If you’ve nothing to say, say nothing. The image to the left of this paragraph says nothing other than I like it. Even though the last post on here wasn’t bad, it didn’t attract much attention and I have admittedly written about the subject matter several times before; dejá vu and all that. As of December 2017, the pace has also slowed considerably, so I suppose my missives have ceased to be key to the daily routine of many; followers don’t know when to expect them anymore, but then again, neither do I. And, as I’m not an end-of-the-pier comic going through the motions before an audience of comatose pensioners whose dementia means every old gag is a new gag every time they hear it, I am not obliged to repeat myself to make a living. I used a photo of Archie Rice on a recent post, so I can’t recycle it as a visual accompaniment to enhance my point, but you should get where I’m coming from without it.

Sure, I’ve got my favourite recurring jokes – ‘Have you heard the one about complainants making unproven sexual assault allegations being described as rape victims by the mainstream media?’; ‘A man walks into a polling booth and is faced with a choice between staying in the EU or staying in the EU’; ‘How many Guardian journalists does it take to rewrite British history to vindicate their white guilt complex?’; ‘A mentally-ill Englishman, a disabled Irishman and a Scotsman with cancer all manage to walk unaided into a DWP assessment centre and are deemed fit for work’; and not forgetting the funniest joke ever, ‘Chris Grayling’. It’s the way I tell ‘em.

Back before YouTube blocked, banned and censored anyone expressing an opinion at odds with the imposed consensus, I used to upload little videos of a humorous and occasionally satirical bent on a regular basis, a practice from which all the fun was gradually extracted as navigating the increasing obstacles placed before the individual voice became more trouble than it was worth. I still receive comments on said videos, however, many of which implore more of the same. Even if I hadn’t been demonetised and demoralised by the new order controlling the old forum, they probably did me a backhanded favour by making me an undesirable; it gave me a reason to quit whilst ahead, thus just about avoiding excessive repetition in the process.

As with re-watching the YT videos that have survived the cull, I sometimes return to old posts on here and re-read them in as much of a non-narcissistic manner as I can manage; the passage of time thankfully provides sufficient detachment that negates accusations of masturbation. As with other blogs out there, there are numerous posts grouped under the same subject matter, often an ongoing saga in which updates are necessary if said subject can be mined for multiple articles. Yet, I find there’s a limit to how much can be written about one topic – not all, as my persistent probing of Brexit demonstrates; but when it comes to some, yes, I really don’t feel like I can add anything else to what I feel I’ve said rather well in the past.

As a novelist who has recently returned to the habit after more than a year away from it, I’ve never been drawn to ‘the series’ – that is, a sequence of books featuring recurring characters inhabiting worlds visited in previous books. Writing a novel takes months and a ‘difficult’ one can be a bit of a grind. When I reach the end, I’m done. I want to get as far away from the world I’ve just spent every day of the last half-year inhabiting, and I never want to meet any of the characters again; the thought of creating a Holmes or a Bond or a Potter is anathema to me. When it comes to the next book, I want to create somewhere I’ve never been before and go there with someone I’ve never met before.

I guess it’s a bit like when a band gets home from a long, gruelling tour and vows never to set foot on the road again; virtually all eventually relent because that’s how they make most of their money. It’s different for me, as there aren’t the same financial pressures associated with my ‘art’. I make around 50p from every book of mine that someone buys. An author’s royalties are akin to what one of the be-quiffed thoroughbreds in Larry Parnes’ early 60s stable could hope to earn; and those signed-up to big publishing houses (whose surnames aren’t Rowling or Brown) don’t fare much better, hence their endless sidelines as newspaper columnists or ‘Question Time’ regulars.

