Category Archives: A Canadian in New Basford

I suppose the thing I am still most famous for is my column at Leftlion Magazine. It is (still) responsible for most writing gigs I get these days and I still get the odd “Hey, you’re that Canadian guy” when I go back to Nottingham.

First review!

LeftLion 55 cover

Remember the Canadian In New Basford column we used to run in this magazine? Well, the writer of that classic Leftlion feature has been keeping himself busy over the last couple of years by penning this post-apocalyptic Manchester-based tale. Seth wakes up with amnesia to a city that has been destroyed and all around him there is a scramble to survive. Standard currency has changed from coins and notes to fresh food and WD40. The only person he has to turn to is a sadistic doctor who tortures him to try and glean some information about ‘the machine’. Oh, and the dictaphone recordings of a little girl who appears to be long lost. Eventually this mystery begins to unfold as he pieces his broken life back together. A strong debut novel, full of twists and turns. Since he left us, R T Cutforth seems to have progressed from writing like a Canuck Charlie Brooker to a young Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Long may his progress continue. Jared Wilson

photo of the review as it appeared in the magazine.

A young Dean Koontz or Stephen King? Wow, that’s pretty good.

Goodbye, Leftlion

LeftLion 49 cover. Welcome to Notts Ville, the fun capital of England

It’s difficult to know how to write a final column. Do I wax nostalgic about the past, highlighting the bits people seemed to like? Do I pretend that the crap columns didn’t happen? Or do I just write the same smarmy BS I’ve written for the past five years?

Waxing might make the most sense, but it doesn’t make for an interesting read. Who wants to read a thousand words on how amazing I am? It would’ve been easier to write this had LeftLion told me to get lost; writing whilst cranky comes so much easier to me, and certainly makes for a better column. Unfortunately for you, dear
reader, it’s been quite a lot of fun writing for this magazine, so there is danger of this being the most boring column I’ve ever written.

So perhaps I’ll start with a confession, and that confession is this: I am a complete fraud.

The truth is, I don’t actually live in Nottingham and haven’t done for some time. Is that a gasp I hear? Well, it’s even worse than that; I have never actually set foot in New Basford. When I did live in Nottingham, I lived in Sherwood; but we thought ‘Rob from Sherwood’ as too Hoody. The Editor tells me now he was looking for a play on words with An Englishman In New York. He also tells me that no-one has ever got that massively tenuous pun, its rubbishness has bothered him for years, and he cringes like a poisoned rat whenever he sees it in the magazine.

Hell, after living in the UK for six years and receiving my British citizenship, I can scarcely call myself Canadian anymore. To be honest, it would have been more accurate to call this column ‘A Guy Who Used To Be Canadian Who Lived Relatively Near To New Basford At Some Point In The Past”, but I suppose that doesn’t have
the same zip. The acronym ‘AGWUTBCWLRNTNBASPITP’ certainly isn’t as snappy.

The strange thing is I don’t even feel a bit guilty about my deception. Perhaps it is because I am vain and love seeing my name in print at all costs, maybe its simply because I have no integrity whatsoever. Whatever the reason, I do hope you’re not too angry with me.

Let me explain. Regular readers will remember my ‘Broken Britain’ column, where I talked about my wife and I being made redundant. The alternate title for that column could have been ‘Why I Effed Off To Manchester’. I could have gotten away with saying that back then, too, as it pre-dates Leftlion’s war on the F word. (I hope
they will allow me this one sweary transgression, seeing as it is my last column and all. Oh, they haven’t. Sigh).

The guilt (or lack of as it happens) of writing about Nottingham from afar is not the reason for this column’s end; the reason I’ve decided to call it a day is that I have simply run out of things to complain about. The Viccy Centre chavs, the queues, the crap builders, the Council House Goths…they all don’t seem so bad any more, now that I live in Manchester. When a person gets hit by a plastic pint full of chav piss at
a Courteeners gig, the Goose Fair scrotes no longer seem so bad. When you can’t go into the town centre because an army of Salford scallies are burning it down, it puts the Notts equivalent – listening to Professor Green spouting intelligible kack at full volume from a mobile on the bus – into perspective. Compared to Manchester, Nottingham feels like the most civilised place in the world.

Perhaps there are one or two of you out there who will miss this little ranty column, and to you I can only apologise. Apologise, and remind you that Leftlion will likely have no problem filling the maple leaf-shaped hole with somebody else’s words, and before long you’ll forget I was even here. But please remember the following; despite what the mainstream media says, Nottingham is full of talented and creative
people and really is a great place to live and write aboot.

I still return to Nottingham every couple of months, as my house is still constantly falling apart, and I have a mate or two here that still require visits (the needy gits). So if you see me looking petrified in Hooters with Owen, or splitting an absinthe with my Gothic plumber in the Pit and Pendulum, munching faggots at the Beer festival or doing it large at the Heavy Metal karaoke, feel free to come by and say hello. Just don’t get too close, you filthy, Nottinghamian animal.

Goodbye, ta duckehs, thanks for everything.

My Olympics 2012

LeftLion 48 cover. Wheat field with dark clouds

When you lived in a small town in the middle of the Canadian prairie, your senior year in high school was pretty much the best year of your life. Behind you lay the ruins of your bullied adolescence; ahead, seductive visions of escape. You’d yet to know any of life’s real pain, so you stupidly looked to the future with optimism and hope. It wouldn’t be long until all your dreams were crushed and you settled into a life of chopping hay or having your fingers lopped off in an oil rig’s anchor chain, but for that one year, life was good.

Being a high school senior in Brooks, Alberta came with certain privileges. Your curfews became a thing of the past, you had a 50/50 shot at getting served at the Newell Hotel and you could legally buy hollow point bullets from Canadian Tire. And if you were a farm kid, the years of getting your ears flicked from behind on the county school bus were over because at long last, the coveted back seat belonged to you.

