Monday, August 27, 2007

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

I've never really read Mojo magazine. Back in the days when music was my big thing, I used to read NME, Melody Maker, Select and Vox, but never Mojo. Mojo was for the oldies, it was what the Ex's dad read. But the Stax film the other week was sponsored by Mojo, so we each got a free copy of it, and I've been reading it on my journeys over the past week. And its surprisingly good. I nearly missed my stop the other night, I was so engrossed in an article about Fleetwood Mac! This issue of Mojo was a Rolling Stones special.

I've never been a huge Stones fan. I mean I like them, used to have a 'Best Of' tape and have a few of their songs on my ipod, but I've never really been that into them. I think it might be partly due to them continuing too long, Jaggar becoming almost a parody of his former self and the rather distasteful way he now runs the band as a business (charging the support acts to stay for their concerts!). And Jaggar's outfit in the 'Its Only Rock n Roll But I like It' video, a favourite of the aforementioned Ex's father. It may also have something to do with me actually being scared of Bill Wyman - I used to have nightmares about him when I was a teenager, although obviously I'm long out of this preferred age range for girlfriends now, so I'm probably safe on that score.

But I enjoyed the articles and have been listening to more of their stuff this weekend, discovering some of the 50 Greatest Stones tracks that I didn't know before. The thing that struck me most about the Mojo articles were the photographs and how good they looked. I don't think they were particularly good looking in a traditional handsome way, but together they just looked so right. And their girlfriends too - I've developed a slight crush on Anita Pallenberg in the past few days - I don't want to know if she's become haggard and had an awful life - back then she was stunning.

Last night, we went to see the film 'The Hoax' - it was quite good (the OH loves Howard Hughes - he is his favourite billionaire!) but it ended with 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' which has always been my favourite of their songs, and it sounds particularly good last night.

The question 'Beatles or the Stones?' is often asked and I would always have unwaiveringly said the Beatles, but at the moment I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Off Line

I've not posted anything for a while. A combination of things - I've been feeling a bit low, had nothing much of interest to say, and it appears that my work is going through a phase of monitoring what everyone looks at on the internet. So I've been off-line for a few days.

Today, I had a huge tidy up at work - not very interesting but I feel so much better for having done it. The gloom clouds that had gathered in my head about work haven't entirely gone, but now I can actually see my desk and have usable drawers and shelf space, I'm not dreading going into work quite so much tomorrow.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Good Consumerism

My recent gallery visit also, inevitably involved a just as long visit to the gallery shop. The Photographers Gallery shop (unlike say the V&A which stocks anything tenuously related to any of its displays), does stick to things related to the gallery – photography books, postcards, design magazines and photography equipment. But it is still one of my favourite gallery shops because I love photography books. I covet them. I could spend all day browsing them.

And I was thinking as I sadly put down the £23 exhibition book that if I won the lottery/robbed a bank*, I would buy loads of books. Glossy photography books, to fill bookcases and rest on my coffee table, to be dipped into, flicked through, admired and inspired by.

Forget designer clothes, flashy cars and big houses, all of these things I can manage without, but I hate not being able to buy all the books I want. Because books are good things, providers of knowledge and they should be free to everyone. (I realise there are libraries, which are fine for some things but not the sort of book I’m currently coveting, which I want to be surrounded by, not have to remember to return after four weeks).
To me, buying books is good consumerism, likewise films and music (of a certain quality obviously) – as opposed to clothes and shoes buying which always makes me feel guilty = bad consumerism.

The other thing about this is that these books are usually available to buy online cheaper (Amazon has the exhibition book for £16) but somehow it isn’t the same. There is something about buying the books in the gallery shop, it feels more special that way, then just clicking to put a pixilated purchased into a cyber shopping trolley.

* Would a Judge show leniency if I was caught robbing a bank to buy books?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Soul (Wo)Man

Last night we went to a special screening of a new documentary about Stax Records, ‘Respect Yourself’. You may think you don’t know Stax as it perhaps isn’t quite as much of household name as its big rival Motown, but it was home to some of the biggest names in soul music in the sixties – Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T and the MGs, Sam & Dave and The Staple Singers.

