Well, far be it from me, a ‘nominal’ musician of little worth, to try to influence anybody’s voting preferences, but I’ll be voting Labour – as I have always done, more or less – but, this time, with a real hope for something extraordinary happening.
I was lucky enough to have a general election when I was eighteen, and voted in my old school hall… for Ramsay McDonald. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party, I was in Italy, on holiday, drunk as a skunk and stark naked. I laughed at the devastation he would bring. I was wrong.
It’s good to be wrong. He was looking at the bigger picture. His rise, during this election, has been nothing short of magnificent – like the last verse of Kenny Rodgers’s Coward of The County – where he “stops and locks the door.”
I’d thought the Labour Party was dead, but I was wrong. During Ed Milliband’s sad tenure, I registered myself on the party website as ‘Syphilis Goldenwinkle’, and still treasure the emails he sent, urging us to ‘Stand up, together!’ Jeremy is an entirely different kettle of fish. Anyway, I digress…
Never in my life has the gap been so wide, and the difference between the parties so great. What seemed like a ridiculous simplification in the past, is now so glaringly obvious: I’m voting labour because I believe it’s possible to make this old shit hole a much better place, a fairer place, and one that I’d like my daughter to grow up in.
Pretty sure anyone reading this doesn’t need lecturing, but if you are undecided, have a thought.
Vote Labour. x
To the tune of Spiderman…
Theresa May, Theresa May
Out of work on Friday
Gets a job in a pub
Pulling pints, serving grub
Look out… here come Theresa May
Pretty soon signing on
Husbands left, savings gone
Flogs the shoes, pawns the chain
Easy life, down the drain
Look out, here comes Theresa May
ESA, fit to work
Zero hours got to hurt
Sanctioned once, sanctioned twice
Food bank shut, shit on ice!
Goodbye, goodbye Theresa May
I’ve got a nemesis. As we speak, somebody is impersonating me, gallivanting on a wild spending spree, using my identity. It’s not as serious as all that. No foreign holidays have been booked, no Justin Bieber tickets purchased, and nothing that I might actually be forced to pay for. Having made a few enquiries, I have deduced that my Moriarty is none other than an elderly lady living in the Croydon area, who is giving out my phone number by mistake, and I’ve been trying to track her down to let her know.
A few months ago, I started receiving text messages from shops, saying that my orders were ready for collection. Imagining the usual click-a- dick scam, I checked the phone numbers, to discover they were the real, and that the ‘new Homebase wardrobe is ready for collection’ line wasn’t just the old ‘turn up at a warehouse, we steal your life savings and murder you ruse’ – I informed Homebase of the error.
Next came Marks and Spencer, again, the real ones; some sort of trellis plants, if memory serves. Then at last, came hard evidence – a sighting! The mystery began to clear when Age UK of Croydon texted to confirm my booking of their function room. It was pretty obvious, by now, we were not dealing with a hardened criminal. I called the number and spoke to an Age UK operator. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to explain to somebody that you are not who they think you are, even though they’ve no idea who you actually are, and that you are not trying to elicit any details, but are actually just trying to be helpful.
Having established that I was not a phisherman, they informed me that an elderly lady had made the booking. I explained that I was terribly worried she’d think the world had turned on her, because nothing she ever ordered turned up. I thought of my own dear mother, a month away from becoming an Octogenarian, whose purchasing patterns are almost identical to the mystery lady’s. But most of all, if this lovely, geriatric benefactor of the nation’s retail sector was planning a party – perhaps her own eightieth, then nothing should stand in its way.
Having taken time to help Croydon’s own Irene Adler, I was convinced that the affair was now at an end, and that our brief blurring of souls was no more than ships that pass in the night. I pictured her in a party hat, surrounded by loved ones and friends, blowing out candles at the Croydon function room, her phone numbers reprogrammed by a dutiful grandchild, and thinking of all the lovely home-deliveries she had to look forward to.
