In the absence of any volunteers to blow it on my behalf, I again raise my own trumpet and embark upon a tune. It’s a familiar melody, one that I’ve played many times before here; but it’s my party and I’ll blow my own trumpet if I want to. Anyway, the fact that publishing houses have closed their doors along with all other businesses happily doesn’t stifle the creative or publishing process for the independent artist; and knowing one’s endeavours will be available to anyone interested within weeks of the last word hitting the page is a nice benefit of being ignored by the mainstream industry. The removal of alternatives courtesy of Covid-19 has had one personal positive for your humble narrator in that it has channelled 99% of my energies into my art, and it has certainly proven to be the next best thing to compensation. I’ve written and published (via Amazon) three books this year so far – my first collection of short stories; my fifth collection of poetry; and my first book on a facet of pop culture I’ve previously written about on here but never before in book form.

The fact that all three books are completely different – fiction, verse and non-fiction – not only reflects my restlessness and reluctance to repeat myself, but that I was able to have them on sale ASAP also highlights one of the bonuses of not being dependent on the lumbering monolith of the publishing industry. In fact, were I signed up to one of those prestigious houses, I have a feeling I’d currently be promoting something I wrote over a year ago instead of something I finished a month ago. The disadvantage to self-publishing, as ever, is the limited means by which the writer can alert the world to his work; I don’t get reviewed in the press, on the radio or on TV, and I’m not bombarded with requests for interviews or invites to literary festivals; and, of course, I sell very few copies, which means I make very little money. But, hell, at least the work is out there and it’s ‘Instant Karma’, as it were.

I appreciate my prolific work-rate might give the impression I’m something of a hack, but the reason I can write so much in such a short space of time is simple: I haven’t got anything else going on in my life. That has never been truer since March; accustomed as I am to necessary isolation, the sudden absence of the usual periodic (and welcome) breaks from it has meant there haven’t been any distractions; no excuse not to work when there ain’t nothing else is why this year has seen me maintain my work-rate without breaking sweat. Yes, there have been times when I’ve wondered if all this flows out of me because I’ve not got long left and it’s a subconscious way of leaving the only legacy behind me I can; but I guess morbid thoughts have room to breathe when one goes months without speaking to another human being in person. Anyway, I’m pretty sure now the same fate that awaited the likes of Van Gogh and Nick Drake is to be my probable destiny – if I’m lucky. We shall see. And, even if I don’t get to enjoy the material fruits of my labour, at least I haven’t wasted all my life; plenty do.

The latest title to be added to ‘Solitaire’ (the short stories) and ‘Year Zero’ (the poetry) is called ‘No Place for Boys’; it’s a non-partisan celebration of a pop cultural event that took place fifty years ago this year, the 1970 FA Cup Final. Now, this just wasn’t yer average game of football. I place the event in the context of other things that happened to be happening around the same time. For example, the day before the game, news broke that The Beatles had split; pretty big news story. The same day as the game, Apollo 13 launched; again, pretty big news story. And between these two stories, another unfolded at the old Empire Stadium, Wembley. Yes, one could argue the same story had unfolded there every year once a year since 1923; but 1970 was different.

Thanks to the impact of George Best, the national game was undergoing something of a facelift at the beginning of the 1970s. The traditional followers of the sport, whose Saturdays were devoted to forking out five bob to pass through the turnstiles and huddle together on the terraces, had been confronted by a challenge to the short-back-and-sides hegemony as 60s pop culture began to infiltrate the last bastion of old-school masculinity. Increased television coverage and the influence of the Belfast Boy had a particular impact on one football club situated in the epicentre of Swinging London, Chelsea FC; with Stamford Bridge a stone’s throw from the hip boutiques lining the King’s Road, it was no real surprise the team should embody the spirit of their neighbourhood. They played an especially attractive and flamboyant form of football that contrasted sharply with a club that had competed with them in particularly combative fashion over the previous five years, Don Revie’s Leeds United.

When both sides reached the FA Cup Final that year, it felt like the footballing equivalent of the Battle of Waterloo, the deciding clash of two rival powers. Yet to slip into clichéd stereotypes of Hard Northerners Vs Flash Cockneys is to overlook how well-matched Leeds and Chelsea were; the London boys could be as ruthlessly brutal as the Yorkshiremen on the pitch, whereas Leeds could be as creatively attacking as Chelsea. It made for a fascinating encounter, and the Final at Wembley has rightly gone down as a classic, even if it was played on a surface reminiscent of Aintree the day after the Grand National. At the end of 90 minutes, the score was stuck at 2-2, and the sides couldn’t be separated after extra-time. Never before had an FA Cup Final at Wembley had to go to a Replay, but it did in 1970. The end of the season that year had been brought forward to accommodate England’s preparations for the World Cup in Mexico; with a congested schedule of League and European campaigns to conclude the pair had to wait two and-a-half weeks before they met again, this time up at Old Trafford.

