apolla: (Rory)
I was going to post about a Certain Irish Guitarist but decided to dodge the bullet again. I was going to post some Dean Martin or something.

And then Lou Martin died.

Almost every truly great musical legend worked with other great musicians. They might not be as flashy or as charismatic. They might not be songwriters, but behind practically every single Golden God there is a backing group of brilliance.

Jimi Hendrix had Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell in his Experience.
James Brown had the likes of Alfred Pee Wee Ellis
Freddie Mercury had Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.
Elvis had Scotty Moore and Bill Black
Miles Davis... basically just worked with the best.
Philip Lynott had his revolving door of guitarists, but he also had a fantastic constant in drummer Brian Downey.
It's not a coincidence that Clapton did his best work with Bruce & Baker and then with Duane Allman.

Rory Gallagher was no exception. One of the real great guitarists, he was also a charismatic frontman with a decent voice, but even he needed something behind him. He, like the other legends, knew the importance of working with the best.

Lou Martin was a great pianist. He could do blues, boogie-woogie and rock for sure but he wasn't a slacker when it came to classical. This link pretty much proves my point.

Funny thing is, Lou died on 17th August 2012. On 17th August 2008, I walked into the Cork City branch of HMV and bought my very first Rory Gallagher record: The Essential 2-disc compilation. It was raining on and off of course, it was a Sunday and I'd been wandering the town since 8am waiting for things to open. I'd even gone to Mass at the cathedral for something to do.

I wandered, listening to The Dubliners on my iPod. Ronnie Drew had died the day before and I was dealing with it in the only effective way I knew: immersing myself in his voice. I had french toast at a trendy cafe and continued my wander.

Rory Gallagher was a name I knew, but I didn't really know the music. I could've told you he was a blues rock guitarist, a dead Irish one no less. I had one of his songs - "Born on the Wrong Side of Time" on my iPod. The title appealed for obvious reasons. There in his hometown I decided I really should buy some record of his. In HMV I was confronted by a giant poster of Ronnie Drew, of all things.

I'm so glad I was in Ireland that weekend. Ronnie mattered there. Not so much here. 'They' knew how I felt. I was at home, geographically and musically. I couldn't summon the necessary to walk into a pub on my own so I didn't check out any of Cork's famous live music scene. I stayed in, watched the Ronnie Drew documentary on RTE 1 and read the liner notes of my new CD.

I went to Cobh, a pretty little port with a strong feeling of grief sewn into itself thanks to the Titanic, the Lusitania and the dreadful legacy of the famine and emigration. I read the liner notes again.

I got on a train to Dublin, where I ate at Gallagher's Boxty House as usual, ate at O'Neill's as usual and went to see Philip on his birthday, as usual. I stared at the Music Wall of Fame in Temple Bar, caring for the first time about the guitarist with the long brown hair. I nipped up Grafton Street to visit Philip's statue and there got into a conversation with two Dub rock fans about Rory.

It wasn't until several days later, back at work, that I actually listened to the CD. A secret: at first I wasn't all that impressed. I mean it was good but it didn't grab me totally. I liked the second song, "Moonchild", for sure. Then I listened to "Barley And Grape Rag". But I didn't get sucked in immediately. I'd be silly to, right?

According to this very blog, I listened to "Barley and Grape Rag" one hundred and eighty-seven times between late August and the end of 2008. I sang it at the work Christmas gig while wearing a Rory t-shirt. It was awesome.

But I wasn't sucked in. Oh no. I was up all night watching videos on YouTube, but I wasn't sucked in. I literally bought the t-shirt, but I'd have to be really fucking stupid to get obsessed by another dead rock star, right?

By 2008 I'd already carved plenty of other names on my heart. Lennon, naturally. Harrison. The lizardy fellow. Philip. Dean Martin. Valentino. Flynn. You pretty much know them if you've been here before. I'd be really daft to left someone else come along and gouge another scar, right?

I am that fucking stupid. By the time I even noticed, I was much too far gone. I should've noticed when I was on the tube late one night, returning home from being in the Just A Minute audience and I was dancing in my seat to the delta-like sound of "Who's That Coming" and I should've noticed when every visit to HMV began with a trip to the 'G' section of Rock and Pop. I should've noticed when the panic of leaving my gymbag in Starbucks was more to do with losing the newly-purchased Against The Grain CD than my sneakers.

No, I should've known exactly what was going to happen on 17th August 2008. He is a dead Irish rock musician who was fantastically good at his job. King Cnut had better odds against the tide.

Truly though, I didn't quite get it right away. It took a little while for my ears to get attuned to his work. It took even longer for me to beleive that he meant it about not selling out, about being dedicated to the music and even longer than that to believe he wasn't secretly a bastard.

Turns out he was that dedicated to the music and I've still yet to find anyone who has a bad word to say about the man himself.

Four years later, I love that man's music more than I can tell you. That's why it's taken until now for him to be the subject of the challenge, because I can't speak about it. I can't tell you how I love it, only that I do. I can't tell you how deeply it is now scored into my soul, as if forty years had passed with me stood by the side of his stage every night.

I picked one video above all for this post. It is the song which probably ensured a part of my heart will be forever Rory's, because he wrote down my pain and gave it voice:


Rory Gallagher - "A Million Miles Away" - which incidentally features footage of Cork City and some excellent Martin organ.

"There's a song on the lips of everybody/There's a smile all around the room/There's conversation overflowing/So why must I sit here in the gloom?.... I'm a million miles away, I'm a million miles away, sailing like the driftwood on a windy bay."

I have been that bleak, adrift and disconnected. Sometimes I still get close to it. Knowing that one of my heroes was able to write a song which so exactly described the state of my soul worries me: I wouldn't wish it on anyone. That he might have felt the same breaks my heart, and I hope it was one of those occasions where a writer was able to portray a world without inhabiting it.

I have been that bleak, adrift and disconnected and that song was, ironically if you like, an anchor I used to drag myself back to shore. That's one reason I love his music so.

Most of it is Rory's guitar and his voice, his songwriting, his grasp of the genre he loved so much. But he wasn't alone on that stage. First with Taste, then with his various Rory Gallagher line-ups, the classic of which involves Lou Martin's keys.

I can't tell you what I love and why without writing a dissertation, and I already wrote one of those for Jim Morrison. You have to listen to the music itself and decide for yourself. It's between me and the music and it's between you and the music. The contract is personal and non-transferable.

For me, the most succinct I think I can be is this: It is a deep scar on my heart and I wouldn't have it any other way.

*

Part 15 - The Shadows - "FBI"
Part 14 - Marilyn Monroe as Elsie Marina - "I Found A Dream
Part 13 - Kenneth Williams as Ramblin' Syd Rumpo - "The Ballad of the Woggler's Moulie"
Part 12 - Chas and Dave - "Rabbit"
Part 11 - The Beatles - "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
Part 10 - Duke Ellington - "The Mooche"
Part 9 - The Doors - "Who Do You Love?" featuring Albert King
Part 8 - Queen - "These Are The Days Of Our Lives"
Part 7 - Thin Lizzy - "Don't Believe A Word"
Part 6 - The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band - "Monster Mash"
Part 5 - Craig Ferguson - "Doctor Who Cold Opening"
Part 4 - The Bees - "Who Cares What The Question Is?"
Part 3 - Marvin Gaye - "Got To Give It Up"
Part 2 - The Dubliners - "Octopus Jig"
Part 1 - The Allman Brothers Band - "Statesboro Blues"

Do you remember?

Saturday, 24 March 2012 15:29
apolla: (Default)
Some years ago - 2009, in fact - I posted about hitting Magic 27. I was weirded out by outliving Jim, by being older than him.

And tomorrow, I make thirty. In a lot of ways, I assumed I'd never get this far. I looked after myself too badly physically, my mental state was too precarious. I simply couldn't see how I would possibly survive this long.

I did survive. In some small ways, I've even prospered. The human spirit has great capacity for suffering without breaking, the human body has great capacity for healing itself enough to survive.

I'll be thirty tomorrow. The evil voice in my head, quieted but not silenced, tells me that from now I can't wear the wacky vintage clothes i wear - only twentysomethings can pull that off! Well bollocks. I'll wear what the fuck I want to wear when I'm thirty, or ninety or points in between.

I can't tell you I'm cured of my many issues. I made homemade salsa for the first time today - and ate the whole bloody lot even though I'm off to a restaurant for birthday in less than two hours.

I haven't had a 'real' alcoholic drink in a year. I am dry, except for a glass of champagne at Christmas, and I out-and-out like it this way. The thirst may not be gone, not quite, but like Evil Clare, it is quieted. I know this could all change in a blink of an eye but I don't think it likely at the moment. Thanks to Craig Ferguson, more than any other single figure, I can see someone who was much worse than me and who not only stopped but stopped properly and became amazing. He is my inspiration in that sense, for my world was previously filled only with people who had lost the battle.

I quit sugar, you know. The great glutton who could plow through more chocolate than an entire kid's birthday party, has quit. It was and is difficult. So I learned to bake. I stand in my kitchen every week or so and make cakes and brownies. I made Rocky Road - infused with Amaretto spirits no less! - for my workpals for my birthday. I stand there and mix chocolate, sugar and alcohol together and don't eat it. Of course, if I was eating it, there'd be none for anyone. I mean, the salsa is indicative of that. I am still a glutton and I hope to stop that but the chocolate has been replaced by tomatoes; the bad drinks by green tea.

For a very long time, I was killing myself in a passive aggressive sort of way. Slowly, from the inside out. I did not quite believe I deserved to be here. Even more slowly than that, I understood that I do deserve to be here. To be honourable, kind, decent, open-hearted, open-minded, to love all the people is to deserve my place on this crumbling ball of rock in the cosmos. To write, to sing and be a refuge for humankind is to deserve to be here.

I deserve to be here. I am going to live and I am going to try to prosper. I am still lazy, still socially quite inept. I am still the kid who can watch nine episodes of Supernatural in a row instead of cleaning. I am still quick to temper. I am still impatient, imperious and a fucking know it all.

But I am alive, and I am trying every single day to become a better version of myself. Almost there.

The Road

Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:16
apolla: (Queen Maeve)

Just something I've been thinking about for various reasons.


The narrow, empty rural road stretched and disappeared into the mountains of the far distance. I squared my shoulders, pulled my jacket closer to me and took the first step.

The wind was at my back and though I couldn't see it in the silvery sky, the sun was warm upon my face. The landscape, which was barren and empty at first glance, revealed itself to be made up of various shades of greens, browns and greys. Further on I could see light showers of rain slipping through the air at the point where the steel sky met the dark land.

I walked. The road rose and fell, twisted and turned and I walked. The skies were still much too thick to see the sun, but still I felt its vague warmth from above.

I walked and the road led along the edge of a dark lake. The waters were so still that the reflections there were almost exact renderings of the landscape above: the sparsely forested hills and stripped limestone mountains.

I walked endlessly but did not become weary. Night threatened to fall but it did not come. Though the waters stirred a little from their glassy stillness, it never become rough.

I walked, and although all was silence and solitude I did not feel alone. Where once I would have needed constant music in my ears, I missed it not.

I walked, but my feet did not turn sore. My bright magenta sneakers did not rub and my muscles did not burn, but I felt the distance even as I had no sense of time.

I walked and although I had no notion of a specific destination, I was not lost.

I walked, and I walked until I turned a final rising bend and found myself staring at a house.

The house was like scores I'd seen before on roads just like this one. The thatched roof and whitewashed walls were comforting in their familiarity. Thin smoke curled up from the chimney and I breathed deep the warm, earthy smell of a peat fire.

The stones underfoot crunched as I approached the front door, it a brilliant green and surrounded by wild roses. I paused at the door, and caught my reflection in the window. I looked more beautiful than I had ever seen myself before, but exactly the same as I had always been. I smiled at myself and opened the door.

It was snugly warm inside. The lights were on. The interior of the house was nothing special, just as it was nothing particularly interesting on the outside, but as the door closed behind me I knew what would be waiting for me further in. It was everything I had ever honestly wanted and needed, for the two were not so unalike. Music playing from somewhere nearby, the song I'd loved the best and closed my eyes to.


By the fire, I found a familiar face, smiling in welcome. 'I've been waiting for you.'

'Well, I've been waiting a long time to get here.'

The long walk was penance, I understood in that moment. Waiting was the punishment and always, always was. It is over and I am here.

The Road

Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:16
apolla: (Queen Maeve)

Just something I've been thinking about for various reasons.


The narrow, empty rural road stretched and disappeared into the mountains of the far distance. I squared my shoulders, pulled my jacket closer to me and took the first step.

The wind was at my back and though I couldn't see it in the silvery sky, the sun was warm upon my face. The landscape, which was barren and empty at first glance, revealed itself to be made up of various shades of greens, browns and greys. Further on I could see light showers of rain slipping through the air at the point where the steel sky met the dark land.

I walked. The road rose and fell, twisted and turned and I walked. The skies were still much too thick to see the sun, but still I felt its vague warmth from above.

I walked and the road led along the edge of a dark lake. The waters were so still that the reflections there were almost exact renderings of the landscape above: the sparsely forested hills and stripped limestone mountains.

I walked endlessly but did not become weary. Night threatened to fall but it did not come. Though the waters stirred a little from their glassy stillness, it never become rough.

I walked, and although all was silence and solitude I did not feel alone. Where once I would have needed constant music in my ears, I missed it not.

I walked, but my feet did not turn sore. My bright magenta sneakers did not rub and my muscles did not burn, but I felt the distance even as I had no sense of time.

I walked and although I had no notion of a specific destination, I was not lost.

I walked, and I walked until I turned a final rising bend and found myself staring at a house.

The house was like scores I'd seen before on roads just like this one. The thatched roof and whitewashed walls were comforting in their familiarity. Thin smoke curled up from the chimney and I breathed deep the warm, earthy smell of a peat fire.

The stones underfoot crunched as I approached the front door, it a brilliant green and surrounded by wild roses. I paused at the door, and caught my reflection in the window. I looked more beautiful than I had ever seen myself before, but exactly the same as I had always been. I smiled at myself and opened the door.

It was snugly warm inside. The lights were on. The interior of the house was nothing special, just as it was nothing particularly interesting on the outside, but as the door closed behind me I knew what would be waiting for me further in. It was everything I had ever honestly wanted and needed, for the two were not so unalike. Music playing from somewhere nearby, the song I'd loved the best and closed my eyes to.


By the fire, I found a familiar face, smiling in welcome. 'I've been waiting for you.'

'Well, I've been waiting a long time to get here.'

The long walk was penance, I understood in that moment. Waiting was the punishment and always, always was. It is over and I am here.

apolla: (Rock Chick)
In the last few weeks I've seen a bunch of silent movies at the cinema. There was, most happily, The Son of the Sheik at the Prince Charles Cinema at Leicester Square. That was Valentino as God intended, thirty feet high, incandescent and one of the great faces of cinema. Oh, how I love that face, which rendered the rape of the heroine by the hero almost tolerable. Almost. How his acting had improved since the original Sheik movie five years earlier, how his eyes burn through one's soul, how his smile causes one's heartbeat to thunder!

I also saw a movie starring Pola Negri called Mania; and The General, Keaton's hilarious Civil War-era comedy. I love that guy's work so much. What else? Oh, Anthony Asquith's Underground, which is set on the London Underground and stars Brian Aherne who I adored in Shooting Stars and the Dietrich talkie Song of Songs.

In fact, I can't remember the last talkie I actually saw at the cinema, but I've been to a bunch of silents. Hmm, not sure what that says about me or the state of the motion picture industry. Anyway the last one I saw was The Phantom of the Opera, the 1925 Lon Chaney picture. I wasn't much in the mood to be honest. I'd had a pain in arse week and it didn't even start until ten to nine so I was going to get home pretty late. The audience was pretty full though, unlike for Son of the Sheik.

The audience laughed a lot. Now, there are moments in the picture which are funny. The owners in particular are designed as buffoons, but this audience were at times laughing at things which in 1925 were scary. They didn't get it, I think. They were laughing not because the film was bad (it's not) or because it was intended to be funny, but because it wasn't what they were used to. Silent films are so different to talkies generally but particularly modern movies. What is not necessarily known these days is that a lot of the Silent Stars who didn't transition into talkies took it as a choice. Douglas Fairbanks Sr really felt that a lot of the art of silent cinema was lost when talkies came along. Having seen his Four Musketeers, I do see his point. There is an art to the great silents which was lost when sound arrived and which was never quite regained. Different perhaps rather than better/worse, but that was lost.

A lot of it is 'dumb show' like Debbie Reynolds' character says in Singin in the Rain, but if one approaches it as being a close sister to the theatre, a lot of the dumb show starts to make more sense. It is often tableaux, particularly in The Phantom of the Opera. I like that, in small doses.

Also, did you know there's a colour section of The Phantom of the Opera? There's split-screen in The Son of The Sheik too: double Valentino! The people making these movies were innovators, not just primitive shite-hawks.

I'm getting off the point I was going to make. Long-time readers of this particular obscure corner of the blogosphere may recall the piece I wrote back in 2005 when I'd been to see the movie of Lloyd-Webber's musical version of The Phantom of the Opera. It was a profound moment for me, although the movie itself was not quite worthy of it. I still think that post was one of my better bloggeriffic moments and although a lot has changed in my world since then, I stand by it.

As I sat in the cinema watching Chaney, I thought back to the time I sat in another cinema surrounded by my family as I had this moment of clarity and why it happened, what I was feeling and so on. It was not repeated last night, but it might've been a continuance, or an adjustment.

When Chaney's monster was unmasked, I shrugged. He wasn't that horrific. Was this because I've seen pictures of the monster before, and it was not a surprise? Some of the audience laughed at his unmasking actually, but I can imagine an uninitiated audience in '25 could have been genuinely rattled by the Phantom's real face. Apparently it caused some moviegoers to faint.

I don't know, man. I sat there looking at this monster make up and just thought 'Not that bad'. Am I too cynical or just open-minded? Am I unwilling at the most basic level to hate someone just because they're 'ugly'? I hope so.

I've always felt sorry for the Phantom. I mean, he's an evil bastard in some respects – have you read the book? He does some really bad shit. He's a murderer many times over, specialising in torture. That stuff is bad, and I don't excuse it for fictional characters any more than I would real life arseholes. And yet... I don't hate him for his face. I feel terrifically sorry for him on that score. The world made the Phantom, as the world has created many a twisted personality through its intolerance of Different.

