On Being A Harbinger Of Grayson Perry

Saturday 4th October 2014.

To the Conway Hall in Holborn for a spot of DJ-ing. It’s Suzette Field’s Black and White Masked Ball, inspired by Truman Capote’s 1966 party (a party which has its own Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_and_White_Ball).

There’s a strict dress code of black and white colours only. I don my chalk white suit, freshly cleaned. Ms Shanthi meets me at the event, and says I look like an advert for Daz Automatic. There’s several rooms packed with dancing, arty bands and cabaret acts, plus there’s an oversized chess game. Naked stewards walk around offering plates of food, their body paint conforming to the rules. They literally are wearing only black and white. I’m impressed that the punkish marching band Perhaps Contraption have eschewed their bespoke yellow and plum uniforms for some one-off black and white apparel. Their spiky-haired glockenspieliste and co-vocalist Felicity is in a stunning white ballgown. I play my usual mix of 1920s jazzy pop, easy listening, showtunes and anything else that fits the moment. It’s a joy watching a room full of such beautifully dressed up people dance and indeed strut to my hopeful selections.

* * *

Sunday 5th October 2014. I write a presentation script on literary camp for college, and put together Powerpoint slides to go with it. I do this at home while standing up at my desk. This is partly because I have to keep referring to books from my bookcase, but mostly because I’m restless. Not sure if lectern-style writing is better, but it certainly feels healthier. I am also a great lover of frequently getting up to pace around the desk, which is only really acceptable in the privacy of one’s home. If I tried that in a library, it would only be a matter of time before other members set fire to me.

To the ICA for Tony Benn: Last Will and Testament. It’s billed as a documentary, but is better described as a fond memorial. There’s certainly no critical voices explaining just why some newspapers called Mr Benn ‘dangerous’ or ‘evil’ or even in one case, ‘werewolf’ (?). But then, there’s no other voices full stop: this is entirely narrated by Benn himself, who took part in the film’s making before he died. Regardless of one’s political views, the film is an excellent whistle-stop through decades of British political and social change, from the 1940s till Mrs Thatcher’s funeral last year. It also uses emotive scenes from archive news footage and even from other films, such as Brassed Off (captioned as Benn’s favourite), and Network, for Ned Beatty’s speech about there being ‘no more countries, only companies’. I’m delighted by the inclusion of shots of the Sailors’ Reading Room in Southwold, along with the beach huts. The Reading Room now reminds me not just of my own regular visits there with Mum and Dad since the 80s, but also of Sebald’s Rings Of Saturn.

Tony Benn’s analogy for the old House Of Lords. ‘It’s like your dentist saying, “I’m not really qualified for this, but my dad did it.”’

* * *

Monday 6th October 2014. I finish a short story I’ve been chewing over all summer. It’s called ‘Forova, Not Found’ and features a Tube station theme bar in Tangier (which exists and which I’ve been to), a Moroccan Amy Winehouse impersonator and Wilde’s Dorian Gray. The story is a response to a piece of art by Eleanor Bedlow. I’m pleased with it. I need to write more fiction. Editing fiction is the real pleasure: watching themes emerge naturally, then nudging them into place. A form of gardening, really.

* * *

Tuesday 7th October 2014. Autumn temperatures at last. I take the cream linen suit to be cleaned for the last time this year, and slip back into my dark ensembles. It’s my version of putting the clocks back.

Back to Birkbeck for the first classes of the final year of the degree. Henry James’s ‘The Jolly Corner’ kicks off the course on US modern literature, while a lecture by Roger Luckhurst begins my Post-War UK module. This is the shape of my Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from now till next May. I also have to work on my year-long thesis, which has the working title of ‘The Satirical Usage of Camp in Twenty-First Century Fiction.’ As well as defining literary camp (via Sontag etc), I’m discussing three texts: a camp moment in Alan Hollinghurst’s Line of Beauty, a camp main character in James Hamilton-Paterson’s Cooking With Fernet Branca, and a camp narrative style in Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader. Fairly confident about it, as long as I can keep it academically rigorous, as they say in the classroom.

* * *

Thursday 9th October 2014

Grayson Perry is in the news for writing a provocative essay in the New Statesman. It’s about how middle-class, white straight men are still dominating UK culture, and how this needs to change. He uses the term ‘Default Man’, which he says he’s invented. In fact, I was bandying it about in my diary ten years ago. There’s evidence in this old entry from 2004 (if one scrolls down past the whining about my health): http://www.dickonedwards.com/diary/index.php/archive/this-is-dickon-edwards/

Admittedly, I only coined it in a spirit of flouncy cattiness, and certainly didn’t extend it into a sociological proposal. Still, it’s amusing to see the phrase getting such prominence all these years later.

