We understand why you’re feeling down.

Christmas is nearly upon us, and all the good things that brings will be enjoyed by many over the next few days. But it goes without having to be said this is also a very difficult time for people who are suffering a multitude of problems. The first thing you should realise, if you’re one of those people, is there is nothing wrong with feeling the way you do. So don’t add that to what, I’m sure for some, seems like an endless list. The people around you understand why you feel like this. The number one reason for that is at some point they’ve been in the same place as you.

I remember one Christmas Eve sitting alone at night in my parents living room and just breaking down, thinking my life had reached such a point of desperation that it would never right itself again. That I would never feel like the person I used to be again. That was years ago. Today I’m as happy as one can be. Yes still got problems, still got worries, can still crash on the odd day and start building my own endless list. Thankfully it only happens on rare occasions.

There’s no magic wand we can wave to make these things better overnight, but I do stress here…Things will get better. I’m no councillor. I don’t know therapy but I’ll share here some things that are cost free that have worked for me.

  1. If there’s someone who’s hurt you in your life, who you no longer want to influence your thoughts…write a letter to them. It’s not to be sent to them. Just write a giant FUCK YOU! to that person and to why you’re done with whatever happened and how in the future they ARE NOT going to influence how you approach your own life.
  2. Treat yourself. I know this is not so easy to do when money is an issue, or is the issue that’s causing the stress. You don’t always need money to do this. There will be a multitude of free activities on in the nearest town. Look them up. Go participate in one. Do it for you. If you do have some spare cash buy yourself something frivolous and unnecessary. You’ve earned it.
  3. Make a list of all the good things you’ve done in recent times. You’ll be surprised once you add them up.
  4. Get some air. Try to get to some open country. The space is good. If you’re alone enjoy the solitude. Enjoy not having to have this time committed to anything but you.
  5. And as I say at the start, accept something is wrong but don’t let that define you. Your unwell. There are many effective treatments to address this. Remember you’re not the only one being reflective right now. Someone somewhere is probably being reflective about you.

I/Mmature Student 9. New perspectives. Love the arts.

So there’s been no Immature Student blogs this week. The reason for that is I had a go at writing a 15-20 minute bit of theatre. That took up a fair bit of time and energy both physically and mentally. What I was writing is part of a competition from our local fringe theatre group Alphabetti Theatre. We were to write a 20 minute “response play” to a play we saw there. Truth us  first year students didn’t actually have to do this but I’m a big believer in just getting something down, moving out your comfort zone and seeing what happens. I’m lucky that I’m going through a very unblocked period as a writer. There are reasons for that. Go back about 8 years and I could hardly produce a thing. A great friend of mine and fellow comedian Martin Mor gave me a book called the Artists Way. It’s a book that’s as much about therapy as it is about freeing the creative process. It eventually worked for me along with other factors that take too long to get into here.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of our lecturers advised my fellow students to follow some of its practices this week. As for the bit theatre I produced…well quite by happy accident I produced something that acts perfectly as a kind of warm up play to the new solo monologue about mental health I’m putting together. (“Solo monologue about mental health” ??? That’s new. I used to just call it stand up!) That’s why sometimes its worth just going for it. I’ll post it here once the competition winners are announced.

There’s so much to report about this week I just can’t in a quick blog that’s also supposed to entertain. . All I can say is I’m doing things that comedian me would have poured scorn on two weeks ago, but who now is looking at others and the world around him with a shifted perspective. Anyhoo this is supposed to be entertaining. I decided last week Fridays blog would be compilations of things from the arts I love. So here’s some more. have a good weekend.

Here we have Boys From The Blackstuff. The fact you’ll find no BBC drama addressing issues of unemployment, poverty and the disenfranchised on the TV just now is very telling. It’s taken Ken Loach with his new film I Daniel Blake to set the record straight. But this Alan Bleasdale drama hasn’t aged a day. If anything it’s even more important now. Go find the whole thing if you’ve never seen it.

 

 

 

Growing up in the 70s he was everybody’s favourite Doctor. Here faced with a great dilemma. He remained my favourite Doctor for a long time…well until this Scottish bloke arrived…

 

And here he is. Our latest Doctor delivering the greatest anti war speech ever of a so called “Kids show” In fact maybe just one of the best anti war speeches ever. Carling don’t make anti war speeches…but if they did…

 

Time for a musical interlude I think. There are umpteen versions of Heroes out there. But this one from the Concert For New York is among the best. This concert was a remembrance of all who died in 9/11. It was also really aimed at the Firemen/women, policemen/women ambulance men/women etc who died trying to attend to the situation.

