Thursday, 31 July 2014



A giant employed by Southend Council will ensure that residents of the seaside town will never again forget the horrors of the First World War.

The 60 foot tall giant, who was discovered last September in a cave in Benfleet, will be dressed in period German military uniform and will recite speeches given by the Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II from a site outside Southend Victoria railway station. On weekend evenings black and white newsreel footage from the conflict will be projected onto his bare chest. It is hoped that the giant, who is currently being read war poetry by volunteers from local branch libraries, will eventually give weekly recitals of poems by Siegfried Sassoon.

Councillor Derek Notes said:

“From July 28th, people living in Southend will be reminded of the First World War on a daily basis by the bellowing of a fearsome giant, who will be shackled in cold irons in the barren wilderness that lies beyond the high-street, behind the Odeon multiplex cinema.

“As part of the council's drive towards accessibility I would like to assure those who are hard of hearing that the giant's speeches will be both signed and subtitled on an accompanying video screen.”

In addition to acting as a “Knowledge Point” for information on the First World War, the giant will also take the lead in re-enactments that will introduce the horror of life and death in the trenches to a generation who have never fired a Lee-Enfield rifle in anger.

Events coordinator Sarah Wednesday said:

“In our contemporary society it is difficult imagine a scenario in which 60,000 Englishmen are slaughtered during a single day of fighting. I am therefore pleased to announce that on July 1st 2016 - the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme - the giant will be freed from his bonds, armed with a custom-made machine-gun and several cannisters of mustard gas, and instructed not to return until 60,000 residents of Southend lie dead.”

The plans have drawn criticism from local historian Harold Petley, who is chief lecturer of Giant Studies at Southend University:

“I seriously doubt that a single giant, even one who has been armed with a machine-gun and archaic chemical weaponry will be able to kill the required number of people within the 24 hour time limit,” he said.

Critics have also expressed concerns over the costs of keeping the giant in Southend. Level 15 Rotarian, Magnus Harte, said:

“I question whether this so-called giant, who I am told eats upwards of 30 sheep a day and has already threatened to destroy the Royals Shopping Centre and lay waste to Westcliff-on-Sea, represents good value for the taxpayer.”

Derek Suttling, UKIP MEP for the fictional home counties village of Lower Rosefistings, responded:

“Southenders should be justifiably proud that their town is now home to the third-tallest World War One Remembrance Giant in England.

“Need I remind you that we inhabit a flat earth that is precisely 6000 years old, where the Welsh have a dragon with the voice of Tom Jones, the Japanese have a radioactive moth and various tentacled monsters, and the United States have a 100 foot tall robot battle suit called Patriot One which has been fashioned from the wrecks of planes and ships destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbour.

“In addition to teaching us about World War One, these giants act as a strong deterrent to anyone who is considering an invasion of mainland England, the French for example.

“I hope that one day these giants will stand at the head of a mighty army who will occupy Europe and give birth to a new age of British imperialism that will last for a thousand years.”

Residents of Southend have so far given mixed reactions to the giant:

14 year old accountant Scott McFarlane said:

“As a seasoned Call of Duty player I mainly concern myself with the actions of rogue states, dissident groups who are aiming to destabilize western governments from within, and the activities of my arch-nemesis on XBOX Live multiplayer - Joel13 - who claims to have to have slept with my mother and has, on numerous occasions, demanded that I perform oral sex upon him.

“However the pained roarings of the giant, which I hear in the morning when I am waiting for the bus, have given me pause to ponder this early 20th century war, in particular how its outcome affected the modern geopolitical situation and perhaps indirectly fuelled the armed conflicts of today.”

120 year old Maurice Simms who fought in the original First World War said:

“I had all but forgotten the terrors of the trenches; the sight of men broken beyond recognition and the terrible booming of the big guns. Coming face to face this salivating giant dressed up like a German officer has brought the horror of it all rushing back. Must I, along with my fellow 120-year-old veterans, fight World War One again so that our nation can be free of these monsters?”


The final of a BBC series in which celebrity chefs compete for the honour of cooking a dish in a 25 course banquet, fit for the nation's World War One Remembrance Giants, will be decided on Friday.

