Nick Griffin

I really didn’t want a picture of Nick Griffin on my blog. So here’s a pygmy marmoset, or ‘dwarf monkey’. I love them.

I actually thought we’d heard the last of Nick Griffin – but no, he’s been there the whole time, doing what he does best – trying to stir up hatred of others, but only succeeding in generating pity and contempt for himself. But still he goes on.

It’s odd that people who consider themselves to be a member of a superior race are always such incredibly shit examples of that race.

Just look at Nick Griffin’s face. Exactly. Or take Hitler, who following a WWI groin injury not only had, as the song said, one ball (seven distinct links, research fans), but was more importantly rumoured to be both impotent and incontinent. So the man who not only believed in a master race, but also that he was the best person to lead it, had a permanently limp cock and wore a nappy.

It does help to explain why he was so tense.

And now we’ve got Nick Griffin, whose eyes don’t look in the same direction – they point every which way. People say Nick Griffin looks down his nose at black people – what they don’t mention is, while he’s doing that, he can also watch the telly.*

Now, I’m not the only person who’s pointed out that Nick Griffin’s face is almost as ugly as his opinions. And whenever he gets insulted like that, people from the BNP complain. They say – “these people are scumbags. They don’t judge a man on who he is, what he says, or what he does – they judge him on superficial stuff like what he looks like.”

Which is pretty much exactly what we’ve been saying to them for the last 25 years.

*I know, I know. I’m a bad person. I have no excuse.


If you truly believed you were going to die – how well would you live?

Concrete slab
This isn’t the actual slab, obviously. But you get the idea.

It’s apparently quite a common phenomenon – you have an experience that brings you within an inch of death, and from that moment forward, your life is transformed. You become a better person. You live a fuller, richer life, spreading joy and goodwill to everyone you meet.

Sounds marvellous. But it’s bollocks.

Or at least, it was for me. And frankly, I feel cheated.

There’s nothing dramatic about the story – I didn’t come through some terrible medical crisis, or pull myself out of the wreckage. It’s very small, very simple, very bland. But – if only cos it happened to me – I still think it counts.

I was walking through Farringdon, happy and calm – well, you know – basically fine, when a slab of concrete, two inches thick, eight inches square, smashed into the pavement about a foot in front of me.

Had it hit me, then at best, my life would have become massively less complicated. At worst, it would have come to an abrupt halt. And it missed me by less than a single footstep.

See? I told you it wasn’t much. But it’s enough. Had I walked a shade quicker – had any of a thousand things been infinitesimally different – my lights would have permanently dimmed.

I spent a second or two marvelling at this near miss, then (finally) some sort of preservation instinct kicked in, as I realised that this might be one falling concrete slab of many, and I scarpered to the other side of the road. (There is a bitter irony that my final thoughts might have been ‘blimey, that thing almost hit me…’) I then continued to go about my day – well, for about five minutes. At which point some other (very) delayed reaction took place, my body began to shake, and I found the nearest café so I could pull myself together in comfort.

Sat in that café, I did perform a brief reappraisal of my life. It wasn’t a conscious choice – it wasn’t something I really wanted to think about – but I found myself cursing the time I had wasted, and vowing to make best use of however much, or little, time I still had left. And, as a consequence, I felt good. Bold. Confident. And then I went home and forgot all about it.

So that was my response to the sudden realisation that life is finite, and mine was ticking away. A latte. And, of course, that empty promise…

Trying to see all this in a positive light, perhaps what this tells me is that the life I was living – have continued to live – is just fine as it is. I’m fulfilling my potential, doing precisely whatever it is I’m here to do, and I shouldn’t change a thing. I say ‘a positive light’, but that is the single most depressing thing I’ve ever typed.

Another positive approach – maybe it’s a good thing that people don’t act on these thoughts whenever they feel exposed to risk. After all, you don’t want everyone going about the place improving themselves, do you? Living up to their values, ideals and dreams, enriching others by their very presence? That would make the rest of us look bad.

