My copyright controversy, and FWYL is out

For the past two years, the camera on the phone I had was rubbish. When it came time to upgrade in July, the man in the shop said, ‘Are you upgrading because the screen on your phone is cracked?’

I said, ‘No, it’s because it’s crap. It’s a terrible phone.’

So he did his best and found me a really good replacement phone with a boss camera, to make up for it. And since then I’ve been photographing more or less everything.

I took a snap of a pop group at the Liverpool International Music Festival three weeks ago. Stealing Sheep looked far too ace in white tights and glittery goodness to ignore. I was pleased because I got all three women in the shot, and please note the “HEEP” part of “sheep” is expertly included.

stealing sheep
Stealing Sheep at LIMF, copyright ME, Cath Bore.

I put the photo on Twitter because I was made up with myself.

When I got home that night, I searched for Stealing Sheep on Twitter. To see how good my photo was compared to everyone else’s. I’m stupidly competitive that way.

It was then I saw it.

My photo of Stealing Sheep, used by another Twitter account.

It wasn’t a private individual, or even a local webzine getting carried away with my Mario Testino/Annie Liebovitz-esque photography, combined with festival fever. It was part of a large organisation here in Liverpool, and they’d nicked my photo.

My photo without my consent, crediting or even tagging me. This is not on.

To add insult to injury, they edited my beautiful work to make the colours “pop” more.

I’m not naming or shaming because of what happened to me last year which you can read about here, but without respecting copyright then as creatives we’re all banjaxed. To each and every one of us who make things for a living, copyright is how we earn our money. If we don’t own what we create – whether it be writing, or even photographs taken on a mobile phone on a dreamy Saturday afternoon, then why are we doing all this?

Why do people think we do all this?

I’m not known for exceptional photography, and I’m willing to accept this fortunate snap was a happy accident rather than skills-related, but even if it’s idiots like me taking photos, the shots shouldn’t be just nicked. It’s very bad form indeed.

And the thieves ignored my comminications over it too.

That’s just rude.

On a lighter note, the fabulous first issue of FWYL, edited by the fabulous Claire Biddles, is back from the printers, meaning it’s available to buy online now. It contains feminist essays on the glory of Matt Healy’s hair, straight girls crushing on gay popstars, erotic fanfiction (yep, that last one’s written by me, how did you guess) and loads more.

You can order it here, if you wish. This is the beautiful cover (photo by Claire Biddles):

fwyl printed

Additionally, if you’re in Liverpool, I have some flash fiction as part of the ‘Women: Where Do You Find Yourself in the Arts?’ exhibition at the café in Constellations until the end of next weekend. And it’s free!



The Critical Sense

In the second year of English A Level class, at age seventeen, we were handed a book. A slim volume with The Critical Sense printed blandly on the over, our tutor warned us from the beginning, ‘this book is hell.’

And he was right. The most boring book ever written, instructing us on how to criticise poetry and prose.  We had to pen essays on the bloody thing for the next eight months. Horrific.

Whether one can learn how to critique by reading and analysing a book is debatable (that might be one of the essays I wrote, come to think). Fact is, in 2016, a *few* years later, Amazon and the internet have made reviewers of all of us.

Authors need five star reviews on Amazon, and lots of them, to sell books. Fair enough.


Award under full marks and reprisals start bleeding through, naming and shaming the new sport.

Music reviews on blog sites and webzines are the same; everything must be declared ace or it’s sucked in cheeks, waggling fingers and passive aggressive sub tweets.

Reviewing is largely a thankless task. Reviewers are reviewed, critics critiqued.

As critics we can only say what we see, hear and feel.  The last one is as important as the rest. Puff pieces simply won’t do.

Of course there are always those wanting to make a name for themselves by slaughtering sacred cows, nothing new about that. And giving one measly star on Amazon because a book took 2 days to arrive or you didn’t like the look the postman gave you when he delivered it, is plain daft.

Hey – everyone’s a critic these days.

It’s important that authors, musicians, actors and creatives know that we largely go in desperately wanting to be thrilled. I always want to fall in love.

A book or performance making me happy is one of life’s most beautiful things.  I think that’s the same for all of us, pretty much, yes?


You Promised

‘I’ll sing for you,’ you promise, but never do. Instead I get excuses and small talk, coy and cute in my ear.