East Anglia finalist Michael Panrucker said:

“Many of my fellow chefs have grown beanstalks which they plan to serve in a variety of imaginative ways. However, I know that what all giants really crave is the grinding of bones and blood of free-range Englishmen dribbling down their chins. 

"If successful I will be making a deconstructed cow tartare, served on a sharing plate made from the roof of The Imperial War Museum. I can think of no better way of honouring these giant men who have taught us so much about the First World War.”


Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Golden Dream of the Hive

WOKRER BEE c9826a: “The time of pollen will soon be at an end. The golden dream of the hive fades and dies with the ebbing warmth of a dim sun that weakly crests the horizon. Come first frost our unburied dead will litter your patios and decking areas.”

BACKWARDS7: “That sucks.”


WOKRER BEE c9826a: “Ghlamayce, the dragon, has awakened in the master bedroom of his assisted-living bungalow lair on Tyrone Road. When the worm-eaten Autumn windfalls spoil and ferment in the long grass, he will take to the skies of Thorpe Bay despoiling your farms and seizing virgins.”

BACKWARDS7: “Good luck with finding either in Southend. All other considerations aside, Ghlamayce is a douche. One of his tattoos is supposed to say: 'Unashamed to be English' in Mandarin. What it actually says is: 'Reeboks 180 RMB.' They caught him shoplifting frozen lasagne from the Tesco Metro on Thorpe Bay Broadway. I believe he's still on the sex offenders register for the virgin-snatching thing.”

WOKRER BEE c9826a: “The sun is a sleeping red giant; the devourer of planets; the parched drinker of tepid oceans.”

BACKWARDS7: “Yeah, listen can I run something past you:

“The witch who does the weather forecasts on Thorpe Bay beach told me that I would soon be Thane of Cawdor. The thing is I don't want to accept this title as it will entail me moving to Scotland. I understand that the duties of the Thane are rather heavy on paperwork and administration which isn't something I want to get into again after my last job. The trouble is, if I don't accept the position the Job Centre will sanction me. If that happens then I'll have no choice other than to round-up the old crew and go back to robbing food banks at gun point.

“The witch told me that, when I signed-up to her service, I should have unchecked the box that opts-in to all prophecies. The thing is I don't even remember seeing this box; to be honest I just scrolled through the terms and conditions.

What legal recourse do I have, if any?”

WOKRER BEE c9826a: “This isn't really my area of expertise. I could pass it on to our legal team if you want.”

BACKWARDS7: “That would be great, Thanks.”

WOKRER BEE c9826a: “Okay, will do. Look, I've gotta go. Remember me to your parents.”

BACKWARDS7: “Yeah, laterz.”

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Is it Friday yet?

(The band name 'Egg Friday' was conceived within the fevered imagination of Mark Ellen)

Is it Friday yet?

In 1991, Richard Markwell was a young man poised on the brink of fame and fortune as part of the boy band Egg Friday. Despite some early success, with two top ten hits and a nomination for Best New Act at the Brit Awards, their short career was to end in tragedy for one member of the group.

“At the peak of our popularity we were all in our early to mid-twenties. Somebody from the record company told me to lie and say that I was 21. We all had to conform to the back-story that had been written for us. After a club appearance in Grays, which was down the road from where I lived, our manager took me into a back room and instructed me to break up with my girlfriend. When I refused he said: 'Well she can't come to your shows any more and I don't want you mentioning her in interviews.'

“Sean was supposed to pretend to be 19, which was funny because he was already starting to lose his hair. He used to wear a blue paisley bandanna to cover it up. When they exhumed his body in the back garden at Morecombe Avenue...

“...I knew it was him even before he was formally identified. I just had a feeling: That was where he had been all this time... We never stopped looking for him. Nobody ever gave up.

“His sister told me that he had been buried still wearing the bandanna. As it rotted away the blue dye had seeped into his skull and discoloured the bone.”


