Friday, 1 September 2017

No Surprises Living in Devizes: Musical Madness

Richie Triangle

Back yonder, in the early days of scribing articles for Index, I reported my surprise upon wandering in the Black Swan and finding it renovated to the charming place Devizes hipsters know it as today. At the time, I was adamant I wasn’t there for antique shopping, stating “I’m not David Dickenson; I’ve come here for atmosphere, a pint and some live music, the quality of all above my expectations. To suit the off-beat character transforming the place a young Irish singer stands at the windowed alcove grasping his guitar with passion.”

That singer was, of course, Richie Triangle, and he bought a sense of cheerfulness with spritely enthusiasm, good humour and talented performances. Alas his campervan out back of the pub is no longer, Richie has been travelling, but we’ll still recall him busking in the Brittox and just his short stay in our town, he gained a local following.

Well it seemed we’ve good taste in Devizes, as Richie found success on his adventures and has hooked up with Adrian Sherwood’s ground-breaking On-U-Sound studio, to record “Made from Broken Pieces,” an album of original material, all written by him.

In his own words, Richie is, “describing and sympathising with all our situations. How despite being broken, beaten and battered, we’re still here, alive and strong, and have many crazy tales to tell.” The concept stemming from a rock climbing accident Richie suffered while travelling India.

Paralysed from the waist down, it was a struggle to make it back to the UK. “After much determination and most of 2015 in a wheelchair,” Richie explains, “I managed to rehabilitate enough to be able to stand, and in time, walk. I couldn't sit around, and I absolutely had to get back in the music.”

Good news is Richie is back in town, playing the Crown on Saturday, thanks to the magnificent Marland Music. This will make the ideal after-carnival party and hopefully, he’ll have copies of this acoustic magnum opus, with hauntingly sublime backing sounds, akin to a modern James Taylor or Neil Young. Or, you can download it for a tenner here:   bargain.

Other after-carnival parties are available; Stuart Beck performs at Times Square, Mike Barham belts out classics at the Moonrakers, DJ Ramon’s getting funky at the Southgate (with BBQ.)  What am I, some kind of human event calendar now? Bloody cheek, might start singing in the Market Square myself.

Fear not, that will not happen, not with Black Rat Monday out of the way.

While on the musical subject, I was lucky enough to be treated to an exclusive preview of the newly formed “Full Tone Orchestra,” at a rehearsal for their performance of Iconic Themes on 16th September at the Corn Exchange. After just three rehearsals I can confirm they sound totally awesome and this should be a spectacular night as they accomplish numerous film scores.

Invited by the ever-busy Jemma Brown, who is promoting the event with husband Anthony, the conductor. I arrived fashionably late to which Jemma whispered I’d missed, “Game of Thrones.” Fussed about this I was not, for it’s not something I’ve followed, rather I favour I arrived just on time as they moved onto the Star Wars theme with boundless energy, and this is much more up my street.

Having to close my eyes and allow the music to envelope me, rather than let my eyes wander over the school hall or the musicians attempting to concentrate, I could almost imagine Darth Vader striding up the corridor like the headmaster from a netherworld.

 An attempt to bring the uplifting sounds of an orchestra to the Devizes masses, I’ve seen first-hand the hard work and dedication the Full Tone Orchestra are putting into this performance, I heard them still going for it hours later when the wind blew in the right direction and I was taking the recycling bins out!

All this and the anticipation of awesome Swindon based two-tone ska band, The Killer-Tones returning to our Con Club on 21st October, with Easily Led supporting, courtesy of The Devizes Scooter Club, you can’t say for a town this size, #nothingeverhappensindevizes hashytag or no hashytag.

For people having issues accessing Index recently, here is my mid-week special column again:

No Surprises Living in Devizes
“Is this… I mean, are we still in Devizes?”

