Monday, 27 April 2015


Up in Manchester, a very frail woman is approaching her one hundredth birthday. When I first met her more than ten years ago she was still a very alert and lucid conversationalist, albeit one who spoke slowly and quietly. Now, though, it's not clear that she always knows where she is and with whom she is speaking. Inevitable, of course. But still sad.

For my nine-year old son, the fading away of this elderly lady  - his great grandmother - means that he'll never have the chance to learn from a living relative who can remember his maternal family's most turbulent times.

She came to the the north of England from Berlin via Amsterdam in the late 1930s, her parents, aunts and uncles having had the foresight to cash in their assets and scatter their offspring around the world before it became impossible for German Jews to escape the impending slaughter.

I had this in mind when my son and I recently visited London's Imperial War Museum. He's an inquisitive kid, very keen not to be fobbed off with watered down explanations of complicated truths. He also knows something of his family history. So although the museum's Holocaust Exhibition is officially not recommended for children under the age of fourteen, he and I decided together that he should see it. Speaking with him as we travelled to the museum, I really laboured the point about how distressing this particular exhibition might be for him. But he wanted to see it. So he did.

The whole thing, of course, is horrifying. But what interested me most about my son's reactions was that he visibly felt anger as well as sadness and revulsion. One of the things that angered him most was to learn that his great grandma and her fellow German Jews had been referred to as a "disease" or a "contagion", first by the operatives of the state propaganda machine in their native country and, as the effects of that propaganda took hold, by a bigger and bigger percentage of ordinary German citizens.

At the age of nine, my son understood that it's possible for powerful, well-resourced organisations to dehumanise and demonise an entire group of people. He understood that constant and noisy repetition of these ideas can legitimise them in the minds of millions of people. He understood where this can lead.

Language creates reality. It's so much easier to ignore or even encourage the murder of human beings if they're thought of not as parents or neighbours but as vermin, bacteria or a virus. Dirty, dangerous and less than human. How horrible it was then, as recently as 1994, when Rwandan radio stations incited Hutu people to violence using these words: "You have to kill the Tutsis. They are cockroaches". Maybe you remember that. Maybe you remember feeling glad that you lived somewhere more civilised.

As I walked away from the museum discussing what we'd just seen with my son, I didn't know that one week later, here in 21st Century Britain, the country's best-selling newspaper would carry an article in which migrants from Africa and the Middle East would be described as "cockroaches" and likened to the norovirus. 

To the best of my knowledge, neither the proprietor nor the editor of that newspaper have expressed any regret at the columnist's choice of words. So I conclude that they see nothing disturbing in it. Maybe you see nothing disturbing in it. But I really hope you do. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

those dogs

those dogs. you know those fucking dogs. bull terriers? staffordshire bull terriers? pitbulls? pitbull terriers? all those bloody things. low to the ground. thick with muscle. vise-like jaws. straining at the leash. gasping with impatience. muzzle the thing, dammit. don't let it run free. there are children around. those things. those things. the eyes look blankly malignant. sudden, inexplicable rage and spite. why does anyone want one? why?

why? well, look at this guy here. life hasn't been good to him. he isn't in charge of anybody. someone pushes him around every day wherever he works. the walls are closing in. not much cash. not much idea. he's disappointed. everyone's a prick, he's thinking. I'll fucking show them, he thinks. I'll buy one of those fucking dogs. I'll take it out. anyone looks nervously at the fucking thing and I'll stare the cunt out, he thinks.



let's turn left here. let's keep out of the way of him and his fucking dog. he's looking for trouble. let someone else give it to him.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014


I daresay it would be possible to make regular updates - even daily ones - to a blog consisting purely of anecdotes about the rudeness and inconsiderate behaviour of strangers in public places. After all, I observe at least one incident that could form the basis of a short piece almost every time I make the weekday commute back and forth to the office.

Every now and then I see some new completely new form of selfishness or low-level aggression. But most incidents are just reworkings of the same old nonsense. Consider, for example, the announcements made at stations reminding us all to stand aside from the carriage doors when a train first arrives at the platform, thereby enabling alighting passengers to get off before we try to get on. Perhaps, like me, you briefly think yes, I know, fer Chrissakes every time you hear this instruction. But almost every time this thought begins to form, I am immediately reminded of why such announcements remain necessary. Because almost without fail, some PRICK insists on trying to barge onto the train without allowing those disembarking to step down first.

So then you get on the train and you sit down. What's next? Oh, yes. The guy sitting next to you (often no bigger, taller or wider than you are) insists on waging a silent war on your personal space, gradually widening the gap between his thighs, as if to accommodate unfeasibly large testicles. But you can feel sure that his ballsack is no larger than yours (if you have one). He doesn't have some localised elephantiasis of the scrotum. He doesn't have an unmanageably swollen prong. He's not the victim of his own red-hot masculine physicality.  He is just a FUCKING ARSEHOLE, massaging the pain of having to live with his own toxic "personality" by engaging in a spot of physical intimidation. Just for a few minutes, it feels like he hates himself just a little less than usual. Hardly anyone ever raises a word of objection to these guys. It crosses your mind but you think better of it. Well, apart from the couple of times it got particularly silly... 

Anyway, that stuff happens on a daily basis. Writing about it would rapidly become wearyingly repetitive.

But I do have to say something about the amazing scenes I witnesses in the departure lounge close to one of the gates at Palermo airport recently. I wish I'd taken pictures. But words will have to suffice.

So this seating area was probably just about adequate for the size of aircraft for which we were all waiting - i.e. as many seats in the lounge as there were on the 'plane. But was I able to sit down for the thirty minutes or so that I had to spend in that place? Was I fuck! Why? Because of the amazing number of PRICKS who thought it was just fine to sprawl across two, three or even four seats. Yeah, they think. I need one seat for my arse, one for my legs, another for my feet and another one for my hand luggage. I stood opposite one of these tools and looked him RIGHT IN THE EYE. I looked along the seats he was occupying. He saw me doing it. Reaction? Glazed eyes and visibly pretending not to notice I was there.

Right at that moment, another Englishman began remonstrating with one of the seat-hoggers. It all got a bit heated. So, naturally enough, my wife BEGGED me not to become involved in a similar scene. So I didn't.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014


So last night I leave the gym and glance into the window of this little art gallery shop that's right there in the same little shopping precinct. I have NEVER seen a picture I actively liked in that window. NEVER. It all looks like stuff that people would buy to match their sofa or whatever. BEIGE, right? Some of it I actually hate. Some of it is just meh. Anyway, my eye rests on the name of the person who's done some sunflowery number number priced at over three grand. Immediate double-take. Timmy Mallett? THE Timmy Mallett??

Anyhow, a Twitter acquaintance of mine not only confirms that the artist is THE Timmy Mallett (how could there be more than one?) but also regales me with the following:

mate of mine paid £2,500 for one of his paintings. Best day of my life when he told me. He's still not lived it down.
Fast forward to this morning. Timmy himself has clearly been searching Twitter for mentions of himself. How else could he have found and then favo(u)rited my original double-take? It feels strange to have briefly been noticed (albeit only in my anonymous virtual incarnation) by someone I found cringe-makingly irritating back when we kids had very little to choose from on TV (man, I really could have used the Regular Show, Amazing World of Gumball, Ben 10 etc. back then).