Thursday, 28 July 2016

Well Done You!

Americans seem to love ceremony, specifically the pomp and circumstance of some guy stood at a plinth invoking the future through breathy application of adjectives so that every heart doth swell with emproudenment and we all do be honourized. I lived in England from my birth in 1965 to jumping ship in 2011, and I probably attended about three, maybe four ceremonies in the entire time. Here it seems like there's something every other week, which is ironic given that the point of America was supposedly so we could get away from all those fucking Brits with their stupid wigs and their hereditary royalty and their never-ending speechifying; or a reluctance to pay tax on one's PG Tips, depending on who you've been listening to.

Here I am at another one, because Raphael has graduated from high school, or possibly from Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering, which is the name projected at the back of the stage behind the attendant row of teachers, professors, educators, and related boffins. Raphael's mother is amongst those sat to attention on the stage, wearing her gown and mortar board like the rest, and I know for a fact that she teaches at a high school so I suppose that's what the Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering must be. I don't really understand how it works, beyond that Raphael is my wife's cousin, and he's finished something or other, and that's why we're here.

Here is the Tobin Center in downtown San Antonio, which isn't the Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering, but is where they're having the ceremony contrary to my conventionally English expectations and assumptions. We arrive at seven and are directed up to the fourth floor, to some high balcony full of babies, or specifically persons with babies. One might assume that a long, droning public ceremony might not be such a great place to bring children under one year of age, but it's not like anyone had a choice, not since the 1997 constitutional amendment banning both babysitting and the practice of leaving your screaming infant with a relative - apparently. The baby behind us begins to howl, so we change places. After another minute we realise that now directly behind us is another vocally demonstrative infant, and the little guy in the row directly in front of us has decided to accept the challenge.

One of the ceremonies I attended back in England was my father's second wedding; two were graduation ceremonies at Maidstone College of Art; and I think there was something else but I can't remember what it was. The first Maidstone graduation ceremony was for the students of the year above mine. They had Laurie Taylor the radio presenter along as guest speaker. I had no idea who he was at the time, but his speech was very entertaining, even hilarious, and a good time was had by all. I seem to recall they'd had either Brian Eno or possibly Ralph Steadman doing the honours the year before, but unfortunately I missed that one. By the time it came to my year, all they could manage was some stammering corporate arse who, accustomed to public speaking as he wasn't, may as well have been reading a report on stocks and shares.

People say that fine art is useless, he stuttered in preamble to explaining how it wasn't because sometimes the managing director of ICI will notice the great expanse of wall behind the head office reception desk and decide that what it really needs is a big, blurry painting of nothing in particular, so hooray for us lot because we weren't useless after all. It was pretty depressing and as such a fitting conclusion to the three years I'd spent working towards that bit of paper which stood me in such good stead for my subsequent twenty-one years service with Royal Mail.

That was the only time I graduated. School was just a case of taking some exams and then not going to school any more, and it was the same with college and art foundation, roughly speaking. Here, on the other hand, they graduate regularly every summer. Well done - you've completed fourth grade, and you get a handshake and a certificate, and then you do it all over again next year, and the next, and the next, presumably until you arrive at the point at which Raphael now finds himself.

We can sort of see where he is if we stand and lean forward, somewhere within a bay of mortarboards lapping restlessly at the stage, but first there's the speechification to get through. A handful of educators tell us what a year it has been, and what an honour it is to be stood here upon the threshold of the future gazing across the frozen plains of destiny that shalt soon tremble beneath the hooves of this year's newly scholasticated flock as they go out unto the world to begin their lives knowing that they have only to dream and so mote it be. Each speech turns out to be only the long-winded introduction to yet another speaker with another variation on here we all are and be all you can be, and all working up to some old guy who is the head of something or other and may or may not be directly involved with  Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering. We've been here over an hour listening to people we've never heard of reiterating the central premise of Jiminy Cricket's When You Wish upon a Star.

