Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11 – PART 4!

newsjack

 

Here we go again! My weekly digest of the jokes I wrote that didn’t get used on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Newsjack’, the topical comedy, open-door writing policy show! (That’s a mouthful)

If you haven’t seen this before, perhaps reading the intro to part 1 will help: http://garryabbott.com/2014/10/01/not-good-enough-for-the-bbc-newsjack-series-11/

Unfortunately, still no more hits since episode 1, but an opportunity is an opportunity, is an opportunity, is an opportunity? Right? The word ‘opportunity’ doesn’t imply guaranteed, or indeed, any success, just the possibility. So, undeterred, I continue, as you should too if you are reading this and are feeling down heartened by it all.

Here are the failed one liner attempts from last week (Episode 4) with added notes  as per usual, and no sketches, I will do something with them at the end of the season I think.

 

BREAKING NEWS:

  1. Police have said that an attempt to steal a statue of comedy legend Eric Morecambe wasn’t wise.  (I thought this had a chance as it is neat and brief, and, dare I say it, a little clever? They ended up using a joke about it being taken apart piece by piece but not necessarily in the right order… which was a good take on it anyway)
  2. The Salvation Army reports that nearly 500 people are being trafficked a year for labour. “We need all the help we can get” says Ed Miliband. (just pounced on the double meaning of ‘Labour’ there…)
  3. After nude photographs of former Dr Who Matt Smith are leaked online, fans are disappointed to find that he is smaller on the outside. (wasn’t entirely sure that this made any sense! They used a joke about fans being disappointed that his nude photo turned into Peter Capaldi in the end… just goes to show that some of these stories are having lots of variations submitted, so it is hard to be the one that gets the take on it that they go for.)
  4. Nigel Farrage has been invited to join Cameron, Clegg and Miliband for a mass debate. Afterwards they may even talk about politics too.  (okay, okay, this was just childish filth. Sometimes I just think, let’s give it a go, who knows? Well I know now. Now I know. I know now. Do I? Yes. I know. Now. I do.)
  5. Microsoft Boss Satya Nadella has apologised for his choice of words when he said women should have faith in the system and not ask for pay rises, commenting that what he meant to say was that they shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about it. (like I mentioned last week, another attempt to make a bad comment sound even worse for comedy affect. Maybe it’s just me who thinks this is some kind of device!)
  6. Scientists have discovered that consuming capsules containing frozen faeces could help prevent potentially fatal gut problems, or in layman’s terms, we should all eat shit and live. (I felt there was a better way to word this, but couldn’t find it. Literally the news story is about eating shit. Eating shit. How could I not have a go at it?)

 

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

  1. Join Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell as they struggle to answer questions about the reproductive cycle of fungi in ‘A Question of Spores’ tonight at nine. (Why not?)
  2. The walking dead are back! In this weekend’s double episode of Dad’s Army. (Trying to tap into the return of ‘The Walking Dead’, but I guess it’s not actually officially out yet in England. Not that I watch it by some other method over the internet or anything.)
  3. A new documentary follows the chancellor George Osborne as he trains to run the 400 meters in ‘Ready, Steady, Cock’ coming soon. (it just feels nice to call George Osbourne a cock. It would be a dream come true if I could do it officially on broadcast media. It would make my year. So it may not be the best joke, but at least I tried. He is a cock, by the way. But I’m sure you know that already.)

 And that’s it! As usual I will leave you with a plea to consider buying my book as advertised in the top right corner of this screen! Only 77p (or $0.99) – it is a ‘quirky’ collection of 14 speculative fiction short stories in the vein of Philip K. Dick / Isaac Asimov and even a bit of the dark and twisted as inspired by Roald Dahl’s AMAZING short stories for adults.

Good luck to everyone who is trying again this week for episode 5, and I guess, see you next week! Thanks for reading.  

 

 

Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11 – PART 3!

newsjack

 

Okay… so you know the drill by now. Week three’s unused ‘Newsjack’ jokes are here. If you want an introduction to what this is all about, read this: (http://garryabbott.com/2014/10/01/not-good-enough-for-the-bbc-newsjack-series-11/)

I still haven’t got another credit this series since my early win with a sketch in episode 1, but still I continue to write and submit each week, and that means I am writing at least twelve more jokes and three more sketches than I generally would, which has to be a good thing.

For those of you out there who have never had a credit, or are a long time waiting for another one, I can only offer you the same advice as I keep telling myself each Thursday night when greeted with an empty inbox and no broadcast glory… just keep writing. After all, I’m guessing that getting a credit or two on Newsjack isn’t the be all and end all of your hopes and ambitions, so it must be contributing towards your wider goals? Hmm?