Photo used with kind permission of Gail Foster 

I’m in the Market Place, minding my own, when grass verges take human form and saunter. I gawk to the bottom of a bio-cup pondering how many of these I’ve had.
The taxi rank appears to have metamorphosed into an inflatable slide on which toddlers merrily bound. The Corn Exchange has grown a metallic structure, protruding from its façade, upon which a contemporary brass band play a funky Jungle Book anthem. Circus strongmen in stripy leotards mingle, showing off muscles and their Salvador Dali pencil moustaches, and a little girl chats on an old phone while her chair and oak desk manoeuvres down the Brittox and into Boots.
Children queue at a Wiltshire Museum stall to make coins, as the curator gives the press a harder thump and devotedly explains the process. There’s a seadog in his sailing boat, with a cloud on a pole attached to the stern, on the High Street, and at the corner by the bank there’s a fresh aroma of lemonade.
People balance upon tightropes through the trees, and children gather outside the Bear Hotel to play inventive wooden puzzles while fascinated pensioners smile, casting off the pigeonhole which states kids require electronic devises to maintain enthusiasm.
Everybody’s in their silliest hats, washing down Thai takeout, soul food or kangaroo burgers with unique cider and ale, soaking up the sun, of all crazy occurrences. They chat and laugh, asking each other, “is this…I mean, are we still in Devizes?” while a romantic on stilts offers a girl the hanging basket from the Town Hall.
It’s not just me, things are abnormal I ponder, as children sway on swing-boats near the monument where people usually squabble over parking spaces, and the pubs and cafes mould into the surroundings, adding their own entertainment and grub. Either it’s the fiesta rechristened, “Black Rat Monday” by aficionados of the “British” (Lion) stand, I’ve had too many of them already, DOCA have knocked the ball out of the park for another year, and we’ve not even reached carnival weekend yet, or all three blazed into one glorious celebration.
Now you should know by now, this is a rant column, and I’m not one to mince my words; if it needs criticising then look no further. Plucking hairs, there could’ve been a DJ or at least some tunes during the intervals, the music could have been sprightlier and I’d like to see an acoustic tent showcasing local talent, although circus acts filled the gaps, I note Larkin busking in the Brittox, and confess, shamefully, I missed the last band which sounded right up my street and bashing my door down.
Merrily I wandered home along the canal, since the better-half drove the exhausted kids back earlier. Along the towpath life continued as longboats sailed through the locks, seemingly oblivious to the activities in town. I stopped on a bench past the café, where some swans dredged their wings and an old lady looked out across the run-off pools. She strolled over, sparked a conversation, explaining her family had temporarily abandoned her to take tea in the café, but she didn’t feel she could walk any further, and then she sat down. She was from Andover and among subjects of our tête-à-tête, such as war years (she was 83 and proudly told me,) and children today; she announced that she thought this place was lovely. I looked across the rolling downs beyond Caen Hill and the sun which was setting above it, a scene I’ve seen time and time again, and I humbly agreed.
I never get bored of the beauty of “this place,” and if we can see that, as if we would for the first time, and we can go out and celebrate life in our simple way, we don’t need a Glastonbury Festival sized gala, just our humble do, we’re truly lucky my friend. So, as the celebrations are to continue this week, some-kind of fun paint conflict, the bizarre Confetti Battle, (Wednesday) the carnival parade (Saturday) and free side-events, such Children’s Proms in Hillworth Park on Sunday, (2-4pm,) cast off petty squabbling, our political, social and financial differences, and enjoy the moment, hailing DOCA for the amazing show they’ve given us.
Now, where did I put my Black Rat?
Yeah that one, the one the dragonfly just crash-landed into; thanks, yeah, yeah, this is Devizes.

Get the No Surprises Living in Devizes Annual 2016-17

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Read Some Noize; Spannered by Bert Random

You’ve dropped the kids off and now it’s just you and the open road. You take the Little Mix CD out of the player and slip one of your own choosing in, intending to relive your misspent youth. Despite the fond memories it may provoke, half-hour into your “rave anthems” you feel a headache and need a little lie down.

If you’re the forty-something who spent their younger days bopping in a field with a posse you only just met, grinding teeth and sporting eyes like saucers, but now the shebang is reduced to a couple of rave tapes you couldn’t bear to bin and a head swirling with shards of misplaced memories, then this could be the way to glimpse those heady days without menacing the family with a chewed-up 91 Easygroove mixtape whilst washing the dishes.

Spannered by Bert Random, is a book which lacks plot but compensates by sculpting a literary representation of an era habitually mislaid by media. Photographically records are scarce, videos rarer; unlike modern generations who take being filmed as regular, free ravers shunned anyone pulling out a camera. So, we’re left with muddled stories passed down like Uncle Albert with a glow-stick, and Human Traffic, a film which although had the potential to be our Easy Rider, turned out too paisley to truly define the period.

For Spannered centres first person narrative around a single Bristol free party, set in 1995 it spares no mercy from eloquent, expressive depictions of the music, culture and mad party people surrounding him, as well as chronicling the views, sentiments and highs sloshing around in the protagonist’s intoxicated mind.

It offers a uniquely accurate portrayal of the rave generation and would be suitable, as I suggested, for all once-party people looking for a stick to poke at their memories, but also anyone interested or researching the mood of the period.

It’s no textbook, reveals no factual data of certain events and makes no claim to be a bible of statistics; just an account of pure hedonism. Although a few memorable parties are referenced, it’s basically an elucidation of an illegal gathering and its aftermath through the eyes of an attendee. It leaves those in the know tingling to return to that happy place through gorgeous descriptive representations, acute observations most would have forgotten in the mists of a comedown, and realistic portrayals of that once popular scene.

At times, Spannered contains experimental syntax, with word repetition or expanded terms to assist you visualise their status, if you’re knowledgeable of rave culture, it works. It dips a toe into humour, in so much as the free party was nothing but fun, and it washes the story out with the gradual return to reality in such a way you feel like crashing out on a sofa with a tinny or three, and perpetual beats rinsing your neurons.

A homage to life in the 90s, Spannered is a petite pocket of psychedelic exposé, uncensored and definite, with musical references and some appealing illustrated chapter divides. You need to digest this, whistle posse.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

No Surprises Living in Devizes: Sling and Stone

No Surprises Living in Devizes

Sling and Stone

David sleuth Goliath with a sling and a stone, but this election reminded me more of the scene in Independence Day when they fired their nukes at the mothership without effect.

The promise Corbyn would become prime minster if she lost six seats a fleeting illusion, but it reflected the theme of the banned song; she’s a liar, she lost twelve. But we knew that anyway.

Too thick-skinned to take a hint, the creature still breathes. If you run down a rabbit and it’s fighting for its life, the humane thing to do is finish it off. Maybe only an internal vote of no confidence will slay the conceited fiend.

After deflecting a self-harming manifesto targeting prime tory voters, as well as the poor, with a campaign built on falsely claiming Corbyn was a terrorist sympathiser, how did Mayday end? In desperation she jumped into bed with anyone who’d have her, and a blanket of irony covers the country like a storm cloud, because the only ones mental enough to grant her wish are a bunch of terrorists themselves.