* * *

To the British Library for its latest big exhibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination. It covers everything under the G-word from Walpole’s Castle of Otranto to a set of Martin Parr photographs taken at this year’s Whitby Goth Weekend – the latter being typically vivid portraits of ways to be British. So many treasures on show. My favourites are: the manuscripts of Frankenstein and Jane Eyre, a Jan Svankmajer film on Otranto, a vintage cardboard model of Fonthill Abbey, the ‘horrid’ novels from Austen’s Northanger Abbey all lined up in their own case, a Victorian alarm clock in the shape of a skeleton riding a coffin, a ‘Dear Boss’ letter from the Ripper case, a calling card from Oscar Wilde in exile, when he was ‘Sebastian Melmoth’, manuscripts for both Clive Barker’s Hellraiser script and its source novella The Hellbound Heart, and a manuscript of Angela Carter’s ‘The Company of Wolves’, as in the original story.

I note how some works are Goth-Compatible rather than only Gothic. Kate Bush’s song ‘Wuthering Heights’ is quoted in the section on the Brontes, for instance. In terms of modern Goth-Compatible literary ficition, there’s Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger and Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. To go with the exhibition, the British Library shop sells moustache wax, razorblade cufflinks, and – inevitably – black nail varnish.

* * *

I’ve had my blond hair cut off. It’s to give my roots a chance to breathe before the next round of peroxide. So today I have dark brown, very short hair. I like to think this means I’ll get fewer than usual catcalls. I like to think I even look more normal. But I hadn’t reckoned to something else that might invite comment from those who insist on offering it – my voice.

On the tube. An older, slightly grizzled-looking man gets on, sits down, and immediately starts talking to – or more accurately, at – the man next to him and the woman opposite him. I’m standing by those perches near the door, and have my earphones in, but I can tell he’s being humoured by these suddenly besieged passengers. They smirk demurely back. At the next stop, the man he sat next to gets up and leaves. The chatty older fellow then nods to me. I take out an earphone.

He says, ‘do you want to sit next to me, now?’

‘I’m fine here, thanks,’ I say.

Except I only get two words into the sentence when he suddenly puts out his hand, pulls a 1970s limp-wristed ‘teapot’ gesture, affects the attendant effeminate voice, and shouts ‘OH! He-LLOOOO!’ And he does this to the whole carriage, rather than to me.

I burst into laughter. Central London, 2014. No different to a Suffolk playground, 1980.

There was a time when this sort of thing used to upset me. Now I think to myself, ‘Still got it!’


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
break

On Being An Academic Muse

Saturday May 21st: I manage to honour three invitations in one evening. First: Sam Carpenter’s birthday drinks at The Constitution pub in Camden (7.30pm-8.15pm), then Charley Stone’s birthday concert at the Silver Bullet venue in Finsbury Park (8.45-9.30pm), before heading to the Phoenix in the West End to be guest DJ at How Does It Feel To Be Loved, where I stay till it ends (10.15pm till 3am).

Afterwards: I walk all the way from Oxford Circus to Archway. Nearly 4 miles. Partly because I need the exercise, partly because I’m drunk, but also because I like to avoid night buses whenever possible. I feel utterly safe walking the streets of Central and North London in the dead of night. It’s night buses that can be an ordeal.

Ms Stone’s night  is ‘Charlapalooza’, featuring performances from the Keith TOTP All-Stars, the Deptford Beach Babes and the Abba Stripes, all of whom she plays guitar for.  Her present from David Barnett is a huge poster of her own Rock Family Tree, linking all the bands she’s played in over the years. Fosca is one of them.

Also at the gig are other London Rock Women of note: Charlotte Hatherley (Ash, Client, solo), Debbie Smith (Echobelly, Curve) Deb Googe  (My Bloody Valentine),and  Jen Denitto: once of Linus, now drumming for the Monochrome Set.  Jen D says I’m directly responsible for her being in the MS, via singer Bid’s other band, Scarlet’s Well.

