Not So Silly Billy

It’s interesting to see old radicals like John Cooper Clarke, Paul Weller or the Specials either on or lining up to go on tour, (although it’s not quite clear where the ex-Jam man’s socialist principles are when he’s charging sixty odd quid a ticket at some venues), especially in the light of the catastrophic cuts of the Coalition government, it almost feels like 1984 again, almost. So thank god then for the Milkman of Human Kindness himself, Billy Bragg.
There is something brilliantly reliable about the Barking songwriter and political campaigner, a national institution yes, but one who refuses to sit still and rest on his not inconsiderable laurels. Of course he pleases the healthy looking crowd (despite the snow) with classics like Sexuality, World Turned Upside Down and A Lover Sings but it is his between song raps which cause most surprise and entertainment. At one point there is a shocked hush when he candidly announces that he (mistakenly) voted for the Liberal Democrats in the last election. Unlike Nick Clegg, though, there is no compromise with Bragg, if anything he seems feistier and somewhat more leery as he deals expertly with the inevitable heckles.
After a touching and welcome rendition of Tank Park Salute, from the underrated Don’t Try This At Home LP, the Rock City faithful are treated to a rousing version of New England, replete with extra verse for the late Kirsty MacColl. In increasingly insecure political times, come the next election, whether there’s a box to tick or not, my vote’s with Bragg.

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Cat – Arrrggghh

I awoke on Tuesday morning not with a ‘Birdhouse in my soul’ as the song suggests but with a bucket of full of snot. This was after a Monday night coughing bout so loud and impressive I would have given The Fast Show’s Bob Flemming a run for his mucus smeared money. After several hours spent lying awake in bed staring at a ceiling that was probably last painted around the time of the Renaissance, or reading the same blurred sentence of The Martian Chronicles 73 times, I decided to venture downstairs.
Finally comfortable, at least slightly more comfortable say, than your average victim of crucifixion I settled back on the sofa, sweaty sick blanket tucked under the chin, remote control in one hand and a box of man-sized Kleenex in the other; and began to half consciously digest any shit the TV happened to throw at me. I was simply too weak to avoid the likes of Jerry Springer, Heartbeat, Kyle et al.
I am quite good at feeling sorry for myself, which is fortunate in a way as Dotty, (the feline of the house and on that particular day my only companion) seemed to show about as much sympathy as a squadron of Messerschmitts laying waste to a bunch of Chelsea pensioners on Armistice Day. She ably demonstrated this affection by launching herself from her cushion onto my midsection, using my ghoulies as a landing strip and my chest as a final resting place for diamond sharp claws, all 16 of them. Despite my weakened state I found myself easily able to leap from the settee, in considerable pain with the cat still clinging to my nipples. There we were; her a sort of screeching, violent papoose, me a snotty, dressing gown ponce, tangoing our way into the hallway, Strictly Come Dancing ala David Lynch.
Finally releasing me, she skidded quickly into the kitchen leaving me to fall backwards onto the shoe rack, breathless, lacerated and teary eyed. I decided to lay there for a while. It simply seemed a sensible option, in light of everything. Minutes later Dotty returned, much calmer, breath of dead fish, purring loudly. She brushed by me gently and secured what was my place on the settee. Despite my congestion I caught the unmistakable smell of cat shit from somewhere within the house.

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Ok, so poetry is stupid right? Daft, I mean really silly? Ok granted. But it is also important. No, wait, come back, honestly it is. It’s one of the most important forms of communication we as human beings have, like every other form of art it helps us to look the other species in the eye when the inevitable talk of war, guns, bombs and starvation crop up in conversation.

It is important not because it will change the world (it won’t) or that it will change the people within that world (it seriously won’t) but simply because it often points out that they and it should.

So I will continue to write, hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe someone may notice that after each stanza, between each line and next to every word is a quiet and slightly nervous looking manifesto. Not a grim sort of propaganda as such, rather a wish that we continue to recognize the importance of really stupid stuff

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What’s in a Name?

It’s complicated. It shouldn’t be but it is. And I can’t help but feel that I have been partly responsible for all this confusion. I say partly because I think it all started with my mother. I’m not saying she christened me Andrew out of spite, (more that she had crush on the then young ‘Prince’ Andrew), who was years away from being sold out by a drunken ex missus. I liked Andrew, the name I mean, for a while at least. It suited me fine for a number of my formative years and I wore it happily, despite having a temporary attraction the name John but let’s not get into that.

The trouble began in my teens. I picked up the nickname Jimmy in the first job I undertook, at Fine Fare in Sutton in Ashfield. I resented Jimmy at first, hated it even, particularly as people began to introduce me to new people as Jimmy and so I was Jimmy, which quickly got shortened to Jim. And that was it, from then on I was Jim, ‘Andrew’ was simply a name I had been borrowing throughout my childhood.

Every job I subsequently went for or any college course I enrolled to I would invariably introduce myself as Jim and despite those awkward few moments when someone would see a register or wage slip and ask “Who’s Andrew?” things went just swimmingly. Jim was well and truly established and he was cool, taking his name from such namesakes as Morrison and Hendrix. I even discovered later that Iggy Pop’s real name is Jim, like I said – cool.

Then, one day, I happened to be starting a new job at a college in Mansfield and oddly, when it came to being introduced to my new colleagues I found myself saying “I’m Andrew”. It was as if somewhere deep down my original moniker had grown steadily more and more infuriated at being demoted to second place and had suddenly decided to reclaim its territory.

What’s worse is that colleagues began to call me ‘Andy’. In one short week I had gone from being rock ‘n’ roll stooge to estranged Bee Gee. But to then turn around and say to everyone that “actually my name’s Jim” would have made me seem like a nutter; they already thought I was strange.

I was stuck with an old name again, at least at work, which let’s face it took up the majority of my time. I was ‘Andy’.  Andy was boring, uncool, not in the least but sexy or stylish.

Then I began to get gigs as a performance poet. I had a chance to redeem myself. Feeling like I had let ‘Jim’ down, I steered away from it and decided instead to go for MulletProofPoet. I still much prefer ‘Jim’ when speaking to my friends, (I mean MulletProof is hardly  a relaxing in the pub name is it?) But something inside me still wants to slap myself in the face whenever I hear someone call me Andy.

Like I said, it’s complicated.

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