Saturday 26 September 2015

Random access memory #3

The outer sleeve of the fourth (or was it fifth?) album I ever bought was the thickest and stiffest I'd seen. The card was really sort of heavy, and had a wider than normal spine. There was a particular texture to it that made it feel different too; perhaps because of its matt silver finish.

I bought it some time in 1978, can't recall exactly when, but I remember playing it a lot and for some reason I have a specific memory of putting it on just before heading out to a party. I was kneeling in front of our ancient portable electric heater, a cumbersome thing, which fizzed and popped and clicked in a rather ominous way while emitting an intense heat the smell of burnt dust, but it was the best way to dry my hair. I simply knelt in front of it with my head bent forward so that my hair hung upside down and then when I looked up again, it had dried at right angles to my scalp. A light application of egg-white then set it into spikes.  I was doing all this while listening to the two-minute genius of Love Battery and I Don't Mind, etc.

I loved every track on that silver-sleeved album, but Moving Away From The Pulsebeat was probably the biggest surprise to me on first hearing and seemed like a grand finale.

The party was at a village hall a few miles away, with 1960s curtains at the windows and a little kitchenette area. Apart from a few school-friends I didn't know many there - except for The Postman. There was this cheery young postman who we used to see in town all the time, he was sort of punky but not quite, I mean he knew the music but didn't sport the look. Really smiley and always had a quip or a cheeky greeting. I don't know if I ever even knew his name... I probably did... but it's gone now. However, I can see his face as if it was yesterday, a little bit rodent-like, with blonde hair and a few too many teeth. Knowing him was really nice because he was one of those people with whom you could flirt a little, even though he was some years older - old enough to be a postman! - yet at the same time you knew nothing would ever come of it. That made it comfortable and fun without any of the stress of wondering what might happen next.

The Postman was a bad influence on my friends and me that night, though. We were only 15 and drinking orange juice, but he took us aside and told us about the vodka – he'd hidden it in the kitchenette. I'd never had vodka before. I don't know how much of it I drank but of course it was too much, because he kept topping up my paper cup and the more I had the less I cared. Further memories are a bit sketchy, but I do know that I ended the night by getting off with a young long-haired bloke. It was so wrong. He was wearing a greatcoat too. So wrong. We went into a back room and snogged in the dark amid the stacked up wooden chairs, table tennis bats and god knows what else - things with corners and edges. He didn't even take his coat off. It's going to sound bad but I know that I got a peculiar kick out of our complete incompatibility. I certainly never wanted to see him again; I couldn't connect with him on any level but this brief physical fling with 'the enemy' felt strangely defiant – rebellious, I suppose. I was rebelling against my own rebellion. Weird. Well, I was young and drunk... he must've been too.

I was back at that particular village hall for another party a few years later. The friend whose birthday it was had booked the Waxwork Dummies to play there. I don't remember a thing about them, though. Instead, my abiding memory of that night is the attention paid to my boyfriend, the young Mr SDS, who was sporting a fairly spectacular black eye. Just a few evenings beforehand he'd been waiting alone for his bus home from my place when three blokes walked past and, completely unprovoked, one of them punched him in the face. Awful. But he got a lot of mileage out of that black eye that night and - isn't it odd? - it did rather suit him.

Monday 14 September 2015

Huffing and puffing

I was stood in a Post Office queue today, a couple of places in front of that man who you know. I know you know him, because he gets everywhere. He's been in nearly every queue I've stood in, in nearly every place I've ever been over many months and years; I'm sure you can say the same.

The minute he walks in through the door of the Post Office, or the bank, or the Co-op, and sees the queue, he starts. He huffs audibly, and puffs too. In his lengthy repertoire of sounds he also includes a tut, a tsk, a sigh, a tch, a pfft, a chuff and a sniff. He may pepper his puffing with a few half-finished sentences, along the lines of, “Oh now she's...” or “Oh what's he...?” as he obsesses over every action and interaction taking place behind the counter, then he pfffs and he phews and he hhhhs again. All of this is to no-one in particular but you get the feeling he wants to engage you in his show of disapproving impatience, hopes that you'll join in perhaps, or at least express some kind of solidarity – a casual eyes-heavenward glance or an insincere smile would do.

I felt so calm until he arrived – acceptant of the long wait, disengaging my mental gears and letting my brain coast for a while. I read a couple of posters on the wall, although I couldn't tell you now what they were about. I only noticed that the woman pictured in one looked a lot like the lady I see walking her dog every morning, but without the frizzy hair. I registered that all the generic white type on red packaging and advertising was a bit overpowering en masse. Far too much red everywhere. Would it look better if it was blue? Probably not. I looked at my phone and vaguely realised my clock is a couple of minutes slow. Must sort that out. I observed that the woman a few places in front of me had unusually thick ankles. What can you do about thick ankles? Not a lot... only wear trousers? Well, not only – I mean, wear a top too.... That kind of thing. It gets you through for as long as it needs to, an array of pointless thoughts filling the void of waiting, it's just what you do, just what you have to do.