The attempted identity theft is swept under the carpet, and life moves on towards twilight’s rosy glow…except, she’s at it again – The Scandal in Suburbia continues!
Your order from Matalan is ready!
To continue with the dubious Sherlockian theme, it has been pointed out that there are other explanations, and once all the obvious ones have been discounted, the unlikeliest must be true.
It has been suggested that the old lady is me, my alter ego. It is true that I do not have the most robust of mental states, and that a crack in the psyche could happen. Perhaps the person typing this is the imposter, and my other self, Irene Adler of Croydon, is, in fact, the real me, currently racing round a garden centre on a souped-up mobility scooter. However, I think if I were a lady born early in the last century, I might have devised a rather more successful double identity by now – I had to clear up cat shit this morning!
Another theory is that I have become a somnambulist, wandering Croydon’s high street and retail parks, dressed in my grandmother’s coat, riding the trams as I did so many years ago. There is a direct train from West Hampstead, so I can’t rule it out completely.
The most worrying part of this theory would be to wake up while being fitted for a new girdle in the Marks and Spencers changing room.
That’s just about exhausted it, and there are no prizes for solving the mystery – unless you know a nice, elderly lady in the Croydon area, who spends like there’s no tomorrow, or even better, if you are that wonderful lady. Come on Irene!
The Night They Said I Might Die
Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse.
Well I can’t quite do that anymore, but for a while on Monday night, it looked like I might be about to try.
The backstory is that I am Bipolar – you didn’t think these dark old dirges came out of nowhere did you? – and am prescribed lithium, the ancient cure. Nobody is quite sure what it does, apart from making batteries that catch fire on aircraft. It has a very narrow band of effectiveness. Too little does nothing, too much kills you.
I like to think of it as the Rolls Royce of drugs, and was perversely pleased when the psychiatrist said it was the last thing left to try… I’m a poet dontcha know! I’ve been taking it for five years now, having spent the rest of the century on synthetic medications. Lithium was good, and far from tranquilizing me, it woke me up – like Heineken – it reached the parts other pills couldn’t reach.
I began to paint, write more, and I gave up wondering about the body-bearing strength of all branches and household fixtures. Every couple of months, I go to the Royal Free for a blood test, to make sure my lithium levels are within the correct band, and until now, they have been.
Towards the end of last year, the depression came back. I know when they’re coming – Paul Simon gets it right with the opening line of Sound of Silence. I know when I’m about to go up as well, which is really exciting, although perhaps not for those around me, who know they are about to get roped in to my latest bipolar scheme… have I ever played you my country and western album, my Krays musical, or shown you my etchings?
Lithium doesn’t stop the mood swings, but keeps them within a narrower band. However, the new black dog was much more pronounced than usual, so I sought treatment before it got out of hand. My lithium dose was upped, and I felt a little better.
This would have been fine had I not taken the reckless decision to get healthy. With a gig on the horizon, a dash of vanity, and post-Christmas good intentions, a lethal cocktail was accidentally concocted. I stopped drinking, began eating well, rice and apples mainly, and dragged an exercise bike back from the charity shop. The weight was dropping off, the guitar practice was going well – I even soaked my fingers in surgical spirit every night to toughen them up, and all looked bright for the 24th Feb, The Waiting Room, N19… plug!!!
On Monday afternoon, I waltzed into the blood room at The Royal Free and rolled up my sleeve. I knew what they were going to find – a healthy man, finely tuned, and much younger than his years – Oh yes.
Later, when the phone rang at 7pm I didn’t answer, expecting the usual cold calling enemy of humanity. Also, I was watching Heartbeat on catch up. The message was from The Out of Hours Medical Service. It told me to get back to The Royal Free at once, this was an emergency, and that a doctor was on the way to my flat. If I felt ill, I was to call an ambulance immediately – it looked like I’d failed the test. I believe he also mentioned that my kidneys were about to pack up.
At first, I wondered if this was a joke. Then I thought it was a major inconvenience, as Heartbeat was still on. Slowly, it occurred to me that this was quite serious, and rather more than a courtesy call. I played the message to my girlfriend, Marie, and told her I’d probably be needing one of her kidneys… she agreed at once.