Maybe it's because I've always felt like the Phantom. I'm not actually ugly. Really I'm not, but for a long time I felt like the world saw me as the freak in the corner, the fucked up loser who deserves only to be pointed at and mocked. Whether anyone else every truly treated me like that is lost to time – I cannot be truly rational about it even now – but the material point is that I felt it to be so. Maybe that's why I won't hate the Phantom for his freakiness but I will despise his actions.

I asked, back in 2005, would I love Jim Morrison if I were beautiful? Back then, and maybe still today, it was about Jim. That was the epiphany I had in that movie theatre, as some jigsaw pieces fell into place as the film showed me a pseudo Pere-Lachaise and a freakish character obsessed with someone gorgeous who could sing. I saw me and Jim in the Phantom and Christine, although who was who was not immediately clear.

There are a lot of criticisms to be made about the recent Phantom movie, not least the fact that the Phantom wasn't actually that grotesque (which given he was played by Gerard Butler is hardly surprising). But that misses the point, I think. The actual fact of his disfigurement doesn't matter. His attitude towards it matters. The world's treatment of him matters. Come on, we still live in a world where a lot of people think it's OK to point and openly laugh at people in the street because they don't conform to 'Normal' in whatever way. On a shallow, basic level I've had it happen to me recently just for the crime of wearing wacky trousers. How people with genuine disfigurements or other disabilities (visible or otherwise) are treated makes my blood cold.

We live in a shallow world, it can't be denied: A world where the Daily Mail mocks one celebrity for being 'fat' and turns on a sixpence to then deride another for losing too much weight, or where they criticise one for too much surgery and then scold another for letting herself go. This is a world where women are told 'heads you lose, tails we win' and where few options are ever good enough or acceptable.

I'm not ugly, I don't think. I never was, not in a cosmetic sense or in a character sense. But I felt the world believed me to be, and that's what mattered. Because what the world thinks of us does matter. It matters in different ways and to different degrees to different people, but it does matter. I tell the world to fuck itself daily, but I would still like the world to accept me as telling it to fuck itself, to acknowledge my right to live that way. Isn't that ridiculous?

I started writing a post awhile back about a walk I took through London at the start of summer. I didn't get far with it because I just kept getting angrier and angrier. Basics: I walk home from work every day and every damn day I sing along to my iPod. Nobody cares/comments except occasional glares for disturbing people's loud mobile phone calls. Then, I walk home from work on a sunny day in a bright yellow summer maxi dress with my shoulders largely exposed and a nearly-sweetheart neckline. I sing along to my iPod (a heavy blues rock number called 'Seven Days' courtesy of Rory Gallagher) and receive compliments along the way. I am angry, not for receiving compliments, but for only receiving them when I am dressed in a manner considered 'pleasing'. As if the dress made my voice better.

The years since I wrote about the phantoms in my world have wrought many changes to my world and the wider one.  I've reconstructed my personality with some help, I've latched onto (yet another) dead Irishman. Gerard Butler became a proper movie star with 300 and then blotted his copybook forever with The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter. I still love Jim Morrison, beautiful or not, though I wouldn't say he 'haunted' me these days. I beat that back into its box awhile ago (singing “Light My Fire” on stage seems to have been the turning point, weirdly) and he is now a more benevolent presence in my head.

I understand better how the world actually works its insidious attitudes into our unconscious minds, how privilege wears on each and every one of us, how the instruments of hate are bound up in everything we see, hear and read in popular culture. I understand better how self-hate is reinforced by advertisers working for companies whose best interests are apparently served by making us despise ourselves.

The last time I went into the flagship TopShop store on Oxford Street, I walked out in a fury. I'd gone in just looking for 'something' in a way not characteristic of me. Inside I felt how the shop was encouraging me to feel like shit so I'd buy something to feel better. A yellow tennis skirt for £35! Something sparkly for £65! The same vintage dress I bought a few years ago on eBay for £20 for £95! How all the mannequins are very tall and very thin, to 'inspire' us. How their dress sizes are cut smaller than most stores. How their staff look at one with pity and/or scorn. How no matter what, you're not good enough until you've bought stuff from them. Feeling glad I'd rarely bought anything in there before, I walked out, choosing to diminish my self-hate by leaving the store. I haven't been in since.

God, what was my point? Hell only knows. I started listening to Sam Cooke and got distracted. He does that,.

Maybe this: I still don't feel beautiful, or pretty, or pleasing. I don't know if anyone would consider me so. I still feel more like the Phantom than Christine, even as I acknowledge that I am a damn fine singer (no soprano, though!). Do I own the ways in which I'm different? Yeah. Do I won the ways in which I actually conform to normal? Sure. If the last five years have shown me anything, it's that in a few important ways, I get a pass just for being considered the 'default' (white, young, thin, educated, temporarily able, cisgender) even if within that group I'm not much of anything.

For all that I'm not beautiful, I will never be treated the way people who are not 'default' are. I will not be assumed to be a slut just by virtue of my skin colour. I am not assumed to be unhealthy and disgusting simply due to my size (even though I've been much, much more unhealthy than many people in a larger dress size). I do not (currently) have to move through a world not designed for me. My nonconformity is, largely, of my own making and that is one of the greatest privileges I possess. The fictional Phantom never had that choice, and nor do millions of real people.

So no, I didn't laugh at those bits of the movie, and not just because I tried to watch it from a 1925 perspective, but because I tried to watch it from a progressive 2011 one.

Would I love Jim Morrison if I were beautiful? Does it fucking matter?

Love all the people.
apolla: (Rock Chick)
In the last few weeks I've seen a bunch of silent movies at the cinema. There was, most happily, The Son of the Sheik at the Prince Charles Cinema at Leicester Square. That was Valentino as God intended, thirty feet high, incandescent and one of the great faces of cinema. Oh, how I love that face, which rendered the rape of the heroine by the hero almost tolerable. Almost. How his acting had improved since the original Sheik movie five years earlier, how his eyes burn through one's soul, how his smile causes one's heartbeat to thunder!

I also saw a movie starring Pola Negri called Mania; and The General, Keaton's hilarious Civil War-era comedy. I love that guy's work so much. What else? Oh, Anthony Asquith's Underground, which is set on the London Underground and stars Brian Aherne who I adored in Shooting Stars and the Dietrich talkie Song of Songs.

In fact, I can't remember the last talkie I actually saw at the cinema, but I've been to a bunch of silents. Hmm, not sure what that says about me or the state of the motion picture industry. Anyway the last one I saw was The Phantom of the Opera, the 1925 Lon Chaney picture. I wasn't much in the mood to be honest. I'd had a pain in arse week and it didn't even start until ten to nine so I was going to get home pretty late. The audience was pretty full though, unlike for Son of the Sheik.

The audience laughed a lot. Now, there are moments in the picture which are funny. The owners in particular are designed as buffoons, but this audience were at times laughing at things which in 1925 were scary. They didn't get it, I think. They were laughing not because the film was bad (it's not) or because it was intended to be funny, but because it wasn't what they were used to. Silent films are so different to talkies generally but particularly modern movies. What is not necessarily known these days is that a lot of the Silent Stars who didn't transition into talkies took it as a choice. Douglas Fairbanks Sr really felt that a lot of the art of silent cinema was lost when talkies came along. Having seen his Four Musketeers, I do see his point. There is an art to the great silents which was lost when sound arrived and which was never quite regained. Different perhaps rather than better/worse, but that was lost.

A lot of it is 'dumb show' like Debbie Reynolds' character says in Singin in the Rain, but if one approaches it as being a close sister to the theatre, a lot of the dumb show starts to make more sense. It is often tableaux, particularly in The Phantom of the Opera. I like that, in small doses.

Also, did you know there's a colour section of The Phantom of the Opera? There's split-screen in The Son of The Sheik too: double Valentino! The people making these movies were innovators, not just primitive shite-hawks.

I'm getting off the point I was going to make. Long-time readers of this particular obscure corner of the blogosphere may recall the piece I wrote back in 2005 when I'd been to see the movie of Lloyd-Webber's musical version of The Phantom of the Opera. It was a profound moment for me, although the movie itself was not quite worthy of it. I still think that post was one of my better bloggeriffic moments and although a lot has changed in my world since then, I stand by it.

As I sat in the cinema watching Chaney, I thought back to the time I sat in another cinema surrounded by my family as I had this moment of clarity and why it happened, what I was feeling and so on. It was not repeated last night, but it might've been a continuance, or an adjustment.

When Chaney's monster was unmasked, I shrugged. He wasn't that horrific. Was this because I've seen pictures of the monster before, and it was not a surprise? Some of the audience laughed at his unmasking actually, but I can imagine an uninitiated audience in '25 could have been genuinely rattled by the Phantom's real face. Apparently it caused some moviegoers to faint.

I don't know, man. I sat there looking at this monster make up and just thought 'Not that bad'. Am I too cynical or just open-minded? Am I unwilling at the most basic level to hate someone just because they're 'ugly'? I hope so.

I've always felt sorry for the Phantom. I mean, he's an evil bastard in some respects – have you read the book? He does some really bad shit. He's a murderer many times over, specialising in torture. That stuff is bad, and I don't excuse it for fictional characters any more than I would real life arseholes. And yet... I don't hate him for his face. I feel terrifically sorry for him on that score. The world made the Phantom, as the world has created many a twisted personality through its intolerance of Different.

Maybe it's because I've always felt like the Phantom. I'm not actually ugly. Really I'm not, but for a long time I felt like the world saw me as the freak in the corner, the fucked up loser who deserves only to be pointed at and mocked. Whether anyone else every truly treated me like that is lost to time – I cannot be truly rational about it even now – but the material point is that I felt it to be so. Maybe that's why I won't hate the Phantom for his freakiness but I will despise his actions.

I asked, back in 2005, would I love Jim Morrison if I were beautiful? Back then, and maybe still today, it was about Jim. That was the epiphany I had in that movie theatre, as some jigsaw pieces fell into place as the film showed me a pseudo Pere-Lachaise and a freakish character obsessed with someone gorgeous who could sing. I saw me and Jim in the Phantom and Christine, although who was who was not immediately clear.

There are a lot of criticisms to be made about the recent Phantom movie, not least the fact that the Phantom wasn't actually that grotesque (which given he was played by Gerard Butler is hardly surprising). But that misses the point, I think. The actual fact of his disfigurement doesn't matter. His attitude towards it matters. The world's treatment of him matters. Come on, we still live in a world where a lot of people think it's OK to point and openly laugh at people in the street because they don't conform to 'Normal' in whatever way. On a shallow, basic level I've had it happen to me recently just for the crime of wearing wacky trousers. How people with genuine disfigurements or other disabilities (visible or otherwise) are treated makes my blood cold.

We live in a shallow world, it can't be denied: A world where the Daily Mail mocks one celebrity for being 'fat' and turns on a sixpence to then deride another for losing too much weight, or where they criticise one for too much surgery and then scold another for letting herself go. This is a world where women are told 'heads you lose, tails we win' and where few options are ever good enough or acceptable.

I'm not ugly, I don't think. I never was, not in a cosmetic sense or in a character sense. But I felt the world believed me to be, and that's what mattered. Because what the world thinks of us does matter. It matters in different ways and to different degrees to different people, but it does matter. I tell the world to fuck itself daily, but I would still like the world to accept me as telling it to fuck itself, to acknowledge my right to live that way. Isn't that ridiculous?

I started writing a post awhile back about a walk I took through London at the start of summer. I didn't get far with it because I just kept getting angrier and angrier. Basics: I walk home from work every day and every damn day I sing along to my iPod. Nobody cares/comments except occasional glares for disturbing people's loud mobile phone calls. Then, I walk home from work on a sunny day in a bright yellow summer maxi dress with my shoulders largely exposed and a nearly-sweetheart neckline. I sing along to my iPod (a heavy blues rock number called 'Seven Days' courtesy of Rory Gallagher) and receive compliments along the way. I am angry, not for receiving compliments, but for only receiving them when I am dressed in a manner considered 'pleasing'. As if the dress made my voice better.

The years since I wrote about the phantoms in my world have wrought many changes to my world and the wider one.  I've reconstructed my personality with some help, I've latched onto (yet another) dead Irishman. Gerard Butler became a proper movie star with 300 and then blotted his copybook forever with The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter. I still love Jim Morrison, beautiful or not, though I wouldn't say he 'haunted' me these days. I beat that back into its box awhile ago (singing “Light My Fire” on stage seems to have been the turning point, weirdly) and he is now a more benevolent presence in my head.

I understand better how the world actually works its insidious attitudes into our unconscious minds, how privilege wears on each and every one of us, how the instruments of hate are bound up in everything we see, hear and read in popular culture. I understand better how self-hate is reinforced by advertisers working for companies whose best interests are apparently served by making us despise ourselves.

The last time I went into the flagship TopShop store on Oxford Street, I walked out in a fury. I'd gone in just looking for 'something' in a way not characteristic of me. Inside I felt how the shop was encouraging me to feel like shit so I'd buy something to feel better. A yellow tennis skirt for £35! Something sparkly for £65! The same vintage dress I bought a few years ago on eBay for £20 for £95! How all the mannequins are very tall and very thin, to 'inspire' us. How their dress sizes are cut smaller than most stores. How their staff look at one with pity and/or scorn. How no matter what, you're not good enough until you've bought stuff from them. Feeling glad I'd rarely bought anything in there before, I walked out, choosing to diminish my self-hate by leaving the store. I haven't been in since.

God, what was my point? Hell only knows. I started listening to Sam Cooke and got distracted. He does that,.

Maybe this: I still don't feel beautiful, or pretty, or pleasing. I don't know if anyone would consider me so. I still feel more like the Phantom than Christine, even as I acknowledge that I am a damn fine singer (no soprano, though!). Do I own the ways in which I'm different? Yeah. Do I won the ways in which I actually conform to normal? Sure. If the last five years have shown me anything, it's that in a few important ways, I get a pass just for being considered the 'default' (white, young, thin, educated, temporarily able, cisgender) even if within that group I'm not much of anything.

For all that I'm not beautiful, I will never be treated the way people who are not 'default' are. I will not be assumed to be a slut just by virtue of my skin colour. I am not assumed to be unhealthy and disgusting simply due to my size (even though I've been much, much more unhealthy than many people in a larger dress size). I do not (currently) have to move through a world not designed for me. My nonconformity is, largely, of my own making and that is one of the greatest privileges I possess. The fictional Phantom never had that choice, and nor do millions of real people.

So no, I didn't laugh at those bits of the movie, and not just because I tried to watch it from a 1925 perspective, but because I tried to watch it from a progressive 2011 one.

Would I love Jim Morrison if I were beautiful? Does it fucking matter?

Love all the people.

Forty Years.....

Sunday, 3 July 2011 15:13
apolla: (Smiler)

Forty years.

I can't really compute it, if I'm honest. I feel like I should be utterly bereft, but I'm not. I mean, Jim Morrison is dead. As of today, he's been dead forty years. That's a middle-aged person ago. I've been a fan long enough that I remember the thirtieth anniversary, and how I felt then. Utterly shite, basically. I probably cried. Hell, I'm almost certain I cried. There were riots in Paris on his twentieth anniversary. The consistently dreadful behaviour of 'fans' nearly got him kicked out of Pere-Lachaise, but I can't imagine today will be all that much of a deal. The rabble-rousers got old and are probably spending their Sundays in garden centres or outlet malls.

As is so often the case, this will be as much about me as Jim. It's the only way I can connect to him, after all. Forty years... I outlived him a couple of years ago, you know. It tore me apart for a few days (or possibly months, or maybe it still does) but I just about got over it. Maybe he's the world's oldest twenty-seven year old and I never quite have to outlive him.

It's not easy being a Doors fan. I think I know at least a little how ELO fans feel when they're met with smirks of derision when they announce that they are, in fact, ELO fans. ELO fans don't even have the advantage of having someone who looks like Jim Morrison out front. Anyway, my point is that a lot of people who have some knowledge of popular culture have a particular view on 'who' Doors fans are. Doors fans are, the generalisation goes, whiny-angsty students who sit in darkened rooms burning incense, or they are pitiful people who wear Jim-like clothes and spout pseudo-Rimbaudian crap. Well, I've done a lot of angsting in darkened rooms but incense gives me a headache and I've never got down with Rimbaud particularly. The worst thing that can be said about Doors fans, or Doorzoids as more than one critic put it, is that they have no sense of perspective: Jim is greatest at everything and nobody else ever did anything nearly as good as he did. Jim is beyond criticism and everyone should live a life like Jim. They are blindly-worshipping followers like those morons in Life of Brian who just repeat everything back to him. Have you heard that girl on the live recording who agrees with everything Jim says, even when he turns on a sixpence and says the opposite of what he'd just said?

In fact, I was at Glastonbury last weekend in the mud-n-sun, and one of the people I was there with told me he spent a portion of his youth trying to be like Jim. I'm paraphrasing, but he said with the weariness of someone who has come out the other side of a troubling obsession: “I acted like a complete twat.”

I myself have spent the last ten or so years battling between using Jim as a Life Lesson and just plain following him down the troubling road to The Mythical Edge (nothing to do with U2). I have never wanted to be Jim, but I have come close to swan-diving off The Mythical Edge to find him. It is no credit to me but I have sat alone, emptying a bottle and calling to the sky for him. He has never come, of course.

He's just that kind of guy, really. A lot of people have probably died trying to be like Jim, just as a lot of people have died trying to be like Keith Richards. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, or maybe it just is. The shame of it is that Jim was always more than just a Hellraising Rock Star. He was incredibly well-read, thoughtful and determined to do more than just basic three-minute love songs. In fact, there's not a single Doors song you could call a straightforward love song. Seriously, find me one.

The Doors have always been both under- and over-rated. While their advocates will never cease listing their strengths and moments of brilliance, they remain on the outskirts of the Rock Pantheon, outsiders even now. Their work is too arty/pretentious, the great songs too long to get much radio play. They exist in a pre-video world so there's not much to show on TV. They're not for the Normal People. I once blogged, a long time ago, how I would not be a Doors fan if I had been beautiful, or popular. The Doors belong to us weirdos and freaks, so they never quite fit into the stereotypical view of the 1960s. Indeed, while everyone in 1967 was all Peace And Love, the Doors were doing The End. See also Love, who like their Elektra stablemates, took psychedelic music and skewed it. This is the dark side of the sun, man, and it doesn't quite fit. Jim makes it into those endless lists of rock stars and stuff because he is seen as a stereotypical rock star. And don't you believe for a second that he didn't encourage it... but it wasn't all he was.