The delay built up anticipation on the part of the public for the rematch, and when it eventually came round over 28 million viewers watched on TV. It remains the fifth most-viewed programme in British television history, and the only football match to have attracted a larger audience was the 1966 World Cup Final. The game itself was officiated by a retiring referee who allowed play to run unimpeded by interference on his part; as a result, the viewers were witness to a remarkably uncensored exercise in physical play as five years of intense rivalry culminated in a memorably visceral 120 minutes of football unlike any seen before or since. The title of the book is lifted from the BBC commentary of Kenneth Wolstenholme; confronted by the carnage on the Old Trafford battlefield, he declared it was ‘no place for boys’. In the end, Chelsea eventually beat an exhausted Leeds (playing their 62nd game of the season) 2-1.

The way in which the two-legged battle between Leeds and Chelsea captured the attention of the nation transcended the normal level of attention the game attracted and helped cement the sport’s union with the zeitgeist for the first half of the 70s – until the scourge of hooliganism forced the wider public to fall out of love with it for a good decade or more. Of course, 1970 is a million miles from 2020 in many ways, not least football. What my book hopefully does is show how the Leeds and Chelsea players of 1970, for all their differences, had far more in common with each other (and their respective supporters) than they do with the tattooed millionaires playing to the prawn sandwich brigade of today. I’ve tried to tell the story of 1970 in a way that might even appeal to those who wouldn’t regard themselves as football followers but who maybe find that era in British pop culture intriguing and interesting. I believe I’ve succeeding in doing so, but as I am the one blowing the trumpet, I would, wouldn’t I? If I’ve piqued your curiosity, check out the trailer…

No Place for Boys Trailer from Johnny Monroe on Vimeo.

© The Editor


For those in the know, there are a couple of memorable stories from the original ‘Star Trek’ series and the Jon Pertwee era of ‘Doctor Who’ in which Captain Kirk and the Doctor follow the same path by slipping sideways into parallel universes – ‘Mirror, Mirror’ and ‘Inferno’. What is now an over-familiar sci-fi trope still seems fresh and novel in these interesting twists on the respective formulas both programmes tended to rely on; the unnerving encounters with darker incarnations of regular cast members are one intriguing element – and the usual good guys are invariably evil when this freak occurrence takes place; just in case the viewer doesn’t twig quick enough, Spock is gifted with a sinister beard and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has an eye-patch and a scar. However, it is the world these characters inhabit that provides the most fascinating aspect of the adventures.

The Enterprise looks roughly the same, but in this dimension it is a warship belonging to a brutal intergalactic empire, whereas the version of Britain Pertwee’s Doctor finds himself in is a militaristic fascist republic. Both stories play upon the ‘what if?’ factor, pondering on possibilities had global events taken a different turn; and, of course, these events were still fresh at the time ‘Mirror, Mirror’ and ‘Inferno’ were produced (1967 and 1970), when the world was less than 30 years away from the collapse of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy – warnings from recent history transplanted to an alternative present.

I only thought of these two classic examples of two classic series at their best because I keep noticing those movie posters you see pasted on the sides of double-decker buses. Normally I tend to roll my eyes when greeted by any sign of the latest multimillion-dollar dump Hollywood has decided to take on the world’s cinemagoers; but the current ones are catching my eye on account of them not being quite right. Whereas they usually change with such rapid regularity that one rarely sees the same poster on a bus for more than two weeks running, I recently realised the movies being promoted via public transport at the moment were either released way back in February – and have therefore already been forgotten and wouldn’t normally still be there – or give a release date in April/May that never actually happened due the lockdown.

It’s an extremely minor equivalent of suddenly slipping into a parallel universe, but seeing posters for movies still unseen that declare they were premiered at the nation’s picture houses on dates when they weren’t is a weird one, akin to the disorientating differences a character in a genuine parallel universe experiences. Well, it’s as close as I’ve come, anyway. That’s what happens when you queue outside supermarkets situated on a main road and aren’t distracted by a Smartphone screen. I can quite easily pass the minutes by simply pretending I am indeed in a parallel universe where buses don’t lie and those movies did indeed premiere as planned, showing now at a cinema near you; and then I contemplate the queue and the two-metre separation between each person in it and realise this universe is probably far stranger than a parallel one as it is.

Actually, the movies being plugged on those buses may end up representing an even greater financial disaster than they ordinarily would if they had been released and failed to break even at the box-office. Yes, many will be swallowed up by a costly black-hole courtesy of the pandemic, though lockdown aside, the fate that awaits the majority of the over-hyped bilge vomited out by Tinsel Town is generally down to the clueless halfwits behind them gambling everything on what the public will take to. It happens across all creative industries, of course – movies, TV, publishing, music; a hit suddenly appears from nowhere that the people running these industries didn’t predict and then there’s a rush to repeat it in order to capitalise on the success, a rush that swiftly tests the patience of the public with the new craze. There may be an entire army of experts employed by movie studios, TV companies, publishing houses and record labels who reckon they can both anticipate and manipulate what the public will or won’t buy, but the truth is that few ever accurately do. Even if I take my own humble example when it comes to this here blog, it’s near-impossible to guess what will provoke a response and what won’t.

Access to Winegum stats is a behind-the-scenes privilege of ‘Petunia’; they not only inform me in which countries on the planet I’m receiving the most views – India and Cambodia make regular surprise appearances alongside the more expected nations – but they also let me know which posts are pulling the punters in; and there are some vintage ones that keep appearing in the list with such regularity that I’m often baffled by their appeal. Yes, I’m well aware there are certain topics I might choose to write about that I pretty much know in advance will appeal to a particular Twitter audience because they happen to be a pet subject with a passionate crowd who Tweet a lot; equally, when Twitter isn’t especially interested, I may receive an above-average flurry of comments on the post itself without attracting a single retweet.