We puzzled over the information, both calm, but she grasped the seriousness of it better than I did. I called 111, and immediately got through to somebody who knew who I was – this was getting bizarre now, like the scene in Harry Potter where letters start coming through the fireplace. The operator called me by my first name, told me to keep calm, and said that a doctor was on the way. She ended the conversation with a hearty ‘Well, good Luck.’
Now, many of my songs are concerned with death. Most of them, in fact. I have been rehearsing them, intending to play them at my forthcoming gig, but I hadn’t expected a practical tutorial from The Grim Reaper himself. I notice my joke about dialysis machines hasn’t gone down well with Marie, she is very quiet, and it occurs to me that she is worried, and possibly even upset. I serenade her with a verse of Dr Death
The doorbell goes… actually it’s a knock, because there’s no batteries in the bell.
A witch is on the doorstep, a beautiful, glamorous witch, all in black, with long glossy hair, and piercing eyes. Marie lets her in and holds the door open for the man with her.
“That’s just my driver, he’s not coming in.”
Whatever’s happened tonight has opened the door to another world. Big Brother most definitely is watching you. These are the Interzone agents of William Burroughs, secret, but always there.
She attaches a clip to my finger, asks me questions, then admits she has no idea why she’s there. She calls the surgery, then looks a bit more serious. My lithium and potassium levels are through the roof, and I have to go to A & E at once. I say that I am sure tomorrow would be fine. Don’t forget, I had to fast for this blood test, so had eaten no more than a bowl of muesli in the past twenty-four hours, which, even with my diet, is pushing it. I tell her I feel fine. Actually I don’t, but hadn’t made the connection yet.
“What’s the worse that could happen… I don’t want to go tonight.“
She tells me that I may well die tonight if I don’t get immediate help. She mentions the dreaded Heart Attack, and I suddenly feel like I’ve got one coming on. She takes my blood pressure. It’s frighteningly high. We discuss any other tell-tale signs of renal failure I may be experiencing. Tremors? I can hardly hold a glass. Rashes? Scratch this for me please. Thirst? Excessive urination? All of the above. Bad temper? Marie answers for me.
So, this fifty two year old monument to athleticism, eternal youth, and poetic beauty, is about to head off to Paradise by way of Golders Green? Disappointing.
My Uber up the big hill is a sombre affair. Through the sodium lit Hampstead streets, Marie and I hold hands – she’s packed my pyjamas. It does seem possible that I am being driven to the place I will die, and that my time is short. Without irony, I tell Marie that I love her, apologise for being an arsehole. I told her how to break it to my mother – straight, nothing spared. To please still go to Venice for her eightieth birthday. To watch out for my daughter and – in a magnanimous gesture, slightly more meaningful if I’d actually had some hits – share my royalties for life.
The bloody cab goes the wrong way, so we get out and I walk to the gallows. I am feeling pretty ill by now.
We get stopped on the door of A & E by the local idiot asking for change. I tell him we don’t have time because I’m having a heart attack. I like this line, it has impact. In the lift down to A & E, I catch my reflection. I am grey. This is where it gets serious.
As we check in, a frightened woman whose husband is arriving by ambulance pleads to go in front of us. We let her. She just needs directions, and doesn’t take long. As we give our details, a man tries to interrupt us for a glass of water.
“No, you can’t, I’m having a heart-attack.”
The entire waiting room is watching now… problem is, I think I am actually having one. I am getting light-headed, and can feel coldness in my chest, like swimming out of shallow water and catching a cold current. I think I’m about to lose consciousness and die. I feel sorry for the aforementioned frightened woman, because she is looking at me now with great concern as I slip down in my chair, and I hope she is not embarrassed for going first. How was she to know?
I am feeling very strange now, is it happening?
I don’t want to die staring at a plastic clock. Then I think of my poem – I’ve already foretold this.
