Monday, September 27, 2021

 

Labour’s Ten Holy Rules of Political Parties


The Tory Government is in a catastrophic mess, their incompetence, callousness and obsessive Brexit all responsible for such food and fuel shortages that they’re temporarily retreating even on their one core ‘hating foreigners’ policy.

Instead of Labour calling for practical solutions – rejoin the Single Market – the Labour Conference turns its fire on itself to fight its next Leadership election, while Labour MPs boast of the “hard truth” that they were happiest when losing their worst election since 1935.

Well, of course. Labour is never happier than when the Tories are in power: Labour need make no decisions, take no responsibility and have no message beyond ‘We’re s—t, and we know we are, but oooohh! The Tories! Scary!’ so they can get on with fighting any party but the Tories in the name of purity.


In May I wrote a Twitter thread on Labour’s attitude to political parties. Back then, I was inspired by Labour’s actions after losing votes and seats in elections. Labour in London – where Tories, Greens and Lib Dems on the London Assembly proposed sharing chairs between all four parties; Labour demanded all or nothing, then walked out, so the others shared them out. Labour, having gone off in a strop, spins this as a “coalition” despite Labour’s Mayor having the administration and the Assembly chairs being there only to hold the Mayor to account. Meanwhile, Labour in Stockport – where they lost a seat in this year’s local elections, so the Lib Dems are now the largest party on the Council? Stockport Labour and the Conservatives did an actual deal together to keep Labour in power-sharing with Tories. So…


For anyone confused about Labour’s attitude to any political party, remember Labour’s 10 Holy Rules:


1) The Tories are the ultimate evil, nothing could possibly be worse, any voters voting for them or parties talking to them are forever damned, we don’t want your votes!

2) We can’t understand why you don’t vote for us! Why don’t you just vote Tory! That’ll scare you off voting Tory.

3) The Labour Party is always right, the fountain of all holy goodness.

4) Not that bit of the Labour Party, they’re worse than Tories.

5) No, you can’t tell which bit of the Labour Party is holy by checking who’s racist / sexist / homophobic / transphobic. Holiness is found not in deeds but revealed truth.

6) Only we can reveal the truth (but don’t ask us to explain, or we might call you a Tory)!

7) Election day: Lib Dems / Greens are just Tories, their votes are Tory, vote for them and you’re a Tory, don’t vote Tory, any party but Labour is a Tory!

8) Day after election: Labour technically won because Lib Dems / Greens are really Labour votes and they count for us.

9) Labour should go into coalition with the Tories (e.g. Stockport Council) to keep out Lib Dems or Greens.

10) Only by embracing Tory Brexit, agreeing with all Tory policies and wiping out all parties that are not Tory can Labour overcome the Tories. Disagree? You’re a Tory!


Bonus Labour fact: on this day in 1999, the Labour Government was defeated in the courts after fighting for two and a half years to keep the ban on bi and gay people serving in the armed forces. Having spent millions of pounds defending discrimination, Labour spin then claimed the credit for dropping the ban only after being forced to stop it by the courts. To this day they pretend they were against inequality when the reality is they fought to protect it. Shameless!



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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

 

My Impassioned Speech on Equal Marriage (and more)


LGBT+ rights are deeply personal to me and at the heart of Liberal Democrat values – but sometimes we have to stand up for them even in the Lib Dems. With another Lib Dem Conference looming, my Equal Marriage speech two years ago today was one of the most nerve-wracking I’ve ever delivered – though also one of my best. I had to stand up to a then-MP and a former Leader, because many people knew someone had to but no-one else was doing it (I’ve even drawn out lessons from two former Leaders at the end. Don’t have nightmares).


Richard and I at Stockport Town Hall, in our wedding bowlers and rainbow buttonholes at our wedding



My Speech on Equal Marriage, Liberal Democrat Conference, Bournemouth, 14th September 2019


Next month is my fifth wedding anniversary.

But my husband Richard and I have been together twenty-five years.

The wait wasn’t because we’re really traditional and wanted a really long engagement.

We had to wait for the Liberal Democrats in Government to change the law before we could get married on our twentieth anniversary.

Thank you.

Liberal Democrats have always had the best policy of any party on LGBT+ issues.

But it’s not just the policies and campaigning issues. 

For me it’s personal.

We got married – but many people still can’t.

We got married – that’s why I can’t stand by and say, ‘I’m all right, Jac, never mind the rest of you.’

I must stand up. We must stand up.

Jo Swinson talked about love in her victory speech as Leader.

This is a simple choice: love or hate.

Liberal Democrats are about love and liberty.

Now, I take it personally when people tell me I shouldn’t have the same rights – my marriage matters!

Is it a matter of conscience? Yes! For the people getting married!

But if you want to bully people, to enforce your prejudices on people, to stop people making their own decisions…?

That’s not conscience – it’s control!

Everything in this motion comes back to the same founding principle: people’s right to control their own lives.

But it’s not just about policy. It’s about the face that the party shows.

I welcome people joining us from other parties. Some will be fully-formed Liberals, and some you might have to give more Leeway to.

