Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sex workers collective

Apparently they are bringing back the Playboy Bunny clubs (but attempting to disassociate themselves from the founder, because that image is sleazy, rather than classy. Right.)

It made me think - wherever there are strip clubs, and beautiful young girls, somewhere in the background you always find an ugly old man making money out of them. It doesn't seem right or fair. Their youth and good looks being exploited and they are treated like property, however much money they might make in a night.

What I wonder is why the girls don't form a collective and set up their own club and make their own money - why give it all to someone else? It's not like there's a pension scheme for strippers, and it's not a job you can do forever.

Did it ever go away?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Book meme

I saw this in Stylist, a free women's magazine that I actually quite like. They asked the questions of Mariella Frostrup (I find her irritating, sorry Mariella, especially her gobbledygook agony column in the Guardian) but I thought this would make a good book meme, as some of the categories are a little bit different. Take it & run with it!

The book that takes me back to my roots

I haven't really gone that far from my roots. North to East London is not such an exodus. But I guess any of the books I got from Southgate Library as a teenager, when it was a portal to a more sophisticated bohemian adult world. For example, Islands by John Fowles and Fay Godwin, my favourite photographer from a time when I first fell in love with photography, plus some probably quite pretentious stuff about islands from John Fowles. We were into the Odyssey and Greek myths and all that back then. Very geeky teenagers, what can I say?

The book that reminds me of my best friend

Hmm, probably Breakfast at Tiffany's - my best friend was a wild child, headstrong, infuriating and charismatic just like Holly Golightly. She also wandered off into the wide blue yonder & we lost touch. These days she's a wife and mum and pillar of the community living in Athens. Though she might be visiting England this summer - first time I will have seen her in over 10 years...

The books that I love to read to my children

I don't have my own but I do read to the kids quite a lot. Where to start? The Tiger Who Came To Tea is always a pleasure, magnificent illustrations. I love how the tiger looks like a big friendly cuddly outsize pussycat. Based around food, always dear to children's hearts. And the continuity of it - I remember being read this story when I was at school and I like passing it on.

The book that helped me understand men

I'm still looking for this book. No really, all novels help you to understand other human beings that bit better, they all give you a different angle and some kind of insight. I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, told from the point of view of a boy with Aspergers, for example.

The book that helped heal my broken heart.

Books are no good for mending broken hearts. Sorry books, it's the one thing you let me down on. Music is the only thing to get you through.

The book that inspires me as a woman

Oh, FFS. How would I know, it's not like I've ever been a man? A book that inspired me as a person was Patti Smith's beautiful biography - she is a real artist, she came from a broke working class family and made her way with nothing but drive and talent and instinct straight into the art world. She also seems like a generally very sound, nice, generous human being without a petty or vain bone in her body. Seems like a good way to live.

The book that gave me the desire to travel

I've never got into travel writing. Maybe you can recommend some? Portraits by Steve McCurry is one of my favourite photography books though - reminds you what a big old world it is and how different we all are, I'd love to take a camera around the world (like our Annie, check out her amazing photography...) The kids at school also like this one,though I had to edit it for naked ladies. I felt bad censoring it.

The book that makes me feel romantic

Books that are just about romances leave me stone cold. And films. Racking my brains here... The only romances I seem to like are in comic crime novels, like the policewoman and the bank robber who fall in love in Christopher Brookmyre's The Sacred Art of Stealing, or Susie the getaway car driver and the narrator in James Hawes' A White Merc With Fins. Both written by men. Hmm. Interesting. I seem to have some kind of 1940s film noir/screwball comedy conception of romance.

The book that taught me about style

Going to answer this one not in the spirit of the question. When I was working at the evil -American- bookshop-chain-that-went-bust (bwahaha!) as a buyer, a rep brought in some proof pages from a book about Alex Steinweiss, they're now framed and on my wall. Alex Steinweiss was the first proper album cover designer. They are beauties of graphic design. Alas for the art of the album cover.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Mojo working again

Phew! It came to me not in the bath or doing the dishes like Annie said, but on the bus. Buses are the best, aren't they?


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Can I kick it?

No I can't.

Just got back from initial meeting about the V&A exhibition. Before I was just mildly panicking but now I'm truly freaking. Seriously, it's too hard, too complex for my poor tiny non-art-school trained non-conceptual brain to cope with. (To be fair, apparently lots more experienced/well-known & famous people were scratching their heads over this one. It is not a simple idea like the last one at all.)

