Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Distant connection

I treat my emotion like an indulgence. It shames. Cauterised melodrama. Empathy makes me feel like a vampire.

Drinking deep of the blood of innocence.

Everything happens at once. Tragedy at thrice remove multiplied.

Yet nothing ever happens.

The damp sofa stays upturned on the estuary, waiting for a high tide.

The warmth of the evening bewitches me.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Sticky note



Watching you draw the future.
Reaching on tip-toes to place the bright square on the board
A patchwork quilt of childish optimism.
You have faith, not in God but in the everlasting world.
A science fiction where everything can be fixed.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Alice

The song is dead.
There is only texture.
Layer of grainy image, blurred and overlayed.

Colour is dead.
There is only black, white and grey.
Clouds, roads, buildings from yesterday

Meaning is dead.
There is only a liminal space
Only hovering on the edge of things.

The future is dead.
There is only a chaos
Nothing planned, nothing dreamt.

We live in a dream.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Crowds

Watching the closed circuit
Playing myself backwards
To try to trace my own steps
Is that me?
Am I there?
Am I looking suspicious?
Do I believe myself any more?
Walk forward, walk backward
Upstairs downstairs
Yes sir yes sir
Three bags full
I'm following myself again.
Losing myself in crowds
Following myself again
Switching cameras
Changing lanes
Losing myself in crowds

Monday, 15 May 2017

Creativity is not just fun.


I attended a rally the other day about education cuts. Other people have written about the impact of cuts on education. I'm not going to retread their steps aside from to say that a government who say they are driving up standards whilst creating a real terms 8% cut but respond to any questioning about that fact with a blunt piece of deceptive semantics about 'funding never being higher' aren't my choice to sail the good ship 'HMS I Believe the Children are our Future' across the stormy oceans of economic upheaval.

I'm sure I could summon up some pithy paragraphs along the lines of 'stability? - for whom!' or 'stability? - try being an autistic child who loses their teaching assistant and then see how strong you feel Ms May!' or 'stability - try being a parent who discovers their primary school is considering delivering a four and half day timetable and then wonder how on earth you are going to sort out the childcare for that?' but we've been there and and back and there are some excellent campaigns dedicated to the opposition to the cuts which cross traditional political boundaries.

One of the things I heard at the rally quite frequently was that cuts to art, drama and music provision alongside the loss of free writing and story time in the curriculum make school less 'fun' for the children. This I don't doubt and I'm not going to argue that school shouldn't be fun - of course it should. Anything worth spending any time on had to have a degree of fun in it otherwise it should be done by a robot. What I am going to suggest is a lack of 'fun' is far from the biggest problem in a creativity starved curriculum.

When we take away the creativity of children, we deny them the opportunity of learning some of the most important lessons they could possibly learn. We prevent them from exploring the world around them on their terms. We stymie their language development by denying them the opportunity to experiment with words in different roles. We prevent them from finding different ways to express themselves, reducing the chances of them becoming autonomous communicators.

What possible logic is their in this particular time and place for a curriculum which spends very little time on the power of the image or the construction of meaning through anything other than written language?

It's not just fun that's being lost here, it's an essential skill for life in the 21st century.

If we remove creativity from our curriculum, how are we supposing our young people will explore their emotions and learn to manage their feelings? Creative subjects are almost inevitably a prelude to discussion. Young people create something and the adults involve them in a discussion about the 'art' created - what is it, what does it mean? Why did they construct it thus? Inevitably that discussion creates some kind of sharing of views and experiences, some philosophising, some appreciation and interpretation, some listening from the adult and a sense of the child being in control and engaged in a conversation which runs deeper than 'right or wrong answer'

If our children aren't to have these experiences in school, how are they going to learn to communicate properly, to value their view, to justify and explain and discuss their thoughts and feelings?

Creativity can teach empathy, painting a picture of someone or something out of our own immediate experience, considering a role in a drama exercise, writing song lyrics or poetry about a character invites us to consider life in the shoes of another. This is an essential skill for all sorts of life choices, not least roles in management.

Imagination is required in all disciplines at their highest level. Even the 'hardest + coldest' subjects require imagination in order to advance. Innovation in these areas needs the sort of 'beyond the worksheet' spirit of enquiry and a degree of brave abstract thinking which is essentially creative. Music, Art, Drama and Science all share a sense of 'what if...' - It's just rather easier to ask the question with a few maracas and a glockenspiel than some hydrochloric acid when attempting to foster a spirit of enquiry in a small child.

Creativity in schools is essential if we want schools to be more than just attainment factories. There is for example, considerable evidence that learning a musical instrument can boost educational performance across seemingly unrelated disciplines. The broader evidence of the immediate impact of creative projects on broad outcomes is inconclusive.

I argue that we look beyond the immediate 'boost' to the deeper skills. We consider how (for example) skills learnt at 6 impact at 16. It seems fair to suggest that the construction of an art project of any form (the decisions, the choices, the self reflection and refinement involved, even at a young age in the construction of a song, a performance a picture or a poem) is a useful metaphor for challenges faced later in education.

Only in the arts are young people are faced with an abstract and indefinable notion of 'quality,' a situation where they need to judge the quality of their work on its intrinsic merit. Yes, of course a teacher will guide and shape work, but the arts teach us to be inventive and to trust our judgement, follow our thoughts, try different ways to 'skin the cat' in a way that a purely 'knowledge' based curriculum doesn't. It may seem a waste of time for schools to use drama if it doesn't boost SATs results, or dance if it doesn't immediately improve numeracy but when learners reach higher levels, if they have never had an experience in which they've been invited to respond creatively, where they answers are multiple and risky, how are they going to draw on their life experiences and find that buzzword of 'resilience?'  

The skill of identifying a goal, being self motivated and self critical as you try to achieve it is fundamental in education long after we've finished playing clay or dancing in a way the music makes us feel. The notion of valuing your own original thought or following an instinct sustains our confidence in the toughest moments of academic study. We make an argument that the maths we learn teaches logical thinking, even if the practical value of much of it is debatable. I think we could make a similar argument for creativity, with the added bonus that it is more likely we are going to dabble with painting, dance, music and so on, even if 'just' for leisure - such activities can form the crux of identity, the glue of our social life and give us a sense of connection to others or ourselves long after we've left school. I'm not sure we can say the same for the content of a higher tier Maths paper.

I'm not arguing against teaching long division or simultaneous equations. I'm merely pointing out we accept the arguments for keeping such skills in the curriculum, in we see them as having an innate and underpinning value to our cognitive development.

I argue that creativity and the arts have just as valuable a place if we allow them to. Cognitive development is for nothing if our minds don't function because we are fearful, anxious and unable to communicate or explore our own feelings. Brilliant young minds without the courage to communicate or the empathy to consider how to persuade is wasted brilliance.

We have a view that we have produced a generation of risk averse young people. Teacher's bemoan the 'spoon fed' mentality of young people seemingly rigid with fear in front of more challenging material that requires a degree of interpretation or a level of invention in the response. I suggest this if this true it is at least in part because we aren't giving anything like enough opportunities to be fearless earlier in the system and that a lack of creative education is denying the learners a lot more than 'fun' - It's denying them a chance to develop skills they will rely on for a lifetime.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Politics isn't Star Wars.

There's two things I'm tired of hearing and reading.

1: That Tories are 'evil'
2: That Labour's spending plans are 'insane'

For the first time in my life, we have a distinct choice at the ballot box in terms of how we want our economy run. I'm writing this in the hope of improving the debate a little bit.

Politics is emotional, clearly. People tie their identities to parties, or indeed to their disdain for the political system itself. The people in the first group who know what they believe in are understandably keen to express these beliefs. Therefore, those of us convinced of the truth and beauty of the socialist cause are prone to cast those who see the world as more about individual responsibility as 'scum' or 'eton wankers.' The latter group chuckle about 'money trees' and 'do-gooding sandal wearing social workers' or something. I don't know many of them, so I'm not that sure what they talk about to be fair.

The people in the second group are then faced with a choice. Choose 'evil' or 'insanity' or perhaps just don't bother. 'But it matters!' we shrilly pipe, whilst churning out frothing paens of praise to our chosen one and bile filled rage about our enemies. It matters because of 'evil' and 'insanity'

So - what I'm going to do is try to make a short and reasonably well reasoned case for not voting Conservative. I'm going to try to avoid the man traps of emotion and sentiment and explain why it's probably in your self interest to avoid Conservatism unless you are really well off and that's all your really fussed about.

Firstly, lets deal with the idea of debt, borrowing and fiscal responsibility. The way I see it is thus: Failing to invest money costs money. Austerity as an ideological model simply doesn't work. It generates cost which are at least concealing how little money the cuts save (thus, throwing their 'human cost' into increasingly stark relief) and at worst actually impact negatively on the public purse.

Lets take some examples to back this idea up.

There is considerable evidence that the cuts to disability benefit have had an impact on mental health. This impact was quantified into the headline figure of '590 suicides' linked to the cuts. If we take a very cold and clinical view we can assume that each suicide was attended by an ambulance, that there was some police involvement, some kind of coroners enquiry, perhaps counselling services for the surviving family members and so on. I think what I'm trying to say, is even the bluntest, bleakest outcome of suicide has hidden costs.

We could also reasonably assume that there were a number of failed suicide attempts alongside the headline figure of 590 deaths. The World Health Organisation estimates that the rate of failed suicide to successful suicide at a ration of 20:1 - I'm not going to be so trite as to suggest this means that there must have been 11800 attempted cases, but we can reasonably assume their were at least *some*

Again, if we avoid the cliche's like 'heartless' and 'inhumane' and assume the Conservative policy was attempting to save the country money, we can actually make a stronger argument. How much does a suicide attempt cost the NHS? How much does say, 3 nights in intensive care, a paramedic, a crash team, the mental health counselling and so on cost? According to NHS Wales, the cost of an intensive care bed is approx £1900.

