I'm immensely honoured to contribute to a post on someone else's very fine blog today (thank you, Martin), in which I fantasise about what would happen if a Mod hero was on the receiving end of a little feminine touch down amid the tangled trees. Well, erm, something sort of like that....
To find out more, please click here and take a look (and a listen).
I don’t like football so the idea of a fantasy football
league doesn’t mean a thing, but ‘fantasy cover versions’? Love it.
Thanks to Martin at the excellent blogNew Amusements, I’ve been
ruminating over ideas for these all week…
Please take a look at his introductory post to
see what it’s all about and his first suggestion - anyone can join in.
I’ve picked something I’d love to hear covered by an artist I particularly admire, which is due to feature on New Amusements next week.
And Rol from the brilliant My Top Ten has come up with something truly inspired.
It’s become a talking point here at SDS Towers too. Mr SDS suggested he’d like to hear KaceyMusgraves singing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ (imagining it sounding similar to
the great Dixie Chicks’ version) – but on looking it up he found a live version
she’d done with Lady Antebellum, so it wouldn’t really count (it has to be true fantasy!) Would still like to hear a studio version,
though (so, if you're reading this, Kacey?!) He was also reminded of a
colleague from years ago who’d once said he fancied hearing Nirvana tackling
the La’s ‘There She Goes’. I can imagine that too, stretching Kurt’s
voice nicely and perhaps delivered in the manner of the MTV Unplugged sessions. See - once you start thinking
Please go drop Martin a line via his blog if you fantasise
about such things too. I'd love to see more.
Dear Mr Fantasy, play us a tune
Something to make us all happy Do anything, take us out of this gloom Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy
It’s five to 4. The man in long khaki shorts has just come out of the portacabin in the car park and is picking up the
pavement sign. Typical.
The one time I’ve finally decided to stop and take a detour on my way to
the Co-op to venture inside for a look and now I’m too late.
“Oh, are you closing...?” I ask. I’m aware that I probably sound
disappointed. “Well, should close at 4, but it’s
okay, I can stay open - no hurry,” he replies, looking at his watch. Actually he seems keen that someone is
interested. So, once I’ve checked that
it really is alright, and he definitely doesn’t having to rush off for anything
(“stay as long as you like!” he offers merrily),
I enter the portacabin and have a good
There are a couple of tiny ornate Roman brooches which catch
my eye. They are delicate and beautiful,
and all the more captivating for just knowing they’re over 1000 years old. Next to them, a small collection of musket
balls. These look familiar – I’m sure I’ve
found something that looks very similar in my garden, and I’ve kept it in a
saucer along with a selection of broken crockery pieces, the ubiquitous pieces
of clay pipe, flints - next to a bowlful of bird skulls. Other
items here in the Heritage Centre include Iron Age tools, Georgian coins, Roman
buckles. I love these things. Little pieces of history, tiny remnants of
lives left behind. It’s nothing out of
the ordinary, probably not even of value, and it’s around us all the time, beneath
us, maybe not that far below the surface.
“It’s fascinating! I’ll
come back when there’s more time,” I
tell the man, and I will.
Continuing on my way to the Co-op with these archaic finds in
my mind, my thoughts turn naturally to my
current favourite TV series, ‘Detectorists’.
There’s so much to like about Mackenzie Crook’s charming comedy based around two
men hoping to find the remains of a Saxon ship and ancient gold with their metal detectors (and even the word ‘comedy’
doesn’t quite do it justice): the pace, the humour, the pathos, the acting and characters. But as much as anything for me is the beautiful cinematography and my
additional personal connection to the familiar mellow landscapes of its
setting, as it was filmed not far from here.
I pick up some Fairy Liquid and a bag of Bombay Mix and head
home, the back way this time, by the allotments. A Red Admiral settles on the path in front of
me, spiky leaves of globe thistles rub against the sunflowers, I notice a dead
woodpigeon in the brambles, I drift along in a world of my own… make sure I don’t
sprain my ankle again…. wonder if I’ll see the chickens, there’s a coop just
along here… must check that musket ball thing I found when I get home, I'll be on the look-out for more now ….and then my thoughts
are broken by a sound. A strange, whiny,
uneven sound, a bit like a gate swinging back and forth on rusty hinges, but
not regular enough, too extreme. It’s coming
from the other side of the allotment, behind the trees, I think. A sort of whistle but, no, not a whistle,
more synthetic… sort of beeping… where’ve
I heard that before?
