Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rough Steez

I feel I could moan for England this afternoon. I'm well aware that many people think I could moan for England most of the time, but this afternoon I feel decidedly moantastic!

It started this morning with The Observer and an article about Morrisons, the supermarket renowned for pretty low quality, and their insistence that they couldn't serve a 50 year old woman a bottle of wine, because she might have been buying it for her 17 year old daughter, who had just accompanied her on the weekly shop. Morrisons have a regular habit of being the Jobsworth Supermarket and the management's decision to back the staff and manager of the shop in question made my blood boil.

Then my own shopping excursions found me in Sainsburys and the unrelenting march of Christmas. In recent years we've seen the invention of a new, 5th season. We have Spring, Summer, Autumn, Christmas and Winter now. Autumn now officially lasts from September 21st to October 1st, when the season of Christmas replaces it and that lasts until about January 8th, when Winter makes a belated appearance. Of course, if retailers had their own way we would still have four seasons - Christmas, Easter, Summer and Halloween/Bonfire season: the first would start at the end of the last and go all the way through until Cadbury's Cream Eggs are in the shops and they would stay there until the disposable bbqs and rows of ribs, steaks and cheap shitty burgers come out. I fucking hate consumerism and commercialism...

You can buy a Sainsburys Yuletide Chocolate Log with an expiry date of October 11th. What the fuck is that about? Are there really a huge number of complete and utter wankers out there? I'm waiting for the house down the road to put its decorations up. We thought they might be Hindus when we first moved here, but they're not - they're just complete and utter tossers. Last year the decorations went up two days before the end of October. I swear if they go up earlier this year I'm going to fucking torch the house and all inside!

Last night, I discovered that an old friend and a good friend of my brother-in-law has cancer and has been given not very long. He's 35 and that just makes this year the tops as far as young people dying. 2009 will go down in my annals of history as one that's best consigned to the depths of memory. It has been a shit year, so many deaths, so much pain, and enormous amounts of stress and to top it all off, we look like we're going to get a Conservative government next year. There is little reason to stay in this shit hole of a country. Perhaps the best thing to do would be find a cave somewhere and just hide in it for the rest of my life...

Something else that depressed me this morning, that, by rights, shouldn't have. On Friday 16th October, it will be exactly 20 years ago that Squonk!! opened its doors and I began my short but fun career as a comic book retailer. It still gets talked about today - just last week my brother Ron was at a comic mart and met a couple of lads (ha, I call them lads, they're in their 30s now) who were frequent visitors to the shop. They sent their best and Ron was amazed that they should have nothing but good things to say about me!

20 years... Fuck... This means that people like Jay Eales, Scott Goodman, Simon Coleby, Matt DeMonti and many others have been my friends for that amount of time. Time flies, no doubt. All these youngsters who ventured into my self-styled community centre are all in their 30s or 40s now and probably lead far more sensible and normal lives... well... maybe not, but it does make you realise that the older you get the quicker everything becomes. I'm dreading ever hitting 70+ because the way time seems now, it'll probably be even faster by then.

The last 20 years has been something of a rollercoaster ride; retailer, journalist, columnist, editor/publisher, award winner, homeless worker, and now working with young offenders - it's been a path I would never have expected to have taken; but at least I'm happy with my lot. Yeah, I maybe could have had a far more successful - economically - life, but at least I don't feel 47 (in my mind) and I don't think I'm a boring middle-aged man, like so many boring middle-aged men I meet.

I have a full calendar of gigs to attend in the coming months, despite saying after seeing The Charlatans two years ago that I would only go to gigs where I could sit down - because of the strain it places on my back. But in the coming months there's The Flaming Lips, Gomez, Charlie Barnes, Pineapple Thief, Porcupine Tree and I have developed an urge to want to go and see something a bit different...

I've recently been extolling the virtues of a Bristol-based electronic duo called Fuck Buttons. I like progressive electronica (I'm a huge fan of Hybrid) in a big way - it probably springs from my love of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre and prog rock and the fact that my once drug addled head loved rave music. Fuck Buttons are like rave for the space rock generation; yes it's repetitive and has umpteen million beats per second, but it's hard, relentless and not for your fans of Robert Miles or Euro pop synth bollocks. The new album Tarot Sport is probably one that you'll either get straight away or be completely baffled by. It should be played loud and I have this real urge to go and see them live - if they do live in the conventional way. I think it's because I'd like to see if they are as BIG live as they on record and from an anthropological stand point - I'd like to see what other kind of people are into this strange hybridised music. Tarot Sport has been on constant rotation this last week, much to the disgust of the missus.