What of the less dramatic stories? The prescription anti depressants prescribed? (the NHS spends 4.4 million per week on such medication) The children of the people who suffer mental health problems requiring additional support at school due to the sudden instability in their family life?

Lets go further and link mental health issues (and indeed financial precariousness) to homelessness. How much does homeless accommodation cost? How much does treatment for alcoholism or other drug dependency cost? (The National Council on Drug Abuse describe risk factors for addiction as including 'poverty and mental health issues.') Drug use is in turn linked to crime which again, costs money, both in terms of policing and punishing. The government's own Department for Community 2016 figures identified a 53% rise in homelessness amongst those vulnerable via mental health and a 49% rise amongst those physically disabled.

The point here is, economics isn't straightforward as the Conservative party would like to say. We don't just 'make savings' by cutting things and then counting all the lovely money. We also occur costs (actual costs, not just lovely liberal 'human costs'.) The costs above are speculative but real. Policing, prison, hospital admissions all cost money. They are an inevitable result of cuts.

We can't simply make people 'un-dependent' or 'liberate them from themselves' by desiring it be so. It might be 'well meaning' or 'what the government thought was the right thing to do' but the statistics suggest it simply doesn't work like that. It's an attitude that denies the actual situation.

Let's look at a slightly bigger picture: If the government have presided over a rise in inequality and poverty, then we can make a broader causal link to some mental health issues. We can extend this far beyond disability benefit to the zero hours contract culture (note, 2/3rds of children in poverty come from WORKING families), the failure to invest in technology and industry (low pay, low quality work), the cuts in allowances for a wide variety of circumstances and so on. Inequality has risen, poverty, homelessness and so on has risen. This has a commensurate impact on happiness and well-being, both physical and mental.

Source: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirit-Level-Equality-Better-Everyone/dp/0241954290

Every other cut is the same. The money might be saved in one place, but the cost crops up elsewhere. If we 'can't afford' educational investment of 6bn, it might be interesting to reflect that mental health ALONE costs the economy around 50-100bn per year (depending how you read the statistics). It would be sensational and foolish to link that entire figure directly to poverty and government policy, but equally it would be folly to not ascribe at least SOME of that cost to the economic circumstances described above, given as the W.H.O is clear in linking poverty and mental health issues.

We've not even touched on the physical costs of poverty to the healthcare system and we're already encountering numbers which dwarf some of the potential savings made by cuts. If we want to make things even more clear, then a report for the Joseph Rowntree foundation estimates that 20% of all money spent on public services is paying for the IMPACT of poverty (Healthcare, poor educational attainment, policing)

It's clear (to me at least,) if we accept the causal link between healthcare spending, lost economic productivity and poverty/insecurity, we need to invest, not simply in the NHS, but also in the infrastructure of society. It's also seems fairly logical to suggest that that investment would have some return in terms of reduced pressure (costs) on the services we are told we can't afford.

If you want *less* people in prison, hospital, surgeries, dependent on social security to top up rents, reliant on medication to exist or whatever form of so called 'dependence' you care to identify, then people have to have their basic needs met. It's a simple piece of psychology to understand that if our basic needs aren't met (security, safely, shelter) then we simply don't function to our capacity. In short, we make bad decisions. If we create a society which creates those conditions for others, then bemoan their bad decision making, we become stuck in an endless loop of repeating blame and by anyone's standard that doesn't seem to be the epitome of that buzzword for rational 21st century economics 'efficiency'

My point ultimately is - investment isn't insane - it's the opposite - Austerity is a blind alley we walk down, expecting to see the open road, but instead hitting a brick wall. It would be insane to walk down it again, expecting the same.

The Conservative economic policy is misguided as it takes a superficial an approach to saving money - and it fails to meet its own goals (taken at face value) of empowering individuals and freeing them. Whether they are guilty of 'evil' is a moot point and one I'm not interested in as it reduces the whole argument to some kind of Star Wars level debate about 'goodies and baddies' and I'm not sure how useful that is apart from affirming our own beliefs in the side we've chosen.

Whatever else the election is about, the choice between investment and not is the very crux of everything. It shapes the entire culture and in my opinion, it's time we rethought about what is and isn't 'sensible'

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bad satire, some maths and a bit of literature at the end.


I really get annoyed with the 'Now Show' on R4. When I occasionally catch it I am struck by its mediocrity and the image it evokes of its audience irks me too. I presume the audience to be people with nice big oak kitchens baking a recipe from a guardian supplement chuckling to themselves about how witty TV rejects Punt and Dennis are about the government mishandling of social care which is a terrible shame. Sigh.

This is the attitude of envy. I consider myself to be a cheeky banter monkey with an eye on the topical pulse but as yet R4 haven't offered me a contract. I haven't asked them but trying is the first step to failure and we all know a chip on one's shoulder is a serious medical condition worthy of a living allowance and ideally a medical prescription for two or three pints with someone who agrees with you about things. Plus I've got a shit kitchen.

Anyway, I'm going to take the brave step of attempting to create my own 'Now Show' style sketch. Granted, it's a radio show and my sketch includes visual imagery but again, if politicians don't have to live up to their promises, why should I? (that was a warm up gag. See, it's going to be a doddle...)

An office setting - two people dressed in business uniform. Gender and ethnicity of cast is unimportant but they must be well dressed. An air of anxiety pervades. This could be politicians, leaders of a school or hospital or the management team of a large business. 

A: There's a serious structural crisis in the heart of this organisation. Our systems simply don't work.
B: Call a branding manager
A: But... couldn't we go and Google something and make the decision ourselves - It can't be that hard surely?
B: No, because then we'd be responsible for something if it went wrong + the whole exercise would be over in about 15 minutes and then we'd have the rest of the week to fill.
A: That's what I call strong leadership
B: We owe it to the organisation to do this properly.

I'd carry on but I can't be bothered. My teeth are getting blunted with all the biting savagery contained in these words.

Frankly, the sketch is awful, but I do think it contains more truth than much of what passes for communication in our lives. I'm all for well being and positive thought, but it feels like we've passed through a looking glass into a world where everything is what someone says it is and not what it actually is. Linguistic games matter more than truth.

Now truth is a tricky concept, I concede this. We can wrestle over 'the truth' but I'd suggest that it isn't to be found in branding exercises. Recently I conducted some independent research (I googled stuff for a bit) and found that the average UK school has a marketing spend of about 2% of it's budget. This is a questionable truth, but even if the figure is closer to 1% it's quite a spectacular figure if we do some maths.

There will be some maths in a moment.

I absolutely understand why school managers would pay this money. It is after all, essential to attract learners to schools as the funding of the school and therefore the jobs in the school depend on it and so on and so on. We could even probably do some maths to decide its money well spent in a lot of schools.

This is an extract from the first result I found when I googled 'school marketing budget' 

It isn't this 2% figure that scares me per se. It's the fact that this sort of policy is required as schools need to compete with each other. It's that no one questions it seriously beyond a little griping.

Here's a little maths exercise. If we assume (falsely) that teachers work 40*37.5 hrs per week then what time benefit could that 2% have if the money were spent on teaching? Let's just assume the money is spent on more teachers thus freeing the existing teachers up a bit.

Neatly enough 2% of 37.5 is 45 minutes. 45 minutes X 40 is 1.25 days. Someone from Pisa (the global education league table people) suggested (in an article I can't find but does exist) UK education is stuck in the doldrums because UK teachers lack reflection time. Without reflection time, teachers mentally can't produce the high quality lessons, engage in the professional development required to improve, consider their learners as individual people and the things that every decent teacher aspires to do. Without reflection time, teachers are 'getting by' or 'burning out' (or climbing out if any managers are reading this, I see you!)

According to government figures there are over 450000 teachers in the UK (statistical equivalent if we add up all the part time ones to make full time ones)

This means that, if schools stopped having to pretend to be businesses and spending money on glossy brochures, adverts, staff managing outward facing social media accounts and painting the face of a teenager on the back of a bus with the slogan 'Thropp Academy - a pathway to your future' we, the UK publicly funded education profession would be gifted with precisely 571125 days of reflection time.

That is 47500 months of reflection or over 1500 YEARS of reflection time every year.

So, lets remind us of my sources.

A) PISA (I assure you, there is an article! - but the point works anyway even if there isn't, reflection = better teaching, PISA state quality of teaching is vital)
B) Government figures. (I even linked them)

The above isn't taking into account the time that goes into meetings and 'fact finding missions' worrying about 'what the competition are doing' that doesn't appear on the balance sheet by senior staff (on larger salaries) or the cost of time spent by teachers on marketing exercises - it is clearly a conservative estimate of the true cost of competition. Whilst the 2% figure is a fairly educated guess (coming from a survey in which 300+ schools were surveyed to attempt to establish 'best practice' in marketing schools)  the fact that academies and free schools are likely to push marketing spend UP not down makes disputing it's precise accuracy a fairly moot point in the humble opinion of this blogger.

In other words, my shit sketch is trying to show that applying the logic of capitalism to something that isn't essentially capitalist costs money. Costing money costs teachers time. Teacher time lost costs learners. Marketing might be cost effective for school A but school B either improves its brand image (spends money on marketing) or suffers the lost students (loses money.)

This is the trap we are in.

A business whilst also trapped in capitalism is essentially different - It can expand exponentially or alter its product fundamentally if it loses market share. Whilst of course a school can change its character or build another building, ultimately it is a school, providing GCSEs, SATs tests and various other aspects of the national curriculum to a local population - it is a service and its 'product' is strictly defined by external factors and it's customer base is defined by demographics and geography. Whilst these limits exist in a sense for a business, they aren't absolute limits. Finally, the 'price' charged by the school is fixed. The school can't offer a 'luxury' or 'budget' option for example. Why then force it to compete like a business and not question if that actually works financially?

