Tell Him We’ve Lost His Poems, So We’re Writing On The Walls. 

2017 finally arrived in Hull this week. It is now officially the UK’s City Of Culture for the next 12 months. It’s been an incredible first week. You had to be there to see it. It has been a phenomenon. The launch firework display with the gold dust free tickets actually, in the end, an incidental sideshow quickly forgotten alongside the main event of the Made In Hull public art installations around the city centre with the projection in Queen Victoria Square as its impressive centrepiece. 
I went with my son on the first night. We walked round all the installations. We saw the fireworks. I was impressed. Deeply impressed with Queen Victoria Square in particular. The overwhelmingly positive online response that evening was obvious. 

And then things started to get a bit weird. 

4pm the next day & there was the huge crowd again in the square waiting for day two to begin. And it didn’t stop. The crowd grew each night. Until Saturday when a crowd the size of the population of China (based on official figures) turned up. 

To be honest, by the end of the second day I’d lost interest in the actual art. It was the people, the crowds that I found fascinating. The numbers of them but also the atmosphere. This slightly, strange, hushed shuffling atmosphere as people slowly followed each other  round in a mass throng – when they weren’t waiting in long queues for chips. And the weather was cold. Stupidly cold. Every night. But there they were. With more layers than Kurt Russell in The Thing. Some of them trailing along their fairly bemused, tired, frosty children. I’ll wager most of those kids had the same reaction to all of it that my boy did – broadly meh. 

There’s loads of positives to take from this week. People came out. There’s a captive audience. They want to see what’s going on. They want to be involved. They want this year to be a success for Hull. They are interested. They want to be impressed. They want to feel proud of the city they call home. All of that is excellent news both for the city & the organisers. 

For me, this week raised a lot of questions too. People came out for free public art – which I always thought was crucial for this year, the city has to feel like there’s something going on when you walk the streets. Will they come out for the stuff they have to pay for? Tickets are still available for the vast majority of events as I write. Noticeably the higher the brow the lower the ticket sales. Ziggy Stardust shows sold out immediately as did the RPO playing the music of John Williams. And the aforementioned fireworks. 

How actually engaged were people with what they were seeing this week? Online hyperbole aside, I saw & spoke to a lot of people this week, I have to be honest I thought they were mostly whelmed rather than over or under. There was an excellent projection on the side of The Deep about the city’s history with migration & what it has brought into the city. A city that voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. Surely the irony of that couldn’t have been lost on those 1000s of people who stood watching it being impressed every night. Statistically, many/most of those voted Leave (I know I know, it wasn’t all about immigration blah blah blah). 

There was a short film showing about club culture. Well really it was about raves & ecstasy. It was about 10 minutes of folk gurning their faces off. But there was the crowd with their anoraks & their backpacks & their children dutifully watching. Most of them with little awareness or interest in what they were watching but they stuck it out. It was on, it was free & they were going to see it. And that was that. It was weird, man. 

So then there was the continued online response through the week. Moving more each day towards people trying to define what was happening. Why people were there, what it means for the rest of the year, what it means for the city. For the record, although I suppose I’m trying to do a little of that here, I don’t think any of those questions can be answered yet. No one knows yet if this week has been a unique phenomenon or the beginning of a trend. There’s another pertinent question, where have they been? In a city notorious for rarely selling out many of its cultural events. 

I’ve also been reading a lot of what people think this says about Hull, & its people, as a city. Lots of “This Is Who We Are”, “This Is What We’re About” stuff. I’ve read We Look After And Support Our Own a lot. All of it meant positively but that sort of thing always leaves me feeling uneasy wherever it comes from, sometimes it’s cities, sometimes it countries. It usually features fairly universal generic human qualities. To my mind it often fails to recognise that wherever we live, wherever we are from, we are all more alike than we are different. Civic pride is all very well but I can’t help feeling it emphasises difference when what is most needed is to be inclusive. It’s what this city needs. Probably needed a little more widely too. 

