Ted Lasso.

Two series in, so what do we think?

We think it’s pret-ty close to wonderful. We think it’s gobsmackingly surprising that something which we feared was gonna reek of America(na), of franchises, of that whole dumbing-down of the universe by checking in so constantly with the Gods Who Dance With Schmaltz turns out to be a rampaging, intelligent, bright and even poignant force for good. (Good telly; goodness in humanity).

We have fallen about, and blubbed. We’ve darn-near turned off – maybe when Ted’s made-for-American TV-isms have flown irritatingly over our heads again… but then been utterly compelled, both by the humour of the Overall Thing and by the brilliance of the sporting intel.

Say what?!? Sporting intel? Yes, even when – as always – the live sport can seem clunky and in danger of failing the myriad authenticity tests so immediately and rightly hoisted by pedantically maniacal fans like my good self. (We know footie. Don’t fuck wiv us*). YES, sporting intel, because whoever is writing/directing/playing/making this stuff does understand football (enough) and, remarkably, coaching, too.

*In fact the live sport here is waaay better than most; though admit the bar has been set appallingly low by almost every football film or series in history. Players can play, mostly, ‘live’ matches are 80% there and the changing-room vibe is decent, plus.*

Ted Lasso (the programme) makes a zillion jokes about Ted Lasso (the coach) not knowing the rules, the history, the zeitgeist in which football booms and busts and yaknow, breaks us. But – in case, friends, ya missed it – this is all knowingly done. The outstanding awareness and generosity and wisdom embedded in the Lasso Method – coaching as transformative, civilising mission, which *really does* look to empower players/individuals, through appreciation, prompting, enquiry, support – utterly squishes any idea that this Dumb American is some under-informed fraud. NO. Ted is a wonder-coach; that’s what this story is about. A bloke who, despite being absurdly out of place, re-defines the quality of that place… by being wonderful… and sophisticated… and deeply, inviolably human.

Everything is faith. That corny, hand-written sign above the door, that says BELIEVE. That ethos, where something we might need to dare to call brotherhood (and critically, authentic sisterhood) grows, becoming essential to the execution of strategies on the pitch and the veracity of the drama beyond it. If there is a tension around Ted’s flirting, or outright crazy street-meme-dancing with and through banalities-which-might-be-profundities and vice-versa, somehow it works. People love him and he bloody deserves it. We’re mercifully and pointedly not hearing anything about god, here, but the series is an ode to faith.

(Minor note. I’m a sports coach so do have some knowledge of how teams are selected, motivated, organised. It’s clear to me that Ted/the writers have a good understanding of where coaching is. Lasso’s relentless good-humour should not obscure the objective – which goes beyond any kind of ‘good guys can win’ schtick. Ted is enacting a very contemporary thread towards building ownership/decision-making/power within the player. The camaraderie and the community-of-souls thing is of course a necessary co-host to all this developing positivity. But the leadership smacks of informed, elite-level choices towards empowerment).

So Ted is a humble genius and a daft idol. Vulnerable, through family breakdown and trauma – separated, father a suicide – prone to anxiety attacks which we see, on camera, in a popular TV series. Further evidence that this world-franchise-monster is overwhelmingly a force for good in the universe. (Except that’s daft, right?)

This is a Big Television Event and it has resources. Unlike many hiked-up projects that might fall into that category it shares the quality and the stories around. Hard to find a character that isn’t well-drawn, generously developed, real enough to make us laugh or cry or root for them. (Can’t stand Awards Ceremonies so didn’t watch the Emmys but apparently it won a shedload. No wonder. Great casting, looks excellent in almost every scene, scripts top-level).

Coach Beard is brilliant – lugubrious and wise and kinda delusionally-in-lurv. He gets ‘his own episode’. Rebecca Welton is stunning and hilarious and extraordinarily multi-dimensional. Her relationship with Keeley Jones, who is willing herself rather magnificently towards Being Someone, whilst oozing with love for those around her, is knock-out and frankly, emosh. Lots of this is frankly emosh, whilst knowing exactly how close it tiptoes to that aforementioned schmaltz.

