I could try to be clever
But what use is intelligence to me?
Number in class = 26
Position in class = 26
Well, that was me fucked! That wasn’t in the script. Being clever is a curse. It’s all a bit subjective isn’t it? I mean, what defines cleverness, clever in what way? Adding up, writing stuff, remembering stuff, so what? I never read books as a kid, even though I was encouraged to do so. I liked maps, drawing maps, drawing birds of prey, making model aeroplanes, the Messershmidt 262 was my favourite Nazi engine of death. I passed the 11 plus, or did I? I vaguely remember being told that I’d actually failed it, but they’d made an exception for me because they could see that I had potential. Potential for what? Anyway, doesn’t matter because I was going the grammar and that was that. No tears from me would persuade them otherwise. I was bought a geometry set and a uniform and a brief case. A fucking brief case! On the Grange estate!! You want stigma, there it is, right there.
I can still smell that briefcase now, its leathery odour of expectation. Well, first report, two subjects; bottom of the class and there were some proper thick cunts in our class let me tell you. Kids who could barely write their own name yet had somehow managed to pass their 11 plus. They seemed to come form the posh schools, funny that, as if there was a quota system operating or something. Anyway, the exams came up in the summer and I got my report;
Number in class = 26
Position in class = 26
Maths and some other subject, biology I think or combined science or whatever the fuck. Not only did I have to endure the provocation of those who equated the grammar school with homosexuality – grammar puffs – but the realisation that I was now not one of the clever kids but one of the thick ones. It’s all relative after all.
I could try to be funny
But what use is humour to me?
People are usually surprised when they meet me because I come across in print as a bit of a self-righteous, humourless gobshite and I am a self-righteous, gobshite but I like to think I’m a funny one. My sense of humour has always been one way of avoiding the usual working class routes to popularity, ruthless ultra-violence and an ability to dive off bridges into the canal or break legs in football games. Junior school is where you find your place in the pecking order and secondary school, those five never-ending years, will either make you or break you.
Our junior school, Halton Lodge was typical of many council estate schools constructed in the 60s. It was modern and functional and brutal. I used humour to counteract my shyness and uselessness at fighting. When it came to end of term ‘bring a game in’ day, rather than Kerplunk, Crossfire, Battling Tops or Striker, I’d bring in my precious microscope and try to impress girls with close ups of hair follicles or the tiny biddies floating around in a drop of piss. Wearing a lab coat didn’t help.
Then at the Christmas party fancy dress, when all the other kids simply put on their older brother’s footy kit and came as Kevin Keegan, Stuart Pearson or Bob Latchford, I’d roll up as leading enlightenment figures. One year I came as Tom Paine and read an extract from ‘The Rights of Man.’ Kevin Keegan won it that year. Another year I came as Rousseau and quoted his famous maxim “Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being.” The headmaster asked me if I was trying to be a smart-arse and awarded first prize to Donna Jones who had painted her face orange and come as a carrot.
Ofcourse these are lies, not the microscope bit, that was true and I did go to the fancy dress as Oliver Twist one year but you catch my drift. I was a strange kid. One time I went to the park with six or seven belts tied around my kecks and one lad asked why. I told him my dad had told me to ‘belt up’ and I’d taken him literally. I ingratitiated myself with the school’s hard knocks which resulted in them picking on some other poor cunt instead, usually ‘Ironside’ who had the misfortune to have been born with a muscular wasting disease that affected his legs and, as his family were poor, had to endure having his misshapen legs placed inside medieval iron callipers.
This only encouraged us to chase him around the playground and he was surprisingly fast for a skinny kid weighed down by three hundred weight of solid iron. When we caught him sometimes we’d put him in the ‘kicking pot’ which was the small circle at the centre of the netball court and proceed to kick fuck out of him. Is that funny? No, it isn’t but that’s what having a sense of humour saved me from, most of the time at any rate. I had my share of beatings too.
I could try to be kind
But what use is generosity to me?
