@ 03/03/2014 – 14:19:35
@ 28/02/2014 – 12:51:03
Jonathan Meades’ latest TV essay, Bunkers, Brutalism, Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry (2014), is a textually dense, loquacious blizzard of vertiginous verbiage that acts as a provoking manifesto for that especially unloved – if not loathed – architectural form that dominated townscapes between those two appalling catastrophes for humanity – the Second World War and the reign of Margaret Thatcher – BRUTALISM. Or at least seemed to dominate. The presence of Brutalist buildings is perhaps overstated by their bullish personality. They are the loudest of the drinkers congregated in the pub. They are the raconteur who will stridently spiel stories regardless of whether you want to hear them – or you don’t. You remember them where quieter wallflowers pass unnoticed – either laughing or cringing at their jokes. Or being repulsed and insulted. Or confused. Or annoyed. Or cheered. Or amused. Or… something. They are, above all things, determined – they’ll get a reaction out of you one way or another. It is the woman with the biggest cleavage in the tightest top – who will either attract or disgust, depending on your proclivities. It is not just their perceived (by some) ugliness or carbuncle-ness. It is their deliberateness that grabs our attention. They’re poseurs. They want to be noticed. For better or worse. Like the ASBO youths (more of which later) they often provide a habitat for – they crave attention, and even negative attention is better than no attention at all – to paraphrase Oscar Wilde (not for the last time).
But first to establish what Brutalism is. It is this:
According to Meades is comes from this.
And it is, unfortunately, this.
It may even be this.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that people who preface their own thoughts by clambering over Jane Austen in such a way are about to say something stunningly commonplace. But it is a truth that has become passively accepted as gospel that most Brutalist buildings failed. Failed, at least, in their ostensible purpose – the one stated on the planning application. As shopping centres, or libraries, or hospitals, or apartment blocks, or schools, or whatever. After the initial promise of… what? Modernism? Progress? The Future? They slowly became the townscape’s grumbling appendix; their lack of fitness for purpose making them gradually redundant (shops moving out, the heating/lighting being inadequate, pedestrians avoiding their dim, dank and dripping tunnels and gantries, areas being cordoned off for safety reasons as the concrete failed), until slowly they became a niggling inconvenience, that steadily deteriorated, untreated, until the social peritonitis of ASBO youths (as promised), drug and alcohol addicts and opportunistic muggers poisoned the entire urban corpus.
But that particular failure – one of utility – is the result of bad maintenance; of these buildings being un-loved. Like a marriage that has shattered on the rocks for lack of an anniversary card and the absence of mutually gratifying sex. Or any sex. Or so the apologists and/or champions of the oeuvre will disclaim. Well, perhaps. To an extent. But some places (like some people) almost invite you to piss on them. Brutalist buildings don’t weather down well. Particularly in Britain’s climate. Concrete - in the form favoured by most Brutalist architects and their penny-counting backers - doesn't smile back at you. Concrete of this type invites the spray can. And urine. And flemmy saliva. It sucks all the light in like a psychic sponge of despair. It doesn’t help that the movement was hijacked by the spivs who moved in to make quick profits – the John Poulsons and T. Dan Smiths (fictionally depicted in Our Friends in the North) were the smallest tip of this huge shitty iceberg; town planning authorities the length and breadth of the island have their own examples – most of whom got away with both corruption and poor imitations of the genre. Such is the way with movements and bandwagons. For every T. Rex or David Bowie there will always be a glut of Chicory Tips and Alvin Stardusts. But still, neglect is the word – or similes of that word – that is used to excuse or explain the failure – the ultimate failure – of places like Portsmouth’s Tricorn Centre (built in 1966 and pulled down in 2004) and Gateshead’s Trinity (opened 1967, demolished in 2012).
But if they failed, then the perhaps the buildings failed in the same way that George Best would not have been best used by Sir Matt Busby by playing him the goals. Because in other ways – in other positions – the buildings succeeded tremendously.