But for me, the subject matter is more or less secondary to whether or not I personally consider the post a well-written one that makes its intended point as perfectly as I can manage it. There have been times when I’ve put one out and I look at it again and reckon I was too tired when I wrote it or I rushed it when I should’ve taken a bit more time and improved the prose. And then I find it keeps surfacing in the list of most-viewed posts, perhaps two or three years after it was published; just because I might not rate or care for a post doesn’t mean I’m necessarily in the right; if somebody out there likes it, in a way that’s all that matters. Indeed, there are many posts I rate extremely highly and think read just as well today as when they were written; and yet nobody else took to those ones. It’s completely random sometimes.

There’s quite an early one about corporal punishment called ‘The Back of My Hand’ that simply won’t go away, and one I wrote about the trans issue – specifically in relation to children – called ‘Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha’ has been achieving as many views over the past couple of months as anything new I’ve written. I’ll concede that I think the latter is perhaps as good a piece as anything I’ve written on that subject, but I still can’t quite understand why it continues to reel ‘em in. But that highlights my point, I suppose; you really can’t guess what’ll impact and what won’t. I’ve written books I (and others) thought would make my name and they never did – ‘Looking for Alison’ being the prime example.

I seemed on the cusp of recognition with that when I was interviewed for Radio 4’s ‘iPM’ show at the time of the book’s publication, and I recall after the interview I had a free cab-ride home laid on for me by the BBC. I exited said taxi without paying a penny and had a brief sense of what it must be like to be Alan Yentob. It’s easy and understandable to decry ‘how the other half live’ and, let’s face it, we all do it; but even the tiniest glimpse into that world makes one realise how easy it is to fall into its luxurious embrace. I know why there were cries of outrage over author Neil Gaiman travelling all the way from New Zealand to Scotland, but I equally know if I were in his position I’d have probably done the same. Why not, if you can afford it? Maybe there’s a parallel universe where we all can…

© The Editor


Last year it was the B word; this year it’s the C word; but maybe it should be the A word – A as in A for Arseholes; the Arseholes in question would be those whose pantries or garages or sheds are crammed with more toilet rolls than yer average Andrex warehouse. For the first time so far during WWIII, I was today confronted by the empty shelf when seeking to purchase my usual four-pack of botty hankies. Cheers for that, whoever thought it wise to exceed the purchase of a humble four-pack. I’m sure the manufacturers are producing more than enough to go round, but people are naturally purchasing stocks for their fallout shelters because they’re gullible gits feasting on a 24/7 diet of sensationalistic scaremongering on the part of irresponsible broadcasters and online news agencies.

Not that the streets seemed any emptier to me when breaking the curfew and venturing outdoors for what (in my relative world) was an ‘essential’ expedition, i.e. to acquire food and, of course, cash in exchange for it. I live within a short walking distance of a lengthy parade of shops, so I’m fortunate that my status as a non-motorist is no impediment to getting the job done. I don’t need a car to do ‘weekly shops’ to out-of-town retail parks; I tend to buy what I fancy on the day I fancy it, so visitors often mistake the empty fridge to be a pointer to latent anorexia. What, though, of those permanent pedestrians residing in more rural neighbourhoods or ones in which astronomical business rates have rendered most of the local stores boarded-up husks? Buy online, you might say. What if they’re not online? Some people aren’t, weirdly enough.

So much of the Government advice is a reflection of the lives led by those dispensing it. I can’t say for certain – though I can guess with a degree of high probability – that no member of the Cabinet has ever worked in either heavy industry or in professions that are largely conducted out of doors and working with one’s hands. Relocating to one’s home address is therefore not the same kind of option for a binman, postman, builder or gardener as it would be for white-collar drones or honourable members. I have a friend who walks dogs for a living; the first half of her day when not partaking in the actual walking is spent driving from one suburban residence to another, collecting and then returning the pooches; she can hardly work from home.

The Government approach to large-scale gatherings to date seems to be a case of withdrawing the usual state support for such events – police, first-aid services etc. – as a means of laying the responsibility at the door of the organisers and those in attendance rather than issuing an official ban. Some, such as this year’s Grand National and the Euro 2020 tournament, have been cancelled and deferred a year respectively by the authorities in charge of them; but they could in theory have gone ahead – only, Government would have then said ‘Nothing to do with me, mate’ if these events had proven to be a fertile breeding ground for further mass infection by the coronavirus.

It’s probably the half-and-half measures that are leaving so many in a state of confusion. Schools remain open for business, yet the parents of schoolchildren are being advised to work from home whilst the grandparents are being advised to minimise all contact with fellow human beings altogether. The Government tells us not to patronise pubs, clubs or restaurants, and theatres are voluntarily closing their doors; the latter are doing so without the prospect of financial compensation, and whilst it could be argued their patrons are small in number nationwide, the creative industries are still a sizeable employer in this country. Across the Channel, Monsieur Macron has declared no business, however big or small, will go under; over here, struggling Laura Ashley has called in administrators.