My final point occurred to me as I wrote. It seems the homogenisation of education created by first a national curriculum and second, a stringent regime of pseudo 'standards' (measurement would be a more apt term) coincides almost precisely with the boom in school marketing. It's almost as if we collectively believe that being told we have choice and freedom in our education means we have choice and freedom in our education!

To badly paraphrase Kafka, the door is open, but for some reason, we just don't seem to see it.

We are trapped by our imagination. By perceiving what is as what has to be.

I want to rebrand the word 'efficiency' I want us to really work out what it means to us.

(Now work through the exercise above and change teaching to 'the railways' or 'the council')








Wednesday, 19 April 2017

'Strong leadership'

Austerity.

This word matters. I think it was chosen to describe the government's approach to finance for two reasons.

1) it's more appealing than 'efficiencies'
2) it's laden with good old post war, Brits in it together meaning.

The word was then largely dropped but the process remains in full force. (See the upcoming *massive* real term school budget cuts and the recent parks closure warning as just two examples)

The use of the word makes me angry. It irks me because it's being used as a justification for cuts.

It's become a reason why nothing can get done and the ultimate answer to 'why everything is shit'

Can't afford libraries, mental health service, special education support, disability benefit, buses to rural areas, care for the elderly, social housing and so and so forth? Austerity.

Pay freezes, withdrawal of subsidy for new technology, cutting educational subsidy for low income students, closing per school services and so and so forth? Austerity.

Yet, if we examine the word in the context of British political history we see a very different picture.

Think of Britain in 1945. Think of the depth of destruction, the sheer cost of rebuilding the infrastructure, the streets reduced to rubble, the creaking public services, the huge cost of the war. There is austerity. Life is austere. But it's not hopeless. It's not a procession of cuts, diminishing gains and rights in employment.

There is investment in housing on a scale unimaginable to the modern mind, there is the NHS, the widespread improvement in quality of life and wages. It's worth noting that creation of a meaningful welfare state is not just happening in the UK but is a condition of the reconstruction in the post fascist axis countries.

In essence, the word austerity in that context means 'yes, things are a bit grim, but this...'

It's easy to romanticise the Atlee government and it's wrong to suggest they were as radical or far reaching as they could be (it's the flippin' Labour party for heaven's sake) and I have much sympathy for the argument that in reality the establishment went as just as far as they needed to mollify a potentially revolutionary disillusionment but...

Whatever you think of that government austerity today doesn't have the promise of the reward and rebuilding. It doesn't lead towards any sort of future prosperity. We can question whether government debt really exists, let alone whether it should be paid off, but even this central tennant of the idea is empty. Debt has risen. Growth (which again, we can question as a useful measure) is negligible. By the terms used in conventional economics the policy is useless. It doesn't achieve its own (taken at face value) aims.

I think the point I'm making is this. If the question is 'how do we make things better' then I'm stumped that the answer appears to be a version of austerity that takes the grim bits of 1945 without any of the good bits.

I'm even more confused that for the average person some vague notion of 'strong leadership' seems to be more important than an actual strategy to improve anything.

I meet people in real life who say 'I just don't think there's any alternative' and the point here isn't to bang on about St Jeremy. Far from it. Corbyn is not the new Messiah, he's just a cipher for a lot of disparate (and desperate) hopes. Which is part of his problem really. Though, it is undeniable that he is an opponent of austerity. He might not be the best at pointing but what if he's actually pointing in vaguely the *right direction* as opposed to pointing with certainty and elan in *exactly the wrong direction*

The point is also not to say the answers of 1945 are the answers of now. Again, they're not. Some things would be welcome, but good luck with the nationalisation of the shipyards and the coal mines. Times have changed both socially and economically

The point is, that if we continue to be 'strongly led' down a certain path toward more austerity the only outcome is more cuts, more pay freezes, more dwindling living standards, more declining rights, more precariousness overall.

This is not to do with Brexit. This process was already in place. I'm not going to get into the ideological outrage about the rich/poor divide or who benefits from austerity because i think we often vote from self interest, even when we think we are voting in a socially responsible way. My point is, how on earth are the vast majority of people going to benefit from austerity? What exactly is in it for you?

You might be able to list some emotive arguments like 'scroungers won't get benefits' or 'immigrants won't get solid gold cars' and clearly those arguments are not invalid - you have to be completely blind to the concerns of actual people to right them off. But, (and this is a big point) whatever the rights and wrongs of benefits poverty costs more than keeping people out of poverty.

What essentially I'm saying is - if we stick on the same ideological course (with the strong, business like leader) we face not only losing all the services (and plenty more) listed above but we pay more to pick up the cost of poverty. Poverty equals crime. It equals illness, both mental and physical. It equals children who require more intervention, it denies access to education and self improvement, it equals, ultimately ghettoisation and gated community and unfortunately the bad news is, the majority of us are locked out and even if we aren't, it's a damn sight more expensive than the alternative.

Ok, we might not be contributing to fund 'feckless workshy people' (or people with terminal illnesses or youth clubs or rape crisis centres or jobs) but our private security is essentially equivalent to a tax (that doesn't go back to the government either, so can't be reinvested in anything that may potentially benefit us), as is our spiralling insurance costs and as is the feeling of dread every time we set out in the armoured Hummer.

There are of course complex issues the election is going to be fought on. Of course Brexit is going to be 'a thing' and immigration is not going away (either as a political issue or a real world real problem) but these are the issues that the Prime Minister wants the election fought over.

Now, I would be the first to express cynicism about the democratic process but I've got just enough faith in the intelligence of people and the ultimate logic behind our process to think there is just a slim chance that in 30 years time this is remembered as the Election where Theresa May asked a question about Brexit and got an answer about austerity.

The question of austerity or not is far simpler and far more pertinent than remain/leave. It's also not just a question of whether 'you care more about other people' - it's about your self interest. If you want more grimness, anxiety and general squalor, go ahead and think there is no other way.

If you want to be route marched further towards a low tax economy built on debt repayment with few (if any) safety nets to catch you or your loved ones, go ahead and do what you think is best.

May wants this to be about Brexit and Corbyn's perceived competency. It actually really shouldn't be about either of those things. It should be a test (the first one) of austerity as that is the defining factor of this government and no one has yet (Scotland aside) stood up to this at the ballot box.

Please, stop playing internal politics, playing dumb, playing head in the sand, playing whatever game you play to distract yourself and just consider opposing austerity by the most effective means open to you. It is almost certainly bad for YOU.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Mental journey

Wire fences, pitiful defences against the metal thieves, arsonists, teenagers. Pausing to think. What this space could be.

We own nothing. Spend big, pay later. Tied to a desk, tied to an alarm call, tied to rope, weighted down and sinking. 

The water is murky. The gloom is Stygian. The buildings loom but the reflections are dulled, great hulks over black oil. 

Boarded windows. Bricked up doors. A blank slate. What do you want? 

It seems I cannot dream of flying anymore. Each morning I wake from dreams which are unedifying. Dreams of petty squabbling, dreams of jealous failings or abject mundanity. 

I want to dream of flying or not at all. 



This is England
A flatpack nation
Angry about nothing
that it can put its finger on



Friday, 7 April 2017

"There's always a cold wind here"

Image result for Blackpool spoon

I stop the car. I want a moment to myself. To be still. The space next to me is empty for all of 30 seconds. In a flash of recognition I see family members. We have aged. We have all aged. She has died. We are all here to gather together because she has died. When I see them there is a lurch inside me, a feeling of momentary horror. My moments peace, my chance to stop for a second or two and just be. It’s gone. Selfish thought. True thought. I wanted it. I thought I needed it.  

I think about her. I loved her. I really did. The frail bones and the quiet days of the last few visits nothing against the memory of the life lived, the warmth of a shared joke, the endless cups of tea, the treats, the trips, the gentle curiosity and the time at the age of 25 I pretty much broke down in her front room because I was so lonely and fed up and she didn’t make me feel awkward or stupid.

I steel myself for the awkwardness of a reunion. The stiff hugs and handshakes I can never master. It doesn’t happen like that though. We know why we are here and it’s suddenly ok. I am out of the car, I am cold, but I am glad. We laugh, we talk. I talk, a bit too much, a bit too keenly, but I want to talk, I want it to be ok, I want today to be ok, I want today to be great. Like she was. I want to put people at ease, I want people to feel at ease. I want her to be with us. I want her to be with us because she’d like that. All of us, laughing and smiling and teasing.

The day has already been long. The day has already been an uphill struggle, a trudging route march through surliness and strategic complements designed to put me off my guard. I’ve had to fight today, to sink my teeth into flesh and shake it, to run to stand still, to weigh up how to talk, how to respond, what tack to take. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. I wish I could pretend it didn’t matter, but today it did. I haven’t stopped to think of this moment. I haven’t gathered my mind at all and now I feel like I’m stood at the top of a hill about to career down it. About to head down a waterslide, blindfolded. Cold water. Darkness. The ladder behind me has gone.

Time ticks on. We wait, we mill, we wonder who is coming, How we all have aged. How we amaze ourselves as we look around and see those people we haven’t seen since our childhood. How they have aged we remark. How we have aged we think. Time ticks on.

We mill, we chat, then the doors open. People loiter, anxiously. There is an etiquette apparently. No one has explained it. Someone says something about ‘family first’ but family don’t seem to here and for a moment it seems like no one will go in.

Music plays. I don’t think of music when I think of her. She always gave you her full attention. Music was something she enjoyed in private. Something to keep her company. She was such good company. I think of her, on her own, years on her own, refusing a television, reading, thinking, musing, wondering. I know she was lonely sometimes. I know she was lonely at the end. This makes me cry. Her dying doesn’t make me cry as much loneliness. I see her favourite carer. I think that she wasn’t as lonely as some people are and I feel a bit happier.