“From day one Egg Friday was a manufactured band. None of us knew each other beforehand. I answered an advert in the local paper and was called to an audition at a community centre in Tilbury. We were all from dancing/performing arts backgrounds, with the exception of Joe who was a county swimming champion. We nick-named him the 'breaststroker'. Sean and Craig were both credible vocalists so they ended up doing most of the singing. The rest of us just muddled along in the background.

“Our career, if you can call it that, was an eighteen month whirlwind. We were raised to a great height and then dropped without warning. The amount of coverage we were getting in the media, mainly in teen magazines was massively out of proportion to our actual success. We all thought these articles and appearances were driven by fan demand. The truth is that, beavering away behind the scenes, there was a team of people who we never saw attempting to create a buzz for our music. We were being positioned and marketed to a target audience.

“In total we had three singles. The first two were top ten hits. Egg Friday went in at number seven but the following week it was number 33. Tender Lies was number two for a week. We lost out on the top spot to a Luther Vandross remix. Our cover of My Girl went to number 14 and was tagged on to a Christmas re-release of our first album.

“The album did okay. Not as well as everybody hoped;. That should have been a warning to us but we were all quit na├»ve.

“Our first TV appearance was for a Saturday morning kids show. It was filmed on Mitcham Common in South London. We mimed our debut single inside an inflatable castle, up to our knees in foam. What we didn't know was that some teenage girls had gone around the back. They were blowing up condoms like balloons and writing obscene messages on them with magic marker – 'Fuck me Sean,' 'Eat me out' and so on. They were pitching them over the walls while we were performing.

“Fortunately, given that it was a live broadcast, the wind was blowing the condoms over the top of the castle before they came into shot. After we finished one of the presenters made some comment about 'a swarm of balloons.'

“When we all dived into the foam at the end and started chucking it about, that was the happiest moment for us as a group. If you were making a film and you wanted it to have a happy ending you'd have stopped it right there.


“We all knew that Sean was gay. It was ironic because he was always the girls' favourite. He always got the most fan mail. The incident in the Ipswich hotel was nonsense (Sean Perry was charged with sexually assaulting two under-age girls in his hotel room – the charges were later dropped). The problem for Sean was that he wasn't 'out' and he didn't want to be 'out'. His parents were very old fashioned and Victorian. He didn't want them to know about his sexuality. As tragic and ridiculous as it might sound he was prepared to face the charges rather than tell everyone that he was gay.

“The second album had ridiculous title - I want to go to the Fair - I don't know who came up with that. The cover was a photograph of us swaggering in a row through a fairground at night with sticks of candy-floss. That wasn't staged. It was a picture our PR took of us one evening outside Darlington.

“The record company had given up on the band and were keeping us at arms length. I think they were hoping to recoup some of the money they had already invested, but they weren't prepared to spend much more. We were saddled with a different team of writers who didn't really care about us as a group. Most of what we recorded had already been rejected by other artists. 

“We were dropped a month before the album came out. It ended up selling a couple of hundred copies. Suddenly you find yourself in a situation where nobody from your old life wants to talk to you any more. You're not quite famous enough to parlay your celebrity into a career in TV or on stage. You have no job. You have no money. All your friends from school have careers and are in the process of settling down...

“Fortunately I managed to get a job in a bank. I had only been there a few weeks when somebody took a photo of me working behind the counter. It ran as a story in a couple of the tabloids. I think that was the last time I was in the papers.

"Sean's sister, Gill, contacted me six months after the band was dropped. She told me that Sean had been sleeping rough in London. It shook me up a bit. Here was someone who had received fan mail from all over the world. Girls had screamed at him and sent him their underwear. Now some of these same people were probably walking past him in the street. Later, when I think she'd decided that she could trust me, Gill confided that Sean had a drug problem. It shocked me because nobody in the band ever even drank that much. His family got him into rehab but he walked out after a couple of weeks.

“I remember getting a call from Gill in November 1994, asking me if I had had any recent contact with Sean. She sounded concerned. He was sleeping rough again but nobody had seen him for a few weeks. None of the people he associated with seemed to know where he had gone. We reported him missing to the police but they weren't really interested.

“In November, 2005, Graham Nibbs was arrested and charged with multiple murders. He had been picking up homeless men in London, taking them back to his house and strangling them. I saw the photos of some of his victims on the news one evening. They were all boyish-looking and blue-eyed. I think then, deep down I knew what had happened.

