Monday, December 24, 2012

Pygmies in Yorkshire - a Christmas Story

At this time of year one tends to talk about family. The other day my sister said "Granny was a great storyteller." She was. Her name was Majorie and the Christmas before she died she told me an amazing story.
In the first decade of the 20th Century there was a small group of Pygmies from Central Africa living in the grounds of an estate in Yorkshire. My Grandmother was one of six children (as I am). Her family was invited to meet the Pygmies.My Grandmother  told me that the Pygmies were living just as they did in the Congo - in mud huts, dressed in grass skirts.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vicky Soto

The raw brutality of the World
is best met with the wordless gesture of symbol.

This morning I light a candle for the Soul of a stranger.
Myself grief-weary in the dark days of the year:
its brief flame bold and steady
as she was as she awaited Death
in the Springtime of her life.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Poplar Coroner's Court

An early start so we drove east into the sunrise.

The building is cute, in Arts & Crafts style with panelling and green glazed tiles. There are archaic features here and there. A sign outside the toilet warning that the penalty for spitting is 40/- (that's forty shillings or two pounds, a large sum when the sign was originally erected, perhaps a week's wages or more). Boxes of paper tissues are everywhere.

The Coroner, very dignified, but also kind and humane.

While we were waiting for a cab afterwards we saw this little boy in his buggy. He made us all feel better.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two minutes silence

Smiley eye contact with two year old Daniel during the Two Minute Silence yesterday (that's his Dad in uniform).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Richard Hamilton at The National Gallery

The show of Richard Hamilton's last paintings is delightfully dislocating. The works are not all that large but they create a dizzy sense of space. A maid vacuums a hotel lobby (she's naked as it happens) behind her hangs a painting of another hotel lobby, the same painting is hanging in the exhibition room.
The games with space make the sense of illusion extremely vivid. The palette in Portrait of Woman as an Artist (shown here) seems so real that I would not have felt much in the way of shock if the woman had come to life and handed it to me through the frame.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Khamel fixed my sister's computer

The hard drive on my sister's Mac went crunch. She keeps no back-up. I took it to my nearest internet cafe and Khamel saved the data and found a new hard drive.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

J.K.Rowling would like to read this...

The kind of review that would make any author's heart sing:
I love the authors writing style here. The sentences have a certain poetry to them and they read like silk. The descriptors that he uses fit the picture in my head so perfectly. His style of writing combined with his ability to describe pictures allows me to read this story so smoothly that I can see a movie instead of the words.

But it's mine, all mine, from a review of my story at The Enchanted Conversation 

Thank-you Adam B

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I grow tired of work, I grow more tired of rhyme
But barmaids make me happy all the time. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Young lovers

Based on a couple I saw on the street yesterday. Almost made me wish I was young again. Almost.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Forgetting myself

I was going through a draw of old poems when I came across this self portrait. I can't remember doing it, I don't believe I ever did anything in this style ever again. I can't remember why I did it.
I can recognise the time of my life it represents: when I worked as a silk-screenprinter in World's End, the bottom rung of Chelsea's King's Road. Another memory of that time survives in the poem I wrote about a colleague who had the misfortune to be schizophrenic.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guitar Magick

A friend, let us call him The Animated Man, shared this link to Captain Beefheart's 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing. It's intriguing in itself, even if, as one sourpuss in the comments there remarks, the Captain was not much of a guitar player himself. It's also a prompt to clear up a misapprehension about the indisputably excellent guitarist, Robert Johnson.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hear My Train a Comin’: Hendrix Hits London,

I finally made it to Hear My Train a Comin’: Hendrix Hits London, the exhibition at The Hospital Club on Endell Street in Covent Garden. Curated by EMP of Seattle, it celebrates Jimi Hendrix's time in London from September 1966 to June 1967 to mark what would have been the year of his seventieth birthday. On display are some of the best photographs from the time (I know I've seen them all) and artwork in the shape of record sleeves and posters, some of which I had never seen before. There are also videos installed showing interviews with contemporaries such as Robert Wyatt and Chris Squires as well as enthusiasts such as the great Bootsy Collins. Tickets from £5 from here. Residents of the London Borough of Camden are admitted free on Tuesday with proof of address. Until August 31st

My book Jimi Hendrix London is on sale there too. 