I think about it all. It’s too big for me, this day. Too much today has been about the shuddering, shattering reality underneath the dreams we’d like to live. The rhythm of payments, the back and forth of incoming and outgoings, the balance of security, each debt and debit weighed in balance on the scales, all of this in doubt. Life is fragile. Life is frightening, but we cling to it, we skate on the ice, never sure of when it will break but we skate on.

I calm myself. All this seems small now. We have a life lived in front of us. All the detail and small print and the interpretations and argument over outcomes and possibilities stops for us all at some point. I think of life like a chain, each person’s experience overlapping with the next like a link. I think of how she was a connection to a world I could never know any more. Of Lyon’s tea rooms, black and white films, of celebrity Stanleys like Matthew’s and Mortenson (the former ‘self regarding’ the latter more approved of apparently,) of soot blackened Manchester and of handsome service men who would take your heart and walk it on the promenade of a breezy, beautiful bustling seaside town for the rest of his life and wouldn’t live, like you would, to see the brash optimism of your hometown turn from graceful art deco inspired civilised freshness, all green paint and civic pride to a faded, tatty remnant of some other time, all woozy and staggering uncertainly.

I speak. I speak second. The first speech is calm, measured and beautifully well prepared. This was your son. It was everything you thought he was and he does you proud. I don’t know what I’m doing on the lectern. I don’t like the lectern. I’m really not the kind of person to stand still and speak but I do. I can’t remember what I say. I’m good at speaking, but speaking feels like a deception. I’m good at persuading, explaining, cajoling but there’s nothing to explain, no-one needs persuading. There’s no argument with anyone. You can’t debate away the end. I want to say how much I loved you as a person. Your knowledge of art and history, your gentle conversation, full of facts and stories. Your interest in things. I wanted to you to know I liked you, not just because you spoiled me, but because you were like a friend. Not just because you’d press £20 into my hand, but because you made me feel wanted and loved by all that we did. I wanted you to know that. I don’t know if I said that. I have no idea.

The minister has a benevolent look as I step down and take my seat. Then he tells us to take a memory and hold it dear to us. I don’t actually know what he is - he has a collar, but someone said this was non denominational service. I shook his hand at the beginning, but I couldn’t process the information properly. I can’t focus, I can’t think of a memory. All I can do is look around, look at the people around, heads bowed, or staring past the space at front into the middle distance. I wonder what they are thinking. Right now, I’d like to borrow a thought from them, because I’m getting restless. I need a thought, a memory, but my mind is racing too quick and I can’t stop it to focus. It’s producing an absurd mix of strange dreamlike images and everything I try to fix on morphs into something else. I wonder at the thoughts of this reverend, this vicar, this strange man who leads a life of death and marriage, a schizophrenic leap from joyous beginnings to sad endings. I wonder if he is thinking pious and wise thoughts or if his mask is fixed to cover the same mundanity that goes through everyone’s head in their working lives. I shouldn’t be wondering this. I should be remembering.

Then he makes a strange gesture with his arm held out and fingers crooked. Some kind of blessing or a signal to someone else. I don’t know. The curtains close. So soon. It’s like everything from all the memories I could latch onto happening at once, like I’m going to visit on an autumn evening, like I’m a child in the garden, like I’m taking an arm to steady her, like I’m following round a department store, like I’m wanting to stay for another week and not go to school, like we’re being naughty and sharing a cake when we’ve already had an ice cream, like I’m laughing at the lock on the back door’s ludicrous mechanism, like I’m being told to put my coat on in case it rains, like I’m watching her watching my little boy and thinking of my dad watching her watch me and how I must have reminded her of my dad and so on and so on and it’s all there, all at once.  

I cry and my sister hugs me tight. She’s all shoulders and hair, firm and solid and I need her. Just for a second. Just for a moment. I need to cry. I need not to celebrate or remember or follow someone’s instructions on how to think or deal or feel, I just need to drop into the abyss and have someone pull me out. The darkness is like oxygen.

Outside there is more conversation and people are thanked for coming. I don’t know what to do, whether it’s my place to do this or not. I don’t know if they know what to do. I wonder if you ever get the hang of this sort of thing. I suppose, rather grimly, that you do.

I wonder, rather macabrely why we pretend that live isn’t the same as death, why we can’t just accept that life is fleeting and precious and why we wrap ourselves up in so many layers of complete and utter pretence. Why we give it so much pseudo meaning, when really, it’s just essentially that moment of oblivion and being pulled out of it by knowing someone is holding you. It’s just the warmth of someone else, the smile, the hand on the shoulder, the sharing of the burden.

That’s all that matters. I’ll miss her. I was lucky to have her for so long.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The call of a seagull on the bluest of days
A sound you heard, over and over.
The minutes were countless
Until they were done.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The most pointless thing in the world.

I was driving the other day. Driving is bad. But I do it anyway because we live in a world where no one will pay me any money to do anything that combines things I like doing with getting paid in a place where I could feasibly walk, cycle or catch the train to. I'd quite like to burn my car in a ritual ceremony, along with the other vestments of my complicity with the notion of 'career' and 'a stable life' and then head for an island without any mobile signal and rebuild a long abandoned cottage and think about the stars at night and sing to the ocean.

Essentially, I think life is utterly pointless (later in this piece I'll retract this statement) aside from the meaning we construct from the myths we choose to believe and I'd like to go somewhere free from the pollutants of sardonic irony, liberal braying, insane body image, frothing outrage and uber-cool futurism. I just would like to survive and think for myself for a bit.

I'm aware this is a not uncommon fantasy and I'm also slightly suspicious of myself for thinking this way, aware as I am of the fascist 'back to the land' imagery and the dangers of retreating from the world when the going is rough. Something I read that Bjork said always sticks with me though, something along the lines of (and it helps if you read it in a Bjork voice) 'I'd like to live on a rock in sea, with just the waves and world's best speakers') and I think Bjork is just about the polar opposite of Hitler so I'll continue to indulge myself in this fantasy.

Where is this leading? Well, it's leading to the question of the value of things. Clearly, if I'm honest, my statement above about life being pointless is hyperbolic (see!). I've not killed myself and I've not really come close to thinking that way, so obviously I must attach some value to things. This was in my head as I was driving, the idea of value. The things I value, the things other people value. The gap between what I think is valuable and what some other people appear to value.

Why?

Because as I was driving I was reminded, for the second time in a week about something I can't fathom. Something I can't understand on any remotely logical or moral level, or any other level you'd care to throw at me that one could use to measure human reasoning.

The first time I was drawn to this question, I was stood by in a public space with a gaggle of people gathered near me, their attention on what I can only describe as strikingly featureless girl, who appeared to be wearing the clothes from an American sitcom and wearing a subtly strange mask of make up. Despite the lengths she'd gone to to plaster her face, she'd failed to express anything with the make up. Perhaps it wasn't a failure, but a success. I don't know, I'm not especially qualified to judge. It was if she'd applied the faintest sense of a death mask, or covered her face with a thin gauze. I felt like had she not applied the make up, she'd have looked almost identical, just slightly paler. It's not for me to judge the make up habits of others, but it didn't seem she'd made the most creative use of the tools available. Probably I'm a little jealous of the gender norms that deny me access to the urban decay palette and all its glittery mystique. You might think I'm indulging in some questionable reportage here, but trust me, I'll justify this later. It's not a critique of her appearance, it's merely going to be a set up for a point about how her self constructed lack of personal flair aesthetics wise is ironic, given her own excitement over the concept that I've enigmatically described above as confusing me, but not yet revealed. So trust me here and don't dismiss me as a weirdo set out at destroying the body confidence of a teenager for cheap literary thrills.

She was holding court about her new car, her new new car. As in, a car that has that new car smell and isn't full of crisp packets and bottles that might dangerously roll under the brake that you really should remove but it always seems as if you have your arms full already when you get home, so you tell yourself you'll do it next time you get in, but everyday you are on the last possible minute, so tell yourself you'll do it when you get out, but your arms are full and so on on until inevitably once day you die in a head on collision with a teenager in a new new car who has misjudged the need to wait before turning into oncoming traffic and your last thought is 'I really, really should have removed that bottle'

"Yeah, I don't know, but like, I'm getting plates too!"
"Like, plates?"
"yeah, I've always wanted plates"

Here I had to do a bit of mental working out. I doubted she meant a set of travel picnic accessories for the boot and presumed she meant private number plates. There are numerous ways in which, as I age, I feel I lose touch with the desires, passions and fashions of youth, but usually I can understand some sense of what they are doing. Grime = a pleasingly lo-fi way of expressing thoughts and feelings about stuff that you can join in with too! Got that, did that, but with a different sound. Dressing like your gran = rejecting your parent's love of rock and roll cool. Yep. Fuck you the 60s! Looking at your phone all the time to see an inane group chat thing = a bit like sitting in a bustop all night cos only your friends understand you and even though it's minus 2, you want to be there cos you might miss something.

But being 17 and 'always' wanting private number plates?

What the frigging fuck is that about. I could think of literally 5000 more exciting things than a string of digits that vaguely resemble your name and basically say 'I have too much money/I want to give the impression of having too much money/please key my car/I'm a dick/definitely key my fucking car'

What seemed so odd, was despite the way she'd clearly cultivated a personal appearance of striking anonymity, (a generic look of mid 2010s western youth, inoffensive, tasteful brands, ironed hair, aforementioned make up, like an architects sketch of the person who might inhabit a building yet to be built) yet she seemingly was so desperate to assert her identity as unique and special human via the vehicle registration system of the DVLA. (see?)

