Monday, June 27, 2016

The Leaping Peonies

I was in the kitchen having a Skype rehearsal with Gina and Vivien Goldman because we are going dos ing with Vivien on Wednesday.
Suddenly, a crash came from the living room, where Offsprog One had been sitting reading.
I had bought some peonies to cheer the place up (and myself) and they'd been in a glass vase on a pile of books on top of the piano. Apparently the vase had leapt off the piano and smashed in the middle of the follow. The books were soaked and so was the CD player that had been under the piano.
Could it have been the slow flowering of the peonies that had overbalanced the vase as they became top-heavy?
Or was it a Brexit vase suicide, a poltergeist of disgust and fear?
Alas, we will never know: the peonies remain mute.

More Leigh

A banner- there were an awful lot of clogs.
A train goes past in the background while a female Morris troupe goes through their paces.
A 'lobby 'oss in a pull-along bag before the parade, which we completely missed because we were eating fish and chips.
Muddy feet- we started sinking and had to come back to shore. My feet (in the sandals) never dried out.
A child in a pushchair is astonished by the pheasant-feather head-dresses. So was I.
Zoe Howe, from Platypus, smiles from within her spooky cat head. Great band- very Beefhearty!






Saturday, June 25, 2016

John Lydon at the British Library

'The older generation made no room for us at all and I didn't want to be another car thief... no one would make room for us, everyone opposed us, and it helped... I loved being caught in a situation where there's no chance of survival. But with a couple of witty sentences, you can puzzle a mob of twenty'. The sharp observations came thick and fast, and were delivered with his usual certainty and wit.
He underlined the importance of the punks spread all over the UK: 'Suddenly, we were all in it together: we united ourselves as a species called the British. Times were bitter, bitter, bitter', and talked about the women in bands: 'Women took men on in bands; men had to become feminists very, very quickly'.
He talked about being asked to work with Kate Bush, whose vocals introduced 'a whole different tonal concept and turned hysterical into beautiful'. She wrote a song for the two of them to sing, but he couldn't find a way into it, and instead sent her a song he'd written about the parrot trade, but didn't hear back from her (now whether that was true or not...).
On imitators: 'If you're not there in the first place, go somewhere else and be there in the first place'; and on people who told him that PIL wasn't punk, 'How the f*cking hell can you tell Johnny Rotten that's not punk?'.
Suddenly he shouted 'BUTTER!' and everyone laughed. 'I'm a working class man, and working class people eat butter', he explained, and then described the way he put all the profits from that ad into PIL, and that the ad agency people were much nicer to him than anyone in the music business had been.
Lydon has a fantastically positive attitude, even praising meningitis for giving him time to think and develop inner awareness. He's also got great comic timing, and Stuart Maconie was a good interviewer because he wasn't obsequious and mostly stuck to pouring out the whisky and bringing the conversation back on track. The British Library pulled it off again, probably much to their own surprise; and I did notice Lydon's praise for libraries, which is probably why he appeared at this event. I quite agree: they are wonderful places.
















Thursday, June 23, 2016

Waiting To Vote, And Thinking About Time

The last time I was due to vote, there was a problem at the polling station. I was there early because I had to drive to Newcastle, but my name wasn't on the list. I had to kick up a fuss- and the polling officer phoned through and got my number so I could cast the vote. I think a lot of people in this area didn't vote that day- they didn't go back, and they didn't insist on voting there and then, like I did; I could not have left the building without using that right, and I guess the polling clerk could see that she was going to have to find a way to let me do it, so many thanks to her.
I am waiting for the rain to abate and I know it won't, and thinking about time.
What is time for you? A slender clock hand that gently sweeps it's pointer round the circumference of a circle, marking out twelve or twenty-four hours in sections of sixty, or a series of abrupt digital changes that measure a linear day? The latter smacks of zero hours contracts, 24-hour TV, pressure on time and a disrespect for the gentleness of the passing of time.
Get up!
Numbers are changing, and as the numbers change the threat worsens!
This is atomic time, always correct and always more correct than the speed at which the world turns, because it is invented by Man, and Man knows how to measure correctly to the tiniest increment!
(that will be two billion pounds, please)
Meanwhile analogue clock potters through its day, the tip of its pointer butting up against a different number every five minutes, slicing a diurnal pie into edible sections. "I'll do that in two minutes time, at ten past four'', muses the human. The clock has to agree; the human is boss and the clock only whispers, it doesn't command.
You might have realised that I'm thinking of getting a new clock. I don't like telling the time by my phone because it gives me text messages, emails, the weather and all sorts of information when all I want to do is glance at where I am in the day.
And now it's time to vote (I'm for staying).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A New Childhood: Picture Books From Soviet Russia

