Monday, March 29, 2004




It is quite possible that my circle of intimates has decreased in number by two since Sunday but I am nevertheless, hopeful that the little contretemps which occured will prove but a whorl in the waters of our friendship and that the soothing oils of time will work their customary magic and all will be tickerty poo in the land of Kan.

One of the things experience brings is an ability to recognise when it might prove beneficial, expedient or whatever to remove oneself from a situation in order to avoid an outcome which would, were my presence not apparated elsewhere, be absolutely impossible to body-swerve. However, in this breast anyway, hope ever springs eternal.

An ex-girlfriend of mine, her lover and their frog paid us a visit on Sunday afternoon and after the frogs had disappeared into their own world and coffees had been served, places were taken around the dining table for a spot of discourse. After a few minutes of harmless tom-foolery, my ex produced the little tit-bit that a "Queer Club" was to open within pig swinging distance of one of our local schools. Not a night club, mind...just a meeting place for people of like persuasion. I caught Zsuzsi's wry, amused glance in my direction and although I knew she was quite looking forward to the joust she knew would come, I rose from the table, begged their leave and made to hie me to the beast for a spot of furtive blogging. Experience, you see.

However, fools that they are, they pleaded with me to return and to listen to their arguments although to give them such an appelation would be flattering in the extreme. And, fool that I am, I felt the stirrings of hope...or was it just a trout like leap at a proffered fly? I leave it to you to decide.

I started off with a quite simple enquiry as to whether the club in question would be exteriorly decorated with Disney characters, have a SALE sign plastered across its facade, posters advertising...SPECIAL OFFER! SEXUALITY ADJUSTMENTS! TWO WHITE MICE, THREE SHERBET DIPS AND A JELLY BABY...ONE WEEK ONLY! and a plaque offering half price admission for minors and battle was joined.

I rephrased my opening gambit into the more succint, 'Why not?' and was informed that my ex did not want her daughter seeing them every day as she left school.

Mmmmmm. Them, eh? You mean quite normally dressed individuals trolling along the street, coming to a door, opening it and gaining entrance? Yes, I can see how that might result in the collapse of civilisation as we know it.

Then came the classics; I don't care what people get up to in the comfort of their own homes but why should they inflict it on us....why should they need a platform for their views, do I have one for I shout out on national television that I'm heterosexual and proud of goes against the natural order, marriage and reproduction of the species...they, they, they...

Sorry, they?

Yeah, this guy in the States, just written a book...locked up for non-payment of taxes...trying to claim now that he was only discriminated against because of his homosexuality...

And a guy I know...very friendly with the family at one point...then stole everything he could get his hands on...asks me one day why I wasn't talking to him anymore...told him I'd trusted him and that he'd been stealing from everyone...told me I couldn't prove it...told him I could if I wanted too...then he said the reason I didn't talk to him was cause he was a gypsy...same thing...I don't blame everything that happens to me on the fact that I'm white and heterosexual, do I?

Oh right, case closed then.

But no, Mr X, you don't. You find other ego soothers...we all do. He doesn't like me because I'm more intelligent, better looking, richer, funnier, luckier, sexier etc etc etc. Our sexuality for us is not an issue here. For 'them' it will always be a suspicion. Just as it is for me here a suspicion that some may resent me for my simple Englishness.

But I tried to take their arguments as they came. Comfort of their own homes, eh? You two ever held hands, hugged, kissed, never mind had carnal knowledge of each other in a public place? Never watched TV, seen any adverts, scanned any billboards lately? Heterosexual sex everywhich way you care to look...rammed down our throats and then some.

And about that platform you say you don't have...look about you's all around's called society, the whole of which is geared to cosset your heterosexual white male ass.

But why should my taxes be spent subsidising queers?

And why should mine be spent on the Armed Forces or on the Health Service? I have insurance.

And since when has marriage been natural, my little nugget? If ever an institution could be described as political, it's that one. And what of all those women who choose not to we have a little category for them, too...unnatural hussies? And what about current research which suggests that all is not as the lord intended in the land of the primates and that gay chimps may provide a useful outlet for sexual aggression?

You'd think it was a bloody lifestyle choice to hear them going on about it. But at the same time, she's saying that it doesn't matter what the colour of your skin is, what your religion is or your sexuality come to that and I'm left thinking I'm arguing with a bloody chimera, here. Just what the fuck do you believe then? How come you can hold two diametrically opposite positions simultaneously, dear heart? Pray tell. You should stand for office.

Anyway, even if the Council grant approval for this club, the public'll sort it out.

This from a guy with a Jewish background who was warning us about the dangers of voting for Fidesz because of their rampant nationalism.

I remember reading somewhere that a Hungarian can follow you into a revolving door and emerge in front of you...the more I get to know them, the better I recognise their common, over-riding characteristic...complete and utter paradox.

