As a teenager I went to Blackpool on a youth club trip where all my adolescent pals decided to have a tattoo.

One after another they strutted into the tattoo parlour only to stumble out an hour later with bloody arms and an empty wallet. One of our more macho members asked for a howling wolf to be emblazoned across his back and after three hours of torture reappeared with something resembling Sonic the Hedgehog.

“Come on, Vic, it’s your turn,” yelled the gang.

I may have been young but I wasn’t stupid. There was no way I was allowing some inebriated hippie to etch his way round my body, I’d already seen the result.

I was desperately searching for a face-saving response when my girlfriend shouted: “He can’t get a tattoo because he’s coming with me to have his fortune told aren’t you, Vic?”

“Oooo he’s coming with me to have his fortune told,” mocked my mates in unison.

What was I to do; prove my manhood by joining the boys in blood-spattered glory or wimp off to the fortune-teller? With the bloody image of Sonic the Hedgehog seeping through the back of my pal’s shirt I opted for a visit to Gipsy Rose.

“You have a very long lifeline,” she told me. “But you will experience much frustration and ridicule until you reach the age of 40.”

“And what will happen?” I enquired anxiously.

“Nothing – you’ll be used to it by then.” I was really depressed until both Gipsy Rose and my girlfriend burst out laughing, as did rest of the girls listening outside the booth. I’d been set up. No one could have known at the time how accurate this prediction would become. Since then, I’ve been everyone’s object of derision.

I once turned up for a Christmas party, hosted by my employer, dressed as an ostrich only to find it was a black tie affair. I followed that with a brilliant job interview before discovering the company I’d come to see was located in the next building.

More recently I sent an email to a Hong Kong businessman I was due to visit asking if I should ‘take a formal shirt for our meeting with his boss?’ Unfortunately I omitted the ‘r’ in shirt. He probably thought it was some weird English good luck ritual. In any event he cancelled the meeting.

I thought my luck had changed recently when a spotty youth on the till at a local retail store eyed my credit card and asked: “Are you that Vic Barlow?’ “Which one are you thinking of?” I replied.

“The one that writes that column in the newspaper?’ “Yes, that’s me.”

“My dad reads it every week.”

“He’s a fan then is he?” I asked glowing with pride.

“Not really, he says you’re a prat.”

One day I’m going to catch up with Gipsy Rose and tell her she got her timescale wrong. (She probably knows that already.)


If you didn’t already know we have local elections next year. This is your chance to have your say on who runs Cheshire East Council.

As the time approaches, I will not be allowed to comment so let’s start our debate now.

As the son of a trade union secretary and lifelong Labour Party supporter I witnessed all kinds of individuals visiting our house. Some articulate and intelligent others dumb as donkeys and twice as stubborn.

I once asked my dad why a particular dull and dismal man kept calling on us.

“He’s getting ready for the election,” my dad replied.

“Who’s going to vote for him?” I asked incredulously.

“Don’t you worry he’ll get elected.”


“He’s a Labour candidate.”

It took me a good few years to work out that people voted for the same party regardless of the candidate. Even as a 14-year-old kid I knew some of the contenders were totally clueless. It made no sense.

I made up my mind there and then never to vote blindly for any party and certainly not for one that had already botched everything it touched.

In my time I’ve voted for five different parties and a number of independent candidates. Some have been brilliant, others not so, but I never repeated the same mistake.

I learned to cast my vote on performance not on promises.

In his later years my dad voted Liberal. It took him a lifetime to overcome his blind commitment and vote with his brain.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, we’re going to have a lot of political debate over the coming months and I thought it only fair you knew my background.

I am that uncommitted floating voter. I don’t want any candidate or party taking my vote for granted.

I’ve been writing about local politics for over 20 years. I’ve had the honour to meet some wonderful, competent, selfless councillors and the disappointment of meeting those who weren’t.

The one thing I will promise you is nothing I write will be personal.

A Lib Dem councillor once belted me over the head with a handbag and I supported all their events.

A Labour councillor threatened to push me in the canal and a Tory councillor labelled me a failed holiday camp comedian so I must have got my balance correct over the years.

I promise to say good things whenever I can and criticise openly when I cannot. If I get it wrong I’m sure you will tell me and I’ll take it on the chin.

Let’s get started.

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By Guardian columnist Vic Barlow