Buildings can serve many purposes - not least in the emotions they elicit from us. South Yorkshire’s greatest Brutalist structures were the Gog and Magog twin cooling towers that loomed over the M1 at the Tinsley Viaduct. In West Yorkshire they have – still – the Emley Moor television transmitter. Tinsley’s power station cooling towers and Emley Moor were (are) massively (literally) successful in punctuating the landscape. But neither offered any interaction with humankind beyond the ocular spectacle of awe. The Scammonden Bridge strides the M62 where it crosses the bleak Yorkshire/Lancashire boarder is - if not a thing of beauty - then something that inspires astonishment. It is magnificent. It – like the cooling towers and Emley Moor – show the best of what mankind can achieve with the cutting edge materials and latest thinking to hand – where the Medieval stonemason moved building forwards with flying buttresses and hammer beam ceilings, the engineers of the 1950s and 60s applied reinforced concrete to their ideas. And concrete is a marvellous material – it can be worked, polished and bear loads that engineers like Brunel would have killed a hundred navvies to achieve. But it is often misused – for instance, the exterior of the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield looks disconcertingly unfinished. But like most building materials – it is of its time. The 19th Century mill owners didn't make their huge factories out of stone because it was pretty - they used it because it was locally quarried and cheap. Similarly in the South Yorkshire towns and villages – where there were less stone quarries or they made cheaper bricks - the colliery owners didn't build row upon row of red brick terraces because they wished to make working class architectural icons - it was a question of economy.
But if Tinsley’s cooling towers, Emley Moor and Scammonden Bridge – not forgetting its reservoir – represent Brutalist triumphs, and a zenith of a society’s engineering achievement (of its day), anyone who shuffled nervously through the piss-reeking hallways of Barnsley's Metropolitan Centre (built at the height of the movement in the 60s in a typical provincial planner’s destruction of the town centre) back in the 1980s got a peek – a nervous peek – into the dark recesses of what urban geography could descend to. Here Brutalism brutalizes. Even now with better lighting and the white tiles that clad the concrete, the echoing acoustics and the lack of natural light, make it a negative experience of space. You're not drawn to the place. You don't want to spend time there – with its brown bricks, clumsy concrete and a feeling of claustrophobia. To mangle dear Oscar (again), there is no such thing as a moral or immoral building. Buildings are well designed (and built) or badly designed (and built). That is all. And yet… these buildings do not invite you in. And the same instinctively negative response that I feel when visiting Barnsley’s Metropolitan is prompted when I see the Trellick Tower – a building broadly lauded as a Brutalist gem. In images the Trellick certainly has an aesthetic that is particular to the mid-20th Century, but as a building for people to use…?
Meades has commented previously that 'interiors hold no interest' for him (Father to the Man (2007) – possibly my favourite of his programmes), which perhaps goes some way to help understand his love of Brutalist architecture. In Brutalism the outside of the building is everything. This is architecture as sculpture. The interiors of these buildings are largely a mystery - do an internet search for Brutal interiors and your results will bring a welter of results, very few of them to do with architecture. Maybe Ernst Stavro Blofeld could find – not comfort – but solace (of a kind) by living surrounded by raw concrete, but, by and large, few Brutalist buildings have the warmth and beauty of San Diego's Geisel Library by William Pereira or the friendliness of Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse in Marseille (where, incidentally – or not – Meades presently lives). Brutalism’s biggest failures are where people are involved. Its biggest successes when it is… well… biggest. Because Brutalist architecture is all about exteriors. Big exteriors. MASSIVE exteriors. But similar to those wonders of the world – the pyramids of Ancient Egypt and the pyramids of the Mayans in Mexico – the best Brutalist structures are astonishing spectacles – but not necessarily the first choice for habitation.
It is telling that most were built to accommodate not people but cars. Or in the case of those proto-Brutalist edifices that made up the Atlantic Wall of Hitler’s Festung Europa, heavy calibre machine guns. And Nazis.
But after the decades neglect and lovelessness, suddenly Brutalism is being re-discovered. Meades programme is only one of several re-appraisals. And many of those that have survived the dynamite (they do blow up dramatically) and the wrecker’s ball, are now cult buildings – Preston bus station, for instance, was recently awarded listed status by English Heritage after public campaign. Others, like Owen Luder's Trinity car park at Gateshead which acquired kudos by appearing in the film Get Carter (1971), reverberate with the generations who adore all things ‘retro’. Because there's a feeling that it is the very anachronism of these buildings which is now drawing fans. They want to live in that long sixties of Get Carter and A Clockwork Orange. Because the past is always twee. Always controlled. Because we only ever choose the best bits to remember. We forget that Jack Carter was a pornographer and professional bully who chucked Alf Roberts – a slot machine owning paedophile – from a building that was chosen as a location for its very sense of hardness and corruption. It's like the pop music of yesteryear. The charts were full of the Beatles and The Small Faces and Motown... Weren’t they? No one remembers Jimmy Young’s chart-topping abominations or Ken Dodd’s. It’s similar to how you can recall that trip to the dentist when you had your molars dragged out and the anaesthetic didn't kick in - but you can't really recall the pain. Images of Pompey’s Tricorn gives to some the same sense of comfort that a thatched cottage brings to others. Get yourself in the right frame of mind and these buildings are as cosy as a Sunday morning lie in. As cosy as yesterday.