Like children raised by wolves, you might not expect them to have perfect table manners, but we should expect all our MPs to say without qualification, ‘Biting people to death is wrong’, and if you’re in doubt, ask someone with scars, don’t say, ‘No-one’s ever tried to bite my leg off, so it’s just a point of view if they bite you.’

We should expect all our MPs to be whipped to stand up and not make excuses for homophobia.

Phillip Lee: I know you’re married. I hope you’re both very happy. Was it a long engagement?

We wrecked our last General Election campaign because we compromised – one person compromised – on homophobia. 

Listen, all our MPs: if you don’t want to wreck the next one, it’s not just about the policy.

To put it in language at least two of our MPs will need to understand:

You may try to get into Parliament with good policies, but without faith you are nothing.





Surprisingly Good Reviews


Many Lib Dems agreed with this speech – many laughed, many clapped, Caron Lindsay was particularly kind on Twitter – which helped balance the usual line of the great and good saying How Very Dare You. But just this once, I did get some very good reviews from the New Statesman. Stephen Bush cited me in his write-up of the debate:

“In a speech that received loud applause from the floor, Alex Wilcock, a Liberal Democrat activist, spoke about the 20 years he had to wait to marry his partner, and asked Lee if his marriage had a similarly “long engagement”. It was Wilcock’s speech that also got to the heart of the Liberal Democrats’ unease over Lee’s admission: the party’s defence and toleration of their then-leader, Tim Farron, and his record on equal rights, and the price it paid for that at the 2017 election.”

But my cockles were most warmed by him and Alibhe Rea on The New Statesman Podcast – Lib Syncing, 19th September 2019.

Stephen Bush:

“For me the best speech, actually, of the Conference, and I also think probably one of the best speeches I have seen in party conferences all told, was from a man called Alex Wilcock, who spoke about his own marriage, the very long engagement and the fact that same-sex marriage was illegal for so long, and basically challenged both Phillip Lee and the party for kind of turning a blind eye to some of the aspects of his voting record.”

Alibhe Rea:

“Yeah, it was pretty powerful, that they had been engaged for twenty years and unable to marry, and then the concluding line of his speech was something like, you know, ‘Phillip Lee, I gather you’re married, I hope you’re happy – was it a long engagement?’ It was really quite stirring in the context, and he was just a very good speaker. He’d sort of circled around and alluded to it for quite a while, and then arrived at that conclusion.”

Which is probably the best review I’ve ever had in the press (at least since the Daily Mail’s double-page-spread hit-job back in 1994, which was flattering in quite a different way).


Me in mid-speech: “Liberal Democrats are about love and liberty” say the BBC Parliament captions.



Why I Made This Speech


I wasn’t going to make that speech. I wasn’t going to speak at all. If you want to make a speech in a physical Lib Dem Conference debate – it’s even less flexible in the current online Conferences – you need to put a card in saying roughly what you mean to say well in advance of a popular debate, usually at least the day before. I hadn’t, and had no intention to. But there had been so many hurt people around – not least friends who’d resigned from the party over its welcoming in an MP who saw us as Hell-spawned inferior life forms and wanting to tear out our hard-won rights. I’d prefer a sinner to repent, I’d like everyone to get along, but confronted with the choice between an unrepentant bully and people whose values actually belonged in the Liberal Democrats, there was no way not to pick a side. I woke at 4am that Saturday, stressed and depressed, massively wound up, and could not get back to sleep. So I did the obvious thing: I started thinking of a speech. Amazingly, I was in the Conference hall by 9.30am and put in a card (after Tweeting an obscure declaration of intent which nobody else would get but to stiffen my sinews). More amazingly still, I was called to speak.


I’d been scribbling thoughts, desperate to sort out what I thought at all, how much of it I should say, what tone I should take, and how on earth I might fit any of it into three minutes, which is a very short time indeed once you’re up on stage and gives no room for waffle (in the end, I was so focused on getting to the point that I ran under time). I still have the several sheets of paper where I can see my thoughts take shape – and how much was still unformed by the time the debate began. Unusually, I hadn’t decided how to end it even as I walked onto the platform and opened my mouth. But before I wrote anything else, I had circled to one side at the top, next to where I had to put the opening lines: “Serious and funny!”


A debate speech should have a point – you want to swing people’s votes with you. Sometimes I’ll wing it as I go along, but there are always two parts I need to prepare: the opening, because that gets people listening to you; the closing, because that gets people applauding. The finest arguments have been lost when people are still nattering from the last one because they dont notice youve started or when stopped in mid-flow as your time runs out and the mike’s cut off. I realised both very early, but over the years I’ve set a second aim for the opening line that’s more difficult: it’s also to get people on your side. Whether it’s a joke, a self-deprecating moment or just saying hello, an effective speech begins by getting people to like you. The previous year, I’d made a blistering speech against a policy paper that hand-wringingly appeased bigots over immigration. It was one of my best speeches, focused, incisive, impassioned, but it had an opening like chucking a brick through a window, and while that got people’s attention, I don’t think it got anyone on my side. This time I might have to be even more combative – not attacking a paper, but possibly attacking MPs in person. Fortunately, this speech was personal and a personal opening came naturally, even with a funny bit and an opportunity (heartfelt as it was) to butter Conference up.