Who would have fucking thunk it, asks the star turn - admittedly not in those exact words - in preamble to explaining what an honour it is to be stood here upon the threshold of the future gazing across the frozen plains of destiny that shalt soon tremble beneath the hooves of this year's newly scholasticated flock as they go out unto the world to begin their lives knowing that they have only to dream and so mote it be; but being the star turn, he really takes it to the next level - as we say - with longer, ever more grandiose sentences, really working that thing into the ground as he segues into a valuable autobiographical life lesson complete with impersonations of his own daughter and a mime of what she looks like when she's on the phone. In summary the tale is of his kid, and how greatly she didst want to be a nurse, and she wanted to be a nurse a very, very lot, but alas, her grades were shit so she wasn't able to be a nurse; and then she studied really hard; and then behold for she was a nurse. It was something along those lines, and the saga took about forty minutes to unfold.

Eventually we get to the kids - a half hour or longer roll call of Hispanic surnames because the school or academy or whatever it's supposed to be is on the southside, several minutes worth of Rodriguez and Suarez at a time with the occasional incongruity of a lonely Johnson to keep it interesting. A steady stream of kids fly across the stage, pausing to grin, shake a hand and take a scroll before swiftly exiting stage left. The girls all seem to be wearing massive clunky platform heels. We cheer Raphael as we catch his name, even though we're not absolutely sure which one he is.

Each of these kids is carrying the future with them, we have been told, so no pressure or anything. From this point on, the only limits to what they will be able to do are those of imagination, and presumably also the laws of physics, and the fact that someone has to be a fucking janitor or a mailman or the guy who drives the garbage truck.

The whole thing is exhausting, and the level of motivational horseshit involved makes me feel sorry for the kids on what is, after all, quite a big day for them. Maybe one of their number will design the saucer which takes us to Mars, but surely just holding down a job and not being a complete fuck-up is at least as worthy? The value of a celebration should not be diminished by simply admitting that not everyone gets to be Superman, and we - meaning everyone - really need to start thinking about a realistic world which works, rather than aiming for Disneyland with knobs on and in doing so just making everything else worse through singularity and ultimate futility of purpose. Not everyone needs a medal.

One week later we eat burgers with Raphael and his family as a belated, more low-key celebration. He warmly shakes my hand with a vice-like grip and I recall that this baritone giant was just some kid the last time we met up close, and that it can't have been more than five years before.

'Well done,' I say, and I mean it.

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Mysteries of Dance

Of all the supposed arts, I've never had much of a relationship with dance. I quite enjoyed all that stuff with the maypole when I was a kid, and I can appreciate the folklore of village ceremonies, or dance as defining the ritual space in which offerings might be made to Huitzilopochtli; but otherwise it generally doesn't engage me, and I don't regard it as either interesting or important. Many years ago I used to buy The Observer every Sunday, more or less for the sake of habit and because it was marginally funnier than the Radio Times, but I gave up when they printed some crappy Millennial list of the hundred people they saw as having most influenced the twentieth century. There were three choreographers in the list, because apparently choreography is important. It was probably the wankiest, most excrutiatingly middle-class thing I had ever seen in a left-leaning newspaper, so I stopped buying, at last understanding that such things weren't for the likes of me, mister.

I never danced as a kid, but I danced as an art student when I realised that the act was part of a process which, if performed correctly, might provide access to the contents of women's knickers; although it never did in my case. This was probably because I attempted to develop my own style - a kind of spastic bodypopping relative of David Byrne in the Once in a Lifetime video. I observed my peers dancing, mostly doing that thing with forearms moving up and down from a stationary elbow whilst looking bored, sort of like a mime of climbing a ladder performed by someone who is tired and doesn't really understand why you would want to know in the first place. I saw this and felt compelled to move rhythmically in a way which at least suggested that I was alive and maybe even enjoying the music. My style was knackering, but had the additional benefit of providing much needed exercise which tended to lessen the subsequent unpleasant effects of being full of beer, but it never led to sexual activity, or at least no sexual activity involving persons other than myself, and was therefore mostly a waste of time.

Nevertheless, here I am thirty years later going to a dance recital. We're going along to watch Jamie, who is seventeen or maybe eighteen and who is my friend's daughter. She's been attending a local dance class for at least a decade, and this is the big show at the end of the educational year.

