Sunday, December 19, 2004


I was right all along. I really should have formally brought this blog to an end in the summer, when, I now realise, a natural conclusion was reached. For we had wonderful times here once, oh yes. The ideas and the thoughts flowed in a way they never have in my life before or since. But now things seem decidedly hollow, meaningless, *played-out* in a way they never did back then. Such ideas as I have are now perfectly placed and formed over at Run Away Home (that URL again - http://www.livejournal.com/~robincarmody)

This was a beautiful place. This was a wonderful place to live, once. Remember it this way. And I hope it will stay online forever.


For love will endure or not endure regardless of where we are

Monday, October 04, 2004

Isn't Eminem's "Just Lose It" ... a damp squib? Pathetic, there's nothing there anymore, the game's over.

I sense that he and all his kind are about to get their comeuppance in Europe, even if nowhere else.

Why are the usual "Republic of Mancunia" suspects up in arms about Malcolm Glazer possibly taking over the club? He embodies everything they really believe in (and, worse, still think is "anti-establishment" in Britain); they just aren't prepared to admit it. Yet.

Friday, September 24, 2004

(apologies for the lengthy gap, but have you Run Away Home yet ...?)

songs currently


Two songs in one, the one existing at right angles to the other, fighting for supremacy; underneath the gloss, one of the weirdest hits of the Clinton/Blair boom era, and possibly the most frightened. Certainly the only Puffy hit from his annus mirabilis - in which he became a hate figure, not without good reason, in the circles where I moved at the time - to have anything to recommend it; if you want to know what this song would be if you took away the mental and spiritual clash within, you only need to think of Mase's horrendous, offensively non-committal and un-arsed "Feels So Good" (horribly apt that his comeback single was actually based around John Sebastian's theme to the sitcom that first made John Travolta's name in the US, which sounds like a six-years-ago Hip Hop Connection letter writer's grimly comic fantasy). "It's All About The Benjamins", the starting point for Puffy's critical assassination, was obnoxious even at the time and has been made still more so by later political developments, and the video for "Been Around The World" is beloved of that fucking prick "Daniel RF" so obviously IT MUST FUCKING DIE.

What they lack is subtext. There's nothing there beneath the uptown boast and swagger, and therefore whatever currency they may ever have had (and they *did* have plenty; I'd be the first person to admit that HHC hardly represented the mass public's taste at the time, especially not outside the US) dies off entirely when the mood turns (wasn't "I Need A Girl (Part 1)" a pathetic ghost?). In "Mo Money Mo Problems" though there's an inherent conflict between the usual Puffy '97 opulence - those silver suits in the video! - and the inference of the title; however hard you try to hide it, shit still piles up, still fucks things up, the difficulty of adjusting to circumstances well beyond those you were born to IS fucking real, however much the rhetoric of the era talks of "classlessness". It's the one song of Puffy's commercial peak period which dares to suggest that the "Victory" of one of his lesser hits is not yet total, not yet complete in the wider sphere, a conflict embodied in the WASP who nervously interrupts the golf game ('97 being the year of Tiger Woods' breakthrough, interestingly) and the song halfway through the video, a threat whose name is - come on, let's fucking admit it - the Republican Party.

Faith Evans' forlorn chorus - a world away from her contemporaneous crawl through The Police's worst UK number one - and closing Marvin quote run dramatically at odds with what the song suggested at the time for the first few half-attentive radio listens - it's as if an attempted celebration is constantly being undermined by a warning of the downside, and that shares of cultural equality can go down as well as up; a war is being fought within the song for its very soul. In '97 I only heard the facade; now, all these years of tension and turmoil and rage behind us, I see the nerves that lie beneath, nerves which we now know were more than fully justified and make "Mo Money Mo Problems" seem horribly apt, a hidden, coded warning to all that surrounded it, while all Puffy's other big boom-era hits seem utterly false and hollow without even the inherent quality that would give them a sense of poignancy (for which see anything from Bone Thugs' "1st Of Tha Month" - or for that matter Biggie's "Juicy" - through to Meth's "Retro Godfather" and Ghostface's "We Made It").

AVENTURA - "Obsesion (Eso No Es Amor)" (they've also done an English version with a rap on it, and there's a very similar English-language rap-fused cover by 3rd Wish & Baby Bash, but I'm sticking with the original)

A European exoticist's delight - that name! - but also a record that all European social democrats have a moral duty to, at least, not dislike; they may be based in NYC but the sheer scale of this song's pan-European success is proof that the tide is turning. As a five-year-old I'd have recorded this song's twists and tucks and turns, its chord changes and its flamenco flow, as definitively "European" in the truest sense. The Dominican Republic, like Moldova before it, has given a Europe determined to assert itself against US hegemony precisely what it needs at an unprecedented moment in its history. I feel an instinctive sense of brotherhood with this song, an instinctive belief in all it stands for. But when will "they" dare to give it a UK release?

NO MERCY - "Where Do You Go?"

What we all thought the 21st Century would be like. What Aventura would be doing if Gore was president; hear it and taste an era when you thought "European culture" would never be asserted again, as a concept, by anyone under 40. I suspect No Mercy - who were never anywhere near as big as their song, if you see what I mean - have gone back to the Latin market like all those Clinton-boom international stars (Martin, R., Anthony, M., probably Iglesias, E. before too long)

DMX - "Who We Be"

His most unashamedly-sounding-like-what-Charles-Murray-thinks-all-black-people-are-only-capable-of-sounding-like moment. The brutal physicality is tempered by a desperate awareness of its own pointlessness and impotence, even more so at three years' distance.

TERROR SQUAD - "Lean Back"

An exercise in formalism; each thrust forward is brutally, perfectly timed (and who'd have thought Fat Joe would ever have another chart hit, let alone one fit to disembowel "What's Luv" and leave its guts for dead). Seeing this at number one in the pop charts - nothing this deeply embedded into the streets has ever gone that far before - must be *the* most frightening thing imaginable for the terrifyingly influential *anti-human* bigots given enough rope to hang themselves a hundred times over in this week's Grauniad Friday Review. Still, in some ways, I wish this didn't *have* to exist almost as much as I wish *they* didn't exist full stop. I wish things didn't have to be so black and white (in both literal and metaphoric senses), so tribal, I wish people didn't always seem to end up fighting fire with fire. Ultimately Terror Squad are just another nihilistic contribution to the great black hole of human warfare - but *what else can they do*? It's a horrifying indictment of the US right now that I can sympathise with them so much.

