Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Monthly Archives: February 2016

Review: UnityWords at Unity Works, Wakefield, 24 February 2016.

It was a new event. It will be a monthly event. My esteemed colleague, Ralph Dartford, would have us believe that it will be a big event. Not just a big event, but a massive event. An event that it would take an airliner travelling at 650 mph 1800 years to circumnavigate.

First up was Rob Reed. I knew him already from an event at the Red Shed. This was the first time I had the chance of hearing his doing a complete set.

I have tried my hardest to find something negative to say about Rob Reed’s set, but this attempt has failed.

There was a moment when I thought he might be descending from humour into buffoonery, but that moment only lasted about 0.0125 of a second. Yes, there was buffoonery, but it was, like the rest of the performance, expertly handled. Anything that is expertly handled cannot be buffoonery.

He did a piece, the gist of which was, “My fridge is a wanker”. It worked. I don’t mean that it valiantly went down, fighting. I mean that it worked.

He had a recurring theme, which I won’t describe, in case he wants to use it again, but it was contemporary to get the audience to foreshadow the jokes that they themselves were expected to laugh at. This was the seemless merging of performance poetry with stand-up comedy. The people who attend spoken word events don’t care what the hell you do, as long as you are in control of your medium. All the time that Rob Reed was turning pages in his notebook and making small-talk with the audience, there was not a single syllable uttered that he was not in complete control of.

Ordinarily, I would be telling you that Rob Reed ran the whole thing, but, on this occasion, I am not.

A woman called Louise Fazackerley turned up. She was the headline performer.

How can I be expected to describe my reaction to Louise Fazackerley’s performance? It isn’t easy, even for me.

She used hand gestures and bodily movement, masterfully.

She used her voice, her absolutely unlistenable Lancashire-accented voice, masterfully.

The subject matter of her poems was heart-breaking, amazing, and wonderful.

She used backing-tracks masterfully.

She did for spoken-word performance what Donald Bradman did for cricket. I am going to go back to my scrag-hole and try to re-think my whole approach to this activity. I think I am a pretty bloody fantastic performance poet, but if I am ever going to appear on the same bill as Louise Fazackerley, I am going to have to do much, much better.

Ride on time

I got a job in East Kilbride in August, 1989. I moved from the East Kilbride YMCA to a flat in Glasgow in December of that year. In November, 1989, I won a dancing competition in the YMCA. The prize was two Scottish pound notes and 20 Lambert & Butler cigarettes. I gave the cigarettes to a woman called Suzanne McLeod.

Nowadays, I watch rugby league. Much is made of “the oxygen budget”. In those days, I was 21 years old. I had never smoked. I didn’t drink that much. I threw myself around. My body would do what I asked of it.

I used to visit nightclubs in Glasgow from 1990 onwards. The track I associate with that era is ‘Ride on time’ by Black Box.

I have no idea what it is like now, but, in those days, Glasgow night-life used to get going very late. There was no point in going to a nightclub until about 11pm, and it would stay open until 3 or 4 in the morning.

Winning the dancing competition in East Kilbride did my confidence a lot of good. I especially used to like it if the words “ you just walk right in / walk walk right in …” were playing as I arrived at the edge of the dance floor.

A woman told me that she could never dance like I did unless she was very drunk, which was not a compliment. She meant that she could not lose her inhibitions unless she was drunk, but, had she been that drunk, she would not have been able to dance like me.

Somebody punched me. To this day, I don’t know why. I must have offended him, and his cronies, in some way.

I won a much less formal dancing competition in Forster Square in Bradford in 1998.

Savile Town FC Under 9s

I am a writer, and I attend various writing groups in Wakefield.

I got into a shouting-match with another member of one of these writing groups. I won’t tell you which group, or which member. Let us call him Mr X.

It suffices to say that my opinion of Mr X’s views about the ethnic make-up of West Yorkshire is that those views are a load of racist clap-trap.

The previous row had centered on Savile Town. I live in England, West Yorkshire, near Wakefield. Also nearby is a town called Dewsbury. In between Wakefield and Dewsbury is a place called Savile Town.

It is reputed that one of the 7/7 bombers came from Savile Town. This was asserted by Mr X. Mr X asserted that Savile Town is a training camp for terrorists.

The alternative view, that I heard today, is that the 7/7 bomber came from Nottingham, but lived in Savile Town for a brief period.

The alternative view came from a man called Jav. He and I used to work in the same office in Leeds.

Jav comes from Savile Town. Jav is a supporter of the Savile Town FC juniors. Jav’s son was frustrated because of the last-minute cancellation of his under 10s match against a team in Huddersfield.

I was glad I had put on my walking boots, because of the wet condition under foot.

Mr X would say that I had been brain-washed by Islamist extremists. I will tell you simply what I saw.

I saw shops, the most unusual of which was a charity shop for Palestinian refugees. It was not open while I was there.

I saw the first ever branch of Mullaco, an Asian supermarket.

I saw five mosques, of varying sizes.

Most of all, I saw a football match between two under 9 teams. Savile Town FC was mainly Asian, and Drighlington was mainly (but not exclusively) white British. I saw football played under modified rules because of the young age of the players, but completely under the ethos that applies at all levels.