The Equal Marriage motion not only celebrated the Liberal Democrats’ achievement of making marriage legal at last for same-sex couples, but recognised that equal marriage is still some way off and set out how to get there – in Northern Ireland, for humanists, removing the hugely unfair spousal veto for trans people – and with speeches overwhelmingly in favour was passed, too, by an overwhelming vote in favour as Lib Dem policy.


Several excellent speeches before mine dealt with those issues for marriage directly, with the rise in homophobic attacks, with Labour MPs wanting a new Section 28, with daily virulent press transphobia – I was crossing off bullet points I’d scribbled haphazardly across my notes, helpful in terms of keeping better to time by not repeating what everyone else was saying, but with stress rising as I listened out for what everyone else was leaving unsaid. MPs and former MPs I admire paid loving praise to people who’d left the party because of— What? Our party was the best on LGBT+ values, and was getting better in this very debate, and yet for some reason that dared not speak its name people were loudly hoping that one day leading LGBT+ activists might somehow find their way back. Many in the hall must have wondered, had they accidentally slipped through into some parallel dimension and were merely lost, because surely nothing about our party was explaining it? I very much did not want to give the speech I could see in a choose-your-own-adventure set of variably hard-hitting ideas scribbled in question marks, but by the time I was called to speak (and for the rest of the debate) no-one else had said a word, and someone had to.


For that Conference, the number of Lib Dem MPs suddenly almost doubled: some defectors I was enthusiastic about; some seemed OK; and then there was one.  In June 2019 I had written not a blog post but a Twitter thread as speculation about defectors rose: my instinct was to welcome everyone who chose to side with us. I was thinking aloud on Twitter, but I still – mostly – agree with myself. Yet there are always caveats… But it was by being welcoming, bold and Liberal that we attracted so many people who used to vote for other parties. Being open doesn’t mean watering down what we stand for – if we don’t stand for anything, no-one would make the leap anyway. Though I can’t help thinking that, as one of the Leadership’s more appealing themes at the time was that we were leading a wider Liberal movement, it might have saved a lot of heartache if we’d persuaded a defector standing with us on the big issue but clearly a git on others to caucus with the Liberal Democrats in Parliament as part of a wider Liberal movement and not actually join a party whose values he does not share (that nobody thought of it after years of the party faffing about with supporters’ schemes…). I didn’t actually say that because there wasn’t room for procedural rumination, but despite appearances I have never given a speech in which I was more thinking aloud.


Today I sum up Lib Dem values in three words: Freedom, Fairness, Future. I’ve been writing and speaking about the first two, intertwined, since the early ’90s: that was when I identified them as “Love and Liberty” in a long philosophical pamphlet, and carried that on to this blog. But “Love” isn’t a word politicians are often bold enough to claim, so I was delighted when Jo Swinson did that Summer, and I seized on it. Not just because I agreed with her and applauded her speech, but because if you’re about to go in with both barrels it always helps to call the Leader on your side. But that and my funny opening had a point: this is not ‘a point of view’. This is not just a debate. This is something that is crucial to real people’s lives, and no Liberal should be hoarding rights that they deny to others.


There was a moment where I nearly lost it. As I declaimed, “That’s not conscience – it’s control!” the last word surged up in a growl that almost frightened me: I’d never heard that tone from myself in a speech before and I realised with a shock that I was seconds from just shouting in righteous anger. It doesn’t seem as visible as it felt, but I pushed myself down hard inside, because I knew that I was at the pivot to the dangerous bit of the speech and, suddenly, I could so easily lose control. I forced myself to sound more at ease, to slip in a cutting pun, a stealth Doctor Who reference and a breezily insulting put-down. But as there’s a storm of applause, I wince now seeing the curt gesture to cut it, harsher than I’ve ever been in a speech, as I’m fighting not to snap. And then I say the line that I remember most vividly: “Was it a long engagement?” And it’s only three seconds before I dive on, but after the laughs and applause the deathly shocked silence at that picking up Chekhov’s punchline from earlier and making it a punch in the face felt like an eternity, and inside I was panicking that I’d blown it.


So as I went into the close, knowing I was going to finish with a mangled flourish from my religious upbringing – that you may try to get into heaven with good works, but without faith you are nothing – wielding it as a righteous flaming sword against two theocratic bigots, but not knowing how I was supposed to get there, with several partial versions scribbled in front of me and none I was happy with, and at the last moment somehow navigated between the cop-out of sticking only to Phillip Lee and full-on naming and shaming Tim Farron. I glanced at the scrawl of lines hoping we would pass the policy then warning that most people would never hear about it, while many voters would hear if so-called Liberal MPs lust to control others and claim their religion says my twenty-five years is too short a wait; or reminding the lucky few Lib Dem MPs elected in that disastrous General Election of the cost of weakly suggesting homophobia is just a point of view. But I swerved away from going full Old Testament thunder because I might never stop, or explode in sheer incandescent rage. I feared I’d already lost the hall but I was committed to saying something – in the end, my more tightly controlled ferocity still got the point across and the thunder was left to the applause.



