Google+ A Tangled Rope: 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007

Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Poem: Sea Horses

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

Sea Horses

Now the sea horses are still, poised,
ornate like delicate jewellery.
What that means, I do not know.
We move on, in shoals, through
the depths of dark shadows
between the islands of lit tanks.

The ritual returns, it begins.
The search through rocks, weeds,
and the confirmation by label,
(helpfully illustrated)
the feeling of knowledge gained.

A worthy satisfied feeling, well-fed
by solid but digestible fact,
of time productively spent,
of edification and improvement.

A sense of the world, as somehow
slightly less out there, distant,
unknowable. Now it doesn't seen so far
out of reach by desperate, yearning hands.

But what do we really know?
A few names, forms and facts.
A handful of distinguishing marks
separating this one shoal of fish
from all the others swimming past.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Notes and Comments: 25/04/2007


Here’s a couple of links from a few days ago.

First at Civitas: How egalitarian social policy has failed working class children

Then at The Guardian, a rather odd piece. One of those pieces that make me feel as though the media – in particular The Guardian – seem to exist in a parallel universe to me, where it all seems similar on the surface, but on closer examination it turns out to be a far different world: Expensive tastes.


A stale, Labour-weary mood

My comment:
Back at the fag end of the Major period I voted Labour – despite Blair, not because of him – because, I thought, no matter how bad Blair could be there would be no way he could be worse than Major.

How wrong I was. How wrong all of us were.

Old labour ran aground back in the 70s, and now the New Laborg collective has screwed up completely in the 90s and beyond.

I think you are going to have to face it Polly, and those few loyal Guardianistas that still remain, the whole left wing project has failed, failed completely, and there is nothing that can be done to fix it because it is its entire underpinning ‘philosophy’ that is… well.. just simply wrong*.


*In fact, it seems its failure is so complete that even (some of) the French have – at last - begun to notice it doesn’t work too.

Not another digital villain

My comment:
What you must remember is that 'Ban' is a great word for newspaper headlines and one-minute news summaries - short, sharp, strong, active.

It is a great word for researchers to use to get publicity (and, hence, further grant money) for their researches, far better than weasely words like: tends to suggest, moderation, indication, and all the other doubts and hesitancies that would really reflect the world.

Politicians love the word 'ban', it makes them seem strong, active, decisive - all those things that research suggests (see?) that voters like. It gives the impression of action being taken, of wrongs being righted, of worlds being saved, of children being protected and gives the politician something to posture about to justify an otherwise pointless existence.

Meanwhile, out here in the trenches of real child-rearing we know that occasionally putting the kids in front of the TV for a bit can give us a few minutes to prepare meals, tidy up a bit, read the paper and all the other domestic trivia that tends to get re-prioritised when there is a Lego castle to build or a doll's severed-limb crisis.

However, our TV is very rarely on because we as adults very rarely watch it and the kids have therefore picked up the same habits. More importantly, though, our kids have never had a TV in their bedrooms, and never will, because that is just wrong.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Picking Cherries

As well as posting them here, I am also putting up these Monday Poems up at ABCTales. This morning I received an email saying that yesterday’s Monday Poem A Slight Delay has been ‘Cherry Picked’*.

This makes the 8th ‘Cherry Pick’ I’ve had at this site – a site which I have to say is excellent, and I don’t say that because they like some of my stuff, it is just a very good place - and being cherry picked like this does make me feel unusually proud of myself.

*From the ABCTales FAQ: A cherry-pick, represented by a lovely bunch of cherries, is given by the editors of ABCtales to recognise pieces of writing that they really think that other people should read. This is not a scientific process, but does genuinely represent both an encouragement to writers and also a guide to the most interesting or noteworthy writing on ABCtales. If you do get a cherry, your piece is added to the list of cherry-picked pieces and you'll receive an email of congratulation.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Poem: A Slight Delay

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

A Slight Delay

So talk comes to a halt again
as the rail tracks curl off into the distance
parallel lines curving off together
like some long unresolved argument.

