When I lived in the housing co-operative (in the early to mid-nineties), there was a bookshop a few streets away. Painted bright yellow, it stood out from its surroundings. All down the narrow street to the seafront were metal back doors into hot and dirty restaurant kitchens, with giant-sized cooking oil cannisters piled up outside them. Then, near the bottom, you'd see this sunshine yellow facade, with a bench outside. The shop was named after the building's former life: The Public House. One of my flatmates worked there for a bit, subsidising her MA.
These were the days when, rather than seeking the book you wanted online, you browsed a bookshop to see what it had on offer. I didn't have much of an income at the time, so it wasn't somewhere I shopped frequently, but I suppose curiosity must have overcome penury at some point, because I certainly bought at least a couple of eye-opening/mind-expanding magazines there. And probably my book of Patti Smith lyrics, and a book or two about the Velvet Underground.
It was a bookshop born of the Seventies, and as such, I should have found it rather comforting: its stock touched on many of the same free love, free food and free minded topics that lined my parents' own bookshelves. Many of the books and magazines on offer here, though, pushed boundaries far further than my parents would have been comfortable with, and in retrospect I think that my horizons were widened a little more than I expected.
Yesterday, I went to a talk by the shop's founder, Richard Cupidi: I booked the ticket out of pure curiosity, remembering his name from when my flatmate would come home with tall tales of things he'd done or said that day. The Public House bookshop closed in 1999, one of several small independent bookshops that Brighton boasted when I first arrived here, but that have almost all gone to the wall.
The small room where the talk took place soon filled up, and, as well as a few younger folk, the audience seemed to comprise the hip elderly. There was a grandma in jeggings. A wheelchair user in leathers. An old lady with two very long plaits. Grey-haired men in flawlessly-tied statement scarves. The two older women in front of me were having a good catch-up talk about how Cupidi used to hand out hash brownies at the shop.
Unfortunately, I didn't catch the name of the guy who gave Cupidi's introduction, but it was very good. And then Cupidi spoke. He's a very compelling raconteur, and an hour passed very quickly, as we listened to his anecdotes - and only a few visuals, because, he said, when he came to look back through his keepsakes, he realised they'd been too busy *doing* to record much, and of course, these were long before the days that everyone had their own camera in a mobile phone, or was uploading videos to YouTube or blogging everything.
I was very struck by how these visuals echoed the norms of my childhood: that flyers were type-written and photocopied or mimeographed; posters were often hand-written; so much was black and white.
He came to the UK from the States, and was living in Clapham in London when someone offered him a job in Brighton. His UK geography being vague, he mistook it for Brixton and assumed he'd be able to walk there. But when he came down - by train - he fell for Brighton: "This place is absurd", he thought, "It shouldn't exist".
To hear him tell it, he got the four-storey building for free - times have certainly changed in Brighton. After its beginnings as a pub, it was briefly a corkscrew factory, and then lay dormant and boarded up for years. In 1973, Cupidi went to see the estate agent, who gave him the key to look round: he asked when he should bring it back and was told 'there's no hurry'. Now, whether or not he subsequently paid for it, or leased it, he didn't make clear, but they cleaned the place up (he says, when he thinks back to that first glimpse of it, he could swear there was an actual pond upstairs. With tadpoles living in it) and it became his family home as well as a community bookshop, learning space, creche, gallery, etc etc.
On the front of the shop was painted, "Read for power. The book should be a ball of light in your hands". Books were shelved, not in sections, but purely in alphabetical order, with the idea that customers would thus be more likely to stumble across something new. The shop was run as a co-operative (in all things, including stock) and, Cupidi agreed with the ex-members of his staff who were present, pay was low.
The more dramatic parts of his talk covered a visit from Allen Ginsberg, who said the shop was 'better than City Lights'; and attacks from fascist extremists, who threw a fire extinguisher at Cupidi and used to shatter its windows with marbles. In 1999, the end of the net book agreement (which allowed bookshops to set their on pricing) meant the end of the shop altogether.
They paid off their debts, in strict order: the smallest enterprises got paid first. The Public House is now a private home, and Cupidi is a hypnotherapist. There is a fantastic thread on the local history site, with memories so of their times, and the perfect revelation that the daughter of the other hippy bookshop in town (Unicorn Books, before my time) was named Circe.
The talk really impressed on me how much Brighton has changed, even in the couple of decades I've lived here. I suppose one doesn't notice that a zeitgeist is a transient thing, especially when it's the one in which you're becoming an adult. If I'd known that the Public House bookshop was a symbol of an era that was dying out, would I have regarded it differently? Probably. Fortunately, things simply are what they are, until hindsight kicks in.
We'd set the alarm. We'd laid out Item's t-shirt, bib and shorts. We'd figured out what time we needed to leave the house to get her to the start point on time. And we left the house ahead of ourselves, rationalising that it'd be good to get there early and see the set-up.
So everything was fine, until we got to the bus stop and realised there were NO SODDING BUSES RUNNING.
And the worst of it is, in the back of my mind, I reckon I knew this. I'm sure it was last year that I was trying to get across town to pick up a portrait of myself, worried about being late because there were no buses. And I'm sure I'd seen some posters on buses in the last couple of weeks, but vaguely thought, oh it won't affect us surely - we'll be setting off way before the marathon affects the centre of town.
Not that the bus company was any help at all today. When we reached the stop, there were four or five people waiting. The electronic sign was blank - not an unusual occurence and not necessarily a sign that the buses weren't running - in fact, they normally put a scrolling message at the foot of the sign to warn of any delays, etc. Across the road, a bus was parked, pointing in the other direction. When I ASKED, the driver, who had been standing in the street looking across at us, told us we would be waiting all day if we were hoping that a bus would arrive. Would he have bothered to tell us otherwise?