Where Nick Clegg Went Wrong


I thought hard about whether to say any of this, after leaving it unsaid in 2019 – both in a speech that in the end confronted what everyone knew in the least confrontational way I could bring myself to, and after holding back from saying it at far greater length earlier that year. It isn’t uplifting, so you may wish just to stop here. But I’ve made myself look in order to learn.


During the 2019 Liberal Democrat Leadership election I wrote – most of – an article assessing the three immediately previous Leaders, and lessons to be learned. Though I wrote at length about the positives for each before blasting their big disasters, I never published it. What I had to say about Nick felt too much like old wounds, what I had to say about Tim Farron was still too raw and hurt and blisteringly angry, and I never quite finished writing about Vince, as just too meh (though in a late surprise entry since he’s now topped the ‘Most Problematic Former Lib Dem Leader’ chart. I wish he hadn’t). I’m not going to publish all that now. But it’s worth summarising the crucial lessons: not just when two Leaders f—ed up, which everyone knows, but why those particular f—k ups were so deadly. I’m not going to assess the whole Coalition – though Richard and I did say thank you for our marriage on our (twenty-years-and-) six-month anniversary, without which we’d still be waiting.


Here goes, though. “Tuition fees” was engraved on every Lib Dem heart and every anti-Lib Dem attack leaflet. The biggest, most catastrophic, monumental political misjudgement of the Lib Dems in Coalition. Yes, we all know this. But steel yourself and look at just why this was so destructive. First and foremost, for the Lib Dems (and for Nick Clegg personally), education is an absolute, passionate priority. It’s at the centre of enabling everyone to have the opportunity to realise their potential, not just a policy but at the heart of our philosophy. And in Coalition government, we championed education; we protected the schools budget from cuts and introduced the pupil premium, so schools got more money to help teach poorer kids. But every single time any Lib Dem mentions it to this day, what does every voter think? ‘But tuition fees.’ F—k. Breaking the promise was bad, but breaking the heart of our values was catastrophic. And from naked political nous, university towns and higher-educated voters had become the hard-earned most likely to vote Lib Dem, and the tuition fees betrayal kicked them in the face. It’s hard to think of a more laser-guided missile to the Lib Dem vote.



Some More of Tim Farron’s Greatest Mistakes


Which brings me to Tim Farron. The 2015 Leadership election was blighted in two ways: not only did we have practically no MPs left to choose from, but in hindsight the two contenders were summed up by Yes Minister

“If Eric gets it, we’ll have a split in the Party in three months. If it’s Duncan – we’ll have one in three weeks.”

Eurosceptic Norman Lamb would have been an utterly catastrophic Lib Dem Leader for Brexit. Tim Farron made the critical choice that we would stay fighting as the party of Remain, a brave, principled decision trying to save Britain’s future that also enabled the Lib Dems to survive the near-extinction event preceding Farron’s Leadership and then the near-extinction event precipitated by Farron’s Leadership. But then, obviously, he went and proved that while it’s hard to think of a more laser-guided missile to the Lib Dem vote than tuition fees, it could still be done. I’m trying to strike an ironic tone, but I’ve cut my next four paragraphs from 2019 because they’re unlikely to do anyone much good, and certainly I felt the fury, misery and betrayal rising just re-reading them. Plus there aren’t enough em dashes to cover all the swearing. Every single day of that blighted election I defended him because I thought I knew him, as furious and hurt and betrayed LGBT+ people said, ‘How can you do this to us?’ But Farron didn’t just destroy the LGBT vote for the Lib Dems, much as Nick didn’t just hammer the student vote. This was about the sort of party we are and the sort of people who might vote for us. Think about the sort of voters who are likely to listen to the Lib Dems. Even if they don’t mention it on the doorstep, how are they going to react to the only thing they hear from the Lib Dems, day in, day out, being that their Leader doesn’t like the gays? A more perfectly targeted voter-seeking missile even than tuition fees – not even the excuse that the money was too tight, not even the excuse that we couldn’t get another party to accept it, but simply because the Leader we chose had chosen to be a bigot. Name me anything a Liberal Leader could possibly do more effectively to alienate Liberal-minded voters. They recoiled en masse. In the year of the universally hopeless leaders, to be more of a voter turn-off than disintegrating robot Theresa May and a UKIP nonentity? The 2017 Lib Dem Leader was sheer electoral poison – delivering an even lower vote than 2015’s collapse, the worst share of the vote for British Liberalism since the 1950s – and, as votes had to go somewhere, if you wonder how on Earth people once saw any hope in Brexit’s Best Mate Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron was his biggest asset.


I had known and liked both Nick Clegg and Tim Farron since long before they became Leader. I felt for both of them… But I admit one I find easier to forgive for their worst calls when leading the Liberal Democrats. It’s an appallingly hard job and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it’s also hard not to want to tell anyone doing it: if you must f—k up, can you at least think about what’s deepest in our values and what’s most important to our voters, and try to f—k up at the furthest-away political point from both?



