Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Upstairs, downstairs

Anybody else find all this period drama stuff makes them want to wage violent & bloody class war?

Upstairs bloody downstairs - if there is anything that sums up the times, it's the phrase upstairs downstairs. This is the way it's going - the gulf between the haves and the have-nots growing vast.

But to add insult to injury, not only do we have to live with Victorian values (the rhetoric of the undeserving vs the deserving poor being recycled unashamedly by the politicians) but we are meant to coo over their posh houses on the telly too. And pay for it with the license fee. And accept the utter bias of their news reportage. Bah. It makes me sick.

Down with the BBC.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010


Even now, I'm still getting referrals on my old blog (last posted on 2 years ago) from this magnificent, funny, unique, but also long-defunct blog. Mainly referrers from Turkey and Macedonia for some reason.

Guys! (and you just know it is guys.) Guys, the INTERNET IS CHOCKABLOCK WITH PORN! You can't throw a stick around here without hitting some porn. Go and find some. There's no porn here. No porn, you hear me? Go home.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Ole, tarantula

Went to see 9 lessons and carols for godless people, and boy, it was worth it, even for the long-running late late set on a freezing cold midweek night.

It was all a bit of a blur, to be honest - a skeptics paradise featuring stellar names like Stewart Lee, Josie Long and Adam Goldacre,Simon Singh doing a 5 minute Q&A about the universe and electrocuting a gherkin, Matt Parker geniusly showing how easy it is to mislead given enough data, Adam Rutherford tearing the Alpha Course to shreds rather elegantly through powerpoint slides ["a homophobic death cult"] and Mitch Benn nailing the problem most atheists have with religion by rewriting Genesis (I paraphrase - Abraham: God, I know you were messing when you asked me to kill my son, because then your followers might believe you want people who don't stand up for what they believe is right, but who suck up to you so much, even if it involves murdering innocent people. God: Yes, only kidding. Imagine what a fucked up world that would be!) And Al Murray pub landlord celebrating the indomitable British bulldog spirit by making everyone sing Incy Wincy Spider (with hand movements).

In the middle of all this, Robyn Hitchcock (hippy/punk Softboys veteran) came on, with lots of girl backing singers with beautiful voices and the house band, Martin White's Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra and did Ole! Tarantula, which I hadn't heard before, and it was truly magical. The audience was spell-bound.

I googled it at home, his usual eccentric lyrics, but I implore you to read them. Here is what I found:

CK: ..The quote in the press kit says the title song, "Ole! Tarantula," is "about where babies come from" RH: Yeah... it's all to do with how people feel about what brings them into existence - how some people kind of recoil from it and some people are delighted by it, and some people are just shocked that they exist at all. I think I'm in the last group. A lot of my songs are about the shock of existence, so I suppose this is another take on it, if you like.

I get it now, I understand why they included this song, and it was perfect for this evening. Atheism can sometimes seem an "anti" stance, with nothing positive going for it, but this night was all about celebration. This song gives you the image of tarantulas being born, as a metaphor for life and birth - some people could find this a repellent image, but he is saying how beautiful, what a shock and what a miracle life is."If he don't please you, Well you just can't be pleased..." To me, religion and the myths of religion are a scrim or a screen to shield people from the harshness of life. And atheism can be a positive thing, not just a reaction against. But this song put the point across more gently, with more wit & humour than I could ever hope to express.

Someone was filming it - I hope, hope, hope it will end up on Youtube, I will link it here for your enjoyment.

Update: I asked Robin Ince on Twitter if it was filmed but he said it wasn't. Never mind, it existed for a brief beautiful ephemeral moment, which is fitting.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

One day

Usually I like to celebrate books here, but this one was so poor, so very very poor, so life-drainingly tedious, long-drawn-out, thin and cliched, I feel like I should you warn you.

He takes 435 pages to draw these two annoying, 2D characters, have them flirt for 20 years (it felt like it too) finally get them together and then (total cheap trick this) bump her off for a 'moving' ending. David Nicholls, that's 2 hours of my life I won't get back.

What really burns is that I bought it based on the recommendation on the cover of a Mr Jonathan Coe - Jonathan Coe, a fine writer! He wrote What A Carve Up! one of the best satires ever written. Jonathan, how much was David Nicholls paying you? Did he beat you at pool or something?

Bah. I'm going straight back to the charity shop where it was purchased to the dear little old lady who said I'd love it, and punch her in the face.

Saturday, 4 December 2010


Today, I'm mostly here. Come by and say hi!

PS Time for Christmas break. Laters x

Thursday, 2 December 2010


I don't really get Christmas presents, except from my sister. Which is as it should be really, being a Jewish atheist and all. The folks just give me money, which is always very welcome and much appreciated. But still think about a wishlist for Santa, sometimes. (Some of these are more metaphysical wishes, really.) And you?

List for Santa 2010

I wish for a milk foamer, or a fancy coffee maker. One of these would be nice.

I wish further for a coffee mill - I like this one. I bought beans by accident.

I wish for this perfume, from the best perfumiers in London, I have run out.

I wish I could either shag him or stop wanting to shag him, either would do.

I wish I could find another job I liked.

I wish I could get proper reception on my TV. Stupid TV.

I wish I could sell my flat & cane the proceeds by bumming off around the world
for a few years.

I wish I could go to art college instead of doing something practical but mundane.

I wish I could meet someone without having to undergo the torture
of internet dating.

Cheers, Santa.

Snow day

6.30 am text: School closed today. Check website for updates.

Nothing is better than waking up in the cold and the dark, being told you don't have to go to work, you can stay in bed. Nothing.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Someday my prints will come

Why wait? You can get them right here...

If you are around next Saturday, come along... If you work at all near, please print off & stick up at work. (about to lose my wheatpaste virginity & go & stick 'em up all around Bethnal Green & Hackney. It's bloody cold though. The things I do for money. How do you make wheatpaste anyway? Maybe I'll just buy a tube of superglue instead.)

Artists include Wuon-Gean Ho, Philippa Merrett, Marcelle Hanselaar, Fabio Corruzzi, Luce Cleeren, Katie Jones, Jacki Baxter, Katherina Manolessou, Ann Norfield, Anna Alcock and Claire Hynds. View their work on the ELP website below.

Sharing/linking/tweeting etc much appreciated - I promise I'll shut up about this soon.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Any Human Heart

Hm. Good cast, well filmed, well adapted, etc, but leaving me cold so far. Why?

1.) It all seems a bit pointless. The book was great, & the adaptation pretty faithful, but it seems to have knocked the life out of it. It's sterile.

2.) Framing the whole thing with old Logan puttering around in his shed reminiscing with his old diaries is a terrible idea, the reason why the book was moving was because it was someone's diary, which gave it an immediacy. When he grows old by the end of the book, you feel his surprise at how he's aged and diminished, because it's as if you've lived his life along with him. Showing him old at the beginning of the programme destroys this poignancy of ageing and the sense of living his story.

3.) Having to condense it & cut out all the minor incidents & characters makes it less rich. It's a tv series, not a movie, did they have to?

4.) Fatal Hollywood gloss. In the book, his first lover is a dumpy farm girl (yay for dumpy girls!) who seduces him. On TV of course, she is a gorgeous femme fatale. And Hayley Atwell, playing the love of his life, is very gorgeous, but in the book is just an ordinary attractive girl. We like looking at beautiful people it's true, but one of the points in the book is that we don't always fall in love with raving beauties. It just makes it all less real and true. (And they didn't feel the need to cast unbelievably beautiful actors for the men.)

