iamhyperlexic

Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

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Stand down Margaret

Jason Holloway is the prompt for this post.  He lives in the United States.

I am a paid-up Labour Party socialist, of a kind that one seldom meets, even nowadays.  I believe in the National Health Service, nationalisation, redistributive taxation, and all the old-fashioned virtues.  I believe in pursuing tax avoiders to the furthest extremes of longitude.

Jason Holloway is a hard-line (anti-Trump) American Republican.  The only subjects we can discuss rationally are food, and music.

The Beat aka The English Beat is my favourite band.  ‘I Just Can’t Stop It’ is my favourite album.  ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ is my favourite track.

When Jason came to England, he landed in Birmingham, where The Beat comes from.  I gather he likes the city, as I do.  We got on much better face-to-face than we had done, on-line.  Since then, I think we have reached an accommodation, based on food, music, and sport.

I am going to take Jason Holloway to a professional rugby league match, if it is the last thing I ever do.  It might be in Canada.  I don’t care.

In the meantime: Stand Down Margaret.  I see no joy.  I see only sorrow.  I see no chance of your bright, new tomorrow.

 

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#MeToo

I grew up in North Leeds, and my parents were lawyers.  That might sound like privilege, and, of course, with regard to food, clothing, education, housing, it was.  But morally and philosophically, it was hell.

Jesus cannot save the atheist/non-conformist children of North Leeds.  They are on their own.

My parents believed in two fundamental things. They believed that the justice system was capable of working, as long as every individual within it on the states’s side showed the required degree of integrity. (What about The Guildford Four and The Birmingham Six? Never mind.)  They also believed in engagement.  They believed that every incidence of wrong-doing should be reported by everybody, everywhere, forever, without exception.

A working justice system has many ingredients.  But engagement is the most fundamental of these ingredients.

Somebody has to say, ‘I have suffered a wrong.’

That is the main reason why I hate Savile.  He used his status to set up a power structure that would have absolutely appalled my parents.

The only rational, sane, just reaction to ‘I have suffered a wrong,’ is, ‘What wrong have you suffered?’

Not, ‘Well, you see, he raises a lot of money for this unit.  If he comes round, it may be a good idea to pretend to be asleep.’

No.

The most valuable commodity in the world is justice.   Would I rather starve than have justice?  If I don’t have enough food, then I don’t have justice.

Let’s start with reporting of the violent and exploitative wrong-doing of privileged men, and then we’ll go on from there.

Who knows where that might take us.

Review: Catch A Falling Star at Cluntergate Centre, Horbury 13/10/2017

I arrived late, at about 5 past 7, when a young man with a guitar was singing and playing.  I took him to be Louis James.  He began a cover version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.  There was a fairly long and tinkly guitar intro, which led me to believe that this would be one from the  Jeff Buckley school.  And so it came to pass.  I am absolutely allergic to bad cover versions of ‘Hallelujah’, by Leonard Cohen.  They make me come out in terrible running sores, all over my bozzolikons.  This was a good cover version.  When he sang ‘All I ever learnt from love / was how to shoot at someone who outdrew yer’ the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  It sounded like an impersonation of Jeff Buckley, but it was a very good impersonation.  Louis James (if I have got your name right): why don’t you try a freer version?

A splendid build-up, in the Cluntergate Centre.  I get to walk to this place, from where I live.  I may be an outsider (I come from bloody Leeds) but this is my centre.

The next performer was Halima Mayat.  I know Halima from, among other things, the Black Horse Poets.  Halima is part of the spoken word scene in Wakefield.

She opened with a poem that she said had been written during a workshop with someone called ‘Gen’.  I have sent my spies out throughout the north of England, and the best they can come up with for a suspect called ‘Gen’, is Geneviève Walsh, of, among other things, Spoken Weird in Halifax.  It was a poem about bi-polar disorder, called, ‘Tin of Hot Dogs’.  It was a very good example of how to use an everyday object as a metaphor for mental states.

Halima’s next set of pieces were based on fairy tales: Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood.  These were modernist treatments of classic stories.