In short – because I really could go on, about Coach Nate, Mae in the pub, those daft three Greyhound supporters and Miss Fuckwitch and (Our New Hero) Sam Obisanya and (That New Pantomime Villain That I Ju-ust Think We Might Finish Up Loving) Jamie Tartt – you need to make an effort to see Ted Lasso. On Apple TV. It’s popular but grown up. There is sex – and especially via the softening but formerly hardened street-warrior Roy Kent – there is lots of fu-uck-ing language. So what? More importantly, this is a ludicrous but self-aware and ‘issues’-aware smash. A celebration. A reminder that cynicism – probably ours – is bad and that love stories can be good.

Fertile Neglect.

I have a memory which is tough to shake. It’s an earlyish one, probably from my late teens – a time when I was developing the political-philosophical anger that still rages. I was also in many senses finding a voice.

Simply cannot remember where or why or how I finished up listening to Dylan Thomas reading some of his poems… but I did. This was waaay pre-internet so could it have been radio? Who knows. I had found the man’s work prior to this event (and loved it) but never heard him read or speak. I was – and I know these two words don’t fit together – I was relatively shocked.

To a spiky youff from Grimsby he sounded like a posh English public schoolboy. Inflated. Pompous. Weird. But not Welsh. So un-believable.

A similar thing happened the first time I heard Kyffin Williams speak – only more so. Another toff, another fake Welshman; another medium-shocking disappointment.

Of course this is prejudicial nonsense… but it is also true. To this English-born now long, long-term resident of Wales, conscious of his own fraudulence, it hurt a little that class, that privilege had intruded so jarringly into *even this* – the sacred world of art and of the heart.

And yet Thomas (in particular) and Williams remain profound icons: in the writer’s case partly because he plainly was in some senses a big-hearted radical – at least in terms of style – and, frankly, his background wasn’t that posh. He just performed like that; believing, I imagine, that the booming suited the pomp and circumstance and mischief around the great themes of his work. But it was weird, hearing him, back then. It was a blow to my punky idealism and to the notion that hopefully, despite Thatcher *and everything* the Home Counties/Great Families domination of the universe might be vulnerable to our Northern, fraternal surge.

I still hope that what we might call The Creative Spirit can come from anywhere and be recognised: that Ordinary Folk, as well as those with time and privilege, can turn out art that is visible and moves and reflects us. However, the times again may be conspiring against this.

The author David N Thomas will probably never read this: if he does, I hope he takes the trouble to get beyond the title and the sense (that may rise in him) of liberties being taken at his expense. They are not. His book Fatal Neglect, which cuts away the sleazy distractions and outright porkies around Dylan Thomas’s death, is gripping, bold and mildly revelatory. I am bastardising his title to hint a little at the unsavoury richness he uncovers.

I say mildly revelatory because, let’s face it, many of us knew that the ultimately frail but often monstrous, boozed-up genius who gifted us Under Milk Wood had been ill-served by his inadequate compadres and the criminally arrogant doctor who oversaw his death in New York. We just didn’t have the evidence. David N proves we were denied it.

Dylan remains the co-author of his own rather grisly end – naturally – having been a drinker and a slob who mixed with or was surrounded by drinkers, drug-takers, neurotics, hypochondriacs, the privileged and the indulgent. He was in bad shape before the bronchopneumonia (obvious but undiagnosed by Feltenstein, the doctor who took charge) tipped him towards coma and death. There were *factors* – used erroneously as fact by that same doctor – which seemed to suit the romantic view of a soul destined to self-destruct: chiefly alcohol and that lack of restraint and self-care. Feltenstein was myopic enough and cheap enough to build his flimsy diagnosis and his fatally shabby treatment entirely around this most readily-available construct; something that went on to symbolise and/or haunt the extinguished poet for fifty years and more. Dylan Thomas became the extravagant drunk who killed himself with booze.

The book unravels that convenience and in doing so exposes the various inadequacies of Brinnin – the agent – and Reitell – the lover, nurse and editor. The wider group that I may with ironic klaxons a-hooting choose to call American Friends are also skilfully, damningly implicated. Fatal Neglect is about shallowness, selfishness and self-interest as much as it is a comprehensive gathering and disassembling of medical fact and half-truth.

These shitty people get skewered, for their ‘lack of anchorage’ and whilst contriving their cover-up.

