Anger – there’s a lot of it about. In a young man behaving badly, it allegedly constitutes part of his kicking-against-the-pricks obnoxious charisma; over-40, however, and you’re in Victor Meldrew territory. Perhaps by then you’re supposed to have settled down and accepted your miserable lot because you can’t beat the system; any sign of continued exasperation with The Man is merely the mark of a grumpy old git. And as grumpy old gits outnumber the young today, they’re not the most popular members of society; after all, weren’t they supposed to have delivered Brexit (or so the story goes)?

Yet, take a detour into social media, supposedly the chosen forum for The Kids, and you’ll find anger appears to be the prime vehicle for expression, whatever your age or even sex. Whether you’re a snowflake student seeking to no-platform someone you disagree with, a yummy mummy infuriated by your rival at the school gates, a sci-fi nerd incensed by the latest entry in your favourite movie franchise, or an Instagram pouter compelled to ‘fat-shame’ the It Girl of the moment, anger is in abundance. And even if you refrained from commenting, just ask yourself if any tweet or post made you angry today. It must have been a rare day indeed if none did. So much of what we encounter online appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect, a fast-track to a gut reaction which is perhaps a defining characteristic of our response to today’s numerous issues.

Step back out of cyberspace, though, and anger is just as prevalent. Ethnic adolescents being stopped and searched by the police; redundant white males navigating the benefits trap; distraught parents confronted by the PC intransigence of social services; touchline fathers convinced that goal was offside; whining Remoaners/foaming-at-the-mouth Brexiteers; motorists, pedestrians, supermarket shoppers – it’s as though modern society, which is supposed to be such an improvement on the days when we were primitive savages living in huts and dying from the Plague (i.e. the 1970s), has oddly exacerbated anger rather than sedated it, spawning a strain of tourette’s that afflicts the collective population of the western world. The great panaceas that corporations have developed to make life easier than it apparently used to be has instead created endless sources of frustration; our seeming inability to resolve them can make veritable mountains out of trivial molehills.

Whenever the issue of widespread drug abuse surfaces as a topic, the ‘why do people do it’ question always seems to me a no-brainer; if our wonderful system provided the same kind of blissful release that comes from a spliff or a syringe, there’d be no need to turn to an illegal alternative. Yes, millions switch on the bloody ‘X-Factor’ for an escape into voluntary mental paralysis; but for just as many that toxic breed of contrived gladiatorial entertainment is as much a part of the problem as the fastidious speed camera or the pensioner plodding in the middle of the pavement or the letter from British Gas claiming you owe them money when you don’t or the computer crashing without warning. Sometimes, these little annoyances group together and conspire to do their stuff simultaneously; when this happens, it can seem like the whole world is against us. And we get angry.

One only has to scroll down three or four comments on yer average YouTube video for discourse to descend into racist name-calling. A typical example would be some archive and utterly innocuous footage of a London street from half-a-century ago; most marvel at the minimal amount of traffic or the fascinating fashions, then somebody comments on the absence of ‘coloured’ faces and all hell breaks loose. Anger again. Same goes for the response to spoof Twitter accounts such as the brilliantly satirical Titania McGrath, following on from similar spoof accounts of posh SJWs that were taken seriously – and literally – by those bereft of a sense of humour and ended up being deleted by the powers-that-be as a consequence. People are becoming so accustomed to taking things at face value that shades of grey don’t compute. I guess the easy default button today is simply to get angry, even when it’s blatantly obvious someone’s just taking the piss.

Granted, there are undoubtedly moments concerning more important issues where anger is understandable. Anyone who has the stomach for merely a cursory glance at the PM’s draft Brexit withdrawal ‘deal’, which leaves this country more subservient to the EU than it was under actual membership, cannot help but feel angry. Regardless of which side of the great divide one resides on, it’s hard not to come away from such a pitiful (not to say cynical) white flag feeling as though calls for a second referendum are meaningless when we’re essentially remaining anyway. It certainly gives every appearance of being a betrayal of a democratic mandate on an unprecedented scale (and final confirmation that our voice counts for sod all in the corridors of power), but what can any of us do about it? Sweet FA, mate. How many marched to stop the invasion of Iraq way back when? It doesn’t matter because it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference. So, what’s left for us but anger? Unfortunately, anger is bloody exhausting.