All cities are a little different to each other though. Hull is different to Leeds or Manchester or Glasgow. I’m just not sure it knows in what ways yet. I’m very fond of Hull in lots of ways. Mostly, I like living here. I think collectively it hasn’t quite figured out what it’s identity is though. Perhaps this year will help. When people talk of “looking after our own” though I go back to the issue of the Leave vote I mentioned above. What is Hull’s “own”, what does it take to qualify? I’m not sure Hull has answered that question yet, or perhaps it has & I’m just waiting for a different answer. Hull probably does have a feeling of being left out, of being on the periphery. If it wants that to change then it truly has to allow the world in. I don’t think it’s there yet. I hope that’s going to change. I hope this year will help. 

It may not read like it but I really want this year to be a massive success in Hull. I want it to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, particularly within Hull. I want it to be for the people from the housing estates, the people from the avenues, the people from the East Riding & for the people with English as a second language who call Hull their home. I want as many people as possible to feel they were lucky to be here while it was going on. I want it to have a positive & lasting legacy in this city. I want it to be remembered for the rest of people’s lives. I’m just erring on the side of caution for now, hoping desperately not to be disappointed. 

And finally, especially for a friend of mine, I want there to be stilts. Lots & lots of stilts.


No One Needs Anyone, They Don’t Even Just Pretend. 

I started to realise a little over two years ago that the political landscape had markedly shifted & that I was no longer anywhere close to majority opinion. As someone who subscribes to a moderate left wing philosophy heavily influenced by, as I see it, a very necessary & healthy dose of pragmatism I recognised that something significant had happened during the Scottish independence referendum. 
Although the side of the argument I strongly supported  ultimately won out in that referendum (nationalism of any stripe is not my bag but even taken on a purely economic & constitutional basis I would have required a solid factual economic argument to alter my view) , I saw that for the first time in my life I could no longer take for granted that the people I knew, the people around me, the people I grew up with, the people I was closest to held broadly the same political points of view. I lost friends during that exceptionally emotive campaign. I know others did too. 

It was at that point I started to realise that detaching myself from my previously deep interest in politics was the healthier option. Actually I probably still thought that a pragmatic approach in Scotland to the UK General Election would prevail & the Labour Party vote would largely hold up in the face of a disastrous coalition government despite personally having deep reservations about what Labour had to offer. That devastating Conservative majority general election result sealed my feeling of being disenfranchised. 

That was swiftly followed by the Labour leadership campaign that led to a complete romp for a candidate I saw no common sense in electing. An opposition leader on a platform that will only ever be a minority view nationwide. An opposition leader who will not/cannot win an election. I was done with having any real engagement with politics. I left the Labour Party a couple of months later. 

Since then, I have gone with bemused detachment. Let everyone else get on with it. It’s nothing to do with me. The world is mental. Let it be mental. I’ll wait & meet everyone back at rational pragmatism in about a decade or so when everyone realises that pressing the crazy button is exactly that. 

So I watched the Brexit vote with a sense of uninvolved resignation, mixed with mild fury that the city I call home had voted so strongly in favour of insanity. Balls to it, let folk get on with their madness & fantasies. 

And there have been many indicators that that madness was global, leading to today’s US Presidential result. I think I subconsciously predicted it yesterday, deleting my Twitter account with some strange sense that I couldn’t be bothered reading the predictable reactions (although I couldn’t resist reactivating it temporarily tonight to have a peak in order to pass the time). Luckily Facebook made sure I didn’t miss that fucking awful “Orange Is The New Black” joke multiple times (well done everyone 😏). 

Honestly, I can’t be bothered with the overreaction. Yes, there is now potential for global chaos…..but there probably (probably) won’t be. The world will keep turning. Personally my life was the same today. It will be tomorrow. And I imagine it won’t be significantly different 6 months from now. 

So I’ll just keep getting up in the morning & doing my thing until something worth acknowledging happens. Just keep letting the world get on with its temper tantrum until it gets bored. I’ll work in a shop, listen to music, devote myself to my son, drink some wine, hope there might be some happiness & fun to be had in the day ahead when my alarm goes off in the morning. Life goes on. 