In half term I have a meeting with a curator from the V&A and he's going to show us whatever we want to see in the archives for inspiration. He emailed to say we can let him know and he'll find it for us.

At the moment, I just feel like emailing him back with 'Duh?' This most closely represents my thought processes right now.

This is all harder than it looks, you know.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tedious meetings

Arse-numbing soul-sapping pointless fuckwitted tedious meetings? On child-sized chairs? Of no use to man nor beast? Every week?

Let us compile of list of things to while away the time, without drawing attention to oneself. It can only be of benefit to everyone, surely I can't be the only one. (The phrase 'let's not, and say we did' comes into my mind regularly every Tuesday afternoon.)

  • Doodling, or using your colleagues as extempore life models - slightly risky as might be noticed and draw down ire of bosses.
  • Kugel exercises - excellent use of the time, I just checked and men can do them too, hurrah!
  • compose slash fiction in head featuring favourite fictional or real characters.
Go on, give me some more ideas, before I expire from boredom & frustration.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Little white lies

One of the kids I work with came out with one of those unanswerable questions they throw at you every so often.

I'm trying to drill them in subtraction strategies in advance of the SATS next week but they're much more interested in telling me about their cousin's wedding, the programme they saw on TV, what they intend to spend their birthday money on, etc... One of their cousins goes to college. "College is boring."
"How do you know?" I ask.
"I asked my cousin who goes. He says it's boooring..."
"I went to a college with my cousin. I saw lots of computers..."

T asks me her unanswerable question. She's 6 years old. She's about twice the size of all the other kids in the class, and is slow in her reactions and her manner, and so gets bullied and shunned, but her sweet, agreeable nature and thoughtfulness and intelligence means that the other kids are starting to come around gradually and treating her with a bit more respect.

"If we go to college, will we get jobs?" she asks, unanswerably.

She must have heard the grownups talking about it and remembered. Smart cookie that she is. What can I tell her? Yes, you can go to college. You can fight your way out of your high-rise working class ghetto, and get the grades against all the odds, and apply to college. And if you succeed in going to college, you can get yourself saddled with astronomical debt which you will never have a hope of paying back. Your body and soul will be owned by the bank for the rest of your life, and that's assuming you'll get a job at all to pay it back, which we can't take for granted any more. It's not fair. It's not fair. It's not their fault.

They're all looking at me, interested that she's asked a question which I don't have a ready answer for.

"Good question, T. Some people are finding it hard to find jobs at the moment." I look at their little unaware faces.

"But it's still good to go to college."

Friday, 13 May 2011


You are probably heartily sick of these by now but I thought I'd share these photos taken in situ by professional photographer Neil Juggins of the exhibition. (It was in Anna Freud's bedroom, I couldn't take pictures because they were roped off, so this makes me happy. ) Anyway I like 'em.

My 'installation' is off next on a little jaunt to this year's Leytonstone Art Trail, where it will be hanging in the children's library at Leytonstone Library.

Currently working on a linocut of the Red Shoes. Specifically the bit where she is sitting in church but instead of praying she is having naughty sinful thoughts about her beautiful new red shoes. And who could blame her.

I've got a million more ideas about the red shoes, all kind of kinetic projects, I just want to be doing that now. Does anybody have an old record player that plays 78s that they don't want knocking around? Or know where I can get one?

starting to cut the lino

Work just gets in the way of this. You have to be really organised & focussed to get anything done. Like those novelists who get up at 4.00 am to write for hours before the day job. I'm not that driven. I'm a hopeless amateur. Still, I'm interviewing for a portfolio course at the City Lit in July - cross fingers.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Book doctor

Number 1 nephew does not like books - that is, he doesn't like fiction. (This is baffling to me. How can we be related?) He likes facts & figures, science especially. He needs help with his writing - I don't know why kids are always forced to write if they don't like it, we're not all born to be novelists, just like we're not all born to be plumbers or accountants or athletes, but he'll still have to write at school til he's probably about 16. And good writing comes out of reading good books.

Trouble is, I'm not a 13 year old boy, I don't know what they like. I've tried him on Little Women and What Katy Did to no avail (kidding!) Was re-reading David Mitchell's beautiful Black Swan Green, all about a 13 year old boy and the brutal politics of school & growing up, that he might like, but apart from that...