I was a bit of a kind Samaritan too, which doesn’t exactly square with the kicking pot incident described yet, at heart, I was one of those kids who tried to protect other kids, as long as it didn’t get me twatted (see bravery below). I remember there this kid in the year below us in juniors who got called ‘albino.’ He wasn’t an albino but he was very pale skinned and had ginger hair and red eyes. Not REAL red eyes, just the kind of kid who always looked as if he was always crying because he WAS always crying. Anyhow, I’d try and protect Albino from the worst of the playground bullies and attempt to talk to him but rather than thank me for my care he once told me to fuck off, so I banged his head against the metal apparatus. Or did I? It was so long ago, maybe I made that bit up.
I also remember giving some kid all my Panini Football 74 stickers in a misguided attempt to curry favour with him. He was the cock of the year and therefore the most popular lad in the year too. That’s how it worked. When me dad found out I’d given him all me stickers he went mad and battered me. OK, so this wasn’t really generosity on my part but rather self-interest dressed up as altruism, which is, when all’s said and done, all altruism is, as the Darwinists would agree. So, helping albinos and giving away footy stickers never did me any good. Fuck kindness.
I could try to be brave
But what use is courage to me?
Bravery is such a misunderstood virtue, if a virtue it is. Remember ‘Brave’ Sefton the police horse injured in the IRA’s Hyde Park bomb? How exactly was Sefton brave? One minute he’s stood there with a bizzie on his back having the time of his life, enjoying the day, looking forward to his tea and the next minute he’s flat on his arse with shrapnel hanging off his hooves. That’s unfortunate Sefton. Wrong place. wrong time brother. Bravery doesn’t come into it, not for horses. Can horses be brave? Yes, the ones who jump over fences that other horses shit out of, or the ones who risk their lives carrying warriors into battle as canons explode all around them. Or maybe, if they didn’t have some fucker whipping their arse and spurring their flesh with sharp pieces of metal, they’d just turn round and do one.
Likewise, my idea of bravery doesn’t involve physical feats of stupidity, placing yourself in harm’s way to prove what a man you are. Better alive and a coward than a dead hero is what my draft dodging grandad always taught me. Now he turns up on Remembrance Day parades with his ‘Suckers’ placard and gets stick for standing up for his beliefs. Unbelievable! Yes, the military are always presented as inherently brave but are they? They are mostly young, impressionable and liable to believe that their deaths will somehow be glorious and they will have died for a true and noble cause but life goes on. All wars and conflicts end in compromise or capitulation.
Don’t get me wrong if someone was trying to kill my kids, I’d try to kill them first, I’m not a pacifist. However, my idea of bravery is the ability to confront injustice and bullying, preferably by writing about it that than actually doing something stupid like chucking yourself in front of the king’s horse or setting yourself alight. I’m not going to put myself out for strangers. I admire those who went to Spain to fight Franco in the International Brigades but I doubt I’d do the same. I’m a shithouse, always have been. It’s saved my skin quite a few times and if we’re being honest, self-preservation is just our DNA telling us to take the shithouse way out. You can’t fuck about with evolution.
I could try to be wise
But what use is philosophy to me?
‘Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit’ as me Aunty Hilda used to tell me. I think I know what she was getting at. Any soft cunt can claim to be wise but one man’s wise man is another man’s fool. Take the Three so-called Wise Men for example. How wise was it for them to get on their camels and transport three of the most expensive raw materials of the ancient world through Bandit Country to follow a fucking star!! And what were they following it for? On the arl magi grapevine they’d heard a new king was to be born down Judea way. Sounds reliable evidence, that. And anyway, if they were so wise, why did they hand over gold, frankincence and myrrh to a tatty pair of tramps squatting in a cow shed?
And another thing, what happened to all that gold, frankincence and myrhh after they got off? If Baby Jesus was the king of all mankind, who weighed in all the lolly before he became a carpenter? Ah but wisdom is not to be found in the Bible, everyone knows its just a ten bob tribal saga and that poking holes in the historical accuracy of the Good Book is shooting theological fish in a barrell. These days wisdom is to be found on Babestation lap dancers with exerpts from A Critique Of Pure Reason tattoed across their midriffs. Or the existential tweets of the Heidegger of Huyton, Joseph ‘Don’t call me Joey’ Barton. Old people are thought to be wise but stupid young people turn into stupid old people. Wisdom doesn’t come with age like big ear lobes.
