A New Home
The first diary entry in the new format. I am indebted to Neil Scott of Noble Savage Web Design, for creating a brand new DE website incorporating the diary safely within its own virtual bosom. There’s still some minor tinkering to do on the archived diary entries, which stretch back to 1997, but otherwise the new website goes ‘live’ today.
Welcome, then, to the New Martian Chronicles. Do take a look around.
If you know about RSS feeds, use the little orange Atom and XML boxes to the right to be alerted to future diary entries.
If you’re a LiveJournal user, you can add the new diary to your Friends page with this link.
At Mr Scott’s suggestion, there’s some discreet Google adverts lurking at the bottom of individual diary entry pages. This is in the vague hope of paying off the site costs. I rather like the look of them, actually. The adverts are automatically selected to fit with the content of each diary entry. So when I moan on about my dentist experiences, this results in a small text ad for a tooth whitening service. Far from compromising the style of the diary, I equate these with the adverts found at the back of old 1940s Penguin paperbacks for Craven A cigarettes. ‘The Doctor’s Choice’.
So, after three years, I bid the LiveJournal ‘blogging’ community goodbye as an active member, though I’ll keep my account there to read the diaries of others. It is an excellent system, arguably bringing the likeminded but otherwise isolated together better than any other set-up involving computers and phone lines. But I have to conclude it’s not really the place for my diary anymore. As soon as I feel I’ve become part of a club, I feel I’m at its mercy. I can be pigeonholed, written off, explained away. That won’t do. A certain distancing is a healthier option.
I hasten to add I feel this only applies to myself. I remain a voracious reader of other people’s published diaries, whether they’re by Virginia Woolf (A Moment’s Liberty: The Shorter Diary. Edited by Anne Olivier Bell. Pimlico Books, 1997) or a teenage girl from darkest Middle America waxing lyrical about her love life to Internet Friends (which often means complete strangers) while hiding behind a photo of a kitten.
But once I’d turned off the public comments function on my own diary a few months ago, I felt I was missing the point of the whole LJ structure. With LiveJournal, a diary entry is encouraged to become the opening of a debate, a chat, an exchanging of information, or a coconut shy. All very well, but I started the diary in 1997 to give recent thoughts and events a permanence. Marking Time before Time marks me. With a public comments box, the permanence is gone, and the entry will never be finished. There, I want to say as I put down my pen, that’s an end to it. If further thoughts spring forth and demand to be chronicled in the same place, I feel happier they should be my own, chronicled as and when I see fit. Perhaps in later entries, perhaps not at all.
I’m reminded of what Katherine Mansfield wrote in her own diary about living alone in London in 1917, “If I find a hair upon my bread and honey – at any rate it is my own.”
If I wasn’t going to use the comments function, I concluded, I might as well not be on LJ at all. Once Mr Scott assured me a stand-alone diary was as easy to update as a community blog, the move was inevitable.
Apart from anything else, my mother reads the diary now. And my aunt. So I feel, as Mr Nelson felt 200 years ago this week, that this increasingly diverse nation of readers expects me to do my duty. To present them with a fresh diary that doesn’t favour users of particular system above non-users. A diary tailored for readers who may not want to go anywhere else on the Web. That’s the difference between a blog and an online diary. Blogs point outwards, encouraging the reader to look elsewhere, look away. Diaries point only within. Blogs are surface signposts; diaries are deeper destinations. To this extent, I’ve banned myself from putting links in future diary entries.
My mother must be protected from people at a loose end babbling on about the new Doctor Who to anyone who will listen. She gets enough of that at home with my father.
A Ms Brandi from Los Angeles sends me a drawing.
For reasons best known to herself, she feels compelled to depict me in a suspicious-looking hot air balloon.
I write, driven to distraction, in every sense, by recent dental work. I’ve had a porcelain veneer fitted to one of my upper front teeth, to bring it into alignment with the others. It rather feels someone’s rammed a piece of a sink into my face. Which is exactly what it is, of course. The tooth looks much better, but I’m not fully ready to judge until its neighbour is equally dressed in porcelain. For this other front tooth, a new crown was to be fitted at the same time as the veneer, but the dentist thought it wasn’t fitting properly, and sent it back to the mysterious lab that forged it for a replacement.
I’m grateful that she takes this trouble over getting it right, but am irritated that I have to spend an unexpected 2 and a half weeks with a rather gappy temporary affair in its place. And the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to feel unhappy with the veneer. Is it really better? Does it really fit? Can I smile in the same way I did before? Has it made things worse? Should I see yet another dentist about it? The more I anguish over this, the less I can think straight about it.
Unlike doctors, I never seem to fully trust dentists, even the ones I like. I can’t stop thinking about the incongruously large amounts of money asked for at every turn. I view lawyers with the same suspicion.
