“..What strange lunacy is this…?”

It’s been a very odd few weeks since my last effort. All kinds of madness thrust in my face like an unwanted todger in the night.  Politics, Paranoia, tragedy and fire….lots and lots of fire…..

Once again I started writing a different blog, one where I dismantled Facebook.  But as usual I bored myself and found a different trigger.  I found Paganism.

However I’ll come to that later.  Firstly I’ll briefly address the original idea for this month’s rant.

I am a prolific Facebook user.  I make no excuse for this as I find the whole medium hilarious and instant.  It shouldn’t require thought and takes seconds to post something.  I rarely, if ever, sit at a computer to post.  I do it on the hoof as it were, when I’m out and about doing stuff or I spot something worth ripping the piss out of.  I used to get lots of ‘you’re always on it’ shite where my reply would be ‘if you know that then you must be too’.  So what if I’m always on it?  It’s easy and a laugh… live with it.

In 2008 I started my page.  I was late to the party and was admittedly sceptical about the social media thing but as I like to embrace technology I decided to give it a go.  I saw it as good way of keeping in communication with some people that I wouldn’t normally see or hear from.

You could argue that if you don’t see or hear from someone on a regular basis then fuck them, you don’t need them.   I would usually subscribe to this mind-set as I don’t think like a rational, normal person.  I’m a reactionary who springs to snap judgements before having a think and then completely changing my mind.  Don’t be me…..be normal.  With Facebook I decided to be normal….. To begin with.

I checked back through my Facebook to see what my first post was.  It was outstanding:

“…is suffering from back pain…”

Riverting stuff eh?  A nothing post….hopeless.  Who cares? What would you say in response?  I remember posting this and thinking that I didn’t even care. A poor start.

It was clear I needed a ‘thing’, a reason to post something rather than a random statement of the moment, so I made a conscious decision to make my shit as funny and as joyful as the medium, although useful was essentially trivial.

On a brief initial scan at the time after acquiring a few friends I noticed a recurring theme.

Cat pictures.

The site was packed with cute cat pictures.  It was reminiscent of the late 80’s where the walls of University bedrooms were adorned with that poxy poster of the musclebound model, bare-chested, looking into the face of a new born baby or the picture of James Dean moodily walking down the boulevard of blah, blah, blah, or the ‘Betty Blue’ poster, a film of such low rent that it was merely made to separate socks from there 17 year old owners within the first seven minutes.  Subtitles added to the mystery but essentially it was Euro trash discussed intensely over warm cider by floppy haired film student cocks needing a good shoeing.

These images were meant to inspire but all they did was make you look like a moody ponce trapped in your own intensity.  Cat pictures could poke it.

The first clash I had with someone was when I ended up embroiled in a conversation about Facebook suggesting things you might like.  You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that this function is driven by the info you give it but no matter…. He ain’t no rocket scientist.

The complainant was whinging on about how it was an infringement of his civil liberties that anyone should dare suggest what he liked or disliked.  I was hesitant in my response, which is unusual for me, but I couldn’t hold back.

I pointed out that the whole Zuckerberg platform was free and so it didn’t surprise me that based on things you actively say you like they would suggest stuff that could help their advertisers.  I also pointed out to the whining prick that if he didn’t accept the policy he could do three things:

  1. Stop using Facebook
  2. Stop liking stuff on Facebook
  3. Get out of my fucking life

This went down badly and so I was drawn into arguing with the knob about the meaning of ‘free’.

To me, If you are handed a free vanilla Ice Cream you don’t complain that it isn’t strawberry… you either accept the freebie and its vanilla fantabulousness or you reject it and go ice cream free.  You have the ultimate sanction….You can decide not to engage with it.

This was the point when I thought that the whole platform must be littered with nut jobs from all parts of the bonkers spectrum.

There’s the needy who post lines like:

  • “…Oh God!… not again…”
  • “..I can’t believe he/she did that..”
  • “.. I’m not having that..”

These are ‘No point’ posts which crave interaction, they need a response mainly along the lines of ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’

I had (notice past tense) a ‘friend’ who posted this stuff regular.  I used to respond like I knew what she was talking about hoping that she would correct me.  No one knew what she was talking about but she was incapable of starting or sustaining a conversation without there being some form of personal trauma.  In the end no one replied.  If you want a reply to your posts try using this thing:

‘?’