Despite what the opening statement of this post says, I do have plenty to say right now – only, it’s not the kind of stuff that should be shared, closer to what ought to be reserved for a diary; if I still kept a diary, it’d probably end up in there. Nobody else would want to read it, trust me. And it’s, like, boring, innit. So, in the meantime, I shall wait for another notable name to die or for the European Elections to take place, if there is indeed British participation; the potential annihilation of the Conservative Party at the polls is too joyous an event not to be inspired by, after all. And that’s it, I suppose – inspiration. I need it to do it. If there ain’t any, a visit to this blog will result in the visitor being greeted by the last post, whichever post that may be. Time for a chuckle while we wait…

© The Editor


I suspect people had more blind faith where their leaders were concerned before 1973. If Watergate or a comparable scandal (in terms of cultural impact) was to happen now, how would we respond to the revelation that the biggest elected representative in the land was a bit of a crook? Shock! Horror! Yes, certainly in the media’s delivery of the news to the masses; but what of the masses themselves? A shrug of the shoulders and a resigned ‘Well, they’re all bent bastards’, perhaps; indeed, one wonders if Richard Nixon would simply serve out his second term of office today and face down the challenge of impeachment as Bill Clinton did. The general consensus now we are sufficiently distanced from the activities of Tricky Dicky’s inept White House mobsters appears to be that what Nixon got up to behind closed doors was no worse than what many of his predecessors got up to, not to mention his successors.

It would now appear that, as a collective, the Kennedys got away with far more than Nixon ever managed; this could have been because they always looked good; and in politics, particularly American politics, that helps. Regardless of all the unappetising worms that have slithered out of the Kennedy can over the past half-century, the JFK model remains a potent political sales technique, seen just last week as desperate Democrats continue to submit a succession of bland shirt-sleeves-rolled-up congressmen, senators, governors and mayors from those States where hair is nearly always thick, black and slicked-back. Perhaps it’s a sign of the cynical times that whenever I catch sight of these showroom dummies on TV, my first thought is to wonder how long it’ll be before their campaign is derailed by the inevitable story of an affair with a call-girl or, worse, an allegation of a college rape. In the twenty-first century, it’s become second nature that we eventually expect our leaders to be revealed as bent bastards; in the twentieth, it wasn’t necessarily so.

Yes, opinion of politicians in general languishes so low today in comparison to forty or fifty years ago that it’s hard to think of a profession that outranks politics in terms of eliciting public revulsion. The only one that springs to mind – tabloid journalism – is probably as responsible for this state of affairs as any other, salivating over every scandal it has helped to break with as much energy as the politician has sought to cover-up the one he helped to make. The negative view of politicians has been largely generated by their own wicked deeds, though repeated exposure to them via the media has helped fan the flames. It’s been a partnership that has had disastrous consequences for both parties; and the more polarising politics is, the more determined each side becomes to destroy the other at the expense of everything else that needs dealing with.

Therefore, though I’ve only skimmed through the findings of the Mueller Report (or those sections highlighted online and on television) since its publication last week, skimming was as much as I could be bothered doing. I mean – is anyone going to be remotely surprised by anything it has to say, even its most damaging indictments of a presidency few outside of the most devoted rate much higher than the nearest sewer, anyway?

The reaction to the Mueller Report from both sides of the ideological barricades is a perfect portrait of a wider political divide and how the media has played its part. The anti-Trump brigade, religiously dedicated to every website and rolling news channel that reinforces their viewpoint of the Donald as the Devil incarnate, furiously rifled through the report in search of anything that confirmed what they already believed – and that was all they were looking for; similarly, the pro-Trump crowd did likewise, bringing all their gun-totin’ baggage and unswerving love of the Man from Del Monte to the table, solely seeking to finally prove he ain’t no buddy of Putin. Consequently, Mr President can confidently declare the findings exonerate him and extinguish the Russian rumours once and for all, whilst his more vocal political opponents can also locate plenty in the report that supports their opinion of Trump and can perhaps act as the launch-pad for a renewed attempt to oust him from office. Who in 2019, I wonder, could possibly approach such a report with a totally unbiased perspective?

Numerous senior Democrats have played the part of TV talking heads in the wake of the Mueller Report, furtively speculating on what fresh opportunities for attack its revelations have presented them with. But Democrats really need to get over Trump. I think western liberals in general need to get over Trump, but US opposition politicians and their supporters especially need to get over him. Their fanatical, foaming-at-the-mouth obsession is proving an obstruction to the one legitimate and indisputable means of evicting him from the White House – the ballot-box. If they don’t get their act together soon and push forward a candidate the entire Democratic Party (and then the majority of the country) can rally round before 2020, their nightmare is simply going to be prolonged for another four years and make their meltdown a permanent one.

