Category Archives: Death

God Bless Us, One and All…

It doesn’t matter what sort of life you have carved out for yourself –nice friends, an active social life, a home you like living in, a lovely little long-term romantic relationship, a stylish wardrobe, a full gym membership, respectful colleagues, a fabulous coffee maker – it all goes to absolute shit when you are once again surrounded by a group of your extended relatives.

Yes, there are people who have to face Christmas without family, or money, or alone, or in the wake of terminal illness, in war, or after a close bereavement. Their pain – of course -is much deeper and more profound than those of us who just had to face the hideous onslaught of familial criticism and Mrs Brown’s Boys.

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That being said; my family can go and fuck themselves.

It started on Christmas Eve.

The eight additional adults and two additional children I was welcoming into my home –six of whom only left today (2nd January) – entered the house on Christmas Eve in the early afternoon and by half six my mother was crying.

What terrible injustice had she been served on this, the sacred annual celebration of the Eve before Christ’s birth? I’d put half a tablespoon of Garam Masala in a three-litre quantity of a Jamie Oliver Parsnip Soup recipe.

My mother had requested Parsnip Soup some six weeks before Christmas, because she’s on a ridiculous protein diet and wanted something (and I quote) “to look forward to” so I scoured the fucking internet, shopped for the fucker, and found myself going next door to borrow a fucking blender from my twatty next door neighbours to accommodate her request.

You’ll just have to take my word for how ill suited I am to the role of middle-class soup maker. I don’t even like soup.

My mother and I have lived on some of the shittest council estates in Greater Manchester, and the monumental personal difficulty I experienced whilst reading Jamie’s mockney recipe instructions (and subsequent twee “soup community forum” comments), buying organic vegetable stock and swallowing my pride and knocking on next door’s for an implement I wasn’t sure they possessed and didn’t know how to use was my little Christmas present to her. And how was I repaid?

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She wailed about Christmas being ruined “You KNOW I don’t like curry!” (once again, half a teaspoon of Garam Masala in three litres of fluid, akin to pissing in a swimming pool) in front of my six year old kid, and that pretty much set the tone for Christmas.

Christmas Day went the way it went in pretty much every household in Britain. Those that should have been drunk, weren’t, and those that shouldn’t ever drink, were hammered by half four.

My mother wore a white tuxedo, obviously. My brothers (early thirties) hijacked the computer games console and then spent two and a half hours sulking about a perceived injustice pertaining to the result of said game. Three quarters of an hour were spent barking pidgin Italian to foreign relatives down the phone. I cooked the dinner, served the dinner, cleared up after the dinner and washed the dining receptacles totally unaided. My brother’s girlfriend gave my stepdad a sort of lap dance. My other brother had a row with my mother about paedophile priests and the lunacy of organised religion, and at one point my mum came down in my dressing gown which was definitely in my bedroom, folded up in the drawer underneath my sex toys.

Since Christmas Day I have been to Yorkshire for a couple of days and my family STAYED. In my house. I wasn’t there. They all live up the road.

On New Year’s Eve when – for a fleeting moment – everyone seemed amiable and in reasonably high spirits my ma did this thing she does when she’s not the centre of attention and asked us all to remember dead people who weren’t there. In the epicentre of a moment of global enforced sentimentality and morose retrospection, my mother harnessed the mood and brought it squarely back to her and her sequinned fucking body con dress. And, you know, in a way you have to admire the plucky fucker.

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We also spent an arduous afternoon in an Italian restaurant on New Year’s Day, which involved my brother’s girlfriend wearing only a bra on her upper torso, and my mother asking if they had any gluten-free coconut cake. They didn’t.

But going back to the original point, it’s not about family specifics or race or class or gender. Whenever you return to your family, you’ll always be whatever role they have carved out for you from an early age.

If you’re the selfish cunt, you’ll always be the selfish cunt to them, whether you spend your life volunteering for Oxfam and saving dead seals, or not. If you’re the lovely one, like say, my youngest brother, you could spend your days butchering small children and still be saved the turkey breast and given the last Quality Street Purple One.

Which sort of explains Russell Brand and Miley Cyrus.

So chin up, selfish cunts and next year – go on holiday.

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Papa Needs a Brand New Brand

The thing about Russell Brand is, he’s not a bad fella. I have no doubts that his motives are well-intentioned, if a little (lot) self-serving. His clumsy manifesto seems routed in a genuine humanity and – at times – is well researched, and supported by some strong academic discourse.

