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Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday wallows, Friday follows ...

There's nothing worse, I think, than Twitter users shedding all dignity and begging for followers. I call it begging, because that's what it is. You're asking for something without offering anything in return. It's also one of my 'unfollow' criteria. The implication is that the volume of followers you have somehow validates your own worth. That's a nonsense. I have vented about this already, so no more here.

"Gather followers by being engaging. Don't be afraid to unfollow bores and people who just jibber-jabber to fill a void."

With this in mind, I have gathered a list of people whom I follow and recommend to you. This is not the #ff methodology usually employed I suppose, but Twitter never allows room for context. I would not expect someone to follow anyone just because I said so. In some kind of alphabetical order:
  • @_MuckyWaters_73 fast cars and blues guitar. What more do you need to know?
  • @CardinalPhink and @JelloPuss - punk rock hearts smothered in strong alcohol and cheesecakes. Not murderers.
  • @cath_caldwell - Mum, student ... heartwarming tales of boiler repair men ;-)
  • @DeadbeatMum and @dirt_bird - an hilarious living sitcom but also insightful and thoughtful comment on a variety of issues. Sweary DIY-related tweets. Cats (if you like that sort of thing).
  • @DonColerainey - the Teflon Don of the North Coast. Articulate and very, very angry most of the time. Not a man to cross.
  • @hannahhou - beloved #1 daughter. F1 and BTCC news and views. Her beau is @TheJonnyMoore.
  • @IsGrandmaThere - hilarious and widely-travelled social commentator and raconteur. Impeccable taste in music.
  • @jasebell - stick fiddler, wry observer of the human condition. Has bass desires.
  • @JudithR33 - Secret Publican, masochist swimmer, photographer of vivid scenes and dunnocks. Has a good pie recipe.
  • @kezwilliams13 - multi-talented and knowledgeable muso with many hats. A good egg.
  • @loftspace - government bullshit filter, social conscience and mum.
  • @muldutch - scrabbler. Pretty handy with a taunt and a riding crop.
  • @M_Corbett - writerly, thoughtful and funny. No fan of the grocer's apostrophe.
  • @paul_beattie - first rate photographer but first and foremost, thoroughly bloody nice real-world bloke. Great chef. No TV.
  • @sera_mcdaid - The Agoraphobic Fashionista. Truly original and inspiring.
  • @siralanwhite - the Sage of Wrenthorpe. Purveyor of humorous asides.
  • @VictoriaKLM - strong views, forcefully expressed. Good for a debate.
  • @wonderwaff - funny and touching insights into motherhood and family life. From Finland, like the Moomins.
I may have missed people.

Until next time, social media fans.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

#notmurdered - I'm So Excited

It's a holiday in Mancunia, where the people dress in black - part IV

So you rejoin us outside the Manchester Apollo where punks and the punk-curious from far and wide are gathering to attend Buzzcocks' landmark Back to Front show. Back to Front is Buzzcocks from three eras: the current line-up perform a set of songs drawn from the 1996 - present catalogue; the 'classic' line-up (1977-81) do a set drawn from the first three albums and associated singles; and finally the original 'original' line-up with Howard Devoto will perform the songs from the self-financed and seminal Spiral Scratch EP. This is unparalleled. It has taken a long time to set up. Bassist Steve Garvey has flown over from the US for these two shows (more about him later). I'm excited.

Manchester Apollo is a cavernous ex-cinema. It's filling nicely, there's a goodnatured buzz of anticipation. I spot Buzzcocks' manager Raf at the desk. There is the aftershow business yet to be arranged, I might as well grasp the nettle. Apollo security are not letting anyone near the desk but I have a go anyway and explain that I know Raf and that he knows me. I ask Raf what the plan is for joining the aftershow. He's bemused. He assumes this is all sorted out. He tells me to go to a particular door at the side of the stage after the performance. Hmmm ...

Torpor! Enervation!
The three sets are superb. There are plenty of reviews of this show you can read, and this is not my task here. Let's just say that it's chaotic, the sound is fucking awful and it is thrilling and brilliant. We surge forward to the pit for the second set. We're just in front of Steve Garvey. I love him. It's hell down there though. Pissed-up and very determined man mountains are not to be denied their place at the barrier. Poor @JelloPuss, crushed at the front. @CardinalPhink and I are trying to be gallant AND enjoy the experience but it's pretty hairy down there. A raging sea of drunken, bellowing bonhomie. It's not for the fainthearted.

