Saturday, 20 December 2008

There is a boy who never goes out

Listening to: Jenny Lewis - Rabbit Fur Coat

Dialect word of the day: Foosty (Damp, dank)

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that my blogging has been far more frequent in recent days. Rest assured my life has not suddenly become radically more vivid and interesting, it is solely due to Jess being away and in order to stave off the boredom, I will probably spend the next few days recording my humdrum existence and passing thoughts in excruciating detail, so apologies in advance. For the next week think of me as a low rent Charles Pooter for the generation.

I actually ventured outside the flat for the first time in three days today and sauntered into town, it struck me how very attached I have become to Leith and the east end of Edinburgh (I still haven't worked out where one starts and the other stops) and what a wonderful place it is to live, the fact I can see the Salisbury Crags looming over my street never fails to take my breath away. I love the way the street thrums with life when Hibs are at home, I love the tenements and their air of benign neglect, I love the fact you're surrounded by a rich cultural history, but a history that doesn't appear in guidebooks, but reveals itself to you gradually.

I recently learned that as a young man beset with philosophical doubts and unsure how to make his way in the world, the essayist Thomas Carlyle underwent an epiphany, on Leith Walk, (of all places!) Such experiences are unverifiable and I am deeply sceptical about such 'conversions' but whatever happened profoundly shaped Carlyle's entire life and worldview. Whilst I lack the intellect to fully understand, let alone articulate what occurred to him, I find it fascinating that something so powerful and significant happened so close to where I live and in such an unlikely location.

Whilst I have probably gone of on a tangent a bit, the thrust of what I'm saying is that I can't imagine ever wanting to live anywhere else and I'm slowly starting to gain a sense of purpose and belonging which I have lacked for most of my adult life. Whilst I generally have a good memory for dates and places, the half decade that has passed since leaving University seems to have drifted by in one long mope, beset by indifference, rootlessness uncertainty, and brief periods of self pity. This may be a false dawn; so far my renewed sense of vigor has extended to ironing a few shirts and putting some Domestos down the lavvy, but to be happy with one's surrounding is probably a good sign. You never know one of these days I may even lower myself to do something as vulgar as to have a good time!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Winterval wonderland

Listening to: Herman Dune - Giant

Dialect word of the day: Swedge (a fight or brawl)

How does one measure when Christmas period starts? The first day Advent? December 1st? or maybe the week immediately proceeding the big day? I prefer a more unconventional temporal marker, albeit every bit as regular and reliable as the ones above. For the past decade or so, I have considered it to be Christmas from the the moment I'm informed by a right-wing pillock, normally apalectic with rage that, this year "Birmingham City Council has banned Christmas." They usually cite the Daily Mail or the Sun as the source of this nugget and that it's an attempt of "loony left councillors going out of the way to avoid offending minorities" and/or "Political Correctness gone mad."

Problem is, there is not a shred of truth in the claim. What annoys me most, is the sheer gullibility of the people who believe such arrant nonsense (although being utterly spineless I never actually say this to them) All they need to do is think about what they're saying for a second. It is not, in the council's interests or power to 'ban' Christmas. What do these staunch opponents of all things political correct imagine the council are getting up to? Are they raiding branches of HMV looking for contraband copies of Slade CDs? Making road blocks on the A38 to catch those smuggling tinsel into the exclusion zone? Or sending specially trained sniffer dogs door to door to detect the smell of Mince Pies or Turkey?

Amazingly not.... those loony lefties at the council have suppressed official recognition of Christmas in Birmingham to such a degree , that every year they've put up a tree, an array of Christmas decorations, including a huge illuminated sign across Corporation Street that reads 'Happy Christmas Birmingham' in 15ft high letters! This pap about Birmingham banning Christmas comes from a marketing campaign the Council employed about 10 years ago, to get more shoppers into the refurbished city centre shops for a greater period of the year, and promote a range of secular and non-secular events throughout the Winter, including Winter solstice, Bonfire Night, Children in Need, Ice Skating, Carol concerts, New Year, Diwali and at the very heart of it all...Christmas itself. They hit upon the term 'Winterval' to market these diverse events to shoppers, the term Winterval was never used to replace Christmas and all the Winterval literature makes copious reference to Christmas. Don't believe me? Well here's the long defunct Winterval website, count up all those C-words!

