Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Glasgow City Council

Fizzing At The Wrong Name.

Dear “Coco-Colo,”

I am aware of, and largely unimpressed by, your inspired but transparent summertime marketing campaign. I am less interested in what forename is printed on the bottle label, and more in the bottle’s content. I only buy your product as an occasional sugary treat, without the intention of establishing an affinity with your packaging. Whichever name happens to be on it is irrelevant, and I have never wasted time selecting any bottle other than that which is closest or looks coldest. Personalised trash is still trash.

Today, by chance, I unpacked my shopping to discover that I had managed to pick up a bottle with, it looked like, my own name on it. Looked like, because closer inspection revealed that you had misspelt it in the most abhorrent fashion.

Coke label

My name is Jordan. It has been Jordan for very nearly thirty-three years, and in that time I have never – never – met anybody older than me with this forename. I understand there are older Jordans in existence, only I have yet to personally encounter any of them. I could have resolved this, admittedly, but it seems a flimsy reason to attend a concert by the New Kids On The Block. Christ knows I would not be going for the music.

You can imagine, I am sure, that living with this name has had its ups and downs. Fortunately, I was at school when the basketball player Michael was cool, and happily accepted the nickname I acquired from the brand of footwear he promoted. Nearing the end of my state education, Katie Price turned up and ruined the name for every adolescent male Jordan left behind me in the playground.

My name has grown in popularity, transcending gender in the process, and there must now be Jordans who have reproduced and brought new Jordans into the world. So, in light of all this, what possessed you to print a label bearing the abomination “Jordon”?

Jordon is not a name, it is a misspelling; a source of constant irritation to me, as dyslexics and idiots throughout my life have insisted on unjustifiably changing the letters which form my name. Usually, this is a small detail – the substitution of the “A” for a second “O” – and a mistake made by recognised incompetents, such as the department of Glasgow City Council responsible for addressing my Council Tax bills.

council tax card

I could retaliate in kind, as I did in opening this letter, but referring to you as Coco-Colo does not work as well when you consider that you are more commonly known by the shortened moniker, “Coke.” Is there some other way to resolve this issue? The “vegetable extracts” are supposed to enhance the beverage, not type (nor mistype) the list of people to whom you wish to sell your product.

I do not expect you to recall vast quantities of poorly-labelled soft drink, but perhaps you could amend the spelling for the next print run. Having accepted that the council will never manage to spell my name correctly, I refuse to believe that a company of your size cannot manage to correct this error.

Contrary to my stated disinterest, I will now keep a look-out for fizzy juice labelled “Jordan”, in the hope that today’s bottle just came from a bad batch and that somebody in the factory was simply not wearing their glasses that day. I concede that it might be quite a nice thing to possess, and am beginning to understand the appeal. I stand by my initial assertion that this marketing campaign, as much as I despise all advertising and marketing, is inspired. I am usually resistant to such tactics.

I look forward to your response.

Jordan.

birth cert redacted

 

 

 

 

 

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Now It’s Cone Too Far.

I love this city. Although I was born and brought up some eleven miles away, I quickly realised upon moving here that I was always Glaswegian – I had just been trapped elsewhere for twenty-three years. This is the best, although sometimes the worst, city in the world, and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I would miss the people, their sense of humour, and the civic pride. See, the people of Glasgow love Glasgow. This was demonstrated beautifully earlier today.

Glasgow embraces its flaws, like the fact the Science Centre Tower is destined to never properly function. This trait is even summed up in the city’s coat of arms, as one of my friends brought to my attention: Here’s the bird that never flew, Here’s the tree that never grew, Here’s the bell that never rang, Here’s the fish that never swam. Supposed to depict miracles performed by Saint Mungo, it instead just sounds like a host of things that do not quite work. Further, there are areas of this city where there is no work at all, since the decline of heavy industry, yet people are quick to come together when the things we love are challenged.

This has been demonstrated recently, with the announcement of plans to renovate George Square. I remember the square before its transformation into how it looked for the past fifteen years – it was a green and leafy place in the heart of the city, the kind of place where somebody could steal the baby Jesus from the nativity scene. It then became a vast expanse of reddish-brown and bobbly tarmac – which led to me writing a joke about standing in the middle of it and kidding on you are a Borrower in the centre of a huge square sausage. “It’s great fun, until some junkie hits you with the brown sauce.”

george square sausageAbove: George Square Sausage.

The proposed changes were quickly condemned and subsequently dropped, with the consensus being that – if alterations were to be made – then it should be restored to how it was previously. Fancy fountains are all well and good, but the last thing Glasgow needs is a water feature. We have one already, suspended in grey clouds that regularly deposit their load upon us. Today, civic sensibility again won out – this time with regard to the Duke of Wellington’s traffic cone hat.

are ye aye

A fixture upon his head for so long that it has become a cultural icon, adorning clothing and postcards and making it into a Lonely Planet guidebook, there was outrage when it was suggested that the practice should end. The intention was to raise the plinth by about a metre, making it harder for people to place the cone upon Wellington’s head. “Challenge accepted” was one response I read.

I happened to catch this news story as it broke, courtesy of the Twitter feed of Brian “Limmy” Limond. He had gone through the original STV article, highlighting certain phrases and drawing attention to the instigator of this ill-considered idea. Rachel Smith, he discovered via LinkedIn, hails from Edinburgh. There is famously no love lost between our cities, and a great divide in our cultures and senses of humour.

limmy article

Meanwhile, word was spreading. My wee cousin linked to a petition that was set up (currently at nearly 10,000 signatures), which called for a re-think and linked to the Lonely Planet article mentioned above. Comedian Greg Hemphill got involved, mentioning drily how every Glaswegian loves being told what they can and cannot do. Then I saw an unintentionally hilarious post, from someone bemoaning the raising of the “Duke of Ellington” statue. I took that and used it, complaining with tongue in cheek that I “Can’t believe they’re gonna stop you putting a cone on Duke Ellington’s head. That’s totally racist.”

Duke Ellington is not the Duke of Wellington, and Jack Skellington is also someone different.