We had a 1.5-mile walk ahead of us - to get to the spot where Item was supposed to run a mile - and 40 minutes to do it in. I have never felt like such a poor parent. After a night of anxiety dreams, it felt like I hadn't actually woken up. I was alternately apologising gravely to Item, and asking her if it was a dream. "No, because I'm here as well," said possibly-dream-Ites.
On the way down St James' Street, I'd tried a cashpoint which wouldn't take my card, then found a second, only to find that the woman in front of us was feeding in one card after another to get a balance on each. Finally we found one and got out enough cash for a cab. But was there any point in ordering one? By the time it came, and navigated through the blocked streets, we'd be better walking. East Street, where the taxi rank would ordinarily have been, was completely fenced in.
At Churchill Square, there was a bus waiting at the stop. We ran for it. The bus pulled away. We tapped on the door... the driver let us in. Thank god! We rode a few stops, got off at Waitrose and hurried down Waterloo street to the Peace statue, me checking the time obsessively.
We made it. Thank god. The races were in age bands, at five-minute intervals, and the two batches prior to pink were warming up when we arrived. At this point, I bumped into a woman from my NCT group, whose daughter Hannah was born at the same time as Ites - she was running too. We had time for a quick chat, and then the pinks were ushered into a pen for a warm-up, led by an ebullient yoga teacher, that had them dancing to a selection of music, culminating in Gagnam Style.
I lost sight of Item, then saw her, throwing herself in to the warm-up; then they corralled the pinks into the starting pen and I couldn't see her at all. I got a head start on jogging towards the finish line, on the lower prom, since the race itself was on the upper road and lined with spectators.
Half way along, I heard cheers and could tell that the race had caught up with me, so I mounted the steps to the upper prom. Again, I couldn't see Item at all. I waited 'til the very last walking stragglers had passed, then took off again. I often avoid this stretch of pavement on sunny days, because I know there'll be pedestrians everywhere, but that's nothing compared to the people, pushchairs and bikes I had to weave around today.
At the finish line there was a heaving scrum. I could see The Boy, but he couldn't see me, and didn't hear his phone. In the end, continuous loud, unladylike shouts got his attention. He'd found Item. She'd run the mile and she had her medal (the same stretch of road would be the final mile for the proper marathoners).
I am SO ridiculously proud. One nice thing about the medals is that they are almost the same as the 'real' marathoners' ones - they have the same picture of the West Pier, and the same ribbon, and are metal.
By the time we'd found the crossing point on Marine Parade, the marathon proper was running up St James' St, our route home. We ducked into a coffee shop and watched the tired runners, relatively early in the course route (about mile 5). They were tackling the sort of hill that you don't give a moment's thought to when walking, but which becomes painful for runners. Some of them already looked well-knackered.
It was only about 10:30 by the time we got home. That was rather a lot of effort for so early on a Sunday, with rather more worrisome elements than I usually prefer to encounter before I'm properly awake - but Item is already resolute that she wants to enter again next year. When we will make better travel arrangements.
While posting blurred phone photos every night holds a certain charm, I was curious to know what the images would look like scanned in properly and cleaned up.
The answer seems to be 'more polished-looking', but possibly also, 'less immediate'. Also - it's pretty amazing what you can do with Photoshop and a sheet of grubby old paper.
Anyway, for mockduck completists, here they are. It's ok, I don't expect you to read the whole set again. There are a few additions, mind you - little drawings that I added later.
I kind of wish I had time to do this every day, though let's face it, an average working day in front of the computer doesn't yield many pretty wrappers and views.
One welcome, but unexpected, side-effect of this diary is that it's consolidated something for me: I think this format would work really well for the cartoon book I want to do about running (when you're non-sporty and in your forties. Hey, that rhymes).
This is *such* an unflattering rendition of The Boy!
( The restCollapse )
- Current Mood: blah
The Lexington is a beautiful venue: one of the old-style London pubs with enormous windows that I would love to draw, no less live in. It was about a 15-minute walk from St Pancras, then through a side door and up the stairs into a very small venue - about half the size of where I saw Nick Cave, though about the same number of people made up the audience in the end.
Billy's fans are so clearly the kids of the Eighties. There were a few younger people, but the vast majority of us were mid-forties. Mainly male, actually; many with beer bellies and bald heads, many dressed in pristine gig t-shirts in shades of khaki, and many who spent the gig in a state of reverence, eyes closed, lip-syncing to the music.
Without any pushing at all on my behalf, I ended up in a position front and centre; it was a well-behaved audience, and it was simply that no-one else had taken that spot. Andrew Collins was DJing, but as I'm clearly not up on my cultural icons, I'm afraid this meant nothing to me until I got home to Wikipedia.
Bragg's newly-assembled band took their places on the small stage, and he welcomed us, apologised for having a nasty chest infection, and we were off with Ideology.
Now, I don't know much about musical theory, or playing music, but the instruments on that stage were a delight to watch and listen to. Apart from Billy's several guitars, including the ones that make his trademark early-career clunking chords, there was one of these - apparently called a pedal guitar, and really a couple of guitar necks laid horizontal, and plucked.
And something that looked like a double bass after it had been on a severe diet.
Billy's particularly adept at affable chat between songs, and the anecdotes ran free - from when he met the Queen, largely to confound people's expectations and to please his mum, to how Johnny Marr was the hands-down nicest person he met in the whole of the Eighties. And you get the feeling niceness counts for a lot in the Bragg universe. He was basically as twinkly-eyed, beardy and jokey as you'd want your middle-aged icon of pop to be.