“After the police finished searching the house they moved on to the garden. That's where they found Sean.

Is it Friday Yet? is a charitable trust set up by myself and Gillian Perry. It aims to help homeless young people by providing them with the training and skills that will give them a stable foundation and keep them employed and off the streets. We also do signposting to charities offering support for victims of drug addiction and sexual abuse, and mental health organisations.

“Recently Egg Friday received an offer from a promoter to take part in a 90s revival show. I don't think any of us would consider doing it without Sean. Plus I don't really have the figure for it anymore. I have a pair of teenage daughters who would both be absolutely mortified at the prospect of me whipping my shirt off on-stage.”

Saturday, 12 July 2014

10,000 Psychedelic Trout

10,000 Psychedelic Trout

(The following interview is an updated version of a commissioned piece that I did for Stone Garden magazine in April 2012. At the time outstanding legal issues prevented its publication)

“I'm going to prison, definitely.”

Brian Jones is a looming silhouette blotting out the midday sun. Six foot seven and slightly-overweight, dressed in a black shirt that has recently come into contact with a very dusty surface. In the beer garden of The Plough and Bucket, in his home village of Elsing. he hunches over a picnic table, the brim of his straw hat partially eclipsing a half-drunk pint of Harold Antler ale.

“I'm pleading guilty. My brief reckons I'll get 18 months for contaminating the water supply. They've dropped the manslaughter charges. Even if they hadn't I'd have contested that. The old biddy who drowned had advanced dementia. She had a history of leaving her home and wandering off. There's absolutely no proof that anything I did played a role in her death. If the family are hoping to get some money out of me then good luck with that because I don't have any. Personally I think they're guilty about not keeping a closer eye on her. In their heads, if they're not to blame then somebody else has to be.”

He chews thoughtfully on a slice of pork pie, savouring the flavours.

“I've got a mate banged-up in Blundeston. He says the bacon inside is terrible.”

From the early 1970s up until 1987, Jones was the self-styled sonic high priest of the experimental drone collective Sophic Yoke (occasionally re-monikered Sophic Yolk – “Those were the albums that I recorded with Rupert Mota,” he explains).

“I saw myself as an Aleister Crowley figure. By the time I was 14 I was performing basic summoning rites. I could sometimes divine the near future. My parents were both killed in a car accident when I was 21. I dreamt that it would happen the week before, right down to the fine details.

“After I inherited their farm I sold all the cows to the dairy down the road and turned it into a sort of commune. There was an enormous barn on the property. I spent 8 months practically living in there, constructing a system of pipes and valves that would amplify ambient noise into a sustained drone that would reverberate across the countryside. Most people couldn't handle it for more than a few minutes – the sound would get inside their heads and give them hallucinations.

“The few people who could stand it became part of the Sophic Yoke Collective. We saw ourselves as neo-druids communing with the earth and the outer planets. We would take LSD and play shows that lasted for days. The longest I stayed awake was nine days in a row. Occasionally the police would turn up but they never stayed for very long; with the exception of one young sergeant who never went back – they thought we'd kidnapped him but he was a willing convert!

“The live shows were what we did best. The recorded album format didn't really work for us until Rupert started taking hours of tape and editing it into something that would fill 20 minutes on a side of vinyl.

“One of the benefits of having the same name as one of The Rolling Stones - even though by the time we got started he'd already been in the ground three years - was that people would turn up at the farm – some very beautiful women would turn up - expecting me to be him! It was completely natural to their way of thinking that he'd faked his own death in order to relive himself from the trappings of fame and fortune. I would say to them: 'Come inside. Why not come upstairs with me and we'll talk about it.' You know, free love. It's all good.

“Did I ever consider changing my name? Nah. I suppose I could have started spelling it as 'Bryan' with a 'Y' like that Ferry bloke in Roxy Music. I was credited on a couple albums as 'Brain' Jones. It caused me a bit of bother with the PPL. They thought we were different people and held on to his royalties. All seventy pounds of them.”

backwards7: “What made you want to move back into farming?”