So we can now add compulsory creationism class in schools and outlawing abortion and same sex marriage to our burgeoning list of hateful and oppressive philosophies, such as cutting police and school budgets, privatising the NHS and snooping on internet usage. Miraculously she found the money tree, in a money forest, for investment in Northern Ireland.

But despite a £1,200,000 leaf was picked from said tree for sickening anti-Corbyn adverts, and The Sun’s suggestion that you spike your teenagers with drugs to stop them voting, ol’ Jezzer did alright-ish. He celebrated by slapping a boob; something which only enhanced my respect for him.

It’s just a crying shame our backwards constituency couldn’t correspond with national change; sad proof the majority here are selfish, brainwashed, or too posh to care. I just want life to be a smidgen more peaceful; is this so wrong; they shot John Lennon for it?

I mean listen to Imagine, no sane person could deny it’s simple but poignant message, but it’s an idyllic dream.  Easy to romanticise about a world where all live in peace and harmony and whole different ballgame to put into reality.

Although John wrote Imagine forty-two years ago, you’d think by now we could have at least considered a theory for how we could go about it, being it’s such a cracking idea. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, as his country of birth, could be the first to reach out and make that change? Yeah, I thought so too; highly unlikely at the moment.

It’s depressing; the political debating paused locally two days before the election to agree on a post by Devizes Police where approximately hundred trees were reported to be heavy pruned and sprayed with chemicals to kill them off at the Jubilee Woodland project near Caen Hill. The event incomparable with happenings in London, still the reasons for this calculated vandalism was met blank; quite rightly, why anyone would do this was beyond understanding.

It’s enough to get Mr Happy down, but I promised we wouldn’t get political today; somebody stop me! I’ve dispatched some friendly questions to Claire Perry, we’ll wait for her to get back to me……..

But I have a cure if you’re feeling down, discovered by bearing all at Calnefest last weekend, and it’s raised a couple of points.

Oh no I hear you cry, those crazy Calne-folk slipped Worrow a funny-fag and now he thinks he has the answer for peace and harmony; not at all. See the photo, yeah it’s Wilbur the Air Ambulance bear, but I’m his skeleton! What an awesome experience, aside the fear I’d dehydrate in there, I’d recommend dressing in a giant bear costume to anyone feeling down.

For that while you feel legendary, everyone loves you and wants a cuddle. The only issue is when you “de-bear,” as those awesome air ambulance fundraising volunteers term it; confusion rises, you think you’re still the bear and parents look concerned that you’re waving enthusiastically at their kids!

I’d like to propose the election be fought in giant teddy-bear costumes, imagine the entertainment value; Question Time would be attention-grabbing. Imagine Britain First shouting their hate messages dressed as cuddly teddies! It mightn’t stop Theresa from spewing fibs but least no one would be able to hear them!

The other point about Calnefest was its simplicity and awesomeness; a great time was had by all at the rec, with two stages, dance and comedy tents, plenty of food stands and kid’s activities this really catered for all, and at a fair price tag. I know we have events here in the Vizes, but we don’t have an all-in, full-blown, family-sitting-on-the-lawn type festival. Somebody, take this Calne-model and replicate it here; something I thought I’d never say!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

No Surprises Living in Devizes (unedited)

Hello everyblobby, being it's the big day tomorrow and the last fortnight's worth of my humble column, with interviews from the our local Green and Labour candidates, have faced some pretty heavy editing, I thought it'd post the pieces as i originally wrote them; warts an all.

So, hope you enjoy them and, ermm...... happy voting! (is that really a thing?)

                       No Surprises Being Green in Devizes

For scarce local fruitcakes pondering amendment from the inflexible supercilious Conservative regime mightn’t be a bad thing, I concluded with an acerbic but obvious notion last week; the price we pay for amiability in this idyllic location is selfish Tory dominance; bittersweet irony with cherries on top.

The attitude if you don’t like it you know where the M4 is, fading with the emergent tenet Tories are kaput, and many media conditioned into assuming Corbyn is the kind of hippy you avoid at Glastonbury, let’s look at another alternative; got to try, or are there really no surprises living in Devizes?

What I find most irritating is that it’s crucial now to address our environment, but such issues are on the backburner in government and society, as if the world will wait for us before it meltdowns. So I’m honoured to have a chinwag with the Green Party Candidate for Devizes, Dr Emma Dawnay, to ask how they can increase awareness of the subject.

“At the moment most people tend to think of looking after the environment as something we tack on to other policies –promoting growth and the consumption of ever more things,” Emma says. “With these ideas if the economy is doing badly then environmental policy tends to drop off the bottom of the priorities list.”

“During my lifetime we’ve become, on average, about three times richer than we were, but are we any happier? It appears not much. Alternatively, it should be possible to work three times less and still be able to consume as much as we did in the 1960s – but this is clearly not possible for most. Would you be happier if you couldn’t buy so many things, but you could work less and have more free time to study, be with friends, spend time with the children or look after loved ones?”
Does that need an answer? I’m happy with a fidget spinner and bag of onion rings as long as it’s my day off. Emma continued, “What we need to do is to change the rules of the economic system. This is what Green Party policy is all about; cutting down on unsustainable consumption whilst increasing wellbeing.”

Emma explained a decisive socialist strategy in which everyone receives a universal basic income. “This has been shown to encourage young people to study, and enables people to choose to look after their families. It avoids poverty traps as no benefits are withdrawn if you start to work, so working always pays. This is quite a radical change, so we’d advocate a pilot study first.”