I get a vicarious thrill hearing of friends’ gig-going and gig-playing, as if they’re carrying on with All That so that I don’t have to any more.  From the reports of the Suede shows this week, to news of my brother Tom, who’s currently touring as guitarist for Adam Ant.  I don’t envy his guitarist success (never feeling like a proper guitarist myself), but I do envy his earning a living from doing something he loves, and travelling too. Particularly Paris. The last time I was in Paris was a Fosca gig in 2001 – a marvellous floating venue in the Seine. I have a real urge to go again. Here’s hoping a reason to do so presents itself. Or better still, the money to go there presents itself.

Still not much luck in finding a regular source of income. Offers of work from kind friends keep falling through, from paid blogging to film reviews. I’ve pitched articles to the Guardian without even getting a reply, which makes me feel some random self-deluded lunatic. Maybe I am. But at least I’m a well-dressed random, self-deluded lunatic.

***

Last Wednesday I was invited to Treadwell’s Bookshop, now in a new location off Tottenham Court Road. The event was the reading of an academic paper by Dr Stephen Alexander, titled ‘Elements Of Gothic Queerness in The Picture of Dorian Gray.’ Stimulating stuff, reminding me just how rich Wilde’s novel is. You can link it to so much these days: the tragedy of a young man who doesn’t age pops up in Twilight and the new Doctor Who, for instance. Dr Alexander focussed on the theme of coveting yet resenting objects for their static nature: something that certainly connects with today’s obsession with worshipping the latest version of a must-have gadget. In fact, posters for the original iPad showed Dorian Gray as an example of an e-book to read on it. I’d love to know what made them choose it.

Not only was I delighted to be invited, but it turned out Dr Alexander – whom I didn’t know until now – actually dedicated his paper to me, after my appearance in Eliza Glick’s book Materializing Queer Desire.

I’ve never had an academic paper dedicated to me before. It’s so flattering. And it helps to remind me that I might not be the complete  waste of space the Job Centre insists I am.

Problem is, they’ll say, one can’t earn a living from being a muse.

Well, unless you’re in Muse.

My DJ set at HDIF:

  1. Stereolab: Peng 33 (Peel session version
  2. Carole King: I Feel The Earth Move
  3. The Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big Kiss
  4. Chairmen Of The Board: Give Me Just A Little More Time
  5. The Wake: Carbrain
  6. The Chills: Heavenly Pop Hit
  7. The Siddeleys: You Get What You Deserve
  8. Dressy Bessy: If You Should Try To Kiss Her
  9. Camera Obscura: French Navy
  10. The Smiths: Ask
  11. Spearmint: Sweeping The Nation
  12. The Pastels: Coming Through
  13. Le Tigre: Hot Topic
  14. Prince: Raspberry Beret
  15. The Supremes:  Stoned Love
  16. Ride: Twisterella
  17. Stereolab: French Disko
  18. Blueboy: Imipramine
  19. Sister Sledge: Thinking Of You
  20. Nancy Sinatra: These Boots Are Made For Walking
  21. April March: Chick Habit
  22. Shirley Bassey: Spinning Wheel
  23. Gloria Jones: Tainted Love
  24. Mel Torme: Coming Home Baby
  25. Dexys: Plan B
  26. Orange Juice: Blueboy
  27. Blondie: Rapture (a tribute to the real Rapture in the news)
  28. Felt: Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow
  29. The Cure: Boys Don’t Cry
  30. Style Council: Speak Like A Child
  31. Labelle: Lady Marmalade

Tags: , , , , , , ,
break

Quick Notice of A DJ Appearance

I’m guest DJ-ing tonight (Saturday May 21st) at How Does It Feel To Be Loved.

It will be at:

The Phoenix
37 Cavendish Square
London
W1G 0PP

Nearest tube: Oxford Circus.

Runs 9pm-3am. My set is 10.30pm to midnight.

Entry: £4 members, £6 non members. Membership is free if you register (quickly!) at

http://www.howdoesitfeel.co.uk/membership.html

I shall be playing 80s indiepop, 60s girl groups, and everything that vaguely fits. Including Blueboy, who were recently the subject of a rather good piece at the London Review Of Books blog here:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2011/05/10/stephen-burt/young-and-quite-pretty/


Tags: , , ,
break

‘Against Nature’: My New Club Night

Last Thursday. A gentleman from the venue Proud Camden emails me out of the blue. Would I like to put on my own club night there? A bit like Beautiful & Damned, but a bit more dark and twisted and arty? With live acts and dancing?

I say: yes.

To try me out (and for me to try them out), they offer me the smaller room – the South Gallery – for the first Wednesday night of every month. Fine. Except that the first one would be May 5th. A mere 12 days away. We’ll understand if you can’t quite get the numbers in, they say. Just see how you get on.