We ended up on common ground though. Apparently there is a law which forbids any emporium of a sexual nature from an area of 500m radius of a school. Then, if this club is indeed a homosexual one, I would have to agree that it probably falls within the scope of this law. Doesn't mean I have to like it though. I rather fancy opening a lingerie shop opposite the school gates, female shop dummies in sexy lace, all the trimmings...I don't think any complaints would be forthcoming until I left all the underwear as it was and swapped the dummies for male ones.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Regarding Jess's word of the day. I would think that they could have come up with a much better word for my favourite part of a woman's body (it's where her whole beauty rides, you see) than 'ensellure'. I think 'ullulate' would be such a marked improvement.

Monday, March 22, 2004


If WEEDS do manage to avoid the drop this season, and I fervently hope they do not...for if the Blades fail to gain promotion, I could look forward to an unscheduled return to terracing at the Bramall Lane End...then I shall be forced to the conclusion that there is, in fact, a god and that his name is Alan Wiley. Perverse god, I could maybe understand but casually incompetent god...that could take some getting my head around.

Just watching the WEEDS match and I am reminded of a possibly apocryphal story concerning Brian Clough and maybe John Robertson. Ol' Big Ead told JR after training to run down to the corner flag and back with the ball. On his return he was told to do it again this time sans balon. Coming to a halt alongside Clough, he was then faced with the question, "Which was easier, with or without the ball?" "Without." he replied. "Well, you might try bloody passing the damn thing next Saturday, then!"

Can't quite see Keegan having the cojones to try that one on Nick, though. Probably throw another Gallic strop and head back for the romantic lights of Montmatre quicker than you could say baguette.



It is by way of recognising that I have arrived at the end of what nugatory store of wits I might ever have possessed that I turn to you, dear readers in a spirit of hope...I have faith in you all, you see.

My entire day, up to and including this moment, has been accompanied by the following unremitting soundtrack and a vague memory of the middle eight, bridge or whatever of said tune being filled with some of the weirdest and downright silly percussive sounds ever to be committed to vinyl. It's obviously late fifties/early sixties, American in origin without any shadow of a doubt and closer to Phil Spector than Motown in feel, arrangement and production. I only remember vague snatches of the lyrics and despite the risk of feeling like a complete and utter tit, I reproduce them here for your consideration.

"Baby call me on the telephone.
Say she wanna ball me all day long.
Dum di di dum what can I do?
I got the dum di diddy dum di diddy dum diddy doo"

Anybody care to fill in a few of those dum diddys? Or even provide me with the artist and title? A URL would also do quite nicely, thank you.

By way of encouragement, maybe I should inform you that it is my firm intention, should there be an afterlife, to come back and spook the living crap out of every person on the planet. Should you wish your name...and those of your dependants...struck off the list, then you know what to do.

Saturday, March 20, 2004


Of all the things I could have talked about on this little bloglet of mine, maybe this was the most obvious and yet it took a quick peruse of Brockette's daily offerings to spur, goad and otherwise cajole me into reaching the rather inescapable conclusion that sooner, rather than later, would be the best time to deal with it.

It's not something that occupies a majority of my waking hours and neither is it anything which disturbs my dreaming ones, come to that...but it is something that flits across my synapses from time to time...some small itch at the back of my consciousness that tells me that maybe it ought to be a large contributory factor in defining who it is exactly that I am.

And yet, at the same time, it can also appear so irrelevant as to hardly bear mention and it is this dichotomy that informs my feelings about the whole subject. How can I miss something that I never had? And how can I say I never had something that I so palpably did? To every possible reaction I might have there is an equal and opposite one which might well prevent Newton from spinning in his grave but does nothing to help me in reaching a definite, delineated or otherwise unarguable conclusion.

I have, on occasion in this blog, posed the question, "Nature, nurture or Nietzsche?" Are we the product of our genes or our upbringing or are we what we have made of ourselves given the raw materials available? Although I have a suspicion that it is definitely a mixture of all three, I can't reach any conclusion based on personal experience because for me, one of the three essentials is missing. So from whence shall I begin my tale? I rather think that tradition might offer a good pointer and in accordance with it and rejecting the opportunity to go all post-modern on you, I shall begin at my beginning.

I was conceived some nine months prior to the 5th of January 1958 to Anne Vivienne Eddings of the town of Burton - on - Trent (there went my chance of ever representing Yorkshire at cricket) of the parish of St Godknowswhere in a hospital bed of said town and sired by Godknowswho but Everybuggerknowshow. Anne was of the tender age of 16 when she gave birth to a healthy baby boy whom she named Ray. Adjacent to my keyboard as I type is a hand written note of Anne's explaining at what times I was accustomed to feeding and what I liked to partake in by way of repast. Anyway, an occasion for rejoicing, you might think. Well, it is pure conjecture on my part but, reading between the lines and going on what little my mother let slip, I rather think that Anne's parents were of the type to be too concerned about the twitching of the neighbours' net curtains and, as Anne had rather impetuously neglected to get married prior to conception, cajoled, threatened and otherwise persuaded her that the only sensible option was adoption.