Radical experimentation aside and looking at near-term ideas, The Green Party aims to make environmental and financial benefits, such as home insulation. “We have the least well insulated homes in Western Europe, making our heating bills high,” Emma continued, “Pushing for national and local programmes to help people insulate their homes better to save on heating bills makes sense; there was a programme to do this, but cut by the Conservative government.”

Talking of Tories, who’ve thrown environmental issues in the unrecyclable trash, on the assumption the Greens are a single-issue party, I put to Emma surely a tactical vote in our constituency would be wiser.

“We are not a single issue party!” Emma assured, “we have policies across the board which will increase wellbeing and give people the financial motivation to live in a more sustainable manner. For me our economic policies, on tax, investment and the monetary system – are more important than rules on, for instance, plastic bags, as they will have a far wider impact. I’m a political economist, and it is the Green Party’s economic policies that convinced me to become Green.”

“Tactical voting won’t make any difference here. We know that the Conservatives will win; no other party is anywhere near. Why not vote with your heart and conscience? But do please vote! Fewer Conservative votes will send them a message, you might as well send the message you really believe in.”

Prove it then Emma, where do the Greens stand on the key issues; Brexit, the NHS and our failing school system?!

“Brexit,” Emma was keen to point out, “Theresa May is going for an “all or nothing” gamble with the EU, trying to get a special British-EU trade deal that has nothing to do with the single market or the European Court of Justice. The EU has clearly stated how they work, and such a deal is a non-starter. A hard Brexit will be a disaster. We need a fall-back position. The Green Party advocates giving everyone a vote to choose whether to adopt the final Brexit deal or to remain in the EU, to make sure we don’t end up on a path which is clearly not in the best interests of this country.”

“Cuts to public services: The Conservatives believe this is the only answer to poor public finances. It’s not – it’s a political choice. The government has the option of borrowing (at 1% for 10 years, i.e. very cheaply) or taxing higher earners and the wealthy more. The cuts the Conservatives are imposing are almost all a false economy: cutting primary healthcare puts up costs as people go to hospital more; cutting funding for schools means a less well trained workforce for the future; cutting funding for prisons means more re-offending and prison riots. We need to invest more in our public services!”

“NHS: We have a fantastic service but we pay less as a percentage of GDP than almost all other rich countries. It needs to be better funded – not privatised. In the USA there is much more private healthcare provision and they spend double the amount we do on healthcare per person (and they don’t live as long). This is not the way to go. The Green Party, Caroline Lucas, has tried to bring a NHS reinstatement bill (to reverse privatisation) – and she’ll keep on trying.”

I’m liking this; but how do we defend our Utopia, I had to ask. I mean, what do we need Trident for, if we're subject to nuclear attack we're pretty much dead anyway?

“We don’t believe Trident makes us safer and the huge amount of money could make so much difference to us if it was used elsewhere,” Emma told me. “I think possessing nuclear weapons makes it more likely that we’ll be sucked into world conflicts, which is a major worry with President Trump being somewhat erratic.”

Somewhat erratic being defined as stark raving lunatic in this instance, I might add.
Emma continued, “Instead of putting so much effort into outdated irrelevant technology, we need to make sure our service men and women are properly equipped for the type of conflicts encountered today, and that we need to develop a serious counter-cyber-attack capability for the future.”

Phew, this is like getting heavy dude, how’s about we bring it to a local level; local matters for a local column? I was interested to know how much of an issue pollution is in rural Wiltshire. Aside from congestion in our market towns due to infrastructure, what other areas would Emma look into locally?

“Air pollution is one issue – levels in Devizes and Marlborough are about World Health Organisation safe levels,” she informed. “Tackling this is partly about having better alternatives to driving fossil-fuel vehicles: better bus services and bringing rail links to Devizes and Marlborough, and by making cycling and walking preferable by having attractive and safe cycle ways and pedestrian routes. These are often likely to be implemented at the local council level, however national laws affect what councils can do, and how much money they have. The Green Party would re-nationalise railways.”

Seems to me there are plenty of small companies producing environmentally friendly/biodegradable alternatives, but are shadowed by pressure from the mainstream plastic and fuel industries. I wondered how the Greens would change this.

“There is a huge problem that large multinational companies have too much lobbying power and often can tilt the playing field to their advantage, through tax-loopholes and by pressing for regulation that benefits their products. The Green Party is trying to level the playing field to enable fair competition, and to implement and support policies to encourage the use of environmentally friendly products. This could be through increasing food and animal welfare minimum standards, better labelling, or having higher fossil-fuel taxes to make products that use less fossil-fuel in their manufacture more attractive.”

“I don’t believe we can just persuade the majority of people to change to greener lifestyles without changing the rules. Life is too complicated for most people to bother about working out if the beans they buy in the supermarket are environmentally friendly or not, and many people can’t afford the environmentally friendly option anyway.”

The socialist idealism of the party may be a hard pill to swallow for many, in the reality of capitalism, and one we could philosophise over  till the cows come home, but the Green’s baseline policies makes sense to me. I’d like to see these ideas having more clout in Parliament; I’d like these guys to at least be given a fair hearing. So I thank Emma for her time at this vital moment and long for the possibility of a coalition.

Corbyn though stated he’s uninterested in a coalition, but upon receiving a rather horrific and petty bias standard letter with my postal vote, from the crumple-faced Prime Minister herself, I quiver at their pulling power.

