Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bottle up and explode!

Just a short post.

On the bus this morning, Elliott Smith on the Discman (despite my previous resolutions to not play depressing music on my way to work). Coming up through Petersham, looking at the skyline glowing frosty white over the trees in Richmond Park, through the steamed-up windows.

It wasn't exactly an epiphany, but it certainly made me feel a lot better than I have for the past few weeks.

More again soon.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Record box #2

2. ...and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die

The Smiths: Girlfriend in a coma; Shoplifters of the world unite; William, it was really nothing; The boy with the thorn in his side; Ask; Panic; What difference does it make; Sheila take a bow

Imagine yourself as an ungainly 13-year-old girl with an imaginative inner life, living in a house in the middle of nowhere in the mid-1980s. Actually, don't bother - because frankly, it was fairly crap.

Seeing The Smiths on Top of the Pops was a bona fide religious experience. It's Johnny Marr I recall most clearly - his skinny legs sticking out from the bottom of his Rickenbacker, and his hilarious beehive hairdo.

These singles were always lucky purchases. It's been well-documented (somewhere...) that Smiths records would go straight into the top 30, then bomb straight out again, because their fiercely loyal fanbase would buy it in the week it came out. As a result, shops such as Woolworths and Boots (yes, they did used to stock music) would always have the 'unpopular' stuff in their bargain bins. Which is great news when you're on three quid a week pocket money.

Of all of the above, I think my favourite is 'William...'. I think it's because the opening lines resonated - 'The rain falls hard on a humdrum town/this town has dragged you down...' In recent years I've heard various rumours about the song being about the novel Billy Liar or perhaps about a friendship that Morrissey struck up with Billy MacKenzie [more about him another time]. I don't care what it's about. I care that the opening bars shimmer, and the lyric 'I don't dream about anyone/except myself...'

My least favourite is 'Girlfriend in a coma'. Possibly it's because it seems tied up with the memory of the summer when the Smiths split. Crushed doesn't even begin to describe it. Briefly, I felt that I was never going to feel the same way about a band again - dramatic as always, eh.

Not sure I ever have felt that way about a band again. [Not sure that's such a bad thing after all.]

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Irregular features...Record box #1

Now, I'm not saying I'm as important as John Peel, but I am saying that like him, I too possess a box of 7" records that I keep separate from everything else. As something entertaining (I think this blog has veered back and forth on a scale from dull to coma-inducing recently), I'll be taking a look at the records that I keep in this box.

To make things slightly more interesting (Ha! Who am I kidding?) I'll try to group the records together under some headings and talk about them over the next few entries.

1. Revolution, grrrl-style now!

Huggy Bear 'Her jazz'
Fifth Column 'All women are bitches'
Babes in Toyland 'Bruise violet'
The Slits 'Typical girls'
Kleenex 'Aint you'
PJ Harvey 'Down by the water'

Riot grrrl was a real blast. It was a short-lived thing, but it burned brightly. In the early 1990s, I was living in a nasty dormitory town on the outskirts of Greater London, wondering why I had bothered going to University and why things weren't nearly as exciting as they had been back in Exeter. This movement spoke directly to me and I loved it.

I think the record that started it for me was the first Bikini Kill album (which was recommended to me by this man). From there I bought other things that caught my eye, including the Huggy Bear and Fifth Column records. Huggy Bear were an odd sort of band. I saw a fateful show of theirs with American grrrls Bratmobile on a boat down the River Dart. They were funny, brilliant and frustrating in equal measure. There were times when I found myself cringing at what they said, and times when I thought they were bang on the money.

Fifth Column are a band that came out of nowhere and then vanished back there. Although I read with some surprise that they had been going for ten years prior to the record that I bought! The single 'All women are bitches' is caustic but hilarious and has some of the best witchy cackling ever committed to vinyl contained on it. The single was released on the mighty K record label. [More on K and their related artistes another time.]

Babes in Toyland aren't riot grrrl, I know. Instead, their songs dared to talk about hating other women. A sample lyric from 'Bruise violet': 'You little bitch, well I hope your insides ROT'. They were a wonderful band, one of my favourites of that time, and a superb live act.

The Slits and Kleenex: again, not strictly riot grrrl, but more than worthy of being in this section. Both of these singles are dear to me. I originally bought the Slits 7 for the B-side - their cover of Marvin Gaye's 'I heard it through the grapevine'. That's something I hear everywhere now, so it's good to be able to flip it over and hear 'Typical girls', with its lopsided reggae beat and wonky piano playing.

'Aint you' is brilliant and is pretty much the only single I own that other people covet.

As for Peej - I have only included her here because I know that she would hate to be identified as a feminist. Sorry Polly, I couldn't resist. This song is one of her best, I think.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Mod-Century Middern

Internal soundtrack: I dosed and became invisible by Joy Zipper and Soon by My Bloody Valentine

On Saturday I went to a baby shower hosted by JJ’s sister-in-law.

Before we go any further, I’d like to say that I do not approve of the adoption of American celebrations here. However, as the person whom is having the baby has a close American friend, I suppose it isn’t surprising that the shower happened.

I arrived late, of course…thankfully T Clouse was in evidence along with the Two Small Clouses, which thankfully made a big difference to the afternoon.