And anyway, what should I have done? Written that novel, or that solo Edinburgh show? Been kinder, more thoughtful in my dealings with others, less focused on and interested in myself? Been a source of energy and support for all those who rely on me? Phoned my Mum more often?

Yes, I should have done all of those things. Ah, well. Perhaps I can start today.

Jeremy Hardy has a line about the fact that people say we should live each day as if it were our last – but that would mean we spent all our time lying in bed, drifting in and out of consciousness. And isn’t it strange how writing a joke down can sometimes beat all the life out of it?


We all feel better in the dark.

I live in the middle of London, and one word I never reach for as I travel through the city each day is ‘beautiful’.

This is especially true if I have to take the Tube. London Underground is a marvel, don’t get me wrong – travelling through London would be infinitely slower and tougher without it, and its massive sprawl makes you feel that so much of the city, from Balham to Barnet, is within easy reach. (It’s only when you find yourself stuck in either place past the dread hour when the Tube abandons its duties that you realise just how far from home you really are…)

I really do think it’s amazing. It just isn’t very nice. It’s dirty and crowded, and hot and muggy regardless of the weather above ground. It’s impossible to look in any direction, on a station or in a train, without some ad trying to sell you shit. During rush hour, you just have to accept you’re going to stand in a huddle of angry people, while you breathe in the distinctive scent of irritated Londoner.

Today, though – today was different. The train pulled in to Kings Cross, with all its lights off – I assumed it was out of service, shunting off to some depot somewhere – but no. This was it. We would be travelling in the dark.

Perhaps because it looked like some sort of ghost train, there were only a handful of people on it, and there were plenty of seats. And oddly, no one spoke throughout the journey. We just sat and watched as the train rushed us through London in darkness.

And it really was beautiful. Lights flickered in tunnels, and the tunnels themselves appeared to glow in the moments leading up to each station. At one point, we found ourselves passing alongside a fully lit train, heading the other direction, which looked extraordinary – a massive burst of light and colour, dashing by us just as our eyes had grown accustomed to the dark.

Such a small, brief experience, but it was wonderful. Something I do so often that I no longer even really notice its details, rendered surreally different by nothing more than faulty lights…


Hacked off

I have been hacked. People – let’s call them what they are, c***s – snuck into my website in the dead of night – my very own beloved site – and left sneaky malware, scripts and viruses all over the place.

To make things worse, I wasn’t the one who spotted this. Oh, no, it was Google. Big bad Google. Who immediately blocked from the world’s web browsers.

How did this happen? Well, it’s time for a confession. It was simple neglect. I left my website, alone and forgotten, to fend for itself. Who knows – perhaps it was just lonely. Perhaps it let those hacker ballbags in because it needed the attention, and wasn’t too fussy about where it came from. I am ashamed of myself for allowing that to happen.

So now the site is back. It’s fixed. But it’s going to be a while before I can find the time to make it all shiny again, just like it used to be. In particular, I’m not having an easy time finding fresh copies of the original images – all I’ve got so far is an old version of the banner that sits at the top of the page. And I do mean old. I haven’t looked like that in years. I’ll be honest, I have never looked like that. Photoshop saves lives.

Katy Perry also likes Photoshop

Point is,, I’m very, very sorry. I’ll try to take better care of you in future…


David Bowie and Chinese folk

An impostor of some kind

While writing yesterday about Bruce Springsteen’s Hyde Park show, I was reminded of a story I once heard about David Bowie.

It harks back at least 10 years. A friend of mine, a big Bowie fan, was in the audience for an episode of Later with Jools Holland, and David Bowie – Derek to his mates – was one of the guests.

At some point in proceedings, filming had to be stopped so the crew could deal with a technical fault of some kind, and everyone in the studio just stood about, waiting for it to be fixed. A minute or two in, Bowie said “no point in us all waiting in silence”, grabbed his guitar, and began to sing Life on Mars.

