Saturday, February 26, 2011

Next Time, I'll Glue My Head To The Fridge...

This has happened so many times over the past two weeks that I'm deliberately taking it up as a new hobby just to spite fate...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Michael Gove Kissed My Shoes At The BBC Celebrity Whippet Rodeo

Before anyone gets too excited that the Michael Gove to whom I refer is the uberintellectual eel gene repository and all-round smiter of anti-3Rs methodology to the stars currently presiding over the nation's educational wherewithal, I should point out that since June 2010, the number of small to medium sized dogs bearing this monicker has risen substantially — much like the late 80s escalation of Koi carp named Kylie Minogue — and so when I proclaim, Michael Gove kissed my shoes at the BBC Celebrity Whippet Rodeo, let's be perfectly clear that I'm talking about a dog and have in no way lured you here under any kind of false pretences bar the usual suspects.

And so, to the main event...

The history of whippet rodeos is well-documented so I won't bother cluttering up this post with too much of the back story — less still, any superfluous links. If you're at all interested, just type 'whippet rodeo' into your browser and I'm sure you'll uncover hundreds upon hundreds of suitably informative pages (though do make sure your browser search settings are set to SAFE because unfortunately, like Dungeons & Dragons, this noble sport has fallen prey to hijack by certain unsavoury wings of the porn fraternity). All you need to know is that in 1934 a fifteen year-old nipper called Christopher Wearbrooke clambered aboard faithful family pet, Thinnun, and rode himself between the dustbins of Belton St, Cardiff, into history via PC Dick Dickson, a clip round the ear and an opportunistic bugger attack. As it turns out, Thinnun himself was history within five minutes of the ride c/o a broken spine, but had it not been for his few brief moments as a would-be steer (and subsequent metalwork projects involving numerous unknown dogs and Wearbrooke's bicycle crossbar), the sport of whippet rodeo would have remained uninvented to this day, possibly even longer.

For the past two years, BBC Radio Cardiff has covered the event using money saved from John Barrowman’s make-up budget in the wake of Torchwood’s demise. Like Comic Relief, Live Aid, Sport Aid and Keep Granny Smiling Even Though She’s Barely Seconds Left, the Celebrity Whippet Rodeo is a charity fundraiser of which this country should be justly proud. Let’s just hope its founder, 70s keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman, is honoured with a knighthood sometime soon. If rumours are true that his prog rock classic The Lost Cycle is to be played as Prince William and Kate Middleton leave Westminster Abbey after their forthcoming wedding, I wouldn’t be surprised if he replaces Camilla as potential future queen. After all, he has the hair.

The roll call of contestants for the event read like a combined who’s who of comedy, pop, theatre, dance, 6 o-clock news and kitchen — in short, the biggest collection of showy artistes this side of Hitler’s wartime To Do list. I was on hand as a volunteer to help an old school friend make cups of tea for the G-H group of celebs between rides. For two months prior to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I’d been banking on meeting up with Harrison Ford.

“No,” said my friend, “he’ll be in the E-F room — or would be if he wasn’t famously afraid of dogs.”
“Snakes!” I urged, “it’s snakes” — but before we could resolve the argument, Antony Worral Thomson and the woman from strolled in looking lost and kept us busy for the next half an hour with their unbelievably petulant demands for Lapsang Souchong.

As it turned out, another of the celebrities present at the rodeo was Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. If ever there was a man capable of manipulating his elfin jockey anatomy to aplomb atop a straining canine, it's Mr Gove, and as soon as I saw him kicked back in a swivel chair puffing studiously on his Mississippi meerschaum I knew he’d be more than capable of beating the pants off the other celebrities — up to and including bookies' favourite, Lenny Henry. Turned out, he was one of the judges, and as the day wore on, clearly more of a hardline Jason Gardiner than a fluffy Robin Cousins as he dispensed paltry figures and harsh words in equal measure like he was behind the dispatch box announcing cuts to the education budget. Bold and technically accomplished though Cilla Black’s twelve and a half seconds in the saddle were, Gove only awarded her a 4 and offered no sympathy when her teeth flew out and hit a disabled boy from Chippenham.