The Democrat fixation on dislodging Trump by any means, fair or foul, is almost comparable to the similar tunnel vision some backbench Tories have on Brexit, with the potential to destroy their party if they don’t put the brakes on. The man’s not going anywhere for at least another eighteen months, so cease and desist from wasting time trying to evict him other than by persuading the electorate to do so when the time comes. Otherwise, Democrats risk being defined solely by their disproportionate hatred of Trump as much as the ERG is defined by its disproportionate hatred of the EU.

Yes, we’ve all enjoyed Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of the President, but let’s not pretend poking fun will change anything. One could evoke Peter Cook’s sarcastic summary of the spectacular success German satirists had in preventing the Nazis’ rise to power or perhaps remember how the Alternative Comedy generation had a thing about Thatcher without their fury making the slightest bit of difference to the Iron Lady’s staying power; in the end it was her own insane sense of invincibility that did for her, without any assistance from Ben Elton. Indeed, as a stand-up, Elton was as indebted to Margaret Thatcher as Mike Yarwood was to Harold Wilson. Lest we forget, one prominent member of the 80s comedy club is now a Dame of the British Empire; she burned a pin-prick in the ozone layer last week by jetting over to Central London during its reinvention as Glastonbury to link arms with trustafarians and tell us how we’re killing the planet. Some of us already knew that, just like we know the best way to get rid of Donald Trump is to find a better man – or woman.

© The Editor


Aged three, I guess the saddest sentence in the English language for me was ‘It’s time for Andy Pandy to wave goodbye now’; it was infancy’s equivalent of ‘I’ve met someone else’, though at least the end-of-the-world dejection was diluted by the promise of a return visit to Andy’s place the following week: ‘But he’s coming again soon.’ And he did, as did all of the inhabitants of television’s toy-box, despite the fact I had no say over my rationed encounters with them. They were my friends before I had real friends, and I regularly indulge in pre-school reunions now that I’m no longer dependent on broadcasters to determine when I can see them again.

As much as I loved the characters when a member of the target demographic, I also loved the worlds they lived in – worlds that seemed familiar, but not quite. Mary, Mungo & Midge may have resided in a 60s tower block, but it was one of those ‘moonbase’ 60s tower blocks as they looked on the architect’s drawing-board before being built – sleek, space-age, analogue erections surrounded by green and pleasant land, as though these buildings had sprouted from the soil like beautiful, synthetic mushrooms; it was a modernist marriage of architecture and nature that never happened, a future that failed to arrive.

The wider townscape of this tower block’s location was a similarly simplistic palette of pulsating primary colours, presenting an idyllic urban environment on a par with those illustrated in the Ladybird books of the era. If a child had designed this imaginary garden city, I wouldn’t have been surprised; ditto Festive Road, address of Mr Benn, or Trumpton. When young children portray their surroundings in the galleries that decorate classrooms, their impressions generally stick to an endearingly primitive template that bears little resemblance to the actual surroundings their parents would recognise as home. Yet, chances are these parents would have depicted the world in an identical fashion when the same age, the age in which the visual is still the senior partner to the verbal where self-expression is concerned. At what point do we cease to see the world through our original eyes? And why, by the time we are in a position to shape that world, are the end results are so bloody ugly?

It was exquisite timing that the shows my generation watched with mother were all produced at the back-end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s; the creations of Oliver Postgate, Gordon Murray, John Ryan and David McKee belonged to a brief moment of English pop culture in which a child’s vision of the world was transplanted from the infant interior to the adult exterior. Amazing footage of the Technicolor boutiques lining the King’s Road from this period bear it out; the lysergic Alice in Wonderland vibe of the shops spills out of the child’s enchanting imagination and onto a grownup monochrome pavement in a way that gleefully contradicts the accepted narrative of maturity; the wares on display also have a childlike charm that adults usually lose and rarely recover.

