In Defence Of… Never Learning To Drive by Ryan Bracha

“There’s a Cockney midget down the front of my bus…”
‘Sorry, you didn’t get the job. We really needed somebody with a driver’s license,’ says the voice on the end of the phone as you slump onto the sofa.You let the phone go and rue another chance to better yourself. Then it passes. Ah well, you think to yourself, I would have been a crap taxi driver anyway.
Driving. Overrated. One of the most expensive things you’ll ever do. You’re putting yourself at the mercy of a thousand different idiots on the road every single day, including you. You’re getting slated by eco-turds for your carbon footprint, except you. Yeah you, eco-turd with your electric car. And don’t even get me started on the M62. Is it worth it? My answer is a resounding no. The benefits of not driving tend to outweigh those of being the proud owner of a pap pap, by about 38 to 1. That’s a real stat too. Seriously, please, give me a bus pass and some quality trainers every day of the week.
‘But Ryan, it’s the freedom to just pick up and go wherever, whenever,’ you’ll say, and I’ll retort ‘hold your horses there Shakira, what do you think your legs are for?!’
‘Public transport puts you at the mercy of unreliable time tables and you have to sit with all the nutters,’ you’ll counter, and sit back satisfied. You’ve just played your trump card. I’ll smile and say, ‘but that’s the beauty of it.’

Public transport is a mine of potential for adventure. For witnessing the real life carnage that is your town. Wherever you live. The cream of society gather together to travel in unison along pre-planned routes. Sometimes there’s a diversion along the way that half of the passengers aren’t aware of, and there’s unrest. A brave soul will venture to the plastic partition and quietly question the driver. What’s happening? Are you still going up Golden Smithies Lane? Can I just get off here? They’ll return to their seat, unsatisfied. Strangers will watch it play out and begin to crane their necks, eager to hear the news. He’s not stopping, everybody’s got 5 more minutes on their journey. Oh dear. Chaos. Ten people pull their phones out and ring work. They’re gonna be late. This is just the beginning of the fun.

The real fun starts with the characters. Take my bus to work for example. In a village called Brampton there gets on a bearded fella with cheap stretchy denim jeans and no belt. Into these jeans he tucks a John Cena or The Undertaker WWE t-shirt. He wears a tight sweaty cap, and a leather bum bag. An actual leather bum bag. He wears this to work. He’s about 40. I’m not judging him, far from it, but on those days when life’s getting me down I can look at that guy and think, ‘at least I’m not you.’

There’s this big fella who makes a habit of taking seats next to people, unfolding his Metro newspaper (that’s a whole other benefit to public transport, that paper. Quality publication) as wide as he can and then edging his massive arse further back into whoever he’s chosen to sit beside. Crushing them against the window. Blocking half of their view with the paper. Once, that happened to me. I never let it happen again. He got some well aimed elbows to the ribs for the whole trip. Don’t suffer fools gladly me, cocker.

There’s the two nerds at the back. Playing a loud game of one upmanship over how many maxed out characters they’ve levelled up on World of Warcraft. There’s the woman who demanded a window seat from a stranger, and got it. The unlucky in love southerner (‘She ended it because I wouldn’t sleep with her on the first date.’) who eyeballs every pretty young thing that clambers aboard. You don’t have to read his biography to know he falls in love twenty times a day. There’s the guy who sat next to me checking semi-naked men out on a local dating website at 7:15am. My personal favourite of the profiles he looked at was ‘Mr Well Hung’ from Doncaster. He looked like the kind of guy you could take home to your mum. These are just the people whose stories I’m reasonably well versed with because they choose to tell the whole bus on a daily basis, not even a slither of self awareness between the bunch of them.

I’m no different. I’m the kind of bloke you hate. I turn my music up full blast because I want you to know how cool my taste in audio pleasures is. I want you to recognise an obscure track and give me a nod of approval. I’m the one who drums onto his knees with his fingers because I want you to see that I’m rythmically blessed. That reminds me, I once saw a fella actually air guitaring to himself at the back of the bus. None of that subtle finger movement. We’re talking full blown thrashing. Why would you not want to witness that?

