Laurence Peacock

essays, extracts, misc.

Page 2

Who’s in?

Dear friends,

What a dismal result. After the Festival of Debate, it feels like we were living in a bubble. How’s everyone feeling? I think I’m on stage two of the grief progression: anger.

You can look at the results in a few ways, but one thing I think is clear: Labour lost the argument where it mattered. A 1.5% increase on 2010 is not really an increase. It barely moves them away from a party tarnished by Iraq, Blair and the Crunch. The Tories got a 4% bounce in marginals. Clearly, when it came to it, a lot of people went into the polling booths with Mail headlines ringing in their ears. Ironically, the Conservatives seem to have succeeded in scaring people away from the very thing Ed wasn’t – bold, radical, left. I look forward to arguments about the meaning of voter decisions over a pint soon. But before that…

Is anyone else feeling bereft? Isolated? Angry? I know I am. When I...

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At the Theatre, falling asleep.

Or why I don’t stay for post-show Q&As.

I recently saw a play in which a young woman, Rebekah, bullied into despair and rage, allows her tormentor to die. She doesn’t kill her directly. But she wants it to happen. She lets it happen. After the killing, Rebekah falls asleep. Murder, then slumber. It was beautiful – unexpected but completely plausible. Nothing in Rebekah’s character, words or demeanour had indicated that she would act like this. It was a strange thing to do, even by her own standards. But freedom from her tormentor momentarily lifted the burden of insomnia, and so she slept.

The feeling of the play changed too. Up till now I’d been watching a monologue. Everything that had happened had already happened, off stage and in the past. But then Rebekah described going to sleep and everything shifted. Even though it was still past, still off stage, what was happening was...

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Fat Man. A review. Sort of.

Please turn on your speakers

Orpheus didn’t need a microphone. Martin Bonger didn’t either. But he had one. For show.

fat man.jpg
Martin Bonger as Orpheus

Now a comedian, Orpheus handles the mic with contempt. The analogy is perfect. All stand ups want love. They never get it. You’re facing the wrong way, mate. Need to look behind you.

Only he did that. And now look where we are.

His Christ hair slickened into desperate, sweated strands. A fat suit, bursting at the buttons. Everything ripped, tattered and torn — Orpheus is a wreck of a man stitched together from grief and longing, forced to make one final performance of coping. Just one more painful retelling. Until next time. Which always comes anyway.

So why bother?

Because the gods are making him. Or so he thinks.

Orpheus is the myth all artists tell about themselves. The world’s greatest, he could even charm the rocks. His is...

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The Problem with Twitter

is that there is always more of it.

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The Absence of War (amongst other things)

David Hare’s The Absence of War is about the long, slow death of the Labour Party. Despite being written twenty two years ago, it still manages to be more topical than Jack Thorne’s 2014 Hope. You can see it at the Crucible now. It looks like this.


If you plot a graph from Yes, Minister to the The Thick of It, with time along the bottom and cynicism up the side, then half way along the steeply ascending line you would find The Absence of War. In 1992, the memory of hope was still fresh. It was something to be mourned. After Blair, the body is cold and all we have left to write about is the accumulation and articulation of power by small, scared leaders who themselves feel stifled.

You can’t move these days for elegies to the by-gone left.* But in the absence of real popular anger at the all-but annihilation of the global financial system, post-socialists only have themselves left...

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Between sixth form and university I worked in a pub in Derby called The Hollybrook.* On my induction I was left for ten minutes to familiarise myself with some training posters which the good folks from the mother company, Embers Inns, had been sure to provide. One troubled me greatly. “We want you to make every drink serving extraordinary.” You want me to do what? Every drink?

I’ll be honest, I already had unrelated anxieties over Embers’ apparent desire to compel me to do anything. (I was struggling with the concept of work at the time - still do.) But this? This was something else. After all, if every “drink serving” was extraordinary, then that would make them all…ordinary. Much better, I thought, to maintain a solid average on the old drink serving performance front and then, from time to time, say if the punter in question was particularly nice or particularly attractive, pull...

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Citizen Slack - One Man Transparency Campaign

My piece on active citizen Nigel Slack, published in Now Then magazine, Dec. 2014

Nigel Slack asks questions. Lots of questions. Sometimes he even repeats himself, and if he doesn’t get an answer, good luck to you. For the past two years, active citizen Nigel Slack has been on a mission to find out how decisions are made at Sheffield City Council – who has the power, what they do with it, and how we, as citizens, can influence their decisions. He wants “to know how the decision makers are operating”. What’s more, he wants everyone else to know too. So he blogs, tweets and talks about it, everything he can do to “democratise decision making in the city”.

Ask Nigel about anything that might cross a councillor’s desk – from planning to devolution, social care to council contracts – and he’ll happily give you a run down of the major issues and the key players. Not surprising really...

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Sheffield under Review

Published in Now Then magazine, Nov. 2014

Parts of Sheffield are under review. The future of ex-factory buildings on Sidney Street and the shops at the top edge of Devonshire Street are the subject of radical planning proposals to demolish and rebuild. Sidney Street has been approved. Devonshire Street is still under consideration. The plans submitted for these sites say a lot about current trends in urban development. The decisions being made tell us a lot about our politics.

Elmsdale, the company who have kept their Sidney Street demolition bid alive by resubmitting proposals, describe these structures as “partially vacant” and “occupied by small scale commercial uses”. Elsewhere, when asked “Is the site currently vacant?” they ticked “yes”. Yet everywhere you look in these buildings you see enterprising people taking...

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“On Going a Journey” by William Hazlitt

One of the pleasantest things in the world is going a journey; but I like to go by myself. I can enjoy society in a room; but out of doors, nature is company enough for me. I am then never less alone than when alone.
The fields his study, nature was his book.

I cannot see the wit of walking and talking at the same time. When I am in the country I wish to vegetate like the country. I am not for criticising hedge-rows and black cattle. I go out of town in order to forget the town and all that is in it. There are those who for this purpose go to watering-places, and carry the metropolis with them. I like more elbow-room and fewer encumbrances. I like solitude, when I give myself up to it, for the sake of solitude; nor do I ask for

a friend in my retreat,

Whom I may whisper solitude is sweet.

The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do, just as one pleases...

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William Hill

My local branch of William Hill has a new poster in the window. “We’re always up for a chat in here.” Beneath the text a forty-something woman named Maddie smiles. There’s another head in the picture. It looks female but she’s facing the other way. It’s fair to assume both women are having a good time. Say what you like about previous gambling adverts, at least they never laid bare the unspoken pulls which attract lost souls to this warm, non-judgemental space with clear social rules and plenty of chit chat fodder.

A lost soul myself, I’ve never been one for gambling. (You’ll find me in the library). But if I were a chancer, I dare say I’d want my institution of choice to go along with the fiction that I’m in it for the thrills, not the distraction. I’d want them to reaffirm my belief that I spend all day in there for the mullah, not the company. And I’d much prefer my abuser to just...

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