Monday, July 12, 2004

2004 is the third consecutive year in which Elvis Presley has hit the UK Top 5. Until now, the last time he had Top 5 hits in three consecutive years was in the period 1961-1963.

2002-2004 has also been the period which has seen the greatest collapse of general British public confidence in the UK/US political/military alliance, certainly in my lifetime and possibly in the entire post-war period. There was nothing on the same scale in Britain in the period from January 1984 to November 1995, when Presley did not make a single appearance in the UK Top 40.

Like I said, you can read what you want into all this, but I can sense a panicking elite, desperately trying to remind the public of The Cultural Ties That Bind And That Therefore Should Extend To Political Ties (itself an utterly flawed position, but since when has that been a problem for our morally and ideologically bankrupt elite?) They are frightened. Elvis Presley has become one of their key weapons; the fact that he was at his commercial peak when Britain pissed away chance after chance to join the Common Market - yes, I know De Gaulle did much to knock us back but had the British elite just been that little bit more assertive, always the hardest thing for old-school British establishmentarians to manage, things might still have been very different even with the General's presence - is clearly of some significance.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


my "world just out of reach in the past" rendered into one image (the *understatedness* of that colour!)

1976: the Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow", a crossover hit originating in the most overtly god-bless-America of all the mainstream US genres (country), is Number 1 in Germany at the time of the US Bicentennial. It only makes Number 7 in the UK.

2003: 50 Cent's "In Da Club" tops the German chart (something it will never do in the UK, although interestingly it will in Ireland) in the week of the national commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Nazis' book-burning, their first major act after coming to power. It follows a lengthy run of number ones by white German acts (almost all from their equivalents of Pop Idol and Popstars) and by fellow white Europeans t.A.T.u. It is succeeded on top a week later by a German-language song.

2004: for the first time in 14 years, a Volksmuzik song hits the German Top 10. This is admittedly facilitated by the country's reversion to a sales-only chart - for much of the intervening period there was an airplay factor involved, for conspiracy theorists practically a means of rooting out anything "Germanic" given the cultural cringe that affects German radio - but the really interesting thing is that it is allowed to go Top 10 at a moment which only comes twice each decade, when most EU countries make a concerted effort to present a clear and distinct socio-cultural view of where they stand: the week of the European Parliament elections.

The German charts for all previous European election weeks seem to have been very strongly Anglo-American - despite the lingering presence of Peter Alexander in the first Euro-election week back in 1979, there was also "M" (aka Robin Scott), rapidly climbing to number one complete with his "old English elite" visual image. Similar signifiers come through: in 1984 there was not one song in the Top 20 with a German-language title, in 1989 Holly Johnson's jawdropping volte-face "Americanos" (there wasn't a subtext I missed, was there? Surely not ...) was at number two. In 1994, surprisingly, Perplexer's "Acid Folk" - a record which, if I remember S. Reynolds' "Energy Flash" correctly, influenced people like Alec Empire to think that mainstream German Top 40 dance music was almost endorsing the country's far-Right by default - was allowed to enter the Top 20 in Euro-election week, but Marky Mark Wahlberg (as late as that!!!!!) reliably ascended to the top spot. In 1999 there was a cover
of - oh fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck - Air Supply's "All Out Of Love" at Number 3.

But if a Volksmuzik song is allowed to go Top 10 in such a week - and is then allowed to climb as high as Number 6, which I think is the highest position for such a song in an entire German generation's lifetime - at the same time as the German media is voicing comments about Ariel Sharon and his administration that would never, ever have been allowed at any previous time in the history of the state of Israel, and critical remarks about what is called "Denglish" (ie German crossed with American English) are being allowed in the media to an extent unthinkable four years ago, it does seem very much as though the German elite is finally, after all this time, on the turn. But if even the German elite - throughout the post-war period the most "sound" continental elite from the perspective of their British equivalents - are abandoning their previous fervent cultural and political Anglo-Americanism, where in Europe *can* the British elite have left to turn in the current climate? The return of Volksmuzik to the German Top 10 in itself augurs ill for Britain's acceptance at the top of the EU: it is a sign that Germany is no longer bowing to all things Anglo-American quite as fervently as it did until very, very recently.

Like I keep saying, five years ago it seemed as if everything was coming together - the best possible situation for a country like Britain which stands at several geopolitical crossroads. The more polarised everything gets, the more Britain is trapped and held back, more so than practically any other country. De Randfichten - for it is they - might ring in Tony Blair's ear one day, although by then it will be too late.
JAMELIA - "See It In A Boy's Eyes"

But back to the changes that no political regression can reverse.

I won a Henry Williamson book off eBay this weekend. Williamson, as those familiar with my essay "The Hangman's Ancient Sunlight" will already know, was the man who best exemplifies what can happen when romantic ruralism (or care for the soil) falls over the edge into Blood and Soil: a fine writer of North Devon nature and history quite independently of his politics, he has been consigned to years of critical loathing and marginalisation because of his support for Hitler and the whole ethos of National Socialism, which he regarded as the ideal means of realigning the white European peoples with their "true roots".

Chris Martin is, in Devonian cultural terms, Williamson's nemesis and antithesis. Covering "Hot In Herre" live, forming a sort of mutual appreciation society with Timbaland and the Neptunes, and co-writing this song with Jamelia, he is - in his own way - as relevant to my 1994 story as anyone who was actually making music then. When I came to live in Dorset ten years ago, I would quite simply have refused - point blank - to believe that anyone at Sherborne School would, or could, ever grow up to do such things (this gives you some kind of idea of how outmoded my efforts to understand the complexities of the world - always the hardest thing for anyone born with Asperger's Syndrome - actually were). And the definitive evidence that the mid-1990s were now part of history came when Noel Gallagher and Alan McGee's class-conscious attacks on Coldplay and Martin in particular actually seemed to accelerate the band's inexorable rise; five years earlier, those remarks would have had the power to seriously damage a career (it was the Gallagher/McGee axis, not *that* Pulp record, which caused the illusory swing back to working-class bands from Northern and Midlands industrial cities in 1996 - most of those bands had nothing musically or culturally to do with Pulp and everything to do with Oasis).

I never disliked Coldplay for *those* reasons - that would have allied me with Digby Anderson by proxy (one day I'll write something about Neil Kulkarni inadvertently agreeing with Christopher Martin-Jenkins, who he would undoubtedly regard as a racist, if my readership haven't bitten off their limbs out of boredom first). I just disliked them because they were *nothing*. Nothing that stuck in the mind, nothing that made any significant musical or cultural impact, nothing that meant anything, content to produce the Blair generation's "Money For Nothing" while having absurd aspirations to producing its "The Queen Is Dead". And I still feel that way about Coldplay.