‘The Dark of The House’ was a chilling poem.  ‘Betrayal’ was an angry poem.

As a listener, I still find Halima’s poetic persona tantalising, but, from this performance, I learnt a great deal about her.  It was an excellent performance.  Halima held the room (there were 40+ people there – that is a serious room).  Her microphone technique was very good.  She got tumultuous applause, as well she deserved.

Stefan Grieve and Ralph Dartford appeared under the name ‘Specky & Specky’.

Stefan and Ralph performed 8 pieces.  Ralph did a piece about domestic violence, and relationship breakdown, which began, “There’s indentations in this chipboard wall…”  Stefan rhymed “Fill ya” with “thrill ya”, and “dyspraxic” with “sarcastic”.

Stefan also said, “Don’t let your pain be a stranger to those who can help,” which is a summary of the whole evening.

Ruby Macintosh wears spectacles and an A-line dress.  She evokes the 1950s.  She can really sing.  She plays an amplified acoustic guitar.  She has excellent technique in both hands.  That is not something that I say, often.

‘Raspberry, Strawberry, Gooseberry Jam’ was a tour de force.  Never mind the vocal and instrumental technique, in perfect unison.  The subject matter of the song is about life choices.  It is a kind of poetry that I would normally associate with Brian Patten, Roger McGough, or Stevie Smith.

Ruby Macintosh is as good as Eddi Reader.  Possibly, better, because she doesn’t have a backing band.

Nathan Birkinshaw did a routine that was partly about repetition.  He was telling a joke about a man who walks into a bar.  It involved a certain amount of lying on his back on a table, and shouting.  I am not keen on shouting.  There was a barmaid.

His funniest line, in my opinion, was, with reference to this chap in joke land, and the barmaid, “It’s later in the night, and they’re in bed.”

[There is an old 15 amp plug socket on the ceiling of the main hall in the Cluntergate Centre.  Don’t ask me how I know that.]

The last act on the bill was Jess Rowbottom, as The Bleeding Obvious.  She was, among other things, promoting her show, ‘Rainbow Heart’.  But this evening was all about the moment.

As a fan of Augustus Pablo, I am appalled at how Jess used the melodica.  To hell with that.  I am not appalled: I am encouraged.  There are new uses to which the melodica can be put, and The Bleeding Obvious is finding them.  More of that, please.

I am going to list some of the pieces that Jess performed, if for no other reason than I want her to know that I was listening:

  1. Life is Never As Straight as it Seems
  2. Not Dead, Yet
  3. Family Gathering
  4. Outside v Inside
  5. Wallflower
  6. Me, Myself, and I
  7. One Foot In Front Of The Other

It was #6 that did it, for me.  There was a sample from the old-fashioned speaking clock.  It went a bit Pet Shop Boys.  It went a bit Momus.  Jess briefly lost her place with the melodica, and had to count herself back in.  That was lovely.

If I have to crawl there on my hands and knees, I will put a blue plaque on the wall of Cluntergate Community Centre.  “13/10/2017 Jessica Rowbottom, rock star, performed here.”

It was partly about the keyboard playing.  It was partly about the vocals.  It was certainly about the hair.  But, mostly, it was about Jess.  With the playing, singing, and persona, she told us she was going to take us to a different place, and we acquiesced, and she did.

 

Stepping into Rickaro Books on Bookshop Day, 2017

The wife of my high school English teacher is a long time friend of the proprietor of my local, independent bookshop.

Christina James, crime novelist

Rickaro Books 2 Rickaro Books, Horbury

Yesterday was UK Bookshop Day, the annual event which celebrates the huge contribution made to civilised life by all British bookshops, especially independents.  It also marks the beginning of the current year’s ‘Books Are My Bag’ [BAMB] initiative for the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

The whole BAMB drive was conceived of and masterminded by the UK Booksellers Association, which now administers it.  Authors and readers alike are very fortunate to have, working on our behalf, this imaginative, dedicated, hard-working and amazingly small team of people led by Tim Godfrey, its long-term CEO.  I was lucky enough to attend, on 11th September, the BA’s annual conference and there to get a sneak preview of some of this year’s BAMB marketing material, which includes beautiful mugs and book bags designed by Orla Kiely.