It only dawns on me as the path ends and joins up with the
car park again at the back of the Heritage Centre that I’ve just heard a metal
detector. Or should I say: detectorist. Perfect.
(I wonder if they found anything. Or (to quote) fuck all...)
A saucerful of secrets. My equivalent to the 'Finds Table'.
If I ever win something on the Lottery (unlikely, I don’t do it), or come into some inheritance (unlikely, no-one still around with anything to leave),
or you're a generous philanthropist reading this now (lovely to meet you!) – there's something, not too out-of-this-world, I'd just like to do.
It's fairly modest: a kind of art project - travelling around Europe photographing windows. Not any old windows, though; I know what I’m looking for - ones that, soon as I
notice them, have a strange, déjà-vu effect, as if I’ve been on the inside of them, looking out. I’ll be out of harm’s way, in
the open air, but I’ll know that, on the other side of their small, dirty panes, up high and out of reach (always up high),
all manner of unspoken danger and supernatural wickedness lurks. I'll know because I’ve been behind these windows many times, in dreams.
The recurring theme (probably a common one?) is that I’m wandering through a building – often an old house with paneled walls and narrow staircases, like you see in creepy 1940s films, but sometimes they're industrial or 1970s office blocks – and I go higher and higher. Everything's fine until I step into the very top room or space with that window, and then I feel ‘the malevolent presence’. Sometimes I'm trapped, peering out at a normal world I can't get to. I
never see the source of my fear, just sense something very sinister in the room. I'm sure a psychoanalyst would have an explanation. I might not want to hear it, mind.
Anyway, maybe I'd overcome these disturbing dreams by
capturing the physical image of the windows themselves? It would be great just to have enough freedom and funds to go
travelling with a cool high-tech camera (once I've learned how to use it) and then I could click away to my heart's content (in between eating linguine in Tuscany and visiting the Louvre in Paris. Perks of the job). Let me know if you fancy doing the driving.
I s'pose that's what dreams are for, the daydreams anyway... that's where things start, tho' in this case it started with nightmares.
I'm unlikely to have time/money to fully indulge in something pointless like this, though. Who does? It's a shame, isn't it - all the things we might do if only we could just suspend normal life for long enough and take off with no other concerns. Not major life changes or ambitions, just 'projects' - things that really are possible, but need a bit more than you have.
Meanwhile then, I took a short stroll locally (before I sprained my ankle!) and found a few high windows, the best I could do with limited time, anyway. Here are just three crappy, furtive pics to try and show what I mean. (I had to tell the owner of one that I was photographing a bird on his roof as I didn’t want to let him in on the unspeakable paranormal malevolence in his attic.)
Are they a bit creepy, or is it just me? I mean, just imagine yourself, trapped behind them, where no-one can hear you scream....
Don't be misled by the pretty gable around that spooky top window
Even the alarm won't protect from the evil presence in that attic room
The tiny ancient window up there on the left offers no escape from the terrifying ghosts within
How is it that sometimes the slightest of injuries can cause a disproportionate degree of pain? Like paper-cuts. Ugh.
had a fairly innocuous injury yesterday afternoon when I sort of ‘fell off’ a strappy sandal and twisted my ankle . The sudden spraining hurt but then it
went all warm (actually felt very nice) and I carried on. We were at our village’s annual Summer do and
hung about to watch a band (surprisingly good), no problem to
stand while they played their Who and Cream covers, didn’t feel a thing. We enjoyed that special smell
of trampled-on grass combined with deep fat frying that you only ever get at
these events, then walked the half-mile back home, all was fine for an hour, and then, unexpectedly, the pain really kicked in.
