My poetic heroes

Roger McGough. Brian Patten. T.S. Eliot. Adrian Mitchell. Robert Graves. Rupert Brooke. And did I mention T.S. Eliot?

What was this straight-seeming chap doing shaking the foundations of poetry; re-making it? He looked like a bank manager, for goodness’ sake. (Hey, fellow pedants, check out the discussions on the web about that apostrophe.)

As usual, I don’t know enough about it. I’m probably talking rubbish. Who cares? It’s my right to write rubbish and your right to ignore it.

But, T.S. Eliot….. “I grow old…. I grow old/ I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.” Just read it. Don’t try to ‘understand’ it.



An idle lexicographic collection

Just for my amusement. It’s so trivial I haven’t even shared it on Facebook.

This is merely a collection of phrases I like and want to preserve, as I feel some of them are dying out.

“We’re going to hell in a handcart……” A lovely evocation of despair. I thought this had disappeared, then I heard it used on the BBC TV programme ‘Midwives’ just after I started to write this. I tend to use it ironically!

It’s black over Will’s mother.” Used to describe a louring sky. I have no idea who Will or his mother might have been. Often used by my grandmother.

Often I feel it in my water: There is something I have a deep gut feeling about. This must be a pretty old one.

You are a person of sound bottom, meaning you are thoroughly reliable, not referring to your backside.

Where will it all end? Graveyard mould.” A cheery one of my grandmother’s.

OK U.S. marines, let’s go! This must have come from a film, and my children must have been sick of how often I used it. Along with this goes: Let’s move before they raise the parking rate!A song quote. No prizes for the source… anybody?

That’s enough of all this rubbish.

You ain’t seen me, right?

Sitting in a MacDonalds restaurant in Cirencester in the early evening…. I rather like the anonymity of it. I could be anywhere….. with anybody…. The photographer Don McCullin gave MacDonalds as his eighth wonder of the world, as he could get the same meal anywhere in the world. (I can only vouch for Paris and L.A. outside England; we just could not shame ourselves by visiting a branch in Lisbon.)

(Overheard in the above branch: “I’m trying to go off the grid- to go invisible.”)

Later, in a Premier Inn room, the illusion of being anonymous, in a no-space, is even stronger. We close the curtains; we could be in any Premier Inn anywhere. Yes, I know I could be easily traced. Yes, I’m with Mrs O. It just feels anonymous. (Please note: I like Premier Inn. And even MacDonalds. Occasionally.)

Oddball Reviews #3: ‘Pick a Dub’ by Keith Hudson (1974)

Ladies and gentlemen, may I direct your attention away from my dreary ramblings about National Health and propose the virtues of this fine album (yes, an album): in my wholly personal opinion, the best example of dub reggae I have ever heard, and definitely another one for my top albums list.


For those who are not familiar with the genre, dub reggae is basic, bass-heavy reggae with huge variations made by the producer. For those who are not aware of what reggae is…. oh, don’t bother.

The variations can involve instruments dropping in and out, echo, effects….. It’s hard to describe. The original dub tracks were done on analogue mixing desks, pushed to places they never thought they’d go. At its best (and this is dub at its best) the music seems to exist in another space: a vast sound stage where the instruments move in and out and transform.

This album was produced by Keith Hudson, with a small collection of musicians including himself, particularly featuring the Barrett brothers, whose drums and bass underpinned Bob Marley. The tracks are dub versions of his original productions (I think). He died of lung cancer at the age of 38.

Originally I bought it on vinyl, on a whim, many many years ago; it was then described as being by the “2nd Street Dubs”. My copy was, amazingly, stolen; the number one suspect was one of those people who somehow make you feel you are the most important person in the world when they are talking to you. (Actually I only know one other person like that.) Now I have it on CD. Inevitably it lacks the rawness of vinyl, but it’s still pretty **** good.

There are twelve tracks. The longest is only 3 minutes 17 seconds. It’s called ‘Part 1-2 Dubwise’ and is a deeper dub version of the track before. It’s an absolute killer, with the bass line to end all bass lines. It still comes into my head, unbidden, at intervals. I once tried to reproduce it, on an Oblique track called ’99 Bonk’. (That title comes from a description of reggae as being a centipede with a wooden leg.)

