Category Archives: culture

stuff about what’s going on

Christian Comment column June 09

Who would you like to be today?

It’s a question that’s increasingly normal in a world where many of us would really rather be someone else.

Twenty-five years ago, the only people you’d tend to find trying to be someone else were a raft of early adopter Elvis impersonators, Mike Yarwood and Faith Brown.

Now, every third person seems to be an Elvis impersonator and there are people who have made careers from looking like someone else.

Add to that, the number of us seeking cosmetic surgery to try to improve on what we’ve been given, and the countless millions taking on alternative personalities online, and you’ve got a stack of us uncomfortable in our own skins.

Instant messaging gives us the option of user names or avatars (‘online personalities’ often depicted using cartoon-style illustration) that disguise who we really are.

And social networking services like Twitter allow us to take on an entirely new personality if we want to.

I have a character on Twitter called Brandon Cummerbund.

He’s an Edwardian gentleman of a certain age whose household constantly staggers from one crisis to the next, mostly involving food, servants and escaped animals.

I don’t want to “be” him, but it’s amusing to create him as a character and see where he goes.

Second Life, meanwhile, occupies a staggering number of people around the world, with an increasing number making real money from a virtual world that only exists in cyberspace.

It’s hard to get your head round.

Perhaps some of our unhappiness with who we are stems from our beliefs on what we’re doing on planet earth in the first place.

If we think we’re random accidents with no real meaning or purpose, it’s no wonder we’re endlessly restless, trying to find a skin that fits or a life we feel at home in.

Christians believe we’re each unique – made in the image of God but with endless variety, imagination and diversity.

The Bible says we’re precious to the creator, and he cares deeply about the smallest detail of our lives.

Have a read of Psalm 139 if you don’t believe me.

God’s take on you is this – you matter.

Your value and worth have nothing to do with your looks, your job or the car you drive.

You were created to know him, and to live life to the full as the person he made you to be.

There’s stuff he’s planned that only you can do.

And that could make life an even bigger adventure than dodgy versions of Heartbreak Hotel.

Russ Bravo is the editor of Inspire magazine published by CPO, and is part of St Matthew’s Church, Tarring.

He is also a poet and songwriter, and runs Matt’s Comedy Club.

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C list pop star goes to the airport

Gotta go to Gatwick
I dunno which hat to pick
I don’t wanna look too slick
My public image is elastic
My face is mostly plastic
My attitude bombastic
If the paparazzi pop around me
I’ll look fantastic
Until I lose it trying to cruise it
Easy to excuse it, come too close
and I’ll bruise ya
Or sue ya

I wanna be recognised
But not categorised
I extemporise, I’m not pasteurised
I might sign your luggage
But I won’t engage in huggage
It’s not my style
My style is unique and casually
I wear trousers that creak
I buy two pairs a week
And my boots are so sleek
you can see my face in them

I’ve gotta keep travellin’
Although my life is unravellin’
You might hear me complainin’
That my star is wanin’
And I wish you’d scream at me
Instead of saying
‘Who did he used to be?’

Maybe I’ll go into TV
Find some show with reality
Where I can pretend to be
The me I have been manufactured
to be
I may be able to strike a pose
And hope that my humanity shows
but not my waistline

I could lend my name to a cause
If they’re clutchin’ at straws
‘Cos you can’t be a rebel without applause
It’s been so long since I did an encore
As only my mum is askin’ for more
Like the baggage carousel, I will keep
going round until

28 April 2009 (on a train from Gatwick Airport)

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10 tips on surviving the recession

1 Do not go out. People will try to sell you things. You will be tempted to spend money. Enough said.
2 Chew all your food twice as much as you normally would. So will extract every last drop of nutrition from it. And you will need to eat less. And you will use more energy chewing, which will mean you will have a very fit jaw. Which may Be A Good Thing. And your body will have to work less hard to digest it all, thereby ensuring your insides wear out less quickly. Or something.
3 Remember – soup is a meal! It is hot and can have things to chew floating in it. Of course, if you can make your own this will be much better than buying the stuff in tins, cartons or packets. Except the Covent Garden stuff, which is brilliant. If expensive. You can, of course, add water to make it go further. But it will be more waterey. Which may, or may not, Be A Good Thing.
4 Enjoy your garden, if you have one. If you don’t, enjoy someone else’s garden. They won’t mind, provided you don’t camp in it. Garden plants are largely recession proof, as no-one turns the sun and rain off if you don’t pay your bills.
5 Use credit cards for scraping the ice off your windscreen in the morning. And for nothing else.
6 Listen to the radio more. There is great stuff on it, it is largely free, and it will mean you have less time to go out buying expensive coffees, clothes you don’t need and holidays you can’t afford.
7 Spend more time with friends and family, preferably at their houses so it’s their heating, coffee, biscuits and stuff you’re using.
8 Breathe deeply and appreciate the fact you’re alive, you have a house to live in and something to eat. Compared to most of the planet, you’re rolling in it. Especially if you’re a hippo in a muddy pond.
9 Use your local library. It’s a lovely place filled with lovely people and they let you use things for free, mostly. Well, the books anyway. And sometimes they have free poetry events, or storytelling for the kids. And there are reference books and newspapers and it’s normally warm. And there are only a few people smelling of booze and mumbling. One of which may be you.
10 Remember, all recessions finish eventually. So hang on in there – at some point you’ll be able to look back on it. Which is a comfort. And may Be A Good Thing.