An English friend pointed out that Wellington’s Cone is the one sight she remembers from her visit here, while comedian Jim Park announced that “The Duke of Wellington DID wear a traffic cone on his head at the Battle Of Waterloo, so there is a compelling historical argument.” Over on Facebook, groups were being set up to protest the decision, and a demonstration was hastily arranged for the next working day.

fb group

On there, as on the petition page, people were questioning the estimated cost of £65,000 for the work involved. Various graphics appeared, supplying departmental phone numbers and email addresses for registering discontent. This money could be better spent fixing potholes, funding community projects, or as a donation to the Philippines Disaster Fund.  The article claimed that it costs £100 a time to remove the cone, which was disputed on the petition page and which outraged Limmy.

limmy hunner quid

The original article was posted, according to the STV site, at 13:07. The outrage and humour flew on social media, with it being regularly mentioned that the cone embodies the defiant spirit of fun that permeates our city’s attitude. It’s part of our “get it up ye” culture, proclaimed Janey Godley.

Having casually followed the general outcry for most of the afternoon, by 22:56 the game was over. The BBC published an article describing the day’s events, in which they claimed the council is very likely to back down. It seems a sensible move, from a governing body that uses on its own website an image of the very thing they wish to ban. Amazingly, the statue (with cone) appears to be listed there at the very top of a section headed Objects Of Inspiration. I mean, really. This shower of dunces should be made to wear conical hats themselves.

In fact, if you have a cone of your own handy, the demonstration tomorrow will now be a celebration. I love that too, that we are all going to get together anyway and just celebrate the cone on the statue’s head. It is the mentality that appeals to me – an outpouring of shared affection for one of the most endearing sights in the town centre. A triumph for common (non)sense.

fb party

There you go. One afternoon was enough to (almost certainly) reverse a new policy – that is fast work, the vocal majority reminding the cooncil to stop messing with things that make Glasgow Glasgow. If only it was always this quick and easy.

Here is a short video clip Limmy made eight years ago, in which he plays an east-coaster who has come through to Glasgow just to see the statue with the cone. There is no cone to be seen, leaving our hero confused and disappointed.

 

Sources:
STV (via Limmy)
Change.org (via Rachael)
Glasgowlife.org.uk (Stu Who via Eddy Cavin)
Twitter and Facebook (Limmy, Greg Hemphill, Jim Park, Janey Godley, Lauren, John McLarnon, Gary Cassidy, Ray Bradshaw, Ailsa Comrie)
BBC News
Coat of arms observation: Sarah Crone


Diary Of An Anti-Tory Protestor – Part 5

“Remember Thatcher’s Victims”, George Square, 17th April 2013

They planted Thatcher today. Actually, I think they burned her. Either way, I do not care, and I suspect neither does she. The BBC and most of our media and politicians seem to be eulogising her to the point that it would be more honest of them if they just stood there masturbating while shouting her name. It sickens me. This woman was anti-gay, condemned Mandela, and befriended Pinochet – and those are just the first three that spring to mind, while trying to avoid the mention of steel, and unions, and pit closures.

This was an event set up to remember the victims of her years in power, and the injustices propagated and communities blighted by her endeavours. It was not another “death party” as seen on the day the news broke, being fully organised with the agreement of the council and the attendance of the police. It would be a peaceful rally, a chance to reflect on the pain she heartlessly and relentlessly inflicted, and a call to arms to rise against the still-living Tories who continue to assault us with Thatcherism. Tories who cannot fund care for disabled people, but have no qualms about spending ten million pounds on a public funeral for a stateswoman who was extremely unpopular. That is obscene, and must be strongly condemned. As must their plan to spend fifteen million quid on a museum in her name.

rally thatcherite cameron meme

When I told my friend that I was going to a protest rally, she warned me to stay safe. “It’s peaceful protesting!” I told her. “Rallying, chanting, listening, with banners and placards.”

She replied with a statement and question that amused me for the inherent absurdity that is implied: “But she is dead! What can that do?”
Indeed, what can it do? It gave me visions of protestors demanding Thatcher’s resurrection, as if that was the cause of our disquiet. Instead, I answered in a series of short sentences that – even when I come to edit this for the blog – sum up my opinion succinctly:

“She is dead, Thatcherism isn’t. The Tories continue to destroy lives with policies that do not and cannot work. This is visible dissent. That people are not happy. That we will lock arms and prevent evictions if people can’t afford the bedroom tax. That Scotland does not want, does not need, and cannot afford nuclear weapons. That the defence spending on Trident would cover ALL benefit cuts. That there is no money to prevent homelessness but they spend ten million on a funeral. That a YES vote next year will rid us of the Tories forever. Fuck them, fuck their dogma, fuck their propaganda and their lies, and fuck all they stand for. THAT is why I will be protesting”

And that is why I was protesting. I have had enough. I want my voice to be heard. I want all our voices to be heard – this government is shamelessly hypocritical, appallingly self-serving, and cruelly destructive. I will be taking every justifiable opportunity to swell ranks and provide visible evidence of discontent. We will succeed in reversing their unworkable decrees, we will oust them permanently from power by declaring ourselves independent next year, or I will gradually lose faith and heart (in whichever order) and see where life takes me. The one thing that strikes me, though, is something I posted earlier, after someone looked at a picture taken today and jokingly branded us “losers.” That is: if you don’t stand and fight for what you believe, who will?

rally me lynne grant Above: Lynne, me, and Grant. Photo: Adele McVay Photography Ltd

After three previous protests where I had held my “F_CK THE TORIES” flag aloft, struggling to fold it and grasp it against the wind to keep it readable, I knew I needed to adapt it. Either I could run some kind of weighting device along the bottom edge, to prevent it flapping loosely in the breeze, or I could use the provided channel and mount it onto a pole. This afternoon, I bought a bamboo torch in a low-price shop, cut out the torch, and then found that the diameter of the cane was too large to fit. It would affect the aesthetic to merely staple the flag down the length of the pole, and I live near to a small garden centre. I quickly nipped round there, taking the flag with me.