But now I feel that Chris Martin, removed from his band's usual formulae, must have *something*. On "See It In A Boy's Eyes" a Martin piano loop which would normally introduce a forgettable monotonous dirge, is reanimated to such an extent that it has a rare smell of pop magic about it; that sense of pop music as something that can at least appear to momentarily eradicate everything bad and divisive in the world, and bring everything and everyone together, is reborn. The chorus and the whole atmosphere of the song are an absolutely perfect balance: Martin's trademark drifting atmospherics are, for the first time, disciplined and kept from self-indulgence and self-loathing by the R&B/pop song structure, and the latter is (and I never ever thought I'd be saying this) actually enhanced by Martin's more conventionally "educated", struggling-to-overcome-his-hang-ups-and-middle-class-self-loathing influence. You wouldn't want all R&B/pop songs to be like this ("Thank You" is melodically very different and is one of the very finest singles this year) but the territory is strengthened by such collaborations; it reinforces the sense that, if we try, we can still heal the pain and the divisions around us, and that pop music and especially the R&B influence can be a key means of bringing this about (and fuck the hard Left who would prevent it as much as the Right if given free reign to do so).

This is what the extreme racial divisions of US society and the rigid formatting of US radio (arguably simply a mirror of each other) prevent. And it makes me wonder why, at such a time, our elites intend to push through something as backward, regressive and unworkable as THE FUCKING ID CARD SCHEME (the looming threat of which is still, often, making me almost contemplate suicide).
To expand on the above, and of course it's flawed and by no means wholly accurate and you can't get specific analogies which tell the whole story and all that BUT BUT BUT:

1993-94 = 1961-63: frustration that the British state is holding us back, admiration for a modernistic US president, feeling trapped by a romantic-nostalgist British prime minister. Then comes a techno-modernist Labour leader with the intent of breaking the impasse ...

1997-2000: the glory years, the boom years, the years when Anything Seemed Possible: in other words the spirit of 1966 and early '67 in Britain (1997 will always, always be "our 1966", cliche though it was even at the time, and it seems so even to those of us who denied the fact at the time precisely because it was so cliched - there's even a Marine Offences Act analogy in that the remarkably non-pop-driven, non-celeb-based daytime Radio 1 of the Mark and Lard Breakfast Show era had dissipated by the following year into the tacky trivia of Zoe Ball and Chris Moyles).

13th December 2000 onwards: the early 1970s. A growing sense of frustration, anger, a feeling of desperation that the things we fought for and seemed on the brink of achieving seem more and more to be slipping away from us, a sense that institutions are no longer evolving at pace with the public in the way they seemed to be doing so recently (maybe that's what makes third-series Python seem so timely now; MASSIVE blogpiece on that subject coming soon).

The frustrating thing for me is: in late 1999 / early 2000 I really did believe that we'd broken out of that vicious circle. I really did feel that it wouldn't be ups and downs any more, it wouldn't be one moment of pushing forward and then another of falling back, there wouldn't be the constant feeling of defeat and regression so soon after breakthrough and progression ... will we *ever* manage it?
The fact that there is a fifty-year-old record at number three this week is, in its way, a reminder of the inevitability of death. The earliest recording to be a major UK hit, Laurel and Hardy's "Trail of the Lonesome Pine", was actually more recent at the time of its success in 1975 than "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is today. The song "Whispering Grass" was a more recent composition in 1975 (again), when Windsor Davies and Don Estelle took it to the top spot, than any of the songs on "The White Album" are in 2004. Obviously neither of those songs were pushed 29 years ago as having originated, or had anything to do with, a musical continuum which still influenced (directly or otherwise) a good deal of the music alongside them in the mid-70s charts, yet "That's All Right" is sold precisely as The Start Of Something We're Still Living Through Today. Back in 1991 I remember hearing a DJ mention that it was 35 years since "Heartbreak Hotel" came out, and I pondered to myself what it would mean, culturally, for 40-year-old rock'n'roll records to exist (I was going through a big 50s phase at the time). Now the half-century is upon us. The longer ago it all becomes the more you realise that time inexorably passes, and that none of us are here forever ("That's All Right" is, for example, the first Top 10 hit recorded before the birth of the man who is BBC Director-General when it hits the Top 10, which would not have been the case even six months ago - not that I approve of the circumstances which brought that about).

I'm not really interested musically in Elvis '54 - listening closely to "That's All Right" for the first time in many years on the chart rundown I noticed how strong the country influence in the arrangement is compared to his hits of two or three years later, but that's about all I have to say. The most interesting aspects of the 50th-anniversary hype have nothing to do with music. Sam Phillips' use of the phrase "poor people's music" -referring to the genres (country and blues, basically) he believed could reshape and reinvent mainstream US popular music, and in doing so take advantage of the post-Marshall Plan era and conquer the world - is the most important thing about him; the erosion of the old bourgeois cultural dominance of the world, the refusal of the modern masses to genuflect to an elite idea of culture simply because they've risen financially above their origins, the setting up of popular mass culture as something for the educated elite to aspire to rather than the other way round *did* begin there, cliche though it may be. If Sam Phillips' dream did change the world - and in a week with nine out of the top 10 US singles and all the top 5 albums being by black artists there's a strong case for saying that it did - its influence is not to be felt in the specific sound and arrangements of hit records but in the whole social dynamic in which pop is produced and consumed these days; his heir is not some Elvis impersonator from a working-class background, but the man one place lower than Presley in this week's singles chart, Will Young (and what heat there is on "Friday's Child", in its way).

But there is another, more sinister non-musical element to the hysteria. This year we've seen vast swathes of media hype about the fiftieth anniversary of a succession of recordings: "Rock Around The Clock", "Rock Island Line" (neither of which, of course, became hits until some time later) and now "That's All Right". There was no equivalent ten years ago for the fortieth anniversaries. No media hype, no reissues as far as I remember, certainly no reissues which actually made the charts (although of course singles sales were higher then; Usher's sales this week were apparently among the lowest for any number one ever, and I doubt whether Presley's sales would have been sufficient for a number 3 hit in the summer of Wet Wet Wet).

