Life is Golden

The other week during an especially tedious corporate team building/training exercise we did a thing where you”re to give away one of six things that mean the most to you. Everyone else picked ‘friends’ or’ family’. I picked time because if you don’t have, or indeed, make the time, then you can’t appreciate that which you hold the closest to you because you don’t realise as you live life that you don’t actually have much time. In an ideal world it should be down to oneself to decide what time they decide to waste, but the mundaneness of modern life enforces one to devalue time to the point where you never consider it, or worse, wish it away, to simply exist.

I say this as a friends back in Bristol passed away this weekend from cancer. I’ll not go into to much details as I’m unsure how much he’d, or his family, would like details splashed on the face of the internet, but needless to say it takes something reminding one of their mortality to appreciate time because for him his time is done, and we can only remember the times we all had drinking while watching the football, or talking bollocks in drunken nights down the Cat and Wheel, the local where a small community grew organically over the years.

Now that community which has been scattered over the last few years comes together to mourn and remember as we take the time to give one of our own their dues. It’s sad it takes an untimely death to remember how precious time is but while people remember you by taking the time to do so then there’s a part of you that never really dies. Instead you live on in the fractured bits of memory we all have of people never to fully fade out of existence.

In the end, once time has ran out for us all, this remembrance is all that’ll remain of us and that’s good because if you can get through life having an impact for the better on one person at least then you’ve lived a decent life and that’s all we want to do at the end of the day.

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The Passenger

There was an interesting piece the other day in the Leicester Mercury about punks in the city in the late 70’s at a Damned gig at the De Montfort Hall. Now I wasn’t living in Leicester then, I wasn’t even a teenager back in Glasgow, and didn’t got a gig til Blondie at the Apollo in the early 80’s then I was off banging round the city seeing gigs in places like Rooftops, The Mayfair (where I first saw The Fall) and of course Strathclyde and Glasgow Uni not to mention the Barrowlands which has barely changed in the decades.

But in 1988 I moved to Leicester, experienced the joys the De Montfort Hall, the Princess Charlotte (still one of the best pub venues I’ve ever been in and now sadly gone as a venue) and of course the bus trips to Nottingham for whatever was on at Rock City. Leicester’s close location to London meant that I’d often vanish into the gaudy neon lit streets of London, specifically Camden and Kentish Town, though it’d not be unrealistic to end up in a pub or club in Soho to bide the time before waking up the next day in bed/on the floor depending on how lucky one got.

Then Bristol became somewhere I’d go to and again I’d experience the nitelife there, so my teenage and formative years up to my mid 20’s was scattered across the UK like precious  Infinity Stones as I didn’t just belong in one place, but many but at the same time I didn’t really centre myself in one scene but many.

Now, the point of all this nostalgia is this. Since my stroke and cancer, and in particular, since moving to Glasgow I’ve essentially become rooted in one place considering what I’m actually going to do for however many years I’ve got left but I’ve been doing my best to avoid making any actual decision by getting a job that vaguely pays or generally devolving any serious thought as much as possible. Well, tomorrow I go to the hospital for my 6-month cancer checkup and should, barring incident, be told only to come see the hospital once a year which means I can’t put off decisions or hide much longer. See I don’t want all my futures to be sitting wallowing in nostalgia, fun though that may be, but I want to create new moments and fashion new gems of memory to collect as time goes on that is beyond just existing and doing alright.

Tomorrow I may have to finally move on from the holding pattern I’m in and finally grasp the steering wheel of my life to guide myself to whatever is next. We shall see what happens…

Closing the Fleece in Bristol is cultural vandalism

I wrote recently about how the Thekla, a live venue in Bristol, was under threat of closure. The same threats have been hanging round the neck of The Fleece and Firkin, one of the UK’s oldest live venues.

Private developers have been developing office blocks opposite the Fleece for some time, but let us cut through the legalese and say exactly what is happening here. This is cultural vandalism for the sake of profit that isn’t restricted to Bristol, but London, Glasgow, or indeed anywhere across the UK where these venues are either ‘eyesores’ for potentially Millennial yuppies buying their flats next to a pub and are pushed to closure, or pushed to close for future private development.

Cities are being stripped of what makes them special. They’re being turned into places where all character is being stripped only to be replaced by a shadow of what it was but made safe and attractive to be consumed. It’s vandalism that won’t be opposed by any major political party as they too care little or nothing about keeping cities exciting and vibrant, but instead look wide-eyed at the wads of money brought to them by private developers. Fight these developments all you can because what’s coming are cities neutered and emasculated as this is gentrification writ large.