I always visit at least one bookshop on Bookshop Day.  Yesterday I headed for…

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Welcome To The Mad: Wakefield Litfest, 2:45-3:30pm 1 October 2017

WLF_2017_Brochure

My wife, Valerie Anderson Gaskill, and I will be performing as the double act, Valliam.  The title of the show is Welcome To The Mad.

The venue is Cluntergate Community Centre, in Horbury.  We are appearing as part of an all-day event, called Wakefield Rising.

Tickets are £6 (£3 concessions) for the whole day, or £1 (£0.50 concessions) per event.

The line-up of this year’s Wakefield Litfest is dazzling.  It includes Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kate Fox, John Hegley, Geneviève Walsh, Matt Abbott, Gudrun’s Sisters, and many others. It starts on Saturday 23 September 2017.

Review: Matt Abbott: Two Little Ducks rehearsal, The Red Shed, Wakefield, 9 July 2017

I am going to try to write this without giving any direct information away about the content of Matt’s performance.  If you want to know what is in it, including why it is called Two Little Ducks, you will have to go and see it.

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/matt-abbott-two-little-ducks

The blurb on the Edinburgh Festival website is fairly accurate, except for two things.

First, Matt Abbott is not what I would call a “new voice”.  He is an established voice (established, but not establishment).  He may not be a regular on BBC Radio 3 or 4, but he does appear quite often on other mainstream channels.  I know quite a few performance poets, but I can’t think of anyone who does more paid gigs than Matt Abbott does.  The audience at The Red Shed was about 40 people, which is close to capacity.

Second, do not let the blurb’s references to politics put you off.  Many of the pieces make reference to people or circumstances which are affected by lack of money, or displacement, or homelessness, or other injustices.  But Matt’s work is observational, or humanitarian, rather than explicitly political.  It is nothing resembling a manifesto, and it is resplendently free of any vestige of preaching.  It is also mixed with just the right amount of humour.

It is getting the mix just right which characterises this performance.  It is not a single narrative.  Rather, it has three main threads (I won’t tell you what they are) which are distinct, but related, and are coherently woven together.  There is a parallel between the way the pieces are arranged, and the format that A Firm Of Poets, of which Matt is a founder member, uses: instead of a succession of single pieces from four or five different performers, this solo performer delivers a succession of pieces on different themes.  The recurrence and development of the themes is expertly handled, like a poetic symphony.

As a rehearsal, this was excellent.  It was not the fully-worked-up performance, but it was very close to it.  I could feel adrenalin starting to flow once Matt got into it, and the audience had started to respond.  This will only intensify once the Edinburgh programme begins.  No two of the performances will be quite the same.  Don’t just go and see it: go and see it more than once.

There is also a mystery ingredient.  Much of the material in Two Little Ducks is new, but there is one particular piece which, unless you were at The Red Shed on Sunday 9 July 2017, I guarantee you have never heard.  It appears nearly at the end of the performance. It is a piece containing a deeply personal revelation.  It makes the whole performance more intense, and draws the themes together.  Even if you know Matt Abbott personally, I am certain that the nature of the revelation is something you would never be able to guess.

My wife, Valerie Anderson Gaskill, and I, will be doing a joint performance at Cluntergate Community Centre in Horbury, Wakefield, on 1 October 2017, as part of Wakefield Litfest.   That performance will have a bit more pizzazz, and a better balance because of hearing this performance.

After he had finished, one of Matt Abbott’s new fans asked if I was his father.

Review: Unity Words, 28 June 2017

The first performer was Lily Gaskell.  Despite the similarity in our names, I could not get much out of her performance.  Lily Gaskell and Louise Distras, who played the music slot at Unity Words in May, are different people, and there are some differences between their performances.  But they are very similar.  Just about all my reservations about Lily Gaskell are the same as the ones I had about Louise Distras.  If you are going to play a solo guitar and sing, you need to have a reasonably sophisticated picking technique, and you need to vary your playing and your vocals to create something resembling a tone palette, rather than a massive splurge – certainly if you are going to play to audiences of people who are over 30.