The recent upsurge of interest in old-school hobbies like knitting or sewing – ones still negatively associated by more than one generation with blue-rinsed nanas – suggests the novelty of an archaic pastime and its defiantly non-twenty-first century ability to reduce blood pressure has a Zen-like appeal for some. And, while such a sedate interlude might be a little too twee for everyone, the allure of something so alien to the instant nature of contemporary click-bait culture is unarguable. If hi-tech creature-comforts can often increase our tendency towards anger, perhaps it’s no surprise their simpler predecessors are attractive as a means of calming us down.

This has happened before, though; think of the 60s Rock Gods who, having purchased the recognisable symbols of success that the consumerist conveyor belt had prepared earlier, suddenly realised mansions and Rolls Royce’s didn’t actually make their lives that much more fulfilled. They then rejected these flashy trappings and began dressing like hirsute hobos as they got back to the garden. Yes, they had the luxury of being able to afford an approximation of rustic simplicity, but this abrupt embrace of nature then bled into the wider movement for self-sufficiency that has proved enduring as a rat-race opt-out, despite Margot and Jerry’s objections.

Of course, reclining in the arms of a beautiful woman (or non-binary individual of your choice) could suffice as a preferable approach to anger management. The causes of anger can be rendered irrelevant when mankind’s oldest notion of escapism intervenes, and whilst there may still be plenty to be angry about beyond the bedroom, none of it seems that significant in the heat of passion. So, is that really the reason for the abundance of anger in 2018 – not enough people are getting laid? Well, I guess that depends on how much you value the purely physical over potentially spiritual. Add love to the sex mix and you’re elevated to a much higher level, one that outlasts the momentary gratification of base lust. Base lust is a much more accurate metaphor for the present day, however. We want the world and we want it now, as someone once said a long time ago. Maybe that’s the problem.

© The Editor


I’m still alive, which surely proves I’m not spending all day watching the telly whilst not here. I don’t watch much TV as it is and certainly wouldn’t before 7.00 in the evening, anyway. Recently forced to upgrade by my digital supplier, I did so with little enthusiasm, though I can now ‘Series Link’, which is a bit like programming ye olde VCR to record a particular programme weeks in advance. It’s not something I’ll probably make much use of, however, as I tend to use the TV set as an effective monitor for the DVD player most of the time. And what I do like to watch is usually regarded as being of minority interest, which means it’s always in danger of disappearing from the screen. The word ‘minority’ has different connotations where mainstream broadcasters are concerned, anyway.

The recent announcement that those oh-so wise guardians of the licence fee have decided to slash the budget of BBC Parliament – probably to finance further ‘life-changing journeys’ through some far-flung foreign field for a bunch of has-beens from the 80s – is typical of the Corporation’s priorities when confronted by criticism: keep the crap and dispense with everything that makes it unique (see also the sales of Maida Vale and BBC Caversham, plus the regular pruning of World Service branches). Moreover, the cutting back of the Parliament channel is a blow for archival anoraks who’ve enjoyed numerous nights viewing unearthed real-time coverage of distant General Elections on said channel. Thankfully, most are available on YouTube now, albeit not subject to the censorious new moral regime that is constantly preventing me making a penny from my own videos; anyway, it was online where I received my latest fix when sitting through the 1970 show.

Avuncular anchor Cliff Michelmore had a mouth remarkably similar to that of a frog; I kept expecting an elongated tongue to lash out and whip a fly from the nose of David Butler during the broadcast. Alas, it didn’t happen, but it was an entertaining watch, all the same. A degree of civility and politeness on the part of the presenters when speaking to politicians came as a refreshing shock, particularly from Robin Day, who is still credited with a fearsome proto-Paxman reputation; and when compared to the tiresome bullishness of the ‘Channel 4 News’ or ‘Newsnight’ teams of today – behaving like prosecution barristers from their very first accusation – the less confrontational approach of Robin Day actually achieves better results from MPs not instantly on the defensive. Then again, perhaps the men from the Ministries were held in a slightly higher regard back then.

As ever with these programmes, glimpses of the general public are a priceless window onto a lost world – a bit like a recent DVD outing, the mid-70s Thames TV murder-mystery panel game, ‘Whodunnit?’, hosted by Jon Pertwee with regular panelists in the shape of the swaggeringly-suave Patrick Mower and the gorgeously languorous actress-cum-hotelier Anouska Hempel. At one point, a member of the public is added to the panel every week (courtesy of winning a TV Times competition), and each bears all the endearing awkwardness-on-camera absent from media-savvy millennials. Regarding the public of Election 70, however, there is additional fun to be had through spotting future faces hidden behind the floral shirts, including journalist Simon Jenkins hanging out at a swanky London night-club in a sequence that resembles a Carnaby Street pilot of ‘The Hit Man and Her’ – and Gyles Brandreth whilst still a student at Oxford.