So imagine my surprise when I walked onto the bus on my first day of my senior year to see the back seat taken up by a kid one year my junior, whilst my fellow Grade 12 bus riding pal, Chris, occupied the seat second from back. What was this all about? I asked myself. Don’t these people know the rules? The back seat was my prerogative – nay, my God-given right! Who was this interloper to deny me the back seat?

I searched Chris’s face for an answer as to why he hadn’t exerted his authority and received a deflated shrug in reply. The bus started moving and the driver barked at me to take my seat. I was at a crossroads; in one direction lie shame and humiliation, in the other, confrontation. Being a four-foot dork, confrontation was easily my least favourite thing (followed closely by talking to girls) but if I didn’t say something, I would be treated like a sucker for the whole year – maybe for the rest of my life. I couldn’t stand for that insult. I wouldn’t stand for that insult. I was going to march right up to this pony-tailed trespasser and put her straight.

I twisted my face into a scowl and charged the back of the bus, like Eric Pickles after a pork pie. That day, I would not be the pimply dwarf who buckled under a feather’s weight. That day, I was fierce, I was mighty; that day, I was to be a man. A real man, like ones in deodorant adverts. In my mind, I had the grit of a wounded wolverine and the law on my side.

Oddly, she didn’t seem scared at all. Just the opposite in fact. She sat defiantly, with her chin up and a face as cold and unmoving as an Easter Island statue. I opened my mouth to speak, met her hard stare full-on and promptly bottled it.

Defeated, I sat down beside Chris, leaned over and whispered; “Why didn’t you kick her out of the back seat?” Chris said nothing, but that didn’t mean my question went unanswered. The riposte was firm and direct and it came from the girl behind: “Rob, if you’ve got something to say, say it to my face.” As it turned out, I had nothing to say to her face. Nothing at all. Suddenly, the underside of the bus seemed like a perfectly welcoming place to be.

That snippy disposition and hardened glare didn’t do much for her secondary school bus decorum, but it did help her to win the World Cup fencing title in 2006 and secure a place at this summer’s Olympics. Her fourth. So when I decided to try for Olympics tickets this year, women’s fencing was high on my list. Twenty years had passed since my run-in with Sherraine Schalm, so I supposed it was time to put that terrible day on the bus behind me. I would do whatever it took to see that spiky girl from my tiny hometown of 12,000 compete on the world’s biggest stage.

Headless woman fencer, blood pooling into maple leaf by Rob White.

Illustration: Rob White

Now, I know where you think this is going. This column was initially going to be about the idiotic way the organisers doled out tickets. I had this whole big whinge prepared lamenting the fact that some lazy, Johnny-come-lately got a ticket for the 100m final at the 11th hour while a dedicated person (like me) who got up early on Day One and spent three hours clicking refresh got the shaft. After coming away ticketless in the first round, my column was half-written, bursting with vitriol and seething hatred. I had at least three jokes comparing David Beckham to a gardening implement but then, boom, I got tickets in the second round and lost interest.

From what I’ve gathered on the ground before the games, you people didn’t really give a toss about the Olympics anyway. If Big Ben was a giant limey Moan-O-Meter instead of a clock, it would be currently bonging its head off. It’s so corporate, mate! The IOC are crooks! It’s too expensive! The logo looks like Lisa Simpson giving head! Seb Coe looks like Face from the A-Team! Believe me, I’ve heard them all and I was right there with you. Until I got tickets. Now all I can say is: nyah nyah nyah-nyah nyah.

Now that I am actually going to be there, I really want to enjoy these Olympics. I want to lose myself in the joyous atmosphere of the world’s middle class getting together to cheer on its fastest and best at throwing heavy objects. I want to hug that weird mascot until its eye pops out. I want to help load a surface-to-air missile launcher in Notting Hill. I even want to be around other Canadians. Every time I hear a story about an Adidas exec pilfering a coveted torch-bearer slot or of another juiced-up sprinter being allowed to compete or, most infuriatingly, “London 2012 is proud to only accept VISA” I just cover my ears and eyes and hum the Super Mario 3 theme song in my head until an advert of Jessica Ennis’s midriff comes on TV and I can again allow myself to get pumped about the whole ridiculous, electric pink abomination.

I will be hoping Sherraine has a better outing this time around; the Beijing Olympics was one to forget. She went into the Games as a hot medal favourite and was knocked out in the first round by her former Hungarian training partner. She then removed her mask and launched into a sweary tirade at her opponent’s coaching team and apologised to the “Canadian taxpayer” for her failure. To say she “lost it a bit” would be an understatement. As a result of her so-called “un-Canadian” outburst (we’re all supposed to be uber-polite little darlings, dontcha know) there will be less press fanfare and public support for her this time, but if there is one thing I know about that girl from the bus, it’s that I will be happy to be watching the match from the stands and not directly opposite her, staring down the business end of her rapier.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

LeftLion 47 cover. Nottingham town centre old and new

Ah yes, Spring/Summer: my favourite time of year. The time when it rains one fewer day per week, I switch from stout to mild, Canada Geese get bitey, and, oh yeah, the Royals are all up in our faces. Again. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has the country enraptured or completely uninterested, depending upon which bit of the country it is that you live. In Nottingham, the Queen’s Jubilee (like pretty much everything), seems to get a big fat ‘meh’.

If I close my eyes really tight and repeatedly hit myself over the head with a rubber hammer, I can almost understand why enough people in this country go ga-ga for the Queen and her minions. The woman seems nice enough, has some cute fuzzy little hats and, as an added bonus, she lives in England most of the time. But why do so many Canadians want to remain under her rule? Why do so many of my countryfolk go categorically batshit for the woman? If, say, the King of Spain came to Calgary tomorrow and said, “Hey muchachos, please send us money for polo matches and garden parties”, we would tell him to go eat a chorizo, or some other mildly racist foodstuff-related threat. But for some reason we don’t mind shelling out an obscene amount of money for your Liz.