Whether you think it was a staged conspiracy or a real event isn’t important. What’s important is the impact this song has on the service workers in the audience. Service workers who give much with little reward all over the planet. Heroes.

 

Rock and Roll is exhilarating. Dion here putting one of the last more traditional forms of that into the charts in 1961. But what they do here isn’t that far from what the next guy did with his first bands…

 

And here’s that next guy. The Sex Pistols is where as a kid I found music. They were  a bunch of kids who had the establishment on the run. What they did has never been repeated…because it has never been allowed to. They learn from their mistakes those establishment types. This song was about the current prime minister.

 

I’m sticking with the great John Lydon/Rotten. He’s done much outside his first band and will always be an icon to me. This song was taken off air because it was out at the time of the L.A riots. As always he was ahead of the game. “Burn Hollywood burn.”

 

As we’re on the subject of Hollywood here’s something they’re good at. Great action in films takes great direction. It has a story and beats to it as the action unfolds. If you just throw spectacle at it you end up with nothing. That’s why Batman V Superman was shit. When I first saw this film I thought it was the greatest Batman movie ever made…It didn’t have Batman in it, it had an assassin called Leon. But really it was a Batman film and heavily influenced by Frank Millers work in that field. This is action as ballet. Every move is perfected.

 

 

 

 

David Bowie. A fan and friends remember.

Last week due to unforeseen circumstance I had to write about Bowie in ways I wasn’t expecting. Out of respect I’ve let that sit for a week…this is the blog I would have liked to initially post…

 I said to myself. A few minutes later the first tears of many that day arrived.

Around 10 minutes after hearing the news of Bowies passing I discovered an email saying I’d been accepted to university for my BA hons in Drama and Script, something I’d wanted to do since childhood (I’m 46 years old at this particular earth moment). My emotions were now properly roller coasting. My mum who’s now 81 and as decent a Christian type as you’ll meet anywhere said, “That’s David Bowie leaving the planet and passing on some of his life to you.” Yes my mum is awesome. Sometimes she IS Ziggy Stardust. Obviously such a lovely statement didn’t help stem the flow of tears on my 3 hour journey home to Newcastle.

The first message I got was from an old school friend Yanthe. She texted direct to say she was “Blubbing like a bairn.” Next a lot of old friends started to message on Facebook, many remarking on how on hearing the news they immediately thought of me. It was nice to have my life long devotion to him recognised. You should understand that by the time I was 13 my bedroom was like a shrine to him with little wallpaper showing due to images and cuttings and posters and lyric sheets of Mr David Bowie. I once read years ago that the only fans more devoted are Elvis fans. I think we may have way outdone them by now. One message from my friend Andrew reminded me of the night I had him laughing uproariously by playing the Laughing Gnome single at the wrong speed of 33 and a third and then how I’d I’m scared him shitless by playing the start to the Diamond Dogs LP in pitch darkness. Happy memories. Young teenage carefree mucking about memories.

Why Bowie? I dunno. You could ask the millions of other devoted fans and I’m sure there will be many stories of him making us feel accepted as outsiders. I think there’s more to it than that. I think beside all the man from outer space perception there was a feeling of him being one of us that stretched way beyond isolated teenage angst. He was anti establishment/ established ideas of what you can and cannot do. Aren’t we all a bit like that?

I’m not saying this for effect but my earliest memory is of Bowie and the Spiders doing the Jean Genie on Top of the Pops. I was 3 years old.  I remember my mum and dad remarking about “the state of him” I remember my older brothers and sisters saying they liked him. My next encounter with him was when I was 5 and Space Oddity was at number 1. He’s got two different eyes. That really stuck in my head. Next up Ashes to Ashes is at number 1. I was 10 and found the video for the song mesmerizing. He’s dressed as a clown, while being chased by a bulldozer and his nan seems to pop up at the end. What a curious man. Ironically the moment I was confirmed as a lifelong fan was exactly the same moment a generation before me had fallen for him. May 1983 was the 1000th edition of Top Of The Pops, by now I was already taking an interest but when I saw that clip of him and the Spiders doing Starman…well that was pretty much it. There cannot possibly be a better song or cooler man in existence.