So it came to pass that after six weeks of my being bottle fed by Anne that Ivy and Ray Jones were delivered of said healthy baby boy, henceforth to be known as Simon Ray, the middle name not for my father but for Anne's original choice. And I will always be grateful to my parents for that decision, giving me some insight into their thought processes at the time.

So, yes, I'm adopted. So fucking what? Wanna make something of it? Step outside, sonny...your time is nigh.

There exists in my family, residing with my mum's sister as it happens, an old 35mm film of my father in the garden of our old house hanging nappies out to dry on a clothes line in our garden. Such a look of pride on his face...and my father was always a bad actor...that it brings tears to my eyes even to think of it now. I miss him so much. His "Now then..." when he greeted me on the phone...just his...well...being...his very presence...he was always there and now he isn't and I just can't come to terms with that. Just one little message, you old bugger...that's all I ask...or were you right after all? There is really only this, nothing before, nothing after...just one opportunity to leave our imprint on this world and the afterlife is simply how we live on in the memories of those we touched?

Anyway, it would appear that there was some disagreement within the family as to whether or not I should be informed of the circumstances of my birth. I had no suspicions whatsoever...three years after my adoption my mother's latent hormones kicked in and she was delivered of another (unhealthy, as it happened...but thanks to Dr Burton Zacchary, ultimately reasonably healthy) baby boy and I had a brother. I am reminded here of the story that soon after his birth, my mother thought it was unnaturally quiet upstairs and investigated to find me leaning over the railings of his cot pummelling seven bells out of the little shit for diverting attention that had until then been entirely my own. I found out by serendipity.

I was 14 when my English teacher set us the task of writing our autobiographies and, wishing to be as precise as possible, I asked my mother for my birth certificate. Now, being well aware of my family's working class Sheffield origins, despite their having worked themselves up into the nouveau lace curtains bracket, I was understandably curious as to why it should read Burton - on - Trent as my place of birth. I asked my mum and to her credit she told me. Straight up. Matter of fact. Your Grandma didn't want you to ever know but...

Did the news drop like a shell on a fireworks factory? Did it blow all my pre-conceptions to what I believe at the time were called smithereens? Did it buggery. All I remember now is that I seem to recall feeling as if it offered a perfectly adequate explanation for the fact that as I lay abed prior to sleep, I would sometimes have the strangest, most inexplicable feeling that if I hadn't been born here to these parents at this time, I would have been born somewhere else. After all, a world deprived of Kan would not be worth living in, surely. And would it even exist?

I do remember examining my feelings at that time and wondering whether or not my parents' natural son had received any preferential treatment and I was forced to the conclusion that, if my parents had a favourite at all, then it was me. That much is still abundantly clear. My brother, bless his heart, still retorts..."If it were Simon...." God knows how he must have felt. I don't think he was made aware of my adoption at the same time as I was but after being told, he must have wondered why it was that I was the golden boy and that everything he achieved must be measured against my, at the time anyway, greater achievements. I breezed through the first years of comprehensive education, gaining 12 'O' levels, rather more than my sibling whose qualifications were if I remember right mostly made up of C.S.E.s. But he was always the runt...right from his operation to save his life at 5 weeks old, his asthma and his general ill health resulted in his missing an inordinate amount of school time, but even when he went on to achieve degrees in bio-chemistry at Aberdeen University and I had long since dropped out in a fug of marijuana induced counter cultural apathy, he must have felt that no matter what he achieved, it would be as nothing to what I was capable of. I was a Blade, as was my father and Richard supported Wednesday. Despite not having the slightest interest whatsoever in football (I was the jock, Richard the geek), he chose the fowls to spite us both. Proof of this lies in the fact that, despite his protestations of support, the number of times he has been seen at Swillsborough can be counted on the fingers of no hands.

But how must he have felt when his natural father took his cuckoo sibling to matches at BDTBL? Or drove said sibling to countless school football, cricket, badminton and tennis matches? What had he to share with our father? Who at this moment maybe in heaven or just worm food...let me know, dad. A small sign would suffice. A marked reduction in the level of any of my bottles of Islay malts would be enough for me to recognise your presence. Go for it, you old bugger. Slainthe!

We have little in common, my brother and I. He winds me up no end with his seeming inability to view anything from any other perspective but his own. At least as far as members of his close family are concerned anyway. He seemed incapable of realising that despite my father's advanced age and the series of strokes he had suffered, he was not able to follow as closely as he would have liked, my brother's thought processes. Ditto our seventy-nine year old mother...why she should fail to understand that if she switched her car insurance to a new company she should save a few pounds a week...when the peace of mind it gives her by sticking with the same company is probably worth far more is a mystery to him.