By sheer bloody coincidence, the profession that leaves me self-isolating even when the rest of the world is enjoying a pandemic-free lifestyle has inadvertently mirrored a highly relevant contemporary scenario with the publication of my latest book. A collection of six short stories in a ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ vein, ‘Solitaire’ is half-a-dozen variations on a theme, the theme being confinement of both an internal and external nature. Each story is self-contained and shares no characters or locations with any other; but what they do share is this very issue – people stricken by loneliness and isolation when alone and when in company, all seeking escape and then finding something they weren’t looking for. Yes, I know any recommendation on my part will lead to you paraphrasing the late, great Mandy Rice-Davies – ‘well, he would say that, wouldn’t he’ – but if you like storytelling with a creepy, unnerving undercurrent, you could do worse than invest in a copy to while away all those long hours of self-isolation.

Now said book is on sale and the next project has yet to smack me over the head with a light-bulb, I’ve spent a good few hours indulging in my usual escapist pastime of the box-set. At the moment, I’m revisiting Peter Wyngarde’s sequel to ‘Department S’, in which his irrepressibly foppish Jason King character is promoted to leading man and stumbles into all manner of unlikely scrapes that nevertheless provide sublime and surreal entertainment of the most joyously preposterous nature. Once the delicious dollybirds and Wyngarde’s hilariously effete hero are taken on board as the norm, much of the fun comes from playing ‘guess what else you’ve seen him/her in’ as the roll-call of character actors that seem to appear in every drama series produced for UK TV in the 1970s is once again called upon to fill out the cast.

Earlier today, I watched an episode in which Lance Percival impersonated Jason King in order to infiltrate a Turkish drug-smuggling gang (don’t ask); but half of the time I was trying to recall which similarly vintage series the villain of the piece had appeared in – ‘Special Branch’? ‘Public Eye’? ‘Callan’? ‘The Tomorrow People?’; the answer was, of course, all of them. I sometimes wonder if there were no more than fifty actors working in television at the time. And then, of course, there’s always good old Pat Gorman – extra extraordinaire, who had the occasional line but usually appeared in the background as a reliably mute presence, a safe pair of seventies hands you could depend on. Yes, watch enough of this stuff and you even get to know the names of the extras. But I digress.

Music, literature, TV, YouTube, handicrafts, the box-set, alcohol, illicit substances, masturbation – yes, there’s no shortage of things one can enjoy when bereft of company. I appreciate the more social animals may well struggle at the abrupt adjustment, but as long as essential household items are available and haven’t all been snatched by the Arseholes, there’s no reason why the Devil should spy an abundance of idle hands. However, novelty has a habit of wearing off quickly, and then there’s the inconvenient truth of an economy starved of its human resources tending to crash – a factor which will outweigh any death toll when it comes to emergency measures. As Karen Carpenter once so memorably observed, we’ve only just begun.

British Emergency TV from Johnny Monroe on Vimeo.

© The Editor


Self-isolation? They only had to ask and I would’ve gladly provided the expertise; but maybe the Gove suspicion of experts lingers. Last year – or was it the year before? – I went a full week without speaking to another soul in person; and I didn’t even have the flu. It’s a talent of sorts, and one that makes doing what I do that much easier. But it’s been there a long time. The fear that closed schools will naturally entail stay-at-home parents minding the little ones means fewer employees available for the potential coronavirus battlegrounds. How much easier it was for my own parents when my school shut its gates for the actual holidays. They worked; I stayed at home – alone; a younger sibling had to accompany my mother to her workplace, but one of the few advantages of my seniority came into play and I was entrusted with the responsibility of being daytime housekeeper aged ten.

It’s easy to underestimate the expanse of the canvas presented to an imaginative child when he has the whole house to himself from breakfast till teatime; next to being locked overnight in a sweetshop, it’s about as good as it gets. The possibilities certainly seemed endless for me. With little television output and none of those newfangled video-game things to keep me entertained, the normal no-go areas were opened as temporary adventure playgrounds. The greatest battle of WWII never fought spanned several interior continents as the Airfix infantry climbed mountains (the staircase), fired down on the enemy from the hills (the sofa), fought crocodiles in the kitchen sink, waded through father’s Cossack shaving foam cunningly disguised as Arctic snow in the bathroom sink, patrolled thick, dense jungles (mother’s potted plants), and requisitioned the record player in order that Holst’s ode to the Bringer of War could provide a suitable soundtrack.

The dramatic exploits of toy soldiers and their Action Men brothers-in-arms was one outlet; but of more lasting significance were the tape recorder and the pencil-and-paper combo. The tape recorder, enabling the production of DIY TV and radio programmes, was the midwife to the not-so secret identity of Victoria Lucas 38, the reprobate responsible for the likes of ‘Buggernation Street’ and dozens of other wholesome videos that prompted YouTube to place me on their blacklist of demonetised undesirables; the pencil-and-paper combo, on the other hand, eventually led me all the way to this very post. Neither of these modest achievements could have been possible had all that home-alone time been exclusively devoted to kicking a football or riding a bike – both figured, but were secondary pastimes.

