Fairytale Time 2020

It’s that time of year again, and it’s getting to be that time of year earlier and earlier. Last week, the first two Xmas singles crashed into the Top 100, the perennials of Mariah Carey and Wham! Long term readers of this blog will know that I take a personal interest each year in one Xmas song, the one that for me is the perfect Xmas song, and the one that has re-charted for the longest sequence in time of any record. Obviously, that is ‘A Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl.
Which has today entered the Top 100 at no. 63.
Unfortunately, this time of year is also the time of year for boring arguments about ‘A Fairytale of New York’ with reference to a couple of lines in the lyrics, namely the second verse where MacColl and Shane McGowan’s characters slag each other off. A matter of him calling her an old slut on junk and she responding by calling him, amongst other things, a cheap lousy faggot.
Are these nice things to say? No, of course not. Is McGowan a misogynist and McColl a homophobe? We don’t even know if the characters whose roles in the song they are singing are misogynist or homophobe, or just a couple who have been involved with each other’s rough lives for so long that they will reach for any insult with which to attack the other in their disappointment made acute at the Xmas season.
Does it matter? These are, as I said, not-nice things to say, but this is a world in which people say not-nice things. I have, on many occasions, said not-nice things, even if they were not these particular not-nice things. But people say them, and a certain amount of accepting this is, I think, necessary.
The question of language in ‘A Fairytale of New York’ has once again been taken up by the sledgehammer-to-nuts BBC Bashing Brigade. This year, the BBC have announced a mixed approach: Radio 1 will play a bowdlerised version recorded by The Pogues and Kirsty in 1992, Radio 2 will play the original and DJ’s on 6 Music will play whichever version they prefer. One local radio DJ – there’s always one, isn’t there? – has already vowed not to play it at all and described it as a ‘nasty, nasty record’: I need hardly tell you my response to that, do I?
And the Guardian, forever eager to build mountains up out of social molehills, has convened a panel of radio listeners to debate if the BBC should censor the record at all. My opinion? SFW. The record is the record. I have owned it since 1987 and I play it whenever I want. I really don’t care what they do on the radio, any radio, the song is thereby untouched. And, to be very honest, have people completely lost the ability to make up their mind for themselves about something that, at base, is entirely personal?
That’s what worries me most. Since when does someone else’s opinion about a piece of music matter so much? Can nobody think for themselves any more? If you like, great. Play it, enjoy it, be moved by it as I am. If you don’t like it, pass by it, as I do Mariah Carey and Wham! We’ve got too many more important things to worry about this year than a bloody Xmas song.

The bastard without a name

Every time I see that part of the news, about the man whose death, aged 74, was announced today, I feel guilty that I’m not saying anything, that I’m not doing the blog equivalent of walking up to his grave and yelling down the hole, “Good riddance to you, you evil fucking bastard, rot in Hell!”.

The original Ripper was a century previosly. The Moors Murderers were when I was a child, unheeding. He was the one I lived through: the news headlines, the assumptions about the tape with the Sunderland accent that diverted Police so badly that he got to kill five more women. Oh yes, the Police who couldn’t be bothered doing a serious job soon enough because, after all, he was doing us a favour, clearing prossies of the street.

And they wonder why they’re not respected the same was any more.

Well, his reign is over, he can’t sit there and squat in the minds of any family member who has suffered the loss of people attached to them, loved by them. There’s a member of my forum who has the right to say that: Jackie Hill, the last of the twelve, was a friend of his wife. That’s as close as I get and as close as I want to get.

The need to acknowledge that this day has come, to reiterate that I am instinctively opposed to the Death Penalty but I have the greatest difficulty maintaining that in cases like this. Something to say that he has passed and the world becomes cleaner by degree for his not foling its srface any longer, but nder no circmstances will I use his name or his handle. I will not conjure him up. Get to hell, you damned shade, and let us have no more of you. May the memories of Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia ‘Tina’ Atkinson, Jayne MacDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka, Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Marguerite Walls and Jacqueline Hill lie in more peace tonight.

Guardian Journalism: Answering a Dishonest Question.

I can’t simply call this Crap Journalism because it asks a valid, but more-than-belated question:


The answer is that you all couldn’t bear not to have your pound of flesh out of the media Goddess you created for yourselves so anything done to tear off one more shred of flesh was fair game. So don’t start going on about it now, because your hypocrisy stinks to high heaven.

The greatest of them all

This year alone we have lost Jack Chharlton and Nobby Styles, passing on after long battles with dementia. Now, with her husband’s consent, Lady Norma Charlton has confirmed that Sir Bobby Charlton has become one more member of that greatest team of all to suffer dementia. Not death, yet, but living death. There aren’t the words to speak the sorrow. We will remember him always as he was, in red and white, drawing back one foot to fire another thunderbolt into the net past another despairing goalkeeper.

Fortunate was I to live in his time.

The Best Bond: RIP Sir Sean Connery

And so it starts again, lights going out across out metaphysical universe and the dark closing in, just as it is in our physical Universe of reduction and isolation. One day a beloved footballer, another a film star who created a world around him and a fame that never perished.