The declarations themselves are quite dramatic on occasion; though not as momentous a wipe-out as 1997, the unexpected ousting of the Wilson Government saw some impressive scalps claimed by the victors, none more so than the colourful figure of George Brown, losing his seat after 25 years. The notorious old soak managed to stay sober during the tension provoked by the recount, and Brown’s losing speech was his final public address as a ‘commoner’, for he enjoyed a familiar elevation to the Lords almost immediately thereafter. Watching the defeat made me wonder what it must feel like to receive rejection on such a scale (Brown lost Belper by more than 2,000 votes), though I suppose it depends on how much you care for your constituents. I would imagine being rejected by just one person you love is a tougher experience than being rejected by 2,000 people you couldn’t give a toss about.

Would I have more confidence in our elected representatives if the likes of Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Castle, Jenkins, Whitelaw, Thorpe, Thatcher or Powell were amongst the candidates today? Looking at perhaps the most abysmal and incompetent Tory Government in living memory (including Major’s) and then glancing across at a Labour Opposition infected with identity politics and boasting a Corbyn alternative in the likes of oily Umunna, I can only come to the conclusion I’d rather be on the 1970 electoral register than the 2018 one. I don’t think I’ve ever had less confidence in any of them to deliver the goods than I have right now. The Brexit charade seems to sum it all up, a farce as demoralising as the ongoing soap opera in Washington. Hard not to be a cynic and simply think f**k the lot of ‘em. Mind you, most days I think f**k the world and everyone in it, so I guess politicians are open goals for contempt.

Twitter can often provide a different perspective on affairs, especially if you follow incompatible participants from across the ideological spectrum. It’s healthy to have your opinions challenged as well as reinforced, though even this can grate after a while. Of course, both sides highlight anything that supports their chosen narrative, so the left bigs up the Boris-is-an Islamophobe storyline whilst the right milks Jezza’s anti-Semitic terrorist sympathies; alongside these headlines are smaller stories that do a similar job, though one can’t help but wonder if they’re being reported solely to promote an agenda as inflexible as its polar opposite. Too much exposure to it all and I come away convinced both sides of the divide are as bad as each other; and I’ve got enough negative energy to deal with as it is.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not feeling especially charitable towards anyone at the moment, and as public figures whose careers are in ‘public life’ can provoke both anger and annoyance at the best of times, I’m hardly in the right frame of mind to pen balanced assessments of their performances and, on occasion, give them the benefit of the doubt. If there’s only bile in the belly, you’re left with Alex Jones; if there’s only petulant conviction you’re right and everyone else is wrong, you’re left with Owen Jones. And if there’s no sign of a heart, you’re left with Katy Hopkins. As Richard Nixon said, ‘Those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then, you destroy yourself.’

I appreciate some of you may miss the days when I would write about anything in the news; I do myself. But despite my best efforts, the prospect of returning to regular posts on here still leaves me impotent. A year ago, I could write daily dispatches without breaking sweat; but a year ago I could kiss the day goodnight secure in the knowledge that everything to have constituted the day would be there for me to kiss goodnight again tomorrow. There was plenty of time to take everything for granted and wallow in the blissful complacency that comes with perceived security. Well, that security has gone now and I’m stranded on this bastard island until my eyes are able to recognise a rescue ship when they see it. I should’ve gone to Specsavers. But as the spirit of dark and lonely water once said to a traumatised generation, I’ll be back-back-back-back-back…


© The Editor


A year ago this week, I smoked my last cigarette; a recent clean of the spines displayed on my bookshelf reminded me how my world used to be coated in a stinky and sickly golden smudge that unknowingly proved to be as great a social deterrent as BO. But it’s only when you sometimes come across evidence of how something used to be that you belatedly realise how much it has changed. Example: A couple of years back, I purchased an archive copy each of the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph; both were printed in 1977. Twenty-odd years of colour newspapers utilising digital technology had served to erase the aesthetic memory of how Fleet Street produce once looked, felt and smelt. The bright clean reproduction of images we’ve become accustomed to (if we still bother with a physical edition, of course) when stood next to the murky monochrome equivalent from forty years ago reveals the latter as having a closer resemblance to a poor photocopy.

The old hot metal printing technique also gave newspapers a distinctive odour as well as leaving its imprint on your fingers if you held a paper in your hands for more than five minutes. Newspapers were relatively cheap in relation to other goods, but had they retailed for pennies exceeding single figures, it probably would have been taking the piss when they were hardly works of art. They were simple, unpretentious and instantly disposable objects, hence their day-after demotion to the chip shop, so it’s no wonder they were something everybody could afford. Mind you, dailies and Sundays sold so much back then that the proprietors didn’t need to charge more than 10p to make a handsome profit.

