Category Archives: published

David Mitchell at the Manchester Literature Festival


Festival Blogger Robert Cutforth takes an unconventional approach to reviewing the David Mitchell event at RNCM: an imagined letter from the author to reviewer

Dear Robert,

Or is it Rob? I know you folksy Canadian types have a penchant for hypocorism (You called me “Dave” in your letter) but I find doing the same gives me indigestion. Oh, what the hell, I’m at the end of my press tour for The Bone Clocks so I’m feeling cheeky. Rob it is.

In your letter, you mentioned that you saw me reading from The Bone Clocks at the RNCM, but because your portable recording device died, you can’t remember a thing I said and thought it might be useful if I wrote you to repeat everything I said during the talk. It was an odd request—not to mention rude—but as I say, you’ve caught me in a good mood.

In particular, you wanted me to go over (for a second time) what makes a good character. As I mentioned last Thursday, I write letters to myself from my characters in order to get to know them better. They tell me about their formative childhood experiences, things they think about, class, ambition, money, all that sort of thing. A writer must do more than simply observe his characters, one must inhabit them. Also, it doesn’t hurt to be a bit meta, does it? I’m asking you a question. You. No, not Robert, you, the person reading this blog post. I am talking directly to you. Hi. Nice shirt.

What other things? Oh yes. Treat your regular readers with a good deal of respect and reward them for their loyalty with little bits of what I call “mental furniture”. I know you’ve only read one of my books (the big one) so this doesn’t apply to you… in fact, why am I writing to you again? Ugh, nevermind, I’ve come this far, I may as well finish… Mental furniture is the stuff crammed into my anti-Tardis-like brain that can’t help but find themselves into all my books. Talking Heads, Alain-Fournier, cats etc. There is nothing wrong with giving a bit of yourself to your readers; you’re an artist after all, not a mechanic.


Don’t get upset when you’re compared to Murakami or been outed as a massive fan of Dr Who. Embrace the backhanded compliment “storyteller” the snooty types will put on you for writing anything a bit “out there”. Wear your Booker losses like badges of honour.

When doing a reading, leave them on a cliffhanger. Which reminds me… I have a book out. It’s called The Bone Clocks. It’s similar in style to my other books in that it’s a bit epic, but delivered in digestible chunks, it treats time like an infant’s plaything and well, you’ll just have to read it to find out more.

I hope that jogs your memory a bit, next time perhaps instead of attempting to illegally record my talk, you bring a pad and pen.



PS If you write anything in your piece about Crispin Hershey even remotely resembling Martin Amis, I will kill you.

Will Self at the Manchester Literature Festival


Robert Cutforth reports back from the Northern Lights Writers Conference at Sale Waterside, where he has an unsettling encounter with Will Self…

The Northern Lights Writers Conference starts pleasantly enough with writers Joanna Kavenna and Jo Bell discussing the difficulties in extracting money from people who ask us to write something for them. It’s tough out there, new writers, but not impossible. You simply need to lower your expectations, be willing to make an arse of yourself and do the odd bit of lecturing or burger flipping to avoid the breadline. It’s a bitter pill for most prospective writers with JK Rowling-style delusions of glory to swallow, but it is very useful advice and delivered with a “hey, we’re all in it together” kind of spirit that leaves us with a modicum of hope.

And then a man who is clearly undead wafts onto the stage.

I don’t mean the gaunt, altitudinous figure before us is a vampire in the metaphorical sense, no. It took me precisely one second to determine with extreme certainty that this man spends his days sleeping in a coffin and his nights flying above the streets of Whitby looking for living things to eat. Behold, William Woodard Self, the destroyer of worlds.

He begins his talk by asking genre fiction writers to identify themselves. Proud hands go up. Having read some of Self’s fiction beforehand, I suspect it would be unwise to raise my hand despite the fact I’m writing my second novel that just happens to have post-apocalyptic Manchester as its setting. I am right to be suspicious. “I have nothing to say to you,” he says and snaps his fingers. The fools with their hands aloft vanish in puffs of foul smelling smoke.

For the stunned few of us who are left, he has some practical advice: Ostinato Rigore which he says means “constant rigor” but I am pretty sure is some sort of spell. He elaborates. Ostinato Rigore in the writerly sense means to keep busy. Write anything and everything you can, especially when first starting out. He proves his devotion to Ostinato Rigore by regaling us with tales of his early days writing questions for pornographic board games and ghostwriting Ronnie Biggs’ joke book. I laugh and allow a single buttcheek to unclench.


Sensing we are warming to him a bit too much, Self shakes a bat out of his cloak, draws a graph on a whiteboard that illustrates his tumbling sales figures and proclaims the death of the novel as an art form is nigh. I re-clench.

