Who killed Amy Winehouse?

In the last few days, my generation has finally joined the great and the good decades before us. We have finally constructed our own entry to the 27 club. Forever 27. It has a lovely ring to it, does it not? Suitably romantic and yet tragically desperate, one would think it is a marketing gimmick that exists for no other reason than to appeal to the dissolute youth of today. You know the ones. The ‘emotional’ ones who not only correctly use the word ennui to describe their day to day feelings but actually mean it.

 Amy Winehouse and her death seems to me to be much more than the tragic decline of a talented singer. The fact that the time and date of her death played right into the hands of that well known statistical spike just places the cherry neatly on the cake. She was a young girl that was contorted and moulded by the press and industry to represent something more than the sum of her parts. The intense searing fame she had to endure no doubt was a major contributing factor to her eventual dramatic denouement – but, I put the question to you, how much of a part did you play in her death?

 Before you bluster and bite back, with ‘nothing, I never even met her!’ , consider this. How many times did you read a newspaper column that devoted inch upon sordid inch to her decline and fall? Did you ever read a magazine that delivered to its readers the glossy double page spread  that paid homage to her desperation? Watch the coverage of her final tumultuous shows? Comment on any of the numerous articles about her lifestyle, loves, finances, holidays, bikinis, tattoos, pub crawls, death ? Think about it. I imagine you did.

 The liberties taken with her privacy and life are painful to think about now. Looking back there are things and incidents that could so easily have been avoided. How much would it have pained a journalist to take the decision not to give in to the voyeuristic tendencies of their editors just once? Any of the magazines and columnists could have decided against exploiting this girl to sell their products. Every word and picture printed, every time she opened her door to find flash bulbs in her eyes or tried to get away from the pressures of her life in remote destinations only to find the paparazzi already in residence….another moment that served no reason other than to hurt her.

 Addiction and the downward spiral of the celebrity has become something of a spectator sport these days. It is no longer taboo – indeed track marks and bloody insoles are almost badges of honour. They become inspirational to a certain type of person who craves the validation of their lifestyle that this seems to give. In turn this pushed Amy Winehouse to greater and greater heights. Addiction is not romantic. In fairy-tale parlance, it is a curse. Addiction is not inspirational. It is a ruiner. Addiction is a disease – not a game show that people choose to participate in. Addiction is not a way to sell papers or make money. Yet that is what it is rapidly becoming.

 We all killed Amy Winehouse. We may not have realised it at the time, but we did. Hopefully the lessons learnt from this tragic and unnecessary loss of life are huge and game changing. Perhaps now photographers will think twice about chasing a celebrity addict into the Priory to get that last money shot, or encouraging them to leap to higher levels of depravity all for the sake of good copy.

 However I really doubt this is the case.


Rainy Day today..

It smells like rain today – it is quite beautiful, the cashmere grey of it pervades the office. Many people look at me blankly when I sniff, smile and state ‘it smells like rain’. It is a difficult sensation to adequately describe. Often it hovers just on the edge of smell and registers as a tickle in the back of the nose. Semi burnt and grey, like wet concrete in the middle of the night is the only way really I can pay homage to it. There is probably a complex and long winded theorem as to what the smell actually is, but mythologically I know it is made of intangible elements. They would exist on no table and are immeasurable. Partly water soft as tears, part childhood memories of rain swept beaches and soggy fish and chips eaten under a towel.  A healthy dose of romanticism – first kisses and adventures – and the violent sudden shudder of lightening and thunder.

That is the smell of rain.

Caffeinated hell…

You know, I shall never fully understand the lure of Coffee. Yes it deserves that capital C. It has long been touted as the nectar of the hard working demi gods that stroll among us.

 Creative types – think artists, writers and other miscellaneous aesthetically based careers – have a tendency to drink affected little cups of espresso served up in darling little art deco cups. Totally original retro you know, not reproduction. Whereas business types barrel straight through on Lattes. Mochas and Cappuccinos, the ubiquitous white Styrofoam cup clutched like a safety shield in the face of recession. Not for them the plain cardboard styling’s of your local coffee house (yes, we have those in England now. Saints preserve us). And If you really want to go for it? I give you the hippy eco-conscious yummy mummy (who secretly shops at Harvey  Nics for her hemp lined fully sustainable underwear). Gripped in skinny hands are Chai teas, Green Teas and Peppermint infusions, sipped at like a mouse in church. You just know that eventually they will cave and gulp down buckets of black coffee that is strong as Hercules. But you know. We don’t talk about that.

