The trouble is, it’s supposed to be funny. Or at least mildly amusing in a wryly light-hearted way. And the truth is I have been finding it rather challenging to find a light-hearted way of writing about what life is like now, compared to when I started this blog.
Only a few years ago, and yet it seems like a faraway dream; a distant paradise where I could make carefree jokes about the dog-poo fairy and hair straighteners, when there wasn’t a tangerine toddler-Nazi in the White House and I didn’t spend my evenings on the internet, pricing up fall-out shelters. These are dark times, and the task of making jokes seems impossible when all I see around me is the angry pile-up of furious chickens coming home to roost.
But do you know what, I think I might have had enough of feeling gloomily livid, ambiguously pleasant though that combination can sometimes be. I am after all, as was noted by my old head of sixth form on my school report, ‘relentlessly cheerful’ (which, on reflection, might not have been a compliment) – surely not even the imminent threat of impending global apocalypse can hold me down forever?
In the end, jokes are perhaps the only thing that will help us survive this somewhat sticky time in our history. That and our British sense of understatement.
So I have spent today thinking about what I can still feel cheerful about. Feel free to add any ideas of your own in the comments below….
Pronouncing the name of GUY VERHOFSTADT. Geeeee Fheerrr HERRRRF STARRRRTT. GHHHEEEEEE VER HEEERRRRFFFSTAT!!! What a splendid name for a splendid person. Definitely my second favourite Belgian (after Plastic Bernard).
Shouting BREXIT MEANS BREXIT!’ very loudly whenever I see Theresa M on the telly. (In the 80s I used to chuck things at the screen when Thatch appeared, so perhaps that’s progress in terms of my level of political debate.) The vacuous meaninglessness of BREXIT MEANS BREXIT never fails to raise a smile, and in 2018 laughing at your own jokes is sometimes the only pleasure available. Sometimes you can swap it for other meaningless but satisfying phrases like ASDA MEANS ASDA! Or PANCAKES MEANS PANCAKES! Try it – it’s fun.
(I also like to shout ‘THEY WILL PRISE THIS BURGUNDY PASSPORT FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS!’ occasionally, which makes the children just a little bit scared).
Twitter-brethren – finding out through the fevered medium of Twitter that the most unlikely people are in fact your brothers-in-arms. Exhibit A, Gary Lineker with all the energy in the world it seems to torment Piers bleeding Morgan – an open goal if ever there was one, but still fun to witness. Ditto Neville Southall, Lily Allen, our Anthony from the Royle Family and – weirdest of all – Sam Allerdyce. Realising that I have something in common with a load of ex-footballers and minor Brit-celebs I’d probably struggle to recognise in the pub is a strangely cheering thought.
The fashion for amateur ukulele playing among the young folk seems at long last to have passed (I have even taken down the ‘NO UKES!!!!’ sign in the sixth form common room) along with the desire play Mumford and Sons songs.
The young folk have become, almost overnight, passionately interested in politics. Perhaps once they stopped trying to play those elusive two chords on the ukulele they had time to pick up a newspaper for once.* Not a moment too soon and they are finally pretty cross about, erm, everything. Some of them were under the impression that the older generation could be trusted to look after their interests and not actively destroy the planet before they got to enjoy it and – well – they have had a fairly rude awakening in the last couple of years. Could be interesting when they wake up one day and realise exactly HOW much of a massive disaster everything REALLY is and how we really can’t fix any of it. Who’s going to tell them? Not me, thanks.
BLACK MIRROR– It’s a great time for satire. In fact it’s hard to escape the idea that satire is just writing itself. Also, Netflix, Game of Thrones, Hamilton – maybe difficult times make for great art?
The state of UKIP.
And you can’t work out whether this blog is genuinely cheerful or bleakly ironic, well, that’s 2018 for you.
*This is obviously a joke. The young folk are as likely to pick up an actual newspaper as they are to vote Tory. And who can blame them? The newspapers know nothing, nothing at all.
Do you watch Countryfile?
Do you though, really?
You can tell me, my lips are sealed.
If you are a secret Countryfileophile, now is the time to come out of the gilet-closet and stand up and be counted, because you are far from alone.
I read this weekend the startling news that Countryfile is the most watched TV programme in the COUNTRY – seriously, it is.. And in the towns and cities too. In fact everywhere in the whole of the land.
More than lavish Ruskie bloodbath War and Peace. Incredibly, even more than Call the 50’s-Stereotypes-on-Bicycles-My-Contractions-are-Very-Close-Together-Nyaarrrghhh.