A woman asks him what a young writer is to do if their chosen vocation is indeed on the brink of extinction. “I would look into a different medium,” he says and produces a flawless human femur from his back pocket. With a flick of his wrist, the femur hurtles through the air and finds purchase in her left eye socket with a distinct ker-chunk. Self blows a disinterested raspberry into the microphone as her head rolls down the stairs.

After lunch, he reads a particularly cheery excerpt from his new book, Shark, that centres on a delirious sailor as he floats amongst the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis with his dying comrades. While singing an American folk song, the protagonist unlatches another sailor’s life jacket and watches the boy slowly disappear into the shark-infested deep.

A journalism student accidentally misquotes Self whilst asking a question. Before the last word leaves his lips, Self leaps from the stage and promptly chainsaws the student into bite-sized pieces and stuffs them down his throat one after the other. His jagged Adam’s apple jumps and clicks with each gulp gulp gulp. As he dabs the chunks of bloody student from the corners of his mouth with a silken hanky, he suggests aspiring journalists should perhaps get their facts straight before asking stupid questions.

Trembling and suffering from a debilitating case of Stockholm Syndrome, I approach the man afterward and ask him to autograph my copy of Shark. To break the icy stillness that descends as he scratches his name onto the title page in phlegm, I ask his opinion on MAs in Creative Writing. He has already implied that the genre in which I write is silly and that long form fiction in general is toast, so why not go for the trifecta and have him ravage my academic choices as well?

He arises from his seat, takes me in his arms and twirls me about the room. A tuxedoed string quartet appears from behind the bar, playing The Blue Danube. The floor falls away and everyone but us plummets screaming into a pit of fire. Faster he spins me above the flames, his terrible eyes focussed on something out the window, his terrible mouth tutting my crap waltzing technique. “Come on, man, one two three, one two three…” I am terrified and enraptured in equal measure.

As the fire snuffs out the cellist’s final note, Self dips me. “An MA in Creative Writing is a waste of time,” he says and brings my face so close to his that I expect to feel his hot breath, but there is none. “Stretch yourself by getting a proper degree, like philosophy” and plunges his fangs into my neck.

Sounds from the other city

I have been to Salford exactly three times and always by accident. I suppose that’s odd considering Salford is precisely 2.1 miles from my front door (thanks Google Maps) but I just never felt the need to go there. On purpose.

The area around Chapel St has been described to me as an “ungentrified Northern Quarter”, and if you think about it, it is quite like Manchester’s Northern Quarter except that it is nothing like it at all. The Northern Quarter has bars with DJs, gourmet burger joints, music venues, art galleries and craft beer shops. Salford has a Premier Inn with all the letters in the sign burned out, a pub off Coronation Street and a boys home you can cycle around like him from The Smiths. Salford has beards like the Northern Quarter, but unlike a well-coiffured NQ beard, a Salford beard has things in it. Like fluff. Or chips.

Only a music festival in a place as odd as Salford could you see a band called Kult Country in a pub called The Old Pint Pot, or Grumbling Fur in an old mill. Only at a Salford festival could an active parish church be home to ambient techno. There is an actual tent as well (just so you know it’s a festival), but I imagine it exists solely as a place to self-righteously tut. Yech, a tent? So Glasto.

With a festival as bonkers as this, I thought it might be a good idea to do some research. For you. I had big plans. I was going to listen to every band and create a fancy infographic, dividing the acts into tidy genres so you could decide in which venue you should plonk yourself down and at which time. A good idea, right? It was impossible.

How do you classify a band who does Spanish surf rock, punk and dub all on the same album (Las Kellies)? Or a band with a name that is unpronounceable (ZZZ’s)? How do you classify a band who has yet to release an album or who are in fact not even a band? How do you classify an activist? It’s really annoying for an OCD, data dork like myself; that infographic was gonna be awesome. With bespoke images and everything.

Mark Carlin, SFTOC head honcho describes it thus:

”We tend to favour promoters and programmers that are blurring the lines between disciplines, be it art, music, theatre, film; so rather than having music in one place, visual art in another place, theatre in another space, we really enjoy when they all meld together as in one in chaotic cross section.”

Music is in a strange place at the moment. The pop juggernaut that is currently steamrolling everything is making it difficult for anyone without electric teeth or a push up bra to get on a festival stage, so it is nice to find a festival that hasn’t a single act I’ve heard of on the bill. A festival with an eclectic mix of underground acts, artists, producers and venues. A festival in a city 2.1 miles from my house (or a quick train ride from Liverpool).

One thing is for sure, this is not a festival for planning ahead. No lists, no diaries, no apps required. Like the city itself, this is the festival for flipping coins and hoping for the best. This is a festival for winging it.

Published 1 May 2014 by The Double Negative.


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.