 Anyway, back to the main point. I am rather wired here, at work, due to three cups of  coffee. The nasty stuff. My mouth tastes like the offspring of a particularly ammonia laden porta-loo and a moulting cat. No amount of polo’s will shift it. I am fairly certain at this point my tongue can be used as a biological testing ground. And for what?  An hour of high voltage activity followed swiftly by a plunge to earth that Icarus would be proud of? I fail to see the point. The blurry beginnings of a migraine is starting to circle the edges of my temples. The blame, I fear, is entirely caffeinated.

 Tomorrow I return to Peppermint Tea. Bring on the middle class hippy leanings, pretensions be damned.

“Be who you are and say what you feel: because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

A magical man called Dr Seuss once said this. It can never be too true. This saying makes me smile, makes me fill up, and makes an amazing feeling of just being perfectly happy radiate to the very tips of my fingertips. Wouldn’t it be utterly lovely, if we could all live by this edict every day? If we could say no to something, and not worry about the repercussions? If a man could kiss his boyfriend in a pub and not be worried what the landlord would think? We could listen to what we want – Mozart side by side with Motorhead, fairytales with techno-pop and no one would think twice, no eyebrows arching or whiskers quivering.

If I could dye my hair red and wear a corset one day and channel Marianne Faithful the next without someone saying ‘gosh, thats not what you usually wear!’. Why should I wear the usual every day? Red lipstick in work is perfectly acceptable, and so is 7 inch heels and a bustle.

If I could sit at lunch and read a comic book without hearing that its weird or childish. If we could debate Sartre in the same breath as we trade narcoleptic celebrity gossip.  The soporific qualities of   OK magazine are not to  be underestimated. If Lego was a socially acceptable past time for a 40 year old man – the thrill of creation never goes out of style. If model trains were something to treasure rather than hide under a bushel.  If taking out a camera would make people say ‘wow! what do you take pictures of, the light you paint with?’ rather than pout and gurn in a dapper style or cringe and call you pretentious.

Wouldn’t the world be nice if….?

What a wonderful night out….

Many people, when I was at University, asked me the same question – ‘what exactly is so bad about living in a small town? Why do you get so angry about it?’. I think it is time I answered this properly – and also make a point. I do not get angry about living in a small town. I get frustrated with it, for so many reasons. This is just one of them.

If you, dear reader, have had the virtue of living in a big town or city for your entire life, I can see how you find it difficult to comprehend how normal it is for there to only be one or two clubs, and one or two serious shopping outlets. The typical night out here in Bridgwater is so well practised, so learned by rote, that you can set your clock by the migration from bar to bar. At any given point you can accurately pin point, to roughly a five meter standard deviation, exactly where some one is.  I will play you through the night.

It is 7.30 PM. You are flushed with excitement, looking forward to the night out. The hair is blowdryed to a standard high velocity volume that can dislodge pigeons from their flight paths. Make up is trowelled on, enough jewellery to simulate a brass band and you are ready. Head to a friends house, be it their house or their parents and proceed to pre game. This, for the uninitiated, means to pour as much cheap plonk down your neck as possible so as to not be totally and utterly flabbergasted by the state of play in town. Trust me you need it. The choices from here are small.

Head to Spoons. Choose Pitcher. Drink Pitcher. Order Pitcher. Drink Pitcher. There is a definite pattern, and the neon shades of alco-pops do make it handy later on in the night to work out which vomit is yours. At 10.55 you leave spoons and head to the nearby ‘club’. I don’t dare name them. But it is free entry before 11, so that’s ok. They label themselves a club/pub type establishment, and they do try. But the DJ is playing club tunes from the 1990’s, they can only fit about 350 people in and upstairs isn’t open yet as there isn’t enough people. Also, the drunk girl in the stripy mini dress has just fallen over mid gyration and is now sitting on the floor crying because she thinks people are laughing at her. They are.