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Monday, June 28, 2021

 

Time and the Rani Vs Bananarama


“I have the Loyhargil – nothing can stop me now!”


Celebrating today’s release of Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 24 Blu-ray, I’ve been transported back to the time with a tune in my head that just won’t stop: Nathan Jones by Bananarama, with a very different chorus. 


Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 24 Blu-ray cover: the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), in cream jacket and hat, bearing spoons, framing the Rani and a set of monsters

I’ve been trying to write something very serious and meaningful that ties in to the far end of Sylv as the Doctor. That’s grinding very slowly, so here’s something very silly and shallow tying in to the beginning of Sylv as the Doctor instead.


“Leave the Girl – It’s the Man I Want!” Season 24 titles triumphant in 67 varieties by  @paulxdesign (badgewolf on Redbubble)


Subtitle for missing graphic: In the absence of any skill with Photoshop, imagine I’ve done a Bananarama single with the heads replaced by Mary Tamm, Lalla Ward and Kate O’Mara. I haven’t, but you can imagine it.


Nathan Jones single, back cover – Bananarama strike an X-pose! Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin (heads up) and, in the middle, the other one (Jacquie O'Sullivan, head down)


Play loud!


Time and the Rani By Romanabarmikarma


You sacked your man, as I recall

When ratings slowly down they fall

You said that you’d be back someday to relaunch fine

And all you needed was just a little Time [Lord]


Woah, Summer’s passed, you’re back this Fall

Time and the Rani [Oh Heaven help me] – exploding balls!


Doctor Who – at last you’re back on 

Doctor Who – at last you’re back on 


If a fanboy could die of fear

Colin cancelled, a well of tears

It seems that you’re folding – where’s the encore?

Was there no room on the box for you no more?


Woah! Sylv is cast, and I’m enthralled

(Though against Corrie [How very sorry] you can’t walk tall)


Doctor Who – at last you’re back on 

Doctor Who – at last you’re back on 


Doctor Who – at last you’re back on 

Doctor Who – at last you’re back on 


[Spoon crashes: Ur-ak! Bring me Loyhargil!]

[Spoon crashes: Ur-ak! Bring me Loyhargil!]


[Spoon crashes: Ur-ak! Bring me Loyhargil!]


Woah!


[Spoon crashes: Ur-ak! Bring me Loyhargil!]


Woah, Summer’s passed, you’re back this Fall

Time and the Rani [Oh Heaven help me] – exploding balls!


Doctor Who – at last you’re back on 

Doctor Who – at last you’re back on 


Michael Grade – You’ve been wrong too long

Michael Grade – You’ve been wrong too long…



“Loyhargil!” The Rani in orgasmic triumph



Forthcoming hits by Romanabarmikarma include:


I Heard a Cleaner (Yellow Kangs Are Best)

Quite Relaxed Summer (If You Ignore the Genocide)

Love in the Minus-a-hundred-and-ninety-third Degree


Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Skaro Goodbye

Every Shade of Pink aka Really Saying Something

It Ain’t Very New (It’ll Do, So Screw It)

Shy Fanboy


Nicholas Courtney’s Waiting… (Let’s Get A Round In)

Creature Man

Love, Faith and Haemovores 

Look At My Eyes (Hypnotic Master) aka Cheers Then


And after that…


I Want You Back.


Romanabarmikarma Hits – an irresistible mix of Bananarama and Keff McCulloch. You can check the real titles against my puns.


Though if you really want Doctor Who in the charts – well, the next year it’s the KLF, obviously. But the year after there’s New Order: Round and Round, the first 20 seconds of which sound so like a Keff McCulloch tribute band it’s like licking a polychromatic lizard explosion.



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Thursday, April 15, 2021

 

30 Songs In 30 Colours (a 30-day Song Challenge Done Wrong) #Fragments

 

Last year I Tweeted a different song every day for a #30DaySongChallenge. Only one drawback: I’d read ahead and there were several questions I just didn’t want to think about. So I Tweeted for thirty days anyway – just answering for Day 1, thirty times (never let it be said that once I think up a terrible joke or a diversionary tactic I don’t flog both to death).

 

Besides, it turns out there really are a lot of really great songs with colours in them.

 

I’ve picked today (the anniversary of somewhere-in-the-middle-of-it) to collect these into a post because (in the middle of not an easy time) the most fun of the lot is both the colour grey – not anyone’s first choice for joy – and a car – not mine – and yet…

 

 

Day 1  A song you like with a colour in the title  (and 29 other questions, but as will become clear, those are irrelevant)


 

1 – Goldfinger

Saluting Honor Blackman – and because it’s so magnificent I’d have picked it anyway.

 

There are several here I really don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

At the same time last year I was Tweeting a James Bond favourite every day too, but properly. Not all my picks were Goldfinger… But top Bond theme was, obviously (as one Bond composer put it, “If you’re dead, you wake up for that”). I’ve already turned that set into a blog post – worth reading for the one-liners.


  

1 – Tired of Midnight Blue (George Harrison)

A brilliantly bluesy piano number unexpectedly turns up to give extra texture.