But then there was no particular need for subtle propaganda to strengthen a dramatically weakening faith among the British public in the UK/US military/political/intelligence alliance in 1994, was there? As Clinton made noises about disbanding the very same CIA which has been so roundly accused (not least by itself) this week, there was no public feeling comparable to that which has developed in recent times, and therefore it was simply not necessary for the Atlanticist elite in this country to ram their points home with the fanaticism they have been intensifying of late. The Atlanticist elite received no meaningful opposition from the British people in 1994 because what they were allying themselves with was quite palatable to the British people, even the most European-minded. It seemed as though ***we could all get on together***, however moribund the British state had become. Indeed, Clinton succeeding where Kinnock had failed and his youthful, technocratic image - as opposed to maids-in-the-mist talk - almost returned us to the 1961-63 JFK era just before Wilson came through (hmmmm ... Clinton '92 x Wilson '63 = Blair '94 ... I see a pattern emerging), when Americophilia was actually not only acceptable but openly encouraged on the cultural left (as Damon Albarn was to bemoan), and the idea of a close alliance with the US as the best and most effective means of breaking down a dying, outmoded British plutocracy and unrepresentative state did not seem to be an exclusively New Right one, but instead had the feeling of a cross-cultural dream for the future just as it had had at the "Ich bin ein Berliner" moment. With the Cold War era past, what had seemed like a victory for the rabidly anti-Soviet Right rapidly turned into a steady embrace of the US even from those on the radical Left who had previously been Soviet sympathisers, as they realised that We Could All Get On With Each Other Now (or so it seemed).

A rather different situation from 2004, needless to say (and if Kerry gets in it might have changed again by the winter of 2005-06 when we reach the 50th anniversary of "Rock Around The Clock" and "Rock Island Line" actually becoming UK Top 10 hits - with nearly a year of relatively sane and rational presidency it might be significantly much less necessary for the Atlanticist elite in Britain to put out cultural propaganda to increase faith in their political allegiances). Do you ever get the impression that the elite are treating you like a five-year-old? When political problems pile up for the elite, they almost invariably try the cultural angle, as if to say "OK, you may not like what our allies are doing politically, but the cultural ties are too strong for us to break links, surely?" (one might add the elite's private addendum "and if we do break links we'll all be out of a job, and we'll bring down any government who does try to break the links anyway" - UKTV Drama's regular reruns of "A Very British Coup" are important in this context). Think of "That's All Right" as such a statement from the elite; they are not "shape-shifting lizards", but they do have a clear, profound political agenda of their own, and European-minded British people should know what it is, and fear it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


But first, a diversion ("as per bloody usual" mumbles cynical blogosphere). It's amazing how often the most recent entries in long series of children's books - I'm sure this also happens in grown-up literature - are the hardest to track down. And it's almost always the same reason, as well: the series had usually enjoyed great success in its peak years, when it fitted in with the tone and ethos of the culture and society surrounding it, but it had carried on into an era when it had become quite simply untenable, unbelievable, it had *stopped making sense*. So mid-60s Armada copies of Monica Edwards' earlier books change hands routinely for £1 or less in non-specialist circles and not that much more even among active collectors, while her last fictional book "A Wind Is Blowing" (fell between two stools: too bleak and conscious of changing times for her already nostalgic fans, but tainted for the self-consciously "progressive" simply by the fact of who wrote it, so never published in paperback or reprinted at all) just sold for £235 on eBay. Whenever John Verney's Callendar series is discussed, the existence of "Samson's Hoard" (which taints the vision of 50s/60s England that his fans tend to cling to, often in spite of the books' actual contents) is usually forgotten or never-known-about-in-the-first-place, to such an extent that it actually takes quite a bit of effort these days to realise that it was even written at all.

And then there was Trebizon. Oh God yes there was Trebizon. Anne Digby (christened Patricia Davidson) was always one of the more curious minor figures in the annals of children's literature, far too young to really fit into the Old Order of schoolgirl fiction which finally clattered to a halt in about 1963, but just about the only notional link between it and the new, much more socially inclusive and all-embracing territory which dominated the 1970s and 80s. Born in 1935, she managed to worm her way into the withering Old Order in the late 1950s with a couple of stories in School Friend annuals, Schoolgirls' Own Library and the like, with quintessentially old-school titles like "Ella's Big Sacrifice" - she would presumably have had much more understanding of pop music than did the sixtysomething hacks practically forced at gunpoint to write stories involving it around that time, but her early work shows a certain reverence for the dying traditions she was aspiring towards. There's little sign of the trend-jumping hack that she would later become - her oeuvre significantly includes "novelisations" of Indiana Jones and similar movies, although she would come to specialise in "modernised" versions of old-school settings and ideas (she even wrote a series of sequels to Enid Blyton's "Naughtiest Girl" books, which were actually quite radical for Blyton in that they were set in a progressive boarding school in the 1940s, quite different from Malory Towers and St Clare's).

Anne Digby's best-known and most quintessential work, however, is the Trebizon series - a sort of rejig of the girls' boarding school story (as the name suggests it was, like the Blyton sagas, meant to be in Cornwall) which began in edgy 1978 but will always feel like a definitive part of the TSW / IBA / InterCity 125 / Look-In / Bucks Fizz era. Reasonably popular for some time - the vague pop-cultural references were definitely much less cringemaking than those of the Schoolgirls' Own Library's dying days had been, the characters seemed reasonably convincing (our heroine was most definitely not from a well-off background but there were relatively few cultural and behavioural differences between her and the posher girls), and the currrent cultural cringe at any mention of private education had yet to fully take shape - it seemed for much of the 1980s as though the gap could be bridged successfully. But underneath it all there were still unsettling hints of the Old Order - "gay" was used in its old sense in 1980 and in reprints for some time afterwards, several girls show a reassuring interest in classical music, and there was a peculiarly Blytonesque overuse of exclamation marks.

It might have been better - though less interesting, obviously - if this curious hybrid had come to an end in 1985, just before the Cultural Eighties rapidly consumed all that had come before and set about making an art form out of biting the hand that had fed it. But after a five-year gap, Anne Digby revived the Trebizon series in 1990, and suddenly her task was tougher as pop culture jumped the shark and the remaining hints at old bourgeois values and public service ideals in British society which had made the hybrid seem tenable in the 80s were rapidly abandoned (it didn't help that we were asked to believe that teenage girls in *1990* would say "maybe he's pranged the car", the term "prang" being used almost exclusively in old British war films by RAF officers with handlebar moustaches, or in unfunny Enfield-type pastiches thereof). The first two books of the 90s are comparatively hard to find now but that doesn't compare to the rarity of the final two, published in 1993 and 1994 (the latter just a week after John Smith's passing).