( Here's the set listCollapse )
As I mentioned [friends-locked post], my first brush with Billy was back in the Red Wedge days; his work on Woody Guthrie songs put him firmly back on my radar, and these days his work is particularly familiar to me because of two things: several of his more upbeat tracks come round routinely on my running playlist; and he also features quite a lot on Item's go-to-sleep playlist.
The very final track was great for me, because every lyric accords with a distinct part of Sheepcote Valley, and it's not overstating the case to say that some of those lines have distracted me well enough to push me to greater heights when I really just want to come to a halt.
How funny it must be, releasing music into the world, and imagining people taking it out on their little devices and listening to it in all sorts of different circumstances, from lonely, late-night bus rides, to sweaty runs across fells, to who knows where and with what emotional backdrop.
I mean, that must have been true of vinyl, and radio, too, but I imagine the potential circumstances were a little more limited: nightclubs, bedrooms, and shops, with perhaps a play as the background music in the cafe in Eastenders about as noteworthy as it got.
As a final treat, we were all handed a t-shirt as we left. Khaki-coloured, of course. ;)
A couple of hours later, as I went to get into bed, I found a card on my pillow. Item had made it for me to say that she'd missed me, and she'd drawn a picture of Billy.
Not a bad likeness at all, actually, so it's funny that it was done entirely from imagination.
They tweeted about it on Thursday, I had an idea for my design in the bath that night, and spent that evening, yesterday evening, and an hour or two today completing it.
It's been a useful learning process - firstly, to realise that I can turn a complete piece of work around so quickly. Second, I think this is the first time in my life that I have ever used Photoshop layers properly for print separation - a layer for each colour, neatly labelled. In the process I had to remember how to get a Pantone palette up in Photoshop (I say 'remember', I mean 'look up') and learn how to find the colour reference for each of said Pantone colours. Plus, I stuck to a really small number of colours (for me), because the winning design will be screenprinted, and the more colours, the more faff that'd be. Limited palette = more polished, even if the colours I chose seem to accidentally hark back to children's books of the fifties, printed on thick pulpy paper.
Ironically, for all its professionalism, I'm not sure I *like* it that much. I don't think I'd even buy it myself - an interesting question to ask about one's own artwork. If I'd had more time, I'd like to think I'd have come up with something wittier and perhaps less literal in its style.
BUT - it is done, submitted, and I have learned a lot. That'll do for me. Results are announced Monday week.
I am on a serious come-down, as I scrub tannin stains from the kitchen sink, mop up cat sick, urge Item to do her homework, and think back to Friday night's Nick Cave event. The very concept of the thing only bubbled up last weekend. Life didn't seem particularly dull before then, but I'm left feeling that I just don't have enough thrills on the horizon.
On the upside, I'll never forget it. In more than twenty years of living in Brighton, it feels like the ultimate in 'you really had to be there' moments. The clever thing about the contest was that it ensured that every member of the small crowd was there because they really wanted to be. For a pre-tour rehearsal, I imagine it's psychologically very positive to have a crowd of people who would be applauding even if you were standing there telling knock knock jokes, let alone playing them your brand new album.
There was a bit of a queue getting in, as they checked the tickets, and everyone queuing up on the desolate bit of Hove seafront, with a February chill wind whipping round sequinned mini-skirts and conspicuous cowboy hats, was smiling and happy. Afterwards, as we wandered out in a satisfied daze, there were even more smiles.
The crowd ended up being about 100 people, I reckon. A good few of them were, to my intense surprise, around the age of ten. I'd already told Item she couldn't be my plus-one: it had said in the competition details that it was strictly over-18s.
"Why? Is there swearing in the songs? Like Bloody Hell! Why did you do that?" - this was quite a good pastiche of a Bad Seeds song, I thought, and she's been singing it around the house ever since.
I took my friend Nat, who is also a fan, and she was SO pleased and excited that it really added to the atmosphere of the night. I've never been to any event in that particular venue before - it was at Hove's leisure centre, which is a Fifties brick building that has an old-school weight-lifting gym at one side, and a pool at the back where I used to take Item for baby swimming lessons. I'm sure the whole building was slated for demolition a few years back, and the pool got less and less fun to visit, as they stopped bothering to repair little things like falling tiles. Plus, it's always been a bit of an insult to the seafront - fancy building a squat little square building right in front of the sea like that, and not including any windows on the sea-facing side. I guess it's been given a reprieve in the light of budget cuts. Plans for the seafront always seem to be trumpeted and definite, and then reversed a few years later.
At the front of the leisure centre, I now discover, is a ballroom, a wood-panelled space about the size of your average church hall, with red curtains and circles of lamps hanging from the ceiling. I've seen Nick Cave live before, but in the city's biggest venue, the Brighton Centre, and I couldn't get closer than 20 feet away unless I wanted to really elbow through a moshpit. It was a good gig, but I left without any great feeling of connection - like many big events, you might as well have been watching on TV.
As we entered the ballroom, my overwhelming feeling was disbelief that we were going to see Cave playing live, and he'd be... well, just *there*, and even if we weren't in the front few rows, we'd be damn close. In fact, *everyone* was going to be in the first few rows. There weren't going to be any other rows.
I'm 44 years old, and this shouldn't be such a big deal, but - well, while I've left most obsessive fan behaviour behind, I've kind of stuck with my favourite musicians, and there really is only a handful of them. Nick Cave is the very favourite of the favourite. So, I spend a lot of time listening to his music, and a lot of time thinking about it - and him. Living in the same town helps with that, because someone's always just seen him around, or has an anecdote to share.