Our own Claire Perry litters our countryside with her campaign billboards. Wouldn’t it be nice if she announced, “tell you what guys, being this marketing onslaught is costly, and I’m going to win anyway, I’ve decided to donate the money I would have spent to the Opportunity Centre or Julia’s House,” but she doesn’t, she thinks we’d rather see her boat-race plastered over every view of our countryside in some Orwellian fashion. 

Now aside from why Mrs May felt she needed to frighten me with a picture of herself on the letterhead, as if I'd been living on the moon, she also seemed certain a coalition was possible. Would the Greens consider a coalition with Labour if it was on the table, my final question to Emma?
“The Green Party would work together with any party to get our policies adopted. We do not have a party whip: a Green politician can always vote as they believe best, which may make a formal coalition difficult.  Both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have adopted many Green Party policies in their 2017 manifestos, so we would certainly support these policies going through parliament.”

Should you have any more questions for Emma, please feel free to contact her on email:, Twitter: @Emma4Devizes, or Facebook: Devizes Green Party.

No Surprises Living in Devizes

Labour of Love

 I write this week’s column on Friday aware news rapidly fluctuates, there’ll be a whole new batch of whoopla and judgements to digest by the time you read this. Least we can be sure; the Conservative Party will remain callous organisms, unreliable as Charles Ponzi at the My Little Pony Friendship Club AGM.

No apologies, this is not the Beeb. The chance of impartiality here equals the chance of Tories sticking to their manifesto; someone sang the truth in a song, incongruously forbidden from radio, akin to Johnny Rotten muttering truths about loyal Conservative Jimmy Saville.

So the right-wing scrap, Daily Mail complained the Beeb’s debate was “bias to the left;” hold on a nanosecond, if it swayed to the left could it have been because the Prime Minister was too chicken to turn up? She’d rather chant unbelievable soundbites from a protective podium, and spend her time praising London’s homophobic Jesus House Church.

They’d cry Thatcherism was too soft on the poor; they hailed the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games was “leftie,” because Danny Boyle depicted the NHS for what it truly is; the envy of the world.

For crying out loud, when will this barbaric folly cease? Surely even Conservatives will now acknowledge she’s made diabolical chaos of their campaign for the flash election she pushed, despite promising she wouldn’t? And with that in mind, how on Earth or any other celestial body can you possibly trust her to obtain us the “best deal for Britain” at the EU? I wouldn’t trust her with my fidget spinner on a bouncy castle.

It’s getting to the “fed-up” stage where I long to see social media return to Candy Crush requests and cat videos. Nauseating is the notion we’re wedged in the mucus of Tory central for our desire to reside somewhere aesthetically pleasing. Think alternative, and get it into your nostalgic cranium; this is not Thatcherism.

So here we go one last time; come on Rodders, you know it makes sense. Labour, is the alternative gathering pace elsewhere in the country like Lewis Hamilton at the driving school in Legoland; are we to shame ourselves again like a soiled baby and cry for convention?

If I slip a Whoopie cushion on our safe seat it’d only be pushed aside, so let’s hear from our fresh and mighty brave young man, Imtiyaz Shaikh who is surprisingly optimistic in his attempt to gain against the bigger kids in this game of musical chairs.

Has he been given a doomed constituency, is it best just to hold onto the few Labour supporters and cross his fingers, and toes? “The Labour Party in Devizes is better organised that you might think,” He tells me, “and is growing fast.”

“There are lots of unlikely Labour supporters out there who are beginning to get active across age groups.  Unfortunately there are still a lot of people who one would expect to vote Labour “the more hg\likely” who are quite frankly alienated from the whole process of democracy. This is partly our fault and we are trying to change it,” Imtiyaz explains. “Claire Perry acts as if she has a God given right to be our MP, and her wrath is frequently directed at those that oppose her, but no, we are not crossing our finger and toes, we are too busy campaigning.”

Asking the wealthiest to pay a bit more affects this constituency, they reside here. I asked Imtiyaz how Labour could change the ethos of that majority.

“Yes many people in the constituency are very well off,” he notes, “but there are pockets of rural poverty in this area which is unseen, or worse ignored.  Even in Marlborough the food bank delivers to families who are not just struggling, they are sinking. In some of the villages it is worse because of lack of transport links and rural isolation. I think the majority carry on believing that everything is good because it is good for them. Austerity measures introduced by this government hasn’t touched them, nearly all the cuts have been on the incomes of the poorest.  It will change because it has to. The charity of the churches and the voluntary sector can only go so far in plugging the gaps in welfare; the present level of inequality is just not sustainable.”

Corbyn seems adamant a coalition won’t happen; does Imtiyaz feel about a coalition might be fundamental in our constituency?

“A coalition is not the answer in this constituency.” He explains, “Although we have more in common with both the Greens and the Liberals than the Conservatives, a coalition of the progressive parties in this constituency would not be enough to topple the huge Conservative majority.”

“For the last few years in this constituency labour and the Greens have been working together on issues they agree on; Europe, the Environment and anti-poverty strategies. I haven’t been involved in this but I believe that at local level collaboration and co-operation is essential. At National level what is needed is a change in the voting system, so people can genuinely vote for the party of their choice. I am a Democrat and the first past the post system is not, in my opinion, the best way of running a representative democracy. If elected I would campaign for a change in the voting system and although this is not yet Labour policy I think people in the Labour Party agree with me.”

One hurdle is the insular population of Devizes, quick to point out Imtiyaz is based in Swindon; I’d wager they ponder how this reflects on his knowledge and dedication to Devizes. “Swindon is not a million miles away, Devizes is a huge constituency,” he tells me, “The problems faced by people in Devizes town are not so different from the problems faced by people in Swindon.”