Suddenly, for reasons far too often mentioned on this blog to need discussing again, she was in much the same situation as Monica Edwards had been 25 years earlier; lost in a world of her own, evoking an unconvincing netherworld which pleased nobody (too modern for Chalet School nostalgists, but false and unconvincing for many who might have read the books ten years earlier), spinning out of time and existing practically unnoticed. At least you can get '93's "Secret Letters at Trebizon" for £20, but the hardback and paperback editions of the last book, "The Unforgettable Fifth at Trebizon", both go for over £50 on Amazon while you can get several of the earlier paperbacks for (literally) a penny. By 1997/98 people on Usenet were saying "Trebizon was crap to say the least!" and "anyone remember Trebizon?", now firmly consigned to TV Cream-esque discussions of obscure popcult ephemera long past. And in 2004 the publisher most likely to be suggested to reprint the books is Girls Gone By, who specialise in reprints of antediluvian schoolgirl romps, pitched unashamedly at yearning 62-year-old ladies from near Newbury who like Sarah Kennedy and vaguely hope the Telegraph will get a bit better now that nasty vulgar Jewish upstart has gone back to Canada - precisely the sort of thing Trebizon, longer ago than it seems, was seen as an antidote to.

And yes, I'm not fooling myself, Trebizon was still being presented as part of the present day only ten years ago, struggling to a halt amid the chaotic fall-out from the 1980s, which had left so much which appeared sensible and rational to much of the population for much of the previous decade appear false, played-out, illusory. 1994, somehow, is where all the paths and meet, echoes of the old culture finally breathe their last (it was the last year of Lester Piggott's professional riding career, for example, and he started in 1948!) and the New Norms clearly come into fruition - or, to be more exact, finally start bubbling to the surface, poised to explode in '95, after years of frustrating formation on the fringes - in the form we would recognise them today. The first year Glastonbury got proper TV coverage, the last year before the BBC published the report which marked its definitive cultural breaking of links with the old bourgeoisie in terms of its public rhetoric (and in the process put a number of long-standing RP-toned TV announcers out to pasture), the last year we got a full-scale terrestrial TV commemoration of the anniversary of John Betjeman's death, almost the last year rugby league clubs were called things like Bradford Northern rather than Bradford Bulls, the year Mary Whitehouse retired as NVLA president, the year British Rail was broken up, the year in whose autumn all those 1970s Middle England documentaries were dropped from daytime BBC2 ... vile though the '94 Criminal Justice Act was, the passage of such legislation (sad to say) just doesn't affect the narrative of the mass in Britain in the way those other events do.

And that's where Ace of Base come in ("yeah, *right*" I hear you yawn). "The Sign" dominated the late winter and early spring of 1994 like a rash - it seems inconceivable now that something so unequivocally white-European (there's a likeable stiltedness to the vocals here: the repeated "uh-oh-oh" is sung in a distanced way, as if the full cultural meaning is either not fully understood or being subtly held at arm's length, that no first-language English-speaker could have achieved by this time) could have been a US number one. It's a horrible thing to say but you can actually almost tell that one of their number had been a neo-Nazi: the cod-reggae beat is so determinedly stiff that its very stone-cold funklessness actually becomes fascinating in itself. This was never anything more than a relatively weak xerox of the undying glory of "All That She Wants", but it will retain a place in history as a symbol of the moment when it seemed like US and European differences could be put aside for all time (with all the benefits that would obviously have for my own country).

So much water under the bridge since I last listened to Blur, let alone anything from their Mockney era, but all this talk of '94 as the absolute last gasp of those who'd been writing about the old middle classes since the 50s ("That's Jennings!" wasn't published until *October* 1994 - incredibly more than a year after "Creep" went Top 10, and only seven months before "Common People") makes me feel like giving "Girls and Boys" another try. At the time, this song had the feel of An Event to it, more than a Top 5 single, more than pop music even, a definitive statement of the fact that certain illusions, certain self-denying statements, were coming to an end, exploding in public. The band's obvious anti-pop politics (Americosceptic, nostalgic and, by their own admission, contradictory - it will remain a mystery why the Britpop era didn't rejuvenate Morrissey's career in the UK) added to the sense that, even if you despised it, this Meant Something. As 1994 is constantly on my mind at the moment, the Meaning is right there when I listen to the song after years of "Girls and Boys" meaning very little when I (rarely) thought about it (and hardly ever heard it by chance, perhaps confirming the extent to which it is defined by a very clear, specific period). What I thought would be a source of sheer irritation - Albarn's nerve-jangling, deliberately absurd Mockney (the song charted the week "Minder" ended, further strengthening the whole idea of '94 marking the year a particular culture definitively passed from faded hints of working-class reality into playful, po-mo middle-class heritage industry) - turns out to the best thing about "Girls and Boys", the quality that lifts it from mere marginal pastiche (Gary Numan if he'd been more unabashedly proletarian, basically) to give it genuine social energy of its own, energy it needs because, for all its cleverness, it really isn't good enough to be worth the ten-years-ago hype in itself. But, through sheer luck of timing and context, "Girls and Boys" remains a practically accidental masterpiece, an Event - and Events, however flawed they may be, are what we remember pop years by.

Then Craig Mack shuffles into view. "Flava In Ya Ear" just sounds so *old* now, so plain unreconstructed block-party that it must have been one of the last songs of its kind to get so big, certainly in a different world to what followed from Bad Boy's uptown Clinton-era playas, so despised at the time by Wu-Tang obsessives (among whom I can unashamedly number myself), yet now so expressive of more hopeful times than these (it has taken the last few years to teach me this, but I'll *always* take a relative lack of cultural energy in my music if it's a sign of socio-political consolidation and settlement). "Flava In Ya Ear" hasn't survived ten years too well - sonically it could have come from the previous Bush era and I can't disassociate the beat from 2002's worst pop aspect, the omnipresence of J.Lopez/Ja Rule.

If "Flava In Ya Ear" has a specific opposite in '94 hip-hop it must surely be Warren G and Nate Dogg's "Regulate" (within three years, of course, Bad Boy would be making hits which were almost like "Regulate" with the hip-hop - or at least what would have been defined as hip-hop in '94 - taken out). Worming its way through late summer heatstorms, its sheer succulent smoothness had no previous direct reference point (Snoop's "What's My Name?" and "Gin and Juice" are the most obvious pointers, but not only were they nowhere near this lyrically nasty, they were nothing like so sublimely, almost obscenely relaxed in saying it). I'll admit to preferring the version which actually lifts the chorus from Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin'" rather than just the hook - Bruno Brookes seemed to feel safer playing that mix on the Radio 1 chart show, and the chorus summed up the trepidation I felt about the whole idea of leaving the south-east - but the song was facilitated by, and could not have existed without, the Clinton presidency; suddenly this kind of glamour-filled crossover no longer seemed irresponsible, it seemed positively the only way for some in hip-hop.