These are just small examples from a single bus that runs a single route in a single town at a specific time. Imagine the delights that are happening at the same time on a thousand other buses. The laughing maniac punching himself in the face in Chesterfield. The Barbie doll girl with the caked-in-makeup face using her own knockers as a chin rest in Halifax. The identical middle aged twins with the piggy laughs and matching jumpers in Grimsby. These are the people you miss out on when you’re trundling along in your self imposed solitary confinement, driving to wherever. These are the individually wrapped, funsize bites of entertainment that you’re denying yourself.

You, Mr or Mrs Car-Driver, your television is the road. In your soap opera the red lights do battle with your patience. You try to figure out what the hell that tenuous personalised license plate in front of you could mean. Radio One is the soundtrack. Your thoughts are the narrator. And you’re spending almost £1.50 a litre for the privilege. And you look at me with some sort of pity when I inform you that I never bothered learning to drive, like I’m a Children in Need video appeal for those less privileged than yourself. I wouldn’t worry yourself there, kiddo. I’m good where I am. This shoe-less urchin would rather mingle with the others. Get down and dirty in the place where the magic happens. So no, don’t pity me and my lack of driving skill. I’m over the chuffing moon with my lot. How many of the drivers among you will ever in your lifetime, have the opprtunity to say “there’s a Cockney midget down at the front of my bus,”? In Barnsley? It happened to me once, I thought all of my Christmasses had come at once. I didn’t shut up about it for days. That’s the kind of stuff that dreams are made of.

These are my inspiration in my writing life. These are my muses. These are the people that fascinate me. I’m not interested really in the mafia don, or the career criminal when I tell my stories. I enjoy reading about them, for sure, but when I write I want to tell the stories of the man you pass in the street without so much as a blink in his direction. I want to make his reality so bizarre that you can’t help but laugh. These characters on my bus make me proud. They’re the under educated. They’re the underdog. They swear and drink and smoke. They lack as much self awareness as well as they do personal hygiene. But by Lucifer’s beard they’re entertaining, and they’re what make climbing aboard the peasant wagon the pleasure that it is.

About me:

Ryan BrachaRyan Bracha is the Barnsley-based best selling author of Strangers are Just Friends you Haven’t Killed Yet, and Tomorrow’s Chip Paper. His latest work, Bogies, and other tales of love, lust, drugs and grandad porn, is released on Sunday 1st December, and is a collection of stories about mad, bad, and downright bizarre characters in the North of England. He has a wife, two cats, and no driving license.

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Grow Up David by Paul Featherstone

I read with some curiosity this week as David Cameron was once again given a dressing down by the Speaker Of The House Of Commons for his comments towards a fellow MP during PMQ’s (as the kids call it).

The Labour MP Michael Meacher had asked a seemingly innocuous question regarding research that had shown the UK had even fallen behind developing countries such as Mali in terms of business investment. The response by David Cameron was to (yawn-inducingly and tenuously) link it to the Paul Flowers/Co-op scandal by asking if Meacher had been using mind-altering drugs.

Quite rightly Cameron was forced to withdraw the comment but rather than just moving on he sought to defend it by saying that it is important that parliament doesn’t lose it’s sense of humour and “light-hearted banter”.

If there was ever a sentence that summed up how completely idiotic and out of touch this Government and their leader are, then that is hard to beat. We live in a time when the British public is losing more and more faith in the electoral system. Mere weeks ago Russell Brand was given the platform on Newsnight to openly encourage the youth of this nation to turn their backs on the democratic system that they are so lucky to have in place.

To then stand there and declare that genuine political debate should be replaced with smirking jibes not only exposes the Old Etonian values of Cameron and his ilk, but it also further disengages the electorate at a time their patience is wearing thin.

Cameron, of course, has a track record of this sort of thing- telling female MP’s to “calm down dear” being another fine moment. It sometimes makes me wonder if he and his party are openly seeking to piss off the average voter so much that all that is left is Tory voters? It certainly seems to be working to an extent if he is, as his Government snuck in the side entrance last time due to voter apathy and no clear majority.

