Archive

Monthly Archives: December 2012

Stable friendship.The best evidence for god.

Share sceptical school feels

The first time you went out for meals

Party pirate, status mutual

Stable friendship, love and brutal.

 

Living young life for the first time

Noticing uniforms, chips, town cats

Forever teen bond, photo sessions, wheels

God loves us in our catered crater.

 

Head to Clacton, mum drives, Mcdonalds

The freckle stains of enthusiastic youth

Pyjamas match, party bag, double A’s,

Lucky not to crash, a consciousness switch.

 

A lack of death, let’s sleep on the floor

Ordered life, the face paint gob

Pulling faces, photo sessions, evidence for god

He loves us in our catered crater.

Advertisements

Knifed at Christmas.

Look and remember

To September

He’s changing with the leaves and the ice cream van’s final pleas

To conclude an average summer.

 

His, a summer like no other

Made of large green jackets,

Nights of coughing, saltwater bath

Knifed at Christmas, by the girl in the park.

 

Three months before.

The disciples are leaving town

You can always scream

Spend your body, make it work for hair

He won’t be round for long.

 

The lover comes to the house, DIY guise

He’s gone out, they like to put on his ties

So he bound him up, strapped him to a thong,

He knows he won’t be round for long.

Nihilist.

He values his male friendships.

Knifed at Christmas.

Like their festive carcass meal.

Whatever you come away thinking after seeing a Squeeze show, there is one thing that cannot be doubted – at this point in their career, fun is the aim of the game.

A packed UEA Waterfront greeted messrs Difford and Tilbrook in Norwich on Sunday evening shortly after a warm-up set by Paul Heaton & his band. A son of Hull (adopted) and perhaps the city’s best known export, Heaton seemed not fazed to be ranked as an opening act playing for a growing crowd in some smelly student union, just 8 years (more or less to the day) after I saw him perform with The Beautiful South to a full house in London. Heaton’s set was satisfying one, if slightly erratic and featured some Beautiful South classics interspersed with some more recent solo efforts. Ending with the joyous Caravan of Love, which featured a premature Squeeze appearance – albeit with tongue firmly in cheek – the stage was set for the second assault.

Entering on stage right, Chris Difford looked particularly dapper dressed in a suit, and with the removal of Glenn Tilbrook’s summer goate the impression is given that the band have made an effort for the evening. Kicking off at a middling pace with tracks like Annie Get Your Gun and the underrated Without You Here from their last studio album, Domino (1998), Squeeze quickly got into the feel of things, despite the rather lacklustre response from a mostly middle-aged audience. The band was tighter than when I last saw them two years ago and the set-list considerably improved.

The change of having an acoustic section broke the show up nicely and gave the crowd a chance to sing, shout and cry along with classics such as Labelled With Love and Take Me I’m Yours. New songs were met with a polite response, but the foot-stomping hits that define Squeeze went down the best.

Most interesting for an avid fan like myself was the inclusion of several Difford and Tilbrook solo tracks with a unique new ‘full band’ reworking, with a ukulele here and a vaudeville interpretation there. These underrated tracks like Difford’s On My Own I’m Never Bored and Tilbrook’s Still gain much played as a group effort, and it is pleasing to see these songs reaching a wider audience. Though it was the last night of the tour, Tilbrook’s voice was in fine form throughout.

The enthusiasm of Squeeze shone through the most on classics like Up The Junction and Another Nail In My Heart; during the latter song, Paul Heaton repayed the earlier Caravan of Love shenanigan by appearing on stage and pretending to sweep the feet of Chris Difford with a broomstick. Here it was – two of all-time favourite lyricists standing next to each other in jest – I knew that whatever else might happen, the night was a firm success for me.

After Tilbrook lead the band into a typical carnival-esque singalong with set-closer Goodbye Girl, they wandered over to a desk to sign records and chat to fans. As part of their ‘pop-up shop’ concept, Squeeze have recorded each night of the tour and sold it after the show as a limited edition CD purchase. The band has now reached an age where they are in the music business for the pure enjoyment of it, and this something that remains in the mind after leaving their show.  Each concert is like a celebration. Next year there is hopefully something new to celebrate: an album of new material and more live shows to go with it. Bring it on!