So there I was a few days later, driving. Which as we've established is bad, but existential stuff and personal number plates and there in front of me is a car. With a personalised number plate.

And I think... 'ok, I've given some thought to this already, but really, I'm struggling with this' - I could just about understand the desire to drive around with your name on the car if you were Bono or something and people might wave to you and shout 'Bono, I like your music, Bono, you are cool, Bono good work with the orphans and the tax dodging you cunt'. Just about understand that. Most people aren't Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton or the other one though and it still seems like a monumentally odd thing to do even if you are the aforementioned.

Do people who buy say D4N11 think people are going, 'oh, there goes Danii. Danii seems great, maybe I could get to know Danii and be a friend, or at least a nodding acquaintance or ideally a devout worshipper of Danii at some point in the future if our paths cross and we're not going in opposite directions at 70 miles per hour and I'm able to recognise Danii without the car and the registration plate to help me' - I don't know, maybe people do strike up conversation in car parks like 'Hey ST 3VE - my borther is called Steve too, great name, want to come to a barbecue?, there's only going to other winners like you there! We're having pulled pork, the wife makes a mean marinade, wait till you taste it' 'Hey, great! yeah, I'll be there'

And what makes it even more confusing is the registration on the car in front is something like X1 CUM. (it's definitely CUM, it's the X1 part I'm uncertain about)

Why pay money to have X1 CUM on your car when you could write BUM, TITS or FANNY or whatever on it for free? In a font of your own choosing. You literally could just tippex 'MY NAME IS DAVE' on the bumper and it would cost about £1.50.

And at this point, it strikes me that I probably think personalised number plates are the most pointless things I can think of and how they serve as a workable metaphor for the twisted values of a world I really don't feel like I understand. And later, when I'm writing this, I decide to work the metaphor a bit and it's more difficult than I imagined it might be, but I do it anyway.

They anger and confuse me on a number of levels. They take no skill to make, no more skill than the normal number plate would do and are valuable purely because of their rarity. There is no craftsmanship being rewarded, no love, no passion, no danger, no nothing. At least diamonds are difficult to get and cut and are shiny and speak to some sort of lost ancient tribal thing of valuing pretty glittery stuff. Like, magpies get that, but find me an animal that understands wanting to pay lots of money for what is essentially a vaguely different code for a thing that is already quite expensive anyway.

I wonder if they are perhaps slightly subversive. A two fingers to the DVLA computer or something, but strike this though down as ludicrous.

I try to think of something more pointless. I can't.

I wonder who makes the money from them. I imagine a bored man on an industrial estate in a breeze block built factory, with a green machine, printing an endless stream of number plates whilst money just flows through the letter box. He is about 55 and is dog tired of the number plate game, but he can't stop. Just has to keep printing one more because he can't bear to let anyone else take his life's work. He knows it's so easy, so well paid, he just can't let it fall to anyone else, even though it brings him nothing but weariness and soulless empty hollowness inside. His assistant put the plates in brown parcels and writes the addresses on them. He isn't remunerated especially well and is just a kid. A bored, slightly nervous kid who the guy on the machine can't warm too. I guess this isn't what it's like at all but the conceit seems quite pleasing in a sad way. I later (actually, just before I wrote this) go online and discover at a glance that number plates seem to regularly change hands for about £5000 and even ones which don't seem to make a discernible word or name sell for £300-£400.

I think about this a little more. In fact as I write this now, I'm thinking these thoughts. We cannot provide homes for elderly people and every time I walk into town there are more people in doorways and the air I breathe seems to simmer more noticeably with the simmering sense of brutal resentment. I haven't got the stomach for a rant listing the ways in which the money could be better used, but what I cannot ever understand is a world where E1110TT is worth £125000, which is about 6 new teachers or nurses or the funding of the community centre or somewhere for all the homeless people to sleep or a rape crisis centre or free school meals for thousands of kids or some new busses or whatever the fuck else you think of that we're constantly told that 'we' can't afford, despite the evidence to the contrary.

I think about how private number plates are a sort of weird metaphor for the kind of trading that goes on above our heads, where money is siphoned out of the actual economy of things and services and just sloshed back and forth between the rich on virtual trades and I feel like the light-hearted observational tone of what I was trying to write has suddenly gone.

And I still can't think of anything more pointless. All I can think is how they are a signifier of how bizarre and destructive our collective value system is.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Car park

Sweet England, skunk scent
Subdued psychosis, sullen violence
Swerving, whirling, circling into the path of on coming traffic.
England does not care.

Monday, 27 February 2017

I truly believe that if I push the stone up the hill then my work will be done.
I truly believe that if I push the stone up the hill then my work will be done.
I truly believe that if I push the stone up the hill, then my work will be done.
I truly believe that if I push the stone up the hill then my work will be done.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Quarried stone

Each step is the water over stones
Smoothed edges
Each step is the receding tide
a pallet knife over sand
Each step is the swell of violence
The crack of shotgun fire
Each step is that which I cannot contain
Myself untamed
Each step is hiding in the shadows
From beaks, talons and hawkeyes

Monday, 20 February 2017

Music - The corpse at the bar.

Words improvised mostly, some improvised and refined, looping pedal, fucked violin and mic + mic looper. 

Hangover bliss.

Taking your chances is like trying to stop the tide going out
Fate leaves you beached
What could have been is the refrain
of the corpses
propping up the bar

What could yet be?
I ask and there's laughter
You never learn.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Endlessly unwinding

You get up and do the same thing you've done for thousands of days. You shivering, hopping ungracefully in the dark trying to put on your clothes without waking anyone else.

You haven't had had enough sleep. You never have enough sleep.

The cup of tea brings enough clarity to your mind to make you seem capable of driving.

The shadow of an unknown anxiety follows you, stalking your steps, perfectly in time. After a while you don't notice it lurking.

If you put the radio on you'd feel worse. Jabbering, braying voices declaring 'the thing is' or 'what we must do' or 'what people must realise' in sanctimonious tones. Nothing really, nothing said in passion or confusion or love or anything that could mean anything to you. Just nothing, the same nothing, arguing endlessly over nothing. Zero plus zero equals nothing.

You're driving, the sun is coming up. For a moment your mind wanders to the things you could do and the places you could go. To the tops of the hills, to the valleys, back home to the warmth of your bed. To the bosom of a great novel about crossing the sea, or flying to the moon.

You keep driving. It's autopilot, feelings switched off. If you are lucky you'll be early enough to enjoy a meaningless conversation with someone you'd never have befriended in any other circumstances and will never see once they or you leave. You'll exchange platitudes or empty gossip about petty work politics.

You'll spend the best part of your day doing things you don't believe in, which have nothing to do with love, passion or confusion or anything you could believe in. You'll be reminded of corporate mantras and you'll be doubly reminded of their emptiness.

You'll eat. The food will be rushed and there'll be more small talk. Ignorant half thought through observation and more gossip and empty politics. You'll work more, you'll think about how utterly wasteful things are and how the people you speak to who are in charge of you seem to reek of deliberate ignorance and a brusque bullish certainty or fearful compromise. You will struggle to respect them. You'll wonder how anyone maintains a semblance of aspiration.

You'll be released from the grind, spat out, thirsty, eyes aching. Onto darkening roads, dazzling headlights. You'll try and try to concentrate as if your life depends on it because your life does depend on it. You'll think again as the hills and the valleys disappear into the gloam of what you didn't do.

You'll think to yourself 'one day' but you'll know it's a lie. You'll wish that if you lie to yourself enough it would be come true but you'll know it won't. You'll switch on the radio and the same voices will drone, irritated, prim, slimy. You'll wonder if they believe their own lies. If they honestly think they are doing anything of any value.

You'll think of the evening and no sooner will it arrive but it will fold in on itself disappear before you've come to terms with it.

You'll sleep, too late and you'll get up again and live the same dream again.

The shadow will be there. Whispering to you. Telling you to remember that it's your fault you see the world like this. Telling you that you need to see things differently and learn to enjoy the world for what it is. That the hills aren't made to be climbed, the valley streams aren't for swimming, the moon is not for the likes of you.

You'll have to learn to believe that the corporation loves and values you with the tenderness of a human caress. To learn to put aside your love, passion and confusion in exchange for a softer, gentler kind of communication about the smaller things in life. 

You can retune the radio, to something more reassuring. Something less provocative. You can search for the hero inside yourself and consider each day a glorious triumph, a new conquest in your own personal march towards some undefined yet almost tangible glory.

And always remember. Your feelings are entirely your fault. Look at the people around you. Grinning, smiling, laughing.

Skulls.

And the shadow will laugh and say 'it's all up to you how you feel, nothing else.'

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Beware the 'bubble' bubble

It's become part of the common conversation - have we all entered int a world of refracting mirrors which just show us what we want to see, endlessly feeding our brain with the way we think the world is or should be? 

Yes, probably, but what of it?

The social media bubble has been blamed for Brexit, for Trump. For subverting the common-sense of the common people who have skillfully manipulated themselves into believing they think something they don't really think + Nigel Farage.

Does this really stand up to critical rigour?

Where was social media in 1933? Were the Hitler youth transfixed by the latest meme, before marching into town and decrying their parents for un-Aryan activities? No. Did they eagerly swallow false news to fuel their new found sense of purpose and direction? Er...yes. But how did they do this without so much as a Nokia 3310 in sight?

Is fascism the product of alienation and economics or of memes?

'The problem is, people just 'unfollow' who they disagree with' 

Whilst, clearly, fostering a broad social base is good for the mind, there has never been a period in recent history where we haven't had a social choice about who we 'hang out with' - We chose our pub, our table in the canteen or whatever, based in part on the fact we loosely shared the values of the people we spent time with.

In fact, it's only since social media's advent have we been expected to 'hang out' with 100s of people simultaneously. It's hardly surprising that we might choose to be, from time to time, selective about that.