 

Also, it’s pretty easy to pour scorn on Brand. He’s a character who admits to his own gargantuan ego, and said ego permeates every facet of his over-worked performance. He’s overbearing, smug, over-stylised, self-satisfied and seems to lack any sort of humility whatsoever, which is at odds with his frequent verbal attempts to be self-deprecating, in a false, “I think this, this and this [showboat face] but what do I know, Guv?” sort of way.

 

Despite all of this, there is something likeable about him. He is genuinely witty and robustly articulate, which has stood him in good stead when arguing with right-wingers and generally proffering his new-found revolutionary spoutings.

 

He’s managed to beguile Jeremy Paxman, Katy Perry and even some yank filmmakers, and there is no denying – even if you aren’t won over by his 19th century porno-pirate costume – that he does have some charismatic charm.

2011 MTV Video Music Awards Arrivals(2)But this new incarnation as leader of the People’s Revolution is fundamentally flawed on a number of levels, and someone needs to nip this shit in the bud before it gets any worse.

 

First, Brand is the sort of figure that the Ruling Class absolutely loves. The reason for this is because he poses no real threat to the establishment. I’m not talking about his ridiculous faux pas about not voting. It was a stupid, ill-advised point though. But it’s bigger than that.

 

Nobody in Whitehall is shitting themselves about Brand’s new brand of politics; they’re pissing themselves. And quite rightly.

 

You could look at the farcical, fucked-uppery of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson and their absurd bumblings, replete with deer-hunter hats and comedic slip-ups, but the truth is both of those people have a clear agenda.

 

Farage is preying on the irrational fears of the disenfranchised, with policies based on a hatred, which is anchored by fear and perpetuated by insidious propaganda.

 

Johnson… well, I’m not sure what the fuck Johnson is doing. He’s just a very lucky idiot and his village is London. Further proof that the north is the real intellectual hotbed of England.

 

But both of these people are politically successful with their gimmickry and personal indignities, because people feel let down by identikit, humourless politicians in too-tight suits, speaking in ridiculous sound bites they’re too afraid to deviate from.

 

Which should make Brand a dream for those wanting an alternative, which isn’t imbedded in racism or offensive gaffes.

 

The problem is, Brand isn’t really offering anything. He talks about revolution, and overthrowing hegemonic imperialism in the very broadest terms. And – put simply – revolution will not be about rhetoric, but action.

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The single most revolutionary event in the UK of the last ten years was the London Riots. It came about as a direct reaction to a perceived injustice over the death of Mark Duggan in August 2011. It was not orchestrated by any spokesperson, it did not need endless discussions about the distribution of power, but it was very clearly revolutionary.

 

More than any organised political demonstrations, sound biting, or posturing from self-appointed figureheads (bumbling, funny or otherwise) it was direct anti-establishment activity that absolutely threatened government and big business and was a clear demonstration of a general dissatisfaction, as well as a commitment (albeit anarchic and unstructured) to change.

 

Does this mean I think rioting is the solution to overthrowing our oppressors?

 

Perhaps not. The truth is, though, that is how revolution begins. And direct action is what’s needed in order to implement radical change. In any country that has achieved revolutionary political change within the last two hundred years, it always begins with the poor – very often the youngest poor (average age of the Bolshevik party members was fifteen) – rioting. It’s not something that will occur little by little through European Human Rights legislation, or workplace laws. Significant change will involve direct action, some of which will be unpleasant and possibly unlawful, because the laws only serve to protect those in power. By any means necessary, and all that.

 

The rhetoric used during the riots by politicians about the “real cost” of the riots being incurred by small business owners was clever, but misleading. The bigger cost came to the government, which is why rioters were so ridiculously penalised in the aftermath, and to insurance companies – who did their best to squirm from financial obligations, but ultimately lost a great deal. But nowhere near the cost that small business owners undertake to protect their businesses, so let’s not get daft about it.

 

I do think those riots were infinitely more meaningful than Russell Brand showboating on the Jonathan Ross Show. And more importantly, so do the establishment.

 

I’m under no illusion that Cameron and Co. are having a giggle about Brand’s antics, and despite the low-level attempts to smear him in the press, he pretty much smears himself because this new-found political identity is really just another vehicle for Brand’s ego.

 

He went from MTV Presenter, to comic, to DJ, to columnist, to full-time shagger, to film star and I don’t begrudge him any of it. Not even the shagging.