There’s a distinct difference between childlike and childish, however. The former is the retention of an optimistic, prepubescent perspective on aesthetics that can sit comfortably alongside more advanced attitudes to topics the prepubescent mind struggles with. By contrast, the latter is a thumb-sucking rejection of the childlike, a voluntary regression into the facsimile womb of so-called ‘kidulthood’, a onesie-clad Neverland that refuses to progress beyond the safe space of its own emotionally-retarded playground and responds to any incursion of the adult world with tears and tantrums. Childlike can be compatible with ‘grownup’; childish is wilfully negative and has little connection with the genuine child that is always desperate to be older than it actually is; the genuine child is forever looking forward to a world it has already designed in an imagination bursting with brilliantly bonkers ideas, inventing an exciting adult landscape that is uniquely childlike in its conception.

I have friends whose homes are an Aladdin’s Cave of delightful kitsch and individual eccentricities, decorated with broken old toys and other ornaments with the sole function of raising a smile. But these friends are not intellectual imbeciles; they have merely achieved an admirable equilibrium between child and adult that blends the best of both worlds to form a better one. When governments award multimillion-pound contracts to private companies to take charge of our environment and its institutions, the only beneficiaries are those involved in the transaction. I know if my aforementioned friends were awarded such a contract, we’d all benefit; they’d not only do it for free but they’d transform neighbourhoods so they resembled Pepperland before the Blue Meanies got their hands on it. Most five-year-olds would do the same; their 35-year-old selves, on the other hand, designed what we’re lumbered with.

A childlike side can be a potent aesthetic weapon worth utilising and I only wish more of those who design and construct our surroundings did. Perhaps then the look of our schools, workplaces, homes, hospitals and streets wouldn’t instil such depression whenever we have cause to be there. Our environment acts as a mirror; we see grey, we feel grey; we see ugly, we feel ugly – ulcers begat ulcers. There’s not much knife-crime in Chipping Norton, I’ll wager. Lest we forget, Oscar Wilde’s response when asked in the US why American society was prone to violence was ‘Because your wallpaper is so terrible’. Think about it.

The system drills the childlike out of most children and the adult that emerges as a fully-processed sausage at the end of the conveyor belt has been remade and remodelled to live by an approved script of league tables, life insurance, pension schemes, profit margins, mortgages, and an absolute absence of imagination. He has nostalgic moments of wistful remembrance, recalling his five-year-old self; but his education has taught him he cannot connect with that child and he consequently believes him to be irretrievable. He isn’t, though it depends how far one has been absorbed into the system or how much one has become one’s mother or father without putting up a fight.

Trying not to entirely lose the view of the world when seen through the wide eyes of a child isn’t easy and it is true that some circumstances are more conducive to it than others. Similarly, there is always the temptation to cling to the childlike simply as a refuge to flee into the comforting embrace of whenever headlines overwhelm and enrage. But it can be salvaged; it needs to be. I’ve resisted evoking the Jesuit motto, ‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man’, but it’s a saying that retains its relevance if turned round: ‘Give me the man and I will give you a child of seven’. He’s still there in all of us, and he still has a lot to offer. Don’t ignore him. I am he as you are he as you are me – and we are all together.

© The Editor


‘We’re becoming a very petty nation!’ So declared the officious Inspector Pratt on a 1972 episode of ‘Z-Cars’; he was incensed by the attitude of two long-haired scruffs in custody after they refused to co-operate and sign statements on the subject of their arrest. They’d been nicked driving a digger away from a building site, having missed the last train home; and they’d missed said train due to being held up during a pub raid conducted by Inspector Pratt barely a minute after the towels had been draped over the pumps. It was a quiet evening on the night-shift (not so much knife-crime in early 70s Newtown) and Inspector Pratt decided to undertake an operation that ironically echoed his own sentiments in all its intransigent pettiness. Clever writing in a TV series from almost half-a-century ago nevertheless makes a still-relevant point about hypocrisy and double standards, how one side can see pettiness in the other whilst simultaneously being blind to its own.

