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

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Generally Unelectable



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!

  1. Are you registered to vote?
    1. Yes of course I am. I’ve been registered to vote for years.
    2. 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.
    3. I don’t care because I never vote because it never changes things. Apart from all the times it changes things.
  1. Is this man a racist?186442-nigel-farage-ukip-leader-holding-up-a-ukip-badge-at-the-launch-of-the-partys-manifesto-in-edinbur

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.

  1. 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.

  1. Will UKIP win the General Election?
    1. HA.
    2. 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.
    3. Parklife!

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.

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Brand Loyalty


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.

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Miss out Monday – number6’s guide to the week in social media w/e 31st October 2014


Actually nothing much happened on the internet this week.

Ha ha JK LOLS not really. This week we have the usual deafening outpouring of humanity from the world wide web.

Number 6 listens so you don’t have to! So, firstly:

It was a bumper week for #nerdporn:

Firstly, Daniel Radcliffe rapping:


– and also saying sensible things about Emma Watson and the early sexualisation of girls:

Then Elle magazine (that well-known feminist magazine, in no way obsessed with rigid standards of female beauty) jostled lots of men into wearing ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirts. Now leaving aside the ethics of this, this was #nerdporn jackpot time:

Tom Hiddleston!


























Even these two looked kinda cute:




And finally, the lovely Mr Cumberbatch added to the #nerdporn vault by writing some ACTUAL nerdporn, causing half the women in the country to say ‘gosh’ very quietly.




Everyone hates Russell Brand – and I mean EVERYONE*.

Sheep on remote Welsh hillsides, that Vietcong soldier still hiding in the jungle – they all hate him. Even the Ebola virus reportedly won’t touch him with a decontamination suit.

I’m even starting to feel a bit sorry for him myself – well about as sorry as anyone can for a man with 8.5m Twitter followers, currently romantically entangled with beautiful, politically-engaged heiress Jemima Goldsmith.

My favourite moment in the swirling maelstrom of bile about Brand this week was the spat-out insult on Radio 4 as a ‘working-class intellectual’ – ye Gods, this is what happens when we start teaching the proles to read! Next minute it’s all HEGEMONY and VACUITY and ‘massive redistribution of wealth to disturb the status quo’.

NEXT WEEK – Brand gets chased out of town by a bunch of irate R4 listeners and UKIP councillors yelling – ‘he’s just not SERIOUS enough!’.

ALSO NEXT WEEK – Russell Brand’s book coincidentally #6 on Amazon chart.

A woman went for a walk through New York and put it on the internet, and then everyone talked about it all week.

(As a side bar, do you every think about how you might explain the early days of the internet to your grandchildren?

‘So, you were an internet pioneer grandma! How did you make use of this incredible capacity to communicate with anyone on the planet and have access to all the things every made and written?’

‘Um, well there was a very funny thing about cats riding on a robotic vacuum cleaner oh and we solved sexism by arguing about a woman walking through New York for ten hours!’


The film, if you haven’t seen it, showed a woman dressed in jeans and a crew neck t shirt walking around the streets of NY for ten hours and recorded all the times that men called out to her.

The comments on the original article were so predictable that they could have been (were?) written by robots – ‘she’d soon complain if no one shouted at her!’, ‘yeah, film a man doing that for 10 hours and see how many woman shout out comments to him!’, ‘oh so it’s sexual harassment to walk silently next to a woman for five minutes without speaking to her now! Bloody hell, PC gone mad!

And (my absolute favourite this) ‘what did she expect, going out in public with those ENORMOUS BREASTS!’. Yeah, this slut should definitely have left her breasts behind at home in the breast cabinet like all decent women.

The punchline to this particularly painful episode in Showing Us Everything We Already Know was that the actress in the clip received rape and death threats, proving once again how we definitely #dontneedfeminism.

Some comedian I never heard of complained that there weren’t enough UKIP supporting comedians or indeed right wing comedians at all on the telly any more.

Quite right my love, if only we could be back in the 70s and 80s with Jim Davidson doing his Chalky impression (recently homaged by Mike Read Calypso style) and Bernard Manning, who claimed that telling jokes about Pakis, N*****rs and C**ns didn’t make him a racist, because a black man once invited him to do a testimonial for him. Manning was the kind of comic that would play terrifically well at the UKIP conference:

Man says to his wife: ‘Pack your bags, I’ve won the pools.’
She says: ‘What should I pack? Something light, something warm? Where are we going?’
He says: ‘We’re going nowhere. Just pack your bags and f*** off.

This comic complained that ‘right wing’ comics like him were sidelined because of (I am not making this up) ‘ethnics’ and ‘women-posing-as-comedians’ (careful, Andrew, you might give yourself away with those kind of remarks).

Andrew should maybe try the circuit of Working Men’s Clubs and Miners’ Welfare – oh wait…

Most hilariously of all, Mr Lawrence then tried to defend his comments as somehow ‘brave’ and ‘anti-establishment’ (because we are living in a through the looking glass world where slagging of ‘ethnics’ is ‘courageous’ and demonising immigrants as causing the problems in this country can be painted as ‘courageous’).