Jamie Thrasivoulou, the first spoken word artist, performed without a microphone.  His voice projection was just right for the size of the room.  He is from Derby, and has an East Midlands accent, which is something I always notice, because the East Midlands accent is, in my opinion, the most under-represented regional accent in England.

Jamie is a very energetic performer, but he uses variation in volume and vocal style to good effect.  He has quite a varied speech register, combining references to drug-taking and homelessness with descriptions of Cyprus, and mentions of Allen Ginsberg.  He recited mostly from memory, but he also read from his collection, ‘The Best Of A Bad Situation’.  For (at least) his last piece, he put his whole body into it: he was throwing his hands about, staggering from side-to-side, occupying the stage.

I can think of two comparisons to make.  The obvious one, which I gather that Jamie has heard before, is with Sleaford Mods: ranting about working class liberation in an East Midlands accent, while wearing a polo shirt.  The less obvious one is with the late and lamented Michael Smith, from Jamaica.  I didn’t understand every line that Michael Smith uttered, but I could always feel it.  That is how Jamie Thrasivoulou’s performance struck me.

Ralph Dartford stood in for what would usually have been the mentored poet.  He is practising for his forthcoming show, ‘Recovery Songs’.  He did a piece about childhood friendship, a piece about Hillsborough (on the day that David Duckenfield was charged). He contravened his own principle, and read a piece from the screen of his smart phone.  He did a piece about a drug addict.  The recurring themes in his set were substance abuse, relationships, and the passing of time.  As a dry run, it was pretty good.  I would be interested to hear the material again, when it is the final performance.

There were three Pandemonium Poets.  The first was Tony Gadd.  He has a North Eastern accent, and began with a piece called ‘Siren’s Tears’, about government cuts to emergency services.  He did another piece which was somewhat disparaging about Wetherspoon pubs.

The second Pandemonium Poet was Tim Fellows.  Like Jamie Thrasivoulou, he is from Derbyshire.  His first piece was about a mining accident which killed a member of his family.   The next was called ‘Cumulo Nimbus’, and was about depression.  The last was a comic piece about trogging the food at funeral receptions.

The last Pandemonium Poet was Steve Harrison, who has performed at Unity Words, before.  The subject matter of his first piece, ‘Apron Strings’, was Yorkshire pudding batter, but it is an inter-generational poem, about the poet’s mother.  The next was about a Wetherspoon’s pub in Wellington, called the William Withering, the botanist who discovered digitalin.  Steve’s pieces are quietly-spoken, well-observed, and have some nice elements of craft about them.

The evening’s new performer was Caitlin Lyons.  This was her first public performance.  The subject of her poem was anxiety, of which she clearly has personal knowledge.  As a subject for one’s first ever public performance, anxiety is a difficult one. Caitlin’s delivery was excellent.  I suggest that, if she wants to develop mental health as a subject for her work, it is one of those things that is best looked at from a sideways angle, but her delivery style is pretty much there.

The headliner was Maria Ferguson, from Romford, in Essex.  She started talking about how she loves pubs, and we had the third reference of the evening to Wetherspoon’s.  Maria’s show, and publication, is called, ‘Fat Girls Don’t Dance’.

Maria Ferguson’s work is contemporary, what I call “urban” (by which I mean appealing to and understood by people who live in towns and cities), and most of it is unrhymed.  She has a varied delivery style, and some parts of her pieces are sung rather than spoken.  She gets away with this much better than some other artists.

Her main themes are a sense of place and identity, gentrification, feminism, friendship, and the passing of time.  Towards the end of her set, she offered the audience a choice between a piece about her favourite country (Tunisia), or one about going on a sunbed (with the underlying theme of subverting the mainstream image of ‘Essex girls’.  The audience were unanimous in asking for both pieces.

iamhyperlexic reacts to the recent attacks in Manchester and London

It was never my intention to make this an explicitly political blog, but something has happened recently that I feel the need to respond to.  If I respond here, it saves me time and effort on social media.

