So, where the hell have I been?

Well….on holiday, actually, and (by choice) well way from the internet, English language TV and pretty much anything that might tie me to my usual existence.

The thing is, this has been the only two weeks of the year when I was not surrounded by idiots engaged in a project which is, finally, anti-human (or at the very least the opposite of what a humane endeavour should be). And I made the most of it. Lying about in a shady spot in a sunny place, eating, drinking, sleeping….. day-dreaming…. thinking… and other intensive stuff.

You know, it’s sad when you realise that for the sake of the planet and most of humanity it might be best if the Isle of Man did not exist. Which is a harsh truth.

Before I was forced into finance sector work I was not driven to “do good” outside of work. I just lacked the guilt most liberals get about deciding to “get on in life” while quietly knowing you are stepping on others to do it. Mostly because I chose to live simply when I could rather than step on those others. I might not be achieving much in terms of changing or improving the world, but I did no harm either.

But these days I have little choice, because others depend on me, and I feel very beat up about the effects of that. Yes, I provide for my family, and am no burden on civic society or public parasite, but at what greater expense?

So, for me or anyone else in my situation, rather than continue to beat yourself up about it, the question is: “What are you going to do about it?”

And in answering that I’m drawn back, yet again, to Mark Boyle, an astute artist back in the 1970’s who explained his quite unique work thus: “The greatest change you can make to your environment, short of destroying it, is to change your attitude to it.”

Actually, Mark spent the best part of half a century subtly altering everyday situations so that people were nudged into doing just that.

All of which gets me thinking, “What, then, can you do from the Isle of Man to add to the sum of human joy rather than be the cause of more human misery? How do you balance the scales to compensate for your continued, immediately economically vital but in wider terms destructive life?

Those I love most have practical ways of spreading joy outside of rubbish jobs – music, cooking, baking cakes, or just fixing broken objects.

Me? I’m a contemplative, or as some would say, bone idle. What can I do?

But at the very least, I decided the very worst thing I could do was to write more gloomy missives, confirming what many strongly suspect.

So what do I write instead?

Come back sometime and find out.


Wasting away the moments that make up a dull day….

Hmm, I see it’s two weeks since I last posted. This blog gets more Bernardian by the day.

Maybe in future, in tongue-in-cheek homage to Saint Jeff, each time I go a week without posting I should enter right onto the spirit of the thing and put a small message up saying “Manx Gent is unwell”.

It wouldn’t be true, but then neither was it the case all those times The Spectator editor gave up trying to get blood from the stoned and just placed the infamous message “Jeffrey Bernard is unwell” where the weekly Low Life column should have gone.

Look, there are just times (far too many) when the creative spirit looks out of the window, back at his or her “tripewriter”, then out the window and back at the tripewriter again and thinks….. “Why bother?”

On the other hand, why not?

Anyway, another week amongst the living dead in what passes for a hive of industry and what do I have to report?

Not a lot.

This week I realised that the combined ages of any of the several pointless management clusters nominally supervising my (equally nominal) work hardly adds up to my actual age. In addition, I doubt if the combined IQ of these myriad ( and I sometimes suspect self-replicating) power groupings would surpass that of, say, someone at the higher end of the special needs spectrum. Other than the fact that they cannot communicate with anyone outside their world, or register anything that does not appear as a “stat” on any of their spread-sheets, I really cannot understand how such idiocy continues.

Watching business management in action is like watching those cartoon figures who pedal air after running off a cliff. You know they should fall, you wait for them to fall, but they just pedal, and pedal, and pedal…..

The crash surely has to come any second now… wait, wait…. Oh, never mind, might as well wander off for another cup of tea.

Bureaucracy, it is becoming increasingly clear to me, seems to spread like plastic detritus on beaches. To someone who comes across it by chance, it is baffling where it all comes from. And neither logic nor imagination can stop the increasing proliferation of either phenomenon.

It may be true, as a research organisation I quietly help from time to time says, that those faceless figures behind the corporations wrecking the world are actual people, and have names and addresses. But just tracking them down is a full time job, never mind tackling the mess they cause. And neither task gets a mortgage paid unless you were born into the right race and class.

On the other hand, a figure I have admired for years, but unfortunately never met in person, died this week.