Once again, books pwn tv.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


We're sitting downstairs in the bar after the karaoke, enjoying a well earned drink after our labours, he picks up a tiny little hat someone has made & left on the table (dress code: wear a hat.) It is like a miniscule top hat, with a lace veil attached.
"Whose is this? It can't belong to a person. It's too small. It looks like it would fit an animal..." He measures it in his hands.
"Maybe a squirrel?" I suggest.
"No, no squirrel has a head that big..."
"An owl?"
We look at it. He raises an eyebrow. "An owl... A small owl..."
Then we say in chorus "A barn owl!"
We have just started talking and I'm enjoying the instant silliness of the conversation. We get onto talking about London, about where our families are from
"Russia & Poland"
"Me too!"
"... they lived in Petticoat Lane..."
"mine too! I bet they would have known each other!"
And chatting about Berlin, about languages, living abroad, chat chat chat... considering how drunken and how late the hour, we're having quite an interesting in-depth discussion. (I'd like to stress I'm not flirting at all here) when suddenly his girlfriend, who is sitting the other side of him on the banquette, talking to other people, says petulantly "Well are we hanging around here? What are we doing?" (She is nice though, I was sharing the microphone with her earlier.) She lays a proprietory hand on his leg, and I realise I've exceeded the time you are meant to talk to someone else's boyfriend.

I wasn't doing anything, just talking. My lord, but it is depressing sometimes.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Rat Girl

It's been a long, long time since I've been blown away by a book. This is the book, though.

I liked Throwing Muses, I liked Kristin Hersh and her voice, but I didn't know that much about them. I started listening to them at college (because of a boy, isn't it always?) And their odd, left-field lyrics strangely & spookily paralleled the disintegration of that relationship - I remember the line "I brought this bottle here for you, can't you drink it?" jumping out of one song, pretty uncanny as it seemed to relate to one specific incident at a terrible house-party near the end. I remember reading interviews with Kristin Hersh which talked about manic depression and how she didn't just write songs, she felt like they were living things taking her over and making her crazy. I was intrigued, but I didn't get it.

Rat Girl is based on her diary from when she was 18. It is absolutely unflinching, unself-pitying. She was knocked down by a hit and run driver and though she'd been a musician before, after the accident she could hear music, hear whole songs and sounds - and not just hear them, but she felt taken over by them, possessed by them, everything else driven out until the song is finished. At first it's a gift, the songs pour out and the band starts to get a following, attracted by this new energy. Then it gets too much

"Music's making me do things, live stories so that I can write them into songs. It pushes my days and my brain around. A parasite that kills its host, it doesn't give a shit about what happens to a little rat girl as long as it gets some song bodies out of it. It's a hungry ghost, desperate for physicality.

I'm not writing songs any more. They're writing

I wish I had some gift, some talent, but she shows so clearly how it could be a terrible curse as well as an incredible gift. She takes you inside that experience of highs and lows, not explaining, just showing.

And because she's so unself-pitying in the way she tells her story, it is desperately moving. She was so young & fully aware she was going through hell. Starting to have visual as well as auditory hallucinations, snakes everywhere, robot killer bees...

"I'm uncertain as to what this world is, where you might see something... pretend? magic? invisible? And so I'm uncertain as to who might live in this world.... not the Muses. Not me- that person is over. I'm not in here anymore.
The only thing left in this body is shame. And the only shred of self-preservation I have left is this thought "Please, no more shame."

So I keep my distance from everyone. Stay cold and they won't feel the heat. I don't go to school. book shows or schedule rehearsals. I don't see anyone except the people I see on the street.

I don't belong on this planet. I'm not good enough."

Monday, 15 November 2010

More twitter


Twitter is where ordinary and famous people meet. I don't really care about famous people much anymore - I like to read biographies of people I admire,* but it's the ordinary people that do the extraordinary stuff, & usually without recognition for it. So when I see famous folk on Twitter, even ones I like, I usually go 'meh...'

Yesterday though I posted (joking) "When I reach 70 followers I will buy everyone a Twix". My old friend Del retweeted it & a few people followed me.

Then it got retweeted by a well-known comedienne & suddenly my Inbox was steadily filling up with emails "You are now being followed by..." 71, 72, 73... 80, 90, over 100. They kept appearing. At first it was funny but then it was slightly scary. Where were all these people coming from? Were they expecting funny? I felt like I was onstage, naked, all of a sudden. It was like watching the power of the famous in action, though. A bit eerie.

Here are my further refined thoughts on Twitter after 8 months - blogs suit me more, they are slower and more friendly & intimate, more like going round someone's house for a cup of tea and a leisurely chat, whilst Twitter is like being in a busy noisy pub and yelling at them to compete for their attention across the table.

* currently reading Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh - highly recommended. Ooh, just noticed, cover is by Gilbert Hernandez too.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


In the week I'm going to a David Lynch themed club night at the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. What can I wear? What Lynch-inspired character can I go as? (Please don't say Frank. Though it would be easy enough - just carry oxygen mask & assume crazed psychotic stare.)

Friday, 12 November 2010


Lucy Pepper on Twitter "outcomes" has to be the dumbest word ever invented by idiots. ever."

"Outcomes" is one of my bête noires. What is wrong with the word result? Another pet hate is "success criteria" which they are obsessed with using at school - apparently if you use this sad management-speak jargon in every lesson, it makes the kids 80% cleverer. I catagorically refused to use this phrase in Year 1 (5 and 6 year olds. I ask you.)

Honestly, I think that the Plain English Campaign should have powers to hand out custodial sentences. The educational establishment would get life for crimes against the English language. When I was doing my PGCE I was amazed to find them referring to the Desired Learning Objective (DLO - they love an acronym.) What they meant was the aim of the lesson.

Any jargon in your job that drives you crazy?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Led Zep

Programme on Robert Plant reminded me of our obsession, OBSESSION, with Led Zeppelin as teenagers. That banshee wail. The dodgy lyrics. The long hair. The tight, tight, tight-tight trousers. (When we met our friend's new American husband for the first time, he came over to mine and we inadvertently won him over right away. "You have every Zeppelin album. Every Zeppelin album!" We sat along and air-drummed to Four Sticks and wailed along to Dazed and Confused & bonded for life.)

I'd post a link to a YouTube video but evidently they HATE YouTube. They're the one band I wish I could have seen live. I bet they were magnificent.

One good thing about getting older is that you stop caring about what's hip. I'm unashamed about liking the old rock dinosaurs, I remember now why I liked them in the first place.

Oh Robert. Still would, even now.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Mad fantastical magical genius

Intrigued (and also a bit piqued) by this British artist, Austin Osman Spare, that I'd never ever heard of. Contemporary of Aleister Crowley, drew like Aubrey Beardsley, mad Blake-ian artist type... How can I have never heard of him, or come across him ever? Everybody else has, like Alan Moore on the Culture Show. Had you?

"... Monstrous or fantastic magical and sexual imagery", genius draughtsman, fiercely anti-commercial. Sounds my cup of tea. Anyway he's on at the perfectly named Cuming Museum, anybody want to see it with me?

“I have had a hard life, but I blame nobody but myself. I am responsible for my own misfortunes. I am rather apt to butt at a brick wall at times, and find, in the end, I cannot do any good about it. I cannot change things, so I give it my best.”

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bitten off more than I can chew

So I volunteer sometimes for an anti-poverty group, and I print sometimes at the print studio. Both based in Hackney. At the Anarchist Bookfair I had a lightbulb moment when I remembered Just Seeds collective, who sell their work to fund community projects. Maybe I could get the printmakers to give me some of their work, we could sell it as a fundraiser for the voluntary group, which is constantly broke, the voluntary group gets some much needed cash and the printmakers get a warm glow of benevolence, everybody's happy.

I proposed it and have just had an email back from one of the artists to say she'd donate some work - hurrah! (She's a proper artist whose work is collected by the British Museum and everything.)

But she did mention the word 'auction' in her reply. I was thinking along the lines of a stall down Brick Lane with prints for a tenner, but maybe they wouldn't want to sell off their lovely work cheap on a market stall, plus also if we did have a proper auction it would raise more money.

The only thing is, how do you set up an auction?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Women's magazines, again

I cracked, & bought Grazia, then remembered why I'd stopped when I read this by Lowri Turner

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Rachel Zoe's pregnant. How? Surely the human pipe cleaner hasn't had a period since forever? Still, it'll be interesting to see how she copes with having breasts and a tummy.

I don't know who Rachel Zoe is (okay I do now - she's an American fashion stylist) but what has she done to deserve such viciousness, such spite and vitriol? I remember years ago when Lowri Turner was a fashion columnist on the Standard. She used to be quite funny and down to earth. Clearly years of working in an insanely bitchy and shallow field have done something to her.