You get the picture. Wisdom is wasted on the wise. Better a live fool than a dead sage, as my milkman says.
I could try to be ruthless
But what use is ambition to me?
Ruthlessness and ambition take energy and I’m a lazy cunt. I have ambitions of a sort I suppose mostly not to work and get paid handsomely for not doing it. If you count THIS as ‘working.’ I’m 47 now and ony jsut realising that I should concentrate on my one true talent; writing shit like this. I’ve written on and off for 30 years now, I’ve had books published and written for quite a few magazines over the years. I’ve done my own fanzines and ezines, blogs and poems, short stories, polemics, skits. I shit words, but what I’ve always failed at is uniting them into some overarching theme or concept. This is an attempt at it, I suppose. I’m not trying to crack on that I don’t have an ego. Only egomaniacs say they don’t have an ego in my experience. I can be narcissistic and big headed. I’m also self-aware and this gets in the way of ambition. We’re no good at ‘bigging ourselves up’ the working class and that’s we allow mediocre talents to succeed. The ones who force themselves upon others, who shout from the rooftops, who see no shame in cashing in on daddy’s connections and fucking others over.
You hear them on the train every day, these self-important pricks, desperately trying to make out their far more important and influential than they are. If that’s what ambition gets you, then count me out. A little cottage by the sea and my kids’ health will do me.
I could try to be stoical
But what use is fatalism to me?
Or maybe accepting your fate is a sell out. We shape our own fate surely. Ambition shapes it, DNA shapes it, accidents and coincidences shape it. The actions of others impact on our lives every minute or every day. I’m torn between two men and two ideologies :
‘An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge’
‘Go throw off holiness and put on intellect.’
Wesley and Blake. I know what both of em are saying and swing between both schools of thought, like I swing between Epicurus and Diogenes. Live the good life, live the true life. Pre-determinisim is just an excuse to stay in bed and cynicism is an excuse to shit on the pavement. There is no soul, no afterlife, no morality, no law, only the abstract beliefs and customs, control mechanisms and myths of human culture. I suppose in a perfect world we’d all like to get through life without suffering or harming ourselves or others. Ideology makes monsters of some and evil is just a word. Nature v nurture, the same old shit, what maketh man? Manners? Never talk with your mouth full especially if it’s full of shit. Never discuss religion with the religious and never talk to intellectuals unless they have big tits, as my Uncle Alf used to tell me.
I could try to be faithful
But what use is religion to me
This is more or less the same spiel as fatalism and free will. Do you believe in aliens? I do! Statistically it’s impossible that there aren’t millions, trillions of other life forms in the universe or what we know of it. The one thing I know for sure is, however, that they’ll look fuck all like humans. If you accept evolution as a scientific fact – and if you don’t accept it, then go and kill yourself right now and get to the heaven you crave – then there have been millions of chance mutations and chemical coincidences that has lead to the diversity of life on planet earth. What are the odds that exactly the same millions of chance mutations and chemical coincidences have also happened on another planet?
OK, even if there are billons or trillions of life forms in the known universe, and say there’s one planet amongst these that more or less followed exactly the same evolutionary path as humans, what are the fucking odds on them actually finding us? So, every time you see one of these Hanger 13 type autopsies carried out on little green men with massive Swedes and diddy legs, ask yourself this one question; why do they all look like Ronny Corbett?
Ah but that’s not religion is it? Well, it depends what you mean by religion. If you believe in a ‘creator’ of some kind, whatever you call that person, that God, that ‘thing,’ then the obvious question is what made God, to which the religious answer ‘He was begotten not made.’ So, that’s sorted then. Those who question the big bang ask what came before the big bang and quantum physics has at least tried to find an answer to how atomic material can be produced from ‘thin air’. The religious can simply say ‘it just happened.’ No formulas, no tests, no experiments, no years and lifetimes of research, just ‘Pow!’ God’s not there and now he’s there and he made everything. Just like that!