If you are lucky you will make it to the towns one and only ACTUAL club, a place so salubrious that you don’t dare touch the walls as no-one is quite prepared to positively ID what bodily fluid is dripping down it, you never wear new shoes to as the floor is so sticky that you will lose them and the average man to female age ratio seems to be somewhere in the region of 35 : 14. After half an hour here you will actually realise that the creeping feeling in the bottom of your stomach is either desperation or depression and you aren’t comfortable in examining too closely which of the dichotomy it is today.

By 1.00 AM I can guarantee that someone near you has started a fight and been kicked out, two girls are yowling at each other over a perceived slight and that the creepy bar tender trying to hit on you will turn out to be the kid you used to babysit and yes he is 18 – only 6 years younger than you so still batting over the average here. Greasy kebab and questionable garlic sauce in hand you will head home, only to wake up in the morning with half a pitta bread stuck to your face, eyeliner smeared and little Matt’s phone number programmed into your mobile.


Now imagine repeating this every single Saturday night since the age of roughly 18.  That’s as low an age as I will admit too.

It’s a very personalised type of hell. And that is one reason why you will never see me in a stripy mini dress in town any more. Pass me my hot coco, X-Factors on …

What on earth is a TurtlePig?

Today, I came to the startling realisation that I am living in the most clichéd of small-town settlements. Seriously. We were in the news this week, wholeheartedly and unashamedly playing up to the hillbilly stereotype that the world at large tends to grant to us. You may indeed have heard of us.


 The name may conjure up images of a foul smell pervading the air, or evolutionally challenged locals swigging White Lightning while lounging on the seagull shit stained statue of the illustrious Robert Blake. Indeed you may also think of the sprawling commercial battering ram that constitutes our behemoth of a tertiary education system, Bridgwater College. Where else, I ask you, could you study History of Art in the morning, Race Car Mechanics in the Afternoon and finish with an evening class in Advanced Nuclear Thermodynamic Safety? The course selection alone is indicative of the schizophrenic nature of the town I call home.  After all, the above images of a smelly town full of Neanderthals is but one side, the glossy underbelly of this rural town (even if the gloss is the remnants of the abandoned cellophane factory).

Bridgwater College was ground-breaking. Seriously. If you want a good time in November, we are the Place To Be. The jewel in our crown is the quite frankly amazing spectacle of Bridgwater Carnival, one of the biggest illuminated carnivals in the world. A feat of engineering, nowhere else has the balls to dedicate itself to such a ephemeral and expensive pursuit. For a small town to produce something so awe inspiring and some would argue tacky, is a marvellous thing. More about which in November when Carnival season rolls around.

But back to this week. Why were we in the news? Well, we had an unidentified object in the river which managed to bring Bridgwater to a standstill. There was a dizzying free falling spiral of news coverage about this incident. There were pictures of tens of people packed onto the main bridge staring gormlessly into the murky tepid waters of the Parrett. Some people committed to the course, with one lady dedicating two hours to the cause of staring at an Unidentified Floating Object. Some claimed it to be a body – ‘look you can see the hand flapping!’ – and the popular theory of it being some kind of genetic experiment gone wrong, a cross between a turtle and a pig. The local newspaper of course had a field day with this and busted out their rapidly gathering dust copy of Photoshop to give us….well….look here –   http://www.bridgwatermercury.co.uk/news/8953181.UPDATED__Mystery_object_may_have_been_identified/

That my friends is a PigTurtle. Or a Purtle. Or indeed a Tig. Whatever portmanteau you choose, it’s a pretty silly idea of an animal. Anyway the confusion was all cleared up today by the startling revelation it was in fact a dead pig stuck on a tree bough. Any one who lives within sneezing distance of the town could have told you that it was probably a dead animal. This year alone we have had at least one sheep and one cow exploding on the banks. We are after all, a rural community.

Oh well. Worldwide notoriety was fun while it lasted! We managed to trend on Twitter (this seems to be a fairly valid barometer of popularity these days) and look at some of the headlines we inspired:




 Yes I am aware we are the newest internet laughing stock.  But even keyboard cat had to start somewhere.

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