Even if you are not trying to become a comedy writer, putting words together in some particular order that may be understood by another human is always good practice, as barely demonstrated in this sentence.

So, without further ado (whatever that is), here are last week’s unused one liners, with notes, and apologies.

 

BREAKING NEWS:

  1. Radiographers are set to strike over NHS pay and working conditions, saying that they are fed up with the lack of transparency. (PUN ALERT)
  2. (ROMESH) There has been a marked increase in companies drug testing employees. I can believe that, the BBC drug tested me last week, I scored ten out of ten and was asked if I wanted to host QI. (thought that might be a nice little joke for the host, but then, maybe he doesn’t want give the impression he is taking illegal drugs – and I’m sure he isn’t, being a family man and all).
  3. According to an industry survey, young people lack the skills required for the workplace. A spokesman said, “Kids turn up fresh out of school, wide eyed, enthusiastic and ready to enjoy their working life. Something is going terribly wrong.” (ah, satire on the modern world).
  4. The European Space Agency has released data that allows people to 3D print their own model of the Rosetta comet. Space enthusiasts hope they will also soon release detailed plans of a girlfriend. (poking fun at geeks, even though I am one really. Picard out.)
  5. The Nobel prize for physiology has been awarded to three scientists who located the brain’s built in GPS system. When asked how they found this, they explained, “Turn left at the hippocampus, second exit.” (liked this one…)
  6. After accusations of racial stereotyping, the boss of John Lewis has whole-heartedly apologised for calling France “hopeless and downbeat”, saying that the comments were not meant to be taken seriously and that the frogs would have realised that if they had a sense of humour. (trying to ‘turn around’ an apology for an ill conceived comment by making the speaker sound worse than they were originally. Tried something similar this week with another high profile gaff, but we’ll see how it gets on…)

 

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

  1. Watch as Jeremy and the boys embark on a white knuckle high speed chase out of Argentina followed by an angry mob intent on killing them in this week’s ‘Top Fear’. (Ever the critic of my fine comedy attempts, my girlfriend told me this was a bit rubbish. She was right).
  2. Get ready for a new reality TV show that pits the UK’s best pub brawlers against each other in ‘The Great British Back Off’ coming soon.  (…I liked this one. Nearly worded it ‘The Great British Back Off Mate’ but changed my mind. Probably wouldn’t have made the difference).
  3. This Sunday evening on BBC 1, Professor Brian Cox asks, are we just the filling in a trans-dimensional galactic sausage? In the ‘Big Banger Theory’ at 9pm.  (just being a bit random here. I notice the occasional whacky one liner gets on, and I thought I’d try and be a bit  more zany. I am a big fan of surreal humour, but can never quite bring myself to submit things like this to a topical news show… On this occasion though, I thought I’d give it a try. And failed. Back to jokes about Ed Pickles being fat then…)

And that’s it! I hope that the rather nice amount of you who seem to be reading this each week are at least  slightly amused by some of these here words. If not, I’m sorry you appear to have wasted irretrievable valuable moments of your life getting this far or even clicking on the link.

Goodbye!

(Ps – If you want to buy me ridiculously reasonably priced eBook ‘The Dimension Scales and Other Stories’ – a collection of 14 speculative fiction tales… please check out the link in the top right corner of this page. Thank you.)

 

 

 

Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11 – PART 2!

newsjack

 

I had a great response from last week’s post about the jokes that didn’t make it into episode 1 of BBC Radio 4’s open-door submission topical comedy show ‘Newsjack’ (find it here –  http://garryabbott.com/2014/10/01/not-good-enough-for-the-bbc-newsjack-series-11). I was therefore delighted when I found out that none of last week’s entries made it into episode 2 of Newsjack at all!

Of course I wasn’t really. Part of the whole process is the weeks where you just don’t make the cut (and there are generally more of those). In the first episode I had already struck ‘credit’ gold with my second sketch ever to be broadcast on national radio, so I know from this point on anything else is a bonus. That doesn’t stop me slaving away over a hot BBC news website every weekend trying to fill my quota though, so inevitably, when nothing gets on I still feel a tinge of disappointment.

But then, being a self employed writer and musician, dealing with rejection is an almost daily, if not hourly, affair. The world of speculative creativity (sending out scripts, releasing books, bidding for work, etc…) is a harsh one, and not for the faint hearted who like to know where basic things like money and food are coming from, but that’s a whole different blog!

For now, while Newsjack is still running over the next few weeks and I have a store of unused topical jokes that are getting more outdated with every minute that passes since the news story that inspired them broke, shattered, and was swept away by the celestial caretaker of current affairs; I will continue to share a selection of them with you. And it really helps me find something to write each week. I’ve been doing this blog for over a year now. Can you imagine how hard it is to find something new to write about each week?!

