Steel River Blues

October 29, 2015

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Walked in to Roughtrade Records today. Baffling mix of books, vinyl and cd’s with a promise of cassettes to come soon – whoopee doo.

Fancied some Mavis Staples having caught part of her set on a Glastonbury re-run. If it’s not at least forty years old I can’t listen to it…Mavis must be knocking on 70 so it’s a safe bet.

There’s a thing. Festivals – Glastonbury.

Wonderful Middle England wallowing in wellies. 200 000 people off their tits in a field- like they really need an excuse. Nobody needs one anymore. We can do it this very weekend or on a Wednesday afternoon if you like. Take your pick.

Legions of decidedly white people swigging lager, popping pills, sat in a sludge of their own making. Swamp Thing and his Bride lurch across the grass heading for the Tent of Oblivion. Banker and lawyer Monday to Friday. Wasted and Intoxicated cross dressers at the weekend.

I was sat on the sofa watching old edited highlights, hosted by a smug bastard from Radio Talk2Much Toss.

Do I miss it, festivals ? Like a car crash. I could have been there. Probably miles from the stage with fuckwits waving flags and hurling bottles of piss at each other. A swaying sea of perspiring unclean humanity. Like an affluent refugee camp running from reality for the weekend and calling in sick Monday.

Sofa’s the safest place. I’ve worked on the burger pitches. Bloody hard work that sketch. I’m giving it Gas Mark 6 on my 8th can of Stella at 11.30 a.m. Feeling like I’ve been run over, at least another 14 hours to go, prepping, serving, cleaning down.

Somebody dared to complain they had a ladybird in their steak sandwich.

“Your in the middle of a fucking field love, it’s wildlife out there, not Pret A Bloody Mange. Do you want it or not?”

Granted not the industry standard response “Don’t tell every one, they’ll all want one” jibe. They took me off customer service so I butterflyed 30Kg of chicken breast instead. Poking my eyes out listening to Mumford & Son. I wouldn’t be playing the violin that night, chicken goo takes ages to wash off, dries on you like a second skin.

Macho blokes in a dresses and Freddie Mercury syrup wander by, wanting steak “as rare as you like mate” They are the best ones. Quickest money. No reason to complain. In and out. The blood soaks in to the ciabatta – disgusting.

We do posh nosh here. No doughy bread rolls. Just a char-grilled artisan bread half the Philistines can’t pronounce and home made pickles, instead of the ubiquitous red sauce. Marinated salmon, chicken, halloumi . The latter does their heads in. Cheese ? Really ?? Grilled ??? That’s weird man.

“Fuck off daft lad and give me a steak, just show it the pan, and lob some chips on top while your at it.”

Staggeringly eloquent most of them. Fuelled up, bit of bravado now they are out of the office and wearing a mankini. What a knob.

We don’t do chips. I reckon that’s a mistake. Half of them only want a quick carb’ fix. Eyes wide open, oblivious, twitching, a manic chemical experiment.

Who’s going to opt for a ciabatta with halloumi when they can’t even speak ? The basket cases stand in the queue and piss themselves before giving up and stagger to the chip wagon opposite. I love festivals me. 200 sobs a ticket maybe good value if your just after quantity and ignore the width. Pity more people don’t support their local venues for a tenner on a Friday night.

And best of all on the local circuit you don’t have to put up with watching the Libertines while waiting for your favourite band. That bloke is a complete arsehole.

So Mavis is giving it large and the crowd love her. Mavis who ? But fortunately they don’t care. Guitarist plays a lazy Telecaster, like he’s done it for a 100 years. Git. Watch it on Youtube.

Anyway, Roughtrade. An explosion of Sterling board and splinters. Cheapest shopfit I’ve ever seen, like Steptoe did it. All in all though a good operator, brings something to the street and offers LIVE music which is to be applauded.

Where do I find Mavis ? Baffling catalogue system – World Music, American, English, Revivalist, House, Buddhist, R & B, Sloth, Crap blah blah.

What happened to A-Z, Rock n Roll & Blues ? Like it’s really even necessary to have any other music categories. Dead simple. I don’t care what genre. Look under “M” then remember it’s probably “S”. I can’t read the micro-print etched by a gnat on the labels and dividers.

Don’t they realise only old gits with dodgy mincers buy this stuff now, it’s got to be 40 years old ? Bad merchandising I reckon.

Is it Chicago Blues ? Bastards. I give in. I’m a bloke so I’m not going to ask anyone to help.

“Mavis who ? You old fucker, can’t you read the labels ?”

I leave harbouring terrible thoughts of Amazon. Click on a button and wait for the rattle of the letterbox. No wonder I can’t sell guitar strings. Life’s too easy by far for the idle and waged.