The proprietor was very helpful, and I explained straight away what I wanted and why. He ably assisted me, watching as I attempted to thread the flag onto the end of the pole he provided. It was finicky, but I could see that it would comfortably fit. As I persevered with it, he gestured to another customer, with whom he had been chatting at the counter. “He’s trying to read what it says,” he told me.

I looked at the other customer. “I could tell him, but he might not agree.”

“I can read it,” retorted the man, adding without malice “But you can add the other parties an’ all!”

I asked the salesman how much I owed him, anticipating it to be a few pennies, and not more than a couple of hundred. He graciously waived the cost, and I thanked him by telling him to watch out for it on the evening news. He said that I could tell them where I got the cane. True to that, and in the spirit of supporting local business, please visit Anniesland Garden Centre if you are looking for something they might have. I am not sure if it made the televised news, but the online report is here.

rally STV FTT stillAbove: Screen grab from the STV video on their site, showing Grant and me.

I headed into the town to meet my friend Grant, who was already in a pub adjacent to the square. I shy away from naming most businesses in my blogs, as I detest advertising and try to avoid helping any national corporation make money. I briefly considered naming this particular pub though, due to the incredibly rude manager I encountered there today. I shan’t be back.

I had been at the bar with Grant for twenty minutes or half an hour, and we briefly wandered over to the window to see if things had started outside. Back at the bar, leaning against it and facing the door, I was accosted from behind by a member of the staff. He was a short and stand-offish wee man, who would have looked more at home in a cap and tracksuit than in his shirt and tie. He asked me to remove my shirt, and it is to my regret that I didn’t playfully comply while whistling “The Stripper.”

Instead, I enquired why – being a rational man capable of reasoned debate, and curious as to what offence he could have taken that nobody in the local contabulary, in a handful of shops, in the streets, or in any other pub has. He belligerently told me that he “didn’t want it in is pub,” revealing himself to be the kind of Napoleon-complexed prick that life is too short (pun fully intended) to bother engaging with. I told him that I was just leaving anyway, and said that I couldn’t see what the problem was. This was all in good humour on my part, as I am interested in hearing intelligent views that challenge my own. Instead, he threw some further glares at me and ranted that there were children in his pub.

I didn’t see any children, but I also didn’t waste much time looking. I could argue that we should educate children as to why a great many of us accept and agree with the sentiment behind the “Fuck the Tories” statement – and that words are just words, it is context that gives them meaning – but the interruption from this aggressively rude interloper had already bored me. I left Grant to finish his pint, and walked out into the square. In future, I will be taking my custom to pubs who cater for an exclusively adult clientele.

Once I have caught up with the blogs, I might write the company a letter of complaint for my own (and perhaps your) amusement.
[Edit: I have, and you can read it here. I managed to rewrite this in a far more tongue-in-cheek way for them.]

rally shirt back Above: The offending shirt. Photo: Mean Street Photography

Contrary to my other recent experiences, there were almost no flags to be seen in the 200-strong crowd. I caught up with my friend Lynne, Grant joined us, and we stood near the south-west corner of the square, listening to the speakers. Thanks to the length of cane I had elected to buy (and then been gifted), this saw me standing at 6-foot-2 with my arm raised, hand clasping a 4-foot flagpole – like some living Glaswegian Statue of Liberty.

I had thought the back of my shirt was popular photography matter, but this paled in comparison with the flag. There must have been two dozen snappers took photos of it – the camera-phone owners, the hobbyists, and the professionals. With a strong breeze that kept changing direction, I did what I could to aid their shots, trying to hold the flag at an angle where the wind would keep it flying straight and the wording visible. This worked with some degree of success, the downside being that in most of these pictures I am looking gormlessly up at the flag. I think I became the second-most photographed person in the UK today, the first being dead.

With all of the attention that it was receiving, I soon found myself approached by a two-person camera crew who asked if they could interview me for STV. I agreed, and they immediately asked my reasons for being here today. I answered as honestly as I could, making the pertinent points that leapt to mind and that I have detailed above. I know that I hesitated at times, and did not answer as eloquently or as articulately as I had when pressed (by the Scotland On Sunday) as to my involvement at the weekend’s Scrap Trident demo. In hindsight, I wish I had told them that the Bedroom Tax “does not affect me, and yet it does, as it affects us all” – inasmuch as it is to the detriment of the welfare state, it will cause untold rises in homelessness and crime, and will have other knock-on effects too. Their published report, with a handful of inaccuracies, is here.

They describe me by saying of the crowd “some [were] clinging to flags … criticising the Tories with scrawled expletives.” It may be an expletive, but you can clearly see from all of my photos that the word is censored, which was deliberate on my part precisely so that it could be shown or published in news reports. As for it being “scrawled,” that must be the neatest scrawl in the history of doctors’ signatures.

FTT flag george square Photo: Lynne McKinstray

I thought I may be able to make my point about the tax to the circulating BBC crew, but they steadfastly avoided me twice – firstly to interview Lynne, and then to interview Grant. Sometimes, the BBC post on their site that they are looking for audiences for debate shows. These generally request that membership of any political organisation is made known, along with information about whether your mind is already made up on that specific issue. This is in their pursuit of balanced opinion, which has been sorely lacking in their sycophantic news coverage lately. I can only presume that they decided against interviewing me as my opinion was written firmly across my attire.

It turned out afterwards that it had been BBC Alba, so fuck it, no-one will ever see it anyway…

rally sheridan bus posters Above: Tommy Sheridan and posters naming the victims of Thatcher. Photo: Mean Street Photography

Tommy Sheridan was one of the speakers, and said what I wish more people in the public eye could have said recently:

“Some have said it is distasteful to celebrate the death of an old woman. And I was brought up to respect people, but it’s clear Mrs Thatcher did not respect us. She didn’t respect the workers she sacked, or the hunger strikers who died, when she was in power. We’re here to say ‘We don’t respect you either’. We won’t shed any crocodile tears over her death. But now we must look forward. Just as we united to fight Thatcher’s poll tax, I would urge you all to unite and fight Cameron’s bedroom tax as well.” – Source.

