Out Of The Way

I tuned out, I dropped in. I'm a naive, wide-eyed sell-out

Friday, October 13, 2006

South By Southeast

Can it really have been so long? Ah let’s get on with it.

99% of people in the world are wrong about 50% of everything they believe. Give or take. From the large to the small, they’re wrong.
Yes, trying to impose democracy by force is wrong. But blow yourself and a load of others up and then think you’re going to heaven – no, no, no, you’re wrong. You think there is a heaven? You’re probably wrong. But then again you want to argue that there can’t be a heaven because the universe is saddle shaped etc – damn, probably wrong again. It’s really easy to be wrong about the big things. The papers are full of people being wrong about everything.

I (wrongly) believe that I’ve cut down the amount of things I’m wrong about to about 20%. And for the most part the things I’m wrong about are the usual suspects.

I wrongly still look in the mirror and think: “looking pretty handsome today. Knock ‘em dead, big guy.”
I wrongly believe I’m an excellent driver despite all evidence to the contrary.
I wrongly believe that things were better in the past (despite vivid memories of Crewe town centre being almost all boarded up in the last big recession and being forced to wear my brother’s hand-me-downs).
I wrongly believe that someday my beer belly will go just away.
I wrongly believe that drink makes me better company.
And in the depths of vanity I sometimes wrongly believe that one day I will be a successful journalist or I’ll be discovered as some great natural acting talent and will end my days relating my tales of excess to a fawning Parkinson.

There is however one subject on which I know I’m probably wrong but it still plagues and pesters me all the time. It’s a bit embarrassing.

I believe that northern people are, generally, friendlier than southern people. Isn’t that dumb?

Really stupid. I should further my stupidity by pointing out that when I say southern, I really mean south eastern, and probably home counties people.

I moved a little while ago, further south and further east. Out of south east London and into the most south easterly county in the country. Only two miles down the road from where I was.

The former owners left a large skip in the front garden, filled with the contents of their house. We had to pay to have it removed. When we finally got into the house we were depressed to find they hadn’t cleaned, had left broken glass in the hallway and left live wires sticking out of walls (nice – they knew we had a young ‘un) (yes, they took the sockets and even the doorbell bizarrely – although they threw away a PS2, a Sky box and an NTL receiver which I recovered from the skip and got working).

Blah, blah, blah.

Couple of days later. Some guys come round, convinced us they were working on the houses behind. They noticed we’d just moved in. Do we want to buy some things and get some work done cheap? We part with money for something which doesn’t happen. Conned.

I’m putting my bin out. See a guy a couple of houses down doing the same. Good opportunity to meet the neighbours. Give him a big smile, friendly nod and a wave. He stares at me and then goes back in his house. Like something from the Twilight Zone.

And after every time (there’s many more) I thought, this wouldn’t happen up north.

My next door neighbour is lovely. She’s from the south-east. Her offspring (who rarely visit) are unpleasant. I want to tell her she’s abnormally friendly for our neck of the woods, but don’t want to spoil things.

Our old childminder is wonderful – but I tell myself she’s a proper old-fashioned Londoner, and they’re OK.

This all sounds like bigotry, people. And it disturbs me. But every time I get disturbed I remember things, such as my old housemates at University and what a bunch of evil south easterners they were. I (friendly northerner) attacked one with a table leg once – but that’s another story. You’d applaud if you knew why.

I remember being pushed off my bike by a policeman in Parliament Square on May Day.

I remember a guy with his hand round my friend’s throat at a Dylan concert. At a Dylan concert!

And I have changed.

I long ago stopped trying to engage people in conversation on public transport (though I love it when a see a fresh bumpkin trying it - though my mum stills tries it. Don't like this so much), I stopped moaning about how bitter doesn’t travel (I don’t even drink it for God’s sake, gives me terrible wind). I don’t even pretend to be a Crewe Alex fan anymore (I now pretend to be a Crystal Palace fan).

And besides, the last place I had a (proper) fight was my home town. The last place I was hit was Leicester. The last people who chased me were Russian.

But still I pine for my old friends. For being able to call someone a “f##ker” without fear of reprisal. For people understanding when I’m joking and when I’m not. Pining for people who don’t read Heat. Pine even for enemies who approach with a growl and clenched fists rather than smiles. Pine for the countryside, the compact cities.