But over on the East Coast the culture war was still raging, a subconscious to the Wu-Tang Clan's music which explains why, despite everything, they're still capable of so much. Method Man's "Tical" in November '94 set up a furrow he's still ploughing today, however media-friendly he might have become (he's in some kind of sitcom with Redman, apparently), all gravel-pitted voice and blaze-blare undertow ("Really what every self-respecting goth should be listening to - so they won't be listening to it, then" - Neil Kulkarni). "Release Yo Delf" I have to admit I knew first in the Prodigy remix version which was a staple of my shameful Big Beat-listening days, and I can't think of that now without cringing - thoughts of smug NuLab parties, Ed Stewart samples, Campag Velocet, the tedious cliche that "Firestarter" became. The original "Release Yo Delf", conversely, is a classic example of Wu-Tang's overriding blackness (precisely what Big Beat cynically removed); where Warren G's take on Michael McDonald was as smooth as its source, Meth's reclamation of the "I Will Survive" hook brought the tedious "anthem" back to base, its lyrics now Afrocentric, and the whole thing pretty much an unequivocal statement of intent. Wu-Tang - as an ideal for living - was reaching its peak.

AOR-pop will never die. It always repeats itself in pretty much the same formulae - Maroon 5's "This Love" is essentially the worst of 1978 with added slickness, and every bit as unappealing as that suggests. It's very rare for examples of this genre to mean anything to me personally and it usually comes when their omnipresence coincides with a moment of disconnection and unease in my own life; as detailed below, the late summer and early autumn of '94 saw me in a moment of deep melancholia and on the brink of what very nearly became a permanent withdrawal from social relationships. I couldn't logically or rationally defend Sophie B. Hawkins' "Right Beside You" - an 80s-timewarped azure-shaded heat haze of a song, though far better than "As I Lay Me Down" or, lest we forget, Jennifer Paige's "Crush" (as late as 1998!) - but for the first weeks on Portland its presence was total and undeniable, the kind of safeguard you need in times when all your certainties are inexorably fading.

If - as the man himself put it seven years after the fact - the narrators of Morrissey's "We'll Let You Know" were expressing "defiance amidst enforced intellectual change", then Pulp were the bohemian equivalents of football hooligans. I don't care what anyone says, "Common People" is closer in spirit to Alec Douglas-Home than to any British record made in 1965 (there's a whole other essay to be written on the fact that 1995 was actually the anti-1965 because of the sheer importance of social class - which the mid-60s were very largely about escaping - to the Britpop narrative). I often prefer their previous incarnation, just before the sociological heat turned up. "Babies" may originally have come out in '92, but for most of us it was a '94 record, and here was DANGER (and crucially not with any risk of unconsciously agreeing with Auber*n W*ugh by default). The last summer that BBC2 showed such things as "Play Golf" and "The Gun" in daytime was perhaps also the last summer that a song like this could genuinely seem otherworldly on Top of the Pops (by the time of "Common People", it had already changed utterly - Everyone Knew Who They Were And Everyone Loved Them, including the sort of people at whom the song was a confused desperately-trying-to-be-Socialist dig, which probably explains that song's total ideological failure to change anything at all).

But Bruno Brookes - who would be gone unmourned within a year - had to play "Babies". It still sounds genuinely unlike almost any other Top 20 hit, internationalist and sexualist and (if pop music can ever be so) sub-Socialist, but it feels like a record that could never have been made after the mid-1990s, as if this aesthetic - its sheer *strangeness*, even after all this time - was killed off forever by the cultural coming-together that "Common People" could never have prevented. Maybe that's why they wrote it; they were quite simply fearful that Wienerisation would remove the very cultural resistence that made them seem so special, and therefore erode the very dynamic they could best thrive on. If they did feel that way, they weren't wrong.

Did someone mention Morrissey? The similarity between "Common People"'s know-your-place crypto-conservatism and Mozzer's insistence during the miners' strike that "people who are quite artistic and creative crawl from dreadful conditions, while people who are cushioned in life tend not to produce anything dramatically artistic ... to me popular music is still the voice of the working class" (a stance which, he ruefully acknowledged at the time, may have already become outdated, but he insistently argued that "what has replaced it petrifies me") is just one of many reasons why the man's poor critical stock during the Britpop era continues to baffle. His fans, witnessing sundry Gallaghers and Select magazine covers adopting the Union Jack as an only very slightly ironic patriotic symbol, had full cause to cry "double standards" (maybe it was New Labour that caused that distortion, as with so much else). It was tantalisingly just pre-Britpop, in March '94 that Moz scored his only Top 10 hit of the 90s (and only ever US Hot 100 entry), a gentle countrified mid-tempo swoon called "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get", moving away from the ambiguities of "Your Arsenal" to a more personal lyrical approach, like the Smiths on the brink of middle age. He did much worse in the 90s - compare the genuine sensitivity and humanism of this song with the pointlessly uninvolved "Boxers", the reactionary irrelevance of "The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils" and the insultingly scrappy "Dagenham Dave" and you might start thinking that the reason he was out of favour in 1995, despite the similarity in terms of nostalgia and class-consciousness between his own position and the dominant ethos of the time, is simply because the music he made in 1995 was *shit*. Now if "Your Arsenal" had been released when "Vauxhall and I" was - ie just before "Parklife" changed the game - we could have had some *very* interesting times ...

Come December '94 and the economy had turned around while the opposition genuinely seemed like it could bring about changes in the official culture that could somehow keep pace with the changes among the actual population. But even in a mild winter there were nights of freezing desolation, and East 17's "Stay Another Day" was the song for those feelings; when Christmas is frustrating, isolated, insular - I remember late nights in this very room doing not very much in particular, and long walks with my mum where few meaningful words were spoken - this song, along with Take That's "Babe" from the previous year, still feels *right* (point of minor contextual interest: as East 17 left old working-class culture further behind to become more and more unashamedly internationalist and wannabe-classless, the old-prole cultural idea of Hard Work faded from view as the Age of Beckham was steadily ushered in; this was the last year that Premiership teams played on consecutive days over the Christmas period).

