What A Waste!

We live in time travel times. We are told this is impossible, of course. However it most certainly is possible. What’s more, in this world of Quantum Mechanics, the case for Schrodingers’ Cat is made by our knowledge of Quanta.  So is it possible to be here, there and everywhere? Well here and there for sure. Regardless of the Arrow of Time forever pointing forward, in our memories reside, for most, past times which are there to be unlocked. Nostalgia? Well yes. The means of travel? Recollections of the past triggered by sensory stimulus, sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. For this piece, it is sound and sight which will aid the journey back in time. 

What is a waste?

An extraordinary description of life in the ordinary. Could this legitimately be used to describe, perhaps one of the great records of an era? The era being the late 1970’s. In my small auditorium it most definitely is. Here is an opus in the popular mode which presents to us a series of idioms, set to challenge, as we ponder its premise. It is set cleverly within the architecture of juxtaposition. A simplistic form, little more than an observational listing, but with a repeating and levelling refrain ensuring balance for the listener. There is little nudging and we may even remain on the fence to ultimately agree or disagree. This is not an overly simplistic or shallow “I don’t give a damn” rant. The nub of my question however remains in, just what is a waste?

Journeys such as this are made possible by the internet. Due to vast audio visual archives held by the Media companies, it is possible to view material from any era which has been preserved by electronic means. Clearly it is not physically possible to travel back, but it is possible to relive the emotion of the original experience. It is through revisiting the work of Ian Drury and The Blockheads that I have tried to conjure a sense of the times and describe a new appreciation of this Work of Art. 

What a Waste!

On one hand there are statements suggesting there is choice. Options for roles and hopes for positions where an individual could be whatever they want. A Driver, Poet, Teacher, Sargent, Lawyer, Doctor, Writer, Ticket man, all in all an assortment of occupations to keep one gainfully employed and solvent!

However on the other hand there is realisation. Is it a dawning realisation of the reality in ordinariness? An articulated Lorry, Wouldn’t need to Worry, not all make keen Scholars. Or be in charge of  Wallahs. Wallah is an Indian term and  literally means “man”. So there might be Army Wallahs, or a Dabba Wallah, where Dabba is a Tiffin or lunchbox carrier. 

Throughout there is a repeating sense of possible acceptance of the described lot in life. It is the refrain in that chorus which summarizes the situation. However it becomes more emphatic with each delivery. This it seems is a message worthy of reinforcement. “Because I chose to play the fool in a six piece band, first night nerves every one night stand. I should be glad to be so inclined, what a waste, what a waste, but I don’t mind.” Stum.

However there is a further breath of positive inspiration, in I could be a Lawyer, Doctor, Writer, Ticket man on Fulham Railway Station. Although again each has its downside, the conclusion seems to be in choosing to be a Joker in a Six Piece Band, his life is somehow wasted. But he again assures us he is alright with this situation.

The final verse is less a listing of occupations. It is more a revelation, as it is a set of statements or comparisons of activism and passivism. Catalyst, A catalyst that sparks a revolution, to bring about some change by social upheaval. Inmate in a Long term Institution, Put away from “Normal Life”, a prisoner and for a long period of time. Lead to Wide Extremes, Do or Die, Here there is the great sense of “Let us have a good go at living and pay no attention to any probable consequences”. Yawn and be withdrawn. This is a statement of defeat. Surrender to the many and varied overwhelming struggles of life. Take the easiest option. Watch them Gallop By. Be an observer and see everyone else progress at speed, onward and upward to a perceived better future.  

But the actual truth about all of this, is perhaps only revealed in the performance of Drury himself and in the blending with the Blockheads of this song into one harmonious whole? Typical of this ensemble, is the refreshing mix of flavours. From jazz, rock and roll to the slightest of nods to swing and of course the era of ska and music hall reggae. All of which is garnished with lead vocals from a master performer. Drury is not the persona portrayed nor is he as his image on stage suggests. Here we watch an awkward individual, all nerves and sincerity in the delivery of an important message. He projects mockery, frustration and rebellion. His message is passed on as if it were a concealed concept carried on a subliminal signal. This is the essence of his gift, of his Artistry. 

