Coucou President Macron #1 – The Breakfast of Champions

How the President of France Became My Penpal

Did you know that Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, is my penpal? 

Probably not. I don’t think he does either. 

Yesterday, I sent a letter to him and it’s a masterpiece. It’s probably going to fix Brexit. 

I even put three second class stamps on it, so if you don’t see him this weekend, it’s because he’s working on his response.

I recently told someone that the Royal Mail was going to go bust after Brexit because it’s kept afloat by junk mail sent from mainland Europe

It’s such a great story that I had to share it.

Get ready for an epic episodic tale of brotherly love, political espionage & learning French.

I’d wager you’ll enjoy this even more than the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Even that bit when the train crashes and all those people’s face’s start melting.

Here’s how it happened.

How I Started To Feel Like French Toast

Imagine you’re French toast. Damp, sticky and filled with intrigue – at least when I make it.

That’s how I felt at the start of this adventure.

Despite achieving a commendable C in GCSE French, today, I can’t hold a conversation in the language.

You’re spitting your coffee out right now, aren’t you? Exclaiming, ‘Why’s that a problem?!

And you’re right.

If you’re English it’s your birth right to assume that everyone else can speak your language. 

However, I had a predicament. 

You see, at least four of my friends are French and sometimes they speak French to each other (for those who doubt I have four friends, they’re called Jean-Pierre, Jean-Claude, Jean-Renault and Jean-Bic). 

While I’m pretty sure I know what they’re saying, I don’t.

I’ve worked out that it’s one of these three subjects, but I need to know which one:

  1. Who fancies me the most
  2. How they’re not as handsome or successful as me
  3. What they’re having for lunch at the studio burger van. Probably breaking the fourth wall in French, while picking apart my lead role in the half-scripted reality tv show, Ultra Warrior (have you seen my abs?)

I’d quite like to know what they’re talking about. If it’s no.3, I’d be really interested in whether I have a clothing line of oversized print t-shirts. If I do, maybe I will make rent this month.

How I Paid To Learn French

When I had a job, I was enrolled on a French course for children at the Institut Français du Royaume Uni in South Kensington. 

It was great, except everyone else in the class was twelve. They weren’t from England and they were much better at French than I. English too.

However, despite these formidable challenges, I made a lot of progress on the course. 

I learned great phrases like, ‘tu est mon petit chou,’ which is how all students should address their teachers. I also learned that ‘why’ is pronounced ‘i-grec’.

But at £340 a term, after reneging on my job, I didn’t have the cash to start Baby-French-Plus. 

Yet I needed to learn more.

You see, after the course there was only one verb that I understood: ‘manger,’ to eat.

Je mange une orange

Je mange un ordinateur

Je mange un petit chat

Je mange la rue

You get the idea.

It was the linguistic equivalent to being a one year old.

I was unable to do anything except stick things in my mouth.

How To Master French For Free

No one gives out baguettes or visits to Élysée Palace for free. So I’ve had to devise my own ingenious strategies to master the French language with limited resources. 

It’s a pretty great three pronged strategy:

  1. Point at something, then ask your French girlfriend what it is in French. Ignore her response. Repeat
  2. Repeat the same lesson on Duolingo again and again and again (yes, I am calm & rich)
  3. Trick a very important French person into becoming your pen-pal so you can move to Paris and fully immerse yourself in the language. Finally, I’ll have that column in Le Monde. It’s the only thing that’s going to raise my Grandfather, the great Francophobe, from the grave.

So that’s it! This is point three of my master plan to learn French for free.

Why Write To President Macron?

Why ask? 

In France, there aren’t any monarchs. They got rid of them during that revolution. According to Napoleon, that makes the president the king. Writing to a king is WAY better than writing to someone in jail.

Also, President Macron fits a lot of important pen pal criteria:

  1. He can speak French at least as well as I can
  2. French people hate him, so he doesn’t have many friends
  3. We have a lot of common interests. He’s advising the EU on Brexit, and he like I would like to watch the UK burn
  4. He has to reply, because he’s a public servant
  5. He wants letters. Check it out. This website says that if you’re interested in current events & would like to share your thoughts you SHOULD write to President Macron. So he kind of had this coming

He’s the best person I could have written to.

A Breakfast of Champions

But what could I write to him want to be my new bosom?