We take seats and we watch.

There are four or five groups according to age ranging from five or six to Jamie's bunch, and each group performs three or four times to some song or piece of music; and as soon as it starts I realise just how much I'm out of my depth. I don't understand why I'm watching this thing, and these people have no reason to be on the stage moving around in set patterns whilst grinning or else looking confused. There is no reason for this thing to be happening, and yet here it is.

The youngest group aren't really dancing so much as going through a set sequence of vaguely illustrative gestures, more or less at the same time, and all staring intently at an off-stage teacher, aside from the one dancer who spends each performance facing the opposite direction to all the rest. It's puzzling, and yet sort of charming because it's little kids, which at least keeps my wife happy for a couple of minutes. They dance, or at least engage in roughly synchronised gestures to what sound like Shirley Temple numbers; but they really come to life during Blue Suede Shoes. Yes, they're all girls, but there's no reason why they shouldn't look
at least a bit like Elvis, and their shoes are certainly blue. Then as one, they point out at the audience, furrow brows into angry-little-girl faces and yell don't step on my blue suede shoes - a startling burst of atonal noise but you can tell they're enjoying themselves.

The older groups are probably better in so much as what they do looks more like dancing, or at least more like those routines which clogged up the British television schedule for most of the seventies - top hats, teeth and high kicks all swirling around the stage to a dubstep version of some Amy Winehouse song. I still can't quite see the point of any of it, and now I have the additional conundrum of why anyone really thought Back to Black worked better as some shitty crunk ringtone with the bass replaced by that wub-wub-wub sound. Is it not enough that the poor woman is pushing up the daisies?

I say the older groups are probably better, but it's all relative. I remain aware of lumps of meat hurling themselves awkwardly across the stage to land with a thump whilst trying to smile, but it's never a convincing smile. It looks like they're mostly on the verge of shitting themselves, and the ones who aren't smiling have a face suggestive of trying to remember what the hell comes next. It's awkward and a long way from anything you could describe as graceful, but it feels somehow like we're all in this together. We all have to get through this thing so we can go home.

The styles are tap, jazz, freestyle, and a few others I've never heard of. I can see there are differences. I know what tap dancing is, and mostly they've all got that one pretty much nailed. Jazz involves sparkly top hats and a whole shitload of grinning.

Inevitably there are a few disquieting anomalies even without the missed beats and screw-ups. One group includes a girl roughly three times the size of everyone else. She's probably just regularly proportioned, but everyone else being so tiny makes her seem enormous, ungainly, and very difficult to miss; but this is some dance class not Broadway, so she's stuck with midgets of equivalent ability and that's just how it is, and now I have to feel bad for even noticing. Also there are two males in the group, and they dance well, which isn't a problem; but from my circumstantially blinkered point of view it jars. It feels forced and awkward. It's all weird and pointless, and I'm aware that my opinions don't really count for shit in this context, which doesn't make it any less weird or pointless.

Jamie herself is on a few times, and whilst I may well be biased, I can't help notice that she dances well compared to her peers. Her moves seem graceful with less huffing and puffing involved, and she looks as though she's enjoying herself rather than grinning like she's at a job interview or communicating something to people with whom she shares no common language. This is great because at least it means I won't have to lie to her mother. She dances with the others to Nights in White Satin, and thankfully it's not the dubstep version. It's not even the Dickies version, although that might have been interesting.

We end with ceremony and applause, speeches and awards, even for just showing up in a few cases. Those who have been in the class for longer than ten years take a bow, and it's most of them. I guess that dancing must be a lot harder than I imagined if some of this bunch have been at this since 2006. I don't know how many of these kids are likely to end up on Broadway, if that's an ambition. I still don't know what any of us were supposed to get out of this.

Afterwards we visit the south side and eat at some place on Military Drive, which is fine during the day but can get a bit shooty in the evenings. Once we've eaten, we drop in on Flipside Records because it's almost next door to the restaurant and I've always wanted to take a look at the place. The incense is so thick I can barely see the bongs and related paraphernalia on sale at the rear of the store, but I browse the racks of used records and find a Stranglers album I've been after, which is nice. Three Mexican girls come in and begin looking for some Moody Blues album. I can't work out quite which record they're looking for, but wonder if it might be the one containing Nights in White Satin.