Women, we're our own worst enemies.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Only a little lottery win would do it. I'm not asking for the Euro Lottery or anything *

Leave work, start writing science books for kids (there's a distinct lack of these aimed at little ones, but they still do science - for the moment, curriculum might change.)

- (it's the middle column that interests me)

Or here - this looks good

Or sell flat and with proceeds set up printers co-op in London like Footprint in Leeds, or Just Seeds in Pittsburgh - both genius organisations.

So many things I'd like to do. None involving teaching.

What about you? What are your lottery daydreams?

Budget cuts by Just Seeds artist Jesse Goldstein. Relates to City University in New York, but thought it was relevant here too...

* How many people have lottery daydreams who don't actually buy tickets? Most, I bet.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Good telly

Just when I was thinking I might give my telly away in despair, two good tv programmes appear on the horizon.

1. Misfits, series 2.
I suspect that Misfits was targeted at people a whole lot younger than me. But I really, really enjoyed it. The premise was a load of anti-social teenagers on community service get hit by lightning and find themselves with super-powers. It was so witty, so tongue in cheek and dark, and I got really fond of the characters - foxy Alisha, thoughtful Curtis, mouthy Nathan, and especially chav with a heart of gold Kelly and heartbreaking geek Simon. Plot, character, good writing, good acting - not to be sneezed at. Also (it is easy to impress old bags like me) I liked the way the characters had their own Flickr and Twitter streams, updated whilst the programme was on. It was just a playful extra layer of the diegesis.

2. Any Human Heart

One of my favourite books, by William Boyd, is being made into a drama on Channel 4 with a dream team A list cast. Let's hope they don't mess it up.

* Look! free tickets to a screening with a Q&A afterwards with William Boyd. Rah!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Berlin (last part)

I look at her in awe, in wonder and in gratitude. How... how did you do that? She shrugs. There's a sudden roar of people. Roger Waters has come onstage. You want to watch the Wall? "What Wall?" We decide to blow off the Wall and climb into the tent, where she entertains me by moving her stripey jumper around to show off the strobing effects which can be achieved when you're on acid. I feel so happy after her rescue I'm beginning to enjoy the POWER SURGES of the drug coming and going.

She goes off for a bit. I listen to a frankly mental sounding family camped next to us having an argument in a harsh unknown language for a bit. She comes back with an American boy who has a soft Californian accent. Well done Cat, it's like she read my mind and brought the aural antidote to the horrible sounding family.

We find ourselves sitting in a group of people talking about Mercedes Benz. "I was talking to someone about that this morning..." "You were talking to me. Dan. Remember?" Another American boy, from Boston. He's so... so straight. He seems hurt that I've forgotten him, I want to explain that it's just that my cerebral cortex has recently been rewired, but I lack the words. There's an American girl there too, from the midwest, leaning up in front of me. She's got bleached blond hair, glowing whitely in the dark, I look at her lovingly, she's so pretty, and she looks so clean.

"I sat... in the dirt... and all these pants, pants, pants legs were walking past me... and I sat in the dirt? Is this me?" says the blond girl, leaning back on my legs and looking at the stars. She monologues softly and monotously about the midwest. "I mean, there's no culture, especially. There's no interesting vegetation..." This remark makes me explode with laughter and I have to take myself off. I have to tell Cat about her "She was so amazed, she couldn't believe that she'd sat in the dirt..." "She sat in the dirt? We live in the dirt! Our life is degradation!" says Cat.

We get talking to a strange, half East Ender half East European sounding man, he's here with his two silent teenage sons, they are street traders, they travel all over, selling whatever they can in street markets. He's just moved from Russia and thought he'd give Berlin a try. He's dismissive of the concert "a pantomime for adults..." (and I never listen to Roger Waters or Pink Floyd after this, ever again.)

I'm beginning to see something, and it's not college, it's not school, it's not work. I can see past it, to these people who are always on the move. There seems no especial reason to go home. I could keep going, like these people do. Living in squats and going to festivals and demos. Bored of where you are? Go somewhere else. Follow the festivals. Speak other languages. You see how your routine is just that, it's not the law, it doesn't have to hold you. I am supposed to be going to college to do photography in September but it seems distant.

We find Jan and Mark the next day and say goodbye, we were meeting people in Amsterdam and they were travelling on. They might have given us their numbers (pre email, pre mobile phones) but we probably lost them instantly. American Greg said he'd find us in Amsterdam. We give in and get the train to Amsterdam, we're hopeless at hitching on the German roads. But after Amsterdam I'm a good girl. I go home. I wonder sometimes where I'd be now if I hadn't.

Next year I will be 40. Planning to go back to Berlin. This time I think we will stay in an apartment though.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

In Berlin (part 3)

When we wake up the next day, our little campsite overnight has become surrounded by a sea of metal fences. We are penned into the stadium. A Canadian boy emerges from his tent and whistles. "They pulled down the Wall, and put up a Fence." I go for a wee and to buy a bottle of water. People are selling bits of the Wall off on street stalls. At least, they are selling little bits of coloured rock. I remember suddenly that today is my birthday. I'm 18.

Later that day someone passes Cat a joint, Cat passes the joint to me, it's in my hand when a crazy eyed American wearing a tie-dye bandana appears before us. (At this point,, appropriately enough, the Band are onstage singing The Weight. This is the last musical interlude I remember of the entire evening. I don't really know them or why they are there, but it's alright. Everything is alright so far, except it's far too crowded.) Can you sell me some weed? Can you? No, sorry - but have some of this... Thanks, man... I appreciate it... Here, have a tab. He literally takes my jaw in his hand "open wide..." and puts a tab on my tongue. Cat's, too. IN DIRECT CONTRAVENTION OF EVERYTHING OUR PARENTS AND SOCIETY EVER TAUGHT US, we swallow the tabs down obediently. "It's Grateful Dead acid. You'll see the gods."

And he disappears, after a mere toke on a joint, leaving us to 8 hours of furious tripping in the middle of thousands and thousands of people and a crazy circus. Cat... I say, after about half an hour. Cat, let's get out of here. I imagine I can feel LSD surging through my veins like liquid wildfire. Good plan, she says, but it's not so easy. It is rammed, rammed with thousands of Europeans of every type and every nation, all hell-bent on being in prime position to watch the Wall and nobody wanting to move an inch.

At one point during our exodus a man, sick of being trampled over, crosses his arms and refuses to let me through. Cat has gone. I am off my face and fear some kind of thermo-nuclear reaction if my poor acid-soaked nervous system is not permitted to move. He can't speak English but I lean down desperately and whisper savagely into his ear "If you don't let me move I am going to pass out on you DO YOU REALLY WANT THAT?" He moves.

I'm over by the outside fence, Cat is there. There's a line of police standing the other side but they won't let us out of the fences, not even to pee, as people climb up in a bid for freedom, they throw them back down again. Watching this is somehow ringing alarming historical bells but my brain is too fried to make the right connections. A man next to us is peeing into plastic beer glasses held by his girlfriend. She lines them up quickly quickly for him, one after the other. They both seem strangely sanguine about the situation.

Next to us is a group of remarkably ugly men (it seems to me) from Manchester. I stare at them, fascinated, remembering the line from Animal Farm about no longer being able to tell the men from pigs and the pigs from men. It's all too much "Cat, we're never getting out. We're never getting out." I'm crying and don't even care that the men can see me crying. "We will darling, we will." All those people. Just too many people. We're stuck here forever, watching people piss into beer glasses, forever and ever. "We could just throw her over the fence" suggest the Mancunians kindly. "Tell the police
she's having a freakout."

"Right" says Cat suddenly. All through this she's been smiling, shrugging, moving to some inner music. You want to get out of here? Come with me. She stands up, takes my hand, and somehow, magically, she's led me all the way out of the thousands and thousands of people, into some space. And magically, we're back in the camp, next our little tent.

Monday, 18 October 2010

In Berlin (part 2)

We met Jan and Mark, at a hostel on the outskirts of town. They were in their twenties, at film school, travelling around Europe on their bikes with a film camera making short films. (As if ordered out of a catalogue to impress English teenage girls, looking back - European! Sophisticated! Motorbikes! Film-makers!) Mark had high cheekbones and long jet black hair, I loved him, but he fancied Cat (story of my life). I taught him the English phrase "skin up" though, I'm sure he was grateful and will remember me forever for that.

