The Ranch:

Once again, the weather catches me out. I’m all psyched up for settling into my curmudgeonly Autumn and Winter in The North mode – rain, greyness, drizzle, more rain, intermittent grumpiness, the kitchen warm and toasty with the wood burner, wood stacked naughtily either side of it, more rain, more muddiness, more drizzle.

However, Sunday has dawned crystal blue and almost frosty cool. Golds and russets pepper the town view below.

I’m on the ranch, tapping my laptop, acting like a writing dick, sitting on a pink plastic chair (one of a set of four, with matching table) that my neighbour Chris gave me. I’m in the greenhouse and it’s toasty warm. My design is definitely working – the top floor gets hot within minutes of the sun coming out. The high elevation gets maximum sun all year. I’ve grown basil successfully for the first time ever – we’ve had loads. Alex is making good progress with the floor and we should have the water tank in the roof in the next few weeks.

Writing has become a compulsion and being outdoors has always been a compulsion. Combining the two is obvious – I feel a charismatic Guardian pic coming on – shame I don’t have a twat-stick (one of those sticks for selfies).


Pink writing chair in the greenhouse


Boff and Casey came to visit me at the ranch on Friday and we sat in front of the stove with a brew, chatting about Pendle Radicals and this and that. Boff and I talked about our common idea of writing in the back of a camper van (which I’ve done on a few occasions). Casey was absolutely thrilled to bits to finally get the green tassled jacket that Sam wore for the punk gig.

It’s not all plain sailing up here – some days, you just don’t feel like it. Doubt comes knocking. When it does, I revert to automatic pilot and remember the defaults of ‘the bigger picture’ and ‘little and often’ which is one of Bish’s sayings.

I can walk up here briskly, empty the horse muck, do a couple of jobs and be back home in two hours, to the cosy comfort of the stove-heated kitchen, getting a welcome blast of fresh air and a bit of exercise in the process.

A typical ‘little and often’ situation is building work – either bricklaying, concrete mixing or bottle building. I can either do a full mix of concrete or mortar which takes an hour or two or I can do a ‘quick mix’ (1,3,1 of cement, building sand and grit sand measured in a 6″ plant pot). I’m currently bricklaying a little shed in the field. Monty, the previous owner of the field made loads of brick paths. I dig them up and clean them. They’re often different sizes and I’ve developed a ‘flexible’ bricklaying style. Bricklaying is harder than it looks – it’s taking me a long time to learn. I’m getting slightly better at it.


Farmer Fartley and Casey in lurid green tassled jacket


Most of the harvests are coming to an end, but there’s no such thing as ‘nothing to do’ in farmleting. It’s now time to plant native wild seeds (they like a cold snap), autumn grains and garlic.

We’ve had heavy heavy rain and my drainage system for the beds in the field is working well. Already I’m planning next season which includes putting down irrigation pipes before planting and lots of local varieties of open pollinated seeds. I’m predicting a seed shortage in spring.

Dewy and I discussed a pilot video for our ‘common ground’ project and we even did a quick screen test. We’re agreed that there has to be humour and irreverence in there. The folk on the bottom allotments are getting stuck in and we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet regarding clean food production.

I’ve gathered calendula flowers and comfrey to make a salve using olive oil and my own beeswax.


Top floor of greenhouse


Medicine and Rock & Roll

This week the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020 was awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.

According to the World Health Organization, globally, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

It’s nowhere near as trendy as the Covid yet there’s a bizarre link between punk rock, science and the NHS.

The punk movement had a massive influence on a lot of people and for many that were at the right age, it was a time of great joy. Not for everyone though. It attracted lots of disenfranchised vulnerable youngsters and sadly, some of them fell prey to some very nasty predatory people, who superficially seemed like role models. Drug use was rife for some, including heroin.

A side effect of this was needle sharing and the spread of Hep C. I know at least three people in this situation, who now thankfully lead ordinary hard-working lives.


Calendula flowers and comfrey for salve


As a result of Hep C’s discovery, an effective treatment was developed (pegolated interferon +/- ribavarin). Lots of ex heroin addicts were treated without judgement by the NHS and were cleared of the virus. To me, this is one of the many miracles of science harnessed for the good of others by the NHS.

