Sunday, 20 August 2017

how to advertise an impending social problem

it's not often i see or hear adverts, but today i listened to Owen Jones on an LBC phone-in about homelessness and the monarchy. that was good, but one of the ads made me think...

bear with me for a bit. do you remember the kerfuffle in the tabloid press (and a bit above) about the Health and Safety Executive banning conker fights in school playgrounds? thing is: they didn't. the ban was a condition in most insurance policies (and the 'blame and claim' culture around injuries led most other schools to ban it anyway), so while it wasn't actually law, it became standard practice

anyway: on LBC there was a spot advertising insurance to landlords against rent arrears. (now there's a thought: landlords want insurance precisely because the risk of someone not paying is higher than ever, but that's another story).

so Joe Q. Landlord goes to one of the insurance companies offering these policies and wants, of course, to keep his costs down. the insurance companies want to limit their exposure to risk, regardless of the policy they're selling, and my guess is that they'll insist on a set of qualifications for tenants - the kind that the well-off don't notice and the poor will find hard to reach. the insurance companies won't let a landlord rent to people in tough financial circumstances who need a place to live: or if they do, the premiums will be higher, which the landlord will naturally pass on to the tenants

so apart from excluding some people from the rental market altogether,  it introduces a dynamic where rents become higher, the poorer you get. no government policy was necessary, apart from poorly regulated rental and financial sectors

and all to protect what is mostly unearned income

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Middle-class picnic

(written a few years ago but appropriate to post now. sung to the tune of Teddy Bear's Picnic. note: Pilton is the village on the edge of the festival site, and what the festie is referred to when you live in Glastonbury - Pilton Pop)
If you go down to the farm today you'd better go in disguise
If you get into the festival you'll never believe your eyes
cos all the twits that ever there was
are gathered there for certain because
today's the day the middle-class come to Pilton

If you get into the Festival, you'll wish you had stayed at home
If you go down to farm today, you'd better be really stoned
'most everyone's a drunken fart
and they will make you suffer for art
cos Coldplay are the main act at the picnic

Glastonbury Festival
is the best of all
when you really wanna get off yer face
There's lots of drugs and alcohol
and you're sure to leave there in a daze

Glastonbury Festival
all the yuppies and twits are getting completely bent
Three whole days and then they'll go back
to their mortgages and jobs
because they're only part-time hedonists

If you go into the bushes there, I hope it is for a snog
Don't go there for a sneaky crap instead of a filthy bog
cos it will end on somebody's shoe
when they give up on the lengthy queue
and that's not how the middle-class have a picnic

If you get near to the pyramid you'd better be armour-clad
If you get into the festival you'll probably meet your dad
cos he was here in seventy-two
and over there was where they made you
cos he forgot to take condoms to the picnic

Glastonbury Festival
is the best of all
when you wanna remember the good old days
The weather's always terrible
unless you like mudbaths on your holidays

Glastonbury Festival
Donates to charity but now you can't climb the fence
and six days on, the pile of litter
is bigger than the Tor
and we'll be tired little teddy bears

Thursday, 20 April 2017

don't take it personally

none of this is about me or you
it's a stab in the dark at those demons
our imagination conjures up
when the light's off
before we fall asleep

so let's put everyone in a gigantic bed
and let them dream in the dark
some will see monsters
others will see stars
some will see nothing
(but only the visible parts)

let's wrap them in a blanket
of four parts nitrogen, one part oxygen
and see how they get on
until sunrise
when the dreams stop
and the nightmares begin
for some

but none of this is about me or you
or the people next door
or that lovely girl i saw today
with the hourglass figure and black tights
or your dog

but i'm just saying that
to get me off the hook
don't take it personally

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

burn before reading

you shouldn't read this
but what does it mean?
don't mean shit
if it meant anything
you wouldn't be reading this crap
that doesn't mean anything

there is no salvation
there is no great truth
you're driving this meat vehicle
from one ditch to the other
until one day, the steering fails
and you go over the edge
on a tight bend
crashing down a loose canyon
or something like that

the potholed road's still going to be there
paved with good intentions
ready to trip the unwary
you can try to read the signs
you'll figure out what they say
but only when it's too late

fuck the road less travelled
and the other one too
(not that it means anything)

if you read this far
sorry for wasting your time
with this crap
but i did try to tell you

Saturday, 15 April 2017

two short planks

as i carve this clear, straight oak
the bright metal edge reveals
shapes hidden within
adding by taking away
shavings curl away like tiny caterpillars
to stick to my socks
and i am happy

and there's you.
you say you've shaped yourself
your perfect life runs on rails
your greasy smile slides over shiny teeth
you've got it all worked out
i don't think

i trust the wood
the wood is honest
the wood is natural
the wood lives
quite unlike you, except
the missing parts
tell the whole story

Friday, 14 April 2017

the day the President's head fell off

do not laugh, nay, do not scoff
the President's head has fallen off!
he tried to think a little, but
the cervical vertebrae were cut

the rest of him still tried to walk
but look! the severed head could talk!
his aides ran about in a terrible spin
and tried to stop the infernal din

it shouted "Make America Great"
it yelled about a wall of hate
the White House rang the CIA
and pleaded "come and save the day!"

