Bring On the Bad Guys

“I’m Not a Murderer – Some of my Best Friends Are Alive”
(Sean Lock, Tyne Theatre 10 November 2010)

To be fair to Newcastle United they tried to be the good guys.
Under Bobby Robson Newcastle had a team of excellent and solid pros (Shearer, Speed, Given) aligned with hungry youth (Dyer, Jenas) and maverick genius that our manager could harness like nobody else (Robert, Bellamy). We had a vast, mobilised fan base and a team that, unlike the Man Utd and Arsenal teams of the time, didn’t mob officials, systematically cheat and demand privilege. It was the most enjoyable period of my footballing life (Keegan was fun but too stressful and clearly unsustainable) and we could give anybody a game. Anybody. We fucked up somewhere between buying the malign influence that is Lee Bowyer and losing to Partisan Belgrade in a Champions League qualifier. Our ability to bounce back from these mistakes was stymied because Abramovich had arrived at Chelsea and we were muscled back a place, we panicked and employed Souness.
Nobody asked where the money came from but Chelsea carry themselves with that Knightsbridge sense of entitlement, which is why other football fans hate them but why they continued to get away with it. By the time Man City barged into the Champions League slots Newcastle, now under Mike Ashley, had stopped having any aspirations of competing.
Football in 2021 is nasty. It is a grotesque circus of corruption and polished gangsterism pretending to be fair, inclusive and for everybody. The Newcastle takeover has thrown a hand grenade into that façade – which is one of the reasons I love it. I love it and I can justify loving it.
The objections and complaints against the takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi backed PIF Investment Group basically boils down to: “You have crossed a line.”
So there is “a line”, is there? And who drew that? Is it the same line between our government pimping out the actual Queen to gladhand the Saudis into buying our missiles to bomb children in The Yemen and reporters badgering Newcastle fans for accepting “blood money”?
Olli Holt wrote a very convincing piece for The Mail on Sunday about accepting “Blood Money” – so convincing in fact that you can’t escape the feeling that being paid to write about Newcastle United is also accepting “Blood Money – or doesn’t “Blood Money” drip that far?
Why are we getting involved with these people?
Well, let’s flip that a minute just for the hell of it. Why are Saudi people getting involved with us? Can you imagine some hardliners sitting around in Riyadh saying, “Why are we getting involved with this lot? They drink more alcohol than any other supporter base in the world, they are the descendants of barbarous, debauched pagans, their women-folk are notoriously unruly and they have a vibrant LGBT+ community. This is pretty much everything we try to supress in this country. We’re outraged!”
The biggest teams in England (and Spurs) are reportedly unhappy with this deal.

Perhaps if they don’t like it they could go and form their own League and ….. oh hang on they tried that didn’t they… didn’t go very well did it? So perhaps our biggest teams (and Spurs) should sit quietly and remain thankful that they weren’t all expelled from European competition for 5 years – like what should have happened.
At this point I should remind my reader that I am massively pro-Amnesty International. I once wrote that we should pay them to have their logo on our replica shirts. This is a deal that I would understand them being conflicted about now but Amnesty work mostly by raising awareness don’t they? Well what are we doing right here right now if not raising awareness to previously unwitnessed levels? “Sportswashing” doesn’t work in Newcastle, look at what happened to Wonga. Whatever the opposite of “Sportswashing” is…. that’s what we do. You’re welcome.
The narrative seems to be that the PIF Investment group stopped murdering people on the Wednesday, made a half-hearted attempt to wipe the blood off their hands and then wrote a cheque to Mike Ashley on the Thursday. So, people criticising us have to be actively boycotting anything else the group have already heavy investment in or shut the hell up. This includes, among others: Disney (which covers Marvel so no Spiderman pyjamas), Facebook, Starbucks, EA Sports (that’s your “FIFA” games right there), Uber, BP, Live Nation (the gig ticket people), Boeing and Pfizer.
So I love this takeover. I love it mostly for the vast untapped well of enthusiasm and optimism it threatens to unleash but I also love it for unmasking the hypocrites and duplicitous governing bodies and I can justify loving it. I can justify loving it but in an age where dipshits actively avoid a vaccine that could save their worthless lives because they won’t listen to fucking reason – I’m not going to.
People want to paint us as the bad guys. Fine. We’re the bad guys. Let’s see how that works out for you.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment

How Much is Too Much?

LK: Even worse than the interminable boredom of travelling along the A17 through Lincolnshire flatness, was the realisation that 13:30 on Saturday 12th September 2020 marked the first time I had been outside Norfolk this year. All the other plans, the Italian railway and 4 cities adventure in March, the gigs, the exhibitions, the theatre trip, had dissolved into the spectral version of 2020 that never existed. To be fair, there would have been much worse places to while away a scorching socially distant summer than Norfolk, but the cancellations of the past six months had made me wary of looking forward too much to this planned road trip. No matter, we were in the car, camping gear packed in the boot, great music playing through the speakers, and the sun sparkling down as we headed north towards our first tent pitch.
KK: We stopped off first at the Anish Kapoor exhibition in the grounds of Houghton Hall (near Kings Lynn). He’s the guy who, among other things, designed the twirly red thing outside West Ham’s ground and the big reflective “Bean” in Chicago, he messes with texture and perception innit? Not wildly exciting under normal circumstances but we had tickets for something that wasn’t cancelled, we handed these tickets over and found ourselves actually doing something, we were giddy with joy even before the red kites and buzzards started spiralling up the warm morning thermals. Captain Sensible and Killing Joke’s manager were on Liz Kershaw’s very punk rock orientated Radio 6 show which took our minds off the tedium of the A17, up the jolly old A1 but off early to climb Sutton Bank. You know Sutton Bank because you nervously climbed up it in a clapped out, overfilled car, full of excitable children on the way to Flamingo Land years ago. Probably. We didn’t go to Flamingo Land. We had a date with different wildlife on a campsite that, as it turned out, was probably too close to Middlesbrough.
LK: Other people, more than we’d seen in a long time, other people laughing and eating and drinking in a field. Six months of relative isolation had maybe bred too much suspicion and distrust; shouldn’t the servers in the onsite restaurant be wearing masks; that group is definitely going to set fire to their tent tonight; no, I’m not going to put my name on the whiteboard to book a shower slot. Then I remembered I was like this pre-pandemic anyway. Best to enjoy the surrounding quiet of the countryside by walking to the local pub and not bothering to go in, returning to the campsite to discover our burst mattress, and sitting down to enjoy a couple of cans until the un-forecasted, unwelcome rain began. One of our friends helpfully messaged us to list all the things he hated about camping, but despite the flat mattress and the honkathon from the local goose farm we slept soundly to get up to share the early morning with bats and barn owls, with the promise of a hotel room and unlimited showers later in the day.

Riveaulx Abbey

KK: Newcastle had won 0-2 at West Ham, the cold, hard Yorkshire ground had miraculously ironed out all the kinks in our ageing backs and an aversion to that horrible competition of: full bladder verses squeezing out of a warm sleeping bag/damp tent meant we had gone easy on the drink. So, at first light, we were already packed up and leaving while the snorers still snored thunderously, the feral children still recharged before another day’s screaming and the geese still bellowed their disapproval at whatever it is that keeps geese so bloody agitated all night. Camping is not necessarily a peaceful pastime but there is a joy in feeling dishevelled and driving in search of decent coffee having been up early enough to see nocturnal animals. We struck out across the moors but took a steep detour down to see the remains of the beautiful Riveaulx Abbey where the National Trust had, helpfully, barricaded the car park. We had to jump out the car and gawp across a woman’s garden to get a decent picture. Poor woman, in her dressing gown, only wanted a tab and a cup of tea. Costa in Stokesley had proper cups, a luxurious lavatory and was packed with very, very serious bicyclists. This was probably where the arching narrative of “How Much is Too Much?” was hatched. In this case, the amount of gear a (nearly always male) cyclist feels they need to invest in before they take to the road. None of which is a sodding face mask.
LK: More exercise nuts were doing their own Great North Runs as we headed to the North East for family visits. Small groups seemingly taking random routes and different directions, like surreally scattered pheasants. Just a few days before the local lockdowns were decreed, it was difficult to square the peaceful, happy day we spent in Newcastle with the plague ship image we are presented with outside the area. We woke up to the absolute joy of a Monday morning not at work and braced ourselves for the next camping stop at the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales. Our campsite allowed for some spectacular social distancing, our little tent pitched in the corner of a field, with our nearest neighbours arriving an hour later at a distance of at least 200 metres. The warm sun lit up the surrounding hills, and we walked to the nearest village in search of food. The Game Cock (seriously) was fully booked and the hotel’s cheapest item at £22 was a Pea and Goat’s Curd Risotto; we looked at each other and laughed and drove to the nearest Tesco for a tent picnic instead. On our return two hours later, our neighbours still hadn’t built their living space. What are they doing, we asked out loud from the other side of the field.