But somehow the desolation at the heart of "Stay Another Day" is not the way to leave 1994; a year which had started with utter confusion, self-doubt and panic - it really did feel at times as though we wouldn't make it out of the winter - ended with a certain hope that better times were on the way, a certain sense that, given time, everything could gradually come together. And in hip-hop, the new kicked-back relaxation emerging that autumn was summed up by The Notorious BIG's "Juicy", a song which, like "Flava In Ya Ear" summed up and gave a final fond farewell to hip-hop's past, but unlike "Flava In Ya Ear" jumped straight into the future we are all, pop-culturally if not politically, living in today (sitting on the cusp: the overriding theme of '94, in all things). Utter relaxation, utter self-confidence, ***look how far we've come*** - only the straightforward funk-shuffle of the beat is left from the days when hip-hop was marginal, the days when it embraced the whole concept of The Struggle. But what of the underlying nerves beneath the pop-gloss of "Mo Money Mo Problems" in '97? What if we end up getting dragged back politically even as the hip-hop revolution continues ... what if hip-hop is forced politically underground again even as it takes over the Top 10 ... what if this doesn't last forever? If "Juicy" is sheer relaxation and celebration of an oncoming, accelerating, growing sense of victory, you can sense the "swinging 90s" (Milton Shulman's phrase - RIP) uncertainties beneath the ultra-radio-friendly exterior of Biggie's posthumous hit (in the video they were playing fucking *golf* for fuck's sake!).

If the most frustrating thing about the last few years has been the slowdown of constitutional/official changes in line with changes in the wider society (at the turn of the 90s and the 00s they were pretty much at pace with each other), "Juicy" evokes a world where it never ended, where the doubts never came back in. "'94, and on and on" ... would that it could have been on and on politically, not just for hip-hop. Still, a great journey. The more I know 1994 the more I know 2004, and the more I know myself.

And Trebizon? I think it might be a boarding school for "children with special needs" these days. Now that's one thing I'm glad I escaped in 1994. If it had been inflicted on me, then this blog almost certainly wouldn't exist and my name would most likely be something people look at in a cemetery somewhere as they think "oh, what a shame" and then get on with their lives. 1994 saved me. Maybe it saved us all. Even if it didn't, it still can.
Looking back through my early-hours-of-Monday posting I'm struck by how many sentences are, quite simply, incomplete (OK maybe it isn't so much by some other bloggers' standards but by the criteria of an unashamed language-pedant like myself it's a lot). It's appropriate, though - that posting was the most open, the most unashamed washing of dirty linen in public I'll ever do, and so it would have seemed wrong, somehow, had it been immaculately planned and perfectly set out. It feels better having written it, in the same way a physically exhausted and sweat-covered body always feels better after a bath (and since writing it I have very considerably reduced the extent of the pointless fetishistic wanking corpse-fucking, which was pretty much its intent anyway).

After writing that piece I had a very definite feeling that this crumbling old smallholding had had its windows broken and its floor was gradually collapsing. But the slightly shabby, old-fashioned quality of this blog seems in the cold light of day like its charm, somehow. I'll go on writing here for a while, though it definitely feels closer to its end than its beginning.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

(This post might be the end of something, or the start of something, or both. We'll see.)

Ten years, though. Ten years. A decade, this summer, since I first came to Portland. And what has it got me?

All these years, all these years all I have had to love - to make love to - is something I despise, something I desperately want to destroy. I cannot love humans, cannot love life, cannot love anyone or anything else, cannot love a single living thing. I can love edifices but not the reality behind, I can love names but not the people they conceal. I feel like I've been fucking a corpse for ten years, very nearly without a break. On Friday 7th June 1996 I made what I believed, honestly and sincerely, to be a clean break. By the end of that summer I was back in the pointless, played-out, fetishistic corpse-fucking again. Just a week or two ago I genuinely and proudly thought it was all over, for good, forever. No fucking luck. Of course I'm back doing it, sitting on my arse all day and all night, pissing in the wastepaper basket rather than the toilet, giving myself daily orgasms out of some misplaced affinity to people who hardly really exist these days and who I despise when they still do.

Why is this still going on?

The other thing is that I don't know *what* I believe - if anything at all. None of the political statements and cultural statements that I have made on this blog should be seen as totally definitive of me in any way - I am still trying things out, still struggling to find a position. It didn't always seem that way, though. In 1999 and 2000 everything seemed as though it could be made good eventually. As late as 2001 I was utterly self-confident, I knew exactly what I thought and how to get it over and make it clear. I also thought, despite myself, that there was still A Future. Even for most of 2002 I still had my plans, my visions, my self-confidence, my desire to engage with the world. And I don't know how they lasted that long - I can still remember myself shivering and petrified, genuinely convinced that I would not be alive twelve hours hence, on Saturday 13th January 2001 - but they were still alive. In reality they'd died on the vine some time earlier. Remember the end of 1999 and the start of 2000? The feeling that we were just a couple of years away from *getting it right*? That, given time and space, we could push on and finally achieve perfection? That the British state could crumble, that European unity could be achieved, that resentment and hatred and xenophobia could be put in the past forever if only we tried hard enough, that *everyone could get on* forever? Maybe it was false. But I believed it. On spring days in 2000 it seemed like *anything was possible*. Even in 2002 I could keep a certain amount of idealism in my mind. But now it almost seems impossible, we've found ourselves back where we started from. I may be wrong, but I thought we said this couldn't happen here?

(The second half of December 2000. The fear and loathing - the sense that, *just* before we got it right, it had all been blown off course - that I have never really recovered from, even though in 2002 it seemed like I might have done so. But I know fox hunting will never be banned now.)

Nothing now feels for one moment like it did for most of the time that Elidor was active. The landscape is utterly and completely different. That's why I never read the old Elidor stuff now (oddly, I find my c.2000 writing for the likes of Off The Telly much more readable, if only because I had to fit the pieces within somebody else's aesthetic, rather than turn them into pure expressions of mine, and therefore the personal embarrassment factor hardly applies). I never read the archived chats I was having with my friends back in early 2002 (there was still hope), even though my closest friend back then is still my closest friend now.

We should all have gone further by now - the creaking constitutional arrangements further reformed, power further decentralised, the whole set-up rejuvenated. Instead everything has regressed and turned in on itself. And it's the same for me. I should have written a hell of a lot more this year. I should have *done* a hell of a lot more this year. Instead I've been content to sit on my arse and fuck corpses, because anything else requires effort and energy and those are the things I do not possess. The titles of my Word documents which contain this sick fetishism of the dead say it all: "Detritus", "Beautiful ugliness", "Pointless beautiful shit". I know it's shit fetishism. It has to end.