We left after the rest of the speeches, once the final musical act was on, and headed to a pub that was not the one I had been in earlier. Lynne and her friend were already there, having left before us, and as I sat down she brought up the potentially-offensive nature of my shirt. I called the barman over, showed it to him, and asked if it was okay if I continued to wear it in his pub.

He looked at me quizzically, smiled, and said that it was fine. Crisis averted.

Later, when I called into the nearby supermarket on my way home, someone else came up to me and smilingly told me “Great shirt! Be more assertive.”

Be more assertive.

I think that is the purpose of writing these blogs. I know that many of you are unhappy. I know that, at a basic level, most of us want to see the same things. Over on Facebook, I just read the gripe that “I’m still annoyed at £10m being spent wining and dining millionaires at MT’s funeral.”

If you are that annoyed, protest. Channel the anger. Show them they are not popular. If enough of us do it, they cannot deny us.

rally flag chambers Photo: Mean Street Photography

At the time of writing, it is three weeks to the day since the Daily Record published my tweet and the story of the retweet that started this ball rolling. As it did not adequately convey the fulllness of my disillusionment, I have resorted to taking direct action where possible. I have decided to stand with my fellow countrymen and fight for the rights that our forefathers battled for; to strengthen the numbers of the disaffected taking to the streets and proving that there is a problem with this government and their policies. This problem can only be addressed if enough of us make our opposition heard.

It has been twenty-one days, and I have taken part in two marches, a hastily-arranged protest, and a rally. In that time, the items upon which I have written “Fuck The Tories” have been photographed at least a hundred times. I have been printed by the Record, photographed by the Record, interviewed for the Scotland On Sunday newspaper, and for Scottish Television. Maybe it is because I stand out that people think I have something to say. I don’t want to stand out.

I don’t want to stand out, because I don’t want to be the only one proclaiming these views. I want, in the spirit of the original punk movement, a growing number of people to join me – physically, and in wearing their contempt for all in the street to see.

I will continue to demonstrate where and when I can, because I believe that we are in the right. I believe that we can make a difference. There is strength in numbers. I did not get here overnight, I got here when years of anger forced me to take action.

If you are angry too, then I hope you will soon join me. One way or another, we can change this.

 

vote yes


Diary Of An Anti-Tory Protestor – Part 3

Margaret Thatcher Goes To Hell, 8th April 2013

Thatcher Maggiedeth

Margaret Thatcher died unexpectedly peacefully, at the age of 87.  I found out about it from a friend who told me succinctly that “Thatcher is dead.” As far as I am aware, Thatcher was dead to Scotland decades ago.

Another of my friends alerted me that “Thatcher has only been in Hell twenty minutes, and already she has shut down three of the furnaces.”

Some of you will remember where you were when you heard the news. I remember where I wasn’t. I wasn’t in George Square, at the impromptu “Death Party.”

This was due to a prior commitment, or rather two (I went to a comedy club in the evening, letting Facebook know that: If you were thinking “I’m only going to Improv Wars at The Stand in Glasgow when Thatcher dies” then TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT.) Otherwise I would have been there with everyone else. I was always taught that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, and it gives me no pleasure to witness ugly scenes of others revelling in a death, but while I don’t condone it I also don’t condemn it. Had I been there, it would have been to publicise my contempt for the Tory Party and for Thatcherism, rather than to rejoice in the passing of a wee old woman I never met. Nevertheless, I am glad that there was a small gathering and a demonstration of how reviled she was in Scotland.

The parties were roundly condemned by the reprehensible, war-mongering, toadying Tony Blair – whose leadership of New Labour is acknowledged to have broadly perpetuated Thatcherism.

thatcher - my further fb jokes

My own memories of Thatcher are inextricably linked to my childhood; of constantly seeing this cold and heartless woman on the television, and being vaguely aware of her policies. I recall the point when, in the early 1980s, they stopped giving us free cartons of milk at school. Whether this was the residual impact of her infamous “snatcher” actions, or down to various other measures, I cannot now say. I just remember that they started charging us for it, and recall the price gradually increasing.

On that note, a friend went into the nearest pub when the news broke, and asked for a “celebratory post-Thatcher glass of milk.” The barman duly poured it, and said “Since she’s gone, I can just give you this free.” He did.

I grew up in a town near to Ravenscraig – the steelworks that was shut down after the Tory privatisation of British Steel – and, without being at an age of full comprehension, I still personally knew of people who lost jobs and livelihoods as a result. Many of the surrounding communities were irreversibly destroyed. When I was sixteen or seventeen, and increasing in awareness, I discovered punk rock – the soundtrack to a previous generation of disaffected youth. On a Friday night, I religiously watched repeats of “The Young Ones” and its contemporary, one of the finest satirical sketch shows ever aired, “Not The Nine O’Clock News.” I can still quote vast swathes of the latter. These served to corroborate my view of Thatcher as a distant figure who sorely lacked compassion, heading up an inherently prejudiced party. It is, I believe, a mutual lack of compassion that has led to these “Death Parties.” Why should we care about someone who singularly failed to care about us?

thatcher greg hemphill tweet

I won’t mourn her passing, and I am sickened by the eulogising that has gone on since her death. Whoever invented rose-tinted spectacles has been doing a roaring trade this past week. There has been indignation that many of those partying “were not even born when she was ousted from power.” This is one of the weakest arguments I have yet heard, as if none of her legislation, policies, and leadership continue to affect (and disaffect) the people of today. Her legacy is well documented. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, but by way of extreme example, I wasn’t born when Hitler was around – but it doesn’t take much study (or more than a passing brush with the collective knowledge) to know that he was not a particularly nice person. Thatcher does not strike me as having been a particularly nice person. She permanently blighted lives. Regardless of age, that makes her, and her death, relevant to us all.

Thatcher Frankie quote

Rather than celebrate her demise, it seems more potent to me that we use this as a stepping stone to build encouragement for action against the continuing, incredibly damaging, Tory regime. Ding dong, the witch may be dead. But the dead Tory is dead; it is the living ones we need to fight.