Fast-forward to a tacky 80s drinking den-cum-nightclub, the kind of venue where Del Boy and Rodney might have sipped cocktails they imagined made them look sophisticated. T’was there that the four-piece electric band I’d been the frontman of were booked to perform in 1989 – only, the band had collapsed the week before and the gig was honoured with just the two of us: me on vocals and Paul on acoustic guitar. I wore a feather boa. It wasn’t up there with The Beatles at Shea Stadium, but enough friends were dragged along to clap and they did their duty. Somebody saw fit to record it and there still exists, somewhere in my possession, an audio cassette of said performance; I can’t bring myself to listen even 31 years on, but at least it no longer remains the last occasion in which your humble narrator stood before an audience.

It’s been a strange week, mind. At 2.30am on Thursday, I was to be found braving the long-neglected top shelf of the kitchen cupboard, searching for a bag of brown rice that an online recipe reminded me I owned. It was there, but I had to remove all the other half-finished foodstuffs fighting over limited shelf space to get to it – lentils, flour, soya sauce, hundreds-and-thousands, Ovaltine; indeed, all that was missing was that one-time back-of-the-cupboard staple, Bird’s Custard Powder. Alas, like everything else, the brown rice had bypassed its expiry date by at least two years. Items purchased with the optimistic anticipation of future feasts that never happened had met the sad fate that befalls the relegation of a healthy appetite to the lower leagues. It was an oddly melancholy ceremony, rooting through what felt like the belongings of a deceased relative and then binning these now-inedible articles once imbued with the promise of banquets that went uncooked; finally, I was confronted by a shelf that would’ve shamed Old Mother Hubbard. I said it had been a strange week.

Stranger still, three decades on from a pale-skinned Shirley Bassey and his acoustic sidekick, the week began with yours truly standing up and reciting a trio of self-penned poems before an audience that applauded. And I didn’t even know any of them. The venue was a local arts/community centre I only realised existed this year, and it was hosting the monthly event that is known in poetic circles as an ‘open mic night’ – i.e. anyone can get up and read aloud something they’ve written if they get their name down in time. I was just a spectator last month – my first visit; but I wasn’t intimidated, the atmosphere felt welcoming, and I figured I could do it. Therefore, this month, I got there early and vowed to do it. So I did.

Pre-match preparation focused on both the right poems and the right voice. The latter was finalised via recording several poems as though broadcasting them on the Third Programme; it was important to me to ensure my diction was top notch and that every word was clearly heard. Some poems are better read in the head than read out loud, and it was through recording and listening back that I discovered which had the best rhythm for a public airing. Content mattered too. I deliberately selected a couple of poems looking back to childhood listening and viewing habits, ones I figured might chime with an audience whose average age appeared slightly more advanced than my own; sandwiched between this pair was one dealing with the annoying habit time has of moving the goalposts of perception – and that’s not a reference to an imaginary collaboration between Aldous Huxley and Gordon Banks.

Having published four collections of poetry in the last couple of years, I had plenty material to choose from – and I must have looked very much the pro, reciting from an actual book rather than the notepads or sheets the other participants clutched at the mic. After two solid decades devoted to prose, returning to verse had been an unexpected response to an emotional crisis that demanded an instant creative response as a means of keeping me sane. I used to write nothing but verse at one time, though most was done with the intention of music being added; it rarely was, and the jottings of the 90s remain buried in a binder. Life experience has promoted me into a different league since then.

After reading my third and final poem, I confessed to the organiser of the event I’d been just a little nervous, though she insisted it didn’t show; she also confirmed my belief that the subject matter of the poems might register with the lives of others, as had a friend who told me she was returned to her classroom in 60s Ireland when she listened to the evocations of my own in 70s England. Reading them aloud was something new, though I’m not getting carried away. I’ve learnt not to cultivate great expectations anymore, and the expulsion of romanticism from my vision means I can see clearly now. An excess of hope only ever spawns false dawns, anyway, so it’s best to resist it. I’ve just finished my first collection of short stories, but I don’t regard myself as the new Roald Dahl; I wrote them because I can’t stop. If people like it, great; if they don’t, I’ll still keep producing it. I’m a one-man cottage industry, and self-isolation comes with the territory – handkerchief or no.

Closedown Poem (BBC2 Revival) from Johnny Monroe on Vimeo.

© The Editor


There’s a familiar thread running through social media at the moment that dismisses and demonises anyone uncomfortable with the canonisation of a certain 16-year-old; it’s one of many examples designed to deter any critique of this specific consensus, accusing anyone with the nerve to compose one as being entirely motivated by hatred of the girl’s gender as well as her cause. Personally, I’ve nothing against either, but I reserve the right to ask questions. However, to challenge the accepted narrative immediately brands the challenger a climate change-denying misogynist – or something along those lines, anyway. Of course, this is a weapon utilised on a depressingly regular basis today, a means of closing down debate with a simplistic insult. Dispute the perceived collective wisdom of anything and the instant retort is the kind of shaming that places one alongside the likes of Piers Morgan and Katy Hopkins – and who would relish a threesome with them?

Anyone querying the deification of Greta Thunberg is immediately attacked as picking on a little girl, yet surely expressing concern at the unhealthy overexposure this teenager is receiving – both from the politicians fawning at her feet in the same opportunistic fashion they once reserved for Mother Theresa, and the absent parents whose care of an apparently autistic adolescent seems to be severely lacking – shows more humanity than encouraging the ongoing and irresponsible adoration of someone occupying such a dangerous spotlight. The elevation of Greta Thunberg to messiah-like status seems to be confirmation that, for some, the climate change issue has morphed into a religious movement. I also find the promotion of Thunberg to her current omnipotence disturbingly reminiscent of an old-school child-star – and we all know what became of many of them.

