Saturday, 26 February 2011


I dropped off my *installation* today. Private view Thursday, open for a month after, art lovers.

It was PISSING DOWN, I was worried about 18 months of work being written off by a stray raindrop, and taped the plastic carry case up, and gave people fierce looks on the tube when they came anywhere near me.

Bumped into Marcelle, the awe-inspiring artist whose work is in the British Museum and the V&A, the one who sent me a print for the sale (nearly fainted when I found out afterwards how much her work sells for) on the way to drop her work off too. I was a bit tongue-tied and star-struck but managed to thank her.

There was a pretty, utterly uninterested work-experience young girl on reception. Damn, I thought the lovely caretaker would be there. He'd have looked after it.

"Put it there" she points into a corner, where wrapped up pictures are already stacked. "Can you hang it up, please?" It's not framed, it's just in a bag, it will get crushed really easily. She nods but I can tell she doesn't care, SHE DOESN'T CARE. I don't want to be precious and leave before I look like a prima donna in front of Marcelle.

But I walk out feeling like I've left a baby behind. What if it gets creased? What if it gets crushed? What if it gets bent? What if they lose it? I go to Waterstones to distract myself and somehow end up buying an expensive book in a trance.

It's this book. Enjoying it very much. What could be better than a comic (graphic novel if you insist) about a famous artist's model in 1920s Paris? One quibble - there is a sequence where they show her being photographed by Man Ray. It's this photograph, but I'm pretty sure these are Lee Miller's boobs, and not Kiki's.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Brighton Rock

*plot spoiler* - look away now!

Note to baddies. When fighting someone on your back, do not get out your bottle of acid to fling in your assailant's face, because it will only drip back down into your own face, (this is known as the law of gravity) leading you to scream in self-afflicted agony then stagger blindly off the edge of the cliff to your death. In this version, Pinkie dies of stupidity. ARCHCRIMINAL FAIL.

Short review: Adaptations of original Graham 'godlike' Greene material not strictly necessary. Not as good as Richard Attenborough-era Brighton Rock. Of course.

CV coach

When your mum starts suggesting you might employ a CV coach, you know it's time to shake things up.

Anyway, has anybody used the services of a CV coach? (I don't know if this is the right name for it - somebody who sorts your CV out for you.) Is it worth it? Can you recommend one?

Monday, 21 February 2011


I don't know why, but I found myself thinking about him recently. Which is spooky because I just checked and he has a new film coming out soon, but there has been no publicity for it yet.

The thing is, that there is a gap between how he is perceived and what his films are really like - though the gap may be closing, since the last few films since Bad Education have been darker and darker.

For years though, he had the reputation of being a funny, quirky, crazy left-field film-maker, a fun night out. And they are visually stunning and beautiful, there's no denying it.

But this reputation didn't really take into account the breath-takingly nihilistic and dark world view beneath all the surface flash. What he seems to be saying (I realised this especially with All About My Mother) is that men are mostly all bastards, and all women are fools for putting up with them.

Male characters come out particularly badly in his films. They are kidnappers and psychopaths (Antonio Banderas in Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down), abusers and paedophiles (the father in Volver, the priest in Bad Education) rapists, (the funny, sympathetic seeming nurse in Talk To Her who rapes a girl in a coma) - even the transvestite Lola in All About My Mother, supposedly in touch with her feminine side, turns out to be a source of death and destruction " You are not a human being , Lola. You are an epidemic." A bleak view of masculinity.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

the Muslim Travis Bickle

I get a minicab to the studio on a Wednesday night. I love it when I'm there but setting out for a class starting at 7.00 pm when it's already dark and I've been up since 6.00 am is hard work.

I don't usually get chatty ones, even in black cabs, though in Spain it was a different story. They always used to ramble on at me, oblivious to the fact that I couldn't understand half of it. One ended up asking me out to a tango club once, after telling me he was divorced. If he'd been cute, I would have gone.

"Nice day today" starts this cabbie innocuously enough.
"Yes" I agree "Nice to see the sun out" (I'm thinking about Kate Mosse's book, Watching The English, and why we always start out talking about the weather. Not because it's easy, but because even talking about something so neutral, you are sussing people out. And sure enough...) "It was raining yesterday" he continues.
"Mm hmm" I say. In the back of a cab you are a captive audience.
"Some people don't like the rain. But we need the rain. Why do we have the rain? To make this country so green."
"Do you believe in God?"