It was the first UK screening of the documentary and I was shocked at the poor turnout – probably less than 100 people and most of those were probably connected to the film in some way. It only cost £15 which isn’t much more than the usual price of a cinema ticket in the West End. But as well as the film, there was a Q&A session with Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame). I’m not sure he actually answered the questions that were asked, not directly anyway, but he was full of anecdotes and spark, and very charming. The film was ok, perhaps a little negative as it seemed to dwell on the bad times a bit too much - the music, obviously was fantastic – but really it was the session with Sam that made the night special. They showed some footage of them performing in Norway in the sixties which was bizarre – they were amazing performers, with such energy and great dance routines, but the audience were sat on the floor and when they were encouraged to get up by the singers, army officers moved in to sit them back down.

Sam’s wife was also present and she introduced some special footage of the soul musician Billy Preston (who played with the Beatles) who died last year. She was overcome with emotion and had a bit of cry. At that point, the record label boss stood up to announce the prize draw! He did apologise and said how typically British it was to follow a legend with a raffle. Sam and his wife (still fighting back tears) drew the winning numbers – at this point we decide we would rather not win as it was rather embarrassing. Following on from last week’s surreal pub quiz win, I’ve found this week’s surreal moment – the soul legend and the raffle!

Anyway, here is a clip of Sam & Dave back in the day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Am Not An Art Critic

Having remembered last week how calming I find galleries, and being much in need of soothing, this lunchtime I popped into The Photographers Gallery. I wasn’t really bothered what was showing, I just hoped the white walls would give me solace and space to relax. But it turned out to be pretty good.

The exhibition was of work by Keith Arnatt entitled ‘I am a Real Photographer’. Arnatt used to be an artist but back in the seventies decided to concentrate on photography. The title of the exhibition comes from an earlier work of his, where he was photographed holding a plaque proclaiming ‘I am a Real Artist’.

I know very little about art (as it is probably painfully apparent) but it seems to me that art is frequently described as humorous or playful, and usually I just can’t see it. But in this case I could see it plainly, particularly in his series of photographs of notes left for him by his wife. I wondered though whether they were real and if so, how did his wife feel about them being exhibited for all and sundry to question their relationship?

Another set was of owners and their dogs, with a description about how both may look equally attentive, but the dogs were only responding to his presence or calls of their name, rather than being aware of him as a photographer. All very interesting, but really I liked this set just because I like dogs!

There were other photographs of rubbish, discarded items, old cans, but photographed to bring out a hidden beauty – which would assert for me that he is indeed an artist as none of my photographs of random debris looks so good.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

RIP, Anthony H Wilson

I was on my home from the office party last night and texted the OH. He replied to tell me Tony Wilson had died.

I'm not normally one for public outpourings of grief for people you don't actually know, but on this occasion I'm going to make an exception. I didn't know Anthony H Wilson, but (as you may have noticed), music is incredibly important to me and he was the man who brought three of my favourites bands (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays) to the world. His effect on the cultural landscape of this country has been enormous - not only was Factory home to some brilliant bands, but there was the Hacienda and he employed Peter Saville as a designer too. I even loved that ridiculous quiz he hosted, Remote Control (despite the presence of Frank Sidebottom who terrified me)
The tributes to him have already started, for the man once described as "a twat, but he was great twat". Stephen Morris said of him this morning "You couldn't fall out with him. We tried enough times over the years". Paul Morley described him as the "Metaphysical Mayor of Manchester".

He was just 57 which is very young, but I was even sadder by what I read about his illness. The local health authority (of city that he did so much for) wouldn't pay for the cancer drug he needed so there had been a fund set up by the bands he supported to pay for it. If I'd known about this, I would have contributes (I should point out, his music business did not make him rich).

So I'm sitting here listening to the Mondays, and tonight we are going to watch "24 Hour Party People" in remembrance of him.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Play Your Cards Right

We went to a pub quiz last night – one we’d not been to before. The days of a pub quiz consisting of a basic picture round followed by straightforward questions seems to be long gone as every quiz I’ve been to in recent years has had some gimmick or a few complicated rounds. Last night’s, however, had the strangest variations I’ve come across.