Socially Distanced Camping (nearest neighbours)

KK: Two people and a dog in a brand new VW camper van: The awning folded out into a tent the size you would expect if invited to a Mongolian war council, then festooned with lights like Santa’s grotto. A little wigwam for their toilet, an expensive looking broiler, a grill, furniture… then we realised that what was definitely sadder than spending four and a half hours assembling your holiday was watching somebody else spend four and a half hours assembling their holiday. Anyway, thanks to our sound-system we had already worked out that cows are attracted to Akala and that sheep like to bleat along to Buffalo Tom, so we went to bed. The next day, against my express wishes, we drove to Hereford. The BBC like to remind Newcastle fans every year that Hereford knocked us out of the FA Cup nearly 50 years ago so I hate the place for that. Also, when travelling in Namibia one of our party was from Hereford and he was boring and annoying and carried on like he was Prince f’kin Phillip, so I vowed never to go in case everybody who lived there was like him.
LK: Who knows if they were, the only social interaction we had was in Tescos with a snotty supervisor and an uncomplicated checkout assistant who blithely ignored her instructions. We did visit the cathedral, as I’m of an age now where I find cathedrals intriguing, to do some gawping at the Mappa Mundi, a saint’s skull, and the chained library. Hereford’s charms exhausted, we headed off to our little ‘shed’ at the north east edge of the Brecon Beacons. How long could it be before we got bored of gazing across to the facing mountains from our chiminea heated patio with a cold beer in hand, spotting majestic circling red kites – no rush, get back to us when the country can competently deal with the virus. To emphasise that we weren’t in Norfolk any more, we went hill climbing. After eight months of being hampered by a stress fracture and various meniscal tears in my knees I was ecstatic to reach the 1088 foot summit and take in the spectacular views across bracken moorland to Brecon town. I miss hills.

Place to see out the Apocalypse

KK: It was utter bliss, at night while the fire crackled, we star-gazed and played Connect 4. I forget who won. We were also just a short drive over the river to Hay-on Wye where the narrow streets are crammed with the most fabulous bookshops. We already have piles of unread books at home but our determination not to add to them dissolved and we drove back to our shed with armfuls of beautifully bound and fascinating books that we will definitely read. Providing there is some sort of Lockdown. Or maybe not if we learnt anything from the last one. How much is too much when it comes to books? Compared to how much is too much when it comes to infections, deaths, ministerial incompetence, corruption, wild fires, holiday restrictions, blocked takeovers and biblical storms, at least it’s something we get to choose.
LK: For the record we drove 975 miles and I won the Connect 4 competition. Me. I did.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment

Newcastle United The Take Over Part 2

“The Conspiracy of Perpetual Contempt”
I was having an argument, via emails, with my mate James in Australia over the proposed Saudi takeover of Newcastle United. Unlike 97% of us he was against it because he has principles and couldn’t shrug off the allegations of murder, torture, violent homophobia and ingrained misogyny as easily as most of us can. He finally said, “F*** it take the money” after I wrote something like: People take cocaine. People take cocaine despite knowing full well that the process of getting that shitty drug into their orifice of choice involves blood money, exploitation, misery, violence and death. People, by the thousand, think “I look forward to turning myself into an obnoxious prick because I need to feel something that isn’t (looks around at own life) this.” People are bored of their shit lives. People don’t want to spend time wondering if Steve Bruce should play Dwight Gayle or Joelinton when they could be wondering if Mauricio Pochettino will play Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland and coming up with the delightful answer of “both”.
My main concern from the start was that the deal got done before the Saudis worked out that “Sportswashing” doesn’t and can’t work at Newcastle, like it has done at Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris SG, because of The Conspiracy of Perpetual Contempt. “Oh here we go with the conspiracy theories” says the Guardian’s Barry Glendenning (whom I love btw) and I say “Barry, it’s not a theory if I can prove it. Watchmenow!”
Newcastle United’s last 14 Monday night games have been away from home. You think that shit happens by accident or coincidence? Take a minute to think what that means, what the thought process is behind it and tell me it’s not deliberate, organised, contempt.
(Drops mic)
(Picks mic up again)
When people say “Steve Bruce has done a good job at Newcastle”, they mean “He’s done a good enough job for the likes of you, he’s obviously not going to get the job of managing Tottenham” – that’s the Conspiracy of Perpetual Contempt right there. So boring and ingrained that the people involved in enforcing it don’t even notice.
And my main concern came to pass because the Conspiracy of Perpetual Contempt did for the deal. The Premier League didn’t want to make a decision so they didn’t. They happily could let us dangle because that is what our narrative is supposed to involve, endless boring misery. Imagine if the club being taken over by the Saudis was Arsenal and try and tell me it wouldn’t have been rubberstamped immediately and I won’t believe you.
I didn’t expect this takeover to make Newcastle a good team. Frankly the Saudi’s are bloody idiots, other murderous despotic regimes presumably shake their heads with embarrassment at them. They are probably no worse than killer governments in Qatar or Russia and historically they are not in the same league as the US or the UK but they are crass and clumsy and don’t hide the bodies very well. You wouldn’t be surprised to see Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman wearing Jamal Khashoggi’s shoes and trying on his favourite hat.
When Qatar bought Paris Saint Germain they also managed to imbed themselves in UEFA, steal a World Cup, brazenly break Financial Fair Play Rules and … bang… Champions League Final. Our lot couldn’t even manage the “buy football club” bit.
Manchester City is brilliantly run and they employ experts at every level of the club. Anyone claiming that their player of the season is anybody other than the lawyer who overturned their European ban for financial doping, hiding the evidence and obstructing the investigation is lying. We can talk about David Silva (if we ignore the persistent tactical fouls and relentless whining) but the lawyers are the ones who pulled off, what should have been, impossible.
A Saudi backed Newcastle would have been catastrophic with a magic money tree; we would pay the asking price for the overpriced vanity purchases (who used to be good but now clubs want rid of but nobody can afford their wages) from every team in Europe. Our starting 11 would include Alexi Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, David Luiz, Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and three defenders from Manchester City who we had all forgotten existed. They would all be on insane wages, our remarkable team spirit (and it is) would be destroyed and we would be shambolic laughing stock. But at least it would be interesting. Nobody is laughing at the minute because we are all so bloody bored.
And that’s the real shame of this failed takeover – the existence we’re condemned to without it.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment

Newcastle United: The Takeover Part 1

I wrote this in May/June and didn’t publish it because everything was up in the air and I thought “best not make more of an arse of yourself than usual” – revisited it today and I reckon it’s worth a read.

I must confess I have spent months thinking about what would actually happen if Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia did buy Newcastle United. I wasn’t daydreaming about some fantasy football shopping list of players rocking up at Gallowgate, as the embers of burning Sports Direct billboards are reflected in the joyous tears of happy Geordies, I was actually trying to work out how this would end up being a bad thing.
Make no mistake Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman buying Newcastle should be a very bad thing. Mike Ashley may be many of the things we have accused him of over the years, from bumbling nincompoop to shoddy tat-merchant, but he isn’t suspected of murder, of executing children, of “disappearing” dissenters. People who criticise Ashley don’t get locked up or threatened or kidnapped and they don’t, like Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, find themselves killed and dismembered. So a bad thing, which, immediately made me think it more likely to happen because that’s what being a Newcastle fan teaches you to expect; the worst from any situation that you then have to process (usually by deploying rank hypocrisy) into being a good thing to preserve your own mental health. An easy couple of examples: we get knocked out of a cup – so we can concentrate on the League or we’ve been relegated – which means we get to find out what a Burton Albion is. Or like when money lending parasites Wonga made our players advertise their poverty trap services on the front of our football shirts. A good thing I then decided: take money from the bastards, shine a light on them and what they do – and it worked. Nobody seemed to care much when Wonga sponsored Blackpool or Hearts but as soon as they got into bed with Newcastle the brand became so toxic that they collapsed into administration in 2018. Job done. Well done us.
Why would Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman want to get involved with Newcastle United? Well there was a name for it now and the media have called it “Sportswashing”. Manchester City and Paris St Germain aren’t football clubs they are PR departments for murderous dictatorships. But nobody was saying “Sportswashing” when Manchester City got bought despite their new owners being under investigation for slavery, child trafficking and murder at the time of any non-existent “fit and proper persons test.” It was a very interesting story involving Pakistani camel child-jockeys, US horse racing and the FBI but the story has been “Sportswashed”, presumably the right people have been silenced and Pep Guardiola, poster boy for democracy, as he has pretended to be, is fine with it. That’s what would be in it for Crown Price Mohammad bin Salman, you smile throw money around and all the awkward questions go away.
Except Sportswashing won’t work at Newcastle and anyone thinking that it would has massively misunderstood Newcastle United’s relationship with the national press in this country. Whatever is the opposite of Sportswashing is what will happen and what has already been happening. So, I’ve decided I’m massively in favour of Crown Price Mohammad bin Salman taking over at Newcastle United because, like with the Wonga experiment, criticism won’t be dampened down, it will be ramped up, which is great. Amnesty International (who I support unreservedly) want a light shined on Saudi Arabia? Will this one the size of the Bat-signal over Gotham do? It’s got a Newcastle United badge on it?
The real issue comes when anybody tries to tell us we can’t take the Saudis blood-soaked money. Because we just point straight at our own government and say “Well they do”. The Saudi Arabians give our government and the arms industry they work for billions of pounds for expensive missiles that the Saudis then fire straight at children in the Yemen, it’s been going on for ages and apparently, as a country, we’re alright with it. Now it’s going to be a hot topic which is a good thing.
Have I got a problem with The Saudi state having a truly terrible record of homophobia and misogyny? Of course I have but we have got a club captain who has no problem wearing a rainbow armband and a crowd that has had rainbow flags in support of our gay community within the last year. Do you think we’re going to dial that down or do you think (assuming we are ever allowed in the ground again) we are going to turn the entire ground into a massive Pride party that the whole of Saudi Arabia will have beamed into their living rooms? We also have some of the most fabulously gobby womenfolk in the world and you can see them, unbidden, offering their opinions with great ferocity every time the camera cuts to the crowd. does anybody think that is about to change? Welcome to Newcastle Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, your life’s about to get a bit mental.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment

Boycott – A Cautionary Tale

“Why don’t you write about Newcastle United anymore?” virtually nobody ever asks me. The main reason is I don’t feel qualified. As a season ticket holder and regular writer on all matters Newcastle I didn’t want to hear the opinions of somebody who didn’t even go to the matches so why should I think anybody cares what I think when I live in rural Norfolk? I know I’m unqualified and probably wrong about what is going on in Newcastle and even if I’m not I’m reluctant to get caught up in the fractious social media snarling that accompanies anybody expressing an opinion.
However, I am well qualified to talk about boycotting Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United because I’ve been doing it since 2011. So what advice would I give to a fledgling boycotter?
The main thing I have learned during the last 8 years of (mostly) non-attendance at SJP, much like the ten years that I spent as a vegetarian or a lifetime recycling, is that it has made absolutely no discernible difference to anything. I also assumed that by now I wouldn’t care as much, that I wouldn’t let the whirlwind of catastrophe that is Newcastle United bother me, keep me awake and make me difficult to work with on a Monday morning. Nope, all that is still there I just get to miss the pre-match drinking with my tribe, the post-match trench humour and that giddy joy that comes with knocking off work before a mid-week game. If you boycott – that could be you.
I am such a hardcore boycotter that I had to take myself out of Newcastle altogether and Newcastle is my favourite place in the world. I tried to stay in Newcastle and not go to the match anymore. I went to St James’s Park to ask what would happen to our membership points if we didn’t renew our season tickets. They told me we would lose them all and at that exact moment the Sky TV in the ticket office announced that Sir Bobby Robson had died and the lass behind the counter burst into tears. Emotionally distraught and assuming the Footballing Gods were trying to tell me something, I renewed both our tickets on the spot. Wifey was livid – then came with me to every game. So, we couldn’t be trusted to live in Newcastle and not go to the match, so we drifted around the world, ended up in rural Norfolk and now we sometimes feel like we don’t really belong anywhere. If you boycott – that could be you.
At this point I need to point out that the “But if everybody boycotted it would send a message” argument doesn’t fly because “if everybody…” is ever invoked in any argument you have instantly lost because everybody bloody doesn’t anything. If everybody was a vegetarian there would be enough food for all the people on the planet, if everybody didn’t have kids the human race would die out and if everybody went to the match dressed as The Punisher it would look mint. All brilliant ideas but it ain’t happening, especially in Newcastle where everybody (wonderfully and beautifully) hates being told what to do.

Gratuitous Punisher Pic

We were in Newcastle for the Leicester match last season, we were bored after 12 minutes and it never, never improved. No energy, no urgency, no enthusiasm just a calm, well organised group of men shuffling sideways. The memorable thing for us is that after an hour me and the lad to my right realised we knew each other. Not just vaguely, we were mates, we played football together for years. Not recognising your own friends, if you boycott – that could be you.
And on the good days, on those exceptionally, mad and glorious days, like when Jonas scored to keep us up, like when we came from 1-3 down to beat Norwich in injury time, like the epic wins against Man Utd and City………. No, actually it’s worse than that…… Every time Newcastle win or even score a goal, a tiny part of you feels sad that you weren’t there to see it. A Newcastle player scores and runs to celebrate with the fans he’s not including you. If you boycott – that’s going to be you.
On the other hand, in the eight years since I stopped wasting my time and money following a half-arsed excuse for a football team around the country, a team that has spent far too much time being useless or stupid or boring or all of those things at once I have: travelled around Italy, Mexico, Cuba, North, South & Central America, Australia, South East Asia and New Zealand. I have seen plays, exhibitions, films, motorcycle racing and I have spent countless blissful Saturday afternoons with hilarious, fun people where Newcastle United didn’t even come up in the conversations. If you boycott – that could be you.
Now if you’re going to the match at Norwich, I’ll be the numpty dressed like The Punisher.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment

WT Very F?

“Is it real, or is it a dream, I can’t seem to tell the difference anymore” – Innocent X, Therapy?
LK: Winter drags on, long dark nights pushing us into resentful house retreat. We need the hope of future adventures out the other side. Sat online with credit card in hand, the spring and summer start to be shaped by rail, flight, accommodation and gig bookings. It had got to late January and KK’s Twitter feed had given us a heads up on the Gods of Rap tour in May, featuring DJ Premier, De La Soul, Public Enemy and Wu Tang Clan. We had to go, and so it was that I was poised for the ticket sale window opening at 10am, to frantically prod through ever increasingly expensive options returning as ‘not available’ until I secured two. It was confirmed; I texted KK the good news with the proviso that we couldn’t see any other gigs for 6 months.

Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit

KK: Cut to me at my still relatively new job when the text arrives telling me that Mrs K has paid £196 for two tickets and the look of alarm on my work mate’s face at a seemingly unprovoked barrage of profanity from my potty mouth. There is a reason that we haven’t seen Wu Tang live before despite them being the coolest bad ass hip hop hombres in our CD collection that (counting solo and affiliate projects) numbers about 26 albums. They have a reputation: they are notoriously difficult to get on stage at the same time, most of them probably won’t turn up, the gig might not happen at all and, chances are, what does turn up will be disappointing. In April we rocked up for a GZA -The Genius (a founder member of The Clan) in Norwich and he shuffled and mumbled on stage like an ex-heavyweight boxer for half his set. It was so awful I was about to suggest we leave. Then Mr Genius clicked into 0% Finance and the gig was suddenly phenomenal, he rattled through some classic Wu Tang tracks and our hopes for Gods of Rap went from being on the floor to supercharged.
LK: Despite the significant financial investment we’d made, this didn’t seem to hold any sway for KK taking time off in his still relatively new job. If we both had the whole Friday as holiday, then travelling by train and stopping over for the weekend would have been a lovely idea. But we didn’t, and Fulham’s decision to charge £60 per ticket for their neutral area for the final game of the season against Newcastle meant we were going to limit our expedition to a drive down that afternoon and then straight back after the gig. We asked our Spurs friend Tim, now a veteran of Wembley travel, what he would recommend as the best way to drive in. “Get the train down and then the Tube,” he helpfully replied. But a surprisingly efficient route plan, avoiding the soul-destroying M25, saw us weaving through housing estates in North West London to reach Wembley well before any hippety-hoppitying took place.
KK: So we’re sitting with a £6 pint of really really bad lager up in our eyrie overlooking the stage as DJ Premier started warming up the crowd and we’re already seeing way more of the evening’s entertainment than we expected. Premier was in Gang Starr; our mate James was well into them when he and I used to DJ at the Riverside in Newcastle, we would play Tons ‘O Guns nearly every week. Guru from Gang Starr died in 2010 so Premier is essentially here with a box of classic hip hop to whip a crowd up that is already well into the red for excitability. It is the 30th anniversary of De la Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising they were fun, lot of crowd interaction, did Me Myself and I. Premier came back on for a spell and then Public Enemy attacked the stage. Boom! No Flavor Flav so there were no ill-disciplined interruptions from a daft lad wearing a big clock. Instead the legendary Chuck D is flanked by MC Jahi and two veteran S1Ws moving in military fatigues and strict synchronicity. DJ Lord is on the turntables so PE are lean, dextrous and muscular with back catalogue to draw from which few bands can match for snarling ferocity. All the classics mashed together with slamming versions of Shut ‘em Down, Black Steel and Harder than You Think. “Fuck Trump and Fuck the fuck out of Brexit!” barks Chuck and he gets the biggest single cheer of the night. Biggest single cheer of the night until The bloody Wu-Tang Clan come on stage.
LK: It’s a surreal experience, it’s like seeing a comic book strip of superheroes made flesh (although someone forgot to draw Method Man). There seems like there’s no organisation, no way that these larger than life characters randomly buzzing about the stage, wandering on and off for different parts of different tracks, can produce something coherent. Except it really works, and we’re all grinning our heads off, shouting along to Bring da Ruckus, Reunited, and the gospel truth that is The Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit. RZA conducts the chaos with easy skill, Ghostface Killah is an imposing presence, GZA looks like he’s just come in from a particularly tiring supermarket shop. And look, they’ve got a Little Dirty Bastard as well (OK, he’s called Young Dirty Bastard, but I think they missed a trick), and backdrops with swarming killer bees, classic martial arts films, spinning jade dragons, orange licks of flames. The entire floor of the Wembley Arena bounced with the joyous spirit of Wu. As the set was nearing its end, we moved around to another viewpoint, definitely because it was closer to the car park, not because a drunken div had spilt two pints over my head. And were rewarded with a sprawling Gravel Pit, destined to stay in my head for days after this extraordinary experience.
KK: The World is too exciting at this point. While the actual human world is increasingly frightening, irrational and suicidal, the fictional worlds we escape into are also drawing to an end. We have invested decades into the Marvel Universe so Avengers End Game looming was a massive deal for us. We are also so deeply emotionally engaged with Game of Thrones that it has been affecting our ability to sleep. For years, but especially recently with us spending most of the winter re-watching the TV Show from Episode 1. I have been personally guilty of dealing with any stressful situation (mostly the infuriating incompetence of the people running Newcastle United) by picking up my Kindle and saying “Fuk this shit I’m off to Winterfell.” So, to have this story coming to an end is so thrilling and terrifying that we have been approaching the final episodes of this final series like we were preparing for physical combat. “Are you ready?” LK asks me. “No,” I say, press play and “Charge!” Newcastle finish the season on a high with a 0-4 away win at Fulham, there is a Deadwood film coming to tie up another loose end for us, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s fourth and final part of the brilliant Cemetery of Forgotten Books is available, our Norwich City friends are taking to the streets to celebrate winning The Championship, we have got tickets to see Rammstein in Copenhagen and we are meeting our bestest of travel chums, James from Australia, in Lisbon. It is all so much closure that I think I must be dying.
LK: A 7am flight from Luton meant an early hours drive on mainly deserted roads. The sleep deprived spaced-out wait on harshly uncomfortable seats is enhanced by a mother telling her child that “you are not a pixie or a goblin” when she perches atop the seats cross-legged. This appears to be a conversation they have had more than once. We are delivered to a sparklingly bright Lisbon around 10am and take the Metro to the central Rossio square. Before we could even get to a bench to watch the world go by, KK was approached by the first of, what turned out to be, about a dozen drug sellers over the period of the 3 day stay. If Lisbon police ever want a raggedy punk rock undercover cop then KK would be able to clear the streets of pushers within a week. We met our wonderful apartment owner, unloaded our hand luggage and went out into the 30 degree heat to refamiliarize ourselves with the beautiful open spaces and the Sagres and SuperBock lager. We had arranged to meet James later that evening in a tequila bar in Bairro Alto; we had heard nothing from him in the last month and just had to trust that he would turn up. Like what people used to do before mobile phones were invented. The other customers got on with raucous singalongs and nifty dancing to Cuban tunes while the two English people sat at a table, wondering, waiting. When James walked in with his massive beaming smile our hugs made the bar staff cheer and James set about taming his clearly fierce thirst. And it’s like we’ve never been away from each other, drinking and chatting for hours about music, football, James’ tangled love life, what new rules Australians have invented to keep its citizens from falling down holes or whatever.

Bad Influence

KK: We have to keep an entire planet between ourselves and James for most of the time or we would bad-influence each other to death. The next three days are a whirling beautiful blur: the morning sight-seeing is fuelled by strong coffee and scrumptious Pasteis de Nata during which I do a hilarious bit about my penchant for getting stuck into a Portuguese tart which never, ever becomes annoying (LK:” hmmm”) then somebody says “Beer?” and nobody can think of a better idea. Then follows a slightly less organised period of wandering about. Then we end up back in the Barrio Alto where James’s problem of not knowing which drink he exactly wants is once again solved by the answer “Everything”. And then and then and then repeat. Special mention for LX Factory which is a development of cool artisan shops and bars under the bridge that looks like the big one in San Francisco. We had an Argentinian beer outside one place then instantly discovered a Mexican restaurant that had a wrestling ring in the middle of it, food so fantastic that LK bought a staff t-shirt and smoky mescal served in not so tiny jam jars. We seem to be laughing all the time, which is great. Lisbon is great. As ever, special thanks to the people who pay for “speedy boarding” who keep the costs down for the rest of us. We always forget to thank them personally while they are waiting for their luggage because we are usually halfway back to our car. I would feel even more smug if we weren’t in Luton and in the rain.
LK: Two days later and we have a lunchtime meeting point at Liverpool Street station with James before going to All Points East in Victoria Park. There are plenty of bands across a number of stages but we’ve specifically come for Idles and Run the Jewels, both low enough down the bill for us to get a train home that same evening. Idles are full-on fierce in an enclosed venue space but how would that translate in the open air on a Friday afternoon? Very well, thank you; Never Fight A Man With A Perm rattled along just as powerfully; Mother raged out just as furiously; Samaritan delivered just as intensely. A rallying point of inspiring and informed anger in an increasingly blunt and ignorant country.

Pew Pew Pew

KK: A mate recently popped his head out of his baby-tunnel and asked if there was any new hip-hop that he might have missed recently. “There are only three words you need to know about hip-hop right now,” I told him, “and those are: 1. Run, 2. The and 3. Jewels. Two guys Killer Mike and El-P; established artists in their own right they teamed up and banged out three of the finest albums this century. They are fierce and relevant and funny and charming and utterly brilliant.” So much rap can fall flat on a big stage (we saw Run DMC die on their arses so badly in Leeds that they couldn’t generate enough enthusiasm for the encore that they had, presumably, kept all their best songs for / Kan Ye at Glastonbury anybody?) RTJ are masterful and powerful and the crowd go “RTJ!” AND THE CROWD GO RTJ!” and the bunny go “Boom!” We dance our asses off, we miss our train and because James and I hate goodbyes we just hug, drunkenly tell each other to fukkoff and trust to luck that we’ll see each other again sometime.

Kew Kew Kew

LK: We’re back to packing our rucksacks again after a remarkably bearable fortnight back at work. This is because we now think we only work two weeks on and then one week off for a holiday. Before our flight to Copenhagen, we escape into the fantasy of Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures on show at Kew; blue starbursts, green furls, the biggest red hot poker ever all glinting in the sunshine like treasure. Copenhagen also does a good line in creating an other-worldliness with pastel houses, elvin people, grand castles with fairytale turrets, and things that just work. There still appears to exist a social contract between the Danish state and its citizens that quality public services are the upside of paying a lot of tax. The high standard (and cost) of living is obvious from the first sandwich, so as soon as we’d checked in I asked Google about Copenhagen dive bars and it didn’t disappoint. Who knew, we can get bottles of Tuborg for under £2. True, you forget how much your clothes stink in the morning after being out in a smoky bar but it didn’t stop us going back.
KK: To save Krone we gorged ourselves on the inclusive breakfasts at our hotel (which included the optional pickled herring – num.. and… num?), drank Copenhell (magnificent lager with a bonny black and white wolf logo) from the 7/11 and relied on LK’s instinctive expertise in finding the kind of boozers punk rock pirate football fans love but normal tourists avoid. LK loves the exhaustive research which I was quite happy for her to get on while I lost myself in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Labyrinth of the Spirits. We walked virtually everywhere: The Danish National Museum tells the fascinating tale of a nation who would confidently and proudly pick a fight with nations with superior forces. This came to an end when Britain blew up their navy (along with a good proportion of Copenhagen) because we thought Napoleon was going to nick it in 1809. Understandably irked, the Danes sided with the French so after Waterloo the British gave a good chunk of the country to Norway and Sweden. On the other hand there is a statue of Winston in Churchill Park because the UK backed Danish resistance to Nazi occupation and helped liberate the country in 1945. Copenhagen is a cracking city where a good proportion of the population seem either happily drunk or whizzing around on a bicycle. Or drunk and whizzing around on a bicycle.