I sigh inwardly. It's been a long day. It's a 20 minute journey to Hackney. I thought I was buying 20 minutes of peaceful staring out the window, but oh no. I think about lying to pacify him but I've decided to stop being apologetic about my atheism around the religious.

Can't even begin to describe the conversation (or rather, the monologue) that ensued - it started off on God, look at my hand, our hands are miraculous and much more complex than this Vauxhall Astra, someone built the Vauxhall Astra, so someone must have built us, right? A creator! And veered off via the Bible, the Torah, the Koran , Moses turning sticks into snakes like a conjuror (I must have missed this bible story) to why I should visit the Koran online, it contains everything you need to know. Though possibly not natural selection nor evolution.

He's slowing down as we drive through the Olympic development, we're practically crawling down Victoria Park Road as he expounds and waves his hand about. I can tell by that breathless preacher delivery that he's off, he must do this all the time, he is a man who has found the perfect job. He can rant at strangers to his heart's content and they cannot escape. I have the money in my hand for 5 minutes before I can get out the car. I think he'd even pay his passengers to drive around and evangelize at them.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Manhood for Amateurs

"... In the early sixties... there was no such thing as Marvel fandom. Marvel was a failing company, crushed, strangled and bullied in the marketplace by its giant rival, DC.

... But in the pages of the Marvel comic books, Lee behaved from the start as if a vast, passionate readership awaited each issue... And in a fairly short period of time, this chutzpah - as in all those accounts of magical chutzpah so beloved by solitary boys like me - was rewarded. By pretending to have a vast network of fans, former fan Stanley Leiber found himself in possession of a vast network of fans...

"... Art, like fandom, asserts the possibility of fellowship in a world built entirely from the materials of solitude. The novelist, the cartoonist, the songwriter, knows the gesture is doomed from the beginning but makes it anyway, flashes his or her bit of mirror, not on the chance that the signal will be seen or understood but as if such a chance existed."

Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs, on being a writer and a father. Go forth and read it. You can buy it here.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

On volunteering

I haven't been back to my voluntary group in about 6 months. I'm still on their text and emailing list, and get regular doses of guilt through my phone and computer though.

The first time I pitched up for a meeting (at a venerable East London anarchist bookshop, naturally) I was a bit nervous. New people, didn't know the score, or what to expect.

What struck me at first was that they were mostly pretty young. Yet seemed much more switched on, political, knowledgeable, passionate and self-assured than I was at that age.

Things took a looooong time to discuss. People went around and around, back and forth, and through every detail, but then I realised it was because it was the democratic principle of giving everyone a say, and equal weight and consideration - it was the direct opposite to everything I'd ever experienced in my working life (and in my education).

I came to appreciate this way of doing things very much. Discussion, debate, then consensus - who'd have thought it? Instead of commandments from on high. Or people pretending to listen and take what you said on board, but really just trying to force through a preconceived agenda. They weren't polite (though they weren't rude) they were trying to find the right course of action so they weren't afraid to disagree with each other.

It was so the opposite to what I experienced at work it made me feel quite emotional. Because most of us are so strait-jacketed, so used to hierarchy that we don't even feel that it's there most of the time.

Another thing that struck me was their energy, their ideas, their ACTION. They didn't wait around to be told, they seized the day. I turned up thinking "I want to help." And realised I'd brought a lifetime's indoctrination in with me - I just wanted to be told what to do. Which is a bit too, well, passive an attitude for an activist.

I ended up ducking out of it recently though, because the more you go, the more you take on and feel like you should do. It's never-ending. And very knackering, on top of a full-time job. (I realised after a while that most people worked part-time or were students.) That's the trouble with volunteering. And the flaw in the plan to replace paid jobs with volunteers.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Artist's block

I know I must be a bona fide artist now, because I've got artist's block. (What? Us artists can have creative block too, it's not just for you intellectual writer types.)

I've got to come up with an image for making a black and white linocut, I am very very stuck. Of all the possible images in all the world, it's like a big ocean of ideas and I'm finding it hard to catch a fish. So to speak.

So I'm going back to my (increasingly ancient) photos again. Really must start taking photos of people again.

What would you choose as your favourite?









Sunday, 13 February 2011

A & E

Yesterday we went out with a lovey Irish woman who works as a nurse in A & E, a big hospital in Paddington, she was regailing us with war stories. I will never complain about work ever again.*

But our favourite story, I will share with you. One night a man has been picked up and brought in, he doesn't or won't speak much English, he keeps clutching his heart and groaning. They run all sorts of tests but can't find anything. And he just keeps moaning in pain and clutching his heart. Eventually, she says, she gets it out of him. His wife has left him for another man and his heart is broken.