So, without further ado, here are last week’s unused one liner entries for Newsjack Episode Two. This week with added notes!

BREAKING NEWS:

  1. Defecting to UKIP is ‘utterly nuts’ says Boris Johnson as he zip wires down Big Ben dressed as a chicken, wrapped in a union flag.
  2. The University of East London has announced they are to give first year students a free tablet, and some water to make sure they don’t get dehydrated. (note – ecstasy jokes anyone? Is that too sub/drugs culture?)
  3. The national institute for health and care have recommended that obese people limit their use of TV to help lose weight, saying  that they should eat their dinner off plates like normal people. (note – should have changed the last line to ‘everyone else’ to make it snappier and not repeat the word ‘people’)
  4. After criticising Ed Miliband for forgetting some of his speech last week, George Osborne appeared to make a similar gaff at the Conservative party conference when he forgot all shreds of human decency. (note – yeah, Osborne you monstrous evil dickhead. I wrote this one as much to vent than anything else.)
  5. Apple has said that bendy iPhones are a myth, like leprechauns or corporate taxes. (it was so hard to find a way in to the bendy iPhone stories… this was the best I could do!)
  6. Disgraced Tory MP Brooks Newmark has said he was a fool for sending an explicit picture of himself in paisley pyjamas to an undercover journalist, adding that he would have looked much better in a black silk robe. (note – low hanging fruit, I know. I had a hard time last week filling the quota, it just wasn’t flowing so well. This week felt easier to write. Sometimes you are not in the right mood or frame of mind, but deadlines don’t really care about that. I still recommend that you get something down at least, even if you aren’t feeling it. You never know, it may look better through someone else’s eyes.)

TV/RADIO LISTINGS:

  1. Find out what Spanish resort restaurants are passing off as chicken to tourists in Gordon Ramsay’s Kitten Nightmares. (Can’t believe they didn’t use this one. KITTEN NIGHTMARES? Come on!?)
  2. This Saturday on Sky Atlantic from 9pm to 9.55pm, The Game of Thrones title sequence. (This idea tickles me but perhaps doesn’t come over so well in a one liner. Those of you who watch GOT will know that each week the title sequence seems to get longer and longer and longer and longer and longer… until one day there will be no actual show, just the title sequence and end credits.)
  3. Join Ricky Gervais and Frankie Boyle as they hilariously poke fun at the disabled in the latest episode of Mock the Weak.  (not really got that much against Gervais and Boyle, but needed to find two controversial figures to try this gag on.)

 

So that’s it! Like I mentioned previously, I am not posting sketches for now, I will do something about them after the series has ended.

I still find the TV listings a bit strange. They aren’t really topical. It’s hard to be topical with them. These could have been submitted any week of the year really, although this week I have managed another one that does cross-over with a news story, so we will see.

Good luck to any other contributors out there who are still submitting every week! Thanks for reading.

Oh and, hey – why not buy my eBook? (sidebar – top right – speculative/science fiction collection – on offer at 77p / $0.99!). Advertising. Food. Money. Survival. Thanks.

Bye!

Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11!

newsjack

For those of you who don’t know, ‘Newsjack’ is a topical radio comedy that is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra and has an ‘open door’ writing policy (anyone can submit material). It is the BBC’s flagship show for encouraging and recruiting new comedy writers by giving everyone a chance to get their material performed, recorded and broadcast.

Each week writers can submit up to two sketches, nine ‘one liner’ jokes, and now also a ’30 second advert’ sketch. I always try to send everything each week as it pushes me to get better at writing to deadline and under pressure.

So far I’ve had quite a bit of success and managed to get writing credits in the last four series. I think the current count is 10 one-liners and 2 sketches (having just got my second sketch broadcast in episode 1 of series 11 last Thursday – find it here at 17:07 the ‘Reverend Welby’ sketch and intro: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/newsjack).

But still there are always those jokes that didn’t make the cut, and it seems a shame to let them languish on my hard drive when I could be inflicting them on you good people. So here it is again, the return of ‘Not Good Enough For The BBC! Newsjack Series 11’.

I’m only going to post the one-liners. I might do something about unused sketches after the current series has finished. Just so you know, there are now only two categories of one liners that we can write for; we can submit 6 ‘Breaking News’ lines (comedy headlines basically) and 3 ‘TV Listings’ (continuity announcers type stuff… Tonight at 9pm on ITV etc…).