One year later…

This time last year I’d just returned to Glasgow from Bristol to recuperate, recover and take stock after a stroke/cancer/slipped disc/general falling apart. Basically I was in a mess this time last year and needed time out to get things together which meant doing things like learning how to deal with post-stroke pain, a slipped disc and everything else which made my first few months back in Glasgow hard.

I’d essentially fooled myself last year I was in a fitter state than I was. I was, to put it bluntly, fucked. Readjusting to the darkness of a Scottish winter didn’t help either, as mornings are a glum vision of twilight.

But thanks to the doctors, nurses and physios of the Scottish NHS I was able to pull enough of myself together to make the idea of living a life viable again. The mornings are still dark though.

So a thank you to Bridget, Hal, Andy, Mike, Lauren, Sloane, Steve, Janet and dozens of other folk that’ve made the last year easier than it could be as I now start to work out where to go next. I’ve not posted much on my current events as nothing much has happened barring being in work since July but with the comics side of things being slowly ramped up I can start to think about the future.

Loads needs still to be done. I’m still in lots of pain, and the phrase ‘pain management’ is an affirmed part of my lexicon. and my walking is slow but I’m walking which is something this time last year I couldn’t do without heavy painkillers. Rebuilding hasn’t been easy but once I work out exactly where I’m going I’ll be sure to let you all know…

Save the Thekla in Bristol

The Thekla in Bristol is a familiar sight for people living in the city, and if you’ve went out for a night since the early 80’s in Bristol it’ll have been someone you’ve probably turned up at in whatever state your alcohol tolerance decides is good for you. You’ve possibly even seen a gig there in its long history. In both my spells in living in Bristol in the early/mid 90′s and from 2000 for 17 years, I’ve enjoyed a night at the Thekla from seeing Edwyn Collins turn in a show in the 90’s to drunkenly trying to not fall over last time I went whenever that was?

Basically, the Thekla is part of the fabric that makes Bristol what it is.

However there’s a redevelopment across from the boat at Redcliffe Wharf where private developers promise…

a riverside location to work, live relax and enjoy

And…

Extensive external seating, a high quality public realm, and the proximity to a lively and active waterfront will all contribute to the attractiveness of Redcliffe Wharf as a place to work, live and enjoy.

Except take away the Thekla and you remove part of what makes that area unique, but then again you take the Thekla away and you don’t have any competition for the ”event space” and bars promised by this new development. Ah, ‘but you’re just a cynic’ you may say, but the system has been gamed against the Thekla because when the venue was tested for soundproofing it was their quietest days of the week.

Their main issue with the development’s application is that the sound assessment for it was carried out on a Monday or Tuesday night, when Thekla was not at its busiest or loudest, meaning the soundproofing installed at the new development might not be adequate, making it more likely for people to complain.

Now that’s a dirty trick. It also saves the developers money while getting rid of a problem. Of course Bristol Council will fight the Thekla’s corner as they wouldn’t want somewhere that helps gives the city the image it has to die surely?

Oh.

So the council is working with the developers. There’s good reason why the people running the Thekla are resigned to the development gaining planning permission and the venue having to close because the council will ensure it happens.  Too many people will be making money out of it, and if a vital part of Bristol’s cultural soul is ripped out then so what? The people moving in won’t give a fuck and as far as the developers and council are concerned it is these people who matter. So what if some teenagers won’t get to have fun, or people can go and see a gig when you’ve got a shiny, bland vacuous development probably selling £12 loaves for people to buy.

This sort of gentrification isn’t new, nor is getting rid of venues for redevelopment, but the fact is in cities across the UK it’s one-way traffic in terms of who wins these battles. If Bristol City Council want to turn their city into a bland paradise for people fleeing London then they risk destroying what Bristol is and the spirit that attracted so many people to come, stay and add to the city’s culture rather than replace it with over-priced flats in a tediously cold development.

I’m now back in Glasgow having moved last year from Bristol, and we’re facing the £12 fish supper as the Barras starts its path to gentrification (which threatens the future of the Barrowlands as a venue) but Glasgow, like Bristol needs jobs and housing, and housing that is affordable to people on minimum wage however those in charge of Bristol have decided the city isn’t going to be for those people hence the Thekla’s likely end.

It isn’t all over of course. Public opinion can change things especially if it shames a council and a mayor, so sign this petition, share it and if you live in Bristol write to your councillor, MP and MEP in order to cause as much of a stink as possible and hopefully the Thekla will survive. I’m not optimistic but I want to be proven wrong and just for once, the developers are the ones who have to jolly well fuck off.