If there's a pattern to any of this, I don't think I will ever understand it.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Beer Run

The doorbell rings. My wife hasn't been home from work very long and we're watching Wheel of Fortune. Our front door is in the corner of the front room, adjacent to a window and a sofa. Cats sat on the back of the sofa have destroyed the lower slats of the blind over the past few years. Originally there was a just a peculiarly neat square missing from the lower right-hand corner of the blind, which Gus chewed out for herself so she could gaze from the window and see what was going on in the neighbourhood. We called it the Gus Portal after its architect. Subsequent cats have lacked the delicate touch for which Gus was renowned, and have just hacked away at the lower slats regardless of aesthetic concerns; so it's now quite easy to see out of the window without getting up from the other sofa, the one upon which we sit to watch Wheel of Fortune.

Ordinarily it's Damean from across the way, come to hang out with the kid, but we haven't seen him for a while and there's a chance he might have signed up with the army or the army cadets or whatever. Occasionally it's some friend of Shooty the Drug Dealer asking if we want our lawn mown in the hope of raising funds with which he'll presumably make purchase of more num-nummy-numptious drugs of some description. It's always the same guy and he seems harmless, and he never seems to mind that we're completely capable of mowing our own lawn even though we be white folks.

'Who can that be?' Bess wonders.

The window affords me a view of a large-ish pair of tits in a grubby t-shirt, old lady tits I suppose. I wonder if it's Dee Dee and hope it isn't. She keeps herself to herself so when she calls it's something serious, usually sick or dying animals, struggling kittens she needs someone to look after while she goes to the store for food, kittens in such a state that they need a person to watch over them. It never ends well.

I open the door and experience relief that it isn't Dee Dee, then confusion because it's the hillbilly woman from down the road. I don't know her name.

We have a large fluffy cat who briefly went missing when we first moved here. We walked up and down the road looking for him, and eventually found him safe and well, but both of us had encountered a similarly large fluffy cat living down the road bearing a strong and misleading resemblance to our guy. Since the beginning of the year, the same large fluffy cat has started hanging out at our house, having discovered that I feed the strays in the morning. I've started calling him Gary for the sake of something to call him because he reminds me of Gary - my neighbour back in London - in so much as he's a big lad and he's always there. One morning I noticed he turned up wearing a lime green collar with a bell. Later that afternoon I found the collar discarded in our garden. I guess he hadn't been too keen on the thing.

I took the collar down the road to the house where I thought I had seen Gary, where I assumed he lived, then decided it looked a bit scary - shit car, weeds in the yard, bags of rubbish out front. I went to the next house along. It was tidier, and Gary's home might just as easily be this one, and it didn't look like a knock on the door would summon angry rednecks with firearms and tattoos. Unfortunately my knock on the door didn't summon anyone, so I took a deep breath and went back to the first house.

The woman was old and slightly stumpy with white hair. She looked confused as though suspecting foul play; so I tried to explain about Gary and the collar as quickly as I could before she called the cops.

'You mean Fat Cat,' she grinned and hee-hawed as realisation dawned, and I gave her the collar. I was a little shocked by the name, hoping Fat Cat was simply a misjudged term of endearment. On the other hand Fat Cat - or rather Gary - seems healthy, happy, and friendly, so I suppose he must have a good home, even if he always seems to find room for a little more at our place.

I've seen the woman once since then, as I was mowing the front lawn. She strolled past and yelled out something incomprehensible but obviously cheerful, probably something along the lines of you're mowing the lawn!

Now here she is again on my doorstep like an old friend.

'Can you give me a ride to the Valero garage so I can buy me some beer?' She says it twice because I didn't quite catch it the first time, or I did but couldn't quite bring myself to believe that this had been the question. Someone I don't know has knocked on my door seeking assistance, not medical assistance, or can I use your phone?, or I need someone to take me to the hospital, but I need to buy beer from the garage.