You rightly guffaw, cos that’s claptrap. I’m actually just getting old and pining for my youth.

Yep, my North is just as much an imagined state of mind as my imagined idea of the past. It’s just as full of false hopes as visions of gods and heavens. It’s my reassuring “other place” which keeps me going when people are being shitty to one another.

Reactionary bigot or sentimental old fool? If I settled on one, I’d just be wrong.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Man at work

As a prelude to my grand opus, Living in the South, I thought i'd just write about why I'm here.

Like many young upwardly mobile people I moved to London because I couldn't face the prospect of returning home after university and i thought the capital was, of course, cool.
I also wanted to be a film reviewer, and London is simply where all of the big magazines are based and all the screenings held.

You have to understand, though, this was the shoddy thinking of a young foolish man (not the shoddy thinking of an older young man, which this Blog is).

So, I came for cool, I stayed for work, but I often pine for home in the north west.

As a bit of back history, I didn't become a famous journalist but i did become someone who made a living from journalism which is an achievement in itself.

Now, I'm not strictly a journalist, but I do do vaguely creative things - the latest of which has prompted me to write this.

Here's going against the grain: I love my work at the moment. We're producing and editing World Cup goals and highlights for one of the big telcos. It's a big team of producers, editors and commentators, all of who are completely focused, committed and driven by the work.

I know it doesn't sound like much, but last night I sat at the editing desk with a packet of crisps, poised with me magic editing pen waiting for another goal and i thought "This is great. I am happy". Haven't felt like that at work for many years. And it's a sad fact of our world, but to be happy at work is to be blessed.

Yes, it'll end soon, I'll return to being a mediocre boss with a team who have finessed their "what are you talking about granddad?" looks, and having next to nil chances of promotion (I'm going to write about the strange experience of being a "boss" later).

But for the time-being, I am happy.

Yes, I am here in the south to work and work is good.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fat Trot makes me write long explanatory post

So, briefly, I can’t remember what I’d said to deserve the label, I can only remember where I was standing in the admin department of Britain’s leading daily Socialist newspaper when a fat bearded Trotskyite (many thought him a spook) called me a libertarian humanist.
Actually I wasn’t even standing I was half-sitting on the edge of the desk, so for the briefest of moments the fat Trot was slightly above me. It took me a few seconds for me to realize that I wasn’t actually a libertarian humanist, but it was about a milli-second to realize he was belittling me. This was six or seven years ago, and as you have no doubt gathered, it still bothers me.
I’m going to work out why.

On a simple level, the Fat Bearded Trot (FBT from hereon in) was a self-satisfied patronizing twonk, who would often offer lifts home to the younger office staff and journos so that he could groom them with Trot prop or pump them for ideological tittle-tattle. I got in his car once and vowed never to do it again. Apart from anything else he was fat, it was summer and he sweated. FBT had already incurred my wrath by scoffing at me for not knowing what focaccia was (I’m from the north and had at that point only encountered three types of bread – white, brown and French). Bah! So I was in no mood for his smugness.
Mainly, though, I think that denouncing someone for believing in positive things is lousey, cynical and pompous. Smile, shake your head and say “Idealist” by all means, but don’t sneer, guffaw and denounce. That’s just bad.
So, yep, liberty is great. And the line of thought that says that people have significant intrinsic value – that’s good, it really is. To be a libertarian humanist would be a fine thing, so my last point is horrible. I’m not one.
Why not a libertarian? I think there’s too many necessary compromises to make to make life at least bearable and, at best, good. I always thought that the credo of the conscientious anarchist was pretty pointless: “Freedom to do anything, as long as it doesn’t infringe the freedom of anyone else”. That rules out almost everything except walking round with a anarchist badge on your satchel – but best be careful where you walk, and how fast (you wouldn’t want to hold anyone up)(but then again if you walked too fast you might bump into someone). Turn your music down, don’t put your feet on the seat, you need the window open? you’d better ask me, stop swearing, you want service then stand in line, wait till you’re asked, get off your mobile, who asked you?... and on and on. There’s so many little checks and balances, rules and manners which make life slide along that little bit more easily, I could never give them up. Respect for other people is an easy thing to say but it means a thousand different things. Nope, not a libertarian.
Humanist? Hmm. Kurt Vonnegut said that the saddest thing to admit is that the world would be a better place if a load of people had never been born. And I think he’s right. That’s why people call Vonnegut a moralist not a humanist. But good old Kurt would never make the leap to say that once that terrible birth has happened that it should be reversed. The really sad thing is, I would. It’s not a fact I’m proud of and I don’t, like a lot of people I’ve known, say it with swagger. Nor do believe in any authority that I’d trust enough to make these decisions – I can only say that there are people who do not deserve to breathe another breath because of the misery they mete out and there are many more who should not be made to endure any more misery.
In short I think life is mainly sad and doesn’t have any inherent value – we have to add that.
So not being a humanist is basically to be depressed.
But hey, don’t worry, we can make things better. Because I’m not a libertarian means that I’ve got impeccable manners, always willing to help and will do my best not to annoy you (except Reidski who enjoys being annoyed by me).
Because I’m not a humanist means that I’m always struggling to give stuff meaning and value, that I worry that you might not be having a good time and that life isn’t enough in itself – you have to live a good one and bring happiness to people’s lives.
Hey I might have banished some demons there. Excellent.
So great, I’m not a libertarian humanist, and if you call me one don’t scoff (or be a FBT).
Next time: living in the south or Mark E Smith?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tagged and bagged