Three days and much emailing later, I have a bill of four for the 5th: boyish TV magicians Barry & Stuart, dapper musical comedians Moonfish Rhumba, surreal jazz-rockers the Rude Mechanicals, and sassy cabaret songstress Tricity Vogue. As these are some of my favourite acts around, it feels like my own miniature Meltdown Festival. For the next few dates, I hope to include performance poets, alternative burlesque dancers, spoken word. Whatever fits. Or rather, whatever doesn’t fit.

I’ve also hired my very own door person, and even my own sound engineer, thanks to kind friends with connections. And I’ll be the main DJ and host.

Good, I think. Done. Well done. Except that now I have to book an audience too.

It’s far too late to get the May 5th details into the listings of weekly magazines, let alone monthly ones. But I have a kind friend designing a logo, flyer and poster right now, which I hope to get quickly printed and distributed around Camden, even if there’s just days to spare.

Plus there’s still the Internet. And I do forget just how many people read this diary. Twice in the last week I’ve had people at London cafe tables shout ‘Love your blog!’ as I pass. And today a man from the BBC World Service emailed to say they wanted to use one of my entries on their programme. It was too last minute and didn’t happen, but at least it reminded me that my main publicity outlet may be right here.

So!

The new club night is called AGAINST NATURE, after the Huysmans book. Proud Camden, first Weds of the month. Please pass it on.

There’s a Facebook group for the club here. Please join if you want to receive details of the various dates.

***
Here’s what I’m sending out to listings:

AGAINST NATURE
Dickon Edwards invades Camden with his very own twisted speakeasy for dressed-up dandies and vintage vamps. Dance to a decadent mix of easy listening, showtunes, pastiche pop, and all that deviant jazz. Plus a suitably eclectic yet aesthetic gaggle of live acts. Every first Weds of the month.

LINE UP FOR WEDS MAY 5TH:

– BARRY & STUART
Boyish BAFTA-nominated comedy magicians, who regularly perform wonder invoking, laughter inducing, and awe-inspiring trickery. Presenters of such TV series as ‘Magick’, ‘Dirty Tricks’ and ‘Tricks from the Bible’.
http://www.barryandstuart.com

– MOONFISH RHUMBA.
Immaculately-groomed musical comedy troubadours. Finalists in the Hackney Empire New Act and Amused Moose competitions.
http://www.moonfishrhumba.com

– TRICITY VOGUE
Offbeat & sassy songstress with a colourful history of romantic misadventure.
http://www.tricityvogue.com

– RUDE MECHANICALS
Miss Roberts and her exotic cohorts unleash their brand of surreal art-jazz-rock, with the distinct possibility of lessons in toe sucking.
http://www.rudemechanicals.co.uk

Plus elegant DJ and host Dickon Edwards (Beautiful & Damned, Latitude, White Mischief, Last Tuesday Society).

Doors 8pm.
Live acts 9.30pm-11.30pm.
Dancing to 1am.

Advance tickets: £5
Door charge: £5 before 10pm. £7 after.

DRESS CODE (preferred): Vintage & dandy-esque.

VENUE:
South Gallery at PROUD CAMDEN,
The Horse Hospital, Stables Market,
Chalk Farm Rd, LONDON NW1 8AH.
Tel: 020 7482 3867.
http://www.proudcamden.com


Tags: ,
break

The Vanity Of Shyness

Saturday evening. To a house party in Harringay, near Turnpike Lane, hosted by Robin & Ellen H. They invited me to their wedding a few years ago, where I was seated at the same table as Alan Hollinghurst. I didn’t say anything to him, as nothing suggested itself other than, ‘I’ve read your novels. They’re very good, aren’t they? Well done!’ Except if it happened again now I suppose could talk with him about Ronald Firbank, and how I was pleased he chose the out-of-print writer to be in the National Portrait Gallery’s Gay Icons show last year. It was a slightly confusing title for an exhibition, because while it featured icons chosen by famous gay people (like Mr Hollinghurst), the icons themselves didn’t have to be gay. So Ronald Firbank ended up in the same show as Elton John’s choice, the England football manager Graham Taylor.