The thing that I need to respond to is not the attacks in Manchester and London themselves, but the reaction of someone on my Facebook timeline to those attacks.

The people on my Facebook timeline, in the aftermath of a terrorist incident, tend to fall into three categories: 1. The majority, whose concerns are humanitarian, who worry about the people affected, including not just the public, but the people who work in the emergency services; lament the conditions that seem to have led to the attack, and fervently hope that something can be done to improve things.  Call these people naive if you insist, but, if the world is going to improve, these are the people who are going to bring about that improvement.  2. The minority (among, as I said, my Facebook timeline) who want somebody shot, or hanged, or tortured, or whatever: the stale, cartoonish, right-wing, knee-jerk reaction.  I have reduced this body down to about 2 or 3, and I only maintain those for personal reasons, which need not concern us, here.  3. Neither of the above.  This is the category that concerns this blog post.

The person whose post I am engaged in repudiating is an atheist.  I am also an atheist.  It remains to be seen during the course of this dispute how similar our atheism makes us.

When he says, ‘Members of so-called Islamic State ARE Muslims too, despite denials by some Muslims and some on the left,’ I completely disagree with him.

I live in West Yorkshire, where there are a lot of Muslims, most of whom were born in the United Kingdom.  I spent 12 years working in the IT industry, in Leeds.  During that time, I worked in teams where 50 per cent or more of the members were Muslims of South Asian origin, usually, but not always, male, and, usually, but not always, born in the United Kingdom.

These Muslims hate Al Qaeda and ISIS more than I do.  They hate them for all the same reasons that I do, plus the fact that they are personally worried about the destabilisation of the communities and businesses that they and their parents have worked so painstakingly to create.

These Muslims also hate the government of Saudi Arabia.  The very idea of not allowing women to vote, or drive, or occupy political office, or run businesses, is something they find utterly ridiculous.  These Muslim husbands, if their wives had a good business idea, would not think, “This is proscribed by the Quran”.  They would think, “This might put us on an earner”.

I am a white, British man who grew up in the Jewish part of North East Leeds.  Between me, and the Muslims of West Yorkshire: we eat the same curries and kebabs; we are addicted to the same kinds of sport; we attended the same universities; we work in the same companies; we are concerned about the same kind of political issues.  Apart from the practice of Islam itself, the only things that we don’t have in common are the consumption of alcohol, and – possibly – attitudes towards homosexuality.  The last one is, in my experience, academic.

I have socialised with Irish people who were openly sympathetic to the IRA.  I have never met a single British Muslim whose reaction to Al Qaeda and ISIS was anything other than revulsion.

The last conversation I had with a British Muslim, a few hours ago, wasn’t about the atrocities in Manchester, or London.  It was about cricket.

Review: Unity Words 31 May 2017

I was asked at what time the event should start. ‘It’s up to you,’ I said.

Stan Duncan from the Black Horse Poets, who was due to appear as one of the Pandemonium Poets, bought me a drink: an expensive 275ml bottle of Holsten Pils.

Another one of the readers offered me a bribe, about which, the less said, the better.

Matt Abbott opened the event.  His poem, recently posted on the internet, called ‘Kick Out The Tories’, evoked rapturous applause.

Stan appeared as the first of the evening’s Pandemonium Poets.  He read a poem about coal-mining, containing medical terms, but, ultimately, and poignantly, about dust.  He read a poem about the recent atrocity in Manchester, which rhymed ‘religion’ with ‘smidgen’. He read his dog shit poem, influenced, as he acknowledged, by Benjamin Zephaniah.  The note of righteous indignation, and the use of repetition, show the influence.

The main compere, Geneviève Walsh, was introduced by Matt Abbott.  Somebody needs to explain to me, in language that an idiot could understand, why the compere has to be introduced by another compere.

Gen informed us that Facebook has started recommending what she should do with her ashes.  Her piece was about a pair of broken sunglasses, and she produced what purported to be a genuinely broken pair of sunglasses.