LK: Exploring new cities is always exciting, sometimes overwhelming, but Copenhagen makes you feel that everything will be OK so just go out there and live your life. Which provides an escapism from the intense, constant angst of the current shit shower that is the UK. We lost ourselves in the Botanic Gardens butterfly house, enchanted by the electric blue morphos which are damn near impossible to photograph. Hans Christian Andersen flits around the consciousness of the city, his burial place is in the serene Norrebro cemetery while back on the waterfront you can enjoy getting caught up in a Chinese bus trip to gawp at the Little Mermaid statue. A fairy tale of consistently bad choices, as far as I can make out, underneath the stories a darkness dwells. Thirsty and hot from a long morning’s wanderings we gleefully enter a local bar, the Klonvens Bodega and soon learn what the Danish word klonvens means – the decor theme is clowns. Fucking clowns. Paintings leering down at the wooden tables, and there’s a lifesize model in the window bay. But, as I said, we were thirsty and hot so sat there in the middle of all this weirdness. Which prepared us nicely for the gig that night.
KK: We’ve been going to see live music for 40 years, it’s kind of what we do. It became apparent after seeing Rammstein for the first time, about 15 years ago, that compared to them everybody else hadn’t been really trying. After this show it turns out that actually included Rammstein as well. Rammstein don’t so much throw the kitchen sink at a live show as weave the kitchen sink into some twisted faerie tale, paint it black, set it on fire and explode it out of a howitzer, which for some reason then destroys life as we know it. They came on stage to a massive bang and a burst of flame so intense that every time you blinked for the next five minutes you could see fire. Then. Every. Single. Song was jaw-dropping, or astonishing, or beautiful, or brutal, or hilarious or insane, or terrifying or all of the above with extra fire. And the audience were 30,000 lovely drunken Vikings. This might be the best gig I’ve ever seen and I hate stadium gigs. Then afterwards, as if Thor himself was showing his approval, there was the most violent thunderstorm with hammering rain and spectacular lightning. Despite this, the queue for the merchandise trucks went right down the street so we didn’t even get a t-shirt.

Telia Parken

LK: Reluctantly, we had to get the plane back to reality, or post-reality, or whatever nightmare it is we’re living through. It doesn’t seem real that this is probably the last time we use our passports as European citizens. We’re returning to the horrific prospect that our government will be in the hands of some entitled Trump lickspittle, while that orange simpleton marches into fascism. Back to a land of madness, malevolence and make-believe, confusing and relentlessly grim.
If only there was some kind of Danish fairy tale which mocked and deflated the empty-headed pomposity of leaders merely by someone being able to tell the truth.
KK: Emperor’s New Clothes?
LK: Uh huh.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment

State of the Union

“This is not a time to be dismayed. This is Punk Rock time. This is what Joe Strummer trained you for. It is time to go!” – Henry Rollins
Friday 26th October 2018
KK: It’s our 28th wedding anniversary and we are in our new car driving from our home just outside Norwich to Birmingham. This car is an adventure vehicle: it has got room in it for bikes and tents and camping paraphernalia. When we climbed into it for the first time we tuned the radio into BBC 6 Music and Huey Morgan was playing Dre & Tupac’s California Love so it immediately felt bad ass. Unfortunately, since January, I had been working a job with horribly unsociable hours so our opportunities for adventure have been limited. Sick of the hours and increasingly bored of my managers behaving like idiot bell-ends I walked out (which felt great btw – I recommend it). I now have a much nicer job so we are going on an adventure. There are no bikes or tents or camping paraphernalia. We do, however, have LK’s iPod on shuffle which means we are moving to a playlist soundtrack that is part Peaky Blinders and part Fistful of Dollars. This trip is entirely her idea and I love her for it.
LK: This trip actually started in Mexico. So excited we were to be there for Day of the Dead celebrations in 2017, we completely overlooked a double booking at Norwich UEA for a Sleaford Mods gig. In a spirit of neighbourliness and recycling, we passed the tickets on to a friend. He forgot to go. This has irritated me ever since. To make up for this twice wasted opportunity, I thought it would be a great idea for me and KK to go to Glasgow Barrowlands to see Sleaford Mods the day after our anniversary. Some months later, I noticed an even better excuse to break up the journey in Birmingham on the actual day of our anniversary: IDLES were playing at the O2 Institute and it would be fierce and defiant and joyful. This is our idea of romance, not ‘look at the card I bought, it says I love you’.

Idles Birmingham 26th Oct 2018

KK: This new IDLES album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance, is brutal yet beautiful, heart-breaking yet hilarious, aggressive yet kind and most of all relevant and fabulously exciting. And Birmingham, like everywhere else in the country according to my Twitter feed, was right up for them. I can’t remember being in a pre-gig crowd that was so happy and chatty and good natured and then the band came on and the whole place went berserk. From stage front to fire exits there was no escape, no place for your fifty something couples to back off to. It was just a thrashing mass of limbs and smiles and exhilarated people trying to sing their own faces off. Gloriously insane. There is a guitarist in the crowd, half the crowd are on the stage, everybody is jumping and singing with the bass and the drums so tremendous that it makes us all inexhaustible. Singer Joe Talbot says, “We don’t do encores cos they’re weird”, so after a protracted ending we suddenly find ourselves outside where people are joyfully hugging each other. We went for a pint, were instantly exhausted so collapsed into our hotel bed, ears ringing and delighted.
Saturday 27th October 2018
LK: As usual we wake up early and road trip rules come into force: get ourselves up and out in 20 minutes, clear the city before any traffic builds up, and drive for about 90 minutes before a breakfast stop. After an unwelcome number of roadworks and speed restrictions, we arrived at Stafford Services. Where it snowed briefly, made everyone grin at each other which reminds you that it is possible to start to like humanity again. Back on the M6 (best UK motorway by far: enough lanes and impressive scenery to make the A1 look like the dreary road that it pretty much is) to aim for lunch in Kendal. We were both sure we had been to Kendal when we lived in the North East, and it turned out that we absolutely haven’t. What a nice surprise, it’s one of the upsides of having a failing memory that potentially every day is completely new. Our lovely new car ate up the miles towards Glasgow to a playlist that strangely went mariachi as soon as we crossed the border, under a brilliant blue sky, and through the craggy, dramatic surrounds that we do so miss currently living in the flatlands.
KK: We haven’t been to Glasgow for far too long, we could tell this because the guy who was offering LK his seat as he departed the pub initially sounded like he was threatening her. It took a while to re-tune to the accent but when we did we remembered it is magnificent. There were people dancing in the pub at half past seven in the evening, the drink was flowing and the city was revving up for Saturday night. On the massive screen a helicopter was taking off from the pitch at Leicester. The area around The Barrowlands has somehow become more rundown, which short of it being in a warzone you would have thought impossible. However, the venue and the people in it are majestic; tatty and damaged but full of life and passion.