Jimi Hendrix: London (MusicPlace)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


The work of  Serg Shushyn a modern day ambrotypist. He works with the 19th Century wet collodion process - as did Lewis Carroll among others. An ambrotype is photographed onto a glass plate which has been coated with black varnish, so that the negative is the positive because the under exposed areas reveal the varnish. Development and fixing are done in the same way as the paper method which pre-dated glass plates and continued long after them. Unlike paper, a glass substrate has no grain, which allows a better capture of fine detail. How the images are digitalized I have no idea.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

from Mothering Sunday

And I thought of a woman so benign,
she lifted all wickedness from me,
a weight I did not know was mine
until her light fell on me.

Light indeed I felt at last,
ready to stand at my own height
before a smile which travelled fast
across the windless night.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Granny Takes A Trip

The site of the pyschedelic boutique Granny Takes A Trip on Chelsea's King's Road. When it was opened in 1966 by tailor John Pease and artist Nigel Waymouth this was at the unfashionable or Fulham end of the King's Road. The immediate neighbourhood remained pretty scuzzy for some while. When I used to walk past daily in 1980 the premises had become a fruit and vegetable shop. It still had its Granny Takes A Trip awning, which came down on rainy days.
More on psychedelic London in my book Jimi Hendrix: London (MusicPlace)

Friday, July 13, 2012


When we were children we all used to find pictures in things. The name for this phenomenon is pareidolia. It is the principle which causes people to discover the face of Jesus or Elvis within damp stains or on pieces of toast, and for us to be able to recognise them too, when they are pointed out to us. It is the principle through which I found the above face in a marble tile on my kitchen floor this morning.
I believe during the Renaissance finding pictures through pareidolia was part of an artist's training. As far as I know, no school of art uses the practice these days. Perhaps it has been forgotten. Or perhaps there is the deeper reason that our entire education system is founded on materialist principles, and Materialism finds Consciousness an embarrassment it cannot account for, so the method may have been as much discouraged as dropped.

Friday, June 29, 2012


There was once in my life a seedy pub, on a seedy street, which did not encourage strangers. The landlord was tired of it all, waiting for the brewery to bribe him to retire, and content with a customer base of half a dozen old men.
One of these old men was my Father, who was dying, so I went to the pub to try to encourage him to eat. The landlady was not jaded at all, and willing to cook lunches, in the unlikely event of her being asked to.  My Father had collapsed in mind and body after my Mother had died the year before. He would attempt a lamb chop with chips and peas if it was put in front of him.
Apart from my Father, the only other people who ate there were a pair of young secretaries from the law practice across the road. Every week day both of them would demolish an enormous lunch, each talking so furiously together it was hard to see where they found time to shovel their food in. It was a delight to witness such greed for life, under the circumstances.
What passing trade there was came in to use the pay-phone. It is hard to conceive of now that cell phones are ubiquitous how suddenly they have overwhelmed us and how recently it was that you had a home phone or nothing, and the people who had nothing thereabouts had to come in and boom their personal affairs across the empty saloon bar. One of the nick names the old regulars had for the pub was “the largest phone booth in London”.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Edvard Munch at Tate Modern

I don't care for Tate Modern all that much: with the crowds charging along the corridors it feels to me like an airport without aeroplanes. It seems to make plenty of other people happy and perhaps some of them, or most of them, find the metaphorical flights that I miss.
This summer Tate Modern hosts an exhibition of Edvard Munch's 20th Century Paintings (minus any versions of The Scream). One of the best exhibitions I have ever been to was a show of Munch at the National Gallery in 1995 (or thereabouts). It was one of the most emotionally charged spaces I have ever encountered.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Glenn Harlan Reynolds The Higher Education Bubble

A couple of months ago Glenn Reynolds mentioned my book on his world famous blog. Seems only fair to return the favour.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I still long to change the World, I'm still looking for new England

Suzanne Moore's column in G2 today reminded me of why I love both her and her writing.
Apparently there's an official London Olympics playlist. It has long struck me that if you are an international organisation which likes to descend on cities and tell everyone what to do, London is not the best city to descend on.
Never mind the bollocks, what I liked was Suzanne's evocation of Punk which we both lived through as teenagers.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How to cook a woman

More answers to Silly Questions.
You are the prisoner of a tribe of cannibals. What recipe would suit you best?