The train we are riding on
sits like a forgotten toy
while we stare out
through opposing windows
at landscapes made alien
by their fixity.
All this used to be motion
blur, and parallax distances.

I watch a woman, stripped to the waist
washing herself in a bathroom
that backs onto this line,
the slight distortions
of the pebbled window glass
making her flesh outline
shimmer like some mirage.

I turn to speak, desire your confirmation,
but - out of the corner of my eye - I see
your formal nylon-encased knees
tight together. The straight skirt hem
efficient, like a ruler across your thighs,
and your briefcase stationed between us.

Your neck is taut
I see a vein throbbing
under your pale thin skin.
You will not turn.
You just watch the blank
corrugated metal wall of a factory.
One man with a fork-lift truck
stacking pallets neatly.

I turn back to my own window
the woman is now naked
drying herself with a pink towel
before struggling into a white gown.

And then our train moves on.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday Poem: Beachcombing

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]


Each day is a ship, sailing on the horizon.
There, and then it is gone.
We search the clouds for the memory of its sails.

On the shoreline we seek among shells and stones
sifting the wreckage of storms
searching through this flotsam for meaning and value.

The tide will erases our wandering footprints
as the wind disperses those clouds
suddenly, with an imperious dismissive gesture.

Our tentative lives on the edges of this land
are fleeting and flimsy as clouds
sailing these skies towards the horizon

while we remain here, trapped on the narrow shore
between unexplored jungles
and the wide, and far deeper, unknowable sea.

Recent Publications

The first in what I hope will become a new series.

I have had two poems published recently:

This Is How in Iota No. 77 (ISSN 0266-2922)

Room in an anthology To Paint A Picture - M. Afford (ed) (ISBN 1-84602-043-3)

Recent Publications

The first in what I hope will become a new series.

I have had two poems published recently:

This Is How in Iota No. 77 (ISSN 0266-2922)

Room in an anthology To Paint A Picture - M. Afford (ed) (ISBN 1-84602-043-3)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Notes and Comments: 13/04/2007


Another thing that has turned me against ‘the left’, especially as delineated by the typical Guardianista is the anti-elitist elitisism, the snobbery, the holier-than-thou self-righteousness of them all. For a fine example of this smug condescension we only usually have to turn to Poly Toynbee in the aforesaid Guardian, and here she does not disappoint. The comments are also quite illuminating on how the typical Guardianista has an almost pathological hatred of The Daily Mail – and, by extension, its readership (well, everyone who isn’t like them, in reality). The Mail is – of course – like all tabloids a dire ‘newspaper’, but it seems there is something beyond mere dislike of the tabloidisation of culture – not that the Guardianistas would be ‘elitist’ enough to believe in such a bourgeois concept as ‘Culture’ – that fires this rage in those of a Guardian-leftist persuasion.


The consequence of immoderation

My comment:

Zoe, I believe in the power of language - a bit like last week's Dr Who with Shakespeare - but I don't believe in 'hate' speech, not anymore. The concept is too dangerous - the 'religious hatred' bill tipped it over the edge for me, because I do hate what religions do to some people's minds and I want to say so.

I now believe in total freedom of speech and think that outlawing 'racist, sexist, sizeist, ageist, whatever-ist speech is wrong. I think - but I'm not sure yet - I would even allow the shouting 'fire' in the crowded theatre scenario.

In short, I don't believe prohibition works and the only way of defeating such talk is to take it on - everything from treating it with contempt to outright derision and all points between. Because, in the end, the only way to really stop people being nasty about and to each other in words is to change the mind that produces those words, rather than just tying a gag over the ranting spouting mouth because that is just pretending it isn't happening not defeating it at all, really.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Notes and Comments: 12/04/2007

[Admin note: I’ve changed from numbering these Notes & Comment pieces to dating them.]