He was more than just the smirking, shirt-allergic Adonis of legend. Seriously man, he was. I'm not a Doors fan because Jim was 'cute' and I've never had a crush on him. All-consuming obsession sure, but not a crush. He was, is, and ever will be, more than that. He is my hero, and I won't ever apologise for it. He was a writer of generally good and occasionally great music. He was more than the punchline to a fucking joke.

I have never wanted to follow him blindly, although maybe sometimes I have. I've seen and oftentimes agreed with criticisms of him, and his work. He did skirt the line between arty and pretentious and sometimes he fell right over it to become mired in self-important wankery. I pity the fools who turned up late to some shows and missed the support act (a small time group called Led Zeppelin) and got instead an incoherent drunken ramble from headliner Jim. You don't have to tell me what a dick he could be: I've read pretty much everything there is to read, and I know. He's still my hero, both because and in spite of his great weaknesses. He's still the guy who gave us 'The End' and 'The Unknown Soldier' and 'Five to One' and 'The Soft Parade'. Sure, he's also the 'genius' behind 'Horse Latitudes', which I don't think was intended as a comedy, but “mute nostril agony” is hilarious. The Doors gave us some practically perfect slices of late-60s rock music: 'Love Me Two Times', 'Love Her Madly', 'Break on Through' and freak anthem 'People Are Strange'. They gave us some extraordinary bits of art-rock too: the seventeen minute, epic 'Celebration of The Lizard', aurally bizarre 'L'America' and the achingly beautiful 'The Crystal Ship'.

Have I mentioned Jim's fantastic, brutal, beautiful voice? Well I should. He could croon like Sinatra but he could also yell and scream with the best of 'em. His voice is like his legend: alternately seductive and violent, alluring and grotesque. Who else could scream at you to WAKE UP and then take you on a journey like that in a Doors concert? For me, Jim's power is not in his face, but in his voice.

A few weeks back, I listened to LA Woman all the way through. Then I did so twice more. The Doors is a great record and the five that follow all have tremendous moments, but LA Woman is an unquestionably remarkable record. Jim's voice is already ravaged, but it's perfect for some dark, terrible blues. 'Been Down So Long' has been my own personal theme tune for years. There's not a duff song anywhere on the record, although 'Riders on the Storm' has always veered dangerously towards cocktail lounge music for my liking – I think it's Ray's organ sound – but it's still a good song. If they'd been able to follow that up, the Doors would likely have regained the ground lost by the Jim's Cock trial.

More woulda-could-shoulda there. I have my dreams of what they and he could've achieved if he'd lived. Some of them are barely even cloud cuckoo land, some of them really are as entrenched in reality as possible. None of them will come true, so I should just put them away. He is dead, after all.

In death, we can take Jim as we need him. I needed a hero to cling onto who would not disappoint me. Even in death, he's managed to do so from time to time, but he's still the guy who turned down car commercials. It's likely that had he lived, he would've sold out as thoroughly as any of the others, but he didn't live to do so, and remains more or less unsullied. He didn't ever make peace with authority and even now remains dangerous, in his way, to society as it currently is. I needed him to be that person, unapologetic for himself. I needed him to be someone I could admire precisely because he never did fit in.

Mind you, seeing Doors CDs being sold in Starbucks took some serious rationalising. It's pretty good in some ways that Himself is dead – I can just blame it all on Father Ray, Robby & John.

Right now, I'm sat in Starbucks on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I'm drinking an iced latte, I'm dressed in a bright yellow sundress and I would honestly describe myself as 'cheerful'. Except for the small detail that Jim Morrison is dead. And you know what? He's been dead for such a long bloody time that it's simply how it is. Of course I'm sad, but if you think I'm going to let this drag me down for my entire damn life, you're more delusional than I am. I am, finally, just about resigned to it.

For the rest of my life and beyond it, I will always believe that a world without Jim in it is worse than one with him in it. I will always believe that he would've become a mighty figure... but I'm not going to shed any tears over it today. He's already had enough of them from me. He would've been a magnificent sight to behold and his work would've been more than just the occasional hint of brilliance, but it didn't happen and until I get my time machine, that's how it's staying.

Today in the sunshine, the shadows are out of sight and it turns out we could survive without him. Jaysus, that should break my heart – but it doesn't. Into the sunshine, indeed.

Forty Years.....

Sunday, 3 July 2011 15:13
apolla: (Smiler)

Forty years.

I can't really compute it, if I'm honest. I feel like I should be utterly bereft, but I'm not. I mean, Jim Morrison is dead. As of today, he's been dead forty years. That's a middle-aged person ago. I've been a fan long enough that I remember the thirtieth anniversary, and how I felt then. Utterly shite, basically. I probably cried. Hell, I'm almost certain I cried. There were riots in Paris on his twentieth anniversary. The consistently dreadful behaviour of 'fans' nearly got him kicked out of Pere-Lachaise, but I can't imagine today will be all that much of a deal. The rabble-rousers got old and are probably spending their Sundays in garden centres or outlet malls.

As is so often the case, this will be as much about me as Jim. It's the only way I can connect to him, after all. Forty years... I outlived him a couple of years ago, you know. It tore me apart for a few days (or possibly months, or maybe it still does) but I just about got over it. Maybe he's the world's oldest twenty-seven year old and I never quite have to outlive him.

It's not easy being a Doors fan. I think I know at least a little how ELO fans feel when they're met with smirks of derision when they announce that they are, in fact, ELO fans. ELO fans don't even have the advantage of having someone who looks like Jim Morrison out front. Anyway, my point is that a lot of people who have some knowledge of popular culture have a particular view on 'who' Doors fans are. Doors fans are, the generalisation goes, whiny-angsty students who sit in darkened rooms burning incense, or they are pitiful people who wear Jim-like clothes and spout pseudo-Rimbaudian crap. Well, I've done a lot of angsting in darkened rooms but incense gives me a headache and I've never got down with Rimbaud particularly. The worst thing that can be said about Doors fans, or Doorzoids as more than one critic put it, is that they have no sense of perspective: Jim is greatest at everything and nobody else ever did anything nearly as good as he did. Jim is beyond criticism and everyone should live a life like Jim. They are blindly-worshipping followers like those morons in Life of Brian who just repeat everything back to him. Have you heard that girl on the live recording who agrees with everything Jim says, even when he turns on a sixpence and says the opposite of what he'd just said?

In fact, I was at Glastonbury last weekend in the mud-n-sun, and one of the people I was there with told me he spent a portion of his youth trying to be like Jim. I'm paraphrasing, but he said with the weariness of someone who has come out the other side of a troubling obsession: “I acted like a complete twat.”

I myself have spent the last ten or so years battling between using Jim as a Life Lesson and just plain following him down the troubling road to The Mythical Edge (nothing to do with U2). I have never wanted to be Jim, but I have come close to swan-diving off The Mythical Edge to find him. It is no credit to me but I have sat alone, emptying a bottle and calling to the sky for him. He has never come, of course.

He's just that kind of guy, really. A lot of people have probably died trying to be like Jim, just as a lot of people have died trying to be like Keith Richards. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, or maybe it just is. The shame of it is that Jim was always more than just a Hellraising Rock Star. He was incredibly well-read, thoughtful and determined to do more than just basic three-minute love songs. In fact, there's not a single Doors song you could call a straightforward love song. Seriously, find me one.

The Doors have always been both under- and over-rated. While their advocates will never cease listing their strengths and moments of brilliance, they remain on the outskirts of the Rock Pantheon, outsiders even now. Their work is too arty/pretentious, the great songs too long to get much radio play. They exist in a pre-video world so there's not much to show on TV. They're not for the Normal People. I once blogged, a long time ago, how I would not be a Doors fan if I had been beautiful, or popular. The Doors belong to us weirdos and freaks, so they never quite fit into the stereotypical view of the 1960s. Indeed, while everyone in 1967 was all Peace And Love, the Doors were doing The End. See also Love, who like their Elektra stablemates, took psychedelic music and skewed it. This is the dark side of the sun, man, and it doesn't quite fit. Jim makes it into those endless lists of rock stars and stuff because he is seen as a stereotypical rock star. And don't you believe for a second that he didn't encourage it... but it wasn't all he was.

He was more than just the smirking, shirt-allergic Adonis of legend. Seriously man, he was. I'm not a Doors fan because Jim was 'cute' and I've never had a crush on him. All-consuming obsession sure, but not a crush. He was, is, and ever will be, more than that. He is my hero, and I won't ever apologise for it. He was a writer of generally good and occasionally great music. He was more than the punchline to a fucking joke.

I have never wanted to follow him blindly, although maybe sometimes I have. I've seen and oftentimes agreed with criticisms of him, and his work. He did skirt the line between arty and pretentious and sometimes he fell right over it to become mired in self-important wankery. I pity the fools who turned up late to some shows and missed the support act (a small time group called Led Zeppelin) and got instead an incoherent drunken ramble from headliner Jim. You don't have to tell me what a dick he could be: I've read pretty much everything there is to read, and I know. He's still my hero, both because and in spite of his great weaknesses. He's still the guy who gave us 'The End' and 'The Unknown Soldier' and 'Five to One' and 'The Soft Parade'. Sure, he's also the 'genius' behind 'Horse Latitudes', which I don't think was intended as a comedy, but “mute nostril agony” is hilarious. The Doors gave us some practically perfect slices of late-60s rock music: 'Love Me Two Times', 'Love Her Madly', 'Break on Through' and freak anthem 'People Are Strange'. They gave us some extraordinary bits of art-rock too: the seventeen minute, epic 'Celebration of The Lizard', aurally bizarre 'L'America' and the achingly beautiful 'The Crystal Ship'.

Have I mentioned Jim's fantastic, brutal, beautiful voice? Well I should. He could croon like Sinatra but he could also yell and scream with the best of 'em. His voice is like his legend: alternately seductive and violent, alluring and grotesque. Who else could scream at you to WAKE UP and then take you on a journey like that in a Doors concert? For me, Jim's power is not in his face, but in his voice.

A few weeks back, I listened to LA Woman all the way through. Then I did so twice more. The Doors is a great record and the five that follow all have tremendous moments, but LA Woman is an unquestionably remarkable record. Jim's voice is already ravaged, but it's perfect for some dark, terrible blues. 'Been Down So Long' has been my own personal theme tune for years. There's not a duff song anywhere on the record, although 'Riders on the Storm' has always veered dangerously towards cocktail lounge music for my liking – I think it's Ray's organ sound – but it's still a good song. If they'd been able to follow that up, the Doors would likely have regained the ground lost by the Jim's Cock trial.

More woulda-could-shoulda there. I have my dreams of what they and he could've achieved if he'd lived. Some of them are barely even cloud cuckoo land, some of them really are as entrenched in reality as possible. None of them will come true, so I should just put them away. He is dead, after all.

In death, we can take Jim as we need him. I needed a hero to cling onto who would not disappoint me. Even in death, he's managed to do so from time to time, but he's still the guy who turned down car commercials. It's likely that had he lived, he would've sold out as thoroughly as any of the others, but he didn't live to do so, and remains more or less unsullied. He didn't ever make peace with authority and even now remains dangerous, in his way, to society as it currently is. I needed him to be that person, unapologetic for himself. I needed him to be someone I could admire precisely because he never did fit in.

Mind you, seeing Doors CDs being sold in Starbucks took some serious rationalising. It's pretty good in some ways that Himself is dead – I can just blame it all on Father Ray, Robby & John.

Right now, I'm sat in Starbucks on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I'm drinking an iced latte, I'm dressed in a bright yellow sundress and I would honestly describe myself as 'cheerful'. Except for the small detail that Jim Morrison is dead. And you know what? He's been dead for such a long bloody time that it's simply how it is. Of course I'm sad, but if you think I'm going to let this drag me down for my entire damn life, you're more delusional than I am. I am, finally, just about resigned to it.

For the rest of my life and beyond it, I will always believe that a world without Jim in it is worse than one with him in it. I will always believe that he would've become a mighty figure... but I'm not going to shed any tears over it today. He's already had enough of them from me. He would've been a magnificent sight to behold and his work would've been more than just the occasional hint of brilliance, but it didn't happen and until I get my time machine, that's how it's staying.

Today in the sunshine, the shadows are out of sight and it turns out we could survive without him. Jaysus, that should break my heart – but it doesn't. Into the sunshine, indeed.

apolla: (Dino)

 

I've written before about how difficult it can be to be a woman in musical spheres. Whether it's being expected to occupy certain pigeon-holes as performers, or having our fandom written off as mindless crushing, or just being bloody invisible, it can pretty difficult to be a woman dealing with popular music.

It's not a stretch to say that my own particular brand of feminism has become increasingly radical these days – I would now self-identify as a 'radical feminist', or more usually as a left-wing loon. Funny thing: the more I read and the more I experience, the less tolerant of the rape culture bullshit I become.

This leaves me with a few problems, because misogyny is so very much part of society and culture, and it's everywhere in movies and music I've loved. I mean, I've never had any time for the really obvious shit (Hi there, Judd Apatow!) but the more subtle stuff... the things I used to be able to ignore, or hand-wave away are becoming ever harder to just mentally discredit.

I wonder if I'm the only kid who read Sweet Valley High and self-edited it so much? I like to think that I never really signed up to the rape culture, but instead chose to twist its badness to something new which I could accept. I don't know that that's really true except on a personal level – the arseholes who collect the money don't care about 'how' I read their books or movies, do they? While it's more than fine for me to have ignored this and that, it doesn't help in the wider context of everyone else – those who suffer from it as well as those who profit from it.

I used to edit films too – the fast-forward button on our old VHS player used to get a mashing during Grease. I don't think I've seen the whole of 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' since the very first time I saw it on TV, and Grease 2 suffered pretty much the same fate for that paean to coercion, 'Let's Do It For Our Country'. Plenty of other movies were truncated in this manner when something came up that I either found uncomfortable viewing, or just didn't like.

Anyway, back to the actual subject. I've been a fan of Dean Martin for a long old time now... I remember the only thing that got me through the quiet hell that was the school trip to Eastern Europe was Dino on my walkman. I have loved his music deeply and affectionately for a long time. Before even Jim Morrison, there was, for me, Dean Martin's voice.

I had a particular CD which I loved best, because it included 'Ain't That A Kick In The Head?'. I lost the CD itself ages ago – I'm talking years ago – and always intended to search through the rest of the CD boxes for it. I half-thought it was at my mum and dad's house and I always meant to find it but never quite did. Some favourite CD huh? Well, I had most of the songs on other CDs and I got by. Then a while ago, I took it into mind to look for it (again). I didn't bother, and decided to just put some of my other CDs onto my computer. The Almost Famous and Virgin Suicides soundtracks, Queen's Greatest Hits II and entirely randomly picked off a shelf, the Some Like It Hot soundtrack. In the box of the latter, I found the CD I had been meaning to look for for years. I don't know how it got there – I have listened to Some Like It Hot only a couple of times since it was given to me. I mean, if I want Some Like It Hot I'll watch the film, right?

I couldn't believe it! I was so utterly happy about this one stupid disc. In the end, there were only about six songs I hadn't pulled off other CDs, but one of them was 'Ain't That A Kick In The Head?'. Ever since Robbie Williams, and then Westlife, butchered the song, I've never quite enjoyed it so much... but it's Dean so I still loved it. I shoved the CD into my stereo and hit PLAY before I slid into a hot bubble batch to soothe my aching muscles (I've just started yoga dontcha know?).

And I was... disappointed. Not by Dean's voice, because that can never fall in my estimation, but by some of the songs. Not all of them, but some. Actually, 'disappointed' doesn't tell the whole story.

There's a song called 'Baby, It's Cold Outside', which if you actually listen to the words, is about coercion and date-rape. Seriously, listen to it. The first time I heard it was by Dean and an unknown woman singer (let that tell its own story) and I misheard some of the lyrics, which made it rather less dreadful. I heard 'Say, lend me a comb' as 'So lend me a coat' which in context, gave the woman much more power. In my previous, youthful naivete, I thought 'so what's in this drink?' meant that he'd just mixed the martinis a little stronger than expected. I read the song, when presented by Dean, as the woman not wanting to leave but being expected to by society's strictures. See, editing at all times, even when I didn't realise it.

Anyway, that's not what the song is about. The Dudebro is pressuring The Woman to stay so he can shag her. She wants to go home. He probably put something in her drink... and there you go: coercion and date rape. A friend of mine thought I was overreacting until she went and read the lyrics through. It's amazing what a light and breezy horns section can do, isn't it?

For me, because I only ever really heard Dino's version, it wasn't so bad back in the day, because who wouldn't want to stay with a voice like that? (I make no comment upon the man himself, having never met him and having to base a lot of my knowledge of his personality and behaviour on things best described as myth-building.) This editing lark of mine has let me hand-wave a lot, and because of the world in which Dean Martin was working, a lot of it is tied up in the songs he sang.

Now, there are likely people who think Tin Pan Alley and the more general outpouring of popular music in America was one of the great cultural achievements of the 20th Century, but I hate to break it to you: The 80-20 Ratio still applies. Yeah, there were some great songwriters and wonderful songs, but there's also a lot of arsewater masquerading as 'good clean fun'. For instance, 'Powder Your Face With Sunshine' is an awful song which is rendered tolerable only by Dino's warm rendition.

While we're at it: 'Everybody Loves Somebody'. How I have always detested this piece of rancid, saccharine shit! Did I read somewhere that Dino actually hated it too? I hope so. Not only is it just an awful song, the sentiment is toss: We don't all get to love someone (see also: 'Somewhere There's A Someone') and there ain't nothing wrong with that. The Great Unloved such as myself are not sub-humans, nor failures as humans. I could fall in deepest love tomorrow and still think this song is hateful. I hadn't heard it for such a long old time that I'd forgotten how much I hated it.

Also included on the disc is 'The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane'... where the joke is that through the whole song the implication is that a whore has moved into town... but it turns out he's singing about a nine-day-old baby girl. Who thought that could possibly be sweet or funny? Seriously, was the Tin Pan Alley Reality Checker off sick that day? Would you write a song like that about a baby boy? Unlikely. Once again, I edited and just skipped the track when I would listen to the CD... although I've clearly heard it often enough to know most of the words...