It calms me down, I am where I am meant to be. My ashes will be scattered by the viaduct, the ladies will weep, but not for long…there are some minor instructions, but perhaps not for here. I would require some solemnity at my funeral though, all this wearing bright colours is appalling. ‘In life he was a miserable bastard, in death so shall he remain’.
Poor Marie must be terrified, I want her to hold my hand, but she has to check us in. She’s bloody good in a crisis, it has to be said.
Over the course of the evening, I am seen by three doctors. The first assesses me. I assess him as a fan of rockabilly music, the Labour Party, Arsenal Football Club, Penguin Classics, and John Hegley. The second, who was also the receptionist, due to understaffing, takes my blood, and gives me an ECG. He looks like Richard Hawley, and is also extremely nice. He can’t tell me if I’ve just had a heart attack, but by now, I am beginning to think I’ll be watching Heartbeat tomorrow evening, as usual.
Finally, Dr Number Three, he’s got his hair tied back, and resembles Nijinsky, as Le Faun. He seems like he might break into dance at any moment, and complete this magic night. This guy is so enthusiastic he makes the whole evening worthwhile. Forget Stockholm Syndrome, I’d like to buy this man a drink.
My blood levels are all back where they should be – better in fact, so the health regime has worked, in most respects. My heart attack was almost certainly psychosomatic, caused by being told I was just about to have one. I felt some unusual sensations, while expecting to snuff it… like stage hypnosis.
So, what caused the death level lithium debacle? Giving up booze, that’s what. My previous regime contained some alcohol – I’m not saying how much, but the last time we took the pledge, the Off License went bust. No meat, no alcohol, exercise, a virtuous existence meant that the lithium had no predators, so became super strength, like those powders from South America so popular with people in advertising, when they’re uncut. Not only had I upped the dose, I gave it clear passage. Had I not had the luck to get my blood tested on Monday, the time bomb would almost certainly have exploded within a day – and I wouldn’t be writing anymore of this rubbish.
Marie-Louise and I were at the Royal Free as Valentine’s Day began. Matters of the heart were very much on our minds. Life and death and love. We downed the bottle of tequila we’d been saving when we got in. It seemed like the right thing to do. To life!
Thanks to the 111ers, the incredible A & E doctors of The Royal Free, to Marie-Louise Plum for offering a kidney, and to The NHS.
Also, please come to The Waiting Room, N19 (nicely ironic) on the 24th February, where (if I live that long) I will sing songs of death, and a few about love. Click here for the event page.
The John Moore Bench
The John Moore bench that isn’t me
Whose middle name begins with E
Who must have come here just like me
And seen the things that I can see
On leaden afternoons
This John Moore who isn’t me
Whose middle name begins with E
Whose wooden bench now welcomes me
Did he die at The Royal Free
And is that fate awaiting me?
And was he once a blue-eyed child
A little shy, a little sad
Who never understood the world
And wouldn’t like it if he had?
And did he dream of towering seas
And jagged cliffs, and ancient trees
And did he die at The Royal Free
And is that fate awaiting me? We’ll see
But wrapped against despondent air
Did he gaze without despair
And wait until the evening lights came on?
Then did he stand, then did he leave
Turning from The Royal Free
Knowing that the magic hour had gone?
NEW PLAYLIST. LISTEN NOW!
A selection of songs from Floral Tributes, Half Awake, Lo-Fi Lullabies, and the new one…
Press play, below, to run through tracks automatically.
New York Dream.
(Late October 2016)
A late summers afternoon in Wokingham, my hometown until the age of eighteen. I’m standing in the front garden of our house, by the driveway, looking over the fence at the world. A man approaches from the flats opposite, he is dressed in black jeans and black sweatshirt and is carrying a case of spanners, it’s Lou Reed. I know him from the neighbourhood, at this stage, the dream does not tell whether it’s as the rock star Lou Reed or just Lou Reed who lives across the road, but I know him somehow, and there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary for him to speak to me.
