Music And Writing by Aidan Thorn

Music and writing, for me have always gone hand in hand. I can’t write without something on in the background (right now? Rival Sons, if you have to know). I guess it could be because I’m a failed musician that’s turned his hand to writing for that creative outlet. I actually find I enjoy the writing more – and it seems so does the audience, which is nice. But, I still think it’s a shame that my funk metal rap outfit, Acid Fungi, never took off when I was 14 – I think we had something in that one awkward jam session where the only person that could play his instrument was a young Daniel Pugsley, who’s actually a bona fide rock star these days as the bass player in reggae-metal band, Skindred.
It’s little wonder that when I first started writing, naively diving straight in with a novel, one of my main characters was a failed rock musician from a ‘90’s band that had found grunge a couple of years too late. I filled it with references of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. I remember re-visiting all of those classic albums during the writing of that book and getting lost for hours in tunes I hadn’t heard in years.
And, the novella I’m working on, that is probably a couple of weeks off finished, focuses on the accidental kidnapping of a rock star by a group of clueless twenty-somethings. I guess a psychiatrist would have a field day with me for putting my rock star characters in challenging situations.
With my short stories I feel they’re even more linked to my relationship with music. Because, every short story I’ve ever written gets a soundtrack in my head, it’s based on what I was listening to at the time of writing. And, I can pretty much remember every one of them. During much of the writing of my latest collection, Urban Decay, I was listening to a lot of British music – Xfm’s become a bit of a fixture in my life.
And so, the soundtrack to which I wrote my collection of stories set in the dark corners of urban Britain has a distinctly British flavor to it. Bloc Party, Jamie T, Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, Stone Roses, Pulp, Oasis, Blur, The Stones all feature heavily in my mind’s ear as I read back stories from this latest collection.
As a character walks a city street in my story, ‘Lucky’, in my head they do it with a swagger to the beat of Jamie T’s ‘Don’t You Find’. Morning breaks in my tale ‘Sign of the Times’ and for me Ben Howard provides the tunes. As the protagonists in ‘The Replacement’ drive through deserted urban streets at night, my ear hears Bloc Party’s ‘Banquet’ from their car stereo. And, as violence breaks out, as it inevitably does in many of the stories in a collection called Urban Decay, my head is filled with tracks by Royal Blood, Arctic Monkeys and The Prodigy.
There’s a distinctly British voice to Urban Decay. I’d suggest you grab a copy, dust off your Jam, Clash or Stone Roses LP’s and settle down for some tales from the underbelly of the city.

Aidan Thorn is a 33-year-old writer from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic sailed from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than sinking ships and terrible R’N’B music. His latest short story collection ‘Urban Decay’ is available now and more about his writing can be found here http://aidanthornwriter.weebly.com/

Andi Ware On: Why everyone should know about Jack Monroe.

Jack Monroe cooking

I want to begin by apologising to those that are aware of Jack Monroe and the difference that she has made. As January draws to a close it perhaps a little late to consider New Year’s resolutions but if like me you are a little heavier than you were before the festive period it may be worth taking the advice of this lady.

I first became aware of the Girl Called Jack in 2012 when I heard a feature on her on Radio 4’s The Woman’s Hour. I remember this vividly because everything she said seemed to strike a chord with me due some of my own recent experiences. For those that don’t know who Jack Monroe is she is a writer, journalist and poverty campaigner. She first gained a profile within the British press for her ultra-affordable recipes. After leaving her job at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service she felt the strain of being a single parent. The difficulty that she experienced in trying to feed her son coupled with remarks made by a local (Southend on Sea) Councillor that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the High Street.’ caused Jack to respond with a blog called ‘A Girl Called Jack’ in which she wrote about issues facing those that were reliant on benefits and suggest ideas for good quality, low cost meals. The main stream press soon became interested Jack’s blog and Monroe soon featured in the Independent. She has since described Xanthe Clay’s article; ‘My 49p Lunch With A Girl Called Jack’, as the moment that changed her life.

The reason why I was so taken with Monroe’s story in 2013 was because I had at the time recently been through a time of financial difficulty. In 2011 I was made redundant. I was luckier than some in that I managed to secure some part time work immediately. However, I still found that my income was now a third of what it had been. Working only 2 and a half days a week meant that I on Thursday mornings I could shop but shop in my own way. This involved arming myself with what I dubbed the Skintsack; this was an old canvas rucksack that I had bought for a camping holiday a few years previous. Climbing on my bike I would head out to the outskirts of Hull where I would visit several farm shops where I was able to fill the Skintsack with fresh eggs, a back-breaking amount of fresh vegetables and fruit all for a less than a tenner. I would then hit the budget supermarkets where I would stock up on meat and fish. I would find that for little more than the cost of a large Domino’s pizza I was able to prepare quality meals for a week or so. It was during this period that I feel that I truly learned to cook. What I learned about cooking during this period was that it can be a hugely socially emancipating experience. Preparing a meal for four and knowing that it cost less than a fiver gives you a great sense of satisfaction.

At this point I feel that I must clear something up. I am not preaching, in that I am not suggesting that everyone on a low income should trawl their local rural areas for farm shops and cycle 15 miles just to gather the ingredients for an affordable meal. You see this is the beauty of Jack Monroe, all of the ingredients for her recipes can be found in Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Monroe is an advocate of value range foods and all of her recipes consist of these. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Monroe’s recipes is that they work, are very good and whilst following them you learn that good food can actually be very affordable whilst bad food tends to be incredibly expensive. I don’t wish to stereotype but I can only speak of my experience. In 2011 it just so happened that my wife and I had to move in to social rented housing on one of Hull’s most deprived estates. Both of us were struck by the number of take away deliveries we saw. Every night the estate was buzzing with hatch backs with Domino’s (other providers of pizza are available) signs on the roof or many of the local fast food establishments. I remember thinking about the amount of money that had been spent in the area on poor quality, high fat foods, in area that was not noted for material affluence. This probably sounds incredibly patronising and condescending. But I feel that it is food for thought. If these families had been aware of Jack Monroe would their eating habits have changed? Perhaps not, but the financial and health benefits may have been enormous had they had the same outlook as Jack.

Last year Jack Monroe excelled herself when she proposed that everyone that bought Starbuck’s coffee in the mornings on the way to work should for one day only have a filter coffee at home and spend the money that they would usually spend on their Starbuck’s on tins of value range food that they should then donate to a local food bank. A beautifully simplistic idea, perhaps if the British public did this for a week it may go some way to addressing the balance of Starbuck’s tax avoidance.

