Congratulations reader (if you are in Scotland), you’ve made it to phase three. If you weren’t aware, phase two was FACTS: Face coverings, Avoid, Clean, Two metres, Self isolate. It is a real indication of how poorly planned the response has been when it took 15 weeks before we got an acronym. If like me you’ve never made it past the first phase of anything, phase three is an exciting but also daunting and confusing prospect . This confusion is in no way helped when you read that from Monday, children and young people will be allowed to play organised outdoor contact sports and you don’t know what that is but you can only imagine children cage fighting in a skip, all be it a very tidy skip. Are all contact sports not organised in someway? Surely, a contact sport that is not organised is just a rammy.

Thankfully there will be more than cage fighting children to entertain us from Monday as non-essential shops inside shopping centres will be able to reopen. It’s not clear what that means for people who hang around the back of shopping centres selling lighters and wrapping paper. But who is the boss of them anyway?

If shops and brawling children aren’t enough to keep you occupied, or you’ve got too close when spectating at the skip, dentists will now be able to see patients for some routine treatments. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be the first person a dentist uses a drill on after three months of just baking banana bread and playing Fortnite. At least check with them if they’ve been doing Joe Wicks every morning and if they are aware of any personal upper body strength gains.

If you want to watch the skip action from a safe distance, optometrists are now beginning to scale up work. Does that mean they’ll be starting from the bottom row instead of the top? There is no question that things have changed and we are all starting to wonder what the world will look like in the future, with or without glasses. However, when the optometrist says is it better or worse? They probably mean the wee picture rather than society as a whole.

If you are going to be on a bus or a train or in a shop you’ll need to wear a mask. If you’re in a shop on a train I’m guessing that’s two masks. Like some of the rides at M&Ds, you don’t have to wear a mask if you are a child under 5 or you have certain medical conditions. The rest of us are obliged to ride that tornado.

Other than saying, please wear a mask, I don’t know how we can convince everyone to wear masks. But the answer might lie with parents that can get a child to wear a coat. I hope we see the government starting to use the same tactics: You don’t have to wear one but everyone else is. Your nose will fall off, is that what you want? Fine, don’t wear it but people will think that I don’t love you. The problem is that when people are told to do something they tend to do the opposite. For instance, when they started putting posters on the trains about not putting your feet on the seats, it seemed like more people were putting their feet on the seats. So, can we get some posters made that say you are allowed to put your feet on the seats if you are not wearing a mask?

THE PUBS ARE OPEN for the first time in 15 weeks and it’s like when you were wee at primary school and you were desperate to have a birthday party. When you were eventually allowed you could only have six people, and they had to be picked up after two hours, and some clown ruined the whole thing for everyone.

I am glad pubs and restaurants are reopening, there have been knock on effects that you might not have thought of. In France there is a surplus of wine. I know. So they are having to free up space in cellars by taking vintage wine and champagne and turning it into hand gel. I’m pretty sure they have been selling champagne hand gel in Waitrose for some time but someone should do a Buckfast hand gel for washing your hands of all responsibility.

Whatever you feel about the new rules and procedures in pubs at least there’s now a great reason not to share your crisps.

If you were thinking of going on holiday, it turns out what happens in Benidorm, doesn’t stay in Benidorm. What happens in Benidorm stays in its room for a fortnight when it comes home. My biggest concern with traveling is bringing the virus back, because if you are on a Ryanair flight do you have to pay extra baggage? And, can someone advise if we can we still send the rain to Spain?

In other news, someone who named their child after a wind direction is considering running for President of the US. That’s Kanye West btw. People have become so fed up and bored with 2020 they’re throwing in a celebrity to get people back on board, like when they put Keith Duffy in Coronation Street. Look, maybe he can do it, maybe he knows what people like. They said he couldn’t do Glastonbury but he did it, he came and performed inside a giant toastie machine and everyone loved it because everyone loves toasties. However, when asked about a coronavirus vaccine he said, “they want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven.” My pal has this dog flap and a dog can only get in if it has the right chip in it and that’s great but nobody ever told me that’s how religion worked.

Friends, as we ease out of lockdown and into our outdoor trousers lets slip out politely like we are squeezing out of a tiny fringe venue ten minutes into a show that’s really not for us.

Stay friendly x

To Lauren Laverne

I wrote this a few years ago for Standard Issue magazine. It includes a short tribute to Lauren Laverne. Seems appropriate to share again now.


History is scattered with times and places when we know it was great to be alive: les Années Folles on Paris’ Left Bank in the 1920s; the Beat Generation in Greenwich Village NYC in the early 50s; and, of course, Britpop in Camden in the 1990s. I am not currently in possession of a time machine, but close your eyes and put on your listening ears, I suspect the music can take us back to the mid 90s. Lets bypass Damon, Noel, Alex, Brett, Liam etc. and rediscover seven female wonders of Britpop.


Waking Up – Elastica

This list is in no particular order, however, it would be easy to argue that Justine Frischmann was the sun around which all Britpop revolved, the axle that kept the Britpop  spokes in place, the keystone of the Britpop bridge. Yes, I am exaggerating for very little effect but Frischmann did have her fingers in many Britpop pies.