It seems that for as long as I can remember – or as long as I’ve been interested in politics and current affairs – the various government departments: Health, Defence, Education and so on and so forth (whatever governments of the day call them or however they arrange them) seem to stumble from cock-up to crisis to disaster with – seemingly – unfailing regularity. I have recently come to the –tentative – conclusion that it is democratic control itself that is the problem. Take for example, John Reid (currently cocking up at the Home Office) and his predecessor Charles Clarke, either of which would be over-promoted if they were tea-boy in an ordinary office. I think it is the very mediocrity that makes it possible for such people to become MPs that makes them unsuitable for the jobs they are given in government. I suppose what I’m saying is that Government is too important to be left to mere politicians. I don’t have a solution though, apart from what would have been an anathema to me only a few years ago – get government out of as much of our individual - and national – lives as possible.

Several people have argued that the NuLaborg Collective see Orwell’s 1984 not as a dire warning about totalitarianism, but as a blueprint for their perfect society.

In Orwell’s fictional world, adults become subservient to irresponsible, ill-informed, not-yet-developed, gullible and nasty children. Is New Labour in danger of creating similar kinds of kids in Britain 2007?

Tessa Mayes at Spiked! ‘on how the British government is recruiting children to spy on and ‘re-educate’ the adult population.’


Max Hastings: Blair's iron grip on his party's loyalty invites the electorate's derision

My comment:

I have always voted Labour, all through the Thatcher and Major - and Labour's wilderness - years. I voted for Labour in the Blair era despite Blair - never for him. I always regarded Blair as an intellectual pygmy, duplicitous and smarmy - events seem to have proved my instincts right for once.

However, I will never - ever - vote Labour again. It is not the Iraq war - Massive cock-up though it has been - that has so turned me against the whole 'left-wing' enterprise. No, it is the attempts at social engineering, the contempt for individual freedom, the cynical use of spin as a replacement for substance and well... the list goes on past PFI, ID cards and so on.

In fact, as far as I'm personally concerned the only positive legacy that Blair has left has been this fundamental examination of so many assumptions that I took for granted that made me a creature of the left and my - sometimes painful ultimate rejection of all of them. If there are - as I suspect many more people once of the left like me who have gone through a similar bit of soul searching as a direct result of the Blair's government's actions then the Labour party's next period in the wilderness is going to be a very, very long one indeed.

Come on readers - do your worst

My comment:

We've had articles about the 15 sailors acting like wimps in Iran, articles about teachers being 'bullied' by their pupils and now we have an article about people being a bit rude on the internet.

Why are people these days so desperate to be so feeble? So desperate to be a 'victim'? So keen to find something so 'offensive' they have to run away with their hands over their ears in case their delicate little sensibilities are slightly bruised?

What happened to 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words...'?

This has to be one of the most pernicious and - ultimately - pathetically defeatist cultural changes of recent years. I would look to something like the Daily Telegraph to begin a campaign to reverse this trend, if I did not fear it was already too late.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Notes and Comments: No. 15


A thought on the so-called ‘cyber-bulling’ of teachers referred to below [Green light for bullies]. Human beings are social animals and if there is no ‘natural leader’ in a social situation then (young males especially) they will compete to become the leader. I presume we are all familiar with the youngster in the classroom who by force of personality becomes a sort of leader with a gang of followers? Well, if the teacher in the social situation of the classroom does not make it clear and obvious that he or she is the leader (and the only leader) in that room then this sort of chaos is almost bound to ensue.


The blogosphere risks putting off everyone….

My comment:

Admittedly it is rather new (I only built it a few weeks ago), but my computer comes with this thing called a 'space bar' - one touch of which enables me to effortlessly scroll past anything I don't fancy reading on comment sites, whether it be a foul-mouthed tirade, an exercise in overly-anal point-scoring, or whatever.

I was on the internet when this was all fields and there were only about half a dozen web sites in the whole of the UK - if anything it is more polite now than it was back then. However, it has always been anarchic, and I hope it always will be - it is a part of the attraction.