If though, the youth of this country continue to see these laughing idiots on their TV point scoring as they sit on the sofa with no real hope of ever getting a job in the near future, that will then be a devastating legacy to the democratic process in this country and motivating it’s inhabitants to get up and give a shit about something or anything.

I read this week about the case of a man who was being forced to pay Bedroom Tax for a room he was being forced to keep his kidney dialysis machine in. He had resorted to selling his only thing of value to pay the tax, his treasured grand piano. The money has now run out as his dialysis is ongoing.

In the midst of this, we have Cameron and Osborne sat in the House Of Commons like privately educated Chuckle Brothers oblivious to the human cost of their policies. One would hope such things would stoke the fire in people to remove them at the next available opportunity, but you suspect people are so beaten down by the grins that emit from their TV’s they have just given up trying to win the war.

If Cameron genuinely seeks to defend Parliament and its values he needs to grow up and fast. He has shown rare glimpses of the integrity to do so when he accepted the vote of MP’s to not intervene in Syria, but for every action like this he is undoing it all week in, week out with his playground exploits.

It is a time where the country is in genuine need of someone to find a solution to the grim future that we are facing, not a smug weekly edition of a panel show and it’s time this Government started taking the job in hand a little more seriously.

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

I Know, I Know, I’m Miserable by Paul Featherstone

Sigh. Do you ever feel just totally disconnected from your fellow man? That you are just down-trodden and furrowed of brow, whilst everyone else floats along on a candy-floss cloud of simple pleasures?

I ask because we now have this curious phenomenon of supermarket Christmas adverts being “events.” Is this something that has been brought about by the “buzz” that social media can now bring about or is it simply that sites such as Facebook have simply exposed how utterly ridiculous mankind has become in this century? I will touch on the latter in another article, but a quick glimpse of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube et al would suggest that yes indeed, these are now considered something of a modern art form.

My Facebook feed exploded last week as it lavished praise on Sainsbury’s effort and how it had won this years “Battle Of The Christmas Adverts”. Honestly, hand to God, it was as though it was the name in an Oscars envelope. All the while though, I wondered exactly how as general public we had come to this point where people eagerly await the adverts from each firm like teens in line for the next Twilight flick?

Approximately 90% of the Xmas adverts I have seen this year don’t even tell me what products the company is selling and at what price? It’s almost as though I am just expected to blindly walk into the store that I think spunked the most money up a wall to wow me with their advert, in the blind hope that represents how cheap Quality Street tins will be there.

One can only presume that there is the hope that if they don’t feature any actual food on their adverts, then the customer cannot be angry when they find that they have accidentally served Shergar’s head in place of a Turkey in some kind of grim reconstruction of The Godfather that involves little party hats and crackers.

Now, some may call me a cynical…nay….miserable bastard for having such a viewpoint, and of course they are right to an extent. However, look at it the other way. Maybe I’m just disappointed that Christmas has slowly been boiled down to this- a cartoon set to a fucking Keane cover, designed ultimately sell you vastly over priced products that Wonga will probably end up charging you 2876% to afford.

There is still so much good that can be reflected in humanity at Christmas, do we really need advertising executives essentially flogging us huge quantities of food to remind us that being kind to your fellow man is what is really important in this world?

To put it in perspective, I saw more outpouring of emotion about the madness of war and the sacrifice of soldiers who leave their families to serve their country after the end of the Sainsbury’s advert than I did on Remembrance Sunday. Do we actually need a visual representation of a soldier returning home rather than the memory of those who didn’t to remind us of the price of conflict?

All of it, heart-tugging and a Trojan horse to deliver the seed of coming to buy, buy, buy. Don’t fall for it. I have come to expect better of you, dear reader. Slowly but surely the public had become gloriously cynical and was making companies jump through hoops to get their custom as the recession bit.