Like so much of what constitutes contemporary discourse, however, we have been here before. During the similarly-confused early 70s Age of Aquarius, the rejection of orthodox faith by hippies resulted in a multitude of alternatives, one of which was the Divine Light Mission. This organisation had its roots in India, but found a receptive audience in the West when its leader, Prem Rawat – under the hereditary title of Guru Maharaji – was hailed by his disciples as ‘the second Christ’ at the tender age of 15 and made publicised tours of the UK and US, including the overhyped ‘Millennium ‘73’ festival at the Houston Aerodrome. Rawat was essentially Billy Graham in a kaftan, a post-Maharishi beneficiary of the hunger of western youth disillusioned with western panaceas for spiritual guidance, and he briefly managed to attract the patronage of several prominent counter-cultural personalities who carried clout among his target audience.

It certainly is a recurring trend that when a society experiences a destabilising and traumatic sequence of shake-ups to the established order that groups emerge to embrace and promote a cause with zealous fanaticism. It happened after the English Civil War, when numerous Puritan cults took possession of a people suddenly robbed of God in human form (i.e. the beheaded King); and it was no great surprise there was a resurgence of this fad following the cultural upheaval of the late 60s, when the materialistic trappings of the consumerist society were found to be spiritually unsatisfying. Traditional Christianity had been sold as the answer in the same way as soap powder to children of the 50s, so that couldn’t be relied upon. Heads turned to the East, and the East exploited the craving. The presence of sects-cum-corporations such as the Divine Light Mission confirmed the deep desire for something approximating the false security of religion in a secular society; and it would seem the climate change bandwagon fulfils that inherent longing today.

We hardly reside in the most secure of times, so it’s no wonder this pattern has resurfaced, nor is it a surprise that an unlikely individual has been pushed forward as a figurehead for those susceptible to the power of nightmares. Trump, Bo-Jo and Jezza don’t exactly inspire confidence, so why not a Scandinavian schoolgirl in pigtails? There always seems to be a need for Jesus whenever the world goes through one of its periodical spells of uncertainty, and with the man from Nazareth perennially reluctant to embark upon his much-heralded comeback tour, someone has to fill the void. But there should be room to question the wisdom of devotion without being shouted down in a manner that suggests the devoted aren’t quite as secure in that devotion as they’d like to convince us. Yet their approach in silencing anyone expressing a healthy instinct to ask questions is common currency.

A week in which the ghost of a dead politician was cynically and shamelessly exhumed as a desperate means of injecting some emotional weight into a point-scoring contest was further confirmation of this tactic’s current success. Who is going to continue an argument when the name of Jo Cox is evoked to instantly kill debate? And MPs eager to dispatch a Commons clash as a clip to bolster their Twitter standing need to condense a complex issue into a sound-bite for the social media masses, so deliver their contribution in the best Oscar-winning manner to satisfy the nature of the beast. Any deeper nuances are sacrificed to the quick-fire MTV-edit style of a movie trailer and the drama of the one-liner.

Accepting everything and questioning nothing has never been part of my makeup, though in times such as these, refusing to accept either side as sole owners of the moral high-ground and reluctance to be claimed as the darling of one over the other can leave some people puzzled. I’ve been accused of right-wingery on here, just as I was labelled a lefty when I wrote for another blog; I’m happy to be called both, because to me it means I’m neither. And that says I’m doing something right. This is evident in the content of the collected volumes I shall now plug as though I’m no better than a Hollywood whore on the Graham Norton Show…

Volume One is divided into three chapters: 1) Village Idiots (Westminster, Brexit and beyond the bubble); 2) Those We Have Loved and Those We Have Lost (Pop and the personal); 3) It Was a Very Bad Year (Posts from the edge). Volume Two boasts five chapters: 1) Pop Life and Death (Overtures and obituaries); 2) The Wild West (Once upon a time in America); 3) Listen to the Banned (Censorship, culture wars and the politics of identity); 4) Overseas Development (And now for the rest of the world); 5) It Could Be Yewtree (False allegations, fishing parties, witch-hunts and hysteria). Volume Three has four chapters: 1) Part of the Union (Beasts from the East and European empires); 2) Social Insecurity (The department of ill-health or homeless under the hammer); 3) War in Europe (A multicultural mainland and the Great British Jihad); 4) The Home Front (The Disunited Kingdom of Little Britain and Northern Ireland). And finally, Volume Four is down to a trio: 1) Shit-storm (Referendums, Elections and the weak in Westminster); 2) Apolitical Interludes (Pop culture eats itself – and everything else); 3) (Almost) Everything but the Brexit (The bubble & squeak of all essays).