And it’d gone midnight, and I was tired, so…

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – The Red Shoes (Kate Bush)

Fantastic in several senses, with bonus colours on the same album in Why Should I Love You?

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Union City Blue (Blondie)

Coolly iconic. Also, their:

Put Some Color On You

Much newer Blondie, and a real stomper. Love it (but not appropriately social-distancing).

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Theme from The Black Hole

Queasy swirling weirdness underpinned by magnificently threatening ‘What A Magnificent Vista (Were It Not Being Swallowed By This Endless Maw Into Hell)’ John Barry strings.


[A couple of months ago I performed a scientific observer bias test and found that I mainly hear the unsettling weaving weirdness if I’m watching the wireframe spiral on screen, while mainly notice the orchestral underpinning if I’m just listening rather than getting the visual cues.]

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – The White Tree (Howard Shore)

A magnificent, uplifting fanfare to light the Beacons of Gondor and send flame rushing to the West.

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Moonlight and Gold (Gerry Rafferty)

A gorgeous love song yearning through the night to the dawn (from North and South, probably his best album).

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Grey Cortina (Tom Robinson Band)

I don’t care about cars at all, but too many car songs are just too much fun.

This is probably the most lively and joyous of the lot.

A year ago today!

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Dazzling Blue (Paul Simon)

Percussive, laid back groove.

You see? I can pick songs from the last decade.

The artist’s been around since long before I was born, obviously.

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Yellow Submarine (The Beatles)

(I’d’ve made this an earlier 1, but didn’t want it to be the obvious ‘cramped in a small space and can’t go outside’ and lose its fun)

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Old Brown Shoe (The Beatles)

So lively! Wowsa George fast-bubbling bass and lead. A very ‘A’ B-side.

Bonus: For You Blue, the most bouncily happy of blues.

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Mr Blue Sky (Electric Light Orchestra)

Because you can’t beat a bit of ELO.

Glorious (especially as the close of Concerto For a Rainy Day).

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Blue Monday (New Order)

Inspired electro-dance downbeat-beat-beat-beat-beat to get you going without admitting you want to.

Just how I should feel today…

 

Presses repeat on ‘There are several…’ meta-gag

[And if youre wondering why I kept in all of those, now you know. Really‽ Really]

 

 

1 – Blue Savannah (Erasure)

A rather lovely swirling ballad with a simple but hugely memorable video (which sends me on my way back to Goldfinger; don’t try this at home)

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – GoldenEye (Tina Turner)

An outstanding Bond theme and terrific performance (great video, too).

Up there with She’s a Mystery to Me as the best ever of Bono and the Edge.

[I compiled all 40 – no, you read correctly – into a playlist today, only to find this was the only one I’d not imported into iTunes and couldn’t find the CD single. Looking it up, though I own the single edit (technically, somewhere), there is a longer album edit, so I didn’t feel bad about buying that just now to complete the set. Just for once, the longer version’s not as good. The film edit ends with a bang.]

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – California Blue (Roy Orbison)

Rather lovely in its yearning (I reminded myself of it with yesterday’s).

And why not add the other Traveling Wilburys in New Blue Moon?

[I coincidentally sequenced this for Roy’s birthday (April 23rd) and didn’t notice until afterwards.]

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Every Shade of Blue (Bananarama)

Last night was rough [356 nights ago, but so was last night and it’s a fair bet so will the next] and I was up most of it, so despite the lyrics this is a more upbeat listen in daylight.

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Strike Me Pink (Deborah Harry)

Melting coolness from Debravation. Evocative song, great album title (still waiting for Debravity).

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – White Wedding (Billy Idol)

A roar of excitement!

I was scheduled to go with White Room (Cream), but that day was our semiversary [April 26th, mid-way from October 26th]. I think I prefer this one, too!

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Morse Moose and the Grey Goose (Paul McCartney & Wings)

A great sound from London Town – fuzzing guitar and groovy bass. Love a track that starts big and builds!

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…



1 – Blond and Blue (Tom Robinson)

An unhappy love song…

and

Green (Tom Robinson)

– much more upbeat – savage bit of satire:

“It’s an eco-revolution using market forces / As we carry on guzzling the world’s resources”

 

[insert daily recycled line]

 

 

1 – Gold (Spandau Ballet)

Always believe in your soul!

Big sound, Lib Dem anthem, and I had this lined up before seeing Twitter full of fancying Martin Kemp that evening [can I remember why? Did I even know at the time?].

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Grey Day (Madness)

Doom-laden chimes, heavy piano, distorted guitar, despairing lyrics – probably their most downbeat hit, and possibly my favourite.

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Jack In the Green (Jethro Tull)

Feels more Beltane this morning [May 1st] than my scheduled The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine (though I could really do with one of those).

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Paint It Black (Rolling Stones)

Black Sunrise (Marc Almond)

And not in the title but very much in tone, My Little Town (Simon and Garfunkel)

[Yes, it was getting close to the end and I realised Id come up with way more than 30 songs]

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix)

An incredible sound and – appropriately purple – embraced in performance as distinctly bi:

that girl put a spell on me / ’scuse me while I kiss this guy

 

Several I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Mellow Yellow (Donovan)

Something a bit cheery and relaxing for a new week (same as the old week) when being mostly more incredibly stressed and angry Yellow.