I find the TV listings much harder as they aren’t really ‘topical’, they are more ‘pun’ based usually, unless you can find a current news story and TV show that work well together. As you will see from my submissions below, I actually managed that last week with the Tesco losing £250 million pounds story set up as the ‘£250 million pound drop’ game show. A version of this joke was actually used last week with slightly different wording, but it wasn’t mine! Unfortunately for me, another writer had the same idea and must have been higher up in the reading pile. This also happened to me last series with a TV listing joke about ‘The Great British Sewing Wasp’, which another writer submitted as ‘The Great British Knitting Spider’ and got the credit for!  These things happen when over 700 submissions are boiled down to only about a dozen writers. That is why it is important to be as original as possible or just avoid the big news stories (and therefore possible duplication/competition).

So, here they are. Enjoy! (And make sure you read them with funny voices in your head… you know the ones, the funny voices in your head. Let them read them and don’t be scared).

BREAKING NEWS!

  1. As Strictly fever sweeps the nation, President Obama pledges 10,000 troops to help stem the threat.
  2. Australian man fends off crocodile with a stick when drunk. Where the crocodile got the alcohol from and why it used a stick leaves zoologists baffled.
  3. The first man to buy an iPhone six who was filmed dropping it on the floor has said it wasn’t an accident after all, he’d just found out that the entire U2 back catalogue had been pre installed.
  4. A controversial law in Florida to ban baggy trousers that expose the buttocks has been overturned. Police fear this will lead to more crack on the streets.
  5. As Alex Salmond declares his support for Nicola Sturgeon to become the next leader of the SNP, rival candidates complain that there’s something a bit fishy about all this.
  6. Ed Miliband disappointed to find out that the coalitions policy on house inflation doesn’t mean everyone gets to live in a bouncy castle.

TV LISTINGS:

  1. Coming soon to ITV, the stakes are set even higher with the new thrilling game show: 250 million pound drop! Sponsored by Tesco’s.
  2. This week on ITV, Davina McCall presents, everything.
  3. This Saturday on BBC1 at 6.30pm, any old rubbish with some celebrities jumping about for an hour to kill the time before Doctor Who starts.

Scotland, Bombs and Book Sales – Speed Blog.

stopwatch

I’ve got too little time and too many possible topics to write about this week, so I’m going to attempt a speed blog. From the start of the next sentence, I will attempt to cover the title subjects in 30 minutes writing time (which will be a lot shorter reading time). As I finish this paragraph, my computer clock reads 10.35am. You will just have to believe me… and my time starts… now!

Scotland

So they said ‘No’ then, and what happened? Almost immediately the hastily compiled promises that swayed the debate started to unwind and become compounded with much wider, and much more complicated matters, of regional and national devolution. The leaders of the ‘No’ campaign claimed an ‘emphatic’ victory. Emphatic? I think just scraping 56% of the voting population is far from emphatic, which is described by Google as ‘expressing something forcibly and clearly’. I think a better adjective to use would have been ‘adequate’ preceded by ‘just about’.

That said, they did win, and for those of us who were up for a bit of constitutional mayhem (shake em all up, I say), we can at least hope that if the millionaire white English boys go back on their promises, we will get our shake up, but in a much less organised and civil way.

I’m running out of time for this section (10.41am), so I will finish by saying that I actually like some of the ideas about devolved powers to regions and nations within the UK. As I said, anything that just goddamn changes things around here has to be welcome as a start. But no one can promise anything about how things are going to work, because no one, as I am aware, has the power to look into the future. So if we start getting asked questions about constitutional reform, just remember, no one really knows, no one will really ever know. If we don’t go for it at some point, we will never find out, and things will stay the same, suiting the few at the cost of the many. They will try and scare us, threaten us and bully us into keeping things the same. Sod them. Time’s up. Next!

Bombs.

Two nights ago America started bombing Syria. Not just any old bit of Syria, specifically the bits with ISIL/IS/ISA/whoever the hell it is they are meant to be fighting in it. Of course, that’s how bombs work, they are discriminate, with excellent targeting that in no way kill innocent people.

It’s hard to speak up against this latest round of violence because of the stark and shocking news stories of hostages and beheadings that have been drip fed out of the region over the last few weeks. It is all equally as saddening to me. The violence on both sides sickens and disappoints me. Already we have an American General warning that this will be a ‘long and sustained’ conflict. That is the headline story on our public news channel. Why would they want us to know that? Why would they want their enemy to know that they think it is going to be a hard and complicated campaign. It hardly strikes fear into an adversary to tell them that you don’t think you are up to the task of a decisive victory. For some reason, there must always be a campaign of western intervention in the Middle East. As one ends, another starts.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a genuine crisis going on in Syria, but it is so intrinsically linked with what Western leaders have done in the past, is throwing more violence at it really going to help? Earlier this year, ‘peace prize’ Obama announced he was arming the ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels in the fight against Assad. There was much mirth about the definition of ‘moderate’ rebel fighters. Some ridiculous amount of US dollars and military support was pumped into the region. Within weeks this name-changing group had emerged and apparently ran a line through Iraq and Syria with superior force and the ability to take, control, and sell oil for millions of dollars a day on the international market (who exactly is buying it from them?). I wonder if the two things are connected?