‘Sing for me,’ I say. ‘You said you would.’

You blink and I wonder how your eyelashes manage to get so dark, your lips so dry, ones that peck me goodbye on the jaw, missing my mouth.

I roll on cooling bed sheets, damp flakes of skin sticking to me like static and take a sly lick of you from my leg. I suck each of my fingers, worming you out from under my nails. You are everywhere and I love it, I imagine you singing for me here and now. In my room, you, singing my song, and making it beautiful.

It doesn’t work. You’re not here. I sniff my arm. Your smell is gone and no crumbs of you garnish my bed. I have nothing of you, so I hum my song, and wish. I close my eyes and follow a ribbon of sound, hold onto it where it pulls me, over mountains and hills, round bends, down steep slopes and up. My calves hurt, stretched then shrinking as I climb, so I stop. I hear it, my song, faint and low. I sway under a navy sky. Night breezes brush my mouth. My lips swell.

I follow my song. I inch up a tree, your bark scratches my inner thighs raw but I shimmy up and up until I peer into a window. It’s you. You smile from behind thick glass, impenetrable, opaque, and sing my song, the one I love. You’re singing my song, as I asked, but you sing my song for her, and not for me, never me. Still, I settle and listen. It is beautiful, the song and you, exactly as I imagined.

First published in Landmarks, National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2015.

Read “Good Manchester Rain” over at Flash Flood Journal 2016 here.

Rants, and flashes

rants 2
I Hope You Like Feminist Rants issue 2

It’s been a messy old week, what with the EU referendum, but a couple of nice things have happened to me. We need to cling onto whatever lovely things there are, I think.

Issue 2 of indie publication/zine I Hope You Like Feminist Rants, edited by Golden Boy author Abigail Tarttelin, came out on Friday. The theme for this issue is motherhood. I have Baby Love, an essay on non-motherhood, in it. You can buy Rants online, but if you are fortunate enough to live in Liverpool you will find it for sale in the News From Nowhere bookshop on Bold St, which is wonderful news.

Also, yesterday was National Flash Fiction Day. The annual Flash Flood Journal carries my short story Good Manchester Rain.  I’m glad I submitted this story, it’s quite European in nature – romantic, smutty, and with lots of rain. Like a European short film! You can read Good Manchester Rain here.


£2.50 is a lot of money when you’ve got sod all

Of all of this weekend’s charity shop swag, I am most proud of this

I was in a charity shop at the weekend, nothing new there. While I was on my knees (ditto) rifling through piles of books and records, a woman came in wanting to return a purchase.

Staff behind the counter were perfectly nice to her, but the shop’s policy is to issue credit notes and not cash refunds, and they told her so. This lady became very distressed, saying there was nothing in the shop she wanted and could she have the £2.50 please?

The answer was no, sadly. Shop policy is king.

The lady was vulnerable, I think. It’s not my place to judge, but the I reckon she fell firmly within the remit of the people the charity tries to help. She needed that £2.50 pretty badly. £2.50 is a lot of money when you’ve got sod all.

I “bought” her credit note from her, so she got her cash in the end (I was buying something anyway, I’m not fishing for compliments here) but I do think sometimes charity shops forget what they’re actually there for.

They raise money for their charity, yes – but they provide a service.

It’s all very well for the likes of me indulging in a cultural pick me up of a weekend, so I can smugly post up pictures on Facebook of nice things I’ve bought at pocket money prices, but in many cases charity shops are the only place where some people can afford to buy clothes, and the basics.

I honestly believe that in my community some wouldn’t have cutlery and plates to eat from, if charity shops weren’t around.

So yeah, I thought I’d get that one off my chest.

On a lighter note, I have a personal essay on fan fiction in Glasgow’s Fuck What You Love, out next month. It’s crowdfunded, and has exceeded the amount that editor Claire Biddles asked for by a fat margin, so that means there will be even more copies printed. (wahey to you, Glasgow)


Paul Gascoigne interview


When I told friends I was being offered the opportunity to put questions to footballer Paul Gascoigne, the response was mixed. Most enthused “ahhh, poor Gazza”, but football fans were annoyed and angry at him, furious. A wasted talent. He could have had it all. He pissed it all away, literally.

Of course Paul Gascoigne – Gazza – was a footballing genius in his day, and so passionate about the sport. Who can forget him crying in front of millions when England failed to make the World Cup Final in 1990? But his early promise on the pitch was never truly realised. Problems in his private life swamped everything.