Brinnin, the agent, arguably more than anyone. He failed utterly on his duty of care towards a plainly unhealthy man. He worked him, even when Thomas was visibly ill or barely able to speak, to fund his own, appallingly glitzy lifestyle. (To be fair, the Welshman had a penchant for robbing or de-frauding the chancers, suckers and sponsors around him but his Canadian-born American agent was different level). Annual European tours, first class travel, cruises: all on other people’s money. He proved to be similarly profligate in respect of his responsibilities towards scheduling: D N Thomas reveals the extent to which Brinnin needed Dylan to graft and set him to it.

Liz Reitell shares some of the same disconnect from common decencies. She thinks she is Everything, as though Caitlin doesn’t exist or have rights and she, too, drives the dangerously exhausted writer on, carelessly or callously. She shares a good deal of responsibility for the years of edited truth, too; notably overseeing the travesty that was Brinnin’s book about those last days. Reitell is a talent, a shrew, a liar… but going through this, who isn’t?

I like that a sharp wee tome about medical minutiae becomes a scrupulously fair but fierce judgement upon people who barely need to care. Because they have stuff covered. Life, money, travel, expectation. Even the honourable medical men who were horrified at what Feltenstein did closed ranks to protect the hospital and staff who capitulated to the invading, overpowering Doc.

Everything is both material and context. For me Fatal Neglect has travelled well, crossing almost seventy years of myth and mischief around the relatively public demise of one of the great figures of modern literature. (If I have sounded belligerent towards Dylan Thomas that too, has been a fraction of the whole. The opening to Under Milk Wood still strikes me as one of the great, sustained moments in musical prose. The man was flawed, oh yes but by god he was something special).

Which is way it feels satisfying, feels right, that we now know he did not simply drink himself to death. Indeed he should not and would not have died, back in ’53, had he received prompt and professional medical attention. He had pneumonia before he was admitted to hospital. He was given shots of the wrong stuff. Nobody dare tell the fella Feltenstein – who had no authority – that this wasn’t just about the hooch. ‘Friends’ mostly failed him, too – as did those who came to tell the story. Some were duped, some criminally covered-up. Class, money, appearances, disappearances. Editing. Protection.

Fatal Neglect made me feel angry, in a good way. It shines a light into both the petty, alcohol-fuelled drama-queendom of Dylan and Caitlin and the uglier, truly privileged ease of some of the Thomas Groupies. In doing this, it may have found another moment; when more chancers, toffs and tossers – Johnsons and Goves and Hancocks? – are serving up incompetence and worse, safe in the knowledge that they can wallow. Because some folks still don’t really need to care.

What’s in a name?

Afua Hirsch: ‘Brit(ish). On Race, Identity and Belonging’.

Another review of sorts. Because I have time. Because I enjoyed the book. Because in my clunky and inadequate way I want to oppose racism – even though my colour and the baggage I carry makes it likely I will execute that aspiration worryingly badly.

Brit(ish) is a rounded, personal, accomplished book on Afua Hirsch’s struggle – and it is a struggle – to get comfortable with her own identity; the imprint she should make. It’s generous and good. It speaks to ‘the denial of our imperial past & the racism that plagues our present’. (Robbed from back cover, but true enough). But hey – go see what I said. Despite the unflattering pic below! 🤣


So, yeh I liked it. Am something of a fan, in fact, having seen a certain amount of Afua Hirsch on the telly-box, lately. Find the intrigue around her relative affluence (and the obvious and profound need to ‘find herself’) rubbing up against her partner Sam’s “in the hood-ness” engaging in more than one sense. Hirsch is open about the frisson between her and Sam, much of it arising from their different (though partially shared) upbringings. The author is admirably self-aware, around this.

Quite right but hugely important to recognise your own privileges: this Afua does, whilst still going on to make a legitimate and compelling case for the continuing, multi-layered existence – arguably preponderence – of racism(s). She is medium-posh and opportunities have been there but so has crass prejudice. Things are complex, often in a bad way.

On her journey, Hirsch also gets stuff wrong. Senegal and Ghana, though necessary and urgent, even, really don’t work out. Again, very much to her credit, there are bold admissions and absolutely no self-pity, here.

An admission of my own. I don’t immediately know who Philippe Sands is. (Gonna google, any minute). On the back cover he provides the following quote:

‘Wonderful, important, courageous… Warm, funny and wise”.

‘Brit(ish)’ is probably all, or most of that. But I found the word ‘warm’ interesting and wondered briefly if this reflected a certain cosiness… which might be something of a negative(?)