Back in the day,

We were friends that liked to flirt

And you’d been there and done it,

Before I’d even begun it

 

Too young to be ruined by good looks

Or be crippled by drink

I should’ve seen your mum as a warning

But your freckles made you different,

Private school, purple-hair, anti-hero, totally cool

 

I knew you had to move fast – the gothic look won’t last,

And my passion

For your lack of fashion

Is burning embers still

 

What happened in the years in-between?

5500 shaves for me,

The shadow growing thicker

Your hormonal candle burning quicker

Than my body which still tells tales of

Nights out in your new-rocks

And others spent in, with Bride of Chucky

And me

Watching your grin

 

Are you now totally clean,

Since the years in-between?

I’m more serious. It starting happening around

When they expanded Norwich Rd

Six or seven years now,

No going back

I shouldn’t go back in my head

But the magic you fed, nourishes me still

 

If you’ve become the machine

In the time in-between

Ignore, as you will, ignore

Save your peck on the cheek

For my pretty little dream.

In April 2007, I took part in an online argument over US state gun control following the horrific Virginia Tech school shooting, in which 32 people were murdered. At the time, I failed to understand the distinction between ‘natural rights’ and man-made or ‘legal’ rights – as well as how entrenched the constitution really is in American politics.

In the discussion, I claimed that no one had the inborn right to own these weapons based on a 220 year-old manifesto, confused with (or, perhaps, ignoring) the fact that, yes, they did according to what is the foundation of American law, liberty and their wider culture. Part of this was a problem with language: I ought to have said ‘no-one should have the inborn right…’, a position which can be well argued. However, after the latest massacre in Connecticut yesterday in which far too many children to mention were senselessly killed, the debate regarding gun laws was reignited. This is the kind of incident where, surely, if any tragedy alone was to be the catalyst for such a seismic change in the federal law, it would be this.

Following the wave of emotive cries demanding we repeal the federal gun laws following these tragedies, there is also a backlash invoking the all too common retort that ‘guns don’t kill people, people do’. It is quite easy to see the faulty logic in this self-deprecating statement, which can be illustrated if  the statement is reversed: of course people kill people…with guns! The issue is that the acquisition of the means to kill so many people is much too easy and the results are far more catastrophic than when other weapons are used. It is like saying ‘calories don’t kill obese people, the choice to consume them does’. The right tool is required to perform a certain action – besides, guns are designed for killing; they are very effective at it.

There is a nauseating but useful parallel which can be drawn here between the events in Connecticut and another attack which occurred in Henan, China (when personal firearms are illegal) on the same day[1], where a man broke into school and injured 22 children with a knife. Of course people with mental health problems exist all over the world, but clear also is the fact that if he had gotten hold of a gun, he would have done a lot more damage, perhaps even on a US scale. What exactly might a 20 year old man in a quiet, well-off neighborhood need several handguns and a 223-caliber rifle for in the first place? The argument for self-defence is fallacious – sure, it may be a terrifying imperative having to defend yourself from a burglary (although I would be more concerned with preserving life itself than property) – but guns would only really be required if the attacker had firearms too. Statistics show that if you do not own a gun, you are less likely to get shot. This is the reason the British police do not have guns on them. The situation is self-escalating: guns are needed to protect from other people who have guns.

There is also a cultural problem which cannot be ignored. Online, I have noticed that many people who take the NRA’s line that ‘guns don’t kill people…’ follow it up by diverting the topic on to the mental health issue. They imply that the healthcare system neglects mental health patients, ignoring the fact there is no firm evidence that the perpetrator of the Connecticut shooting suffered from any such health problem, except perhaps mild Asperger Syndrome. Incidentally, I think the issues of gun control and healthcare are variably linked because both invoke living dangerously.

I get the impression that with such an emphasis on freedom (we know this though presidential rhetoric, the constitution, the American Dream, etc.), Americans embalm the idea of ‘fair game’, where responsibility rests with the individual. Far from the traditional perception of such political issues being conservative ideals, they are fiercely anarchic in this respect. With the reformation of one (say, healthcare) it would not be surprising if soon after came the reformation of another, as they both concern a similar type of attitude – the attitude toward freedom, responsibility and the constitution.

What motivates (almost always) young men to go out and murder innocent schoolchildren is a question that can never really be answered, and might be the real cultural question here. The number of such incidents is far higher in the US compared with other countries, even where personal firearms are legal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States). But evidently these incidents will keep on happening until something is changed and it has to be in law. Even with an understanding of how practically difficult it might be to effectively change the constitution, the question remains: if it isn’t done now, when will it?