I started this shit shortly before I left the south-east and I'd only been on Portland a few weeks when it became the all-pervasive centre of my life. No coincidence that it was around this time that I totally lost the will to engage socially with anyone or anything. I'd been hiding inside myself back in Kent but at least there was still a circle of friends and a social set-up I was familiar with that I could ease myself back into if I had chosen to. No such thing on Portland, and there never has been. In ten years here the number of friends I have made other than in my family or on the internet can be counted in extremely single figures.

For me, "real" people have never been real. The sick fetish objects that have sustained me all this time might still have had the faintest possible claim to social reality in the present day in 1994, year of the absolute last gasp of the boarding school story as something believable in the present day(Buckeridge's "That's Jennings!", Digby's "The Unforgettable Fifth at Trebizon"). But then came "Parklife" and New Labour; in the first two months that I lived on Portland, practically every national newspaper (not least in their reporting of *S*M*A*S*H*-namechecked Tory minister Gillian Shephard's rants on the subject) mentioned the young middle classes' adoption of Estuary English. It was either 18th or 19th April 1995 that my dad brought home a copy of the Daily Mail which included an Ian Wooldridge paean to what is euphemistically called "the horsey set" as though it made up the entirety of a particular social class and generation. Even then I knew it was a self-sustaining mythos, even though I was one of those trying to sustain it - right from the start, an element of awareness of their falseness ate away at the passion of my indefensible fantasies. The following month Jarvis Cocker appeared on TOTP pushing a shopping trolley around and my life was clearly, dramatically, set in a different direction (I don't think I could ever listen to "Common People" again, the memories are too strong and too total, but it is in my head practically every moment of my life).

So after the ravages of the mid-1990s there were only two directions left for the boarding school story to take; period piece or pure unabashed fantasy. The latter, of course, bequeathed us Harry Potter - once it had been possible to sell to the state-educated masses a fantasy of another social class which *was* essentially always a fantasy, despite not actually containing any fantastical and deliberately "unreal" elements, and they'd believe it because they could live their entire lives never knowing anyone from that distant (different) class. By the mid-1990s, nobody could believe that anymore - the younger masses just knew too much about the extent to which the younger elite had turned into, culturally, purely an ersatz version of themselves with more consumerist money to spend - but there was still a demand for the archetypal boarding school story. Now that selling a fantasy-that-isn't-actually-fantastical of boarding schools was impossible, there was a logical way out: mix the genre with pure fantasy. Enter Harry Potter.

Except that I've never liked Harry Potter. I've always wanted to believe that my fantasies of a distant social elite could Actually Be Happening, even though I know that the kind of things I still envisage happening in 2004 are about as likely and as believable in the real world as any of J.K. Rowling's magical diversions. It has to end, and the reasons it has to end are not predominately political (repulsed though I may be by Labour's failure to radicalise itself - the release of the 1974 government papers, rumoured MI5 plots and all, is now clearly the most potentially important political event likely to happen before the next general election) but *personal*. I need to find something - some*one*, maybe, even - in the actual world to love and relate to. I need to learn to love people and things that are not merely palimpsests and blank canvasses.

I thought I started writing this blog one day in the summer of 2003, but I really started writing it in 1994. Everything seemed so easy then, just as it still did three or - at a pinch - two years ago. But it hurts me to think at all sometimes, these days. It hurts me to read so many things that three years ago came to me as easily as breathing, especially when they pass comment on me. I don't know why I suddenly want to escape and hide so much - I don't think it's the state of the world so much as the realisation of just how hard life is for me, full stop. Compared to many of my contemporaries (especially my blogging ones), I have been nowhere and seen nothing, and sometimes I feel that weakens my writing immeasurably. I suspect - although I am now so sensitive, and I am MOST DEFINITELY NOT PROUD OF THIS IN ANY WAY - that Marcello Carlin has had some harsh words for me recently. I plead guilty, if indeed he meant what I thought he did at the start of the "what you should pay for the Top 40 albums" piece before I had to hide in embarrassment ("shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit" over Ghostface fucking with the Delfonics, and yes I know all these confessions make me sound like a wanker). I do not read Auberon Waugh with any great regularity. It is just that he was incredibly important for me during the phase of my life which constantly haunts my consciousness now - the mid-1990s - and inevitably. That I may be struggling to develop a clear position, and at times almost wanting to retire from the idea of thinking anything at all, does not prevent my politics from being, still, radical at heart. Don't be fooled by some of the Wienerisation euphoria you read on here. Like I said, don't take passionate ideological statements on here as definitive statements. They are merely the fumblings of someone in search of a definitive statement.

In tandem with the increasing emotional strain of thinking has come an increasing emotional strain of listening, certainly to much of the music that once meant the most to me, and resultantly of writing about it. Maybe that's why most of the big writing ideas I have in my mind are non-music-based. Maybe moving on to a new blog might be the thing. It would definitely take its name from children's literature, again - "No Going Back"? "The Outsider"? "No Entry"? "Run Away Home"? I've always been running away home, but not to my actual childhood home (the Thames Estuary left no roots; those who've heard my countrified RP accent understand that). I've been running away home all this time - really far, far longer than the ten years I've lived on Portland - to an imagined home really very akin to my sick little girls' boarding school wank fetish objects, a world that probably died before I was born and was almost certainly always viewed through a distant haze, a perpetual parallel universe, always just before, just out of reach. The strange thing is that I've spent my life searching alternately, and sometimes even at the same time, for a world just out of reach in the past (references: the wintry gardens of the "Nothing Compares 2 U" video, frosty days in Kidbrooke, reruns of 70s documentaries on daytime BBC2 in 1993, old Puffin Club magazines, even the bloody Harewood Estate ...) and one just tantalisingly out of reach in the future (around February or March 2000, your fingers were just a few centimetres away from touching it). You could just call it "Asperger's Syndrome" if you like, and you wouldn't be far wrong.

Now I need to refocus myself in terms of my own life and my future. Somehow. I feel the steam (or, indeed, the diesel and electricity) may have run out of The House at World's End - I'm starting to feel that, with the increasingly diary-like rather than strictly blog-like (there's a clear, subtle difference) nature of the sort of stuff I want to write, livejournal.com might be a worthwhile place for me. Maybe somewhere else for the essays that are worming their way around in my head. Anyway, those who can work their way through these ramblings - if there *are* any such people - can email me at robin@elidor.freeserve.co.uk with whatever responses or suggestions they may have (which reminds me: I really really must get a "post comments" facility ... somewhere, soon.)

Everyone who's ever shown me love, I love you. Those who haven't, I find it harder to love but I very rarely hate. There's no point in that. Not now.

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