'It's the lack of 'proper' news that's the problem' 

Yes, it is. This said, social media gives us access to an incredible diversity of sources if we choose to access them. As much as we pine for the media of the past, the idea of an event like Hillsborough or the miner's strike being so meekly reported and the establishment being able to effectively bury institutional criminality on a massively public scale seems far fetched.

Is there a point here? 

Ultimately, what is disturbing is the assumption that things that don't suit the agenda of the literati can be written off as anomalies, that to blame facebook or twitter for fascism and xenophobia is to ignore completely the route cause. It also is a simple way of undermining any opinion which doesn't fit into the status quo.

It smacks of missing the point. Trump won, because Clinton was crap, because of decades of stagnation, because Obama did little to alter the fundamentals of power, because for the first time in living memory socialism was on the agenda because people wanted to kick at POWER.

Brexit happened because the left in Britain made no meaningful changes to the power structure, because people HAVE seen their identity disappear down a rabbit hole with little prospect of return, because the benefits of the EU seem far away in the midst of austerity where everything is on the line and life is completely precarious. The well meaning statements about how a)little migrants cost the country and b)how actually, they benefit the economy only really work if a) you've got a little spare and b) that statement rings true in your experience. 'The EU brings prosperity and freedom, by the way, we're axing the bus service, slashing your benefits and taxing your bedroom, but if you could kindly vote for things to remain the same, it'd be grand!'

Brexit happened because consistently people ignored communities wrecked by deindustrialisation and believed that gay or black cabinet ministers meant *actual* equality and that these things were more than small symbolic steps which actually didn't change the power structures at all. I didn't notice many government advisers from ex mining towns with a heroin problem for example.

Brexit happened because people believed class to be 'not a thing' anymore and decided because there were no people with flat caps and miner's banners it meant there was no more working class people, so we don't *really need* things like council houses because, keep the tax low, keep borrowing, we're all middle class now!

(What about the shipyards? Woohoo! Gay vicars!)

The celebration of tolerance and diversity is of course, a fine thing. The danger is, when we champion liberal values but don't actually alter the structure of power so those liberal freedoms can be enjoyed by all, we breed resentment which then in turn becomes a threat to the very liberal values we've celebrated. When we show how people are escaping the yolk of oppression and enjoying new freedoms whilst simultaneously pressing the jackboot of power down on the heads of others, we foster resentment. Twitter didn't do this. Economics did.

If I read one more article which says 'white working class men men should just shut up and put up, because insert diversity cause writer feels more valid' I'll scream. It is the white working class who created many of the institutions which now champion equality, who inspired many of the rights we take for granted, who created a beautiful culture of self improvement and education and have a history of struggle as long and as important as any minority group. It is the wilful and deliberate destruction of this power base in society which has led us directly to this point in time and to continue to see this culture as 'an enemy in our midst' or somehow subhuman, or essentially inferior is exactly the mistake that will perpetuate the right's grip on the public. Unless people re-embrace class as the defining inequality or 'minority' group, there is no hope of any sort of populist progressive force arising. The dichotomy of 'safe space culture' vs 'working class culture' is a false and dangerous one. When your spare bedroom is being taxed, that seems to me to be a complete invasion of 'safe space'

Both Brexit and Trump rose out of perception that they would alter power structures. They won't, but our cosy little middle class assumptions about the world don't either.  Bleating about decency makes no difference. Only actual change does. Only if the money is distributed better does decency actually get a chance to flourish. You can stand in your garden and wish for the flowers to bloom. You can lambast the flowers, sing a protest song about the flowers but if the soil is bad...

These things didn't happen because facebook+twitter. Don't be lazy.

Related image
Once upon a time in a far off land...


Monday, 6 February 2017

Wrote something, then set it to music, or vice versa. Not sure which way it works really.


All heads down,
Walking from there to here
As fast as we can.

Maybe you'd notice me if I stopped and threw my had back
Laughed and drank the rain, let it fall into my open eyes and run down my face like tears of joy

Laughed like a madman. Wild madman in the rain.

But I just walk like the rest

Head down, from there to here
as fast as we can

I want to walk till I cannot walk no further.

Past pleading signs declaring 'sale now on'
Whitewashed windows
faded road markings
Through the acrid underpass
over the thrill of the footbridge
watching the clouds of spray
empty bus stops
dripping umbrellas in sopping wet beer gardens


Walk till I'm empty.
Walk till I'm quiet.
Walk till I'm dead inside.


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Not so manic now

My writing project today. Been busy, missed a few. This is basically a reaction to something I read.

What I read.

https://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=12841

It's mental health day or something. Read this and fucking weep, then do something.

I read something earlier by Fisher where he pointed out that what Marx called 'alienation' we call depression.

I've only just discovered this man's writing. It's beautiful, brilliant stuff.

I think his essential point that depression is not an individual's struggle, but requires collective action is powerful. I think that whilst it's dumb to simplify mental health as a societal problem (end), he's absolutely on the money in terms of the folly of telling the depressed person that their mental health is solely their responsibility.

If it were a physical illness, to deny societal causes would be folly. If mental health means anything to you, think about the world you want to live in and find other people who want to live in a similar world, take small steps together towards that world. Win little battles. Inch, by, inch. Real things. We need some victories. We need a fucking parade of celebration, not another march against the relentless humming of ill thought out self defeating efficiency.

You are not alone and it's not your fault. Sleep well, eat well, find space and time. Hold on to the walls because it will get better. Stare into the void. I cannot molify existential dread but I do believe that your lack of self worth is not your fault. Believe you are good enough. I will believe I am good enough.

This world is like being told you have to sprint to the finish then discovering the track is designed *deliberately* to be made of quicksand. As you stand, petrified at the start line, you plug in your branded lifestyle content provider for guidance and your recommended anxiety medication app tells you "feel the ground beneath your feet and breath" and you want to scream "IT'S FUCKING QUICKSAND AND I DIDNT PUT IT THERE AND I WON'T BE ABLE TO FUCKING BREATH IF MY LUNGS ARE CLOGGED WITH SAND"

Maybe just fuck the race off? Perhaps others might catch on. Maybe we'd all be a bit happier without watching people try so fucking hard to get to the end floundering, gasping, choking, clawing for air, sucked under, looking anguished or tottering, petrified of one wrong move.

Maybe you enjoy this sort of thing. Maybe you'd push people in the sand, walk on their bodies, leap accross their corpses, slipping, pulling people down to lever yourself up, floundering but taking a grip on cold straggling clumped strands of hair of those who didn't make it, tackling, ripping, gouging and finally, breathlessly getting to the end and *winning*

That's what it's all about isn't it.

Maybe people should just cheer the fuck up. Or maybe your a cunt.

Sorry.

X

Saturday, 28 January 2017

In that moment.

The weight lifts
The planet recedes
Endless silence.

No decisions
No authority
No dilemma

Endless forward movement
The west is lost
Head for the dark.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Haze



Something is stirring. A ghostly flicker on a video tape, trapped between frames, or a half recalled smell from childhood. Unreachable.
Tightly curled, slowly unfolding, buried deep but pushing for the surface.
There is light behind the clouds.
A trill note dancing side side, up and down. Behind you, above you, swirling beyond your grasp.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Branch line

A sweeping graceful curve
Ivy clad trunks reclaim the land
A wall of wildness
Underfoot lies stones
rough cut blasted, stained and washed clean
A column of of trees, marching away towards the coast.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

In front of your face

Running and chasing
Exhilarating
To swear
is a dare
Throw
Glide
Run
Slide
Anything but the uncomfortable pencil hold
while chastened adults chide and scold


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Tonight's task

I have never created a film. I have edited and shot footage for some little instructional videos but never tried to make something imaginative so I wrote a brief script and shooting plan. 


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

?


Rambling thoughts, unedited/unfinished

What is the new modernity to be?

I've been reading Mark Fisher's work recently. It is terribly sad to have just discovered his insights only to then discover his death a matter of days later. One of Fisher's central contentions appears to be that without a sense of 'the modern' then the world is stuck in an aimless trough, repeating itself endlessly, suffused with a vague but essentially meaningless nostalgia.

This idea has nestled quite deeply in my mind, reading several commentators describing the reasons for the seemingly seismic political events has also led me to feel that it is the inability of people to summon up an optimistic vision of the future which leads them to turn away from the centrist liberal ideas with such surprising vehemence.

I have no desire to explore Brexit or Trump. It is what it is. What I think I do want to do is wrestle with this notion of modernism and modernity. They aren't the same thing on a level of academic discourse, but I don't especially want to have academic discourse. I want to probe a topic, to prompt a similar probing in others and I'd like that to be a broad notion, an easy to stomach concept that doesn't need a history or philosophy qualification.

Modernism is, to me, a sense that the lot of the human race can be improved by intelligent application of technology to the problems of living. It is a question of thinking fresh thoughts, or redesigning things to be explicitly different than the past. It is many things, but it is not nostalgic or sentimental. When it visits the past, it quotes it, as opposed to recreating or aping it.

Modernist thinking brings us redefined living spaces, it brings us are which recycles the form of previous styles but with a fresh purpose. It is a movement which does not accept that they way it now is the way it will be tomorrow, because we can do things different, use things differently, build things differently.

This is what has died over the course of the last 50 years. It's the belief in a radical social vision, a belief in change on a big level. You can see it everywhere you look, from the housing estates peddling identikit homes which show no real changes in design since the 1960s, to the complete disinterest in solving transport issues, to the steadfast refusal of TV executives to put on anything that might challenge, confuse or frighten people in it's form or content.