Incidentally, I’ve seen a lot of people drawing parallels between Brexit & Trump with the consensus being that Trump is much worse however, as I see it, there’s a strong chance Trump will only be for four years while Brexit is forever & as the great man himself, Prince, said forever is a mighty long time. 

Anyway, I’m listening to Bowie right now. Everything seems alright. 

We live for just these 20 years, Do we have to die for the 50 more?

29th July 1996. That was the day I started the part time job I had always wanted in a record shop. And today, exactly 20 years later, I’m still doing the same job. Half my life. 

Highs & lows. Peaks & troughs. I’ve never really ever been close to leaving. Partly, I like my job (most of the time), I like knowing what I’m doing, knowing the ins & outs, I like the trust & independence I’ve built up, etc. And partly institutionalised – what the hell else would I do? Sell shoes?! 

I’ve never felt particularly strongly about “the brand”. Sure I’ll get defensive about the company I work for when outsiders have a dig. I’m easily riled by criticism of it but it doesn’t come from a place of defending the corporate entity, it’s about the people, it’s always been about the people. So many great like-minded people who just about all arrived in the job because of their pashernate love of music & films. The people who work here now & the people I’ve worked with in the past. The real, true friends I’ve made, the few I’ve loved & the many I just think the world of. You spend so long working for a company & knowing people for so long that it naturally encompasses all of life. Births, deaths & marriages with everything in between shared with people that some unthinking automatons would have you describe as “colleagues”. They’ve always been so much more than that. 

I’ve made some enemies too. There are people I’ve hated & plenty that have hated me too, a couple of whom would have relieved me of my duties if they could have. I don’t apologise for feeling a sense of satisfaction that I’m still here, they are all long gone. Never underestimate how stubborn I can be.

I was a daft kid when I started, I grew up in this job. I remember looking up to a few of my “colleagues” in those early years working in Glasgow. I wanted to be like them, to be as cool as them. Just a few of them though, most of them were dicks. I never managed to be cool but I certainly matured. My attitude, my worldview, my drive, my ethics – all of them I’m sure would have been markedly different had I worked in an office or a factory or a call centre or wherever. 

Of course I loved music & films before I started working here but the amount of amazing things I wouldn’t have heard or seen had I not been in this job is unimaginable & my life would have been poorer for that. 

I still get that special kick when a new record I’ve been excited about arrives in store like the next Bowie box set coming in September. I still love when a new song catches my attention in the shop & makes me want to listen to the rest of the album. I still love when a customer heeds my recommendation & buys the Boardwalk Empire or The West Wing box sets. I still love going through the Bowie or the Dylan CD sections just to make sure every album is there & in its right place (alphabetically). 

So 20 years, it’s given me everything I suppose. I have a habit of reflecting negatively in moments like this but I’ve just had my 40th birthday so I’m a bit worn out therefore I’m choosing only to reflect positively today. I’m grateful for the best memories. I’m grateful for the best people. 

Thank you to those who were there. Thank you to those that are still around. 

I genuinely feel very proud to have made it to 20 years. I still love my shop doing well, I still love getting good results. 

11 months into working for this mob I was given the opportunity to move from a part time to a full time contract which involved moving to another Glasgow store. On my final day in my first store, Argyle St, my assistant manager, Andy, offered these words with that uniquely Glaswegian half threatening/half inspiring tone, “You better be good!”  

I hope I did alright. Fair to middling I’d say. 20 years later I think we’re the only 2 from that staff of 30-40 that are still with the company. And I still want to be good for the big man. 

It seemed the taste was not so sweet, So I turned myself to face me. 

I’ve blown everything good in my life. Every time I was happy I destroyed it. Everyone who has loved me I’ve pushed them away. 