The rhythmic style is somewhat disjointed with a few bars introduction. Vocals begin at a laid back pace. Drury is playing his well drilled version of the “Cockney Chappie”. Though he is neither from within the sound of Bow Bells, or as often claimed, from Essex. He is in fact an out and out Middlesex man. There is some Cornish delight in there too. The opening impression seems to be that mundane is to be accepted as the norm. Low aspiration is set out in the first line. Not the excitement of say, motor racing as a driver, but rather an articulated lorry. If a poet, there would be nothing to worry about. This art form is like painting, being extra to the grind of making a living. The Art being uppermost in any poets thinking. This is the common situation with the painter too. Or making a difference in a classroom full of scholars. As a teacher the transmission of knowledge is not the sole objective. The moulding of character, The sense of citizenship, fair play and care for others and being influential in the overall education of young people are felt to be worthwhile. In contrast as a sergeant – in the military, in charge of a squadron full of wallahs, could be seen as a derogatory view of the Army occupation. However being occupied in neither of these positions, the conclusion is that life is in some way being wasted, The refrain here is what a waste. The reason? Because the narrator chose to play the fool in a six piece band and all that entails. With its first night nerves every one night stand. So life as a performer has drawbacks. There are first night nerves to be conquered at every new venue. This is worsened if the band only manages bookings for a single performance per venue. But I should be glad for doing the career I chose, however there is little satisfaction doing it. There are ongoing feelings of being capable of a more worthwhile occupation. He is not finding meaningful fulfilment in his current situation. What a waste, but he doesn’t mind. The performance to this point is relatively subdued. 

Drury has superb stage presence. His physical stature is unmistakable, as an Ectomorph with a modified stance due to childhood infection of Poliomyelitis. He has resulting paralysis which affects his left side limbs. Nevertheless Ian Drury is at the top of his game and uses exaggerated characterisation in his stagecraft to enhance his imagery. Whatever costume he wears, be it 1950’s Teddy Boy Drape Coat or casual Punkish garb fashionable for the times are distraction embellishments, be they colourful scarves or hand held handkerchiefs. Drury often performs in the guise of a colourful Jester. He and the Band have appeared in Police Uniform on TV for “I Wanna Be Straight” on Top of the Pops. There are also those made up eyes. The demeanour alternates between the self conscious, introverted performer and the manic intellectual showman which Drury undoubtedly is. On stage Ian Drury is the consummate  Humourist, Artist, Poet, and Minstrel whose observations are skilfully conveyed with a knowing awkwardness and sincere warmth.  Interviewed some years later he admitted to loving Gigging. It certainly showed in many performances of “What A Waste”.

He moves from closed eyed narrator at the opening of the song to a more fluid performer as the second verse progresses. The Handkerchief held in his left hand  is probably intended to distract the viewer from the deformity of the hand. It may have a second role as a comforter. Some of the lyrics are delivered with deliberate emphasis as in “a long term institution”, where a slight mocking delivery hints that he might possibly be a candidate in such a place. An earlier example is Drury applying definite clear pronunciation and next a slight portamento to the word, “waste”.  

As the performance heads toward the final crescendo the song has an increased urgency injected. All this is overlaid with superb Sax playing carried through to the fade out. Can any of this be seriously classified as a waste? For a definitive description we can look to industry for enlightenment.  Waste in any manufacturing context is described as an activity which the customer will not pay to be done. Or in a process it is an operation which adds no value. Finally, is it in truth that really the song has nothing at all to do with waste, but is actually a simple lament for a drab life lived in frustration? Here then is found its real value.

©31/10/2020 Christopher Thompson All rights reserved

There are of course other favorites:-

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. (Two fat persons click click click).  

There Ain’t half been some clever Bastards. (Lucky Bleeders, Lucky Bleeders).

Sweet Gene Vincent. (White face, black shirt, White socks, black shoes, Black hair, white strat, Bled white, died black)

Billericay Dickie. (I Got Right Up Between Her Rum and Ribena)

Album:  Ian Dury – Greatest



John Turnbull, Guitar.  Mickey Gallagher, Keyboard. Norman Watt-Roy,  Bass.

Ian Dury,  Vocals, Drums.  Chaz Jankel,  Guitar, Keyboard. Davey Payne, Saxophone.

Charley Charles,  Drums.

Past members

Robbie Shakespeare, Bass.  Tyrone Downie,  Clavinet, Prophet et Steinway.

Sly Dunbar,  Drums. Wilko Johnson, Guitar.

Ectomorphic: characterized as skinny, weak, and usually tall; described as intelligent, gentle and calm, but self-conscious, introverted and anxious.

How Important Am I?

Not at the end of my tether you understand.

Oh no just a pictures’ width.

I have learned to glide and glance.

That’s how it’s done I’m told.

In the here and now this is a great idea.

In the here and now this is a great idea.

In the here and now this is a great idea.

In the here and now this is a great idea.

In the here and now this is a great idea.

In the here and now this is a great idea.

In the here and now this is a great idea.

