25 March 2016

What an artist gives their family isn’t routine and their constant presence, they give vitality and ideas, independence and creative thinking.

maths love
Lying on the sofa at 11am I’m thinking about taking a nap. With the cat on my chest already fast approaching the critical doze off zone, I was really thinking about joining her. 

I’d taken the day off work. Cost me four hours pay but I’ve been feeling so sleepy lately I couldn’t face another day teaching them gawd diddley dang teenagers another minute. Besides, everyone at work was tired. End of term was today and no one wanted to be in College anymore. We want to go home and be verbally abused on facebook for having too many holidays. It was actually positive time for friends and family. A student had sought me out and had a packet of chocolate mini eggs as a gift for me. I was so touched so left on a high. 

Isa the cat
A friend’s cat had just died after 21 years of being a beautiful cat shaped pain in the butt. As only cats can be. Loved by one and all. She was a kitten from one of my cats and she had also died recently too. I was so bogged down in love for dead cats.

Viv Albertine’s excellent book about love, life and rebirth, “Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music, Music.Boys, Boys, Boys”, lies on the coffee table next to me as I doze in the warm, early spring sunshine remembering her words on the passing of Malcolm McLaren, Poly Styrene and in particular Ari Up; “Ari was an artist and artists need more love than anyone. She needed loads, but I don’t know if she got enough on a one-to-one level… "You have to be selfish to be an artist; your family just have to accept that. It’s not personal. It’s not that you don’t love them. What an artist gives their family isn’t routine and their constant presence, they give vitality and ideas, independence and creative thinking.’

I was 17 when I first saw Ari Up. It was March 1978. The Slits were supporting the Buzzcocks. She was just leaning on a pillar, side stage, watching the crowd but I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Mesmerizing that a woman, that a band, could behave like this, wear the clothes she wore and project such a great attitude. I’d just experienced the normal gender conditioned women of the North East up to 1977 and had never seen anything like Ari or Viv. My female friends has seen Pauline from Penetration, Siouxsie Sioux, Chrissy Hynde, Patti Smith, Poly Styrene et al and were influenced by all their ‘fuck, this is what women can do, don't you know’ attitude. They were? We all were. Ari was around the same age as we were and she was in The Slits. Mind boggling. That spirit of punk that everything was possible at such a young age was standing there before me fully formed with dreadlocks down to her waist.

I look at the cat, not my cat, its furry face centimeters from mine, its purr low and tremulous and I weep a little. I cry small tears of love, regret and prescience realising a feeling that the weekend I have ahead of me is maybe going to be an important one. One that may influence how I think in future. I feel a sea change descending.

Anyway, it all began with a simple meal with a few close friends. A red sauce made from tomatoes grown in the garden, a glug of nice red wine and some whole wheat spaghetti paved the way into a night of chat and laughter that you can only have with people who so let you be yourself you fizz with frightened excitement at anything they say and the joy bubbles over right there onto the table as the glass empties and your heart fills with love and the appreciation of such simple joys overwhelming the emotions so much you just have to express it out loud and proud. We decide to go the “End of The Pier Show”, which is on in a few days’ time all dressed up, fitting in with the fancy dress theme of great women, as Wonder Woman. A gaggle, a pride of Wonder Women. She Queen says “Oh, I have about eight Wonder Woman costumes. Paul, you can have the fat one. You put a hula hoop in. It’s so funny. It’ll be great”. I feel a frisson of expectation I’ve never felt before: I’ll be wearing a half decent fancy dress costume for the first time ever. I hope.

She was, of course, completely unaware of this fear and hatred I’ve built up over the years of wretchedly forcing myself to attend fancy dress parties. As Seinfeld once said, maybe about fancy dress parties, have a go “because you’ll never improve your sense of style if your default look is “I give up”, which mine is. So, I’ve decided, I’m adopting Viv Albertine’s adage and, for a whole year, I’m just going to saying ‘yes’ to everything that comes my way.

Tonight needs sorting first.  I’m meeting C later after I get a quick scrub up and put on my best suit and a white shirt. I’m taking her to Jo Jo’s, a great seafood restaurant in Whitstable. You can see the sea outside the window and the hospitality is to die for. 

I was DJing a gig the other week, a vinyl only affair, at Deco 5, in aid of Mind charity. The other DJ’s played soul, funk and reggae. I was the only one playing house music. Nowadays I play digital and buy all my tunes digitally but my old records still take up a full wall of my ‘studio’ area downstairs in my house. All my house tunes from 1988 to when I went digital about five years ago. My vinyl sets are just what I call my favourite tunes of all time. I have one record deck set up at home and am slowly working through them all and hand picking my favourites. I was never one to compromise and ‘play what the people want’ type of DJ. I just bought the new tunes that tickled me or stimulated me or were by artist, producers or labels that I’d supported or discovered. It’s like an aspic time capsule. I have 3 record boxes; chilled out tunes, weird techno or more difficult late night fare and them dancefloor floor fillers that always bring a smile to my face whenever I play of hear them. It’s deep all the way.

 Anyway, it’s the first time I’ve really played with these guys at their night and I didn’t want to let them or me down so played some early evening deep house classics that I loved. At the end of the set this group of people came over who had been nodding at me throughout my set and dancing by the bar and after complimenting the great music, thanks, they said they were leaving but had bought a few raffle tickets for the draw taking place later that evening. Would I like to have them? Of course.

I won a £40 voucher for Jo Jo’s Restaurant which is what I’m going out with tonight. I’ll be able to get a nice bottle of wine, or two with the meal and have nice nosh up with the birthday girl. It was a great night hanging out with people who loved music and vinyl. We also won, with the same tickets, a treat at a spa which I gave to C, some drum lessons and a box of retro candy.

C's birthday meal
Crisp white shirt. Giant prawn. Brain splattered shirt. Shirt ruined. Still, we had a lovely night, great food and wine; stopping off for a quick drink at the newly refurbished Marine Hotel; “yeah, that refirb happened about seven years ago”, said the bar steward. Ah, time passes so quickly doesn't it? We remember last coming here for a gig down in the snooker bit. "Yeah, that refirb happened about eight to nine years ago. Still,” she says, “you’re back now”. We certainly are.