Sleaford Mods Glasgow 27th Oct 2018

LK: One of our friends who did bother to go to see Sleaford Mods at the UEA last year said: “they have no business being that good”. Two scruffy arsed men, one pressing a laptop key at the start of each song and smiling with a can of lager in his hand, the other swearing constantly in a Nottingham Tourettes who should pull his pants up. But they are a compelling force of nature and provide a furious and funny articulation of what it’s like to live without privilege, directed at those who do (there was a special mention for Philip Green before a sublime ‘BHS’ was launched). One of the plusses of these miserable times being deceived by spineless and self-protecting “leaders” is an upsurge of angry creativity which is producing vital, visceral music, comedy, arts. And those of us of a certain age won’t find it difficult to draw comparisons to the spiteful, evil Thatcher years, when we again mobilised around music with a conscience and drew our warrior lines so we could survive. We thought we’d got through it, we thought things would get more enlightened for a benign progress for society. We’ve gone backwards, we’re living in the Eighties.
Saturday 10th November 2018
KK: “The Baby Tunnel” is a fictional place that exists only in our imagination and even the idea of it doesn’t stand up to serious investigation. But friends keep disappearing into it all the same. We give them ten years and meet them on the other side when the kids are interesting. We got in touch with Tom and Jane because we thought they were in Birmingham, they were always brilliant company: hilarious, clever, imaginative adventurers, we hadn’t seen them for 12 years. Turns out they were in York so we broke our journey home from Glasgow back to Norwich to meet them for lunch. They have two sons who are clearly hilarious, clever, imaginative adventurers in the making and it was an absolute joy to meet them all. Occasionally friends escape from “The Baby Tunnel” early and gigs are an excellent incentive for them to do so. “We really must meet for a pint?” can get booted down the road for years. Therapy? at the Waterfront in Norwich and the friends we met have young families but there is some stuff you can’t miss. We used to hate missing Therapy? gigs to the point that in 1992 we saw them 6 times on one tour which included 4 gigs in four days. Earlier this year we saw them supporting The Stranglers and they were tight and fierce and charming and they did Innocent X which has the most thrilling drum break in any song I have ever heard. This time around they didn’t do Innocent X and, while still charming, they were a baggy mess. Our friends loved it. Probably glad to get out.
Wednesday 14th November 2018 Killing Joke UEA 14th Nov 2018
LK: The company I work for generously put on a celebratory buffet lunch at their London headquarters for all those who had passed a management course in the previous year. Hilariously enough, I was amongst that number. Well done me. But I was distracted by the need to return to Norwich that afternoon in good time for our next gig, putting myself at the mercy of Greater Anglia’s dubious timekeeping. Gig attendance was essential: Killing Joke have been bringing us the Apocalypse for the last 40 years and it’s never felt more like the time to pay attention. We took our positions in the audience formation, full of solid stalwarts who’ve maintained enough self-discipline not to be completely addled wrecks (I refer you to Tuesday 20th November entry below). Don’t mess with any of these people. An other-worldly sound begins; Jaz starts the slow, deliberate movements of a marionette freed from his controlling strings; a chill goes down my spine and tears prick my eyes as they kick ass with the opening ‘Unspeakable’. I love this thing that is Killing Joke; I love that it has been a constant through mine and KK’s life together; I love they are so elemental, uncompromising, they make me remember who I am. I can’t recall the last gig I went to where I didn’t check the time on my watch at least once. Listen well, humans.
Thursday 15th November 2018 Slaves UEA 15th Nov 2018
KK: If I were young now I would hate old people. When I was young, no matter how bigoted and foolish old people were they had at least won a war. They had faced down Hitler who was actively trying to kill them and they were due some respect for the hardships they had suffered so we didn’t have to. Most old people in this country now didn’t fight or survive a war; all they did was retire early on a fat pension so they could wander around Marks and Spencer with a copy of The Daily Mail being hateful and privileged and looking for ladders to pull up. Why have we got this government winning the class war for the wrong side? Why have we got this Brexit madness? Old people. Cowards, terrified that young people are going to kill them and take their stupid bungalows off them in the name of fairness. And young people would and could do that if they weren’t so daft. Seriously you just need to go to a gig for young people (Slaves, UEA) to realise how daft they are. When dispensing drinks they are clueless, when buying drinks they all queue up and just buy their own which takes ages and as soon as the band comes on they throw it in the air. “If this lass doesn’t f*** off I’m going to break her f***ing arm”, LK said during the first song after being relentlessly bashed into by some malnourished halfwit who had worn herself out after three songs. Slaves were/are great by the way: all bashy crashy shouty shout. They didn’t do the song ‘Hey!’ though which has the line “Watch out for those kids, they’ll tear you apart!” presumably because they won’t.
Saturday 17th November 2018
LK: I’ve grown to “quite like” London, which hasn’t always been the case. When we used to travel from Newcastle to watch football matches in rough and ready parts of the capital for typically very little return from the team it provided a certain type of experience. We now have more trips to see bands, meet up with Ozzie mates when they’re over for family visits, go on pub crawls with amazing friends who weave magical stories telling the history of our meandering back street routes. Altogether less disappointing.
We visited the British Museum exhibition about dissent as we were in London by the early afternoon for the Killing Joke gig at the Roundhouse. There was a Zippo lighter of an American serviceman in the Vietnam War who summed up the conflict with this engraved message: “We are the unwilling led by the unqualified to do the impossible for the ungrateful.” There were so many opportunities to stop that war, but political pride, inability to admit to a monumental mistake and the inertia leading from that meant the tragedy continued for years. You might see where I’m going with this comparison…….Killing Joke Roundhouse 17th Nov 2018
KK: recently reminded us that it was the anniversary of Newcastle beating Cambridge 2—1 in 1983. Keegan (pen) and Beardsley scored in a game that would be unremarkable except it was officiated by the notorious ref Trelford Mills and the penalty he awarded for us was pretty soft. It was also the first time LK and I attended St James’ Park together so also the anniversary of our first dance. John Peel Roadshow Lancaster Uni that night: Mr Peel played Change by Killing Joke and I jumped up and grabbed LK’s hand. “I don’t dance” she sharply informed me. “You do to this,” I replied and in a very rare case of her being told what to do, dance we did. And 35 years later we are still dancing to Killing Joke. Pre-show we had met some spectacularly wonderful old friends and a spectacularly wonderful new friend so we had already had a brilliant night before a note was played. And then Killing Joke, all tribal drums, jagged guitars, raging fury and almost secretly funky made the Roundhouse dance with us. Some Newcastle fans can be prize pillocks, some old punks can be insufferable idiots but I never met a Killing Joke fan I didn’t like. Killing Joke don’t do gigs they do gatherings. The tribe gathered, we danced and it was great.
Tuesday 20th November 2018
LK: We’ve reached the last of 5 gigs in 10 days. I really do not feel like going out tonight, I’ve seen the Damned so many times, exactly how much would I be missing if I kept here on the sofa? KK tells me that Captain Sensible is promising us on Twitter that they’ll be on stage at 8:30. It’s 8.00 now. Cheered by the thought of a nice early finish and getting to bed before 11pm we grab our coats and drive off to the UEA.

The Damned UEA 20th Nov 2018

KK: The new Damned album Evil Spirits has got some really good tracks on it. Obviously whenever they did anything from it some fat knacker in a UK Subs T-shirt would shout for New Rose or Smash It Up but as I said; some old punks are insufferable idiots. For a start Wait For The Blackout or History of the World are superior songs. Singer Dave Vanian, weirdly ageless, glides and whirls like a phantom and his voice has somehow got richer and more powerful, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is mesmerising. Neat Neat Neat, given a new lease of life thanks to being used for a high-octane car chase in Baby Driver, is exhilarating.
Wednesday 28th November 2018 Theatre of Hate Norwich Waterfront 28th Nov 2018
KK: By this point a crow-bar that was actually on fire wasn’t going to get LK to another gig so I nearly let Theatre of Hate upstairs at The Waterfront slip but speculative texts to Bully and ADD got surprising replies. Despite the three of us having a history of making each other cry laughing, that goes back nearly 40 years, getting us in the same room at the same time proves absurdly difficult given that we live within 15 miles of each other. The audience was sparse but the band were really sharp and powerful and Kirk Brandon’s voice is still strikingly strong. So impressed was I that I bought a CD; Bully said “If we stick around, they’ll sign that for you”, I said “I’d rather you two signed it.” ADD, born awkward, said “I’m not signing anything,” so we left, still ripping the piss out of each other in that way that really good mates do that makes the world seem wonderful.

Sunday 2nd December 2018

The Bronx London 2nd Dec 2018

LK: Sunday gigs and me just don’t get on, yet here we were, in the car again, this time down to London with our friend Ian. The Fireball Tour’s first night at Shepherd’s Bush Empire beckoned: none of us particularly had any interest in any other bands on the line up, we were honed in for The Bronx. KK loves that I love The Bronx so much, and asked me why: I considered that it’s because they are so ferocious but without being the blunt instrument that a lot of thoughtless shouty punk bands were/are. Also, I’m very fond of their alter ego Mariachi el Bronx so they get some slack. Parking up on the east side of London for a handy M11 getaway, we discovered that the “severe delays” on the Central Line were worth the risk and only entailed standing around on a platform for 3 minutes. We checked with door staff when The Bronx were due on stage; 9:45 was the reply which was untypically late and at odds with our understanding that The Bronx weren’t the headliners. No matter, we went to find The White Horse, an old haunt near Shepherd’s Bush Market where we used to meet our QPR friend Joe. Haunting the place is exactly what Joe would be doing now, having died several years ago, but we didn’t find out as we peered through the window at the bare wood tables hosting hunched up old men under light yellowed by decades of smoke: the place and clientele haven’t been disturbed since the early Eighties and apparently, we could put up with shitty pubs when we were young. We were just grateful to get served, as the punk rock community was not welcome in every establishment. Not so much now, and we found somewhere else to sit down and reflect over a sub-five pound pint. We all felt it would be wise to go over to the venue at 8:30; as we walked up the stairs a familiar barrage of sound lurked beyond: Ian’s unforgettable moment of the night was my face when I realised the door staff had misinformed us of The Bronx’s start time. All three of us asked different strangers how much we’d missed of the set; only ten minutes but I was fuming. Until they launched into “Knifeman” – the fiercest of drums, the choppiest of guitars, Matt immersed headlong in the crowd not missing a screaming word – then I couldn’t remember anything else in the world except being here. As soon as their set finished we headed off, got the T-shirt, and drove off into the night traffic. Which all disappeared at midnight and we were drawn back into the reality of the state of the UK in late 2018, into the dark, into the land that time forgot.