Whether you need austerity cuisine in your life or not Jack Monroe certainly deserves a degree of respect for what she has achieved in such a short period of time. He column including recipes are a weekly feature in The Guardian and her cook book is available in book shops now.

Xavier DwyerAndi Ware is 33 years-old, married and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. Find him tweeting at @AWareA5

 

Breathless (2008), A Review….By Martyn Taylor

breathless-movie-poster

I don’t write too many articles these days, but the other night I watched a film and felt inspired to write a short review about it. The film in question is a Korean film (with subtitles) called Breathless. It was shown on Film 4 a few weekends ago as part of their foreign film season. It was shown at the ungodly time of about 2 o’clock in the morning so I recorded it.

I had managed to watch most of the foreign film season, most were good , but others were utter shite….but Breathless really caught my eye. initially because of the warning in the synopsis ‘…VERY STRONG LANGUAGE AND VIOLENCE …’ This sounded like my cup of tea.

The lead protagonist (played by Yang Ik Joon (who also wrote, directed and produced the film)) is called Sang-Hoon, a truly despicable, volatile, debt collector with a particular passion for violence and intimidation. he beats up his debtors with vigour, but his anger often over spilled onto his work colleagues without warning in random acts of violence.

A chance meeting with a high-school girl called Yeon-Hue, that he met on his way home is the main plot of the film. Despite initially spitting at her and punching her, she shows no fear of him, this seems to draw her to him. We learn through flashbacks that both main characters suffered from domestic violence while growing up and throughout their lives. Yeon-Hue sees the best in Sang-Hoon and an awkward relationship ensues. This friendship seems to help Sang-Hoon develop greater relationships with his sister, nephew, work colleagues and father.

You can see a twist coming from a mile off, and you know it can only go in two directions. Although I kind of knew what was coming, I never expected it to happen in the desperately shocking and heart-breaking way that it does.

Anyone who is easily offended by bad language and gratuitous violence should give this film a wide birth, but I implore you to overlook the initial violence and profanity and give the relationship a chance. I decided to write this review because I happened upon this film by chance, and I didn’t want anybody else to miss out on this little-known gem. Please catch this film if you can and let me know what you think. Cheers.

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 32 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on http://www.twitter.com/shirleysblower but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

Andi Ware On: Why I won’t be wearing a Poppy this November

Once again we have reached that time of year where we are asked to remember our fallen service men and women, when the sepia tone of November is contrasted with the blood red of paper poppies. In the coming weeks we will see countless poppies fastened to the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders, but not mine. Once again I will neglect to wear a poppy this year and as always my reasons for doing so will be largely misunderstood. I have in the past been accused by friends and colleagues as lacking respect or possessing a degree of impertinence. That truth is that neither is true. There are a number of reasons why I refuse to pin a small paper flower to my lapel each year but a lack of respect of acknowledgement of the sacrifice of others are not one of those.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1, a fact that will no doubt make this year’s remembrance that little more emotionally charged. In acknowledgment of this the Government pledged to spend around £50 million marking the occasion. The sentiment of all ceremonies and monuments are to remind us that the 1914-1918 conflict was a fight for freedom and democracy. I find this hard to swallow. Many of those that died in that horrendous war did not know real freedom because they lived in abject poverty and were never truly represented by members of parliament. The working classes (who made up 80% of Britain’s population in 1913) were all too often forced into enlisting by propaganda or were press-ganged by employers. For those young men the notion of freedom and democracy was an incomprehensible concept.

Some years ago when I first read Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists I was struck by an acute sense of sadness. Not only was it the desperation of the protagonists in Tressell’s turn of the century tale of the woes of working men in England, but it was also the understanding that many of these characters (the novel is based on Robert Noonan’s real life experience as a painter and decorator in Hastings) would face the horrific great war just a couple of years after the book’s conclusion. For me the poppy is a reminder of the misinterpretation of WW1, that it was somehow a noble war in the name of freedom and democracy. For those young men the notion of freedom and democracy was an incomprehensible concept.

It is a curious symbol, the poppy. In the last decade or so it appears to have been elevated into something transcendental. The phenomena of poppy burning which has led to arrests under the Malicious Communications Act seem to have elevated the simple poppy, sold by children and war veterans, to a higher status. The image of the burning poppy seems to be an insult on our very being. It is my argument that we have become so obsessed by the protection of this sacred symbol that we have neglected to recognise its true meaning. Could it be that our protestation over the burning or defacing of poppies is actually a manifestation of guilt? It is my argument that as a society we have become so removed from the real sacrifice made by those that have died in past conflicts that the poppy is worn with pride but worn in lieu of any empathy. The wearing of the poppy for many is the equivalent of hitting the Like icon on social networking sites. By Liking something we feel that we are displaying a certain kinship. Be it with a sentiment, emotion, cause or charity this simple act of tapping a keyboard has replaced solidarity in the internet age.

For some time my wife has been bothered, or rather incensed by the fact that in England young women are not offered a screening for Ovarian Cancer (a procedure that should take place for young women under the age of 21 or when they become sexually active) whereas screenings are offered in Scotland. Like many she has subscribed to pages on social media showing support for women who have died at a tragically young age due to the illness. Recently I suggested that she inquire on a social media site whether those who had Liked a page dedicated to raising awareness of cervical cancer would be willing to go on a march. She did not receive one response. It appears that political activism in our society has been reduced to Liking a page on a social media site or posting a one line comment. For me the wearing of the poppy occupies the same space. It is worn in lieu of something real such as genuine emotion.

So this year rather than wearing a poppy I shall take some time out to imagine what life in a trench might have been like, or what seeing off a relative (I have two brothers both of similar age to many service men and women) who would never return. I shall do this because this is a time for remembrance and not symbolism.

Xavier DwyerAndi Ware is 33 years-old, married and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that.

Putting The “Fun” In Funeral by Gill Hoffs

As a depressed teenager, I spent a considerable amount of time scrawling my funeral set-list in the back of my school folders (along with biro drawings of gravestones and dangling bodies, but I digress) instead of learning about tenses in Latin and French and how to do something hideously complicated with sin, tan, and log (still no idea). Cheery choons such as the Manics’ “From Despair to Where” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFewXLjXTSU and their version of “Suicide is Painless” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y11f8Oc25AI were on there along with Radiohead’s “Creep” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyRh1EOyKOM . I’m now happy and healthy – phew! – but along with setting out actual practical preferences for disposing of my meatsack when I do finally pop my clogs (sky burial or body farm just FYI as I’m a bit worried I’ll be buried/burnt alive and this is safest in case I wake up) I figured it might be fun to get some possibilities on the internet where everything is forever, unlike me.