We bonded over the hostel, which was a bit strict. We were sitting, drinking coffee, when a girl said, in English for our beneft, "It is 8.00 am. You must leave. Now. The hostel closes at 8.00 am." "Sure," said Jan easily. "We're going" "You must go now. This is a youth hostel, not a hotel." "Yes, a youth camp, not a concentration camp I think." "Must it be a joke?" said the girl, offended, and went off. "Shit, I forgot I was in Germany" Jan said. We giggled, guiltily.

They asked us if we wanted to come with them - they'd decided to camp in the middle of the Potsdammer Platz to catch all the action. So we went with and somehow ended up in the middle of a squatters camp - the squatters were protesting about Mercedes Benz buying up the land in the middle of the square (I think I have this right, it was a long long time ago and memory fades.) At first these punky looking people don't want to let us in but a cool woman with shaved head says "these little girls are on their own. I think they are safer here with us" and we get the nod. It's a better buzz than getting past the red velvet rope at a club when they let us inside their makeshift fences. We're in! The politicos accept us! Suburbia never seemed so far away.

We pitch our little tent next to Jan & Mark and go and look for genuine squats in Kreuzberg with a couple of Goths from the Midlands, their black Egyptian eye makeup and black clothes and pasty white skin looking blazingly English in the German sunshine. We heard that if you turn up they will let you stay a couple of nights for free. But we never find any of these famous squats and return to the square.

We meet this genuinely mythical creature, a skinny, barefoot, raggedy East German punk. His name is Gunther, he's about 16. Mark and Jan translate for us. "What do you think of the Wall coming down?" "He says he thinks it is a bad thing, there is something bad in the German blood. If they re-unite the Nazis will happen again.... He pulls up his holey jumper to show us a scar from when he got into a fight with some fascists a couple of years ago, they cut him open and he lost a kidney. He seems like a lost soul. Cat murmurs in my ear "I don't want to be his mum." but I know what she means, that mothering instinct is almost irresistable. He takes us to a black market (I didn't realise a black market could be an actual place) where he looks longingly at some flick knives and I wish I could buy him a pair of shoes without offending his dignity.

The next day is the concert, in which I nearly lose all my marbles. More on that later.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

In Berlin (part 1)

In Berlin, by the Wall, You were 5 foot 10 inches tall...

it was very nice...

Did I ever tell you about the time we first went to Berlin? This post is long, so will break it down into several, I think.

Cat and I
decided to hitch-hike to Berlin to see Roger Waters in concert. (the Wall had recently come down and he decided to hijack this historical occasion by staging his self-indulgent self-aggrandising psychodramatic rock opera in the middle of Berlin in the Potsdammer Platz. It was the kind of thing we liked as self-indulgent self-aggrandising psychodramatic moany teenagers.)

I don't recall much about the journey. We must have got lifts, I remember quite a few Dutch lorry drivers, who'd offer you their Drum tobacco ("It's called Shag! Teehee!) and cough their guts up and bang their chests and tell you it was good for you. We got stuck as night fell on the French-German border, no drivers could see us in the dark, so we ended up sleeping in a truck stop toilet (it was the disabled toilet, big enough to accommodate two), though being a German toilet it was pristinely clean.

The next day a lovely East German couple in a skoda gave us a lift into the city. Their English was better than our German but we bonded. They made a passerby take a photo of us all as a momento. I remember the guy saying solemnly to us in farewell as we got out "And if you take off your clothes, wear a condom."

We wound up in a hostel, where we met two Dutch bikers. More on them tomorrow.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Blogworld is shrinking. They are all over on Twitter, talking about spaghetti hoops and what bus they're about to get on. I try to like it, but it's just not the same. Keep thinking of this image....

Or the Nothing from the Neverending Story.

Go on post goddamn you post post post! Don't let it vanish!

UPDATE: Look it's really expanding! Look who's back.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Heartbreak Soup

I made a mix tape, you can hear it (and download it) here, if you will. It does not have all of your fine suggestions on it, because fine as they were, we would really be miserable if we sat through all of them in one go. This is the edited version, short & sweet.

(with thanks to Gilbert Hernandez for the title.)

Monday, 4 October 2010

the Bechdel test

I was anxious when I came across the Bechdel test. Okay to knock Hollywood but what if we really are all shallow and two-dimensional in reality? I thought back over our conversation over Sunday lunch. Yes clearly we talked about men, but what else?
3 different friends, careers, best skincare regimes, the financial crisis, the hierarchy amongst graffitti writers and the reputation of Banksy, the history of Berlin, the causes of the Holocaust, why governments encourage fear and paranoia, blogs, Twitter & other social networks, Crime & Punishment, money and bailout of the banks, tube strike, East London Line, Arnold Circus and social housing, capitalism and consumerism, guilt and expiation, future ambitions and past mistakes, whether chilli cheese fries or potato salad would be more fattening (probably about the same, we reckoned.)

We scrape passed the Bechdel test, phew.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


We go to a party in deepest darkest south London. We walk along a street of massive, grand, slightly crumbling Victorian mansions, and knock on their door. The hostess opens the door. She is wearing a magnificent hat, like Marie Antoinette's galleon hat, but with a mini washing machine and mini clothesline with tiny clothes hanging from it. Her partner is wearing one with what looks like a small wind turbine on top of it. It spins around magically by itself. He serenades us with an accordion to welcome us in. (If this all sounds too annoyingly show-off, the warmth and friendliness with which they greet us counteracts that.)

They wave us into the house - it's a beautiful old pile divided up into flats with about a million people in it, all artists, set designers, art lecturers, musicians. My eyes must be the size of saucers, because there is stuff to look at everywhere. The ceiling is red and gold, there are paintings, wall-hangings, shop dummies, fabrics, artefacts everywhere you look. A life-size horse's head constructed from sellotape in the living room. Once a month they have a big party and people dress up and people come and perform & entertain. People come from all over, I can hear German, French, Italian... and all ages, from teenagers to mid-forties. Everyone has dressed up, half fancy dress and half burlesque showgirl style, I feel fearfully underdressed. They lead us up the grand staircase (finding us both hats in a small living room along the way - we arrived hatless) to the jewel in the crown on the top floor.

In the front attic room, the man who lives there, who works at the National Theatre, has converted his bedroom into an actual theatre. Actual pillars, minescule stage, proper theatre lights, painted ceiling and wall panels, velvet curtain and all. Tiny stools to fit an audience in. We watch a belly dancer who gets everyone up and dancing, the boyfriend of the hostess' teenage daughter and his electronic band (the teenage daughter, a willowy beauty at drama school and her friends are all gorgeous, they look like they stepped out of the cast of Skins, but are strangely charming and friendly, not what I remember at all of teens from my teen years.) The boys stand on stage with their little synthesizers and gaze at their shoes in classic indie stylie, as photos are projected onto a screen at the back.

I go into something of a trance (imagining what it would be like to live in this house, maybe too much all the time) til Rae pulls me out for a cigarette and to fetch a drink. We go down into the garden - it lives up to the house, there's a wraparound porch with a hammock, massive trees with rope swings, they've constructed a tree house and are beginning to build a stage. In the summer, she says, they sit around a bonfire and play music and drink wine and smoke spliffs all night. She crashed out in a teepee in the garden last year. The neighbours don't mind because it's only once a month and there is so much space the sound doesn't carry too badly. The landlord lets them get on with it, he's an orthodox Jew who has rented this palace to them for years at a nominal rent and doesn't intefere as long as they don't expect him to fix anything.