 

Do I think that Brand has a disrespectful attitude to women? Quite possibly, but not resoundingly so, and his well-documented succession of sexual partners doesn’t seem to form a pattern of promising women any sort of romantic future – aside, of course, from that one he married, but we can’t condemn someone for a failed marriage – so it’s all fair dos. In any case, I don’t think his attitude to women is overtly worse than any other man in the public eye. In fact, he always seems to be fairly respectful to the opinions of women he engages with publically, which is a step further than many other male celebrities.

 

The problem is though; this politics stuff is a folly. That’s the perception, and that’s the second biggest problem with Brand. He initially warmed us up with talk of revolutionary change in newspaper columns, with Paxman and on subsequent political panel shows and was received so favourably, that he wants to press on.

 

He’s a good orator and the more attention he receives the further he wants to take it. Cinemas up and down the country, screening Brand calling for (a very vague and unstructured) revolution, without equipping us with a strategy for what that revolutionary change will look like is pretty fucked up.

 

It’s actually quite dangerous. Someone who’s in it for the gratifying applause, but without the personal strength and long-term commitment to what is truly needed to lead people into action, is an easy target and a threat to positive change.

 

The other thing – and it’s fairly fucking pertinent – is that Brand is not an ordinary person. He’s from a working-class background, a recovering addict, and from a single-parent family, but he’s also a film star who marries pop stars in elaborate Asian ceremonies. Despite his funny and not-unreadable sports columns and chirpy cockney persona, he’s actually very rich, very well protected by law, and not subject to the same oppressive struggles some of the rest of us face. He’s white, he’s a man, and he lives his life indulging his faddy diets, trendy quasi-religious dabblings, and knocking around on film sets. If he wanted to be truly revolutionary he’d give up his wealth, refuse to work with film companies that operate in intrinsically capitalist ways and reject much of what it is he’s attempting to convince us he is opposed to. That’s the truth.

 

It might sound churlish to ask him to make such personal sacrifice, but if he is sincerely speaking of revolution, whilst living in a way that contradicts this sort of change, how can anyone take it seriously?

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It’s very easy of course, to be cynical and dismissive of those speaking political truths by dismantling them as people. The truth is, much of what Brand is saying is absolutely right. Therefore shouldn’t we just be glad that someone is saying it? It seems that that is what Brand is asking of us. To accept the sincerity of what it is he saying, whilst accepting he is a flawed leader and himself a part of the establishment, without asking anything else of him personally.

 

Let him talk a good talk, which is at the very least progress because not enough other people are doing it well, and because he is a high profile figure? Well, ok except that – and this is my final major point – much of what he is peddling is not his own work.

 

For years, Brand has incorporated little snippets of intellectual trivia into his act so as to make him appear more knowledgeable and worldly. I never really minded, because we all do it to a certain extent and because when he was on Big Brother’s Big Mouth and referring to his cock as a winkle, and interspersing it with throwaway comments about Wittgenstein, it was entertaining. His flourishes could be a bit annoying, but on the whole the whimsy was fun.

 

It’s not fun when you’re using the work of other academics – sometimes successfully, and sometimes slightly clumsily and out of context – to peddle your own career in entertainment.

 

You’re an entertainer or you’re a politician because this shit is too important to use as a public wank vehicle. It might not be as important to you, with your LA mansion, famous mates and blood-type diet. But for the people you’re purporting to represent it really is life and fucking death.


Why I Hate Banter – Rape Culture and Football

I woke up this morning wondering whether I was a megalomaniac arsehole.

And as I demanded family members make me brews and bacon butties, and revelled in the sheer majesty of my own reflection, I concluded thusly:

“No, Goddess. No you’re not.”

I’d been worried because I’d fallen out with some people as a consequence of a few on-line episodes involving misogyny and complicity. Which seems a ridiculous thing to get wound up about. Unless you’re an intelligent woman, in touch with culture and society, and have spent more than 45 seconds online.

You see, I didn’t particularly want to be an online feminist. I just wanted to bore the arse off people with pictures of my dinner and have a few digs at Coldplay like everyone else. But the problem is, I like football.

I like football, and I also like… and call me Mrs Picky… earning the same as men for the same job, feeling safe if I get pissed, not being judged on a different moral compass purely on account of the vagina, not being statistically more likely to be raped, or killed/ battered by a partner and the list goes on.

So where to start…? Ok, here:

Football and Feminism are not incompatible. Far from it.