I’ve never trusted happiness. Deep down I’ve always felt it was a trick. A rug waiting to be swept from under me. Leaving the hangover. The feeling of loss. The sadness. Despair. 
Happiness has just never been for me. We’ve never sat easily together. I know that I don’t believe I deserve it although I don’t know why. So I torpedo it. Never consciously. I get rid of happiness then I can be back in my unhappy comfort zone where I don’t have to live in fear of losing it. I prod & push & alienate the ones who care, the ones who want to be in my life. I make it impossible for them. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. I’m hard to know, I’m hard to like, I’m awkward, I’m difficult to be around, I’m impossible to love. Some of you know that’s not me. Some of you know what lies underneath.
I’ve had enough. Whatever battle I’ve been waging I’ve won. I’m now more alone than I’ve ever been in my life before. It’s my fault. So many have come & gone. I carry so much guilt for the ones I hurt along the way. I carry huge grief for the ones I feel betrayed me. A few hardened souls remain, luckily spared having to actually be around me too often. They mean more to me than I’m ever able to show them. 

I started this year determined to make it a better one. To make changes. To make my life better. I’ve gone about it all wrong. I’ve made it worse. I don’t know why. I think I’ve been trying too hard. So desperate for people to let me into their lives. I’ve just seemed weird & crazy. My behaviour has been completely out of character. I’ve ended up throwing myself into self-destruction. One big cry for help that no one is listening to. And I’d likely throw help back in their face if they did. Or resent them for waiting for my permission. I drive myself on with anger & defiance, I don’t need you, I don’t care what you think, I don’t need anyone. One big act to hide how much I’m hurting. To hide how much I want to feel like I matter.

Depression is always there, it’s always been with me. I had gotten fairly good at managing it over many years. I’ve lost control of it now. I’ve been completely at the mercy of my manic & extreme changes of mood. Once a mood, be it high, low or somewhere in the middle, would last 2 or 3 days normally. In these last few months I’ve not been sure it will last an hour. My head feels like I’m constantly moving at 100mph & I’m certain I’m heading towards a wall. I’ve completely lost my sense of humour, I don’t laugh anymore. Mixed with that I’ve become short-tempered in a way I haven’t been since I was a teenager – always ready to snap, to lash out, before I’ve had a chance to catch myself. And attacks of anxiety at every turn. My behaviour has become unreasonable & occasionally irrational. So I try to self-medicate. Just take the edge off. Shut my head up for a couple of hours. It’s not a solution. It’s making things worse. I know that. 

I think I may have hit that wall a couple of days ago. A night of insanity. At the end of a day where I felt OK, balanced, but for some reason my mood flipped. I went too far. All on my own. I’ve no memory of the last 5 hours. I only know I was awake because of the insane text messages I sent. In doing so I fear I’ve just pushed someone else away that means a lot to me. In between berating myself for it I’m trying to look for a positive, I’m hoping I’ve finally hit the rock bottom I’ve been heading towards for months. I’m hoping it’s the wake up call I need to start turning things around & moving upwards again. 

There have been some positives this year. I started back at the gym for a few months. I lost some weight. That’s made me feel better about myself to a degree. However like most things I threw myself into it for a while then lost motivation – mostly because I felt I was getting locked in my own head while at the gym. I was leaving angry rather than feeling positive. I’ve reconnected with my best friend, making the effort to travel home more often to spend time with him. That’s been my saving grace in the last few months. I get to feel human & myself for a few hours. I’ve become an Uncle. I love my niece with everything I’ve got & I love to see my sister happy. 

And most importantly, I’ve started seeing a therapist. It’s something I’ve felt I needed to do for a long time & finally hit a point where I couldn’t put it off any longer. It’s been quite a difficult process so far while also being incredibly helpful I think. We’ve spent the time pulling me apart in a way that makes me feel quite raw & vulnerable when I leave & for a couple of days after, going over in my head what’s been talked about. We’ve discovered more each week about the issues lying deep inside me that drive my emotions & my negative behaviours – issues that have been there since I was a kid. It’s tough discovering them. We’re only just about to start putting me back together again, agreeing on the behaviours I have to change, making me better. I really hope it makes a difference. I recognise that I’m a complete mess of a human being right now. It feels like the only light at the end of the tunnel I have. 