“The difference is the rural areas in this constituency have no transport links and are isolated communities. Pensioners on low incomes and young people without transport in some of the villages are significantly worse off than those in the towns. I don’t pretend to know this area as well as the area I live in but if elected I would be a full time politician in this constituency, fighting  in the  interests of all the people in all parts of this constituency.”

Remember when I started this column last year; we kicked it off with an opinion poll of what past facilities we would welcome back? The hospital was only one under a train station. Think of the relevance of this now; does he think the NHS care centre is sufficient for our needs, or is the lack of health services here an unpleasant sign of Tory’s tenet to privatise it?

“The population of Devizes has gone up,” Imtiyaz begins, “The NHS Care centre in Devizes is too small to meet present demand. Across the county health services have been depleted.  Labour would ensure services meet local demand by investing in them.  One of the problems in our area is recruitment of staff. There are not enough Doctors and Nurses to fill current vacancies.  The Tory policy of getting rid of nurse bursaries at a time when there is a huge recruitment problem is simply crazy. Capping pay rises for nurses and other health professionals at 1% for six years is equally crazy. More and more nurses are leaving the profession because they simply can’t afford to feed their kids.”
You could say the only good thing to have come from this Tory administration is that the young have realised there’s better things to be voting on than “Britain’s Got Talent,” but right now, the NHS is surely the kingpin to persuading lifetime blue supporters to change.

“It takes 3 years to train a nurse and 7 years to train a doctor,” Imtiyaz continues, “If more EU citizens leave our NHS will completely collapse. What better way to achieve a private health care system, than under-investing in the NHS and making private health care the only option. With another Conservative Government people won’t just be having their houses confiscated when they die to pay off social care costs, any assets they have will be used to pay-off their health care costs too. This already happens in America, although to be fair in America this happens before you die.”

I admit I have nightmares where Dr Nick of the Simpsons comes to my bedside, but giving out Labour leaflets the other week I was faced with an averagely well off elderly chap who threw it back at me. He stated, “I in’t never voted fer ‘em be-fur, why should I’s start nare?” He has no hope of benefitting from thinking this way. What would Imtiyaz say to people like that?

“If every one really did vote in their self-interest we would have a Labour Government!” he points out amusingly, “I too have met people like him.  No party is perfect but I believe that Labour has the best policies for a UNITED kingdom.”

“The choice in this election is about what direction you want this country to go in; further erosion of our public services and a country where only the wealthy have access to decent health care, education and housing, or a country where everyone benefits from a Labour Party which will invest in these essential services for the benefit of everyone. For the many not the few is more than a political slogan, it encapsulates everything I believe in.”

So conclusion is nearing, the ref is checking his watch. You could entrust your vote to Claire, locally safe bet, but you know she crumbles on the train to London and despite her claims she kisses the feet of hierarchy. I’m certain we need the backbencher who isn’t afraid to take their ethos to Parliament.
I’ve been mightily impressed by Imtityaz’s response to my questions. I thank him and wish him all the best; next week we can return to a shorter column, whinging once again about favourite chip shops and so on. For now though, please don’t accept the media assault against Corbyn; it’s false.
I mean, can we be sure there’s only one Jeremy Corbyn? Seems like we have the real McCoy and another the media seems to report on, I asked Imtiyaz!

“We are just beginning to see Jeremy Corbyn uncut. In an election campaign coverage is more balanced and he can speak directly to audiences rather than having his message filtered and distorted by the media. What you see is what you get; a tough man with integrity, someone who genuinely believes what he says and someone who, against the odds WILL deliver.”

“Jeremy Corbyn is not a man who backs down at the slightest hint of attack. He will be attacked, he has been many times before, but he won’t run away from a fight with vested interests.  He will stand up and fight for what he believes in; a fairer more equal society.”

Monday, 22 May 2017

I know Steve Andrews, read about him in The Sun.

Why should we take heed of what mainstream media publishes as "news" yet disregard what the free press issues?

Politics aside for this, here's a shining example of my point. The tabloids go to town on singer/songwriter Steve Andrews this week because he appeared on Britain's Got Talent.

Steve in the Sun!

Here though is a page from my very first publication, the crazy comic zine Toonedelic Times from 1994; scream if you remember it!

Yeah its raw, its hand written and photocopied but displays Steve Andrews singing is hardly news; the guy's been doing it and loving it for an age.

The other significant difference from my report to today's tabloids is I concentrate on his music rather than his beard.

Too keen are the tabloids to point out Steve experimented with psychoactive plants as if man using such herbs for hallucinogenic properties is some new-fangled trend. This is not news, folk been doing that since the dawn of the neanderthals.

Not necessarily reflecting negatively, Steve is relishing the media attention and laughing off the eccentric image it portrays of him. Our zines and punk-paste publications could never achieve anything near the same distribution.

I only wish these Fleet Street drones could latch onto the real story as I know it; Welsh guy loves entertaining and writing encyclopedic guides to mind altering substances, has been doing it all his adult life and has achieved respect, admiration and light -hearted mirth for it.

In my opinion there's nothing here to mock. So I suggest you scan the headline and occupy your time better by searching for Steve Andrew's musical talents or checking out his books rather than reading more than you need to of the spoiled garbage newspapers shove down your throat.

For one it has altered the way I view contestants on these talent shows, the ones the media mock and rip into.

Damn these guys got up there and did it, with a variety of professionalism and skill, but still they did it and you slump on your sofa stuffing pizza into your cake-hole and criticise their every movement.