‘It’s less than a cup of coffee per person to support the Monarchy’; that’s a line that’s often used by Canadian royalists to soften the blow, and make us forget that we are basically helping prop up another country’s monarch in return for no tangible benefit. Canadians read that coffee quip and think, ‘A cup of coffee? Is that it? That’s not so bad.’ This is because we are morons. When you do the maths, the yearly total comes to over $50 million. That is quite a lot, even in Canadian money. Especially when the Canadian government is cutting public sector jobs and doing precisely zero to offset the damage that the Alberta tar sands are causing the environment, due to supposed budgetary constraints. The sight of the Duchess of Cambridge in a cowboy hat at the Calgary Stampede is definitely worth a bob or two, but $50 million? For that kind of money, I don’t think it would be out of order to expect a lapdance off her. With touching.

Man with union jack eyes hitting himself over the head with a hammer by Rob White.

Illustration: Rob White

According to Maclean’s magazine (Canada’s version of The Economist) Canadians pay more to support the Queen per person than the Brits do. Let me say that again: Canadians pay more to support the Queen than you people do. More. Canadians pay more. Not less. Not an equal share. More. My yearly contribution to the Queen has actually decreased as a result of my move to England. I’d make a joke of it if it wasn’t so tragic.

What is a Diamond Jubilee, anyway? It sounds like a square dancing festival in Kansas, or a Katie Price courting ritual. If Leviticus is to be believed, a jubilee marks a year of mass forgiveness of sins. So the Queen is a god now, is she? No, that’s stupid, because in the Bible, it says that a jubilee year takes once every fifty years. The Queen now has one every ten. That means she is five times as important as God.

And just what is Her Holiness doing to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee? Why, I’ll tell you; she’s attending a horse race, a boat race, a lunch and a couple of concerts. If I was loaded and worshipped by millions, I would do something much more exciting. I would eat oysters off a lion’s face and ride a Harley Davidson up the side of an Egyptian pyramid. Then I would scissor-kick a rhinoceros and run naked across Tiananmen Square covered in Branston pickle. I know she’s like a hundred and thirty five years old but gee whiz, Queen, live a little. At least have McDonald’s make you a Big Mac the size of Prince Philip’s head and eat it while pissing off the top of Blackpool tower.

In addition to the horsey-concert-boat-show, the Queen is releasing a brand new medal. Have you seen it? It’s shiny, it’s got the Queen’s head on and it dangles. Plus, if you ever really get stuck, it (along with 70p) can buy you a Diet Coke. It’s exclusively for military servicepersons, prison guards, and people who want to buy one off a military serviceperson or prison guard on eBay. I know it is hard to believe, considering what a treasured thing a Queen’s Jubilee medal is, but apparently they are being auctioned off by loads of ungrateful recipients. To its monumental credit, the government has said it is ‘saddened’ and ‘disappointed’. It breaks your heart, doesn’t it?

Ah well, I suppose I shouldn’t complain so much, seeing as I am a British citizen now after all. In fact, I will make you, the people of Britain, a pledge: I promise not to moan about the Royals on Jubilee day like I usually do. I will resist reminding you of Prince Philip’s “You look like you’re ready for bed!” comment to the President of Nigeria or Prince Andrew’s paedo pal. I won’t take the piss out of Nazi Harry. I won’t call Sarah Ferguson a ginger heifer. I won’t even shout “Twat!” when I see a grown man erecting Union Jack bunting. No, this year, I promise to be good. I promise to be a proper subject and keep my mouth firmly shut, in fact, I will do the most dutiful thing a person can do on this Diamond Jubilee: I’ll be going to Canada.

Life under a Tory

LeftLion 46 cover. Colourful spray painted wall

When the Tories were first elected, I saw it as something to tick off my list of UK Things To Do, along with ‘Drunken Gardening’ and ‘Getting Called “Our Kid” By Someone Without Irony’. Everyone in this country tends to go on a bit about the Thatcher years, so I thought “Ooh! Now I’ll get to see what all the fuss was about!”

I have now seen the fuss and, um, wow. It’s not exactly the non-stop rocketshipride-on-acid laughfest I had anticipated. In fact, it’s kinda awful. Virtually overnight, I seem to have acquired the UK sense of perpetual rage every time I turn on the TV. I used to love watching the news – “Ha ha ha, look at all those horrible things happening to other people!” But now it seems to be happening to me. The vast increases in rail and bus fares and (gasp) cycle-to-work scheme. The VAT rise jacking my gas bills up. Cuts and the rises in student fees putting my uni job in jeopardy. Every other day, my bank threatens to fold altogether. What the hell? I’m a middle class thirty-something white guy – I thought the government was supposed to be on my side!

Privatising the police force. How do you even do that? Adorn police stab vests with
patches, like him off the snooker? Febreze ads on pepper spray canisters that read; Wouldn’t
you rather be smelling the freshnosity of Febreze than tasting the searing pain of CS gas? This taser was brought to your eyeball by NPower?

Why stop at privatising the police force? Why not privatise parliament itself? Chasing tax-dodging corporations and regulating the banking industry to recover lost assets is obviously a waste of time, why don’t MPs do ads for Cillit Bang instead? And doctors, ha! Look at them running around all smug with their flashy, obscenely blank white coats. Do your share, doctor man! You think saving lives is enough? Get some Sky badges on that coat. In fact, use it to advertise drugs!

Ooh, I know! Let’s tax charities, or even better, churches! It’s a tough old world out there for Johnny Taxpayer and it’s about time these parasites started doing their share. When Cardinal Keith O’Brien comes out to bash gay marriage, why not do it with an ad for Kirk Cameron’s latest Jesusflick playing on his big, stupid Cardinal hat? Then we can have two out-of-touch assholes spewing hate at us at once! That’s almost double the message. Kids today are sophisticated animals, they don’t respond to crusty old pajamaed fuddy-duddies spreading bigotry with their boring analogue mouths anymore, it’s 2012 for God’s sake!

You need to digitise that discrimination, god boy! Pimp that prejudice! I mean, come on, those hats are literally crying out to be projected on. Virgin Hospitals, Barclays Nottingham City Council, the Senior Court of Appeal brought to you by Tesco; we are limited only by our imagination.

Drawing of Ed Miliband as a sausage by Rob White.