Then a funny thing happened — the sort of funny thing upon which momentous events often hinge, only in this instance it wasn't so much momentous as funny (like I said, in fact). The BBC's coverage of the Celebrity Whippet Rodeo was itself being covered for a documentary about cameramen called Careful How You Zoom In On The Titties and one of the guys filming behind the judges' podium forgot he was miked up.

"It's a right laugh, this," he said, "there's this geezer sat in front of me with the same name as that dog over there under Lemmy from Motorhead. If I were producing this show, I'd boot hairychops and let the judge have a go. And now ladies and gentlemen, Michael Gove riding Michael Gove — imagine that."

As far as I'm aware, the cameraman documentary never made it to screen, but these words were beamed live to the Millennium Stadium with much the same effect on the thrill-hungry audience as the call for a disembowelled Christian before the Colosseum’s finest.

To his credit, Gove agreed to partake in the spectacle (the politician, not the dog — dogs are notoriously dumb and get to do as they're told). But only on one condition. In order to protect his suit from saliva, Gove insisted the whippet be wrapped in cling film and its legs securely bound. Quite how the binding of the legs was intended to protect his clothing no-one knew, but he was adamant.

"Great!" said the jubilant producer. "This will make TV history."

"And five hundred pounds, payable in cash," replied Gove. It's remarkable how the privately educated can keep their wits about them with a squirming pooch and a team of volunteer stewards grunting and groaning between their outstretched thighs.

I suspect very few of you will have had any experience of trussed, partially suffocating dogs, but in my previous bloggerly incarnation as a pre-op transvestite, I picked up one or two tips. From where I was standing, it was clear to me that Gove's biggest problem was neither his suit nor his reluctant steed's ability to indulge in any kind of Secretary of State tossing. Lemmy, it seemed, had become extremely aggressive now he'd polished off the bottle of Asda whiskey used to lure him away from Gove (the dog).

"I didn't headline the Stow-on-the-Wold Icons of Metal Festival in ‘87 before an audience of 24,000 to have sand kicked in my face," he bellowed. "I've seen what I'm A Celebrity did for Joe Pasquale and no way am I having this profile-boosting opportunity stolen from me!" — and with that, he flung himself through the air at the MP for Surrey Heath as the crowd instinctively roared the chorus to Bomber.

The whole thing was like witnessing a mugging on the Tube — nobody moved, nobody helped, nobody lifted a finger. The judges, the audience, the celebrities — even Sir Alex Ferguson — stood mute and fascinated like eunuchs before a half-speed stripper. I knew if I didn't act fast, either Gove the MP would end up strangled, Lemmy permanently paralysed by Gove's hitherto unreported Putin-like martial arts talents, and the whippet crushed in the flailing limb melee of gnarly rocker vs Big Society reformer — but microseconds before my instincts kicked in and I threw myself headlong at the writhing bodies, I caught sight once more of Cilla’s dentures poking from the disabled boy's skull.

"Oi, Jools!" I called — because the diminutive ex-Squeeze trillster and his big band were providing the music for the event and his piano happened to be right next to where the kid lay bleeding — "chuck me Cilla’s teeth will you?"

The moment he grabbed on to those Blind Date choppers, I saw they were embedded deeper in the boy’s skull than either of us (or even Conan) would have liked. Luckily, things turned out okay because the boy had one of those supportive neck braces and Jools managed to yank the teeth free with no risk of subsequent conviction for GBH or exposure as a closet Exorcist bed scene fantasist.

“Here,” he cried, in that velvety nasal voice of his, “I’d take a pop at Lemmy if I were you.”