The Question Mark. It works on all levels otherwise it’s just a statement…an up your own arse statement craving attention.

The flipside of the needy are the obsessed.  These are the people who think that everything you post is about them or something they did.  My posts are about everything and nothing, everybody and nobody.  If I’m talking about you you’ll know…. I’ll name you directly as I love an argument..

Then there are the part time political activists with the deeply earnest posts who have been particularly prolific this past six weeks mainly due to the immigration tragedy and the rise of some bloke trapped in a time warp from 1975.

This blog isn’t my political platform so I won’t bang on about my views and so I’d like to think that others would do the same on Facebook.  Unfortunately I’ve been subjected to dead toddler pictures, downtrodden migrant appeals, Rioters being battered by the Police and the like whether I want to see them or not.  I was called a ‘cunt’ and a ‘Tory’ simply for not agreeing with a particular point of view.  That’s fine, I’ve been called a Cunt before and I’m certain it’ll happen again but there seems to be a lack of understanding in the concept of point and counterpoint.

The other thing with the Activist is that generally on Facebook you are posting to your friends and so your wish to push the view to a wider audience collapses at stage one.  Generally we associate with like-minded people so shoving your view down their throat on an hourly basis has little effect.  I know what you like and dislike that’s why we are friends and this goes for all the others on your page.  Go global if you must but not local as it’s pointless.

It’s not all bad.  Facebook is a marvellous tool for humorous interaction with people you don’t get to see on a regular basis.  Without it I would have no communication with friends and relatives all over the world as I’m a lazy bastard who doesn’t pick up a phone.   I’ve met new friends and rekindled relationships with old mates.  I like it…It does its job and if you keep it low level it can be a great thing unfortunately there are too many Warriors of the Intergoogles looking to reinvent themselves as modern day heroes.  Luckily I realise that I’m not a hero…I’m just a bored twat spouting nothingness.

On a lighter note….Paganism and the Fires of Hell.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in Hastings, not through choice but not due to abduction either.  Obligation has taken me to this seaside hamlet of few sights, few teeth and fewer thumbs.  The in-laws lived there and so I was taken there on many occasions to visit.

I’m not big on seaside towns.  It’s the transient nature of the average punter mincing around them rather than a general irrational hate.  They always feel temporary and fake to me and my personality and nature insists that I imagine it in a bleak winter landscape rather than at its peak in a tepid English summer.

My gauge of a place is whether I would want to live there and I’ve always thought I couldn’t live in Hastings.  What would I do during the winter when I’m watching my car being eaten away in the sea air?  Plan the annual external house painting?  Take a walk down the ‘Old Town’ (they all have an ‘Old Town’), to see worn out coffee shops and shops selling shell encrusted clocks that you don’t need or even like?  Play tuppence drop to win something shite? Or just drink my loaf off in a worn out boozer frequented by salty sea dogs with a sign that says ‘Bikers welcome’?

If I ever live by an expanse of water it will be hot all year round and I’ll be eating sardines cooked on the beach not slurping a pint of prawns under an umbrella next to the crazy golf.

All this being said I agreed to return for a night out with Jen, the kids, Jen’s sister and brother-in-law who are always great company and good fun. It was sold to me as a beach party with fireworks… It wasn’t quite like that.

I’ve always enjoyed the initial stages of journey down to Hastings.  I can’t explain why it might just be the fact that I’m on the road.  The problem really kicks in when I see that sign that says ‘Welcome to Hastings – Birthplace of Television’.  This sign gets up my nose as it means we have arrived in Hastings.  It’s at that point that I feel the blood pressure rising and the tetchiness kick in.

We arrive at the accommodation.  My initial reaction is a well-trodden road for Jen.  I slag it off without actually entering the premises. My default position is one of misery and woe when leaving my house to sleep elsewhere as any bed that isn’t mine tends to break my back.  The guest house we are staying proves to be excellent value with a brasserie attached including a bar with Guinness.  She knows me so well…. As long as Guinness is available I’ll suffer anything.

Prior to leaving I research the event we are attending.  It’s the Hastings Bonfire Society’s annual event where they parade through the streets before igniting a huge pyre on the beach. Essentially this sounds dull however it’s free and involves fire so I’m in.