Time’s nearly up for this section. Needless to say, I am sceptical about the whole campaign, and soon we will be joining in (Cameron is recalling parliament this Friday). Great. More life and public money wasted. They can’t help themselves. Not for a moment do I believe their primary objectives are for humanitarian reasons. Not for a blink of an eye.

Right! 10.54am, leaving me 11 minutes to write the next bit and check it over!

Book Sales.

As I’m sure readers will know, I published my book ‘The Dimension Scales and Other Stories’ earlier this year (April 22nd to be precise). It has been an equally exciting and harrowing experience. I realise now that the internet, while being the great connector, is also like a massive public shopping centre full of closed doors. Anyone can have a premises, but getting people to look into it and see what you’ve got on offer is a lot easier said than done.

The book has received good reviews, but moderate sales. It is extremely hard to get it noticed and circulated in a market that is swamped with titles. This isn’t deterring me though, but it does mean I have to try various strategies and spend nearly as much time marketing as I did writing the thing in the first place. Add to that the fact that I am trying to get my next book written, and occasionally I end up having little breakdowns. (nothing serious, just artistic fear and loathing).

So! The latest round of attempts is to reduce the price again and see what happens. Some authors give their books away for free to get noticed and build an audience – I’m not quite there yet, but is now available for a mere $0.99 or 77p.

The advert for the book is on the top right of this screen – it takes you to the Amazon page, but the book is available on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Nook and Kobo. If you haven’t had a look, please do. And if you think it looks a bit interesting, why not buy it and find out? Or failing that, share it with a few people and see what they think. This whole ‘going viral’ thing isn’t a natural phenomenon. People will spend lots and lots of time and money in some cases, to get noticed. I would like to think that this can happen by mutual support alone, without the need for spamming and expensive advertising.

If anyone has any networks or channels that can help me get this ‘out there’ please let me know or just feel free to do so. I have quite a strong Twitter following and am happy to mutually exchange links and shout-out’s to those who have a creative endeavour of their own (within reason – no explicit or gratuitous material. You would be surprised how much of that is being peddled).

End.

And that’s it! The clock says 11.03am, so I will sign off with two minutes spare and do the fastest editing ever. I hope you’ve enjoyed my speed blog and I apologise if it is a little rougher around the edges than usual!

Goodbye.

 

Scottish Man Wakes from Coma to a Dystopian Placard Nightmare

body snatchers scot copy

 

A Scottish man awoke unattended from a five year coma yesterday and found himself wandering the streets of Edinburgh in only his patient gown, caught in the middle of a nightmare landscape of diametrically opposed placard waving humans.

With his hearing still yet to return, the 42 year old man, Alistair Craig, a delivery driver from Broxburn, became increasingly agitated and hysterical as on every street corner he found yet more mobs urging him to join them in their mysterious campaign. Scared and confused, Craig attempted to find shelter in a nearby building, only to find that the windows of each were also marked with the distinctive affirmative and negative logo’s of the bizarre gatherings.

Eventually, Craig found an unoccupied house, as yet unmarked. Presuming the house had once belonged to a poor soul that had now gone over to the sign-holders, he bathed, clothed and nourished himself from the little he could find in the abandoned dwelling.

Exhausted from his escape, Alistair fell asleep in a comfortable armchair, only to be woke by an ominous knocking coming from the front door. The joy of finding his hearing had returned was soon matched by the terror of what lay in wait.

He looked out sheepishly through the blinds to see a group of suited men and women gathered outside. As he could see, none of them were holding placards. His heart beat fast as he realised they may be other survivors, and hastily he opened the front door to the apparent leader of the group, a thin faced man with parted brown hair and a tired look of diminished ambition hidden behind the smile he just about managed to crack.

At first the guttural mumbles of the man seemed incoherent. Alistair feared his ears had not yet fully recovered. He shouted out in fear.

“What’s happening? Help me! I don’t know what’s going on! I don’t know what to do! Please, please help me!”

The man at the door gave a wry smile over his shoulder to his entourage. He spoke again, and this time Alistair could decipher some of the words.

“Then you’re exactly the kind of person we want to talk to! We can help you.” he said, his eyes flaring up like pilot lights in a rusty boiler.

“Thank God!” exclaimed Alistair, “I thought the whole world had gone mad. Nothing makes any sense anymore. I don’t, I don’t know what is real. Who are you?”