Yeah stick it to those illegals, Andrew! Stand up for the oppressed white men!

In a similarly brave move, UKIP did their bit this week for cultural diversity by allowing Far Right activists Britain First a photo-opportunity:













Vote UKIP, get Britain First!

Then, even more bravely, used some pictures of young girls (in no way exploitatively) to try and get more votes in he PCC elections in Rochdale, part of UKIP’s brave campaign to bravely out everyone as a paedophile who doesn’t support UKIP.










Did not one of those smiling folk think – hmmm, this might be a tiny bit, er, tacky? Maybe I don’t want my smiling mug right underneath this on the internet for all eternity?

Sadly, the electorate responded to this bravely exploitative campaign by voting in the Labour representative. Probably because they’re all paedophiles. You can insert your own Bernard Manning joke here.

There are 800,000 ceramic poppies filling the moat of the Tower of London – and it is spectacular and touching and beautiful. 

For some reason, the poignant display was libelled by being described as like UKIP. The ‘logic’ of this escapes me, but I think it goes something like – if I put UKIP in this headline, it will be controversial and more people will click on it.

It is quite a sight – and everyone who sees in it experiences their own thoughts and feelings about it. To suggest that your experience, or mine, can be generalised and demeaned is crass in the extreme, and shame on such cheap journalistic tricks.











*except me – I quite like the guy. I appreciate this means that I will mean I am about to be chased out of town with pitchforks too.

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As I was young and easy

Young Dylan

Today is Dylan Thomas’ 100th birthday.

Now God knows I would have loved to have invited him round for a cup of tea and a cupcake – for Dylan I would have even cracked out the cake tin and checked the flour for mites and made him one myself, and not even my daughters get that on their birthday.

Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly for a poet in love with the bottle, Dylan was dead long before I was born.

He never saw 40, let alone 100.

Thomas’s poetry has never been less than loved, by the public at least, in his lifetime and after. His centenary has been the subject of many events, centred around his semi-mythical writing shed. (Like many writers, he did a lot of things in his writing shed, very few of them actual writing. Thank God there was no internet in those days, or he would never have got anything done.)

In intellectual circles, though, Thomas can be treated a little sniffily. The Wikipedia entry for Thomas describes his work as ‘accessible’, which is code for ‘a bit TOO popular, often read at funerals’.

Well, whatever. I adore him. I can recite big chunks of his poetry, and often will, unprompted. It’s hard to get me to stop.

I first saw Under Milk Wood as a little girl, when my sister performed in the play at school (‘call me Dolores like they do in the stories’).

Before I saw Under Milk Wood, I was a reader. But after, I fell in love with words. Drunk on assonance, seduced by the lavish imagery. And the alliteration! Oh the alliteration.

If you have never listening to the beginning of Under Milk Wood read by Richard Burton then I envy you. I have heard it, read it, countless times and it can still make me shiver, go all goosebumply.

Back then I couldn’t have told you why Dylan’s words got so tangled round my heart. It wasn’t his rock and roll roistering reputation. I knew nothing of that back then. He was just a name on a page; he looked pretty respectable.

Now though, I can tell you why his poetry was so potent. It is that combination of sweet and sprightly melancholy, lyrical but imbued with sadness. I can tell you this because it has given me a taste for energetic sadness; for poetic, word-heavy morbidity that runs through my record collection – from The Bluetones to Johnny Flynn – and my dvd shelf.

Cheery sadness – so long Dylan and thanks for all the paradoxes.

There was something else though. Thomas wrote about ordinary people in the most passionate and compassionate of ways.

In Under Milk Wood we see his sense of the sacredness of humanity. The high point of this is the description of Bessie Big Head, the lowest and the least of the people of Milk Wood.

Look up Bessie Bighead in the White Book of Llaregyb and

you will find the few haggard rags and the one poor

glittering thread of her history laid out in pages there

with as much love and care as the lock of hair of a first

lost love. Conceived in Milk Wood, born in a barn, wrapped

in paper, left on a doorstep, bigheaded and bass-voiced

she grew in the dark until long-dead Gomer Owen kissed her

when she wasn’t looking because he was dared.

That is the beautiful tenderness at the heart of Thomas’ writing – that life is precious and must be treasured – the one poor glittering thread of her history laid out in pages there with as much love and care as the lock of hair of a first lost love.

But in the end he didn’t take any love and care with his own life, it seems. Dylan had a lot to say about death, did Dylan (hence his popularity at funerals). Like much of his writing and his life, it is contradictory, ambivalent. But mostly he thinks death can bugger off. And death caught up with him all the same, as it does with all of us.

His wife Caitlin outlasted him for many decades. She died in 1994 and on the front of the paper the next day they printed her death notice under this:

‘Listen. Time passes.’

And so it does.

Dylan Thomas portrait:

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