At the house party, Ellen serves up champagne with vodka-soaked raspberries. It becomes quite crowded, and after chatting to the small amount of people I know there (the hosts, Alex S, Tammy H, Jamie M), I slip into my usual mode of standing by myself against a wall, feeling awkward and strange. As much as I like parties, I’ve never been very good about going over and Joining In with someone else’s conversation – it feels bad mannered, even presumptious. So I stand there, hoping vainly (in every sense) that someone will come over to me instead. It’s one reason I take to DJ-ing so easily. DJing is also being aloof and passive and standing near a wall, but in a controlling way, and with a reason. On top of which, you have something to cling to.


Tags: , ,
break

Indiepop Longa, Vita Brevis

Saturday night just gone: I DJ at How Does It Feel To Be Loved, at the Phoenix in Cavendish Square. I chat to Charlie M and her friends, talk about Take That with the lovely Alice From Leeds on the door, and down too much white wine. Sunday is entirely spent recovering, I’m ashamed to admit.

The HDIF crowd is a mixture of young and old fans of the playlist – 60s soul and 80s indie. Ian W tells me about new bands that the club has helped to nurture, including one I like the sound of, ‘Allo Darlin’. I was at first baffled that there’s young fans of, say, McCarthy who were not even born when ‘Red Sleeping Beauty’ came out. Partly because the music seemed hermetically sealed to its era, but also because it forced me to admit to my own increasing age. It’s a form of solipsism too; the music that you once thought mapped a time of your history eventually maps you into history itself. That obscure 1989 EP track you thought only you gave meaning to, your little secret, will in fact outlive you. So get used to it. The music will get along just fine without you. Indiepop longa, vita brevis.*

Here’s my set list from the night.

1. The Style Council – Speak Like A Child
2. Lloyd Cole – Jennifer She Said
3. The Siddeleys – You Get What You Deserve
4. Felt – Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow (the version with the jangly guitar intro)
5. McCarthy – I Worked Myself Up From Nothing
6. The Chills – Heavenly Pop Hit
7. Stereolab – Ping Pong
8. Camera Obscura – French Navy
9. Aztec Camera – Oblivious
10. Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made For Walking
11. Carole King – I Feel The Earth Move
12. The Angels – My Boyfriend’s Back
13. Le Tigre – Hot Topic
14. The Pastels – Nothing To Be Done
15. Chairmen Of The Board – Give Me Just A Little More Time
16. Gloria Jones – Tainted Love
17. Shirley Bassey – Spinning Wheel
18. The Supremes – Stoned Love
19. Spearmint – Sweeping The Nation
20. The Smiths – Ask
21. The Shangri-Las – Give Him A Great Big Kiss
22. Beyonce – Single Ladies (Motown remix)
23. Labelle – Lady Marmalade
24. Dexys – Plan B
25. Chuck Wood – Seven Days Too Long
26. Orange Juice – Poor Old Soul
27. The Wake – Crush The Flowers
28. Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday
29. Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You
30. Dressy Bessy – If You Should Try To Kiss Her

[*After Hippocrates’s aphorism ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’: life is short, but art is forever.]


Tags: , ,
break

The Cat Sends Me Back

Am back in the Highgate bedsit after three weeks flat-sitting in Crouch End. No more cat to look after me.
Somewhat taken aback by the contrast in heating. In the flat, there was a boiler and radiators and the knowledge that I didn’t have to pay the heating bill. Back here I have just my little electric fan heater for the room. Which used to be fine, except that Highgate, like most of the UK, is currently in the grip of a proper winter spell. I sit here at my desk still wearing my winter coat, with the fan heater on full right by my toes, and still I shiver. During the night I don two old t-shirts plus my old jogging bottoms (noting that it’s about time I bought some pyjamas), position the heater right by the bed, and still I’m freezing.
Tonight, then: blankets. And I’ve just bought some M&S pyjamas – first time since my teens. I chose the ones that looked the most like hand-me-downs from a Matthew Bourne ballet. I can’t be bothered working out if pyjamas on grown men are stylish or not. They are on me, and that’s an end to it.
During the day I spend as much time in heated public buildings as possible. Library, cafes, shops. Quite the opposite of being ‘snowed in’: the snow helps to get me out of bed (7am)and out of the house. Highgate like Crouch End still looks like Narnia, the snow crunching pleasingly underfoot, but central London is utterly, hilariously devoid of the stuff. A sense of the capital saying to the snow ‘Don’t you know who I AM? Don’t you DARE fall on me. I’m a Very Important City Centre.’
In the London Library toilets, one member walks straight from the cubicles back into the library without washing his hands. This is something that many men do which utterly appalls me. If he’d been a recognizable author, like more than a few LL members, I’d instinctively feel like naming him here and urging the world to boycott his books. But then I remember about WH Auden and his peeing in the sink (as brought up in the new Alan Bennett play). Not an excuse, but a reminder to trust the art, never the artist. Particularly the piss artist.
***
Packing away the Christmas decorations, I notice that 2009’s Christmas seems to have brought me more Christmas cards than I’ve had for years: 30 to 40 of them. In this digital world, it feels even more special. I know I go on about my love of getting proper handwritten letters and cards, but actually getting them is something else. Thank you, all those responsible. One favourite is from the band The Real Tuesday Weld. It contains a little 3-inch CD EP of the band. I’d forgotten how lovely 3-inch CDs were. Favourite track: ‘Plastic Please’, featuring the Puppini Sisters. It’s a fanbase mailout, but singer Stephen has handwritten a greeting to me: ‘To Dickon. Keep Dreaming.’ Which makes all the difference.
***
I see in 2010 DJ-ing at White Mischief at the Proud Cabaret venue off Fenchurch Street. Fantastic live acts, particularly Frisky and Mannish and The Correspondents, who do a real 1910-meets-2010 techno rap set, merging cravats and waistcoats with skinny emo leggings. My own highlight is helping to locate a burlesque Judy Garland’s detachable plait.