The brown haired man smiled and cleared his throat, “uh well, I’m Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats…”

For the first time in his life, Alistair was glad to see a politician. He must be leading the remnants of the population who hadn’t turned to the placards, he thought. All the other, proper, party leaders must have been converted by now.

“… and Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom” he continued, “can I ask, will you join with me and Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservatives, and leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, in sending a clear message?”

What is this madness? Thought Alistair. The Liberal Democrats, in coalition with the Conservatives? The world had been flipped turned upside down.

“Wh… what message?” Alistair asked nervously.

“Why… ‘NO’ of course!” said the one who called himself Clegg. Suddenly, all the people in suits pulled out banners and placards and leaflets, and held them aloft, waving and smiling and grinning, and gritting their teeth.

Alistair tried to close the door but a black shiny shoe jutted out and blocked it. Alistair backed off as the mob approached. He tried to run but stumbled over the footing of the stairwell.  He hit the ground with a dull thud and turned to see the leering face of the deputy leaning over him with a badge in hand, the pin catch open and advancing upon his chest. Reflected in the watery eyes of the brown haired man, Alistair could see the word ‘no’ printed on the badge.

“God no!” Alistair shouted, just before he fainted and all was black.

“That’s right!” said Clegg.

 

Today in Edinburgh, a broken man stands on a street corner shoulder to shoulder with others. He sees another crowd across the street on the opposite corner. They are not like him. They have different signs. How did he get here? What was his purpose? What was his name? A faint glimmer of remembrance sparks in his subconscious, but before it has the chance to burn brightly, a group of people wander into the road. They have no denomination. They look awkwardly from side to side at the two groups that flank them, and form a huddle. Suddenly, the one they once called Alistair knew what he had to do. He raised his placard high.

“No! No! No!” he shouted, and it all seemed so clear.

Fear and Loathing in Loch Lomond.

hunter s cameron copy

I was going to write a sensible blog with my opinions about Scottish independence, having seen enough comedy articles already about the last ditch road trip to Scotland this week of Clegg, Miliband and Cameron to try and save the union. Then I thought I’d write this instead. (warning – bad language)

 

We were somewhere around Carlisle approaching the border when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something to Nick like “I feel a bit lightheaded, maybe you should drive…” when there was a terrible roar all around and the sky was full of what looked like huge flying haggis all swooping and dripping hot fat over the car that was going 82mph with the air conditioning on full blast up the M6 to Scotland. And a voice was screaming, “Holy hell! What are these goddamn things?”. Then it was quiet again. Nick had taken his shirt off and was pouring HP sauce on his chest to facilitate the tanning process.

It was almost noon and there was still a hundred miles to go till we reached Glasgow to start our mission to save the union. They would be tough miles, and very soon I knew, the three of us would be completely twisted. We’d all claimed three thousand pounds each from our expenses, most of which had gone on filling the boot of the car with extremely dangerous substances. We had two multipack bags of crisps, seventy-five tic-tacs, five broad sheets of high powered right wing journalism, a salt shaker half full, and a whole galaxy of multicoloured jellies, pastels, lollies and cola bottles, and a quart of Tango, a case of Red Bull, a pint of milkshake and two dozen pasties.

“Man this is the way to travel!” crooned my deputy, Nick. “I’ll take the highroad, and you’ll take the low road…” Take the high road? You poor bastard. Wait until you see them goddamn haggis. I switched on the CD player to drown out the wretch. ‘Thing can only get better’ was the only track we had, so we listened to it all the way up. It set a good driving pace. A constant speed is essential for efficient fuel consumption, which seemed important at the time.

Clegg turned to Ed who was sitting quietly in the back seat. “We’re your friends, we’re not like the others.” Oh Christ, I thought he’d gone round the bend, “No more of that talk!” I said, “Or I’ll put Grant Shapps on you.” He grinned, seeming to understand. Between the air con and the music, Ed couldn’t hear in the back. Or could he?

How long can we maintain? I wondered. How long before one of us starts ranting and jabbering at Miliband? What will he think then? How long before he makes the grim connection between our purposefully lacklustre attempt at convincing the Scots to stay in the union so that when they leave and take all those traditional labour seats with them we can dominate Westminster for years to come? If he does we’ll just have to bury him somewhere. No way he can leave now and report us to some kind of outback communist newspaper hack who will run us down like dogs.

Did I just say that out loud? Did they hear me? I look over to Nick, but he seems oblivious, occupying himself by firing jelly babies from his nose and out of the window at pedestrians. It is all quiet from the back. I better have a chat with Ed, straighten this out.

“There’s one thing you should probably understand.” I said, grinning. “Are you listening to me?” I yelled.

He nodded.