Please don't get me wrong. Please remove yourself as far as possible from the position of failing to understand me. I may be moved to apoplexy by whatever it is he does or fails to do but he IS my brother and should you wish to attack him, you will have to go through me first. I reserve the right to criticise the guy but fail to recognise anyone else's right to so do. Get off his back, okay? I do love you, Richard. Dearly and unconditionally...but I reserve the right to give you the severest gyp should the opportunity arise and I hope you feel the same way, too.

So, how did my parents view my adoption? Well, when my daughter was born with absolutely no hair whatsoever and later developed as ginger a hue as you will ever hope to se, my mother commented that my father's aunt had had ginger hair. It took me to remind her of the lack of genetic connection. It never occured to her. Self delusion? I don't think mother is as practical a woman as you can ever hope to was simply that I was hers and hers alone. Why should I not resemble members of what had become my family?

And my reaction? Well, bugadifino...I received everything anyone could hope to receive from their parents...and then mum and dad are my mum and dad and my brother is our kid but I can still only postulate theories from a nuture v Nietzsche perspective and cannot have any understanding of the nature part of the debate.

There is a hole in my life where that particular piece should fit and yet, I am not convinced that any good would be served by my trying to trace my 'birth' mother or father come to that. But that is not to say that I am never curious as to my genetic inheritance...I may have received from my father an education in how best to conduct oneself in any given situation and from my mother an example of absolute unconditional love but there will always be for me, something missing. A nagging feeling of where did I come from? Can you imagine what it must feel to be the last piece in a jigsaw and yet still not fit? If you can, then you were adopted, my friend...that much is for sure.

Dad, I miss you. Mum and Richard, I love you. You're all the family I have and all that I will ever need.


Friday, March 19, 2004


I do hope you will be forebearing and forgiving should I take but a moment of your time to convey the information that, as I sit here glugging a very passable Chardonnay, it has just occurred to me that I, deeply and passionately and yet with an icy cold venom quite alien to my usually placid temperament, absolutely fucking hate Leeds. Thankyou.


Oh, well. Another squeeze of the sponge and we'll see what drops spatter the blank page this time.

Due to the facts that I am stone cold sober, haven't read a newspaper in weeks and am therefore not in the slightest bit miffed, peeved or otherwise in a bate about anything right now, it would seem opportune to don once more my linguistician's hat, chapeau or titfer, respond to Jess's automatic blog-update reminder and throw in my two pennorth on that most trying of subjects...translation.

A word about translation...impossible.

Quite an overabundance of words about translation...well, maybe not impossible, but as near as makes no difference. Anything written or spoken in any language has behind it a history, tradition and culture unique to the individual who produced it. And yes, I do mean individual and not 'language community'.

Allow me to expand, if you would be so kind and ponder a minute on the nature of language. We'll start with one of the most basic units, the word. For the purpose of this little bloglet, we'll ignore the morpheme, shall we? Good. Then I will hie me on to my theme.

Words are unfortunately not what they say they are. It might seem trite to point out that the word 'stone' is not a stone but rather analgous to a banknote. Whenever I wish to perform some pecuniary transaction, I never have to actually show up with whatever it is the Bank of England promises to pay the bearer on demand but usually, a small rectangular bit of rather tawdry paper will suffice to persuade my partner in the bargain that what I am offering him in return for his goods or services is indeed worth more than the paper it is written on. So it is with words. They are mere linguistic currency. Whenever I might wish to refer to a stone, the use of the word 'stone' will save me the tiresome bother of having to dig one up out of the garden to show my interlocutor.

But herein lies a problem. Rather like with the banknote, the use of a word relies on trust and common understanding. What is quite definitely a stone to me may be, to another, a pebble; to another, a rock; to yet another, a small family bungalow just outside Little Wattling in the Meadow.

To hark back to Xeno again...if you remember, he was the chap who spent an afternoon in the grove of academe (quite literally - look it up) heaping one olive upon another all the while asking one of his students whether or not it was a pile. When said student eventually answered in the affirmative he was faced with the accusation that he was officially telling the world that 92 olives thuswise arranged constituted a pile and that 91 olives in similar arrangement, did not.

" exactly."

"Precisely, my point to a tee." or somesuchwise replied the tutor. And I find myself in complete agreement. Communication is so absolutely riddled with such 'not exactlyness', it is a wonder to me that on visiting any emporium, I usually manage to emerge with whatever it was my intention to procure upon entering.

Still not convinced? Okay then...another tack. one. Consider the phrase, "She's gorgeous." What does it tell you about the she under advisement. Absolutely nothing which would enable you to picture her. Maybe you have a picture in your mind of a woman whom you would consider gorgeous. Would it then surprise you to discover that the she in question bore absolutely no resemblance to your mental picture? It shouldn't. You can only begin to approximate an understanding of such an utterance if you have prior knowledge of the speaker's preferences in women. Without such knowledge, all that phrase would convey is the information that the speaker is referring to a woman and that in his opinion, she is of above average desirability. Such discernment and precision is rare to the point of non-existence in average communication and we rely on assumptions, usually assuming that our interlocutor shares the same set as we ourselves.