Everyone has a choice you can fight back like for like or you can ignore it, laugh it off, forget about it. But, try to control it and you will destroy the good bits as well as the bad and tiresome bits.

Smooth out the rough bits and it will become as tediously dull as some professional self-preening TV talking head interviewing a PR-perfect politician - probably the very reason why people turn away from the overly-bland professionally-perfect world of TV (and other media too) politics etc, into the rough and tumble of a place like this.

In short, don't try to fix what ain't broke.

A gauntlet for Brown

My comment:

The biggest surprise about PFI though is the near silence that seems to surround it all. It may not be a scandal on a par with Enron, say, but it is still quite big. Which makes the media's near total silence on the whole thing nearly as puzzling as the public's seeming indifference to just how much of their money (as taxpayers) is being pissed away by this whole massive con trick.

Apart from Private Eye - who have been banging on about it for what seems like years now - it seems very few in the media see this as a 'sexy' enough subject for them to raise their profiles by investigating. And, it seems, we - the public - are so blasé about such shoddy deals between government and its cronies, 'consultants' and 'business' partners that the whole thing just seems... well... as normal and as acceptable as - say - sailors flogging tales of their 'ordeal' to the highest media bidder.

the police service needs reform

My comment:

Perhaps the powers that be in charge of the police should take a look at the final episode of Life on Mars as a pointer to where it has all gone wrong, with the police from 1973 out on a train trying to stop an armed robbery while those from the present day are stuck in a room with their laptops discussing the implementation of initiatives.

Oh, and a thorough reading and understanding of 'Wasting Police Time' by David Copperfield too.

Life On Mars: the perfect finale

My comment:

Nelson tells Sam he is alive when he feels. He feels Annie's slap, but doesn't feel the cut in his finger. The police in 1973 are out there confronting villains; the police in the present are locked together in a room with their laptops discussing the implementation of initiatives.

Sure, Sam realises Gene and his squad are imperfect, but they have something the modern-day force (+the modern-day world?) has lost. They have become divorced from the reality, from the people they are supposed to serve. For example, notice the bit where Sam goes to the present day police station - it is like a castle on a hilltop remote and separate, whereas Gene drives his car right through the women's washing - he is right there in the middle of it all.

I would have jumped too.

Green light for bullies

My comment:

Maybe these teachers ought to reflect on the notion that if a pupil can take a photo down the teacher's blouse, or up her skirt, then maybe they are not the most suitable clothes for the situation. Furthermore, if a pupil can pull down the trousers of a teacher in front of the whole class, then not only are the trousers equally unsuitable then the person wearing them is clearly unsuitable for such a job.

If this sort of kid thinks they can get away - more or less - with something, especially in front of their mates, then they will do it. It should be a major part of the teacher's job to make this type of child damn sure they will not get away with anything like this.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Notes and Comments: No. 14


Ah, yes the 15 naval and marine personnel. So many pieces I could link to, but I chose this one from the Telegraph blog of Toby Harnden (mostly as it is the one I’m reading as I make this entry) more or less at random. One thing I did notice watching the local BBC news vox pop about whether or not the 15 should ‘sell their stories’ to the tabloids was a fairly distinct split. The younger ones (around the ages of the 15 themselves and up to around 30ish) seemed quite happy for them to sell their stories, whereas those say 40+ (like me) were usually aghast at the idea.

Of course, this was a TV vox pop and so suffers from all the selective biases such things are prone to, but I did think this was indicative of something. People of my generation and older were – of course – bought up in an era when the privations and so forth of WWII were still a strong presence in all our lives. Whereas younger generations have grown up in a much more cynical age, roughly Post-Vietnam [the first ‘media’ war], post-60s, post-modern, post-cynical – if you see what I mean, where things like ‘name, rank and serial number’ have become as quaint as medieval chivalry and ‘selling yourself’ (or your story) is seen as a sensible course of action.