Almost everyone else in the audience was about our age, and I recognised a good many Brighton faces by sight: the woman who's always in the cafe at the Marina after the car boot sale; the Asian bloke who used to DJ when we were in our 20s (maybe he still does? I haven't been to a club in decades); the punk with two sticky-up wings of bright pink hair who writes for the Independent and always appears on those talking head programmes about music.
So, a nudge from Nat when the lights went down, and Nick walked on to the tiny elevated area of the stage, and the Bad Seeds walked on, and a cluster of girls stood looking awkward, squashed into a corner at the back, and the strings players sat behind the speaker stack, and Nick explained that this really was just a rehearsal and to bear with them, and 'if we were good', they'd play some old favourites, but first they were going to play the new album Push the Sky Away.
And that's what happened. Things went wrong a few times; Nick stopped things because he was 'really fucking off the note' or he'd forgotten the words. He told some small, self-mocking jokes just for Brightonians: "This one's called Jubilee Street. It's not about going to the library" (Jubilee street being the address of Brighton library); "This one's [Mermaids] about when I wrapped my car around a speed camera. Yeah, I'm a local hero, I know". And there was one [Wide Lovely Eyes] 'about Duke's Mound', the stretch of seafront just below Kemp Town, covered in bushes and winding paths, notoriously Brighton's gay cruising zone.
It's a lovely album, I think, on my hearings so far, and it's even better to be able to listen out to all the little Brighton references. [It's streaming here]
It seems we, the audience, were good, because after that, they went on to play some old stuff. He wasn't joking about 'old'. The set went:
Red Right Hand (1994)
O Children (2004)
Ship Song (1990)
Jack the Ripper (1992)
From Her to Eternity (1984)
Love Letter (2001)
Your Funeral My Trial (1986)
Mercy Seat (1988)
Stagger Lee (1996)
A good number of these were songs I was listening to when I was a student, or even a sixth former. To be absolutely honest, if this had been my most perfect night ever, this section would have been made up of the far more melodious and beautiful love songs that are the real reason I am properly passionate about Cave's music. Ship Song and Love Letter are the closest things on this list; I enjoy the more raucous, discordant stuff mainly from nostalgia and because you can have a stomping good dance to them, but with the softer songs, you can enjoy Cave's voice, the lyrics - sometimes incredibly emotional; often comedic - and the songs' quite beautiful melodies.
Backing vocals were provided by the clump of young girls, around the age of twelve. Some looked starstruck, some looked bemused, and others looked really, really tired. Although it was hard to discern who was yawning and who was singing out with a perfect O shaped mouth. I'm guessing the other kids milling about in the audience and on the balcony were their siblings, or possibly offspring of the various band members and strings players. As the concert began, Nick had looked awkwardly at the choir and made a quip about how they 'weren't his'. At the end of the first part, the album comprehensively delivered, he said the kids had to go home because it was 'past their bedtime'. The two eldest stayed. I guess you would, wouldn't you.
I wasn't sure about the young girls singing backing vocals. To be fair, I was standing really near the speakers, and getting mainly distorted bass - so I couldn't tell what they were adding to the sound. As a mum, I found myself wondering about the wisdom of exposing them to the hard-talking, profanity-littered, sexually-explicit world of the Bad Seeds. I don't know.
Meanwhile, I'm kind of in awe of the sexual persona that a 55-year-old man can carve out for himself at an age when many men are slowly descending into a world of comfy cardis and excessive nasal hair. Looking at Warren Ellis (a sprightly 48, but sporting such a huge beard that he could be mistaken for an itinerant) and Conway Savage (52), I couldn't help thinking that they've created a new way for middle-aged to elderly men to behave. Perhaps it's just a path that all the big rock stars have already paved - tramplike suits, unkempt hair, stringy beards, shirts undone to the waist, big cuffs and collars, sunglasses on indoors, big droopy porno moustaches. Quite Seventies. Maybe that's why it makes 40-somethings' hearts skip a beat: it's the sex-symbolism that was the background to our teens and our own burgeoning sexualities.
I have begun to think that more and more of Cave's work (in his music and in his literature) is about the disturbing fact of being an old man who still has a young man's sexual desires, and how people look on that with mistrust. Maybe that's just my reading of it, and something that helps me come to terms with what otherwise just comes across as misogynistic. Like, oh, maybe it's IRONIC and SELF-DEPRECATING. That's ok, I can enjoy it then.
Certainly that seems to be the theme behind the Death of Bunny Munroe, Cave's most recent novel; the new single Jubilee Street's video shows Ray Winstone in a mac, uneasily employing the services of a young, pert, attractive prostitute. The truth of the matter is that a video like that ends up showing a young, nude woman, no matter what its underlying message is. And that adds to the heap of images of young, naked women that already exist. I suppose, as a middle aged, becoming less conventionally-attractive-by-the-day woman, it would be refreshing to see that trend bucked a little more; to see some more adventurous exploration of what sexuality can mean. Looking around the audience confirmed my gut feeling, that I'm well within a Cave fan's average demographic, so - if he was concerned with maximising profits, rather than following his very clearly-defined muse - he'd be best advised not to alienate us all.
But it was a wonderful night in any case. It was over before I could quite believe I was so lucky. I took about a zillion photos and filled my memory card; they're mostly under-exposed, but at least they provide me with a lasting memory of the night.
But that was ok, upstairs revealed that Andrew is a huge Cave fan too, and all was well.
What I didn't reveal was that, between texts, I was assembling a fabric appliqued picture of the man himself. Because that would have seemed weird.