 

 

The return of the Nazis

2017 is going to go down as the year of a number of things but it will go down as the year the Nazis came back in force from America in events like Charlottesville to the ripples of Brexit. If you think I’m being hyperbolic have a read at this series of articles from journalist J.J Patrick about the rise of the Nazis. Its pretty worrying reading even if you have to admire the work behind the article.

That however is the tip of the iceberg. Buzzfeed this week published an amazing, not to mention scary article by Joseph Bernstein about how Milo Yiannopoulos, far-right site Breitbart, it’s editor Steve Bannon and an assorted group of Donald Trump  supporters, neo-Nazis, dregs from Gamergate and anyone willing to listen all united to form a movement that threatens the very idea of what a liberal democracy is in the 21st century. It’s an amazing read.

This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who has paid attention over the last few years, especially to Yiannopoulos who has transformed himself from an annoying prick on BBC,s Daily Politics to far right rabble rouser.

When we’ve got the likes of Nigel Farage or Katie Hopkins still being treated as mainstream, or when the fascism seen in Catalonia is defended then at some point we’ve got to admit we’ve got a problem because the far right are looking to radicalise children.

We need to question everything, look at news sources and treat some people with the contempt they deserve because there’s a fight coming where we need to decide not just what sort of countries we all want to live in, but what sort of planet we live on because the Nazis are back, getting into power, or powerful positions and we’ve let it happen too easily.

There and Back Again: The story of Glastonbury 2017

Having taken time away from Glastonbury for technical problems, I made a return back to that field in Somerset for the festival but this wasn’t just the first festival since my stroke and cancer diagnosis, but the first one since I started going in 1992 where I come from Glasgow as opposed to the East Midlands or Bristol. So this was a wee bit of a challenge, and the best place to start is Monday the 19th June.

I’ve decided to fly to Bristol, spend a couple of days catching up with people before a friend, Alan, picks me up on the way to the festival. That Monday was a humid day in Glasgow, though friends in Bristol and already on the festival site had warned me it was hotter than Egypt there. Leaving my house I head to Buchanan Street bus station for the shuttle bus to Glasgow Airport.

Being the afternoon the shuttle bus was empty barring a German couple and a confused looking businessman.

Feeling just a twinge of excitement in the glutes, the bus sped across the Clyde to the airport…

And quicker than I thought I arrived at the airport to a sea of pasty Glaswegians and placing my faith in Easyjet, I arrived later that evening in Bristol which was indeed, like walking around in Egypt barring the sand.It was like walking into an oven, and indeed, sleeping in one so I didn’t manage much sleep in the runup to Glastonbury which meant I was bright and sharpish as I met Alan at 6am on the  Wednesday of the festival.

As this was the first year I was a fully registered disabled person this meant we went for the disabled queue to get our passes, and for the shuttle bus to take us to Spring Ground, the disabled campsite within the festival. Only catch was it was around 28 C in the morning and there was a bit of a queue.

Shade was a premium and for a few hours everyone felt like slow-roasting pork as we crawled towards that white tent in the distance where we’d get passes, etc, and hopefully on the bus. Luckily while in the queue we met up with part of the group who’d come from Glasgow by car. Eventually we got sorted, got on the bus, got to Spring Ground and very, very, very slowly started pitching up. Have you tried pitching tents in 34 C heat after having stood in it for five hours and those of us on medication were starting to seriously struggle? It isn’t nice but it is preferable to the rain…

Eventually the last part of the group turned up from the dark recesses of the North West of England, but by this time it was getting into the evening and I’d arranged to meet a mate from Bristol at the bandstand at 8 so I grabbed some beers (my drinking ban was lifted for the duration of the festival) and headed into the wilds of Wednesday night at Glastonbury.

By now there was some merciful cloud cover which helped the skin which by now resembled cracking off a Sunday joint, but Wednesday night I’ve always enjoyed at Glastonbury because nothing much is happening and stages like the Pyramid Stage, are still coming together. What this means is that it’s the only night that feels like ”old” Glastonbury in that you have no idea what you’ll encounter and because one has to make their own fun everything is joyfully random which means sitting around at midnight talking to a family from Hull about how the festival has helped reshape their lives.

And Glastonbury turns into a glorious place at night, especially when it’s warm and dry because you’re not struggling with the mud or hurrying back to your tent to avoid the rain. Not so this night where you could sit in what we used to call the Jazz Stage field, and young ‘uns call West Holts watching fireworks while drinking beer.