Now this, as viewers salivate and coo over the kind images of bunnies and kids opening presents the oldest trick in the book has sucked them all back in. I want to believe that it’s all a big celebration of the magic of Christmas but come on, it’s not.

It’s yet more of the romance and beauty of life just being sold and dressed up in a cocktail frock to be prostituted for a quick bit of cash.

As I say, that may make me sound like a Scrooge, but who believes in the magic of Christmas more? Me, who would rather firms just sell me their cheap food at Christmas so that I have more money to buy the gift that puts a huge smile on someone’s face and lets them know I love them or the person who thinks it’s okay to turn selling products into It’s A Wonderful Life?

Bah, Humbug indeed.

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

Things That Rip My Knitting by Gill Hoffs

I’m going to try to avoid the usual suspects here of vaguebookers and homophobes, bigots and “I’m no (euphemism for arsehole), but…” spouters. Instead, here are some really quite specific annoyances.
*Please note, I did say ‘try’.*

Spitefully inaccurate headlines of the medical variety

You’ll have seen this kind of headline.
“Woman defies doctors to have miracle baby”
“Man defies doctors to survive terminal cancer”
“Boy defies doctors to walk again”
Headline writers and journalists casting doctors as nasty bastards who’re hoping, no, rooting for their patients to lead miserable lives then die, preferably horribly. It’s bollocks, of course. Doctors like that, the Harold Shipmans of the world, are few and far between. The people whose stories are highlighted in this kind of piece have usually been given advice on the usual course of their illness, the statistics relevant to their situation, and the common events other patients with a similar diagnosis have encountered. Do the women who have these miracle babies, the people who recover from supposedly terminal cancer or at least outlast their initially predicted death-date, or the kids who walk/talk/swim/sing unaided against the odds and their doctors’ reasonable expectations honestly think the healthcare professionals involved in their cases are trying to keep them down? That they’re spitting feathers at the news that their patient has had a baby or any kind of happy event, screwing the paper or primary-coloured-magazine into a ball and shouting obscenities at the poor sod who has had the fucking audacity to defy their order to remain barren or wheelchair-bound or die? Really?
If that’s what anyone thinks of their doctor, my advice would be to do one, pronto.

Double-decker prams

Or, as I think of them, dogbite buggies.
Not that I’ve ever seen a kid get bitten, in one of these awful buggies or anywhere else (thank goodness). But I reckon they’re an accident waiting to happen, one hungry puppy away from a newspaper campaign and tasteless jokes by shock jocks and scumedians.
I can see the attraction for parents and caregivers. A buggy that carries two kids, baby and toddler (or toddler and toddler), but with the width of just one grownup. Easier for public transport, doorways, and ramming your way through crowds, and – another huge annoyance – tipping the buggy onto an escalator so as to risk the kids’ wellbeing instead of waiting for the lift. Easier for parking in Starbucks between tiny tables while parents pretend things are almost the same as before, if not better (mm-hmm).
But the basic design of having one kid stacked above the other with the lower child just skimming over sweetcorn-speckled turds and glowing fag ends, its view of the world restricted by its sibling’s probably fragrant arse, makes me worry about it being at bite-height. Especially if it’s waggling toys or nibbling fistfuls of food.
I fully expect comments from people who have this kind of buggy and have never had a single problem, to which I say Good! I’m glad to hear it! But my loathing of this model remains.

The ‘only a joke’ ‘luv ya realy hun, u no dat, aw now i feel bad, soz’ fb posters

People who say THE most horrific or annoying or passive-aggressive things to people online BUT because they end with ‘xxxxx’ or the more individual ‘xoxoxo’ or my least favourite ‘lol’ (or for emphasis ‘LOL’) seem to think any anger or resentment will be cancelled out. My arse it is. Lol xx

Dolphins

Little-known fact: Jaws was originally going to be about dolphins. It would've been called "Snout."

Little-known fact: Jaws was originally going to be about dolphins. It would’ve been called “Snout.”