My plan had been to do exactly that, using the teeth as a boomerang in the hope of rendering Lemmy unconscious so that Gove (the MP) could be hauled to safety and Gove (the dog) rolled over into the recovery position, but because Jools had clearly plumped for the Aboriginal missile strategy himself, no sooner had Cilla’s teggies left his hand than they looped over the audience and arrived right back where they started, ie on a trajectory for the disabled boy's open head wound. Fortunately for the boy, a mortified Cilla crouched over his quivering body administering mouth-to-mouth and the teeth bit harmlessly home into the protective padding strapped to her buttocks. Phew.

Future trivia quiz shows will no doubt baffle contestants with their brain teasers about the precise duration of this denturely airborne parabola — but everyone in the Millennium Stadium that day knew the answer: exactly the same amount of time it takes an inveterate hundred-a-day heavy metal demigod clad in a leather one-piece to tear Gove (the dog)'s head from its body mistakenly believing it to be the head of Gove (the MP) and hurl it into the air with a loud cry of, “bollocksbastardwankarsetwat!”

What a position to be in — on the stage of the biggest venue in South Wales, halfway between a prone Cilla Black and a crazed Lemmy Kilminster as the still-yelping head of a pedigree longhair whippet comes hurtling towards you, lit by a stroboscopic halo of fag lighter flashes. I count myself fortunate that years of strumming his bass guitar had rendered Lemmy’s elbow joint incapable of full extension and the whippet’s head fell ten or so feet short of where I was standing. After a series of short Dambusters-style bounces across the floor of the stage, it finally came to rest, lips first, against the toe of my (inappropriately named, as it turned out) Hush Puppy. It landed, it rolled — and then it kissed.

And that, my friends, is how Michael Gove kissed my shoes at the BBC Celebrity Whippet Rodeo.

(With thanks to Mr London Street, from whose 2nd Bloggiversary comment trail the inspiration for this post was plucked.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Flowing Pink Chiffon Experiment

Nathan Bransford ran a great post last night on the current state of the Blogosphere. In essence, he asks: Have Blogs Peaked?

In full, his post is here.

I’ve been aware for some time that since Facebook, Twitter, Arsebook, CheeseToss and other similar social networking sites took off big time, substantive blogging seems to have taken something of a hit — and I’ve corresponded personally with some of my followers about much the same topic.

Indeedy, in the Tangerine Guru’s comment trail, I harp on thusly:
Comment 1
I'm definitely noticing a downturn in traffic, commentary and visitors.

With the exception of a few hip sites I visit, this seems to be mirrored across the dimpled ball formerly known as "the blogosphere".

Facebook and Twitter seem to have siphoned people off into a chittery chattery form of social interaction at a cost to the more substantial offerings available on Blogger and Facebook.

Which is a shame.

Hopefully, this is a "flour through sieve" moment and we'll be left with a better selection of blogs in the long run as the chitter chatterers are weeded out (not that you can weed with a sieve anywhere other than Mixed Metaphor Land, of course...)

Comment 2

One further comment.

I tend to find that my more substantial posts are commented upon less frequently than my frivolous ones.

If I post some researched commentary about writing, I may get a few hits, but if I go with a photo of a gorilla in a tutu, accompanied by a single exclamation mark, my visitors are all over me like mayo on a quarter pounder.

My plan for today had been to dig out something suitably simian-cum-shamelessly-JulianClaryan but most of the photos I found were either copyrighted or disgustingly pseudopornographic — or both.

So, in the spirit of pushing the experimental boat out further, here’s a link to some photos of gorillas in tutus.

And here’s a picture of an exclamation mark.

Here commenceth the Whirl/Nate Blog/Mayo Test/Crock-o-Shite.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Joy Formidable

The O2 Academy in Leicester is what’s known on the UK gigging circuit as an “intimate venue”.

What this means is that when things really hot up, everyone gets to writhe in their own sweat like fish in the bowels of some haul-rich trawler while a handful of Oxygen atoms diffuses at speed through every available lung.

