Friday December 16th


Ah ! That final weekend before Xmas, you know the one when anyone with any sense prepares themselves for a lock down avoiding shops and bars in the city centre at any cost. The unfortunate thing is it never quite works out that way-last year was the exception but that was more to do with excuses about heavy snow than any desire not to join the not so merry throng on the streets- and inevitably the likelihood of finding yourself amongst the amateur drinkers of ‘Black Friday’, as it is referred to amongst those who work in the hospitality trade, becomes alarmingly more likely. Actually ‘tourists’ is a more apt word for the participants of this night decide to hit the pubs they avoid for 51 other Friday nights of the year and use this as an excuse to get totally obliterated, make passes at their co-workers and eventually start brawling in the streets with the remnants of a doner kebab dribbling down their chin alongside a few loosened teeth. Meanwhile their wardrobes are in a state of total dishabille with crumpled bri-nylon suits accompanied by loosened ties which have somehow taken on the appearance of nooses due to their reversal and positioning and not forgetting the prerequisite Santa hat at a not quite jaunty angle. Meanwhile the female of the species have unbuttoned blouses, sensible court shoes and skirts with invisible strings they keep hitching through the evening until they rise well above the knee. The exception to this is the office minx-the one who gets on better with the men in the office- who has dressed for the occasion and tonight is not the night she will be indulging in bonding with the sisterhood instead her sights are set on a different prize and after a few Pinot Grigiots she does not see herself as drunk and desperate but totally irresistible. The volume control on this melee seems to be dysfunctional and through the evening the same conversation can be heard again-and again-each time a few decibels higher than the previous time. It is usually all over by midnight by which point they are all suitably pissed up and they retire for another year to regret this yearly blip in their lifestyle. A sense of normality can then be restored to both the participants and those who have to work through the whole scenario. Having been involved in both sides of the evening I am relieved that on the evening in question I am attending a house party away from this debauchery and my relief is palpable at avoiding the whole sorry state of affairs.

Actually the previous observations may seem a little unfair and clichéd but one thing is true being out on ‘Black Friday’ is really not much fun at all. There really does seem to be an inability in our culture when it comes to moderating our alcohol consumption and this usually results in making an arse of ourselves, becoming belligerent and heading for totally oblivion. Guilty of all of the aforementioned I have over the last few years adopted a different, healthier, approach to drinking and apart from a few slip ups-one very recently- seem to have reached a healthy relationship with the demon alcohol. In some ways I sympathise with the ‘Black Friday’ revellers as the hangovers they must be in possession of the next day are probably horrendous and require taking a whole day out-at least- to recover and after a while this becomes more than just an inconvenience but an excuse for doing things that are ultimately more important. In fact a heavy bout of full-blown hedonism actually seems to necessitate a three day recovery period and after a while this palls when compared to the couple of hours ‘enjoyment’ which engenders it. Perhaps a liver swap programme would be a solution with teenagers and twenty somethings lending their young livers to those in their thirties and forties to enjoy a night of partying without the fallout and at the same time they, in turn, can see how bad it is going to get in their later years.

This week has also seen the  Shane Meadows drama This Is England 88 on for three consecutive nights updating the lives of the characters of the film and the ’86 TV series, The good thing about this drama is that it shows that the ‘80’s were not all good times, ra-ra skirts and a Duran Duran soundtrack. They were indeed hard times and the ‘Greed is good’ manifesto of Hollywood’s defining film, Wall Street, did not apply to everybody simply as not everyone was in a position to be greedy. Poverty, race and sexual issues were making some inroads but for every step forward there seemed to be two steps back. Thatcher’s government-alongside the Regan administration on the other side of the Atlantic- who had never been comfortable with gay issues found an unlikely ally in the arrival of AIDS which allowed them to scaremonger and force through the inhuman and societally divisive Clause 28. Meanwhile mixed race children were nowhere near as readily accepted today where they are considered totally respectable, something to aspire to and very much a necessary wave of the future. Made In England tackles these subjects with brutality but somehow furnishes them with a sensitivity which is thought provoking. At the time of writing I have not seen the final episode but the drama is unfolding at its own pace and whilst it is not always comfortable viewing its gritty realism is superbly acted and constructed and unfortunately not indicative of the majority of British television today.

The 1980’s may have been hard but catching the end of TOTP 2 1976 last night made me realise the seventies may have been worse. I have no idea- nor and need to find out- who the band playing was but it involved smiley faces, bad flares, gormless expressions, bad hair accompanied by some form of bells or chimes. It made me realise why the creation of punk was so necessary and inevitable if this bland, puerile drivel was what was being served up. It was on this very month 35 years ago in ’76-the same date this programme dated from- when the Sex Pistols released the cataclysmic Anarchy in the UK with its crunching opening chords followed by Johnny Rotten’s snarling, sneering, sardonic salvo ‘Right Now’ followed by his salacious cackle laughing off- and at- all competition and things were never the same again. Actually the bands manager Malcolm McLaren realised the corporate truck heading down our cultural highway was unavoidable but punk offered a diversion even if it was simply placing a tack under its wheels and causing it to swerve slightly. It certainly served its objectives however as punk was the first time a generation took their destiny into their own hands and the movement extended way past the music which was  more of a  wiping the slate clean and back to basics  exercise than anything. Despite this Anarchy and all of the Pistols work still stands the test of time as the energy and potency still resonate thirty odd years on. So happy birthday Anarchy In the UK you have no need of botox or remixing surgery as you sound as young , fresh and essential as you ever did.

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