Salad!!!! Gulp!

lol. this is an awesome question..they should cook me in a great big pot with lots of veggies (carrots, potatos, celery..), some herbs and spices..i'd make a delicious!

Braised. I am tough.. followed by a rather tart lemon sorbet just  to kill the rather bitter taste.

I want to say that I'd make an awesome sorbet, because I like that idea, but realistically speaking, I think me-sorbet would be pretty disgusting. Okay, I'd like them to serve me in tacos, then. With salsa verde. And plenty of hot sauce. I like Chilango's.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Central Saint Martins Degree Shows 2012

I've just returned from the press preview of the Central Saint Martins Degee Shows 2012. Such clever (and beautiful) young people. It feels wrong to single out one artist from a dgeree show but it is impossible not to have have favourites and I was both impressed and moved by the paintings of Molly-Clare O'Donnell. This JPG taken from her website does not do full justice to the delicacy and subtlety of her work. The figurative elements of her paintings unfold themselves much more slowly when you view the actual painting.
The shows are open to the public over the next week: Friday, Monday and Wednesday 12 to 8pm, Saturday  and Thursday 12 to 6pm, closed Sunday, at the new  Central  Saint Martins building, 1 Granary Square, King's Cross, N1C 4AA.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Genius of Mees-Hell Sang

Painter and photographer, Polish born, London based, Mees-Hell Sang has an issue of HorrorZine dedicated to her work. Go and enjoy

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gerry Judah's The Crusader

When I arrived for 7.30am Mass this morning, I found Gerry Judah's fibreglass sculpture The Crusader is now installed at the back of my parish church. The version is different from the larger version shown here (and originally commissioned for the Imperial War Museum North). This version is smaller and in a ferric red which tones in well with the Victorian brickwork of William Butterfield.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Larkin and Hitchens: Two unpopular Englishmen

Over at the National Review Peter Hitchens writes about the Collected Poems of Philip Larkin.
It's an inspired commission on somebody's part because the reputations of both men lie under the shadow of the disapproval of received opinion.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kestrels on Hampstead Heath

I photographed this young male close to the tumulus (sometimes called Boudicca's Mound) just after sunrise a few summers ago. I used it as the cover for my poetry collection.
The poem below is about another occasion.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jimi Hendrix at the Saville Theatre

The Saville Theatre, photographed here on a gloomy December afternoon, is a cinema now. Forty-five years ago this weekend, on a bright June evening it hosted ten minutes of Rock And Roll History.
Even in the Swinging London of 1967 puritan shadows still flickered around Sundays. During the week The Saville Theatre was a comedy theatre. That summer Spike Milligan was in a one man show there, but on Sundays the Saville was dark, like every Theatre along London's Shaftesbury Avenue.
Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager had taken out a lease on The Saville, as one of his many interests, and used the empty Sunday nights for pop concerts. On Sunday June 4th the auditorium was flooded with famous faces: all four Beatles were there, Eric Clapton and Lulu among many others. Everyone who was anyone had come to hear The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Witch or Fairy?

More answers from silly questions answered by random women. Full explanation here
Would your rather be a witch or a fairy for a day?

A witch! There are some politicians in this country who would become the literal toads they are.

A fairy. Fairies get to fly around, pull pranks, and attend all sorts of fairy bacchanalia. Witches simply play around with brooms, construct houses out of baked goods, and stir huge cauldrons of mysterious mixtures. Sounds like a drearily domestic lot, I'd say. 

Monday, May 28, 2012


.. hit you with a flower....