I spoke to people who had turned up to attend this football match after having put in a night shift.

Haroon, the coach of Savile Town FC, asked me in if I wanted to attend the screening of a film in the BBC series, ‘Inside Out’, in which he appears. This was going to be shown to a young, female, community group, later that afternoon.

I needed to get back home in order to cook the Sunday dinner, but I agreed that I would keep in touch, and would come back and see the work of Engage Dewsbury. Engage Dewsbury works in spite of the government’s ‘Prevent’ campaign. The Prevent campaign is seen as lacking local foundation, and hence, ill-informed. Engage Dewsbury carries on in spite of not receiving any government funding.

I saw an under 9s football match. I had a chat with a former work colleague. I went home, and cooked the Sunday dinner. None of that involved radicalisation.

That is Savile Town.

Savile Town FC 2 – 1 Drighlington

My social media rules

  1. I will summarily delete anything which originates from the so-called Britain First, EDL, or any other far-right group. I am against cruelty to animals and in favour of more assistance to veterans (preferably provided by the state) but I will have nothing whatsoever to do with neo-Nazis, which is what Britain First, EDL and the other members of the 57 varieties are. They peddle the worst kind of click-bait.
  2. I am much less likely to criticise your grammar, spelling, and punctuation if I agree with your argument, or at least can see that you are a compassionate person. This applies particularly if you are trying to assert something like, “Immigrants can’t speak English”: I will proof-read your post as if it were received English (and – oh, boy – will I find a lot of mistakes).
  3. Don’t get me started on the subject of St George. If the historical St George existed, he was Palestinian, or Armenian, or from Asia Minor (Turkey), and never set foot in Britain. He could not have set foot in England, or spoken English, even if he had wanted to, because England and English are concepts that did not exist until after he allegedly died. The obvious public holiday to celebrate “Englishness” is Shakespeare Day, miraculously also on 23 April.
  4. I have no patience with internet conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds. Yes, they are a family with a long capitalist heritage. No, they do not control every government in the western world. The reputation of the Rothschilds is derived from Nathan Rothschild, who made a lot of money in the aftermath of the Napoleonic War (which he helped the United Kingdom to win). What Nathan Rothschild did was audacious; in some ways, cynical, and also in the teeth of anxious opposition from many of the other members of his family. It was not magic. It was not cabbalistic. It was not part of an international conspiracy (Zionist, Marxist, or otherwise). He was outdone in the modern era by George Soros. Yes, George Soros also happens to be ethnically Jewish. Australians win a lot of cricket matches. Is that because of an international conspiracy?
  5. Anything that starts, “If you have a father/mother/sister/brother…” I will delete. I have no living relations closer than cousin. Neither does my wife.
  6. I have nothing to do with articles about diet or exercise. Crap to do with diet and exercise in newspapers and magazines is no respector of class: the former broad-sheets are as full of crap as the tabloids.
  7. That photo with the blue plaque about George Orwell and the CCTV camera: that isn’t ironic. George Orwell wrote about telescreens which were installed in people’s rooms, which monitored them for the purposes of assessing their adherence to a set of political doctrines. CCTV cameras in public places are not the same thing as that. Orwell was nothing if not a believer in the precise use of language. People who say, “Oh, ha ha ha. George Orwell ha ha irony ha ha. CCTV ha ha ha ha,” are an insult to Orwell’s method. (And note that I say, “method”, not “legacy”.)
  8. That will do, for now.

A missive to a Millwall fan

What I am about to say is partly flippant, and partly deadly serious. It is about our place of origin, football teams, and justice.

It mainly concerns the person formerly known as Sir Jimmy Savile.

I am Leeds. I can’t help that. I was conceived in Leeds. I was born in Leeds. Leeds is the 3rd biggest city in the UK. The only teams in Leeds apart from Leeds United AFC are Sunday league teams.

Jimmy Savile came from Leeds. His funeral took place at St Anne’s Roman Catholic cathedral in Leeds.

I get it that crowds of opposing teams are going to chant about Jimmy Savile from now until Kingdom Come. It happened when Jared and I were at Hillsborough. People are people.

But I won’t tolerate any imputation that my origin in the city of Leeds, or my support for Leeds United AFC, or that of any members of my family, or my friends, has anything whatsoever to do with Jimmy Savile.

I am a socialist, and I believe in trebling, for a start, the funding for the services that deal with vulnerable people of all ages. I was brought up by lawyers, and I believe in independent monitoring groups who could go into any institution, ask any question, seize any document or piece of evidence, and who would be no respecters of status or person.

For what it is worth, I can say that West Yorkshire is a predominantly urban county and that, in urban areas, it is mostly Labour. Jimmy Savile (who spent 11 consecutive New Year’s Eves with Mrs Thatcher) is generally hated, as is Peter Sutcliffe. Just like British Muslims with Al Qaeda, we hate these people more than you do, because they are closer to us, and their appalling histories have the potential to do more harm to us than to you.

This is not a thing to make light of. I think that you get that.