If you’re concerned as to the potential transience of the digital medium – not to mention intimidated at the prospect of slogging through four years’ worth of posts in search of a favourite essay that can now be accessed via the flick of a page – maybe one of the volumes is for you. But don’t dawdle; we might not have much time left…

© The Editor


Yes, it’s the book they’re all talking about! It’s the book they’ve all been waiting for! It’s the book that definitely won’t be going for 99p in the Great British charity shop within a matter of months, no sir! The book in question is, of course, ‘Winegums from The Telegram’, the first volume of collected posts from this here blog in paperback form. Had you fooled for a minute there, didn’t I. Apparently, some posh-boy pig-f**ker who used to run the country or something has got a memoir out that he’s desperately plugging across the media, but nobody really gives a shit about that.

Anyway, as the Telegram is coming up for four years-old, I thought it long overdue that I gather together its finest moments in one volume, just like the columnists of old used to do. Then I began trying. I realised four years means a lot of posts – a hell of a lot. At one time, I’d be posting something on an almost-daily basis, and years inconveniently having over 300 days has meant I’ve had to be scrupulous in deciding what to put in and what to leave out. Gradually, I realised if I wanted to do the blog justice as a document of what has been pretty much a ‘Golden Age’ in terms of having big events to write about, I had to make the book version a series. Therefore, I’ve put together three so far, and there’s still enough material to easily make four.

Each essay is reproduced exactly as it appeared – and still exists online – for it would have seemed dishonest to edit any simply because my opinion might have changed from the one expressed within the individual article. As I began to read through them, it dawned on me that these little time capsules were virtual diary entries, accurately reflecting how I felt at the precise moment I pressed the ‘publish’ button (which is what happens when you’ve finished writing and you’re ready for the readership to sample it). These aren’t after-the-event retrospectives, but subjective reportage ‘as it happened’, so it felt important to reproduce them properly on the printed page, warts and all.

Although each post is in chronological order of publication, collected posts on the same subjects are divided into separate chapters to try and establish some sort of narrative. In volume one, for example, the first chapter features all the posts covering UK politics this year, right from the very first post in January (‘Divide and Misrule’) and up to the one that appeared on 10 September (‘Prorogue State’); a shame 2019 couldn’t have been more eventful in Westminster, but you can’t have everything. Chapter two is devoted to pop cultural posts, whereas the third features my more personal chronicle of 2018, which was a unique year for all the wrong reasons. Naturally, the scope widens for volumes two and three so that the USA, Europe and the rest of the world get a look in. Indeed, it was only when I started working my way through the Winegum back catalogue that I realised just how many different topics I’ve covered since December 2015 – even if a few have tended to dominate. It is true however, that some subjects have proven to be more inexhaustible than others.

Thankfully – well, depending how you look at it – this blog got off the ground just in time to catch the beginning of Brexit; the date of the game-changing Referendum was announced barely two months into the Winegum’s existence. I’ve therefore been able to chronicle the whole messy business from day one, and I’ve no doubt Dave imagined that by the time his own masterly contribution to the libraries of the nation appeared on the shelves the chaos he unleashed would have settled, thus saving him from any unpleasant revivals of the blame game. Instead, it rather fortuitously happens to fall smack bang in the middle of the latest attempt by the arrogant and entitled (led, of course, by Ms Miller) to not so much ‘take back’ control as hold onto it for dear life.

The English judiciary is now in the proroguing spotlight, hot on the heels of its Scottish equivalent giving the thumbs-down last week; a nation governed by rampant pro-EU Nationalists was hardly going to judge the PM’s decision favourably, though. Following a slickly-staged stunt intended to humiliate beleaguered Boris in Luxembourg, the ‘other side’ are turning up the heat on the Prime Minister in the hope Parliament will be recalled. What exactly they hope to actually do in Parliament if the Supreme Court bows to the Remainer mafia remains to be seen, however, for all they’ve done for the last three-and-a-half years is to try and thwart a democratic mandate at the expense of implementing any important legislation. So, I guess we’re talking more of the same.

Good old dependable Jo Swinson has at least dropped any pretences of a phony ‘People’s Vote’ this week, so that’s been a refreshing confirmation of everything we already knew about the Lib Dem approach to the issue. Most amusingly of all, Swinson’s brazen honesty has irked ideological allies such as Caroline Lucas, who still prefers to mask her true intentions in the Second Referendum smokescreen. But Swinson is oozing self (or over) confidence at the moment.

Buoyed by the addition of another lacklustre Tory reject to the ranks, the Lib Dem leader roused the faithful at the Party Conference with an echo of David Steel’s infamous ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government’ call. Liberals do have a habit of getting carried away with what passes for popularity between General Elections. But perhaps Swinson’s belief that her party can win a majority is merely another reflection of Remainer righteousness – or perhaps the righteousness of the political class as a whole. Swinson herself is, like Dave before her, another product of the smooth conveyor belt that took her from university to Westminster at a tender age with a brief pause en route for a short sample of what ‘real life’ feels like. Therefore, she’s expertly qualified to lecture 17 million members of the unwashed electorate on where they went wrong.

One benefit of going through old posts with a fine tooth comb has been to remind myself just how Cameron and his rotten administration (both with and without their Lib Dem whipping-boys) really were the embodiment of the Nasty Party ideal. No posthumous whitewash in attempting to reclassify himself as a ‘compassionate Conservative’ simply by standing next to his successors holds water when one re-reads instant gut reactions to his appalling policies at the point they were unveiled. In a way, the serendipitous timing of my decision to reacquaint myself with what I thought in 2016 has rekindled my contempt for a man who hoped sufficient distance would soften opinion towards him. No chance – especially not when the consequences of his irresponsible actions continue to dictate our increasingly fractious political discourse.

