tonight’s rubbish topical poem

A sheep in Wolf’s clothing

I’ve just read


Her brain’s shred.

Oh my, eh?

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National poetry day 2014

Those things that poets said


Those things that poets said

Of love seemed true to me

When I loved and I fed

On love and poetry equally.


But now I wish I knew

If theirs were love indeed,

Or if mine were the true

And theirs some other lovely weed:


For certainly not thus,

Then or thereafter, I

Loved ever. Between us

Decide, good Love, before I die.


Only that once I loved

By this one argument

Is very plainly proved:

I loving not am different.



Edward Thomas

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this week’s other political poem

Mister Ed

was talking hoarse

So whispered “deficit”

Of course

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This week’s political poem

Sadly I didn’t have the time

For Ukip to move me to verse

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A personal reflection on the impact on me of the departure of Jason Orange from Take That



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referendum poem

Like many people I have greatly enjoyed the tremendously bad poetry about the referendum as people have put together words on a page with no sense of the shape of the words on the page, how to use space,  or any conception of subtlety, word choice or rhythm. The self important political poetry has been of such quality that I for one am grateful that the internet exists in order to allow its full dissemination.

however, how easy is it to write bad referendum Poetry lacking all of the qualities that one would expect from poetry? I thought I would try for a good five minutes or so using the challenge most seemed to have set themselves:  lines with no or nursery rhythm; littered with clichés and adverbs; and a Simple rhyming scheme.

I therefore unveil

September 18, 2014

I am sure that I will for rest of my life certainly remember

That initially foggy day in the middle of September.

I attended the polling station nearby just before eight

My heart full of hope, and devoid of hate

Apart from for those who would do Scotland down

Who I Stared at as they walked in, while giving a frown.

On the ballot with pencil I marked a big X

But waiting for the result I and my wife were turned into nervous wrecks

And as I watched the twitter timelines and saw the tweets from tannadicelad

I realised for yes the results they could be bad.

[and so on for weeks]

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I live in a relatively new housing estate in central Scotland. Like many recently built housing estates our area neighbours extensive social housing. The local primary school has a great mix of children and parents talk at the gates or in the playground when dropping off or picking up children. For nearly two and a half years the referendum was scarcely mentioned. But when the schools went back in August the referendum campaign was up and running and entering the final weeks, and people started to talk.

“have you had anyone at your door?”

Uniformly, across parents from social housing and those from the new estates the answer was no. This confused me. I thought it was just us. That our estate was identified in these demographic mapping exercises as clearly supporting one side or the other and consequently not worth bothering with. But it wasn’t just us. It was everyone. The media talked consistently of a massive ground campaign by yes supporters, contacting areas never previously canvassed for opinion. But not where I lived. Not in central Scotland. Not in a council area with two SNP MSPs. And watching the media something struck me. This massive ground campaign was filmed in one or two geographical areas.

Now I knew there were activists for the yes campaign in the area. indeed, one neighbour was an early adopter of the YES car sticker. But he did not have a window poster (in my area in a one and a half mile radius of my house they did not appear until the final week  after an unfortunate incident earlier in the campaign, and it was the yougov poll showing yes in the lead that prompted window posters although even then no more than a handful with “no” outnumbering “yes” (disregarding the enthusiastic homes, one on each side where three posters appeared in the windows of one home)). So where was the campaign?

I know some people are uncomfortable knocking on doors (I did it myself for a party in the late 80s and early 90s when enthusiastic and devoid of cynicism and am conscious that forcing yourself into someone else’s personal area requires you to be in a particular mind set) and would have expected lots of leaflets. But we didn’t even have that. Over the more than two years of the campaign we had (up until the final week) five leaflets that had no been delivered by the Post Office. One was for yes, four were for no. When these leaflets were delivered the person did not knock at the door, did not want to engage. On two occasions I tried to go out to speak to the leafleter (partly out of a desire to get information, partly out of mischief given that I had some questions I has been trying to persuade someone to ask the politicians throughout the campaign) the leafleter rushed off. Once I recognised the local SNP councillor, who – following my cheery shout – darted round the corner as if attempting qualifying for the Commonwealth Games relay squad. We were getting hardly anything, but there was the Yes activist in the immediate area. What were they doing? Where were they going?