Am back in the Highgate bedsit after three weeks flat-sitting in Crouch End. No more cat to look after me.

Somewhat taken aback by the contrast in heating. In the flat, there was a boiler and radiators and the knowledge that I didn’t have to pay the heating bill. Back here I have just my little electric fan heater for the room. Which used to be fine, except that Highgate, like most of the UK, is currently in the grip of a proper winter spell. I sit here at my desk still wearing my winter coat, with the fan heater on full right by my toes, and still I shiver. During the night I don two old t-shirts plus my old jogging bottoms (noting that it’s about time I bought some pyjamas), position the heater right by the bed, and still I’m freezing.

Tonight, then: blankets. And I’ve just bought some M&S pyjamas – first time since my teens. I chose the ones that looked the most like hand-me-downs from a Matthew Bourne ballet. I can’t be bothered working out if pyjamas on grown men are stylish or not. They are on me, and that’s an end to it.

***

During the day I spend as much time in heated public buildings as possible. Library, cafes, shops. Quite the opposite of being ‘snowed in’: the snow helps to get me out of bed (7am) and out of the house. Highgate like Crouch End still looks like Narnia, the snow crunching pleasingly underfoot, but central London is utterly, hilariously devoid of the stuff. A sense of the capital saying to the snow ‘Don’t you know who I AM? Don’t you DARE fall on me. I’m a Very Important City Centre.’

***

In the London Library toilets, one member walks straight from the cubicles back into the library without washing his hands. This is something that many men do which utterly appalls me. If he’d been a recognizable author, like more than a few LL members, I’d instinctively feel like naming him here and urging the world to boycott his books. But then I remember about WH Auden and his peeing in the sink (as brought up in the new Alan Bennett play). Not an excuse, but a reminder to trust the art, never the artist. Particularly the piss artist. Readers of my own work might like to note that I always wash my hands after visiting the lavatory. Whatever you think of it, it has been written by properly cleansed hands.

***

Packing away the Christmas decorations, I notice that 2009’s Christmas seems to have brought me more Christmas cards than I’ve had for years: 30 to 40 of them. In this digital world, it feels even more special. I know I go on about my love of getting proper handwritten letters and cards, but actually getting them is something else. Thank you, all those responsible. One favourite is from the band The Real Tuesday Weld. It contains a little 3-inch CD EP of the band. I’d forgotten how lovely 3-inch CDs were. Favourite track: ‘Plastic Please’, featuring the Puppini Sisters. It’s a fanbase mailout, but singer Stephen has handwritten a greeting to me: ‘To Dickon. Keep Dreaming.’ Which makes all the difference.

***

I see in the New Year by DJ-ing at White Mischief at the Proud Cabaret venue off Fenchurch Street. Lots of gorgeous dressed-up people, and fantastic live acts, particularly Frisky & Mannish, plus The Correspondents, who do a real 1910-meets-2010 techno rap set, merging cravats and waistcoats with what looks like skinny emo leggings. My own highlight is helping to locate a burlesque Judy Garland’s detachable plait. That says it all.