He’s been labelled an arrogant narcissist more than once, and Julian Assange resembling the rediscovered Radovan Karadžić with his big white beard as he was dragged kicking and screaming back onto British soil by the Met at their most camera-conscious could be seen as a sign of where we are on so many levels. The dramatic end of Assange’s unique Ecuadorian experience was a piece of Performance Art entirely in keeping with his seven-year tenancy of that distant nation’s London embassy. I would imagine conditions for Assange during his self-imposed incarceration probably resembled your average Daily Mail-reader’s fantasy of the conditions enjoyed by everyone detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure; but it was a prison, all the same – and Assange knew his sentence wouldn’t be indefinite.

The Aussie shit-stirrer took up residency at 3 Hans Crescent in Knightsbridge in June 2012, ostensibly to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault; whether grounded in fact or fiction, these allegations conveniently appeared in the wake of the whistle-blowing of the web-based organisation Assange is credited with founding, WikiLeaks. A sequence of clandestine classified documents were let loose in the public arena by WikiLeaks in 2010/11, most of which related to unpleasant American activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. With Assange’s appetite for self-publicity, it didn’t take a genius to calculate that the US Government wasn’t going to let him get away with exposing their misdeeds, so the Swedish allegations could be seen as a marvellous stroke of serendipity.

There’s no doubt WikiLeaks have released information that certain injured parties would rather wasn’t made public; the catch-all ‘National Security’ excuse works wonders in keeping such unflattering information under wraps, though there has been criticism over WikiLeaks’ reluctance to probe Russian documents in a similarly forensic manner to that which they’ve probed American ones. To most folk worn down by revelations of all powers-that-be being rotten, corrupt and generally pretty horrible, however, it’s hard to see how anything they might uncover on Putin’s regime could shock anyone in 2019. And whilst Donald Trump certainly wasn’t complaining when the organisation helped derail the Clinton campaign during the 2016 US Presidential Election, Mr President now professes ignorance over WikiLeaks. Regardless of a change in administration, the American Government as an institution finally has its opportunity to attempt extradition of Assange, something many have long predicted – including Assange confidant Pamela Anderson, who claimed the UK is ‘America’s Bitch’.

The former ‘Baywatch’ pin-up made an observation that has regularly been expressed with varying degrees of terminology since the humiliating forced withdrawal from Suez in 1956; but this week has also seen embarrassing events exceeding our poodle status to Uncle Sam. No longer a purchaser of a physical paper, I’m not aware if any of Fleet Street’s cartoonists have depicted Theresa May in the role of Oliver Twist holding out a begging bowl to the Brussels mandarins, asking for more; but it seems such an obvious open goal that I’d be surprised if any of them passed up the chance to hit the back of the net. After all, the last day of this working week was the second of the meaningless Brexit D-Days, following the no-show of March 29. Now we’ve had to pencil-in Halloween for third time lucky.

There shouldn’t really be anything left to say about Mrs May’s atrocious performance as PM; the lady’s for turning, lest we forget – and she’s done little but go back on every public statement on the subject of Brexit she’s made since 2016. Whether simple obstinacy from an unimaginative plodder or a deliberate delaying tactic of a Remainer representing a Parliament of Remainers in order to prevent the votes of 17 million from being enacted, who knows? Almost three years on from the decision of the majority, the UK now faces the bizarre prospect of selecting candidates to stand for the European Parliament when we shouldn’t even be there. Never a man to shy away from the spotlight, Nigel Farage unsurprisingly chose April 12 to launch his Brexit Party, which will probably compete with TIG under their new ‘Change UK’ title to exploit the most headlines from the Elections the UK was never supposed to contest. Short-term gain may be the aim, but if Farage’s latest venture can drain votes away from the BNP-lite that UKIP has finally descended into via the recruitment of Tommy Robinson as its mascot, good luck to him. He won’t be getting my vote, but neither will anyone else.