I’ve been tagged which, I’m given to understand, means that I must repeat the last act of the tagee (Moo in this case) – a top ten Jukebox list.

One track sprung to mind, the first on this list, so I decided that the rest of the list should follow suit. It’s a kind of pedal-to-the-metal top 10, the kind of thing that you might have selected on the Dew Drop’s jukebox in New Cross back in the day (if that jukebox wasn’t full of GBH and Anti-Nowhere League crap – Reidski’ll know what I mean).

Here goes and here’s the man who inspired it:

The Fall – Jawbone and the Air Rifle
Butthole Surfers – Who Was In My Room Last Night?
Captain Beefheart – Zigzag Wanderer
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son
Pharcyde – Oh Shit
Metallica – Battery
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Supernaturally
Ice Cube – What They Hittin’ Foe?
Nomeansno – Everyday I Start To Ooze
Velvet Underground – Sister Ray

I guess I was just in a mood today. Get me on a good day and it’d be 12” remixes of the Frog Chorus all the way. Fo’ shizzle, hom’.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Me no Blog no Blog

I said some posts ago that I’m not a Blogger and wouldn’t continue to Blog. I have though. I broke my word.

The thing is, I do have a couple of problems with Blogging.

The first is a minor point. It’s a niggle. I read a lot of stuff and my eye sight is on the decline. There’s already too much stuff in the world to read as it is and I often get down at the thought of missing out on something wonderful by trawling through things that are just about OK. Blogs are just more stuff to read.

The second is the biggie and, actually, it’s only directed at a particular type of Blog which is derived from the most abused form of journalism: the column.

Done well, columns are great. “Ooh I hadn’t thought of it like that before,” or “how insightful” should be the response. More usual is “I don’t care”. The Guardian has taken the pointless column to a new level. Should anyone want to read how happy Alexander Chancellor is to live in Hammersmith (like a crumby, tacky town dropped into West London) or that Jon Ronson doesn’t like Rickshaws? Actually, I’m straying off the point and writing one of those columns myself. Back to Blogs.

No, you see, the worst Blogging is the “putting-the-world-to-rights” Blog. A certain fool called Duff writes one of these, regularly bolstering his smug posturing with ill fitting quotations from The Best Sayings In The World Ever Vol.2. But many more write them too.

Here’s the problem (and feel free to denounce me as a relativist) and it is probably THE problem: Everyone in the world thinks they’re a genius and everyone else is an idiot.

I’m always falling into this trap myself. I remind myself in all humility that I know enough to know that I don’t know enough and that I probably know nothing (I could quote a famous guy here, but there’s no point). But it only takes a second for my ego to creep in and tell me that knowing you know nothing puts one in a better position than thinking you know everything, therefore I must be a genius of a kind and ARRRRGGGHHH. Defeat.

