Monday, 10 December 2018

The wrong knickers

Not the actual knickers

Sometimes a seemingly simple walk down to the local shop can be more stressful than expected.  I have a feeling that what I'm about to tell you is something both male and female readers will identify with from time to time.  This, of course, isn’t the first time it’s happened to me.

So, it wasn’t until I had got to what must have been exactly half way there this afternoon that it started.  The riding up.   My knickers - you don't need detail, just know they're not a thong - had ridden up one cheek in a very irritating fashion, and then with every further step it just continued to get worse, of course.  Pinned against my skin by tight jeans there was no way they were going to ride down again of their own accord and settle back against their assigned place just above the natural slope of cheek-base/thigh-top interface.

So, I did that thing I think we all do (please tell me you do.) I’ve got a thigh-length coat on so as I’m walking I (very swiftly and surreptitiously) slip my hand under the hem and slide it around behind, then nip down inside the back of my jeans to do a bit of high-speed furtive sortage, having checked there are no pedestrians in my immediate vicinity, whilst continuing to walk and appear as nonchalant as possible. Would anyone from a window, or any passing cars notice?  I’ve no idea what this little manoevre looks like from the outside, as I've never tried it in front of a mirror. Possibly like getting something out of a back pocket. Or possibly like someone actually putting their hand down inside the back of their trousers whilst trying to appear not to.

Ah, that’s better, I think, as I reposition everything - snug and sorted.  For about three steps.  Then the seam rebels once more.  Up it goes.  Up.  Up again and I can’t think about anything else.  I try the sneaky you-can’t-see-what’s-going-on-under-my-coat move again but this time it just makes it worse and causes a bit of cutting in in a place you don’t want to know about.  It’s further to go home than to continue; I’m going to have to get to the shop and linger around the vegetable aisle like this.  I persevere, crazily preoccupied by what’s going on with my pants.

The point of me waffling on about this nonsense is simple – wouldn’t it just be brilliant if we could treat our private underwear malfunctions just as we do a stone in the shoe?  You feel that little piece of grit pressing into your foot and what do you do? – you stop, put your bag down, stick your opposite arm out to balance, or preferably use it to prop yourself against a wall, cock your leg and remove the shoe, shake it, express surprise at how tiny the offending object was (it felt huge!), put your shoe back on, swivel your foot about a bit on the pavement to check it’s stone-free and then continue on your way. It's all very public and nobody cares.  Similarly with the slipping bra-strap.  So I would like to advocate the same tolerance of occasional open-air knicker adjustment.  Only when absolutely necessary, of course.  A quick drop of the trousers, sort yourself out, do yourself back up and on your way, instead of all this secret faffing about.  I suspect that anyone who saw me knew exactly what I was doing anyway...

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Abstract moment of the week #10

I was very excited to order a new book: something particularly special in these circles as it happens because it’s been created and compiled by one of our fellow bloggers, Martin.  Not only that but it also contains a story written by him - and not only that but it also includes a contribution from yet another talented writer in the blogging community, Rol.   I’m full of admiration and delighted for them both and couldn’t wait to read their creative writing, as well as all the others.  I do like a good short story, plus it’s for a worthy cause, more info here.

So – book duly ordered from Amazon last week.  Package was due to arrive next day by 8pm, said the email and the tracking info.  Excellent!  

It didn’t arrive when they said it would, I don’t know why.  But never mind, a little message explained there’d been a problem and it should come later this week instead. 

But then when it did, there was no-one in, so the postman had to take it back to the sorting office.   A bit of a pain in the arse picking it up as I couldn't get up there straight away, but eventually Mr SDS managed to fit it in to another journey he was making and here it is at last.

Only the package didn't feel much like it had a book in it.   I've opened it up to find….

...Two tubes of Bulgarian irritative dermatitis ointment, well of course!

Just one more reason why I don’t trust Amazon to take over the world.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Grey area

Soapbox time!

A friend of mine went to her school reunion recently.  “You know it was so funny to see that all the men with hair there had gone grey,” she said, “...but none of the women had!”  