And that has Miranda in it.
But then, in one of those 360 degree turns that characterise modern life, 24 hours later Countryfile was in the Naughty Corner and everyone was OUTRAGED. Let me give you a little sample:
‘I may never watch it again’ Countryfile viewers enraged as show ‘glorifies slaughter’
COUNTRYFILE viewers were left fuming during tonight’s “brutal” edition of the family landscape programme as Matt Baker talked butchering.’
LOL, as the young folk say. LOL again.
So the viewers of Countryfile, or at least the OUTRAGED ones, are ASTONISHED to find that meat comes from dead animals and sometimes a person has to SLAUGHTER them. This disgusting practice is called – whisper it now – BUTCHERING.
As so often these days, I feel like the satirists should just pack it all in as a bad job and go home. I know that it is a requirement of modern life – a duty even – that we are supposed to be OUTRAGED about everything all the time. But surely people weren’t really shocked to see the odd dead animal on a programme called Countryfile, or do these shocked viewers think that farmers just wait at the side of the field until the baa-lambs die of old age?
I think the most telling phrase in this shock-horror report is this one – ‘FAMILY LANDSCAPE PROGRAMME’. The country is marketed as a ‘landscape’ – a setting, a cosy place to get your Hunters a bit muddy and let Persephone and Horatio get all rosy-cheeked and tired out inthe fresh air for bedtime. God forbid if this imagined rural idyll is shattered by some people Doing Farming.
Every so often the local paper here in the Village will have a story about some townies moving to the countryside and complaining about mud on the road, cows being too moo-ey or the bells ringing on a Sunday morning. But this is a step further: townies complaining about the countryside without even leaving their sofas.
This is the weird thing about the countryside – everyone wants to live there, but no one wants to, you know, LIVE there. Only 18% of us live in the countryside, so why is every other shop called Go Outdoors? Because the countryside has become a hobby and a lifestyle, not a way of life.
Waxing lyrical about the richness of the agricultural soil, but not actually wanting to till it.
Admiring the lovely cows in the fields but not wanting to pay a decent price for the milk producers.
Pootling around the lovely isolated villages at the weekend but conveniently allowing the bus services that connect the old and the young and the poor with the towns and the work and effectively suck the life out of those lovely isolated villages.
Yes, Countryfile looks beautiful, but the country life in The Real Life isn’t a landscape.
You can trust me on this subject.
Maybe I should start offering my own little tours of the Real Countryfile. I can start by chucking manure at your car, lobbing a pheasant at your windscreen till it shatters then leaving you at a windswept bus stop for a service then was cancelled in 2011.
Let’s see what Matt Baker makes of that.
Picture credit http://cuteoverload.com/2006/09/21/mmmmm_snoutlici/
I don’t know about you but when I heard the other day that it was still 100 days to the General Election, I was filled with a delight impossible to name.
100 days left! How marvellous to think that we still have three whole months left of the bickering, name-calling and trumped-up pointless tribal warfare!
After all, it used to be such fun to have four lovely long weeks of campaigning, so of course four months is unspeakably delightful.
Of course the downside with such a long campaign ahead, is that even the most devoted voter can start to get a little weary – through sheer delight of course.
So I thought I would put together a little quiz to test whether you have been paying attention to all the exciting and extremely logical ‘news’ ‘stories’ that we have all enjoyed since the beginning of the campaign.
Good luck! And don’t forget to register to vote!
- Are you registered to vote?
- Yes of course I am. I’ve been registered to vote for years.
- No, because the Coalition government / Caesar Augustus has decided to take everyone off the register and then make them return to the place of their birth and lie in a manger or something. This is the best way to serve the interests of democracy. Apparently.
- I don’t care because I never vote because it never changes things. Apart from all the times it changes things.
A. I do not wish to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t much fancy being subjected to a lot of missplet insults from the Offical Book of UKIP insults – e.g. ‘Liebour-loving peedo lefty-sheeple!’
B. No no because making wild and nasty generalisations and judgements about people on the grounds of their nationality is NOT racism despite the very clear legal definition – it is COMMON SENSE! Everyone naturally conforms to their national stereotypes and anyone attempting to suggest that, for example, perhaps individuals might differ from crude stereotypes is just a confusing lie put about by Liebour-loving peedo lefty-sheeple!
C. Check my Youtube channel for a longer answer to this questions. Comments disabled.
- Does this man, a resident of Monte Carlo, with an estimated fortune of £7.5bn who moved Boots from Britain to Switzerland following his private equity-backed buyout in order to avoid paying tax in this country – does he have the best interests of the country at heart?