We are in a period of stasis. The change might feel radical but really, it's just a retread of old ideas. There is, of course, a modernity in our social attitudes towards individuals. There is a flourishing culture of ideas around gender and identity in particular. This is positive, but this is also fragile. In order to protect the social advances we've made, we have to think radically as the politics of the individual rely on the society around it. In short, I think what I'm saying, is: If acceptance and liberality (on a social level) is to flourish, we have to question what are hings we want and need from a broader society, what are the universal (or near universal) requirements of our people to achieve a sense of contentment and happiness.

Slavoj Zisek is much maligned, but he is spot on when talking of a desire to here what happens in 'V for Vendetta 2' - how does society reform itself 'after the revolution.' In other words, the progressive, the leftist, the radical, the discontented has to not simply oppose the force of darkness but act as if the revolution is here, now. It has to set forth radical notions which appeal broadly to people because they are intrinsically good ideas which improve the lot of the human being.

For a long time, the rhetoric of the above group has been simply 'more opportunity, more fairness, more kindness' - essentially, the same thing but softer, nicer, more thoughtful. Whilst on one hand the progressives have created a more open, tolerant and frank society, on the other, they have done little address inequality or economic freedoms. They've also failed to stop the dismantling of the apparatus of the state, the erosion of workplace representation or the saddling of the nation (both the nation as a literal state and the individuals that constitute it) in debts accrued by a tide of baseless, thoughtless consumerist recklessness.

So here we are. It is modern in the sense it is now. What is it? An echoing mall filled with bawling voices shouting hate and obscenities at each other about things they only half understand. A strange matrix world, where we lie suspended in our bubbles, fed on a soylent green-esque diet of reaffirming opinions and lifestyle jealousy. A kitch sitcom where we dress like 80s kids or 50s kids and laugh knowingly at our in jokes and lay out our clever cultural signifiers of own unique reference points without ever quite knowing why they are funny or clever because irony or something until one day shit gets real and actually we wake up and actually we're in ALDI and we're living in late era the Soviet Union really for all the difference it makes but with better cars and worse schooling.

So yeah, that's now, maybe, maybe not. Who cares, who wants really to analyse, this subgroups cultural significance, or the self referential nature of this or that. What we need, what we must do is move beyond the navel gazing about 'what it all means' towards a sense of what we can DO. What can be BETTER.

Where do we begin?

First of all, we change the rhetoric. We don't need opportunity as much as security, as stability. Opportunity is a word which has become synonymous with employment. I want opportunities to socialise, to congregate, to celebrate, to muse, to wander, to travel, to discuss, to exercise, to play, to learn and so on. I want opportunities which time brings. Which security brings. I want a freedom from anxiety and the precariousness of every modern existence. I want more than two days to drag myself out of a semi comatose state, into a feeling of possibility. This is opportunity, every bit as much as the opportunity afforded by employment which generally runs counter to these desires.

Secondly, I want to see technology harnessed for social good. I want to see everything become easier, better, quicker faster and universally available. There is an incredible opportunity to radically rethink so many things, from work, to the notion of citizenship, to education, to the way we live and the places we live if technology is embraced and invested in in a massive way. There is no earthly reason to build a project like HS2 when there is such deep inequality of access to information and culture. This could be addressed in so many ways. Maybe we don't need libraries. Maybe we do. But the fractured and ad hoc approach to digital culture, in which we have invited corporations to control the very network and access points, to curate the way we explore it, to choose what we see, to advertise to us through the content of our 'private' messaging is disturbing. We could do much better. Much, much better than this.

The single biggest failing of New Labour in terms of promises versus actuality is the question of transport. Here, we move far beyond the question of nationalised or privatised rail. We need to make car ownership feel like what it is. An anachronistic burden. We need to give opportunities for travel in quick, clean and spacious surroundings, moving seamlessly from mass transit, to smaller vehicles. Again, technology offers some hope here, but are we actually building the world around this possibility, are we enthused and romanced by this potential vision? There are so many ways in which this could be about equality, about a levelling and crucially, a levelling of something that doesn't matter. There is no reasonable argument that could suggest that it is infringing on someone's human rights or basic freedoms by building a super fast transport network which only utilised standardised vehicles. Which gave everyone the same access to those standardised vehicles. Surely in such an instance, the enormous benefits to the majority outweighs the classic white elephant of choice.

In media, we decry the 'dumbing down' of television, the 'nasty right wing' press, but what do we offer instead? Do we create, fund, support, write, submit? Do we have a vision of what we want the media to actually be? Do we make the noise that disturbs or seduces? Are we arguing for or arguing with?

EXPAND: SIMPLICITY VS CHOICE (REFRAME CHOICE AS DILEMMA)

SMALL VICTORIES - RECLAIM COMMON SENSE>






Monday, 16 January 2017

Self loathing

Searching for answers to questions which do not matter
Flirting with purchasing.
No aims
Other than to destroy time itself.
Nothing you have done is of any value on any level according to any half legitimate way of valuing your life.
Sleep well.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Call Centre: An unfinished playscript/screenplay

I wrote this stuff a while ago and tonight spent 30 mins cleaning it up and formatting it. I don't really know what it is. It might work best as a kind of dreamy film or perhaps as a radio play. I didn't really write it for any reason other than someone I know works in a call centre and I thought it was fascinating that she just follows different scripts to 'be' different companies.

Image result for wireframe sea
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Call Centre


Sound of telephone line, various ring tones and clicking of receivers. Mashed up prerecorded messages and static. Reversed sound of easy tinny easy listening waiting music  "This training call is for purposes may call recorded training for maybe"


Voice 1: There are booths. Small booths, small desks, chairs, headsets, enough space on the desk for a photo or a trinket and to rest your elbow so you can cradle your head when the calls are going on if you wish but most of the space is taken by the keyboard and monitor. If you stand up or walk round, you can see over the top. Like, when you’re sat down, you feel like you’ve got privacy but really anyone can look in on you whenever they want. It’s like a metaphor in so many ways.


This is repeated but in sync with different voices saying the same thing at a different pace. The effect is dreamy.


Voice 1 (adds)
She laughed, took a drag on her cigarette and said. What the fuck am I on about with metaphors anyway? I get ten minutes off to think about having no life and I kill myself a bit more.

Voice 2:
You know what a lot of people don't know or realise? They think the people who ring them up work for companies. Work for the companies that ring them up I mean. Like when they are shouting at, or crying to or ignoring the gasman or the catalogue company or whatever, it's actually the gasman or the catalogue company?
It isn't. It's me.
See, we do calls for loads of companies, we just get a script with some set mantras and phrases and a manner to adopt and away we go. I work for all manner of different companies.
It's chameleonic. It's the way it is. That's what it is.


So you talk to me about how or why I should care about this or that because it's my job and in my head, I'm just not even there.


VOICES - RECORDED CALLS, some overlap to previous lines
Image of sea but in wire frame form, swelling and falling, physical routine of calling, answering logging. Little details of movement, stretching, rubbing eyes.


 - and I waited in because your company said before 12 and it was 2 whole days...
 - children to feed, and a 13% increase? I didn't even get a letter from you...
 - cancer appointment, so what could I do at that point? I used your service for 22 years, never paid late
 - dangerous! Water everywhere, what are you going to do, I mean, I've got insurance but I don't see
 - where's the lady who phoned last time? Debbie? I liked her voice
 - I sent a letter, it explained everything! Y'know, why I can't pay and what's been happening. Have you got it? Have you got it there? I put to whom it may concern. Is that you? I felt bad, because I didn't want to concern you. I mean. I wouldn't want to concern anyone but I don't know what to do otherwise. Talking, explaining, it makes things better I always think. Y'know, even if they can't get better, it makes them seem better, you know, last time someone called...
 - you know where I live? You could come round! I'm being serious. You could help me finish
 - d'ya know what I think? It's your bosses who are ruining this country, all their money and their mates in the government selling them the businesses all ready made. At least they ain't got fucking rag heads ringing me up. Nothing against them, but why don’t they just call up their own and hastle them. Although, actually, no offence but you could be. Like it's hard to tell now innit. But you can, I reckon. Most of the time.
 - sorry? What? I'm... No. Up a ladder! No. Ha! That's my mate! Yeah, this the company number. Yeah, it forwards to both phones. Well, I could either drop the phone or climb down.  


Voice : I like the night shift. It's quieter. You get people who seem more civilised. Like. Maybe their kids are in bed so they don't want to wake them and just are more controlled with their emotion. Or maybe they're just exhausted, or even I dunno, just lonely and a voice in the night makes them a bit happier. Like, a bit more human. Like maybe they don't talk so much, not because they don't want to but because they don't go out or they don't really know anyone or they've got I don't know, a phobia or something which makes it hard to relate to people in the flesh.


Enthusiastic Voice


We like to think our call centres offer a fast response to our customers needs. A person facing information portal accessible on demand.


As such our operatives are of vital importance to us and we have made every effort to reach out to everyone affected by the planned changes to the logistics and location of some of operations.