So in no particular order:

The Final Taxi – Wreckless Eric (thanks to The Workshy Fop for this recommendation!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHBwBfqYhIM

Who Wants To Live Forever? – Queen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jtpf8N5IDE

Born To Die – Lana Del Rey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bag1gUxuU0g

Lump – Presidents of the United States of America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-aPyvRL9n4

Live Forever – Oasis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_2mWhfOhGU

I Know You’re Out There Somewhere – Moody Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjImFYf2Vzc

Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClQcUyhoxTg

Do You Realize? – The Flaming Lips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPXWt2ESxVY

Waltz #2 (XO) – Elliott Smith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2sfwky4RqQ

Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrTB-iiecqk it’s also one of the coolest videos ever.

Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ld6ombnGnA

Play Dead – Bjork http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHiHZ35TPfM

If I die of the plague or something similarly foul and catching and thus require cremation, the Bangles’ classic “Eternal Flame” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSoOFn3wQV4 is also a must, and if it’s windy then of course “Smoke gets in your eyes” by The Platters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3l001-zSA4 . But if I’m not left out on a mountain for carrion crows or fenced off somewhere for experiments with maggots (my body’s so full of chocolate and Nutella they’ll likely look like fat wriggly vermicelli), or burnt into a dusty grey sneeze-hazard, then clearly Faith No More’s “Digging the Grave” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Grx08ehxXMM should be blasting out followed by The Cranberries’ “Zombie” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ejga4kJUts .

If my fleshbag is disposed of on a Sunday (I’m atheist so maybe this would be a good day since most people I know are free) then clearly The Associates’ version of “Gloomy Sunday” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBmjfFlq0cA would be fun, especially since it includes the cop-out but beautiful verse about it all being just a dream.

If I started to believe in reincarnation, I’d hope to be present at the big send-off somehow (preferably not as the oft imagined fly-on-the-wall) while Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuG9i5cwGW0 was playing. And while I’m wishing for specifics, let nobody who comes bring cut flowers or snottery tears but petfood for shelters and Nutella for foodbanks instead. And let them recollect the most cringe-making things I’ve ever done loud and proud (but only once I’m dead).

The Telegraph published a list last year which had Sinatra’s “My Way” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePs6bHsQx6A as the top funeral tune, followed by Brightman and Bocelli’s “Time to say goodbye” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWQbuJ24Wzg . It’s probably fair to
say that if anything in good taste or that might be accused of being spiritually uplifting is played I’ll be rolling like the cartoon cherries in a fruit machine, and the only reason I’d want something like “Jar of hearts” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVFgfuiyBHw (the Glee version, naturally) played is if my body’s healthy enough to be used for organ donation. Fingers crossed it will.

I should probably note at this point that when my husband read this through his exact words were, “Hen, if you go first, I’m playing “Tramp The Dirt Down” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t4-zDem1Sk . That’s an appalling list of songs. I hope I die first.” Any more of that and he won’t need a magic lamp and a genie to grant his wish. Anyway…

While “She’s Not Dead” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6s9rbLeBlE is a very tempting final choice (ahem), I think really the closing number should be “The Next Life” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur5qz2X1vAE by the utterly shaggable Suede, though it might be more fun to opt for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIgZ7gMze7A by Wham!. My list seems awfully short compared to the dozens of indie tracks I used to detail behind my schoolwork, so do feel free to add suggestions below.

 

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book ‘The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic” is out now from Pen & Sword. Get it in bookshops or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur-Hardback/p/6053. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Sleep Paralysis by Danny Gouldson

Have you ever experienced the loss of movement and inability to talk or scream out? Well I’m not talking about being wasted after a skinful down the local boozer, I am in fact describing two of the many symptoms of sleep paralysis.

The first time it happened to me, I absolutely shit myself! I didn’t know what the hell was going on, and I didn’t know if I would live through the night to find out. I remember it feeling like I had only just closed my eyes for a second, but then in an instant I was hit by this extremely loud buzz noise which echoed as it sounded, attacking my nervous system and jump starting me awake. My instant reaction was to jump up and out of bed, but as I tried to sit upright I couldn’t, I was physically rooted to the spot and no matter how hard I focused my mind on wriggling free, I was just left with a feeling of desperation and vulnerability.

I wanted to scream for help at the top of my voice, but I couldn’t, all I could manage was a feeble moan from the back of my throat while the build up of saliva spilled from the edges of my mouth. Little did I know this was only the start of things to come, because the moment I realised I still at least had control over the movement of my eyes, I looked down along my body to my feet, to try and identify what the heavy object was pinning my legs to the bed, and I saw a dark figure sat on top of me. The figure appeared motionless and transparent, and made no noises or indications to what his or her intention was, but my heart sank and began to drown in fear and dread. I could only assume I was going to be killed, for whatever reason this ghost had to want to reveal itself to me could only be for something horrible, otherwise why would it be sat on me? And why had it paralysed me, leaving me with only the function of my eyes in order to make me have to watch what it had in mind.

All I knew is that I had to escape from the dark magic that had me invisibly gagged and bound. I pressed and probed with my mind mentally wrestling to free my body from its trap, harder and harder I focused all of my energy to move, and then like the flick of a switch I sprang into life, so quick that I cranked my neck as I flung myself bolt upright off the bed and onto the floor. But before I got up to race out of the door I took a second as I noticed a feeling of calm softly sweeping through me and leaving me feeling almost invigorated, as if I had just been reborn. And so, as I sat there, in the dark, confused as to what had just happened to me, I took a breath, picked myself up and switched on the light.

danny gDanny Gouldson is a 31 year old man-child, who resides on the dukeries in the City of Culture 2017. He enjoys discovering new hobbies but loses interest very quickly. He isn’t making any predictions for his future or any solid plans until he has experienced his full mid life crisis.

18 Stone Weightloss by Mike Waudby

33 stone…..how the hell did that happen? Well, with severe depression, slow metabolism and your best friend is 3000 calories a day worth of alcohol, pretty easy.

I was a ‘geek’ at school, got bullied both at home and in the classroom which really does have a long lasting negative effect in anything you wish to achieve. But this is not an x-factor audition so I won’t start whinging how bad things was and certainly will not call my weight loss a fucking journey!