It has been a long time since I saw my Champagne Friend. For reasons that shall never become apparent I was an hour late, but that had an unexpected outcome: we found ourselves party to the press conference with the English, Welsh and Scottish Labour Leaders, plus Sadiq Khan, who were all talking to an excited group of people about the Remain campaign. The photograph is really blurry because my camera's not very posh, but it proves we were there.
The exhibition is at the House of Illustration not far from the Regent's Canal, and it really is one of the most inspiring exhibitions that I've seen for a long time. Many of the illustrations are delicate, feathery lithographs, and the colours are very unusual. There are Yiddish story books as well as Russian ones, and lots and lots of animals, especially elephants, and insects. The overall design of the pages is gorgeous, and there is some fabulous drawing. I haven't been drawing enough and I realised that it's a skill you need to keep using because you never know what will flow out of your imagination. You must see this exhibition because it is funny as well as beautiful.
Afterwards we went down to the canal past the bookshop barge which was a heartwarming sight in itself. We thought we were being charged twelve quid for to cups of tea and we were so shocked that the waiter took a shine to us and was extra attentive- possibly because he rather took a shine to my Champagne Friend!







Monday, June 20, 2016

Every Player Counts: Flora MacLean Exhibition

Every Player Counts is an exhibition of photographs of female footballers by the photographer (and footballer) Flora MacLean. Her photographs show us that whether male or female, sporting bodies are human bodies; there is a tenderness in the attention to detail in these shots that is almost anthropological, yet these young women are stylish and urban at the same time.
My favourite photographs are the before-the-match and after-the-match ones: two young women tie the back of the goal net down, both reflected in a muddy puddle; a puff of wispy breath floats in the winter air; a jumper catches on a player's chin as she stretches to take it off, her head tilted upwards in an ecstasy of exhaustion; legs flop, framing a clementine peeled and ready to eat, placed on the grass in front of them.
I did also love the humour of the red card photograph, and the one from behind the goal.
This is a really colourful and positive exhibition, not far from Old Street tube station in London. I urge you to go: you will feel quite uplifted!
Until Thursday at the 71a Gallery, Leonard Street, Shoreditch.
More here, with pictures: http://www.huckmagazine.com/topics/flora-maclean/

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review: Hitting The Black Wall

Paul Scott Bates hails from Rossendale in Lancashire, blogs under the name Greenfield Cygnus and can also be found writing articles for Louderthanwar, amongst other publications.
Hitting the Black Wall is a collection of 65 poems that are a surprisingly dark offering from a happily-married father of four and grandfather of one; but then these things do not preclude a person from hitting a black wall, do they?
They circle around death, isolation and self-destruction: the first poem, Gone, is about a shooting from the perspective of a murderer (terribly apt at the time of writing). The poetry  in this volume describes a fight against demons, with the bittersweet success/failure of a completed suicide of a friend reminding us just how fragile is our hold on sanity and hope.
Some, for instance Janine, Silensore and You Left Me Standing In The Rain, are crying out to be made into songs. The most complex, Josephine, is the darkest and most powerful: reflections on a car crash centred on the deceased passenger who didn’t wear her seat belt. Josephine sums up the collection, which will appeal to fans of Scandi-noir looking to savour a cloudy weekend exploring the darker realms of the soul.