Anyway, the first volume of my book will be in direct competition with Dave’s in a matter of days. One will apparently retail at £25, and one will definitely be on sale at £4.99. Spend your hard-earned pennies wisely, boys and girls.

© The Editor


At last, it’s official! The Pope is Catholic, bears shit in the woods, middle-aged MPs grope pretty young girls, America has a gun problem that enables lunatics to shoot dead innocents on a regular basis, and rich people (including Her Majesty) squirrel away their ill-gotten gains into offshore accounts. Now you know. Okay, so where does that leave us? Well, speaking personally, I’ve decided to leave such shocking revelations to the MSM and instead will today take the opportunity to blow my own trumpet on account of the fact nobody is going to blow it on my behalf. Yes, those of you who peruse these missives on a near-daily basis will be aware each one includes an additional link beneath said musings on the way we live now that will take you to a German website should you click on it. The site used to be based in Blighty and then relocated to the land of sauerkraut, which hasn’t been an especially beneficial transfer for the author.

I penned a virtual biography about a late, lamented friend the best part of two years ago, following the establishment of a parallel blog (one that actually predates this one) which shared the same name as the book, ‘Looking for Alison’; after spending a good twelve months attempting to interest numerous media outlets in Alison’s story, promising breaks via ‘The Big Issue’ and Radio 4’s ‘iPM’ led to little beyond the initial euphoria, and the self-published book remained as the sole reminder of my endeavours.

The closure of the UK site that I stumbled upon – which printed the book in paperback form on demand (once I uploaded the file) – necessitated relocation to the parent company in Germany, but the language (not to mention the financial) barrier has proven to be somewhat problematic from my perspective. Although ‘Looking for Alison’ is still available there, you can also purchase it on Amazon should you be interested; and the planet’s favourite tax-dodging online retail corporation also hosts other titles to emanate from the same hand providing you with amusing observations on the world about us.

One of the reasons I searched out a site based in Germany was that Amazon only dealt with crappy e-books four years ago (when I uploaded my first publically-unveiled effort); now it prints actual, proper books as well, so my most recent novelistic outing was uploaded there following the linguistic difficulties arising from the previous outlet’s wholesale embrace of the Germanic tongue; with my deceased grandfather being the only person of my acquaintance who was fluent in that particular dialect (born of his PoW stint in Silesia), I was at a bit of a loss when it came to uploading and then promoting my latest, so discovering Amazon now deals with the produce of dead trees was handy, to say the least.

This blog has always been a sideline for me, as is the YouTube video platform referenced a couple of posts ago; telling stories is what I regard as my raison d’être, though the two aforementioned sidelines tend to attract larger audiences on account of them a) being free of charge and b) being the kind of easily-accessible formats ‘The Kids’ can handle more than something with a history stretching all the way back to the prehistoric days of the Gutenberg Bible. Nevertheless, the wide expanses of the novel suit me better than the condensed and compact confines of the blog; I learnt the economy of prose that this medium requires in a past stint on a now-defunct forum and reckon I can distinguish between the separate skills that the blog and the book demand as a result.

‘Mr. Yesterday’ is the title of the book I’m shamelessly using this post to promote, a book I complete several months ago, but one that has only just appeared in paperback form on Amazon. Although not through want of trying, I am bereft of an agent to do all the dull promotional stuff for me (thus stifling the more fun creative bit), so I have no choice but to utilise the platforms already available to me for the purposes of promotion, and I’ve decided to do prostitute myself today, if you don’t mind. Bear with me and allow me the indulgence, though; you might actually be intrigued enough to buy the bloody thing.

‘Mr. Yesterday’ is the tale of an individual whose soul-mate has been lost to him and whose grief is interrupted by an unexpected encounter with a mysterious organisation that promises a unique series of distractions. I’m sure we all recall those who f**ked us over at one time or another at separate points of our respective lives; well, the title character of this story is presented with the opportunity to belatedly redress the balance. It doesn’t matter how far back in his murky past the perpetrators of his misery go; he can finally achieve vengeance. He begins with his former headmistress forty-plus years before and ends up much closer to home. I’m sure we could all list potential targets for retrospective revenge, though the likelihood of us ever managing it is remote. Not so where Mr. Yesterday is concerned. He has the chance to get his own back, travelling through his life anew as he inflicts fresh damage on those who inflicted distant damage on him.

Trust me, it’s more entertaining than it perhaps sounds; if you’re familiar with my trademark tongue-in-cheek gallows humour, you’ll know what to expect, and it could be a cheery addition to your bookshelf for the princely sum of just under a tenner – no more expensive than any other new novel that might catch your eye on Amazon. In case you were wondering, I’ll pocket about three quid of that, so it’s not as if I’m crowd-funding you to finance a Chelsea mansion that I can stick my avaricious arse in. Anyway, I’ve done my bit in making you aware of its existence, and the ball is now in your court. To paraphrase something Amazon is so fond of saying – if you like this, you might like that. The link is below…

© The Editor,204,203,200_QL70_&dpSrc=srch