"his head has fallen off, they said
the rest of him, it should be dead
but it's still blundering about
come quickly! help us sort it out!"

the CIA and FBI
asked not the reason why
wondered why the fool's not dead
"his brain was gone! he's got no head"

they called the greatest scientist
"you sort it out!" they did insist
he groaned and tugged his long grey beard
and mumbled "yes, it's as i feared"

"he never used his brain, you see
and now it's gone, his body's free
to stumble blindly here and there
but look! what's that? oh no! HIS HAIR!"

the hair was crawling across the floor
heading for the nearest door
it cried "oh yes! i can escape
from life atop that stupid ape!"

"the hair can talk!" they all exclaimed
"yes, indeed, but i can't be blamed
for all the stupid things he's done
please let me leave. it isn't fun"

the head was lying quite inert
but his hair was active and alert
then someone had a bright idea
"hey listen - let me make this clear"

"the hair talks sense, but the man's insane
he clearly doesn't have a brain
the only thing that i will ask
is: can we make a President mask?"

in Hollywood they worked so hard
and made a head of orange lard
"a perfect likeness!" they exclaimed
and put the new head on a plane

they glued the head on to the trunk
then afterwards got really drunk
"that could have been an awful mess
but look! it's been a great success"

so it's the hair that runs the show
it looks the same, but you should know
it's vastly more intelligent
than that idiot who was President

so now the country is in order
no wars, no wall across the border
and those of you who are appalled:
be thankful that he wasn't bald

Thursday, 13 April 2017

the black hole

you know what?
i'm stuck here alive
or something like it
like it or not

others turn inwards
and escape their private bell jar
by turning off their lights
a murderer and corpse in one
hanging the pain on the rest
left mourning our absent friend
i can't hurt people like that

but: how many of us are accidental humans?
what twinkle were we in our fathers' eye
that made him forget to keep it in his trousers?
should you have been here?
do you know?
i do. i shouldn't. that's the truth

but here i am
being punished for a crime i didn't commit
by being here
by getting older
watching it all go by
and feeling that keen loss
of someone who did what i couldn't
and the cold ripples of hurt amongst his friends

but to not exist
to never have been
to vanish without trace
a life down the collective memory hole
just gone, not mourned, no sadness or loss
could i turn off that sparkle
and drift off into the empty black hole
of not being
i could live with that

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


long live the earthbound astronauts
the ones who never made it
never left the ground, except in dreams
who looked to stars they would never reach
and smiled

there's one over there, walking the dog
with a twinkle in his eye and a waggy tail
he's growing carrots on Mars
with his faithful space-dog by his side
while his coffee gets cold

you passed one at the checkout
you could hear those barcode beeps she made
it wasn't a till
she was flying one of those sci-fi film computers
in her discount starship

and with a click of the mouse
you fly through that vast space of zeroes and ones
you can be an astronaut too
we're all on this spaceship

but Houston, we have a problem
there's no fuel left for dreaming
we're stuck here on the ground
all except those special ones, that is
they're already gone

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

dog eat dog

the latter day descendants of Adam Smith
think of themselves like a Star Wars Sith
wrapped round our faces like a vampire squid
bugging and recording everything you did
to protect their place in the gilded tower
while cash & carry politics cements their power

they buy both sides, the reds and the blues
and the companies that supposedly report the news
it's all about controlling the way you think
with bread and circuses and plenty to drink
they'll keep you in debt from birth to grave
and tell you it's freedom to be a slave

well of course you're free to question it all
but careful buddy, because you might fall
through the massive great joke of the safety net
so the rest will see just what you get
so the others will point and say you're the one to blame
but the others won't know, as they scrape and strive
how to free their thoughts and be truly alive

so you're fucked one way and you're fucked the other
like they'll fuck your kids and they fucked your mother
fucked from the start and fucked to the end
fucked by your enemy and fucked by your friend
fuck unto others before they fuck unto you
or maybe just fuck it all... that's what i do

Monday, 10 April 2017

the last post

if Bukowski wrote a facebook status
he'd say
fuck you, motherfuckers
i'm sitting here with
a whore
a thief
a con artist
and a congressman
drinking whisky
just the two of us
as the world presses its nose
against the empty glass

we try and try
but trying is the problem
he would say
i am stuck and i'm trying
to stop trying

he would write
i fell under a pile of letters
sent by sms
on my anything but touch screen

if Bukowski wrote a facebook status
but he wouldn't

and he's dead anyway