretentious, moi?), which should read like this:

Ill, dull lull.
Poll – all well, lol!
All hail jolly poll!
All roll pell-mell, all ululate, all lalala!
Hail BHO! Hail Michelle!
Tell world, all swell

I was quite pleased with it.  At least it wasn’t total nonsense.

But I messed up the hashtag.  I didn’t leave a space before it, so the hashtag engine didn’t pick it up, which means it wasn’t considered for the competition.

Boo, hoo, so what?

Why am I telling you this?  It’s because of the little voice.

I thought, to protect my idea of doing an Obama tribute, I’d leave it until close to the deadline to post my tweet.

I was writing scripts for The Archers at the time, which takes total concentration.

As I sat at my desk at 9.30 on the Saturday morning of the (noon) deadline, I read my “note to self” to post the tweet at 11.30.  A tiny fleeting thought passed through my mind: “shall I set an alarm?”  No, I thought. It’ll be fine.  I need to get on with writing this script.

Next thing I knew, it was ten to midday. Sudden panic. I grabbed my draft, carefully typed it into Twitter, and sent it.

When I came to the end of a scene about twenty minutes later, I went hunting for my entry in the hashtags.

It wasn’t there.

And then I realised that the #L wasn’t two characters.  It was three, because it needed a space to separate it out from the other text.  A space that I has used in search of my precious rhythm, but could have sacrificed.

God, I was annoyed.  With myself, which is the worst sort of annoyance there is, of course. I’d worked quite hard in my limited free time to come up with this offering, and I might just as well have not bothered, as I told myself, my wife, my nearest son, my Twitter buddies, and would have told the milkman if he’d been around.

Listen, you idiot (me, I mean)

So to make myself feel a tiny bit better, I tried to think what I might learn from this.  And, not for the first time, it was a lesson about that little voice.

My subconscious knew what the right thing to do was, and it told me.  If I’d posted the tweet a bit earlier, my error might well have dawned on me in time to put it right.

But the subconscious is so easily shouted down by the noisy, busy forefront of the mind.

I’ve told the little voice “no, it’ll be fine” before.  And I’ve almost always regretted it later.

So when you get that little whisper, remember me banging about the house at 12.30 on a Saturday lunchtime, ridiculously annoyed about a little word game.

And PAY ATTENTION TO IT!

(And I’ll try to, as well)