So, if we accept that communication between individuals is at best, an approximation of intent and understanding...that between my intention to express something, then formulate it into an utterance and the hearing and decoding of said utterance there lie a multitude of opportunities for inexactitude, then what happens if we introduce another language into the equation? Mayhem, that's what.

You may think that we are on pretty solid ground with nouns which describe objects and, to a large extent, you'd be right. Unfortunately, most of that which is worth translating transcends the mundane, the ordinary and the banal. We enter the realm of metaphor, allegory and poetic licence. I had mine endorsed once for being drunk in charge of an iambic pentameter but that's another story. Let me try and is a hopeless example but the best I can conjure up at such short notice but I guess one could imagine an English writer coming up with the image of a 'bulb, shooting out light.' Most English speakers would, whilst stifling an urge to vomit at such bilge, recognise the reference to the two meanings of the word 'bulb'. Now, how would I translate that into say, Hungarian where the word for lightbulb would be translated as the English word 'pear' and the flower bulb, as the English word 'onion'? Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

Most Hungarians of my acquaint profess a love of Shakespeare. Almost none of them has ever read a word of his in the original language. A Hungarian at school today can read Shakespeare in translation as easily as if it were Winnie the Pooh. The Hungarian of the translator is still very much the Hungarian of today. The whole magic of the 16th century English, therefore, has guessed it...lost in translation.

Let me take a sonnet as example.

'You are to my thoughts as food to life'

was translated as...

'You are to me as life's bread'

A good translation? Yes. You'll just have to take my word for it on this one. But, is it Shakespeare? No way Janos.

And what about all those words and expressions that are absolutely untranslatable. We tend to leave them in their original form and absorb them that way. (At this point you will have to forgive me, as this Blogger refuses to recognise my Hungarian keyboard so I will have to write without accents.) Things like 'Weltschmertz', 'apres ski', 'schadenfreude' and 'je ne sais quoi' have all passed unchanged and unchallenged into our language as we just do not have an English equivalent.

The Hungarians have a wonderful noun...'puszibarat'. It means someone who one knows well enough to kiss in the street. So we might have the exchange.

"Do you know Istvan?"

"Well, I know him, but we're not puszibaratok."

Again, answers on a postcard, please.

It might sound from all the above as if I have little respect for the translator's art. Au contraire, it is precisely because of all the above that I have an enormous respect for it. I do a lot of it myself and love it and loathe it simultaneously but the feeling of a job done well, when it is indeed done well, is rather akin to having produced one's own little work of art.

A good translation should pay scant regard to the original words and the utmost respect to the meaning.

It should not be stilted, but should still sound like nothing a native speaker of the 'into' language would ever have produced even were an infinite number of them locked in a room with an infinite supply of typewriters for an infinite length of time.

As an example of grade A, dog's bollocks translation, I give you the following. An emigres story. From Sandor Marai's 'Memoir of Hungary 1944 - 1948'.

Twenty- five years, a brief generation, rolled by from the time I last saw Budapest. During these twenty-five years, rare was the day when I didn't look in my special album; it rarely happened that I didn't think of Budapest. And the pulse of solidarity always throbbed in my consciousness whenever I thought of this beautiful, extraordinary city. But there wasn't a single day during this quarter of a century when I thought of Budapest nostalgically. And every time I dreamt that I was at home again in Budapest, the dream was always painful and distressing. And waking up was always a great relief because it had all been just a dream. For a quarter of a century, in a strange land, sometimes in the middle of a chilly indifference and a sea of apathy, it was once again a relief to know I had had the strength to leave and did not have to live through all that happened there in the course of these twenty-five years. Sometimes I thought that this "relief" that followed the awakening from my nightmare was an act of cowardice; I was happy because I had the strength to leave the danger zone in time, and I did not - involuntarily, recalcitrantly, but through the sheer fact of remaining there - become an accomplice in everything that took place. But this was an easy, evasive explanation. The reality was different. At the bottom of everything I thought, felt and dreamt in connection with the homeland and Budapest glimmered the memory of the moment when I understood why a sense of relief flooded my consciousness, like a burning, bloodrushing giddiness, when on the way from the village I saw the pile of ruins that remained of our flat. I frequently recollect this moment. I never sympathised with the connoisseurs of ruin; I never understood Gandhi who, on seeing the splendid palaces of New Delhi on a moonlit night, murmured: "What beautiful ruins they will make."

What I saw was not beautiful.

"...beware, now your feet will sink in blood,
here at the mud-dazed
Bulwark, the scattered dead yet gaze at the
Smoke signals swirl up from the depths to the
For somewhere below Krisztina town blazes
All traces of zither and Gypsy have been blown
From the 'Broadaxe', filled now by shadows and
stench alone
And side by side in the castle church lie corpses
Of dead princes and slaughtered horses..."

