Wednesday 29 April 2015

Angel Haze

I don't normally just put a music post up here but I'm curious to know what you might think of Angel Haze.

I first saw her on last year's Glastonbury TV footage, with just one acoustic song ('Battle Cry'), which we recorded along with a load of other stuff. We weren't familiar with her but Mr SDS and I are open-minded to something different. We liked it but didn't really think too much more about it until playing it back some time later, when there was something about the acute conviction of her performance that reeled us in and the song itself stayed with us both. Later still Mr SDS investigated a couple of other tracks online which sounded good. So, last week, he bought the album 'Dirty Gold'.

I was out on the day that it arrived in the post. When I got back home, I asked him if he'd played it and how he liked it. “I'm knackered,” he replied. “It's so intense, I feel like I've been through it. But in a good way...” It's a while since anyone's album has done that to either of us. It used to be the case with, oh let me think.. Joy Division... Crass... Babes In Toyland. You know the kind of thing, when a collection of tracks are so angry, angsty, personal, sad, confessional or whatever, that you feel a little drained when it's all over.

It would be easy to define Angel Haze by her rapping, and equally easy to perhaps think, “But I don't like rap so I won't like this” but there's so much more to this than her obvious talent for articulating rhyming couplets at high speed. The varied and often lush instrumentation throughout the album, her sweeter melodic vocals that complement the harder edges, some ethereal effects and an evident lack of compromise (which I fear may not be so evident in time if marketing types get their way) put me more in mind of Neneh Cherry, Tricky, Massive Attack. Then on reading about her and appreciating her quite shocking background I can understand why listening to the album has the effect it does, and that that's no bad thing.

Here's an interview from The Guardian which explains a little more.

I must commend my husband on his latest purchase!

Angel Haze: Dirty Gold (from the album Dirty Gold)

Angel Haze: Deep Sea Diver (from the album Dirty Gold)

Angel Haze: acoustic performance of Battle Cry, Glastonbury 2014

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Look East

One of the lovely and unexpected things that has happened since I signed with an agent a couple of years ago has been the amount of work I've had from overseas publishers. Since then I've worked mostly with American clients, as well as Korean and Australian, and I don't know why they should turn to a UK agent nor wish to source UK illustrators but I'm very happy that they do. So if there's one thing that Britain does appear to be quite good at, it's in the provision of artists!

Today I'm particularly happy as I've just had confirmation of a book deal with a publisher from somewhere I know absolutely nothing about: Slovenia. It's great news in itself and will keep me busy until Spring next year, but the thought of working for Slovenians has really excited me too. Perhaps it's no surprise then that it's piqued my curiosity and I've spent a little time this week reading up about the place and the people.

Slovenia, like so much of Europe it seems, places great importance on the arts and even has a Cultural Holiday named after one of its poets, Prešeren Day. It's home to several hugely talented illustrators.  I love these exquisitely atmospheric paintings by Marlenka Stupica...

and the darker, intricate and quite haunting work by Arlenka Sottler

as well as the simplistic, humorous images by one of the country's most popular children's book illustrators, Lila Prap:

Slovenia is also the land which gave us the band Laibach.

I guess Laibach must be the country's most well-known musical offering, so I delved a bit deeper and found something else, a rapper called N'toko (real name Miha Blažič). This isn't my normal cup of tea at all but I found it oddly quite charming at the same time and I've posted it here for the video as much as anything else - for the Slovenian street scenes and characters.

Plus, if you like spuds, as I do, Slovenia has something special. There is an annual Festival of Roasted Potatoes, organised by the wonderfully named Society For The Recognition Of Roasted Potatoes As A Distinct Dish.  How good is that?

Sunday 19 April 2015


They say it's possible for a man to 'laugh' a woman into bed. So, to test that theory out, I met up with three different men and set them the challenge, without their knowing. Looks didn't come into it, for these three men happened to be identical triplets.

Ok, so it's far-fetched, but please feel free to imagine.  These three identical triplets each had one special thing about them. The first had a truly amazing car. The second one had an incredibly massive... oh, I don't know... shall we say, for the sake of argument, stamp collection? (But I know what you were thinking.) And the third had a really great sense of humour. Their dad, a funny philatelist who drove an E-type Jag, was unfortunately out of the picture.

