Monday 30 March 2020

Walk with me (2 metres apart...)

How are you? 

It’s an up and down kind of time, isn’t it - thinking/worrying about stuff, people and livelihoods, trying not to overdose on the news, checking on friends, feeling indebted to all those keeping things going.  Then needing to give yourself some breaks, get lost in levity and little bits of normality and trivia wherever possible.  I think that’s just going to be a pattern for a while now.

So, like an obedient dog I took my daily walk yesterday and gave myself time to think some silly thoughts.   My walk incorporated a stop at the shop to buy some essentials – only a short list but a bottle of wine included, essential surely.   It was colder than I expected and every step felt like I was waging war against that northerly wind, one of those that’s so icy and strong it seemed to lock my features into what I can only imagine was a horrifying grimace. 

It was an interesting study in behaviour, though, and I guess many are experiencing this on our eerily quiet streets:  that each time another person came towards me on the pavement or path, one of us would actually stop, pull in and give way to let the other walk by at a safe distance. I realised it was exactly as if we were each driving an imaginary car (mine’s an E-type Jag then please, may as well go for the full fantasy).  Just like motoring down a narrow lane and using a passing place, with a little wave of the hand to say thank you. Maybe we should all start wearing miniature headlights on our coats that we could flash at each other, just to save any confusion, especially if it gets foggy.

Making the most of my outdoor exercise allowance I took a diversion along my favourite lane, noticing a pile of plucked feathers in the grass verge signifying a recent sparrowhawk attack (either that or someone really has got desperate on finding empty shelves in Tesco).   I could hear a chiffchaff in the tall lime trees, it’s a lovely sign of Spring.  If you don’t know already it’s very easy to identify the call of a chiffchaff.  It goes chiff chaff, chiff chaff…   And there were already newborn lambs in the field, all wobbly black legs and curious faces.  I know I'm lucky, things feel more normal when you’re surrounded by nature.

A chiffchaff
Most chiffchaffs migrate to warmer climates for the Winter
and return here to breed in Spring and Summer.

I found myself thinking (this is the silly, trivial thinking) about how, when this is over, we might all come out of it looking like something from the ‘70s.  It’s the haircuts I started with – are we all letting it grow wild, or risking a dodgy home trim from an unqualified family member?  The last time I properly cut anyone’s hair was in the '70s....  and that was a doll's...  (If only I'd realised her long glossy locks actually originated from just a handful of broadly spaced plugs! I was so mortified in case my mum found out what I'd done that I hid her in a box for a year).  Will pudding basins and comb-overs become fashionable again?  

What about teeth?  Perhaps classic vintage ivory will make a comeback, now there are no professional whitening services open for those who like their gnashers to glow like ultraviolet light.  Botox-addicts may learn to embrace their wrinkles and the lips of many female celebrities may finally return to normal human size; body hair will flourish again at last in the comfort of its own home.

And we’ll wear down the heels and soles on our footwear so much through all this daily walking that, with no heel bars open, we’ll decide to revert to longer-lasting platform shoes and boots…   

I finished my walk and as my frozen face thawed out and my hands lathered up the soap, I allowed myself a little (20-second) escapist reverie – a vivid image of a whole new world of very hairy, yellow-toothed, wrinkly, 1970s-throwback, platform-boot-wearing cave-dwellers emerging blinking into the light.  We'll all have terribly chapped hands too.  

Then I listened to this!

The Temptations: I Can't Get Next To You

Take care x

Friday 20 March 2020

Distraction (Playing along with the art school boys - part four)

I've been struggling with knowing how to pitch blog posts and words in general at the moment.  I've decided for me at least distraction is beneficial, a way of keeping things as 'normal' as possible, and I really hope this doesn't appear flippant or insensitive. It's just one way of coping and trying to offset the deluge of intense anxiety and very real issues and uncertainties that dominate and affect all our lives right now.  I don't want to go there in my blog as well and  to continue writing about unconnected things in a familiar way is a form of expression/outlet which helps keep me grounded; a stable, trivial place away from the rest.  But I'm aware this may not be the same for everyone, so I do hope anyone coming here will understand.

Thus today I'm just writing about art.


As I sloshed shiny brown paint onto an over-sized sausage formed from lumps of foam wrapped in paper, I had no idea about Bauhaus.  I don’t mean the band –  although they were soon to lure me into torn black lace dresses – I mean the art movement.  But I realise now that one of the very first projects we were given on my Foundation Art course was directly influenced by it.  The original Bauhaus Art School founder, Walter Gropius, was keen to encourage problem-solving and experimentation in different media, and 60 years later my college tutor Stella did the same.  It was a basic introduction to the study of elementary form, materials, colour and craftsmanship.

The resulting artwork, a collaborative effort, was a giant hot-dog, around 4 feet long, made with discarded objects and materials unearthed from studio rubbish bins and the like.  I can’t remember now if the things we found inspired the idea of a hot-dog, or if we were inspired by someone’s lunch.  It doesn’t matter – in true Bauhaus style we experimented with materials, solved construction problems and  thus transformed foam and paper, Copydex  and paint into a supersized weenie, complete with plastic Ketchup and woodchip sesame seeds.

Ah, such carefree, creative days and yet did I truly appreciate them?  I don’t think I did. 

So when I see art students now I get that whole feeling  back, but wish I could do it all again and not be so overwhelmed by all the silly things that most 17-year olds are overwhelmed by (or were then!).   Seeing fresh-faced art students, so often deep-thinking, slightly misfit kids with a taste for strangely matched clothes, gives me a genuine lift.  I think it's because it reminds me of all those opportunities to explore and experiment, to learn and be playful, in a field which really, when you think about it, is something of an indulgence.    However, perhaps given the situation we find ourselves in at the moment, we might appreciate the undemanding pleasure of  some art for art’s sake more than ever.