After a brief stay in the room I decide to go sit in the bar as there’s only so long I can sit and wait for Jen and the kids to get ready.  I head to the brassiere bar and order a G from a very young barmaid.  I’ve had better…. The Guinness not the barmaid.

I sit in the window, alone like an imprisoned orangutan.  I don’t go to bars alone so this is a rarity and I try to savour the moment or solitude but in walks a large group of locals spanning various age ranges.

Locals.  I hate Locals. I can tell they are locals by the limps, small thumbs, sloping shoulders, small heads and boss eyes.  They seem excited, almost frantic.  I can only assume it’s because the magic of fire is imminent.  They all talk at the same time about fuck all and I notice they view me suspiciously.  One of them has that look that can only be described as ‘the finger through the toilet paper’…. They are wary of the lone stranger… I’m winning.  My mind wanders and I realise that I could run this fucking town.  I was born for this moment, I can envisage a future where I’m leading the toothless masses of Hastings in revolt against the rest of society… I am Caesar from ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’… A simian forehead and just about enough intelligence to lead an army of the stupid… I AM THEIR GOD!!

…Anyway more of my rise to power in another blog… onwards…

I’m in the bar with the freaks.  They are talking about the fire ceremony and they have started to drool and chatter.  There’s also random bursts of too loud, inappropriate laughter.  All I can decipher are random mumblings with the occasional clear use of the words “fire” and “burn” said slightly too loudly and quickly… I shift uncomfortably and am pleased when the brother in law appears as he’s an ex-soldier and will be handy should we have to burst free from the bar in some kind of normal person jail break.

Shortly after we are joined by our families and we retire to the restaurant to eat. Saved by women and children.

I’m surprised by the menu.  Lamb fillet and Dauphinoise potatoes rings my bell and as it’s the greatest of all potato dishes I choose instantly.  This is odd.  Hastings has always oozed gastronomic wasteland for me.  Random ‘meet’ crammed into stale bread held together by the cheapest of napkins so I’m thrown by this classy effort.

I once went to breakfast with Jen in Hastings where she ordered ‘Ham and eggs’.  Not sure you can fuck that up but she received two slices of wafer thin plastic ham, a stale finger roll and a hard-boiled egg (unpeeled) rolling on the plate.

I still remember her face and my laughter which was only cut short by the arrival of my breakfast which when ordered sounded like ‘double egg on toast, bacon and mushrooms’ but when received was ‘egg, bacon, sausage, tomatoes and beans’.  When I queried the plate before me I was informed by the waitress that the chef can only cook what is listed on the menu at which point I pointed to Jen’s plate.  Apparently Jen’s effort was him ‘giving it a go’… outstanding.  By the way I never eat sausages in cafes.  If I want to chow down on a low quality pigs cock I’ll join the current government…eh?  Like that?  Topical…

Seaside food is usually shite.  Whilst working in Brighton with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met I was provided with a battered cod fillet impaled on a stick… bit like a fish lolly.  All. Wrong.

Because the food was good I was filled with optimism when I strode forth towards the ‘Pyre’ erected on the beach.

The streets were busy with freaks in costumes ready for the parade.  Lots of pirates and death makeup like a low level Mexican Day of the Dead parade without the heat, sun, proper costumes, choreography and beautifully tanned people.  This is that festival for the shockingly pale, ham-fisted, puffer jacket brigade.

We reach the sea front and it’s mobbed.  It’s like a prison has let everyone out for the night…. A prison, a borstal and a home for battered wives…doors thrown open and the ghost of Ron Pickering has shouted ‘Away you Go!!’. This is the Hastings I remember.  The Walking Dead manifest into reality.  Excluding those I am related to I’ve counted 58 teeth amongst those in attendance and it’s clear that the local tattooist is a multi-millionaire from neck tatts and kids names in gothic font on forearms.