* I will try anyway.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Frankenstein revisited

I realised I am rubbish at reviewing, especially things that I like. Also I have the poor vocabulary of a primary school teacher (fantastic! amazing! excellent!) but it was FANTASTIC, AMAZING, EXCELLENT, also BREATH-TAKING AND MIND-BLOWING! Go and see it.

Johny Lee Miller was the monster and Benedick Cumberbatch was Frankenstein, both perfect, but apparently they swap parts. I would love to go back and see them in the other role and see how they do it differently. We all sat there riveted for 2 hours without a break, I was almost scared to move in case I missed a line or a nuance.

There was also a big fuck-off bell hanging down in the middle of the auditorium (part of the play) people kept on going up to it before the play started and giving it a cheeky pull then sneaking away looking guilty and delighted with themselves.

Friday, 11 February 2011


So it's all in the papers about Never Let Me Go (and pouty Keira.) I like Kazuo Ishiguro but I thought this was only so-so - probably because I'd just read a much better book with the same theme by science fiction writer Michael Marshall Smith called Spares, which was much more gory, horrific and disturbing and ten times more moving. And not so bloody English and wistful and polite. Go and read Spares instead, it's much better.

(Though I must admit that, though I really really like Michael Marshall Smith, he has sometimes left me with violently horrible images in my head that I could happily have lived without.)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Lost in cyberspace

People have mostly abandoned blogs. I can't get along with Twitter. Facebook is too horribly public and filled with work people.

I'm bored, already. Can somebody please invent a new new thing quickly, thank you.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

We're all doomed

I should post something cheery now but I'm not gonna. Instead I will link to this which sums it all up magnificently. Thanks to Bowleserised's friend on Facebook.

Anyway, if you're still here and still reading, this is your reward.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


My default settings at the moment seem stuck between 'irritation' and 'rage'. It's not healthy. Every time I hear the words prime minister, Westminster, schools, cuts, economy, budget, financial, etc etc, I turn off the radio (sorry Radio 4, between the Archers and the obsession with Westminster you're driving me away. Plus their idea of reportage seems to be - this is really going to affect poor people in a negative way! Let's interview a middle class journalist and a minister and hear their thoughts on it!)

And the same goes for the TV. I wish I could live up a mountain far from everyone, with nothing but the sound of birdsong.

But it's wrong to be so disengaged when other people don't have that luxury, they are really in the shit and are fighting for their existence. So it's hard to find a balance.

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I don't like my job. I find it very stressful and very frustrating. But have somehow ended up a union rep, which in these tough times involves mainly nag nag nagging people for stuff, to come to meetings, to give up their time, to send their votes in.

Because the cuts are worse in Tower Hamlets (poorest, most deprived borough in the whole of London, if not the country) than anywhere else. So the services which are the safety net for the most vulnerable, poor people in the country are being stripped away from them.

When we met recently one of the speakers pointed out of the window, where we had a lovely view of Canary Wharf glittering away. 'Why are our kids paying for this? Was it their fault? Why aren't THEY paying for it, they fucked up?'

Anyway, I guess I can't bury my head in the sand just yet. What can I say? Come to the march on 26th March to show we want an alternative.

And watch this video.

Why cuts are the wrong cure from False Economy on Vimeo.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Gothic horror

Talking of the National Theatre, I'm going to see Frankenstein next week. Hurrah!

At college I took a class with Vic Sage (being able to sit in a room with Vic Sage and Lorna Sage and talk about books made the price of admission to university alone worth it). It was all about Gothic fiction. Gothic fiction is majorly entertaining and still somehow very underrated. There's Poe (Tales of Mystery & Imagination probably a contender for my favourite book ever), there's Washington Irving, there's Bram Stoker, but most of all there's Mary Shelley.

I love it that this towering intellectual book that's cast such a huge shadow over our culture was written by a 19 year old girl. NINETEEN! To be grappling with science, life and death, morality and mythology, gender politics and horror, before you're out of your teens... The Golem existed in folklore before then but she was the first person to think of uniting modern science (galvanism) with monsters in fiction and to come up with this totally new concept of reanimation as a horror plot point. The first. Imagine science fiction/horror films without it.

When I saw last year that Danny Boyle was adapting it for the theatre, I didn't think 'Cool, Trainspotting', or 'Jonny Lee Miller' or even 'Benedict Cumberbatch.' Fuck that. I thought, 'Mary Shelley!'