This rather mundane truth hasn't stop lazy journos regularly trotting out "Birmingham bans Christmas" stories or their gullible readership, desperate for evidence of 'political correctness gone mad' or reverse discrimination ( however fictitious) lapping it up like sick puppies. What is doubly depressing is the way that the Church Of England have jumped onto the Birmingham bashing bandwagon, either out of ignorance or a cynical bid to curry favour with the baying mob.

It is an ideal story for reinforcing a whole set of deeply ingrained prejudices about council officials, minorities and the left in general. I am deeply suspicious of those jourmalists, (and yes I mean you Richard Littlejohn) who revel in being 'politically incorrect.' I suspect it is often just a way of legitimating their racist, homophobic or sexist attitudes, and celebrating the 'good' old days when you could slap the secretary's arse, call Indian waiters 'Gunga Din' or drive home after 10 pints "without the PC brigade jumping on your back."

Breathe easy chums, my lefty rant is over and Christmas is now officially upon us; eat drink and be merry (and that includes folks in Birmingham)

Monday, 15 December 2008

The caped crusader

Listening to: Alasdair Roberts -The crook of my arm

Dialect word of the day: Broo (Dole/unemployment benefit)

I sit writing this whilst enjoying a highly unsatisfactory foot spa. The bubble function appears to have bitten the dust on the journey up to Scotland. A whole fiver that foot spa cost, I've a good mind to write to Anne Robinson on Watchdog or something.

The reason for my podiatry discomfort? Firstly I have always been a martyr to my feet, secondly I favour wildly impractical Chelsea boots and thirdly I have started my weekend job at Holyroodhouse and I'm on my feet for about 7 hours a day. Despite battered and bruised tootsies an slight unease about whether I am compromising my anti-monarchist stance, I find the whole work shabang rather pleasant, my hunger for arcane trivia is more than sated and I get to get dressed up in the most astonishing garb. This consists of Tartan trousers, a Glengarry hat and the best of all a cape with lovely shiny buttons. I love swishing around the Palace in the cape feeling quite the dandy. I am tempted to see if I can persuade Jess to knock up a cape for casual wear, maybe in a discrete tweed. I'm sure my fellow Leithers will be delighted to see me cutting a sartorial dash through the grey winter streets.

The Glengarry is another matter altogether, very few people can wear one of these with elan and I am certainly not one of them. The most straightforward and inoffensive of hats can make me look a bit gormless, but the Glengarry makes me look an utter simpleton, especially combined with my glasses and luxuriant sideburns.

Hopefully my feet will have recovered sufficiently to transport me around the German Market. Jess is ludicrously excited by the amount of pork based foodstuffs she can consume in a single evening. I am actually quite excited, the first time Jess visited me in Leeds, we went to the German market and it seemed a magical experience, both of us drunk on love and a range of quality German lagers. These are now a staple of British city centres at Christmas time and the stalls all seem to be run by your actual German market traders. It makes you wonder who actually runs the stalls back in Germany, given the vast majority seem to be over here. Perhaps there is a market trader exchange scheme in operation. Whilst we peruse handcrafted wooden ornaments, elaborate nativity displays and specialty beers and wines, the good people of Frankfurt or Munich hurry down to the traditional yuletide 'British market' to stock up on pirate DVDs, counterfeit sportswear and condemned meat sold from the back of a lorry.

Tonight will be slightly bittersweet, given that itll be our last evening together for quite a while, Jessis off to see her mum for a pre-Christmas visit. I shall be left in the flat alone and who knows what chaos will ensue, given my inability to cope with the most mundane pracicalities of life.

I shall keep you posted....

Monday, 1 December 2008

You've been Slade

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Christmas is nearly upon us and I'm trying to cobble together a decent Christmas compilation (If that's not an oxymoron) . I've got to 12 tracks so far, So further suggestions are most welcome. So far I've snared the obvious candidates, yer Low and yer Phil Spector efforts, so you've got your work cut out, if you decide to take up the cudgel.

You never seem to hear the Glitter Band's Another Rock and Roll Christmas these days. I wonder why on earth that could be?