Unfortunately, we only have a few short years before those pesky Labourites come back and ruin everything. If only the Conservatives had someone as dynamic and inherently electable as Ed Miliband. He is precisely what a sausage would be like if it could talk. Is this pasty milquetoast really the one to go up against Cameron in the next election? This is exactly how the first debate will go:

Miliband: Excuse me! I have something like totally important to say or whatever.
Cameron: Oh, do shut up, Talking Sausage.

Boom. Five more years of Tory Hell™. Why has no one but me figured this out?

Ed may have some sound ideas for the country and he might care about poor people, but that don’t mean jack these days. This is the problem with you British people, you haven’t figured out that sexy beats common sense every time. Our Canadian Prime Minister, who is arguably the most boring man alive, has figured this out. Despite being Canada’s answer to Vladimir Putin, he has successfully conjured a majority government simply by playing street hockey and putting videos of himself on YouTube playing Proclaimers covers on the piano. That might not sound sexy to you, but to a Canadian, that’s like spraying himself with beef-flavoured Lynx deodorant and reverse cowgirling Salma Hayek on the back of a Harley Davidson. He could only be sexier in Canada if he accidentally chopped his leg off with a chainsaw.

David Cameron has figured this out. In the UK, the Bullingdon Club is sexy. Trust funds are sexy. Owning lots of land and offshore accounts are sexy. Tax avoidance is like freaking Spanish Fly. Miliband needs to sexify himself to the max, and quick as he’s already got a few strikes against him. I mean, not only did Ed not go to Eton, but his parents weren’t wealthy landowners, in fact, they weren’t even born in Britain! Yuck! He needs a little razzle-dazzle to distract the nation from the fact he is a horrible broke-ass foreign Talking Sausage.

When some smarmy Labour backbencher fiddles his expenses, Miliband needs to walk up and kick him square in the face. Then when the papers get on his back, drive around the East End handing out free cash. When Cameron starts giving him crap for his close ties with trade unions, ram a lit firework up his keister and spend the next day breaking the notouching rule in a strip club. Being intelligent and sensitive is Election Day poison. Selfish tantrums, infidelity and violent eccentricity are what people want these days. Get your social media persona right and the British people will forgive you anything. I mean, hey, it worked for Mario Balotelli.

Running the Gauntlet (or my cycling obsession part deux)

LeftLion 45 cover. Psychadelic Illustration of a woman dreaming by Cameron Mcbain

(Writers note: To fans of the blog, you will have noticed that I reused a gag from the first cycle obsession post. This is because that article was never published. Please find it in your heart to forgive me.)

If you’ve never done any cycle commuting in this country, let me tell you, it’s an absolute delight. Cycle commuting is such an enjoyable and rewarding experience. By the time I’ve arrived at work, I am so invigorated and ready to take on the challenges of the day, I can hardly keep myself from jumping up and shouting: Come on world, show me what you got!

The main reason for my upbeat attitude toward cycle commuting is the courteousness and understanding afforded me by the drivers in this country. They have a total and complete grasp of the fact that my only protection out there is a brain bucket made of plastic and hard foam whilst they themselves are encased in a half-ton of steel. The gap they create for me as they go past is so large and comfortable to the point of being embarrassing. I feel like a great Wooly Mammoth with all the space I take up, but the drivers don’t see it that way at all; they are only too happy to share the road with me. For you see, these people understand that if I wasn’t on my bike, I would be in my car further clogging up the roads. It’s all British drivers can do to stop themselves from rolling the window down and thanking me personally for my selflessness. I can see it in their eyes.

The mannerly and orderly way of British driving is eclipsed only by the mannerly and orderly way of British parking. A British driver would never DREAM of pulling over to snag a parking spot in front of their local Post Office without looking. No, they understand that killing someone is slightly worse than having to wait the extra twenty seconds it takes to let the cyclist go past first. The considerate practice of leaving the cycle lanes free and clear truly is an example for other drivers of the world to follow.

And the indicating! The timely and, frankly, persistent indicating makes every night ride a spectacle to behold. It’s like cycling through some sort of flashing amber wonderland or sparkly advert for Ferraro Rocher. Drivers, with all this indicating, you’re really spoiling us.

When I first started cycle commuting, I didn’t get the whole cyclist versus driver thing. I felt like I would be the one to bridge the divide between drivers and cyclists. Tutting other cyclists who ran red lights, stopping for cars at unmarked intersections (No, after you mate, please) and wearing baggy shorts to shield the drivers from my gyrating Johnson.

It didn’t last. Getting consistently honked, shouted and smashed into by the motoring public has changed my mind somewhat. As a result, I’ve sacked off the baggy shorts and now make a habit of pouring myself into a pair of lycra shorts three sizes too small just out of spite. Get an eyeful of those badboys, you lazy, inconsiderate, car-driving bastards.

Drawing of cars, bikes and blood by Rob White.

Let’s just get one thing straight before I continue. There is no, I repeat, NO such thing as road tax. Road maintenance is taken care of through the collection of council tax and other taxes. That little disc on your windshield has nothing to do with maintaining roads and it hasn’t done since 1937. That disc acts as proof that you’ve paid Vehicle Excise Duty and that fee exists mainly to combat CO2 emissions. Vehicle Excise Duty does not apply to us because (unless of course one has had a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast) bicycles are zero-emission. It is why zero-emission cars are also exempt. Surely, a person who’s paid real money for a car called “Leaf” deserves a bollocking more than I do. Go shout at them, why don’t you. It always seems to be some fat idiot in an R reg mondeo who shouts “Pay road tax or get off the road!” at me. Considering my bicycle is worth more than your car, mate, I would suggest I currently pay MORE “road” tax than you do, so zip it.

The number and array of dozy, selfish drivers out there is staggering. Minicabs, British Gas trucks, white vans and busses make my daily commute a gauntlet of death, but there is one group of drivers who put them all to shame. The most aggressive, most unaware, shoutiest and all around most awful people without question are Mums on the school run.

