Sun 22nd December 2019: 3:14pm
I’m just back from the ranch. It’s mild grey. I spotted a small flock of long-tailed tits flitting through the hedge. This is a special time, much preferred by farmers to Christmas. That’s because we’re over the hurdle – the winter solstice was yesterday and the days are getting longer.
Traditionally, December and January are the quietest gardening months, but not so for forestry – deciduous trees are dormant in winter so it’s their time for planting and transplanting. I have a little tree nursery and each year I raise 40 or so trees either from seed or cuttings. They stay in the tree nursery until they’re big enough to plant out. There are about 20 ready to transplant. A couple will go into the ranch hedge to replace ones that died last year and the rest are destined for the other allotments at the bottom.
Friday (which happened to be Mad Friday – the Friday before Christmas) was a day of tremendous excitement for a bumpkin like me. After breakfast, it began with the mandatory ranch trip and a triple barrow-load sheissen shift.
Next, I went to Mid-Pennine Arts and met with Nick, Melanie and Casey and we finalised all the details of our SICK OF BEING NORMAL – Pendle Punk 40 years on. It’s very exciting. It’s upstairs at Burnley library then there’s going to be an after party at Burnley’s swell new Creative Arts bar with the DJs – it’s sounding so cool. We have rapper/grime artist MeLeon and lots of other acts. The music/vegan night that Gwen and I are doing is also all planned. There’s a real creative buzz happening.
After Mid-Pennine, I called in the bar and again, there was a nice buzz there because Leon (MeLeon) was getting ready for a music night that he was organising – Louise and I went down later and there were lots of cool looking people in there including a six foot drag queen and lots of trendy rappery types – it could well have been New York. Good old Burnley – your time is coming again.
Next I headed for the library on the off-chance that Jamie, the lad who runs 0282 doings might be there. I wanted to tell him about the updates for the gig. By pure chance, Phil Evo, a mutual friend was walking past and he told me that Jamie (better known as Moz) was actually in The Bridge, Burnley’s neat little Bier Haus pub.
I went along and was quite thrilled by the exciting prospect of having a half in the pub on a Friday afternoon – it’s Christmas after all. Three hours and a few ales later and I’m still there. It was the most convivial of occasions. Moz’s mate Hilly was there and we talked music, vinyl, favourite Scottish bands and so on. I told Moz that The Town Mouse was originally called The Salford Arms and I wanted to show him the wonderful mosaic tiling in the entrance, but it was shut.
We’ve decided to not bother with presents this year and keep things a bit more frugal. However, Louise has bought our customary bottle of expensive high-quality gin and despite my sess the day before, I couldn’t resist sampling it. Unfortunately, after a couple I couldn’t resist the odd top-up – it was important to experience the subtle flavours. Before I knew it, midnight was approaching. I promised myself that this nightcap was the last and I put the bottle in the cellar – blimey what’s that half-full/half-empty saying?
As I psychologically prepared to retire, I suddenly heard someone coming in. Based on the years of Lord of the Rings watching, there’s a magic secret code for getting into our house known only to a handful of close comrades – prob just the handful who got through to Morrrrdorrrr – it’s a bit like when they’re trying to get through that big stone door on their way to ditch the f’ing ring. I presume it’s Elias coming to doss after a bender in town. It’s not, it’s Tyler. I’m thrilled to see him and I’m deeply flattered that he feels comfortable enough to come to our house. He’s the drummer in Sam and Elias’s band The Strange. I’ve heard a lot of drummers in my time and I honestly think he’s the best ever.
It’s only appropriate that we have a token blast through a couple of numbers, but it’s late and we’re both the worse for wear so we retire.
This morning, fortified with fresh-ground coffee, we talk about the election fiasco (he’s a staunch Labourite). He tells me about his visit to Israel and Palestine and reports that a lot of Israelis are just decent people who totally oppose the systematic genocide of the Palestinians by the same current apartheid state that was so heavily involved in influencing our general election. He points out that once, Israel was a very socialist country. He describes the landscape of both Israel and Palestine as being arid but uniquely beautiful and recounts how completely welcoming and accepting the Palestinians were towards him
Then we blast through a load of songs. Even the one’s he hasn’t heard before, he picks up instantly. Yep. Deffo the best drummer ever. As I’m in film-making mode, I set up the tripod in the corner and press go on the camera.
We also run through the fledgling backing track that I’m writing for the consultant film – it’s a very derivative riff, but it’s happy and upbeat – very Northern. He instantly plays the perfect Northern back-beat.
I’ve been getting ever so twitched about the consultant recruitment film that I’m making by accident at work. I feel slightly better now, because on Wednesday, I got up at 6, scraped the frost off the car, and headed straight for work. I was on the shop floor for 7:30 filming a few cutaways.
TG was the 8-O-clock consultant. ‘What are you doing here?’ he said when he saw me. I explained that I’d been tricked into making the film and I asked him if it was OK to film the hand-over. ‘Absolutely not.’ He said. I got some great hand-held footage. He looks like a deadpan Celtic warrior king briefing his troops (including a couple of Amazonians) before going into to battle to rout the English scum.
I spent more or less the whole day filming, and once I’d got over the initial embarrassment it was fine.
I filmed Smithy and goaded Gaynor into appearing in a clip with him. ‘I haven’t had chance to put my make-up on.’ She said.’ Gaynor was a secretary when I first arrived there 20 years ago and now she’s our manager. It kind of sums up why we’re probably the best emergency department in the country. We’re a bit different – there’s seriously no ‘them and us’. Everyone is in it together.
I got some some good clips including prof Dan and our next door soul-mates the Acute Physicians. When I filmed Dan, Smithy kept saying ‘You have to get him in a chair.’ (Professor – chair. Get it? – it’s a bit of a highbrow academic joke.)
I cajole Angela into coming into the office to pretend to talk to Craig in order to capture our fantastic secretaries (she mumbles something incomprehensible in objection) . I point out that I’ll still be getting some shop-floor action shots later. I haven’t told her that there’ll have to be a shot of her playing double bass. It sounds a bit oblique, but she’s one of the two consultants in our department (if not indeed the whole world) to own a double bass.
I want to capture our great working relationship with associated specialities. I email Oli (my ultra-muso anaesthetist mate) and suggest that we film a clip of him playing drums and me playing guitar. He immediately agrees.
Tyler works in the vile capital. It turns out that he too is a big Derry Girls fan. He’s of Irish descent and he’s made sure that he got his Irish passport.
He met two of the actual Derry Girls (Orla and Erin) in a pub in London (Cheshire something or other). I can’t wait to tell Eimhear and Erin.
Our dicktard back-yard stray cat won’t ever cross the threshold. He’s really scared – he must have had some bad shit at the hands of nasty humans. For some reason, on Thursday night, when I get back from work and happen to go in the back yard for a bag of coal, he’s there wowing and miaowing. Obviously the fat cunt wants feeding. Next, to my amazement, after a bit of histrionics, he crosses the floor and sits on my knee. I’m covered in cat hairs. Fuck that.
I think the trick is to do it regularly and have a rough idea of what you want to say before you do it.
Also you need to do it regularly, regardless of your state of mind.
It’s important to find your own style then stick with it. I developed mine when I wrote the book.
I like to keep things simple and I’m always looking at ways of cutting down on unnecessary words
Top stuff, I can feel the excitement coming through!