Could be that this book is less directly challenging than the Layla F Saad or Renni Eddo-Lodge works I’ve read recently – reviewed elsewhere. But no. It’s warm in the sense of its generosity, its open-ness, I think. It’s personal without being indulgent: it reveals. So I like it; I rate it and do recommend.

‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: an Indian History of the American West.’ Some thoughts.

‘Bury My Heart’ is fifty years old: this may strike those who read it upon publication as rather extraordinary and not a little scary. Time passes… and in many ways, nothing changes. Certainly not in terms of the ubiquity of prejudice.

The language of the book may feel dated; both as a work of art and as social history it now feels clunkyish, to me, inevitably so, but the Righteousness Factor (dare I say it?) and the deep, poignant, socio-political heft of this document remain valuable, real, critical. Having been on a kind of accidental pilgrimage through literature on race, the book registers as an honourable, early(ish) contribution to anti-racism and I absolutely recommend it on that premise. That is, more as a powerful holding-to-account of murderous White-American predilections than as a great work of art.

Author Dee Brown was a journalist, printer, librarian, lumberman who went on to write histories. “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” has something of reportage about it but bolts urgently forward towards worthy polemic and indeed ‘life’s work’. This is for The Indians. Their stories are told (by them to some degree) in order to mark their betrayal, their tragedy. There is no pretence towards neutrality – and why would there be? It’s campaigning.

The individual stories – or, more accurately, the stories of individual Chiefs or protagonists – are rich but often harrowing. The whole is somewhere between enraging and saddening: we know the outcomes and we know indigenous peoples and what we now call People Of Colour still suffer diabolical prejudice and oppression. So read the book and weep, or get angry, or think about what it means for us today – what shadows are cast, in this ‘populist’ present.

A White Idiot’s Guide to Racism.

Inflammatory title? Maybe. But let’s be honest, there’s no way to swerve the tasty stuff around this. And I don’t want to. If I’ve learnt anything during my recent *re-education period* it’s that umbrage – or worse – is omnipresent. So I’m going to tick all the following boxes, no doubt; racism (whilst trying to be anti-racist); ‘naivety’; provocative barsted-ness; appalling insensitivity. But hey – on.

I’m an oldish white bloke who rages against referees, umpires, privilege and discrimination – sometimes in that order. I’m a brilliant dumbo who reads stuff and occasionally thinks. I happen to be in what I’m gonna call an anti-racist phase, in terms of my literary nosebaggings, having just read “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” (Renni Eddo-Lodge) and “Me and White Supremacy”, (Layla F Saad). This has felt timely -timely and genuinely nourishing, in fact – as #BLM and just now Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent have crashed in to the (Brit) national consciousness.

I hope to avoid too many explainers about my own experience or route in, here. In fact, bugger it, because everything is about URGENCIES, I’m going to slap down some slogantastic imperatives before I qualify everything I’ve ever said, done, or meant. Read these and disappear if you’ve a mind to: I’ll elaborate and generally excuse my own, murderous complicity after.

  • Us white folks need to shut up and listen. (Yup, I do get the irony).
  • All of us are complicit, because White Supremacist thinking is everywhere.
  • If you seriously think that All Lives Matter is a perfectly reasonable response to where we’re at, then you are so-o much and so obviously a part of this problem it’s not even funny.
  • Think about power and race at the same time. Racism is about expressing power: there is therefore some merit in the argument that Black people cannot be racist, because they exert no power, generally, over whites. (This is one of many challenges us white people have to face: we have to do it humbly and with intelligence, not anger).
  • Hang on. Did I just write Black but white? Yes I did. Have I thought this through? No, ‘course not. I am aware, however that anti-racists (and others) are capitalising the B and respect that. Whilst it feels odd and possibly illogical to leave the w tiddly, I’m leaving it that way, for now. Partly to reflect the need to differentiate the experiences of Black and white and partly to symbolise the need to prioritise attention on the reality of difference, on the fact of those monstrous inequalities that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is protesting.
  • On #BLM specifically, if you don’t see that the shallow subversion of their central, indisputable messages by clowns and racists on the right and wet-wipes in the media is yet another campaign to maintain White Supremacy then shame on you. Black Lives Matter need to act and are right to act. They have every right to be angry. Take care around your ‘concerns’ about the rule of law, the role of the police and that tendency to wince at Black people raising their voices or their fists. Could be that there really is nothing more urgent than attending to equality. Could be that inaction is acting for an evil status quo.
  • It’s not good – or not good enough – saying that we/you don’t see colour; that “we’re all equal”. Lazy and untrue. White people are the beneficiaries of shedloads of privilege. So whilst it’s of course theoretically important to signal that you wish to display no prejudice it’s cobblers to infer that there are no differences in power or value. Or that you don’t recognise them. We strive towards equality in power and value but we’re a million miles away. There is colour.
  • Most white people – yup, even us Good Ones – are conditioned towards utter acceptance of the ‘fact’ that we are raceless, we are normal, we are the centre. That centre is hollow, is crass, is ethically repugnant in its smugness. Worse still, in many ways it is both actively and passively alive with prejudice.
  • But are there meaningful degrees of racism? Am I, as an occasionally Guardian-reading mid-leftie-who-is-trying, still failing as badly as an outright racist? Who cares? Why is this about me? I should shut up and listen.