Speaking of postmodernism, a long – but excellent - piece here on the vacuity of it all:

the pervasiveness of postmodern theory is uniquely pernicious in that it has explicitly marginalised expectations of accuracy, coherence and truth in favour of ostentatious political conformity. The basic tools of discernment have thus been dismissed as “Eurocentric”, “patriarchal” or unfairly distributed. Some might call this intellectual vandalism. This is the legacy of postmodern thought, as trafficked by many academics of the left – the ‘freedom’ to blunt the senses and be triumphantly, shamelessly wrong. Provided, of course, everyone is wrong in exactly the same, triumphant, way.


The elections that will tell us nothing

My comment:

The solution lies with party funding. As long as the parties can rely on other sources of funding they will not sully themselves with kowtowing to the ordinary punter. The solution, therefore, lies with making the WHOLE of party funding dependent on (capped) membership fees - then the bigger the membership the bigger the party funds and so the parties will HAVE to change to attract more members, and - almost automatically - the more representative they will be and the more people will be inclined to vote for them.

The only difficulty lies in getting the current incumbents to pass a law to this effect, which is a bit like the old turkeys voting for Christmas problem.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Notes and Comments: No. 13


Soaps, snobs and sinners

My comment:

So those in positions of authority are legitimate targets, are they? Like - for instance - I don't know, say newspaper columnists when the Internet turns their pontifications from one-way sermons of wisdom handed down from on high into a two-way exchange where their laziness, poor research, lousy understanding of the world beyond their self-contained metropolitan enclave and so forth are exposed to the world.
Oh, and while we are here maybe they shouldn't raise such a big fuss about the - sometimes - robust language they get back in the comments - after all, language is dynamic and ever changing, isn't it?
Righty ho - thanks for that.

Nursery may be harming your child

My comment:

I have been a stay-at-home husband, househusband - whatever you will - for a long while now (our eldest is now 18). When the kids were young opposite the house where we used to live was a private day nursery. I am just so glad that no matter how hard we have had to struggle to get by on a single income (and sometimes it was very hard indeed - cue 4 Yorkshiremen sketch)we never had to resort to a place like the one I could see over the road.
While I'm here, another Guardianista-annoying factette, despite our kids turning out pretty good with me looking after them, I am still convinced that they would have turned out even better if their mother had been the one to look after them rather than me. In short, motherhood is NOT a cultural construction, no matter how much you would like it to be.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Notes and Comments: No. 12

Anyway, here we have the return of the Notes & Comments strand.

To start with, we return to one of the major – if no the major – themes of this blog – cultural decline. Now we see how it can be exacerbated when there are certain truths become too inconvenient for people to hear. I was under the impression that one of the primary functions of an education was to challenge the received opinion from the home, received prejudice, widen children’s horizons, and so forth. Perhaps history lessons ought to contain something about the dangers of appeasement instead.

Speaking of challenge in the education sector, Boris (as Usual) raises an important point with his usual style.

Both the above are linked – I believe – by a loss of what…?

Confidence, or something like that, I suppose. I haven’t quite got my finger on it enough to put it down in a sentence or two, but I’m increasingly of the view that the great liberal-left revolution (mainly in the 60s, of course) was a major step in the wrong direction rather than the great leap forward we so blithely like to assume.

For example, we now have this, something that was very, very rare when I was at school, despite it being a pretty tough school, infamous for the savagery of its girl’s netball team.

Is it true Classical Music recording is dying? Martin Kettle thinks it could be. True the ridiculous number of interpretations of the standard repertoire is silly, especially when compared to pop/rock where there is only one Sgt. Pepper, Blonde On Blonde, Electric Ladyland and so on. Yes, rock did change the landscape, but when it failed to reach its promise or potential and became moribund as it slipped back into being just pop music – arguably around the 80s - that too is over now too. I think the very ubiquity of music these days has led to its devaluation where all our lives seem to have their own constant individual soundtrack. But, as for modern pop and rock, its ubiquity makes it mediocre and its mediocrity makes it ubiquitous.