Semi skimmed

September 21, 2011

And September is upon us. I’ve been pretty busy of late, with a few exciting projects on the horizon.

Firstly, I’m working on a very exciting project called Trapped in an endless cycle of milk consumption. My friend Rosy is putting on an event at the end of the month based on David Lynch, and she’s asked me to write something for it. I’ve kept her in the dark as to what it’ll actually contain, partly because I’m not entirely sure myself, but as the event draws ever closer, it’s beginning to take shape. It’s essentially a story in three voices, with accompanying video. It’s my first attempt at shooting and editing a film, but hopefully it’ll all go according to plan – if so, then I’ll try and record the story and set it to the video. Which is all very exciting if slightly nerve-wracking. It’s taken me the last couple of weeks to get all the things I need to shoot the film, the last of which was the charger and cable for my video camera, so I’ve now got approximately 3 free days to do all the filming and editing – but fingers crossed, it should be something very special. Me and Amy put on a Lynch-themed evening a couple of years ago which culminated in an unsettling and violent short play called Glue Velvet – it’ll be interesting to see if I can top that.

A couple of days after that, there’s the second installment of Artists, Models, Ink, called Life Cycles. I’ve written about the previous one, and it’s great to be involved with it again. The theme for this one is the seasons and transition – which I’m finding a challenging theme to write a poem for, mostly because it’s impossible to write about the seasons without the weight of T. S. Eliot on my back. Still, I’m hoping I’ll be able to shake off Il miglior fabbro enough to come up with something good. Sweet ladies, goodnight, goodnight.


Things seem to have been a bit quiet over the summer recess for Owen Paterson MP, currently Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and I have a reasonable suspicion that he (or a zealous assistant) has spent the time sprucing his Wikipedia entry up into a good old fashioned puff piece. It wouldn’t be the first time Conservative HQ have altered facts on wikipedia, but this is such a thorough job that I feel it ought to be recorded here for posterity.

Here’s Paterson’s biography as it stood until the 6th August. On the 6th, from 8am until about half 2 in the afternoon, a mysterious user called Snowplough11 made fourteen separate edits to the page, almost quadrupling it in length. Here’s how the piece stood after that great flurry of editing, and how it currently (more or less) remains. And here’s a handy display of all the edits made by our mysterious Snowplough11 (who, incidentally, has only ever edited this one article).

And what additional detail was added by the elusive Snowplough? Well, the plaudits are unending! With scant regard for Wikipedia’s (admittedly dubious) dedication to stamping out bias and maintaining a neutral point of view, Paterson is described in that thoroughly neutral phrase as being “seen as a reliable, loyal and hardworking frontbencher”. Quotes from his constituents jostle for place with the lofty honour of being Iain Dale’s “second best Conservative MP media performer”. This is just a lead-in, however, to a substantial hagiography with Paterson-puff from sources as diverse as, um, The Daily Telegraph, Simon Heffer, Tim Montgomerie and Charles Moore, all singing his praises in a lofty tory chorus. The Charles Moore quote is probably worth including in full, just for its sheer audacious absurdity: “in a better world, there would be a film about the life of Owen Paterson — his heroic struggles to export British manufacturing when he worked in the family leather firm, his mastery of the foot-and-mouth crisis, his insane courage as a horseman, not to mention his longstanding commitment to Northern Ireland. Owen would be played by Pierce Brosnan, or possibly the late Trevor Howard.”

Possibly the best piece of encyclopaedia-filling is saved until last, however, where Snowplough sees fit to add the breaking news that not only did the Daily Record vote Paterson “one of the top 10 sexiest politicians of 2008”, but that he was also “voted the 5th sexiest MP on”.  Exactly the biographical information that the world’s most popular reference site should be displaying about cabinet MPs.

There really is a lot more on there, but it really is worth giving it a read yourself and finding your own particular gems of Paterson-puff.

So, and here’s the question, who is the mysterious Snowplough11? And why would they spend six and a half hours writing such a glowing testimony to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? Perhaps I’m being over-suspicious. Perhaps they’re just a fan. But I can’t imagine your average passing Wikipedia editor would see a perfectly servicable biography, and think “Oh, I know what this needs! A loads of quotes from Iain Dale and friends about how great this MP is! Oh, and don’t forget the Daily Record sexiness contest! Brilliant!”. Like I said, maybe they’re just a fan.

Last night I went to Hammer and Tongue at the Komedia, and because there weren’t enough people to go in the slam, James read out one of my poems as a cover version. I’d never performed the poem before (except in my house to myself) and technically I still haven’t. Not only that, but he managed to score higher than me reading my own poetry. But such is the nature and absurdity of a poetry night that thinks it’s an ice skating match but with more heckling. I quite like the idea of reading poems in different voices – me and Amy used to often use the “mic-on-stage-switched-off, mic-off-stage-switched-on” mime and read technique at Glue Gun ’91, and me and Jimmy always planned to replace his gruff Glaswegian growl with my dulcet Home Counties English, and vice versa, but we never got round to it.

Anyway, here’s the poem that James read – I’ve attempted to re-write and generally mess around with it for the last few weeks, and I reckon there’s nothing more I can do with it and I should just leave it there like I’ve shot a rabbit or something.


Restaurant Critic


Seal Veal

Is possibly the most exciting thing to come out of British Colombia

Since Leonard Cohen’s hot daughter

I couldn’t resist that braying second slice

Annotated with doe-eyed precision


I false-started at the jam cutlet

Pastry crimped and dabbed with three-pronged fork

With trademark sooty fingerprint on the crust

And a surprising jolt from the whole lemon

Concealed in the final mouthful

Service was conspicuous by its absence


The front page bawls

“Cost of living crisis”

But this pate is rich

As any banker you could name


Normally, I’d shovel down the liver and onions

With the delicate silver trowel

They thoughtfully provide


BUT, dear reader

I am the sacrificial lamb

Hungry for tales of adventure

And derring fon-due


Today we’re having char-grilled sea bream

Stuffed inside an unwilling duck

The shape of a grapefruit

That dimpling can’t be genuine

Storming the kitchen

I demand to see the cutting tools

Inspecting each with eyeglass

Before mute sous-chef


Scallops? A pastry cutter!

Sweetbreads? Those are glands, man!

A whole lobster? It’s a squid painted red!

The Titanic is closer to icebergs than this lettuce!


It’s a tradition in certain parts of the East End of London to toast clogs on a peat-backed fire, and to don a jacket of opals and rhinestones before tucking in.


A.  A. Gill?

I once pinned his hand to the table with a serving fork for saying he preferred Burger King to McDonalds.

Never trust a chippie who offers you a whole cod

Never trust a chippie

You can cover yourself in goose grease to swim the channel, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a frightful waste of goose-grease


Oysters are best consumed in the bath

Free from suds and bubbles

But I do not have this luxury tonight

And sip the decanted gelatinous beings

From carafe


When poached eggs were banned in East Berlin

Me and my friends

After a few dozen brandies

Would scale a watchtower

And gloatingly stuff heaps of them

In full sight of the DDR


You ever clean egg vomit off a watchtower?

That was us.