From Words To Sounds

As well as the new book (out in paperback tomorrow – order here), a new Strangely Shaped By Fathers EP is coming out in June, inspired by some of the poems I was writing on here last summer.

First news about the EP – plus the ability to listen to/download my entire prior discography – will be on Bandcamp, so please give me a follow if you’ve enjoyed my writing in the last year!  It means a lot. 

AUTHENTIC DEMOCRACY

I’ve written a book. Been working on it for years. It is about anarchism, ethics and democracy. Today, May 1st 2020, you can buy it as an ebook on Amazon.

You can also pre-order the paperback (our May 11th) on Amazon, or direct from the publishers, Tippermuir Books.

Here’s what some people are already saying about it…

If you buy it, let me know what you think!

POEM: Searching For That Scene

I’m still searching for the scene

Dreamed of in the suburbs

As I listened to records of

a past already dead

Because where do you go to be you

When such places no longer exist?

We dined on leftovers

long out of date, hoping

the next meal would bring nourishment

Not an empty stomach

But there’s only so many empty

Rooms before disappointment sets in

Sending out messages

in cut and paste, With a

self addressed envelope to

rusting PO Boxes

Only answered by our heroes

The ones they said we should never meet

We were ahead of the time

By living in the past

Unable to bridge the gap

Of all that was left behind

And all that was now lost

We were children hunting down a dream

From which they still can’t shake me awake.

Pandemic Reflections

I haven’t written much here of late. My work as a teacher keeps me busy – too busy – and my other blog, PHILOSOPHY UNLEASHED, makes it hard to find time for more personal writing during term-time. That and the handwritten journal I keep makes the times I feel it necessary to turn to this blog few and far between. Big ideas are turned into philosophy blogs on PU; smaller ones are noted in the journal. Maybe turned into songs. But despite this blog being made with the express purpose of promoting my music, it seems whenever I post new songs or song lyrics on here, few care. Poems, you love. But if I dare put a tune to those poems then fuck me!

Long pieces, too, tend to float on here with little reaction. Not that I do it for the reaction. But if there’s no particular audience baying on here for new writing, there’s really no strong reason to write on the blog rather than write for myself in my journal. The same audience of one will read it anyway.

But I write here now because my journal is inside the house and I’m sitting outside in the garden, enjoying some Bob Dylan, and reflecting on these last weeks of lockdown. And the philosophy blog takes a vacation during the school holidays.

So here’s what I’ve been noticing during the Covid-19 pandemic, in no particular order:

1) People really want to do the right thing but struggle to do so when the “right thing” will cost them money. Whether it’s governments of individuals, too much of our thinking and acting around this thing has been impacted by worries about our bank accounts. While that is understandable if your actions might mean you lose your job and ability to make rent, eat food, etc. surely we should have reached a point in human civilisation where we realise no-one should be without food, water, shelter and healthcare. More than ever before, Covid-19 has exposed the unfairness, inequality and injustice built into our political and economic systems. Many people who die before this thing is all said and done will die because someone’s bank account, for reasons both understandable and reprehensible, took priority. That we exist in such a world is utterly fucked up.

2) That we have shown with our global collective action on tackling this virus that many things we were told our entire lives were impossible were never impossible, they were merely politically uncomfortable or their importance was simply not believed. Similar worldwide transformations need to be made once all this is over to tackle the climate crisis and global poverty. The only thing preventing radical action on each is a lack of political will.

3) The life I longed for is not the life I actually want. For an entire lifetime I have yearned for an existence when I don’t have to leave the house. Many times worryingly so, to the point of near agoraphobia. Now I have that life enforced upon me, I realise how much I enjoy the universe beyond the four walls of my house. I am not more productive with all this free time. I have not read more books, written great songs or picked up that novel I’ve been working on for years. I’ve watched shit like Tiger King and checked Facebook way too much. The discipline of having limited free time makes that time so precious. When and if lockdown is lifted I will be grateful for the things I hate which get in the way of my creativity. It is the battle against them which makes me flourish. Without them I only get soft.

4) My health anxiety is a waste of time. The logic of worrying about getting sick has now been played out for me on a global scale and I have seen how untenable it is. Also, how ineffective. It may “flatten the curve” and keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed, but lives are being lost every day. If you’re going to die, you’re going to die. Even those who did everything right. There’s no use wasting your existence worrying about its end. Enjoy it while you’ve got it.

5) Which relates to this: don’t take things for granted. Every film or TV show I’ve watched since the lockdown has amazed me at how many little things I miss in this new isolated world. Going out for overpriced coffee, going to the cinema, taking a drive somewhere, going out for a walk in the park, popping out to the shops, buying loo roll… who knew such things would one day be taken away from us all? Even my hateful morning commute is something I’m starting to miss (if not the 5:50am alarm). The biggest thing I took for granted was my job security. As so many people I know see their entire industries collapse, I consider the start of the year when I was toying with maybe changing careers. Getting out of secondary teaching and moving back into academia. The week that schools closed I was halfway through writing an application for a University job that seemed incredibly tenuous. A limited term contract. No guarantees. But my mindset was: why not take the risk and see where it leads? You can always come back to teaching. Today I sit here glad I didn’t take that leap. Too many with jobs similar to the one I was thinking of have recently been let go as universities try to save money lost due to Covid-19. Meanwhile, things a few months ago I absolutely hated about my job, I am now starting to miss. Being away from school, teaching at home, has really put my job into perspective. There are still negatives, and eventually something more significant will have to be done about those, but the positives far outweigh them. I am lucky to do what I love and get paid for it, even if sometimes bullshit gets in the way.