AK47


The girl who looked like Catherine Parr

Tasty spit and a 90’s car,

Works in the library, concrete walls,

Asian persuasion cruising manor halls.

 

‘What is it like to wear that dress of hair?’

I typed my enquiry in.

‘I am the city poet

for that ginger old git,

and the secrets of your lunch

I can taste on your breath’.

 

There’s croquet during the day

In the eve, there’s Anne of Cleaves,

The jealous library assistant.

I made a crow’s nest, observing

The corners of her smile

That used to drive him wild,

The vicious old git.

 

Maybe I’d have fallen for Russian girl tsar

The ginger life won’t do it for me, Catherine Parr,

I go on walking behind the library trees

And by accident, I bump into Anne of Cleves.

The correlation between military combat and the writing of poetry has a long and historic tradition. There are many suspected reasons for this: war unfailingly touches the hearts of everyone involved in it and raises life’s deeper questions about death, justice and the nature of humanity. It is also about incorporating the ‘unchanging aspect’ of the primitive fight into a literary tradition, according to former Army Captain Patrick Bury, of the Royal Irish Regiment.

Bury, 31, was at Hull University last week to discuss his book Callsign Hades (2011), an account of his time fighting the Taliban in Helmand Province, Afghanistan over a period of four years. The presentation, which lasted around an hour, featured anecdotes about his regiment in combat in Sangin (a Taliban stronghold), his personal admiration of the war poets gone by, and the eternal relationship between politics and prose.

The tragedy of the First World War is imprinted in the minds of all British schoolchildren through the storytelling of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke, and for Bury at least, it seems to have had a lasting impact. I asked whether the mythology of living up to these literary giants was what spurred him to begin his project:  ‘It was definitely something I decided to do after I went in. I’m not the biggest fan of war poetry but I felt a need to record the events I was witnessing in some way’.

Bury accordingly touched on how he sometimes felt as though he was signing up for the ‘old lie’, an idea immortalised in Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est (1920), which deals with justice amidst the fighting and the heart-breaking reality of conflict. Further scepticism was allowed for when discussing the ‘corrosion of combat at a moral level, leading to the realisation that young men were sacrificed for the policies of old men’. Bury used this sweeping maxim to bring the issue up to date, making important points regarding the severe lack of equipment and numbers of soldiers in the Afghanistan War.

In contrasting again the wars of old with our modern clash between western ideals and the theocratic terrorists of the middle-east, I asked Bury whether he felt a combative distinction between ‘localised’ wars like the Great War and our current ideological battle: ‘I don’t really think there’s much difference – except for the lives of those back at home’. Bury is clearly not too interested in getting into a political debate regarding war, for he wants to channel the unchanging nature of conflict and incorporate this into creating ‘self-identifying’ poetry for soldiers.

After a discussion about Bury’s childhood, it seems obvious that his early ambition to be in the military shines through as being the deciding factor for engaging in the war, way before any political or literary ambition. This very ‘masculine’ desire permeated the young Patrick Bury growing up during The Troubles in Ireland (with a couple of ‘hippies’ for parents), as did the relatively ‘simple’, masculine poetry of war, following the template of poets like Alan Seeger and Wilfred Owen.

This macho drive, it seems was far-reaching across the army. At one bizarre point in the presentation, Bury played a YouTube video of the AC/DC song ‘Hells Bells’, claiming that he and his comrades in the regiment would play the song loudly before combat, to get them pumped up for the fight. This recalls perhaps one of the worst clichés about the US and British Army, encapsulated in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Apocalypse Now (which Bury briefly mentioned), in the scene where the helicopters blare out music whilst blasting a Vietnamese village with gunfire. Perhaps, in light of the earlier discussion, ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath would have been more appropriate considering the lyrics: ‘politicians hide themselves away, they only started the war, why should they go out to fight, they leave that role to the poor’.

At moments like this, and when Bury tries to fuse together cross-generational war poets by using generalisations, the presentation can feel more like an amateur high school assignment than a university guest lecture. But first and foremost, Patrick Bury is an ex-soldier with a clear and valuable insight into what is a relatively normal soldier’s life in the army and the traditional relationship between this experience and literature. And I have learned about the unbridled motivation behind Bury’s and probably countless other soldiers passion for warfare, an impending feeling of duty, summed up best by Alan Seeger himself: ‘I have a rendezvous with death’.