This is why I could never work in such fields myself. At the moment of telling the patient or client how much my services are going to cost, I would find it impossible not to laugh out loud.
The Quentin Crisp evening went well. At my suggestion, Xavior put a small charge on the door this time – less than half the cost of a drink from the bar. This was purely for crowd control, and made all the difference. We performed to those who wanted to see us, rather than those who were just drinking. People like to pay for things – especially if the things are cheap. And once they do, they tend to want to see what they’ve paid for rather than talk over it.
It turned out to be the first time I’ve performed spoken word and felt I actually did okay. It helped that the material was the work of someone else, so I thank Mr Crisp from beyond the grave. One of my recitals of Crisperanto occurred right at the end, when the kind fellow on door had retired for the night. Naturally, with no gate-keeping in place, a drunk fool immediately strode in and pulled up a chair right by the stage. He started to have a go at me, and to everyone’s surprise (not least my own) I stopped my reading, glowered at him and hissed slowly, carefully, and in the most serious tone I’ve spoken in my life:
“Please respect me. And I will respect you afterwards.”
I have no idea where that came from, or even quite what it means, but it does mark the first time I’ve spoken back to anyone in my life, to their face. A date for the diary indeed. And about time too, some might say.
It helped that the next line from Mr Crisp’s philosophy was:
“Every day, when you wake up, you should say to yourself, preferably out aloud:
‘OTHER PEOPLE ARE A MISTAKE!'”
At which I paused and stared directly at the heckler for a little too long. The audience laughed and applauded. It seemed they were on my side, not his.
This was my first inkling of the feeling a stand-up comedian must get when he wins such battles in the field of their profession. And they ARE battles. I now realise such comedians must have a pugilist instinct in them, far more so than an actor. If they lose such battles, they ‘die’ on stage.
I used to think that was a rather over the top expression, but now I understand what it means only too well. Last Friday, at last, I managed to live.
I’m sitting at home with my hair wrapped in the usual polythene hood holding my latest application of cheap purple peroxide. Once more unto the bleach, dear friends.
Someone asked me if I’ve developed any grey hairs yet, but their guess is as good as mine. I’m not too interested in properly growing out the blond to find out, just as I’ve never been interested in not shaving to see what a beard would look like. My face is more or less fixed for life.
Watching a video of the movie Resident Alien, the feature-length documentary about Quentin Crisp in New York circa 1989. This is in preparation for a Crisp-themed event at the Hanky Panky Cabaret tomorrow evening. The occasion has the official blessing of Phillip Ward, the executor of the Crisp estate, and I intend to perform some of the great man’s many comforting words of wisdom.
My main concern is that the audience will shut up and listen. Holding what is essentially a spoken word evening in a cabaret bar, on a Friday night, and in the now fashionable Hoxton area, runs the risk of attracting people who are only present to have a drink. They may well not care for whatever’s going on onstage and will assume it’s okay to chat loudly among themselves just like any other bar.
It’s the wrong kind of drunkenness – where alcohol bevels down any individuality until the crowd becomes one cliched, amorphous chattering idiot-creature with many heads. Turning what should be a special event into any other bar in London. Which is rather missing the point. I vividly recall one book event at the Boogaloo where the author Joolz Denby stopped her reading to directly address those chatting away at the same time.
“Hey – If you want to have a drink and a loud chat,” she spat at some volume, “I believe other London pubs are available. I am only performing in this pub, nowhere else. So please either shut up, or go elsewhere.”
Though she used rather more f-words than that.
I was terribly impressed, and wish I had the same nerve when I take to the stage.
There’s a scene in The Naked Civil Servant that springs to mind. It’s an evening in the 1930s, and a bunch of flat capped ‘roughs’ invade the queers’ Compton Street cafe, looking for trouble. Or rather looking for fun, which translates as trouble for those on the receiving end.
ROUGH: (aggressive, intimidating) You’re going to buy us a cup of tea, aren’t you darlin?
THE YOUNG QUENTIN CRISP: (smiling, one hand on hip, going on the camp as defensive) I thought it was for the gentleman to buy the drinks.
ROUGH: Well, we’re not gentlemen, see. We come from ‘oxton.
In 2005, this gets a knowing laugh. Hoxton is now a haunt for loud club-going media types, including plenty of metrosexuals and indeed fashion-following homosexuals. And yet one could say they are still the town roughs, travelling in packs to gigs and cabarets and chatting loudly over the performance about their high incomes, ‘edgy’ advertising campaigns or their tacky reality TV pilots. The meek individualists of London, whatever team they play for, are at their mercy.
Echo and the Funny Man
Hi Dickon. I don’t know whether you’ve been informed, but your livejournal is the Liverpool Echo Blog of the Day.