My alcoholic sister was regularly beating my mum up, blaring music in her room till 4am (she still does, she is 42 by the way) and generally being an all-round horrible cow. I reached 18 and I could and should have moved out of my parent’s home by now but all I had was a shitty car valetting job and my best grade at school was a D, this plus massive confidence issues I decided to turn to booze. Booze at the time made everything better, my heart didn’t beat as fast when my sister kicked off, I found shit T.V slightly more interesting and being sat on your own wasn’t that bad.

I always wanted to become a wrestler, and despite drinking I was hitting the gym, by the age of 20 I was benching 300 pounds for 10 reps…. and had 20 inch guns (ok, of a lot of that was fat) unfortunately though I took some pretty bad nutrition advice so despite the huge strength gains, I also got huge weight gains. By the age of 21, I was 22 stone, I still went out and socialised and got stupidly drunk, drinking a bottle of whisky before I even went out. I was with Andy “Beast” Hawkins in Sharkey’s when a girl came up to me and said “Excuse me, do you mind leaving?” “Why?” I asked. “Because you’re making me and my friends feel sick.” Wow…….fucking wow, you just destroyed me while the whole pub heard, stared and laughed. That was the last time I went out in public, apart from going to doctor’s for 7 years.

My life now started with alcohol, I needed it, locked in my bedroom away from the chaos. It made……well, made me just less bored. Andy would visit now and then and we would drink and talk shit but other than that, it was just me for 7 years (oh, and whisky, beer and whatever was cheap) I would order my drink online and have it delivered. My God my maths was good, I could calculate in my head quantity, amount of units and compare all the prices within seconds. I got the most for the money!

Apart from watching TV for 7 years, there was the internet….in particular my female friends. I would talk to girls for hours on MSN or MySpace; one is even a page 3 girl now. In all there were 7, I kept them interested with my personality, unfortunately they had no idea I was 33 stone. I know this wasn’t fair on them but I was drunk and lonely. And it’s not like we were in love, we just had a giggle and talked for hours. Obviously they eventually wanted pictures and when I didn’t deliver, I don’t blame them for disappearing.

The eyes of a man who'd given up.

The eyes of a man who’d given up.

One night while listening to GNR with my headphones I thought what life is this? I had terrible pains where I put my body as so much weight was on it, even resting my arm on the armrest would result in shooting pains in my fingers, I was too scared to go to a gym as people pointed and laughed at me in the street so I thought fuck it, drunk 2 bottles of whisky (Jackobite….blah) 8 cans of Stella and as many paracetamol and valium tablets I could find. I lost consciousness listening to my fav band GNR. I remember waking up, no headache, no pains just a sickening feeling that I was still here and not dead.

I spent most nights after this continuing to get drunk and crying myself to sleep. I could go a lot deeper into my thoughts at the time but I’ll stop here and tell you what I did to save my life. One night, God knows what you call it but reality set in, I’ve wasted everything and lost everything, the only person that can do something is me. I ordered a cross-trainer off the internet, set it up in my room and gave it a test. Wasn’t bad, seemed to handle my weight. That night I didn’t drink. First time in about 9 years and fuck me it was hard! I woke up about 7 times that night like something was stabbing me in the chest and I couldn’t breathe. Weird shit but morning came and I got through day 1. Cross trainer time! Jumped on and worked a sweat up fast, wow I thought I’m doing ace, getting really out of breath though, and thought “best stop.” Reckoned I was on there for a good 10 mins…… looked down it was 2 min 22 secs. Oh.

Something clicked though, I think the thought of me being locked away and couldn’t escape to do something about my weight…..well, that’s not an issue now, I can do something and I fucking damn well did. I built up to three 1-hour sessions a day and didn’t touch a drop of booze! It took about 6 weeks for the stabbing pains/seeing black things move in the corner of my eye to stop but I was away, I was doing something about it. Saying that, it was mentally the hardest thing I’ve endured; why did I let other people affect me to the point that I ended up this bad? Why didn’t I punch that bully in the face? Many more things…. Every session on the cross strainer ended up with me taking my 4XL dripping wet t-shirt off and just looking down at my belly crying. But each time I picked myself up and carried on. My father who I fell out with years ago so admired and was proud of what I was doing he started talking with me again, and thank god he did because without his support I could have cracked up……even more! I smashed that cross-trainer’s bearings about 8 times with my weight and power, luckily my dad was an engineer and fixed it instantly as he knew how important it was.

It took 18 months for me to lose 18 stone, the demons in my head along the way were still there and now I had a major problem. Loose skin. I looked disgusting, everything I did I felt was a waste, doctor wouldn’t help me, I felt just as disgusting as I did when I was 33 stone. I started to leave the home again, fucking terrified but got back to my old gym and even found a local pub (Diet Coke.) I needed to do something, and I ended up paying for skin on my stomach and upper arms to be removed. Recovery was tough living with a mentalist; I couldn’t straighten up for 4 weeks so when I hobbled anywhere my sister used to try and scare me by charging at me. If I did jump up, I would have literally ripped my stomach back open. Anyway, I still wasn’t happy and my father agreed to help me (as I worked for him doing odd jobs) to pay for the 6 hour long op, where I was awake while Dr Fucktard rammed rods inside me and burnt my skin from the inside in an attempt to tighten it. What made it worse was I had no body fat left, which made it harder for him to ram his bloody rods through me. Longest op he ever performed, that. He got concerned saying he should stop but I looked him cold in the eye and told him I don’t give a fuck about the pain (believe me, it was torture) get on with it. Worst of all, during the op was his assistant, a pretty little blonde girl pinning me down while I was wearing nothing but see-through paper fucking pants. What had an effect on me though was this was the first girl to see me naked in 10 years, and I overheard her say to the receptionist after the operation “He’s real hot.” Me??? ME???????? Maybe I’m not that disgusting after all then.

Eight weeks later, the operation had been a fail, did naff all and coward here wanted the easy way out again, and did the same thing again only this time I woke up in hospital. Without speaking to anyone I grabbed my jacket and headed to my local (I had a crush on the barmaid) I sat in there and realised I couldn’t keep giving up, I’m stronger than this, so I went home I started researching how to train properly. I hit the gym hard! In fact I crawled out of that place and if I didn’t then I needed to train harder. My diet was terrible, still clean and nothing unhealthy just consuming 450grams of protein a day which I suppose is why I put the muscle on as I now know half of that protein was used as fuel (I don’t recommend this) as well as repairing my muscle as I didn’t eat carbs.
So, I’m a guy with a shitty job, obsessed with training and scared to take his top off. Not that appealing to women but my god I wanted one, 10 years alone took its toll! People would tell me oh, I bet you wanna go out and shag a load of birds eh?