….I’m in the nitty gritty here… it’s a tinder box of luke warm excitement and I’m with the people of the soil… the common man….Cameron’s Britain…

We smooch our way to the front of the railings within sight of the massive pyre of pallets and random wood.  To the front of the tower is a giant anarchist Guy Fawkes mask.  I’ve inadvertently entered an anti-capitalist rally.  This could ruin me.  I couldn’t be more capitalist.  Earlier I was sitting in the accommodation wishing I had brought the Bose mini dock Bluetooth speaker as the quality of the radio in the room was appallingly poor… I want all the stuff and I want it now.  Luckily these Jubs ain’t political they just like burning stuff and swearing loudly at their kids.

The brother-in-law informs me of the timescale and it appears that we has an hour to kill while the parade of torches winds its way through the Old Town and back to the sea front.  I was aware this would happen so I’m cool with it.

I survey the scene.  What strange lunacy is this?

Now I’m not sure how big the Hastings branch of Sports Direct is but I can only assume it is like the 02 arena with tills and cheap umbrellas.  Everywhere I look I see ‘Lonsdale’ and ‘Karrimor’ and ill-fitting, highly flammable leisure suits.  This seems like a collective cry for help given the imminent inferno.  I have never seen so much cheap leisure clothing packed into confined area in my life.  It’s like the crowd at an Iron Maiden gig in Poland in 1987.  It’s actually quite a feat of logistics given the A roads down to Hastings that Sports Direct are capable of delivering this amount of tat to the residents on a regular basis.

The next thing I notice is the smoking.  I hate smoking.  I’ve never smoked but have had to live with it for years.  Every girl I ever had the pleasure of ‘entertaining’ smoked.  It was deemed ‘cool’ by women of my vintage back in the day so if you wanted to be involved you had to accept it or spend the nights weeping into a pillow in a lonely bedroom with the ‘Grattans’ catalogue lingerie section.  Just for the record ladies, we don’t like it, it tastes bad…. But we get on with it….for you because we are professionals and need the companionship for the sake of our sight.

The amount of smoking is noticeable…all ages….puffing.  There’s a couple next to me in their 40’s who are vaping.  They are heavily vaping in between some gratuitous snogging.  I’m subjected to entwined tongues and I haven’t even typed anything into Google although this search would read ‘Fugly couple sicken thick crowd’.

They stop vaping and eating each other and engage in some top notch swearing during which they start smoking.  That’s right, the vaping has stopped but the real smoking has started meaning that they can maintain a constant state of nicotine refreshment.

I turn away and look into the distance and see a red glow.  It reminds me of that scene in ‘The Two Towers’ when the Orc army are approaching Helms Deep to slaughter everyone.  Problem is I’m stuck in the middle or more Orcs and see no heroes able to assist me (Aragorn) or the brother in law (Legolas).  It’s an Orcfest and I have no weaponry other than complete contempt.

‘They are coming!!”

…the cry rings out from what I assumed was a bearded bloke to my left… Turns out it was a woman in need of a shave in a ‘Tap out’ sweatshirt.  Everyone hustles forward to greet the torch bearers who are bedecked in sea based fancy dress.  Chillingly they are also dragging a 12 foot papier-mâché model of some generic seafarer that they intend to reduce to ashes.

After ten minutes of various drum banging and flame gathering the horde surround the Pyre… Ignition is but a moment away.  In a bizarre twist I’ve gone all caveman and crave an out of control fire… the mob has taken control of me and I have become one of them.

Generally I’m poor with fire. I can’t control it.  I had lots of bonfires out of control through poor planning and seeing me light fireworks is comedy gold… Torch in mouth, taper gingerly wobbling towards the fuse whilst carrying a watering can is the norm followed by a frantic run to safety as if I’m escaping the blast zone.  When the boy was a baby I experimented with mood lighting by placing four tea lights in a ceramic vase behind a microwave in order to create some kind of ponce inspired ambience.  The effect was outstanding but when I left the room I forgot to extinguish the candles and 10 minutes later was fighting a blaze from kitchen worktop to ceiling as they overheated in the confined vase, melded into one giant candle and exploded.  Jen wasn’t happy and so now like a three year old I’m not allowed matches in case I threaten the safety of the tribe.

The tension is mounting as the horde close in….who gets the honour of chucking the first torch? Which local dignitary puts fire to wood?  Surely the manager of Sports Direct will be the one given his services to textiles and moulded soles throughout the town will be in the frame or perhaps the local tobacconist who has manged to bring joy to all ages and all medical facilities in the area for a number of years.  Neither of these two titans of local industry get the nod and so some random nobody shoots his bolt and chucks his torch straight into the heart of the pyre. After a brief cheers of madness hundreds of other torches are chucked on.