Steve was among the talented here but would never fit the needs of the show, others strive to apease the masses, while he did what he always did and bought about a togetherness through his music by engaging the audience and making them part of his act.

These are the points the tabloids should focus on but being I know the whole story I know how inaccurate these articles are; makes me ponder the facts for the articles I know nothing of.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

No Surprises Living in Devizes: A Country Gone to the Dogs

No Surprises Living in Devizes

A Country Gone to the Dogs

Darren Worrow

Tories dubbed Labour’s nationalisation manifesto as “a return to the 1970s,” while our titanium-lady called for a return to ripping foxes to shreds, pulling wheelchairs out from under the disabled and squabbling with Europeans akin to Sir Francis Drake. Whatever fluctuations, Mrs May is certain we’ll face them together; no dinner for her then.

What British institutions will she reintroduce next on her maniac “mainstream” death-tax-manifesto; voting restricted to gentry, public executions, the slave trade, or burning witches perhaps? Bell-bottoms and Love Thy Neighbour aside, if we’re going backwards either way, I’d rather return to the 1970s then the 1570s.

Can we expect the return of plague (solving NHS underfunding,) a reappearance of grave robbers maybe? Or will Jim’ll Fix It be back on tele? Can we hope to see white dog poo again?

Just because things happened in days gone-by doesn’t make them right. Our fondness for a bygone era is shrouded with nostalgia; crushing white dog poo underfoot and hurling brown snowballs really wasn’t as much fun as you reminisce.

Oh dog poo; a subject I’ve avoided to date, primarily because it’s a national issue and secondly, because I talk enough toilet already. However nothing floods local Facebook groups with comments like a dog poo rant; election, Brexit, even bad parking doesn’t compare. So I’ve been driven to slip in the matter.

Believe it or nuts, dog fouling has been illegal for twenty-one years. Turd bagging has become as second nature as Facebooking a picture of your tea. Now though, owners are fed up with pocketing poo and have returned to antiquated methods, covering with environmental excuses.

Alas I know nothing of the thrill of poop scooping. So blindly pondering; who here packages biodegradable matter in an imperishable bag and who opts to stick-flick it at passing ramblers? And what to do with your bag of poo; take it home, try find a bin not teetering already or post it to 10 Downing Street?

I’m told some opt to tie the bag to a tree like an undesirable Christmas decoration; well done you, double whammy for irresponsibleness. While five-pee reduced our usage of plastic shopping bags we’ve upped other uses; dog poo, nappies and sick bags every time Katie Hopkins Tweets.

Our villagers travel afar sanctioning their pooches to defecate along the school path, because we live in such an urbanised area with lack fields to walk dogs. “Just taking Fi-Fi for a dump on the council estate honey…”

Unsure if they uphold increasing our children’s immune system, they figure it’s harmless because they bagged it, or they simple don’t give a shit.

My confusion; how can baggers be sure they've collected all the pulp matter, doggies squish too?
Owners shriek, “what can I do, I’m doomed if I bag, doomed if I flick?” The answer is simple, to other single-celled organisms and above. Buy a flipping reusable lunchbox and a bottle of water, scoop your doggie doing in it, wash down the affected area, and take said lunchbox home for washing. Is that as hard to grasp as squelcher?

Better still; train your pooch to poo in your own garden rather than leave it to the heroic CUDS and Wiltshire Council Green Party candidate Geoff Brewer, who have been tidying discarded poo sacks in Drew’s Pond Wood, the worst affected area of Devizes. At last, here’s a councillor cleaning poo rather than dishing it out.
Why do we make an issue of dog’s doings, while cats poo at liberty in neighbour’s gardens, or roadkill sprawls over our highway; a testament of our need to speed to work, or even, particularly in Wiltshire, horse poo is legal tender; they’re permitted to produce a mountain of the stuff in any road and no one raises an eyebrow?

Someone always brings horse poo to the table on any online dog poo debate, but it’s fiercely defended because we love a bit of that round ‘ere; spread it over yer field, proper jarb.

One memorable response I read appealed you couldn’t expect a horse rider to dismount to clean as the horse would bolt. These folk never watched westerns; cowboys been tying horses to posts for centuries to go play poker in the saloon, drink a bottle of bourbon and have a gunfight; I’m sure you could tie yours too for the duration of a quick shovelling.

Opps a daisy, did I offend the wealthy again?

I asked this and the response was; “not all horse riders are wealthy what-what?” Slightly misguided in a country where nurses need food banks; looks like my column has come full circle.

Is dog poo as bad as the poo spluttering from Theresa May’s lips as it quivers under the weight of progressive alliance and the young tactically voting? The media walkies the right-wing; fouls the campaign trail with obscene budgets and slogans derived from Mein Kampf (true,) but cannot dump over the freedom of social media (yet;) snooper’s charter, pooper’s charter.

Sure we’ve a responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of our streets, but there’s a mountain of other faeces to sort; and its rotting our country. We have a duty to vote in this strategically placed election, to turn tables, but unfortunately here in the Conservative safe-zone we can hope only to scoop a miniscule dog turd against the mountain of manure.

I don't know what came over me as checked Facebook before my mid-morning nap. Saw this news post from a site I'd not heard of before, Index: Wiltshire. I quickly despatched a message to them, without any real thought as to the implications of my actions. That moment of lunacy is why we are here today, with this book; all I can do is apologise. Forward wind a year and No Surprises Living in Devizes has become a bit of a "thing," the best description I can come up with. Every Sunday a new episode goes live like the unleashing of a crazed dragon on steroids. I face a plethora of responses and feedback; some are nice. There's brute honesty in the causerie journalism doesn't usually convey in this day and age. It also brings a straightforward view on life in our traditional market town, with wonky edges.