In fact they couldn’t have been more wrong. I spent 10 years alone; I wasn’t after a shag, I was after a friend, someone to share good times with, and someone that would love me for me. I had hot girls paying attention but it just didn’t turn me on, I needed to know them, connect, and feel something and most of all trust them….certainly not these girls. Yeah I put pics on facebook posing but I was covering up all my bad bits, I needed to know if that girl would either think “That’s nowt, no one’s perfect” or “Ewww that’s disgusting.” If it was ewww then I would be back to square one again. So seeing as I had no confidence and I’d lost most of my friends, I didn’t go out round town, I thought why not try a dating site. GOT A DATE!!! She was a very attractive, tattooed girl with same taste in music as me. Told her all about me, she didn’t seem to care and was eager to meet. So off I went to meet her in Dram shop. I was actually shitting myself, I was sweating like a pig but she saw me and she liked it, in fact she was a bit full-on! I didn’t know how to respond. Anyways, we went on a few more dates, ended up at hers to sleep over. Yes I kept my boxers on and my t-shirt!! Ha ha, no hanky-panky but when I woke she had a feel! You just know! So, next night she actually begged me for sex, now remember this is the guy who got told to go home because I was so fat and ugly….. now being begged for sex…… awesome!!! I turned her down, didn’t feel right. Pissed her off, dumped me the next day!

I had a couple more dates, really nice girls but didn’t lead to anything then this one came along, arranged our first date at her home, no makeup and in her PJ’s (fanks for making the effort) but as I got to know her better this was just her attitude, take me as I am or fuck off. Fair enough! Morgan, her name was (now my girlfriend of 15 months.) She nicknamed me to her friends as Mr Muscles, which I liked but thought dude, you haven’t seen my loose skin. One evening she mentioned she wasn’t keen on hard muscular blokes…….honey, you’re touching the wrong places!! Anyway, six weeks in and a horse she was riding slipped with her on it and it smashed her ankle to pieces. I practically moved in to look after her. This was a massive sudden jump for me but you know what, to this day she does not even notice my loose skin and tells me my body is perfect as it is. This means more than anything to me, which is why I put up with the bossy cow (haha only playing.) We have our ups and downs but who doesn’t?

Right, I have a woman in my life, next step a proper career. Seeing as I’m gym-mad and had lost 18 stone it made sense to become a personal trainer. So that’s what I did. It’s more than that though, I want to help people with the mental and emotional sides of losing weight, I have the experience why not use it to help others instead of them having gastric bands? (Don’t even get me started on that.)

Mr Muscles... hiding the worst bits.

Mr Muscles… hiding the worst bits.

I’m still body conscious, I’m 6’1 232 pounds and around 15% bodyfat….I should look like a front cover model of men’s fitness magazine but I don’t due to my skin. Yeah, It really pisses me off because I train my ass off for it but then I remember there’s more to life! But one thing I will never stop doing: trying to correct what I put wrong. Yeah I was weak and did cowardly things but now I’m strong, seriously strong and nothing can stop me. I will fight for what I want to achieve in life till the end. And my confidence has increased too, I can walk into any rough pub and say that better be diet coke you put in that drink despite yobbish looking chavs looking at me like I’m some wuss. In fact one guy once said “You puff, can’t you drink?” Actually yes, I still enjoy a drink and I can still seriously drink, a lot more than you, you Jeremy Kyle watching….. I won’t mention what else I said but I am now barred from that pub.

Reality is, I do have to watch what I eat/drink but I don’t mind, I have awesome people around me, the guys at workout gym have supported me throughout; my girlfriend; I get loads of support and advice at Beverly Leisure Centre where Morgan had her physio. I have a lot to learn in life still, also in my job. But one thing I do have that other PT’s don’t, and that’s experience in weight loss, something you can’t learn out of a text book!

Sorry I haven’t been as witty and funny as the others that post on here (I do enjoy reading them) but this has been more of a mini life story about something pretty shit. I would like to finish by saying, try not to judge every overweight person as someone who is just weak and greedy. Yeah, you see a couple of big chavvy women gobbing it loudly, they clearly don’t have confidence issues and probably are just plain greedy and lazy but there are those who are shy, nervous and you probably have no idea how scared and uncomfortable they are with their appearance but there is something making them do what they do, and if that something went away, they probably wouldn’t look like that. That’s where I would like to think I can come in and make a change using my own experience. Getting a diet and simple training plan is straightforward, having someone to guide you through the emotional stress and to genuinely feel your struggle, that’s where I can hold their hand through the worst and eventually, kick some fucking arse in the gym!

mike profileMike Waudby is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is a huge rock fan and his favourite band are Guns N Roses. When he was a wee whipper-snapper he had a Vauxhall Nova with a number plate that ended CNT. His pet hatred is people who don’t put the weights away at the gym and he’s one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. You can find him on facebook here.

A Certain Kind Of Romance by Paul Featherstone

This weekend past, Hull hosted the 3rd annual Humber Street Sesh, the brainchild of local promoter Mark Page. Featuring everything from live music to silent discos to graffiti artists, it was the coming together of not only the creative people of Hull, but also those who enjoy the local scene and those who may be strangers to it.

I didn’t make it as I was working, which also explains my absence from this site recently, but a man gotta get paid, you feel me? No? Anyway, my news stream on Facebook has been filled with it enough, to know that is was a roaring success that people want back next year.

A quick glance at the numbers (40,920 at midnight) showed the talk around it wasn’t just hype and that in “dreary, old” Hull there is an appetite for events just like this, if they are done in the right way. Now firstly, I’m not here to be sycophantic about anything or anyone. Lord knows, there are enough writers in this city doing that and if you’re reading this, you know who you are and you’re more of a hindrance than a help as to how people view the cultural scene in Hull, so just lay off the scripture reach-arounds okay? Credit where credit is due though, and the event did set my mind whirling about whether Hull is starting to turn a corner in not only how people view it, but also how the people who inhabit it also view their surroundings and embrace events put on for them?