Triplet Number One smelled too much of Autoglym and the way that Triplet Number Two kept licking his lips was really off-putting. However, Triplet Number Three had me chuckling with his naughty innuendo, his inventively twisted perspective on the world, his linguistic prowess and his imaginative flights of fancy and I realised that, in loving his sense of humour I was also loving the way his mind worked and it felt good. You may wish to return to reality here rather than imagine the outcome, but I bet you still know what it would be: out of the three of them it'd be Triplet Number Three who'd most likely eventually have me, ahem, rolling on the floor.

Why should a sense of humour be so potent? By humour I don't just mean the memorising and re-telling of jokes, which can, on the contrary, be a huge turn-off in the wrong hands – it's a dry wit, wordplay and the abstract which works its magic on me. Apart from getting off on laughter-induced endorphins, I find myself feeling a huge sense of affection for someone who can make me giggle. I adore the fact that it displays a creative mind and, if the humour is a little edgy, there's something thrilling, maybe even a tad dangerous, about it too.  With those feel-good chemicals already producing a legal high, it's not hard to see why it's so attractive. That's whether you're male or female... whoever you are, if I admire your wit, then I'm more than likely going to admire you too.

Anyway, I was reading about the 'laughing into bed' thing, and the scientific theories behind it. Well, if it's true, it's due to all that evolutionary stuff about women being choosier than men in finding a mate (mainly because women undertake the risky bits in procreation, have a limited reproduction span and need someone who'll stick around and support them in bringing up the sprogs - you know the sort of thing.). In spite of what it looks like on Jeremy Kyle, us women are subconsciously seeking out successful and intelligent men to father our little brats and ensure their well-being.. A good sense of humour is an indicator of intelligence... one that's hard to fake... and because it's an interactive quality, it requires emotional and social intelligence too. If he's got those attributes, then, theoretically, he's more likely to succeed in life generally... and we're more likely to want to have his babies. There's more to it too, apparently - that men tend to instinctively develop their sense of humour to a greater degree than women do and use it competitively to make an impression (even if not consciously...)

So, could Triplet Number Three really have his wickedly witty way on the strength of his humour?  Or... hmm... would it just be down to his tickling stick?

Sunday 12 April 2015

Beat box

A box of singles came into our possession recently via Mr SDS' uncle. It was this uncle who, as a 19-year old, first introduced the very young Mr SDS to music and his copies of Melody Maker around 1965. But that's Mr SDS' story, not mine, and may one day be told in more detail in another blog if I could ever convince him to write one, which seems unlikely.

Is this a tantalising image, though? Are you perhaps eager to know what gems might be in here? Feeling the anticipation, even from that distance? Enlarging the photo and straining to identify each record company sleeve, teasing yourself with the thought of what it might contain? (Maybe you're the kind who notices that there's a CD rack in the background of a scene on a TV programme and turns their head sideways to try and read the spines?)

I was reminded of those responses on reading a post over at the excellent blog Feel It which took me back to the days when we used to go to Record Fairs quite frequently. Flicking through this box of old 45s brought it all back too.

It seemed like it was every weekend in the early '80s that we'd take the train down to London for a Record Fair but I think that's my memory taking liberties. Anyway, we went to quite a few. I grew tired of it long before Mr SDS did, but it probably didn't help when I started a full-time job in a record shop, seguing my work time and leisure time just a little too much (as well as working every Saturday). Still, for a while they were exciting. I remember how resilient we had to be, prepared to search through every suitable box and crate, tirelessly and hopefully. Frequently the promise was matched only by the disappointment, but you had to keep looking – how could you pass by a box of singles and not look?!