For my friend, this was ludicrous fantasy, dream comes true, I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-even-though-I’m-watching-it-happen territory. An acoustic Bowie serenade, with the man just a few feet away. It was a perfect moment.

And then, about two-thirds of the way into the song, a BBC floor manager walked out in front of Bowie and said “OK, OK, everything’s fixed now, if you could all return to your places, please!”

Didn’t occur to him to wait till the song was finished. To appreciate that his priorities might not quite align with everyone else’s. To enjoy the moment. To have some fucking respect.

“Wow,” said Bowie, turning to the floor manager. “You must be a very important man.”

I like to think that at least a day or two passed before that floor manager realised – with a sudden flash of insight – that Dave had, in the most Bowie-esque way possible, just called him a c***.

Recently, I’ve heard several times that David Bowie is either no longer interested in making music and leading a public life, or is very ill. So far as I’m aware, since his mid-tour heart attack in 2004, he has barely made any public appearances. I hope he’s happy, and healthy, of course, but it would be good to have the man back out in the world, making records and performing some shows.

Or so I thought. But a quick Google, trying to find out what he’s been up to recently, led me here – to an interview with bass player Gail Ann Dorsey. And she said:

“He closely follows bands like Arcade Fire in recent months. But he is inspired by ancient Chinese folk and jazz these days as well.”

Chinese folk and jazz. Hmmm. No need to rush there, Derek. You take your time.


Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney in Hyde Park

Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartneyIn yesterday’s Standard, Ministry of Sound’s James Palumbo decided to share his views about the Bruce Springsteen show in London on Saturday – specifically, the outcry after the promoters cut the mics while Springsteen and guest Paul McCartney were singing Twist & Shout.

And Mr Palumbo has decided to deliberately miss the point, in writing, for money. Not sure why – the Lib Dem-loving multi-millionaire can’t be that short of cash, can he?

But still. Rather than picking up on the general feeling about Saturday’s events – that it was a pity the end of a fine concert was curtailed – he sees it as a cultural battle. And he summarises his viewpoint like this:

“By cutting short Twist and Shout on Saturday night we lost nothing as a society. Absolutely nothing.”

This is not an especially helpful argument. You could, for instance, make the case that, were Mr Palumbo to be run over in the street, society would lose nothing. And you would be perfectly correct. But I’d still rather not see it happen.

Age seems to bother him, too – his article disparages “the middle-aged masses”, while one of the charges he raises against “ancient rockers” McCartney and Springsteen is that they “have lost all the sparkle of their youth”.

You can understand his strength of feeling. Mr Palumbo is a young, young man – 49 years of age – and has no time for the middle-aged in our society. And when he explains that he would have been furious if similar licensing issues had shut down an illegal dubstep rave or a drum and bass warehouse party, we feel for the Eton-educated former City-boy. He is down with the kids.

As an aside – in the immediate aftermath of the gig, when blame was flying in all directions, Boris Johnson decided to make it clear that this was not his fault. “It sounds to me like an excessively efficacious decision,” he said. “If they’d have called me, my answer would have been for them to jam in the name of the Lord!” Has anyone ever sounded so out-of touch? He’s like a baffled elderly maiden aunt. I swear he does it deliberately.

Boris Johnson is younger than James Palumbo.

Whoever you consider ultimately responsible for the abrupt end to Saturday’s show – the promoters, the licensing bodies, or the wealthy local residents who insist on such strict licensing terms – the decision was another small battle between money and fun. And for 70,000 Londoners – along with a couple of flat-out no-argument rock’n’roll legends – money won. Again.

Meanwhile, in Dublin last night, Springsteen walked out on stage, said “Before we were so rudely interrupted…”, played the final seconds of Twist and Shout, and then followed up with I Fought the Law. Class.


My boy

That tiny hand belongs to my newborn son. He is, in the picture, just a few hours old. And he is giving me the finger.