At the end of the show we gather at the appointed place. This is where things take a turn for the worse. The notoriously intolerant Apollo security are herding us out. That we were told to wait side of stage makes no difference. Our resistance is spirited but useless. We are pushed back to the lobby, where we mill about, pretending to look at merchandise. I make a few calls to the 'inner sanctum'. While we're waiting, I hear my name being called. It's @JelloPuss and she has Steve Garvey in tow.

You have to understand what a profound effect this man has had on my life. My Buzzcocks epiphany was based on borrowing an album and then playing it incessantly for about three months. On the cover of that album were four moody young men in black. One of them was Steve Garvey - mean, moody, so New Wave ... he was (is) also a superlative bassist. I wanted to be Steve Garvey. Ideally, I wanted to be Steve Garvey IN Buzzcocks, but hey ho. Anyway, he was my role model. I learned to play bass because of him and I've had a few adventures of my own because of it. Thanks to him. So when I was introduced, all the things I wanted to say flew out of my tiny head. I was the starstruck teenager waiting outside the back door of Oxford New Theatre thirty-odd years ago. I could have gone home happy then.

Apollo security get their wish and chuck us all out. So we loiter outside, about fifteen diehard Secret Publicans unaccustomed to being outside after a 'Cocks show. My 'phone rings. It's Pete Shelley*. Well, it's Pete Shelley's 'phone. Someone will be down with passes shortly.

The legendary Steve Garvey and a fat bloke.
So, armed with the privileged green wristbands, we get up to the bar where the party is in full swing. There are lots of family members, the Secret Public family, everybody's happy nowadays. And I get my chat with Steve G. I tell him all the stuff I have been carrying all these years and he seems happy to hear it. I'm totally made up now.

There is also business to transact. We're gathering items to auction to support the running costs of Pete Shelley has something special for us - bespoke underwear hand-stencilled by Lou who makes his stagewear. If you want to win this stuff by the way, stay tuned and I'll post the link to the auction when it happens. We also have a Back to Front poster signed by all iterations of the band. This is cool, desirable stuff.

The venue win again. they want everyone out of the building. We get to chat to the people we want to chat to - in many ways this is my extended family. We meet at gigs all over the place. Oddly enough two of them - Maxine and Steve - are going to be at a Damned gig in Belfast the following night. About which more next time ;-)

A great night, made better for turning out all right. Good friends, new and old, a few beers ... you know what? I Don't Mind.

In the next instalment, I find myself financially embarrassed, go on a tweet-up and mingle with Goths.

*It's not smart or funny to drop names. Kenneth Branagh told me that.

Read parts one, two and three of this NW punk rock odyssey.

If you like my writing, please consider giving my novel a go - thanks!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Are 'Inverted Commas' Necessary?

The paint's peeling off of his walls ...
I have been posed a challenge.

In 1979, Gary Numan and his Tubeway Army released what was, at the time, a seminal piece of dark synth-pop called 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' My challenge, thirty-odd years later, is simply to discover why the 'Friends' in the title is separated out in inverted commas.

Simple, huh?

Well, no. I'm sure all the cod pop psychologists, lyric autopsiers and Numan fanatics have debated it endlessly. I'm simply not interested in their analysis. I need to hear it from the man himself.

Can it be done? Watch this space ...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

#notmurdered - but feel like death

It's a holiday in Mancunia, where the people dress in black - part III

So whatever happened between coming in from the garden and going to bed remains a complete mystery. I wake up in the bed but with the curtains wide open. Listening to people talking about how much booze they have consumed and how drunk they were can be tiresome, I know. Let it suffice to say that a very convivial evening was had. I think. I'm sure.

So when I wake up, squinting in the sunlight, death would be a welcome release. And yet ...