One of the better things to happen recently was concluding an article/interview with Sel Balamir of the mighty Amplifier for my Comics Village column, which, it appears, is a little more frequent than it once was. That's probably down to the fact that I've had lots to talk about - even if it's just going over old ground a lot of the time. A little sidebar to this; Amplifier's new album, due out soon(ish) is called The Octopus; just this week I read that pictures of octopuses are not as popular as they once were...

The awesome Team Squonk, the quiz team that I've been in for a few years, has hit a rich vein of form recently and the team kitty now boasts well over £200 in winnings - which should pay for the six of us to go out for a meal at least twice, which is nice.

Oh and I made up with my good friend who I'd fallen out with. We were both being silly really, me probably more so, so all's well that ends well, eh? Now I just have to rebuild bridges with the other 400...

The shoulder is becoming the bane of my physique again. All the optimism seems to have evaporated and I'm growing increasingly paranoid that there's something else amiss with it. The problem is it's a different kind of problem, and not nearly as painful, but still bad enough to have me reaching for lesser strength painkillers. I have almost 80% mobility back and I do things I haven't been able to do for a couple of years; but it aches and it goes numb; the latter being a whole new wrinkle; and it doesn't like some things I do and complains vigorously during and mainly after I've done it. I mean, I'm swimming again and before the op swimming was a real bonus, now it isn't - despite returning to swimming proving to be most surreal and weird!
I'm resisting going back to the doctor's because I'm aware that it was a major operation and it might take a few months for it to be fully operational; but the longer it goes on, the more aggravating and annoying it's becoming. Plus, it's been a saga that has gone on far too long and it would seem almost disrespectful for me to resurrect it after the last 4 months...

What have I been watching recently?

Flash Forward is Lost-lite, but it's an intriguing premise and I'm enjoying Joe Fiennes growling his way through a generic Yank accent.
Fringe just gets madder and madder and I know there's people out there who gave up on this, but like Lost, you shouldn't have. Plus Walter Bishop is one of the best TV characters created in recent times.
The Vampire Diaries is Twilight but with a little more... bite. It's a Kevin Williamson show, which shouldn't put you off and if you can get passed all the teen angsty shite, there's an intriguing story in there fighting to get out.
Stargate Universe is something I urge Battlestar Galactica fans to avoid like the plague. It's essentially BG crossed with ST: Voyager and don't be fooled by Robert Carlyle's presence, he phones it in. It tries hard to be gritty and realistic, yet feels completely soulless and derivative.
Heroes - the new season is as crap as the last one - avoid like the above.
The new series of Dexter kicked off with a cliffhanger ending to end all cliffhanger endings and that after just 1 episode. This is the best TV on TV at the moment.
And, to top it all off, I started watching Smallville, only 8 years after its d├ębut. Michael Rosenbaum - Lex Luthor - is fucking awesome, it's a shame the rest of it feels like a rehash of old Buffy plots. I'm almost at the end of the first season and its one of those shows that promises much but just teases you in the end. I'm going to stick with it though, because it's the Christmas season now and there's going to be fuck all to watch on British TV...


  1. Pft. 47? I'll be 34 this year.

    As a supermarket lackey of 13 years standing, I can say that it wasn't the company who backed the shop's decision, it was the company who ordered the shop to behave as it did. Welcome to retail. If I ever happened to be on a till, and I sold an underage person booze, I personally could end up with a £5000 fine and a criminal record. And (more importantly from the shop's perspective) the shop could lose it's licence. Or at least so the alarming and terrifying training video that everyone in retail has to watch nowadays

    Believe it or not, the shop I work for has yet to put out its Christmas stuff. And customers are complaining that it's not there.

    No health problems for me. Which is surprising considering my lifestyle, which is definitely more 'style' than 'life'. Except for being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome last year.

    Music? Bah. So little good music has been made since 1972. And since I was born in 1975, you can't say it's nostalgia.

  2. I got here by Googling "Rough Steez" so I don't really have any place discussing your personal life.

    BUT: I saw Fuck Buttons in 2008 at the Pitchfork Music Fest and they did a hell of a good live show. Just throwing that out there.

  3. Alladd, comment all you like, everyone else does :)
    Fuck Buttons - glorious; envy you seeing them live, I should think they're pretty loud and intense!