The notion of a wasted talent is a valid one, but the biggest source of sadness surrounds Gascoigne’s personal life and health. Gascoigne has published three books in which he talks about treatment for his bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and alcoholism. Stories of domestic violence within relationships are well documented, as are convictions for drink driving and assault, and more recently the harassment of a girlfriend.  He’s been sectioned under the Mental Health Act at least three times. And of course in 2010, Gascoigne intoxicated on alcohol and cocaine arrived at the scene of a six-hour stand-off between police and the fugitive gunman Raoul Moat, aiming to play peacemaker with some chicken, a Newcastle shirt and a fishing rod.

And yet despite all this, he’s someone who still garners warmth and affection from the public. His regular “audience with Paul Gascoigne” events around the UK are packed out and it’s telling that the most common question he gets asked from fans is ‘how are you keeping?’

Gazza, the normal guy, everyday jack the lad, one of us, that’s how we think of him, even now. I tell him about a friend who met him once in a bar. You were quietly sipping a pint, I say, and mulling over afternoon’s races in the newspaper. My friend said you were quiet and nice, spent most of the time asking him and his mate about their taxi driver jobs and “ordinary” lives rather than talking about yourself. My friend didn’t expect that, I hope you don’t mind me saying.

‘I don’t think most of the public see me differently to that, basically I’m a normal down to earth lad, but the tabloids lie about me all the time which doesn’t help,’ he says.

The press reporting issues around his alcoholism and other health problems must get to him, surely? Especially the red tops’ prim reprimanding tone “here he goes, Gazza at it again” and I know he suffered during the phone hacking enquiry/scandal. Does all that make him reluctant to trust people?

‘Sometimes the press are right, but mostly what they write is a load of rubbish which is very hurtful. Keeping to myself is the best policy. I’ve been let down by people close to me quite often and that is sad and difficult.’ The image of Gazza as a lovable drunkard endures. He talks of well-meaning members of the public lining up to buy him a drink, so they can say “I’ve had a pint with Gazza”.  ‘It happens every day. My agent Terry Baker gets annoyed about it but I’m used to it. They don’t mean any harm, people are just being nice, but it doesn’t help me really.’

Back in 2013, stories emerged about Paul’s “showbiz pals” Chris Evans, Gary Lineker, Piers Morgan clubbing together to pay to send him to The Meadows rehab clinic in Arizona. It’s noticeable that Paul doesn’t credit celebrity acquaintances as those who are helping him the most right now in his recovery. “I’m best talking to my Mam and dad and sisters. Terry and Freda (Baker of A1 Sporting Speakers) are the people outside my family that I can trust the most. I know they have my back and try their best for me,’ he reckons. ‘Terry and Freda try and look after me. They get me work, take me to it, help when things go wrong and generally stay in touch with me and we have a laugh.’

And things do go wrong. December was a tough patch for Paul, with reports of falling off the wagon whilst staying at a health clinic and his controversial comment about a black security guard being difficult to make out in poor light.

‘I’ve been in various rehabs over the years.’ Seven at the last count. ‘The Providence Project (an alcohol and drug rehab centre) down here in Bournemouth were great with me and after their help I moved into he area. It’s hard to cope sometimes but I try to keep busy, keep fit and stick to my daily routines. I miss playing football more than anything. I loved playing and the great times I had on and off the pitch. The day to day dressing room camaraderie with my team mates is something I miss a lot.’

This year, he aims to ‘just to be happy and stay off the drink. I have probably only drunk for an average two or three weeks every year and I’d like to try and stop that.’  I hope he gets to that point, in 2016. It’s no more than he deserves. ‘And world peace and GAZZA peace!’ he adds.

Gazza peace sounds good. He deserves some of that.

Originally published in Hooked Magazine (Jan 2016)



On the telly box tonight

bay may 1
On the 52% sofa at BayTV

It’s the final episode of the current series of 52% this week. We look back at our best bits!

The show is now taking a break for the summer, but we’ll be back again in the autumn.

52% is broadcast at 6pm tonight (Thurs) on Freeview Channel 7  and Virgin 159 in the Merseyside and Cheshire areas, and is repeated over the next fortnight. The episode goes online on YouTube in the next fortnight or so.