A wonderful Wednesday night bled into Thursday morning, and a quiet one. The site this night was quiet which was surprising until you remembered your sunburn and the fact most people would be knackered but my crippled arse stayed up past 3am and crawled into bed having had a splendid night.

Thursday starts with my daily drugs, which look nothing like the drugs I used to consume at the festival in years past.

Thursday is the day where the festival kicks into gear. All the stages bar the three biggest ones start and the festival kicks into gear. Our intention was to see The Orb at the Glade, but getting near the stage was doable but hearing it when the organisers have stuck several smaller stages near was impossible which leads me to a whinge. Over the last decade they’ve added so many stages that there’s so much to see and do that you’re spoiled for choice, but the big chunks of space the festival used to have which allowed the festival to breath are gone. So one stage bleeds into another less than ten metres away and that frankly, is shite. I’d like some of the stages to go or for a bit more thought in how it all works for disabled folk who find it a struggle when there’s bottlenecks.

I will take this chance to thank the young lad and his girlfriend who helped me up a hill near the Glade when there were so many people in one place it was ridiculous, and in fact, I’d say 99% of people at the festival when they noticed I was disabled did all they could. The ones that didn’t can fuck off.

I also experienced the dubious joys of the backstage bar as it’s on the disabled route backstage between stages, and I have to say what a soulless, empty echo of the festival it is. Braying London media whores and their hangers on pretending to have their exclusive Glastonbury isn’t Glastonbury as the joy of the festival is we’re all in it together. Sneaking off to your nice Winnebago isn’t playing fair. I get why Eavis has allowed the backstage area and this demographic to grow as after all, he started this festival to make extra cash but it’s bollocks and for me, risks the heart of the festival.

Anyhow, Thursday ended up being back at the tents in Spring Ground and an early night (sort of) in anticipation of everything kicking off proper on the Friday.

Friday was cloudy and cooler. The media were saying it was what we’d all hate, but give me cool and cloudy around 20 C as that’s perfect festival weather after days of being roasted alive from dawn til dusk.

The site takes on a new energy from the Friday. We know the A Team (not Mr T sadly) are kicking it on the main stages.

Friday however wasn’t a great day. A few decent acts on West Holts and the comedy tent aside, nothing caught my eye til Radiohead who I’d seen when they played the NME Stage (now Other Stage) in 1994, THAT show at the Pyramid in 97 and in 2003 when they last headlined.

Radiohead are a great live band, and they don’t disappoint here, yeah, some of the stuff from Kid A goes down like a lead enema but on the whole the band pick the crowd up and play with them like putty.

At this point I need to say a word about the stewards organising the disabled platform and thank them for doing all they can to make the night, and the experience, as good as it would have been for everyone. They did a great job and considering they’re all volunteers and don’t get a penny for it makes it all the more extraordinary.

As Radiohead draws a close to Friday we head back to the tents, sit around and talk wonderful bollocks until the first spatters of rain hit us causing us all to call an earlyish night and hopefully let the rain be no more than a passing shower. Unbelievably it was, and better than that, the rain dampened down the dust so the site was no longer a dustbowl as it was say, in 2010, 1995 and 1993. This set up Saturday nicely as this is the day where the festival finds an extra gear and goes mental yet the biggest crowd of the day wasn’t for a modern beat combo, it was for a politician.

That’s Jeremy Corbyn in the distance. Now I’ve branched out my opinion on Corbyn’s appearance here, but I will say I have concern for anyone chanting any politicians name as it means you’ve left your critical abilities floating in the long drops. A ”jobs first Brexit” is as much a load of utter pish as when Nigel Farage talks about it and my concern is that Corbyn’s selling a lie to people because there’s no version of Brexit that doesn’t put jobs at risk but he won’t tell you his version (which is exactly the same as other Brexiters like Farage and Gove were punting last year) will, and neither does he want to engage the fact Labour have now put immigration ahead of jobs.

So lots of chants, lots of positivity and a lot of hubris. I’ve seen this shite before and I wish what is going to happen doesn’t but I fear I’m going to be right and an almighty disappointment is heading people’s way.

Moving on from politics the band after Corbyn, Run the Jewels, were a splendid piece of bombastic hip hop and I really should search their stuff out, but no time to hang around as I go for a wander round the site after that.

Ah cider…

This is a giant tortoise shaped mobile soundsystem in the circus fields that I watched for ages as the thing, and the people around it, were great fun.