As a child, there was a strict dividing line between what parents read and what children read. Comics were for us, newspapers were for them – oh, and dad also had a few…erm…‘magazines’ stashed in a secret place that we weren’t supposed to know about. This arrangement suited my tastes, for the content of newspapers was extremely dull to my prepubescent eye bar one page – no, not the third one, but a page somewhere near the back-end of the publication, just before the sports section. This page was the nearest a newspaper would get to a comic, even if the parade of three (or four) panel strips exhibited humour not quite as basic as that in the Dandy or the Beano.

The paper of choice in our household was the Daily Mirror. Its strips included space and time-travelling strongman Garth (who always somehow seemed to visit planets whose female natives had yet to discover bras), old-school northern pisshead layabout Andy Capp (who had a fag permanently glued to his lower lip), The Perishers (which appeared to be a British take on Peanuts), and Bill Tidy’s surreal The Fosdyke Saga. All the national dailies were defined in the child’s mind by which comic strips they featured. The Daily Express could boast Rupert Bear; the Mail had Fred Basset; the Sun had Hagar the Horrible, and so on. Even the local paper had its notable cartoon characters: As well as hosting US strip Marmaduke (a Great Dane I often confused with Scooby Doo), the Yorkshire Evening Post had the bizarre home-grown character known as Alfie Apple (Yes, a walking/talking apple).

Unlike my parents, I didn’t grow up to become a loyal subscriber to any particular paper and I gradually lost touch with the strips; whenever I’ve caught a glimpse of them in recent years the inevitable addition of garish colour has, to me, removed part of their appeal. The loss of their black & white-ness is something that appears to diminish their charm, in the same way that it would be impossible to imagine any of those early 60s ‘Kitchen Sink’ movies in Technicolor. There also seems to be fewer of them, with one of the key tools in securing the next generation of readers now marginalised, mirroring the suicidal dismissal of journalists who were experts in their chosen fields, something which suggested the editors of the papers had already given up and stopped believing there was any sort of future for the medium.

As has been pointed out on several occasions here recently, the allure of the recent past and the rose-tinted hues of unavoidable nostalgia can stretch into many unexpected areas. For some reason the old newspaper strip has fired my imagination of late, and in my increasingly desperate quest to seek constant distractions from the sinkhole I fell into eight months ago, one distraction I seized upon was to pay homage to the genre by making up my own strip. So I have done. Aesthetically, it belongs to a lost world, so wouldn’t be at home in the current excuse for a format that no longer really exists. Instead, I went straight to what used to be a commercial offshoot for the already-proven success – the collected strips in book form. As the book only contains 28 separate and self-contained three-panel strips (albeit every single strip in existence to date), I’m regarding this as ‘the pilot episode’. It may never be granted a networked series, but it’s out there for me to at least try.

I’m English and I was the companion to a cat for eighteen years. These are two things I know about. Therefore, I created a cat with a suitably traditional English name – Jack – and gave him a range of familiar English characteristics to add to his own archetypal feline qualities. I gave him a best mate, a girlfriend and a nemesis. I also gave him an ‘owner’ we never see, just as adults were always absent from the world of Charlie Brown. Unlike Felix or Top Cat, he walks on all fours, but he talks like us. Be a pretty dull strip if he didn’t.

He’s not particularly original; after all, it’s not as if cats have never been turned into cartoon characters before. And I’m not an especially gifted draughtsman either; the drawings are crude and sketchy, but I could say that maybe adds to their charm. Anyway, the humour is wry, dry and droll – and contemporary, I guess, though I avoid any direct references to the news; that would only instantly date them. With the book blurb declaring ‘As seen in the Winegum Telegram’, it felt only right to include a sample…

The transference of the images from sketch-pad to printed page ironically gives them the look of having being sourced from an old newspaper, an act of serendipity that adds to the homage, I guess. Anyway, the book’s available on Amazon for a piddling £2.99 ( and might provide you with a few minutes of entertainment when you need a break from your Smartphone screen. I make less than a quid from a purchase, by the way, so I shan’t be living it up like Northamptonshire County Council when they sank a fortune into a swanky new HQ before realising it left them with nothing to fund public services. No, Jack the English Cat is not about a fast buck; I just wanted to make people smile, and this is the best I can offer right now. Life is not good and I’m not expecting my creation to be my salvation, but every little helps, as Morrison’s used to say.

© The Editor