Call me smart, but for last night’s Joy Formidable gig, I took along a wetsuit (complete with snorkel) and a packet of hi-energy digestive biscuits to soak up the mosh pit.

Sadly, the promised new state-of-the-art Academy facilities had been hijacked by a student performance of The Mikado and I was ushered round the back of the building along with my gigging partner, Vader, by security men clearly developing their muscles for the wealth of job opportunities the inevitable Big Society riots will bring them.

“You’re in the Old Queens Hall,” they said (though not in unison — that’s barber shop quartets, not posses of hard men clad in fluorescent yellow jackets).

Ah yes, the Old Queens Hall. Many happy memories: The Sundays, Curve, Mallard Hopper — and Doug “Goose Breath” Contusion & His All-Walsall Sugar Rush Ensemble.

Vader and I arrived just as the last power chords of support band, Airship, resounded round the wood-panelled walls. It’s an odd gig venue, the Old Queens Hall — a cross between a thirties lecture theatre or library and a showroom for some Elizabethan Ikea — and tonight, they’d clearly toned down the lights out of respect for President Mubarak’s departure to create a Tutankhamun’s Tomb chic. As ever with Uni gigs, the queue for the bar spawned rows, columns and tiers — but this time, only as far as the ladies’ loos. Just water for me and Vader, it seemed, along with some bog roll to light the way back to the stage.

By 8.30 it was time to strap on my snorkel ready for the headline act when support band #2 surprised me by striding onto the tiny stage radiating gloom like Lee Evans sweats. Music is very much a matter of taste and what some love, others hate. In the case of The Chapman Family, there was too much pain and anguish for my liking — just a tad more, and I might have become the only survivor of the UK’s first terrorist-free mass suicide.

When Stockton-on-Tees’ finest were done, Vader and I entertained ourselves with a selection of pre-headline act pastimes such as Guess The Sex Of The Weirdo, Stick The Blu Tak On The Bald Guy’s Head and Que est-ce que Doth Yon Stage Set Signify? This last one, we played for a good twenty minutes, and after studying the curious arrangement of twisted wooden sculptures and lights at the back of the stage, Vader won with knock-down Christmas decoration cargo shipwrecked off the coast of Anglesey.

Then suddenly...

For a three-piece, The Joy Formidable possess a very big sound indeed and from the moment they powered up their distinctive throb I suspected the stage set concealed the Llanelli Community Gimp, complete with tambourine, maracas and an uncontrollable desire to make merry. That’s when I began to feel a little conspicuous in my wetsuit.

From the outset, lead singer Ritzy Bryan mesmerised the crowd with her deft facial antics. All frontwomen possess some degree of charisma, described variously as “electrifying”, “sexy” or “hypnoticalistic” — or, in James Blunt’s case, “dispensed with a wickerwork ladle” — but Bryan has a quirkily unique appeal which sets her apart from other alluring Welsh peroxide blondes with beautifully defined patellae. One minute, she’d be rocked right back, guitar on hip, in the throes of a glowing smile as if trusting an invisible Snowdonian rhino to support her svelteness, while the next, she’d be staring the crowd down with the ferocity of a football hooligan in a wig, all the time hoovering up attention like a gorgon hungry for novelty garden gnomes. Allied to her luminous vocals and thrill-spangled manipulation of the fretboard, her considerable front makes Ritzy Bryan a force to be reckoned with.* When big time success comes (as it MUST), even the most humongous of venues will struggle to swallow her a limb at a time, let alone whole.

* Ok, I confess — I constructed this last sentence from cut-ups of the NME like Bowie used to do with his lyrics (and most of his clothes).