“By the 1980s the farm wasn't really a going concern. We grew certain crops, if you know what I mean. There was a very large lake on the property. One night I was having a quiet smoke. I thought: 'It's time for me to engage in one of the cliches of landed rockstar-dom and start a trout farm.'

“You know in the 80s when suddenly there was trout on the menu at every restaurant in London? Well, that was down to me. I had a man who would drive around the capital collecting orders.

“Is it possible there was an element of coercion? Well, you've obviously done your research, you tell me. Dennis Tiller – that was his name - had ties with the Breckly firm in Soho but, scout's honour, all I did was fill the orders as they came in.”

backwards7: “The end of that decade saw a sharp decline in your fortunes. Didn't you go bankrupt?”

“People assumed, because of my lifestyle, that I was some kind of hippy burnout who had forsaken all ties with material possessions. The truth is that I had a large portfolio of stocks and shares. Probably around £2 million invested in total. I used to meet with my accountant every month for an update. Then October 19th, 1987 - Black Monday – rolled over the horizon. It's small potatoes compared to what happened with the banks a few years ago, but it wiped me out financially. I lost the whole lot. Everything.

“Anyway they were going to repossess the farm. I wasn't selling any trout at the time - my supply chain had broken down. I had been dosing them with small quantities of LSD. If you give a shoal of trout acid they go absolutely mental for about five minutes then they calm down and float upright at a 45 degree angle in a very strange way, almost like they're mediating. Watching them like that used to calm me down too.

“Well, one night I just thought 'fuck it.' I raised the sluice and sent 10,000 psychedelic trout up the river Wensum, decimating the local wildlife if you believe the tabloids. Somebody in The Daily Mail claims to have seen them attacking a family of swans. There was a ridiculous story in The Sun about them crawling up onto dry land.

“The thing that I didn't take into consideration is that animals hunt on the river. People fish in the river, so a lot of those trout got eaten. Some people did end up tripping without knowing why. If you walk along the banks of the Wensum, even now, you can still see all these weird murals that appeared out of nowhere in the weeks after I let the fish go. Mandalas on brick walls and old anti-aircraft bunkers from the Second World War painted by people who were clearly high as kites. They probably came up to Norfolk to paint the landscape and then quite literally ended-up painting the landscape!

"Around that time a senile old lady who had a history of seeing her dead husband's face reflected in bodies of water strayed into the river and drowned. And because of what happened after, that was somehow my fault.”

backwards7: “What happened after?”

“The environment agency tested some of the fish and found traces of LSD. The finger of suspicion briefly hovered over me but there was never any proof. Then a couple of years ago video footage was posted on YouTube of me dosing the trout and releasing them into the wild.

“I don't think I was grassed up. I think... The thing is I always had cameras going. After a while you forget they're filming you. When my stuff was auctioned off all of that footage was sold at auction. Eventually somebody must have sat down with a projector to see what it was.”

backwards7: “Do you have a plan for after you get out of prison?”

“The council have told me that I have to give up the flat when I go to prison, so when I come out I'll be back at square one. Except one of the advantages of seeing the world in 19 dimensions is that a square has far more potential and possibilities.

Sophic Yoke have a strong following in the US. There's a bloke out there who runs a record label who the bought the master tapes for some of my albums. He wants to re-release them on vinyl and maybe make some new ones from the unused material. There's still plenty of music people haven't heard.”

(Brian Jones died from a heart attack three months into a 14 month jail sentence.

During his incarceration he became a vegetarian.

A film starring Alex Siat is currently being made of his life)

Monday, 7 July 2014

Hark all you bell-ends of Shoreditch!

Hark all you bell-ends of Shoreditch!


For decades the archaic tradition of bellendry has languished in well-deserved obscurity. Now a new bell-end foundry in Shoreditch is at the vanguard of a surprise revival, intent on transforming this maligned art form into one of 2014's hottest youth trends. 

Hark all you witless bell-ends of Shoreditch! All you wank-handed practitioners of bastardry on the playing fields of Eton and Rugby! All you thick-skulled divs of Southend! ...”