It got worse, so intense I couldn’t put any weight
on my ankle and had to crawl up the stairs to bed on my hands and knees (very undignified). Lying there with my foot propped up trying unsuccessfully
to get to sleep my thoughts went off on a dark dismal walk of their own. My ankle was never going to be the same, I’d have to give up going out – going anywhere at all - and we’d need to
leave our little home because we couldn’t fit a Stannah Stair Lift. I’d get so fat through immobility that I’d
have to be hoisted in and out of bed and end up featuring in a Channel 5
programme about the dangers of strappy footwear: ‘My Sandals Ruined My Life’. Oh, the shame.
Those dark nights of the soul are bastards, aren’t
they? I’ve had them before, where a
hairline crack in the bathroom wall ends up with the whole terrace collapsing, and with it the entire
fabric of your life.
I heard the milkman's bottles clinking at 3.30 this
morning and next door’s dog barking at his footsteps...
...The first cars of the day crunching on the tarmac on their way to the 6am shift at the factory
down the road.
As the darkness of the night started to subside, so did the worst of the pain, and so did the thoughts. Resting the foot today, in between hobbling. Throwing out the sandals.
Blimey, I'm finally managing to write again! Thanks for your encouragement and understanding. But hope you'll forgive some retrospective indulgence... It could even turn into an occasional series, tho' that might be over-ambitious. Anyway, this started because I was thinking about a gig I was at on this exact day many years ago - hence 'anniversary' - and it dawned on me just how much has changed, although the band in question are still performing (albeit not the complete original line-up). More on them in a mo.
First, time to forget everything we now take for granted about modern
technology. Rewind to an era when we weren’tall connected, forget having a home computer and transmitting words and pictures like I'm doing now. I'm back to a time when we still had £1 notes and had to get photos
developed at Boots and wait two weeks. I
won’t go on, you were probably there too.
So I'm in the early '80s, and 1981 in particular. How was it for you?
The music I think of first is that post-punk / embryonic goth thing because I was really into those bands I’d heard through John Peel, like Modern English, Psychedelic Furs, Positive Noise, the Cure...
There were other new sounds too - I loved the first New Age Steppers album with its dub
...and still had allegiance to the anarcho-punk of Crass who released 'Penis Envy' that year. I don't recall ever enjoying that in the way I did others, but it had its place.
These were varied times musically; I could play New Order’s ‘Ceremony’ alongside Dead Kennedys ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’ and Radio 1 could play Bucks Fizz next to theJam. So much was going on. Then, thrown into
the mix, was something altogether different: electro ‘machine music' from a German band who’d already been
around for over half my life. Kraftwerk.
Kraftwerk seemed pretty old in '81 (in their 30s!). I knew this because my sister already had Radioactivity in the dark ages of 1975, a record she'd been given by a German boy during a Town Twinning week. I was 12 in '75, I liked Showaddywaddy and guinea pigs. So, yes, they were ancient but, at the same time, so ultra-modern.
On Friday 3rd July 1981, I saw them at the Hammersmith
Odeon. It was the first time I’d
been to a gig venue with seats. I was used to black-painted halls with sticky floors and being close enough to a band to look
up the nostrils of the guitarist and count the hairs. Down there on stage – a long way away, no up-nosing for me - were
four figures who looked more like androids than
people, each producing synthetic sounds from a personal console,
behind them a huge screen projecting the kind of digital graphics I’d only
really seen on Tomorrow’s
Honestly, this is what I mean about forgetting what we know
today because back then it seemed so futuristic. Like when we were little and tried to
picture what life might be like in the year 2000 (all jet-packs and holidays on the moon),
the computer world that Kraftwerk envisioned wasn’t one
I could imagine living in.
Now, as I type this using familiar technology, their version seems retro, like Gameboys and
Space Invaders do too. But in 1981 we were still gawping at magic flashing signs
on the motorway telling us we were too close to the car in front as we travelled down to Hammersmith in P's Vauxhall Viva.
I’m not sure quite how Kraftwerk fitted in to my
musical taste, they just did. Seeing them felt like witnessing something special. The sophistication of sound and imagery
took us to an other-worldly place, where our hosts didn't seem fully human. How different from the gigs I'd been to before. At the same time it was highly
accessible, especially in songs like the wistful electro-pop of 'Computer Love'.