Dolphins give me the fucking creeps.
This confession may mean I’m forced to check my ovaries in at reception next time I go for any kind of woman-medicine, what with dolphins being some kind of totem animal for all bearers of wombs, but fuck it. They really, seriously, give me the fucking creeps.
Now, I should probably state for the record that I’m an animal lover who minces round ants on pavements and messes about with paper and woodlice in an effort to get the mini-armadillos out my house at night, and I’m in no way advocating the death of dolphins or the banning of them from TVs, films, and tattoo flash. But I do think instead of the assumption that I will love them because a) I have breasts, and B) they are smiley, friendly, shark-crushers with huge IQs and a decent line in acrobatics, people should catch a fucking grip.
These newly designated non-human persons can crush a fucking shark! How is that not creepy? Instead of rock-paper-scissors they play cartilage-bone-FUUUUUU! Don’t get me wrong – if I’m about to be eaten by a shark and a dolphin just happens to ram it with a bony snout then manoeuvre me to shore I’m not going to say “Hell no!” and swim off to a toothsome death. But equally, what is this odd love affair we as a species seem to have with something that smiles yet has no eyebrows and chitters like we’re the joke? Why not narwhals, the unicorns of the sea? (Not that I get the whole unicorn thing, either.) Or cuttlefish? Have you seen a baby cuttlefish? They’re fucking adorable!

I wouldn’t mind one of them for Christmas.

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 about the Victorian Titanic will be published in January 2014 by Pen & Sword. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Things To Avoid If You Don’t Want To Teach Your Child To Swear At TVs by Gill Hoffs

There’s something you need to prepare for, and by this I mean gird your loins, grit your teeth, write crib notes, and insert headphones if you want to survive with your sanity intact when spending time near a TV with your child.

Some programmes are brilliant, something to look forward to even if your sprog has wandered off to hide Lego on the carpet to feed the vacuum cleaner or pierce your feet with later. Worthy of recording to watch even if they’re in a bed and it’s their own.

Mr Bloom’s Nursery is one for straight mums and gay dads, with the fantastically sexy Ben Faulks as a keen gardener of Spitting Image-ish fruit and veg and a magical compostarium (don’t ask). With a broad regional English accent (he’s from Cornwall but studied in Leeds and frankly I can’t place what the accent is and don’t give a salad either way), he wouldn’t be out of place as a dashing young murderer or red herring in Midsomer Murders, but does a grand job of talking to kids like they’re proper people instead of annoying props on his show.

I think Mr Bloom looks like he should be in Ocean Colour Scene. Good to see Heather Small from M-People has found work these days as well.

I think Mr Bloom looks like he should be in Ocean Colour Scene. Good to see Heather Small from 90s favourites M-People has found work these days as well.

The Aquabats Super Show, an American import with a young Dave Grohl lookalike, catchy nerd-rock, and fantastical science fiction references for benefit of the parents, is truly glorious and worth youtubing even if you consider yourself above such things. With episodes including “The Floating Eye Of Death” it’s up there with SpongeBob Squarepants (you know it’s the bloke who played The Kurgan in Highlander and a murderous prison guard in The Shawshank Redemption who does the voice for Mr Krabs, right?) for adult-appropriate humour and sheer we-can-bear-to-watch-it-as-a-family-ness.

Abney and Teal is the closest thing my son’s generation is going to get to the brilliance of Bagpuss, and features a comparatively gritty title sequence, copious amounts of porridge, and the voice of the singer from the Noisettes (“Don’t Upset The Rhythm”) and an actor from Gavin & Stacey. It’s easy on the eye and the ear and just a little bit trippy, and quite soothing compared to a lot of the action-packed crap out there.

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom is parent-friendly, genuinely funny, and full of scathing asides from the true stars of the piece, Nanny Plum and the Wise Old Elf. The incidental music is addictive, the plots interesting, and the animation acceptable to an ageing adult’s eyes (mine, to be really specific). My husband and I are hoping for a spinoff involving Nanny Plum and the WOE’s wild years which we are convinced involve illicit and inevitably disappointing romantic adventures and piercings of some description.