It has not escaped my attention that Dean Martin has been painted as the Crown Prince of Dudebros. While I sit listening to him on my iPod thinking 'what a voice!', how many Apprentice Dudebros are looking to Dean as an example of all that is Cool (Drink, Girls, Sharp Suits, Nice Hats)? How many people talk of Dean just as 'the King of Cool' and not much else?

Perhaps I should be asking if it's even possible to be a Dean Martin fan and a radical feminist at the same time? Course it is. Dean Martin, as far as I'm aware, was not a bad guy. A man very much of his time. A codifier of the Myth of His Time, in fact. But that's not down to the music, and a lot of what has been written and said about him is myth-building.

I get the feeling I'm making excuses. I don't mean to, but it's really not a great feeling to listen to music you once loved – LOVED! - and realise that it's actually saying the absolute opposite of what you think. It's one thing to listen to a parade of 'when my baby she left me' blues songs, because quite often they're not painting an entire gender as Slut Bitches (although plenty do), when I don't truly, deeply love them. I can sit here and tell you that a lot of heavy metal is despicable without blinking, because I don't love it. It's easy to turn against that which you didn't like anyway. To have to reconsider stuff you do love... it hurts when you loved it as much as I do.

Hell, Thin Lizzy keep getting accused of misogyny, but I still can't hear it. Perhaps my deep love for Lizzy keeps me blind, but I have been looking for it. Are they misogynists for having Hot Gossip in their videos, or is it just because 'Killer on the Loose' was released at the same time as the Yorkshire Ripper was terrifying everyone? Is it Philo's depictions of a certain sort of world? Is it his groupie-shagging reputation? How much is the music, how much is their Bad Reputation (this is actually the name of a Thin Lizzy song. It's good)? I don't know, maybe I really am still just hand-waving and editing.

If I decide that I won't listen to another song by anyone which demeans women, I'm going to need a smaller iPod. Do I accept it, knowing that most of the music I listen to is very old, of its time? Do I just excise the really bad examples from my life, like 'The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane' and 'Not Enough Indians'? What response is really the best? To just ignore is no longer acceptable, this I know.

I can be a Dean Martin fan, but it doesn't mean that I can just accept every song as it is. Some of them are beyond the pale and can't be excused by the context of their time. There's a reason I haven't sought out too much of The Dean Martin Show. Anything based so much on dolly-birds can't be much good... and for all the excuse-making about how he wasn't a bad guy, I have to simply accept the fact that a lot of people have got away with a lot by being a not-bad guy. I'm going to have to square myself to this fact. I'm sure I'll manage: I can still watch Errol Flynn films without cringing, although that was an effort and a half.

In a way, I'm being a little harsh: some of the music is truly great. Dean Martin songs were the first thing to really open my eyes to the different facets of love: joyful love, broken-hearted love, sad love, ended love, new love, affectionate love, bittersweet love, and so on. Except now I have to recognise and add coercive 'love', and stalking=love and possessive 'love' and those things too.

Being a Radical Feminist doesn't mean rejecting love. To me, it means calling 'bullshit' on misogyny disguised or packaged as love. In other words: stalking =/= love, oppression =/= love. I will always, always love the Hoagy Carmichael song 'Two Sleepy People' because unlike 'Baby, It's Cold Outside', it's that kind of we-really-maybe-shouldn't-but-hey thing but the two subjects are equal partners, to the extent that I even know the woman singer's name when performed by Dean (Line Renaud). I can also recommend Julie London's version. 'Sway' is not about the objectification of a woman, unlike say, the infantilising 'Pretty Baby' or the just plain hideous 'Not Enough Indians' which manages to combine Good Ol' Fashioned Racism with the notion that the Dudebro has to be in charge in order to have a happy relationship. You know what? There are performers with much worse discographies than Dean.

This does matter, by the way. It's the little injustices that make the big injustices possible. It's the little things that add up to a culture which allows (nay, encourages) women to be treated as one homogeneous group of sexual and/or domestic objects. If music is this important to me (and it is), then it stands to reason that it is as important to people who don't see a problem with painting women as an entire group of sluts/bitches/servants/irrational harpies/passive childlike creatures in need of manly control. This matters to me personally, and it matters on a larger scale, although no doubt if anyone reads this beyond my usual f-list, there will be people shrugging it off as meaningless, or flaming me for being *insert derogatory term here*.

Maybe the true test of a song is this: can it be sung by a woman instead of a man without totally changing the meaning? If so, then I reckon there's a fair chance it's based on a notion of love as equality rather than love as something men can choose to bestow upon some little woman as they see fit, whether she wants it or not.

I really, really love the song 'You Belong To Me' which has been performed by countless singers of both/any/all genders, but my favourite is of course, Dean. On the face of it, it's about possession. What it's really about, is loving someone enough to let them go off on adventures around the world if they want or need to, and being brave enough to believe they'll come back. It's easy: “Do what you need to, but please remember that I love you.” I love that song. Anyone can sing it, and pretty much everyone has, for better or worse.

What a relief it is to realise that at least one of my favourite songs passes the test. So does 'Ain't That A Kick In The Head?', although there's really another issue of the violent image conjured by the title. Like I say, it's not all bad news but... the more aware I become of anti-women tropes and the rape culture and all the stuff woven into society to keep me and my gender third-class citizens, the harder it is to find things that pass. That's rape culture for you: it's bloody everywhere.

I've been in love with Dean Martin songs for a very, very long time. This is not easy and it's not fun, but that's not my fault. Better it be uncomfortable than I just ignore it all. I'll get there one day, wherever 'there' actually is, and I'll be able to listen to Dino without feeling uncomfortable – but I know the play list will be much shorter.

My final words are directed to the people who wrote 'You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You': I refer you to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram.

apolla: (Dino)

 

I've written before about how difficult it can be to be a woman in musical spheres. Whether it's being expected to occupy certain pigeon-holes as performers, or having our fandom written off as mindless crushing, or just being bloody invisible, it can pretty difficult to be a woman dealing with popular music.

It's not a stretch to say that my own particular brand of feminism has become increasingly radical these days – I would now self-identify as a 'radical feminist', or more usually as a left-wing loon. Funny thing: the more I read and the more I experience, the less tolerant of the rape culture bullshit I become.

This leaves me with a few problems, because misogyny is so very much part of society and culture, and it's everywhere in movies and music I've loved. I mean, I've never had any time for the really obvious shit (Hi there, Judd Apatow!) but the more subtle stuff... the things I used to be able to ignore, or hand-wave away are becoming ever harder to just mentally discredit.

I wonder if I'm the only kid who read Sweet Valley High and self-edited it so much? I like to think that I never really signed up to the rape culture, but instead chose to twist its badness to something new which I could accept. I don't know that that's really true except on a personal level – the arseholes who collect the money don't care about 'how' I read their books or movies, do they? While it's more than fine for me to have ignored this and that, it doesn't help in the wider context of everyone else – those who suffer from it as well as those who profit from it.

I used to edit films too – the fast-forward button on our old VHS player used to get a mashing during Grease. I don't think I've seen the whole of 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' since the very first time I saw it on TV, and Grease 2 suffered pretty much the same fate for that paean to coercion, 'Let's Do It For Our Country'. Plenty of other movies were truncated in this manner when something came up that I either found uncomfortable viewing, or just didn't like.

Anyway, back to the actual subject. I've been a fan of Dean Martin for a long old time now... I remember the only thing that got me through the quiet hell that was the school trip to Eastern Europe was Dino on my walkman. I have loved his music deeply and affectionately for a long time. Before even Jim Morrison, there was, for me, Dean Martin's voice.

I had a particular CD which I loved best, because it included 'Ain't That A Kick In The Head?'. I lost the CD itself ages ago – I'm talking years ago – and always intended to search through the rest of the CD boxes for it. I half-thought it was at my mum and dad's house and I always meant to find it but never quite did. Some favourite CD huh? Well, I had most of the songs on other CDs and I got by. Then a while ago, I took it into mind to look for it (again). I didn't bother, and decided to just put some of my other CDs onto my computer. The Almost Famous and Virgin Suicides soundtracks, Queen's Greatest Hits II and entirely randomly picked off a shelf, the Some Like It Hot soundtrack. In the box of the latter, I found the CD I had been meaning to look for for years. I don't know how it got there – I have listened to Some Like It Hot only a couple of times since it was given to me. I mean, if I want Some Like It Hot I'll watch the film, right?

I couldn't believe it! I was so utterly happy about this one stupid disc. In the end, there were only about six songs I hadn't pulled off other CDs, but one of them was 'Ain't That A Kick In The Head?'. Ever since Robbie Williams, and then Westlife, butchered the song, I've never quite enjoyed it so much... but it's Dean so I still loved it. I shoved the CD into my stereo and hit PLAY before I slid into a hot bubble batch to soothe my aching muscles (I've just started yoga dontcha know?).

And I was... disappointed. Not by Dean's voice, because that can never fall in my estimation, but by some of the songs. Not all of them, but some. Actually, 'disappointed' doesn't tell the whole story.

There's a song called 'Baby, It's Cold Outside', which if you actually listen to the words, is about coercion and date-rape. Seriously, listen to it. The first time I heard it was by Dean and an unknown woman singer (let that tell its own story) and I misheard some of the lyrics, which made it rather less dreadful. I heard 'Say, lend me a comb' as 'So lend me a coat' which in context, gave the woman much more power. In my previous, youthful naivete, I thought 'so what's in this drink?' meant that he'd just mixed the martinis a little stronger than expected. I read the song, when presented by Dean, as the woman not wanting to leave but being expected to by society's strictures. See, editing at all times, even when I didn't realise it.

Anyway, that's not what the song is about. The Dudebro is pressuring The Woman to stay so he can shag her. She wants to go home. He probably put something in her drink... and there you go: coercion and date rape. A friend of mine thought I was overreacting until she went and read the lyrics through. It's amazing what a light and breezy horns section can do, isn't it?

For me, because I only ever really heard Dino's version, it wasn't so bad back in the day, because who wouldn't want to stay with a voice like that? (I make no comment upon the man himself, having never met him and having to base a lot of my knowledge of his personality and behaviour on things best described as myth-building.) This editing lark of mine has let me hand-wave a lot, and because of the world in which Dean Martin was working, a lot of it is tied up in the songs he sang.

Now, there are likely people who think Tin Pan Alley and the more general outpouring of popular music in America was one of the great cultural achievements of the 20th Century, but I hate to break it to you: The 80-20 Ratio still applies. Yeah, there were some great songwriters and wonderful songs, but there's also a lot of arsewater masquerading as 'good clean fun'. For instance, 'Powder Your Face With Sunshine' is an awful song which is rendered tolerable only by Dino's warm rendition.

While we're at it: 'Everybody Loves Somebody'. How I have always detested this piece of rancid, saccharine shit! Did I read somewhere that Dino actually hated it too? I hope so. Not only is it just an awful song, the sentiment is toss: We don't all get to love someone (see also: 'Somewhere There's A Someone') and there ain't nothing wrong with that. The Great Unloved such as myself are not sub-humans, nor failures as humans. I could fall in deepest love tomorrow and still think this song is hateful. I hadn't heard it for such a long old time that I'd forgotten how much I hated it.

Also included on the disc is 'The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane'... where the joke is that through the whole song the implication is that a whore has moved into town... but it turns out he's singing about a nine-day-old baby girl. Who thought that could possibly be sweet or funny? Seriously, was the Tin Pan Alley Reality Checker off sick that day? Would you write a song like that about a baby boy? Unlikely. Once again, I edited and just skipped the track when I would listen to the CD... although I've clearly heard it often enough to know most of the words...

It has not escaped my attention that Dean Martin has been painted as the Crown Prince of Dudebros. While I sit listening to him on my iPod thinking 'what a voice!', how many Apprentice Dudebros are looking to Dean as an example of all that is Cool (Drink, Girls, Sharp Suits, Nice Hats)? How many people talk of Dean just as 'the King of Cool' and not much else?

Perhaps I should be asking if it's even possible to be a Dean Martin fan and a radical feminist at the same time? Course it is. Dean Martin, as far as I'm aware, was not a bad guy. A man very much of his time. A codifier of the Myth of His Time, in fact. But that's not down to the music, and a lot of what has been written and said about him is myth-building.

I get the feeling I'm making excuses. I don't mean to, but it's really not a great feeling to listen to music you once loved – LOVED! - and realise that it's actually saying the absolute opposite of what you think. It's one thing to listen to a parade of 'when my baby she left me' blues songs, because quite often they're not painting an entire gender as Slut Bitches (although plenty do), when I don't truly, deeply love them. I can sit here and tell you that a lot of heavy metal is despicable without blinking, because I don't love it. It's easy to turn against that which you didn't like anyway. To have to reconsider stuff you do love... it hurts when you loved it as much as I do.

Hell, Thin Lizzy keep getting accused of misogyny, but I still can't hear it. Perhaps my deep love for Lizzy keeps me blind, but I have been looking for it. Are they misogynists for having Hot Gossip in their videos, or is it just because 'Killer on the Loose' was released at the same time as the Yorkshire Ripper was terrifying everyone? Is it Philo's depictions of a certain sort of world? Is it his groupie-shagging reputation? How much is the music, how much is their Bad Reputation (this is actually the name of a Thin Lizzy song. It's good)? I don't know, maybe I really am still just hand-waving and editing.

If I decide that I won't listen to another song by anyone which demeans women, I'm going to need a smaller iPod. Do I accept it, knowing that most of the music I listen to is very old, of its time? Do I just excise the really bad examples from my life, like 'The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane' and 'Not Enough Indians'? What response is really the best? To just ignore is no longer acceptable, this I know.

I can be a Dean Martin fan, but it doesn't mean that I can just accept every song as it is. Some of them are beyond the pale and can't be excused by the context of their time. There's a reason I haven't sought out too much of The Dean Martin Show. Anything based so much on dolly-birds can't be much good... and for all the excuse-making about how he wasn't a bad guy, I have to simply accept the fact that a lot of people have got away with a lot by being a not-bad guy. I'm going to have to square myself to this fact. I'm sure I'll manage: I can still watch Errol Flynn films without cringing, although that was an effort and a half.

In a way, I'm being a little harsh: some of the music is truly great. Dean Martin songs were the first thing to really open my eyes to the different facets of love: joyful love, broken-hearted love, sad love, ended love, new love, affectionate love, bittersweet love, and so on. Except now I have to recognise and add coercive 'love', and stalking=love and possessive 'love' and those things too.

Being a Radical Feminist doesn't mean rejecting love. To me, it means calling 'bullshit' on misogyny disguised or packaged as love. In other words: stalking =/= love, oppression =/= love. I will always, always love the Hoagy Carmichael song 'Two Sleepy People' because unlike 'Baby, It's Cold Outside', it's that kind of we-really-maybe-shouldn't-but-hey thing but the two subjects are equal partners, to the extent that I even know the woman singer's name when performed by Dean (Line Renaud). I can also recommend Julie London's version. 'Sway' is not about the objectification of a woman, unlike say, the infantilising 'Pretty Baby' or the just plain hideous 'Not Enough Indians' which manages to combine Good Ol' Fashioned Racism with the notion that the Dudebro has to be in charge in order to have a happy relationship. You know what? There are performers with much worse discographies than Dean.

This does matter, by the way. It's the little injustices that make the big injustices possible. It's the little things that add up to a culture which allows (nay, encourages) women to be treated as one homogeneous group of sexual and/or domestic objects. If music is this important to me (and it is), then it stands to reason that it is as important to people who don't see a problem with painting women as an entire group of sluts/bitches/servants/irrational harpies/passive childlike creatures in need of manly control. This matters to me personally, and it matters on a larger scale, although no doubt if anyone reads this beyond my usual f-list, there will be people shrugging it off as meaningless, or flaming me for being *insert derogatory term here*.

Maybe the true test of a song is this: can it be sung by a woman instead of a man without totally changing the meaning? If so, then I reckon there's a fair chance it's based on a notion of love as equality rather than love as something men can choose to bestow upon some little woman as they see fit, whether she wants it or not.

I really, really love the song 'You Belong To Me' which has been performed by countless singers of both/any/all genders, but my favourite is of course, Dean. On the face of it, it's about possession. What it's really about, is loving someone enough to let them go off on adventures around the world if they want or need to, and being brave enough to believe they'll come back. It's easy: “Do what you need to, but please remember that I love you.” I love that song. Anyone can sing it, and pretty much everyone has, for better or worse.

What a relief it is to realise that at least one of my favourite songs passes the test. So does 'Ain't That A Kick In The Head?', although there's really another issue of the violent image conjured by the title. Like I say, it's not all bad news but... the more aware I become of anti-women tropes and the rape culture and all the stuff woven into society to keep me and my gender third-class citizens, the harder it is to find things that pass. That's rape culture for you: it's bloody everywhere.

I've been in love with Dean Martin songs for a very, very long time. This is not easy and it's not fun, but that's not my fault. Better it be uncomfortable than I just ignore it all. I'll get there one day, wherever 'there' actually is, and I'll be able to listen to Dino without feeling uncomfortable – but I know the play list will be much shorter.

My final words are directed to the people who wrote 'You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You': I refer you to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram.

apolla: (Black Rose)
It is twenty past eleven on the night of 4th January 2011. I am sitting in my cold living room, curled up in a duvet and I am watching a DVD called Thin Lizzy – Greatest Hits. At the O2 Arena (the Point last time I was there) in Dublin, a band calling themselves Thin Lizzy are on stage. At Vicar Street in Dublin, my favourite live music venue ever, the 25th Vibe for Philo is in full-swing. According to the line-up on the website, the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils & Glen Hansard are playing as I type.

Although his name isn't splashed all over the place, Philip Lynott has not been forgotten today.

I've made various ramblings at this time of year for a long time. I recall the 19th being a bit of an epic, and I know exactly where I was for the 20th anniversary: at the front of Vicar Street, at the Vibe. I was either feeling sick, about to be sick or had just been sick (oddly enough, the exact time of emptying my stomach over the barrier has been forgotten) thanks to an Italian restaurant in Temple Bar which forever lost my custom that night.