Having been a member of Suede before Elastica and been the significant other of both Brett Anderson and Damon Albarn, she has not only written great songs but has had great songs written about her; most notably, Blur’s 1999 album 13. Listen to the lyrics of Tender or No Distance Left to Run. These are not just “break up” songs, they are “complete dismantling and selling of your innermost parts for salvage on Gumtree” songs. For example, “I won’t kill myself, trying to stay in your life, I got no distance left to run.” Ouch!

Anyway, you can interpret Elastica’s Waking Up as a reflection on the difficulties encountered as a creative artist in a society of rules and routine. Or, you can just agree that waking up and getting up has never been easy, and that is a lovely guitar riff. I mean, I could stay in bed all day listening to this.


Ladykilers – Lush

Is this a feminist anthem, or is it just a song about getting hit on in clubs? We can debate this later but “Save your breath for someone else and credit me with something more” is definitely more empowering than the girl power message released later in the same year: “Slam your body down and zigazig ah.”  I personally guarantee that your day will be a much better one with this tune trapped inside your head (see also 500 on the same album).

SHIRLEY MANSON – GARBAGE (and also Goodbye Mr Mackenzie).

Only Happy When it Rains – Garbage

From a possible feminist anthem to an indisputable feminist icon. Shirley Manson’s voice on its own is a wonder of Britpop. Fittingly, you’ll find the sound of Garbage down a grungy alleyway a short distance from the poppy Britpop High Street. Many of these female fronted bands sound grittier and more determined than bands like Blur, Cast, Shed Seven, Pulp. So it starts to feel like Britpop was much more than what its name suggests. In fact, this song could be an entry level hymn for an apprentice goth.

Shirley was back in the news recently for giving Kanye West a deserved written clip round the ear. It’s fine, it didn’t kill him, so it’s probably made him stronger.

SAFFRON  (Samantha Sprackling) – REPUBLICA

Ready to Go – Republica

At the bottom of Garbage’s grungy alleyway, take a right and keep going. You’ll eventually reach the synthpop end of the Britpop spectrum and Republica should be hanging around there by the synthesizers. Maybe I’m stretching the Britpop category too far for your liking, but this song needed to be here to give us all a good kick up the arse. Despite being first released in 1996 you’ll still hear this on TV ads and it has been everywhere from Beverly Hills 90210 to George at Asda. Listen to the entire 1996 Republica album, it’s an incredible collection of sounds.


What do I do Now? – Sleeper

I had the lyrics to this song written inside my biology folder. At the time it felt like my manifesto. I often danced round my room to the sound of my corduroy flares and I dreamed of walking to a nearby pub and watching a couple of bands. The problem was I lived in a small town in Northern Ireland, not Camden. There were no nearby bars with bands. So my corduroy flares and I spent most of our time in my room listening to cassingles and reading Select magazine. However, there was hope, day release for the flares. Every Wednesday in the summer months the local club opened up a small, upstairs room to play guitar music. Sometimes you just want to hear the music you like played loud in the company of people you like. And so we took our corduroy flares and our cardigans and threw beer all over our suede converse like we were young people who just didn’t care. Because we were. Listening back to these songs, I am convinced I am still that age. Although it is perhaps a sign of adulthood that I now Scotchguard my suede Converse.


Great Things – Echobelly

Echobelly’s On is one of my favourite albums of all time. If you had to catalog Sonya Madan, you’d probably file her under “cute indie” but don’t be fooled. This album dives into subjects like homelessness, life after death and prostitution. Yet it also soars into this uplifting chunk of pop that you must turn up loud and vent your lungs to. This song oozes optimism, who doesn’t want to do great things? “What is life apart from memories or dreams and friendships we have known?” It is probably the positiveness of this track that drew Morrissey to become such an Echobelly fan.


Punka – Kenickie

In the days of Britpop, it felt like new bands were appearing every day. Luckily we had Top of the Pops and Woolworths to keep our ears up to date. These two institutions saw us through Britpop and off into post-Britpop. They carried us over the post-punk revival before they were cruelly taken away in the early 2000s, leaving us drifting aimlessly on the second wave of Britpop. Lost at sea with no idea where to turn our ears in the ocean of new sounds. Then, on the horizon, a lighthouse to guide us. That lighthouse is the luminary of listening that is Lauren Laverne. She’d been there from the start, in Kenickie. She is the past, the present and the future of what we put in our ears. If Lauren is a punka, then I want to be a punka too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip back to the 1990s. There were only seven spaces on this list so no room to mention others in and around Britpop including: Cerys Matthews, Catatonia; Sarah Blackwood, Dubstar; Charlotte Hatherley, Ash; Manda Rin, Bis; Candida Doyle, Pulp. In August it will be 20 years since the infamous Oasis v Blur battle for number one. Lets not dwell on that fact.  Please add your stories and comments below so I can continue reminiscing because at the End of a Century nobody met up in the year 2000, maybe we think we’ll Live Forever.