On Wednesday 17th April, the government will spunk between eight and ten million pounds on giving her a send-off unrivalled (at least by the attendance of the Queen) since Churchill died. This is the government that tells us we need to cut back as there is no public money available for such basic amenities as housing, health, or alleviating the lives of the disabled. This stunning hypocrisy would be breathtaking, if it were not to be expected from these brazen, self-serving millionaires. Naturally, they will divert funds to see off one of their own. They were already able to claim back nearly £4000 in expenses just for turning up at Parliament during the Easter recess to say nice things about her.

Thatcher Loach quote

During that tribute session, Glenda Jackson MP was the only one who said anything worth listening to, the one to stand up and decry Thatcher for her destruction of working men’s lives and communities.

 

On Wednesday 17th April, at 5pm, I will be in Glasgow’s George Square. There is a mass protest planned at this vile misuse of money – in memory of her thousands of victims, but also a visible public demonstration against Thatcher, against Thatcherism, and against the sheer bloody-minded vindictiveness of an increasingly aloof Tory government. This time, I have deliberately made no other plans. I will be there.

I don’t care about this dead woman. I care about the country I live in, I care about the fundamental tenets of democracy and society, and I care about the steady undermining of a welfare state that was long- and hard-fought for. If you care too, then I hope to see you there.

 

thatcher - my fb jokes

 


What Your Clothing Says About You.

This is one of those pieces that I have tried a couple of times as stand-up comedy. While this got some laughs, and didn’t necessarily fall flat, I have never been entirely comfortable with it as material. I think that stems from the fact that very little of the laughter points are mine, I am just relating things I have seen or heard. As such, the whole thing is kind of shelved as back-up for occasions when it is merited, rather than included as a main part of my set.

Years ago, the band Cradle Of Filth put out their “Vestal Masturbation” t-shirt. This infamous shirt features, on the front, a naked nun masturbating with a crucifix. On the back, it says in large letters that “Jesus Is A Cunt.”

jesus cof

This drew a lot of negative attention; people were arrested for wearing it, and in Glasgow Tower Records was raided by the police due to having stocked it. The band’s frontman, Dani Filth, later defended it by casually explaining that – as Christians believe they will be reborn through Jesus – technically, Jesus can be likened to that part of the female anatomy.

The controversy of this shirt led to others like it, and it seemed for a while like Black Metal bands were trying to out-do each other. The two that stick out in my mind were both by Marduk – one had the backprint “Fistfucking God’s Planet,” which was tame in comparison to their “Christ-Raping Black Metal.”

marduck christ

I only own one t-shirt of this ilk, and I write this as someone who bought at least one t-shirt at almost every gig I went to. I stopped this practice somewhere approaching the 150 mark, as that seems an excessive amount of short-sleeved clothing to own in a country as famously cold and wet as Scotland.

The final shirt, then, is one I do occasionally wear for the humour in its inherent stupidity. I got it as part of a bundle with an Alien Vampires album and EP. The EP is called Nuns Are Pregnant, and on the front is a heavily-pregnant, topless, alien nun. On the back of the shirt, it reads: “I Fuck Nuns.”

Last week, when I had been given my notice at work, I decided to push their policies against profanity. I wore my “Combi-Fucking-ChristMas” shirt to test the water, and received no comment. Earlier in my contract, I was given an unofficial warning for wearing my Uberbyte “Money Shot” shirt – the front has their logo and states “Pussy Vs. Cock” and the back contains the song’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics in full: Tongue-fucking, asshole-licking, cyber cyber cyber whore/ Anal-douching lesbian, POV, cock cock cock cock/ Pussy cock pussy pussy cock/ Pussy cock pussy cock/ Money money money shot.

I know the manager who pulled me up for that had the same shirt at home, as he told me so. I think maybe that is why it was picked up on. Certainly, nothing was said when I later wore my Caustic shirt that represents his song “Cock-Blockin’ Beats.”

With a few days left to go, I laid out my other potentially offensive shirts – another Combichrist one, that has the silhouette of a naked girl crouching on one knee with a whip, and the backprint “Enjoy The Abuse.

In the end, I wore “I Fuck Nuns” before my last day, to coincide with the shift pattern a friend was working and so that she could enjoy seeing any repercussions.

There were none.

The guy across from me said that, from behind, all that was visible on my back was the word “fuck” – so I wrote down for him the rest of what it said, and he laughed. He laughed harder when I got up and walked away from him, where he could read it. It is such a stupid t-shirt, I like it.

av shirt

As it happened, I was sitting next to one of the managers. There is no way she missed what it said, and yet still nothing was mentioned. That is, until I walked around the other side of her desk to help my friend. On the way back, the manager smilingly announced to everyone in earshot and nobody in particular that it was “back to business-dress from Monday.”

That was the sole consequence of wearing that shirt – a general reminder that the end of the Christmas holidays signified the end of the dress-down period.

In a desperate bid to out-offend each other, with a series of increasingly blasphemous shirts, these metal bands only succeeded in being accidentally hilarious.


Putting The “Broo” in “Brutal Waste Of Time.”

I’m back to being a sign-writer for the broo. It can’t last, because if I’m not working I will lose my flat, and sooner rather than later.

I don’t particularly like being unemployed at the best of times, and especially not now that – due to cuts in Housing Benefit – I face being made homeless as the shortfall in rent cannot be made up from the pittance that is JSA.

I’m not trying to get something for nothing, to be abundantly clear.  These benefits are there for anyone who is entitled, to help them while they get back on their feet. When I’m working, I pay into the system like everyone else. I just want the record to show that this is what they are doing – making people homeless to “save” a few quid, and then forking out hundreds or thousands more to have them rehoused in hostels and the like.

As I have said before, my rent is set so high because that is (previously) the maximum that the council would pay. The private landlords set their rent accordingly, to claim as much as they could. Now that amount has been lowered, it is the tenants who are liable for the difference – regardless of circumstance.