Inexperienced at friendship, I figured it was probably like life. Everyone’s always saying that you should start things with the most important meal of the day – breakfast. So why not start there?

I was in luck too! At this stage I knew how to say most things about breakfast in French.

That’s why my first letter to President Macron begins with our favourite meal of the day:

I’m told ‘bisous’ means ‘yours sincerely’

Read on. It’s delish!

Coucou President Macron #1 – The Breakfast of Champions

Cou Cou Presidente Macron

Le petit déjeuner des champions

Je suis Henry, et je suis anglais. J’ai trente ans, et je ne travaille pas parce que je n’ai pas le droit de traverser la route. C’est trop dangereux !

En ce moment, j’apprends le français, et je pense que j’ai besoin d’un ami de crayon! Un correspondant et un ami très important ! 

Vous connaissez beaucoup de politique et moi aussi! Et je pense que vous avez besoin d’un ami de crayon aussi pour vous aider avec le Brexit et pour les affaires domestiques des français ! 

Toutes mes félicitations ! Je suis votre nouvel ami de crayon !

Parce que nous sommes amis maintenant, je vais écrire “tu” et non “vous”.

Comme toutes les belles amitiés commencent avec le petit déjeuner! 

Maintenant, le petit déjeuner des champions commence avec Henry (moi) et toi (Président Macron)! 

Je te promets que ça sera savoureux, très intéressant et délicieux.

En général, je mange un petit déjeuner traditionnel ! En anglais, ça s’appelle “English Breakfast” !. 

Dans le “English Breakfast” il y a deux saucisses, un œuf, des haricots de fuer, trois tranches de bacon, du pain frit, une tomate de frite et des champignons! C’est parfait, parce que les champignons sont pour les champions !

Mais, aujourd’hui je n’ai pas mangé de petit déjeuner traditionnel, parce que nous prenons le petit déjeuner ensemble et nous ne mangeons pas la nourriture ! Nous mangeons de bonnes idées !

Et toi ? En France, quel est le petit déjeuner traditionnel ? Je pense que c’est différent.

Je sais que tu parles avec le Premier Ministre du Royaume-Uni sur les achats préférés de la population. Et tu veux le meilleur prix ! Je sais qu’il adore manger du cochon. Tu dois lui dire, “Les cochons français sont bien meilleurs que les cochons anglais !”

Ces informations sont très utiles pour ta discussion sur le Brexit !

Hier, j’ai lu que les photographies de la police étaient interdites. Pourquoi ? Est-ce qu’ils sont très moches ? Je sais que les gens très moches gâchent les photographies, mais ils doivent se sentir très mal maintenant.

Peux-tu les prendre en photo pour moi et me les envoyer ? Je vais à savoir si c’est trop mauvais !

Quel super petit-déjeuner ! Je suis très content que nous soyons amis. Passe-moi le jus d’orange s’il te plaît !

Ecris-moi vite !

Bisous,

Henry (ton ami préféré)

Londres, Royaume-Uni

What I Think It Says

It’s a masterpiece, isn’t it?

What a beautiful friendship (L – Henry, R – President Macron)

For everyone who can’t speak French as well as I can, here’s what I *think* it says:

To break the ice, I begin with a lighthearted joke about how I don’t have a job because crossing the road is dangerous. Now Emma’s warmed up, he’s now ready to hear about the exceptional political expertise I have to offer him. 

I’m confident that we’re going to be friends, so after introductions, I drop the formality and start using ‘tu’ instead of ‘vous’.

Next, I explain the complexities of British culinary habits and how a deep understanding of them can and will improve Brexit deal outcomes for everyone.

Ever the caring friend, I invite him to tell me what the French people usually eat for breakfast, even though I already know it’s nesquik.

I then engage him directly on the Assemblée Nationale’s lower chamber’s recent passage of the Global Security Bill, which proposes to circumvent journalist’s ability to publish photographs of policemen and women online. Now, I’m worried that this wasn’t his decision, as he’s French and loves liberty. I assume because of this, he must have been kidnapped by someone who didn’t want their photograph taking. So, I help him alert me of his captor with a clever ploy – I invite him to send me a picture of them, in confidence.

Finally, I congratulate him on a superb breakfast and implore him to write back soon.

I have every confidence that he will.