Relive last year's No Surprises columns with this gorgeous paperback or kindle book, 'cos you're worth it.; 6 quid paperback or 2 for the ebook!

                                                              Paperback on Amazon   

Sunday, 7 May 2017

No Surprises Living in Devizes: Feeling Lucky Punk?

I can tell it’s Taser when my eyes are shut.

Okay, joke may go over the head of younger readers. You don’t see the citrus fizzy pop much these days; it’s all about electrical weapons.

Being Wiltshire has one of the lowest crime rates in the country but peculiarly police Taser usage is above national average, how does Chief Constable Mike Veale celebrate this incongruity? He gives out Tasers to any old PC Tom, Dick or Dirty Harry. And even more bizarrely his reasoning? You guessed it; it’s all these darn terrorist attacks happening in our God forsaken county.

Fear of terrorism resided over common sense, again. Take heed of Yoda’s words of wisdom this Star Wars Election Day, “fear is the path to the dark side.” With zero terrorist attacks here and the obvious effectiveness a Taser would have against a nutcase with machine gun, explosives or a lorry through a shopping mall, absurd uneasiness procures the unsuspecting masses.

I never the envy the job of the police, if there’s two muscular louts knocking seven bells out of each other in the street most would cross and walk on the other side, whereas Bobby has to go and sort it out.

The thing we need to learn is, if you’ve got a beef with another bloke that’s an issue between you both; best not involve anyone else, especially someone trying to prevent you from having your head smashed in.

Try to remember no matter how drunk, beneath the uniform there’s a real person, maybe with a family, with a life, just with a job to keep the peace; sumbuddy’s gotta.

In turn the police need to drop the condescending discourse and treat civilians as equals. Unfortunately if you’re pointing an electric-shock gun at someone, you’re immediately intimidating.

If you ask me the police need training by Doctor Who scriptwriters, cos the Doctor has been talking down entire alien races hell bent on destroying mankind for eons, never used a Tazer in any time-zone.

The police need to understand life is a struggle and our government are not making it any easier. Anyone can have a bad day and flip out, it doesn’t’ make them a terrorist; like the man killed by police Taser in Warminster in October.

Neither does throwing your pants deserve a Tasering, Tom Jones would never get through a song. But despite being caught on CCTV, the Melksham officer who superfluously zapped a naked suspect for such a petty wrongdoing was cleared of assault.

This is not NYC, as much as I sympathise with police tasks, a lethal weapon is not bridging a divide between officer and civilian. It’s a responsibility I trust with most, but you know there’s always one bad egg. My other concern is you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight; if cops are armed the robbers will match.

Make no mistake; in the aforementioned street fight scenario I’d have Tasered both rather than wrestle them. I’d Taser anyone if my boss gave me one; lucky I’m not a police officer and just the milkman. Still, Mrs Smith, you can put those away you filthy cow, if you can’t pay your two pound eight pee this week I’m going to have to Taser you.

Yeah, I’d Taser anyone; kids arguing over the best X-Box controller; I’m going up there to Taser their heads together. Local election candidates’ campaign-posting on the Devizes Debate Facebook page; TASERED. Lad tying a soiled dog poo bag to a tree in Drew’s Pond Wood; TASERED! New owner of a landmark pub suggests its ceiling needs a lick of paint; TASERED!

Dress up as a Muslim to protest against the cancelled May Fayre; TASERED! Ye gods, let’s get this one cleared up shall we? The complexities of a safety form prevented Wiltshire Council and Lions Club arranging the fayre this year; it had nought to do with Islam. I don’t know if it was satirical discord which badly backfired, but whatever was going on, it was in exceptionally bad taste.

While I never disagree with protest, perhaps the organisers of it could have concentrated their efforts on arranging a fayre instead; give it a go, see if it’s so easy. But because the tabloids went to town over the bullet-point of covering for a possible terrorist attack, no matter how absurd, some idiot decided to dress in Muslim attire. As suspected, this terribly tenacious link sadly deposits Devizes central on the xenophobic map.

Yeah this week, local Facebook group members went hammer and tongs over this, scrolling comments got as far as screenshots of Koran and Bible passages when really, the May Fayre has nothing to do with any of it.

Forgot the bank holiday is Beltane? A Gaelic festival anglicised forcibly by Christians, back in an era prior to this religion being all tea and cupcakes on the village green, but in a day when fear and terror were trappings thrusted upon heathen folk to accept the word of God or be burnt on a plinth. Irony, just a tad, we attempt to clear our town of dog poo, when there’s a lot of other fetid matter we need to sort out.

Maybe there’s the police’s confusion, the difference between a terrorist attack and a terrier attack. And not from the barking, biting end but from the depositing end. Oopsy daisy, now I’ve opened a whole new Pandora’s pooch poo bag, without the time to finish what I started.

So, it’ll be a scatological themed next week; if I’ve not been Tasered by then. I hope to chat with Wiltshire Council’s Green Party candidate Geoff Brewer who along with Zena’s CUDS and other volunteers, have been clearing Drew’s Pond Wood of littered dog poo bags. At last here’s a politician cleaning up shit rather that talking it.

Now you can relive all last year's No Surprises Living in Devizes column; ewe lucky buggers.
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