When I raised this at my work, in central Edinburgh, I expected colleagues to regale me with multiple tales of canvassers. But no. Despite people living across different parts of Edinburgh only one of my work colleagues (from a sample of ten I had chatted about it with) was canvassed. One, living in the city of Edinburgh had, apart from royal mail deliveries, never had any leaflets from either side.

This seemed bizarre.

But then I spoke to my parents in Dumfriesshire. They were canvassed four times by one side during the campaign, never by the other. Four times. Now, as a long time apathetic former activist four time seemed unnecessary. My mum and dad were pretty clear in their vote. They had been clear in their statements with the canvassers. When I canvassed (Admittedly more than twenty years ago) we usually relied on the first response, would note probability, and may go back as a check potential swings, or to encourage our supporters. And once identified it was about getting those supporters out to vote. But if the yes side was canvassing avowed no voters four times I had some queries. The media proclaimed the database of the yes campaign and the SNP hugely impressive. What sort of database needs you to go to the door of someone supporting the other side four times? What was the record keeping really like? And why, when I knew so many areas were uncanvassed, was the same series of streets in a small town in Dumfriesshire, being done four times?

The use of resources seemed inexplicable. Moreso, when told by parents that a team of sixty canvassers descended on their home town in the final weekend of the campaign for another go at the same streets in an area near the border that was nothing like SNP or pro independence territory – while I lived in central Scotland in a town with two SNP MSPs and had never had anyone at the door.

That weekend 6,000 yes supporters attended a protest at the BBC protesting against BBC bias and the temerity of the political editor of the BBC asking political questions. And we got another no leaflet. And no one from yes came to the door.

On the night that thousands of yes supporters rallied in George Square in Glasgow, less than half an hour away on the train was a sizeable chunk of a Scottish town – where ultimately over 100,000 people voted – where the yes campaign had never made any contact. The night that the rally took place in Glasgow I saw my neighbour, the yes activist. It was at the train station as he left for Glasgow and I got home from Edinburgh. Knowing that I watched pictures of the rally, and videos appeared, I was reminded of Kinnock’s rally at Sheffield. It looked like a victory rally. That night we had a no supporter at the door.

The following day I saw a car with two saltires drive round our estate. The driver stopped and dropped off boxes at my activist neighbour’s home. We did not get a leaflet until much later that night. Just after the one from no arrived.

I voted early on 18th September, completing my referendum journey. As I wandered round I reflected on questions I had raised with friends that were activists that had gone unanswered, questions that had been asked to representative bodies for the campaign based on readings of directives and other legislation that had been answered with one line emails, I reflected on my childhood weekends, on my family, and my job, and my home, and I reflected on a twitter exchange which exemplified a feeling that neither side really understood the emotions of the other and lacked any empathy. I got my ballot paper. I marked my cross.

That night I went to the local corner shop. I passed the car with two saltire driving around. The shopkeeper and I chatted about the number of people who had voted. He closed early to go to vote himself. I returned home and saw the car with the two saltire driving around my street aimlessly. What was the driver doing? Given there had been no canvass if this was a get out the vote operation where was he going? I stood at the door and watched it drive past my door three times in five minutes as it followed the loop of the road. Going round and round in circles.

I closed the door and waited for the results.

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my journey to my referendum decision

I’ll probably go out of the house after breakfast, walk up the street, then through the cut, turn left, and along the road past the roundabout until I get to the new houses and then turn left to the community centre. I’ll hand over my polling card and then go to the booth and put a cross in one of the boxes, but with a pen mind, not a pencil. You can’t be too careful.

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A few thoughts on referendum opinion polling

In recent years I have tried to avoid blogging on scottish politics for reasons too complicated to go into. But after a week of reading silly tweets, press releases, blog posts, and articles I have been stirred from my silence. Here are, in no particular order, some thoughts on referendum polling.

