Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Walk

We went for a walk and found a hidden graveyard through a lych gate. The first part of it was shrouded by drooping dark trees with dead soil beneath them, threatening even though it was a beautiful sunny day beyond the trees. Further on we walked, where the sun shone on the tousled grass and the thick stones leaned and tumbled, their inscriptions filled with moss or eroded into shadows. The earliest grave was 1915; some had dried flowers, and only one had neat rows of begonias struggling against the heat.
We left, and it fell into peace again.

Girls in the Garage: Kitty Finer Song, Gina Birch Film

Monday, June 29, 2015

Chapter Delivered

Away it flew by email last night and the next taxi drew up at the rank, this time a very condensed version of a conference paper to be created in Powerpoint by Friday. That's the musical element out the window; I'll have to rethink this one during the week.
It's been busy but chaos can be very useful; I had a bit of a lightbulb thought five minutes ago which made me quite glad that some of my research is plodding along rather than whooshing by. Sometimes it can take months or even years before something seemingly obvious can switch on in your brain; often these things come about when you're thinking about something else, in this case a book that I lent that I don't think I'm going to get back. The thought appeared when I mentally revisited the content of the book to summarise what it was about, which happened in a very useful sentence which arrived at the same time as a thought about a student I'd worked with once. Nonsense, huh?
With that, I'll take my metaphors off and have a cup of tea.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

No Junk Mail

They will probably get sacked for doing it, but it was very funny to see the pizza leaflet carefully spread out flat and wedged neatly under the flap of the letterbox just under the engraved metal sign.
Much easier to read like that.

Pic of the Poseurs

Back through the misty glades of time, the streets of London were paved with punk and in our outposts around the country, we participated in it all in our own way. Wherever you were, the meanest accusation you could make to someone was that they were a poseur- or a poser, as we called it. You'd fling this at rich punks who bought their clothes from Vivienne and Malcolm rather than being given them or stealing them, or at people who bought their clothes from Boy rather than making them themselves. It was silly, but quite a lot about punk was silly; the self-policing wasn't anything to be proud of when we should have been dealing with the violence. The thing is that we were all really young and something had been created that was beyond anyone's control. This was our magazine, printed at the trusty Resource Centre in Brighton. We knew that some of the London punks laughed at us, and this was us laughing back. The young woman on the cover, Darla Jane Gilroy, later went on to be a famous fashion designer and is now a University lecturer; here she's tearing up a copy of Sniffing' Glue. In terms of content our mag was pretty cruddy but it was a lot of fun to do it and it was part of that 'we can do anything' feeling that permeated the whole of the latter part of the 1970s and that got stronger the harder people tried to stop us. 'Punk is over now in London', advised a friend down from London for the weekend. He didn't understand how little that mattered to us; we were far to busy to pay any attention, and anyway he wasn't in a band or anything like that: he was a watcher. Joby, our lead singer, was really into printing and made loads of posters that he slapped on hoardings all over Brighton until the council stopped him. We were nuisance and in many ways we were fearless because we had absolutely nothing to lose.

Drat and Double Drat

The plan was a bracing walk to oxygenate my sluggish weekend brain cells, then an hour or so at the computer to finish the writing in time for the deadline.
I'm not the sitsy-downsy type but I do know how to concentrate, so once I'm on the chair I'm there for hours.
However, as soon as I put my foot over the threshold a large blob of rain landed on the doorstep, so the computery bit of the day happened earlier than I'd anticipated. There is still a lot to be done but I'm having a Mahalia Jackson break and listening to a wonderful voice that doesn't even sound like a voice sometimes, and realising just what Elvis Presley's producers stole from gospel backing vocals: that clipped open/shut style of open-throated singing from groups of guys clustered round a microphone singing as one so a big block of tight, thick harmony surrounds the lead vocalist.
It looks as though the rain as set in for the day, which means that the list of rather glum instructions I made two days ago should shorten considerably. Most of the things on the list are those 'nuisance' tasks that involve searching for passwords and multiple keystrokes before further rummaging in files; either that or awkward emails that need to be worded exactly right and can't be dashed off in a flurry of enthusiastic typos.
You may have guessed by the number of postings about practically nothing that I've written this week, that the postings themselves are an elaborate prevarication exercise.
Maybe I should create a new slogan to reflect this.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Offsprog Two's Art Show

Eating, the Best Form of Prevarication

Hum... well I wrote for three hours this morning, took a break for an hour and a half to do the laundry, did another hour's writing and then went for a short walk, and I've just done another two hours.
It's not even 8000 words long and it's a rewrite, not a start-from-scratch; I think that possibly makes it even more complicated, though.
It's amazing how easy it is to eat almost a whole bag of Doritos to extend your break-time. It's a bit like Sherlock Holmes's two-pipe problem, but without the classiness.
The flies have buzzed off to a cowpat somewhere; they have left a few teeny fruitfly cousins who are  slowly spiralling around in confusion in the kitchen. That's all right. They can stay.
Anyway: regardless of the graft, I'm happy; I am now the proud mother of two graduate daughters!