... and yet there is too much to look forward to. Firstly, now the ice is broken, I know I'm in first class company. I knew I would be, I hope my hosts aren't too horrified by the incoherent, stumbling monster I must have become. By magic, it seems, a cuppa has appeared at the bedside. It's very welcome. That's the kind of thoughtfulness I'm talking about. I'm feeling rough. There's no skirting round the fact that I have to make myself sick*. There, I have said it. Emptied and raring to go, the day takes a significant upswing. @CardinalPhink takes me on a stroll to the shops. The sun is blazing. I have my traditional hangover cure - an ice lolly. It's the one that looks a bit like a cock. I don't care. I also exchange that half a ton of coins for notes. Everything's coming up roses.

If there's a finer prospect than a whistlestop pub cultural tour in the blazing sun, followed by a landmark punk rock show, I'm hard-pressed to think what it could be. I like Manchester's suburbs. They are cosmopolitan and vibrant in a way my home is not. For this reason, the bus ride into Manchester feels more like a continental holiday. Living in a beautiful desert blunts your memory of metropolitan life.

The first beer in Trof is divine. It's boiling outside, Trof is cool and shady. Hangover, begone! In the vernacular, I'm sorted. @JelloPuss informs me she's sure there will be a local celeb at the bar of our next stop. I'm intrigued but short of guesses - Mark E Smith? Hooky? Shaun Ryder? Well, I ain't gonna tell ya who it was. Suffice to say it was in Sam's Chop House.

I promised you the best jukebox in the world. It's right there <-------. And this is where it gets a bit creepy. We're on our way, eventually, to see Buzzcocks at the Manchester Apollo. What does the world's best jukebox play as we wait for the first pint @CardinalPhink has had to remortgage the farm for? Buzzcocks - 'Moving Away From The Pulsebeat'. We didn't put it on, it just came on, deus ex machina. I call this 'Buzzcocksicity'. It happens all the time.

Der Mulletmann
Bull's Head, Munich.
Stereotype craving satisfied :-)

Yeah, this is cool. It's a beautiful day, I'm in brilliant, generous company, we have a first class cultural event to look forward to and I have a nice beer buzz going. Things could not be better.

I'm in sporadic contact with a carload of Buzzcocks fans en route from London (Hi Coppo, Lynda, Lester Sands, Jacqui and Oetzi!) and we arrange to meet in the Bull's Head near Piccadilly station, along with @thatandywhite, @JudithR33 et al. I'm particularly keen to chat to Judith as the last time we met, at a Buzzers show in Belfast, I was too busy and then too shy to talk. Idiot! The pub is filling with old punks. It's no surprise where they're heading. We're like wildebeest gathering at a waterhole before the great migration. Feels like home. We hook up with the London contingent at the bus stop. Punk rocknfucking roll ahoy!

I promised you a legend. It'll have to wait until next time ...

In the next instalment - three bands, green bands, icons and underpants.

Read parts one and two of this NW punk rock odyssey.
If you like my writing, please consider giving my novel a go - thanks!

*clarification - the cuppa made by @Jellopuss was lovely, the residual wine, beer, whiskey and vodka was a bad tenant.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

#notmurdered - He's Leaving Home

It's a holiday in Mancunia ... where the people dress in black - part II

I love that holiday feeling, the one where you know you're on your way and whatever the holiday holds is ahead of you. I didn't have much time to enjoy that feeling for this trip because I had pressing matters to address. I do a bit of volunteer work on a  local arts and music newsletter and I had an edition to get off to the printers. That would mean an hour at the computer and then a trip into town to deliver the artwork. I also needed my hair cut badly I also badly needed a haircut.

Coleraine at 9am is pretty much a desert. My favourite gentleman's barbershop is closed. I gatecrash a salon without an appointment. Punk rock, let's go. Even though my haircut is achieved, the morning is going Clockwise-esque. A summary of tasks in hand:

  1. haircut
  2. deliver pen drive of artwork to printer
  3. change £70 worth of holiday fund coins into notes
I fail on 3. I have to take my bags of coins home again with me. It doesn't matter. There are two banks and a post office in Portstewart.

There are no longer any banks in Portstewart and the post office is closed due to 'unforeseen circumstances'. I stuff the bags into my rucksack. I am so pleased I make my 2pm departure time for the airport that the realisation that I have forgotten to leave Carlosita's laptop round to her mum's is a real pisser. Turning round, getting it and delivering it adds half an hour onto my travel time. I'm now looking tight for getting through security at the airport, still the best part of an hour's drive away.