Albert Tezla...I salute you.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

Word of the Day

(adj) Of things that are cheap, showy, tawdry, or counterfeit.

Mmmmmm. So Birmingham is now Chav central, eh?

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Word of the Day

Mackem (n). Person of indeterminate origin whose conversation tends to be peppered with references to somewhere called Porter Field owned by a company called Stow Co. All very confusing.


We can be so sure of ourselves sometimes, can't we. Who we are, what we are, what we think and what we believe in, we see as fixed, immutable...a given. Clear as crystal, in fact. Until something happens that shocks us out of our complacency and maybe forces us to reassess everything we thought was constant about our lives.

Well, I am not so sure. I think I have come to the conclusion that all the above is basically a load of bollocks and not worth the time it took for me to type it. As I alluded to the other day...nature, nurture or Nietzsche? Are we entirely the product of our genes, or of our upbringing and environment or are we what we have made of ourselves? Well, bugadifino. The older I get, the more I find myself remembering those lines of Crowley's.

...I am he that daily dieth
and is daily born again

What I believe now, is what I find I believe when I wake up in the morning. There is no continuum, no constant, no guarantee that what I considered to be right yesterday will still hold sway today. Or maybe that is the constant. Change. Or maybe I'm just another fucked up old fart who can't get his act together, as they say.

I was reading Roger's 'Into the Tumult' again today and it brought into sharp focus a defining characteristic of mine. An ability to see every facet of an argument with equal weight and yet without an art to reach a single definite conclusion. For every argument I may put forth, I can find at least one other equally as persuasive. For every reaction I may have, I will have one diametrically opposite to it, sometimes worryingly simultaneously. By way of example, let's take those events of the 11th of September, 9/11, and look at my reactions to it.

1. Jesus fucking christ!
2. The bastards.
3. The balls. The clarity of the vision and the thought that went into it.

1. Something has got to be done.
2. Nothing can be done.

I suppose it's the second group that has me most perplexed at the moment. Roger expressed his inability to comprehend how it is that some people can fail to value others' lives as being worth something. And I wondered, too. How we can best protect our belief in freedom of expression and tolerance. But at the same time I realised that to Muslims of such beliefs, our lives are worth nothing in the eyes of god. We are indeed, infidels.

And if we condemn their belief that they can bomb us into submission, what gives us the right to assume that we can do the same to them. We think we are right. They know they are right.

I am reminded of some Greek guy, whose exact name escapes me but I think it may have been Xeno who showed us that life is made up entirely of such quandries. Something about how many fir cones make a pile or what have you. To me it may be seven, to you thirteen, to another twenty-six, the point being that life is full of such piles. This is murder, this is justifiable homicide; this is collateral damage, this is genocide; this is playing Mr Wobbly hides his helmet, this is statutory rape.

I don't know. I honestly don't know. All I can say with any degree of honesty is that tomorrow will be a whole new world and at 'make your mind up time', I, for one, will have to refrain from coming on down.

Yours, when last I looked,

Thursday, March 04, 2004


God help us all if the digital revolution really does result in all of us working from home. Bugger all would get done. More than 70% of my working week is now spent at home and I think I shall have to move into a shed in the garden to get whatever it is I have to do finished. I find mid-task that I have a burning desire to go and stare at the fish in my daughter's aquarium rather than continue earning some dosh...or make a coffee...or roll another cigarette...or check out my favourite blogs...or make a monster sandwich...or take the Blades into Europe again on Football Manager 2001. It's 2003 now and we've just beaten Real Betis 2-1 in the Champions' League final in only my third season in charge. Maybe I should give Neil my number.


It was one of the first things that struck me when I started to become fairly proficient in Hungarian, enough to listen to football commentaries anyway, but I'd completely forgotten about it until today. During a break from earning a fairly honest crust, I chanced to switch on the TV and Sport1 was showing the DVSC (Debrecen) - Bruges match again.

Now let's imagine say, Sheffield United - Bayern Munich on BBC (Imagination not up to it? Shame on you!) and we would witness commentators striving earnestly to remain dispassionate, disinterested and totally impartial. The only time they might show favour and reveal their colours would be whilst covering an international event...the Olympics maybe, but you would still never hear the 'we' word. Nor would you hear them urging on the team or sighing with relief whenever the opposition miss a gilt-edged chance to score.

Not so here. Every Hungarian club playing against foreign opposition is heartily supported by those commentating on the match and it would be unheard of here for any Hungarian to want the opposing team to win. Contrast this attitude with that of at least 60% of the English viewers who watch European football with an intense desire to see either Arsenal or Manchester United get absolutely hammered.

What is it with us English? How is it that we have become the only nation on Earth whose population is made up of individuals with absolutely no common conception of and no desire to experience just what it might mean to be English? English society has become so divisive that there is now no common thread with which we can connect to each other. Absolutely nothing to draw us together in any bigger unit than a football crowd. And even then there's the Happy Clappers and the Glass Half-Empty Brigade casually lobbing gratuitous insults at each other on club message boards. Why?