These governmental cuts are not working. They are stigmatising hard-working people who suffer from an absence of employment opportunities, amplify social and housing issues, and cost far more money than they save.

broo2

ABOVE: This Jobcentre is so lacking in jobs to advertise, it has been permanently closed and all fixtures and fittings removed. Argyle Street, Glasgow, December 2012.

As my temporary employment has just come to an end, earlier than I hoped, I find myself having to contact the DWP to submit a new claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Previous experience has made me aware that it involves a 45-minute phonecall, and so it was not possible to call up at the end of last week – in advance of my contract ending – as my half hour lunch break wouldn’t permit enough time. Instead, I waited until today, Monday, to call them.

I reached an automated system that told me I should apply online, and that online applications are given priority over telephone applications. Had I known that, I would have submitted my claim at the weekend. Annoyed, I hung up and loaded their page.

It advised I would need 30-60 minutes to complete it, and so I made my lunch before starting, figuring it might time out halfway through if I paused for any reason. When I came to start, I got an error message telling me it had already timed out – prior to me typing a single thing – and to close my browser and start again. This was a pain in the arse, not least because I had half a dozen other tabs open.

I tried opening a separate window, but it became clear I would indeed need to close everything to begin again. On the second attempt, I got as far as a request for some details that I figured I could find through my online banking. Opening a second tab crashed my browser so thoroughly and so spectacularly that a full system restart was required.

Having now wasted a full hour, I called them up.

“Please state your postcode,” the automated cunt asked me. It took four goes before she gave in and made me listen to – I can never remember if it is Greensleeves or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but either way I am fucking sick of hearing it. Finally, my call was connected to a live human.

“I tried to do this online, and it has thoroughly crashed my computer” I told him.

He laughed, and said he would try to help me.

I asked him why he was laughing, and very angry Jordan elicited an apology. I relented, as angry as I was, since I did need his help and a terminated call would see me back at square one. It was already every bit as painful an experience as I had expected.

He took a note of where I was at the point the site crashed, and said he is not unfamiliar with this complaint. So, there you go – there is an awareness that the online system, which “will be given priority,” crashes fully before completion of the form.

I figured, again from experience, that my details would be taken and the form sent to me to verify and sign. Then I would get an appointment at the local Jobcentre to go and discuss the work I am looking for. At this point, I will consider any work that pays. This process usually takes a few days, and as calls were dealt with less quickly, I anticipated an interview date later in the week.

“We have an appointment in five minutes,” he said, and half-joked “How fast can you get there?”

As it happens, the local office is round the corner from me. Taking into account a roundabout and the supermarket carpark, it is about 7 minutes’ walk.

“I can book you in for half-three,” he offered, proceeding to race through the scripted terms and conditions so that I would have time to grab the necessary ID and paperwork before heading out the door.

And that’s what happened. The lower-priority phone application saw me allotted a slot scheduled for twenty minutes after the call ended.

The high-priority website wasted an hour of my time and gubbed my laptop.

This is indicative of a system so inherently broken it is very difficult to imagine how it may ever be fixed. It is, however, hard to fathom that further cutbacks and not investment is the answer.

In the meantime, if you know of any full-time work going in the Glasgow area, I will be very happy to hear from you.

Finally, if you get the chance to punch Cameron, Clegg, or Osborne in the face, please do so. Unrelentingly.

As for Iain Duncan-Smith – he has put the “cunt” in this country. I hope they are all held accountable when the rioting inevitably starts.

broo


The Work Programme Doesn’t Really Work.

On the face of it, The Work Programme seems a good idea – an initiative set up to help the long-term unemployed find work. The problem is, there are too many people out of work (the figure just rose by another 28,000) and not enough jobs. Companies that aren’t cutting back on staff numbers are instead largely cutting back on hours and terms of employment. The benefits system isn’t designed to cope with zero-hour contracts (no set hours per week, so you can end up doing sixty one week and none the next, or anything in-between) and if you work over sixteen hours a week your Job Seeker’s Allowance gets stopped. That means casual work is out, as is anything part-time that works out at more than two days a week. Even being in work doesn’t pay.

Personally, I’ve been told that I need to be looking for full-time, long-term work for it to be financially viable to sign off the dole. If anyone knows of any full-time, long-term work that is even being advertised (let alone attainable) you’re in a better position than me. There is an undeniable stigma attached to being unemployed and claiming benefits, even though an increasing number of people who have worked their whole lives paying into the system now find themselves at its mercy. It’s just been announced that the Work Programme is taking on everyone that gets released from jail in the UK. So we are in good company, at least. Those of us with degrees, who have worked and will work wherever and whenever it is available, are now at the same societal level as ex-convicts.

My own experience with the Work Programme, well, I could fill a book were I inclined to post all of my personal affairs publicly. They are set up to get people into work, and so far, for me, they have found the following:

– 6 weeks call centre training, which quickly became five days training and five weeks answering their phones, unpaid. I refused, on the grounds that if it sounds like work and looks like work then it is work, and should be paid at the minimum wage or higher.

– 15 days with the Royal Mail, which earned me enough to lose my benefits, but didn’t pay me enough to cover all my outgoings. That full-time, short-term work left me financially worse off.

– 6 months cleaning Glasgow’s parks, a job that I lost before I started it after they read my mandatory medical history form and decided the problem with my knee, that bothered me 16 years ago, meant I was unfit to do a job involving walking. Despite the fact I walk everywhere, literally for miles to get home, and have no other means of transport.

There was one job came up in that time in my industry, a job that I found (or it found me), a job that I have dreamed for years of doing. It was created with specific funding though, the criteria of which meant I couldn’t apply, as I graduated “too long ago.” I appealed to the council funding department, who couldn’t do anything as it was taxpayers money and they had to be accountable for it. I emailed the council directly, pointing out that I’d be less of a burden on the taxpayer if I was in full-time work and paying taxes. There’s so few permanent jobs in my industry (theatre) anyway that if you find one within the specified two years of graduating then you’ve either been damned fortunate or have left to work in a call centre. They didn’t reply. I emailed my MSP too, making the same points, but all I got was a “thanks for contacting me” auto-response. Six weeks later, having heard nothing further, I emailed him again to tell him he’s lost my vote – and didn’t even get an auto-reply.