6) My book, Authentic Democracy, is still coming out soon despite all book shops and distributors being on pause. We’re rushing to turn it into an e-book. When massive, world changing events occur, it’s always a worry that the book you wrote about the state of the world will be made obsolete. If anything, the arguments I make in Authentic Democracy are now more pressing than ever. Although I am disappointed it will still be a long, long while before I hold a physical copy of the book in my hands, I am excited to get it out there and look forward to hearing what people think. I regret that the lockdown means my lofty ideas of a sort of book tour to launch it won’t be feasible now. I had dreamed of a few dates here and there, singing a few songs, saying a few words and taking some questions. Alas…

7) I am incredibly lucky with the choices I have made in my life. My wife and I have thrived in this lockdown, doing what we love and enjoying each other’s company. While others struggle with children they seemingly don’t know how to spend time with, or partners they apparently built a life around avoiding, we have embraced the extra time together with joy. Because spending time together is what we both love doing. I couldn’t imagine living through this with someone I wanted only to get away from or someone I needed space from. I am especially lucky because she loves gardening so much and has spent years making our garden a paradise. Without our garden to provide fresh air and a sense of “getting out of the house” this whole thing would be a lot harder to cope with.

8) I am also lucky to have based my life around a series of really solitary pursuits: reading, writing, playing the guitar, listening to music, watching film and TV. The lockdown came and there’s no my a single pastime I am missing out on. Even my favourite “sport”, professional wrestling, remains operational at this time, albeit without the live audience which brings its events much of their excitement. Still while Olympics and Wimbledon were cancelled, I was lucky enough to still have Wrestlemania. And once this blog is finished, I’m going to go and watch last night’s AEW Dynamite. My lifestyle has barely had to change as civilisation crashes down all around me.

9) Except improv. I haven’t been able to do improv for months, as even before the lockdown I was busy with Parents’ Evenings. However, the big realisation I’ve had these last few weeks is that I’ve not missed improv at all. In fact I’ve quite enjoyed life without it.

Working From Home

For those of you with kids who have been struggling to adjust to working from home these last few weeks, it’s really a lot simpler than you think. I may not have kids, but I was a kid once, with parents who worked from home. My mom especially. Neither me nor my sister would ever have dreamed of interfering with her work because she had us both very well trained. All you have to do to get your work done from home is do what she did…

1. Put work first. Make it clear to everyone in the house that work is the most important thing in your life and you care about it more than you do your own children. That way your children will know their place straight away. If you work during weekends, holidays, and every evening then it will soon become clear to your kids what your priorities are.

2. Buy your kids shit with the money you make from prioritising work. This way you can tell both them and yourself that you’re doing it all for them and also threaten to take it all away if they make it difficult for you to get the work done. It works as both a blackmail tool and a conscience-cleanser and can be a very effective way of manufacturing compliance.

3. Throw stuff. If either my sister or I dared come into my mother’s home/office while she was on the phone to someone for work, we would get the message to go away effectively with a range of desktop missiles hurled right at our head. Pens, empty water bottles, magazines… make sure you have plenty of things lying around. Remember though, this is not about physically hurting your child, so don’t throw any objects that may actually hit them. This is just about creating a quick and clear non-verbal flurry of threat snd fear so the child slinks away immediately and keeps their problems to themselves.

4. If throwing things fails, once off the work-call shout and swear at your child or children. Call them the C word to shock them into listening. Inform them that they are stupid for entering your work space while you were busy and tell them they should stay in their own fucking rooms and play with all the goddamned toys you’ve bought them. If they cry, it shows that they are learning. If they cry quietly in their rooms, it shows that they have fully understood.

5. Deprive them of food. Remind them that food is a luxury paid for by your working and simultaneously demonstrate work’s priority by making them wait for lunch or dinner until you’re finished with your work. Sure, your kids might not eat dinner until 9pm, but as long as you’re feeding them dinner eventually it’s not technically neglect.

6. Blame them for their own boredom or lack of direction. Tell your children repeatedly to use their imaginations and think of something to do by themselves instead of bothering you for ideas. Remind them that “only boring people are bored” and make them feel bad about themselves if they can’t figure something out for themselves. Stress the value of independence.

7. Never underestimate the distraction of television. Give them free reign to explore all the channels. Put a TV in their bedrooms. They will learn valuable life lessons from the other families they can see through their screens.

8. If all else fails pay someone else to look after them.

And of course, there was also my dad’s approach: spend so much time at work and away from family life that even when you are forced to work from home your children will simply assume you’re not there and have no muscle memory of needing you for anything, giving them no instinct or motivation to interrupt and letting you continue to live your life in peace, unfettered by any sense of family responsibility.

Both me and my sister turned out great, so these strategies are highly recommended. We talk about them often with our therapists.