IT’S BEEN A LONG COLD LONELY WINTER

How fatal taking for granted the loyalty and devotion of one’s audience can be was never better illustrated than in the swift falling from favour of the poor old Bay City Rollers. Almost omnipotent in 1975, the nice-but-dim young Scotsmen were the UK’s belated home-grown answer to The Osmonds. Possessing the clean-cut boy-next-door appeal guaranteed to send nascent female hormones into the same overdrive as Utah’s most famous family firm had done, the rise of the Rollers dramatically served to usurp the Mormon musical missionaries. Prompted by their astronomical British success, the Rollers then looked to replicate it on the other side of the Atlantic – despite the fact this had already proven to be a futile exercise for immediate pop predecessors like Marc Bolan and Slade. Yet the Rollers got off to the best possible start when ‘Saturday Night’ shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 at the beginning of 1976, an achievement that naturally booked them on the next flight to America.

But the timing of the Rollers’ Stateside expedition was especially unfortunate. In 1976, two emerging musical genres that would go on to dominate what remained of the 70s – Punk and Disco – were luring away sizeable chunks of the pop audience from the hormonal cauldron of the teenybop arena; at the same time, those unmoved by Donna Summer or The Sex Pistols were mesmerised by a certain self-contained Swedish hit-machine. Rollermania was also destined to be a temporary phenomenon – a necessary rites-of-passage ritual for teenage girls before boyfriends and babies, as well as being the last hysterical hurrah of a frenzied trend that defined the decade until it grew up and moved on. The band returned home from what turned out to be a short-lived stint in the American spotlight to find their audience diminished and the zeitgeist having relocated; they never scored another No.1.

However random or irrelevant this brief detour into the reassuringly safe refuge of pop culture history might appear to be, it is my roundabout way of making a point. Deciding to tentatively return to a medium I had no choice but to plunge into suspended animation five months ago might make it appear as though I reckon it’s ‘business-as-usual’ and we pick up where we left off in December. As much as it flatters my ego to imagine it, I’m aware that assuming all regular commentators and readers have spent every day of 2018 so far scanning their inbox first thing on a morning in the hope of seeing a notification informing them a new ‘Winegum Telegram’ post has appeared – and their days therefore being ruined as a consequence of this not coming to pass – is utterly absurd. Yes, I’m conscious kind comments have continued to periodically pepper the blog during the hiatus; but to envisage lives revolving around the proclamations of Chairman Petunia, and collapsing into complementary stasis in the absence of them, is a conceit even I would never countenance.

How do I explain why coming back to this has been so difficult? Oh, well – think of string and the length of it. Perhaps it’s been so difficult because ‘gifts’ that previously provided satisfaction and a sense of purpose (if an absence of income) lost their collective value for me. Experiencing a severe dent to self-confidence re my ‘creative capabilities’ was one reason for ruling out a return; recent reunions with old posts on here – read for the first time with real detachment – left me impressed albeit simultaneously disbelieving I’d written them. Yes, each element is connected and affected. One particularly devastating bombshell can have a big enough impact to bleed into every facet of one’s life, even areas that have no direct relation to it, triggering a chain reaction that can leave one pretty bloody winded. Until the event that knocked me for six, I could write a post for this, put a jolly little satirical video together for YouTube, and maybe even work on a novel – all in a day’s work. And now, everything has either slowed to a snail’s pace or ground to a complete halt, which is a crippling state of affairs for someone whose identity is defined by his creativity; this is actually the first prose I’ve written since December. Noting regular references to depressive bouts in past posts, I feel almost envious of the author’s naivety, realising I had no real idea how low I could go; but even someone with ‘previous’ isn’t prepared for the kind of emotional meltdown I’ve undergone, and Nietzche’s assertion that ‘if you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss will stare back at you’ has been an unwelcome guest at my dinner table of late.

Don’t think I haven’t noticed news stories that I would no doubt have penned plenty posts about had I still been active; but being relieved of my duties has spared me extended exposure to items that would only have added to my unhealthy state of mind had I had to immerse myself in them via the compositional process. The necessity of such survival tactics means I’ve allowed the opening months of 2018 to pass me by in a way I never have with a year before; but I’ve been powerless to prevent my paralysing inertia. Having said that, I did manage to condense many of these headlines into one video a month or so ago, which felt like a small step in the right direction; it says what I felt needed to be said without having to devote a dozen posts to the subjects featured, so it was a tiny triumph of sorts.