Anything more to report this week? Well, the philosopher Roger Scruton suffered a stitch-up at the hands of the New Statesman, whose interviewer rearranged Scruton’s statements to portray the former Tory Government adviser as a racist anti-Semite – though anyone to the right of Dave Spart is Hitler to the New Statesman; and the knee-jerk vigilante justice of social media is so entrenched as a legitimate judge and jury by now that Scruton was destined to be executed online the moment he agreed to the interview. At least Scruton had the balls to stand up for himself during the engineered outrage and not kowtow to the consensus.

At the other end of the scale, a young actress on ‘Emmerdale’ also received the chop and was forced into the obligatory online apology for tweets she apparently issued as a teenager. She was sacked for the crime of ‘Historical Offensive Tweets’ – yes, this actual term was used as a reason for her dismissal; Twitter has now been with us long enough for tweets from six years ago to be regarded as ‘historical’. One could say let this be a lesson to the Kids not to share their every intimate thought with their followers; but in a world in which an online footprint is now part of the fabric of life from the moment one emerges from the womb, how can it be avoided in future – even if one wonders how much an adult can be held responsible for what they said as a child or adolescent. Isn’t it all a bit…oh, I dunno…North Korea?

The same year the aforementioned ‘Z-Cars’ episode aired, I caused minor consternation amongst teaching staff at my first school when I drew a picture of Pinky & Perky at Christ’s crucifixion; if it had been preserved online had online existed at the time, would I now be regarded as anti-Semitic? Pork! Jesus! Call the cops! Oh, well – at least there’s a spare room at the Ecuadorian Embassy if I need it. Hmmm, if we weren’t a petty nation in 1972, we appear to be one today.

© The Editor


No other artistic medium can evoke past people and places with the speed and precision of music. Old songs are often intensely personal time capsules that, once unlocked years or even decades after they ceased to provide life with its soundtrack, can resurface as defining documents of who we were, where we were, and who were with when our ears last heard them. A few bars out-of-the-blue can put you back where you were in an instant, as though the moment is so deeply engrained in the grooves of the record that the moment is as intrinsic to the recording as the instrumentation; it can be impossible to separate the song from the moment.

For me, many works of favourite musicians and singers are so bound-up with the first time I was exposed to them that music and moment are genuinely inseparable; this is particularly potent if my affair with the artists in question was encapsulated in a brief burst of passion and I subsequently haven’t kept in touch. Nirvana are a case in point, so associated with a precise period of my life that it’s only because today marks 25 years since Kurt Cobain pointed a shotgun at his head that I’ve dug out ‘Nevermind’ and ‘In Utero’ and dusted them down (literally – the vinyl was filthy) to properly listen for the first time this century. The short ‘n’ sweet career of Nirvana – and the suicide of Kurt Cobain, which casts quite an ominous shadow over that career – makes me think of a friend of mine I haven’t thought about for some time. For the purposes of this post, I shall call her Layla.

In 1994, Layla was my only friend in the neighbourhood, living a few doors away; she was seventeen and had just found out she was pregnant by a ‘bad boy’ that her parents (rightly, as it turned out) didn’t approve of. Suddenly finding herself out of favour with the rather conservative mindset of that neighbourhood, I sensed she needed a friend who had long found that mindset as oppressive as she now did, and I was right. I’d known her for a few years as a neighbour, but we forged a close friendship as we began to spend more time in each other’s company during what was a fairly traumatic year for her. A virtual pinball between boyfriend and family, she found refuge at my place as we stuck Nirvana on the turntable, chatted, consumed cup-after-cup of coffee, and chain-smoked for hours (yes, pregnant women still did in the early 90s).

Being a little older than Layla, it was refreshing to discover she was a Nirvana fan. Last time I’d asked her about music (when she was around 14), she’d been into New Kids on the Block. It reminded me how tastes change radically – and rapidly – in one’s teens, but it meant I had the chance to provide her with some background, lending her LPs by The Stooges, New York Dolls, Sex Pistols et al. I’d spent a while immersed in the Rave scene, finding guitar bands as irrelevant as Trad Jazz once the 90s dawned. Then there was that memorable performance of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on TOTP, when Kurt sang live and plummeted all the way down the scale to an Andrew Eldritch baritone-from-Hell as what had been safely secluded in the Indie ghetto abruptly gate-crashed the mainstream.