~ W.H Auden

The first thing I notice about Matt-hue (Matthew) M'arse are his sideburns. Cropped to within a few millimetres of the skin where the top of his ears join with his skull, the hair is allowed to gradually lengthen as it descends the jawline, flaring outwards like a pair of opposing waves on the verge of breaking over a small, neatly-trimmed goatee, tucked beneath a waxed moustache. This diverse facial topiary is brought together by a pair of thick-framed imitation NHS spectacles with a sticking plaster wrapped ironically around the nose bridge.

His slavishly hipsterish wardrobe comprises a leather-patched tweed jacket that partially obscures a Centipede Hz-era Animal Collective T-shirt. His lower half sports a pair of hard-wearing khaki knickerbockers, the voluminous material ballooning around the knees. The ensemble is finished off with a pair of 'City Booties' - the brainchild of a former cast-member of the Channel Four reality show Made In Chelsea.

Leaning against the exposed brickwork of the interior wall behind him is his primary mode of transportation: A biodegradable unicycle.

“The design is the same one that Buddhist monks have been using to peddle around Tibet for over 1000 years. My mate Giles holds the global patent. We're trying to put the kibosh on cheap imports because I think that it's important to encourage people to buy British. The brilliant thing is that after about three months they break-down into compost, so they're really good for the environment.

“- How much are they? They retail for around £900. I got mine free because I'm reviewing it for a couple of web-zines that I publish. Giles is planning a subscription model where you pay annually by direct debit and get a new cycle delivered to your door every quarter. I can hook you up if you want.”

Keen to move on to the true purpose of my visit, I decline his kind offer.

M'arse is the driving force behind The Shoreditch Bellendry – a new bell foundry based in gentrified East London.

“A lot of people hear the name and assume that we're a trendy new dining establishment.”

He rolls his eyes theatrically, adding:

“Before we start the interview I would just like to apprise you of our company motto which is: 'Bellendry is dead.'”

I await an explanation for this bombshell, however none is forthcoming.

M'arse financed the creation of his studio-foundry using money that he made from the online re-sale of tickets to hot gigs and music festivals at grossly inflated prices.

“No bank would offer us a loan so we had to find another way to raise the capital. I don't see it as touting so much as adding value to a pre-existing product. What I am doing in essence is creating a package. All my clients receive a personal email from me that links them to the band's website or Facebook page. They also get a link to exclusive playlists on Spotify. I see what I am doing as a service to the music industry, building-up the brand of artists free of charge.”

M'arse makes frequent reference to himself as a “brand historian” unearthing and re-popularising dormant trends. His greatest achievement so far has been the cultural rehabilitation of an unusual cut of men's trouser not fashionable since the early 1900s (“It was crazy. I did interviews with The Independent and Time Out). However he feels that his venture into bellendry may eclipse even this early success:

“Brand-fatigue is setting in. People are looking for something a bit more real and I think that's where bellendry comes in. The end of the bell is the most concentrated part – it's the espresso to a normal bell's flat white.”

To assist him in making his vision a reality M'arse has enlisted the services of veteran bell-maker Harry Sales (OBE).

“Salesy used to make bells in a foundry just down the road but he's been working as a hospital porter for the last 15 years. It's a weird relationship we've got where it feels like, even though I'm younger, I'm teaching him things. He comes from a traditional bell-making background, where-as I'm approaching the craft with a fresh outsider's perspective and an insightful modern outlook. I think it's been an education for him.”

Despite M'arse's strong relationship with Harry (“We're proper mates. We tell each other to 'fuck off' all the time.”) in the long-term he sees the company distancing itself from bell-ends as physical objects and moving towards digital horizons, citing the rising cost of metal as a motivating factor:

“I predict that five years from now 90% of all bellendry will take place online. I'm in the process of developing an app that will take what we do into the virtual world where the only limit to the size of a bell-end is processing power and the storage space you have on a server. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it could revolutionise the internet.”

M'arse is not alone in his optimism: The government minster for small businesses - Neal Wicks is equally enthused by the new-found interest in this traditional craft:

“Bellendry, despite international variations, remains a quintessentially British pursuit. One that we should all be proud of.”