Friday, 28 January 2011

My Back Pages

read a story the other day about three American airmen who crash-landed in the Pacific during World War II. They were hundreds of miles from the nearest base, and way off anyone’s flight path, except for stray Japanese fighter, who strafed them repeatedly with machine gun fire.

They also had to contend with sharks, starvation and thirst. But their worst enemy was one of their number. Two were veterans of many missions; one was a rookie and a stranger to their companions.

Adrift in an open rubber life raft, their faces burned and cracked in the unforgiving sun. Their rations of water and food were mostly lost in the crash, so they had to be creative with the remaining food. One of the experienced men took charge; he divided a bar of chocolate into squares – one for each day. Water again was rationed to a sip a day.

But the shock of being shot down and their awful predicament was too much for the rookie. He ranted and raved, until he became sick. He consumed the energy of his stronger companions. And because they were selfless men, they cared for him. They forgave him when he stole and ate their last squares of chocolate. Forced to watch him quaff their last drop of water; they resisted the urge to cast this liability adrift. They cared for him until he died.

Rescue did come in the end, but the psychological cost must have been terrible.

My Back Pages is a Bob Dylan song from 1964, it’s commonly thought as a rejection of his protest singer guise. Where he sets adrift his young self with the line "Ah, but I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now"

And within that line there is a solution to my predicament. I’ve been unemployed for two years now. Managed to do one days real paid work in all that time, and lost a whole weeks worth of benefits in the process. I’ve had interviews with people who claim to have a business, but meet me secret-agent style in a hotel lobby. Travelled a hundred miles for a week, only to find there was no job and no pay at the end of it. The DWP refused to reimburse my £200 travelling expenses. So much for “getting on your bike” Mr Duncan-Smith.

I have applied for so many jobs, that the whole process has become a bodily function. I shave, I piss, I eat my breakfast, I apply for jobs. And no matter how shit the job is, I get a big fat zero in return. The truth is, every year another hundred thousand or so IT people join the workforce, and what was once a specialist skill, has become commonplace. There’s a glut of unemployed IT people, so employers can name their price and be extremely picky. They are choosing young and cheap, which rules people like me out.

It’s time to cast my old self adrift. I can’t be as selfless as those World War II airmen, and I can’t watch my old self wither and die. I’m going to cast him adrift, like Bob Dylan did back in ’64.

Goodbye IT, it was nice knowing you, but I have to move on.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Kate Bush

he is one of those questions, that happen at the end of the night, Did she exist or was she merely a manifestation of all those difficult, adolescent thoughts. I’m choosing this one because it’s great and defies analysis, and because she ditches the leotard for once. The reasons are endless.
Click on her image for the song.

ooking at the shoddy vistas of Girls Aloud, The Saturdays and Amy Winehouse (excuse the oldie reference) I’m tempted to say talented women have been buried, beneath manufactured, stage-school, confection.

I’m aware people like Gaye Advert and Poly Styrene would not even make the X Factor auditions. But I’m really glad about that. And I hope individuals, Like them will flourish, despite the merciless onslaught of totally bland drivel

Saturday, 28 August 2010

She Belongs To Me

unny phrase these days, because well it’s a funny phrase and Bob Dylan was not being serious anyway. He was being ironic I suppose. And the songs over in about two and a half minutes. Which I suppose makes it a sketch, but by god does it paint.

Somewhere, deep within this is me, making some walk on appearance like Hitchcock; and that’s the way I want it to be. Off camera some awful things are happening, and when I’m ready I will talk about them. But in the meantime, I will remember the time I gave her first meal, of bottled milk.

She may not belong to me, but she will always be part of me.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


’m toying with an idea in my mind. The malaise I have, the notion that all lyrics/prose of the modern day tends towards the literal. The direct. The oh so unsubtle statement of intent.

What happens if the substance is merely a casual exchange of words. No vitriol, no conflict. Just a casual aside.

I will not quote from the Paul Simon song, but I will link to him.

Listen to the lyrics, they are the most sublime mix of words and vocals. Truly. Click on the image for the song !