The Exciting Next Episode of Coucou President Macron

Next week we’re going to take an imaginary trip to the countryside for a relaxed weekend.

We might also talk about why French cockerals say such stupid things.

I can’t wait. Can you?

Afterthoughts

What would you do if President Macron was your penpal? Stop dreaming. He’s mine. 

Still, this week I learned that it costs the same amount of money to send a letter from the United Kingdom to France, as it does to send it to Azerbaijan. 

Incredible. Maybe you can find someone to talk to there.

Why Russia’s Not The Hottest Potato

The biggest threat to UK democracy probably isn’t Russia. It’s probably disinformation peddled by the UK Government, political parties and campaign groups.

Yesterday, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) published a breezy report about how the UK Government “took its eye off the ball on Russia.

The report identifies that Russia poses a significant threat to the UK security, in part due to state-funded, malicious cyber campaigns targeted at the UK. These offensive attacks have allegedly attempted to influence every major democratic vote in the UK since the 2016 Scottish Referendum. 

It concludes that disinformation campaigns spearheaded by adversarial foreign states pose a threat to democracy in the UK, recommending that an appropriate defence against this threat would be new regulations for advertising on Social Media and a new set of powers for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Even redacted, it’s a fun read; highlighting some of the current challenges faced in international relations. 

However, the recommendations at heart of the report highlight the UK Government’s continued lopsided stance on tackling disinformation in UK politics.

So What’s In The Russia Report?

Not a lot. 

It says Russia’s not a nice place, Russian’s hate the West and the Secret Intelligence Services should have done more about the threat from the mid-2000s.

On the whole, it portrays Russia as the misunderstood nihilist. You know, the one who sits at the back of the class, setting fire to things and misquoting Nietzsche.

The report then recommends that to establish the framework to address the situation, new Ministerial powers should be given to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Cabinet Office), empowering them to protect “democratic discourse and processes from [international] interference.” While the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) must establish a protocol with social media companies to ensure that they take covert hostile state use of their platforms seriously, and ‘name and shame’ those that don’t.

So What’s The Problem?

Delivering powers to prevent foreign interference with elections will not address the most potent challenges to democracy in the UK. 

Instead, reports like this arguably divert attention from serious domestic issues with UK politics that the UK Government should be actively addressing rather than just paying lip service to.

Briefly, here are some of the actual domestic challenges faced by UK democracy:

  • The Unchecked Ugliness of Electioneering. Take the 2019 General Election Fact Check UK scandal and well documented factual fallacies in the campaigning material used to support the 2016 EU Referendum Leave and Remain campaigns. In both instances, note the significant lack of consequences faced by those who benefited politically from misleading the public. Right now, during an election, there’s no effective punishment for those who don’t play by the rules. That’s a licence for anyone to lie their way into Government.
  • Prevailing Public Mistrust of the UK Government and Political Parties. There are plenty of reasons people don’t trust the Government or politicians; but it’s not helped by the UK Government’s continued reliance on misleading statistics. This could be anything from the continued use of heavily caveated unemployment and disability figures, misleading R&D investment totals to frequent misclassification of old funding as ‘new’. The same goes for political parties who misquote their record in Government. The average person is never going to verify claims like this themselves, and when they see claims that they are wrong in the Sun or Guardian, why should they continue to trust politicians.
  • The UK’s Failed Citizenship Test. The persistence of a relatively poor national understanding of how laws are made, how Government works and how MPs are voted into office. How can people actively participate in a democracy when they don’t understand it?
  • Continued Constitutional Failures of the UK Electoral System. How can every vote matter in a system in which every major party has endorsed some form of tactical voting during a national election? Or is willing to rewrite electoral boundaries without the check of Parliamentary scrutiny? Or is a vote in a country that still employs the first past the post system? What was the argument for it again? Namely that more often than not, it delivers a stronger Government than those ‘awful’ coalitions mainland Europe has to suffer.

However, unlike an international aggressor, these issues are pretty boring. Every time I try to force a conversation about constitutional politics with my friends, they call me a Lib Dem and ask if Nick Clegg’s my boyfriend.

But still, what’s the point in protecting a democracy when the electorate do not have the right to make informed decisions

Can you even protect a democracy when the electorate do not have the right to make informed decisions?

I’d argue not.

What Do You Do?