But you see, my ever-alert Twitter pals had told me about a competition that was right up my street. The local indie music shop had tweeted that they had ten pairs of tickets to give out - not to a gig, but to Nick Cave's final rehearsal, here in his home town, before he hits the road for the tour promoting his new album.*
Last week, I failed to buy tickets for the London dates of this tour, because, although I was right there when they went live, it turned out they were £50 each, there were none left close to the stage, and you had to buy a minimum of two. By the time I'd thought it through, they'd all gone anyway, and the decision was made for me.
So here was my chance! The challenge was to recreate a Cave/Grinderman/Bad Seeds album cover in whatever format you liked - plasticine, cake, paints, whatever. But it had to be in by Tuesday night.
In a hurry, Item, The Boy and I all looked at my record collection. I have to say that, in the main, they are a spectacularly uninspiring bunch of covers for this sort of thing. Item got her toys out and went part way towards a good stab at The Good Son.. but... I didn't feel it was going to win us the tickets.
In the end, I recreated one of my favourite Cave albums, The Boatman's Call, sewing it out of small scraps of fabric we had around the house - some of it fabric I've actually owned since the days when I first became aware of Cave's work, as it happens. It took an evening and a half; I pretty much screwed up the lettering through hurrying it, and then it was really hard to take a photo that did it justice.
So I sent it in, but with a bit of a heavy heart, convinced that the lettering and the poor photo would be my downfall. Yesterday, I had to work in London, leaving on the 8am train, and working solidly through the day with colleagues. At about 2:30pm I got an email. The title was 'You've won Nick Cave tickets!' and it started 'Once you've stopped jumping up and down...'
Whoop! There's incredibly tight security around it all. They wouldn't tell us the venue until I'd gone to pick up the tickets, and I had to show photo ID and then they wrote my name on them in big letters so that I couldn't sell them on - I'll also have to show ID at he door. Oddly enough, the venue is our local swimming pool and gym - apparently it's where Nick always rehearses. *Buys annual pass for pool* The record shop did not laugh when I asked if it was in the soft play area.
I have to say that, apart from being so delighted and excited about going to the gig tomorrow, the atmosphere on Twitter has been really fun, with lots of Brightonians all buzzing about the contest and talking about or showing their entries, with varying degrees of paranoia about whether people would copy them. It's felt a lot like the beginning of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when there are still golden tickets to be found. And I've won one - hooray!
There are other winners here and here and here. They're all fab, and all totally different. what a great competition.
* An album which I have to say is leaving me slightly uneasy with its cover art and video content's implied misogyny, but let's gloss over that just for now, at least until I've consumed it properly.
It's only 20 mins - and worth it. There were three stand-out bits for me, but they are spoilers.
One is the anecdote that the whole podcast is based on - that the only thing that got Blanc out of a coma after a dreadful car crash was the phrase 'What's up, Bugs?' (not 'Doc', sadly, but it's still a good story).
Another is that Blanc voiced Barney Rubble in the first 50 (if I heard correctly) episodes of the Flintstones *from his hospital bed*.
And the last is what Blanc has on his gravestone: That's All, Folks".
These days, I always seem to be on the lookout for people who have or had enviable careers. Voicing cartoons must be one of the ultimate examples of 'you can't learn it at school', yet what an immensely satisfying job.
The Boy made the point that these characters are all based on high-profile celebrities/politicians of the time. These days, hardly anyone remembers them, but most of us know their cartoon versions.
On New Year's Day, we spent the evening with Nice Italian exColleague and her family. They provided drinks and cooked a main course - lasagne - and we brought side dishes and a pudding. I made smoked aubergine salad and some green beans with a tahini and lemon dressing. TBH they were both ok but I don't remember really tasting them. I don't think I'd drunk all that much! Item ate a whole bowl of the lentil lasagne, which was a good show for her, as she hasn't had it before.
Originally, we were invited to stay until midnight, but when I apologetically said I didn't think we'd last that long, NIeC was relieved and said they neither, and we'd celebrate some timezone where New Year came a couple of hours earlier. We stayed til 10 pm, and although we'd originally planned to take a taxi, were transported zippily there by Brighton buses both ways, despite our fears that they might be rowdy and crowded that night.
Item was good, though quite clearly over-excited - NIeC cleverly channelled all the girls' pent-up energy into some dance game on the Wii.
Blonde Item in a Rapunzel wig
NIeC's elder daughter had prepared a pub quiz, researched on the internet. It was pretty good - just the right level of difficulty, which is quite hard to pitch, I reckon. It was a lovely night and I really enjoyed it. It may have been the first time that we took Item out late and she didn't have an overtired meltdown...
On the 1st, it was the birthday of our friend who moved back from Europe last year. Stinker of a date for a birthday! They had a party from mid-afternoon, and it was quite odd to go along and see my old cronies from 20 years ago, all now with kids and partners but otherwise looking exactly the same, as far as I could tell. Item bonded with the daughter of one of The Boy's old mates, and I spent quite a bit of time with the pet cat who was shut in the bedroom so he didn't escape. He's a Maine Coon - and enormous, despite only being 5 months old. He's about three times as big as Sushi.
Turning home, we popped into see Item's best friend and her family (who have also become our good friends) and had a quick glass of port and a chat.
Item *did* then have a massive meltdown on the way home, unfortunately, even running away from us. We couldn't see her for a good few minutes in the dark and it was quite scary, and then we found her and took her home and she gave us all a hard time for a couple of hours after that, too. SIGH. It was all triggered when I wouldn't buy her a comic on the way home, which just seems... really spoilt.
On the 2nd, I took Item to the Toy Museum - we haven't been before despite a few near-misses in the past. I'm not sure why; it's pretty good, with a massive train layout and some really interesting historic toys, though it is quite small (and was £8 for the pair of us), so I doubt we'll go back for a while.