Even with the invaluable support of close friends, however (many of whom have revealed touching depths of understanding and empathy), I remain frustratingly entrenched in a Groundhog Day distinctly lacking colour or joy and where the only thing I’ve been able to detect around the corner is a bloody great brick wall, forcing me to adopt the ‘one day at a time’ approach to life – one bereft of forward planning and predictions, though also, mercifully, devoid of Lena Martell’s greatest hit (Sweet Jesus).

During the darkest sections of this extremely dark tunnel, the only contemporary cultural artefact that seemed capable of holding my attention was BBC4’s French police series, ‘Spiral’ – and that was mainly because any wavering from the subtitles would bugger-up the plot, so I had no alternative but to concentrate. Otherwise, unable to focus for long on a book, I lost myself in a steady diet of DVDs that provided nostalgic comfort food for the head as well as solid no-nonsense drama that has stood up remarkably well 40 years on. Give ‘The Sandbaggers’ a try if you enjoy old-school Cold War espionage in the le Carré mode; one of you out there already has – that much I do know (according to the latest memo from C, anyway). Similarly, a superb album of eccentric curios and buried treasure unearthed by St Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs titled ‘English Weather’ got me through the winter on a loop, whereas Joni Mitchell at her mid-70s peak is easing me through the spring. Only wish these healing hands could carry me back to where I was before I needed them; but they can’t.

Knowing not if this post is one-night stand or series reboot, I can’t guarantee when the next one will be; but architectural historian Jonathan Glancey’s reflection on the sad descent of architectural critic Ian Nairn into drunken disillusionment and an all-too premature end feels relevant. ‘If you do fight continually against the things that make you angry,’ he said, ‘you get exhausted…exhausted in your mind, exhausted in your heart, and exhausted in your soul.’ Modesty prevents me from placing my own humble kicks against the pricks in the same league as Nairn’s poetic tirades aimed at architects and town-planners from the 50s to the 70s – tirades that graced the pages of national newspapers and networked TV screens. I do recognise a kindred spirit when I see one, however. Symptoms of Nairn’s downfall seem uncomfortably familiar as well, which is why any return to regular writing on here has to be motivated by a genuine compulsion to do it (rather than a misguided sense of obligation), believing I can do it, and being convinced people actually want to read it.

So, that’s the best I can do right now. You heard it here first. Okay. Until we meet again…soon, I hope…

© The Editor

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16 thoughts on “IT’S BEEN A LONG COLD LONELY WINTER

  1. Great to have you back in my inbox, Pet. I don’t know how you ever kept up the old posting schedule. I’m just happy to read whenever you have the inspiraion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s great to hear from you again Pet. I was also gladdened to see your new YouTube videos lately, they well up there with you best work. I know that your confidence is in the basement right now, but your creative talents are still flying high, any higher and they would need a spacesuit! Take care Pet and try to be kind to yourself.

    I hope that you may, at least, find some small amusement in the following.

    Best wishes,

    Hubert Rawlinson.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry about this:

    Seriously, I get that your life must have felt Sisyphean since your previous post. It’s good to see you pause to say hello while you continue the great uphill push. Great to see you again, me old mucker.

    I also understand Glancey’s comment on exhaustion, but despite that, it is sometimes the sheer bloody-mindedness of that fight which can keep us going (well, it has me).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. At the risk of sounding trite, Black Holes suck us all in on occasion, but we don’t all have the talents and skills to re-emerge and fire off supernovas

    Given the depth of the content, and excellence in presentation and style, which are inherent in that post, don’t have any doubt in your ability to do this

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That youtube piece is savage.

    A 2 minute evisceration of the fake left SJW loonocracy AND the neo-liberal scum hypercapitalist wankers at the top. Where else would you get it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A commenter on your Youtube piece puts in well:

      “Now, as a man of a certain age, it amazes me how little people below the age of thirty or so know of the past when I talk with them. It’s almost as if there’s been a deliberate effort to deny them that knowledge, and it frightens me. They’ve learnt nothing, and are being lead to the edge of a cliff…”

      On a more positive note, earlier on a bicycle ride, I espied one of these rare beasts of the automotive world, parked in the drive-way of a comfortable (though by no means mansion-sized) residence.