Whether the political system works is always going to be dependent on your definition of ‘works’. My definition of ‘works’ is that the electorate know what they’re voting for, and understand as best they can, the consequences of what they are voting for.

I really hate it when people write about issues, but don’t suggest how to resolve them. So, here’s how I think you’d go about rectifying some of these challenges:

  1. Proper Consequences for MPs and Parties Promoting Disinformation. Give the Electoral Commission the powers and resources necessary to assess when political candidates and their parties have lied or purposefully misled the electorate. Also give them powers to enforce adequate punishments on said parties. Parties and campaigning groups don’t care about monetary fines. They don’t work. Instead, why not force a reduction in the number of voting MPs that party can have at any one time; so the consequence is potentially the loss of majority, but not the complete loss of representation.
  2. An Independent National Research Unit. When there’s a General Election, political parties rely on their own research units to provide statistics for their campaigns. The electorate then has to rely on Fact Check UK, the BBC and other unaffiliated organisations to assess whether politician’s and party’s claims are factual. There should be a state funded, independent organisation that provides accurate information to those running for election, and debunks figures that have been manipulated for the electorate. This responsibility should not be given to Big Data companies, as they should not be part of a national election. This organisation’s definition of truth should not be influenced by possible commercial or political gain.

On the topic of education, I don’t think there’s a simple solution here. Specifically, I do not believe mandatory classes at secondary school would really increase anyone’s understanding of the system.

On the boundaries issue, as long as there’s no way to create laws that are immune to amendment, beyond actually introducing a written British Constitution, I don’t see how this could be achieved effectively.

However, on the whole, I’d argue that these two actions would do more for democracy in the UK than any action on Russia will.

Disagree with me? Great. Tell me why.

Postcard Story #006 – Apocalypstick

I bought six postcards at the Tate Modern last week, each featuring a different artist.

I’ve written a very short story on the back of each one. No, I didn’t realise Jan Carson has already done it.

It’s a fun exercise, so I thought I’d post the results here. This last one features Claes Oldenburg, Lipstick in Piccadilly Circus. Which means I should probably buy some more.

If you’re lonely, and isolated by Coronavirus, and want to get some mail, drop me a line and I’ll post one to you.

Second class, obviously.

Apocalypstick

Claes Oldenburg, Lipstick in Piccadilly Circus

Her son asked, “What was it like before?”

So she told him.

“Before they arrived, we ‘Tasted the Feeling’ and rejoiced at the ‘Tick Tock, it’s Guinness O’Clock’ sign.

Now such celebrations are over. Piccadilly’s Circus Lights don’t draw crowds, they just light up the six Lipsticks of the Apocalypse.

First we laughed, thinking it was a prank by Yves Saint Laurent or Mr L’Oréal. Lipsticks designed for giant, unblemished girls, who hung out on the side of buildings.

The bodies crushed below swivel cases were ignored and when the wifi stopped working, no one really cared.

“As time went on, instead of worshipping watches or handbags, we learned to give our devotion to our matching shade.

But whether nude, coral, orange or red, the truth was that each tint was made from the tallow of horses that rode the apocalypse, and we turned to evil.”

So honestly son, not that different.”

Postcard Story #005 – Boiled or Fried?

I bought six postcards at the Tate Modern last week, each featuring a different artist.

I’ve written a very short story on the back of each one. No, I didn’t realise Jan Carson has already done it.

It’s a fun exercise, so I thought I’d post the results here. Today’s is Sarah Lucas, Self Portrait with Fried Eggs.

If you’re lonely and want to get some mail, drop me a line and I’ll post one to you. Second class, obviously.

Boiled or Fried?

Sarah Lucas, Self Portrait with Fried Eggs

How did he like his eggs in the morning? Today, a side of shells would do.

The fat bubbled.

Three days AWOL, but she’d come back. He’d found her at the bottom of the stairs.

He wasn’t angry. All was forgiven. He’d offered her breakfast, hadn’t he? 

So what about her reaction to, “Boiled or Fried?” A half-arsed kick at her cigarettes was something.

The fat spat and caught his arm hair.

It was years ago. They hadn’t even been married. 

He’d give her one more chance to forget it. Across the kitchen he shouted, “Where the fuck have you been?”

No response.

He gripped the pan tighter. She probably still wanted some breakfast, didn’t she? 