Gustav Metzger was not an artist the general public knew about. Far more radical than Tracey Emin or Damian Hirst, or Banksy, but because of his own principles never destined for their fame or economic fortune. In fact, outside a tiny, truly experimental and radical art community to whom he was one of the 20th century’s most important figures, hardly anyone within the highly incestuous and private art world did either.

Metzger arrived in Britain courtesy of the kinder-transport, went on to study art almost by accident, and unlike most art world enfant terribles actually lived life like he made art, including a spell in jail for crimes against militarism. For some 75 years – right up until the week before he died in fact – he was at war with capitalism, consumerism and the waste-makers of the world.

Discover him at , and .

Now THAT is not a wasted life.

No fun running

By now we’re well used to charity volunteers offering to pack your bags at supermarket checkouts in return for donations. But yesterday I saw a perfect example of a scam whereby a mixture of vanity and opportunism can be passed off as “charity”.

The volunteer in this case was – in theory – raising funds for a cancer charity. Except she wasn’t.

On closer investigation, what she was actually trying to raise was the entrance fee to run a marathon in which, ostensibly, she would be a charitable “fun-runner”. As cancer charities rarely do what it says on the tin, and I don’t see why I should subsidise somebody’s hobby, I was never going to take up her kind offer.

Because, in case you haven’t come across it, the way the whole thing works is as follows……

The major marathons are (on paper) run by charitable foundations – which make gazillions that overpay their executives but never reach a good cause. Runners are divided into two groups – fun runners (who pay to enter) and professional athletes (who get appearance fees and prize money from the entrance fees and broadcasting rights).

Now you would think that is simple and fair enough, so at least anyone who pays can enter for fun and raise a few quid for a charity. Except they can’t.

What actually happens is that the organisers (as mentioned, theoretically charitable foundations) auction the entrance spots to major charities. If you were thinking of running the London Marathon dressed up as a banana in return for donations to some club your kid goes to – forget it. The auction is only open to the kind of charity which can shell out £100K to buy up a block of spots.

The charity then sells on the spots to “fun runners”, who, in theory, are running to raise money for that charity. Except they’re not. The money they raise is paid up front to the charity before they ever run, and the sum is so vast that they are unlikely to rise more.

Because where it gets really deceptive is that most of these folk are not “fun runners” – as in the good-natured bods prepared to wear a silly costume while running 26 miles and risk heart failure for a good cause. No, these are the type of competitive, middle class, sporty sad acts we know so well locally.

They are the ones who did well in a tiny island event, dream of winning a UK national championship or even an international event, but probably at best ran once in a UK regional event and came home with a minor medal. Such mirth-free morons would never do anything “for fun”. Ooh no! Their aim is to beat last year’s time, and a relative or workmate, and…..well, that’s it really.

It really pains them that they are (let’s say this good and loud) NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO EVER BE INVITED TO RUN and also TOO TIGHT-ARSED TO PAY THE ENTRANCE FEE. So, they get round this by pretending to be doing it for charity and bumming the money off others.

After the event, they will happily tell you their time and which locals they beat. They may even put round an e-mail, tweet or Facebook to say they raised £462.99. They won’t tell you that the entrance spot actually cost them £500 so they had to shell out the rest.

If any of this meant that money went to a good cause and, let’s say, helped cure cancer this scam might be excusable at some level. But it won’t. It just pays two classes of parasites, and feeds the ego of pathetic narcissists we’d be better laughing at.

Days of future past

I made my usual Saturday visit to the town library this morning and saw a funny thing.

The library is on the ground floor of the town hall, where the lobby – as usual – featured yet another heritage display. I have no idea why the lobby has ever-changing displays of Ramsey heritage when several years ago Quayle’s Hall, the town’s only decent venue for birthday parties and other small events, was handed over to the nostalgia mafiosi and renamed Ramsey Heritage Centre.

In theory, such displays are supposed to be mounted there in a purpose built space, but oddly they rarely are. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that Quayle’s Hall is now -effectively – closed for good, after being permanently closed to the general public in order to be refitted at public expense, opened with a publically funded celebration as – effectively – a private club for a small local elite, then…… well, who knows, and I doubt many care.