For a band stripped down to the (hard) core of a trio, Nirvana generated an immensely intense noise, but one punctuated by melodic passages that exposed pop sensibilities. Born the same year as me, Kurt Cobain shared my appetite for the pre-Punk rock that the 80s concept of ‘cool’ had told us we weren’t allowed to like whilst the 80s simultaneously inflicted upon our ears the worst music imaginable, whether Bon Jovi or Rick Astley. Then those nice people at the music press did what they always did by coining a hideous name – ‘Grunge’ – to attach to Nirvana and the bands that charged through the doors Kurt and friends had inadvertently kicked down. Yes, the ‘scene’ (for what it was) quickly took on the shape of a bandwagon and burned out within a couple of years, but its most articulate practitioners at least gave us a welcome breather from what had gone immediately before.

I followed the soap opera of Kurt’s marriage to Courtney Love of Hole in the music papers, but it was an amusing diversion from the good work being done – bringing the best rhetoric from the ‘alternative’ side of the tracks to a wider audience and in turn calling time on the embarrassingly antiquated attitudes and clichés of Guns ‘n’ Roses and their ilk. I doubted Axl Rose would have a clue who Sylvia Plath was, but I had a feeling Kurt Cobain knew. Yet, as with the late Mrs Hughes, there were numerous indications his time in the spotlight was destined to be short.

There was a kind of grim fatality to those lumbered with the ‘Gen X’ label, one that made the ending Kurt Cobain brought upon himself somehow inevitable. It radiated a resigned slacker surrender to the narrative that said everything important had been done in the 60s and 70s. ‘Okay,’ said Gen X, ‘well I won’t try then. I’ll smoke dope, wear the same clothes for a week and grow my hair without bothering to wash it. And I’ll listen to Black Sabbath as well as Black Flag.’ What was adopted as the Grunge ‘look’ was merely a regional equivalent of my own adolescent anti-fashion, native to Seattle. Once ‘Nevermind’ established Nirvana as unlikely radio-friendly unit-shifters, it was of course co-opted by opportunistic designers, and the lumberjack shirt became as much of a dead-end uniform as Sid Vicious’ leather jacket had been a few years before. Alas, nobody in 1994 foresaw Nirvana would one day join The Ramones in being reduced to a T-shirt.

Kurt Cobain’s suicide – something heroin undoubtedly played a depressingly familiar part in – meant a great deal at the time because he was the first famous person of my generation to die. We’d grown up with all the legends of the so-called ’27 Club’, but they were historical figures to us – even if the death of the most recent (Jim Morrison) wasn’t as far back in time then as Cobain’s death is in 2019, scarily. News broke three days after the date of his demise; it was a Saturday. Radio 1’s ‘Evening Session’ paid tribute a couple of days later; I still have an audiotape recording of it somewhere; I remember listening to it with Layla. We were subdued by the shocking passing of someone who mattered to us right at the moment when Layla herself was carrying a new life inside her. And the cycle goes on.

A few months after Kurt Cobain’s messy exit, Layla gave birth to a little girl as Nirvana’s morbidly beautiful ‘Unplugged’ LP was effortlessly sailing to the top of the charts. A few months after that, the cultural goalposts were shifted once again as Blur and Oasis prepared to lock horns; meanwhile, Layla was changing nappies, and I was getting ready to relocate elsewhere. Layla’s mother thanked me for being a good friend to her daughter during the most difficult months; ‘I don’t know how she’d have managed without you,’ she said, which was kind of her. I don’t know how I’d have managed without Layla.

Years passed. Layla and I saw each other periodically as we both moved around with the restlessness of gypsies for a good decade, and then we did what so many once-close friends do – we lost touch. But whenever I recall Nirvana – which isn’t, I admit, very often now – I recall Layla and a lovely friendship that grew out of alienation from our shared surroundings, one that had its perfect poet laureate in Kurt Cobain.

© The Editor