There was the quiz with a few bonus questions, picture and music rounds as you’d expect. But then when the questions were marked, the top three teams entered into a head-to-head. One member of each team had to enter an answer to one of those questions where the nearest answer without going over wins. Then the team winning that round (this is the big twist!) had a play a round of ‘Play Your Cards Right’ to win the prize money!

So we did the quiz and thanks to a splendid performance on the music round (where we left with full points, but a lot less credibility) we came third. Which owing to the bizarre rules meant we were in with a chance of winning the cash prize. The OH stepped up to do the next round, and made a decisive guess on the population of Belgrade. It is not, as one other team wrote 25,000 (did your pen run out, quipped the Quiz Master) but a bit over £1.5 million which had been the OH’s guess. I was so proud until chronic embarrassment set in when I realise we all had to get up to play the card game.

Bill, who I’ve described as ‘the cynics’ cynic’ said that surely everybody else in the pub had lost interest now they hadn’t won, but he was wrong. Someone in the ‘audience’ asked us to stand back so they could see the turn off the cards. The theme music was playing. Tension was running high. The audience was shouting ‘Higher’, ‘Lower’ and getting right into it. I had a fit of hysterics when the surreal nature of the scene hit me. I can’t remember the run of the cards now, except that we were dealt a couple of middle cards (not good) and changed two of them (which dwindled the prize money from £70 to £50). But we won! I think the OH may have punched his fist in the air.

We came third in the quiz but we won!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Art Fight

This morning (through the freelance work), I went to the press preview of the Warhol vs Banksy exhibition. Two giants of the art world brought together for a head-to-head fight! In the red corner, pop art supremo Andy Warhol. In the blue corner, newcomer, guerrilla graffiti artist, Banksy. The ring – a private members club off Covent Garden.

So who won? I would have to say Banksy. But it would be on a points decision, not a knock-down.

Warhol, unfortunately I think, suffers from over-exposure, and now that every other printshop will pop-art your photographs, some of the impact of his work is lost. What was revolutionary in the sixties is commonplace now and its hard to recapture that excitement. I saw all of his Campbell’s soup cans grouped together at MoMa in New York a couple of years back which was impressive and his non-portrait paintings (Electric Chair and the ‘Death and Disaster’ series) can still set the pulse racing. But there wasn’t any of these at this show.

There were a few charcoal sketches of the soup cans, hung next to Banksy’s “Tesco Value Soup” parody, but they weren’t as interesting as the finished versions en masse that I’d already seen. Similarly, Warhol’s portraits of the Queen seemed too reverential in comparison with Banksy’s Queen picture with the Queen as a chimp in front of a garish Union Jack.

But then without Warhol, would there be a Banksy? A lot of the pieces here (the soup cans, the Kate Moss as Marilyn) are deliberating referencing Warhol, but that aside, Warhol (and other Pop Artists) brought about huge changes in the art world, without which I doubt Banksy’s work would be hung in a gallery today.

Before today, I’d never seen a Banksy other than in photographs so it was good to see them in real life, especially the huge Churchill with a Mohican painting. But then I wonder really whether his work is meant to be in a gallery? I love art galleries – the actual spaces with their cool white walls – I find them calming regardless of what the art on show is, and that to me seem to run contrary to Banksy’s cachet as a guerrilla artist. One piece in particular, a metal door, with the words ‘Designated Picnic Area’ daubed on it, lost some meaning relocated to a gallery wall.

All in all though I enjoyed – definitely worth seeing and good to kick-start the day with some cultural thinking.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Media Manipulation

I've previously written about my qualms with the way the Madelaine McCann story has been given huge amounts of media coverage, but I held back on the cyncism about the parents, mainly because other people had written about it elsewhere. Then last the London Lite newspaper led with the story about blood being found in the apartment in which the McCanns were staying. The article on the frontpaper said that the police were now concentrating their enquiry on the family and their group of friends and it was looking less likely that she was abducted. The picture editor had earned their money as the photograph of the McCanns was not of them looking distraught as previously, but incredibly shifty, almost as if their eyes had been narrowed in PhotoShop to make them look suspicious. So the story on the front page was, as near as it could without risking a libel case, accusing the parents.