This renaissance – of thought, if not always physical presence – of Brutalism highlights – yet again – that progress, not just in architecture, but in all culture, feels to have halted. As the architect Rem Koolhaas stated: ‘When did time stop moving forward, begin to spool in every direction, like a tape spinning out of control? Change has been divorced from the idea of improvement. There is no progress; like a crab on LSD, culture staggers endlessly sideways. Regurgitation is the new creativity.’ Like it or loathe it, Brutalism was at least an idea. But then again so was National Socialism. And Thatcherism. And nouvelle cuisine. But what have we now? The future looks like yesterday – only rendered in breeze blocks clad in Scandinavian pine. Today we give the world One Direction and a new Tesco Extra for every town. The future won't thank us for them. If it recalls them at all.
One of my own favourite quasi-Brutalist buildings is the water treatment centre on the Manchester Road at Tintwistle. It’s a relatively small concrete building (which obviously goes against most of what I’ve just said) that's accented by glass, wood and stone cladding - it would sit well as the abode of some film star in Laurel Canyon in California. Once you got rid of the sludge and filtration tanks, obviously. And excavated the sedimentation basin. Or perhaps adapted them into a swimming pool and/or water feature.
@ 27/01/2014 – 23:11:38
Thursday evening, 31st October 2013. We were at Scunthorpe when the codeine kicked in. But pulling off the M18 and sweeping into the neon subtopian sprawl, through the usual sentries of traffic lights and the ubiquitous bland utilitarian landscaping amongst light industrial sheds, we could have been anywhere. The darkness making the sense of dislocation even more pronounced. There was Tescos (obviously), Toys R Us, KFC, McEtc McEtc. The only things that differentiate between the different parts of the country these days are our accents (where the neo-urban patois hasn't taken over, innit?) and mortality winners and losers in the NHS treatment lottery. Otherwise everywhere is the same. No more architectural or cultural differences. Cancer and dropped aitches are all we have left to mark out our topographical differences. And proudly so. You're dying of ball cancer and can't pronounce ‘there’ without it sounding like ‘dare’... You must be from Sheffield... It's a dead giveaway. So to speak.
To allow them… (or ‘it’…? Is Tesco a sentient entity like some sci-fi conglomeration of souls?)… to allow Tesco their due, they at least try to give each store its own individuality by putting all the items in a different aisle at each branch. The cynical, conspiracy obsessed, might carp that it also entices disorientated impulse buyers, in a way reminiscent of labyrinthine Las Vegas casino architecture, so that the suddenly befuddled shopper ends up lobbing shiny nothings into their trolley as they search desperately for milk. It's like the horror film, The Man Who Haunted Himself, with Roger Moore, where everything is familiar yet strange. ‘But I’m Pelham!’ I don’t give a shit who you are. Just tell me where the bloody Uncle Ben's rice is! But other than that each is belligerently the same as any other. It's architectural Mogadon. A landscape chemical cosh to soothe the individuality that disfigures us all. To make us feel like we're all getting a piece if the action. The South might have better schools and they're not all dying of rickets, but at least the shops look all the same. Can't they give one of the fuckers a thatched roof or put a mullioned window on the Bureau de change? I've been to the Tesco in Ryde on the Isle of Wight and the one in Perth up in bonnie Scotland. They are exactly the same, apart from the hospice sellers touting for different ailments in different accents by the automatic doors, jostling with the bloke from the AA.