I thought most people dismissed God once they got beyond the age of nine or ten, once they realised that the Kingdom Of God was a metaphor, and Christianity was an ideal. Look people; Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, Christians and Satanists, country and western fans and heavy metalists, you are a grain of sand on the beach of existence. The wind blows you away into infinity and the best you can hope for is a moment in the sun, a flicker of warmth before endless cold. That’s what I tell my kids before they go to bed anyway.
I could try to be poetic
But what use is language to me?
ABC, it’s easy as 1,2,3! Or is it? All language is symbols. Shapes. Sounds. 26 letters, endless permutations. ‘Our’ alphabet at any rate. Put these letters together in sequences to make words, sentences, paragraphs, letters, books, poems, novels, speeches, stories. Magic! The alchemy of abstraction, the human gift of expression. This stuff I’m typing now, it’s only shapes that we have become accustomed to linking to sounds in our heads. I think I’m addicted to writing, I can’t go a day without it, without putting something down on paper or on a blank word document. And, at the end of my life, what will all this amount to? Not much. A few books, a lot of cyber-garbage lost somewhere in the fifth dimension of the internet. I try to write poetry because – well I don’t really know, ego again, definitely ego comes into it, showing off, all writing is showing off and all art is ego. Good or bad, art is the manifestation of human creativity. Homer or Shakespeare, Milton or Keats, Joyce or Woolf, Lennon or McCartney. And in the end you love you take is equal to the love you make. Wish I’d written that.
I could try to be political
But what use is ideology to me?
Ideology makes misanthropes and monsters of men and women. The most reviled men in history were idealists of one stamp or another. The world failed them, the faults and flaws of others fuelled their hatred. The ones who wanted good were killed, the ones who wanted evil were dead already. Whatever the hue of your politics, what most people really fear is change. Unless we’re REALLY in the shit, most of us want a quiet life until the conditions for leading a quiet life become intolerable. Food in our bellies, a roof over our heads. Fairness, justice. That’s it. Hypocrisy and sophistry, lies and propaganda. All systems adopt the same control mechanisms; fear and brutality to protect the powerful. There’s one conspiracy at work in the world and that’s to keep rich and powerful people, rich and powerful or even richer and even more powerful. That’s it! Simone De Beauvoir once said ‘if we live long enough, all victories end in defeat.’ That might sound like defeatism but it’s true. That’s we honour martyrs for having the courage to die for their beliefs while most of us sit it out.
I could try to be happy
But what use is contentment to me?
As Doddy puts it “Happiness, Happiness, the greatest gift that I possess.” But then again, all that happiness has made a miserable cunt out of Ken. What is happiness? A chair? A bowl of fruit? A sausage butty? I was a sad looking teenager and when I used to collect glasses in the local club, people would say to me ‘cheer up, it might never happen.’ It wasn’t that I was miserable but I couldn’t pretend to be enthused by collecting and washing pint pots, sometimes half full of vomit. I’m a laugh, me. Some times. I tell a good story, me when I’m in the mood which is usually when I’m pissed. We all find contentment in different ways; a walk along the beach, a decent meal, time spent with family, acts of kindness or altruism, a win for our team, a kiss from a lover. ‘Ataraxia’ the Greeks called it. A sense of well being. I’ve experienced that feeling many times and they’re always fleeting, because our day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute existence is mundane. As Denis Leary put it in ‘No Cure For Cancer’
“Happiness comes in small doses, it’s a cigarette, a chocolate chip cookie, a five second orgasm. You cum, you eat the cookie, you smoke the butt, you go to sleep, you wake up in the morning, you go to fucking work. That’s it! End of fucking list! OK?”
Another great mind Albert Camus put it this way;
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
So, get a grip! Snatch what momentary pleasure you can while you’re here because, as me nan used to say, ‘call no man happy until he is dead.” Or was that Aeschylus?