Purely coincidentally (well, maybe) I got two books a month or so back – bought for me, by the way. After years, possibly decades of being angry and mute and spleeny and silent and ill-informed over race, I’ve waded through… towards something.

I’m still going to make hideous faux pas(ses) and do my usual thing of getting in such a rage that I can’t articulately confront racism in my presence. I’m certainly going to say things that are so unbelievably stoopid… and worse, I’m going to say things that betray my subconscious ‘baggage’. That fear of black blokes with machetes; that memory of being so drunk I sang along with a racist song. That conversation with my grandpa where he called the Town winger a ‘darkie lad’, with what he hoped was affection, rather than malice.

I – and you, dear, sagacious reader, you good white folks – are going to be wrong when you hope to be right. So we need to take that on the chin and do better.

Here’s a weird one. I loved “Me and White Supremacy”. It’s such a fantastic, accomplished book. It’s also a deliberate, considered, eloquent, almighty challenge, in which you are invited to create a working journal, over a period of a month, as you earn your way through.

I loved it but inevitably I cheated. Possibly because I’m a fifty-something white bloke who doesn’t care enough: hopefully because I was just too excited to spread the thing out that long.

I did do a journal. Tried to answer the ‘Reflective Journal Prompts’ at the end of each chapter. Fuck that was hard, on times. If you take anything away from this mess of mine, let it be that YOU SHOULD READ THAT BOOK. All of it is different-level interesting, as an intellectual exercise – the chapter on White Feminism I found excoriatingly sharp (from my safe distance) – but the whole, confident, revelatory timbre of the thing is a standout achievement, for me.

Immediately prior to reading the Saad, I had read “Why I’m No Longer Talking…” the ‘book that sparked a national conversation’. I did an unwisely unrehearsed review of sorts, here –

(If you think this review is any good, or some of my other #YouTube Influencing 😉 is any good, or of any interest at all, please do subscribe… and comment).

I need to read this book again. Again because I found it Proper Stimulating. It’s maybe got a more confrontational feel to the Saad – maybe. (Not sure that’s either entirely true or a satisfactory description: in short, go see for yourself).

Eddo-Lodge shines a light, digs a rib or two – digs out some cruel history.
I fell into giving it a 7 or 8 out of 10, I think, because it feels less complete, less accomplished somehow than “Me and White Supremacy”. (If I was to be stupid enough to repeat that unholy process and reduce Saad’s book to a number, it would be a comfortable 9. I hope this isn’t because I found it a more comfortable read – I don’t think I did). Both these books make a profound contribution to the ‘debate’ – hah! – on racism.

So where am I now? I am in the place where I remind myself this is not about me. This is about gathering all of my/our white wits and forcing change. In ourselves. In policy. In the conversations we have. Probably, ideally, in or from the background. Learn about White Superiority, White Saviourism, Allyship – all that stuff. And be prepared to get called out, or in. Mainly, don’t go hiding from all this. It’s urgent.


Footnote: why did I write this? Was it because I’m a Cricket Bloke who was moved inordinately by the magnificent *outburst* from Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent, on Sky Cricket? We-ell yes and no.

Yes because I am and I was. No because my own, feeble intervention was on its way in any case. But the contribution of those two fabulous people (met them both briefly but been around them more, in cricket meedya circles) was certainly a catalyst. They are amongst the voices that needed to be heard.