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

 

1 – Yellow (Jodie Whittaker)

Rather beautiful.

 

Green Grow the Rushes

Oh! You’re thinking REM; I’m thinking John Steed (Patrick Macnee) resisting mind control. And tune control.

[See The Avengers – Too Many Christmas Trees. And you should.]

 

There are some here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time.

 

 

1 – Golden Brown (The Stranglers)

Gorgeous. Always planned for the penultimate day, alongside eerie

Blue Veils and Golden Sands (Delia Derbyshire)

Yet suddenly mournful.

[This was May 6th, getting the schedule slightly wrong so one day late for Delia Derbyshire, but coincidentally also having just seen the news that Stranglers keyboard player Dave Greenfield had passed away]

 

There are several here I don’t want to face, but I cope (when I do) one day at a time…

 

When I first saw the challenges on this list, I thought:

‘Oh no; this one, this, and that would just be too disheartening to go into – I can’t do it.’

And I wouldn’t have, but immediately the old eye-roller ‘Deal with problems one day at a time!’ popped into my head…

Which is how I realised:

‘Oh, I couldn’t. Could I? That would be a terrible, awful gag, and I’d have to keep it going long, long after it stopped being funny.

‘I could!’

And so I’ve been re-setting to day one at a time every day for twenty-nine days.

One more. Just one.

Or is it?

 

 

1 – 99 Red Balloons / 99 Luftballons (Nena)

At last, a number – could this be Day 2?

…No.

30 days on, it’s the end of the run and end of the world.

And one last colour, after all.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the songs in your ears and colours in your eyes! I did.

 

  

This is another in an occasional series of Fragments – not-quite-finished, not-quite-polished, from ideas I’ve written up over time and maybe I’ll share some of them anyway. If you’d like more, please let me know, and if you’d like to help, please ask me, ‘Have you at some point written something intriguing about Story / Series X, and could you find it, consider it and post it?’ You might suggest one that I can (TS;RM [Too Short; Read More]? Here).

  

 

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

 

I Hope Mine Doesn’t Taste of Engine Grease – A TARDIS Vignette

 

A little fan-fiction I wrote seven years ago today, forgot about entirely, and found again at midnight.


“What’s through that door, Doctor?”

Full of the cheery confidence of showing a new companion around his Ship for the first time, the Doctor looked across the hallway to where she was pointing. A large pair of double doors stood off to one side, the once-welcoming wide circular windows strangely fogged by what looked like old steam. They gave the appearance of something once grand that had long been forgotten: very slightly faded; very slightly askew; an incredibly faint smell of something tantalisingly tempting hanging in the air, almost completely lost in a slightly less faint miasma of old steam. And for the Doctor alone, who knew that the TARDIS could have flicked away all of these traces like new in an instant, the tiniest sense drifting directly across his mind of something very like gimlet-eyed resentment.

“Oh – ah – nothing very interesting,” he said evasively. “For a short while it was the – ah – TARDIS Refectory.”

He winced as his new friend’s nose pricked up and she expressed a sudden desire for some food, their having been striding the corridors for so long. He suspected the Old Girl of having wafted the subtlest hints of mouth-watering flavours and fleeting images of favourite treats through her brain at the same time she’d been leaning on his with that distant pall.

“There’s a food machine, you see, close to the console room,” the Doctor continued, starting to walk off again. “It’ll make anything you like – just enter the numbers, ah, hope I’ve kept it filled, and a, a thing like a Mars Bar comes out, covered in white icing, that should, ah, taste of anything you fancy…” He lost his trail, metaphorically and literally, realising that he wasn’t doing the best job of selling a machine that goes ‘ping’ to a companion with her nose against the fascination of a steamy window that was right in front of her.

“Can’t we just take a look inside, as we’re here?” she asked, one hand already at a handle, the door opening at that merest touch with treacherous eagerness.

He cast a petulant glance somewhere in the direction of the ceiling and followed her in.

 

The Refectory was a long, wide room with two long, slim tables running down the middle of it. The tables looked stylish and striking from the doorway, but up close could have done with a polish. The chairs, too, looked elegant in concept but slightly down at heel, each just slightly out of line with the next along. And though the wide walls should have encouraged a sense of space and cheer for the diner, there was instead a nagging sense of oppression, perhaps because the high ceiling was lost in old steam that somehow contrived to writhe above the Doctor’s head and condense into the occasional droplet that would slip down the back of his neck when he wasn’t looking.

She rushed forward into the room and right along between the twin tables, setting the odd chair a touch straighter as it got in the way, then paused, puzzled, at the far end. “There aren’t any other doors,” she called to the Doctor. “Where are the kitchens?”

The Doctor closed his eyes. A malicious drip bounced off the end of his nose. He resigned himself and walked reluctantly forward to meet her half-way. They took chairs on the left-hand table, pulling them out to complementary angles so he could sit and talk with his hands.