They say that grey hair adds six years to a woman’s age. Gee, thanks for that, just what we need for our confidence when we're already going through you know what.

Of course that's perpetuated when so many use artificial hair colour.  Imagine if everyone who covers up their grey hair stopped doing so, then this ‘six years older’ thing would be meaningless.  It’d be no big deal as, by the time we reach our mid-fifties, most people have gone at least 50% grey anyway.

However, as every modern woman knows, it’s against the rules to show your age.  

For example, you rarely see a middle-aged female TV presenter with grey/white hair, compared to their many male counterparts for whom it doesn't seem to be a problem.  (Gets me all feminist, this...)  The pressure on women in the media to stay looking younger is colossal and, ridiculously, it seems their jobs can depend on it  - but that's a whole topic for another time and place.

Although, seeing as I've brought it up...

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

See what I mean?

Anyway, in the meantime, I'm taking a stand.

White hair is nothing new to me; since late childhood I’ve had one small patch of it – a ‘Mallen Streak'.*

The 'Mallen' Streak, as later sported by Dave Vanian

and more naturally by the Millibands

It's not that much but I hated it.  I remember the time a couple of mean girls at school shouted, “Ugh! You’re going grey!”  and, as a sensitive 13-year old, this felt mortifying. So bleaching the whole of my hair and adding unrealistic colours through the punk/post-punk era conveniently disguised it as well and I loved what I could do with all those nasty smelling chemicals.  It's ages since I've used peroxide or Crazy Colour  – but still I've spent years tinting that stubborn white stripe (I should call it Jack) to blend in with the rest.

This year the long, sunny Summer bleached my dishwater blonde and the freaky white bit didn’t show up as much so I left it.  But now, as my Winter coat grows, it's more obvious, and suddenly so are plenty of other new white hairs joining it.  I'm going grey.  Just as you'd expect at my age.

So I could reach for some Nice'n'Easy now and be ruled by an endless regime of dyeing and touching up roots.  Or I could just think, you know what, fuck it.   Doesn’t mean I've given up caring about appearance - just that I’m still me, whatever.  If it's against the rules to show your age, what are rules for if not to be challenged and rebelled against?  Why should visible signs of maturity be so negative for women?  (I think men still look great with grey hair... or no hair... and all stages between!)

I may cave in, especially if I get talked down to like a little old lady, whereupon I'll be tempted to do all manner of unspeakable things with the pointy end of an umbrella, and then reach for the bottle (of 103A Medium Blonde). 

For now, though, I'm finding it oddly liberating and have decided, in defiance of both sexism and ageism, to embrace it.  So there!

Exhibit C

* Apparently it's 'Poliosis', a genetic condition where there is an absence of melanin in head hair, eyebrows or eyelashes.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

"Keep that one; mark it fab"

You like your music edgy, raucous, fast and pounding, verging on the anarchic?  With crashing percussion, some reverb, overloaded and slightly off-key guitars?  A freshness and rawness to it with a screaming vocal that stretches almost to ripping point at times, the music’s driving, chaotic energy taking you with it before ending in the glorious sound of feedback?

“Surely not the Beatles?”,  I hear you say.

You know the official version of ‘Helter Skelter’ from the White album; it’s already considered a bit wild - the Beatles’ ‘heavy metal’ moment - but if you like it even wilder (as I do) please take three and a half minutes to listen to this previously unreleased session rendition, which is more visceral than ever and about as punk/grunge as a 50-year old recording gets.

I can't embed through Blogger so here's the youtube link:

Helter Skelter (second version, take 17)

(Available as part of the 50th anniversary super-deluxe 6CD/blu-ray box set thingy that's just been released this month)

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

But is it art? VI

The sunlight was so bright yesterday morning that I had to pull the blind down to be able to work.  But I was unexpectedly distracted and mesmerised by the scene it created - the flying and flitting silhouettes of sparrows (there's a birdfeeder on the other side of the window.)  It's often the simplest things that I find the most charming  - couldn't resist a clumsy attempt to capture their movements in a video.