So far, so good. Nothing really to match the Golden Era of Dungeons & Dragons, Ulysses, Dangermouse, Bagpuss, Terrahawks, Lost Cities of Gold, Thundercats, or Rentaghost, but enough to keep your sprog or sproglette happy while you trawl youtube and Amazon in search of your lost childhood.

This is Zelda from Terrahawks, she eventually hit the big time playing the mother in The Osbournes.

This is Zelda from Terrahawks, she eventually hit the big time playing the mother in The Osbournes.

But that’s not all they’re going to see. There are also the programmes that prompt unparental language and a swift suggestion of DVDs/tickling/going out. Heaven help you if your child watches them at school and becomes A Fan – especially with the advent of catchup. Watch them by yourself, check them out, see what I mean.

Nina And The Neurons features a truly lovely scientist (Nina) and her CGI helpers (slightly creepy and wholly inaccurate depictions of neurons voiced by seriously good actors like Siobhan Redmond and Sharon Small) who help her answer common questions about the world around us, like, oh, I dunno, why is the sea salty AND THEN GETS THE ANSWER WRONG. Now it’s not always, or even most of the time, but once was enough – the trust has gone. My husband is a scientist and despite Nina’s niceness, perky bunches, and cool car, her show is now banned in our house. FYI, the sea is not salty just because of erosion of the land (though page after page of google searches would tell you otherwise); deep sea vents spewing minerals like a post-kebab drunk down a drain also play an enormous part.

64 Zoo Lane has a girl buggering off from her house every night to get a somewhat moralistic story from a bunch of zoo animals which are NOT drawn to scale and would probably eat/shag each other (and her) given half the chance. My son loves it and the books, too, but I suspect part of its appeal is the bit of the theme song that, when listing the different attributes of animals, goes “some are slimy” WITH A CARTOON OF SNAKES SLITHERING ON THE SCREEN. For. Fuck’s. Sake. They’re only going to be slimy if you sneeze on them, as I told my son, but he now delights in torturing me with the words “Snakes are slimy!” whenever he wants to get a rise out of me. He’s handled snakes. He knows the song is wrongwrongwrong and yet still, still he torments me.

A recent arrival on Channel 5’s Milkshake (why is their morning children’s programming called that? Why?) is Tickety Toc, a colourful computer animated series about two figures on a clock who have to appear in the real world when the hour chimes, but get into all sorts of problems in between which means there’s always a race to get there when they need to. It’s very cute and has a cheery theme tune (always a bonus), but is horribly stressful to watch, and I can’t help but think ‘FFS stop buggering about and just WAIT NEARBY’ as the tension ramps up and the nailbiting starts.

Spongebob and Patrick announce the loan signing of Gabriel Obertan for Bikini Bottom FC.

Spongebob and Patrick announce the loan signing of Gabriel Obertan for Bikini Bottom FC.

Luckily, my kid and his dad share a passion for SpongeBob, and he’s happy to watch TimeTeam and the super-sweet and totally barmy Canimals when he’s doing artwork with me, or trawl youtube for videos of animals having baths, toilets exploding, or things to dance to like the Beastie Boys’ Intergalactic and Prefab Sprout’s The King of Rock’n’Roll. One of these days he’ll work out how to use the TV guide himself, but until then these are the things that keep me sane. That and the ‘off’ button.

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 about the Victorian Titanic will be published in January 2014 by Pen & Sword. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Second Coming – The Case For The Defense by Martyn Taylor

The_Stone_Roses-Second_Coming-Frontal

I have been told by many people over the years that The Second Coming by The Stone Roses was a major anti-climax. After much time, hype and anticipation The Stone Roses released their second album in 1994. Fans had been made to wait five and a half years since the release of their eponymous debut masterpiece.

A lot had changed in five and a half years. Gone had the days of The Hacienda and The Happy Mondays, gone had the days of the hazy pop sounds that dominated their earlier release. In had come Parkers, Union Jacks and brash guitar-ladened bands (many of whom were influenced by The Stone Roses original sound).