More about the launch, and the book, can be found here: www.hiapoetry.blogspot.co.uk

Friday, June 17, 2016

End Of The Century At The Rio, Dalston

End of the Century is a documentary about The Ramones; the London company Doc'n'Roll put on this screening. I went with Gina, and we met Richard Boon there too.
It's wonderful documentary- maybe ten minutes too long- but the best thing about it is each member talking about the others- and then being exactly as the others describe them.
The music too- don't forget that- there's some great live footage in which they charge through their songs at breakneck speed, arms thrashing, hair whizzing about around their heads. And the songs are perfectly short- abrupt! Sheena is a punk rocker!
Joey and Dee Dee are sweet, if erratic. Dee Dee quite obviously indulges his heroin addiction, but in these interviews he's witty, childish, squabbly and very funny in his observations about the others. Eventually, he dies of an overdose and is seamlessly replaced by another bass player who Johnny, the arsehole, treats tremendously badly (like everyone else: he stole geeky Joey's girlfriend and married her, which became an endless hurt). Joey, whose geekiness gradually disappeared over the years and who finally got fed up with Johnny telling him what to say in interviews all the time, and who started overtly supporting left wing causes as his confidence grew, dies of cancer aged 49. He was sure he was going to survive and wouldn't allow the doctors to put in a feeding tube in case it damaged his vocal cords. Aww, bless his nerdy soul!
Serious drummer chap, who became a producer when he got fed up with touring and didn't like being in the van; nasty right wong Johnny, whom nobody liked, and who didn't care anyway. Managers, roadies, the brother, the mum (Joeys's): none of them had a good word to say about him. There was footage of them playing CBGB's (which used to have sawdust and dog poo on the floor, it was such a dump) and lots more, and arguments between them on stage about what song to play, which were familiar and very funny. They bickered, the blasted and they never really got the credit they deserved apart from in the UK where the punks loved them- Johnny Rotten was scared to talk to them at first, but The Sex Pistols and The Clash got hauled into an upstairs window at The Roundhouse so they could talk to them before their first gig there. Squabbles, grudges, great songwriting, black leather jackets and pudding-bowl haircuts: bands, bands, babies all, even into adulthood!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Old Photo of the Shillelagh Sisters

What a great band they were! Helen and the Horns supported them at the Fridge in Brixton and I have a whole pile of these pix somewhere which I'm digging out for Maria, who used to play stand-up drums and who came to the British Library on Friday. They used to play I Gotta Know by Wanda Jackson and at one point they invited me up to play washboard with them.
I can't remember where the rest of the photos are, but this one got left out of the pack and so I found it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Bloomsbury Wren

After all the excitement of Friday and Saturday, the rest of the weekend was a come-down. It has been such a rotten year, but a few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to travel to Calais for an impromptu music day in the refugee camps that would mirror Calais' official music day on June 20th. This was to have been an adventure with musicians that I hadn't met before, and perhaps a cathartic response to the feelings of futility I have about the crisis in the Middle East, and a few other things besides.
I dug out my passport and waited for news, but heard nothing until late last week. It all began to seem a little tenuous, and I decided it was probably best not to go, but to meet the group anyway so at least I knew them for next time.
Alas, when I got there, I couldn't get access to the building because the organiser hadn't told me that I wouldn't be able to get in unless he was there to sign me in. And he wasn't there.
Back out into the relentless rain I plodded, my feet soaked through and my heart in my boots. As I stumped through Bloomsbury up to Euston for the train home, I noticed something on the stone steps of one of the terraced houses next to me; it bounced on to the railings, then on to the steps of the next house along, then back up on to those railings.
A wren- in Bloomsbury of all places! What a beautiful sight. And I saw a robin, too. The city must be healthier than I'd thought. The journey didn't seem wasted after that. I know my drawing doesn't look like a wren and it's the wrong colours too but I felt like having a try, just because the little bird cheered me up.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

She-Punks Photos

I have pilfered these from Facebook. The black and white one is by Neil Anderson. There is a video of us playing Oh Bondage Up Yours which I'll post when I get hold of it.
Pre-film; panel with me, Gina, Zoe Howe (convenor), Jane Perry Woodgate and Tessa Pollitt; Gina, me, Jane and Tessa, full volume; Zoe (who drums with Platypus and used to be in Viv Albertine's band) playing a Punk IPA beer box from the kitchens (I brought some sneaky sticks with me and asked her on the night-what a sport!), Karina Townsend (of Mike Flowers Pops and many other bands and projects) on sax (thank you for learning the part at such short notice- ace parping!),, Gina an die on guitars, Jane and Tessa on vocals, and Terry Tyldesley (of Feral 5 and Kitmonsters blog) on guitar (even shorter notice- thank you too!);the songwriting workshop the next day, with Katy and Jono. What you can't see is the people dancing at the end, and what you can't feel is the wonderful atmosphere- and the relief that it all went so well!