Instead of eggs, how about a little snap, crackle and pop?

His flicked wrist sent two eggs, soaked in dripping, straight onto her chest. 

His accuracy surprised; her indifference did not.

Postcard Story #004 – Ready or Not

I bought six postcards at the Tate Modern last week, each featuring a different artist.

I’ve written a very short story on the back of each one. No, I didn’t realise Jan Carson has already done it.

It’s a fun exercise, so I thought I’d post the results here. Today’s is Tracey Emins, The Last Thing I Said to You was Don’t Leave Me Here II.

If you’re lonely and want to get some mail, drop me a line and I’ll post one to you. Second class, obviously.

Ready or Not

Tracey Emins, The Last Thing I Said to You was Don’t Leave Me Here II

“Five, four, three, two, one. Here I come.”

They say risk can excite a tired lover. 

Why not set the heart racing with a naked game of hide and seek?

This afternoon’s arena was the garden.

Tracey hid in the shed. She didn’t want the neighbours to see her moles. 

Her skin never sat well on her. That’s why she found her shame more manageable when huddled in the corner, facing two walls.

She’d agreed to the game, hoping it would climax with a surprise shoulder tap or embrace. But she knew it’d all be shattered by the scratch of the latch against the door.

Hearing footsteps approaching, she wondered what would hurt the most. The floor splintering against her back, or the friction of premature penetration.

Postcard Story #003 – No Final Notice

I bought six postcards at the Tate Modern last week, each featuring a different artist.

I’ve written a very short story on the back of each one. No, I didn’t realise Jan Carson has already done it.

It’s a fun exercise, so I thought I’d post them here. Today’s is Jeff Wall, A Sudden Gust Of Wind.

If you’re lonely and want to get some mail, drop me a line and I’ll post one to you. Second class, obviously.

No Final Notice

Jeff Wall, A Sudden Gust Of Wind

“Why were you at Five Pearson Drive yesterday?”

The door slammed in his face. His mornings began with accusations, not kisses.

Walking his route, he buried the thought of infidelities in his sack. The weight freed him to revel in delivering final notices.

Today, that satisfaction drove him down Pearson Drive.

Approaching number five, he pulled out an envelope stamped, “Final Reminder. Payment Overdue.”

Bypassing the letterbox, he hammered the knocker.

The door opened and as the letter was exchanged, he tapped it, saying, “Looks like trouble.”

Smiling, the man at the door said, “I’ve got something for you.”

A letter of divorce. So the bitch was fucking him.

Instead of going for the jaw, he threw off his sack, emptying the letters into a gust.

Because undelivered bills go unpaid, and sometimes misery needs a little more time to mature.

Postcard Story #002 – Boys Don’t Cry

I bought six postcards at the Tate Modern last week, each featuring a different artist.

I’ve written a very short story on the back of each one. No, I didn’t realise Jan Carson has already done it.

It’s a fun exercise, so I thought I’d post the results here. Today’s is Lucien Freud, Girl With A Kitten.

If you’re lonely and want to get some mail, drop me a line and I’ll post one to you. Second class, obviously.

Boys Don’t Cry

Lucien Freud, Girl With A Kitten

Anita sang,

“I would say I’m sorry,

If I thought that it would change your mind…”

Only to catch Jeremy wincing and trail off on the third line. 

Jeremy seized the microphone, words still scrolling on the screen. He said,

“I can’t cover it all up with lies,

Robert Smith doesn’t hiss or scream.”

His kitten clawed at the sofa’s upholstery. A distraction for delaying Anita’s wavering lip. But the diversion was momentary, and soon his words cut deep.

Karaoke had been his idea. Why was he such a pig?

Inflamed, she grabbed his cat and squeezed it like a microphone. 

No need to sing into it, that’d muffle the crunch of bone. 

Anita smiled at Jeremy and said, “Let’s see if boys don’t cry.”

Postcard Story #001 – The Last Splash

I bought six postcards at the Tate Modern last week, each featuring a different artist.

I’ve written a very short story on the back of each one. No, I didn’t realise Jan Carson has already done it.

It’s a fun exercise, so I thought I’d post the results here. Today’s is Ed Rusha’s Pool #2.

If you’re lonely and want to get some mail, drop me a line and I’ll post one to you. Second class, obviously.