I have been knocked off my bike three times. And all three times it has been a hurried mum on the school run who has turned into the cycle lane without looking or indicating. I put this down to two things:

  1. Mums are always running late for things.
  2. Mums’ priorities are hopelessly out of whack.

Dearest mums, I know you think the planet will stop rotating if you don’t get your angel to his classes/sports match/scouts troupe on time, but let me be the first to tell you it really doesn’t matter at all. Your child’s very existence has no bearing anywhere at anytime on anything or anyone. On the list of “Most Important Things In The World”, your child getting to school on time ranks somewhere below “a hobo’s nail fungus” and “a gnat’s fart”. No amount of heavy-footed cyclist killing will make him love you. I can say with absolute conviction that the spoiled little nazi is entirely unimpressed by your efforts to get him to things on time. Chances are he’ll wind up shlepping fries at McDonalds or strung out on crack in a ditch somewhere despite your best efforts, so take it down a notch, will ya?

I know cyclists are not entirely blameless in this war. There are hundreds of helmetless cyclists out there with Morrissey haircuts and oversized designer eyewear who pass drivers on the wrong side, blaze through intersections without looking, scrape car doors with their pedals and who do more than their own fair share of shouting and V flicking. These people are called fixie riders. By all means run these people down, just don’t take your fury out on the rest of us. I thank you.

The Goose Fair

LeftLion 43 cover. Drawing of left lion with a hoody covered in graffiti.

I hereby announce the retirement of the word ‘chav’ from CINB. In an effort to be a better person – don’t laugh – I am going to try to stop saying it, and to certainly stop writing it down. It may be a lazy word and borderline racist, but that won’t stop me from missing it terribly; I defy anyone to find a better accompaniment to the word ‘bastard’.

‘Chav’ does need to go out with a bang, however, and what better subject to give it a proper send-off with than an account of my first visit to Goose Fair? LeftLion had been bugging me to do a Goose Fair piece for years, but I could never bring myself to go. Goose Fair? Are you nuts? That’s the belly of the beast, man! Chav HQ. Trackie Central, Hoodie Ground Zero.

Here’s the thing; in my home town, we have a little thing called the Calgary Stampede. Maybe you’ve heard of it? The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth, dahling. We know our fairgrounds, yeah? And ours are almost completely chav-free. OK, so the redneck count is a tad high, but what are you gonna do? It’s a giant rodeo. In comparison to that, Goose Fair was bound to be awful. Hordes of little chavlettes, tweaking their tits off on mini-doughnuts and smacking the crap out of each other with plastic LED swords. Fat mom-chavs using their eighteen-kid prams as battering rams. Young hoodies knifing each other over 50p candy apples.

Bottom line: Goose Fair was going to make me hate fairgrounds, and I didn’t want that to happen. I love the Calgary Stampede; I didn’t want anything to tarnish the warm memories of scoffing watered-down beer and puking through the metal cage of the Sizzler. But it was time. I’d managed to wiggle my way out of it for four years, and I could wiggle no longer. I was to come face-to-face with my biggest Nottingham nightmare whether I liked it or not.

Drawing of an hooded geese by Rob White.

Sure enough, I encountered my first chav family as soon as I stepped foot off the bus. There were about twenty of them, pushing each other and dropping c-bombs like it was going out of style. Six teeth between the lot of them. After a few minutes of playing Guess The Dad, I leaned across to my longsuffering CINB excursion mate, Owen, and said;
‘Christ, here we go.’ In fact, that should be Goose Fair’s slogan. Goose Fair: Christ, Here We Go.

The first thing to greet us at the gate was the freakshow. Dead animals with two heads,
a half crow-half rabbit and, naturally, Mr Big Mouth from Hull. I scoffed at Owen. ‘Oh yeah, we used have these back home. Like in 1926. HA. HA. HA.’ each ‘ha’ followed by a sarcastic clap. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure, the freak trailer is a basically a line of things in glass boxes so blanketed in dust as to render them unrecognisable. And it stinks. Cost to view the freakshow: £1.50. Admission to Nottingham Contemporary: £0. This is the world in which we live. One could also point out that the real freakshow was the Chavpocalypse happening in the men’s toilets, but that would be mean.

We walked a bit further and saw an enormous sign advertising ‘COCKS ON STICKS’. “HA. HA. HA. Bra-vo!” I scoffed again (more sarcastic clapping). “You see that, Owen? Do you see that? What else would a chav buy? A candy rooster on a stick so they can say ‘Suck my cock’ and not get in trouble. So typical. So utterly predictable”. But that’s where the food predictability ended. Mushy peas with mint sauce? On its own? The noodle bar seemed about as rational at a fairground as a Megadeth poster at Anne Frank’s house, but even bowls of Yaki Udon made more sense than the whole coconuts for sale. I’m sorry, Nottingham, but there only three states of fairground food: 1) deep fried 2) candied or 3) flossed. You can’t argue with that, it’s science. A couple of goes on the Crazy Shake and it will be moving in the reverse direction anyway. If you can’t throw a wooden ball at it, a coconut has no business at a fairground. Health Schmelth – it’s the one day of the year it’s OK to be bulimic, you may as well go for it. Spend the other 364 days of the year worrying about your BMI.

(And I’m sorry to go on, but how in God’s name are you supposed to eat a coconut, anyway? I picked one up thinking it must be some sort of trick – like maybe it was a chocolate coconut filled with nougat dipped in batter. Nope, it was real. A real, whole coconut. It wasn’t even cracked – you were somehow expected to open it yourself. The coconut proprietor and I stared at each other for a few awkward moments before I put it back on the pile and walked on without a word.)

I will give Goose Fair one thing: health and safety is happily lacking. The Calgary Stampede has always prided itself on being lawless, unhinged and non-PC. Cowboy hats, animal abuse, Wrangler ball-huggers… this is the Wild West we’re talking about! Two things you will not see at the Calgary Stampede fairground, however, are children barely old enough to walk brandishing full-sized bow and arrows, and grown men throwing baseballs at beer bottles. The guy manning the beer bottle smash game looked positively bored as shards of broken glass rained down on him. I’ve never seen a man face a sliced jugular so calmly; he should be in MI6. He looked entirely capable of yawning his way through a waterboarding session.