I’m not too sure what was in the middle but the stack has gone up in seconds like a roman candle and the heat is tremendous from my vantage point about 100 yards away.  The whole thing is exhilarating and I find myself scanning the crowd for the overly nourished in order to add fuel to this fire of all fires.  Surely one of these loonies is willing to sacrifice themselves to fuel the lust for flames?

After five minutes of watching the inferno it’s clear that it’s getting slightly out of control with the top of it licking up a good sixty feet into the air like a sun flare.  If the wind changes direction I’m pretty sure that the entire area could be engulfed in flame.

The assembled herd are taken with the fire frenzy and shouts of ‘BURN!! BURN!!’ are heard all around.  Out of the corner of my eye I notice the local fire engine silently move towards the pyre as if the brains on hose #1 has realised that he could get the key to the city for stopping a disaster…

In order to supress the crowd and presumably contain the blaze on the quiet the PA announces starts the countdown to the firework display.  This is the real reason we are here as the kids love fireworks and I’ve read that this is a good effort.  I’m now pleased that we have this position near the barrier as I should have the perfect view of this near legendary display… I turn to the kids…

“Turn your faces to the sky children in preparation of the delights to come… we don’t want to miss one dazzlingly explosion..”  The kids look up, the joy evident in their innocent faces, I set my face to maximum excitement…. Here we go…

Three…two…..one…… kerrrrrrrboooooommmmmm!!!

….I’ve never been a lucky person on any level.  If I can misjudge something I probably will….

Behind me I hear a massive opening barrage of fireworks.  To the front nothing.  Nish.  Nada. To the left an aged and toothless old crone points skywards and cheers but she’s looking behind me… everyone is looking behind me.

I spin round to nearly see the display in full flow. I say nearly because not only have we put ourselves in the wrong place for the main event but a very large street size is obliterating all but the edges of the main explosions.

I turn to the kids to avert disaster and find that they are still looking skyward in the wrong direction with beaming smiles.  I whip around to take in the majesty of a ridiculously large road sign silhouetted from the remnants of East Sussex’s greatest firework event….. The brother-in-law looks at me and rightly pisses himself.  This sort of shit only happens to me.

And then, with three massive explosions in the shape of three 12 foot seagulls the event ends.  The PA announces that the lunacy is over and we should all return to our pathetic, fire free lives.

The herd shuffles off and we head back to the guest house bar for a night cap where we are confronted by a packed house of soft drink guzzlers watching four Dads knock out mid-tempo cover versions to rapturous applause worthy of a Led Zep reunion gig.

The next morning after sleeping on a bed as hard as a dogs head and a fully acceptable breakfast in a room smelling of bleach, we take a walk into the old town and I am pleasantly surprised.

No longer do the cobbles smell of piss and sick after a Saturday night but it to have gone all bohemian with all kinds of new coffee houses with books shelves and bars with London DJ’s popping up.  It’s Brighton-lite without the stag and hen do’s ruining the atmosphere and the ponces flopping about in heavy trousers and bow ties seeking out new types of coffee in tiny, tiny cups.

Of course it still has the hippy shop with the £200 copy of Frodo’s sword from ‘ The Lord of the Rings’ which has not been sold in the 10 years I have been coming here but it is now joined by a £150 full size plastic Gandalf staff which lights up with magic….or pressing a button.

It’s a strange feeling but I’m enjoying myself mooching around and I suddenly get the feeling that I could probably live here.  I stare into an estate agents window and view a five bedroom property with land that I could buy outright if I sold up in London….  My mind thinks about it…. I’ve had a great time but could I live here on a daily basis without the thrill of the Fire? The surge of naked heat? The smell of burning tinder? The rush of the torch bearers?

…’No’ is the simple answer…. Fuck the seaside…..

6 thoughts on ““..What strange lunacy is this…?”

  1. Sean Bunyan says:

    Glad I picked our season tickets. Always the perfect view with no one ever able to stand up in front of us!

    Like

  2. johnJsills says:

    If you don’t pay for the product, then you are the product…

    Like

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