The Last Splash

Ed Rusha, Pool #2

She remembered the last splash, her board’s reverberations and exclamations of glee come chaos.

Since the final pool party, she’d missed the touch of dainty toes and sandpaper heels against her spring.

She recalled the morning after, waking dry mouthed, with the bitter taste of iron against her basin and scarlet scum thick across her tiles. 

A folded sign now read, “No diving. Less than two metres deep.”

And they no longer came.

For no fun’s to be had in treading water.

Powerplant / Legss / Folly Group – Old Blue Last, 11 March 2020

Powerplant / Legss / Folly Group – Old Blue Last, 11 March 2020

Impenetrable poetry with Legss, coal-powered punk and inspirations of self-doubt

Last night I saw Powerplant, Legss and Folly Group at the Old Blue Last.

Ahead of arrival, I sat in the window of the Shoreditch High Street Pret, drinking coffee and writing six (very) short stories.

I mention this, because prior to the gig I was elated with my imagined artistic credentials. Afterwards, I wasn’t.

Legss’ impenetrably poetic performance forced me to reassess my recent literary output. It helped me conclude that I’m still wanting.

It’s one hell of a thing when a band inspires that sort of retrospection.

English Literature Students Must Know Legss

I’ll start by setting the scene.

Upstairs, the Old Blue Last was rammed with English Literature students from Queen Mary. Considering Coronavirus achieved pandemic status earlier that afternoon, it was an impressive turnout. It also made me notice that the air was acrid, and the usual East London scents weren’t in attendance.

Before the first band, the crowd muttered of assignments due, lecture attendance, summer aspirations, and how often they’d been to Printworks.

Pints were swilled with youthful enthusiasm. Maybe gulped is better.

Someone even wandered around the crowd, shouting to his friends, “You know what we should do, we should buy some drugs.” Yet to realise that everyone does drugs and it’s not really worth screaming about.

It was cool to be present with a student audience though, however obnoxious they may have been. At least they actually seemed to be excited about something.

Folly Group

First up were Folly Group, an experimental, four piece electronic, punk (?) band from London.

Interestingly, they had two percussionists.

Maracas shook, pulse tubes chimed, the vocalist braaped, and the guitarist and bassist shifted scales up and down with reckless abandon.

Each song employed contrasting tempos, but the only one I recognised was Butt Not Rifle (probably because it’s the only one on Folly Group’s Soundcloud and the only one I know). 

The set was interesting, but it was hard to distinguish between songs. So I guess that means some of it lacked distinction.

Legss

Before Legss took the stage, I unknowingly stood behind a young man with a mullet and a clam-shell necklace. Who knew he’d be the drummer?

Get your Legss out

Legss kicked off their set with a poem that was hard to navigate, but made the night’s keywords easily identifiable (yes, Folly Group and Powerplant got a mention). 

The baseball cap adorned singer references the mundane against the literary and the group acknowledged that this was Legss main draw. Stories of the banal, and yet not so banal, spoken in a way that reminds you of how Pete Doherty rambles, but with better references and way, way more bite.

It was strange that the frontman’s manc accent (??) didn’t translate into his performance. Unless it was a concept thing about how poetry should only be spoken proper. Either way, it made for strange listening against the ‘banter’ between sets.

His lyrics bewildered, but intrigued, that may not really make that much sense when they’re drilled down, but they were the sort of thing that could inspire you to fear and question your own ability to write prose.

I’m focussing too much on the singer. It sounds like I’ve got a crush.

Instrumentally, Legss were an expected post-punk affair. One lead into a song sounded almost exactly like Slint’s Good Morning, Captain. Perhaps it was.

Everything worked, perhaps because it’s easier to weave bizzare concepts with words than experimental sounds.

Legss were bold, pretentious and very different.

I really liked Legss, but perhaps that’s down to me wanting to be bold, pretentious and very different.

You should really go and see them.

Powerplant

With a fill of Legss, I considered leaving before Powerplant started, but having wedged myself in the corner and suddenly surrounded by students, I was forced to stay. 

Can you see his bowl cut from here?

Powerplant played explosive, proto-punk with some electronic elements. 

The frontman had an almost Johnny Ramone bowl cut. He also kept requesting more guitar, which is in form with a Powerplant. Did you know that a coal firing power station can take up to six months to prep (clean)?