Unless you’re a steelworker.

Roger Daltrey was, and maybe Springsteen too. I could find out but what’s the point?

I was brought up in the shadow of the steelworks. Monstrous blast furnace. Tees estuary lapping its scorching feet. Local train line went through the middle of the site.

Fascinating seeing huge tongues of flame and red hot glowing billets of steel when your five years old. Sat on the grubby tartan seats as the train chugged through. Chin resting on the hard chrome seat rail, teeth rattling. Always a smell of diesel and cigarette smoke. Riding the Guard’s van with me Mam on the days we had the big Silver Cross pram with us. Sister bundled up inside, oblivious to the pyrotechnics outside, fast asleep.

Solid white rubber tyres on that. The pram not the train. We used to make carts out of the wheels once the babies were over and done with. Splinters in your arse, grazed knees. The wheels bent over when cornering hard, if you dared, just before you fell out. Bit more technical than a Roughtrade shopfit though. Steered with a piece of washing line looped through the front axle. Your foot for a brake. We put lino’ in our shoes once the sole wore through. It worked for a bit but didn’t make you stop any faster. Mam used to go barmy at us.

Plenty of souls worn through now though.

Everybody worked at British Steel or ICI. Acres of blackened foul tainted land, enormous plant lit up like Christmas and belching fumes 24/7. Gantries, scaffold, conveyors, flare stacks, klaxons, brown nitrous stains in the sky. Like Mad Max collides with Bladerunner. What about the environment ? Like anybody knew or even cared in the ‘70’s. “Bloody Hippy Greenpeace bastard give him a kicking”

Ships lined up at sea. Twenty or more huge tankers, bulk carriers. Waiting for the tide to edge in to the sceptic mouth of the Tees and a berth. We watched the Plimsole line change. We’d learned something at school after all.

All change. The plant closes overnight. No controlled shut down. Furnace is knackered. Thousands jobless, all the support industries, sandwich makers, scaffolders, cleaners, overalls, tooling.

They will never de-contaminate that site before God checks out. There is 180 years + of toxic abuse. Probably no point in reality. What would you build – houses for the unemployed ? Buy-to-lets ? Affordable homes ? Apartments with a view of the soon-to-be derelict docks ?

Makes me piss.

Build a house on spec’. A modest one. Probably cost you £100 / square foot. Build cheap en-masse, maybe £85 / sq ft. So how big is a house ? A generous two bed maybe 800 sq ft. Chuck in some land, cheap at £40k a plot, some infra structure, a bit of profit – we all need that. profit is good. A water connection is £2000.

Before you know it £120 000 + for a box with a roof. Average national wage £ 24 000…. unless you work in steel or maybe Parliament. Borrow 3 times your salary…… simple math’s. Smug bastards politicians.

So now we’ve got no steel, no coal and all are utilities are owned by Johnny Foreigner. I know lets give China a piece of the action too. The grand kids will be really made up about that. “Thanks Grandad, you daft twat. Have you seen the price of candles ??”

The crime of privatization. Sell off the tax payer’s legacy. What a great idea. That fat bastard Sid has a lot to answer for. British Gas – remember ? I blame him, he started it – or was it She-who-shall-not-be-named ?

A bit like the army awarding its ammo’ contract to the other side. Barking mad.

Steel – so will the price of guitar strings now rocket ?

When did we last have a politician that had experienced a real job ? Gone to a comp’ ? Clocked on. Clocked off. Lived on a council estate ? Drank in the Dog and Scroat with the shoplifters ? Granted there will be the odd one, sat at the back, suffering from low self-esteem and a bad suit.

It doesn’t matter who you support, what your poison. They don’t support you. The majority have never been in the real world, average world, average wage.

I used to drink in a proper estate boozer named after some famous race horse. Just like “Shameless”. There are 1000’s of them littering the country. You could order anything in there over and above a pint. Contract killing or a tin of peaches. The shoplifters traded there.

To those who’ve led a sheltered life that’s a proper profession among the scum bags and work shy. Ever wondered why you see 30 coat hangers dumped in a car park ?

I recall a beautiful summer day sat in the bar. I could’ve gone fishing but it was too hot and I’d lost my shades so I called by to score a new pair. This bloke staggered in, big lumpy overcoat, heavily laden. Sweating like Corbyn in front of the Queen.

Huge grin. He’d just broken the record. Fifty two tins of salmon nicked out of the Co-op in one hit. Didn’t want to sell, just needed a pint after some hard graft and claim his rightful title.

I wonder if all the tins will come from China now ? And will it be genuine salmon or some fishy pink flesh purporting to be the same noble fish ? “John East – Pink Stuff”

And just where will your guitar strings come from ? – Better play Spanish.

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