As is usual for the 4
th January, I've spent the day pissed off. First it was trying to get up for my first workday since Christmas. Then it was morons on the tube, idiots in the street and the VAT increase on frappucinos. Then it was the imminent threat of root canal this evening. Then it was only having part of the root canal done and having to wait until next week for the long-winded bit. Then it was the cold. Then it was CSI: NY. All day, I've been cheesed off like a mouse who has just been told by a doctor to lay off the cheese due to a serious cheese allergy.

The fact is, the 4th January cannot be a happy day for me, and probably many people who ever gave a flying one about Lynott would agree. It is the day we lost him forever. It is the day that his work took on new, deeper, more tragic meanings.

It is the day that hole in the middle of the stage opened up.

Tonight, a band calling themselves Thin Lizzy are up at the Point. Brian Downey and Scott Gorham are there, the two people I would class as 'Thin Lizzy' after Philip. Darren Wharton is there. Some other musicians are there, plugging the holes. I don't doubt that musically they'll be fine. There are no bad musicians in the line-up, but there is a big fucking hole in the middle of the stage, and ignoring it is like a broken pencil: pointless.

I've seen Thin Lizzy in recent years, before John Sykes left and Downey rejoined. The music wasn't bad, and I consider those evenings well spent, but there is no escaping the massive hole in the middle of the stage

Philip is gone. I've seen and touched the chunk of damp Irish sod covering the hole they put him in.

Yet, here I sit, and looking at the television, it's almost as if I could reach out and touch the shiny red jacket he's wearing in the With Love video, and jaysus, doesn't the smile on him warm my cold, broken heart?

So much has already been said that there seems little more to say... except that seeing the lustrously-barnetted Scott Gorham on lead guitar reminds me of the one sorrow that can never be soothed.

I met Scott Gorham in Starbucks on 26th Feb 2009, Hicks' anniversary. I got to look him in the eye and say thank you. Maybe I'll meet him again in this lifetime, but the important bit is done. I got to say 'you're one of my favourite musicians. Thank you.'

It seems incredibly important to say it. To look into someone's eyes and thank them. It seems the least I can do (actually, the least I can do is buy their music...) and at the same time, it's everything.

Thin Lizzy's music pulled me out of more holes than it put me in. All the sadness, grief, tears and other woe I've felt because Philip is dead are nothing compared to the absolute, pure jubilation his music has given me.

As I've said many times, it was Philip that gave me back Ireland, and I didn't even fully realise how much I needed it. He is my hero, an inspiration, a rock (natch) upon which to lean when I need, and the better part of happiness in my world. I can tell you truthfully that I believe him to be one of the great Irish writers of the late 20th century. I can tell you truthfully that I believe Thin Lizzy to be continually under-rated (partly through their own doing), and that as long as Thin Lizzy's music exists, U2 aren't even the best band from Dublin, never mind in the whole world

Nothing compares to all that, and I'll shed a million more tears before I'll live in a world without him.

I hope the two separate Philo nights are having a grand aul' time. Me, I was feeling like shit, and then I started watching Philip and funnily enough, I started to feel better, a little. And now I've been watching for awhile, I feel a good deal better. The end of the Sarah video still cracks me up, and I will always smile back at that cocky, smug grin plastered on his face throughout Dear Miss Lonely Hearts. I still want sparkly purple trousers like Robbo in the Wild One video. Sure, Still In Love With You makes me want to cry, but that's because it's a sad, sad song. I'm happier now than I was before the DVD started, and that's because of Philo's music.

I will never stop wishing I could look him in the eye and say thank you. I will always wish I could make some kind of difference to how it played out. I will always wish to have been there to see him. I will always believe that a world with Philip Lynott in it is better than one without it, but as long as the music plays, it'll be OK, and OK is all we get.



 









apolla: (Black Rose)
It is twenty past eleven on the night of 4th January 2011. I am sitting in my cold living room, curled up in a duvet and I am watching a DVD called Thin Lizzy – Greatest Hits. At the O2 Arena (the Point last time I was there) in Dublin, a band calling themselves Thin Lizzy are on stage. At Vicar Street in Dublin, my favourite live music venue ever, the 25th Vibe for Philo is in full-swing. According to the line-up on the website, the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils & Glen Hansard are playing as I type.

Although his name isn't splashed all over the place, Philip Lynott has not been forgotten today.

I've made various ramblings at this time of year for a long time. I recall the 19th being a bit of an epic, and I know exactly where I was for the 20th anniversary: at the front of Vicar Street, at the Vibe. I was either feeling sick, about to be sick or had just been sick (oddly enough, the exact time of emptying my stomach over the barrier has been forgotten) thanks to an Italian restaurant in Temple Bar which forever lost my custom that night.

As is usual for the 4
th January, I've spent the day pissed off. First it was trying to get up for my first workday since Christmas. Then it was morons on the tube, idiots in the street and the VAT increase on frappucinos. Then it was the imminent threat of root canal this evening. Then it was only having part of the root canal done and having to wait until next week for the long-winded bit. Then it was the cold. Then it was CSI: NY. All day, I've been cheesed off like a mouse who has just been told by a doctor to lay off the cheese due to a serious cheese allergy.

The fact is, the 4th January cannot be a happy day for me, and probably many people who ever gave a flying one about Lynott would agree. It is the day we lost him forever. It is the day that his work took on new, deeper, more tragic meanings.

It is the day that hole in the middle of the stage opened up.

Tonight, a band calling themselves Thin Lizzy are up at the Point. Brian Downey and Scott Gorham are there, the two people I would class as 'Thin Lizzy' after Philip. Darren Wharton is there. Some other musicians are there, plugging the holes. I don't doubt that musically they'll be fine. There are no bad musicians in the line-up, but there is a big fucking hole in the middle of the stage, and ignoring it is like a broken pencil: pointless.

I've seen Thin Lizzy in recent years, before John Sykes left and Downey rejoined. The music wasn't bad, and I consider those evenings well spent, but there is no escaping the massive hole in the middle of the stage

Philip is gone. I've seen and touched the chunk of damp Irish sod covering the hole they put him in.

Yet, here I sit, and looking at the television, it's almost as if I could reach out and touch the shiny red jacket he's wearing in the With Love video, and jaysus, doesn't the smile on him warm my cold, broken heart?

So much has already been said that there seems little more to say... except that seeing the lustrously-barnetted Scott Gorham on lead guitar reminds me of the one sorrow that can never be soothed.

I met Scott Gorham in Starbucks on 26th Feb 2009, Hicks' anniversary. I got to look him in the eye and say thank you. Maybe I'll meet him again in this lifetime, but the important bit is done. I got to say 'you're one of my favourite musicians. Thank you.'

It seems incredibly important to say it. To look into someone's eyes and thank them. It seems the least I can do (actually, the least I can do is buy their music...) and at the same time, it's everything.

Thin Lizzy's music pulled me out of more holes than it put me in. All the sadness, grief, tears and other woe I've felt because Philip is dead are nothing compared to the absolute, pure jubilation his music has given me.

As I've said many times, it was Philip that gave me back Ireland, and I didn't even fully realise how much I needed it. He is my hero, an inspiration, a rock (natch) upon which to lean when I need, and the better part of happiness in my world. I can tell you truthfully that I believe him to be one of the great Irish writers of the late 20th century. I can tell you truthfully that I believe Thin Lizzy to be continually under-rated (partly through their own doing), and that as long as Thin Lizzy's music exists, U2 aren't even the best band from Dublin, never mind in the whole world

Nothing compares to all that, and I'll shed a million more tears before I'll live in a world without him.

I hope the two separate Philo nights are having a grand aul' time. Me, I was feeling like shit, and then I started watching Philip and funnily enough, I started to feel better, a little. And now I've been watching for awhile, I feel a good deal better. The end of the Sarah video still cracks me up, and I will always smile back at that cocky, smug grin plastered on his face throughout Dear Miss Lonely Hearts. I still want sparkly purple trousers like Robbo in the Wild One video. Sure, Still In Love With You makes me want to cry, but that's because it's a sad, sad song. I'm happier now than I was before the DVD started, and that's because of Philo's music.

I will never stop wishing I could look him in the eye and say thank you. I will always wish I could make some kind of difference to how it played out. I will always wish to have been there to see him. I will always believe that a world with Philip Lynott in it is better than one without it, but as long as the music plays, it'll be OK, and OK is all we get.



 









apolla: (Percy)
Just something I spewed out instead of actually, er, writing....


I'm going to another creative writing class next week and the chosen book is a compilation of bits, pieces and essays by proper (ie, published, well received) writers about why and how they write. I flicked through it earlier, and this began to form in my brain.

 

I write for many reasons, some of which are silly and some of which are stupid.

 

  • I write to have an excuse to spend hours in Starbucks.

  • I write to have something to do.

  • I write because I really, really want to play God.

  • I write because I'm not much cop at anything else.

  • I write just in case my first plan of 'Become a Rock Star' falls through.

 

All of this is at least a little bit true. However:

 

  • I spend hours in Starbucks so that I might actually write. Otherwise I could just get take-out.

  • I can always find something to do, even if it's nothing. I'm a champion at 'busy doing nothing'.

  • I really, really want to be God. That one's totally true.

  • I probably show promise at other things, although what I couldn't say.

  • Actually, 'Be A Rock Star' is my Plan B. Writing is/was/should be Plan A.

 

I find ideas horrendously easy. Too easy. They come when I don't want them, when I'm already working on eleventy billion others. Actually sitting down and writing is another matter. I mean, I like doing it. I miss it when I can't, for whatever reason, but it's not easy.

 

For me, writing isn't a search for the divine, or for truth, or to shine a light in dark corners of the world. It's a battle between me and myself. It is the battle between Clare, who wants to be successful, who really just wants to finish something and her Evil Twin, who would much rather sit and watch the same repeats on Dave, or lie in bed.

 

Writing is the triumph over myself. As much as I would dearly love things to be published, to be successful even, and *gasp* to make money, for me there is almost a greater triumph in just getting something down on the page in the first place.

 

I can't really write at home anymore. I get too distracted by the TV or a DVD or stuff on the internet. My flowery dell is not designed for writing, it seems, and I rather like it like that. If I don't get better maybe I'll have to use Natasha/Rachel's Room as a study/office, and try and force myself to use it in that way... but I'm not convinced it would work.

 

When I'm at Starbucks, I get my frappucino and sit down to work. I have specific favourite places in each Starbucks I visit – there are many of them round here but not all of them have the right feeling for me – and I generally hope to get my favourite place. Right now, I'm in Starbucks at the crossroads of Old Street/Goswell Road/Aldersgate Street/Clerkenwell Road, downstairs on the sofa at the end, where the electricity sockets are. It's also one of the few spots down here I seem to get internet connection, which is important for the 'dicking about' section of the process.

 

I switch on my computer and sip at my frappucino, and here begins the battle. For two weeks out of four, I have Private Eye with me, and there is the battle between writing and just reading that to contend with before going any further. My little writing laptop is pretty slow, so I justify reading the Eye as something to do while it, and then OpenOffice, starts up. Quite how I justify still reading it when six Word files have opened and are waiting for me is another matter.

 

Then, there is the internet. I didn't realise at first that this laptop had wireless, but it does. I didn't realise at first, but Starbucks Card people (me, of course) get free WiFi in Starbuckses across the universe. Thus begins the second battle: to not give in and turn the wireless on... which generally fails at some point to kick off the third battle: to not just dick about online for a few hours. I can muck around online at home much faster without getting in the way of what I actually want to do, and yet this battle rages each and every time.

 

Writing is a fight, every bloody time. It is the quest to overcome my own weakness of character, and I don't win as often or as well as I would like. Even now, this could be considered a distraction from what I should be doing.

 

At least fanfic isn't the distraction it used to be. Indeed, a fanfic is the only long story I ever finished, and I'd put money on the ready audience with its feedback being a good reason for that. I'm not half so much into fic these days, mostly because I don't belong to a fandom... but I am writing a fic in a fandom not my own to see if I can write almost 'to demand'. I'm trying to write something which will please an audience and yet not disregard my own self... not sure how that's going to be honest, but I dip into it only when I run up against brick walls with everything else, so that's a small victory of sorts.

 

I said I find ideas horrendously easy, and it's quite true. I have around 140 word files in my My Documents folder... and most of them are barely even fragments of stories. Some of them are as much as a couple of pages long -

 

And even just now I got distracted from writing this by opening up some of the old bits and pieces: the dystopian future The True Story of How Roisin Dubh Saved The World, the bits of stuff for a story to be co-written with a friend about two different girls who are fans of the same pop star. I managed to create an entire career for this guy, Everett Valentine, right down to tracklistings for his records and setlists for his tours... and then failed to write much for the actual story.

 

This battle really is a slow, dull, tiring war of attrition. I manage to write a paragraph, or maybe a scene for Finest Kind, my graphic novel thing... and then I spend twenty minutes mucking around not writing. Then I write a smidgen more and still don't capture what was in my head.

 

I've been writing stories for about as long as I can remember. It was the bit of school I really loved. Mrs Porter told me off for swearing in one story – I was seven at the time – but otherwise it was the part of class that I looked forward to and wished there was more of. My mum taught me to type at much the same age so that I could write more. The epic, rambling, awful, just-as-well-its-lost Secret Diary of Dannii was the first child born from this new skill.

 

I write to kill time. I am generally a solitary creature, and they make good writers in one respect. I can quite happily cloister myself away for hours. When we had a computer tucked away in our spare bedroom, I would spend hours, literally hours, each day writing there. I had my cassette tape player in there and I remember sitting for hours writing stories while listening to the best of Peter Sellers. The writing reflected what was happening to me at the time while avoiding what was really happening – the number of stories I wrote about super-popular girls reflected the fact I was reading Sweet Valley High too much (ie, I was reading them) and yet also the fact that as far as I knew, everyone at school hated me. That nobody ever read these stories and they no longer exist is hardly a tragedy, but they were priceless to me at the time. At a time when it felt like I was absolutely powerless to do anything but just let time pass around me, writing was what made it go quicker.

 

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I should make my spare room a proper study. There's already a desk in there. All I need is a chair to go with it and to clear all the rubbish out of the way. And I've got a CD/Cassette player that can go in there. Oh yes... it could even work.

 

I like playing God, too. It appeals to my ego, arrogant little shit that she is. I could never be God, of course. I have the imagination but not the absolute eye for details. I'd also end up going postal on all those horrid little humans and raining down sulphur on the ingrates. I saw someone on TV once say that the blank page is God's way of showing us how difficult his job is. Well, I don't see it that way, as it happens: the blank page is something to be filled, even if one fills it with total bollocks while waiting for something better to come along.

 

Actually, my eye for detail has improved. I've got my little map of Rushmead, the suburban town of my invention which is the setting for more than several of my unfinished stories. There are word files and family trees full of information for others. For The Girl Queen, there's five hundred years' worth of intertwined royal lines and I even know the official colours for each nation. For Empira (the island nation central to said story) there's even a list of ships that make up the navy. Not bad for someone with no eye for detail, I think, but hardly unique amongst writers. I mean, Tolkien...

 

I'm getting all inspired thinking about setting up my study, you know. There's a thrill in the back of my head from it, and remembering those happy times shut away in the suburban spare room of my parents, churning it out... happy days, except that it was all dross, dreck and toss. Maybe for me the battle is what makes it better (I don't claim to be good, that's for someone else to decide) and that being too quick is what makes it unreadable.

 

Perhaps I need the battle between the ambitious, eager, hardworking Clare and her workshy, lazy counterpart. If it were easy, maybe I wouldn't want to do it, or it would be bad. I mean, Barbara Cartland wrote eleventy billion books in her career and................................................................

 

But it might mean I finished something, and that would be nice.

 

I write because I don't really have a choice. I don't know how it is for other people, but if I get an idea, I can't just leave it. In fact, sometimes the act of writing it down is what kills it, which is useful. Isolde from Leaving Brigadoon, which I consider my best chance for finishing/publication right now, leapt into my head pretty much fully formed: six years old, scruffy, twinkling eyed, grinning, inquisitive. Bianca Saxon, on the other hand, really needs a new name. How white supremacist is that name? It wasn't at all intentional: Bianca for white/pure which is good and appropriate to her, but I only picked Saxon because I was watching that particular story arc on Doctor Who when I started. She needs a new surname, like woah. Any ideas gratefully received.

 

I write because they won't leave me alone. Do other people get this at all? Am I mad or is it normal? I really don't know. Maybe I need to read my new book to find out. Maybe it's a perfectly normal reaction for all those of us who, for whatever reason, like to write. I don't just mean plot bunnies that won't sod off, I mean the deep urge/desire to just write. I have a notebook that I carry around with me at all times so that if there's ever a moment where it's just me – on trains, buses, in coffee shops, sitting on a bench somewhere – I can pick up wherever I left off. I've even been known to scribble while sitting in a pub with people I know, which is awfully rude in some respects, but at least I wasn't also listening to my iPod at the time.

 

I write because it is impossible for me not to. That's really all there is to it.

apolla: (Percy)
Just something I spewed out instead of actually, er, writing....


I'm going to another creative writing class next week and the chosen book is a compilation of bits, pieces and essays by proper (ie, published, well received) writers about why and how they write. I flicked through it earlier, and this began to form in my brain.

 

I write for many reasons, some of which are silly and some of which are stupid.

 

  • I write to have an excuse to spend hours in Starbucks.

  • I write to have something to do.

  • I write because I really, really want to play God.

  • I write because I'm not much cop at anything else.

  • I write just in case my first plan of 'Become a Rock Star' falls through.

 

All of this is at least a little bit true. However:

 

  • I spend hours in Starbucks so that I might actually write. Otherwise I could just get take-out.

  • I can always find something to do, even if it's nothing. I'm a champion at 'busy doing nothing'.

  • I really, really want to be God. That one's totally true.

  • I probably show promise at other things, although what I couldn't say.

  • Actually, 'Be A Rock Star' is my Plan B. Writing is/was/should be Plan A.

 

I find ideas horrendously easy. Too easy. They come when I don't want them, when I'm already working on eleventy billion others. Actually sitting down and writing is another matter. I mean, I like doing it. I miss it when I can't, for whatever reason, but it's not easy.

 

For me, writing isn't a search for the divine, or for truth, or to shine a light in dark corners of the world. It's a battle between me and myself. It is the battle between Clare, who wants to be successful, who really just wants to finish something and her Evil Twin, who would much rather sit and watch the same repeats on Dave, or lie in bed.