So in an attempt to keep my ego down, I’m going to avoid writing the kind of Blog that solves the world’s problems, except to say that most of these problems are due to two factions, each of whom think the other is an idiot (or evil, to return to my last post).

Sorry if you were looking for me to secure a peace deal in Sri Lanka.

The other thing I won’t be writing about is my family. Except to say that I love them dearly. I won’t even tell you if I own hamsters.

In fact, I still consider this as a support site for Reidski. A satellite.

But first I need to discuss why I’m not a humanist, why I’m probably not a libertarian and then I’ll consider why this label from a big fat bearded Trot made some years ago has bugged me to this day.

Hey, this isn’t a fun Blog so far is it?

I’ll finish with a nice picture

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Well Read not, well, Red (ha-ha, what a clever title - do you smoke me, eh, eh?)

Oh well, so I'll carry on a bit.

Why am I called Voroshilov? Well, it's relatively straight-forward but it opens up lots of other questions which I've spent the past few years investigating.

I first used the name over 10 years ago when writing on the student newspaper. I'd written too much stuff due to a lack of decent pieces from the usual sources and when laying the pages up became quite embarassed at the amount of times my name appeared - so i started to swap them out for pseudonyms. There was about five of them but I liked Voroshilov the best.

Why Voroshilov?

Here he is:

Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov is the original. If you want to know about him you, then check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kliment_Voroshilov

Basically, senior military figure in the USSR, who wasn't actually as great as he was presented.

For years however, I fetishized everything to do with the Soviet Union. My grandad was a communist and I swerved more and more in that direction as things started to go wrong in my late teens.

As a beginner "leftie" you immediately denounce everything you formerly believed in and take on board a load of stuff that is now taken as the truth. It takes years to realise that the truth lies somewhere between these positions.

As an advanced "leftie" and flailing freelance journalist I found myself working with Reidski on a certain "left-wing" publication. Here's where I found out about a things called "the party line" and "revolutionary discipline" - I learnt the former but could never accept the latter (hence some fat bastard called me a libertarian humanist with all the self-satisfaction that a Trot can muster - quite a lot).

I met a guy who was proud of leading a mutiny against the RAF in WWII - arse. I met a couple of people who thought that Stalin's cruelty was something to be applied to office politics. I encountered real office politics. I also met a bunch of very smart, very savvy people who I have nothing but good things to say about.

As a kid, the turning point towards the left was watching Newsround. They had a piece on arranged holidays in the Soviet Union. It showed "Russians" in bathing costumes lounging in deck chairs in the snow and swimming in icey water. This, it carefully explained, was what happened under the evil communist regime (the equivalent would be Russians watching those idiots swimming in the Serpentine on News Years Day, while a voiceover explained this was how the bourgeois Brits like to shrink their nuts). I can't have been very old, but I remember being struck by what a load of old nonsense I was being fed. Like a bolt of lightning I understood that Russians weren't any more evil and stoopid than us.

That was the beginning of the journey which led me to a point where I was trotting out party line without even thinking about what I was saying. What stopped me?

I'm a bit of buff when it comes to military history (I have all the hobbies of a 70-year-old widower - except chasing widows) (ooh and Crown Green Bowls, I don't do that) (although I do sometimes discuss my toilet habits), and I was reading some tract or other that kept referring to WWII as the second imperialist war. It drove me mad. So clumsy, so stupid. I'm not going to go in to a history of imperialist wars, but the point is it was needlessly putting a spin on something which really doesn't need it.

So I kicked it, like I kicked smoking, I no longer toed the party line. It meant I had to read twice as much as before to make my mind up, but a small price to pay.

Voroshilov stuck. At the end of the day, although I no longer think everything that happened in the USSR was wonderful, i still think it's a cool name. And it is.

That was rather boring. Sorry.

Next time I'll talk about why I flew off at southerners (sorry nice southerners) and why this proves that I'm not a humanist.

Then I'll link to more Blogs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Last one

I can't blog. I never get the time. But my mate Reidski is a blogger and I like what he writes and the people who write to him. So this is it. This is my presence. It won't be updated. It's more like a show of solidarity. And I'm scared of people scouring my blogs trying to work out all my passwords.
So hello, i must be going.