I think it may have something to do with tradition. We don't have any. That's right. Squat. Diddley. None at all. Whatsoever. Go on then...try it. Sit down in your favourite chair for just a minute and try to think of one English tradition in which the vast majority of English people participate.

Got one yet?

Binge drinking? Granted, but hardly a socially unifying phenomenon, I wouldn't have thought.

Derbyshire Well Dressing? Er...that's Derbyshire, right. I'm talking national here.

Remembrance Day? Oh, so buying a plastic poppy once a year is now social adhesive? I think not. Most of the population couldn't give a flying one, anyway.

Queen's Birthday? Oh, come on! Maybe there was a time when the monarchy provided a focal point for the expression of patriotic feeling but those times are long gone. I can't imagine off hand a more divisive topic than royalty. Inherited privilege...freeloading wasters etc. I for one, am totally pissed off that despite never having had to swear an oath to QUEEN and country (my emphasis) which as far as I know, you still have to do in some branches of government, I am still classified as Her Majesty's SUBJECT (again, my emphasis) and not a citizen of the country in which I was born.

Okay, time's up. See what I mean?

Still not convinced? Okay then...let's take Hungary as an example and have a quick gander at all those things that help bring a people remind them of what it is that has made them what they are.

National Holidays.

St Stephen's Day.

Celebrating the crowning of the first Hungarian King who unified his people for the first time which resulted in the birth of the Hungarian Nation-State.

March 15th.

A nationwide remembrance day commemorating the ultimately unsuccessful revolution against the Hapsburg Empire of 1848. Every Hungarian town still has streets named after the heroes of this uprising.

October 23rd.

Commemorating the again, unsuccessful uprising against communist rule in 1956.

All the above are remembered and participated in by nearly all Hungarians.

Special days and traditions.

Carnival is all through February but especially the last Saturday.

November 1st.

All Saints' Day. More popularly the Day of the Dead when people visit the graves of their family and sit candlelight vigil remembering the ones they have lost. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever witnessed. My partner makes a special trip to the town of her birth to visit her father's grave and no, she is not in the slightest bit religious...she does it as do most Hungarians to honour the memory of their loved ones.

Easter Sunday.

A continuation of pagan tradition whereby all Hungarian men visit every female of their acquaintance and sprinkle them with perfumed water in return for a kiss and a painted egg...all the while reciting deliciously bawdy rhymes such as...

Red eggs, blue eggs
I've also got two eggs
Up with your skirt
Down with your panties
I'd like to sprinkle your bunny


Everyday at midday.

Every church bell in Hungary rings out in remembrance of that day in 1526 when the Hungarian army was defeated at Mohacs and 150 years of Turkish occupation started.

Name days.

Every day in Hungary is a saint's day and for those people sharing the name of a saint (that is everybody living in this daughter included as her middle name is Emma) this is their name day. A birthday here is a private family affair but a name day...blimey. I have to lay in vast quantities of food and drink for mine (coincidentally, my birthday as well) as all my friends and neighbours will turn up to congratulate me. One of my favourite days. Even at work, those whose day it is will bring in home made cakes and wine to celebrate with their colleagues. And get this...everyday is somebody's name day.

Pig killing.

Most Hungarian families will kill a pig or two before the real onset of winter. I go halves with a friend of mine on a couple and we get up ridiculously early in the morning, pick up the pigs, drive them up to a friend of ours who owns a bar out of town and is also nifty at butchering porcines, stoke up on a warming palinka or few, do the deed with the pigs...the first menu item is fried blood...and spend the whole day cutting up the animals into joints and making sausages, black puddings, smoked hams and meat loaves. Oh, and getting drunk, of course. A real family occasion...I kid you not. Everyone is there...all generations of the family together as they are also at...

The Hill.

No, not that sadistic film starring Sean Connery, but a word for word translation of that mainstay of Hungarian family life, the vineyard. No, no. Don't get carried away. Think of it as an allotment...slightly bigger where the sole crops are grapes from the vines and fruit from the trees and with a small two down - one downer building thereon. Of the two down, one will be a kitchen and the other contain a press and the entrance to the downer...a cellar containing several barrels, wine for the storage of. Anything from 300 to 800 litres is the norm. Enough for the family for the year with a little left to put down. Waste of time really, it's best drunk young the following year and boy is it good. Do NOT think home wine making here...this is professional stuff. So, how does this affect social unity? Well, maybe not all of society but one of the smallest social units is the family which, in England seems to have shrunk to Mum, Dad and two kids. Even the grandparents don't seem to have much of a role to play other than that of unpaid babysitters. Anyway, here the vineyard belongs to the family, it provides a shared experience between all families. All work on it, from the youngest to the eldest. Harvest time and they will all be there. Even at other times, there is usually a brick built barbeque there and as the wine is in the cellar there is many a time when the whole family will get together to celebrate, sup some nectar and fry a bit of bacon. Point is that it is a focal point for all the family, young and old and it is something we just do not have in England...a shared place which belongs to all of us alike. Just come here...I guarantee that within a week you will have been invited to a 'hill party'.