Tags: , , , , , ,
break

Just A Buffet

I’m DJ-ing at a new club called Decline and Fall this Friday 10th. It’s hosted by the elegant burlesque artiste Vicky Butterfly and takes place at the Albert & Pearl in Upper Street, which I’m told is a suitably opulent venue:

http://www.timeout.com/london/cabaret/event/152346/decline-and-fall.html

***

So. I’ve left the news clippings night shift job in order to concentrate on writing jobs like the ‘Forever England’ book. On my last night at the office, many colleagues who normally dressed down gave me a surprise send-off. They came to work wearing suits, or shirts and ties, or evening dresses and high heels. On top of which I was given a lovely leaving card, boxes of Fortnum & Mason fudge and shortbread, a notebook and a luxury ballpoint engraved with my name. I was so touched.

The secret Dress Up for Dickon Day was the chief delight. If that’s what people think of me – that I like to be surrounded by the dressed-up – well, they’re absolutely right. Just as well I am me, really.

***

Now. There’s been an awful amount of Silly Tosh written about Mr Jackson since his untimely death, and frankly I don’t see why I should be any different.

His music has been ubiquitous in London’s coffee shops, cafes and bars ever since, which actually I don’t mind too much. I didn’t realise until now that I do slightly like the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo which occurs halfway through  ‘Beat It’. And then there’s those rather startling lyrics to ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something’, which straddle the awful-brilliant axis:

You’re a vegetable (you’re a vegetable)
You’re just a buffet (you’re a vegetable)

Indeed. Just, as the man said, a buffet. And people have been helping themselves to that particular buffet even since he departed to that great Moonwalk dancefloor in the sky. Which I guess means… the Moon. (Shall I stop this now? I’m so sorry, I have to tickle myself back to the diary after a fallow period. Silliness is as good a way as any).

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news. I was reading the news. No, I really was. Thursday June 25th was my last night at the news clippings job. It was fun watching the BBC site hold onto those get-out-of-jail-free quotation marks in its main headline for as long as possible. They went from ‘Michael Jackson “rushed to hospital”‘ to ‘Michael Jackson ‘is dead'”, the sub heading carefully adding ‘according to reports’. By which they meant, ‘Some news sources are saying Michael Jackson is dead, but frankly they’re all American ones, or Sky, and we’re the BBC, damn it! We won’t take the quote marks away until Jeremy Paxman has personally walked into the hospital and checked his pulse.’

The news broke too late for most of the morning newspapers, which led with the story of BBC executives’ expenses. One morning paper with a late enough press time took advantage and splashed the Jackson story all over its cover. That it was City AM, the London-only financial daily which normally wouldn’t touch showbiz stories with a hedge fund bargepole, didn’t stop it one iota.

The days of news media saying ‘that’s enough, let’s move on to other events’ are long gone. The phrase ‘And in other news’ is still used – but only just, and never soon enough. The proliferation – 24 hour channels in particular –  should in theory mean more diversity in news. It would have been nice to see a little of all that extra time used for more coverage of, say, the passing of Sky Saxon and Steven Wells. Just because they’re less well-known shouldn’t mean they receive less coverage; on the contrary, because they’re lesser known they should get more attention. I suppose I naively want a kind of Robin Hood approach to media attention. Or just a little less reheating of the one buffet.


Tags: , , , , ,
break

The Vacuum Vote

An email:

Dear Mr Edwards,
We seem to have been staying at the same hotel in Sark at the same time; I presume you were the young man who had difficulties with his bicycle chain and who resembled a refugee from ‘Crome Yellow’.

==

Have given my notice at the night shift. My last night there is June 25th.

I’d been hoping to keep the job on and have it support the writing, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that I couldn’t muster the energy for both. However, I swore to myself I wouldn’t quit until, say, a literary agent contacted me out of the blue with a view to writing a book. Which is exactly what happened.

The proposed book is a non-fiction travel work, working title ‘Forever England: Corners of Belonging in Foreign Fields’. It’ll muse on versions of the displaced Englishness I’ve come across in Sark, Gibraltar and Tangier, as well as places I’d like to go, if the book deal allows. I’m fascinated with 2009 notions of belonging, where people escape a country yet take bits of it with them – or create a version of Albion from scratch. It’ll be about otherworldly bars, poignant shops and strange monuments. All from my point of view, as someone who thinks he doesn’t really have ‘roots’ or fits in anywhere – only to be told the moment I step outside the UK that I resemble a terminal Englishman. Whatever that means…

===

As I’m quitting the night job, it means I’ll be available for more London DJ gigs. There’s these between now and Latitude:

Thurs June 18th: Beautiful & Damned at the Boogaloo, 312 Archway Road, N6. The usual vintage, easy listening & showtunes.