“Good. You see, we’re on the way to Scotland to save the United Kingdom dream. That’s why we bought this £250,000 Jaguar, it was the only way to do it.”. He nodded again, but his eyes were nervous.

“I want you to have all the background, because this is an ominous assignment with overtones of extreme personal danger. You see, about two weeks ago we were sitting in the commons bar, in the VIP section, of course, when a uniformed dwarf came up to me with a Pink telephone. I answered. It was my contact, he said we needed to come up to Scotland. Ah, Scotland, you can almost see the tidemark where the UK dream peaked and then washed away. I asked Nick here to come with me, you see, I need you to understand that he’s my deputy and he’s from Sheffield. Are you prejudice?”

“Oh hell no!” said Ed, unblinking.

“I didn’t think so. Because this man is extremely important to me.”

And then, before I knew it, we were screeching to a halt on the hard shoulder, just before Gretna Green. Clegg turned around to Ed.

“The truth is we’re going to Scotland to croak a scag baron called Alex Salmond – I’ve known him for years but he ripped us off, and you know what that means, right?”

I wanted to cut him off, but we were both helpless with laughter. What the fuck were we doing out here north of the M25, when we both have bad hearts?

“We’re going to rip his lungs out!” Clegg snarled at Ed.

“And eat them with neeps and tatties!” I blurted. “What’s going on in this country when a scum sucker like that can get away with sandbagging a Prime Minister?”

Clegg was cracking another fruit shoot and Miliband was climbing out of the automatic windows, damned freak couldn’t work the child locks.

“See you guys!” he shouted as he ran back to the nearest little chef. “I like you. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be okay!”

“Wait a minute!” I yelled after him, “Come back here and grab a 7up…” But apparently he couldn’t hear me. He was running fast and the music was loud.

Nick continued screeching along to ‘Things… can only get better’ as I stepped on the accelerator and we hurtled back onto the motorway.

 

From it all.

Well I’m back from a fantastic week spent in the South West in a quiet cottage, nestled in a peninsular on the River Dart in the small and quaint village of Dittisham (that I was reliably informed is pronounced ‘Ditsum’ by the locals).

It’s nice to remove oneself from ‘real life’ every once in a while, why else would we go on holiday? But in this case, thanks to the steep, rolling, 3G-blocking Devonshire hills and an opportune breakdown of the only hard-line internet connection for the entire week we were staying there, I not only ‘got away from it all’, for most of the time I got away from it all.

I got away from my near obsessive checking of the BBC news website, as if in the hour since the last time I looked world peace will have broken out. I got away from my frequent and often pointless flicking through Facebook and Twitter, as if I expect any news from my friends and family that is noteworthy not to be announced in any other way. I got away from checking my book pages, as if I will be become an overnight success purely by my powers of near-constant monitoring of sales ranks. I got away from checking and deleting the raft of meaningless emails that, despite several mailing list culls, continue to surge through like a relentless tide and deposit digital flotsam and jetsam in my inbox. I got away from fact-checking and adorning my conversations with Google.

I say I got away from it: when we made our frequent trips to the nearby towns, such as the wonderful Estuary of Dartmouth and Kingswear (two towns separated by the mouth of the River Dart, conjoined by an amazing ferry system for vehicles and pedestrians alike as in the photo below), I have to admit I occasionally had my eyes on the signal to see if I could get a few updates here and there. Thankfully, despite myself, this rarely happened either. Now and again I would receive the header subjects of a bunch of emails with no actual message, but I found that was enough, adept as I have become at recognising spam, waffle and marketing from a milliseconds glance.

There was still television however, but this didn’t feature much at all. Most mornings I was up before 8am, ready for fishing or rowing or whatever activity was planned that day, only to find my two younger brothers (9 and 12) already up and watching repeats of ‘Golden Balls’ or ‘Pointless’ on the ‘Challenge’ channel while the adults slumbered into being. I could deal with that. At that age I would have filled the room with the screeching madness of American cartoons about transforming robots or something (it’ll never catch on). On an evening after a long day doing stuff and things, the news may have come on for a quick check of the weather, which had the sometimes unfortunate effect of meaning we caught the odd news segment here and there.