Then, we were invited, with The Boy, to lunch with Item's friend Silas, his brother Zooey, and his two mums - plus another dad who had dropped by. The latter told a story about how someone had visited his house and asked to be seated elsewhere as 'looking at all his clutter was giving her a headache'! Poor Silas had the norovirus PLUS ear infection and spent Xmas day in hospital.
Theirs is that house that is pretty much our dream abode, and the mum both work in TV which, well, you know. If I'd just sorted myself out at an early age. However, envy swept to one side, they are nice, AND they have offered to store some of our stuff in their gargantuan loft when we put this place on the market.
I tried going for another run again last week, after more than a week's rest since pulling my calf muscle, and my leg *immediately* gave out again. On Wednesday, after lunch, we and the boys went to the swimming pool and I got in one more long swim - 57 lengths of the 100m pool, which was what I could fit in during the length of time The Boy was willing to corall Item/Item was willing to be in fairly cold water.
On the 3rd, Item had a play date with her Icelandic schoolmate, who has just moved to Hartington Road - the very first street I lived in when I moved to Brighton after university, fact fans. MORE house envy! They have a massive red brick gothic-ish airy house that is just so beautiful, and again exactly what we'd desire, if we could stretch to it.
(Side note - while I was at The Boy's, his dad totally misinterpreted something I said, and thought there was a possibility that we might move to Sheffield. No offence, Sheffield, but not going to happen. But they'd've loved that, as it's within about 45 minutes drive of them. Then he started showing me houses we could easily afford there. Which, I know.)
After I picked Item up from that playdate, we bussed to town and had lunch with Seasoned Mother and her two kids, but by that time I was starting to come down with this stupid illness, which seems now to have turned into a nose-running-constantly cold + cough, which is reassuringly familiar, but does not really explain the magnitude of my symptoms on Thursday night. I have graduated from the ibuprofen but still taking echinachea.
And on Friday, it was Item's birthday, which we've covered. Today she has her pal Dexy over. So we are up to date. On Monday it is an INSET day, but The Boy and I are both working, so we're sharing the cost of a childminder with Isadora's parents, for the first time. Let's see how that goes. (I have a feeling that The Boy's salary plus bus fare must about equal the cost of the childminder).
It's really lovely to have a sketchbook that's full of drawings, full in a tangible sense, because the pages have gone from being all orderly and flat to crinkling up a little and pushing the covers apart. I can flick through it and think, what lovely colours, what a lot of drawings, don't they all look nice together.
And you get a similar effect on Flickr, if you put everything in the same set, only without the tactile experience of flicking through the soft pages.
At the beginning, I vaguely thought, oh, this will be good for my drawing - and it has been, I can see the improvement. I can expect a higher hit rate of pictures I'm not ashamed of. It really makes me think about what standard I could reach if I was doing this daily forevermore.
One of the hardest aspects has been what I also find hard about producing any art to a deadline - the idea that I have to (in this case only because of my own rules) put up whatever I have drawn, whether it's good or bad. That sometimes makes me panic. It's counter-productive.
Someone I respect very much told me, a long time ago, when we were teenagers actually, that out of a roll of film (and that in itself shows how long ago this was) you are doing well if you have two really good photos. If this project were a couple of rolls of thirty frames, by those guidelines I would be happy enough. But it did hurt to put up the pictures I really hated (and those made garish by my poor colour-matching scanner).
And as I mentioned on the 19th, when Item occasionally joined in with the painting, her fluidity and looseness really slayed me. To some extent you can never escape your own style, but I do seem to start with a terrible predisposition towards tight lines and attempted accuracy, and just a tiny little ounce of Item's freedom would do me so much good.
People have been nice about this project - in real life, on Facebook, Twitter, and here (thank you). Because it has happened every day for 30 days, I've noticed my tendency to reply to a compliment with 'Thank you BUT it's/you're wrong in ways x, y and z'. I know that this is probably slightly annoying, but it's the truth, and I find it hard to reply anything but truthfully. There are some pictures here I'd be very glad to see published or put on a wall. There are also many more which I'd cringe about.
( The ones I like bestCollapse )
It's interesting to me that these pictures don't represent a normal month of what I wear. I was conscious of choosing, in the morning, the clothes I wanted to draw that evening, and of putting aside garments I'd already drawn enough times that it'd be dull to do them again. In an ordinary month, as I mentioned to a few people in comments, it's far more likely that I wear the exact same outfit three, four, five times in a row because it's still hanging on the back of my chair when I wake up in the morning, and I work from home, so why not.
( Many graphsCollapse )
Last day! I'll be making a post later (tonight or over the weekend) with some thoughts about this whole project, but here we are on day 30.
It was a running day. It was cold enough to run in my hoodie (and gloves, and a Seasalt hair wrap which I wasn't wearing when I took the reference photo for this image).
The hoodie says MOCKDUCK. I remember ordering it from Neighborhoodies when I was quite new to LJ, indeed, to the internet, and when summoning stuff to arrive at your door, from another country no less, seemed like some kind of magic. It was like an LJ thing. Word went round that you could get these ace hoodies, and they could have anything on them, &etc. I ended up getting this one, one for The Boy (THE BOY) and a tiny t-shirt saying ITEM (which is still tucked away in my pants drawer with the few of her baby clothes I can't give away).
It's navy-er than that, and more voluminous actually. And it has paint splashes on it.
The jeans on top of running tights, and woolly bundling up comes as a result of working from home, in an flat that is unheated in the day time, at a job which doesn't require much moving around.
It was cold this morning, so I picked out this wool dress that is so straight up-and-down that Item looks like an ironing board in it. It was she who rummaged around in her underbed drawer and found the matching hat, then tucked every last bit of her hair into it.