The Valero garage is on Rittiman Road, about ten minutes walk away. She may be old and slow but I'm pretty sure she can make it in fifteen.

'I can't drive.'

'You can't drive?' She is incredulous.

'I ride a bike everywhere. You must have seen me.'

'Well you got a car.'

It's true. The Prosecution has made a good case. We have a car parked in the drive way.

'That's my wife's car.'

'You can't drive?'

'No. I never learned.'

'Your wife here?'


'Maybe she can give me a ride.'

'She's not home.' It's a lie but I feel I have the right. This is one of the strangest conversations I've had in a while.

'I live down the road,' she grins.

'I know. The cat—'

'You're from England.'

'That's right.'

'I'm German,' again she grins, proud, although to be fair German ancestry - which I assume is what she means - isn't much of a boast around here. In San Antonio you're either Mexican or German or something else - everything that doesn't belong in the first two categories having been mixed up somewhere in that last one. That said, her accent is odd; although some of my wife's German-American grandparents barely spoke any English, so it probably only seems odd to me.

Miraculously she leaves, walking slowly back down the garden path. She isn't running any marathons, but I'm sure she can make it to the garage under her own steam if she really needs a beer that bad, and I've a weird, slightly unsettling feeling that this wasn't about beer. This was howdy, I'm your neighbour by someone with no real idea of how to go about such things.

Next day as I pass on my bike, I notice a second car in her driveway, and there's a young woman chaperoning a kid around the front lawn. They seem like regular people which comes as a relief. Maybe that's her daughter and a grandchild. She has people who care for her, and who can drive her to the Valero garage for beer.

Two weeks later, we do it all over again, except this time she needs a pack of cigarettes from the Valero garage.

Friday, 8 July 2016


I'm in HEB, my local supermarket. I've just ridden twenty miles so my legs are aching. I've bought chicken stock and now I need milk. I'm near the chiller cabinet when she accosts me.

'Can I help you?'

I lower my camera because I've just taken a photograph. 'No, I'm fine, thanks.'

'You can't take photographs in here.'

I've just taken a photograph so this confuses me. She must realise that I've just taken a photograph. I feel stressed and even a little angry. I press the button on the back of my digital camera so as to fill the tiny screen with the picture I've just taken.

'You want me to delete this now? Is that what you're saying?'

She has no reply but is squinting at me with that face which generally means the hard-drive is rebooting, having crashed at the sound of words spoken in a patently non-Texan accent. As the silence remains I consider that I'm in a fucking supermarket next to eggs and margarine, not furtively snapping some secret experimental Batman plane on a military base; and what the hell is she going to do anyway? I don't press the delete button but instead slip my camera back into its holster on my belt.

'Well, here's the thing,' I say. 'I was in here yesterday, right here,' and I explain how I was ripped off for five dollars by some stranger. She was small with bright blue eyes and reminded me of Pennsatucky from Orange is the New Black. She was animated, fidgety. She jumped up and down as she spoke, although this is almost certainly just how I've remembered the encounter.

A month later I read an online article about a pseudo-hypnotic technique called neuro-linguistic programming in which a speaker partially duplicates the mannerisms of his or her subject and presents conflicting or bewilderingly vague information in order to influence them without their quite realising it. It sounds easy, and it sounds like what happened to me, particularly the references made to Australia presumably being based on my little buddy having falsely assumed that to be my nationality, as is a common mistake around these parts.

In the mean time I'm explaining this to a slightly sun-dried version of Warden Figueroa from Orange is the New Black. She's some sort of store supervisor or manager or something, and I am vaguely aware that I probably sound crazy. I've already tried to explain that I want a photograph of the store for the account I am writing of my being hustled by someone who resembles Pennsatucky from Orange is the New Black. I didn't take a photograph of the woman who ripped me off so I've taken one of where I was stood as it was happening.

'You know how when someone talks so fast that you can't think,' I hear myself struggle to explain, 'well, that's what she was doing.'

'Was this an HEB employee?' Warden Figueroa asks concerned. Either she hasn't been listening, hasn't understood, or doesn't give that much of a shit.