The Plowright Theatre to where I was headed is located curiously alongside the Magistrates Court, Police Station and Fire House. And nothing else. Gold Taps in the Gents give it a touch of the West End. Myself and Bernard Docherty are in town to see John Cooper Clarke. Cooper Clarke… How do you pronounce his name? Is it double barrelled or is Cooper his middle name in a way similar to Taylor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Anyway, however you slice it, John is a professional malcontent. It is - despite the obligatory persecution complex - a privileged position. We have a few of them doing the culture circuit. Mancunians and Scousers seem to have a surfeit. And in many ways, Clarke is St John the Baptist to Ian Brown's messianic indie saviour. Or Johnny Marr. Or Lee Mavers. Or Mick Head. Or Noel Gallagher… Or… [FILL THIS SPACE WITH YOUR OWN NORTHERN INDIE ICON]. He wears the same post-Coronation Street Northern chic as Morrissey. I can imagine him – and Stephen Patrick Morrissey – nursing a Sweet Sherry with Emily Bishop in the Rover’s Return, and reciting a Haiku about Len Fairclough being wrongly accused of fingering a pre-teen at the local swimming baths (Victorian, beautiful brown and white tiles – gorgeously evoked with a simple juxtaposition of everyday images such as a floating verruca patch and the stench of Chlorine). A combination of Alan Bennett, Simon Armitage and Elsie Tanner. Which makes JCC's association with Nico from The Velvet Underground all the more natural. Though how she ended up in Salford is another matter.
There is a sense that JCC - like Ian Brown - is living inside his own legend. Preciously conscious of being lauded like the Queen Mum of performance poetry and Indie thought respectively. He’s obviously proud of his Sopranos connection (his poem ‘Chicken Town’ was featured in the final series – I think they should have chosen ‘Twat’, which is far more lyrical). Why shouldn’t he be? But there’s something which jars. And to some extent there’s an attitude that sails close to tipping the skinny rhymer into the dangerous waters of cultural poseur. Though at least he isn’t designing his own Adidas trainers. Yet.
JCC’s cultivated appearance and mannerisms create something that is a cross between an anorexic Lily Savage and Wayne from Auf Wiedersehen Pet, with the profile of Ronnie Wood (sharing Ronnie’s same expression of cheery confusion when something doesn’t go according to plan). Initially it’s like an aging Bob Dylan tribute has taken to the stage. A sixty-odd year old version of Dylan but with the suit and back-combed hair like Bob on the cover of 1966’s Blonde on Blonde or the same look with permanent sunglasses, during the 1965 UK tour – at one point JCC’s Ray Bans dropped off, it was like that first sight of Davros when he’d been stripped of his metal carapace. What we get is a cross between performance poet, stand-up comedian and raconteur. JCC’s delivery of his poetry is similar to a horse race commentator; the words machine-gunned out, the prosody punched into the crowd, the poem tearing to a finish. Then there’s the some banter between the set pieces – conversational and indiscrete – like you’re chatting to him in the Black Lion on Chapel Street in Salford over a pint of Marble Real Ale. Pam Ayres was referenced (funnily, but not unkindly) - Pam a stalwart of 1970s TV and a rare exception from those days not to come under the branches of Operation Yewtree - no women so far have been happy to assist the police all they can and help with enquiries. Though it's only a matter of time before some middle aged boy scout claims he was fingered by I£££ S£ C££££. Coincidently, Pam was appearing live that same evening in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. I get the feeling - rightly or wrongly - that she probably didn't say 'cunt' as many times. (NB. I find it peculiar how middle-class, culture-vulture audience – which is what was largely out tonight – embrace the word ‘cunt’ in a way they never do when it appears in general day to day conversation).
He was supported by Mike Garry (who looks like Robbie Savage and sounds like Shaun Ryder, and drops names like Shaun used to drop acid – despite which I thoroughly appreciated his work) and Luke Wright (Mondeo Man – recommended). I enjoyed the night. I came away richer for it. My thought process prompted, the internal rhythms given a shake as I trekked back home through the yellow and black night. Which is what a good gig should be about.