(final serious suggestions – use – and make what little dosh you do have go further!)

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Did I miss something?

It is hard to underestimate the effect that TV replays have upon us.

I’ve lost count of the sporting events I’ve been to where my attention has drifted for a moment and I’ve missed something exciting,
only to wait for a millisecond, for the action replay,
before realising, with a chuckle that this is life,
not television.

I must pay attention more carefully.

I can always Listen Again to radio programmes.

Or Watch Again what I missed on TV.

But those bits of life that pass me by can’t be rewound and replayed, or summoned from the ether for my proper consideration.

Those words you said that you wished you could get back.

The action you should have taken, but which instead left an awkward absence by not being done.

Those moments of golden illumination where you were looking the other way
Or daydreaming
Or blithely unaware.

Mind you, I may have lost count because of my memory, or my maths.

And there is the kind of tension that exists in the gaps
where we are convinced that a better party is happening somewhere just out of reach
And other lives somehow seem sharper, more tangible
and more fulfilling.

It’s probably an illusion
brought on by too much daydreaming.

Seconddreaming may be a better use of time
if a bit briefer

But we’re less likely to miss the things that matter.
Provided we recognise them.

Maybe it’s that life repeats on you
when you haven’t digested it properly

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That’s why we go to football

I am drenched in sweat. My throat is sore and my voice has a weird hoarseness to it. I cannot quite think straight, but I am extremely happy.

You see I’ve just been to one of those magical games that come along once in a blue moon for most ordinary football supporters. When you’re a Brighton fan, you have to take your excitement where you can find it.

And boy, did we find it tonight. Let me set the scene: Brighton’s home form this season has been less than stellar while visitors Manchester City are now officially the richest club in the world, having spent and spent and spent, and having just stuffed Portsmouth 6-0 without really trying.

We have just lost 1-0 at home to a Walsall team reduced to nine men after half an hour. We are, on paper, going to get totally stuffed. Humiliated. Embarrassed by footballing geniuses.

Except it doesn’t quite work out like that. For starters, the ground – a converted athletics track with the atmosphere of a dull post office queue – is full. And the locals are determined to enjoy themselves, whatever the score. It’s noisy, the banter is flying and the script is being written for a classic Cup upset.

At times, we look like we might be able to play football. City stroke the ball around but do a lot of falling over in expensive boots. The Seagulls players toil and tackle, sweat and bellow and the nouveau riche are unsettled.

Suddenly, a great move – Thomson bursts through, the crowd rise as one man to their feet ready to explode but his shot cracks back off a post and misses Loft following in. Was that our moment?

City spend an awful lot of time with the ball, but either contrive to finish poorly or forget to shoot in the first place. 0-0 at the interval, so far so good.

A few more near things in the second half, and then City take the lead via a deflected shot. Come on! We’re not rolling over yet, and lo and behold David has pinged Goliath where it hurts and we have a scrambled equaliser minutes from the end.

Extra time. The big boys are getting nervous as their junior rivals push and harry, deliver last ditch tackles and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Suddenly, heaven opens – loan winger Joe Ansinya finishes a classy passing move, and we’re 2-1 up. The ground is rocking, we haven’t heard singing like it since the play-off semi-final years back against Swindon, and the impossible could happen.


A long ball from the City defence misses everyone except Stephen Ireland who finishes clinically. 2-2 and there’s frantic City pressure for the winner. A succession of corners are somehow repelled and the ref blows for the end of extra time.

Penalties. That TV drama on a plate. Heroes and villains. Except we’ve already won a moral victory by even getting this far. We can’t lose.

And we don’t. It goes to 3-3 with immaculate spot kicks until a nervy Michael Ball steps up for City, Kuipers picks the right way and parries his less than perfect penalty.

Matt Richards can score to take us through. Everyone is holding their breath fit to burst. The ball ripples the net, the place goes bonkers, we’re jumping up and down and before you know it half the crowd is on the pitch, and it’s like we’ve won the Cup itself.

It’s only a game of course. But it’s a glorious game where golden tinged moments like these make up for all the frustration, boredom and despair that often colours the bulk of the fan’s experience.

And it’s wonderful. And totally inexplicable too.

I guess you had to be there.

September 24 2008 11.56pm

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