That’s a marching band. They were utterly brilliant but my path was now making me head towards West Holts as no Foo Fighters for me (and anyhow, I saw their first gig at Reading in 1995 and have seen them around a dozen times) as The Jacksons were heading up that stage.

Now, I’ve always been a fan of disco as I always found it to be the cousin of Punk in terms of ripping the old music down and giving us something new and exciting. As for The Jacksons? Well, where else are you going to see them without paying 80 quid a ticket just for them? And they did the most ridiculously, pompously brilliant video ever which also happened to be the only song they could open their set with.

Again I’m on the disabled platform on a stage chatting to a lovely Welsh family on a bucket list as one of their number is suffering from a terminal condition and again thanks to the stewards who did all they could to make things comfortable. As for The Jacksons they were wonderful but poor sound mixing made parts of the gig a struggle, however these guys are wonderful showpeople and fuck me, they put on a show even if they did play some of the problematic solo material.

After The Jacksons I thought I’d head for a cold cider but it turned out the Foo Fighters were still going letting off the world’s supply of fireworks.

It was an impressive sight some distance away.

After some time waiting for the crowds to leave by forcing myself to sit by the cider bus drinking and chatting, it was eventually clear enough to wander back to the tents across a pretty trashed Pyramid Stage arena.

And off to bed for the last day..

The Sunday was warm and sunny. As is often the case one takes stock of how good a festival has been on the Sunday by how quickly you want to leave, and I didn’t want to go. Yeah, the lineup overall had been poor but you don’t think I’ve been going to Glastonbury for 25 years for the lineup do you? I go to meet friends old and new, and see and experience things I’d never do anywhere else. I go because I might meet extraordinary people who don’t realise their uniqueness, or to chat to drunk people, or meet young people who remind me of me 25 years ago.

Remember what I said about disco? Imagine seeing Nile Rogers and Chic on the Pyramid on a lovely summer afternoon with around 70k other people up for it?

Yeah, it was that good. Which would have made a perfect end to the festival if Biffy Clyro hadn’t come and laid their ponderous landfill rock all over the place like some dirty protest at people having fun. Here’s a picture of my weak leg to show you how interested I was during their set.

And yes, that sunburn still hurts.

At this point we started chatting to a family from Manchester who’d been involved with the Ariana Grande concert bombing and apart from being decent folk, started plying us all with very nice gin as we stared at an amazing sky.

Ed Sheeran is a strange thing. Bland, thin on talent and ability but yet massive. It also should be easy to hate what he does (and his show was at best wallpaper as he sung to a backing track) but he sums up part of where Mainstream music is in 2017. Nothing too adventurous. Nothing radical. Give them a few anthems and send them home. It’s pop music for people who live on microwave food.

But the crowd loved it and as it closed the festival I thought that for many of these people this is what Glastonbury meant for them and who am I to deny them that?

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The next day was the sad, melancholy packing up as everything returns to normal.

The festival wasn’t quite over as Glastonbury doesn’t stop, it just fades out slowly into the Monday as people leave to return home and I retraced our entry. Only this time there were less queues.

Although Alan’s satnav set us on a long and winding road from Pilton to Bristol, I finally saw Brunel’s bridge appear as we sped into Hotwells.

After being dropped off at a friends in Bristol, I said cheerio to Alan but Glastonbury wasn’t quite over as I wasn’t actually home yet so I was still in Glastonbury mode the next day when I made my way to Bristol airport to return to Glasgow where the shuttle bus awaited me.

This dropped me by Central Station where a taxi whisked me back to my humble home and some much needed sleep.

So was this a classic year? Yes, I’d say it was. It was a piss poor lineup but having experienced the festival as someone probably more disabled than I’d like to admit I have to say that virtually everything about this year was amazing from the people I was with, the the weather, to the fellow random festival goers to the stewards and indeed, everything. Yes, I’m physically paying for it afterwards but fuck it; if people go there who are literally counting down the number of weeks they have left to live then being a bit sore and sniffy isn’t a problem.

That said, I’m glad 2018 is a fallow year. It means I have time now to rebuild things and get fitter because frankly, up until the end of May I was in still two minds whether I’d go.It took me three weeks at the gym to get fit enough again to carry the weight I did not just in coming in and out, but over the weekend, so another two years will see hopefully a vast improvement. 2020 is the festival’s 50th anniversary and having attended the 25th and 40th anniversary celebrations I’m not missing that.

Glastonbury 2017 was wonderful. I could go back there in a second. Of course I’d wear more sunscreen but I think people on the whole decided to have fun and decided in light of recent events to be decent human beings, on the whole. Bring on 2019!