1. The credibility of opinion pollsters for their general business is dependent on having a pretty good level of accuracy in relation to polling for high profile things, like big public votes. The pollsters therefore, in good faith, do their best to get the most accurate reflection of opinion. For either side in the referendum to claim X is in the pocket of the other lot is a bit cheap. Sometimes you don’t get the result you would like to hear because you are not hearing what the public likes.

2. There may be things that are difficult to take into account in the opinion polls for the referendum – particularly people who may vote who are not usually voting (because they’re not usually registered) – but the companies are trying to do their best.

3. if you are trying to derive any grand declaration of voting intent for an area from a regional subsample of around 120 voters you are an idiot. Those regional polls that have been worth looking at are those where a regional paper or TV station with regional coverage has had a proper job done by a pollster in the area. Last week yes and no folk issued press releases claiming [Region x] for [yes/no] based on samples of 100 or so folk (which was not mentioned). The yes ones emerged after the Survation poll at the start of the week, the no ones after the poll at the end of the week. Read the regional subsamples for each and marvel at the fluctuation of support in some areas. Then compare with genuine regional polling with proper samples that has taken place. If you are a political type issuing a press release like that think about your credibility before publishing.

4. If you are issuing a press release based on a self selective poll on a newspaper or magazine website you are an idiot. Votes on newspaper websites can be hijacked. This will not come as news to fans of television shows or pop groups or personalities. Look at the old best TV show of all time polls, look at what won, and wonder why work by Kneale, Potter, Bleasdale, Rosenthal, Davies &c didn’t appear at the top of the web based votes. I really enjoy doctor Who. I have a DVD and audio and book collection that testifies to it. Is it a better show than I, Claudius? aye, right.

5. If a web based poll purports to be from a site in a particular sector make sure before issuing the press release proclaiming great news for you that those who can vote in the poll actually come from that sector. If you issue a press release proclaiming sector X is for [yes/no] and it can be shown that a legion of one direction fans scrawling through web links can click an answer and comment then your credibility is hit.

6. A vote through social media is a waste of time. Either hijacking takes place or if the link to the poll isn’t shared by people on other social media with an exhortation to vote for this then when you hold up a mirror to a sample you have some control of selecting don’t be staggered if it reflects what you think. Don’t issue press releases or public declarations that your self selecting poll is clearly more accurate than one by opinion pollsters or people will question your motivation or sanity. I have over the years asked various polls on social media often about the pronunciation of scone. This is as informative as a poll on social media gets. A percentage is in favour of scone, another percentage in favour of scone. Beyond that I wouldn’t draw any conclusions.

7. Not every poll can be good news for the side you support whether the vote for the side you support goes up or goes down. Some aren’t good news for your side. Admit it. Not every news story or event is good news for the side you support. The other side gets good news too. Hell, both sides have some quite impressive people on view articulating their positions. That’s why some people are finding reaching a decision difficult. If you want to be taken seriously maybe being a bit less Pollyanna-like will help that.

8. A general thought to end with: people on both sides are taking their position for the best of motivations. They are taking their position because they think it’s for the best for the majority of folk. You might disagree with them, but they’re sincere. Maybe if everyone assumed that those on each side was equally well motivated it might make things a bit easier afterwards.

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Ed Miliband – an apology

Following the publication by loveandgarbage on his twitter feed of a picture of Ed Milband accompanied by the salutations “how do?” and “#goalface” Loveandgarbage’s press secretary has just issued this statement on his behalf:

“Loveandgarbage  was promoting his twitter feed by using the medium of a politician looking daft in a picture accompanied by a stupid comment, and is proud to do so.

“But he understands the anger that is felt towards Ed Miliband over the bacon sandwich incident by many voters people on twitter and he is sorry to those who feel offended.”