Posted in General Waffle, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mexico 2017

KK: Like all decent thinking adventurers LK and I have sworn not to visit the USA again until that lying idiot orange baboon they have for a president is dead or in jail. But where to go to emphasise the point?
Mexico baby. Yes Mexico: the other side of the proposed wall Trump wants to build. Mexico: with the express intention of shouting abuse in a northerly direction, with large glasses of tequila in our fists, Mariachi music in our ears and our faces painted for The Day of The Dead.
So, we went to Mexico for two weeks. Not to one of those resort/compounds people lock themselves away in because they think they are too good for Spain. Actual Mexico where we had to learn some lingo, eat some food that might make us ill and sleep on a bus that set off in the middle of the night to avoid the protesters who sometimes block the mountain roads. It was so bloody brilliant we spent the first week back in the UK sulking because we weren’t in Mexico anymore. We’re writing this because you should go too (or again). You should go to spite Trump, you should go to love the people, the food and the drinks (especially the drinks) and you should go because Mexico is bursting with life and noise and history and culture and is full in your face crackers.
LK: It’s a massive country – we didn’t visit the north and the border deserts of Westerns and cartel anarchy, instead starting our journey in Mexico City where the evening descent of our plane banked across its spectacular megalopolis sprawl. We stopped by in beautiful Puebla on Halloween, then onto vibrant Oaxaca for the Days of the Dead. An overnight bus trip saw us up into the Chiapas mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, then moving across to the jungle howls and heat of Palenque. Another bus journey through the night delivered us to Capital of Culture Merida, finally ending up in Playa del Carmen which successfully hid its charms under sheets of torrential rain and tacky shops.

    Day of the Dead

KK: Like Jack Skellington in Nightmare Before Christmas LK and I had grown tired of being brilliant at Halloween, so thought we’d crash someone else’s festival for a change. We landed in Mexico City in time for a massive parade, inspired by the one in the recent James Bond film, Spectre. This isn’t a joke: Mexico City didn’t used to have much of a parade until the film and now it seems most of the 23 million people who live in and around the world’s busiest city head onto the streets surrounding the Zocalo to see it. Most of these people were trying to squeeze onto the same Metro as us and most of them would end up with their faces painted.
We were already frazzled because the fireworks from the night before didn’t stop going off until 8am. Fireworks, with the deep boom of a howitzer, that continually wrenched us violently out of sleep despite our being jet-lagged and quite drunk. This is our excuse for not seeing the parade at all. A couple of our new Aussie mates who are tall and who were prepared to wait for 3 hours said the parade was great. We lacked the height and the patience but later, after it got dark, we wandered through the park and marvelled at the amount of people, in elaborate costumes with intricately painted faces, whose preparation must have taken hours.
LK: Day of the Dead imagery has been increasing in Halloween celebrations elsewhere on the globe, but cultural appropriation is also happening in the other direction. Among the fluttering rainbow tissue paper garlands of skeletons in sombreros, la Catrina, and fancy skulls were floating ghosts and bright orange pumpkin designs. What this seems to have achieved is an extra day of partying before the Days of the Dead, and a three day festival in the UK for Halloween seems only fair. We fore-armed ourselves with a visit to the local confectioners before heading off into the joyful crowds in Puebla on Halloween night. Fantastically turned-out children were quick to spread the word among their friends on who to ask for sweets (very politely). A two-floor display of altars in the nearby Casa de la Cultura displayed an astounding range of painted miniature figures all brash and goth and kitsch and wow. The nearly full moon shone down on the central square and we smiled from the depths of our cobwebby hearts.
KK: For Dia de los Muertos actual we were in Oaxaca: the graveyards where the families and gawping tourists gather were closed due to earthquake damage, so the town was the party. There was no parade here or central entertainment area, just a happy strolling kaleidoscopic riot weaving through and around itself on a hot dusty night. Everything and everybody looked magical under the lights, there was music blasting out of packed cantinas, where patrons handed each other drinks across balconies. Street performances spontaneously happened, bands were just striking up and on one occasion a great crowd of people of all ages climbed onto an unused stage to start dancing. My face paint was on so thick that even after a long shower I still looked like I had failed an audition for the part of Nicky Wire in a Manic Street Preachers cover band. It was a good, if somewhat grotesque, look. Day two: 7 am and what sounded like a barrel being rolled quickly across a cobbled street turned out to be the drums warming up an entire, fevered, brass band. False endings aplenty with each re-start more frantic as revellers reeled around in the street in bizarre fancy dress. One guy was dressed up like a fat priest riding on the shoulders of a goblin – he had a bottle of beer in his hand and he looked like he was coming straight for us. He wasn’t. He wasn’t going straight anywhere.

Some History

    LK: I was delighted to drop History as a subject as soon as I could at school. Dates, kings, some boats battling other boats, ludicrous combat hats throughout the ages. And then your proper education begins and you wonder why you weren’t told about everything else in the world that was actually interesting. Mexico has plenty to keep you captivated; the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City is an impressive introduction to Prehispanic cultures, but our first site visit was to Teotihuacan, around 50km outside the City. Not sure who founded it (let’s say aliens) but it went into decline over 600 years before the Aztecs came to prominence around 1300AD. One line of thinking is that an ecological disaster struck, people got hungry and died. Oh, if only we could decipher this mysterious lesson and apply it to our modern-day planet. Flat open expanses between gigantic Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon leave you with nowhere to hide from the intense sun, or the traders with squawky terracotta instruments that mimic a jaguar, albeit a poorly jaguar with a high-pitched cough.
    KK: There would be other pyramids and other archaeological sites and a diversity of quality from the guides employed to pontificate on their meanings: Juan lost us inside ten minutes by trying to tell us the big tree at El Tule definitely weighed “six thousand million kilo tonnes” so by the time we reached the Zapotec site at Mitla we had grown tired of his rambling nonsense and had entirely stopped listening. Especially as we were in the company of a former guide on our tour who used to tell Japanese tourists visiting Africa that giraffes can walk on their hind legs. Our guide at Palenque however, Francisco, helped bring the place to life, despite stifling jungle heat and LK having a fragile constitution. Like the rest of us she was eagerly scrambling over ancient, overgrown Mayan ruins (of which only 3% are actually excavated) trying to keep up with Francisco as he pointed out animals and plants amidst a tale of the rise and fall of a mighty empire. “The Skull Temple”, “The Red Queen Temple”, “The Temple of The Inscriptions” – all very Tomb Raider. If you prefer more up to date history of a slightly less guessy nature: in Puebla we visited the Museo Regional de la Revolucion where The Revolution kind of started in 1910. There are bullet holes in the wall outside from where the troops of dictator Porfirio Diaz opened fire on the family and friends of Aquiles Serdán from the nunnery across the street. Just re-opened after earthquake damage it was a beautiful and haunting experience.

    Hombres Vamos

    LK: The past reaches right into the present in Chiapas state, creating and fuelling resistance. The town of San Cristobal de las Casas was founded by the Spanish in 1528, subduing and impoverishing the rebellious indigenous population. While hardly an immediate response, San Cristobal was occupied on the first day of 1994 by the Zapatistas, seeking redistribution of resources to the poor majority and raising the issue of indigenous rights within a wider population. A nominal ceasefire was agreed in 1995 but differences rumble on.
    The Tzotzil Maya have long been subverting the Catholicism imposed on them by the Spanish occupiers by retaining traditional animist beliefs in their worship. The San Juan Chamula church has statues of saints to receive offerings, but no priests. It’s laden with copal incense and candles, but the darker the colour of the candles the more intense the purification ritual. There are no rows of pews, but an open floor covered with pine needles to clear a space for your praying area. No pure white doves, but a black chicken being waved around a suffering woman to expel evil spirits. It doesn’t end well for the chicken.

    Food & Drink

LK: But, as we should all know by now, chickens make the world go round. I was fuelled up for the start of each day by huevos that were either revueltos, a la Mexicana, or rancheros. Top work, ladies. Enchiladas smothered in either salsa verde or mole poblano were excellent lunchtime snacks. The regional dishes are rich and varied, and in Oaxaca I tried a tlayuda which is called a Oaxacan pizza but it’s actually a thin crispy tortilla filled with a mild cheese and, in this case, spicy chapulines (grasshoppers). They were crunchy and a bit peppery, and I’m only getting in some practice before we all have to start eating insects after the Trumpocalypse. The fleshy cactus leaves on blue corn tortillas in San Cristobal were definitely my favourite, and the very next day I graciously accepted a homemade tortilla filled with beans from a local family of weavers; twelve hours later not very graciously I projectile vomited it back up again in our hotel room. I lost interest in food after that for a couple of days, which meant I passed on the chance to eat carrot-flavoured ants in the Palenque jungle. Maybe they do them in Waitrose.