I’m generally in favour of people having babies. What I’m not in favour of is all the hoo-hah that goes with it (particularly around consumerism). The place was absolutely groaning with baby ephemera…and all this for a person who works in a very good job, gets paid well, and pretty much wants for nothing. Was the mountain of gifts (worth hundreds of pounds) strictly necessary?

I know it’s the thought that counts and I probably sound really miserable…but events like this make me acutely aware of the gap that exists between the haves and have-nots.

On Sunday JJ and I drove to Bexhill to go to the Mid-Century Modern sale at the De La Warr Pavilion. Two words – good lord. Bexhill is a vivid reminder of the UK before the relaxation of trading laws and is surely the town that Mozzer wrote ‘Everyday is like Sunday’ about. The place fairly reeks of death.

The exhibition was a bit of a waste of time, too. I find the thrill of buying something vintage or second hand lies in finding it in a dusty junk/charity shop and paying a fair price for it, rather than having a man in a paisley shirt telling me that it’s an original Finn Juhl and trying to charge me a grand.

Yes, I am old-fashioned (but not so old-fashioned that I think that it's a good idea for a town to shut down at the weekend).

Monday, November 14, 2005


Soundtrack: Joy Zipper by Joy Zipper

It feels like we're hurtling towards Winter now. The mornings are much colder and more foggy, and it's tougher to get out of bed. However, there are upsides - Richmond Park and Ham Common are beautiful at the moment. I'm also enjoying wearing the scarf I knitted while Live8 was on earlier this year. So, that dismal televisual event was good for something after all. [My one highlight was Snoop 'What's my muthafuckin name?' Dogg, whom at least made me get up and dance for five minutes.]

The last few days have been up and down. Friday was a busy and somewhat fraught day, and culminated with me seeing Explosions in the Sky at the Garage with Merv, Smudge and KiwiTom. It was a real pleasure to spend time with these folks (it always is, actually). The band were really rather good and I was just the right side of not-too-drunk to enjoy it. They came on and played for an hour straight - no talking, no gaps between songs, no encore.

On Saturday I had a tough time coping with the inevitable hangover, but eventually recovered enough to go to a jumble sale on the other side of Ham. I did rather well. I picked up a pair of knee-length Gap jeans (a fashion item that I would never consider purchasing for full price), a Jaeger wool T-shirt, a Carhartt T-shirt which looks like it has never been worn, some excellent headscarves (which I'm sure will come in handy for something) and an electric blue shawl, which I have given to Miss JoJo. I really enjoyed the rummaging and have resolved to try to get along to sales more often.

Spoke to the delightful Ms. Robinson yesterday evening and was shocked to hear that she was admitted to hospital last week. Get better soon, lady.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Leaving card ettiquette

Over the past few years of working, a number of times I've been faced with a leaving card and have thought, 'Maybe I should say what I really think here...'.

On receipt of the most recent card this morning, I was reminded of something that my late father said at Sister Number Four's wedding.

The time came for him to give his father of the bride speech, so he stood up and said:

'Well, what can I say?'

Then he sat down again.

My Dad really wasn't one for confrontation. He was more of a behind-the-scenes manipulator, perferring to let my Mother do the dramatic stuff (remonstrating, threats etc.). He generally had his say, but never directly to us. He was content to let Mum be the bad guy. When you think about it, that was a very smart move, given that there were five of us to dish it out to.

Dad was right, though. The marriage lasted just 18 months. Anybody at the wedding could have predicted that, but he had the balls to say it.

I wrote in the card: 'Well, what can I say? It's been fun. Good luck in your new role'

I'm sure Dad would approve.

Lady (un)Luck(y)

Soundtrack: Marquee Moon by Television

How we felt... 'Did you feel low?' ...Not at all. 'Huh?'

It was a funny weekend. My much looked-forward-to evening out to the Lady Luck club on Friday was undone by my having a bit of a funny turn in the venue. All day Saturday I felt odd and slept a lot. I did bump into Merv in Waitrose, which was an excellent surprise - we've been predicting that we'd see each other in there doing grocery shopping before long, and sure enough...

Yesterday there was family gathering and lunch, which was relatively painless. I have learnt to keep any information about my life close and only offer the bare minimum. This sounds cruel, but it appears to work. Prior to lunch, we spent a frantic hour digging one of the beds at the allotment and planting broad beans during a rainstorm. This was the most satisfying bit of the whole day.

I received some disturbing news towards the end of last week, which I couldn't bring myself to report. The man whom Sister Number Four reported for stalking her last year appears to have gotten away with it. This was fairly predictable, but it was still dispiriting to hear. I can't really go into detail here, but his punishment is laughable.

That's if I had the capacity to laugh about it, which I don't.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Which would you rather?

Blokey chat/guffawing in the work kitchen


Man whistling 'Hymn to Joy' at volume in the open office?

FOR FUCK'S SAKE! I now have indigestion. If I get an ulcer, I'm taking all of these inferiors of the species to court...

I'm reading a book about women in rock at the moment and am being reminded at every turn how you have to be twice as good as a man to succeed. Where I work, the management structure is very female-heavy, so I figure that (by using some duff mathematics) that you have to be four times as good as other women to get by. And by the same token, I think that most of the men here have to be eight times as good as their female counterparts to succeed.

The worm has turned, indeed.

So, yes, at present I'm feeling like the Courtney Love/Yoko Ono of science publishing. Altogether now! 'She spent twenty years in the Dakota...'

What you're witnessing is a rare feminist outburst. Laugh, while you still have balls.