 

Writing is the triumph over myself. As much as I would dearly love things to be published, to be successful even, and *gasp* to make money, for me there is almost a greater triumph in just getting something down on the page in the first place.

 

I can't really write at home anymore. I get too distracted by the TV or a DVD or stuff on the internet. My flowery dell is not designed for writing, it seems, and I rather like it like that. If I don't get better maybe I'll have to use Natasha/Rachel's Room as a study/office, and try and force myself to use it in that way... but I'm not convinced it would work.

 

When I'm at Starbucks, I get my frappucino and sit down to work. I have specific favourite places in each Starbucks I visit – there are many of them round here but not all of them have the right feeling for me – and I generally hope to get my favourite place. Right now, I'm in Starbucks at the crossroads of Old Street/Goswell Road/Aldersgate Street/Clerkenwell Road, downstairs on the sofa at the end, where the electricity sockets are. It's also one of the few spots down here I seem to get internet connection, which is important for the 'dicking about' section of the process.

 

I switch on my computer and sip at my frappucino, and here begins the battle. For two weeks out of four, I have Private Eye with me, and there is the battle between writing and just reading that to contend with before going any further. My little writing laptop is pretty slow, so I justify reading the Eye as something to do while it, and then OpenOffice, starts up. Quite how I justify still reading it when six Word files have opened and are waiting for me is another matter.

 

Then, there is the internet. I didn't realise at first that this laptop had wireless, but it does. I didn't realise at first, but Starbucks Card people (me, of course) get free WiFi in Starbuckses across the universe. Thus begins the second battle: to not give in and turn the wireless on... which generally fails at some point to kick off the third battle: to not just dick about online for a few hours. I can muck around online at home much faster without getting in the way of what I actually want to do, and yet this battle rages each and every time.

 

Writing is a fight, every bloody time. It is the quest to overcome my own weakness of character, and I don't win as often or as well as I would like. Even now, this could be considered a distraction from what I should be doing.

 

At least fanfic isn't the distraction it used to be. Indeed, a fanfic is the only long story I ever finished, and I'd put money on the ready audience with its feedback being a good reason for that. I'm not half so much into fic these days, mostly because I don't belong to a fandom... but I am writing a fic in a fandom not my own to see if I can write almost 'to demand'. I'm trying to write something which will please an audience and yet not disregard my own self... not sure how that's going to be honest, but I dip into it only when I run up against brick walls with everything else, so that's a small victory of sorts.

 

I said I find ideas horrendously easy, and it's quite true. I have around 140 word files in my My Documents folder... and most of them are barely even fragments of stories. Some of them are as much as a couple of pages long -

 

And even just now I got distracted from writing this by opening up some of the old bits and pieces: the dystopian future The True Story of How Roisin Dubh Saved The World, the bits of stuff for a story to be co-written with a friend about two different girls who are fans of the same pop star. I managed to create an entire career for this guy, Everett Valentine, right down to tracklistings for his records and setlists for his tours... and then failed to write much for the actual story.

 

This battle really is a slow, dull, tiring war of attrition. I manage to write a paragraph, or maybe a scene for Finest Kind, my graphic novel thing... and then I spend twenty minutes mucking around not writing. Then I write a smidgen more and still don't capture what was in my head.

 

I've been writing stories for about as long as I can remember. It was the bit of school I really loved. Mrs Porter told me off for swearing in one story – I was seven at the time – but otherwise it was the part of class that I looked forward to and wished there was more of. My mum taught me to type at much the same age so that I could write more. The epic, rambling, awful, just-as-well-its-lost Secret Diary of Dannii was the first child born from this new skill.

 

I write to kill time. I am generally a solitary creature, and they make good writers in one respect. I can quite happily cloister myself away for hours. When we had a computer tucked away in our spare bedroom, I would spend hours, literally hours, each day writing there. I had my cassette tape player in there and I remember sitting for hours writing stories while listening to the best of Peter Sellers. The writing reflected what was happening to me at the time while avoiding what was really happening – the number of stories I wrote about super-popular girls reflected the fact I was reading Sweet Valley High too much (ie, I was reading them) and yet also the fact that as far as I knew, everyone at school hated me. That nobody ever read these stories and they no longer exist is hardly a tragedy, but they were priceless to me at the time. At a time when it felt like I was absolutely powerless to do anything but just let time pass around me, writing was what made it go quicker.

 

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I should make my spare room a proper study. There's already a desk in there. All I need is a chair to go with it and to clear all the rubbish out of the way. And I've got a CD/Cassette player that can go in there. Oh yes... it could even work.

 

I like playing God, too. It appeals to my ego, arrogant little shit that she is. I could never be God, of course. I have the imagination but not the absolute eye for details. I'd also end up going postal on all those horrid little humans and raining down sulphur on the ingrates. I saw someone on TV once say that the blank page is God's way of showing us how difficult his job is. Well, I don't see it that way, as it happens: the blank page is something to be filled, even if one fills it with total bollocks while waiting for something better to come along.

 

Actually, my eye for detail has improved. I've got my little map of Rushmead, the suburban town of my invention which is the setting for more than several of my unfinished stories. There are word files and family trees full of information for others. For The Girl Queen, there's five hundred years' worth of intertwined royal lines and I even know the official colours for each nation. For Empira (the island nation central to said story) there's even a list of ships that make up the navy. Not bad for someone with no eye for detail, I think, but hardly unique amongst writers. I mean, Tolkien...

 

I'm getting all inspired thinking about setting up my study, you know. There's a thrill in the back of my head from it, and remembering those happy times shut away in the suburban spare room of my parents, churning it out... happy days, except that it was all dross, dreck and toss. Maybe for me the battle is what makes it better (I don't claim to be good, that's for someone else to decide) and that being too quick is what makes it unreadable.

 

Perhaps I need the battle between the ambitious, eager, hardworking Clare and her workshy, lazy counterpart. If it were easy, maybe I wouldn't want to do it, or it would be bad. I mean, Barbara Cartland wrote eleventy billion books in her career and................................................................

 

But it might mean I finished something, and that would be nice.

 

I write because I don't really have a choice. I don't know how it is for other people, but if I get an idea, I can't just leave it. In fact, sometimes the act of writing it down is what kills it, which is useful. Isolde from Leaving Brigadoon, which I consider my best chance for finishing/publication right now, leapt into my head pretty much fully formed: six years old, scruffy, twinkling eyed, grinning, inquisitive. Bianca Saxon, on the other hand, really needs a new name. How white supremacist is that name? It wasn't at all intentional: Bianca for white/pure which is good and appropriate to her, but I only picked Saxon because I was watching that particular story arc on Doctor Who when I started. She needs a new surname, like woah. Any ideas gratefully received.

 

I write because they won't leave me alone. Do other people get this at all? Am I mad or is it normal? I really don't know. Maybe I need to read my new book to find out. Maybe it's a perfectly normal reaction for all those of us who, for whatever reason, like to write. I don't just mean plot bunnies that won't sod off, I mean the deep urge/desire to just write. I have a notebook that I carry around with me at all times so that if there's ever a moment where it's just me – on trains, buses, in coffee shops, sitting on a bench somewhere – I can pick up wherever I left off. I've even been known to scribble while sitting in a pub with people I know, which is awfully rude in some respects, but at least I wasn't also listening to my iPod at the time.

 

I write because it is impossible for me not to. That's really all there is to it.

apolla: (Morrison Hotel)


I don't like reality. I think most people who know me even a little know this. Reality and I are not what you'd call pals. On the phone the other day, I was bleating/whining/griping/grousing/bitching about something or other, and my dearest, most wonderful best friend basically said the following:

“Well, you don't like reality so you don't take part in it. Maybe you should.”

If any other person had said it, I might have smashed them in the face (or at least shot back with a witty rejoinder), but Natasha only tells me the truth for my own good. So I sighed heavily.

“Yeah. I know. I have no idea how to do that, though,” said I.

The problem is that I don't know how to take part in the world. I mean, I'm here, but I don't participate.

I used to be praised for my imagination, back when I was young and you were still allowed to have one of those. I don't think the grown-ups even realised how bright and shiny my imagination was, or the incredible detail with which I was endowing my unreal worlds. Some of it was so detailed that even now I can summon up the décor in a room I imagined twenty-five years ago.

Most games I played as a child were the make-believe type. Richard and I played our kids-running-away-from home game Ski-Boats at school, and we had a dozen others depending on the location we were in at any given time. With other friends I had other games, but they were all make-believe.

I was a princess, an adventurer, a warrior, an emperor, a god. I was king of the world before Jack in Titanic was even thought of. I was the master and mistress of my world. My worlds were the trees and fields amongst which I ran: the only good thing about being yanked out of London and plonked down in Suburbia. Even the school swimming pool was some Stingray-like place in my mind. Nothing was exactly as it appeared to everyone else.

But you're supposed to grow up and you're supposed to 'get real'. Well, just as I never learned how to become pleasing, I never did learn how to get real. It's a phrase my mum has used many times. Now, I love and adore and respect my mother, but I don't think she understands imagination and dreaming... and nor do many other people. Maybe I was off sick when they taught 'getting real' at school.

I get called mad and crazy and other ableist type language just for viewing the world ever-so-slightly differently to the majority. I mean, I'm not actually that weird. I'm not the Last of the Great Eccentrics or anything, I'm just not playing the normal game.

Or maybe I am a bit off. You decide as I explain my attachment to the impossible:

Do you know how many times I've re-written history? I joke about my daydream to go back in time to the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 and find Jim Morrison, but I'm not really joking. If I could, I would do it in a heartbeat. It's the same daydream I've had for fifteen years or more and as these things often do, with John Lennon. As the importance of his murder to me grew clearer, I began trying to find ways to stop it happening. I planned and schemed all manner of things, and all I needed was to, you know, be sent back in time. A minor point, one might say.

And then, there is Jim. I have never wanted someone to have lived so desperately as Jim Morrison. I mean, I would give my left kidney to have met my beloved, eternally-missed Mariolina, but I would pick Jim over her. This makes me feel bad, of course. I've even dreamed of it, of helping that undeserving sod kick his addictions. I woke up before I knew if it worked, but it was so vivid...

Did you know that John Lennon was murdered on Jim Morrison's birthday? I did. I fancied that if – if only! - Jim lived, maybe that one not-dying could change the whole fucking world. Because if Jim Morrison and John Lennon survived, then that's the landscape of western pop culture completely changed and from there... the whole damn world.

I was always willing to give up everything I have now, this life, youth in the 21st Century, internet, my family, my friends, technology, decent food, feminism, everything, for my daydream.

Of course, my daydream is
impossible. Not just improbable, as Holmes would say, but impossible. It's very, very easy to say I'd give up everything for something that simply cannot happen. I do truly believe that if I was given the opportunity, I would take it... but it's just not going to happen. If there is a God, then he's clearly a total bastard for letting them die in the first place, so he's not going to send me back in time to fix his mistakes, is he? It's not Doctor fucking Who.

I have constructed for myself an internal world of the impossible. This means I get to control everything, although always within the constraints of what I know of the participants. But I'm still in control. I get to be centre-stage at the greatest show on earth, if you like. In Clare's Unreality, her word is God. In fact, in Clare's Unreality, she is God, with power over life, death and everything in between.

You knew I was arrogant, but perhaps you didn't know the scale of my ambition? To be God, again, wanting the impossible. I'm clearly not God, because Chuck Shurley is. Hell, that's probably one of the reasons I'm a writer: I get to play God. My Unreality is just another tale I'm spinning, except I have my entire being, my soul and heart invested in it. Truly, if it were a choice between my life and Jim/John/Rory/Philip, you wouldn't ever see me again. My Unreality is a seductive world, and it got me hook, line, sinker, lock, stock, barrel and the rest.

I've internalised things for a long time. I think one of the reasons I am so self-centred, so self-absorbed and talk about myself so fucking much of the time is because for such a long time, it really was just me, on my own. For years, I was the only company I really had. I mean, my mum and dad were downstairs, and my brother was around, and there were people at school, but it was really just me. There was nobody to stop me building my internal worlds (and as Natasha pointed out, my internal walls, which rival those of Troy) and no reason not to do it.

I even get sucked into things which allow me to dream somehow, like The Sims. Man, if ever there was a game designed for me, that's it. Controlling fake people, cheating/bypassing money, death, time and everything that bothers real humans... sounds awesome to me. I must really like playing God.

I don't like Reality, so I made my own Unreality... but it's not useful, is it? It's probably emotionally toxic at best. I use some of it to my advantage for writing, but mostly not. Mostly, it's what must be keeping me locked away.

Now, how do I sort this out? Do I even want to? No. Should I? Yes. Man, it's just like the Doors song 'Unhappy Girl':

Unhappy girl, tear your web away, saw through all your bars, melt your cell today ...  You are dying in a prison of your own devise.”

So you see, Jim knew what I was about more than a decade before I was born. There I am, right there in the lyrics of a daydream's real song.

Not so long ago, I headed off into HMV in search of a movie. Couldn't tell you which one, and it doesn't really matter. I was immediately assaulted by larger-than-life images of the Twilight dudes – the one with a face like a foot and the wolf kid. Everywhere I turned, there was Twilight, infecting each section of the store like smallpox in the 19th Century. My goodwill towards humanity, meagre at the best of times, drained away. I left HMV empty-handed and absolutely bereft. I felt I had no investment in the world at all, and that therefore the world had no investment in me.

Now as much as I'd like to blame Smeyer for that, I know I can't. Twilight is a cultural disease, but it's not at the root of my disquiet. As Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Robert Plant both sang: nobody's fault but mine.

What I don't know, what isn't clear to me, is how I dig myself out of this particular hole. How do I re-engage with the world? It's ridiculous: I live at the centre of the universe, really, and I don't do anything with it. I have in fact, managed to create a life for myself in the centre of London without much in the way of other human interaction. It's an achievement, you must surely agree, although not one I'll brag about too much.

I went for a walk on Sunday, as I often do. I wandered up towards Shoreditch, the down to Spitalfields. At the market I was surrounded by people and hadn't felt that alone in years. My God, the feeling of not feeling was crushing. I wandered all the way to St Katharine's Dock just trying to feel something, and/or anything at all. I was surrounded by people there too, and as I passed by The Tower of London, but I might as well have been the guy in 28 Days Later as far as I was concerned.

Old habits die hard. How the fuck do I sort it out? Several someones have said, 'oh, get a boyfriend', as if that's the be all and end all, and that once that's done I'll be both a Success As A Woman and Happy Forever.

Several problems here:

  1. I am the pickiest, most demanding person on the planet. I mean, I have a little thing called The Valentino Test going on, so anyone I'm willing to spend time with will have to be as beautiful as Valentino, as charming as Flynn and as touched with greatness as *insert name of deceased rock legend here*.

  2. There can be few people easier to live with than me. I have been alone for such a long time that I can't imagine giving up my time and other precious resources for anything less than epic – as if I'd have the first clue as to then how one goes about it.

  3. Anyone willing to put up with me would surely be crushed under my arrogant, self-absorbed, domineering bootheel and therefore would certainly not be anyone I'd want to bother with in return. I think Elizabeth Bennet makes a similar remark in Pride and Prejudice.

  4. My God, I just referenced a regency romance. I am so screwed. Or rather, the exact opposite. (boom boom). I don't even like Austen.

 

Do you see what I just did there? I just talked myself out of a certain sort of reality. I'm very good at that, being blessed with either a silver tongue or blarney, depending on your opinion.

Of course, that's not all there is to reality. It's just the version presented to me most often (another post for another day, of course). Someone I know jokes to me every so often that I should just have a baby – that's reality enough, Clare, she says! However, it seems a bit extreme (also callous) to create an entirely new life just so that I'll live in the real world. And anyway, I can't afford that.


So what else can I do? I have little enough energy at the best of times...

I can do what I should be doing already: music. That's the real world I'm willing to accept: gigging, writing, playing, possible fame and fortune. That's the real world that I want, even. It's the real world I've been dreaming of for so long...

And so what's stopping me? Fear of the unknown? Meh, I'm not scared of that. Fear of failure? Now, that's a horse of a different safari, as the song goes. In my Unreality, I am God, so I do not fail, not when it matters. In Reality, I am most certainly not God and can most certainly fail.

I can live without living, but I can't live with the failure of my dreams, I suspect...

But, I think right now just to feel alive would be a start. I couldn't tell you when I died inside, not to the day, but it's been like this for much too long, and I don't know how to get out of it, or if I have the energy and/or strength to do so.

Suggestions on a postcard to the usual address.

apolla: (Morrison Hotel)


I don't like reality. I think most people who know me even a little know this. Reality and I are not what you'd call pals. On the phone the other day, I was bleating/whining/griping/grousing/bitching about something or other, and my dearest, most wonderful best friend basically said the following:

“Well, you don't like reality so you don't take part in it. Maybe you should.”

If any other person had said it, I might have smashed them in the face (or at least shot back with a witty rejoinder), but Natasha only tells me the truth for my own good. So I sighed heavily.

“Yeah. I know. I have no idea how to do that, though,” said I.

The problem is that I don't know how to take part in the world. I mean, I'm here, but I don't participate.

I used to be praised for my imagination, back when I was young and you were still allowed to have one of those. I don't think the grown-ups even realised how bright and shiny my imagination was, or the incredible detail with which I was endowing my unreal worlds. Some of it was so detailed that even now I can summon up the décor in a room I imagined twenty-five years ago.

Most games I played as a child were the make-believe type. Richard and I played our kids-running-away-from home game Ski-Boats at school, and we had a dozen others depending on the location we were in at any given time. With other friends I had other games, but they were all make-believe.

I was a princess, an adventurer, a warrior, an emperor, a god. I was king of the world before Jack in Titanic was even thought of. I was the master and mistress of my world. My worlds were the trees and fields amongst which I ran: the only good thing about being yanked out of London and plonked down in Suburbia. Even the school swimming pool was some Stingray-like place in my mind. Nothing was exactly as it appeared to everyone else.

But you're supposed to grow up and you're supposed to 'get real'. Well, just as I never learned how to become pleasing, I never did learn how to get real. It's a phrase my mum has used many times. Now, I love and adore and respect my mother, but I don't think she understands imagination and dreaming... and nor do many other people. Maybe I was off sick when they taught 'getting real' at school.

I get called mad and crazy and other ableist type language just for viewing the world ever-so-slightly differently to the majority. I mean, I'm not actually that weird. I'm not the Last of the Great Eccentrics or anything, I'm just not playing the normal game.