Not only that, but once you made your way into Goose Fair proper, you could see that it had some serious rides. Stargate, The Turbo Booster, the inverted bungee jump…and the fact that the bungee looked like it could snap at any minute only added to the appeal. And I know that moaning about the prices of rides at Goose Fair is the national pastime of Nottingham, but believe it or not, they’re actually cheap. The inverted bungee at the Calgary Stampede costs fifty dollars to ride. Fifty bucks!

Goose Fair wasn’t the chav hellhole I expected. Don’t get me wrong, they were there in numbers, but there were also other people there. Non-chavs. Kids dressed head-to-toe in Baby Gap with balloons and some sort of (hopefully) food-based substance on their faces, their mothers sipping cappuccinos. And they seemed to be having fun. ‘What the hell is this?’ I asked Owen. ‘What do you mean?’ he replied. ‘This!’ I said, pointing. “Middle class people! What the hell are they doing here?’

But it wasn’t just the middle class people and the chavs; everyone was there. St Ann’s thugs, West Bridgford preps, Games Workshop dorks, townie drunks, Market Square goths. What I assumed would be a big outdoor borstal was actually nothing short of the perfect cross-section of the Nottingham populace, all getting along with each other. By ‘getting along’ I mean ‘giving each other as wide a berth as possible while being wedged into a field’, but still.

All I need to do now is work out the ‘Goose’ element. I imagine, like everything else in this country, it’s some sort of horrifying myth that has to do with the Plague; some evil, diseased goose waddled from house to house infecting the town’s residents by crapping into their sleeping mouths, and the only way to appease it was to have a fair in its honour. Who knows? Whatever it is, it seems to unite the residents of Nottingham in a way nothing else in this town does, and that can only be a good thing. So this year, don’t ignore it – embrace it. Just don’t embrace anyone while you’re there – they’re probably covered in sticky chunks of candied cock, broken glass and coconut milk.

Limey journos

LeftLion 42 cover. Celebs bask on the Nottingham Riviera.

I am officially bored of news. When I turn on the TV, news. On the radio, more news. It’s around the corner, it’s under my bed, it’s in my ice cube trays and in between my toes.

When I started writing this column on the phone-hacking scandal, it was just going to be a little piss-take about how the sight of Rupert Murdoch in the back of a limo in short pants, legs akimbo made me physically choke on my left lung and how Rebekah Brooks looks a bit like a pasty, pissed-off ginger she-squirrel. But news just kept on happening. They’re hacking dead soldiers phones! They’re hacking 9/11 families phones! They’re paying off cops! Whistleblowers are dying! They hacked a dead girl’s phone? I mean…come on. It stopped being funny pretty quick. This is not a political column; my articles are puff pieces, cutesy pie pokes at British life through the eyes of a whinging expat. How am I supposed to write with all this news hanging about?

I always knew news in this country was nuts. One of my very first experiences with British “newspapers” happened just before my first visit to ol’ Blighty. I was working my last day before setting off to visit my English girlfriend (now wife) when a co-worker said, “Dude, make sure you pick up a copy of the Daily Sport while you’re over there.” He didn’t say “Make sure you see Big Ben” or “Westminster Abbey is pretty cool” – no, his one piece of British travel advice was to pick up a newspaper on British sport. We’d known each other for years and he knew I cared as much about British sport as I do about the eating habits of the Australian brush-turkey (I care about sport slightly more now, but even as a half-Brit, the thought of thumbing through an entire paper devoted to cricket and snooker literally makes my balls whimper, but anyway). He answered my perplexed look with a laugh. “Just buy one. It’s amazing”.

Wandering around Nottingham in a haze of jet-lag and culture shock (their potatoes wear jackets over here?), my girlfriend (now wife) and I passed a newsagents and I told her that I had to pick up some sports magazine thing for my buddy back home. Scanning the racks full of news, the first thing I noticed was the tits. Tits everywhere. Tits on the front covers, tits on the back covers, tits in the middle, tits, tits, tits. And that was just the newspapers. There was another shelf above it with magazines (more tits) and another shelf above that with magazines wrapped in foil so you couldn’t see the covers. If they were displaying all these tits so frivolously on the fronts of newspapers, how freaky did something have to be to get wrapped in foil? Llamas in bondage peeing on each other? Who knows.

Moving past the tits, I spotted the sport magazine section. Ah yes, it must be over here; the covers of these ones have football guys on; FourFourTwo, When Saturday Comes, World Soccer…ah yes, here it is! The Daily Sport. I picked it up triumphantly and declared to my girlfriend (now wife), Aha! This is the one!

Guess what? Tits on the front cover, tits on the back cover, tits in the middle and tits on every page. Tits, tits, tits. I think there were some footy scores in there somewhere near the back, but I could be mistaken. This can’t be it, I said nervously, my buddy’s laughter ringing in my ears. This is just full of tits. Flick flick, look here, more tits. And here! Flick flick. My girlfriend watched me with a look that one would give a dog who’d just dragged his shitting dog-bum across the carpet; one part disappointment and two parts pity.

My second clue that perhaps the British media wasn’t brilliant was in the last election when The Sun declared its support for the Tories on its front page. I thought, “Hang on – can they actually do that?” All newspapers have their political slant, but I’d never seen one declare its party affiliation so blatantly. It wasn’t just the crazy papers like the Sun and the Mail, either; the Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph all unabashedly declared their party support. I’d never seen anything like it. Even Murdoch’s deranged tabloid news channel on the other side of the pond pretends it’s impartial.

Having said that, I still didn’t think British news was as low-rent as Fox News. Fox News darlings Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck have made gaybashing xenophobia the must-have personality trait for the discerning American conservative. No amount of tits or celebrity goss would out-evil that. But then the News of the World/Milly Dowler thing was revealed. Not even wacky old Bill O’Reilly would hack a dead girl’s phone. The dead girl could have been a lesbian, Obama-supporting Greenpeace hippy and Bill would’ve probably left her alone for the most part. Andy Coulson makes Bill O’Reilly look like a little fluffy bunny who blows candy kisses and farts rainbows.