I'm looking forward to the parties in the summer, and getting to know this bohemian crowd of people. Except shortly afterwards Rae's friend does something so back-stabbing, so unforgiveable that she never wants to see her again, and thus endeth our connection with the south london mansion. That was the first and last time I went. Why am I telling you this story? I don't know, except that I was thinking about it. Because it made me hopeful that with all the difficulties people have in making their lives in London, with all the struggle to pay the rent and escape the system, it seems that some people can still lead the lives they want and it doesn't have to centre around ambition or even wage slavery. It gave me a vision of a life that was sociable and centred around something creative. I felt like the south London bohemians were somehow beating the system, that there are still pockets of resistance left in the big city, and it made me happy.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Love gone wrong

I am going to make a 'Crying into your beer' mixtape all about love gone wrong. Send me your tunes for inclusion I will have to find another way of making it now that Switchpod (or Bitchslut as RoMo called it) has gone down the tubes.

So far I've got Nina Simone, 'I've got it bad & that ain't good' and Roy Orbison's 'Crying'. What other tunes do we play when we're at the wrist-slitting stage?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Send your single friends my way

Right then. I mentioned it before, but it's an idea whose time has come. Speed dating is torture, internet dating full of nutters. What is there left? Yesterday out to dinner, we were talking about how we're all gorgeous & attractive, yet how hard it is to meet people in the big city. Thus was born the idea of the pub quiz where everyone invites their single mates, (we all have them, right) you all sit on teams with new people to break the ice. Then DJ afterwards for music & dancing, etc. We thought it should be on a Friday too so people don't have to worry about work next day (most pub quizzes are traditionally mid-week.)

I think it's genius & can't believe no one has done this before. It's MY idea and I want to do it before anyone else does.

All I need now is
1) a venue that doesn't mind pub quiz on a Friday
2) pub quiz questions
3) A funny quizmaster.
4) A DJ for afterwards.
5) People to make a simple website or nice posters/flyers to advertise (not really into the idea of Facebook)

My role will simply be to delegate, sit back, collect the money & get filthy rich.

Any takers?

Also, what do you think about getting a good balance of men and women? How can this be achieved? I don't want to be all clipboard Nazi but it is best to have a rough balance. Or even more men, because they can cope with competition if there are few women, they are like testosteroney stags clashing antlers in a forest, but if it's mostly women, it does not make for a sexy flirty atmosphere, the women get either all catty or depressed & the men want to run away.

I really want to do this, even if it's a one-off. I need your help, my internet friends.

Still trying to finish Hackney, That Red Rose Empire by Iain Sinclair.

Friday, 17 September 2010


Getting over someone fast. What would constitute a deal-breaker for you?

(I apologise for lack of intelligent/book-related posts. It's September, what can I say.)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

the internet

Not as fun as it used to be, somehow. Or is it me?

Flight from the Enchanter, Iris Murdoch. Nearly bought this vintage Penguin with Annette swinging from the chandalier, but it was a tenner. Am on an Iris Murdoch kick. She's awesome.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Fish Tank

So, Fish Tank! Saw it with Em in Barcelona and forgot to mention, it is one of the best films I've ever ever seen, made me proud to be British. Andrea Arnold (writer and director) takes this small scale story and makes it into something huge, powerful, vast, epic. Basically it's about Mia, who lives on an Essex council estate with her mum and little sister, full of anger and longing and aggression, being gradually won over by her mum's new boyfriend.

I can't explain how powerful it is - it feels like verite, but more heightened and atmospheric - even the way she uses sound (something you tend not to notice in films) and light in the film, it's like she knows how to hotwire the emotional centres in your brain. This trailer makes it look a bit grim but it does have laughs too, especially from Mia's cocky little sister (to Mia's new boyfriend; "Are you a pikey?")

Bonus facts: Andrea Arnold used to be in a kid's show of my faraway childhood called Number 73. She used to zoom around on roller boots and was the coolest thing ever. She spotted the main actor in Fish Tank, Katie Jarvis, having a row with her boyfriend in a train station and cast her, though she'd never acted before.

You should see it. It's one of the few films I've seen recently that really is about something.

(I will stop posting soon. I've just been in the house for 5 straight days and am going a bit stir crazy.)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

On women's magazines

What do you think of women's magazines? I've stopped looking at them, even in the hairdressers. It baffles me that they still exist. Lots of people on Twitter seem to write for them, I have to bite my tongue. I stand in front of newsagents' shelves for 10 minutes hesitating and walk out without buying anything. I am a woman but they're not for me. And it's weird that a something good like Jezebel can exist happily online but not in print. Still miss the Face. It was the only magazine that seemed to be for everyone.

Also stopped reading Saturday and Sunday papers (the tutor at the summer workshop inadvertently killed them dead by remarking "They're just sick. Pages & pages of all this stuff you're supposed to want and articles about terrible things happening somewhere else in the world - and there's so much of them it would take you all weekend to read it all, when you could be hanging out with your friends and family." I'll never buy one again as long as I live.)

Oh print media, I do miss you though. What do you read?

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Stuff you post at night and remove in the morning

Oh man, I have just been kidding myself and I must hang onto that perception. Because wishful thinking & daydreaming is a killer. And the internet is a uniquely 21st century form of torture for unrequited lovers and for driving you insane with heartache and jealousy. I know the way to do it is to forget about it and to go out a lot and flirt a lot and find someone else so I don't care about him - basically to make someone you want who doesn't want you want you by not wanting them anymore. Catch 22. Love, pah, love is for losers.

Brrr. Anyway, look at this here photo of Einstein on a bike that I took today.

Lynn Barber, An Education (much better than the film, which is pants)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

What are you reading?

Just came back from a picnic (laughs hollowly - okay we spent the day in the pub drinking) with my colleagues, and one of them said something blindingly brilliant yet so simple which gave me an idea. Because I feel bad for never posting about books anymore.

She said she keeps a list of the books she reads, otherwise she forgets. Despite a lifetime of reading, I've never thought of doing this. So what I'll do, any time I post I will put a little postscript of whatever book I'm reading, and you can comment or totally ignore it, it's up to you, but at least it will make this blog vaguely book related.

And to kick us off, what are you reading these days? Any good?

Sometimes I have a few on the go -
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
Under the Net, Iris Murdoch

Monday, 23 August 2010


No no, not that Crossroads, this Crossroads... you know, where I go down to do a deal with the devil, he gets my soul and I get to play the guitar better than John Lee Hooker ...

Er no, not those either. Just this was the quiet time in the year when I was meant to do some thinking about where the plan is going next. I am miserable at work, stressed and under pressure, and underneath all that, dead bored.

I thought maybe I could retrain as a speech and language therapist to get out of school, and went and did some work shadowing, but it turns out to be same-same, but different. Dealing with people all day long (I am not a people person really. I can't stand people) lots of paperwork, lots of responsibility. Mostly women (a rare male speech therapist told me out of the 400 people on his course, 7 were men.) I don't know if I can stand it.

But really really, the major consideration is that I don't want to. I want to go to art college. I want to take it seriously. I've spent my entire working life being sidetracked from what I want to do by the need to pay the rent and by practical considerations, and it just leads me further and further away from anything I'm genuinely interested in. When I came back from Spain I went for the sensible option & it just lead to 6 years of doing a job I don't like at all.

Seeing as the retirement age will probably be 90 by the time I get there, it seems foolish not trying to spend as much of your life as possible doing something you love, as opposed to getting sucked into the system. Yes I can pay the rent, which is not to be sneezed at, but is that what it's all about?

At the crossroads, it's like viewing two signs, one way points to "DREARY PUBLIC SERVICE" & the other way points to "STARVING ARTIST". Hmm.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

A poll

You know when someone doesn't like you... (I know, hard to believe hey) but I mean, really really doesn't like you - is charming and lovely to everyone else and rude and obnoxious or just really cold and indifferent to you, how do you respond? There is no right answer here, I'm just interested.

a) If they don't like me, fuck 'em, it's their loss.

b) Lovebomb them, charm them, win them over at all costs.

c) Who? What? Other people? I never notice them.

d) Be icy but polite back at them.

e) Get all up in their face and ask them is there a problem?

f) Or something else (and tell us what.)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Paging Dr Freud

I know other people's dreams are really boring but I had to post this one because it was so entertaining I woke up laughing.

I dreamed I was in hell. Hell was like a circular office with lots of corridors. To get around you just lifted your feet up in the air and levitated. When you got promoted (which meant you went down to the next circle of glass corridors - an inverse hierarchy ) you got a little hover bike thing. But everyone secretly enjoyed just levitating the best.