I’d heard Powerplant’s recordings before and found them flat. Not so live.

In stark contrast to Legss, it wasn’t like they were really doing anything that new, but they did play well constructed, muscular punk. While listening through all of their latest album, People In The Sun, can get samey very quickly, it was actually really electric live.

The crowd liked it too.

But I think most of them had only gone to throw beers, get soggy and inappropriately touch their friends.

Perhaps punk and metal gigs are some of the last bastions of sexual harassment.

I wouldn’t know. I was standing in the corner.

Why I No Longer Hate The Wombats But You Still Shouldn’t Go To All Points East 2020

Last week I drafted a blog about how February’s announcement that The Wombats will be headlining All Points East 2020 with The Kooks, justified boycotting the day festival.

Writing it made me really angry.

So angry that I felt it necessary to sit on it, and reflect on why I hate The Wombats so much.

Through reflection, I’ve realised that I don’t hate The Wombats, and their status as All Points East 2020 headliners is not a good reason to tell people to rip up their festival tickets (if yours is digital you can still smash up your phone – go on, I dare you).

Anyway, while you should still definitely NOT go to All Points East 2020, I’ll get to that in a bit.

Deconstructing why I hate The Wombats so much made me realise that actually, hating a band intensely is a real symptom of fanboyism / fangirlism / fanthemism. Because it’s the mirror-image of dogmatically repeating what you think is cool, and holding opinions that make no sense (the definition of fanboyism). Which makes sense, because that’s what music encourages you to do, by embedding lyrics and tunes in your head, over and over again.

But I don’t think dogmatism’s cool, so I decided to change my mind about The Wombats.

Here’s how I did it.

Why I Thought I Hated The Wombats

I started by rekindling my intense hatred for The Wombats.

This was achieved by spending most of last week listening to their first album, A Guide To Love, Loss and Desperation. Wanky title, isn’t it?

Listening to it again helped me distil this hatred into four key points, which I wrote down and then felt pretty stupid about.

Here are the reasons.

They’re stupid, aren’t they?

1. The Wombats’ Lyrics Really Make Me Cringe

I don’t know why, but the lyrics in Wombats’ songs always make me cringe.

Take the singles from their debut album: 

Kill The Director

Kill The Director involves the frontman finding himself in a situation that plays out as if it’s a romantic comedy or Eastenders episode, and references how ‘carrots help you see much better in the dark’.

I’ve always felt like the frontman Matthew Murphy’s prose would be perfect for a BBC funded Romcom, like, I dunno, a feature-length version of My Family, which is an awful idea, isn’t it?

Also carrots don’t help you see in the dark

Moving To New York

Moving To New York is about how Matthew Murphy is going to move to New York because he’s got insomnia.

My gripe with this song is that he sings it as if he hasn’t considered that the cost of Manhattan apartment (because he’d totally live in Manhattan) would make his insomnia worse.

It’s also like it was written in reaction to an episode in which Matthew Murphy’s parents forced him to revise for his General Studies AS-Level, and his very mature reaction was to run around the kitchen table, waving his hands in the air, saying that he was going to slit his wrists because General Studies is definitely way too hard.

Let’s Dance To Joy Division

Let’s Dance To Joy Division is apparently about how the singer was in a pub in Liverpool and everyone was dancing to Joy Division (it’s alluded that the song was Love Will Tear Us Apart Again, and I think fair to assume, because that’s probably the only Joy Division song that people who listen to The Wombats know).

The chorus hinges on how ironic dancing to Joy Division is, because I dunno, Joy Division songs are about being sad, and people never dance to sad songs when they’re happy. Yeah, that’s totally a reason people don’t dance to songs isn’t it?

So yeah, I don’t think there’s anything ironic about dancing to Joy Division, and in context it comes off as a song dedicated to what I assume is Matthew Murphy’s snarky, yet poorly justified, superiority complex.

As you can see, most of my hatred here is based on a completely imagined version of Matthew Murphy. It’s like he must have stolen my girlfriend back in 2006 (ha! I didn’t have a girlfriend).

And when I think about this, it’s totally unfair. Because he’s probably quite nice, and definitely writes better lyrics than I do.

2. My Sixth Form Tutor Said They Were Shit

My sixth form tutor, Mrs Blay, used to let us pick music to play during morning registration.