Throughout the gig, bassist Rhydian Daffyd divided his energies equally between punching out the band’s distinctive rhythm, slapping buttocks with Ritzy during frequent Strictly-style mock tangos, and inciting the crowd into a wild frenzy as if he were a Frankenstein hybrid of crazed gym instructor and devilishly cunning pirate captain — only with a mains hookup to his bass rather than his neck and a neat black shirt instead of matching lycra boxers, eyepatch, and irritating bird of paradise. Such a shame Leicester’s gene pool still reels from the “zest debt” it built up spawning Gok Wan’s insufferable hairdo. Wild, wild frenzies there were, but regrettably, it was the rage of lettuce. Just one soul braved the barrier and clambered onto the stage, and had this been Birmingham, Manchester or Cardiff, he’d have mobbed Ritzy to within two slobber-free square inches of her dinky dress fabric as she twanged away on her AXE — or thrown himself backwards into a hastily arranged circle of no-one. As it was, he blundered around for a second or two like someone waking from a thirty year coma in the pet food aisle of Morrisons before being bundled offstage by a roadie.

By far the bulk of the night’s energy, drive and wildness was supplied by drummer, Matt Thomas. He’d been issued with a fetchingly trendy Gallic hooped top which might easily have been mistaken for a fashion statement had he been a poncy keyboardist or pointless backing vocalist-cum-limbodancer-cum-twat, but when your role is to pound out a stick-to-skin onslaught of relentless riddim for well over an hour, top of your list of essentials has to be a reliable tool for WORKING OUT WHICH WAY UP IS, and with Ritzy bobbing around like an enraged Lulu and Rhydian giving it the Full Johnny Depp On A Treadmill while you pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, wearing a hooped shirt is far preferable to having a spirit level nailed to your tits. Unusually for a drummer, Matt was positioned to the very right of the stage, but such was the ferocity of his paraflamallantisiliogochgochgochadiddles during the course of the set that he ended up over on the left with his legs in the air and smoke trailing from his cymbals like some hapless WWII kamikaze pilot had flown through a temporal worm hole and thought, “hey, The Joy Formidable are fucking brilliant.”

It’s most unlike me to quote imaginary (and unfortunate) 20th century Japanese aviators with a penchant for self-harm, but I’m having that one tattooed just above my belly button. The moment I first heard this band — relatively late in the day in Feb 2009, I’m ashamed to say — I knew they were destined for great things. Last night, they proved me right. My only disappointment as of now is that unless the Earth is gobbled up by a galaxy-sized whale-like monster hunting temporal worms to supplement the plankton, this is probably the last time I’ll get to see them at an “intimate venue”.

A shame — but as another of Leicester’s famous sons, Gary Lineker, would say: “Whirl, I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about...”

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Importance Of Names In Fantasy Literature

The Riders of Rohan have always been a surprise to me — not in the sense that they come bursting out of my bathroom cabinet at random every few hours √° la Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition (though they did try it on last Tuesday night when I was picking a flake of sweetcorn skin from between my teeth) — but rather because their name lends itself so easily to practically all forms of mockery.

On the whole, Tolkien was a dab hand with names (and a lecturer friend assures me this is because he was so terribly embarrassed about his own — Gollum’s now infamous postural shenanigans owe their origin to Tolkien’s frequent pacing around his Oxford study room cursing his ancestors for not being Smiths or O Donovonovons), but with the “Riders of Rohan” he clearly lost it.

Boromir, yes. Saruman, yes. Even Treebeard is passable. 

But Rohan? With its riders? 

To be honest, Tolkien would have been better off calling the place Cock.

You desire reasoning?

Okay then, here goes.

Realistically, if you were a barbarian horde consisting of thousands upon thousands of pit-forged Uruk-Hai led by an ultra powerful wizard (himself in thrall to your mutual ultimate overlord, the uberdark Sauron), mention of “the Riders of Rohan” (in conjunction with their “coming”) simply wouldn’t have you quaking in your hobbitflesh boots in my opinion. 