My favourite memory is less a memory and more a confirmation of higher forces than me pointing out that we are all supposed to be a fan at some point or another. My favourite book on Bowie is Ziggyology by Simon Goddard. The book begins with a quote by Arthur C Clarke and goes on to examine many aspects of history from cosmology to Pythagoras to Gustav Holts The Planets (used as walk on music by The Spiders) and the crossing of artistic, historical and scientific lay lines that all lead to the creation of Ziggy Stardust. In some ways the book is as much about synchronicity as it is about that period in Bowies life. The dictionary definition of synchronicity is… “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.”

First let me explain my own personal connection to the books author. Prior to publishing Ziggyology Simon wrote the book Mozipedia. a thorough documentation of all things Morrissey and Smiths related. Upon opening Mozipedia  you’ll find on the fist page a preface dedication, “For misery guts of Bonnyrigg.” Where’s Bonnyrigg and who’s Misery guts? Well Bonnyrigg is a small town in the Lothians of Scotland where I grew up and Misery guts is a certain Paul Johnson a school friend of mine who lived just around the corner from me. He and the author have been long time pen pals. He’s as much of an authority on Moz as I am on Dave. We used to listen to both in each others bedrooms. Look at that a book written for each of us…even though Simon doesn’t know me from Adam. But that’s not the great cosmic coincidence. No I have a BETTER one than even that.

I was at Heathrow airport train terminus London, sat on a platform reading Ziggyology. I’d just got to a part describing how Rick Wakeman came to put together the beautiful piano work on Hunk Dory.  I glanced up and there on the platform opposite was Rick Wakeman. Now, knowing the nature of this book I thought no way, you’re willing that to be him stood about 20 feet away.  So with minutes to go before my train arrived I ran across the platforms walkway and up to him. “Excuse me sorry to bother, but you are Rick Wakeman aren’t you?” “Yes.” “Ha! Unbelievable I’m just reading about the wonderful work you did on Hunky Dory.” “Thanks.” “Sorry got to run again my trains coming.”

And that as they say was that. You can make up your own minds from there. The book does finish on a sentiment that I loved upon first reading. After the author makes all his connections and lays out all his evidence he concludes…WE ARE ALL ZIGGY STARDUST.

Couldn’t agree more.  Bye, bye…we love you.

New Year. New Hair.

2015 the best bits.

1st Wedding Anniversary.
Doing a children’s show with Martin Mor
Seymour Mace gets nominated.
Discovering Hip Hip-Hop’s Golden Era
Seeing Public Enemy Live
Gogol Bordello live
The Prodigy live.
Becoming FB friends with a genuine Midnight Runner.

Milk the Cow Podcast and hitting the top of I-Tunes chart thanks to their awesome talent.
Milk the cow rave.
The Milk the cow community in general.
Sod the Tories And have A Nice Week does the best shows we ever have (Huge thanks to all involved. Special mention for my awesome helpers John Gibson and Stewy Robz who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. And big thanks to all that came to see us.)
Lauren Pattison gets signed to top agency.
Blue Collar starts to get put together. Mega thanks to Allan Donaldson for giving me the push needed.
Free Thinking Radicals. launching soon.
Wrote the best Fringe show I’ve so far managed.
Show got great reviews.
The 8 young black people that came to see the show and went into meltdown laughing during the segment on bigotry and race then took me out and got me drunk.
The Tower café gigs and the hippies that attend.
All the old school friends who came to see me in Edinburgh.
Meeting my nephew Sean for the first time.
Bowie’s back
Got accepted to Uni.
Headlining weekends at The Stand.
Jeremy Corbyn for PM
The Durham Miners.
North East Miners Wives Oral History Project
Newcastle.
Jack White.
M.U.F.F. is brilliant. Well done Kai Humphries, Daniel, Jojo Sutherland, Tom Stade and all involved.
HAIRCUT.
A big thanks to all the folk who employed me. Always massively appreciated. x

Scotland continues to complain.

Dr Who IS Scottish.

Ban the bomb.

Refugees welcome.

Being abducted by MI6.