  • I see myself at the end of my stick,

The question now is

Should I dare to click? Copyright 2020 Christopher Thompson All rights reserved.

How Do The Awkward Do?

I’m certainly not a science man!

The funny thing is it has been a good while since I voiced this thought for the first time in 1972. Regardless of the intervening years I think my idea of the link between Mathematics and Art is still valid. But why now? I am prompted to revisit the topic by a recent quote that I have heard by the late Mathematician/Physicist Paul Dirac OM. “A physical law must possess mathematical beauty.” — Paul Dirac. Here is a modest, some say awkward, distant, withdrawn even strange genius. A mathematician and later physicist  who gave us his Dirac Equation and joined up relativistic mechanics and quantum mechanics. Emotionally Mathematics has, in a sense, a discernible link to The Arts. Mathematics – Being both teleological and aesthetic, (teleological: everything has a purpose, aesthetic: relating to the enjoyment or study of beauty). Perhaps using the descriptor sense seems strange. However ultimately when Mathematics describes an understanding of nature, (physics), it can deliver a sensual experience. Such is the wonder of science. Although a mathematical equation has no idiom.

 I’m certainly not a numbers man!

So it was 1972 or thereabouts, and it is the English Oral element of an examination in English Language. A sort of meeting with just the examiner and me in a drab room, on a drab day during a drab year. Ordinary Level they labelled it. There was nothing ordinary about the process. I was to speak about a subject I had nominated beforehand. It was a test of vocabulary, and not necessarily an examination of the given topic. I  put forward my view that Mathematics was in fact a branch of The Arts. Here I would say that just as the visual/aural arts, painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, cinema, theatre and music are the result of talented and skilled performers and artists whose works are offered for appreciation, then mathematics could be viewed similarly. There is beauty in the making of and exposure to art. All can be viewed in exactly the same light. Art is driven by the heart, and presents its form in sensual ways and practical ways and unexplainable ways. It is a feature of the Soul and the Cosmos. Arts moments are the true treasure of living. Just as the structure of the natural world touches us, The explanation of nature, the equations of nature touch us in all the days of our life.

Christopher Thompson  “I’m certainly no science man”, “I’m certainly no numbers man”. 

© 2020 All rights reserved.

How Do the Awkwards Do?

This comes from a small square house,
Set in green rolling countryside.
Not quite alone, not quite a home.
I am from a conurbation way “up-country”,
I am very Midland in my many ways.

How do the other awkwards do?
This is an entertaining question.
In their hunt to survive
How do they fair? 
In the relentless, jostle, jumble jungle. 
It’s a headlong dash, 
Toward forever and away from fallibility. 
Being forevermore late,
Mostly latent.
How can the pained call out
When their pain is so draining?   

While everyone else is speaking 
Others words serve only drown us out,
Their awkward winds seem to fall silently, 
To the rest of us gathered, unnoticed in the air.
Against the night many are knelt praying in pews   
There is no where else to press their point,
No button of hope for those anguish soaked souls.   

Still the prayers rise to the rafters
And the penitents line up with each other,
With their praise and their debts.
How the awkward struggle
In the dreary haze of living.
Who is there, who  is here to heal their bruises,
Meet their needs?     

No one gets given sight of
That virtual Cosmic benchmark 
With which position better to compare.
Nor vestibule, nor datum to measure 
No lever or anchor against which to rest.

©2020 Christopher Thompson All rights reserved.

Dirac Quotes

The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible.

Anecdotally, when Oppenheimer was working at Göttingen, Dirac supposedly came to him one day and said: “Oppenheimer, they tell me you are writing poetry. I do not see how a man can work on the frontiers of physics and write poetry at the same time. They are in opposition. In science you want to say something that nobody knew before, in words which everyone can understand. In poetry you are bound to say… something that everybody knows already in words that nobody can understand.”

My research work was based in pictures. I needed to visualise things and projective geometry was often most useful e.g. in figuring out how a particular quantity transforms under Lorentz transf[ormation]. When I came to publish the results I suppressed the projective geometry as the results could be expressed more concisely in analytic form. “Recollections of an Exciting Era,” three lectures given at Varenna, 5 August 1972, quoted in Peter Galison, “The Suppressed Drawing: Paul Dirac’s Hidden Geometry”

A good deal of my research work in physics has consisted in not setting out to solve some particular problems, but simply examining mathematical quantities of a kind that physicists use and trying to get them together in an interesting way regardless of any application that the work may have. It is simply a search for pretty mathematics. It may turn out later that the work does have an application. Then one has had good luck.P.A.M. Dirac, “Pretty Mathematics,” International Journal of Theoretical Physics, Vol. 21, Issue 8–9, August 1982

I think it’s a peculiarity of myself that I like to play about with equations, just looking for beautiful mathematical relations which maybe don’t have any physical meaning at all. Sometimes they do.