Where did all these bluebottles come from?
Hundreds of them in the house.
They sound like racing cars and road drills.
They are as big as flying mice.
Go away and leave me alone!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Writing Chops

OK, it's going to be a writing weekend.
I've sharpened my pencils and my brain and I'm catching the dregs of those detectives on 5USA, before I retire early to bed so I can early to rise and make a start.
I've washed all the mugs for the tea supply, and I've got bread for the toast supply.
My writing trousers are washed and pressed (if you believe that, you'll believe anything), and the teetering pile of books is teetering excitedly, knowing it's going to be put to work very soon.
I have practised the 'sitting down shape' posture that I will bend into for the day and the chair is positioned diagonally next to the table, ready to be pulled out and sat upon.
Actually I don't like this 5USA programme. Excuse me while I switch it off.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Intelligence, Bovine Style: a True Story

There was going to be a storm. The air was heavy with moisture and the clouds were bearing down on the fields and woods.
The cows ambled across the field in an orderly line and collected under the branches of a large tree to shelter from the impending rain. 
But the spread of its branches wasn't wide enough for all of them to fit underneath, so a line of cows sensibly crossed the field to another tree.
All of them.
They huddled underneath its branches, but the tree wasn't large enough to shelter the whole herd, so a line of them crossed back to the original tree.
All of them.
But the spread of its branches...

Lipstick and Dynamite Film on 18th July

This is Offsprog One's curated event at The Doomed Gallery in Dalston, and here's where you get tickets:


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fenwick's in Newcastle

Ah! That most glamorous of shops. Stores, sorry.
Who's this? It's the butcher, striding confidently through Menswear (Calvin Klein, Paul Smith, etc.) in his crumpled white cotton butcher's coat, bloody handprint wipe-smears all down the front, in the button area.
Only in Newcastle; only in Newcastle.


I have been bouncing about like Tigger today. Driven to distraction at 12 a.m.  by the need to send out student feedback by email, I burned the midnight oil and sent out almost 100 emails. It worked- I slept like a baby and woke early this morning to head to the Research Conference at the University of the East in Docklands to present a paper. I enjoyed the papers by my colleagues Christopher Dalladay and Guy Harries, and it was worth going for that alone. Although I didn't manage to fit the whole talk in (none of us did), my paper made more sense in the telling than I thought it would. In the garrett, everything seems skewed and awkward, so it's a good thing to present research at conferences to iron out the kinks.
Then I went to The Vortex in Dalston; what a different environment to the University! In Gillett Square people hang out on benches and wander across to the cafes, busy doing nothing (or rather, something you can't understand unless you are one of their number). It is the land of the dreadlocked pensioner, the young white woman with stylish clothes, the tattooed older gent, the white-haired octogenarian couples in pale blue mackintoshes whatever the weather, and the occasional bearded lumbersexual.
I had gone to interview someone; I had never been there before and I was blown away by the lovely room where the music happens. It has a loyal clientele and you can see why.
Interviewing is really inspiring, but you also have to be really careful not to exhaust your... well... victim. I remember being interviewed for a German radio station about seven years ago, and after two hours I was practically on the floor with knackeredness, my mouth dry and my head empty. It's a bit like letting blood, but sometimes I think people tell themselves things while being interviewed that they hadn't realised themselves, so it does work both ways. I hope.
Last journey of the day was to Stratford to do some tutorials. It has been a muggy day and by 5.30 we were all swimming through the air like goldfish, in slow motion and uncharacteristically benign. We smiled graciously, made gentle bargains, and felt reasonably happy.
I bounced home and I've just eaten two pies. It's been that sort of day.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Week in the Day Of

It's been a full-on week; after a mad dash from the Songwriting Weekend in Dumfries (wonderful as always and some fantastic songs- yes, Laura and Rachel!), there was a gig in aid of the Macmillan charity in Congleton, Going Up the Country on Sunday afternoon. It was part of a yearly festival and I enjoyed meeting The Sunbathers, who gave me their single to listen to (not yet!). There were some lovely people there, and the whole event was organised by Kevin Birchall, who seemed remarkably sane considering that it was the last few hours of a weekend festival. I thoroughly enjoyed it actually; after a weekend helping people to write their own songs it was nice to get up and sing mine!
After a week of mega-meetings at work, I then became Martin's roadie for a couple of gigs, both of which were great- Winchester with Jimmy Cole on banjo and high-strung guitar, and Twickenham with Jim the Fiddle. I had to work today too and kept up with the Austerity March via Twitter and bits of BBC News 24. Charlotte Church is my new wannabe BF; probably everybody's, I think!