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Scientifically based poll on thing for the purposes of some free publicity over various social media outlets from people who should know better

As the PR person for loveandgarbage I often ask myself how can I increase links to my website without spending any money. I find that a spurious on-line poll about a thing in the news notionally targeted at and representing the views of some sector of people in the news (eg new presenters on a radio station) but open to voting from people that have nothing to do with that sector can be shared around on social media by people quick to link to a thing they think says something in support of a thing in the news they feel strongly about, while not thinking about what lies behind it.

So, anyway, with a thing being in the news today, how do you feel about it?

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Books of the year


I loved Sophie Hannah’s Selected Poems, (which was funny and wise) and RS Thomas’s Poems to Elsi - which collects the poems Thomas wrote to and for his wife (before and after her death).


I have long admired the novels of David Peace. His latest Red or Dead is something of an acquired taste it seems – polarising views. The review I felt best got the book is by Stuart Evers. It is incantatory, hypnotic, compelling. The style mirroring the attitude to his work of Bill Shankly. That the style continues into his retirement becomes incredibly moving. I think this is his best yet.

A new Andrew Crumey is always a pleasure. The Secret Knowledge is no exception.  There is a lovely piece by John Self on it. It is best not to say too much about it before reading, but if you haven’t read Crumey before there is a wonderful back catalogue.  His wonderful Pfitz has been reprinted this year. I remember the year I bought eight or nine copies of it to force on people as Christmas presents.

Short stories

Years ago I read Dan Rhodes’s Anthropology, 101 short stories of 101 words.  I have enjoyed the books that have followed, but have been waiting for him to return to the funny, caustic, short short form. Marry me was published at the start of the year – heralded by stand up comics and others. It was very enjoyable.


I’m a Doctor Who obsessive. This may be apparent from a brief look at old posts. The 50th anniversary prompted much new stuff the best of which was Neil Perryman’s Adventures with the wife in space. This followed up the wonderful blog Neil and his wife Sue had during which they watched the whole of Doctor Who from the beginning. The book doesn’t cash in by rehashing the blog but is a lovely book about love, childhood, and growing up (in lots of senses).


Two stand outs for me: Malorie Blackman’s Doctor Who story for kids The Ripple Effect is a proper Malorie Blackman story, engaging with prejudice, but about Daleks and the Doctor’s prejudices.

The other is Andrew Drummond’s A Little Read Book a very funny collection of tales of the turkey revolution, narrated by Bruthur Nubbly – one of the revolutionaries.

PS Law

I wouldn’t normally recommend law books to a general readership. The subject matter has become increasingly specialised over the years, and technical material may enthuse someone working in the area, but remain impenetrable to those outside. However, I unhesitatingly recommend Final judgment: the last law Lords and the Supreme Court by professor Alan Paterson. It is an important, (and very readable) look at how the judges in the highest court in the UK reach their decisions. It looks at the dynamics of group decision making, and the impact of personalities – in the presentation of arguments before the court and in the process of decision making itself. It is an enlightening book, much the most enjoyable law book I have read for  years. If you are interested in law or in politics and our constitution it’s well worth a purchase.

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The ORIGINAL Is there snow outside? LIVE-BLOG

1.25 pm Ah. It’s stopped.

1.23 pm Yes. yes there is.

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EXCLUSIVE Is it windy outside? live-blog

10.58 am – The wind has died down. Grateful children and their parents run into the streets to greet the sun.  They weep.

10.32 am – Have recovered stuff from the garden.  It was like a garden out there. Like a garden filled with stuff.

9.45 am – saw a trampoline prowling outside. It looks shifty.

9.39 am – Glasgow police are warning the public about trampolines.  The bastards. Coming over here. Stealing our gardens.

9.31 am – The clouds part briefly.  We are showered in sunlight. And heavy rain obviously.

9.22 am – Tree outside is bending and straining, like a celebrity doing a dance in the early weeks of Strictly.

9.08 am – had a look in back garden. Shed blown over, doors off, debri everywhere. Which is nice.

9.02 am – While out I saw a trampoline nesting in a tree.  I thought they migrated before the really bad weather.

8.59 am – Been out. Taken kids to school. Bloody hell.