He's bright & intellectually curious, a bit of a geek, loves the Gadget Show and quantum physics and computer games and karate & fencing & making lego animations & learning languages. I don't really believe boys don't like reading, I just think they haven't found the right book yet. What fiction would you recommend?

Monday, 9 May 2011


There, that got your interest, didn't it? Ha!

Just wanted to point your attention to this. I like Rosamund Urwin. She writes about the business markets and about girly stuff like fashion in the Standard, with equal fluency.

Nothing more to add, just that I agree with her. I like the girls dressing how they like to make a point. I don't think we should adopt this language though, even to try & reclaim or subvert it, it's just shooting yourself in the foot.

I'd get behind a NoSuchThingAsASlut campaign though.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


The spring is making me restless. Stay or go? I know really I don't want to teach abroad though, I just want to live abroad. Having a nice time and not working.

I could move here in London, just to shake it up, though I love my peaceful, lovely quiet house and lovely peaceful quiet bedroom. A friend (not from London, doesn't have any ideas or preconceptions or London allegiances) has just bought a place in the Docklands. Far out along the river. Why would you buy there otherwise? Pah, I think secretly. New builds. New town. No character. No history.

But then I visit.

I could live here, I think.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Hangover Square

It's about an unemployed, sociopathic alcoholic, in unrequited love with a heartless bitch who uses him, set in the late 30s as the country is just about to go to war. Beautiful writing but painful to read, it's unutterably depressing, hopeless and despairing. It's like he takes a knife, digs it into you and then keeps twisting it a little bit deeper. It's a good book but... Do not recommend, (unless you need something to read in the bath whilst opening your wrists.)

8 rusty razorblades out of 10.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Life drawing

Courtesy of a lovely mate who works there, I did life drawing in the RA. The RA!!! I can't get over it.* It's the art geeks' equivalent of running out onto Wembley Stadium. Turner, Blake, Constable. Me.

I thought the room would be a big old draughty intimidating hall, but it was small, ramshackle & cosy, with those curved benches that you get in medical lecture rooms. And a great model (I believe it is not etiquette to pass personal remarks upon the model, but I really wanted to tell her she was gorgeous - an older woman, amazingly delicate and graceful, like a racehorse.)

Life drawing is hard work because you have to concentrate so hard. And when you look at what you've done (and at other people's work), the result of all that concentration & effort, you want to cry.

In Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, a fascinating book about the brain even if you're not into art, Betty Edwards points out that most adults' drawing ability doesn't develop past about the level of a 12 year old.

That's kind of shocking. Imagine if our writing or speaking skills didn't develop past the age of 12. Clearly, it's because we don't need to draw to get by. But we're losing a lot. When you draw you're observing and problem solving all the time. It's one of the most direct ways to reach a flow state. And as Milton Glaser puts it, drawing is thinking. He quotes neurologist Frank Wilson "When children are prevented from drawing, their brains don't develop fully."

I don't do it for any intellectual reason though, for me it's like mainlining pleasure. And as one of my tutors said, printmaking has the reputation of being art for people who don't know how to draw. I want to be able to draw. Or at least get past the age of 12.

Not one of mine, but Picasso's. Someone who was born knowing how to draw. Bastard.

* RA schools is the only 3 year full funded postgrad art course in the country. Surprisingly and somewhat disappointingly, the tutor did not take one glance at my masterly pencil sketches and demand that I study there immediately.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

State of the nation

Tim posted this on Facebook (thanks Tim). It is so perfect, it's like watching a play. (It does in fact remind me strongly of Josef K that we saw at the Gate recently, a modern version of Kafka's The Trial.) Both very funny,in an absurdist way, and also deeply upsetting.

Everyone involved seems very young, from the political activists to the police (I must be getting old now that police seem young.) They are all scrupulously polite to each other, but they are all treading carefully through their roles, and no matter how much they try to handle the situation with English politeness, they are also up against ancient, monolithic power structures that were in place long before they were all on the scene.

It did upset me, this, though it is funny. ("Do you think the police do political targeting?' asks the girl. "To be honest, I've never seen it," says the copper. "But you're seeing it now. You're enacting it now.")

The one thing about this snapshot of the state we're in that made me hopeful, was this girl. She's so sparky, and only 21. I love the way she keeps filming even when she's crying over her boyfriend's arrest. You go, girl... Our hope lies with the youth...