The same applies to Covid. Rapid improvements in treatment have come about thanks to good science and the NHS is as magnificent as ever.

However, I remain deeply deeply cynical and sceptical of the government’s handling of the situation. The test and trace shambles, run by corrupt private companies remains an utter farce. The virus remains endemic so positives will of course increase in proportion to the number of tests. This is the first thing to be emphasised on the news and in the press. Positive tests however have no direct relationship to the actual morbidity and mortality of the illness.

I have a particular question that I can’t find the answer to – mainly because the science isn’t there yet.

If someone breaths in virus particles and ‘fights it off at the door’ (i.e. in the nose and throat), as many people do with flu and the common cold, do the remaining non-infective RNA fragments cause a positive test? I suspect that they do, meaning that many completely well people with positive tests may not be infective.

There’s no doubt that Covid related illness and death is on the increase, but I’m still struggling to gauge to what extent. Front-line NHS workers have correctly predicted a horrendous winter due in part to the extra Covid workload.


Today's haul from the ranch


Another thing that I don’t trust is the recording of deaths which was changed by Public Health England on the 20th August to ‘death within 28 days of a positive test’. This is NOT a measure of death caused by Covid. Someone could have had a positive test, been completely asymptomic, then have been killed in an accident and become a Covid death statistic. At the other end of the spectrum, a high risk person with co-morbidities could have caught the virus, recovered then died within 28 days from one of their other conditions. Covid may have been contributory, but not the actual cause of death.

The manipulation of the situation by right-wing governments is NOT the same issue as the voracity and virility of the disease.

Sadly, there are still seemingly intelligent people claiming that the whole thing is a hoax. This is an example is the insidious way that the press and social media propaganda works.



The C*** Registry website crashed last week when Sunak suggested that people with careers in the arts retrain.

The collective creative wrath of all creatives (and their allies) was invoked in unity – musicians, artists, poets, venue-owners, promoters, technicians, free-thinkers, mavericks, radicals.

We’re the ones with the creative imagination you slimy odious prick. It’s a big industry bringing in a lot of cash to the economy.



Joe Strummer said that without people you’re nothing 

I’ve had a wonderful two weeks off work, albeit it somewhat hedonistic (nothing to do with my birthday honest). It’s people that have made it and I reserve the right to decide for myself what’s safest for my loved ones.

I read somewhere that human joy is a deeply powerful force of dissent which is why dictatorships quash it. I didn’t get it at first but now I see it. Joy improves: unity; hope; enthusiasm; optimism; inspiration; energy and so on. Best of all though, it breaks down divisions. The irritating cunt up the road becomes your best mate when the street party gets into full-swing. 

Last night we booked a table at The Lion, in anticipation of it being closed down next week. WAKA had a rare night off and he flatteringly sat at the next table to us. We talked at length about the old days of music and how it might pan out in the future. We agreed on the deeply misunderstood right that a gentleman has to a definitively comfortable chair – particularly the right to fall asleep in it. Here’s mine. (I’m expecting a picture of yours WAKA!)


Gentleman's relaxing chair


For yonks, I’ve had the notion of recording my songs direct to camera preceded by a bit of twat banter. Part of me thinks ‘don’t bother’ (because I look like a right knob on camera) but the other part thinks JFDI.

Gaz and I finally got round to it on Friday. We recorded Solo which is particularly nerdily twatty. It’s book-ended by pisstake falsetto and has nerd lines such as:

Eimhear and Erin and Hornshaw think that they’re the Derry Girls, expect none of them are actually from Derry.

Here it is.



I am an observer. A documentor. An orchestrator. A columnist without a column. A journalist without a paper. A writer without an audience. I’ve decided to try and publish every Sun at 5.

I’ve put two more YouTube videos above of The Strange’s 7″ single and the B-side just as a reminder of some of the offbeat anarchic creative joy to originate from a back room in the North of England.

I’m hearing more and more stories of people having their social media accounts taken down. Particularly those not kissing the government’s arse. My FB got hacked this week. I have a subscribe thing to the right for anyone who wants to get regular updates – it’s just my own website which I maintain myself and it’s hopefully secure. Feel free to share.