Or maybe I am a bit off. You decide as I explain my attachment to the impossible:

Do you know how many times I've re-written history? I joke about my daydream to go back in time to the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 and find Jim Morrison, but I'm not really joking. If I could, I would do it in a heartbeat. It's the same daydream I've had for fifteen years or more and as these things often do, with John Lennon. As the importance of his murder to me grew clearer, I began trying to find ways to stop it happening. I planned and schemed all manner of things, and all I needed was to, you know, be sent back in time. A minor point, one might say.

And then, there is Jim. I have never wanted someone to have lived so desperately as Jim Morrison. I mean, I would give my left kidney to have met my beloved, eternally-missed Mariolina, but I would pick Jim over her. This makes me feel bad, of course. I've even dreamed of it, of helping that undeserving sod kick his addictions. I woke up before I knew if it worked, but it was so vivid...

Did you know that John Lennon was murdered on Jim Morrison's birthday? I did. I fancied that if – if only! - Jim lived, maybe that one not-dying could change the whole fucking world. Because if Jim Morrison and John Lennon survived, then that's the landscape of western pop culture completely changed and from there... the whole damn world.

I was always willing to give up everything I have now, this life, youth in the 21st Century, internet, my family, my friends, technology, decent food, feminism, everything, for my daydream.

Of course, my daydream is
impossible. Not just improbable, as Holmes would say, but impossible. It's very, very easy to say I'd give up everything for something that simply cannot happen. I do truly believe that if I was given the opportunity, I would take it... but it's just not going to happen. If there is a God, then he's clearly a total bastard for letting them die in the first place, so he's not going to send me back in time to fix his mistakes, is he? It's not Doctor fucking Who.

I have constructed for myself an internal world of the impossible. This means I get to control everything, although always within the constraints of what I know of the participants. But I'm still in control. I get to be centre-stage at the greatest show on earth, if you like. In Clare's Unreality, her word is God. In fact, in Clare's Unreality, she is God, with power over life, death and everything in between.

You knew I was arrogant, but perhaps you didn't know the scale of my ambition? To be God, again, wanting the impossible. I'm clearly not God, because Chuck Shurley is. Hell, that's probably one of the reasons I'm a writer: I get to play God. My Unreality is just another tale I'm spinning, except I have my entire being, my soul and heart invested in it. Truly, if it were a choice between my life and Jim/John/Rory/Philip, you wouldn't ever see me again. My Unreality is a seductive world, and it got me hook, line, sinker, lock, stock, barrel and the rest.

I've internalised things for a long time. I think one of the reasons I am so self-centred, so self-absorbed and talk about myself so fucking much of the time is because for such a long time, it really was just me, on my own. For years, I was the only company I really had. I mean, my mum and dad were downstairs, and my brother was around, and there were people at school, but it was really just me. There was nobody to stop me building my internal worlds (and as Natasha pointed out, my internal walls, which rival those of Troy) and no reason not to do it.

I even get sucked into things which allow me to dream somehow, like The Sims. Man, if ever there was a game designed for me, that's it. Controlling fake people, cheating/bypassing money, death, time and everything that bothers real humans... sounds awesome to me. I must really like playing God.

I don't like Reality, so I made my own Unreality... but it's not useful, is it? It's probably emotionally toxic at best. I use some of it to my advantage for writing, but mostly not. Mostly, it's what must be keeping me locked away.

Now, how do I sort this out? Do I even want to? No. Should I? Yes. Man, it's just like the Doors song 'Unhappy Girl':

Unhappy girl, tear your web away, saw through all your bars, melt your cell today ...  You are dying in a prison of your own devise.”

So you see, Jim knew what I was about more than a decade before I was born. There I am, right there in the lyrics of a daydream's real song.

Not so long ago, I headed off into HMV in search of a movie. Couldn't tell you which one, and it doesn't really matter. I was immediately assaulted by larger-than-life images of the Twilight dudes – the one with a face like a foot and the wolf kid. Everywhere I turned, there was Twilight, infecting each section of the store like smallpox in the 19th Century. My goodwill towards humanity, meagre at the best of times, drained away. I left HMV empty-handed and absolutely bereft. I felt I had no investment in the world at all, and that therefore the world had no investment in me.

Now as much as I'd like to blame Smeyer for that, I know I can't. Twilight is a cultural disease, but it's not at the root of my disquiet. As Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Robert Plant both sang: nobody's fault but mine.

What I don't know, what isn't clear to me, is how I dig myself out of this particular hole. How do I re-engage with the world? It's ridiculous: I live at the centre of the universe, really, and I don't do anything with it. I have in fact, managed to create a life for myself in the centre of London without much in the way of other human interaction. It's an achievement, you must surely agree, although not one I'll brag about too much.

I went for a walk on Sunday, as I often do. I wandered up towards Shoreditch, the down to Spitalfields. At the market I was surrounded by people and hadn't felt that alone in years. My God, the feeling of not feeling was crushing. I wandered all the way to St Katharine's Dock just trying to feel something, and/or anything at all. I was surrounded by people there too, and as I passed by The Tower of London, but I might as well have been the guy in 28 Days Later as far as I was concerned.

Old habits die hard. How the fuck do I sort it out? Several someones have said, 'oh, get a boyfriend', as if that's the be all and end all, and that once that's done I'll be both a Success As A Woman and Happy Forever.

Several problems here:

  1. I am the pickiest, most demanding person on the planet. I mean, I have a little thing called The Valentino Test going on, so anyone I'm willing to spend time with will have to be as beautiful as Valentino, as charming as Flynn and as touched with greatness as *insert name of deceased rock legend here*.

  2. There can be few people easier to live with than me. I have been alone for such a long time that I can't imagine giving up my time and other precious resources for anything less than epic – as if I'd have the first clue as to then how one goes about it.

  3. Anyone willing to put up with me would surely be crushed under my arrogant, self-absorbed, domineering bootheel and therefore would certainly not be anyone I'd want to bother with in return. I think Elizabeth Bennet makes a similar remark in Pride and Prejudice.

  4. My God, I just referenced a regency romance. I am so screwed. Or rather, the exact opposite. (boom boom). I don't even like Austen.

 

Do you see what I just did there? I just talked myself out of a certain sort of reality. I'm very good at that, being blessed with either a silver tongue or blarney, depending on your opinion.

Of course, that's not all there is to reality. It's just the version presented to me most often (another post for another day, of course). Someone I know jokes to me every so often that I should just have a baby – that's reality enough, Clare, she says! However, it seems a bit extreme (also callous) to create an entirely new life just so that I'll live in the real world. And anyway, I can't afford that.


So what else can I do? I have little enough energy at the best of times...

I can do what I should be doing already: music. That's the real world I'm willing to accept: gigging, writing, playing, possible fame and fortune. That's the real world that I want, even. It's the real world I've been dreaming of for so long...

And so what's stopping me? Fear of the unknown? Meh, I'm not scared of that. Fear of failure? Now, that's a horse of a different safari, as the song goes. In my Unreality, I am God, so I do not fail, not when it matters. In Reality, I am most certainly not God and can most certainly fail.

I can live without living, but I can't live with the failure of my dreams, I suspect...

But, I think right now just to feel alive would be a start. I couldn't tell you when I died inside, not to the day, but it's been like this for much too long, and I don't know how to get out of it, or if I have the energy and/or strength to do so.

Suggestions on a postcard to the usual address.

apolla: (OTP)

This is where 'they' went at my soul with a woodworking plane: shaving it down in small, varying motions. A brutal teacher's scorn here, contempt from my supposed school friends there, vicious glances from strangers around town as a bonus.

When I was very young, it felt like a big place. No, not quite big... normal-sized, the size places should be. In comparison, the sky-reaching towers of London were colossal and awe-inspiring, but now to me London is 'normal'-sized (or perhaps more correctly, my 'standard'), and this place is small. Even individual houses themselves look minute, like I left the place as one of them and yet returned to find it is Lilliput and I have become Gulliver without realising. The thousand cuts of their plane were healed in my time away, my soul has grown and also anchored itself firmly inside me. Their plane cannot slice at me now, and I think it must make them angry.

AndI've never been quite sure who 'they' are. Certainly they are the 'normal' people, but more than that they are the arbiters and authorities of 'normal', those for whom it is crucial that the rest of us play at normal too. It is an arrogant notion to paint myself opposed to them, but it appears that it is so. I am opposed to the concept of unquestioning normalcy with every atom of my being, even as I acknowledge that I am perhaps not so terrifically eccentric myself. Maybe the harsh plane sliced away more than I thought, or I'm simply too cynical to be totally mad these days.

And yet... the conventions 'they' hold most dear – marriage, career, children, mortgages, cars, keeping up with whoever the fuck the Joneses are – these are the stepping stones on the proscribed pathways of life that I just can't be doing with, and that is why they hate me, why their plane was and is directed so often at me. If I could've just played along like a good little girl... but no. I despise lying, despise particularly being anyone but myself. It has taken a long time to regain my sense of self after being planed down, and I will not be anyone but myself, and that truly, is why I think they must hate me.

I could live easily with the scorn if it were over and done with easily, if I could resign entirely from their notions of society and be left alone. It is not how it works, and they always come back, in some new guise. With each year that I pass, free from their chains, they find new ways to get to me, to poke sticks and threaten me with their plane.

There is a timeline set down and we are all expected to adhere to it. Now, maybe some of it is based in science, but most of it was determined by 'them' at some point. I'm fine with the first bits, more or less: go to school and learn stuff. It's what comes next. One must get a romantic partner (of the opposite sex, of course), one must marry, mortgage oneself to the eyeballs, get the nice car and the good job, then have a child. It never ends, because once those things are achieved, the expectations for the nicer car and the second child are raised. It never ends. It must be done, or one risks the scorn and/or pity of the world. Those things in their own right are not wrong or bad, it is the expectation/demand of 'them' that one acquires them that is despicable.

Well, I've been planed down enough and I've already had scorn and pity poured down upon me. The world has so little power over me now: the dedication of 'them' to make me one of them is exactly what's turned me away from 'them' forever. Is that why 'they' hate me? I don't care.

apolla: (OTP)

This is where 'they' went at my soul with a woodworking plane: shaving it down in small, varying motions. A brutal teacher's scorn here, contempt from my supposed school friends there, vicious glances from strangers around town as a bonus.

When I was very young, it felt like a big place. No, not quite big... normal-sized, the size places should be. In comparison, the sky-reaching towers of London were colossal and awe-inspiring, but now to me London is 'normal'-sized (or perhaps more correctly, my 'standard'), and this place is small. Even individual houses themselves look minute, like I left the place as one of them and yet returned to find it is Lilliput and I have become Gulliver without realising. The thousand cuts of their plane were healed in my time away, my soul has grown and also anchored itself firmly inside me. Their plane cannot slice at me now, and I think it must make them angry.

AndI've never been quite sure who 'they' are. Certainly they are the 'normal' people, but more than that they are the arbiters and authorities of 'normal', those for whom it is crucial that the rest of us play at normal too. It is an arrogant notion to paint myself opposed to them, but it appears that it is so. I am opposed to the concept of unquestioning normalcy with every atom of my being, even as I acknowledge that I am perhaps not so terrifically eccentric myself. Maybe the harsh plane sliced away more than I thought, or I'm simply too cynical to be totally mad these days.

And yet... the conventions 'they' hold most dear – marriage, career, children, mortgages, cars, keeping up with whoever the fuck the Joneses are – these are the stepping stones on the proscribed pathways of life that I just can't be doing with, and that is why they hate me, why their plane was and is directed so often at me. If I could've just played along like a good little girl... but no. I despise lying, despise particularly being anyone but myself. It has taken a long time to regain my sense of self after being planed down, and I will not be anyone but myself, and that truly, is why I think they must hate me.

I could live easily with the scorn if it were over and done with easily, if I could resign entirely from their notions of society and be left alone. It is not how it works, and they always come back, in some new guise. With each year that I pass, free from their chains, they find new ways to get to me, to poke sticks and threaten me with their plane.

There is a timeline set down and we are all expected to adhere to it. Now, maybe some of it is based in science, but most of it was determined by 'them' at some point. I'm fine with the first bits, more or less: go to school and learn stuff. It's what comes next. One must get a romantic partner (of the opposite sex, of course), one must marry, mortgage oneself to the eyeballs, get the nice car and the good job, then have a child. It never ends, because once those things are achieved, the expectations for the nicer car and the second child are raised. It never ends. It must be done, or one risks the scorn and/or pity of the world. Those things in their own right are not wrong or bad, it is the expectation/demand of 'them' that one acquires them that is despicable.

Well, I've been planed down enough and I've already had scorn and pity poured down upon me. The world has so little power over me now: the dedication of 'them' to make me one of them is exactly what's turned me away from 'them' forever. Is that why 'they' hate me? I don't care.

apolla: (Percy)

I read a book called The Secret Island the other night. It wasn't the first time I've ever read it. In fact, it probably wasn't even the twentieth time I read it. No matter how often though, I had not read it in years. It was on my childhood bookcase in my current spare room (read: Natasha's Room or Rachel's Room for when my dearest friends visit), stuffed alongside various remnants of my life thus far. Jessica Wakefield, my most beloved Sindy doll sits alongside a green beanie bear with a shamrock on its chest which was named Paddy O'Bear as a joke by my godfather. Amongst the books are Tom's Midnight Garden, The Winnie The Pooh Cookbook, The Mystery of the Blue Tomatoes (signed by the author, no less), some of the Traveling Pants books that I must admit were published since I reached majority but which I enjoyed, and the few Sweet Valley High books I couldn't quite get rid of. The bottom shelf is given over to my collection of Titanic books, which range from the studious to the ridiculous – who needs to know how to cook the Titanic's First Class menu?

Anyway, on one shelf, amongst the SVH and other books of my young life, are a handful of Enid Blyton books. Enid fucking Blyton, the grande dame of the over-simplistic, racist, sexist, repetitive children's book. There's all the Malory Towers, some St Clare's and the Adventure series. They sit on the shelf, not quite forgotten but they haven't moved since the shelves were arranged a couple of years ago. I retrieved The Secret Island last night after watching some of the Enid Blyton biopic on BBC 4. Helena Bonham-Carter played the old bird and it was... blah. I don't care a fig about Blyton's real life, only the ones she committed to paper.

It must've been three years ago that I bought the Adventure series on eBay. I was still harbouring a smidgen of bitterness over the fact that some of my copies back in the day had gone missing, either lost in the depths of a friend's bedroom or put in jumble sales without my knowledge. As I have done with other similar things from my childhood, I decided to confront the bitterness. Once the books arrived, I read the first one and at the first mention of the coloured, stupid, sullen servant Jo-Jo who rolled his eyes and was full of 'queer beliefs', I started to feel queasy, like I'd had too many sandwiches and too much ginger beer.

Oh, by the way, I hate ginger beer.

It was an awful book, of course. Badly written, even taking into consideration that it was written for children, and full of the kind of casual and not-so-casual racism that I thought even the 1940s considered 'not quite cricket'. I didn't remember reading it that way when I was a kid. I consoled myself with the thought that I didn't remember reading that particular book at all. I remembered a couple particularly well but the others not at all. I can't have owned them all, after all. The Castle of Adventure was probably my favourite... and even a cursory glance now highlights Tassie the gypsy girl who has never had a bath and couldn't read or write yet 'like a Red Indian'. Ick, man. I'm all for the reading and the writing, but surely even then it was well known that Native Americans had other ways of communicating? The ancient Irish didn't write anything down either, does that make them ignorant and savage? Hang on, don't answer that – I know what the Britishers of 1946 would likely reply. “The ways of England are the ways of the world” it was said. Well no, that's not quite true, only that the alternatives were given no merit by the English and were generally trampled by the English. In few places is this mindset given better voice than in Blyton books. There appears to be no room for anything besides 'the right' way of doing things as she sees it. None whatsoever.

I did have all the Famous Five books too, all 21 of them. I remember them all lined up on the bookcase I still own. My book collection as a kid was part-Blyton and part-Usborne edumacational books with a little room for my first Titanic books. I was a weird kid, I guess. I grew up in the mid-late 80s and early 90s. Blyton books were already outdated. My mammy's generation, who had been reading Blyton's books more contemporaneously, were those 60s and 70s ladies who said 'hang on a minute, why can't we have equal treatment?' and subsequently marched and burned bras and *insert feminist struggle stereotype here*. I was born three years after the start of Thatcher's regime and remember her departure from Number 10. I grew up with IRA bombs and race killings on my TV, the rise of the Yuppie and the early 90s recession. For me, Blyton books with their sunny days, picnics and characters with names like Peggy, Nora and Lucy-Ann, were a slice of a Britain I knew had already passed by.

Of course, that Britain (I should really say England) never really did exist. The Britain of the 1930s was impoverished, the 1940s were desperate and the 1950s were (under the veneer of post-war opportunity) largely poor and desperate. Really, I think these books must have been escapism for children even at the time. Maybe that's the reason they are still cherished, even as we see the dark stain of bigotry on the page. I can't bring myself to outright hate any Blyton book, even though they're rubbish, because I remember too well my own dreams of running off and having adventures, of going to secret islands, or going to a boarding school where all the girls are nice really (or get dealt with appropriately). I spent too many car journeys staving off boredom and car sickness with Darrell at Malory Towers, and too many evenings after school eating Pot Noodle and reading one of the St Clare's to be able to just say 'no, absolute tommy-rot, the lot of it.' While so much of it is absolute tommy-rot, there is just enough to save it from absolute awfulness, if I read them the way I always have...

I read Blyton's book the same way I did Sweet Valley: as I chose to. I made up my own stuff, saw things the way I wanted to. I didn't see the racism, because I didn't agree with it – I wiped it from the page. As far as I was concerned, both George and Anne were adventurers as much as Julian and the other one whose name I can't remember, and the domestic rubbish was more evenly spread out. As with Sweet Valley, where I rendered Jessica less sociopathic and Elizabeth less of a nosey parker with a sainthood complex, Blyton's books were solely about the adventures and the rest of the detail was just rubbish I didn't need.