The second Pandemonium Poet was the evasive and slippery Lee McHale.  He did a poem about getting stoned.  He did a ‘Roses are red’ poem.  He forgot the words.  He mentioned a band that he used to be in.  He finished with a poem called, ‘Ted the Teabag’. Taylor’s of Harrogate should be very pleased.

Call me a risk-taker, but I think Lee McHale has much more to reveal.

Matt Abbott introduced Geneviève Walsh, again, because, say what the hell you like, Gen has just not got the hang of this compering business, yet.  She broke the microphone stand, albeit, not on purpose.  She can smash everything in the room except one of the beer pumps, if she likes, if we can just get a compere who is a compere, not a compere introduced by another compere.

A certain kind of last-day-of-term feeling seemed to pervade.  I don’t mean that in the sense of finality: I mean liberation, and spontaneity, and well-being, and hope for a brighter future.

Marina Poppa, who happened to be sitting next to me as she got up to read, was this month’s mentee.  She started with ‘Sweary Mary’.  After this, she forewent the hand-held mic, in the interests of freeing her arms.  Next, ‘I Do Not Like These Tory Gits’.  She acknowledged her debt to the forthcoming headliner, Jackie Hagan, and did a poem about performing.

She did a poem about shit.  She did a poem which was a tirade against sexual objectification.  She did a personal poem about a friend whom she lost to alcoholism.  She did the pubic hair poem.  I call it, ‘the pubic hair poem’, because I have heard it, before.  I also believe in fighting deforestation.

The music was provided by Louise Distras.

Louise’s performance evoked rapturous applause.  What she did is not my sort of thing, but she had nearly all of the audience in the palm of her hand.

Distras is a guitar and vocals solo performer.  Her vocals are best when she is at one end or other of the pitch and volume scale (low pitch and loud, or high pitch and quiet). She has a remarkable voice.  She seems to belong to the vocal school of Give It Everything You’ve Got, which is not a bad thing.

I am not going to write a song-by-song critique of Louise Distras’ set.  It suffices to say that I agree with most of her philosophy, which cries out for freedom and justice.  And she can really sing.  However, her right hand guitar technique is rather basic.  Most of it is what I would call, ‘thumping’, occasionally punctuated by a bit of left-hand damping and plectrum picking of the bass strings.  Even I can do that.  I think she picked the treble strings in one number.

Louise Distras has toured Europe, and so, what do I know?  In my opinion, she needs to develop a palette of tones and emotions, including not just some more advanced right hand technique, but some extended chords.  The audience at Unity Works gave her, at every time of asking, rapturous applause.  But I was not convinced.  Call me an old git, by all means.

And then, after an interval, Matthew Hedley Stoppard came on.

This man is living in the wrong decade.  He should be in the 1950s.

He described himself as, ‘a nervous, repressed librarian.’

He was wearing a green, knitted, tie.  I hate green, knitted ties.  My father had one. Somebody gave me one as a present.  I think it was fucking home-made, which made it worse.

Again, I am not going to provide a piece-by-piece description of Matthew Hedley Stoppard’s set, mostly because I don’t want to dilute his material, and I want you to go and pay to hear him.

He was nervous.  His hands were shaking.  He was brilliant.  He is Northern, and British.  He is fucking Larkinesque.

He finished with the words, ‘Thank you for looking in my direction, and feeling awkward.’  I rest my case.

Jackie Hagan opened with the words, ‘I had my leg off, and got loads of funding.’  She said she was glad not to be in Manchester (she comes from Liverpool) because it meant that, for once, she could not see a girl eating an artisan Scotch egg out of a shoe, or a group of 21 year-olds, playing Scrabble, ‘ironically’.  (You could see those things in bloody Leeds.)

As I told her, after the event had finished, she shares in common with Char March the attribute that the banter she delivers in between pieces is as good quality as the pieces, themselves.  In other words, the banter is part of the show, rather than being, as it is in 98 per cent of cases, an impediment that makes you want to rip someone’s face apart with meat-hooks.