New Year's Eve.

A culmination and an ultimate expression of common, shared identity. Yeah, we party here, too. But at midnight everything stops. Everybody stands as still as they are able and listens to one of the most beautiful and haunting melodies I know. The Hungarian national anthem. Everybody stops whatever it is they were doing and sings. And thinks about the words and what it means to be Hungarian. At that moment every single Hungarian, wherever they may be, is united with every other one of his countrymen in an intense feeling of belonging. I just cry my eyes out. Three contributory factors, I'm usually pissed by this time...two, you gotta hear the music...but most of all, I think, because I realise that there is no occasion at which I can feel the same sense of belonging. Even the words...God save the Queen? No way! It starts with God bless the Hungarian people, with good cheer and prosperity...a quite different and most admirable emphasis.

Writing this lot has made me realise maybe, just why it is that we have lost all our traditions and a feeling of common Englishness (if we ever had it, that is). Look again at those Hungarian national holidays. Every single one of them represents a heroic defeat. Getting whupped. Maybe it's easier to celebrate defeat than it is to crow about victory. I for one would feel uncomfortable celebrating Agincourt...which the French lost anyway, rather than we won...or Empire Day or anything like that. Maybe we should have a Dunkirk Day...but then again, I don't think I could feel comfortable celebrating a gigantic military balls up that cost so many lives...but I would like to remember those civilian sailors making their way across the channel in boats little equipped for the open sea in an attempt to rescue those cut off on the beaches.

Oh well...I'l just have to put my little plastic flags away until the next binge drinking championships then. Ingerlund...Ingerlund...Ingerlund!

Monday, March 01, 2004


Charlie Parker, 'Bird'...the very word suggests flight, nay a soaring above the ordinary, the banal and the mundane. Was that really only three minutes and forty seconds? see infinity in a grain of sand,
and eternity in an hour

Sorry about that...quite how Aleister Crowley got in here, I don't know.

God knows, the music itself was wild enough but the very names themselves trip off the tongue like spit off a hot griddle...Philly Joe Jones, Thelonius Monk, Lester Young...forgive my orgasmic spasms but these guys mean something to me.

Have you ever listened to Monk? And if you have, was it without laughter and tears?
If it was, then you are certifiably dead and your organs can legitimately be removed for scientific research into alternative lifeforms. Maybe we can best locate the soul by examining those who are so obviously bereft of one. Those in search of one need only to listen to 'Blue Monk' to be informed of the existence of something beyond. Beyond explanation, beyond rationalisation and beyond all understanding. God, that guy had such...floppy wrists.

He knew fuck all about music in the same way that Billy Cobham or Omar Hakim knew fuck all about drumming. Nobody had told him that what he was doing just wasn't possible and therefore the possibilities for him were endless.

I had been in Hungary for about three months when I met Tiborcz Ivan, who, at the time, was playing tenor sax in an attempt to reproduce the style of Bird. Stupid boy! He was good, but he was derivative, playing somebody else's music in somebody else's style. I advised him to switch to alto and to find his own style. Okay, he was moving in that direction anyway, and wanted to stop playing piano in a local jazz cafe so he did just that...sold the tenor, bought an alto and went for it.

He is now the organiser and prime mover behind the Cserfoi Jazzland jazz festival, an annual open air whoop-de-doo which is fast overtaking the Nagykaniszai Annual Jazz Festival in both popularity and taste. Christ, I'm pissed, must find another bottle.

There now follows a short intermission during which I locate a plastic bottle of home-made, family vineyard produced wine and uncork the bugger. That's better. There is a point in 'brother'-in-laws after all.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, should you find yourself at a loose end around about July of any given year, I can put up at least three people in total comfort and as many as 300 people in tents in my garden should you wish to be exposed to the best jazz on the planet for three or four days. Applications to Kan the Man Productions awfully good time.


I took somebody else's lesson on Saturday...I stood in, as it were, for an absent Hungarian teacher. Out of a class of 10, only two showed up and I am sure that they were the best and the worst of the group...sort of like doing two lessons in one without the benefit of an anaesthetic.

God knows what we were talking about but one of the two female students expressed an inability to understand quite how one male could find another male attractive. My inbuilt poitical correctness allowed me to express my opinion that the recently passed laws regarding same sex marriages are just an equalisation of rights. Her reaction was of the bleurgh vareiety as she just couldn't understand how someone could find someone of the same sex attractive.

We then went on to discuss what types we found attractive and I professed the opinion that ' the ugly can be beautiful, the pretty, never'. She asked me if I fancied Britney Spears and, when I expressed a preference for Jennifer Lopez, gave vent to the opinion that she had too big an arse. Case proven? Damn right!

Toodle pip!