This is exactly what I felt the other night on watching the recent TV documentary about the Bauhaus School on BBC Four ('Bauhaus Rules', still available on iPlayer here  - interesting soundtrack too).   The delightful Jim Moir aka Vic Reeves took us to Central Saint Martins  where we met some young graduates who would spend a week working on various projects subject to the ‘rules’ inspired by the original Bauhaus artists who taught it.  From strange breathing exercises to a themed costume party and much in between it's a crash course I would happily sign up to now if it existed..  Oh, I wanted to be back in Stella's Foundation Art class, just starting out, feeling as if we're pushing boundaries (from the safe haven of an educational institution!), wide-eyed and curious (and sometimes a little defiant).  We oscillated between the opposing states of either taking oneself far too seriously or having ridiculous, unbridled fun, between being a quiet introvert on the one hand and having a distinct taste for the outrageous on the other.   

Anyway, in the programme, the students are set projects by established creatives from different disciplines who have all been inspired by the Bauhaus design principles.  One of these is Neville Brody and I was reminded just how much I love his graphic style and typography, with which many of us of a certain age are so familiar, thanks to his work in ‘The Face’ magazine.

Once you become aware of a certain Bauhaus style, you see it all around too, from chair designs to clocks to album cover artwork.

If you have some extra time on your hands and you’re into art, or perhaps anything a little left field (and/or Jim/Vic) I recommend losing yourself in this programme and the joy of art student thinking for a short while.  And even if not, maybe now is the time to abandon our genuine worries for a brief moment, turn to some easy escapism and playtime from the safety of our own homes, and set ourselves the task of making something creative and unexpected.

(Well, it has to be Bauhaus...)
Kick In The Eye 2

Take care x

Thursday 19 March 2020

Art therapy

Art and music are great therapy, aren't they?  So what better reason to write a bit more in the coming weeks on two of my favourite subjects and try to keep this blog alive and kicking while many will no doubt be joining me in the working-from-home ranks.  To help get me back into it I revisited some old series that I'd started on here long ago (seeing as I never seem to get past 2 or 3 'editions'), and one that sprang to mind recently (thanks to watching Jim Moir aka Vic Reeves' brilliant documentary about the Bauhaus art movement) was a tribute to my days studying art and design at college.  There was so much going on musically too.  More soon if I can get my act together, but in the meantime I hope you won't mind some repetition from several years back, just to get things flowing again.

Here's where I left off...


Much as I would love to claim to be the artist behind this poster, all credit must go to Simon, who was in the year above me at college and designed and drew this for a party in 1980. (If you should happen to stumble upon this, Simon, then I hope you won't mind me reproducing it here. I also hope you're still drawing!)   I think it's a great piece of graphic illustration, especially considering he was only 18 when he created it.

I've kept it for all these years because, much to my great surprise at the time, a good friend and I were immortalised in it. That's me, apparently, top centre, wearing fishnets and brandishing a cutlass, showing more feistiness (and flesh) than I think I ever did in real life. My beautiful college mate is nearby looking suitably sultry in a Cleopatra get-up. There are one or two others in the crowd which are wonderful caricatures of our fellow students, and I like the fact that Bowie and Jordan (the original) have made a guest appearance in the pic; sadly they never made one at college. All in all it kind of sums up 1980 art school life for me.

Even though I didn't make it to the actual party (I can't remember why), I can probably tell you fairly accurately what would have been played there. Musically 1980 had some interesting things to offer. A quick look at the year's indie charts reveals that the best-selling bands included acts as diverse as Dead Kennedys, Spizzenergi, Joy Division and Crass but in December's UK Top 40 you could hear Abba one minute and AC/DC the next, not forgetting singles by ELO, Kate Bush, Clash, Madness, Spandau Ballet, oh and... St Winifred's School Choir... what an odd mixture.  That month, John Peel aired sessions by the Raincoats, Theatre of Hate and Red Beat.

The murder of John Lennon just a couple of weeks before this party was shocking but, you know, I remember it didn't really touch me in any significant way at the time – unlike the deaths of Malcolm Owen and Ian Curtis earlier that same year.

A great dubby track from Red Beat.

Sunday 15 March 2020

Food for thought

Following a conversation in the kitchen this morning in which we mused upon the dilemma of what to eat if the shops become bare – ignoring the rather throwaway suggestion of consuming our own effluence (which would at least save on toilet paper) - we made some decisions.  

My mother-in-law would survive on the countless packets of biscuits which she’s been accumulating in her cupboard since 2009, Mr SDS would tuck into his many pairs of cheap sunglasses which he feels compelled to get each time he passes one of those carousels in the garden centre, and I would feast upon my stash of 2H pencils (they last longer) washed down with Permanent White gouache.  


Wednesday 4 March 2020


Quickie post:  Heard on 6Music today, and you know when your ears just prick up and you stop what you're doing - it's just too good not to want to say "Hey, what do you think of this, I love it!"  in the hope that someone else will agree.  Reminds me, sort of, of the more melodic elements of New Model Army... there must be others that I can't bring to mind too at this moment but it's got that whole bouncy, aggressively energetic post-punk feel to it... '80/'81, Peel... you know what I mean.  Probably a very appropriate title for many of us on this spinning rock right now too.  Apparently the band, Talk Show, are from South London.  Some great healthy stuff going on in the music scene right now it seems to me - will be listening out for more.

Talk Show: Stress

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