What exactly is Rupert Murdoch’s modus operandi? What goes on in a News Corp meeting? Is “Destroying Every Living Human Being’s Life On Planet Earth” part of the agenda? I’ve never been to a News Corp meeting, but I think I can say with certainty that it involves beating children to death with bats and drowning kittens.

Drawing of an evil Rupert Murdoch as an octopus by Rob White.

Now anyone with half a brain already hated News of the World because, frankly, it was crap. I don’t like to judge, but if you were a regular News of the World reader, you are a moron. I hate to break it to you, but your parents are brother and sister. Or at least first cousins. The only people who miss the News of the World are the ones who you see around town in velour tracksuits eating chips for breakfast and chewing gum with open mouths. I’m surprised these people could turn the pages without taking their eye out.

But it’s not just the crap Murdoch papers that have screwed up royally; no, the lefty papers are junk as well. The Guardian, drunk on the blood of its now defunct rivals, published a story stating that the NOTW had obtained information that Gordon Brown’s kid had cystic fibrosis illegally when in fact it didn’t. Even my favourite paper The Independent was proved to be bent when it was discovered that their preachy little doughball columnist Johann Hari was madly plagiarising quotes in his interviews. But that kind of just went away, didn’t it? I bet little Johann is sitting in a quiet London suburb somewhere drinking milkshakes and thanking his dark lord Satan that the whole NOTW schmozzle happened when it did.

The British media are like a pack of hyperactive goldfish Jimmy Swaggarts (Google him, youngsters). Zero short term memory, banging their heads against the bowl, pointing their fins angrily one minute, crying and asking for forgiveness the next. I didn’t mean it baby, really I didn’t. Hey look over there! Someone else is doing something dodgy, and THEY’VE GOT THEIR TITS OUT.

Forget it, I’ve had it with the lot of em. I’m throwing my TV in the bin, chucking my radio in a skip and burning down my local CostCutter. From now on, I’m getting my news strictly from twitter. It’s so free and untainted. It helped wikileaks break their stories and was first to show us Wayne Rooney’s hair plugs. That’s all I need really, why, according to the twitter news today #whitepeoplehobbies include “Falling down running in horror movies” and “Walking they kids with leashes”. Hahaha, it’s so true.

Shit British barbecues

LeftLion 41 cover. Photo of a puppet show in front of Whitworth house.

Ah, it’s that time of year again, British Summertime. Or as people in other countries call it, ‘spring’.

British summertime is the three weeks or so in this country when short pants, patios and white beer suddenly make sense. You never see a convertible all year, and then April comes around and they’re everywhere – usually driven by some penis in a pair of aviators with his collar up. Yeah mate, you’re super-cool with your top down (to show everyone you like to party) and windows up (because it’s still nippy, and you need to protect your pretty bouffant – you don’t want to look like you’re having too much fun).

Summer – like everything else in this country – is all about being careful. You drive your convertible with its windows up to the beach, then you erect a weird little canvas fort to keep the sand away. Then you put out some sandwiches on a picnic table (no open flames to cook on, of course), and play a game of ‘spin the family around the table so the sun isn’t on anyone’s neck for too long’. Preparation for the outdoors in the British summertime is an afternoon’s activity in itself; it usually entails a two-hour conversation on what to bring. “Shorts? Check. Jeans? Check. Hat? Check. Fleece? Check. Should we take a bottle of wine? Have you seen my Mac? Should I make an egg salad? Sun cream? Have we got enough sun cream? It’s only factor 15? Are you crazy? We’ll be killed! Oh, what’s the point?”

Drawing of a penis driving a convertible  by Rob White.

And then there is the British barbecue. I’m actually surprised that barbecues are even allowed over here, to be honest. Fire and coal? Outside? You could burn someone’s face off! It’s only a matter of time before the health and safety people force a luminescent vest on the barbecuer and have the grill itself surrounded by traffic cones and police tape.

Because it only happens once or twice a year, you Brits don’t know what to do; you get all giddy and throw just about anything on there. Sausages. Chicken. Courgettes? Cheese? Sliced courgette on a barbecue is bad enough, but cheese has as much place on a barbecue as chocolate does on a harmonica. It’s not even nice cheese you put on there either, like maybe a slice of Stilton on top of a burger; no, it’s that horrible halloumi stuff, and you put it right on the grill. That horrible squeaking it does on your teeth – yargh! I’m rubbing my own teeth right now just thinking about it. It’s like eating salty styrofoam.

I know the cheese is on there to appease the veggies in the crowd, but seriously: what is a veggie doing at a barbecue in the first place? Can’t they have their own, I dunno… casserole party or something? My wife is one of these veggies. She’s not a real veggie, thank God; she at least eats fish. Fake veggies like her annoy the proper ones even more than us animal murderers do. At a barbecue once, a Real Veggie gave my wife grief for eating fish and calling herself a vegetarian, “People who eat fish and call themselves vegetarians make it hard for us proper vegetarians when we eat out!” I was going to remind her that she was at a freakin’ BARBECUE and not an Animal Liberation Front rally, but I resisted. I’m too passive-aggressive for that sort of thing. So I just squeezed some sausage juice on her halloumi kebab when she wasn’t looking.

I didn’t realise barbecuing was a big Canadian stereotype until I moved over here. There aren’t many proper Canadian stereotypes that apply to me; I’ve never chopped a tree down, I’ve never met Michael Bublé and there are few things I despise more than maple syrup. Maybe it’s because people here assume that Canadians don’t actually have kitchens in their log cabins, but no matter; they think I know what I’m talking about (unless an Aussie is around, of course; then I’m pretty much ignored). I’ve been to a few British barbecues and been given a pre-emptive apology that it will not be up to ‘Canadian standards’. I have absolutely no idea what ‘Canadian standards’ are, but Leonard Cohen wouldn’t tolerate frigging squeaky cheese on his grill, I can tell you that.