@ 17/01/2014 – 22:44:10
@ 17/01/2014 – 18:47:31
@ 04/01/2014 – 10:29:22
@ 31/12/2013 – 21:03:53
@ 22/11/2013 – 00:18:59
@ 20/11/2013 – 22:18:28
Tuesday 8th October 2013. The weather’s turned. The evening is cold and drizzly. I’m out to see the comedian Rob Newman at the Theatre Royal, Wakefield with Bernard Docherty. Expectation is half of the fun. But the pre-match pint is a disappointing glass of Theakston’s Best (supposedly) Bitter (tepid dishwater) in the Elephant and Castle over the road from the theatre. The elaborate tiled exterior of the Elephant – baring the defunct Warwick & Co Brewery name – defies a spirit level. There is an illusion of slope. It looks drunk. Which, I suppose, is apt. It’s my favourite pub in Wakefield’s city centre, even though the beer on this occasion was disappointing. Last time I was in there (when I’d been to see Britpop trio Chris Helme, Mark Morriss and John Power at nearby Warehouse 23 on Smyth Street) they had Masham’s better brewery on tap – Black Sheep. But the surroundings almost make up for the deficiency in the booze. The Elephant and Castle drips with Victoriana. History is ring-stained into the original table tops. Glazed tiles. Gas lamp fittings. The orchestrated dividing walls create a sense of cosiness. There are brass elephants adorning the bar and original mirrors (why should lettering be so evocative?) with out of date advertisements on them. There is my namesake Gilbert Lodge’s (no known relation) place at the counter marked with a plaque. Across the road in Wakefield – home to the Mulberry Bush that the exercising convicts used to go around – all the Category A murderers are tucked up with their nightmares behind Clarke’s brewery. Karma postponed but still pending. Trains come and go through Westgate train station.
The Theatre Royal with a nod – ironic? Serendipitous? – to London’s West End, stands on Drury Lane. It is of a comparative date to the Elephant and Castle. It’s easy to imagine Dan Leno or Charlie Chaplin tipping up at Westgate, having a quick Sherbert before crossing over the road and hitting the music hall stage. (The name ‘Theatre Royal’ comes not from any regal association – George III didn’t sit in the dress circle cheering on the Widow Twanky – but dates back to the 18th Century when – in the wake of the Licensing Act of 1737 which aimed to restrict satire by putting censorship into the hands of the Lord Chamberlin – Royal Patents were granted which allowed drama to be performed at recognized playhouses. These auditoria were often given the name Theatre Royal).
It is the smallest Frank Matcham theatre to survive the wrecker’s ball. And it is remarkably small. From the street to the apron of the stage is something like forty feet. The stalls consists of eleven rows of seats. Should I ever finish my Symphony for Spoons I feel that even I would have a chance of selling it out. Matcham’s architecture – hugely overlooked by comparison with other Victorian architects whose work is still in evidence – is rampant. A mix of styles that had only one purpose – to impress. The Theatres constructed in this boom period – from 1890 through to 1916 – (approximately two hundred of them by Matcham in the UK) were dripped in opulence to make the working people who mostly lived in rented terraced houses, and who paid to see acts feel like they were special, if only for one night. Matcham would have fitted in well in Las Vegas. His is the architecture of escapism. Of fantasy. He was also responsible for the County Arcade in Leeds – another recent restoration after decades of neglect. In the mid-20th Century the theatre endured the post-cinema purgatory shared by many others – including, as mentioned elsewhere in my blog, Barnsley’s own Theatre Royal – being first converted into a cinema and then a bingo hall. It wasn’t until 1981 that it reopened with its original purpose restored. The theatre now has Yorkshire playwright John Godber as artistic director.
Rob Newman became famous during the shoegazing scene. Together with Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis, Newman and his (then) comedy partner David Baddiel formed (on radio and television) The Mary Whitehouse Experience (running between 1989 and 1992). This was a time when comedy was being hailed as the new rock n’ roll. Before cooking, or home improvements became the new rock n’ roll later in the decade. These were the early days of comedians selling out stadiums (Newman played a sell-out show at Wembley on the back of The Mary Whitehouse Experience). Way before Peter Kay’s Bungalow tour or Michael McIntyre’s ludicrously and self-satisfied chuckling comedy road show. Newman fitted the new look of comedy well – long flowing raven hair and a fragile introspection shattered with sudden bursts of comedic frenzy. It felt like he should be playing bass in the band Ride or Spaceman 3. He had the rock star looks twenty years before Russell Brand. But while Baddiel – significantly less funny, notably more pompous – has walked an established route and has comfortably ensconced himself amongst the Guardian-reading intelligentsia as a thinking man (or woman’s) funny (sort of. Maybe) man, Newman has largely disappeared from the mainstream. To flog unashamedly the rock and roll comparison, Newman is stand-up’s Syd Barrett. Or Lee Mavers. Baddiel, on the other hand, is more akin to Daniel O’Donnell. Or Michael Ball. Though he’d probably reference Leonard Cohen. Or somebody deep and meaningful. And boring. Take your pick.