A. Yes of course. He is a BUSINESSMAN. And they all wear bowler hats and carry rolled up newspapers and ALWAYS have the best interests of the country at heart when they board the 8.24 from Croydon. Also, ALL businessmen are the same and he speaks for them ALL. OK? Also businesses are super at running things, like Tesco and HSBC and Woolworths and Rumbelows.
B. Well he has made a lot of money so that is a super thing right? And if we tried to protect workers’ rights or something, then businessmen like him would move their businesses out of the country and then we would lose tax revenues oh HOLD ON….
C. I would like to boycott Boots but I have got LOADS of points on my Advantage Card and they have a FABULOUS range of nail varnish.
- Will UKIP win the General Election?
- UKIP ALL THE WAY! Anyone who says differently is just in a conspiracy with the pollsters, the political analysts, the bookies and The Establishment, who want to upset the cause of democracy by not letting the party with 14% of the vote become the outright winners.
Mostly A’s – you are possibly working for the BBC. Thanks for taking care of our unbiased reporting! Good work.
Mostly B’s – Farage for PM! Most likely in coalition with the Greens.
Mostly C’s – you may well be Russell Brand. Have a quick check, why don’t you.
This is going to be, without doubt, the most controversial thing I have ever said on here (at least until I write about immigration later this week).
I quite like Russell Brand.
I know, this is risking the scorn of literally millions of right-thinking folk, but there it is.
I should immediately caveat this outrageous statement by adding that I also think he’s a bit of a nob. Of course he is. He says so himself, frequently.
But that doesn’t stop me liking him, even being extremely fond of him. I like (many) of the things he says, I enjoy listening to the way he says them. I like his outlook on things, and I think he’s sincere.
I first saw him performing about a decade ago at a fundraiser for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. I had never seen him before, not being a big one for the telly; but I was impressed. He was articulate, self-deprecating and quite clearly passionately committed to change.
I don’t really intend this to be a full defence of Brand – that would take a long time. Buy me a pint and I am happy to do so – though it’s fair to say he’s not asking for a defence.
But I do think that Brand is perhaps the most misquoted and misrepresented man since Marx.
Reading the sometimes baffling reviews of his book this last week, I kept thinking of the line from the beginning of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams:
‘Nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change’ – it seems we are all lining up pretty gleefully, to crucify this man for saying some pretty obvious things.
Glaringly obvious and yet mostly unsaid or unacknowledged, at least in the mainstream media.
Brand says – this is an emergency.
The current political system is not fit for purpose and works in favour of no one but a tiny elite.
Democracy has not produced a system that represents ordinary people. Instead we have this neoliberal, capitalism-on-acid world of technicolour inequalities and catastrophic ecological meltdown.
The current system has made the world a dangerous, brutal place to live.
It’s time to change it and replace it with a system that allows for cooperation, collectivism, more immediate democracy, taking the corruption out of the political system and returning the balance of power to where it belongs and from where it originates – with the people.
That is all pretty clearly stated and set out, with some proposed, fairly specific solutions.
Yet the reviews, for the most part, don’t seem to engage with this central argument at all.
Well, leaving aside the (perhaps dubious) style – there’s a lot of substance in what he says.
Seriously, does anyone really think that the current democratic system serves the electorate?
I was brought up to revere the martyrs of Peterloo and Emily Davison, people who truly were willing to give everything for democracy and freedom. But today as I was dressing Sparkly Daughter in her Emmeline Pankhurst costume for Famous Person Day, this is what I thought:
Thanks Emmeline for having a feeding tube shoved down your throat, thanks and all that, but Russell’s right – voting doesn’t change too much, at least in the UK and the US. We’ve got the vote, but we still don’t have the power.
Brand says – the electoral market is rigged in favour of big business and particularly multi-national corporations; the media perpetuates a consensus that is breathtakingly narrow.
(The great UKIP earthquake has meant that you can now have corporatism, pinkish corporatism, or corporatism with candidates who say ‘Bongo Bongo Land’ and ‘Ting Tongs’.)
A climate where ‘austerity’ requires great sacrifices by the poor and powerless, but trillions can be found to bail out the largest banks to provide bonuses. There are countless examples of this in his book – and everywhere really, if you care to look.
This rigged system has led to gross, obscene inequalities – like the 85 oligarchs that Oxfam says hold more wealth than 3 ½ billion poorest people in the world.