'No. It was just some woman off the street.'

Warden Figueroa visibly relaxes. It wasn't a member of staff so it isn't her problem.

'Do you have security guards here?'

'Yes.' She looks puzzled, maybe worried. She doesn't seem to understand why I'm asking.

'I mean, if that happened again, could I call for a security guard?'

'Well yes, but—'

'Does it happen much in this store?'

'Does what happen?'

'People being ripped off like what happened to me yesterday.'

She doesn't seem to know how to process any of this, and the exchange degrades into noise with me walking off.

'Never mind,' I tell her. 'Don't worry about it.'

I'm no longer even quite sure what has pissed me off, but it's probably the insinuation of my having done something wrong when I was the one who got ripped off for five dollars, coupled with Warden Figueroa's apparent inability to cope with an unfamiliar accent or a conversation about something other than the location of the aisle with all the barbecue sauce.

Never mind.

Next day there I am again, because I stop off at HEB on what is usually a daily basis, thus avoiding the burden of a single massive grocery shopping expedition every weekend. As I enter I immediately see Warden Figueroa berating one of the aged greeters who is usually at his post by the sliding doors.

'Oh fuck,' I mutter under my breath, 'not you again...'

She doesn't seem to notice me, instead concentrating on giving the old guy a hard time about a cheap t-shirt which has fallen from its rack. I already had the impression of the woman as a bit of a dummy granted a modicum of power, someone who takes pleasure in exercising what little power she yields because historically it's been her on the receiving end, the one who is told to pick up the fallen t-shirt. The old guy always says hello to me as I enter the store, but not today because he's been given an order, and so my initial impression of Warden Figueroa seems justified.

I buy cat food, then wander to the end of the aisle to see if they have feed corn. Each morning I've seen people feeding the deer in McAllister Park, and I want to try it for myself. The deer seem very friendly, and it's fun to watch them hoovering up the corn. HEB stocks only cracked corn, which is meant for birds I guess, and I notice Warden Figueroa walk along past the end of my aisle checking something on her clipboard.

She's there yet again as I buy milk, and again as I look for olive oil. What a coincidence.

I place a bag of flour in my basket and exit the aisle, and there she is fiddling with the display at the end of the shelving. HEB is a big store and we're now several hundred yards from the door by which I came in. As an experiment I double back on myself to a shelf marked seasonal goods, which is where they have the Christmas stuff or Halloween candy or whatever, depending on the time of year. Warden Figueroa glances down the aisle towards me as she passes yet again.

Warden Figueroa stands casually discussing something with another employee as I look at the bread; then finally around to fruit and vegetables. I stand by the chili peppers and wait for her to appear, as indeed she does. I stare directly at her to let her know that I'm very much aware of being under suspicion. It's kind of a challenge because I've decided that I don't like her very much. Aside from anything, such ham-fisted surveillance insults my intelligence. She hasn't actually pretended to read a newspaper with two circular holes cut from the front page so she can look through, but we're not finished yet.

I pay up then go out to where I've locked my bike, and there she is again, stood where employees nip outside for a cigarette, pretending to play with her phone.

Fuck you, Warden Figueroa, I think.

I try to work out what the problem could have been, as she presumably saw it. Maybe she expected me to whip out a camera and start filming. Maybe she didn't know what the hell I was going to do, but I had asked about security which had maybe suggested ill intent on my part. Maybe she just thought I was a bit weird and probably up to no good.

I avoid HEB for the next few days because I haven't actually run out of anything, but it hurts. HEB is as much of a social life as I have these days. When I eventually go back I have the confrontation rehearsed. I've shopped in this store for the last five years, almost daily, spending a sum getting on for six hundred dollars a month. I know half of the cashiers by name, and at least two of them are my neighbours; and you, Warden Figueroa, I've never fucking seen you before last week. I don't even know who you are.

It doesn't come to that. I shop unmolested.

I see her again weeks later. I'm crossing the parking lot and she's coming towards me when I hear someone call hello. It's Jennifer, a cashier who somehow resembles a little Mayan princess, and who I used to speak to fairly regularly but haven't seen since Christmas.