The Record Fairs we went to always seemed to be held in somewhat downmarket hotels - maybe they still are; I wouldn't know. But I can picture them now: large function rooms with burgundy patterned carpets, scuffed woodchip walls... smoke and dust caught in rays of sunshine coming through a window in the dingy bar area... that particular breed of dealer with the greasy comb-over wearing a conker-brown cardigan, resting his not-insubstantial beer belly against the trestle table. We got to know the good ones and the not-so-good, the pleasant and the patronising. We got used to rifling through crates of albums in dusty plastic outer sleeves with corners that cut our fingers. The hand-written indices and barely decipherable price stickers. That smell - the smell of vinyl! Cigarette smoke too... body odour... coffee... mildew... fried breakfasts. Fried breakfasts? I don't know why I'm getting this memory of the smell of egg and bacon, but it's there nonetheless. And punters all but salivating... over boxes and boxes and boxes of vinyl.

Anyway, what was in the uncle's box? I'm sure you're dying to find out.

Well, it was just the usual Elvis, Beatles and the Rolling Stones....etcetera...

Tuesday 7 April 2015


Last week the charms of Ipswich lured me to its heart once again. I may be exaggerating. Anyway, I decided to give myself a day off and my friend there was at a loose end, so I hopped on a double decker bus and travelled the highways and byways of  * 'Silly Suffolk' to its county town to meet him for lunch.

Now I didn't take my camera this time, so you're just going to have to imagine things. Like the road that's about halfway between here and Ipswich which goes by the wonderfully evocative name of Wilderness Hill. If you know East Anglia, you'll know that hills are not our most prevalent feature, nor is our countryside particularly wild (although Stowmarket town centre on a Saturday night may come close). A more apt name might be Mild Bump.

After an hour of flat fields punctuated by mild bumps, Ipswich comes into view. I'm looking out for the house I saw last time with its sinister message to 'KEEP AHHT!' Ah, there it is! This time I notice more detail. There's a boarded up window to the side and more writing. It says


It's just a wild guess but... d'you reckon the literary genius concerned had run out of paint? Or did they just run out (on hearing the sirens)?  Either way one can presume that they uttered a few expletives like “flipping heck” before returning to their flower-arranging, safer in the knowledge that neither they nor their 'GAURD DO' would be disturbed. And I've just had to 'correct' the auto-correct for the second time as I spelt that.

Some graffiti on the side of another nearby building has a more positive message. Taking up the whole space, in letters that must be at least a foot high, are the words

  I LOVE M ?

The question mark made me smile. Is it there to tease... to tease every Michelle or Mary or Mark who walks by, to wonder if it's for them?  Or is it a desperate expression of mixed feelings?  “Erm, I think I love M but, I'm a little put off because they've got terrible spelling and a bit of an attitude problem.  Still at least they lent me their spray paint”.

Anyway, lunch was fine. I asked my friend to source somewhere cheap, easy and unpretentious. “You're going to love the inside of this place,” he announced and took me to a grand-looking building in the centre of town. I did love the inside. It's curiously schizophrenic. In previous lives it had been a theatre and a picture house; there are chandeliers, balconies, sweeping staircases, a high ceiling and elaborate archways. That's if you look in a generally upward direction. At ground level, though, there's something more spit and sawdust about it. Tacky, even. I quite like that. We got a sandwich, side dish and a pint all for £5.99 and I was the barmaid's "sweetheart", "love" and "darling", several times over, which was nice, as she was quite macho.

Late afternoon I headed back to the Bus Station, following an elderly woman in a purple T-shirt. Groovy colour, I thought. Shame about the slogan on her back:

'Take back control of our country.
Vote UKIP' 

 I had to look away.  Maybe she was the one who wrote 'KEEP AHHT'?

The bus got back at 5.30pm and I went to check the time of the last one onward to my village. Oh. 5.23pm. That's how it works around here. So I walked home, about four miles. I don't often walk those kind of distances, especially not in the rain, and especially not in heeled patent boots. Never mind, it was good exercise, I should walk more.

Mr SDS arrived home from work a short while after I did, carrying a strange looking device under his arm. “Yeah, the customer offered it to me - she doesn't want it any more and I thought you'd like it,” he said with a smile.

“What on earth is it?”

It's a walking machine... Ha!

Still, I love it. I said I should walk more. (It's either that or get a dog.  I mean, 'DO...')

* 'Silly Suffolk': a corruption of the name 'Selig Suffolk'.  'Selig' is an Old English word (also German) meaning blessed, happy, fortunate.

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