But Mr Huff'n'Puff disturbed my relative peace. Once he started it was impossible to tune out. Huff puff tsk tsk “oh now what's she...” pfft huh sigh puff.....  it's incessant! I wish I could've told him to please keep quiet: it's simply a queue, it won't move any faster just because you're making all that fucking noise, I suppose I should feel sorry for you but I can't any more because you're your own worst enemy and all you're doing is getting to the rest of us now which is worse than just being stuck in the queue in the first place – in fact we were fine before you came in and made us all acutely aware of just how unfine it is. Grrr!  See what I mean...! I was ok until....

Next time you see him – or hear him (you're bound to soon) – do you reckon you might have a quiet word with him.... please?!  Oh and... he has a sister too.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Life in the undergrowth

Sometimes the things that thrill me are just plain weird and I don't know who - or what - to turn to as a means of expressing my excitement.  Inevitably, I come here.  You have been warned....

Yesterday evening I was snooping around in the garden in the hope of witnessing some interesting creepy crawly action.  I don't know quite what... woodlice fighting or spiders weaving or simply a snail munching its way audibly through a rotting leaf... any of that would've been great.  But I was rewarded with something I've never seen before, a little natural event that I found completely fascinating.  Out of the corner of my eye I just noticed this:

I didn't think much of it at first... it just looked like something a bird might have regurgitated, hmm.

Then I took a closer look and noticed a slight movement and I realised something really rather special was happening.

Well, something special in the world of the crane fly...!  It was emerging from its pupal casing.  

It was like something out of Alien - in slow motion.  Above you can just see its legs starting to unfold as it slowly struggles to get its whole body out of the pupal casing on the right of the pic.  Before its metamorphosis into this newly formed daddy-long-legs, it was an aptly named leatherjacket.

Now you can really see its legs and make out the closed wings on its back.  The stripes on its back (above) seem huge and dark, nothing like the pattern or colour we see on the crane flies that flit around our windows at night and fly haphazardly into our lights.  But during the process of emerging, this little creature's body stretches to around one and a half times its normal size.

By the time it had pulled most of itself out, its body was shrinking and the stripes were already starting to fade.

It finally managed to emerge fully, turned around and looked back at its discarded 'jacket'...

...which it then sat on for a while.  A long while, in fact (my knees were really aching by this point).

And then suddenly it went rushing off and opened its wings. I was ridiculously excited at having seen this emergence, which took about an hour or so from when I found it.  So I wished it well, and hoped it doesn't get eaten by a bird, swatted at by humans, burned by a light-bulb, trapped in a spiderweb, or have its legs ritually pulled off by a cruel child.

If it avoids those hazards it will live for a week or two, in which time it doesn't even need to eat...its sole purpose in this short stage of its life cycle is to mate.  Maybe that's not so bad.

Saturday 5 September 2015

Triceratops for toddlers and the man in black

This weekend I'm drawing dinosaurs.  I'm being paid to draw dinosaurs! Sometimes I think I really must have one of the loveliest jobs in the world.

Here's the Man In Black to help inspire...

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Making pop history

I had a lovely email via this blog from a researcher working on a new project from BBC Four, she thought some of the posts here would make suitable stories for it and asked if I'd like to contribute. The project has such a relatable and appealing theme - The People's History of Pop - so I was intrigued.  At the moment it's a crowdsourcing website, in partnership with Historypin, collecting anecdotes and associated memorabilia from all aspects of people's pop music experiences (not just meaning 'pop' music, but all genres).  The plan is for a BBC Four TV series to be made around it next year... sounds interesting!

Anyway, the PHOP site is welcoming more contributions:  photos, ticket stubs, teenage diary entries, video clips, etc. etc. - any memorabilia that you've kept and that helps to tell the history of popular music via your own experiences.  Go on... I bet there's something or other you still have that you could show (and as for you over there, I know you have!).  In some ways I'm wishing I'd kept more now, but I'm always clearing stuff out and mostly only retain the memories...  All those t-shirts, badges, diaries... all gone.  Still, even if you don't have yours either, the website is definitely worth a visit and the TV series should be fun.

Here's the link:  The People's History of Pop  (and I took up the suggestion and added a few little pieces to it too, which you may have seen before here or on my other blog).

The perfect lyrics!

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