When a mere “community facility”, Quayle’s Hall was in constant use – charity fairs, pantomimes and other little music shows, birthday parties, etc. etc. – often two or three evenings a week and at least twice daily over weekends when it was only bookable by the half day.

It was then closed, because the Commissioners claimed it was losing money, only to be handed over to the Ramsey branch of the Manx fake history industry, fitted out at great (central government) expense and then re-opened (inevitably yet another expensive ceremony cum private party for that), following which, so the plan went, the tourists would flock in to see an ever-changing display of local history.

Meanwhile, anyone wanting to put on a birthday party or charitable sale, we were told, could use one of the two major church halls. Which is why hardly anyone holds a birthday party or other true community event in Ramsey any more, because the church halls are too large, too expensive, and run by bigots who turn down any potential booking from actual members of the community who want to have fun and/or do something useful.

Meanwhile, the heritage displays in Quayle’s Hall hardly ever happen, and when they do the tourists have no interest – which anyone with an ounce of sense who had done half an hour’s research could have predicted. I can also reveal that, stripped of the bigwigs who make up the committee, the actual working membership of Ramsey Heritage Trust is two retired blokes who run a small shop selling old books and postcards. One is a good friend of many years, and I regularly point people in search of good local historical material to the shop, but I still do not understand why the town hall, rather than the purpose built facility, is putting on his displays.

Though the funniest thing this morning was not even all that, but that copies of a book entitled something like The Future Of The Isle Of Man had been left lying around prominently at the entrance to the lobby display. I couldn’t help noticing that it was a very, very short book. Shorter, in fact, than the average nostalgia pamphlet, and also, I suspect, as poorly written, factually inaccurate or irrelevant and as likely never to be read.

Well, at least it will be of nostalgic value, when incorporated into some future heritage display.

Staring at a wall

I hate work.

I know everyone says that, but I loathe it to an extent which doesn’t seem to be true for other people. It isn’t laziness because, actually, I am driven (and certainly very, very disciplined), just not to pursue anything which might constitute a “career”.

Years ago I learnt how to happily stare at a blank wall for an hour or more, and this seems to disturb people, though I honestly cannot see why. For me, every day in an office making money move around the world – or indeed almost any activity which leads to the creation or circulation of wealth – is far more pointless. Employment makes me lose the will to live. So, from observing advocates and similar blights on humanity I pace myself to put up with it by calculating, at 15 minute intervals, how much money I have earned.

Then, at the precise second in the day when my employers stop paying me, I power off my PC and go home. Applying the same logic to my own employment as my employer does to the provision of services to a client, to do anything else would be uneconomic. A waste of time, brain-cells and effort.

Then I sit at home, more productively, staring at a wall or writing. What would be the point in doing much else?

I do not watch TV or net-surf, as such activities seem to drain intelligence and reduce concentration span, and I seem to have read as many books as might usefully offer either sane guidance or amusement. Hobbies are for train-spotters. Distraction is the enemy, and feeling you have to do something is – for me – a sign of weakness.

So, as soon as this is posted, it will be back to staring at my wall. Much more of this and I may need to go and lie down.

Faster, shorter, trashier

Blame it, if you must, on a week reading nothing more challenging than Jacqueline Susann, and loving it. And who couldn’t love someone who cranked out her writing on a candy pink IBM Selectric?

Anyways, m’dearios, I have decided to go back to writing churned out furiously at top speed, put up there immediately after, then forgotten about. I’m almost an anti-blogger because I dislike the presuppositions of the internet. I’m not interested in the dull evolution of some eternal truth, to be unveiled in full at some indeterminate point in some other bugger’s future. I revel in the uniqueness of now, even when it’s rubbish.

I get off on the real hack vibe – produce against intense pressure, go to print, just chip paper a week later. The nearest equivalent I can think of is improvisational jazz, or the kind of music performance that depends upon chance elements. Once only, no rehearsal, and even better when performed with total strangers.

Knowing it can all go totally wrong is the biggest buzz, but also when something happens that you absolutely could not anticipate or plan for. It stresses the uniqueness of every place, every moment. It could be glorious, exquisite; or it could be awful. You will never know until it happens, and I will never worry about it.