Lesley Gair.

Have a good new year everybody. I’m fully aware it’s never ever plain sailing. I got my worries too. Focus on the good bits. Onwards and upwards. xx

On the 35th anniversary of John Lennons death.

I remember much of the day of John Lennon’s death. I was ten/nearly 11 years old. I got up in the morning and walked into the living room to be told immediately by my mother that John Lennon had been shot and killed. “Is he one of the Beatles?” I enquired. Yes I was told. “Good.” I replied.

You see I was a supposed young  punk and in my immaturity thought this was a cool thing to say. My older brother Bill who I hadn’t noticed sitting to the side of me in tears probably wanted to swing for me. “He doesn’t understand” My mum hastily interjected. I can’t remember much of what unfolded immediately after that but my next memory is of me walking to school accompanied by my brother and on seeing how upset he was apologising. My brother was so patient with my ignorance bless him.

“You know there are quite a lot of Beatles songs that are quite punk that you would really like. Revolution and Helter Skelter. You would love them.” And he was right. I did love them when he played them to me later that night.

I’m reckoning by around some point in the day the gravity of what had happened was beginning to dawn on me. I can’t thank my brother enough for his patience that day. Rather than scold me he led me towards Johns music. I fell for it pretty fast.

That night the BBC showed the Beatles film Help. My dad thought it a pile of nonsense. I thought it nonsense too. Excellent nonsense.

The first Beatles album I owned was Revolver. Given to me by the same patient brother. In later years I would give a copy of the CD to my nephew.  I also around this time acquired a cassette of the John Lennon compilation album Shaved Fish. That’s when I started to realise I’d known Johns songs for much of my life. Great songs.

I was in town today buying a couple of new T-Shirts. I picked up one with the classic New York logo on it. Laughed to myself and thought “if I combine that with my faux military shirt it will look a bit John Lennon.” (in no way am I saying I’m anything like him.) I had no idea it was the 35th anniversary of his death today. Just one of those funny little synchronicities I’m very into. He’s obviously often in my mind and I’m happy to have him there.  He’s an easy target for criticism. I prefer to go the harder way and hold him dear.

There’s been 1.15 million Americans killed by guns since John Lennon’s death.  I know his campaigning for peace can seem naïve. It wasn’t. Nobody was more aware than him that he was a silly/fun advert for peace. He pointed this out many times. But at least he was a voice for something. Where are those voices in the corporatized  world of music now. With the state of the planet you’d think there would be anti-war songs coming out every week. Sadly they don’t. Things, including the arts, are much more controlled now.

John Lennon’s silly/fun advert for peace is a voice I would give much for to still have in the world today.

 

In remembrance of the departed and the living.

I’ve known several soldiers in my life. I have two uncles that I’m very fond of who served in the 70s. There’s my old work colleague and friend Jim who fought at the Falklands and saw some brutal conflict that can still haunt him now. I also know a comedian who fought in the same war. There’s another Jim I knew after school in the pub who did tours of Northern Ireland and narrowly avoided death on a particular occasion. Then there’s my new comedy pal Gregor who served in Iraq and always reminds me to fasten my seat belt in the back of a taxi because he’s been in vehicles that have been blown through the air.

I’m delighted to say I know all these thoroughly decent guys because they all have two things in common. 1. They’re all from the same working class background as me. 2. They’re all still alive.

Leading up to this remembrance Sunday elements of the mainstream and far right have been highly critical of people of my own political persuasion. They’ve tried to turn this time of remembrance into a propaganda war of selfish and shallow gains. Attacking everyone from Corbyn down to people wearing white poppies for peace. So before I go any further I’ll clear up some views of mine on the armed forces. I’ve always seen troops as workers like me. They come from the same working class backgrounds. Certain areas in the country that have been hammered by consecutive governments that do not care for them can be natural recruiting grounds for the army as it’s the only job available. As a comedian I’ve done gigs for the army.  Just the other week I found myself in front of the Royal Ulster and Scots regiment. Please understand several of my political viewpoints are anathema to some of those guys. But I found some common ground we had a laugh and I was invited to stay back for a drink with them which I duly accepted. I pointed out I didn’t agree with nearly any of the conflicts they’d been involved in and many of them were in agreeance with me on that. This probably wont surprise people that may know someone in the forces.