The truth is I’m scared. I’m scared that things aren’t going to get better. That this is as good as life gets. I’m scared that I can’t be happy. I’m scared of what state I’m going to get myself into. I’m scared I’m going to lose everything. 
I’ve nothing to gain from writing this. I don’t want pity, I don’t want sympathy. Maybe I’d like a little understanding. Maybe I’m writing this just to help straighten my own head out. I do feel misunderstood right now, mostly by people who don’t know me but are close to someone I care about. I feel under pressure to show them they’re wrong but perversely I’m just confirming their suspicions instead by behaving stupidly. Self-destruct. Destroying happiness. Pushing people away. It was ever thus. The cycle just carries on. 

Depression & mental health issues are real. They destroy lives. They’ve been destroying mine. If this blog is about anything then it’s about the importance of seeking professional help. I hope I can write another blog in a few months time all about how therapy has started to turn my life around. I’ve been right on the edge for a few months but I had one clear thought yesterday “I want to live, I want to be better, I want to be happy”. That’s the first time I’ve thought that & believed it in a long time. 

I’m sorry I’ve been such hard work. I’m sorry to those I’ve worried. I’m sorry to those I’ve hurt. I’m sorry to those I’ve pushed away. I’m especially sorry to those I’ve disappointed. 

Truly, I love you all. 

This ain’t rock n’ roll. This is genocide. 


Bob Dylan. Paul McCartney. Neil Young. Elvis Presley. John Lennon. Morrissey. Nick Cave. Mick Jagger. Bruce Springsteen. Leonard Cohen. 

10 greats of music. 10 giants. 
I can’t help thinking that, if he’d wished, Bowie could have done a fair approximation of any of their musical styles (and often he did). 

But none of them could ever do Bowie. 

Listen to Hunky Dory. Listen to Young Americans. Listen to Low. Listen to Let’s Dance. Listen to Outside. Listen to Blackstar. 

Such variety. 

Think of any other artist that has recorded half a dozen great albums in such different musical styles. 

Any of the above?


That’s why Bowie is the greatest. 

I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do, So I’ll write some love to you

Such horrible news to wake up to this morning. My radio comes on automatically at 7am & I was still half asleep as I half heard. I hoped I was wrong as I grabbed my phone. 

Just so terribly sad. 

I think most of you would agree it’s a strange thing to feel a sense of mourning or loss for someone famous. Someone who isn’t family or a friend. It is strange, of course it is, but as I said in a previous blog Bowie has been ever present in my life, in so many of our lives. I actually don’t remember the last entire day I didn’t listen to at least one Bowie song. His music has been all things to me. Sometimes a comfort. Sometimes an inspiration. It inspires memories – good & bad. He’s soundtracked so much of my life. At least in some way he probably has yours too. 

I’ve been listening to his music all day. 6music has been wonderful. The stories from so many fans on Lauren Laverne’s show were brilliant. To hear so many people were feeling the same was a lovely thing. Of course they were. It’s David Bowie. Twitter has been great to read today too. A spontaneous heartfelt emotional outpouring of shock & loss. But all together. I’ve loved hearing & reading so many people’s personal memories. 

So here is mine, the thought that has been most recurrent today is just how thankful I am for having music that my son & I could enjoy listening to so much together. He’s 8 now & we’ve been listening to Bowie together since he was very small. First it was the Laughing Gnome, then it was Starman. Starman remains his favourite song & he said a couple of weeks ago that he was determined to learn every word off by heart. When it came on while watching The Martian at the cinema, my son turned round and fist-bumped me, we then both silently sang along together to the whole song. Beautiful. We sang Space Oddity together on karaoke on Christmas Day. We have listened to the Ziggy Stardust album so many times on a Sunday morning. So many times. It is special for a father & son to share a mutual love of something, especially music. I am so thankful to David Bowie for giving us that. 

Whatever loss we feel today is nothing to that of his teenage daughter, his son & his wife. I hope the love & loss felt all around the world is some comfort to them. 