From 1885 when working class people had successfully fought for the sport to allow professional participants, right up until the late 1900’s when a variety of factors changed the game beyond recognition – working class males were the imperfect audience for football.

Which brings us the combination of factors that have changed the landscape of modern football, to which many of us object. A grotesque mostly deliberate/ part accidental culmination of the formulation of the Premier League, an expensive television rights bidding war and the Taylor Report which resulted in all seater- stadia that led, in conjunction with new money in the game, to huge corporate areas and a focus on families (rich families) planted a seed in football which has led to the entire sport becoming a massive pile of corporate steaming shite that bears little resemblance to football past.

I’ve shorthanded there. Fuck it.

The very worst thing that modern football has done, however is to create a generation of real dickheads who “love” the sport.

These people are often from places like Shropshire or Surrey, and so have been shielded from the effects that football has had on big cities. They started liking football in the 1990s and are ignorant of the inherent politics that underpins football historically.

No sense of pride or value, they instead trawl the internet and use forums to espouse a caricature of manliness that they have been fed since around 1992 from FHM and those other shithouse publications. It’s a new version of misogyny that is directly entrenched in the values of modern football.

New media doesn’t help. The online football fans represent a very tiny minority of those who actually regularly go and watch live football, and very few people I know personally who have a season ticket have any online presence whatsoever.

Which means that a lot of the people we see on the internet participating in this modern football “banter” disease, subjugating women, targeting specific women and then hounding them in groups, tweeting disgusting shite to famous people, mocking tragedies etc… They should be considered victims.

They are victims of modern football, in much the same way others are.

I am regularly engaging with knobheads on the internet about what constitutes Rape Culture. Rape Culture is the prevailing sense that misogyny at a small group level, if not confronted, is connected to rape.

Those older, working class football fans who have a sense of understanding about struggle and a political perspective get it. Of course they do.

You’d have to be dense as all FRIG not to understand that when mates don’t say to their mates… ‘What you’re saying there is wrong” this leaves the misogynist under the impression that they have social approval.

That’s what Rape Culture is  and I apologise for patronising those of you with basic intellect for spelling it out so crudely.

You look at long-term football attendees who are a couple of generations older and they make off-colour jokes, they buy Viz, they have the craic… but there is no fucking way they’d participate in calling women a slut in groups. Online, or anywhere else.

No one I know – not even from rough as arseholes areas of Manchester – no one I know who is over 35 is a) gonna participate in bullying women at the football or b) allow other groups of men to do it.

In terms of football; it’s a new thing.

Every week new footballers are being charged with sexual assault. The focus is aimed at women who are drinking more, because of ladette culture (another media construct – guess which gender and class own the fucking media, fuckos?), not on the fact that these young kids are all over the fucking internet espousing views they’ve directly inherited from this shitehawk modern football, lad culture.

Because football has become so corporate, it’s no surprise that we see the trend for violence in sport being reflected in corporate capitalist America. We saw it recently in the Steubenville Rape case. A very insidious, new media-led misogyny serving to make women the focus of what is clearly a male problem.

Even Richard Keys – the poisonous little gnome – trying to ingratiate himself with the much younger Jamie Redknapp using the infamous “Would you smash it?” The visible look of disdain on Jamie’s face as he tried to hold onto his dinner, under his skinny tie.

George Lineker on twitter every day speaking about women like they are pieces of shite, meanwhile his father – the most prolific football presenter in the country – never publicly bollocks him.

Like I said, those people entrenched in football-fan misogyny are victims. They are victims of modern football, and in a very real sense, victims in life. They live for a football, the roots of which they are not in touch with, God love ‘em. Plus they’re mostly witless.

The real problem I have is with those people who are complicit. This is why I get narked. You expect people who express themselves as socialists, or as intelligent or compassionate to have the balls to stand up to their mates.

But we live and learn.

For the record, if you see a woman being abused by a man in the street it is always best to intervene if you feel able. Equally, if you’re maintaining friendships with people who bully women and you’re aware of it, you’re complicit in that bullying.

I will use this opportunity to say that I am fully aware that misogyny is not limited to football – modern or otherwise – and that footballers and fans have treated women badly prior to 1992. What I refer to here is a very specific sort of woman-hating that is directly linked to football within the last 20 years or so.

On a final note, I am fucking devastated Gandolfini is dead. He was the sort of guy that these new-age misogynists look up to, and would have as a picture on their social network account. Without even thinking for one fucking minute that this hero of theirs would never -in a million yearssss – been caught spending hours on football forums bullying women in order to solicit the approval of other men.