Cricket – which I love heartily – is neck-deep in privilege and sometime quiet, sometimes noisy prejudice. Significantly, the ECB had just recently launched what appears to be a committed review and action plan in response to the surge of feeling around #BlackLivesMatter. That of course might have been ‘just words’ but post the Holding/Rainford-Brent/Hussain moment, the ante is well and truly upped. Inside (and please god outside of cricket) it’s plainly, obviously time.

Hearing ‘Ebbs’ and ‘Mikey’ choke up, whilst recounting their experiences was tough, was telling. It made me more determined yet, to be a better ally.

#YouTube review (of sorts): Reni Eddo-Lodge, “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race”.

Wow. Is there no limit to the man’s cheek? Even approaching this? Jee-sus.

In my defence, your honour – this. I’m interested/sympathetic/wanting to say something and thinking that despite the obvious dangers – risking looking an arsehole or faaar worse – I want to make a contribution. Mainly because *how I seem* doesn’t matter and talking about racism in a way I hope is supportive and constructive does.

To be clear, I absolutely back what Eddo-Lodge says about our – white folks’ – complicity in the omni-present monster that is structural racism. That’s the headline here: I dare to say some wrong stuff because I honestly want to plant my own, feeble flag next to Reni and the anti-racist activists. (They may not want me, of course, for reasons I’d completely understand).

So a review of sorts. Of a strong book with strong arguments.

Listening back, I realise I failed to mention the particularly juicy stuff in the book about ‘overwhelmingly white feminism’: regret that. But am thinking this omission was probably because I was ver-ry conscious of going on too long – as per. In any case, methinks I open enough worm-cans without going there, too, eh? May well write more, but for now, please do have a listen…


Ok. Am clear on a few things. This idea that (too many) white people have that structural racism either doesn’t really exist or is in some way overblown by The Activists must surely be bloody infuriating for black people. (So no wonder Reni doesn’t want to waste her breath). Am pin-sharp, now, on the necessity to absolutely challenge the f*** out of that. Plus the facts, the history of racism and discrimination across most facets of life, affecting most things – at some level – that people of colour do. Documented. Again. Here. I’m clearer.

Structural racism is everywhere and does matter and Eddo-Lodge’s argument that all of us as a kind of starting point have to accept that and then begin to act, is undeniable. White blokes like me can’t say that the fifty-odd years of conditioning we’re carrying ‘makes it tough’ to break the habit of not noticing. White women can’t shuffle feet and lower eyes and not engage with The Painful Truth.

The Painful Truth is so grotesque and so ferkin obvious that our white squeamishness about protests generally and noisy, challenging ones particularly is an embarrassment, a fraud. We have to get behind the demand for equality. None of us approve of violence but we can’t go drowning out the legitimate voices of protest because we ‘aren’t comfortable’ with angry black faces on the news. My god we’d be angry.

I respect the anger in this book and the powerfully controversial challenge to feminism, which plainly drew plenty of vitriol back towards the author.

Really don’t wish to conflate arguments too much, here but clearly there are parallels between racism and sexism: the writer (I think) was challenging that ‘inertia’ around feminists (also, often) being unable or unwilling to confront, or just kinda stuck with assumptions around a weirdly idealised, white status quo. One where they thought/hoped colour was not being judged, was not an agent, never mind an urgency.

This racism thing has been urgent for hundreds of years: Eddo-Lodge is demanding all of us acknowledge that RIGHT NOW… as a starting-point. Don’t bang on about the universal right to freedom of speech too much until the monster that is racism is confronted.

Much of the media and of course all of the right-wing/nazis want the story to be arse-about-face – about white folks being ‘oppressed’ (hah!) by immigration, by activists, by the unruly subversion of ‘how we go about things’. Bollocks. The overwhelming power has been going in the other direction, more or less viciously, for hundreds of years. This is why there may really be a hierarchy of urgencies; why it might be right to cut to the quick, to the Biggest Most Obvious Injustice – racism.

I may be wrong but I think Eddo-Lodge is saying that there is no decency, no contemplating a broader, healthier, even remotely equitable society without first unseating that white privilege. It should be top of the list. Our collective and individual energy needs to go into anti-racism, now: everything else has the effect of enabling a profoundly racist status quo. For what it’s worth, I’m with her.