What more can I say? If you have never heard dub reggae (which heavily influenced dub techno, or whatever it should be called) I doubt if I will have convinced you. It’s a total original. If you do by any chance find it or search it out, play it on a proper system, not little headphones or a little box. Turn it up, close your eyes and get lost in the sound space it creates.

National Health? Part 4: An Oblique View

To conclude my little-read and very muddled series of posts on health…… It should be read in conjunction with the others. (I started, so I’ll finish!)

I suggest that we need to take more responsibility for our own health. I do not mean that we should not use the NHS at all; just that we should consider carefully when it is appropriate to do so.

We need to realise that for very many ailments we do not need expert advice. Colds and flu will generally need only our own common sense and over the counter medicines. A sprained ankle needs rest. Of course, sometimes our conditions will need something more professional; how do we judge?

I suppose this comes down to better education; and I don’t just mean schools. I really am not sure how this works, but we need to change the attitudes of society as a whole to make us less dependent. We need to be better informed about how to judge our health. One drawback to informing us is that most of us hate being lectured by the state.

From this, comes the thought that we need to look after ourselves better. A good diet and exercise would be a good start for most of us. I’m a strong believer in a varied diet; but too much of anything can’t be good. Limit alcohol consumption; don’t smoke; and walk! I am not trying to be righteous and I am certainly not anything like fit enough, but Mrs O. and I walk at least half an hour every morning and feel better for it. (Easy enough when you’re retired.)

Of course, there are those who, hopelessly, try to get access to NHS services just because they are lonely, or bored. Perhaps we should look at our society and consider just why that is. Do we take enough care of the old, the vulnerable, the mentally ill? Again, I have no clear idea how to change this, but it seems futile just having them ring 999 or go to A&E. We do, it seems, live in a lonely uncaring society. This is, of course, a wild generalisation; there are plenty of schemes out there that make a difference. Why doesn’t it happen as a matter of course that people look out for others?

While I’m on this subject, I do know that we need to educate everybody as to how to access services and which are the best services to use. Drop-in centres? GPs? The local pharmacy? Apparently many people aren’t even registered with a GP, so just go straight to the emergency services.

This might come across as ageing hippy, hopeless do-gooder stuff. I honestly believe we need a different attitude to health in this country; one in which we take more responsibility for our own health and well-being and take more care of others. In that way, the hard-pressed workers in the NHS can do what they do best.

If you have been… thanks for reading this.


Picture: The first female doctor to win the Australian Military Medal

(By the way….. ‘National Health’ were a “progressive” band from the 1970s, featuring Dave Stewart and Phil Miller as well as others that only people like me have heard of.)

A Quick Word: Populist

How is it that ‘populist’ is a derogative word? What does it mean, anyway?

It appears to me that it currently is often used to describe a “view that is held by a large number of people but is however wrong”. (This is my middle-class, middle of the road, moderately well-educated understanding of the current situation; and please note that I am still sitting so resolutely on the fence as regards matters like Brexit that I have, as MSC would no doubt agree, got splinters embedded in my rear.)

My admittedly old print dictionaries (Collins and Oxford) do not have it. My Kindle dictionary (Oxford) gives the noun as a “person who supports or seeks to appeal to the concerns of ordinary people”. Hence the adjective. This is hardly derogatory and hardly my received impression from the 2017 media. So I went online to find out more.

Wikipedia says that populism mobilises “a large alienated element of a population against a government which is seen as controlled by an out-of-touch closed elite that acts on behalf of its own interests” and that it is often used pejoratively. (Wikipedia populist)

Other websites (there were over 12 million hits for populist) see populism as alarming (300 000 hits for populist & alarming) or a danger (500 000 hits for populist & danger).So it has presumably become a pejorative word. In what way?

Jeremy Corbyn, quoted on Sky News, criticises the populist right. (Sky News article) I found 615 000 hits for populist & left wing, with only 50 000 more for populist & right wing. Not a huge difference. Mr Corbyn, according to the Independent, is to be relaunched as a left wing populist. (Independent article) So it seems to be used for either left or right wing views, often in a negative way.

Obviously there is some confusion about a definition and, perhaps sadly, some misappropriation by left and right of the word “populist”, on its own, as a derogatory term to suit particular agendas. I find the definition of “supporting or seeking to appeal to the concerns of ordinary people” to be clear and useful; it would be nice if it were always to be used this way, if necessary linked to either “right wing” or “left wing” for clarity.

However, I don’t control the media……

Couldn’t think of a picture…..