"An interesting turn of events", I thought, turning to page 11 where the story continued. But on page 11, the picture was muddied further with mention of the possible abduction again, another possible suspect and British police criticising the Portugese investigation. It was so contradictory to what was on the front page. All that really could be concluded from it is that still nobody knows anything.

Now I'm not going to defend the McCanns at all (regardless of what happened to Madelaine, I have problems with them hiring a Campaign Manager and taking money from the public), but really I'm disgusted (again) with the Lite's coverage of the story. If I hadn't read the rest of the article inside the paper (and so many people do just read the first few paragraphs), then that was them pretty much condemned as guilty.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


As a child, my main ambition was to become a mermaid.

That ambition has sadly (but perhaps unsurprisingly) been unfulfilled, and typically for me, I feel terrible disappointment with myself for this. Its not enough for me that I’m a decent swimmer – I’ve failed to become a mermaid. The same with my job –I work in an interesting enough area and I worked really hard to get here, but because I’m not running the Tate or the NT, I feel like a failure.

Anyway, whilst I haven’t swapped my legs for a scaly tail, I did go swimming this morning before work. I’ve been loving London in the last few days, when the sun has been out, it all looks beautiful and I'm really pleased I live here. But the best thing is seeing the sunlight hit the water in the swimming pool. Ok, so its a public leisure centre, not a private pool or a blue sea, but its still one of my favourite things in the world. This morning, they had removed the divider between the two pools, to make one enormous pool and I loved how it looked, and how much room I had when I was swimming up and down, unbothered by the other swimmers.

I felt relaxed, happy and very near to being a mermaid.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bearing Fruit

A couple of weeks ago, the first tomatoes appeared on my tomato plants. Yesterday, I noticed that one of them had turned red, so now it looks like an actual tomato. Which of course, is what it is.

Last night I dreamt we harvested the tomatoes and they were full of insects on the inside. I was trying to put a brave face on it and still eat it, much to the horror of everyone else present in the dream. I'm hoping this wasn't a prophecy, but equally I'm not sure I want it to be an allegory either.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


I've just spent the last hour on the phone to BT and I'm red with rage.

This morning I received re-directed mail from BT containing a final demand for £84.39 but for the phone in our old flat. Which is strange considering we moved out in April and had received a final statement for the account and a refund of £16 for overpayment.

So I rang BT and spoke to a nice Mancunian woman who said they had obviously made a mistake and not turned the line off, but she needed to transfer me to someone else as it wasn't her department.

I was transferred to Fazila who said that not only had I not requested the line to be turned off but it was only installed on 10 April. Why would I have a line installed in a flat I was moving out off and that had a line in for the 3 years we'd been living there?

She said 'Well you did, it says so on my system'.

I explained again that I had requested it to be turned off and that I used to pay the bill by Direct Debit so obviously that had stopped otherwise there wouldn't have been a bill.

She countered with 'But there are calls on there. You are still using the phone'.

I, less than patiently, explained again that I haven't been living there since April, now have a new phone line with BT at my new address and that obviously the calls were being made by the new tenants. I asked to speak to her manager.

Five minutes later, Fezila is back and said 'We've decided to give the benefit of the doubt and won't be charging you the £10'.

I said 'What do you mean give me the benefit of the doubt? Its your mistake. Your colleague admitted it was your mistake. And its £84.39 , not £10' I asked once more to speak to her manager - she said I couldn't because she had already spoken to them on my behalf.

I said I was unhappy with this and could I take her name. 'Fezila' she said. Can I have your full name please I said. 'We only have first names' she said!

I then put through to the complaints department where I complained about having wasted so much time, Fezila making me feel like I was trying to defraud BT. Apparently all charges will now be dropped, they've apologised for the mistake and my feedback about Fezila's manner has been noted.

