Friday, August 22, 2014

Against the Negative

One of the problems of doing a lot of academic detective-work, especially if you're dealing with gender (and, I should imagine, race) issues, is that you unearth a lot of depressing information that articulates just how unpleasantly powerful the systems are that keep everything in place and prevent change that would make work, family, and other life situations more fair.
The sort of research that I do can be miserable at times. I don't set off with an agenda, just a simple question, but as time goes on and as the research becomes deeper, I turn around to find that I'm in the middle of a swamp of predjudice that is nothing short of horrific.
The very positive and interesting interviews that I undertake become undermined by a feeling that there is a cycle of repression that is impossible to break through; there is little progress, and what there is is slow and easily reversible.I have noticed this negativity creeping into the writing that I'm doing and the biggest challenge now is to revitalise it and make it interesting to people who probably (metaphorically) have their hands over their ears.
I already know how rigorous you have to be if you are swimming against the social and academic tide and I have read some academic material recently that puts my own writing to shame.
Last night I spent two hours shunting bits of text around to try to make the writing flow and collect together relevant bits of information in specific places to reinforce what I'm saying. As I sat there, it got dark and my feet got so cold that I had to switch on the fire to thaw them.
There is a new pile of library books sitting on the desk waiting to be harvested. House-bound this weekend, I know I'll have deep spectacles-grooves imprinted on my face by Sunday evening.
This is a bit like recording, when you start off in the morning and the next time you look at the clock and it's four o'clock. I'm going to do that too this weekend.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cake and Writing

I was deep in academic writing land, having found a rich source of energy after slipping a rather snotty Nile Rodgers comment into my work (from Daryl Easlea's book on disco, Everybody Dance: Chic and the Politics of Disco). Suddenly, it stopped feeling like an upward slog and became an exciting ride. And I've just watched the film Twenty Feet from Stardom, which also was full of interesting observations. It's still going to take until at least Christmas before the article is finished, but at 15,000 words its getting ever stronger. I've learned to self-edit, slashing and burning and restructuring: but it's still to huge to read in one sitting. It doesn't move along quickly enough and I need to work on that.
Anyway, jolted from the academic reverie by a knock at the door I realised that time had flown and there was Offsprog One at the door. To celebrate, I made a blueberry cake with fresh blueberries which must have come to the boil in the oven, because half the cake started to burn and the other half was so liquid it ran out of the tin on to the bottom of the oven and from there on to the kitchen floor. I was too laid back to panic even though the kitchen had filled with smoke, and I just swore mildly before rescuing the sticky mess and turning it out on to a plate.
Miraculously, the smell of burning was fake and so was the smoke, and the stickiness solidified.
We had eaten half of the cake before it had even cooled down.
Now, back to writing for a while because I will be spending a ten hour day at the University clearing desk tomorrow. Last year, that's when I left my lyrics book on the train. Although I managed to salvage all of my songs (I hope) from iPhone recordings, and made them into the Anarchy Skiffle album, and also had to get my finger out and do the Bande Dessinee story which was languishing in rough format between the pages of the book, it was a miserable few weeks of constantly going to the Lost Property office at Baker Street and trying to remember what was actually in the bloody book.
That was a nine hour day and tomorrow has an extra hour attached. I don't dare try to do anything important so I'm hoping it's going to be busy. The upside is that it happens in the library, so I've prepared a small and perfectly formed list of books to stick my nose into when I get there.
All this writing: you don't tend to get paid for academic writing and often end up having to apply for funding to pay for illustrations, photographs and indexing.
I have resolved to write a best-selling detective novel next year, once I have decided which of two ideas is the best!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Two daughters: spills and crumbs.
One spilled tea, water and juice on the sofa. Most of the stains washed out.
The other didn't spill any liquids at all, but I investigated the sofa yesterday. Drifts of crumbs festooned the cushions under the covers and formed high ridges in the between-cushions gaps.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sun Tan

An area of sun-darkened skin has arranged itself in an amusing butterfly pattern across my face. Being a Celt (a mongrel blend of many Celts plus God knows what in the background), I used to have a tendency to freckle. Now, I look weatherbeaten and can add this to my list of non-feminine attributes. Stranger to nail-bar and hairdresser alike, I stride through town as an idiot-flaneuse (note the French terminology) scattering glamour in my wake.
I'm rather proud of my wind-whacked complexion, actually.
It glows in the dark and I don't need a torch to get from A to B in the middle of the night.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Pile of Paper, and Grains of Sand

Back from the seaside; the pile of paper awaits. Bills, instructions, notes-to-self, letters to forward, newspaper clippings, ancient stamps waiting to see if I can still use them....
The washing machine is churning and snarling, finding the receipts left in pockets digestible, the sand left in socks not.
Miraculously, I have returned with pairs of socks, not lone singletons. Finally, I have grown up.

Snails have attacked the Giant Hosta and decimated its leaves to lacy shadows of their former selves.
I deeply dislike snails most of the time. One by one, I picked them off, the huge rampaging grey-brown molluscs, and dropped them into the food recycling bin. I am mortified by my cruelty.