Friday, 9 November 2018

An Anglo-Saxon education

I took myself off to a very rainy London the other week to meet a friend at the British Library, where we wandered around an eerily lit gallery to view some beautiful art, literature and treasures from 1300 years ago. 

There in the semi-darkness I half expected to bump into Lance and Andy from ‘Detectorists’, for there was indeed Anglo-Saxon gold on display...

Exquisitely shiny, tiny coins, brooches and intricate heavy-looking belt buckles almost glowed from behind their glass cases.  The exhibition was well-attended – with white hair and glasses the look of the day - but no-one spoke, or if they did it seemed only in hushed, reverential tones.   It felt terribly straight and subdued in there, but I was excited by what I saw to a degree I hadn’t expected, and found myself having to stifle little gasps of inappropriate enthusiasm.

What always gets me about the sort of artifacts on show here is when I can make that human connection.  When I think about the real person who wore that buckle and the fingers that looped the belt through its clasp – that kind of thing.  And, as an illustrator, I wanted to see the marks of the artist’s hand on the manuscripts, the strokes of ink and the characterful features, and imagine the creator’s mind at work,  just like mine.  I was more than rewarded by what I saw – astounded at the brightness of the inks in particular – I had no idea that the vivid oranges and greens so frequently used in the illuminations would shout out so much, not unlike the shades and strength of the felt tip pens I used as a kid.  Almost garish.  I’m convinced too that people had better eyesight 1000 years ago than we do now, and nimbler fingers too, for the minute scale of the details in the decorations was quite mind-blowing. 

In the dumbed-down world we live in I’d come to hate the way labels on products often refer to them in the first person.  I’m usually irked by a pack of carrots and its patronizing instruction to “keep me in the fridge!”, etc.  But after this exhibition I realised this is nothing new and it’s softened my attitude. The anthropomorphism of inanimate objects was very evident in Anglo-Saxon times – the books that introduced themselves:  (Name) wrote me”, and the brooch which threatens any thief with an inscription: “May the Lord curse him who takes me from (owner)”, etc.  Books of riddles too, a huge literary genre 1000 years ago - more proof that really we’re still the same people at our core, and that’s what I want to believe.

Even an early version of a word search, with a palindrome...  

I love the figure at the base.  (British Library postcard)

Plus, I love books.  I love the physicality of books, the feel and look of them as objects, their construction and their role.  Huge books of manuscripts with metalwork bindings reflected their importance and I was amazed by the sheer outrageous size of a giant bible (the ‘Codex Amiatinus’), measuring 2ft long by 1ft wide and an incredible 1ft thick, weighing in at 75lb (over 5 stone for those like me who still think in Imperial). 

With my desire to relate to the illustrators involved in particular, I was really gratified to see a lovely 11th Century book called ‘Marvels of The East’.  Written in Old English, it’s like a mythological travel guide, describing the weird and wonderful creatures that can be found in some faraway Eastern place, such as the “men who are born fifteen feet tall and ten feet broad.  They have big heads and ears like fans”.  I'm thinking Martin Clunes.  Nooo!

Or how about this:

"Lertices, a small creature with donkey’s ears, sheep’s wool and the feet of a bird."
 (British Library postcard)

Or this:

"The Blemmya, a man 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide with his head in his chest." 
(British Library postcard)

I lingered long over this image, studying those fingers wrapped around the frame in an imaginative graphic touch, the benign expression on that face and that lovely inky outline and, never mind those hundreds of years that have passed, at that moment I’m inside the artist’s head.  What a great commission that must have been!

The thing is, I was absolutely shit at History in school. Bored out of my mind I would concentrate on trying different handwriting styles and experiment with coloured inks as Miss Jones drearily dictated facts about Acts and... well, stuff I simply can't remember for that very reason.  It's the human relatability that makes it come alive for me and when that comes via two of my favourite subjects, art and language, as it did in this exhibition - I'm in.  And seeing that Anglo-Saxon gold, well, to paraphrase Lance, it's surely "... the closest you'll get to time travel".  Definitely worth a trip to a very rainy London.

'Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War' at the British Library, until 19 February 2019

Saturday, 27 October 2018

My bestest most favouritest songs ever ever - part 5

Time for another one of these!  I was shocked to find the last time I posted one was nearly two years ago; it feels like about three months...