“ Hey, can you come and help fix my car?” he asks. His flat New York accent is exotic for the Home Counties.
“ I need to jack her up, but she’s heavy, and I don’t want to tear these stitches,” he says, putting his hand to his chest to indicate them. His fingers are spotted with engine oil.
I know he has just has a liver transplant, and that it is unusual for him to ask for help. He usually keeps himself to himself. Perhaps his true majesty is seeping into the dream now, because I am excited. I realise what a privileged position I am in. I agree at once, and follow him.
His car is a giant, a black 49 Dodge, stunning and pristine, a real American beauty. I’ve never seen him drive it round Wokingham, and I wonder how he got it here without me noticing; it must weighs tonnes. The hydraulic jack is hard work, but I manage to get it lifted. He slides underneath with his spanners and fixes whatever it is that needs to be fixed. There is not much conversation, I am smart enough to know that one wrong question, about music, or just about anything other than the matter in hand, and our bubble will burst. Right now, me and Lou Reed are fixing a car.
He looks frail, not unexpectedly, and I am worried he’ll hurt himself. He senses my concern, and says he’s fine.
Once the Dodge is fixed it’s mission complete, and I think he’s about to send me home, but he doesn’t. We walk out of the garage onto blazing white asphalt, the sun beating down. It’s extremely hot, and it’s clear we’re not in Wokingham anymore. In the distance the New York skyline juts up, mauve through the smog, and closer by, the sea glistens, and warehouses and water towers shimmer in the heat haze. I think we’re on Long Island, but the brilliant white and blue makes it seem almost Aegean.
Lou has a basketball and asks if I want to play – in exactly the way you’d hope he’d ask, not too friendly, take it or leave it detached, and not really caring one way or the other…except you know he really wants you to.
” Hey kid, wanna make some passes?”
He throws the ball at me, bouncing it once on the ground. I catch it at chest height and throw it back, but not too hard. He throws it back harder. The sound it makes hitting the bleached asphalt is hollow, and rings with a slight ricochet from the garage door. I see Lou is sweating, and wish he’d take his top off, but I know it’s not my business to suggest it, if he wanted it off he’d take it off, he just keeps passing the basketball and moving further back, enjoying the game.
“ Throw it harder,” he commands, but I am worried about his stitches. If he reaches too high, his wound could open, it’s only been a few months – he’s not exactly convalescing.
“ Don’t worry about me,” he says, and he means it, and he’s not a man to be argued with.
He doesn’t say much, except for the odd remark about the catches and throws, but I don’t mind, I’m just happy to be here, but trying not to injure him. Sweat runs down the deep lines of his face and glistens above his lip. He squints at the sun’s glare – no shades to help him, his eyes tired, yet determined. He looks uncomfortable, and I think we should stop, but he forces himself, and me, to play on.
He slams the ball hard so that it bounces above my head and silhouettes against the sky. As he does this, I notice a single cloud in the distance, behind his head. Its vapour swirls in tendrils, weaving celestial shapes. The Lady of Shalott appears, her sepulchral beauty blown by the breeze, her hair and gown spiralling in ghostly wisps. Transfixed and enchanted by this divine apparition, I stop the game and shout out.
“ Lou, turn around, look up there, it’s beautiful!”
He seems sceptical, as if I might be trying to pull something, as if I’d dare. Maybe I’d used his name too freely?
“ Look…in the sky, please!”
“ This better be good,” he says.
It’s not the quickest one hundred and eighty degrees I’ve seen. As he turns, the vision changes. By the time he sees her, she has distorted into a ravaged, ancient whore, beckoning with claw fingers, and rubbing her crotch obscenely. Lou looks at me like I’m a total idiot.
“ You think that’s beautiful?”
“ No, you missed it, you didn’t see it before.”
His thin lips pull a half smile, and he stares right into me. There’s a weary kindness to his expression, like a teacher explaining to a pupil who’s not quite up to it. He closes his eyes for a moment and places a hand on my shoulder, and gestures towards the spot where the cloud had been.