8.46 am – All Scottish train services are suspended.

8.45 am – Sod it. remembered there is a trampoline next door.  Luckily we have a big fence between the houses.

8.39 am – Daylight. A scene of devastation outside as the wind continues to blow. A crisp packet blows past the window.  It is green.  In the past we would have thought that it was cheese and onion. Today, due to Walkers and their disrespect for traditional colours of crisp packets, it might be salt and vinegar. This crisp packet is indicative of everything that is wrong with modern Britain.

8.19 am – Apparently Glasgow Central station is being evacuated because it’s windy there too and the glass roof has smashed.  I am watching chairs shuffle around the garden.

8.09 am – The sky is now a dark grey as we await sunrise.  The back garden is strewn with children’s stuff, chairs, and a table.  I’d guess that means the shed has blown over.

8.01 am –  It’s still dark. And it’s wet. And it’s windy.  I’m staying in.

7.51 am – What a horrible sodding day.

7.50 am – there is a stream of water in the middle of the road outside the house.  It reflects the street lights, rippling and breaking up as the wind increases.

7.43 am -Bet the Guardian wished they had a liveblog on whether it was windy outside, but as the south east is unaffected I guess they’re not bothering.

7.27 am – The wind blowing through the nearby houses and trees is creating echoes that sound like the ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal. Too dark to check whether it is the ravenous bugblatter beast.

7.13 am – Still dark. And windy.

6.57 am – Aye, still windy. The lamp post outside the house is swaying like a lamp post being buffeted by a 70 mile per hour gust.

6.42 am – Still windy. It is making the groaning  sounds of a grumpy uncle relaxing on your couch after visiting on Boxing Night after he has spent the afternoon in the pub.

6.28 am – Yep. Windy.

6.15 am – Dark out.  And windy.

6 am – woken up by the wind.  I think this indicates that it is windy outside.  Begin live-blog to assess whether it is windy outside?

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Newsnight to buy It’s a Knockout latex outfits for new regular Gavin Esler feature

The editor of the BBC flagship show Newsnight has today confirmed that he has entered negotiations to acquire the giant latex outfits from It’s a Knockout for a new regular feature.

“After that interview with a muppet, and getting Kirsty Wark to act like an idiot, and that whole Gogglebox crossover I have thought that we really need to spice up the show a bit more.  I have therefore entered negotiations to buy those giant rubber costumes from It’s  Knockout for a new regular feature. We’re going to get Gavin Esler dressed as a giant and he’ll have to carry two buckets of coloured water to pour into a clear Perspex tube held by a government minister of spokesman for the opposition.  The politician will be in the middle of a giant spinning disk and we’ll get Allegra to pour some water over it while Gavin’s walking.  Gavin is only allowed to ask a question when he’s pouring water into the tube. And the politician can refuse to answer if he or she plays their joker.”

Ian Katz is old enough to know better.

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I have in front of me an old black and white photograph. In the centre pulled by two horses is a cart: the wheels are almost as high as the horses. On each horse, a man in uniform, sashes over the shoulders, peaked caps obscuring their eyes. In the background there are more horses, more men, but it’s the cart that is the focus of the piece.  It , and the horses, are on a road bordered by a low stone wall. The road is badly surfaced. The wheels look metallic.  They are thick-rimmed. On the back of the cart is a gun, an enormous gun. Immediately behind the gun, a uniformed man marching. He is tall. His face is blurred. He is my great grandfather.

The picture is a copy of a postcard he sent to his fiancée in 1915.

Within eighteen months he could not march.

He manned a gun at the Somme. He continued to man the gun when his leg was blown off. He got a medal for that. Married his fiancée, had children.

He was an old old man when I was a child. He lived with his son, and his wife – my papa and granny. In their home he had a special chair, high-backed. No-one else sat in it. Even when he was away for a brief period of respite care no-one sat in it. It was his.