The Work Programme have broadened my search criteria, with my full consent, to include carpentry, joinery and general construction work, and I’ve been looking at jobs proof-reading and other similar roles too, based on the fact I read a lot and write quite well – if not always concisely. Their latest tactic has been to give me the address of a website to visit, where I am asked eighty questions about the kind of things I would enjoy in a job. Using my answers, the site lists the roles for which I am best suited, and it has been agreed that I will go through their suggestions looking for career-change options that might be viable in the current economic climate. So what was the outcome?

I am told, by this website that will succeed where they have failed, that I am best suited to working in:
– Music, dance, drama and theatre technology
– Building technology, furniture making, construction crafts, mechanical and manufacturing engineering (including fabrication and welding)
– Printing, publishing, graphic design
And
– Museum work, cleaning and related services.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen – after several months, a few false starts, and the intelligence of this website, the jobs I am best suited to (according to the Work Programme) are the ones I did my degree in. Uncanny! I’m also suited to construction work and in printing. So what have we learned from this? Yes, that’s right, the Work Programme is a complete waste of time, money, and effort. Certainly for anyone halfway educated.

Given the state of those three industries, and their reliance on temporary freelance workers, I will now be looking for any full-time jobs that become available which offer the chance to clean museums. Apparently that is all that is left for me. Although, the construction options did tell me of apprenticeships that I “can apply for once you’re sixteen,” and I look forward to going back in time fourteen years once I figure out how.

In the meantime, now that I finally know which vocation to pursue, I would like to pass on that hope to the other 2,669,999 of you.


Letters Designed To Enlighten And Entertain.

I worked for Royal Mail for fifteen days in December, through a recruitment company whose staff were stand-offish and disinterested, and whose communication was sorely lacking. I made a formal complaint, they invited me to initiate a Grievance Procedure, then wrote to me detailing the outcome of their “findings.” I had the right of appeal, and exercised it. Figuring that I’m unlikely to get anywhere with them, I responded with satire. I’m still waiting for a reply, but here is my letter to them.

ALL NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED, ADDRESSES REMOVED, AND SOME PERSONAL INFORMATION REDACTED.

Regional Operation Manager,
Manpower UK Limited.

Dear [REDACTED],

I write to appeal against the outcome of my recently-held grievance hearing. My purpose in writing to your head office in the first instance was to avoid dealing directly with the branch I hold my grievance with, in order to avoid bias in their handling of the situation. The response I received by post today is heavily biased, with seemingly unfounded assurances, incorrect information, and printed so hurriedly that one page of it is upside-down on your headed notepaper. I think if Charlotte had taken my complaint in any way seriously, bearing in mind the reason for the grievance was the aloof nature of one of her staff members, she could have ensured she printed the whole letter the correct way up.

I understand that my “assignment with Royal Mail” was worded in such a way as to provide you with the ultimate get-out clause: that just because it was heavily implied over a number of instances that the job would last until March, it was not guaranteed to do so and is therefore perfectly acceptable that you let me go after just fifteen days. What I resent, and what I complained about, was the fact that I had to phone Eddie, with whom I’d had no prior dealings, on the Friday before Christmas to find out if I had a job to go to that day, or not. A little bit of communication wouldn’t have gone amiss.

His attitude during that phonecall suggested that, being the Friday before Christmas weekend, he couldn’t get me off the phone fast enough, and I was being bothersome by asking him questions about whether or not I had a job to go to. He told me several times that “everywhere’s shut for Christmas” and refused to acknowledge or even listen to the fact that I was scheduled to be in, which blatantly contradicted his statement.

When I went in to get my wageslips (which I found you don’t print and make available in hard copy, presumably because you can’t guarantee that they won’t be posted out printed upside-down or back-to-front), Eddie gave me my personal log-in details, and details of my pay, indirectly including my National Insurance number and without checking any form of identification. I saw this as a breach of the Data Protection Act, and he also gave me full contact details of one of your internal accounts department staff, which was contained in an emailed screenshot that he printed for me. That was printed on blank paper, so it’s impossible to gauge if it was the right way up or not.

Charlotte, in her letter, assures me that she “can confirm that Eddie did verify [my identity]…by checking [my] passport details at ID on file.” Firstly, the latter half of this sentence makes no sense to anyone who constructs their sentences in English, and secondly, she doesn’t explain HOW she can confirm this. I guess she asked her staff member, who works in her office, about whether he’d followed company procedure. Amazingly, he seems to have agreed in the affirmative, almost as if he’s aware that his boss is carrying out a grievance procedure. Again, this was why I didn’t want it conducted by the people he works with on a daily basis.

Charlotte also states that she “can not find any evidence to suggest that [Manpower Branch staff had a general dismissive attitude towards]” me – I’d like to know where she looked for evidence. Presumably she asked her colleague. With whom she works, in the same office, every day.

Finally, Charlotte apologises for “any breakdown in communication” that I feel “may have happened” and she “can confirm that [I am] now in receipt of wage slips and P45 as requested.” Earlier this week I emailed her asking where my P45 is, the one that was allegedly issued weeks ago and that should apparently take only ten days to come. She said then that she would look into it, but without replying further she can now “confirm” that I am in receipt of it. I will be if it ever arrives. This seems to show the same casual and dismissive attitude to my case as demonstrated by her colleague Eddie in the first place. This letter lacks any real attention to detail, and seems so rushed that she didn’t even put your headed paper in the correct orientation before printing it. Then posted it without checking it, or she would have noticed that she only got one of the two pages the right way up.

I feel I can paraphrase her response fully below:

Dear Mr Mills,
Eddie is a nice man, because he works for us. He may have lied through his teeth but – because he works for us – we automatically believe him. You were only ever a short-term employee and so anything you say is worthless and suspect, as you don’t work for us.
I’m sorry you wasted my time, here’s some empty answers rounded off with an incorrect assertion.

I had my doubts that initiating a grievance procedure would be worthwhile in any respect – I only attended because I was invited to do so, on a day that I was already in town anyway. This letter I have received reinforces my initial impression of your staff – uninterested, rude, dismissive, patronising, casual in their demeanour, lacking in attention to detail, and just plain wrong.