It's only through this project that I've really realised just how much of her wardrobe has come from kindly bestowals by grandparents.
My feelings about this skirt are too extreme for mere fabric design - but then, I have just been almost moved to tears while reading 101 Dalmatians to Item, so it's just possible I'm in a fragile mood.
In short, whoever created this design should be knighted for services to the realm. Yet, if there's one thing that's stuck with me from that short textile design course I did at St Martin's, it's the fact that designers who sell to the big stores will frequently be paid peanuts, knock off scores of designs every day, and see their work replicated all over the place, uncredited. I hope this person fared better. Here's an image of the actual fabric.
It's a Laura Ashley skirt, velvet, on a white ground. It is so unlike anything I have ever seen Laura Ashley do, before or since: it just leapt out at me from across the shop, back when there was a Brighton branch. I wore it to a job interview for an arty/museum/web editorial position once. I didn't get the job, but my skirt was much complimented.
The only other thing you need to know is that my bra is doing extreme things in the uplift department today, which also has quite a pleasing side-effect of emphasising the waist, not that anyone much saw me today. I didn't even do the school run.
Item was in a sweet long-sleeved top with two birds on it, and a red corduroy skirt she's had for years and years. I like the massive-fleece-tiny-skirt silhouette on her.
These posts were not sponsored by Boden - though they might as well have been. However, I will just mention as an aside that Boden have a sale on right now. Which I made the mistake of looking at. :/
Running day, came home and changed into the comfiest dress on earth and other clothes you've seen before. I reckon those black jeans are front-runners for 'most worn' during this project/my life.
That snood, which I was also wearing yesterday, was a panic buy when the trigeminal neuralgia set in two winters ago.
Item is in a white long-sleeved Boden t-shirt which has a huge red apple printed off-centre. She's sitting on one of these, if you're wondering.
I picked the jeans up in Peacocks when she started going through the knees of all her other ones, and I decided she was too nearly growing out of them to make them worth patching.
They're boys' jeans. The girls' jeans were something like £4 more expensive, and thinner material. I should probably be outraged about this, but I'm not that familiar with Peacocks, so I don't know whether their pricing is always that way, or whether it was just the way the various special offers had panned out that week. I am pretty sure, from anecdotal evidence, though, that tougher clothes and shoes for boys are the norm across a large number of shops - I've even seen the marketing in Clarks reflect this.
I don't have a </patriarchy> t-shirt to wear and draw in this project, but anyone who follows me on Pinterest will know I've been eyeing some up.
Not a great combo today, TBH - fine on paper, doesn't really work in reality. The t-shirt is from a couple of years back when sleeves suddenly went puffy, and it's also got these wee pleats sewn onto the front. I like it, in theory.
The skirt was from Hobbs sale. I am not a frequent Hobbs shopper, but I liked this geometric pattern of circle shapes - not too well depicted here - until I started thinking of it as looking more like a giraffe-skin pattern. About ten minutes after wearing it for the first time.
You've seen most of Item's outfit before, bar the socks which were passed down by her friend Ruby. They seem to have gone from being way too big to hardly fitting, with no in between state.
Seen: pants. Not sure why these particular jeans seem to slip down so much.
It was another running day today and I'd resigned myself to drawing my ever-so-slightly-different running clothes, but then I went out and got absolutely soaked, so I did change into some ordinary clothes on my return.
I've got on this White Stuff tunic that I haven't drawn very well - it has blue and green blobs on it and botanical line drawings of leaves over the top, and a pair of pockets. It also has this mimsy placket with lace and buttons on it, which I hate. I am against plackets. If that is even the word.
I looked peeved because I've noticed how big I look in the mirror, especially my tummy, even after all that running.
Yes, I would like to adhere more closely to the random criteria for what society demands of its females, please. So sue me.
I did two Items, to show the difference between her when she's just woken up and flopped into her clothes, and then half an hour later with brushed hair and a smart coat over the top. She was complaining she was tired when she woke up - which is rare - and she was complaining when she got back from school, too. The Boy has a cold, so maybe she's getting it too.
I really like this smart purple polka-dot John Lewis coat, which is such a nice shape. We got it for about £0 in the boxing day sales last year, online. The flower hair grip was a pound in Velvet's sale basket yesterday. Adding the hot pink scarf was her own idea, but it looked pretty chic.
Her top is a Noa Noa kids' one, heavily reduced in one of the North Laine's baby shops. I very rarely put her in pale colours because she's so pale skinned, but this was fine with her usual lime green cardi over the top.
The cords are ones The Boy picked up - I think probably from H&M - when Item got obsessed with Charles Dickens, and wanted to dress up as Oliver Twist. As you do.
The socks are ancient, part of a set with things like 'princess day' (ugh) and 'sunny day' and things on them.
I am hunched over because I'm trying to fit into the frame of the iPhone camera.
I got dressed in much brighter clothes this morning, but changed when I remembered I'd be going out to an arthouse film with a friend tonight - I just felt too mumsy for those surroundings. Soon after, she cancelled, but this is what I spent the day in, anyway.
The skirt is more of a petticoat really - two layers of net, with an underskirt for decency's sake, and ribbon at intervals. It's pretty; possibly a bit young for me though. And it's definitely too tight, especially by the end of the day.
We looked after Item's friend this morning, while her mum and dad went to see Skyfall. Obviously, I don't know where all her clothes are from (I do happen to know her boots are by Blowfish, via eBay, because that is the sort of thing her mum and I often chat about) - but she's always dressed beautifully, like a child from a 1940s book illustration, whether that's the flannelette pyjamas she comes to sleepovers in, little pinafores, handknitted arran cardigans, or the knitted stripey pullover she's in here.