KK: Corona and Sol are local beers but Mexican bar folk don’t jam a lime slice in the top like we insist on. You can get flavoured Sol and one of the flavours is lime and salt: the first and last swigs taste like sea water but otherwise it really works. Unlike the Salsa flavour which tastes like fizzy Worcester Sauce and is so vile that I actually anti-shoplifted a couple of cans, in that I bought some, tried one and sneaked the others back into the fridge of the shop I’d bought them from.
A hefty shot of tequila works out at about £2 in a bar but one of the guys on our tour picked up a bottle of silver Jimador (good tequila) for £6 in a supermarket which was a stroke of genius we copied. Mescal comes from a different cactus to the ones used for tequila and it comes in many guises. I bought a litre of Montelobos from The Tequila & Mescal Museum in Mexico City because it has a cool label and got appreciative nods from the staff. We also bought Day of the Dead shot glasses and, with a little help, saw the bottle off on a Oaxaca rooftop in two nights. On a mescal tasting evening, we sampled about 15/20 different mescals ranging from rich and smoky to smooth and milky. We carefully selected our favourite and carefully transported it all the way home without breaking it and … it tastes like petrol.

What else?

    KK: Night time animals at Aluxes Ecopark Reserve – jaguars, manatees, crocodiles, tapirs, ocelots!
    LK: Frida Kahlo’s blue house – I want a house flooded with daylight and with a central courtyard filled with lush plants!
    KK: On our first night, outside Bosforo, a secret bar in Mexico City a local said to us, “This place sells the best mescal in Mexico, do you know mescal?” we said yes and thought, “everything is going to be ok”.
    LK: Metro journeys for 20 pence each, carriages so full people have their faces pushed up against the glass, exits that spit you out onto massive junctions where you can have arguments with each other about which way we need to go next.
    KK: Speed bumps on the mountain roads and sometimes absence of mountain road on the mountain road. Like, just a massive hole and a vertiginous drop that our bus driver edged round while we held our breath.
    LK: The sassy riot cop in Puebla leaning on her shield, beautifully groomed and made-up, smoking her cigarette, nowt’s a bother.
    KK: An open top tourist bus where we had to keep diving under the seat so as not to be decapitated by electrical wires or bashed in the face by tree branches.
    LK: “So basically they want £600 for a small mat?” after doing the currency calculation at a, admittedly, highly skilled weaver’s home.
    KK: I learned enough Spanish to get a haircut and a shave for £4, half of which was the tip.
    LK: The mischief in the eyes of the Mayan guy in Merida when he told us: “American are stupid, they walk around in the sun when it’s 45 degrees in May, and they are fat and they fall over.”
    KK: At the Lucha Libre, Mexico’s acrobatic, preposterous but very entertaining pantomime wrestling, one of our party cried, “That man just kicked a midget.”
    LK: Colours! Embroidered shawls, blouses, skirts all in the purple voted as next year’s trend by the women in Zinacantan. Vivid yellow and orange butterflies floating by on the breeze. Low roofed buildings in primary colours against skies so deep blue they make you want to stay.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment

Savages – Norwich November 2016

Wednesday 23rd of November 2016 and The Damned played in Norwich. I first saw The Damned in 1981 on The Black Album tour and over the intervening 35 years have seen them more times than I can actually remember. Far from being a pantomime version of themselves they are a genuinely thrilling live act with a rich back catalogue of black-diamond encrusted classics. This year they filled The Royal Albert Hall so the chance to see them at the intimate Waterfront venue whilst sharing a beer with some old & very splendid friends seemed like a case of “why would we consider doing anything else?”
Wifey and I have seen Savages twice already this year (Cambridge, London) and we saw them last year as well. They were playing the same night as The Damned. Savages
We went to Savages – barely a decision to make. Savages are that good. Savages are so good that the first time we saw them Wifey (stone cold sober, tougher than most, seen most bands worth seeing) started to cry. We went to the London show with a long-time mate who pre-show dismissed them as, “a bit too Banshees a bit too Joy Division.” Post show he was a babbling, beautiful mess of awe-inspired enthusiasm. “They were fu-king brilliant!” he said. And they were and they are.
For a start, Fay is a cracking drummer all energy and sharp discipline, Ayse on bass has the perfect ability to mix effortless cool with a monstrous, floor vibrating assault and Gemma wrings such sounds out of her guitars that you find yourself looking to see who else is playing. There is no one else playing. And she does that bottom end of the fretboard torturing that made The Dead Kennedys so terrifying. They are military precision tight and (let’s not be shy about this) they look amazing. They dress in black and white, the lights (except for a pale orange glow on Adore) are only ever white spots, glows and strobes. Check out this 1½ hour clip, move it to any point and try and tell me they don’t look like they mean fucking business.
(Click here)
Right Jehnny Beth: there is no point pretending I’m not a bit in love with her. I am. And so is my wife. And so is anyone who has ever seen Savages live who isn’t horrible. Her cheek bones, her intensity, her feline grace, her speaking voice, her singing voice, her fierce confidence, her other-worldly eyes, the fact that she can be heart stopping scary and then warm and lovely with a nothing more than a hand gesture and a tilt of her head between one and the other. Savages
Jehnny Beth moulded this typical Norwich crowd: stage front was a little sparse, people were watching from the stairs around the dance floor. After starting with two killers (Shut Up / City’s Full) she said, “You’re quiet” and everybody thought, “Welcome to Norfolk”. Half an hour later she was presiding over a seething, feral, berserk mass of lads and lasses with wide grins and bursting hearts. Jehnny Beth’s crowd control is such that she can cajole one into a frenzy then stage-dive in and end up right back where she needs to be. And she can hold a silence for seconds longer than most front persons would dare. Leave a silence in a song and some dick will whistle or whoop but with a raise of a hand and a dark flicker in her eye the silence held until we all realised we weren’t even breathing. They finished with Fuckers, a ten minute monster of a song that begins as a whisper and ends in a fevered, triumphant apocalypse.
Such is the all-encompassing intensity of the Savages live experience we drove home elated via The Waterfront and it was only then I remembered that The Damned (soundtrack to most of my life) had even been in town.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment

Please Buy Our “Not an actual book”

I’ve got a book available.
Well, I’ve written half of a thing that isn’t a traditional book.
And it isn’t a Furious book and it isn’t about Newcastle United much.
But I would be grateful if you bought it and I think you’ll like it. And it’s less than a fiver.

trvel book, gap year, nufc

Available Now From Amazon

It’s a travel book, it’s a book written by Wifey and I about giving up work and cars and record collections to travel. It’s about firing rockets of recklessness into our own future to live in the now and see the world while we’ve still got the strength. It’s about giving up our comfortable life and trying to climb out of our boxes and how the world really doesn’t like it when you do that. It’s about setting fire to your old life and trying to find a new one even though you don’t know where it is or what it looks like.
We travel across America from coast to coast in a very indirect fashion, we spend longer than expected on trains, we drive, we catch a bus full of weird people to Las Vegas. We drop into Central then South America then visit Australia and try living in New Zealand. We decide not to live in New Zealand so head home via South East Asia but we can’t go home because there are people living in our house. Strange people who want us to give them our house because they like it. Although it turns out they don’t like it because they think it is trying to kill them.
It’s then a book about how we try and reintegrate and how the world really doesn’t like it when you try to do that either.
Like I said, it’s not a book about Newcastle United although we deliberately and accidentally meet Newcastle fans from all over the world. We try to keep up with what was happening with our football team and see televised games when we can; so there are chapters about seeing games in a Chilean desert, at 4am in a New Zealand disco, on a massive screen in a mansion and on a tiny laptop on a Thai beach.
I wrote half of it, Wifey wrote the other half, in short sharp turns, we squabble for your amusement, we get lost, we get drunk, we have days where we feel we’ve made a terrible mistake and days where we don’t care if we did because the world is so excellent. It is bloody funny as well.
It is available from Amazon for Kindle and you can read the first seven chapters for free if you click “look inside”. I am reliably informed that you can get free Kindle apps for your phone or tablet or you can read it on your computer. No print copies yet because distribution, print and storage are a pain in the arse and bump the price right up. Also while “A Mag For All Seasons” sold thousands of copies (thank you very much) I have still got dozens of the buggers in my loft.
Yes, yes we all like the smell and feel of actual books and of browsing the shelves at Waterstones. Some of us secretly enjoy having shelves creaking under the weight of extensions of our personalities but will the complete works of George R.R. Martin fit in the pocket of your jacket or in your handbag? No they bloody won’t.
“Screw Work, Let’s Travel” by Lynn & Kriss Knights will and you’ll be glad it did. You have nothing to lose. Buy it.
Thank you.

Posted in General Waffle | Leave a comment