Make no mistake, the event is one put on off-the-backs of ordinary people with a passion for the city and raising it’s spotlight. David Cameron would love to grasp it as his Big Society, but really, as with anything in Britain, it’s just about the normal citizen fighting back against the daily tedium enforced by a Government all too dismissive of the positive impact that arts and culture can have, not only on the country’s mood, but (and listen up here geniuses) also the economy.

Now, the event of course benefited from warm weather and cold beer, but doesn’t everything in Britain? Imagine London 2012 or Euro 96 or Glastonbury, without balmy summer evenings, and a dripping bottle clutched firmly in hand (if that doesn’t sound too phallic). Yet, an event largely consisting of bands with guitars, when people are so indifferent to said bands with guitars, that still goes on to attract huge numbers should make someone sit up and take notice.

Those who may just sit up and take notice are those keeping an eye on Hull’s City Of Culture bid. Lots of people on the outside (and inside) of Hull laugh at the idea, but it’s not that preposterous. Sure, Hull has it’s problems but the majority of those are dwelled upon by the media etc due to poor PR and to say that Hull is the only city in Britain that is let down by a small minority of idiots or a lack of funding, is downright unfair- that is an epidemic that flows through the whole of the country in 2013.

In many ways, Hull is just unlucky it hasn’t had that huge, great breakthrough artist who defines a musical era to stamp it as a “cool” city that can marketed as such. Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool all have those in the form of the various bands that have imposed themselves on the national consciousness, Hull just got unfortunate that theirs was the housewives favourites- The Beautiful South. Mmmm, music to hoover to…..nice. There have of course, been plenty of fine bands linked to Hull, but people do not flock there as they do as a result of The Stone Roses/Oasis, Arctic Monkeys/Pulp and The Beatles elsewhere.

All of the above cities have nice areas to visit and shop in, and ultimately settle down, but there are large parts of them that you sure as fuck wouldn’t like to walk around late at night, and Hull is no different than that. I live in the Avenues area of Hull, and would happily stay there for the rest of my life. It’s quiet, the neighbours say “hello” and I feel like Richard Briers from The Good Life. Two minutes away is the house I used to rent, where kids smashed footballs against my wall every night, my Sky dish was snapped and someone tried to pull my Sky box through the wall via the aerial at 3am (don’t fuck with my Sky man!). Hull has great bars such as down Princes Avenue and Newland Avenue, that you’d recommend to anyone visiting, that unfortunately can have drunken idiots in them that hospitalise people for no reason in the toilets. These things come with living in a city, and it’s one for society as a whole to try and fix.

Events such as the Humber Street Sesh will change people’s views of Hull and hopefully, there were lots of students at it that hadn’t gone home, so they could spread the good word to those who live outside the city.

These events also suggest that there is siege mentality in Hull by the people who live there, that they are sick of being trodden upon by those outside its borders. Siege mentalities are good, they often breed success. They occasionally breed events like Waco, but mostly success.

As people in Hull finally decide that they are going to prove the doubters wrong, and show them just what can be done here, they are doing what the good people of Britain have had to do for every major event we have ever put on, with the disapproving eyes of the world upon it. As you may have noticed, failure rarely comes. It looks like Hull may have just come out in fine fighting form, you can almost hear the Joe Esposito song from Karate Kid building in the background. I will be booking the weekend off next year to join all my friends at Humber Street Sesh and I’m sure many more will visit as the success grows.

There was a time when there really was nothing to do in Hull, but the bands are coming back and there are more than two options for a night out. Bars are closing sometimes and not every venture is a success, but that shouldn’t dishearten anyone from their path, the booming nineties this is not.

Look, Hull isn’t perfect, I get tired of living here far too often, but to turn my shoulder on it, would be to turn my back on all that is northern, working class and vaguely bittersweet about it, and I’m not about to do that.

To paraphrase Morgan Freeman quoting Ernest Hemingway, at the end of Se7en, “Hull is fine place and worth fighting for”, I agree with the second part…..and who knows, maybe I’m leaning towards the first part too as time goes on?

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

Paul Gascoigne: A Pre-Emptive Requiem by Allen Miles

I have always been absolutely baffled when public figures die and people I know get really upset. I cannot understand why the death of someone you have never met would ever affect you personally. I remember being utterly bewildered as a fifteen year-old when the tidal wave of public tears and chest-beating greeted the death of Princess Diana. The thousands that lined the streets for her funeral, with their bloodshot eyes and quivering hands, none of them had ever met her, let alone formed any sort of personal relationship with her, so why did they get overtaken by these emotions? I remember being out one Saturday night and news got round the club that Layne Staley of Alice In Chains had been found dead after a massive heroin overdose. People were actually crying in the club. The man lived 4700 miles away in Seattle, and had probably never heard of Hull, yet people in Hull felt compelled to grieve openly about his demise. I didn’t understand.

The only time I’ve been slightly melancholy about the death of someone whom I’d never met came in 2009, with the death of former England manager Sir Bobby Robson. Robson had a reputation as the nicest man in football, commanded enormous respect on the world stage for his tactical knowledge and success all over Europe, and had been heavily involved in the development of some of the greatest talents of all time, figures such as Romario, Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo. He also gave me the definitive memory of my childhood, England’s barnstorming performance at Italia 90, and Italia 90 is my favourite thing of all time. He was a relentlessly positive man, and upon learning that he was suffering terminal cancer in 2008, having beaten the disease on three previous occasions, he said: “My condition is described as static and has not altered since my last bout of chemotherapy… I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute.” On the 26th Of July, 2009, a mere five days before his death, he made his last public appearance at a recreation of the Italia 90 semi-final against Germany, and almost all of the original players turned out in the name of The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trust. Robson was scheduled to make an appearance in the director’s box but true to his persona, he insisted on being wheeled out onto the pitch to thank each player individually with a handshake. As he went down the line it was titilating to see the 1990 squad nearly twenty years later, broader of waistline (John Barnes,) higher of hairline (Mark Wright,) or both (David Platt,) but they were all instantly recognisable, apart from this one figure, a wiry, wizened man with a stringy neck and anaemic looking arms, who greeted Robson with an almost desperate enthusiasm, and as the Knight of the Realm released this man’s hand he looked on after him with hollow cheeks and the eyes of a puppy whose master had just abandoned him in the woods. This man had been the star of the show at Italia 90, and changed English football, and arguably world football,  forever at that tournament. He was unrecognizable from the old pictures. It was Paul Gascoigne, England’s greatest ever professional footballer. And Paul Gascoigne is going to die soon.

paul-gascoigne-with-sir-bobby-robson-2930519-1389990

This week we have seen him in the press yet again following another relapse into his alcohol addiction, which led to an arrest for affray. The desperation of the story was that he was not arrested at some trendy Soho nightclub or Mayfair hotel, places where the current breed of football superstars conduct their misdemeanours these days, but at Stevenage Railway Station on the platform. This followed an incident this February where he was taken into intensive care in a rehab clinic in Arizona, paid for by his great buddy, 1996’s Chris Evans. Gascoigne suffered such intense alcohol withdrawal that he had to be strapped to a bed, where he had to be revived three times after his heart stopped, and repeatedly injected with librium. A few months later he had made a public appearance at a sports event where he was due to give an after dinner speech during which, according to witnesses, he began rambling incoherently and frequently broke down into tears.