The Second Coming was a cursed album from the very start, come on, how do you top an album like their debut? Most bands who release something so undeniably brilliant as The Stone Roses album do so three or four LPs into their careers. trying to top the debut was impossible and pointless, so they tried something new. The Psychedelia sounds were dropped to favour a sound of dirty blues-inspired guitar riffs, heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin.

This guitar led blues formula dominates the album, only one song in my opinion harps back to their debut style and that’s Love Spreads. Love Spreads could of slotted into The Stone Roses album seamlessly with out a fuss. Ten Story Love song hints at a psychedelic love revival but falls short where it matters.

John Squires over long guitar solos could be described as self indulgent, but as they say “you cant have enough of a good thing” and his sheer technical prowess shines through. The opening track Breaking Into Heaven shakes with a groove that is trademark Squire (even if the jungle drum intro is a little unnecessary) and is the stand out track of his blues style of playing.

Ian Brown’s trademarked ‘man about town’ likeability and hushed vocals had become more polished on this album. The man could not hold a note to save his life, but he spoke to so many through his lyrics. The opening lyrics and harmonica on Good Times are pure filth from Brown and are my personal highlight from him on the album.

If this album had been their debut, I believed it would of been hailed, (just like The Stone Roses album) as one of the albums of the decade. It had the unfortunate fate of been a follow up, so it’s legacy was tainted from the off.

Luckily, I didn’t have the bias of the reviewers of the time to guide me. I discovered The Stone Roses after their split in 1996 and heard both of their albums for the first time on the same day. I did not have the long overdrawn wait for their follow up which the original fans had to endure. My opinions were made purely from the music, I had no prejudice.

I have always held The Stone Roses debut album in higher esteem than The Second Coming, but don’t let that sway you. The Second Coming is still an amazing album which I still listen to as much as the original release.

“I have a dream, I’ve seen the light, don’t put it out, say she’s alright, yeah she’s my sister.”

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 31 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.

Playground Bully Tactics, Dressed Up As National Security by Paul Featherstone

On Sunday morning at Heathrow Airport, a man who until that day, virtually no-one in the world had heard, of was stopped and held under Schedule 7 of our terror laws. This particular piece of legislation, allows for terror suspects to be held for up to nine hours without charge by police and security services, before either an extension can be applied for or charges brought.

The man being held was David Miranda, who was heading back to Brazil. Now, that name shouldn’t ring any immediate bells, there are very few household names in the world of terrorism and most of them have the back of their head missing. The detention of this man though, has had me furious for days since.

Firstly, I know that stating something made me angry is kind of like saying “the smell of bacon makes me a bit peckish” but this got me so fantastically furious, I could be a member of Grandmaster Flash’s backing group.

If you haven’t read or heard already, David Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald works for the Guardian newspaper. In this role, Greenwald has been publishing the revelations of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Yeah, to call this one a little murky is to say it’s quite hard to see a pin in a puddle.

So, by virtue of being vaguely linked to Edward Snowden, the very height of the terror laws drafted in to protect you and I, have been used against this man to send out a not-so-subtle message to those publishing his revelations. Now, the urban myth goes that I’m vaguely linked to Kevin Bacon, who once played a paedophile and so, after this legal precedent, I’m expecting Operation Yewtree to come calling at any time.

In all seriousness though, this has been a staggering abuse of power by those entrusted to keep us safe from genuine danger. Miranda, for no obvious national security reason, had items such as dongles and hard drives seized. As he was in a departure lounge, all of this was perfectly legal.

Before this, a senior civil servant was sent to the offices of The Guardian to ensure that the hard drives containing the information from Snowden were either destroyed or could be seized. Upon hearing they had been destroyed, he sifted through the pieces. Allegedly, he was sent there with the blessing of David Cameron himself.

We live in a nation that constantly takes the moral high ground against the likes of Russia and China, for this very kind of thing. What are we doing here? Maybe it’s been a long time coming, in an era of Guantanamo Bay’s and the smearing of those who choose to fight the establishment? Maybe, we were all just too content with our iPhones and Candy-FUCKING-Crush to care as our liberties were eroded? Ask yourself – where does this end?