One morning, a girl I didn’t like kept requesting on The Wombats. Mrs Blay proceeded to say they were shit.

I didn’t like that girl. I really hated that girl. So by association, I started hating The Wombats.

3. They Remind Me Of Mid-2000s ‘Indie’ TopShop Girls Who Wouldn’t Go Out With Me

I remember The Wombats as a band liked by teenage girls who’s rock / indie credentials were store bought from TopShop in the early 2000s.

Remember that uniform of stupid hats, plaid shirts, skinny jeans, oversized sunglasses and unwavering sense of superiority (over the other girls, who just didn’t understand real music)?

I don’t know why, but this really annoyed me.

Perhaps it’s because at the time, the coolest attributes I had were owning a copy of the Pixies’ fourth LP, not understanding Daydream Nation and a pretentious aversion to Best Ofs. It was also that none of the girls appreciated just how cool all of those attributes were.

4. The Wombats Are Really Inoffensive

Listen to their songs.

They’re not hurting anyone are they?

I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt like music should like say something in a pseudo-it’s-not-saying-anything-but-it-makes-you-feel-better-about-listening-to-it sort of way.

Why? I don’t know. It’s just a stupid pretension.

Why The Wombats Are Not A Good Reason To Avoid All Points East 2020

Having written down the reasons I hated The Wombats, I realised that they’re all really, really stupid and I should stop hating The Wombats immediately.

I mean, the more I think about it, the more I’m sure that The Wombats are probably alright. 

It’s also impressive that they’ve managed to make a lot of money as a reasonably cookie cutter indie band, and are now headlining a reasonably big UK (day) festival almost fifteen years after they were relevant.

Finally, they’re getting a bunch of idiots to pay for their retirement, which I think we can all totally applaud.

Why You Still Shouldn’t Go To All Points East 2020

But although I’ve stopped hating The Wombats, I still don’t think you should go to All Points East 2020 and here’s why.

1. It’s Has-Been Central

With the exception of Tame Impala, all six days are a complete nostalgia trip.

When was the last time you heard anything good from Bombay Bicycle Club, Massive Attack, Thom Yorke, Kraftwerk, Iggy Pop, The Kooks or The Wombats?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in the last decade?

So you already know that everyone there’s going to be reminiscing about how the last time they listened to [insert band] they could still see their penis / vagina over their now enormous beer gut. 

Is that how you want to spend two weekends?

Hanging out with those types?

2. The Free-Entry Activities Sound Shit

There’s food, there’s film, there’s a circus. There’s everything that you could think of.

That’s a quote from the video explaining All Points East’s new, free programme of mid-week activities. It’s like it justifies how the festival is now commandeering a large portion of Victoria Park for another weekend.

While I guess it’s great that they’re pretending to do something for the local community this year, it doesn’t sound like much.

Wait, let me rephrase that. It sounds like a completely hollow cop out.

I mean, how does food, film and a circus sound any better than sitting around in the sun with your friends, watching half naked people (cinema), drinking bottled beer (food), while Australians throw rugby balls in your direction (circus)?

It doesn’t sound any different at all. If anything, my version includes more nudity.

Also, they say this portion is free, but I’m sure the food isn’t going to be.

So it’s probably just another justification for them to charge vendors more for the privilege of selling overpriced food.

3. It’s STILL Commercialisation To The MAX

American Express and Firestone are still sponsoring the event.

Which means that there’ll be a special wristband area for twats who have American Express cards, or eat tires.

While I guess it’s a positive that such dickheads will be segregated from the wider crowd, the concept is still dreadful, and if you go to All Points East 2020, you’re endorsing it.

4. It Means You Don’t Read My Blog Enough

Last summer, I wrote the ONLY honest review about All Points East 2019

My review clearly explains why it was so bad last year.

While I’m not clairvoyant, given there are three more days of it this year, I can and will definitively predict that it’s going to be worse this year (or was there a whole two weeks last year? I really don’t remember)

Given the evidence, why would you go?

Why I’ll Probably Go To All Points East 2020 Anyway

So, now you know why it’s not The Wombats’ fault that All Points East 2020 is going to suck. It was going to anyway!

Also, you now know why you should revise your opinion of The Wombats too.

Despite all of these brilliant reasons not to go to the day festival, both you and I are probably still going to.

Because honestly, what else are we going to do? Balloons?