'I've been on the counter,' she explains, referring to the place where checks are cashed, or whatever it is they do.

'I thought you'd had enough and packed it in.'

'No,' she says. 'It's nice to see you.'

I glance across to Warden Figueroa and think a triumphant fuck you because now she is the one who doesn't fit in.

Another couple of weeks pass and my last sighting of Warden Figueroa is as she fills bags at the tills. I guess they are short on people. I guess she isn't quite the big shot I imagined she thought herself to be.

She probably just didn't understand my accent.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Stew & Stupidity

It has been a week since the country in which I was born slipped out from behind the sparkly curtain and said tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Germany in the thirties. I am still in shock, as is nearly everyone I know, the exception being those I know who voted leave. I know them only through facebook - at least these days - and whilst I have a personal mandate preventing myself from vanishing up the post-modern anus of blogging about blogging, sometimes you just have to say what's been on your mind; plus facebook is the best part of my social life these days, so it seems justified.

On Saturday night some drippy woman from Austin, Texas posted a picture of a nice cup of tea with a choccy biscuit. For all my British friends, she wrote, realising some of us were a little upset over the results of the referendum concerning whether or not the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. Amongst her British friends are members of the Dentists, a Medway based pop combo known to me because I used to live in the Medway towns in England, and a couple of them have been my friends in real life; so this was what Drippy Woman and myself had in common. Her cup of tea with choccy biscuit drew the attention of some other English individual, a man expressing the view that not much would change following the vote, barring the lifting of certain restrictions on something or other imposed by the European Union. That's interesting, wrote Drippy Woman, tell me more, and so mainly for the sake of contrast I posted a link to the piece I'd written just the previous day, Well Done, England, Enjoy Your Labour Camps.

This is a complete fantasy, suggested Drippy Woman's English friend with obvious anger, concluding that whatever claim I might make is invalidated by my choosing to live in a state carrying the death penalty, which I still haven't quite worked out, but I suppose may have been a reference to my getting all prissy over the thought of a few harmless labour camps. Drippy Woman then either deleted the conversation, or else blocked me from seeing it, and so I unfriended her - this being the action by which one ejects social ballast on facebook. Our mutual acquaintance of members of the Dentists was just not enough; plus Austin is essentially the Camden fucking Market of Texas, and there's a limit to how many shitty indie guitar bands I really need in my facebook feed on a daily basis.

Anyway, the week unfolded, one day after another in the traditional sequence. The pound was devalued to such an extent that my friend Carl suggested, rather than staying in a hotel, I'd be able to buy a house next time I fly to visit friends in London, then buy a solid gold bulldozer and have it flattened for no reason once I'm done with it. Racially motivated attacks increased by 57% across the United Kingdom, possibly because the once relatively lonely extreme-right  nutter now believes he has more than half of the country on his side.

His voice is no longer a forlorn cry of Paki echoing amongst the abandoned canyons of a Harryhausen prehistoric valley. Now he believes he speaks for the rest of us, not least those once silenced by the encroaching forces of political correctness.

He called BBC journalist Sima Kotecha a Paki and it made the national news. Some have pointed out that racism existed prior to the Brexit referendum, seemingly missing the significance of its increase afterwards. Some have held to the view taken by one Robert Corstine writing in the comments section of the on-line Huffington Post article describing Sima Kotecha's experience.

Strange how much racism is making the news lately, even a little graffiti is making the news now. You remain campaigners are really scrapping the barrel to find something to push your ridiculous attempt at a second referendum.

I think he meant scraping the barrel. Elsewhere in the same comments section, one David Lawrence draws thoughtfully upon his faithful briar, stares pensively into his balloon of brandy and then announces the British born Sima Kotecha to be:

just out to cause trouble like any foreigner that did not like the result of the EU referendum.

Even without television news interviews in which gormless fuckwits explain how they voted leave so as to get rid of all the Muslims, it's difficult to miss the role of stupidity as a significant factor in the Brexit vote and its aftermath.