Or the fact that the richest 1% of the UK population have as much as the poorest 55%.
Brand thinks this is a crime against humanity. I agree with him.
Of course Brand isn’t the only person saying this – Owen Jones, the George Formby of the Left, characterises this as ‘socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor’. Banks get bailed out with trillions of our money, while ordinary people have their mortgages foreclosed, and end up relying on food banks
He’s right, too.
We are more used to seeing the privileged these days slagging off the poor, mocking them and deriding them as feckless and pointless.
Edwina Currie, screeching repeatedly on Channel 4 at an unemployed woman with mental health issues ‘Get a job, get a job, get a job.’ Churches and charities who attempt to set right the caricature of the feckless benefits-waster are shouted down and told to ‘get back to their knitting’. And we join in, gleefully, in programmes such as Benefits Street and Jeremy Kyle.
In a week when Griff Rhys Jones complained that Labour’s proposed mansion tax would make him leave the country – well it’s a welcome contrast isn’t it? Brand is pretty much the only mainstream celebrity willing and able to articulate the injustices and the inequalities in a way that gets him (and the issues) into the spotlight.
We have been sold the idea that making the most money possible is some sort of moral imperative – but it’s not. In this neo-liberal gaga-land, the only things that matter can be measured in GDP.
At least under feudalism the powerful had a duty, a responsibility to their tenants. Now they are evicted for all sorts of spurious reasons with what passes for ‘morality’ in these late stages of hypercapitalism – ‘there’s nothing we could do, we have to do what’s most profitable’:
There is nothing inevitable about this way of running things. And it could change, and it should – that’s what Brand says, and I agree with him.
The second key strand of his argument is that this broken system is not making anyone happy or even content. In fact, we’re pretty miserable most of the time.
He uses his own (often seedy) life as an extended metaphor for the emptiness of much of modern life. He talks with honesty about his own attempts to fill the emptiness at the core of himself with a variety of pointless and unsatisfying solutions – drugs, food, drink, promiscuous sex, clothes, fame.
So – how about a different way? How about we think about happiness and togetherness and community and start to value those instead? Again, I honestly don’t see this is a particularly radical idea.
His message isn’t profound – it’s so obvious as to be almost banal. This stuff didn’t make him happy; he suggest that it isn’t making anyone happy, not really.
I think he’s right about this too.
The solutions offered by the consumerist culture aren’t really solutions; they are barely even distractions. They can in fact get in the way of human beings achieving any kind of peace.
The solutions he DOES offer are solid – you might not like them, but they are sincere, real and curiously old-fashioned.
Brand suggests that if you are finding the incessant buzz of the never-satisfied consumer culture too much, you might try looking within yourself, meditating to achieve calm. You might try thinking about your relationship with God or your version of God. You might try, when anxiety strikes, thinking about connecting with your place in the universe and letting go of the weight the world has placed on you.
Brand doesn’t offer himself as a leader – if he did, he’d be starting a cult. What he is suggesting that we all start taking care of ourselves, locally and directly. This suggestion is treated with horror and disbelief – of course we can’t be trusted to take care of ourselves!
I think he’s right about this too.
But I detect in much of the criticism a degree of class based snobbery – in fact it’s pretty close to the surface. He is criticised for not being ‘serious’ enough – and for being a ‘working class hero’ or (on Radio 4) ‘a working class intellectual’ – which the commentator clearly considered to be a contradiction in terms and meant he was not fit to appear on a ‘serious’ programme. He has co-opted some pretty heavyweight names on his side – Chomsky, Piketty, Klein; this decision has been characterised as ‘half-reading’ these books.
He’s also derided as naïve or like a sixth former. When I was in the sixth form, the head of sixth form told me that my left wing beliefs – workers’ rights, freedom, equality – were a symptom of my naïve youth and I would grow out of them.
Well he was wrong about that.
On the contrary, the more I see of the world, the more I see the things that need changing. I think that those who claim that the inequities of the current political system are ‘just the way things are’ and can’t be changed – they are the naïve ones.
I guess many people could have written Brand’s book. It is certainly easy enough to criticise, but it is, I think, starting a useful conversation about what needs to change.
I like Brand, I guess in the end, because he preaches peace, love, tolerance and all the good stuff that all the good people from Jesus to Ghandi have preached. And most of all he preaches the hope that hings can change.
Because things always change. Monarchies, empires, economic systems – they all rise and fall. Even Thatcher went in the end – and it was the people who in the end sent her on her way.
I hope he’s right.