For those of you who are too young to have seen Gazza play, ignore the general comparison to Wayne Rooney that seems to get wheeled out by the press these days. It is unhelpful for many reasons; for a start Gascoigne was a far superior player, but the major difference is that Wayne Rooney is a brilliant player who can occasionally behave like an overgrown seven year-old. Gascoigne was an overgrown seven year old who occasionally behaved like a brilliant player. In many ways it is unhelpful to talk about his playing career at all as what we are dealing with here is a man who suffers from savage bi-polar disorder and OCD, and is also completely helpless in his battle against alcoholism, but his playing career is what defined him, made him, and will ultimately kill him.

 

Gascoigne was that rare breed of English player: The Entertainer. Driven by a child-like need to please people and be seen, there was an almost desperate air right from the start of his career, when put-downs from his Newcastle team-mates about his weight led to him behaving in increasingly bizarre ways, on one occasion stealing the groundsman’s tractor and driving it through the wall of the team’s changing room. In the build-up to the match that cemented his place in the Italia 90 squad, a friendly against Czechoslovakia, he was seen in the tunnel before the kick-off, wild-eyed and unapproachable, ferociously thrashing a ball against a wall, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. The night before the 1991 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, he had to have sedative injections to get to sleep, and in one very revealing incident from just after his career-changing turn in Turin, got leglessly drunk and marched into his old primary school to berate his old teacher who had, many years ago, told him he’d never make it as a footballer. He was the most famous person in the country at this point, and had cemented his reputation as one of the greatest players in the world on the biggest stage of all, yet his fragile self-esteem still prompted the need to go and say “I told you so.”

gazza dribbling

Gazza played his last professional game in 2004 for Boston United, yet it is the critical opinion that his career effectively ended in 1991 when he went rampaging around the Wembley turf like a pitbull with a needle full of amphetamines up its arse, nearly decapitating Gary Parker and then mangling his cruciate ligaments in an idiotic lunge at Gary Charles. He was out for nearly two years after that match, having behaved like a wild animal for the fifteen minutes he was on the field, and his decline, both on a professional and personal level, began here. He wouldn’t be picked regularly for England again as Taylor and later on, Hoddle, both had misgivings about his “re-fuelling habits.” Only Terry Venables put his trust in him, and he was rewarded with Gazza’s last three decent performances at the highest level, against Scotland and Germany at Euro 96, and, at the same tournament, as the ringmaster in the 4-1 evisceration of a very decent Holland side, his greatest match in an England shirt. Two years after that, Glenn Hoddle dropped him from the France 98 squad, he was both overweight and out of form, and stood and watched as Gascoigne trashed his office in a fit of temper.

You see, what wasn’t realised at the time, before the era of sports psychologists and the like, was that in order for Gascoigne to perform with such intensity on the pitch, his adrenalin levels had to be through the roof, and when you’re reaching those self-inflicted chemical highs 50 times a season, the volatility of mood swings would be utterly uncontrollable. Imagine the most wound-up you’ve ever been in your whole life, the biggest pressure situation you’ve ever endured, be it your wedding day, the birth of a child, a really important job interview, a medical emergency you’ve been involved in, whatever, now imagine being at that level of mental and physical intensity, twice a week, having 30,000 people staring and cheering at you in rapt adoration, and the press are camped on your front doorstep every day looking to see how you react to it. How can you possibly deal with those highs and lows, particularly if you’re a less-intelligent-than-average bloke who already has embryonic mental health issues and an addictive personality? You escape. You escape into whatever brings it down for you. And in this case, Paul Gascoigne escaped into alcohol.

For the people who are reading this that have no interest in football, I have tried to think of a public figure to compare Gazza to, so you can appreciate the tragedy of this situation. Initially I thought of someone like Kerry Katona, a relatively normal person who is just not bright enough to be famous and needs someone to look after her. Kerry Katona, however, has no discernible talent and is on the telly simply because the general public enjoy watching human car-crashes. Then I thought of Ozzy Osbourne, a man who has a talent, but is out-of-control and in thrall to his vices. But again no, because Osbourne is a very wealthy man who lives in a huge mansion in LA and is taken care of by his wife, who keeps him off the booze and makes him lots of money.

No, I had to think of someone who, like Gascoigne, was an absolute master of his stage, had millions of adoring, hysterical fans, and when he wasn’t on his stage, simply didn’t know how to make his way through life, and would pick up all manner of grotesque hangers-on who just wanted to fleece him of his money. He would develop an addiction to mind-numbing substances and would blow all of his wealth, another deeply-disturbed man-child who on some level, possessed that rare trait that we know as “genius.”

MichaelJackson_Wide_620x350

And as we choose to remember Michael Jackson for the video to Billie Jean rather than his squalid court cases and the horrific self-inflicted facial disfigurements, let us hark back to the 2nd most famous photograph in English football history, the photograph that documented how one brilliant player’s inability to control his emotions one night in Italy led to an irreversible change in the English game, how it was dragged out of the doldrums of hooliganism and right wing politics to be the billion-pound entertainment industry, that, for better or worse, we all subscribe to today. Look at the carved stomach muscles and tree-trunk thighs of a player who, for much of his career was derided for being fat; a player who, for much of his career, was the best on the planet.

gazza turin

 

It is difficult and heart-breaking to equate the gaunt and frail looking figure that is the Paul Gascoigne of today to that photo. And it is deeply upsetting to watch the perpetual chain of humiliations that his life has become, whether it be turning up at a police barrier to give a lunatic who’d gone beserk with a shotgun some fried chicken and a fishing rod, or cashing in by giving “confessional interviews” to parasitic vermin like Piers Morgan. His friend and former team-mate, Gary Lineker, recently spouted up on twitter with the following:

“Lots of you asking for my thoughts on Gazza’s plight. I can only hope he finds peace somehow, but fear those hopes maybe forlorn.”

