Thursday, 16 September 2010

Once a piece of city has become a place of commerce, that use will continue forever, the interest being sold from one corporation to another. Children won’t play there again.

Take Lewes Road community garden – oh, someone just did. They think we need another one of these:

When next door we have these

And down the road is a massive

Brighton Bloody Council seem to think its OK for the supermarkets to play Death Match by Discounts there because it was once a petrol station. In the meantime, a weed thrust itself up through the cement for a bit.

There’s nothing we superannuated hippies love more than a derelict square of concrete upon which to sit with our buggies among the flowerpots and people in ridiculous trousers.

Give it back to the people and I might even wander in one day.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Spent the weekend away from BB. In St Stephen’s Park, Dublin, there is a bust of a hero of the 1916 Easter rising, Constance Markiewicz. Her revolutionary act was to shoot a postman who refused to surrender his bike to them, and then order the digging of trenches in the park – the road being too hard for that sort of thing. Her fellow rebels, now entrenched and primed for burial, were easily picked off by gunmen in the nearby buildings.

O’Connell Street
is home to more heroes. Trade Unionist Jim Larkin seems a worthier cause. His stirring words are inscribed on the plinth.  The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise”.  Jim’s statue towers above us, though we don’t kneel. Rarely has a man’s words been so undermined by his monument.

Further down is a towering steel needle, which replaced a replica of Nelson’s Column that was blown up by the IRA. I can sympathise with that one. “But they replaced it with a monument to nothing,” says my Irish friend.

Nothing seems to be an appropriate god given the state of the Irish economy. Like everyone else, they’ve spent the past 15 years treating themselves to frappucinos and the rest of it while their banks and politicians have been a little more extravagant. Ireland’s huge bank and property bail-out is being touted as the latest iceberg ahead of the good ship Euro.
The only statues that go up in England these days are of well-loved comedians in seaside towns. We have Max Miller here in Brighton. Morecambe has Eric. No-one will be blowing them up any time soon.

Heading back south of the river, we pass a street vendor. It is Pat Ingoldsby, former Irish children’s TV presenter, newspaper columnist and poet - except he can’t get a publisher these days, so he sells his books in person. He reads us poems he wrote today in a notebook. I laugh at one of his titles:

A poem about trainee hard men from posh upper middle class families who put on phony Dublin working class accents and pray that they won’t meet their sister while they are out with their mates because if she speaks to him in the way that the family usually speaks his cover will be blown.

The pub is adorned with photos of Beckett, Kavanagh, Joyce, etc. Some of them drank here once. Pat Ingoldsby strolls in with his shopping trolley of books and sips a Guinness in the corner. “When he’s gone, they’ll have t-shirts with him on too,” says my friend.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Bloody Brighton

There are 15 people in the bus queue, including a man wearing ridiculous trousers. No one is surprised. Welcome to Brighton.

I have worn some ridiculous trousers in my time, sometimes more by accident than by design; other times, as with these jeans, I have no excuse.

This guy’s are a harlequin check. Combined with his tight black hoodie it might be the uniform of some go-ahead bakers. It might not be his fault.

I live on a council estate at the edge of what we are now supposed to call a city. Around the time of the world cup the local boys hung the flag of St George from every lamppost. The self-styled City council took them down again. Shinning up lampposts is a health and safety risk. I’m past surprise at this sort of red-rag-to-a-bull approach to public safety. The next day more flags are bought, more lampposts shinned or stepladdered.

I return from holiday to find every local lamppost – except ours – braying for England. I hope I’m not suspected of taking England’s glory down. Julie next door tells me it blew down and there are plans to replace it.

Christine wants to know my feelings about the flags and I express my approval. “Spoken like a true born Englishman,” she grins and pumps my hand. She’s pissed. Christine has never had a job. Her front door is open all summer long.

She is “not being funny”, but apparently its all down to the fact that some “Paki” family complained, although “they’re allowed to celebrate whatever they want.”

I try to tell her she’s got the wrong end of the stick, but it’s futile. This stick has two wrong ends.

 The council then become rather lax on health and safety and leave the flags alone, at least until the Germans knock us out the tournament and they begin the slow decline into tattered hopes.

 Christine is right about one thing, though – it’s not funny. Earlier this year a Bengali family had their window smashed by young men. Their children go to school with mine, play with mine. They have to live in a street where other people smash their windows.

I have taken to wearing an England t-shirt. It’s not the flag of St George or the 3 lions of national disappointment. It shows a red rose: the flower of Lancaster or New Labour – English history or more hopes dashed? I prefer to think of it as Blake’s rose, an invisible worm gnawing its heart out.