I’m not sure what Newman does can be called comedy anymore. Not in the sense of simple entertainment. There can’t be many stand-up routines come with a suggested reading list (http://www.robnewman.com/reading.html). Certainly he’d look out of place sandwiched between Bernard Manning and Frank Carson on 1970s stand-up TV show The Comedians. But Newman is a man who’s patently and passionately curious about the world he lives in, and the fame he had in the 1990s serves as a vehicle for that passion. It gives him a platform, from which he uses comedy in such a way that makes you think a bit more. He’s like one of those cool teachers you encountered at High School, who suddenly made a dry subject not only interesting but relevant. Who opened your mind to how amazing information can be.
I get the feeling that Rob might just save the world through comedy. If there enough people to listen. Frank Matcham’s little theatre is a long way from sell out mobs chanting catchphrases at Wembley. A long way from mass hysteria. Newman has gone from banana skins to the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. But is that necessarily a bad thing? That's not to say someone slipping on a banana skin can raise a titter. Or that Del Boy falling down some cellar steps can’t be humorous as well (just ask Stewart Lee). But evolution can also be funny. Because comedy is profound and can tackle a variety of subjects – not just mother-in-laws and garlic bread. Because it is the truth - or a juxtaposition of the truth, or confrontation with the truth - that we find funny. In many ways this a natural growth of the modern satirical/alternative comedy that ushered in Rob and his cohorts in the late 80s and early 90s. Satire is a symptom of this deeper examination of the truth. It uses that humorous cynicism to tackle broader and more profound subjects.
That said, Rob follows a traditional path in at least one way – comedians love a costume. From Chubby Brown’s multi-coloured suit and aviator hat, Max Miller’s baggy suit and plus fours and Charlie Chaplin’s bowler and cane. Because despite his radical tendencies and political activism, Newman is no different. On stage, he vaguely looks like he’s attending a Steam Punk convention – bringing off a slightly toned down Victorian appearance that would fit in well in the saloon of the Elephant & Castle back when the advertising on the mirrors are still peddling Warwick & Co’s oyster stout was still relevant. The bulging waistcoat conceals a clockwork brain he’s got tucked into his duodenum. Or middle-aged spread. One of the two.
After the interval the seats have thinned out a little. Which is insulting. As an aside Rob treats us to an impromptu song on ukulele. Even so, this is not Frankie Boyle or Johnny Vegas. There is no fear on the front row. The customary staples of the Stand-up are absent. Rob isn’t going to ask you what your name is, what you do for a living, or the relationship between you and the person sat next to you, and then rip the piss out of you. Though say that you’re into intelligent design and the atmosphere might change. Ah, irreducible complexity, ey...?
@ 02/11/2013 – 16:46:29
From a conversation overheard in the Old Number 7 pub, Barnsley. A poem.
'I once shit on a tortoise,' he blithely said.
This pulled me up short, and, mid-slurp, turning my head,
I looked across the bar to locate the voice
Of the man who'd divulged defecating on a tortoise.
Two tables away the interlocutor sat –
This shameless soul who had, he claimed, once shat,
Though I had yet to clearly ascertain why –
On a Chordate of the order Testudinidae…
He was an ordinary looking bloke
Made interesting only by the words that he spoke –
Certainly you would never have guessed from his face
That he'd ever dropped his guts on a reptile's hard carapace.
A Barnsley football top, blue jeans, shaved skull,
Disreputable trainers and an exceedingly dull
Delivery, and yet the content of his talk
Had caused me to abandon my pint of Blonde and gawk.
Now, not known for their speed, this was hardly a feat
Of precision bombing, not hard to complete
I supposed – no need for careful arse/eye coordination –
But somehow the exploit caught my imagination.
'Have you really shit on a tortoise?' I asked.
A smug grin, you could see that he basked
In his dirty deed's highly dubious fame –
That he was proud of his boastful scatological claim.
‘I did,' he confirmed, ‘and, what's more, I'd do it again.'
For fuck's sake, did this mucky bastard have no shame?
‘But why?' I was duly compelled to enquire.
He put down his glass, and his voice getting higher,
‘In protest, my friend,' he firmly disclosed.
‘Against Blair and Bush and the supposed
Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.'
So that was it – a remonstration in reptile and cack…
Peaceful and visually effective – albeit slightly absurd –
One man's defiance, delivered with a tortoise and a turd.