He’s gone. I imagine the rawness will last for a while. There’ll never be another new David Bowie song. There’ll never be a new David Bowie album. Such a loss. However, all the music he recorded in his life is here forever. It lives on. It’s ours. It won’t stop being the soundtrack of our lives. It won’t be enjoyed any less. In fact, it’ll most likely mean more. 

Goodbye David. Thank you. We loved you. 

We’ll be listening to Ziggy Stardust on Sunday morning. 

As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent, you asked for the latest party. 

I have always had a fascination with boxing. I’m a fairly casual follower in general, I’m not overly interested in the undercard or amateur scuffles. I’ve always enjoyed the headline shows though, particularly when they are worthy of the billing. When it’s two fighters at the top of their game, on an equal-footing, everything at stake. Or maybe when there’s a plucky underdog that few realise has a genuine shot at the crown. 
I’ve loved Muhammed Ali forever. His career was all before my time but close enough for me to grow up in the aftershock. It would have been impossible not to have become aware of this larger-than-life bombastic giant as a kid in the 80s. He is, of course, one of the biggest icons of our lifetime. In time, I’d learn more about him as a man (flaws included) through documentaries, films & books. There are few better examples of an individual standing up for exactly what they believed, in the face of enormous adversity. A man willing to give almost everything up, the spoils of what he had fought so hard for, to do what he felt was the right thing. I often look to Ali for inspiration. His poster has hung above the desk in my office for many years. You’ll know the one (it’s the picture at the top of the page), Ali vs Sonny Liston, first round, first minute, Liston flat out on the canvas. Ali staring right into Liston’s eyes, as if trying to terrify him – a mixture of daring him to get up for more & warning him to stay down. Perhaps he said something in the moment, the poster is silent, however you can see it’s over, you can see Liston is beaten no matter whether he gets up or stays down. Liston got up. But not for long. 

I look at that poster on bad days, I’ve always looked at it to remind myself of the air of Ali’s indomitable determination, hoping a little might rub off. As I looked this morning, however, I realised I’m not Ali, I’m Liston. Too often I’ve been Liston. This year I’ve been Liston. Beaten. On the floor. 

The thing though with boxing is, there’s always a shot. Ali was a 7-1 outsider in the first fight vs Liston. He turned out to be “The Greatest”. For all the Tysons & Holyfields, Marcianos & Fraziers there’s always a Buster Douglas or a Hasmin Rahman or a Randolph Turpin. 

2015 has been a rough year. Those of you who know me best know I’ve not had the greatest of times. There have been good moments. To stretch the boxing analogy to breaking point, I could say I even recently had what could be described as a shot at the heavyweight championship of the world. I wasn’t quite first round/first minute, I got through the first couple of rounds. Inevitably though, I lost. I’m a little bruised & battered. My pride has taken a bit of a beating. I’m getting on a bit so thoughts of retirement are inevitable but I’m not ready yet. Perhaps, against the odds, I’ll get another shot at the title.

This cursed year is almost gone. I’ll not remember it fondly. As always, a new year is a chance to renew & refresh. To wipe the slate clean & go again. I’m prone to reflect at these times, on what has gone before, what is missing, what is lost. There’s no doubt I’ll do that too. Circumstances mean I’ll not feel a whole lot of cheer around the bells themselves. There’ll be no first foot at my door this year. However I’ll look to Ali & Liston for inspiration. In the first couple of days of January 2016 I’ll get up & I’ll face another year determined for it to be better than the last. I’ll find a little swagger again. I’ve been down before, I’ve never been beaten. You have to get up. You have to keep going. You have to believe better times are ahead. 

In case anyone thinks I’ve become some new age optimist living solely on a diet of inspirational internet quotes, Liston died just 5 years after that fight. No one really knows what age he was when he died, he never knew himself but safe to say he was somewhere around 40. I turn 40 in 2016. So there’s that. 

On the other hand, Ali is 73. He’s lived with Parkinson’s for 30 years with the same indomitable determination & spirit he always had. Next year I intend to be Ali.

Seconds out….