He was bald. Bespectacled. His ear lobes were large then, his hearing poor. He had an ochre coloured cardigan. He wore dark trousers. His leg clanged when you knocked it. And we knocked it…

When he died my mum got a morning call. She sat in tears at the bottom of our stairs cradling the phone. And we cried because she was crying.

When we visited my granny’s house the weekend after his chair was empty.

When it comes to November every year I wear a poppy. And I remember him. And the others.


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Only Connect: an appeal

The popula BBC Fou panel show Only Connect has a poblem. Sadly, the question settes have misplaced a numbe of lettes. When setting questions the question settes assume that one lette of the alphabet exists puely in a silent vesion unutte-ed by the people of Bitain. This vexes those of us who exist outwith the south of England and occasionally use the lette ” ” in ponouncing wods. It is had for us to watch a show we admie and enjoy but feel we cannot fully paticipate in because one of the lettes we ponounce in ou eveyday existence is ignoed, cast adift fom the vocabulay.

Accodingly we appeal fo all missing lette ” “s to be etuned to the Only Connect studios to be used in questions. It is only afte that ponunciation is evived that we can be assued that the question settes ae not talking out of their ases.

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Wilfred Owen

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen
who died on this day in 1918.

(for a reflection on Owen read this lovely piece by Sean McPartlin)

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The 3 people you must follow on twitter

Ignoring yesterday, here are the real top 3 people you must follow on twitter:

1.  Julia Roberts, film star revealing everything you need to know about life in the movies.

2. Oliver Letwin MP, a government minister shedding light on the murky business of coalition politics.

3. Brian Taylor, the BBC Scotland political editor is a refreshingly bracing voice on twitter.  His forthright opinions and quick wit, and perceptive insights on reality television contestants, have won him thousands of followers.

Any newspaper list generated from dodgy algorithms or mates letting you know who their celebrity friends are that fails to contain these individuals is missing the point of twitter, and treats the whole thing far too lightly.


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The people you MUST follow on twitter (CONCEPT EXCLUSIVE TO ALL NEWSPAPERS)

1.  someone famous. Comedian.

2. someone famous.  broadcaster.

3. someone famous.  Politician who gets staff to write his tweets.

4. someone famous.  Panel show member.

5. someone famous.  Presenter.

6. someone famous.  Radio personality.

7. someone famous.  Journalist who has a book out.

8. someone famous. Actor.

9. someone famous.  Film star, interviewed elsewhere in paper.

10.  someone famous.  Television personality.

11. someone famous.  Rent-a-mouth pundit.

12. someone famous.  Writer.

13. someone famous.  Footballer.

14. someone famous.  Renaissance man.

15. someone famous.  A WOMAN!!!!

16. someone famous. Actor.

17. someone famous. ANOTHER WOMAN!!!!

18. someone famous. Pontiff.

19. someone famous. Politician.

20. mate of the author of the piece who you have never heard of before.

21. someone famous. Comedian.

22. someone famous. Professional controversialist.

23. someone famous. Reality television star.

24. someone famous.  Pop star

25. someone famous. Pop star.

26. someone famous. Pop star.

27. someone famous.  Ageing lothario.

28. someone famous. Radio presenter and novelist.

29. someone famous. Model (AND ANOTHER WOMAN!!!!!!).

30. someone famous. Failed politician.

31. someone famous. Journalist and author, occasionally appearing on Question Time

32. someone famous. Actor.

33. someone famous. Pop star.

34. someone famous. person from the 80s, still alive.

35. someone famous. Celebrity participating in one of those talent shows

36. someone famous. Film star.

37. parody account to show author has sense of humour.

38. someone famous. Soap star.

39. someone famous. Professional misery guts

40. someone famous. Newsreader.

41. someone famous. Helping police with their enquiries.

42. someone famous. Pop star.

43. someone famous. Person famous for being famous.

44. another mate of the author. Even googling doesn’t help.

45. someone famous. Religious leader.

46. someone famous. Professional British idiot, now living in US.

47. someone famous. Journalist.

48. someone famous. Egotist.

49. someone famous. Pop star.

50. someone famous. Footballer.

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