British barbecue activities are interesting as well. This is the only country where I’ve seen outdoor badminton played with a racquet in one hand and an umbrella in the other. Not for the rain of course, but for the sun. Sunbrellas! Jesus. When I was a kid in Canada, we played lawn darts. ‘Dart’ is a tad misleading; ‘mini-javelin’ would be more apt. It’s basically a foot-long, heavy metal projectile that you toss into the air (underhand) toward a circle in the grass about twenty feet away. Of course, Grandma would want a go after a couple sherries and take the dog’s eye out, but that’s the price you pay for a little Canadian fun. At the last British barbecue I was at, people rolled some balls on the grass and played a game called ‘Pulse’ which basically consisted of sitting down quietly and holding hands. How you people won all those wars, I will never know.

So, in conclusion, it’s safe to say the sun makes you people a bit like me when the cricket’s on – all smiley, yet massively confused. Roll on July, I say, so we can all go back to hiding in pubs out of the drizzle, eating heavy Sunday lunches and drinking even heavier beers. After all, that’s what the British summer is really all about.

The Royal Wedding

LeftLion 40 cover. Drawing of Wills and Kate on their stag and hen dos, both of them are naked.

Have you got your Kate and Wills party planned? Ooh, what are you going to do to celebrate it? I’ve bought bunting and streamers and some “Let them eat cake” cake toppers! Get it? It’s just so exciting isn’t it? We’re finally going to get a new Diana! I could just burst!

I am having a dilly of a time trying to decide what I’m going to do for my party; it’s so difficult to decide how to celebrate such an important event. I’ve got my party plan ideas narrowed down (from literally thousands) to the following three: 1) A Henry VIII themed one man show inviting a random woman on stage to be impregnated. Then, if she fails to produce a male heir from my defective seed, she is beheaded. Or 2) Burn some protestants in homage to Mary I or 3) Just wander the town centre bored and drunk on sherry shouting profanities at brown people, you know, just like… well… take your pick really.

I know it’s cliché for an unkempt colonial commoner such as me to have a go at the royal family, but gee whiz, they just make it so darn easy! I mean just look at them, I could do a whole column on the size of their teeth.

I suppose I have a very Canadian view of the whole royalty thing. I’ll bemoan the fact that they’re privileged and have done absolutely nothing to deserve that privilege, but if one of them parades down my street, I’ll probably stick my head out and have a look, and if I’m completely honest, if I was invited to the wedding I’d be there in a shot. If for no other reason than to catch a glimpse of a coked out and frothing 300lb Sarah Ferguson clinging to the gates, an army of Queen’s Guard soldiers lying dazed in her wake, stomped half to death, their stupid bearskin hats ripped to shreds; “The tasers! They do nothing!”

Drawing of Prince Andrew's helicopter landing on the cake by Rob White.

Just imagine the potential for schadenfreude. Watching the backseat royals close up squirming and grinning through their teeth while the proper royals are fawned over would be delicious. Especially Prince Harry. Seriously, how bad will it suck to be Harry to have to sit through that whole thing? I know what it is like to have successful brothers, I have two of them; one of them travels all over the world with the oil industry making more money in a few months than I do in a year and the other is annoyingly bright with an engineering degree, an MBA and prospects out the ying yang. When your brothers kick your ass at life, it’s a right pain in the ass, but at least my own family will be there to remind me of my own tiny successes. “You’re just as good as your brothers! Sure, they’re minted and important, but you wrote that thing in Grade 11 social studies that got an A, remember?” Oh yeah! In your face bro!

You can’t really blame Harry for getting doped up and dressing like a Nazi. You’d do the same thing if your family constantly reminded you that no matter what you do, you’ll never be as good as your older sibling. “But Daddy, I went to Afghanistan and killed many undesirables… I’m a tank commander and everything!” “Oh, that’s very nice, Son, too bad you weren’t born first eh? Hahahaha.” God, if I was Harry, I’d be hopped up on Vicodin and nail polish remover every day, covered in hookers, my own spew and unicorn tatts.

But at least Harry is young and third in line to the throne; all he’s got to do is kill his brother and eventually he’ll be the big boss. Andrew and Edward missed their chance, which is why they hang out with paedos and make rubbish TV game shows to get attention. Whenever I feel like I’ve done something stupid, I just play Edward’s “What’d you think?” moment to the press after his Royal Knockout quiz show and I feel better about myself. The YouTube version mixing the moment his dreams are shattered with keyboard cat is particularly good.

You just know that every time news of the Queen prolonging her reign comes out, Andrew and Edward share a quiet high five at their brother’s expense. Probably over the back of one of their cousins while in the midst of a royal threeway.

William has picked the perfect time to marry. It is only a matter of time before the royal ugly gene takes over completely. The Hot Diana gene put up a valiant fight, William was almost good looking there for awhile, but hotness is recessive—the butt-ugly gene is dominant, especially where the royal family is concerned. Royal family men are like the Emperor from Star Wars; the older and more powerful they get, the more they look like the lovechildren of Sloth from The Goonies and Mr Ed. As the years pass, they grow paler and sicklier and their hair just sort of melts away. Like a fog. And the jowls… dear god the jowls.

I suppose it’s at this point I should explain that most of the stuff above is unfounded rubbish. I’m sure the royals do good work and earn all that money we give to them. I bet Prince Andrew pumps tons of money out of his paedo mates for the country (yes, I know I already did that joke) and Charles… well, you know… sorry, what does he do again? Oh well, at least I got through the entire column on the royal family without calling Prince Philip a racist.

Raunchy royal banner, Kate with her tits out

As much as I take pot shots at the royal family, it is quite difficult to be peed off at someone who gives you a day off work. And to be totally fair, they’ve chosen a wonderful time of year to do it. They could’ve been real dicks and done it in February. Frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine anything better than a beer on a sunny, spring patio on a workday; hell, I might even watch a bit of the wedding on TV. Oh, that’s right, no I won’t.