“ You know what that is don’t you?” he asks.
“ No, I don’t,” I reply.
I feel foolish, like I’ve disappointed him. I think I’ve broken the spell and finally made him angry. But with his hand still gripping me, he sighs, and with a face of infinite wisdom and utter resignation, and a voice of no expression, he tells me.
“That’s just the Trump signal.”
I’m beaten down by life, ground into the pavement by its dirty heel, until all that’s left are innards and skin. Perhaps I protest too much, but you’d think that the acquisition of a new pair of swimming trunks wouldn’t be such a fucker.
As we know, it is almost the season of hot, lazy days, spent frolicking by Hampstead ponds, or perhaps even in the sea. Never a keen swimmer in my youth, I have, throughout my older years, begun to enjoy it more – especially now that I’ve resumed my disastrous smoking habit, and shed a few pounds.
However, an investigation of my swimwear showed it to be well past its best, very near its dangerous worst in fact. I had no idea that swimwear loses its elasticity over time, or becomes transparent. Thank god I tried them on in the modesty of my own home, before strutting across the heath, and straight into Highbury Magistrates court.
I hoped at first, that with some simple seamstressing, my lovely old Hugo Boss’s could be salvaged – pretty sure when I was at school, boys wore trunks their mothers had re-elasticated. We gave this a go, but they looked like balloons – or a swimming nappy – hardly the debonair image I was going for. Giving up on the salvage job, I decided to see what was available online – surely there would be a fine selection? Wrong – unless you want a mankini, a thong, or stars and stripes shorts that reach your knees – the choice was woeful.
At last, the idea of vintage retro trunks hit me, and I found a pair on ebay, proper dad trunks from the Co-op. Without reading too much about them – such as they had already been worn – I placed the order. Had they been advertised on a specialist site they may have fetched a good deal more than twelve pounds. The urine soaked rags that arrived, were an affront to human decency…and they were too small. Reader, I sent them back.
The contingency plan involved a new stripy number from Turkey, with indecipherable sizing – they could be budgie smugglers, or the entire aviary. I hoped for the best, and bought with one click. The bastards arrived today, and have now been passed on to the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP to use as a hammock. Fortunately, the weather is not yet up to outdoor swimming, so there is still time, but at this rate, Highbury Magistrates court seems a distinct possibility.
John Moore 05.05.15
Have you ever heard ladies laugh, I mean really dirty laugh, a conspiratorial titter that erupts like a wave of mirth, then engulfs an entire room? Well, I have.
An utterly innocent remark I made during an Orange-themed dinner party last Saturday, with four of my closest lady friends, may have caused structural damage to the Bloomsbury area. While regaling them with tales of my lustrous – and in no way thinning – silver locks, I mentioned what my barber (Mill Lane Barbers, NW6) had said to me on my last visit.
“ John, every time you come it gets thicker.”
I’m not sure where the first titter came from (I have my suspicions, SL). At first I thought it was a cross conversation – not being listened to wouldn’t be a first, especially as it was hardly my finest repartee – but in a moment all four orange goddesses were cackling with mirth like drunken sailors, tears rolling down their radiant faces, and their laughter grew and grew. I felt very left out. What had happened?
“ What’s the joke?” I asked.
“ Do you know what you just said?”
I didn’t, I couldn’t think of anything, I was just telling them about……
“Oh fuck!!!! Yes, I see. Shame on you, ladies!”
As the spirit of Sid James has channelled through their honeyed larynxes I am blushing so hard you could fry eggs on my face, especially when they repeat my words back to me with their own mocking inflections. Still, It’s certainly one way of breaking the ice at parties. I might even have it printed on a T-shirt.
The Orange evening was a magical triumph that I am massively privileged to have been a part of. No men to ruin the mix, with their macho bravado and bog brush beards (except yours truly, an honorary Orange County lady, the new Sir Les Patterson, with his barbershop quartet) but if I told you any more, I’d certainly have to kill you.
Ernie Pip 20.04.15