I now have a headache.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Song for Every Occasion

This morning I could hear our neighbour playing Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ and shouting “Lager, Lager, Lager”. It was 8.30am. Too early for Underworld in my opinion although it was a vast improvement on their usual choice of music – soulless R&B or what sounded like the euro-pop nightmare that is ‘Dr Jones’ by Aqua.

From the occasional times I’ve been able to hear their music, the neighbours, like many young people, seem to suffer from the modern musical malady of only listening to the sort of music played in clubs, regardless of the time of day or occasion. This niggles me – perhaps I have an unusually wide-taste in music, but really I do think there is a time and place for certain types of music, and there is really no need to be listening to the same tunes you were bumping n grinding to in Harrow’s finest meat market the morning after the night before.

Back in my youth when my suitors were the type to spend evenings at raves (how strange this sounds now!), they at least used to listen to something else when they got home. The nosebleed techno was reserved for the night out, replaced at home by the Orb, Pink Floyd, Stone Roses etc. So it can be done – there is a song for every occasion.

The Morning After the Night Before – you really need to bring it down a notch, but it doesn’t have to be one of those awful chill-out compilations or something featuring panpipes.
Recommendations: Most of ‘Screamadelica’ (skip Loaded and Movin’ on Up though at this point), Chemical Brothers songs featuring Beth Orton especially Alive Alone. ‘Some Velvet Morning’ by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, ‘Sugar Man’ either the original Sixto Rodriguez version or the Free Association cover.

Weddings – Whilst you don’t want to just let the DJ play any old rubbish, you should consider your guests and the mix of generations there is likely to be – so don’t just play the latest indie rock noise. I know from experience that Weekender by Flowered Up is not a suitable song for a wedding, even if the grandparents don’t realise what it is about, there are swearwords in there.
Recommendations: Anything on the Motown or Stax labels is good. Mothers-of-the brides love a bit of Marvin Gaye. Any 1960s stuff really – the Monkees especially. You’re on pretty safe ground with The Beatles, although I’d avoid Tomorrow Never Knows (too experimental) & Helter Skelter (the song that inspired the Manson Murders is probably not the mood you want)

Hairdressing Salons – my former hairdressers always had MTV on or worse MTV Bass. Awful. I don’t want to listen to this sort of music while I’m having my haircut. Having your haircut is just about as far away from clubbing as you can get, so why the banging music?Recommendations: Actually I’ve come a bit unstuck with this one as I can't really think what is the best music for having a trim to, without resorting to weak puns like songs by the Cutting Crew or Haircut 100. Perhaps silence is the best thing or maybe something classical? Any suggestions?


To my mind flesh-coloured tights are sometimes a necessary evil - not something I would choose to wear, but sometimes essential. If you work in a corporate environment, bare legs or opaques probably aren't acceptable and in some situations of propriety tights are probably needed. But really they are quite vile and definitely not for August.

Yesterday, on the bus (not the most fashion-conscious of locations, I know), I noticed that the woman to the side of me was wearing flesh-coloured tights. Its August, its now fairly warm, but perhaps she some dresscode to observe? No, this is what made it really really wrong. She was wearing short khaki shorts, a vest top and Birkenstock-style sandals! With tights!


We can obviously rule out dresscode based on her outfits and that she was on her way back from a low cost supermarket judging by the bags.

So why else would she be wearing tights?

For Warmth? But surely not in August and not with shorts. If you are cold, don't wear shorts, a vest and sandals. Its simple.

Vanity? Opaques certainly hide the lumps and bumps and I suppose even these tights make your legs look smoother. But if you are wearing open-toe shoes it is obvious you are wearing tights so fools nobody. If your legs aren't up to being exposed to the masses without tights, then don't wear shorts.

Shorts and short skirts are not the only option for summer attire. Floaty dresses and skirts are just as cool and readily available in the shops. I just don't understand why you'd wear shorts. tights and sandals.

So if you were the woman on the E3 last night around 7pm in the above outfit, get in touch to let me know why.