Nirvana, MTV Unplugged. Yes – *that gig*.


*Prelude: hope it’s obvious that the reason I’m doing this YouTube lark is much more to do with making some ‘contributionthan with weird self-obsession. That and I like the idea of Or’nary Peeps wiv orn’ary tech piping up, even though it’s plain they can’t compete with either The Meedya or with (gnash gnash) Influencers. Feel it’s populist and maybe punky in a good way to say stuff even when you’re a nobody: like me. Us nobodies are sometimes worth a listen.

Life, eh? Funny and serendipitous and yeh – allsorts. You start a YouTube Channel by accident and then you get asked to do stuff.

In this case, from nowhere, my soul-brother Karl, from Canada, pretty much dares me to ‘review’ Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged show of ‘93.
No pressure of any sort then, it’s not like it’s one of the most iconic and tribally-treasured events in the history of the muso-universe. And plainly ole Karlos loves it… and I might not.

But as an exercise – wow – what a thing to do? So I do.

Watched the recording on YouTube, two or three times, firstly battling against the ads that would so-o have infuriated Cobain. Read a little. Then crucially and entirely fortuitously, watched the extravagant and I think probably brilliant Cobain/Love/Nirvana documentary “Montage of Heck”, which had mysteriously landed on our TV right at The Moment.

So one might suggest I almost ‘prepared’… but then in a grotesquely ill-advised fit of enthusiasm charged straight down the garden, with a few notes, to ‘record something’ in a single 28 minute take. Madness but typical – and somehow appropriate?


Go watch me do battle with it all: *spoiler alert*, I have no doubt that some of this gig is what we music-journo’s of experience call ‘major’.

“What else should I be?” Or maybe WHERE ELSE should I be? 😳

I’m a You- Choooberr!!

Have recorded three videos, typically the first by accident, after trying and failing to upload a wee fillum to my blog. (Was too big/researched a little/found that Youtube linking might be the way to go).

Had no ambition to join The (hah!) Influencers – quite the reverse! – but here I am, warbling away in my back garden. Opposing stuff, proposing stuff and hopefully making ‘the abstract contribution’ I mutter on about.

Production values close to nil but meant, and sent with some degree of lurv and goodwill. An offering, an act of defiance against the Kardashianisation of the universe and I hope the starting point for conversations around everything from activity to philosophy, music to coaching. (In case you’re wondering, I think I’ve decided to post these here – despite smaller following – than over on cricketmanwales.com cos I may be freer to both meander and rebel).

All this with no expectation and no product: just engaging, spouting and (I hope), learning. By all means comment… and if you can bear it, *subscribe* – no cost! – because otherwise I’m gonna look a pretty sad old git with no subscribers at all. Anyway, three vids with a certain theme…

arguably.

Brexit Day – some words. A #Universe #podcast.

Been wrestling with what to do, as a Remainer. Been probably unhelpfully angry, but also determined not to shrink. Looking for something that feels like appropriate defiance… and to be honest, not that bothered if some view it as inflammatory.

Understand that Brexiters will simply view my wee statement as typical Remainer arrogance, including, as it does, the notions that exiting is wrong, and predicated on racism. Worse still, I guess I’m insinuating into the argument the ver-ry contentious idea that we Remainers are Better People than t’other side, because we’re right, we’re anti-xenophobic and therefore we hold the moral ground. (Think we are, think we do, think there is).

If that hasn’t put you off entirely, please do have a listen. Don’t expect any worthwhile debate will ensue, because we’re all so bitterly entrenched: know that I may indeed be contributing to that particular, ongoing malaise, by digging in. Hey ho.

If we could brush aside those narrowish political red lines for a moment, I might finish by saying that I really do have concerns about a divided future – especially where the scramble for food security really will be an issue for millions, worldwide. How’s it gonna be when every leek, cabbage or chicken matters? How ugly will it be when the protectionist juices unleashed here and now are swilling towards swathes of desperate, starving, near-drowned or parched and emaciated peoples from country X?

Crazy-paranoid? Don’t think so. Think what defines us needs to be generosity, open-ness. Think xenophobia is bad. Have a listen.