And Lineker is right, Paul Gascoigne is going to die soon. Whether he commits suicide, poisons his liver beyond repair or drunkenly toddles out in front of a bus, unless he finds someone who can nail the thought into his brain that he has to stop drinking, he will end up dead. And when he dies, a big chunk of my childhood will die as well. This is the saddest story professional sport has to offer. If you don’t want to shed a tear, don’t look at the following video.

 

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

Paradise (A Story Of Shambolic Failure) Part 2 by Allen Miles

sp

The euphoria didn’t last long. But the enthusiasm did. And the enthusiasm overtook any form of common sense. We agreed to loads of terrible gigs, gigs that we shouldn’t have even contemplated doing. Our third live performance as a group was a Battle Of The Bands at Polar Bear down Spring Bank, and two of the billed four bands had pulled out, so it was us and Blind Frog Ernie, a mediocre post-grunge outfit who had been together years and were pretty tight, and were friends with the promoter, who was also the judge. Obviously we had absolutely no chance of winning but we really were shite that night, Danny buggered up the intro to Introvert and I forgot the words to Flaming Raymond, Leanne had a barney with the soundman because the mix was terrible and the crowd certainly thinned during our set. I was almost in tears when we came off. When you’re playing a show and you know that you’re on it that night, when you sound good, feel completely confident on stage, and the crowd are into it, there is no better feeling in the world. When you know that you’re performing terribly, everything is going wrong and you just want to pack up and go home, it is one of the most disheartening and humiliating experiences you can put yourself through. We didn’t play another gig for six weeks after the Polar Bear debacle.

sals 2005

One night much later into our lifespan we played at The Tap and Spile, with Frank’s Right Hand Trouser. Why the hell they decided to put bands on at Tap was totally beyond me. We went on in front of about forty regulars, of whom thirty-five would have been over sixty, out for a quiet pint of mild and a smoke of their pipes on a Sunday night. I’d made my eyes up and Andrew was in the midst of his “hat phase.” We tore through a ferocious set and when we came off half an hour later there were about three people left in the pub.

wurr bass

A place we played far more times than we should have was a venue called The White Room. I have never been to such a place in my life, before or since. For those of you who have never played in a band before, when you first get going you’re expected to play what is known in the trade as “the toilet circuit,” which is basically shithole venues where you have to kick things to make them work and it would be commonplace for someone to be openly urinating against the wall outside. The most well-known toilet circuit venue in Hull is The Adelphi, which is a complete dump but is beloved by all due to its intimate atmosphere, excellent sound quality and the owner’s propensity for putting acts on that are outside any sort of “scene.” The White Room, on the other hand, was like the end of the world.

One day I'll tell my grandkids I played there. Yeah.

One day I’ll tell my grandkids I played there. Yeah.

It was about half a mile past Spiders down Cleveland Street in Hull, and there no other human dwellings for miles. No shops, no houses, no other pubs. The only place where people would congregate were the building sites dotted round and about, and the only people who would casually drink in The White Room, or The Full Measure as it used to be called, were the site-labourers who would pop in for a pint or two after their shifts. The owner was a six foot six Geordie lunatic who wore leather capes and had tried to set the place up as a warm-up venue for all the metal-heads who would go to Spiders on a Saturday night, and he would try and plug it as a music venue for the rest of the week. The problem was, The White Room was in no way, shape or form a music venue. There was an enormous load-bearing pillar directly in front of the middle of the stage for a start, which meant that 90% of the pub couldn’t actually see the acts, the drums had to be stuffed in a corner and there was very little room for the rest of the band, particularly if you were a five-piece, which at the time we were.

west

The White Room’s one saving grace was Mark Chatterton, a genuinely nice guy who did the mixing, and although he was on a bit of a hiding to nothing, he managed to get a pretty good sound out of us whenever we played there. We ended up rehearsing at his rooms for all of our many comeback/last ever gigs and I always thoroughly enjoy his company. He couldn’t save the stigma I’ve since attached to that venue though. I remember so many utterly abject moments that made us come really close to packing it in, there at The White Room.

The first time we played there we were absolutely terrible, and I was so demoralised by our performance that I threw my first prima-donna tantrum and stamped off-stage before the end of the last song. That was only our second gig though, so it could be taken as a learning curve.

There was the time we played and my dad offered to drive me and Leigh down there with our equipment in his transit, and as we pulled up to the Musician’s Entrance, which was actually a fire-door with the bolt smashed off it, I wished I’d got a taxi instead. I remember the single lowest point of my entire showbiz career, one night there in front of about fifteen people. We finished a song, got a few claps and, in the lull I heard the following discourse from two blokes at the bar.

“You see the singer there?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s where the dartboard used to be.”

There was the show just before we did our first out of town gig, we were all really gee’d up for the occasion and we needed a good performance to set us up for it. We were going to try a couple of new songs and gauge the crowd’s reaction to see if they were worth chucking in the set for the Leeds gig. Sadly the “crowd,” as we went on stage, was from front-to-back, as follows.

Dave Stothard (The chef from mine and Andrew’s work)

Cousin Devvers

Luke Lowery (mate of mine from work)

What a waste of fucking time.

In closing, the last White Room story is possibly the most ridiculous. It was our fourth show, the first since our hiatus after the Polar Bear fiasco. We’d rehearsed hard and had two new songs written, and although there weren’t many people there I had invited some who had turned up. After soundcheck the owner, I can’t remember his name for the life of me, said to me:

“You’re getting paid tonight. Ten per cent of the bar.”

I was quite chuffed at this news and shot back over to my band mates to tell them. As of tonight we are professional musicians! I immediately seized my printed setlist from my bag and scrawled the now customary pretentious quote underneath it.

HATE AND REGRET
FLAMING RAYMOND
THE FALLACY
I CAN SEE A BOY
SPASTIC ROMANTIC
DEVVERS
INTROVERT

“When we are victorious I think we shall use gold for the purpose of building public lavatories.” – V.I.Lenin

When we came offstage after our best performance since our debut at Haworth, the massive Geordie handed me an envelope. Our first payment as professional musicians. I opened it.

Six quid.

Not six quid each, six quid.

One pound twenty each.

You can read part one of this article here.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx