Out Now!

Friday, 26 May 2017

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Earlier this week I read about students at Guelph University in Canada apologising for including Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ on their playlist. It was deemed transphobic. For someone coming of age when the record was first released, the reverse was the truth. Northern culture in the sixties was intensely homophobic, especially amongst young males unsure of their ‘manhood.’

What Lou Reed did was to publicise the reckless courage of transvestite pioneers such as Holly Lawn and Candy Darling who became part of Andy Warhol’s entourage.

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.

Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A.

Plucked her eyebrows on the way.

Shaved her legs and then he was a she

She says, ‘Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.’

The lyrics are subversive and exciting, creating a cocktail of sleaze and glamour, daring and recklessness. It probably did more for trans culture than boxes of sociological tomes and pamphlets. But the Guelph Central Student Association didn’t see it that way and bent the knee to an imagined offence:

“We now know the lyrics to this song are hurtful to our friends in the trans community and we’d like to unreservedly apologise for this error in judgement.”

The grovel continues

We have committed as an organisation to be more mindful in our music selection during any events we hold. We will be meeting to discuss how we can create better playlists in the future. If there are students or members of the campus community who overheard the song in our playlist and were hurt by its inclusion and you’d like to talk with us about it and how we can do better, we welcome that.”

My God, there are people in this world who have more on their minds than a student’s playlist. Manchester for one. The weaselly grovelling tone of this reminds me of those forced to recant in Stalin’s show trials; Mao’s Red Guards enforcing their version of purity and truth.

I find the term ‘Snowflake’ amusing but the phrase is an aspect of a greater reality. We’re talking about ‘puritans,’ and puritans manifest themselves on a cyclical basis in every culture and time. Puritans, Mrs Grundy, Tee totallers, Red Guards, Hitler Youth, Wahabis and Isis. Divided by culture and time, they share one thing in common. Theirs is the truth, and those who demur deserve all that they get.

I remember when some southern youngsters were encouraged by their pastors to burn Beatle albums on the basis of one remark by John Lennon. At the time I found the response more laughable than anything overtly sinister. Looking back their response did have one great redeeming feature: It was a response to their ‘here and now.’

What we have now are responses to the dead and gone. How sad is that?

If we can dismantle statues of Confederate icons, petition to remove sculptures of dead imperialists from Oxford Colleges, change place names in Bristol, why not continue with this brave new direction began by the students of Guelph University? Here are just a few suggestions as to records we can begin burning and deleting from playlists:

‘Eleanor Rigby’ as a patronising affront to all spinsters,
And the Rolling Stones of course, in particular ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Under My Thumb,’
‘Drive ole Dixie down’ for its overt Confederate sympathies,
Bob Dylan’s ‘Just like a woman.’
Cliff Richard’s ‘Living Doll.’
The Strangler’s ‘Peaches’
The Kinks 'Lola'

The problem may however soon be solved since a recent study has revealed that song lyrics are now fewer and more repetitive. I defy anyone to find offense in such literary classics as:

Fatboy’s Slim’s Rockafella Skank with its:
Right about now, the funk soul brother
Check it out now, the funk, soul brother (x20 times)

Dillon Francis and D J Snake’s Get Low
Brrr, Brrr!
Brrr, Brrrr!
Get low, get get get low (x28 times)

But with regard to earlier more coarse and primitive times, I’ll leave it to you to suggest other offensive records we need to ‘cleanse’ from our playlists.

Friday, 19 May 2017

We now have more than one tree

I was born in Aintree but sad to say it is not recorded in Domesday Book—Aintree, not my birth. Domesday recorded virtually everything so it really must have been insignificant. The fact that it was largely marsh and bog land may have something to do with it. The name itself is Saxon with various spellings: Ayntre, Eyntre, Ayntree and Ayntrie and denotes the fact that the only significant thing about the place was that a tree grew there. Just one. The place possessed just one bloody tree. Even in 1892 the grand population of Aintree was just 300 people. But then the Keytons and Parrys hadn’t arrived.

Its close neighbour, Walton – extending from Walton on the Hill to Walton Vale and its surrounds had a more distinguished history. It, too, was named by Saxons, a most presumptuous people who called the original occupants of this land ‘foreigners’ or ‘Wealas’ – hence modern Wales and Walton or ‘Wealastun or Foreign Town. 

St Marys Church dominates Walton on the Hill and is mentioned in the Domesday book, was rebuilt in the C14th, and restored again in the C20th following the May Blitz of 1940

Walton on the hill in fact predated Liverpool, the future second city in the empire being then a few fishermen’s cottages. It was Good King John, who needed a second base for his invasion of Ireland that made it a town and gave it its first charter. 

Liverpool even acquired a castle. It was then Walton and Aintree knew the game was up.


In time Liverpool swallowed up both Walton and Aintree – which now has more than one tree, and a race course

Friday, 12 May 2017

Archaeology without mummies and curses

It’s spring, and I’m fizzing with joy deep-cleaning the house. Room by room. Much of the work involves lugging furniture from walls and scrubbing the grime that’s accumulated beneath. Then on to the walls, an easier job that involves much stretching. Then there’s the glass cabinet, source of great happiness when choosing which glass for which drink—though it usually involves beer.  The problem is we have too much glassware and too little time to drink. These have to be washed without breakages. Champagne flutes I abhor.  

And finally there are the bookcases and near on 2000 books. (I’m excluding the kitchen and bathrooms from this odyssey of pleasure, for the moment at least) Each book is dusted to within an inch of its life and pages riffled. 

Riffling pages is a joy in itself – for the first hundred books at least. I swear they sigh in pleasure and dust, and all manner of things flutter out: old post cards, photos of people you can’t put a name too, telephone numbers, and best of all letters with all of their memories.

It’s akin to fossil hunting, archaeology without mummies and curses, and the greatest of timesucks. 

Each letter has to be read and considered, photo’s scrutinised in search of clues; and telephone numbers—is it just me who scribbles down a number but no name? I mean, how can anyone be so stupid?

Answers on a postcard and I’ll slip it into a book.

Some were there as impromptu bookmarks, most were there as quick and convenient storage and immediately forgotten. And that’s where they end up again, when the dusting is done, because I hate throwing anything away.

At least they’ll be waiting for the next time I deep clean, and I’ll read them again with the same wonder and joy. Who are these people who send me photos? And perhaps I should answer that letter that is fifteen years old. And which idiot scribbles down phone numbers without names?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Bread in a bottle

I read an article in the New York Times recently about an English entrepreneur who is making and marketing Toast beer. It’s a crap idea but spun as craft ale, it may do well amongst the man-bun, hipster-beard brigade.  Using one slice of bread a bottle, the result is a brew with 'malt and citrus undertones.' Yay.

Apparently the Babylonians made bread beer. They also used the abacus and stamped little pictures in clay. It’s not surprising that Toast Beer has yet to make a profit or that it took months to find an American brewery willing to take the risk in brewing it. If you’ve ever tasted Kvass, a central European beer made from fermented rye bread you’ll understand why. It’s foul and the alcohol content is low. So much pain for so little gain.

Another problem is how you market it.  You don’t go out on a Saturday night bent on saving  the planet by drinking recycled bread. When you drink beer you’re drinking an image, history in every man-sized gulp: Bombardier, Imperial Pale Ale, Spitfire!  (Okay, not entirely image, alcohol content is important too, and every beer has its own unique taste. Just not bread)

One fine beer celebrates the C17th Battle of Medway when we thrashed the Dutch. You’re not going to be celebrating great acts of martial vigour with ‘Toast Ale.’ You don’t have much leeway to associate it with Empire or even the Battle of Britain—and yes Spitfire pilots did enjoy their toast with strong tea. The British are quite partial to toast, just not in a bottle.

 I love toast –  toast ‘soldiers’ dipped in a runny boiled egg—toast and dripping—toast slathered with marmalade or damson jam. You see the pattern here? I want to eat the bloody thing not drink it from nicely designed bottles, virtue replacing the traditional headey buzz.

And I want to read over-the top-blurbs. 

A case in point—Kingpin from Brewdog Brewery:
“An uncompromising, bold and irreverent beer. Beer with a soul and a purpose. It’s the only thing we know. It’s the only thing we want to know. We have a terminal craziness to make the beers we want to drink.
Our approach is a modern day rebellion for flavour and choice. A last ditch stand to create beer that actually tastes of something. Beer like it was. Beer like it will be.”
I mean, this is splendid stuff reminiscent of Henry Vth 's  speech on the eve of Agincourt, And it continues:
“…this cold-conditioned King lies recumbent for a full five weeks. Expect the first wave of robust, full-bodied malt character to hit, then spicy citrus notes charge across the palate and an assertive bitter finish win the day.” It is the bloody Battle of Agincourt played out in a bottle.

What can Toast Beer offer in comparison? “Drink recycled bread with malt and citrus undertones?” And how many bottles would you have to drink to get even mildly tiddly? Too many, I suspect for try as I might I can find no information on its alcohol content. My rant is over but be warned. If the Murenger ever sells beer made from recycled bread the end of the world is nigh!