And that’s the truth of it. Most of these idiots accusing either me or Corbyn or a white poppy wearer of being against our troops don’t actually give one flying fuck about them themselves. They use a dead soldiers name to further their often vile political agendas. From the selling arms to the very people we’re trying to defend ourselves from to inciting hatred of foreigners. And it’s not just in the political arena either. We hear a lot about Help For Heroes these days. But I’m afraid I find that particular organisation just another part of the same hollow propaganda and war machine.

There’s an ex-soldier who sits at the exit of Waverly train station. He’s homeless. He sits there in the winter rain in uniform. He’ll have to use all his training to survive the harsh Scottish weather. He holds a sign telling us he’s ex-military. He never accosts passers-by. He doesn’t ask for money. He just sits there silently, using his trained discipline and self-respect to let the situation speak for itself. Do you know what Help for Heroes will do for him? Nothing. Any money they raise is only ever given to help active service men. Do you know what our photo shopped on poppy wearing Prime Minister will do for him? Nothing. He’s of a political philosophy that says he deserves to be in that position. It’s that soldiers own fault.

I think there’s much truth in the only justified war or resistance to an ideal was World War 2. World War 1 was a bunch of elites having an arms race at the cost of millions of lives. The Falklands was caused by an Argentina despot who’d been helped into power by America to crush socialism in the area. Out own despot Thatcher won an election off the back of that pointless conflict sending working class teenagers to defend our sovereignty while at the same time destroying their communities back home and giving them nothing to come home to. As for Iraq? Half a million civilian men, women, children and pregnant women lie dead under the rubble of Shock and Awe for the price of a barrel of oil. That’s all wars generally are ever about money or strategical power. That’s what my friends and relatives are sent off to fight for by establishment figures who wouldn’t want your average squaddie in the same street as them.

So you can fuck right off with your ideas that my side don’t care for the forces. We care for them a damn sight more than the right. We care enough that we have an ideal that one day they won’t ever have to do what they do for a job. But the right…They’re happy to perpetuate the endless death and suffering. They can go fuck themselves. Remember the living…and fight to keep them that way.

But enough from me. Below is an excerpt from the Owen Jones Book The Establishment (And How They Get Away With It)

On this day we should really look at the words of an ex-soldier…

Joe Glenton was twenty two years old when he joined the British Army. From a working class background in York with few job prospects, he signed up for largely economic reasons. “There are those who buy into the line, the “hero” idea, the idea of the army having a “noble mission”, he says, “but most of it is economics, with soldiers coming from poor communities in the North East, Scotland, poor bits of London, and so on. But the army is sold in a very slick, sophisticated way. If you take a brochure and go into an Army Careers Office, there’s virtually no mention of killing. It’s all “more respect, more mates, more money”, and in quite an abstract, wholesome way, defending your country. He was sent to Afghanistan in 2006 during what he calls the “the big initial re-invasion of the south of Afghanistan” and was one of the first soldiers on the plane.

During his seven months in Afghanistan, Glenton felt his illusions gradually being stripped away. “Over the course of the tour, the rationale we’d been given, helping wee Afghan girls to school, rebuilding infrastructure, was shown just not to be true”, he said. “We’d created an insurgency: it was hubris.” But in part, Glenton blames Britain’s bloody involvement in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on a need to compensate for humiliations suffered by the British Army at the hands of insurgents in the Iraqi city of Basra, which culminated in a pull out in 2007 that even British and US Generals would later term a defeat. “The main reason we were there wasn’t security here in Britain or security there in Afghanistan, “ says Glenton. “It was because of a perception that we’d failed in US eyes.” As far as Glenton was concerned, Helmand was all about the British government proving their worth to the US government after the humiliating failure in Iraq.

It was not until Glenton returned to Britain that his view of the conflict in Afghanistan “crystallized” . On tour he did not have time to think; he had questions, but there was no opportunity to talk about them. “I decided I didn’t want to go back,” he said. “I wasn’t going to sign off, which is like giving notice after leaving a job, but it takes a year to leave the military. But then I had to redeploy, and I told the chain of command that I was not going back. I didn’t even know the process of becoming a conscientious objector, an they denied me the right.” He went AWOL for over two years, and in 2009 was handed a 9 month jail sentence.