Thank you, Ms Liverpool Echo.
I’m discussing Claudia Andrei’s black and white cemetery photos of myself with Mr Scott, with a view to creating an appropriately stylish new DE website.
Comparing my ‘natural’ poses with those of silent movie stars, Mr Scott alerts me to a web site of fantastic movie posters from the 20s and 30s. Stunning inked renditions of wistful starlets and their slick leading men proposing to them in coin-like profiles.
In a particularly spooky two-tone affair for The Redeeming Sin, Dolores Costello in 1929 looks exactly the way her granddaughter Drew Barrymore looks in 2005.
From the poster, the movie looks like a formulaic melodrama churned out at the time, just as Ms Drew churns out formulaic fluff herself, with the exception of the astoundingly unique Donnie Darko.
Yet a poster for even the most disposable and predictable feature from the 20s still retains a certain class and sense of wonder lacking from the pedestrian counterparts of today. Perhaps in 80 years’ time, the posters for 50 First Dates and Never Been Kissed will take on a equally sophisticated and chic quality. And the bulk of Mr Adam Sandler’s work will finally make sense.
I’m horrified and yet secretly impressed by the way Dolores Costello’s career ended. Years of industrial-strength pioneering movie make-up made the skin on her cheeks literally rot away.
Going through stacks of CDs, selling and recycling, trying to live more in the present and less surrounded by the spoils – or the detritus – of the past. I use the rule that if I haven’t felt the hem of a CD for a year, it has to go. I reason to myself that if I really like a song, I should know it so well that I can play it in my mind any time I want. So I don’t even need to hang onto albums I actually like. In theory. Some albums I say fond farewells to, some I hurl out with disgust and embarrassment.
In the booklet for a 20th anniversary Style Council compilation, Paul Weller comments on how he feels about the songs with the benefit (or detriment) of two decades’ hindsight.
“It Just Came To Pieces In My Hands is about how ego can be more destructive than drink or drugs. Ego takes you away from what you should be really going for, gets you sidetracked.”
All very laudable. Deliciously, he then adds:
“You don’t hear lyrics like that these days.”
To the Wolseley Restaurant on Piccadilly for the third Sunday in a row. This is Mr Xavior Roide’s idea – a gathering of some of his bohemian friends and regulars from his Hanky Panky Cabaret event. The Wolseley is a very stylish but affordable place to take afternoon tea. Impossibly high ceilings, black Chinese panelled doors, well-dressed and friendly staff, not too touristy yet not too snobbish either. It may not have the reputation of The Ritz or Fortnum and Masons, but it suits us to a, well, to a tea.
We tend to get a nice round table in the corner, so naturally we all imagine we’re taking up where Ms Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Hotel left off, passing around books, reading aloud, ruminating archly on Life and Love while the scones and Earl Grey are dispatched. Present are myself (the oldest person), Mr Roide (who I think is about 29 but very little is known about him at all), then some energetic young people who I tend to look upon as my club-going stunt doubles: Ms Lucinda Godwin, Ms Hazel Barkworth, Mr Laurence Gullo. There’s also Ms Alison (a fellow American friend of Mr Gullo’s), and today a Mr Rodrigo, who tells us he once made hats for Brazilian royalty. He also recently made a ten minute film of a dead sparrow decaying in his garden, which we all watched at the cabaret last Friday. This was in between the various musical acts and Mr Ernesto, a poet who takes all his clothes off while reciting his verse.
I’ve seen Ernesto’s act so many times now, I fear I am better acquainted with his genitals than I am with my own.
Books passed around at the Wolseley today include Ms Barkworth’s copy of Joan Collins’s My Secrets, an autobiography with an excellent section on make-up tips. Blusher is underrated, she maintains. I’ve come with a fascinating tome sent to me out of the blue by a young lady in Paris called Ms Sheridan Quaint. It’s Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840 – 1918, by David Deitcher. The text is essentially about the art of speculation upon uncaptioned photographs. Specifically, ancient sepia images of male friends posing affectionately together. The onlooker has to imagine the backstory themselves. Fascinating in its own right, but also useful for inspiring future stories.
I do like the phrase “Men Together”.
Today I have an email interview from an Italian woman, concerning Fosca. I always agree to interviews, and love nothing more than talking about myself at length. Even so, I sometimes have to decline a question if I feel it does little favour to me, however I respond.
Sample question: “Which one of these sentences would irk you more?”
I brace myself and read on.
“(a) You sound like Pulp.
(b) You sound out of tune.
(c) You sound not particularly 2005”
Ronnie Barker dies.
I light four candles.
(and expect the same joke to have already been made elsewhere. I check. Yes, yes it has.)