More likely, a Mexican Wave of sniggers and guffaws would ripple across your Urukness like a kaleidoscope of colour along a randy cephalopod’s back — only it would be a Mordor Wave, with weirder hats than sombreros tossed into the air, and frequent interruptions to the pulse thanks to spontaneous gratuitous acts of mindless violence.

Uruk-Hai 1: Oi! Pack pushing, you ugly git!

Uruk-Hai 2: It wasn’t me, it’s a Mordor Wave, pug-face.

Uruk-Hai 1: Who are you calling pug-face?

[Over the sniggers and guffaws comes the rumble of knobbly clubs being prised from their sheaths...]

Uruk-Hai #s 3-17, 19-45, 49-72: Fight! Fight! Fight!

Uruk-Hai #s 19-22, 46-47 (as they lie, trampled half to death on the Tolkienesque sod): "Riders of Rohan"! Ha ha! That’s so so so soooooooo funny!

I should point out that once the rout had started, this air of mockery would most certainly NOT be apparent if you were sitting at the top of the hill on your proud stallion — if you were, in short

No. I’ll have to start that sentence again. Fit of the giggles. It’s just got to me. Sorry.

OK. Cool it, Whirl. One. Two. Three...

I should point out that once the rout had started, this air of mockery would most certainly NOT be apparent if you were sitting at the top of the hill on your proud stallion — if you were, in short, a "Rider" of "Rohan".

Rider 1 (of Rohan): Look how they quake and quiver in their boots!

Rider 2 (of Rohan): Hobbitskin boots, I’ll be bound: the footwear of choice for craven cowards!

Rider 3 (of Rohan): ‘Tis our name they fear! Rohan!

Rider 1 (of Rohan): And our riding prowess, our saddle skills!

Rider 2 (of Rohan): Though our capes are pretty good too!

Rider 4 (of Rohan): Yes, let’s not forget our capes! We’re known for them almost as much as our riding prowess and our saddle skills!

Rider 3 (of Rohan): Capes crocheted by our womenfolk! Womenfolk almost as revered for their clothing as we menfolk are for our riding!

Rider 2 (of Rohan): In Rohan!

Rider 1 (of Rohan): In Rohan, aye — and beyond!

Rider 4 (of Rohan): But hark, fellow riders—

Rider 2 (of Rohan): Of Rohan!

Rider 4 (of Rohan): Of Rohan, yes. Riders!  Methinks those barbarian grunts are actually the belly laughs of unrestrained mockery!

Rider 2 (of Rohan): Then let us make ready our charge while they are wrong-footed, helpless, prone!

Rider Leader (of Rohan) (who’s been sitting at the back looking a total ponce for the past five minutes) (of Rohan): Instruct the womenfolk to remove the crocheted nosebags from the horses! And iron the capes!



What the hell was Tolkien thinking when he came up with that duffer?

With thanks to the barbarians of DragonCon 03 (and their seamstress girlfriends).

Monday, February 7, 2011

If In Doubt, Start With A Great Analogy

In some respects, blogging is much like developing your penis with a sink plunger and two dozen thoroughbred mules: go crazy and you end up with a monster, go easy and the mules trample you to death, mocking your torpor.

When I began this blog, I envisaged a series of short features that would build over time into the cyber-uselessness equivalent of collectible football cards, possibly interspersed with the odd bit of fiction.

What I've ended up with is something quite different — an amorphous ladling of wibble-stuff over a cluster of interlinked vacuums.

And, less frequent postings to boot.

As I prepare for my forthcoming three-year bloggiversary, I'm determined to find the epicentre of this Abyss into which I find myself winking — the heart at the core of the frippery, the frippery that buoyantifies the heart — and since any such endeavour might resolve itself in the worst kind of navel gazing, I call upon all my stalwart followers, stalkers and smutbot mine regurgitators to chirp in with a vote for their favourite post so far in order that my more regular intended future offerings might rub ilk. My own picks should still be in the sidebar to your left, mostly chosen from popularity as evidenced by comment hits at the time. And I could be wrong.