The holiday was heavenly, by the way.
Does this mean that real life is hell?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Sound of the Sea

I've been listening to the sound of the sea, close by, for hours, it is endlessly interesting: whispering, grumbling, roaring, rushing, and telling secret jokes that have the seagulls cackling uproariously with laughter.
A little dog barked on the beach on a windy day.
'Arf arf arf! Arf arf arf!'
The wind blew up under the bark, lifting the dog way up into the clouds, never to be seen again.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Greed Is Good! First Prize To Barnet Council!

After McMum passed away, things were fairly complex because she had lived in Edinburgh. There were things to organise and Offsprogs to transport about the place.
I had arrived back home in my car (which I rarely drive) one day, and been unable to park outside my house, so I parked further down the street instead.
My car was there for a few days because there was never a space in front of my house to move it to.
At some point, a parking suspension notice was tied to a lamp-post there, but I didn't see it because I don't live there and I wasn't walking around a lot because there was so much to organise.
The day before I was due to drive up to the funeral, I went to collect the car to have some work done on it at the garage. I got to my car at two minute past nine to find the warden writing out a parking ticket. He carried on but assured me that he would put in a good word for me because of the circumstances.
In spite of sending a copy of the funeral service with the date on it as part of the appeal, the fine has been instigated anyway. And I don't believe the warden, do you?
Lucky Barnet Parking Services! And how clever, not to post a note through people's doors to tell them that legal parking suddenly becomes illegal at a random time and in a random place!
Ring-a-ding-ding Barnet Council! Ring-a-ding-ding!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Catholicism vs Prestbyterianism

Catholicism: have fun, feel guilty later.
Presbyterianism: feel guilty for even thinking about having fun.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Big Faces

I wandered the muggy streets today between Camden and Kentish Town. London is still a stranger to me, after many years of living here.
'Who lives here?', I wonder; 'Who are their friends and what do they do?'.
As always when I stroll around, my mind wanders too.
I think about the conversations that I used to have with my friend Lester Square, the guitarist from the Monochrome Set, who I still owe a bottle of wine to for the sleeve-notes of the Helen and the Horns compilation.
We talked about the fact that both The Monochrome Set and The Chefs had fans who weren't just 'anoraks'. They actually wore anoraks. How we longed for hipsters!
And we talked about the size of our faces (little) and pondered whether if we'd had larger faces we might have become more famous: TV stars, perhaps, who all seemed to have larger than average heads and faces when we saw them out and about the the B-list events we frequented in the 1980s.
But it didn't seem to hold back the band, The Small Faces.

A review in Maverick!

Writing has trapped a nerve in my arm (!) but it's worth it. Yesterday I discovered a scribbled note in the margin of one of my conference papers that led me off on a new trail. I will take a break for a couple of days soon so I can see the wood for the trees, and perhaps write some new songs too.
On another and more musical note, Maverick magazine has given Anarchy Skiffle a four star review and also (thanks to Martin) put one of the tracks, Magpie, on to a free CD on their cover. The reviewer, Alan Harrison, is also a photographer who takes amazing pics of the Newcastle music scene, here
I bumped into him backstage at the Americana festival a few weeks ago and he told me that he really, really likes the album so I was chuffed to bits. I might try to find a double bass player locally so I can play some of the skiffle in its energised form in London.
Also backstage, there was a guy with a strangely-shaped black musical instrument case. Miraculously, the instrument that he unpacked was one of these which he proceeded to put together in a trice, and which sounded perfectly normal when it has been assembled.
I love the sound of the double bass; I wish it had been an option to learn when I was a nipper.
Instead, I sat swinging my legs in my piano lessons at Miss Matthew's house, unable to read the dots and carrying the music home in my head to work out at my leisure.
When she realised what I was doing (I'd got to grade three by then) she sacked me, and my formal musical training ended before I got to the age of twelve.
I didn't really like the way she spat her bits of dinner that had been trapped in her teeth on to my knuckles during the lessons anyway.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

This Morning...

... I have tried and failed (I think) to repair some 'dings' in my car windscreen, and read one-and-a-half academic articles. The first one was a very detailed study about music technology and gender in Australia which has booted me up the arse (apart from the bit on Foucault, who I have trouble in believing in). The other was a hilarious romp through the misogyny of 1950s America's hi-fi marketers and the way they engineered a territorial battle between the husband and the wife for space, sonic or otherwise, in suburban homes. The advertising copywriters were absolutely vile and the whole attitude was reinforced by Playboy magazine, and other social commentators.
All very intense and very interesting. Do I have time for a break? I think so. Cup of tea and that BBC antiques auction programme where they all lose money and nobody cares. That's my kind of TV!

Monday, August 04, 2014


Why is there a train ticket in the fridge?

Hello Again Blog

It's been a busy few days; it's strange to be back home and once again welded to the seat in the kitchen, writing and messing about with files.
The gig at St Cecilia's was lovely. Foakies gave me a warm welcome and I enjoyed listening to Mark Barnett's new song, and to John's set. There was a very funny comedy poet (I'll find out his name) who did a poem in a Dalek voice about the Dalek's skincare regime (exfoliate! exfoliate!).
There was a small PA in the hall which was tuned perfectly; the acoustics in that room are so delicate that you can hear what a person is whispering right across the room. It was nice to have a bit of levitation though and I really enjoyed playing and singing although I was still too timid to play the Anarchy Skiffle songs on my own. Note to self to start off with those ones next time rather than letting the fear build!