I see this image as filled with symbolic importance. It’s his way of introducing himself to his Dad. A small hint of what’s to come.

The first of many…


Penalty fare

I saw something fascinating today. I was sat on a train beside a Japanese woman. She had an ingenious little computer in her hand, just a touch bigger than a credit card, which seemed to be translating words and phrases for her. She looked at the tube door – then down again at her device – pressed a few buttons – waited – and sighed. The sigh, I assumed, was of exasperation; her computer had failed her. She pulled a small notebook from her pocket, and began to write down the phrase, carefully, checking each letter before she wrote down the next.

Penalty fare, she wrote, with freshly sharpened pencil, or prosecution.

There were several phrases already in the book, presumably marking other occasions when her translator’s dictionary had let her down. Reading down the page, I saw:

wealth of nations

failure of capitalism

thank you for not smoking

and now, at the bottom of the list:

penalty fare or prosecution

My response to this surprised me. Because I was embarrassed. It was as if she had, entirely accidentally, hit on a method for summing up my city, my country, the English-speaking world, in a few neat phrases – and had chosen sneers, rules and threats. You failed, you can’t, and here’s what will happen if you do.

Poems on the Underground celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Those of you who live outside London might be surprised to learn that, thanks to this arts programme, our tube carriages are decorated, alongside the maps, ads, warnings and graffiti, with poetry. A little uninvited, unexpected art brought into our day. It’s one of those projects I am glad exists, although I have no idea why I feel that way.

Well, today, this was my Poem on the Underground, and maybe it only bothered me because it made a point that I a) didn’t like, but b) couldn’t disagree with.

Or maybe it was just a few random and understandably baffling phrases written down by someone learning to speak English.

Here it is again. I’ll let you decide.

Wealth of nations
Failure of capitalism
Thank you for not smoking
Penalty fare or prosecution

November 2011



Two weeks, it turns out, is quite long enough for the Edinburgh Fringe to have moved from day-to-day reality to a long-departed and lovely – if still strangely knackering – dream.

In part, this is because it is such an indulgence. For eleven months of the year, you perform as one of many, a name on a bill. And then, throughout August, you have your room, in which to perform your show, in front of people who have specifically come to see you.

After which it’s back to London, and the comedy circuit, and fitting your act into other people’s club nights. Which is still fun, of course – most of the time. But you can’t help missing the festival.

I had the disorientating – not to say depressing – experience of strolling through Edinburgh’s town centre, a couple of weeks in, enjoying the sights and sounds, idly pondering my own show later that day, when I realised that I should simply do this full-time, all-year-round. It was like a subliminal message bubbling to the surface – this is great, it said. Make a life of this.

And it was a very pleasurable fifteen or twenty seconds, of me thinking, ‘yes! That is precisely what I will do!’, before higher brain functions noticed my daydream, and decided to rip it to bits – pointing out the bleeding obvious facts that a) this festival only happens for three or four weeks a year, and b) I am in no sense making a living from it – that, in fact, being here and performing every day was costing me a (small) fortune. It was like deciding you wanted to live at the Glastonbury Festival all year round. Which I also remember wanting to do, for about fifteen or twenty seconds, back in 1993…

As is so often the way with higher brain functions, they were right, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. And my epiphany still had some value, I think.

Because you do bring back something from Edinburgh, from all those focused performances squeezed into a month, which you can feel in your stand-up the rest of the year round. It’s a different ‘something’ every time – but this year, it might just be the knowledge that there’s a special pleasure to having a room, and a show, that’s your very own – and that I must find a way to recreate that situation back home, the rest of the year round.


A rare bit of sunshine

There are times – late at night, after a long day, most especially – when I’ve regretted living a couple of miles away from Edinburgh’s city centre during the festival. Especially as the walk back is uphill. I am a lazy, lazy man.

But this afternoon, looking out at the city, I had no complaints at all…

UPDATE: Just so you know, about ten minutes after I posted this, the heavens opened. This place is unbelievable…