      I doubt it there are half-a-dozen of these cars (ANY Bristol, that is, not just this particular model) in Ireland. In Britain, perhaps a few hundred. The late LJK Setright, probably the finest motoring journalist Britain ever produced, was a Bristol fan – as is, of all people, Liam Gallagher, apparently.

      What is the point of these ramblings? Simply that it brightened up my day just a little bit to be reminded that not all rich people are entirely ‘living in a waste / void of culture and taste” (hat-tip to the Waterboys)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ll echo what’s been said above – it’s great to see you back again, Pet.
    Having said that I only popped in hoping for an update from Mudplugger – the fate of that seemingly indestructable jacket from C&A keeps me awake at night. Its Golden Anniversary can’t be far off now…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I share the joy at the return of our esteemed host to the fray, it’s been a darker winter for the rest of us without his light touch and stimulating breadth, here’s hoping the recovery continues at whatever pace it takes, the result will be worth it.

      Talking of ‘fray’, it’s one thing that the venerable C&A jacket refuses to do, so Bandini may avoid insomnia – my best estimate of its origin is the summer of 1970 (it’s a summer-type garment and was bought in pre-decimal currency), so that golden anniversary remains two years away. I’m delighted to update fans such as Bandini on its continued daily service – it is ready for its annual hand-wash sometime soon, after which it will bloom again, just like Petunia. (See what I did there?)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ye Gods, you mean it’s still not seen the inside of a washing machine?!? Stick it on a boil wash, Mudplugger – it’s a biohazard!
        You’ll have built up a tolerance over nearly half a century of daily use but what about the rest of us? Stray fibers landing on door handles or perhaps blown nosewards by a blast of Lynx ‘New Dawn’… crikey.

        Deserving of a Great British Street Party in recognition of its long and unstinting service – Tom Jones, Kylie Minogue, Dame Kiri Te Kwhatsername – all the greats will turn up (as always).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. According to my ‘Preservation of Historic Textiles’ manual, the last thing it needs is a machine/boil-wash – indeed that would probably be the last thing it ever had – just gentle and very occasional hand-washing with Stergene (remember that?) keeps it fresh and reasonably non-infectious, it’s safer than a stroll round Salisbury, anyway.

        Should the 2020 street party occur, I’d much prefer to see Petunia, Windsock and your good self taking the places of the Welshman, the Aussie and the Kiwi (although if Kylie promises to wear those memorable golden hot-pants, I may have to reconsider Petunia’s invitation). Stay tuned.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I can’t compete with Mudplugger’s 1970 C&A jacket, but having undergone a house move recently, I can report that my oldest jacket – and possibly the oldest garment I have retained, now that I think of it – is a red anorak purchased during my Jersey sojourn, which dates it to 1998.

        I’m not a hoarder, but I must admit that I don’t tend to throw stuff out unless necessary for space-saving reasons. During this move the VCR had to go. Haven’t used it in years and am unlikely to do so again.

        At the recycling centre, while disposing of the VCR and various other bits and bobs – it occured to me that I should ask whether they also took VCR and music cassette tapes. The nice lady informed me that there was indeed such a facility, at a cost of 30 bloody euro ! (around 25 of yer pounds sterling, at a rough guess). http://www.dlrcoco.ie/sites/default/files/atoms/files/ballyogana4informationsheet.pdf

        So, my video cassette collection and cassette tapes remain in their box – not a huge collection of the latter as most of my music buying was during the CD era.

        Who knows, maybe one day there’ll be a resurgent boom in cassette tapes? Apparently all the trendies are buying up vinyl records these days, so it could happen.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so glad you felt able to write for us again – thankyou. Take things at your own pace, but be assured you will have many followers looking in regularly hoping to find a new piece of writing to enjoy. As Mudplugger said before “…bring back to your appreciative audience that familiarly caring but sideways take on the world. You’re wanted.”

    You’re wanted!

    Liked by 1 person

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