Now, I always try to be even-handed, so let’s get a couple of things out the way. I don’t think that exposing matters of high security should be totally without consequence. Somewhere way back, laws were passed, to stop those who risk their lives to protect their citizens being exposed. You can argue all you like for a completely open government, but somewhere down the line someone ends up getting beheaded on the Internet when their real name is divulged.

Secondly, if we are honest, we all know these dark arts occur in the background of the western world. We turn a blind eye to it, because we know it’s often what keeps us where we are on the world stage and other nations…. well, down there. For fucks sake, our biggest movie hero is Bond, we are more than peckish for espionage.

In turning that blind eye, you somewhat foolishly, almost romantically hope that those dark arts are to keep us safe from the really bad bastards in the world. A bit like that mate who would bite someone’s nose off down the pub if they tried to glass you.

Instead, we are in a position where our security agencies are spying on our calls, with the full help and knowledge of the service providers. Quite rightly, Edward Snowden felt the need to expose this. The US and British governments have reacted in much the same manner of when you or I are caught doing something we shouldn’t. Sometimes you say sorry and try to make amends. Other times, you get mad at the person who pointed the finger at you and vow to take vengeance. Let’s be frank, in any other circles we wouldn’t be calling Snowden a “whistleblower”, he would be a “grass”.

If you think about it, it genuinely stings when someone calls you that. We have a strange in-built code that says you keep “schtum”, but sometimes you’ve got to be brave enough to speak about the real wrongs in this world. This wasn’t nicking a stapler from work, this was a massive abuse of civil liberties. Snowden has exposed his former employers for what they are- ultimately weak sorts who scurry around like rats, to protect their own interests and maintain their standing in this world.

In their minds, these people justify this as “survival of the fittest.” That is the code of these people because, more often than not, they have trampled on more than enough people without any great conscience to succeed in life. The people we see in power are so befitting of our disdain because they are the ones we see day in, day out – the ones in our offices, factories and workplaces that everyone hisses as their name trips from their tongue. The ones who aren’t the most skilled, the most deserving, the most suitable for their role, but they sure can shine a shoe with their tongue.

When you live on that precipice of being exposed for being a fraud, you do unethical things to climb further, so that it’s hard to fall to the bottom. If you do that, and a “grass” exposes you, you use that considerable power to show them who they messed with.

This is what is happening here. The nations we live in are doing unethical things to keep their standing in the world. They don’t want to be exposed as weak or undeserving, and they have their big, tough mates along to back them up. Those who run these nations are in a position that is far less tenable. Like Nixon and many before them, they can fall easily if the public mood sways in such a manner, and so begins this blind panic we now see against those who can expose their weak, unethical fingernails dug deep into the ladder rungs – journalists.

They’ve almost won the war. Pick up a paper, and 80% of them contain no real news, especially as they employee fat, lazy “journos” who disgrace their profession. These people long gave up any attempt at true journalism and instead resorted to hacking into phones (oh, the irony) to get their “scoops”. Now they can no longer do this, they are too fat and lazy to print anything else but the inner workings of Kerry Katona’s mind.

Every now and again though, someone does a true piece of journalistic work that shatters their attempts to control the flow of information that may bring their untimely downfall. Real Redford and Hoffman in “All The Presidents Men” work, that can bring down leaders.

That is what is happening here with The Guardian, and make no mistake, considerable weight is being thrown around to limit the damage. Arresting a man and holding him for nine hours to make a point to his partner is a cowardly, shameful act that spits in the face of the idea that those who threaten our nation, do so because they fear our open, free and democratic society.

If they care, all of those fat, lazy sorts in Fleet Street will get up out of their Lazy-Boys and stand up for the freedom of the press, before it is too late.

My Dad always told me if someone is trying to bully you, just punch them hard before they know they can intimidate you. They won’t be expecting it because no-one ever stands up to them. These people are bullies, plain and simple. It is time for someone to start clenching a fist, and fast.

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