This observation has similarly invited scorn in certain corners of the internet, with even those who, like myself, supported remain lambasting the characterisation of leave voters as thick Sun-reading fuckers who didn't know what they were voting for, a stereotype spread presumably on the grounds that one or two of them demonstrably were thick Sun-reading fuckers who didn't know what they were voting for. Typically this view has been expressed as a refutation of perceived class prejudice, and has been expressed in at least a few cases by industrial music types citing the Brexit outcome as further justification for their own declared misanthropy: so persons who dislike people because people are stupid object to both the stupidity of people in a general sense and the arrogance of people declaring that other people are stupid.

Exhausting, isn't it?

Amongst all of this there is the additional irony of an entire cross section of society which has dedicated such a lot of time to whining about no longer being able to say this or that due to political correctness, and yet the one thing we apparently really shouldn't have said was that they were thick Sun-reading fuckers who didn't know what they were voting for. You see, when you say that someone is stupid, it can sometimes make them feel a bit sad and so damage their self-esteem.

Amongst my own personal coterie of facebook Eurosceptics, one posted a meme showing the Robertson's jam Golly poking his smiling black face around the corner of a door asking is it safe to come back in yet?, I suppose making a dubious assertion of political correctness having been something imposed upon the United Kingdom by the Eurolluminati. Another celebrated what he viewed as being the first day of freedom with some statement about Isambard Kingdom Brunel that I wasn't quite able to follow, concluding with the suggestion that he might just go right out and build a massive bridge that very day, there no longer being anyone to impede such an undertaking - aside from the local council, I suppose. I'm not suggesting that these hopes necessarily express anything bad, but they seem to imply a few points missed regarding what the vote was actually about, at least from where I'm standing.

The government has underestimated the strength of feeling of the people of this country, I have been told over and over both before the vote and since, an assertion which some have used to redefine the leave-remain divide as a class issue. The thick Sun-reading fuckers voted leave, whilst the nobby Guardianista leftie do-gooder Knightsbridge communists voted remain, and the ensuing kerfuffle is all because the latter are used to getting their way - hence that terrible regime of political correctness we've all had to endure for so long - or so the narrative would apparently have it; but it's really just more bollocks, reducing a complicated situation to something which will work as a headline. The notion that working class people tend to be thick and read the Sun is pretty much a middle-class vision of something they don't quite understand and would rather not approach in case it asks them which football team they support and gets angry. You can't be working class if you read books, so the popular view would have it; you can't be working class if you know all them long, fancy words, or if you actually know anything at all, you flash cunt. By the terms of this understanding, the government has underestimated the strength of feeling of the people of this country allows for only one general type of person to be considered as of this country, so anyone taking a different view is something else, and just because they had a vote, doesn't mean that it should have counted.

It's all bollocks.

I'd like to think that very few people actually voted for sending all those illegal Muzzies back to where they came from, but that still leaves a hell of a lot of people who voted for God knows what - some mumbling shit I still don't quite understand to do with EU bureaucracy, or possibly a magical return to 1973 so we can start all over again as Tony Benn would have wanted it. It leaves a hell of a lot of people who really, really, really, really look a lot like they may not have had the full picture regarding what they were voting for; but apparently that's just the sort of thing a bad loser would say.


I still don't buy it, and nor do I buy the idea that the general public making stupid uninformed decisions is either a new thing or requires a great leap of imagination. I don't have a misanthropic bone in my body, and I generally like to think well of people, but 51.9% of the 72.2% who turned out to vote have screwed up. It's as simple as that. They've studied the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band then announced it to be the greatest album the Beach Boys ever recorded. The decision wasn't one of those you like potatoes but I like bananas deals, it was as basic as is it a good idea to leave these foxes in charge of the hens? There was one answer, and at least some of you fucked up. Of course, the British Government might just as easily have divorced the entire country from the European Union without bothering to ask anyone, thus dispensing with all that human rights and employment law shit which has been such a headache to private industry, but that would have looked really undemocratic and obvious, you get me? So what better way than throwing it open to the public and letting them think it was their idea?

Distrust of authority was once one of the most basic lessons of being a teenager; unless that was just me.

I still don't understand.

I thought you were mostly better than this.