“Well, this is the TARDIS,” he told her. “It’s the most wonderful Ship in the Universe. It can go anywhere, do anything. It doesn’t need kitchens.” He glanced up for a moment. He didn’t think the buttering up was going to work, but it was worth a try. No butter was appearing, though. “You see, many years ago, I had to – well, we had to – well, there was this disaster, and I was rather pressed into – well, into taking rather a lot of people on board. It was the only way to save them all, and I had been rather involved, and the food machine was overloaded, and the TARDIS doesn’t look right with queues.” He sighed. “They weren’t here so very long, just as long as I took to find their home, which really wasn’t very long at all in the scheme of things.”

He remembered that self. Creative; inventive; a whiz with numbers. Able to hold together an impossible string of block transfer computations each threaded through a spaghetti tangle of open-access telepathic circuits purely in their head. Still unable to steer the TARDIS for toffee. People spilling over the Ship for weeks.

“So he, ah, I, ah, we whistled up this place, serves up whatever you want to perfection, takes it away afterwards, and all you need to do is picture it in your mind and ask politely for a plate.” He tapped discreetly on the table. “May I?”

A small saucer appeared on the wrong side of his hand. He gritted his teeth. His friend tittered.

“It’s a little rusty now, I’m afraid. Even I couldn’t make it work immediately without a bit of an overhaul.” And some care and attention and not taking your Ship for granted, said a voice in his head, which may have been his.

“Oh, but I’m sure you can manage something,” she said with a smile. “It is your Ship, and you did design this room, and there’s only one of me now. Couldn’t you just whip up, I dunno, eggs and bacon, or stir-fried noodles, or even a light salad?”

Maybe they’re conspiring against me now, a wicked thought said in his mind, and it was almost certainly his.

 

“It worked like this,” he said, steeling himself. “You took your plate” – he moved the saucer in front of him with a cursory nudge – “and held your hand beside it.” He cupped his right hand loosely in the air. No pressure. “Then just think of whatever you need.”

Salad, he thought. It should be simple. Lettuce. Tomatoes. Honey and mustard. Nothing like – don’t think it.

Nothing happened. His friend looked at him, her head on one side. He smiled confidently back. It was just possible that he looked like a maniac. The sullen ceiling sent another vindictive drip down his back.

Celery. Avocado. Ham. Chopped walnuts. Olive oil. Rocket. Cucumber. Pear! Not pear! Apple! Cherries! No, no cherries, concentrate!

He brought up his other hand, as if sheltering a tiny flame.

Back to lettuce. Lettuce. Lettuce. Garlic in emulsion. Croutons. Not tellurium. Don’t think of tellurium either. Tel – tol – tul – tuna! Tuna. Boiled eggs.

Unconsciously, his hands began to move, short, chivvying strokes, as if as if rubbing two imaginary pieces of wood together.

Focus. Lettuce. Lettuce. Beans. Lettuce. Just a small salad, it’s not too much to ask.

He could feel something slightly moist gathering between his fingers.

Then, suddenly, it was there, in a neat swirl piled high onto the saucer, covering his hands as he involuntarily flicked it in all directions.

His companion started and wiped some of it out of her hair, looking at him without enthusiasm.

Mashed potato.

Every time he’d tried to come in here for centuries. Nothing but mashed potato.

 

He stood up, kicking the chair out of the way. He held out one soggy hand. She didn’t take it.

“You’ve not lived until you’ve had the food machine’s bacon and eggs. The ordinary sort – all that – egg and bacon sort of shape. It’s such a distraction. You have to try it in the proper bars.”

He wiped one hand surreptitiously on his jacket and pushed the door. He sighed, then pulled it open and held it. The old steam above him writhed in what he could swear was smug satisfaction.

All right, Old Girl, he thought. You’ve made your point. I know it’s another one. You’ll always be more important to me than her. I’ll always show you more attention. He crossed two potato-smeared fingers behind his back.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t have the distinct feeling that some showy future incarnation was going to walk in one day and set a banquet with a snap of his fingers. 

 

 

I write all the time, but almost never publish any more (for all sorts of reasons I won’t go into again just now). But almost every day, notes, thoughts, things that might be essays if that didn’t imply some sort of finality. Two exceptions. What I haven’t done in a very long time is written any stories; this isn’t a story, of course, just a vinaigrette, but I was surprised to find it at all when looking around for the reverse exception – my Twitter. Most days I aim to resist the rage and despair by Tweeting something that cheers me, and most days that’s an anniversary of something On This Day. I’ve done many on each day in previous years, so I read back through before changing one slightly, throwing out another, deciding to make a one-liner into a thread that should secretly be a blog post but if I publish in slivers I won’t notice, or spending three hours freeze-framing just the right screenshot. On this day in 2014, there was just one line: “I Hope Mine Doesn’t Taste of Engine Grease”. I know what it says, but what does it mean?

I looked, I found it, I thought, did I really write this just seven years ago? I thought it was decades since my last one, I put up a Twitter poll and ten out of eleven people wanted to read it, so here it is before I have time to stop myself.

After all, I didn’t want it hanging over me.


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