A quotation from a Peanuts cartoon. Lucy is giving advice to Charlie Brown at her little wooden psychiatrist stall:

Lucy: Charlie Brown, life is like a deck chair on a cruise ship. Passengers open up these canvas deck chairs so they can sit in the sun. Some people place their chairs facing the rear of the ship so they can see where they’ve been. Other people face their chairs forward – they want to see where they’re going. On the cruise ship of life, which way is your deck chair facing?

Charlie Brown: I’ve never been able to get one unfolded.

I note this today because it’s on a programme about politicians being funny. Denis Healey used it in the Commons to describe John Major.


While wondering about my own creative direction, I find myself drawn to an article in Spin magazine. It’s about people who used to be in bands – though far more celebrated than mine – before giving up music altogether. Justine from Elastica is now an abstract painter in California, having married a university professor. Once the Queen of Britpop, she says she ‘wanted out of England’ and has no plans to return to music. ‘That’s the great thing about anonymity,’ she says. ‘You have the freedom to reinvent yourself.’ An attractive, dignified sentiment, but it has the air of regret. That music was a mistake, and she’s much better now.

It’s certainly true of her former bandmate Donna, who went from being one of those people who take heroin while making music, to just taking heroin, to getting clean, and now – an equally familiar path – finding God. She’s a trainee priest at the Ichthus Link Church. ‘I realised how selfish I’d been.’ Is making music really more selfish than being a priest, if you’re having hit albums? I wonder here about the ‘selfishness’ of band reunions, too. But then, all decisions are selfishness of a kind. Charity can be vanity, too.

Tanya Donelly of Belly (and Throwing Muses, and The Breeders) is now a postpartum doula. Which I had to look up. It’s a sort of post-birth non-medical midwife. She says she found the rock band life incompatible with being a mother. I was going to say, well, Courtney Love managed it, didn’t she? Bad example.

My favourite quote, though, is from Miki Berenyi, formerly the singer with Lush and now a copy editor at Web User Magazine:

‘My job now isn’t as fun or exciting as it was to be in a band, but on the other hand, I don’t have to worry about complete strangers approaching me and telling me I’m a c—.’

This is what’s now known as Tall Poppy Syndrome. It’s particularly associated when contrasting the UK with the US, hence Ms Justine’s solution. But in my case, I’ll always attract that sort of thing, recognition or no. Even when I’m trying my hardest to seem normal.

Last week I was taking a break between bleachings and walked around the city with cropped dark-brown hair. I was also wearing my glasses, which I thought must surely have made me even more invisible. Fat chance. Two girls on the Archway Road:

‘OY! Harry Potter!’

(Once more unto the bleach…)

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Winstone & Dolby

Further to the previous entry, the BBC, Guardian and other UK news sites did get around to mentioning David Foster Wallace’s suicide after all, albeit a full day after this diary did. I feel the same way I did when returning from the Haringey Council elections in 2006 and publishing the full results to the diary, only to find that I was ahead of the council’s own website by several hours. And even then they got the numbers slightly wrong: I had to email them their own correct results.

Despite appearances, my feeling in both cases is not the smugness of the amateur reporter scooping the professionals, or the grumbling of one of those armchair experts who seem to write with one finger endlessly wagging till the grave (‘and another thing…!’).

No, it’s more the vague annoyance at being annoyed per se, when there’s far more deserving matters to give a hoot about.


Diary catch-up. In bits.

Friday Sept 12th: Fosca’s trip to Madrid for a one-off gig.

Highgate, early hours. The taxi is due to collect me at 5.30am, and as usual I can’t get a wink of sleep beforehand. All I can think about is the entirely possible horror of the doorbell ringing while I’m in bed, with me having slept through the alarm. Add this worry to the excitement and nervousness of the trip, and it seems pointless going to bed at all. But I still give it a go, lying there in the dark, utterly awake until the alarm goes, feeling foolish.

Our taxi driver is slightly played by Ray Winstone. I think it’s fair to say this, because the first thing he tells me as I emerge from the house is:

‘Blimey – you look like Thomas Dolby.’

I groggily attempt a smile – well, a smirk – and shove my suitcase in the boot. I can see Charley inside the car, trying hard not to laugh.

‘I guess you get people telling you that all the time, eh?’

‘Well… I often have people saying who I remind them of…’

‘Nah. It’s DEFINITELY Thomas Dolby. Definitely.’

And he says this is if it’s the most reasonable and useful thing in the world. Off we go.

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