That’s what’s missing about e-journalism. It isn’t of a time and place. It proposes a lie that somehow things in cyberspace always evolve but that there is no unique moment, no mistakes, no tedium. On the internet you’re supposed to revise a piece ad nauseum as new information comes to light. But sod that: is any creative’s life sad enough for that malarkey?

I’m particularly unwilling to go back and “correct” something that is totally of another moment. It should be understood as a snapshot. Reading it recalls that moment only, not an eternal truth. Not that there are any, anyway, but who cares?

As Tom Wolfe says, tongue –in-cheek, in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, “art is not eternal.” More than that. The best is not even good, or made to last.

This blog was never meant as the literary equivalent of a Chippendale chair. From now on, I make it trashier, more disposable.

I write it, post it, and forget it.

Read it as you will, enjoy it or hate it, but don’t ever ask me to revise it. Because by the time it upsets you, I will have moved on.

Relief from the comic

Tomorrow is a bank holiday, and so I get an extra day’s break from a workplace that gets ever more moronic. Two cases from the last week alone would prove my point.

Now, it may be an unfashionable value judgement, but for me anyone who watches enough TV to talk about it at work is beneath contempt. Why do I have to endure the pain of being around such numpties?

OK, apart from because I get paid to be there. Which is no real answer, because the payment is for the pointlessness and drudgery of the work, not the uninspiring surroundings or the vacuity of wage slaves and supervisors who – amazingly – seem to regard such activity as worthwhile or even stimulating.

I mention this because I had to endure the office veg ranting on about East Enders this week. Which got me idly wondering when was the last time I watched any TV soap, and why they don’t interest me.

Apart from a brief period in the 1980’s when I was confined to a house which did, I realised that the answer is “never”, unless I was visiting someone else who does. And the latter, to be honest, is itself unlikely because I would be bored rigid by anyone so dull-witted that they bother.

The thing is that before the year 2000 I was usually out at work until late at night – or just out at play. So I never learnt the genre, and never had the time or inclination to watch TV anyway.

I have never been one of life’s spectators and cannot imagine a time when I would be. Well before the age of hundreds of channels, internet devices and so on, I learnt to pick any rare interesting programme, watch it, then turn off to do something more interesting.

Another source of office-based misery is the monthly compulsory corporate charity scam. In which – in return for the dubious privilege of being allowed to come to work on Friday dressed like a brain-dead Rotarian at the golf club – we “voluntarily” donate money to “good causes” carefully selected by some of the company’s worst mouth-breathers.

From time to time, in order to counter the idea that the company robs the poor of public services in order to subsidise the rich, a mugshot of such slack-jawed oafs branding a giant cheque appears in the local press. Oh, and the “donation” is written off on the company tax return. In fact, everybody wins except those being nominally helped.

This week it was “Subsidise the Yacht-trash”….. sorry “Sailing for the Disabled”. Another of those pointless pseudo-charities that bored rich gits set up, then pressure others to pay for. There’s also Riding for the Disabled, and probably countless others along that line.

See the pattern yet? People with the kind of expensive hobbies that require you to shell out thousands to arse around with other rich wastes of space magnanimously agree to share their dismal hobby with some crips. As if an inability to ponce about in a yacht or on a pony is really the first thing on any disabled person’s mind.

More like, getting a job, being able to get round the house unaided, finding a public toilet, catching a bus…… well, the list goes on and on really. If the nauseating wasters who think up these schemes really wanted to share their toys with some wheelchair user, the cost of adapting them would be….. what, one G&T a week for a year?

But the Manx obsession with pointless charities and cretinous fund-raising events (usually involving the kind of charmless sports player you’d pay to avoid or have crippled, not to encourage) is just another of those joyous things about living here, along with kissing some rich in-breed’s arse, dealing with a government department headed up by the aforementioned in-breed’s least employable relatives, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Not that I am complaining. In fact, observing the sheer inanity of such experiences is enough to keep me amused for most of my waking hours.

Though you do need a strategy to deal with psychos with collecting tins. I find keeping a collection of toy, fake or foreign coins in a separate pocket to your real spare change is a useful one. In the last year, while sporting the appropriate fake smile, I must have dropped, oh, all of 50p’s worth of junk coinage into various collecting tins. It almost makes it interesting and worthwhile to seek such rubbish out, and imagine the dismay and anger when the self-important fundraiser finds it hours later.