"Have you got coins in your bag?"
"No. Wait. Coins? Yes."

What is it about quasi-official questions that make you sound flustered and stupid? At least I got to the airport just on time. I only have time enough to do one of two things: have my habitual pre-flight whiskey OR go to the duty free. I go to the duty free. One till is down, the other has a long queue. I buy a bottle of Bushmills for my hosts and leg it to the gate. I needn't have bothered. A long, immobile line of sweaty travellers is still waiting to board.

Flying Belfast to Liverpool is hardly a flight at all. You're no sooner up than down again. I'm too cross to buy an inflated drink from the 'travel kiosk'. I read about the nightlife in Berlin I have missed in three visits and bingo, we have landed. I'm forcibly reminded that I'm about to entrust my personal safety to people I have never met. I only have the sketchiest idea how they look. What if they're awful? What if they're axe murderers?

I have to call home to say I landed safely. I know it's a delaying tactic. They're waiting in Arrivals and I'm hovering in the baggage hall. My nose is running and my ears are blocked - summer cold or hayfever, I don't know which. I'm just a tad nervous. This could be a colossal mistake. I wish I was drunk.

Oh dear ...
And there they are. @CardinalPhink and @Jellopuss. I'm shy, it's all a bit awkward. I'm not a great socialiser. I needn't have worried ...

The run to Greater Manchester from Liverpool is fun. I can't hear a thing in the back of the car, @CardinalPhink is a brisk and deft driver. I feel like I'm on a rollercoaster. I don't offer much by way of conversation. I'm not that guy. I'm beginning to wonder if they're wondering if I'm a nutter.

At Casa Phinky there is a gift basket in the spare bedroom. There are two cats - one chummy, one invisible. There is punk rock, speciality ale, vodka, Ch√Ęteauneuf du Pape, Bushmills, cheese, pork pie with black pudding on top - on top! - and there is pie, glorious home-made pie for tea.

A vat of booze is consumed, the craic is great. I don't know how I get to bed. Feels like home ...

In the next instalment: bar-hopping, the best jukebox in the world and after some tribulations, I meet a personal hero.

Read the prologue
If you like my writing, please consider giving my novel a go - thanks!

Monday, June 4, 2012

#notmurdered - the prologue

It's a holiday in Mancunia, where the people dress in black ...

Behind the blank anonymity of your connected device, you can create a character for yourself that is closer to how you wish to be than how you actually are. It's very easy to make up for your known deficiencies by being bold and funny, or flirty, or coy or whatever: you can give yourself the attributes you desire. This principle began in online role-playing alternative universes such as Second Life. Now it applies to your 'real' self, or at least how you wish your 'real' self to be perceived.

Social media thrives on social validation. You can seek this validation in a number of ways. One is by volume - the number of followers or friends you acquire, regardless of their interest or interaction with your actual life. Another is in the type of friend/follower you acquire: they may be more like the real friends you wish you had than the ones you actually have.

So social media is a bluffer's paradise, right?

Well, here's the thing. If you're using social media properly, the real world is much closer over the horizon than you think. You're very likely to have befriended people you know in the real world, and they will immediately pick up on any crap or fantasy and pull you on it. Everyone needs at least one friend like this, by the way. One of the delicious ironies of a global social network is that the people you befriend may be closer that you think - in your town or even a short 'plane ride away.

Which brings me to my own Rubicon. I have been chatting on Twitter to Prestwich tweeps @CardinalPhink and @JelloPuss via an introduction from a mutual friend for about a year. We quickly discovered a shared love of punk rock, specifically Buzzcocks to whom @JelloPuss has a very direct personal connection. When Buzzcocks announce a landmark show (Back to Front, Manchester Apollo - to be reviewed separately), I know I will be going - as a fan and as admin of the official Buzzcocks fansite In fact, there is no way I won't be attending ... In an odd twist of fate - or maybe it's destino - @CardinalPhink's favourite band The Damned are playing in Belfast the following night.

A whirlwind of punk rock bonhomie is unleashed. Invitations are extended. I'm going to Prestwich to stay with people I only know from Twitter and have never met ...

In the next instalment: I buy a bottle of whiskey and encounter a gift basket and some cats.
If you like my writing, please consider giving my novel a go - thanks!