Spring beckons, and with it come the seeds of renewal and opportunities for courageous mooning.*

* That has nothing to do with anything, btw — I just like the sound of it.

Meanwhile, whatever vile slurry your tastes and peccadilloes dredge forth, come back next week for the return of Protrudio and reportage from the cutting edge of sonic onslaught.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

We Are The People Closing Our Libraries

As my flesh has taken to rotting and my teeth and hair have begun making preparations for The Great Disgracing Bunjee, I’ve tried to avoid being drawn into political battles — especially on this fun (and possibly hip) blog.

I wasted too many hours of my twenties “opposing Thatcher” when I ought to have been getting on with something a little more productive than harrying the lackeys of a harridan.

My preference these days is for letting the wrong be wrong, allowing them the privilege of going to hell in a hand cart. People are generally quite useless at changing even the smallest aspects of their behaviour and opinions and when their chins are really set there’s very little point in someone like me coming along and making like a chiropractor — especially if I try my damnedest to “be firm”.

That said, I now find myself ever more distracted by rumblings from this country’s uppermost underbelly about What Has To Happen and What We Must All Do and, in spite of my better judgment, I set aside my biddable demons for a moment and permit myself a rare stare into the Abyss of monsters. Why, I could almost be Clint Eastwood in The Unforgiven.

If you’re here because you’re a writer, you’ll already be aware that today in the UK, protests will be taking place at libraries across the country — libraries that could soon be shut down.

Libraries, it seems, are no longer affordable.

But in order for this to be true, we have to believe it.

My question today is who, in this instance, is doing the believing?

It certainly isn’t library users. If I had the time, I would link to every news item, every comment trail on the net — and this post would run to a considerable number of alarming yards. As of now, there are 38,000 hits for “library closure” on Google, if you’re interested — and yes, I’ve confined my search to 2011. Drop into any link on any page and you will see real people, real concerns — kids who will lose their book club, pensioners who will lose access to information, public events that will cease to exist. What you may not find are people with nowhere to go, who sit in libraries keeping warm with a copy of The Sun scant yards from

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there.

I don’t suppose people working in the library departments of local councils are great believers in library closures either. As for their bosses, the people who control the purse strings, I suspect their role in all this will be akin to that of the loyal foot soldier forced by a masked coward to chop off the King’s head. For all its supposed Small Government aspirations, the coalition does seem to be gifting councils with powers of decision it might otherwise trust only to “the market” — the Cheshire Thumbs Up of the Invisible Hand, if you like. To be honest, it’s difficult to know whether the Government is for or against library closures. I haven’t seen any evidence of ministers planning to attend today’s protests — less so, writerly grandees like Jeffrey Archer who have benefited directly from the Public Lending Right — and until the papers are awash with headlines such as Cameron To Sanction Library Closures or Turns Out He Is A Cunt After All, I’m prepared to treat their silence as a mark of respect for these essential public spaces. I am, after all, an optimist rather than a cynic.

All of which kind of leaves me, in my search for believers in the unaffordability of libraries, with all the people who don’t actually use them, perhaps, or don’t have any direct influence over whether they stay or go, the people who resent their taxes being spent on services they don’t use themselves, the people who don’t care, the people who have no preference either way — in short, the people lining up outside libraries up and down the country even as I put the finishing touches to this post, all chanting WE HATE LIBRARIES and waving placards emblazoned with WASTE OF MONEY, WHO NEEDS BOKS?!! and KNOCK THE PLACE DOWN WE WANT ANOTHER SUBWAY.

Who else might it be?

Here ends this momentary cessation of winking, this stare into the Abyss of monsters. Do come back later in the week for Protrudio, news of Geoff’s latest furballs or more from the succinct-yet-pointless singular parrot of fiction.

I’m off into town now to support my local library. Just hope I can make it through the sea of angry protesters throwing Molotovs at the wheelchair access ramp.