Sean Connery, the first James Bond, the best James Bond, demanded the eye whenever and where he was on film. The world will remember him for Ian Fleming’s cold, cruel but above all effective spy, but Connery was both more and less than that. As Connery the man he bore the shame of his belief that it was ok to hit a woman, as long as you only used an open palm. As Connery the actor, he excelled in more that just the elegant yet earthy spy.

For me there was his role as Indiana Jones’ in the third film, in which I will never forget the exact, uncopiable intonation of his voice as he greets his son as, “Junior!”

And there is the story of his small role in Time Bandits, when the producers sent him the script, openly confessing they couldn’t afford him as king Agamemnon but asking him just to read it. And he phoned up, said, “How much can you afford?” and agreed to do it – brilliantly – just because he loved the role.

That’s the manner of the man, the bedrock security in himself. he never lived to see his beloved homeland gain independence but he lived to see it nearer than ever since 1701. Rest in Peace Sir Sean.

Farewell Nobby

It’s no time since we lost Jack Charlton and now Nobby Stiles, the little man in Red, has followed his team-mate into the sunset. The balance has finally tipped: there are fewer now who remain than have gone before and now I fear that the decline will be rapid.

Nobby was ours, not just England’s but Manchester’s and Manchester United’s. Two of our men were among the Boys of Summer in 1966, the Forever Immortals, whose names will stand as long as there is life.

And now there is one. He will once again be feeling the pain of loss, of friend, of team-mate, of colleague. And everyone who holds our club in esteem will feel the same pain.

Get in there, Nobby. They shall not pass, you always nmade sure of that.

The Children of Aberfan

Today was the 54th Anniversary of the day the children died at Aberfan. I was ten years old, too young to follow the news, too young to take an interest in what was around me. Certain things stick in the mind though, because I heard so much about them. One such was Aberfan.

Today, if money were not so venerated as to be held greater than human lives, a hundred and more men and women would be entering their Sixties. They would have lives and loves and successes and failures, good times, bad times. men and women would have been born who are in this world only ghosts, possibilities denied. What would any of those never born have done? What achievements were withheld from us because money meant more than human lives?

Who amongst us have lived lesser lives, seen duller, more awful times because the man or woman they would have met, fallen in love with and married wasn’t there at that crucial moment to meet them for the first time?

We all of us only ever lead contingent lives, dependent upon the world and the people around us, who change our lives and fates in every moment, by decisions that create ripples. I have often joked that if a long-demolished newsagents in Openshaw, in 1966, had placed a different DC Comic in their window one Friday afternoon in March, I would have never met the woman I married. But it’s true, as it is for everybody.

The children of Aberfan never had that chance. They, like the kid in Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’, never got to go to school, never got to fall in love, never got to be cool. We remember things like armistice Day and VE Day every year, and rightly so. But we should remember with equal vigour the stains on our reputation and dedicate ourselves with all our vigour to ensuring that we will not allow such things to happen again.

That is how we pay our proper respect to the children of Aberfan.

He may be us

No-one saw 2020 coming, not in what it was. As Cate Blanchett said, at the start of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, ‘the world is changing’. It has changed. And it won’t change back, no matter how desperate we all have been about getting back what we had until March this year. Because that’s the thing about the world changing: it always does and it never changes back.

And currently the world is heading into the Pit. I don’t mean that in any religious sense. There is no God or god waiting for the moment to resolve it all with a miracle. As Terry Pratchett put it in Mort, ‘there is no justice. There’s just us.’

American heading into Dictatorship of the stupid. Britain scurrying along in its wake. Breaking a treaty and expecting the world to trust us on the basis we keep our word. Belarus falling backwards towards chaos and Russian takeover. The climate isn’t changing after all, he said, coughing from the smoke of the West Coast fires. The isolation we experience. Work friends I haven’t seen in six months because they work from home and I work in the Centre.

But these aren’t the only aspects of 2020, though the good stuff is very limited. Doves have come back, sounding as if it’s still 2008 when I sat up until 4.00am and I near had tears in my eyes, was in almost holy awe, that in my lifetime I had lived to see the day America elected a black President. What an amazing feeling. How unbelievable then. how much more unbelievable now.

And 2020 is the year I finally got into Pogo, Walt Kelly’s blessed, much-loved and much-praised cartoon strip. I’ve tried and failed before. I’ve known of it for decades but couldn’t carry myself over that line. Now I have. Five Collected Volumes. A sixth awaits my next payday, to be put on my birthday pile. I have to live long enough for the other six that will complete the long story to be published. nothing like an incentive.

It’s Walt Kelly that’s prompted this mournful little essay this morning, as I wait for my rigidly enforced appointment for a flu injection . Because funny, acute, perceptive and inventive as Kelly was, he was also wise. And he said something that people quote, unaware that its provenance is a cartoonist. He said it in one line, but this, below, is an expanded version of it, and I quote it here. Kelly was talking about the ecology, but his words are no less applicable to everything that surrounds us today, and why there is only us to save us. If we want to.

“There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”

Diana Rigg, R.I.P.

How can days turn into such downers because you hear about the death aged 82 of someone you never met?

But only the physical shell of Diana Rigg has died: she is a light that will never go out, and we will remember her long beyond the years.