Item is wearing another KitschyCoo top, again, another longtime favourite, with the yellow long-sleeved t-shirt from day 19 underneath. You can probably track our laundry frequency via these pictures.
She's also got on these heavy wool shorts from when Boots did a line called Molly and Jack - I loved all their stuff. Later, when she put on her lime green cardigan and green boots, the whole outfit looked really lovely.
Today, I wore a Noa Noa padded skirt from a charity shop. It's size M and I can only wear it if I don't do the zip up all the way, but don't tell anyone. I really like it - it has these bats neo-classical line drawings all over it, and then further pictures in silver stitches over the top.
I *never* tuck my top in - curse of the busty - but I did today because my t-shirt is so much longer than the cardi and it looked silly otherwise. I found this cardi in one of those 'pick out all the superior clothes' charity shops, when we were invited to an awards ceremony for work - it's wool, with a mad trim of glossy crow-like black feathers, and I was far too hot all that night. Item thinks it's the absolute height of sophistication.
The Boy wore a shirt today (with jeans) and Item said, "Why's everyone dressed so posh?". :)
I didn't wear the cat ear hair clips out of the house, I just found them when I was looking for a necklace to put on. I do love them, and we were going to Art Junky, so they wouldn't have been out of place, but it was raining. I wore my hat with cat ears, so there wasn't all that much difference.
It makes me laugh when you meet a parent, and the first thing they want to say, before anything else, is: 'She dressed herself' - because I do it too. It's like a disclaimer for your kid wearing stuff that looks insane, or doesn't match.
Item can go either way - as I believe I've mentioned, some of the outfits she comes up with sound really ill-advised on paper, but somehow just work in real life. Today she surprised me by appearing in everything purple/indigo, and I kind of liked it.
I can't remember when I bought those shorts. Poor Ites - she kept saying her tights were falling down, and when I looked they were basically round her thighs, but held up by the gusset of her shorts. Tights are a liability.
When we went out, she also put on her blue boots and her purple spotted coat, so she did stick to theme.
Later in the day, she got an amazing bit of face painting - a tiger.
- and she made this hat:
We met a lot of people today who 'know' Item from Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and this hat was a nice way of being able to say, look, I'm not really so insane that I christened my child Item.
Ooh, there's a lot about how people perceive us in this post, isn't there? :/
I forgot about these trousers until I was looking for smart clothes to wear to my meeting on Wednesday - they were hanging with two other pairs of trousers in the midst of the wardrobe - so apologies for any musty smell to sleepygoldfish, whom I met for a sandwich at lunch time today. Mind you, we sat in a basement of a cafe in Hanover, so, you know, who's going to notice a little more mustiness.
Not only had I forgotten these trousers, but I'd also forgotten their fatal flaw, which is that they're just a little bit too loose. You either have to tread on the hems all day, or bunch your fists into the pockets and hold them up while you walk. I have a feeling they might have originally come with a belt made of the same fabric (minute brown dogtooth check on cotton, that makes me want to call it Harris tweedesque, only without the tweed), but I'm darned if I know where that is, and any other kind of belt is going to look odd.
They're from Fat Face - shout out once more for Item's classic joke upon seeing a branch in Dartmouth, "Mummy! I can see a Fat Face... [pause].. and it's yours!".
I love the colour and feel of this jumper - it's made of some kind of rough, stringy knit - ah, the label says 59% linen and 41% cotton.
I've been feeling annoyed about not being able to put my hands on this brooch for this entire project - it'd look so great on that red cardi - and I found it this morning pinned to a top in the wardrobe, yay. This was a birthday gift last year, from my friend Emma, again, heavily hinted at via the power of Pinterest. Never get a dud gift again. ;)
Great tights/shorts combo courtesy of grandma; the spotty Joules hoodie is a frequent standby; underneath it is the top she wore for the PYO farm, the one with lots of veg all over it. She always looks very young in it - but as soon as she put the hoodie over the top, I suddenly felt like she was looking long-legged and coltish.
Running day again, so you get pyjamas, again. There are possibly 4 more running days in the month and very little more sleepwear I can show you, so I'm going to have to think about that.
This Google top was given to me by cartographer who works at Google and was giving some away - perhaps when she emigrated to New York?
From what I surmise from pictures of cartographer, she is a very different size and shape to me, but it fits, in a nice kind of 'girl tight' way, or however t-shirt shops describe these things.
My main memory of this top is of wearing it at the old job, on a 'wear what you want' charity day, and of someone looking at it and, after a few seconds, going, "Oh yes, I get it! Ha ha, very funny!" - which really puzzled me at the time, as I read it as having no real message beyond 'Google' and 'woman'. Maybe it was released for International Women's Day, or something.
It has literally *only just hit me* in the last week or so that they might have read it as "Go and Google feminism, you piece of patriarchal scum', or thereabouts.
The PJ trousers are another example of Anthropologie's seemingly random approach to design. There are about seven or eight different styles of drawing, from cartoony to highly details pencil sketches, all of birds.
And, oh look, special, lightweight, no sweat, no seams running socks. Fancy.
Item surprised me this morning by knowing 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' in French.
This fleece top was a fleece dress when I bought it. I reckon Item was about 4. I got in on a business trip to Boston, of which my abiding memory is the absolute crazy intense sense of having abandoned your child that nature puts you through when you're a mum (maybe when you're a dad too, I don't know). I'm sure I was batshit crazy the whole trip.
I made up for it by going home with stuff like this, a pile of American picture books, a Knuffle Bunny, and a fleece Hello Kitty onesie.
The Etsy t-shirt is another long-runner. It's in the style of a US subway sign (I think? I'm doubting that now as I write it) with the letter as a sewn-on patch.