Death of a Tyrant

When you look at the smug, self-congratulatory faces of people like Toby Young (still firmly entrenched in the unrequited love of Julie Burchill) and Louise Mensch (a failure as both a politician and social network figurehead, business partner with a pervert, and mediocre fashion blogger) as they have the sheer audacity to equate the jubilation at the long awaited demise of Margaret Thatcher with a proposed lack of dignity, one can’t help but be reminded of the dignity of the people of South Africa when Thatcher dragged her feet at a trade embargo which might have ended apartheid sooner. One is also reminded of the dignity of the families tortured by Pinochet, Thatcher’s close personal friend and advocate. At the same time we are reminded of the dignity of:

 

 

Nelson Mandela; described by Thatcher as a terrorist.

 

Hundreds of thousands of Irish families who during her reign suffered as a consequence of inadequate and barbaric policy; from Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers, to those wrongfully imprisoned for acts of terror such as The Guildford Four, not to mention the millions of families on both sides who suffered as a consequence of an inhumane reluctance to face the responsibility of fair negotiation.

 

The families of those engaged in Trade Union activity during the miner’s strikes of the mid 80’s; when thousands of the very poorest communities stood by one another, united in political opposition to the decimation of their livelihoods, living without a wage in order to try (but ultimately painfully fail) in retaining the working traditions of a great many towns and villages.

 

The people of Argentina who suffered as a consequence of a relatively unpopular politician instigating a war, purely to win it and curry favour for an election win.

 

The many millions of people rendered unemployed during her reign.

 

The families of those who went to prison for non-payment of the Poll Tax – which ultimately led to Thatcher’s political demise.

 

The families of those killed at Hillsborough who fought for over 23 years to receive justice for being characterized as responsible for the deaths of 96 of their own, vilified in the press and effectively ignored and penalized by Thatcher’s government.

 

 

The truth is, if I were to sit here listing those people who have remained dignified during Thatcher’s reign of terror, I could be here for a great number of days.

 

Throughout my life I have had sanctions placed on my life as a consequence of Margaret Thatcher.

 

I knew a woman who died after being beaten to death by her husband, despite trying to seek refuge for which there was no facility available during Thatcher’s reign. I know people who went to prison for non-payment of Poll Tax. I know a Miner’s wife who asked my mum for tea bags, because she’d run out and she was bawling in front of me (I was five) because she didn’t know how she was going to survive. We were robbed so often in one week when I lived in a flat in Manchester as a baby, that the final burglary resulted in them taking the old carpets. We were homeless twice and I had to sleep in one double bed with my mum for six months before we were rehoused.

 

This isn’t gross sentimentality, or bandwagon jumping, or trend-led loony leftism: this is my truth. I don’t know anyone Bin Laden, Saddam, or Hitler killed. But the 1980’s were a climate of destruction that I lived in.

 

I hold Thatcher responsible.

 

Not because I want to gift her with the inaccurate and frankly insulting characteristics being afforded by the media. The truth is she didn’t hold on to her principles, she regularly back peddled. She didn’t stay true to herself, she spent years receiving elocution lessons. She wasn’t autonomous; she had teams of Machiavellian, barbaric, chinless advisors. She was an out and out failure as a parent, raising a vile criminal and celebrity kangaroo cock eater. She wasn’t anything approaching a feminist, as a transparent manpleaser (like all Tory women, engaged in a branch of politics that actively serve to undermine them, just like Dorries, Mensch etc) the purpose of her life was to please and accommodate men, she was regularly described as a flirt and she surrounded herself with male advisors, only acknowledging her own gender when it was personally rewarding.

 

Thatcher must be held responsible not because of anything she was as a person. She was insubstantial, pathetic and fundamentally deeply self loathing – how else does one distance themselves from their working class roots and subjugated gender, than by surrounding themselves by rich men and establishing laws that only serve to protect only them?

 

Thatcher is just a token; she is just a figurehead for evilness. But she is a figurehead nonetheless.

 

And to those who say speaking ill of the dead is undignified, we have to look at the dignity of a woman who died in much the same way as she lived, having spent the last four months in a luxury hotel: lavishly, obscenely and offensively out of touch with the rest of the UK.

 

As for the pomposity of her funeral, let’s take comfort in the fact that the grander the occasion, the bigger the party. Fuck dignity.

 

We should not be silenced at her death, in the way we were silenced throughout her life. We don’t just have a right to celebrate, we have a duty.