Sat June 20th: How Does It Feel To Be Loved, The Phoenix, 37 Cavendish Square. 80s indiepop & 60s girl groups.

Mon June 29th: Book Club Boutique, Dick’s Bar, 23 Romilly Street, Soho. Gay Pride event. Not sure what I’ll play here. Perhaps everything I can’t get away with at the other places.

Sat July 4th: Last Tuesday Society’s Fairy Tale Masked Ball, after a talk by Marina Warner. The Vaults, 47 Chiswell Streets, EC. The B&D stuff with a slightly more hedonistic, giddy angle.

===

The sensation of finding out there’s a Big Brother contestant whose path has crossed yours is, I suppose, an increasingly common modern experience. This year’s series includes an intriguing Russian lady called Angel, who entered the BB house in top hat, tails and brandishing a cane. Last time I saw her she was married to the manager of Spearmint, the band I was in during 1999 and 2000. She designed and built the set of the video for Spearmint’s single, ‘We’re Going Out’, which I appeared in. I don’t watch the programme much these days, but I hope she wins. Her bohemian, arty charm might swing it for her. Niceness is the alibi of otherness.

===

Today the country has woken up to the results of the European Parliament elections, with the BNP acquiring two new seats. A closer look reveals the actual number of votes for the BNP in their two winning regions (Yorkshire, North West) has in fact decreased. It was the poor turnout by people who’d normally vote for the top 3 parties that gave them a higher percentage of the vote, and thus the seats. Proportional Representation is thought to be a fairer system, but if people aren’t voting at all, it’s useless. So now the rest of Europe – and people who aren’t looking hard enough – think the UK is becoming more right wing. No, it’s becoming more apathetic. More people than ever have chosen not to choose.

But they forget the trouble with choosing nothing. Like the laws of nature where a vacuum is abhored, something still has to go in nothing’s place. So now we have BNP MEPs. Well done, nothing.


Tags: , , , ,
break

More Friends Than The Brontes

Back from Gibraltar and Tangier. No more mad little holidays for a while now.

Announcements.

I’m Dj-ing at the Latitude festival once again, as one half of The Beautiful & Damned DJs. This time we’ll be on the Thursday night, in the Film & Music tent. We’re DJ-ing between the acts through the evening, then we’ll take the tent into full club mode till 2 am. If it’s anything like the last time we did the Thursday night, the tent should be packed.

Writing-wise, I’ve contributed a piece to the New Escapologist magazine, issue 2. It’s called The Seven Ages Of Cliche, and appears to be a slightly hysterical rant about, well, whatever’s closest to hand. You can buy it from www.new-escapologist.co.uk

I’m also sad about the passing of Plan B magazine, which I wrote bits and pieces for over the last few years. I really should get around to archiving all my Plan B pieces on this site.

***

Diary catch-up:

Saturday before last: DJ-ing for cash with Miss Red and James L, at a wedding near Steeple Bumpstead in Essex.

The marquee’s set up outside a farmhouse in the middle of the countryside. There’s a fancy dress theme, so although I’m in a tent full of people I do not know, they are all dressed as people I do know. I count about five Fat Elvises. A white-vested Freddie Mercury prances by the canapes, sausages on a stick in one hand, fake microphone on a stick in the other.

The organisers have hired a portable public lavatory from Classical Toilets of Bury St Edmunds, the interiors of which are decked out like luxury hotel washrooms. Classical music is pumped in, and there’s a vase of fresh cut lilies by the aloe vera soap dispensers. I take one of the firm’s business card-sized flyers. It turns out they do a range of four different models, depending on the number of guests catered for.  For some reason, each one is named after a famous writer, rather than a classical composer.

Top of the range, for events of over 350 guests, is The Shakespeare. I can tell from a little diagram on the flyer that the mens’ side of The Shakespeare comprises three urinals, and two cubicles. Next one down is The Dickens: three urinals and two cubicles. Then there’s The Tennyson: two urinals and one cubicle, which is the one hired for this wedding. Finally, if you think your big day is likely to attract only a few dozen guests, you can plump for The Bronte: one cubicle only.

It’s not clear which Bronte they mean, but I have visions of all three sisters having to queue up and wait until the cubicle’s free. Emily runs out of patience and uses the moors.

As I stand there at the urinal, drenched in Vivaldi, I think of Tennyson.

‘Hold thou the good; define it well.’

In Memoriam, indeed.


Tags: , , ,
break