I bumped into someone from work there, and had a moment of surprise, as he is a nice guy. But then I realised he was very corporate and ambitious, which fitted in with the corporate, hierarchical nature of hell.

There was a lot of traffic between heaven and hell. People kept sneaking into hell to have sex with the demons. I wondered why and then when I saw the angels, I realised it was because the angels had no genitals. The details of heaven were a bit vaguer.

I'm an atheist, so I've no idea where all that came from.

Friday, 13 August 2010

On holidays

Thank you for your book suggestions, they've all gone straight on my Amazon wishlist. The books lasted - strangely enough, just finished the Paul Auster as we were touching down at Stansted. (pretty good, not as good as Brooklyn Follies, which is fabulous, and set in Park Slope where my friends live.)

This is where I was, up a mountain in Italy. I was printmaking & the studio was in the castle, at one point my guesthouse double booked my room so I had to stay in the castle itself. It's a dirty job...

I didn't miss the internet, surprisingly.

I'm missing this drink and the happy Italians.

One of them was making a project, where she asked people for a book that was special to them, a favourite artist, and something that inspires them. Mine was William Boyd's 'Any Human Heart'; Paula Rego; and (I found the last one tricky) Victoria Park. What about yours?

Saturday, 31 July 2010


Rachael called me this morning, I missed the call. But I knew right away from her voice and it took me a while to get the courage to call her back.

We moved into a flat together some time after moving back to London, after university. We needed a third person and Rach had met this girl Holly doing a chalet season in Colorado. It was a gamble, I hadn't met her yet. "You'll love her," said Rach. I did, right away. She's the kind of person people fall in love with instantly, pretty, funny, warm & charismatic. The first night we moved in I was chatting to her with a glass of wine in my hand, I gestured and the wine flew out of the glass right up the white bedroom wall. She said she knew after that that we'd get along.

We grew up together in that flat, fledgling grownups, went out in Brixton, had silly times, attempted to have sophisticated dinner parties, supported each other through job losses and breakups. Between them they taught me how to drink. And when we'd come back late and drunk, she'd do interpretative Pan's People dances around the living room for me, her serious expression and ridiculous moves making me crease up with laughter on the floor. I loved her sense of humour, her down to earth quality despite quite a posh upbringing, the way she could talk to anyone and charm anyone.

She met Carlos at a barbecue we had, he went off to play rugby in New Zealand for 10 months but we knew they'd get back together because they were so meant for each other. When they got married, it was the most rocking wedding, and she looked like a 1940s film star. They had two gorgeous girls and moved to Brighton, and she started to get excited about the possibility of opening up her own cafe (being a passionate foodie - though disappointed when she finally made it onto Masterchef "They did their best to try and make you cry on camera...") Only there was this pain in her back that wouldn't go away. Eventually it was her osteopath that insisted that something must be wrong, something that the GPs had missed. By the time she was sent for tests, it was too late, she had cancer all over. She hung on for three years in pain. One of the last times I saw her, we went to the Beachdown festival in Brighton. She couldn't drink anymore but hash helped with the pain, so we all had hash cookies, just like old times. We all got the giggles. She was on good form. I'm so glad we had that couple of days.
Holly died yesterday. I can't believe I'm never going to hear her voice again. I keep hearing her, not saying anything very profound, just funny phrases that are typical of her, like "Born in a barn?" Or if I was ever in a stroppy mood she'd go "Touchy touchy, moody moody..." and it would make me smile. I know it was a release. But someone so young, so lovely, so beautiful and kind... my mind keeps spinning around and around the idea that she has gone.

Friday, 30 July 2010


I took the laptop back today. The faulty rainbow pixels were spreading across the whole screen so you couldn't see anything. Know how long it's going to take to a) let me know if they will fix it and b) get back to me? Four weeks. Yes.

(I'm on P's old desktop, which is making a loud humming sound like an angry hornet or a washing machine about to go into spin cycle, I fear that soon it might break free and chase me around the room.)

I saved everything carefully to a memory stick, work files, photos and sketches I'm working on for printmaking, nothing incriminating on there... except that as I'm standing in John Lewis audio visual department, I remember that there are some, um, naked photos of me on my laptop that I forgot to take off. Specifically, of my boobs. I'm not the kind of person who usually takes photos of their boobs, but it was pre-surgery and I didn't know if I'd come back horribly disfigured or what. I wanted a record of my tatas unblemished. Then (this sounds kind of morbid, I realise) I wanted to keep a record of the healing process so I took a couple of photos straight afterwards.

I was mortified, standing in John Lewis. I thought about taking the laptop home, then I thought, what the hell, they can think I am an exhibitionist or a freak, I don't care, I'm never going to meet them.

I was downhearted leaving the laptop behind though, I'm very attached to it. I didn't even buy anything in the Canary Wharf Waitrose downstairs, which is one of the wonders of Western civilization, that's how downhearted I was.

So, what phone should I buy to get me over this laptop-free, internet-free period? What phone do you have?

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Climbing into bed late with the laptop after a long night out, I'm catching up on what's been happening in the online worlds, when for the first time ever I hear loud stentorian snoring from my flatmates, so loud it seems to be coming from inside the room - wait a moment, it is coming from inside the room.

Someone invisible has taken up residence in my room - the hairs rise on the back of my neck. It seems to be coming from under the bed. It takes my all my courage to look under the bed & confront the intruder. Who is snoring like an emphysemic walrus under my bed?

It is Fizzy, (the mardy house cat) who gives me a wounded look when I turf her out from her comfortable crib on top of my wheely suitcase.

Thank fuck for that, I thought I had a ghost. A ghost who snores.

Monday, 5 July 2010

On Autism

These are notes which I took for work. I thought I might get to present them in a staff meeting or something but it never happened, so here is as good a place as any to put them. Feel free to skip it. For me it was all a revelation.

“People give each other messages with their eyes, but I do not know what they are saying”

Person with autism. Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, ed. Eric Schopler

Theory of mind: the ability to attribute thoughts and feelings to others, and to understand that others have perspectives that are unique and different from our own. Theory of mind has been referred to as “the capacity to mind read.” There is evidence that this ability is impaired in people with autism. Discussion of theory of mind has made us aware that there is a system of unspoken communication which carries essential information, but which people with autism do not have access to.

Carol Gray also makes the point that confusion and feelings of being overwhelmed and misunderstood are not just felt by the individual with autism, but also by parents, professionals, friends, etc. To improve social communication, methods and materials must address both sides of the social equation... She encourages parents and professionals to “abandon assumptions” – we interpret people’s behaviour through assumptions based on common social understandings, but a person with autism may be perceiving events very differently.

The result is a shared social impairment – two people interpreting the same event differently. This makes it difficult to understand one another and interact. Parents or professionals become frustrated if a child responds “inappropriately” or “without apparent reason”, but the child with autism may view the statements or actions of others as out of context, illogical and overwhelming. To them, their response makes sense.

Social stories and comic strip conversations were tools developed by educator Carol Gray to help people with autism with social interactions, and to bridge this communication gap. Conceived by Carol Gray in Michigan in the early 1990s, they are used to translate these “secrets” of social interactions for people with autism.

Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism ed Eric Schopler

Sensory perception. I went on a course at a fantastic special needs school where they told us about sensory perception and about developing a 'sensory profile' for each child. Everybody has over or under sensitivity to the senses - for example, whether you prefer a very strong massage or a gentle one tells you whether you are over or undersensitive to touch, or if you prefer to study in silence or listening to loud music tells you about your over or undersensitivity to sound.

Children with special needs such as autism give cues to understanding their sensory perception in their behaviour - if a child rocks themselves, for example, this may be connected with their proprioception or vestibular senses (sense of motion and sense of balance,) and they are trying to calm themselves and hype themselves up at the same time - to find their 'window of optimum performance', as the nice lady on the course described it. It may seem puzzling behaviour but in fact they are trying to deal with their senses in the best way that they can.

We all do this to a greater or lesser degree, but if you imagine that many children with autism cannot speak or communicate easily, these behaviours driven by their individual sensory perception can communicate their thoughts and feelings clearly, if people are aware of them and can learn to read them, and it opens up the pathway to communcation and understanding.