Jackie Hagan lavished subject matter on us. I don’t know if she realised the extent of what she was doing, but that doesn’t matter.  She gave us stuff to think about, and I do not mean clichés.  Among these philosophical gems were such items as the following:

Is the straight guy, in the graph-paper shirt in the front row of this audience, the catalyst for more reaction?

If I hitch my skirt up, as somebody is going past, will it benefit anybody?

To what extent does the film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, fetishise the concept of, ‘the deserving poor’, at the expense of, ‘the poor’?

Is it better to sit in the light, or drink in the dark?

Is it better to buy ‘Schrödinger’s Scratch Card’ (a scratch card that you deliberately leave for 24 hours or more before scratching, so that before it goes into ‘a collapsed quantum state’ you still have the hope that it might win something)?

Further to all that:

Rob Reed (with whom Matt Abbott and I appeared at the Cluntergate Centre last October, as part of Wakefield LitFest) won the Fray Bentos Chicken Pie, for the best heckle.

Outstandingly the best reference to bisexuality or lesbianism throughout the evening was, ‘Relief Manager at Carpet World’.

Jackie finished her set by drawing eyes on the stump of her (right, from her point of view) leg, which has been chopped off just below the knee.  She drank most of a pint of lager out of the cup of her prosthetic leg, and that is not the sort of thing that you see every day.

Jackie Hagan is a brilliant performance poet, and, if you have not heard her, live, you should do so.  Her speech register is certainly Scouse, but she is by no means an alternative, female version of Stan Boardman: her philosophy is profound, and universal.  People who have been to Oxbridge and live in the Cotswolds should, for their own good, listen to Jackie Hagan.

Obituary: Saxa (1930 – 2017)

2 Tone is my music: Jamaican ska fused with British punk.  Musical fashions come and go, but this is the music that I live or die by.  This is the music, without which, life is simply not worth living.  This is the music that sustains everyday activity, as well as inspiring me to greatness. This is the music that I try to persuade my son to listen to (and I have tickets to see Toots and the Maytals and The Specials, later this month). 

 The 2 Tone movement only shows one truly great saxophonist, and his name is Saxa.  He died on 3 May 2017, at the age of 87. 

I listened to jazz before I listened to 2 Tone.  In my opinion, the greatest saxophonist of all time is not Charlie Parker.  I completely get Charlie Parker’s innovation and genius, in much the same way, speaking as someone who plays the electric guitar, that I get Jimi Hendrix, even though he is not my favourite guitarist.  The greatest saxophonist of all time, in my opinion, is Paul Desmond. 

But Paul Desmond never played for a 2 Tone band.  Saxa did.  Saxa played in The Beat aka The English Beat, my favourite band of all time. 

And Saxa’s out-and-out virtuosity bears comparison with any of the jazz greats.  He just made the saxophone do what he wanted it to do, and his musicianship was borne out of ability to express, as well as technical skill. 

If you had put Paul Desmond or Charlie Parker in a 2 Tone band from Birmingham, they would have struggled.  Saxa’s playing sounds as natural as it sounds in keeping with the conflicted nature of the music.  2 Tone is rock music, not jazz.  It is hard and jagged.  The tracks are quite short.  But Saxa found his own place, and made himself at home in it.  His riffs were usually when I would move into the middle of the dance floor, but slow down and get some breath back.  You could go from moving on every beat, to only moving on every other beat, or every fourth beat.  That might give you enough time and energy to consider whether or not to kick the idiot who thought it was clever to stand stock still in the middle of the dance floor, for no apparent reason.  [This blog does not condone violence.]

It isn’t music you just listen to: this is music that is poured into your bloodstream, like petrol into an engine.  The engine doesn’t ‘like’ the fuel: it simply cannot function without it. 

 In my belief system, we don’t say that people have ‘passed away’, or gone to join some hypothetical something-or-other in the sky.  Saxa has died.  But we still have the example of his musicianship.  We still have his music: that endures, and will continue to inspire and educate, as well as captivate and entertain. 

 “I said STOP!       

                         I’m dead.”