Anyway, this is another one of those songs which sounds absolutely brilliant every single time I hear it and never loses its status or appeal (which is the point of this series!) but in particular it takes me back to an exciting period when I was discovering new old music.  As I was working in the record shop it was easier to order all sorts of obscure items from all sorts of obscure labels, plus get a staff discount -  suffice to say it seemed I was bringing home a new album just about every week.

Up until that point I'd always most enjoyed music that was current at the time of listening, so it was quite an adventure to explore an unfamiliar genre from the past. I first heard this particular song around 1985 I think, by which time it was nearly 20 years old.  To my 22-year old self, that meant it was bloody ancient.  Now, of course if I spool back 20 years, a mere blink of an eyelid ago, I realise it's me who's bloody ancient.

But never mind all that, because this is timeless.  My first awareness of its existence in the '80s was thanks to a brilliant compilation album: 'Perfumed Garden Vol 1' , put out by the Psycho label.  It grabbed me right from the off with its dirty, grungy, overdriven guitar intro.  The vocals are nicely rough too, and that insistent riff just keeps on going.  I had no idea until then that anything in the sixties could sound quite this punk; I thought the Stones and the Kinks were about as hard as it gets, so it came as a revelation.

'You're Too Much' was originally put out as a B-side in May 1966 (the A-side, 'Man With Money' still sounds fine to my ears but is not a patch on this).

As for the band - I wrote a piece about them in a fanzine in 1986 (shocking to think that is now longer ago than the original gap between the record's release and my hearing it).  So my research has already been done and I'll just reproduce it here...

The Eyes were a young band from Ealing who picked up a culty mod following in the mid sixties.  They supported such bands as The Action, The Kinks and The Move.  Their 'gimmick' was to wear colourful, amusing clothes - stripey Rugby shirts, bleached jeans, pink parkas with tyre tracks inked on the backs and red or yellow boots.  (Also for added decoration - big eyes sewn onto their tops!)

After 4 singles (the last one of which was a flop), an EP, and a disguised album, the band split up, and vocalist Terry was the only member to pursue a serious musical career.  He joined 'Andromeda' for a while but never recorded with them, then became vocalist for 'The Entire Sioux Nation' with Larry Wallis (who later became a Pink Fairy), Jim Taylor and Paul Nichols.

Anyway - onto the song.  It would be an understatement to say I just fucking love it.

The Eyes:  You're Too Much
(originally released May 1966)

The Eyes in rugby shirts and bleached jeans (1966)

The whole piece from the fanzine (1986)

Wednesday, 24 October 2018


It’s official.  Everyone else is better at everything else than I am.  I know this because I’ve just been looking at some random Pinterest and Instagram pages in the course of some research and all my fears were confirmed.  Everyone has beautiful homes, beautiful children, beautiful gardens, makes beautiful things, has beautiful pets, beautiful clothes, beautiful hobbies, bakes beautiful cakes and, although there’s no visual confirmation, I think we can safely say they probably have beautiful bowels capable of excreting the most perfectly formed faeces.  

It has become apparent that I’m just not up to scratch.  A snapshot of the desk I'm sitting at now would reveal an old birdfood catalogue tucked into a notebook, a scrunched up tissue, a blunt pencil and a chipped plastic ruler,  a random postcard from Madrid and a flash drive still in its torn cardboard packaging.  I am sitting here in my bobbly old jumper and slippers with worn-out soles, contemplating whether or not to defrost the freezer which has an ice monster growing in it so big that it could no doubt restore the melting polar ice caps single-handedly.  Only it’s full of crumbs too.  Beautiful pets?  Could you count my newly-acquired composting worms?  I’ve got some nicely rotting vegetable peelings to feed them in a moment.  Alternatively I could finally remove the last traces of blue polish from the tips of the nails on my big toes because it has been on them since… August? Or was it July? 

I was thinking of opening up one of those photo-sharing accounts to share some images of my beautifully imperfect life.  Would anyone like to see it?  I could show you the inside of my oven!

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