Voice 1. The systems are a joke. You log in and you've got this person on the line swearing blind they've done x or y, sent this, had this letter, paid that, y'know and you check the records and it's just an error message or an access request failure.
And you know, it's not because computers can't handle this, but because there's a 15 year contract been signed ten years ago somewhere and you’re trying to use 8 year old software that's useless to sort out this person's problem and you just don't have answers.
Voice 2: (someone is with them) I sometimes dream I'm going rogue. That I could just ring up and say whatever I like. Like a kid in a phonebox, y'know, you'd ring up a random number and pretend to be someone? I did! No, I'm not a freak, loads of people did it! (laughs) no, you’re the fucking freak, we always did that! How old? I dunno? 12 or something. You must have heard the thing about ringing China? For free? No? Jesus, did you grow up in a bloody priests training home or something? Yeah, you could ring up a number, it went round school and I tried it and someone answered in Chinese. Or whatever. I mean, it could have been any number of languages but it wasn't English and it was free. You'd giggle and say something in an awful Chinese voice and then slam the phone down.
What was it though? What was that strange free phone number that got answered in Cantonese or mandarin or whatever language it was?
I'd like to know.
I'd like to know who answers the phone when I call. Who it really is.
Everyone is just an address, a statistic, a series of payments or non-payments, a sale or a non sale.
I’d like to call and say.
Have you a moment?
Is this a good time for you?
I'd like to discuss...
I'm calling from...
I'm calling about...
Would you take a pencil and paper to bed and write down the first thought that comes into your head when you wake? Can you call back and tell me what it is please?
I'd just like to know, do you think it's normal for a grown adult to feel tired and depressed most of the time. Just to want to be alone.
What is the first smell you remember from your childhood?
What do you regret not doing? Why didn't you do it? Is it too late?
Why do people allow things to go on they know are wrong? Why do people allow things to just be? Even when they know that everyone else knows they are wrong, they just let it be? Is that human nature? Just to stand by and let life flow by like a river? Is that it? Not good, not bad, just ambivalent?
What worries you? What frightens you? What really scares you?
Would you like to sing? Right now? Down the phone line? With me! Just sing? Anything. We can just make noise if you like?...


Enthusiastic voice: This is a cubical. In here people spend the large part of their time here. There is a computer screen. A keyboard. A chair. The chair can be angled to the preferred position of the worker. There are headset, which can be placed over the corner of the screen. The computer is connected to the telephone network. People call in or we call out. We can see the details here. On this screen.


The chair can be adjusted to the preference of its occupant.
This chair might be occupied by different people with different sized bodies, but it can be adjusted. The neck support, the back, the height. All adjustable. It's down to people's priorities.
Sometimes people will mention discomfort, but often they've not considered the adjustability of the chair. The back-rest, the neck-rest, the height. All adjustable. So we tell them. We remind them of their responsibility to their own comfort, to remember to adjust the chair.
We say we are sorry they've experienced discomfort, but the chair is adjustable to the preference of the different occupants.


Some people still bring a cushion or sometimes fold up a piece of clothing and sit or lean on that. That's fine. We are happy with that. Totally happy to accommodate that. It doesn't impact on call quality. In fact, if someone called your phone and spoke to you today, you'd never know. You'd never know there was a non standard approach to comfort and that's why it's fine. We know everyone is different, everyone is a different shape but that shape has no impact on the ability to provide a consistent and efficient customer focus.


Voice 3: You can get caught out at first. Your voice gives it away. You call someone and they laugh and say 'heavy night?' or 'you don't like your job do you!' but you get used to the tone required, the crisp, clear voice. It's a voice which can't sound too automated but can't give too much of yourself away either. Of the you that exists outside of the walls. So you get used to switching yourself off. It's kind of like unplugging a hard drive from the main body of the computer. There's all this, I dunno, 'data' there, but until you plug it back in it's just dormant. I mean, it's there, but you can't access it, can't do anything with it.


So if you've been dumped, or if you're worried about an appointment at the Doctors or if your child is sick or your parent have died or like God, I remember, like the woman who was three rows up from me who lost her husband and child. Car. Hit them. Just a blind spot, just a moment and then the kid was alive just and the husband was dead, but just after that, a few days or something, the kid was dead too.


I saw her go.


She wore a little jacket, quite formal, like she wanted to dress well for work, y'know, like even though there wasn't a rule about that sort of thing as such, she wanted to be proud of herself. I didn't know her. I mean I don't know her. I didn't know what I made of the jacket, someday I'd think it was like an, um... Affected thing, a bit of an attempt to be better than where she was and other days I'd think, y'know, good for her. It's not a big deal, I mean, she probably got it second hand or something or had it from an old job. That was it I think, I mean, she was, is a bit older, maybe she used to work in an office or a bank or something. Or a travel agency or some other agency where she'd wear the jacket. And when she lost that job, or left that job or whatever, she thought she'd keep the jacket and now she just wore it because it was better than throwing it out.


Like I say, I didn't know her at all then, but I noticed one of the supervisors come over and speak to her, waiting, hovering for her to finish the call, then leaning in to stop her before she started a new one. She left, in a hurry and I knew it wasn't some sort of discipline thing, because there was no anger or shame in her movement. She peeled of the headset and grabbed her bag and started out for the door and the supervisor was at a loss for a second, he looked a bit dazed
I couldn't see their faces because she was in the cubical in front and to the side and it's a bit of a stretch to see right over the barrier without standing right up and it being obvious you are staring.


It was the way he stepped back from her, he stepped back to let her go but then it was like he felt he should do something or say something or invoke some sort of protocol but he'd been left in her slipstream. Like he'd fallen from a boat, into icy water and by the time he came to his senses and realised he could swim, the boat had gone.


I didn't know what had happened and I didn't see her for the next day or two but then I saw the local TV news and I knew. I mean I didn't think I'd see her again anytime soon but it was only maybe a week or two when I was just standing up, to stretch. I was just ahead of the call schedule and I'd bought myself a chance to stretch out a little and I saw her coming in. Like, I can't really put it into words. She came in, like a ghost? Or like a boat cut free from moorings, a boat without sails. She just kind of drifted. Drifted in. She looked, concussed, numb, rudderless, I think that's it. Like she was just being carried there. And the same supervisor was behind her, in the doorway, just hovering, watching and with eyes that made it seem like he was playing out in his head what had happened to her family happening to his. Or maybe, the word I said before was right, like she was a ghost. He looked haunted, like he'd seen something he couldn't explain, something that chilled his insides and she, the ghost ship sailed across the light blue carpet flecked with cream and white dashes towards the island of her desk and he stood and watched as if on the opposite shore, as if stranded.


We caught each other's eye. The supervisor and i, caught each other's eye I mean and there was this look. I don't know what it is, whether there's even a word for it, like a tight little grimace, a funny little thing with your mouth almost a smile and your eyes kind of radiating the horror of it all and I remember sighing, and sitting down, thinking that it was the most human moment I'd ever had there.


The supervisor. He told me later when I was training to be one myself, he said...


Supervisors voice takes over.
...what else could I do, I mean I don't know her other than what I know about her call records and that she dresses quite smart, she's reliable and accurate and I think she has a box of those fruit teas, those infusions I think you call them in the staff room cupboards. I mean, what the fuck was I supposed to say to her? I muttered something about it being nice to see her when I saw her on the way in and then though, shit, what the fuck have I said? So I sort of followed her but I felt like she didn't want to talk and then I remember reading something about how we project our feelings onto other people so I was thinking perhaps it was me who wanted to read that in her so I kind of just watched her get to the desk, feeling like I should run across and just shout to her or hug her but at the same time thinking that was the stupidest idea I'd ever had and she collapses into the chair, takes a moment, dies the deepest breath I've ever seen someone take, eyes closed and then just breathes out, lifts the headset, pushes the little touch switch under the monitor and then, fingers skimming across the keys like a dancer at double speed begins to enter her password and username.


CALLS MAYBE MONITORED FOR TRAINING PURPOSES.
New voice: Distant. At the heart of the machine is data. A database. It's in the heart of the machine like a fire is at the heart of a steam engine. If it's not in the database it's not something that exists. If it's in the database, then it's our truth. It's your truth. Except when it's wrong
So then, when it's wrong we change the database to ensure that it's true apart from the next time it's wrong.


SUPERVISOR: I listened to her first call. I mean, I had too, I wanted to be able to cut her off, y'know, if she started crying or lost it or something. I mean, kind of for her own sake as well as mine.


New voice: Distant: The database is attached to other databases. We can cross reference data in different places. But sometimes that data is wrong too and that's not our data. So we can't change that data.


Supervisor: I thought she sounded a bit quiet, y'know, a bit hesitant in the first bit of the first call but it was bad line and that can throw you off a bit and she got through the call. She got through it and delivered the script. That's what we say, in training. Deliver the script. Don't think too much, deliver the script, don't take too long, but don't be so robotic that it feels like a script to the person on the other end of the phone. Make them feel like you are *talking* to them, not *reading* to them. That's how it goes, the training. That's what I was trained to deliver anyhow. So i did.


New voice: Distant Sometimes the other databases are wrong and we can't do anything. We have to advise that people contact somewhere else and ask them to change the database. That's all we can do. It's like we can go through the door but everything is behind glass. If it's outlr own database, that's OK. But if it's someone else's, no. That's not something we can help with.


Supervisor: So, I had to do a little bit of paperwork, I mean I didn't have to, really. I mean, it's something you are supposed to do every time you monitor a call. To check, to fill in the sheet and score it. It needs to be a score of 21 in order to pass and failing to pass will result in training or a discussion or both. I mean, I wasn't going to score it! But I kind of thought, well, I can't really decide if I think she's OK to be here. I mean I can't consult the HR book for this, so I thought I'd fill in a form and just satisfy myself that she was OK
Y'know, to be doing the calls.


New voice: Distant: When I say we can change the database. I mean, we can't do that. We can leave a request for the database to be changed. That request will be stored in the database as well and if all goes well, will be followed up and acted upon. Unless it isn't. So, I suppose our own database is a bit like a room where everything is behind glass as well


Supervisor: I scored her 9s for the accuracy of her use of the script and the pace of the call but I had to give her 6 for the warmth of the tone to the customer. I thought it could have been the line, it's hard to establish that warmth sometimes when the line is bad.


New voice: Distant: It's also not true to say everything goes in the database. It should. But it doesn't. And sometimes if you ask us to change the database, then the request doesn't go in the database, or it doesn't go in the right place, or the right person doesn't look for it in the right place so it be there, but then again, might not be. There's also bits we can't see. Like bits hidden from view and sometimes you have to ask other people to go and look in those bits and tell you what they can see.