One particularly striking example was when the BBC went all ‘Minority Report’ and had somehow managed to surround Sir Cliff Richard’s house with reporters and helicopters prior to the police turning up to search it. As the sensationalist report was beamed into my eyes, I thought to myself, ‘is this a bit weird? Or am I so used to reading the news I’ve forgotten how weird it is to actually watch it’. No. It turns out it was a bit weird, and the BBC are being investigated (or at least questioned) for having seemingly blackmailed the police into allowing them access to the raid in return for not jeopardising the investigation with the details they received via some shady leak. Responsible public news broadcaster? Hmm…

So it seems you can’t always get away from it all. I still had a moment of despair at the mechanisms of mass communication that exist in this country, but thanks to the lack of internet, it only lasted about as long as they news item itself, and then it was gone! I wasn’t able to check back on updates or furiously research Google for opinion pieces and alternative news streams. I just let it slide away as I thought about getting my next beer, watching the Perseids meteor shower in the none light-polluted clear night sky, and thinking about catching fish the next morning (I didn’t catch any fish, but it was fun anyway. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, give me a fishing rod and everyone will starve. I’d go for the fish option if I were you).

Now I am back, and yes, I have fallen into old patterns again, I admit. But I hope that by writing this down and hypocritically posting it on the internet in the hope that other people may read it, I am at least reminding others and my future self that it is possible to switch off every once in a while. All you need is to go somewhere beautiful in the countryside where there is no responsibilities, internet or phone signal whether you like it or not, despite your best efforts. Simple really, why didn’t I think of it before?

 

Dartsmouth 2

Dartmouth from the car ferry. Yes, that’s a car, on a ferry platform, being towed across the water. Very cool.

 

 

 

Disproportion.

hammer nut

 

(Note: This story contains some mild descriptions of violence).

When I was a young teenager I was playing football on the playground at school in my dinner break with my friends. Not for the first time, a thug from our year came up and took the ball from us and started kicking it around to his mates. My friends and I were generally pretty meek people and had to put up this kind of thing.

This time, however, I decided to try and tackle the bully to get the ball back. When I did he fell over as a result and got his shiny new coat wet. I hadn’t intended to knock him over, that’s just what happened as he tried to shield the ball from me and I put a leg out to get at it. As I walked away holding the ball, I knew what I had let myself in for. This guy had a reputation for being pretty vicious. I’m not talking about ruffled hair or tipped out bags, I’m talking about violence.

I rolled the ball back to my friend and prepared to face up to the inevitable. He was approaching, red in the face, swearing and threatening me. Already a crowd had gathered. ‘Fight!’ they shouted, as usual. The bully was my height, but twice my build, with a shaved head and his fists clenched. I’d never been in a fight before, so in the few seconds I had to think about it, I decided I needed to do something.

I tried to punch him. It probably wasn’t the best decision, but it felt like the only possible way I could avoid it happening to me. I missed, having never thrown a punch before with the intention of actually hitting someone. He recoiled from my feeble swing, which was further impeded by my school bag falling off my shoulder and dragging down my arm. The next thing I saw was his knuckles coming towards my face. He didn’t miss. He didn’t miss the first time, but I didn’t go down. He didn’t miss the second time, but I didn’t go down. He didn’t miss the third time when my nose exploded in a cloud of scarlet and still I stood. I should have gone down.

After this he got me in a tight headlock. He was strong. His boasts and reputation were not unfounded. As I was held there, dripping from my nose onto his black trousers, he said to me, “We better calm this down now, there’s a dinner lady watching.”

At this I became angry. Up until that point it had just been a series of sharp pains and confusion, but that statement brought it into focus. How could I calm down the complete beating I was getting? I hadn’t started it. It had started long ago across all the stolen footballs, threats, beatings and taunts that most other people had to put up with at the whim of people like him on a daily basis.

I tried to act, but I don’t know how to fight. I tried to lift his knee to get him off me and topple him backwards. Instead, he brought it to my face, three times, further smashing my already popped nose. Then he let go, and I went to the office to get myself cleaned up. The next day I had concussion and couldn’t come to school.

Nothing of any real consequence happened to the lad. In theory I had started it with my  feeble attempt at a punch. Before that is was just playground squabbling. I had incited the violence that followed by my desperate attempt at pre-emptive defence.

What interests me with this memory, is whether this was a fair decision? Did I deserve the level of violence that I incurred because I tried to stand up for myself? My instinct tells me no, but the bare facts of the matter sound different. Consider this version of events:

Today at school someone tried to steal my football. I knocked him over and then tried to punch him. He defended himself and I came off worse.

It’s so easy to twist facts around to make the situation sound more two sided than it was, to try and engender sympathy for the disproportional response by glossing over the history and context of the matter. You may disagree with me and think I should of stayed my hand and waited till I was hit first, or gone down after the first punch and curled up in a little ball. You may think that I sacrificed any right to blame or victim status because I tried to do something rather than wait passively for something to happen that all reason and experience told me was certain.

You may think that, but it doesn’t feel right to me.

Admin Cat! Cornered!

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This weeks ADMIN CAT! 17/07/2014 #39 – Why not visit the ADMIN CAT SHOP if you are into that kind of thing…

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