From Blyton I learned what a jackdaw was, and what an ingot was (both of these feature heavily in the first Famous Five book). I learned about midnight feasts and lacrosse and ginger sodding beer. I learned that you should always try tapping all the panels on a wood-panelled wall just in case there's a hidden passage somewhere – and maybe check under any rugs too – and that cows can swim. I learned that what I rather wanted to do was go and have adventures myself, and that if I did, I would know some stuff to help me on my way.

I really do hate ginger beer, you know. I like stem ginger and powdered ginger and crystallised ginger and gingerbread biscuits and ginger ale but I hate ginger beer.

Of course, if I was one of the kids on the Secret Island, I would take some flint, so I didn't need to worry about matches. I knew about flint and its fire-making potential as a child, because I was a weird kid. I would know what wild garlic looks like, too. If I'd combined my Girl Guide training with my Blyton know-how, I could've run away and lived very happily on a secret island or in a mysterious castle or on a curious mountain. I might've managed, and what's more, prospered.

I would've done it without having to get boys to help too. How'd you like them apples, Miss Blyton? I would've had to take a gramophone with me, or a Dansette, to listen to my records, but I would've managed somehow. I would've been able to do it without resorting to knackered-out stereotypes, too, Miss Blyton.

Even at the time, as a child, I had to edit these damn books as I went along, so that they could fit my world. In my world then as now, women did not exist solely to do domestic tasks. My mum rarely does washing up. My dad, on the other hand, rarely cooks. They split laundry tasks and do their own ironing, I think. Thus it ever was. My mum drives when they go out and always has. I think she hates being a passenger – she will always find a reason to drive instead of someone else except on particularly long journeys. I have never managed to persuade her to be a passenger when I drive, although she trusts me to drive her car. Gender stereotypes were not my experience. While I was reading those Blyton books, I was also playing with toy cars (and love Top Gear now for the cars, not Hammond, though I know little of engineering) and climbing trees and playing football. For more than several years as a child, I don't believe I owned a single dress. I had to borrow one for a Guides pantomime one year.

Speaking of Guides, the company I was a part of didn't much correspond to the stereotype of Girl Guides either. Kate, the legendary Leader, took us camping and climbing, abseiling and caving and stuff. We did the baking and sweet-making, and we did craft stuff, but at no point were we told we must adhere to an out-dated notion of gender. In fact, Kate let us be exactly who we were, and only encouraged us to be the best version. I mean, she dealt with me and my scruffy, footballing, psychedelic bag carrying and whatever madness I tried to introduce.

The thing is... I think that's actually the clever part of her writing, such as it is. It is so basic, so spare, so devoid of any particular descriptions that the child reading can do that. Unfortunately, she did editorialise where it mattered in terms of race, gender and class. It didn't occur to me at the time that I was not of the same class as the O'Sullivan twins or Darrell or the Five. I just figured that they were a bit like me in some ways and not in others. The basic, simple and unprejudiced view of that open-minded child is one I still cling to. I knew that Gwendoline Lacey would scoff at me, because that was her character – sketched roughly though it was – and that Darrell had a temper like mine and those were the things that mattered. Blyton's descriptions are generally so vague that they can be most things to most children. At least... most white, British, middle class children.

Then again, I was a white, mostly-middle-class girl. I was her demographic. I could find myself in her books if I squinted hard. I don't suppose a minority child (of any sort) would see it the same way. In Blyton's world, multi-culturalism seems to mean people who dress for dinner and people who don't. Not forgetting of course, the occasional gypsy stereotype (sometimes good, sometimes bad, depending on the story). I didn't see it like that, because my world wasn't made up of pigeon-holes. For all their eccentricities, my mum and dad taught me that I was no better or worse than any other human being – that we are all equal. In our house, that was mostly true, too... except that Mummy's word is, was and ever will be, Law.

I was able to read Blyton's books without becoming an unquestioning bigoted little horror because there were stronger influences in my world. My teachers at primary school were fabulous – Mr Price, who took us through a mini-version of the Blue Eyes race 'game' so gently I'm not sure we fully realised we were doing it but with the intended result (at least for me, I can't speak for anyone else). Mrs Evans who read us some of the Blyton books during reading time so that I still hear Kiki the cockatoo with a Northern accent in my head, but who I now wonder if she edited the books as she read. Mrs Porter, who I didn't much like, but who explained to a bunch of seven year olds the difference between 'Nazis' and 'Germans'. I had more in my life than Blyton books and I was in a different time. A bit like watching Gone With The Wind, I guess...

But no... that's not good enough, is it? It's fine for me, Privileged White Girl to say 'oh, they didn't do me any harm' now, twenty years after the fact... but how many children sat on little carpets for reading time felt like they were being picked on or just ignored by these books? I understand why schools don't allow them anymore, and no it's not terrible that 'gollywog' is no longer an acceptable term, Mrs Outraged Daily Mail Reader. It's all very well for me to say 'oh, I just edited that rubbish out' but that's not good enough, is it? Isn't it surely time to consign this crap to the dustbin of history, along with Birth of a Nation and Oswald Mosley? How many of the children sat on that carpet with me felt left out by the Blyton stuff? We were 99% white and I was a 'minority' by dint of being Irish (mostly), Catholic and from London... but race is not the only way children can be excluded, is it? How many of the 'girly' girls felt excluded from the fun, and did the other 'tomboy' girls like me feel excluded from both the male and female sides of the coin, with only George Kirrin to barely represent us? How many of the boys felt excluded because they didn't fit the Julian or Jack or Philip moulds? How many other children found exclusion and hate instead of the comfort of escape for the crime of being in some way 'different'? I'm quite, quite wrong: my lingering little bit of fondness for this stuff excuses nothing.

For all that I still have a sliver of fondness left for them, I won't encourage any currently-hypothetical niece or nephew or godchild of mine to read them. I wouldn't ever stop them doing it, but I'd make certain to talk to them about the books. Hopefully they'll all be too busy listening to the Beatles, if I get my way!

For all that her books suck, I can't quite shake the feeling that Blyton's at least partly responsible for me being a writer – such as I am – myself. Would I always have wanted to write, to tell stories? Maybe, but she helped... I'm horribly aware of that. I wanted to write stories with people like Darrell and Sally and Alicia. I wanted to tell my tales too. I am telling my tales. My Dinah is taking her shape in the world – named after the song, not the girl in the Blyton books – and hopefully one day she'll be on shelves in book stores and Amazon warehouses the world over, waiting to be discovered by children who want adventure. Hopefully.

So Miss Blyton: you suck, but thanks just the same. I intend fully to learn from your grave and important mistakes and shortcomings so that I can be better than you. I intend not to fill children's heads with lessening things, but to suggest to them the radical notion that we are not all the same, but we are all equal.

apolla: (Percy)

I read a book called The Secret Island the other night. It wasn't the first time I've ever read it. In fact, it probably wasn't even the twentieth time I read it. No matter how often though, I had not read it in years. It was on my childhood bookcase in my current spare room (read: Natasha's Room or Rachel's Room for when my dearest friends visit), stuffed alongside various remnants of my life thus far. Jessica Wakefield, my most beloved Sindy doll sits alongside a green beanie bear with a shamrock on its chest which was named Paddy O'Bear as a joke by my godfather. Amongst the books are Tom's Midnight Garden, The Winnie The Pooh Cookbook, The Mystery of the Blue Tomatoes (signed by the author, no less), some of the Traveling Pants books that I must admit were published since I reached majority but which I enjoyed, and the few Sweet Valley High books I couldn't quite get rid of. The bottom shelf is given over to my collection of Titanic books, which range from the studious to the ridiculous – who needs to know how to cook the Titanic's First Class menu?

Anyway, on one shelf, amongst the SVH and other books of my young life, are a handful of Enid Blyton books. Enid fucking Blyton, the grande dame of the over-simplistic, racist, sexist, repetitive children's book. There's all the Malory Towers, some St Clare's and the Adventure series. They sit on the shelf, not quite forgotten but they haven't moved since the shelves were arranged a couple of years ago. I retrieved The Secret Island last night after watching some of the Enid Blyton biopic on BBC 4. Helena Bonham-Carter played the old bird and it was... blah. I don't care a fig about Blyton's real life, only the ones she committed to paper.

It must've been three years ago that I bought the Adventure series on eBay. I was still harbouring a smidgen of bitterness over the fact that some of my copies back in the day had gone missing, either lost in the depths of a friend's bedroom or put in jumble sales without my knowledge. As I have done with other similar things from my childhood, I decided to confront the bitterness. Once the books arrived, I read the first one and at the first mention of the coloured, stupid, sullen servant Jo-Jo who rolled his eyes and was full of 'queer beliefs', I started to feel queasy, like I'd had too many sandwiches and too much ginger beer.

Oh, by the way, I hate ginger beer.

It was an awful book, of course. Badly written, even taking into consideration that it was written for children, and full of the kind of casual and not-so-casual racism that I thought even the 1940s considered 'not quite cricket'. I didn't remember reading it that way when I was a kid. I consoled myself with the thought that I didn't remember reading that particular book at all. I remembered a couple particularly well but the others not at all. I can't have owned them all, after all. The Castle of Adventure was probably my favourite... and even a cursory glance now highlights Tassie the gypsy girl who has never had a bath and couldn't read or write yet 'like a Red Indian'. Ick, man. I'm all for the reading and the writing, but surely even then it was well known that Native Americans had other ways of communicating? The ancient Irish didn't write anything down either, does that make them ignorant and savage? Hang on, don't answer that – I know what the Britishers of 1946 would likely reply. “The ways of England are the ways of the world” it was said. Well no, that's not quite true, only that the alternatives were given no merit by the English and were generally trampled by the English. In few places is this mindset given better voice than in Blyton books. There appears to be no room for anything besides 'the right' way of doing things as she sees it. None whatsoever.

I did have all the Famous Five books too, all 21 of them. I remember them all lined up on the bookcase I still own. My book collection as a kid was part-Blyton and part-Usborne edumacational books with a little room for my first Titanic books. I was a weird kid, I guess. I grew up in the mid-late 80s and early 90s. Blyton books were already outdated. My mammy's generation, who had been reading Blyton's books more contemporaneously, were those 60s and 70s ladies who said 'hang on a minute, why can't we have equal treatment?' and subsequently marched and burned bras and *insert feminist struggle stereotype here*. I was born three years after the start of Thatcher's regime and remember her departure from Number 10. I grew up with IRA bombs and race killings on my TV, the rise of the Yuppie and the early 90s recession. For me, Blyton books with their sunny days, picnics and characters with names like Peggy, Nora and Lucy-Ann, were a slice of a Britain I knew had already passed by.

Of course, that Britain (I should really say England) never really did exist. The Britain of the 1930s was impoverished, the 1940s were desperate and the 1950s were (under the veneer of post-war opportunity) largely poor and desperate. Really, I think these books must have been escapism for children even at the time. Maybe that's the reason they are still cherished, even as we see the dark stain of bigotry on the page. I can't bring myself to outright hate any Blyton book, even though they're rubbish, because I remember too well my own dreams of running off and having adventures, of going to secret islands, or going to a boarding school where all the girls are nice really (or get dealt with appropriately). I spent too many car journeys staving off boredom and car sickness with Darrell at Malory Towers, and too many evenings after school eating Pot Noodle and reading one of the St Clare's to be able to just say 'no, absolute tommy-rot, the lot of it.' While so much of it is absolute tommy-rot, there is just enough to save it from absolute awfulness, if I read them the way I always have...

I read Blyton's book the same way I did Sweet Valley: as I chose to. I made up my own stuff, saw things the way I wanted to. I didn't see the racism, because I didn't agree with it – I wiped it from the page. As far as I was concerned, both George and Anne were adventurers as much as Julian and the other one whose name I can't remember, and the domestic rubbish was more evenly spread out. As with Sweet Valley, where I rendered Jessica less sociopathic and Elizabeth less of a nosey parker with a sainthood complex, Blyton's books were solely about the adventures and the rest of the detail was just rubbish I didn't need.

From Blyton I learned what a jackdaw was, and what an ingot was (both of these feature heavily in the first Famous Five book). I learned about midnight feasts and lacrosse and ginger sodding beer. I learned that you should always try tapping all the panels on a wood-panelled wall just in case there's a hidden passage somewhere – and maybe check under any rugs too – and that cows can swim. I learned that what I rather wanted to do was go and have adventures myself, and that if I did, I would know some stuff to help me on my way.

I really do hate ginger beer, you know. I like stem ginger and powdered ginger and crystallised ginger and gingerbread biscuits and ginger ale but I hate ginger beer.

Of course, if I was one of the kids on the Secret Island, I would take some flint, so I didn't need to worry about matches. I knew about flint and its fire-making potential as a child, because I was a weird kid. I would know what wild garlic looks like, too. If I'd combined my Girl Guide training with my Blyton know-how, I could've run away and lived very happily on a secret island or in a mysterious castle or on a curious mountain. I might've managed, and what's more, prospered.

I would've done it without having to get boys to help too. How'd you like them apples, Miss Blyton? I would've had to take a gramophone with me, or a Dansette, to listen to my records, but I would've managed somehow. I would've been able to do it without resorting to knackered-out stereotypes, too, Miss Blyton.

Even at the time, as a child, I had to edit these damn books as I went along, so that they could fit my world. In my world then as now, women did not exist solely to do domestic tasks. My mum rarely does washing up. My dad, on the other hand, rarely cooks. They split laundry tasks and do their own ironing, I think. Thus it ever was. My mum drives when they go out and always has. I think she hates being a passenger – she will always find a reason to drive instead of someone else except on particularly long journeys. I have never managed to persuade her to be a passenger when I drive, although she trusts me to drive her car. Gender stereotypes were not my experience. While I was reading those Blyton books, I was also playing with toy cars (and love Top Gear now for the cars, not Hammond, though I know little of engineering) and climbing trees and playing football. For more than several years as a child, I don't believe I owned a single dress. I had to borrow one for a Guides pantomime one year.

Speaking of Guides, the company I was a part of didn't much correspond to the stereotype of Girl Guides either. Kate, the legendary Leader, took us camping and climbing, abseiling and caving and stuff. We did the baking and sweet-making, and we did craft stuff, but at no point were we told we must adhere to an out-dated notion of gender. In fact, Kate let us be exactly who we were, and only encouraged us to be the best version. I mean, she dealt with me and my scruffy, footballing, psychedelic bag carrying and whatever madness I tried to introduce.

The thing is... I think that's actually the clever part of her writing, such as it is. It is so basic, so spare, so devoid of any particular descriptions that the child reading can do that. Unfortunately, she did editorialise where it mattered in terms of race, gender and class. It didn't occur to me at the time that I was not of the same class as the O'Sullivan twins or Darrell or the Five. I just figured that they were a bit like me in some ways and not in others. The basic, simple and unprejudiced view of that open-minded child is one I still cling to. I knew that Gwendoline Lacey would scoff at me, because that was her character – sketched roughly though it was – and that Darrell had a temper like mine and those were the things that mattered. Blyton's descriptions are generally so vague that they can be most things to most children. At least... most white, British, middle class children.

Then again, I was a white, mostly-middle-class girl. I was her demographic. I could find myself in her books if I squinted hard. I don't suppose a minority child (of any sort) would see it the same way. In Blyton's world, multi-culturalism seems to mean people who dress for dinner and people who don't. Not forgetting of course, the occasional gypsy stereotype (sometimes good, sometimes bad, depending on the story). I didn't see it like that, because my world wasn't made up of pigeon-holes. For all their eccentricities, my mum and dad taught me that I was no better or worse than any other human being – that we are all equal. In our house, that was mostly true, too... except that Mummy's word is, was and ever will be, Law.

I was able to read Blyton's books without becoming an unquestioning bigoted little horror because there were stronger influences in my world. My teachers at primary school were fabulous – Mr Price, who took us through a mini-version of the Blue Eyes race 'game' so gently I'm not sure we fully realised we were doing it but with the intended result (at least for me, I can't speak for anyone else). Mrs Evans who read us some of the Blyton books during reading time so that I still hear Kiki the cockatoo with a Northern accent in my head, but who I now wonder if she edited the books as she read. Mrs Porter, who I didn't much like, but who explained to a bunch of seven year olds the difference between 'Nazis' and 'Germans'. I had more in my life than Blyton books and I was in a different time. A bit like watching Gone With The Wind, I guess...

But no... that's not good enough, is it? It's fine for me, Privileged White Girl to say 'oh, they didn't do me any harm' now, twenty years after the fact... but how many children sat on little carpets for reading time felt like they were being picked on or just ignored by these books? I understand why schools don't allow them anymore, and no it's not terrible that 'gollywog' is no longer an acceptable term, Mrs Outraged Daily Mail Reader. It's all very well for me to say 'oh, I just edited that rubbish out' but that's not good enough, is it? Isn't it surely time to consign this crap to the dustbin of history, along with Birth of a Nation and Oswald Mosley? How many of the children sat on that carpet with me felt left out by the Blyton stuff? We were 99% white and I was a 'minority' by dint of being Irish (mostly), Catholic and from London... but race is not the only way children can be excluded, is it? How many of the 'girly' girls felt excluded from the fun, and did the other 'tomboy' girls like me feel excluded from both the male and female sides of the coin, with only George Kirrin to barely represent us? How many of the boys felt excluded because they didn't fit the Julian or Jack or Philip moulds? How many other children found exclusion and hate instead of the comfort of escape for the crime of being in some way 'different'? I'm quite, quite wrong: my lingering little bit of fondness for this stuff excuses nothing.

For all that I still have a sliver of fondness left for them, I won't encourage any currently-hypothetical niece or nephew or godchild of mine to read them. I wouldn't ever stop them doing it, but I'd make certain to talk to them about the books. Hopefully they'll all be too busy listening to the Beatles, if I get my way!

For all that her books suck, I can't quite shake the feeling that Blyton's at least partly responsible for me being a writer – such as I am – myself. Would I always have wanted to write, to tell stories? Maybe, but she helped... I'm horribly aware of that. I wanted to write stories with people like Darrell and Sally and Alicia. I wanted to tell my tales too. I am telling my tales. My Dinah is taking her shape in the world – named after the song, not the girl in the Blyton books – and hopefully one day she'll be on shelves in book stores and Amazon warehouses the world over, waiting to be discovered by children who want adventure. Hopefully.

So Miss Blyton: you suck, but thanks just the same. I intend fully to learn from your grave and important mistakes and shortcomings so that I can be better than you. I intend not to fill children's heads with lessening things, but to suggest to them the radical notion that we are not all the same, but we are all equal.

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