I would like to take this opportunity to sarcastically thank you, as a representative of Manpower, for wasting so much of my time. Not only did I end up in debt and rent arrears because of the full-time short-term work I did for you, and miss out on money (tax credits) to which I should have been entitled, I have also had to enter into correspondence with Manpower, [REDACTED – names of seven other government/local authority departments and subsidiaries], that has now dragged on for four times as long as the actual job (or “assignment”) lasted. And still it continues.

I fully anticipate that you will continue to toe the company line as regards my employment, or “Brief Distraction” as it would be more fittingly termed, and will protect your own staff over and above any complaints made by your casual and exploited temporary workforce. At this point, all I want from you is the P45 that I am NOT yet in receipt of, as soon as possible, and ask that you remove all of my personal details from your files – most importantly the copy of my passport that you allegedly possess for checking “at ID on file”, anything containing my National Insurance number, and my bank account particulars.

I trust that you will do this at the earliest opportunity and that, if you decide to respond to this, you will make sure you have all of the headed notepaper facing the same way before printing. At this point, that’s the least I expect.

Yours sincerely,

[Me]

PS: This letter will not self-destruct, but at this rate I might. Sixty-two days and counting, sorting out the mess created by fifteen days of employment.

– END –


Glasgow Subway Ideas Rarely See Daylight.

I love the Subway, our Clockwork Orange, but they keep making the most incomprehensible changes to it. You can read dozens of the proposed ones here, most of them are contradictory or in the end came to nothing.

Our Subway runs from 6am until 11pm, give or take, except on a Sunday when it opens from 10am until 6pm. This is 2012, and the transport system in the centre of Glasgow is closed before the shops shut on a weekend shopping day. When they announce investment and improvement, the opening hours are never even mentioned for negotiation. They put in anti-terror bollards (to stop cars from driving down the escalators, but if you have a bomb in your backpack you’ll still get through); they planned to put in queue-beating Oyster-style ticketing as used in London, even though nobody has ever seen a queue on the Glasgow Subway, ever. Unless there was a match on at Ibrox, in which case A) who cares, let them queue, and B) Rangers are sinking fast anyway.

They are presently doing up all the stations, covering over the much-loved characteristic brick platforms with sterile white nondescript panelling, but still if you work in town on a Sunday you can’t use the Subway to get to your job if it starts before 10am. They recently said on Twitter that they’ve upgraded their website, as if that’s of any use to anybody living in this city and reliant on public transport that is closed when you need it. I noticed today, too, that they have done away with the bright yellow and orange posters listing the stations, and replaced them with generic, stylised, arty black and white and grey versions, which sit on the wall and blend into the adverts between which they sit – making them really difficult to spot at first glance. This is the kind of backward thinking that makes me hate Glasgow.

Most absurd of all, though, was the trial of late-night opening – when they remained shut. In order for the Subway to trial a night-time service, they closed the stations as normal and subcontracted the First Bus company to make all the same stops by road instead – which took longer, and cost more for a ticket, confusing the utter fuck out of everybody. Same stops, different prices, different method of transport entirely. The scheme flopped, unsurprisingly, and they used that to justify staying closed at night time. They want money and investment, but they’re not prepared to do the obvious thing that would encourage people to use their service: make it useful.

But at least the shiny white stations, with the upmarket ticket machines and silver steel bollards blocking the pavement outside, make it look like it might be functional.


Reversing The Polarity

Glasgow City Council are reducing the entitlement to Housing Benefit, by approximately a third.

I presently sign on, owing to a lack of jobs rather than an unwillingness to work. I could go into detail, but it’s nobody’s business. All you need to know is, I’m not in the position I want to be or imagined that I’d be in, and I don’t enjoy it. I’m honest, educated, and hard-working – provided I’m not being taken a loan of. The current system is inherently broken, and I foresee that I’ll provide more insight into that by documenting it on here in the future. There’s a lot to say, from my personal experience.

Housing Benefit is currently set at a maximum level, and all private rents are set at this level, artificially high. People under 25 got paid a lower rate, but this has changed and now includes all single people under 35. The only way to now get your full rent covered (which is set artificially high by the landlord, remember, to get the maximum he can) is to move in with someone and flatshare – which has a knock on effect on your other entitlements – cohabit with a partner (which has a knock on effect on other entitlements), or make up the shortfall yourself.

The shortfall, for those who are single, live alone in a one-bed flat, and are under 35 (not 25, now), is £136/month. This has to be made up, but keep in mind the dole pay you £270/month which is defined as the minimum required to keep you above the poverty line (it doesn’t) – now you’re expected to pay half of that directly to your landlord. Or move somewhere cheaper. There is nowhere cheaper in the city, they’ve all set the rent high enough to get the maximum available. The only viable option is a Housing Association.

These changes came into effect on 1st Jan, and Housing Benefit were made aware of them when they started back on the 4th. So they were three days behind from the off. They are now using the Discretionary Housing Payment fund, which is earmarked for urgent and emergency cases with extenuating circumstances, to try and make up the shortfall for as many people as possible.

I’m not looking for a free ride, rent needs paid, but suddenly a decade’s worth of people who were (comparatively) secure in their homes face moves or homelessness. Meantime, the emergency fund is helping out those who (four weeks ago) didn’t need helped. The system was flawed, now it is utterly fucked.

Anyway, I spoke to my Advisor about this. I said “They’ve told me before, because I’m a single white male, thirty years old, with no dependants and no dependencies, I’ll be on the Housing Association waiting lists for years. By the time I’m eligible, I’ll be old enough that I’ll be back on the current rate anyway.”
She laughed and said she’d never met anyone who could turn a negative into a positive so easily.

There’s lots of us who will be affected by this, but it seems so fundamentally ridiculous that they would cause widespread homelessness and use the emergency fund to help rescue those people, in the name of saving money, that I don’t know how else to deal with it. It’s the kind of absurd thinking that inspired the creation of this blog.