The Evolution of the Physicist’s Picture of Nature (1963)

It seems that if one is working from the point of view of getting beauty in one’s equations, and if one has really a sound insight, one is on a sure line of progress. If there is not complete agreement between the results of one’s work and experiment, one should not allow oneself to be too discouraged, because the discrepancy may well be due to minor features that are not properly taken into account and that will get cleared up with further development of the theory.

It seems to be one of the fundamental features of nature that fundamental physical laws are described in terms of a mathematical theory of great beauty and power, needing quite a high standard of mathematics for one to understand it. You may wonder: Why is nature constructed along these lines? One can only answer that our present knowledge seems to show that nature is so constructed. We simply have to accept it. One could perhaps describe the situation by saying that God is a mathematician of a very high order, and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe. Our feeble attempts at mathematics enable us to understand a bit of the universe, and as we proceed to develop higher and higher mathematics we can hope to understand the universe better.

Just by studying mathematics we can hope to make a guess at the kind of mathematics that will come into the physics of the future. A good many people are working on the mathematical basis of quantum theory, trying to understand the theory better and to make it more powerful and more beautiful. If someone can hit on the right lines along which to make this development, it may lead to a future advance in which people will first discover the equations and then, after examining them, gradually learn how to apply them.

email me directly on christopherthompson@pryderi.org

Red – Yellow – Black


This poem is a repose to the death of  Mr George Floyd in Mineapolis MN. 

So again tonight the blackness of smoke is rising to the heavens all across America. And Heaven knows the reasons.
The red is flaring, it is updated and hot. Nowhere is safer than the land of the brave and the home of the free. The crackle of flame illuminates my point.
Yellow is the conflagration, the heat is being drawn. Are the people being treated like they are naturally targetable? Is it inevitable, all this black death?
We saw it in horror, we didn't believe our eyes. A person being stifled, and no doubt not for the first time or encounter
And the fire and the mayhem are a self inflicted wound, a man is unjustifiably killed openly and on the street. Everyone is suffering on the inside. This is an ache for justice. Let the scales fall from our eyes. Everyone is precious, everyone one has a life to give, everyone has a right to live. Offer an open hand to lift up your brothers and sisters. Surely it is better to be blind then to judge another by the sight of their skin?
There is wrong, there are wrongs to be corrected. There are people and there are streets, there is much yet to do.
The Oxygen of forgiveness and equality of truth is the simple soul solution and the way of life is love. Each in self examination needs to help bring about all that is true.
Let's replace this red, yellow and black, with a red white and blue.

C G T   Devon, England.

Right Hand or Left? Nailed

On one hand, then again on the other hand,

One has shorter, one longer.

There are strings for both,

The same strings.

Over the ridge for some

Picking for others.

No time for a plectrum,

Only time to strum.

The guitarist,

The hands.
Copyright 2020 Christopher Thompson All rights reseved

Masks for the making of the man.

There are masks and there are masks! Our childish masks are simple, amusing, memorable for the future. Funtimes from childhood on which we look back with fondness and warmth. Lucky Bag or Christmas Cracker, it is unimportant to the instence of time. The joy, the laughter, the love and the giving, these are the real wholesome reasons for masks.

The there are the masks of youth. The masks used to strut and attract. The imaginative masks of the hormone driven players out to impress, out to undress? Some are harmless, some masks of deception. So,e masks of delusion, others sad masks whose real job is to reveal, reveal the reality and totality of deminished hopes. The face or the liar, it is hard to decide. There are familiar features true, but what or more importantly who hides behind this perticular mask? It is the aid to discovery some young grow to depend on. Others discard as stifleing hinderences to reality.

Finaly the death mask. Not quite as described, it is the mirror image faced off in the mirror. The familiar stranger. The one who has perfected t/he art of stealth. The mask that creeps. It is an unfastened mask, aa mask with a permenant link to your past. A weather storm mask with the likeness of a seafarer. Otherwise the soft feathered mask of a ladies man? Who realy knew? The sheer face of the the cliffhanger, the Eiger man. And the uncountable blemishes of a faithless life are triggered by the blinding burn of a winter sun, and an alchoholic lifespan. Here after sixty is the unscaled truth. Everyone sees with their face, they walk to look, they live to hide. The mask is a useful gimmick to the lad, but no hiding place to the man with more than a passing glance at the likely look of the death mask.