I was working with a little boy with autism all this year. He has been a pleasure and a delight all around, but it was a challenge... When they cut the budget for special needs (or marshall all the special needs kids into special schools away from the normals - like much else about Tory policy, it is all thoroughly thought through and consistent - where is the money going to come from for special schools, which require a ton of money, greater staff to children ratio and specialist resources & training, if they are cutting the special needs budget in mainstream schools along with everything else?) and these kids lose their one on one support, it is going to be fucking terrible.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


"No road offers more mystery than that first one you mount from the town you were born to, the first time you mount it of your own volition, on a trip funded by your own coffee tin of wrinkled up dollar-bills you've saved and scrounged for, worked the all-night switchboard for, missed the Rolling Stones for, sold fragrant pot with smashed flowers going brown inside twist-tie plastic baggies for. In fact, to disembark from your origins, you've done everything you can think to scrounge money save selling your spanking young pussy."

Mary Karr, Cherry. That's the way to start a book. And it gets better. Buy it, read it, just read it. I keep telling people it's the best book in the world but do they listen? And read the Liars' Club whilst you're at it.

(I'm not giving this away, oh no, I leant my copy out and never got it back, now I've just found a copy in a junk shop I'm never giving it away again. I put this post up for all those poor cheated people who turn up here in search of something about books.)

Update - she had a new book of memoirs out last year. Nobody told me!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Last Emperor

Watching Valentino, the Last Emperor. At the beginning it opens with fashion luvvies snuffling and sniffing at the end of his catwalk show. It made me snigger. Here we are in a world recession, untold miseries going on across the globe, and these drama queens are crying over dresses.

But in the end it's unexpectedly moving. Especially Valentino's relationship with his business partner of 50 years. You see them as good-looking young Italian hipsters, all cheekbones & sharp suits, taking fashion by storm in the 60s. And then as old men with unlikely bouffant hair, bickering like Eric and Ernie, like Stadtler and Waldorf, like the 5 year old kids in my class ("You've got a belly." "No, I don't have a belly. YOU have a belly...") They clearly drive each other mad. But Valentino dedicates his Legion of Honour medal to him.

And how amazing it is that he's stayed at the top of his game for all these years, a real artist. And now fashion is not about the individual, madcap genius creator any more. It's about faceless conglomerates, flogging perfumes and purses and sunglasses off the back of the catwalk shows. The dresses just window-dressing. Look at what happened with Lindsay Lohan and Ungaro. No more Chanel, no more Saint Laurent, no more McQueen. And when an interviewer asks Valentino, now in his 70s, if this will be his last collection, he's smiling and saying "we'll see" but the look in his eyes is bleak.

At the end they plan a celebration of his work in Rome. As he shows the film-makers through his archive, looking at these amazing creations, he says, almost to himself, "So much I have done..." It's enough to make you understand how people might snuffle and sniff over some dresses.

Monday, 7 June 2010


I didn't write it, but I really, really, really wish I had. ("I hope soon you are only a memory...")

Hats off to you, alyssa- cruz, whoever you are.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Human sex

As part of the East London Printmakers I'm taking part in a print exhibition at the Freud Museum next year (great recent BBC documentary about the Freud Museum here).

Researching pictures of dancers and acrobats for my prints I came across La La La Human Steps, & this purely amazing, androgynous dancer Louise Lecavalier. I vaguely remember them from 1985 (I was 14 - wow, a lifetime ago) and catching a glimpse of her on TV jumping into the air and spinning horizontally, parallel to the ground. It made you want to rub your eyes in disbelief.

Anyway, here is the video for their show Human Sex from 1985, you can watch her in action.
(Can't embed the video for some reason, but it's worth clicking, believe me. )

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Girl With The Swedish Longeurs

Okay, I'm nearly there, though this is the longest book I think I've ever read, and I've read Middlemarch. I'm fed up with stories about women being brutalised though. They are all over the TV and all over crime stories - there are other types of crime, que no? What about some environmental crime, some corporate crime, piracy, war crimes, genocide - that doesn't ring any bells for people? No, we just like stories about beating up women. (It's okay if your heroine is a badass and gets her own back though, that makes it feminist.)

We have moved on in some ways though. Have you noticed with the Bradford murders, how they've switched to saying "women who worked as prostitutes" rather than just "prostitutes"? Bravo, the media. Maybe next we can leave out their job descriptions altogether.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

In hospital

It's hotter than hot in the hospital, I've chosen the hottest day in the year so far. I'm so thirsty. The doctors and nurses are suffering in the heat. I've been fine, waiting, it's when they call you into the cubicle to strip off that it starts getting real. The surgeon comes by briefly to draw on you, the nurses check your records, the anaesthetist talks you through the process. All women. You sit in the TV room idly reading your book, it's quite absorbing, but you jump up the instant they call your name.

The nurse is small, blond & pretty. “I've just come to check you're ready for theatre.” She chats to put you at ease. “Jump up on the trolley.” What do you do? Oh, you work with kids. What age? Are they cute? They talk about the weather, the anaesthetist is Indian, they talk about the heat in Kerala. Have you ever been to India? All the time they're adjusting things, inserting the canula in your hand (“Sharp scratch” she says). When the anaesthetic hits it's like a cloud, a snowstorm shaken up suddenly, blooming from the back of your head. “Starting to feel sleepy...” Mmm hmm, I say, almost feel rude at no longer participating in our conversation. There's no need to count back from 10, I'm out.

I'm dreaming about work, I'm teaching in class. “Wake up Anne!” says the Chinese nurse urgently. Shit! I fell asleep at work! I wake up with a start and want to leap out of bed, but there's something on my face, something in my hand, a dull pain like a siren going off in my left side. Blink, blink, I'm trying to blink the anaesthetic away. How strange, my body has just gone through something that my mind has no knowledge of – how I must have been wheeled out of that room, into the theatre, undressed, operated on, stitched up, wheeled back like a rag doll – all totally unaware, whilst dreaming of something else. They said you might feel tearful, I don't cry but almost, having a moment of gratitude that it's all over. When my sister comes by I'm eating a sandwich ravenously. A nurse I saw before surgery spots me "So soon!" she says.

Hurrah for the NHS.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


It looks like I will have to have surgery after all, thought I'd got away with it then. It's nothing to be scared of though, is it? Jordan has it all the time, right? Maybe I should get them to upgrade my cup size while they're at it.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Buggered if I know why this was so popular. I fear I've been sold a pup.

I'm on page 86 and it has only just got to the main plot point on the blurb. It's not looking good. I know it's translated but this is some of the clumsiest writing I've read in ages. Clunking great paragraphs of exposition. Show, not tell, remember? Too many characters, thin characterisation, plot jumping all over the place, taking ages to get going, no ear for dialogue, waiting for the "thrill" part of the thriller to kick in - I'm giving it to the end of the chapter and if I'm still not hooked it goes straight onto the tube. Which is annoying as I bought it new and you just know it will end up filling the charity shops in a month or so. Feel cheated.

Unless you persuade me to stick with it. Did you read it and like it?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


I feel it coming. Do you?

I might hide under my bed for the rest of the week.

In the meantime, I leave you with Florence and the Machine, which sounds quite positive (lyrically) but suitably quite apocalyptic (musically...)

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Jerusalem was magical. It was that rare experience (rare for me, with the theatre anyway) when you come out still so absorbed in that world, that the real world seems flat, dull and unreal. It was state of the nation stuff, but so funny and acutely written, it wore its politics lightly.

It's about Johnny Byron, a kind of modern Falstaff and king of misrule, a spinner of tall tales, living in a caravan in the Wiltshire countryside and playing pied piper (and dealer) to the local kids. The kind of bloke that is great at a party and a nightmare to have as a neighbour. It begins with him being served with an eviction notice by the local council, after complaints from people in the posh new flats nearby who object to his all night parties. It takes place on St George's Day, the day of the local county fair, and meditates on English history, culture and freedom, and the modern tendency of the state to try and stamp out anything it doesn't directly control.