Monday, 16 August 2010

Downtown Train

arly yesterday I wrote a six page piece that was supposed to be turned into a blog. It was pretty downbeat and went a little like this:

It’s five in the morning (sounds like the opening of Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat – except his time was four) and I can’t sleep. I’m in that place occupied by Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Very blue and mournful, the sort of place they sound- tracked with a saxophone on 80’s records.

As I wrote the fog lifted and I cheered-up. So I wrote something on the upswing:

I have two options. Pull on that Famous Blue Raincoat and get mournful and morose; or treat the whole thing as some terrible cosmic joke and think of others not just myself.

I even had time for an epilogue which was going to be today’s blog. Except it’s late and today has become tomorrow. But I only got round to writing down a Tom Waits song title – Christmas Card from a Hooker, and the place mentioned in his song – Euclid Avenue.

Euclid Avenue also happens to be a stop on the New York subway. There’s lots of songs that mention its stations or a particular train. Take the A Train for one, or Downtown Train (the train’s direction) . Downtown Train is as commercial as Tom Waits gets. It was even covered by Rod Stewart. But I like his unadorned de-80’s-ed version.

It’s simple with little complication. A boy a girl, a train going to Brooklyn (before it was gentrified and bastardised by the Beckham’s) and a refrain about every night being the same. Which reminds me of my discarded blog that went like this:

A job gives your life a little light and shade. And it’s neither hot nor cold in the JSA shade; just a constant slow pulsating wet weekend in Camden or wherever you hail from.

Minor irritants such as the temporary loss of benefits (It’s happening to me at the moment); and being sent on another one of those Government job training initiatives; are just part of that slow pulse.

I’m leaving out the observation that such things are supposed to keep a Dole Wallah awake. Because its patently untrue. I tested this scenario out yesterday. At 9am I called the DWP and Housing Benefit Office. At 9.30am I was out the door and heading for Jobcentre Plus. At 10 they gave me an appointment for 2.10pm to sign-on (ok I missed my last one).

I then walked a couple of miles to an external agency we will call The Alan Turing Project – because there real name bears as much relation to its function as something called The Alan Turing Project.

My claim is at Stage 4, which means I have an interview every week in some crummy office miles away. They keep me hanging round and form filling for two hours. I discover their printers don’t work, computers are half broke and water machine is without cups. I also discovered they don’t really do jobs outside the shelf-stacking minimum wage variety. But because the Government initiative dictates they provide a job in eight weeks, motions must be gone through. And all the time a ton of money is being wasted because these people are being paid to do what I already do – search for jobs.

It’s now mid-day – where did that morning go. I’m sitting in the Housing Benefit Office with a number in my hand; then after an hours wait, I’m handing over proof I get JSA, a days pay-slip and a letter from me saying I worked for one day a couple of months ago.

I do this because a gap was created in my JSA that needed accounting for. And while this gap remained unplugged, my Housing Benefit was suspended; because the DWP sent out a mail saying my JSA had stopped. Only it had not stopped, there was just this gap. I’m told my Benefit will resume in three days.

It’s now after 1pm, I have no time to eat; so buy food on the move and head for my 2.10 at Jobcentre Plus. I get seen at 2.10 on the nail and then I’m out on the street, a little light headed with hunger.

Suppose it must have been 3 by the time I eat, at this stage fatigue had set in and I’m dog tired. A full day sorting out the consequences of one day’s work. Getting people back to work is what they are supposed to do, not make the process as difficult as possible and stressful to boot.

I snooze at 5pm, put to sleep by the mindless certainty of bureaucracy. Somebody somewhere is siphoning off a packet from this pantomime; they must be; otherwise it would be one big waste of time and money.

Anyway I digress; back to Tom Waits and his Downtown Train. Click on the image and enjoy the simplicity.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Winter in America

It’s almost impossible to write words under this Gil Scott-Heron track. Please click on the image to play the track. It’s not necessarily of today, but by god it’s summarises a lot of what’s happening today.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Sunday Morning

I know it’s Saturday, but yesterdays dark night of the soul, was yesterday. Today it’s Sunday Morning. Thank you Velvet Underground and Nico.