We were enthralled for two hours by four automatons, but just occasionally they let slip their robotic façades and smiled, and we loved them for it. They filled our senses. It was such a memorable and awe-inspiring night.
And unlike gigs I’d been to before, the ones with sticky floors, there was no real fashion style dominating the audience - there were all sorts there, with no aggro. P wore a black cape! I don't know why - or perhaps I do - I mean, this was an era when many of us
aspired to be vampires, at least part-time. K was wearing brand new purple creepers from Shelley’s. I donned my moth-eaten black lace dress (my mum’s from the 1940s), my hair deliberately tangled.
In the foyer
on the way out we spotted Toyah! ‘I Want To Be Free’ was in the charts - she was going to turn this world inside out
and turn suburbia upside down. I'm not sure how she got so far with that voice, but she did have the look.
queued to leave the car park, we were amazed to hear a tape of what we’d
just listened to being played back – someone must’ve recorded the set on a portable cassette machine. Maybe smuggled in
under a cape.
Possibly still dazed from the Kraftwerk experience, P took a wrong turn as we headed home and started driving West instead of East. We didn’t
know as we drove towards Southall that something serious was
happening there that night.
The first we heard was in the papers the next day - there was nothing then to
tell us what was going on in real time, no tweets, no rolling
Luckily we turned around in time, oblivious to what was unfolding further down the road. Petrol
bombs were being thrown and a pub set on fire when a violent conflict erupted after a number of Oi bands booked to play the Hambrough Tavern brought many
of their racist supporters to an area with a high Asian population. That was another
side to the hot Summer of 1981: riots.
It's weird to think of Oi bands, riots and Kraftwerk in the same breath. I’m so glad I’d been in the company of the
latter that night. I don’t think Oi fans would’ve taken kindly to seeing us dressed in cape,
creepers and lace, singing 'It's More Fun To Compute' out the car windows, and laughing at the ridiculous idea of that ever becoming a reality.
As for Kraftwerk, they're touring again with 70-year old Ralf Hütter as the only original member, and by all accounts their performances are not that dissimilar to the one I enjoyed 36 years ago today. Whereas so many other things have changed...
Developed at Boots, July 1981
In the digital age, July 2017 Thought it was about time I said hello properly!
Oh dear, this is odd, I seem to have lost the ability to
write a blog post. Even typing this feels like an upward struggle and I’m not sure why but, of course, the more I think about it the harder it gets. I’m thinking about it far too much
now, I know, aargh. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried and then scrapped an
idea . How many times I’ve backspaced - even now when I’m writing about it – I
mean, I just backspaced there without anyone knowing and took half the original sentence
out. There have been those paragraphs I’ve
composed in my head in that sort of stream of consciousness way when I’m doing
the washing up or brushing my teeth which seem to make sense – “Yes!” I think, “quick,
write it down! ("Yes, when I've dried my hands!") but then when I try, the words just won’t co-operate.
So really, just to say – after a disproportionate
amount of time and effort to even string this much together - that I’m still
here and all is fine but I’ve come up against a bit of a block at the moment
when it comes to blogging. As soon as I can
kick it out of the way, I’ll try again.
Sort of hoping that just saying this will be a start.
So excited to get the new Jane Weaver album 'Modern Kosmology' last week - I'm indebted to a couple of fellow bloggers for pointing me in her direction (so a BIG thank you, I think you know who you are!)
It's great (sorry for such an unimaginative adjective) - one of those that just gets better the more you hear it, the more you tune into the detail, the mood, the femininity.
Whilst I'm not a music blogger as such, I don't have a lot to say on other subjects right now, so will just keep to the song and keep it brief today. 'Did You See Butterflies?' is the new single; it's gorgeous (shades of Lush and Stereolab, as mentioned by others before) and I know that because I'm in love with it, I just want you to be as well! Funny how music has that effect, but it's a good thing.
I did see a butterfly yesterday too.... not many around here just yet.