Mark Rylance was amazing, and Mackenzie Crook, and it was a great cast. It's finished now, but surely will come around again, as it attained instant classic status, I'd recommend anybody to see it...

But... it was bloody expensive. We paid £48.00 a ticket, and that was right in the upper circle, and you couldn't see half the stage. (Everyone was leaning forwards, until a stroppy usher told them off.) I'm sorry, but that's a disgraceful rip-off. It's one thing paying over the odds for the West End, but not being able to see the stage? The theatre is elitist enough, but even after forking out, who's going to come back when they can't see what they've paid for?

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Gorgeous George

George Galloway turns up at the school gates. Much excitement amongst the children, as he's handing out stickers and balloons. (Some of these kids sport big "Vote Respect" stickers the next day, I feel bad because I want them to take them off, yet they are so pleased with their stickers and there's no way they'd understand why they mustn't wear them.) He is a despicable human being but popular around Bow - and I will tell the politicians exactly why, in just 3 words:

He shows up.

(He schmoozes, he courts the poor people, he talks to them, he does that politican's trick of gazing at them as though what they're saying is the most important thing in the world to him. We have not seen head nor hide of any of the other local MPs. Then they wonder why there's apathy and low voter turnout. It's because they aim their campaigning at the middle classes. )

Anyway, one of my colleagues went to see him at the school gate, and they had the following conversation.

GG: What can we do for you? What do you need?
Josh: (deadpan) Well, we need more car parking spaces.
Josh: It's your top priority?
GG: Amongst other things...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

And another thing...

Yesterday a man died in Oakland immigration centre (a place with a dodgy track record.) He died of a heart attack, after complaining of pain and being refused medical care. The detainees protested and riot police were called in. How did the BBC report this? "Immigraton Officers Hurt."

I don't believe in the BBC any more either. They don't report the straight story, they spin it like the Daily Mail.

Meantime, Meg Hillier, Home Office Minister tells porkies about the Yarl's Wood women's hunger strike (5 weeks, how long would you go without food to make a point?) For shame, Meg.

If you think it's a bad idea to lock innocent kids up, I'd just like to draw your attention to the End Child Detention campaign - the petition has ended but you can email your MP, once they've got in. (I emailed mine & he said "I agree with you. I'm unable to check I'm afraid as Parliament's dissolved, but I think I did sign it. I've certainly made representations on the issue in the past. I advise that you take up the issue again after the election with the new MP." I forgot parliament had dissolved. Doh. )

It's not a sexy exciting election issue I know, but it makes you think. What kind of country have we turned into?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

On Philip K Dick

I do apologise for sullying this book blog with electioneering. Old habits die hard, & all that...

Anyway, every time I look at my bookshelves they seem to be multiplying, it's very odd, (and a bit worrying.) Can't seem to stay on top of it at all.

Philip K Dick called it kipple - "a combination of entropy and capitalism... " "Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you to go bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up there is twice as much of it. It always gets more and more. No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot."

What should I give away next, in the battle against kipple?
Vote for the next book to get the chop! It'll be just like a reality TV show, but more literary.

Dirty Weekend, Helen Zahavi
Tarantula, Bob Dylan
Girls on Film, Julie Burchill

Monday, 12 April 2010

Can't vote won't vote

Who are you voting for? I just realised that if I want to vote I need to apply because I moved house. But do I really care? Can I be arsed... really?

I hate them all equally. I would never vote Tory on principle. Labour are not socialist any more, in fact they've been more fascist, paranoid, and restrictive, they've done more to damage our civil liberties and turn this country into a police state than even the Tories ever did. The Lib Dems are clueless and unlikely to get in.

And they all make whatever pie in the sky promises they like before an election, and there's never any guarantee that they'll ever do it afterwards. Some of them individually may have integrity but once they get sucked into the system it becomes all about jostling for power.

I can hear my mum's voice saying "Think of the suffragettes!" But I also remember Emma Goldman saying "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." And Douglas Adams writing "... if they didn't vote, the wrong lizard might get in. "

To sum up,you do the best you can with what you've got. They're not the best we've got. I think I don't believe in our political system anymore, only in grassroots politics.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A Year in the Life of The Man Who Fell Asleep

by Greg Stekelman

I just found this on my bookshelves (how is this? I'm giving them away, yet they seem to be accumulating mysteriously again - I think they are BREEDING when I'm out of the room - I might be like the Victorians, and separate my male & female authors onto different shelves for the sake of propriety).

Do you know the Man Who Fell Asleep? He had a blog for years, (you can find it, I'm too lazy to link these days) then it was turned into this book, which is kind of like a blog you can hold in your hands and turn the pages of - funny, odd, surreal, satirical, random and mysterious. He's also one of the pleasures of Twitter - you can't believe how many funny thoughts a person can have in a day, it's like he's got Funny Tourettes. So I intend to read this superfast and let it loose on the tube.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Twitter. Hmmm.

I am not at all sure about it....

  • It seems it is more for people who have jobs which require them to sit on a computer all day & need the distraction. I feel like I'm missing out all day long.
  • I don't like the way people can't see you unless they are already following you, it seems a vicious circle. Not accustomed to being IGNORED, do you hear me?
  • It gives me anxiety every time I see that everyone else has 1 million followers - who ARE all these people?
  • I don't like the way that everyone seems to get all excited when it's someone off the telly - blogs were more democratic, I thought we'd got past that old celebrity whoring - so 90s, my dears - & the idea that fame makes you more interesting - Twitter is proof that it really, really doesn't.
  • But mostly I'm not sure because I prefer to bang on at tedious length and can't be succinct & witty, especially not at 140 characters.
In other news, Billy has invited me to contribute to his zine, which is something about Lesbians & Cake, but I'm out of practice & rusty & out of inspiration. Bah, can't write any more. I'm creatively obsolete & redundant.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

the Death of (Street ) Art

Hi-jacking Bookcrossing once more to go off-topic...

or... Don't Believe the Hype

So we saw the Banksy film in Leake Street yesterday. It was very entertaining. It was only about half an hour later when the penny finally dropped... Of course! The whole thing was a fiction, not a documentary – a mockumentary, if you will. It was a scam, a tease, Banksy's biggest and best, an elaborate jape satirising the cupidity of the art market and the general public's lack of discrimination.

You're even given a warning before the film itself starts, in the form of a montage of old 70s ads cut together to say “Don't Buy This Nonsense.” But we still fall for it, though it's full of clues. The 'greatest street art film that never got made', for example, is a framing device, a red herring designed to throw you off track. Or the title itself - when you're experiencing art in a museum or gallery setting these days, you're encouraged to consume and spend at the same time. Art getting consumed by commerce.

Basically, this is the plot – the apparently naïve and engaging character of Thierry Guetta gets an in to the world of street artists, following them with his movie camera and obtaining an apprenticeship in the art of street art, until he decides he'll become an artist himself. What does he learn?

1.Plunder art history and pop culture for images that people already know, so it triggers an immediate familiarity and response in the viewer.
2.Use modern technology to copy it a million times.
3.Make it big. Very big.
4.Plaster it everywhere, to saturation point.
5.Name drop/network.
6.Get media coverage.

Voila! Instant fame and fortune. No need for ideas, aesthetics, craft or talent. You have arrived as an artist.

I don't mean that Thierry Guetta is not a real person (though his comedy persona reminded me a lot of Andy Kaufmann in Taxi), or a real cousin of Space Invader, or mate of Banksy. But they might have cooked up his exhibition of horrendous, eye-watering, breath-takingly banal art together, just to see how far they could take it. AND IT WORKED.

He made a million dollars from his show in LA, and the run was extended from 6 days to 3 months. Suckered... But this film exposes the mechanism by which street artists become famous and galleries make their money. The art market will happily collude in the hype, because this is how it makes money. Exit Through the Gift Shop is like The Art Bubble crossed with Nat Tate crossed with, um, Spinal Tap, or maybe Borat. Anything that blurs the line between reality and fiction. But there's real anger driving this satire.

Is it unlikely that Banksy would go so far to make a point? Maybe. The production company is called Paranoid Pictures, after all. But check out the installation in the entrance way – graffitti sanitised and made toothless and powerless by the approval of the establishment.