 

I say in here that democracy was poorly served – deliberately – by Cummings and Johnson and by a nauseating, bigoted Billionaire Press and of course I stand by that. It’s obvious. But what Brexit and my argument points to is a deep dive (that’s what folks are saying, currently, right?) into democracy itself.

In short I’m with Orwell in the sense that democracy gets just the two cheers. Because people maybe shouldn’t get the right to decide on MASSIVE stuff they *lack knowledge* about.

Yup, I get that dangers aboundeth, here. The politically correct – or those involved in politics, who therefore can’t unload contentious notions without engaging their Ooopsie Alarms – cannot say (for example) that people are too dumb to be allowed a vote on capital punishment. But they would be right about that.

Likewise Brexit. Too many people were always going to be drawn to immediate, neanderthal prejudice for this ever to have been good politics – wise, considered politics. The Tories knew this, of course, like they knew that the detail of any leave agreements would be waaaay beyond the ken or the interest of the Great Unwashed. But a strangulated Cameron capitulated to his right wing and then Cummings and Johnston chose to press the prejudice button… because that way they could turn democracy to their purpose.

So democracy is deeply fallible, deeply vulnerable to corruption in the fullest, scariest, most moral sense. Democracy is the best we can hope for but it needs good, genuine, honest, intelligent parliamentarians to lead us through it – to debate at a high level and then lead, on things the public don’t or can’t know about. We haven’t had that, eh?

The Tide Whisperer – in Tenby.

The Tide Whisperer speaks of many things. It declaims them, from atop a scaffold, a harbour wall – or it signals them from the clifftop.

Mostly, it beams them in, in between those ears, through headphones offering both a private view and a rich, collective experience.

We’re in teams. We gather in the de Valence, in Tenby, on a coolish but viable September evening, passing racks of kit and rakes of guides or staff or stewards on the way in. I’m red.

In the hall, that scaffold supports an almost-anarchic electro-sculpture, alive with scenes around the town, the water, the world. There are presences – on the stage there’s a bloke who might be a fisherman, dragging for something. There’s a woman in shadow, or grief, or both. There’s a chair… and sand… and then a sitter.

Soon enough the screens will break through the chatter and the scaffold will host an entry, a monologue, a man opening the themes. Refuge; flux; the search for harbour. Then urgency, bombs, carnage: we’re driven out, in our teams, to the sea.

There’s a kind of prose-poem playing between those ears, an evocation of things remembered, things left. The ‘Tudor Streets’ walk with us, with the 30 or 40 reds as we carry that context with us to the beach. I wonder if we might have left our shoes and socks, as we traipse across that sand, past the golden cockle-women and the strewn chairs, to the waiting boat.

The sea, then. Central and essential to the piece. We join it for an hour, maybe, in transit or stalled, circling or encircled, at the mercy of – who knows? Pirates? Police? The evil whim of an indifferent or hostile world?

Two stories. That tragic woman – one of the Boat People – and a young, male Russian(?) who transgressed into loving another. Danger and escape, or not.

Sometimes we sit, ‘pointlessly’. Sometimes we ‘make good progress’ through the chop. Always the invitation – the compulsion – to listen and to feel the stories trawl through us. The headphones make us victims; there can be no distraction, no interaction; we can only immerse, not escape.

Ashore, that man from the scaffold is back, in the bandstand. He is Welsh, he is Corbyn-like, he is a refugee: he was Mayor!

We march on, down, again, inevitably, to the auditorium of the harbour, cobbles becoming sand once more. The three central characters and the swaying cockle-choir and the backdrop of the town await: a staging, a denouement between our ears. My friend Jane wept, almost uncontrollably.

So *things I liked*. The whole, the experience, the physical elements – from walkabout to water, to the inescapable word. (Different groups did different things: I’m glad we were mostly on that sea, in our coats, inside our headphones). Impossible not to be affected – subtly or profoundly – by the leaving, the returning, the rise and fall.

Personally though, I am left with a sense that maybe I/we might have been challenged more. Despite the scope of the piece – and the budget – this was traditional community theatre. (I know, I know – community theatre can be wonderful and revelatory, stay with me!)

The stack of tellys was okay but hardly original. I didn’t need the Guernica reference. I felt the character Pearl didn’t need that name. My comfort, in the face of these atrocities, remained relatively un-shredded. This could, of course be my own inadequacy but there’s an argument Tide Whisperer might have screamed or torn at us some more.