Waiting for a client to call,  so I've been playing with blender 3D software.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mountain Music

I have always loved Mountain Music, the music of Applalachia, since before I had even heard it. There are some things written on our heart when we are born, if not even further back.
For me the magic of You Tube is to be able to wander its cyber backroads and discover performances like this.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Life Class

I’ve not had many art lessons. The two classes I took with Meriel Gold in the village hall in Froyle, deep in the Hampshire downs were by far the best.
Meriel Gold studied with Cecil Collins. At the turn of the 1960s and 1970s, Cecil Collins, by all accounts a sweet natured and gentle man best known for his mystical landscapes, invented a revolutionary way of teaching art. His methods were so bizarre, even by the relaxed standards of the time, that the Central School of Art in London fired him. His students protested and in those days people took student protests more seriously than they do now, so Cecil Collins was reinstated.

Poetry elsewhere

The wonderful and very overlooked Edna St Vincent Millay over at Maggie's Farm

Thursday, May 24, 2012

When all you have is a pencil, every problem looks like a Picasso

My friend Alison went to the Picasso exhibition in Toronto and she mailed me a book of postcards because she knew they would inspire me. I love Picasso.

There is a famous quotation: "It took me four years to learn to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to learn to paint like a child." There was one hot summer about ten years ago and the only cool room where I was living was the kitchen, so I spent all day there, working on a set of pastels surrounded by the children's drawings tacked up to the wall. I learned something of how to draw like a child.

Ad break

A busy day, so I'll take a break to plug my book. Actually this review on sums it up better than I ever have.

This is a wonderful collection of short stories, each different, set all over the world and at all different times. All the stories are framed by Leah and her house, and by discussions with the people she tells the stories to. But the stories are not constrained by a particular genre or style; each is interesting in its own way. Not a word is wasted, but there is plenty of room for musing and enjoyment. "It is exciting to get presents," and this collection is a box full of little gifts.

Thank-you Mo Brien
On here and for British readers here

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kierkegaarde's Grave

The family grave where Søren Kierkegaard is buried. 

Photographed for me by the singer-songwriter Billie Jensen. She doesn't have a website, so instead of a link there's a pencil sketch of her below the fold.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An illustrated story

Just published at Storm Books, an illustrated version of my story The White Marriage. The visuals are by Jessie Dunlop, The above picture is just one of the drafts, the final result is stunning. Click here for the.pdf, it's free.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jurgen - A Comedy of Justice

A 40 year old poet running simultaneously to fat and seed suddenly finds himself in the body of his 19 self. The immediate advantage is that he can seduce any woman he comes across, without trying, and sometimes even against his will, So Jurgen, the eponymous hero of the novel by James Branch Cabell is both driven and chased on a knight's quest through a variety of mythological worlds including versions of Heaven and Hell, until he becomes disenchanted with his enchanted existence and gratefully seizes to the opportunity to return to his natural body and his shrewish wife.
First published in 1919, Jurgen was a hit of the jazz age, its popularity boosted by a prosecution by the New York Society For The Prevention Of Vice. Its reputation popped with the stock market bubble and when James Branch Cabell died in 1958 both he and his masterpiece were long forgotten.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


"Sunday should be different from another day. People may walk, but not throw stones at birds."
Samuel Johnson.

Contemplative music from Carla Bley's Big Band

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Morning Glory

A happy find in my local Books For Change: Lyrics from the Chinese by Helen Waddell, and signed by her. When I found it I was taken aback. I knew her as an authority on Mediaeval Latin. Her book The Wandering Scholars is both enlightening and delightful, how impressive that she was equally at home with Ancient Chinese? Some research revealed that although she was born in Japan, the daughter of missionaries, these poems are her careful interpretations of literal translations.
She died in the Whittington Hospital in Highgate, London, close to where I live, and this copy of her book has come to me from her hand to my hand.
This poem is 3,000 years old.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Emotional content

A journalist friend has a fb status asking us who our cinema heroes were when we were teenagers. She's writng an article about The Hunger Games apparently. As some of us have replied, cinema was not a big thing for teenagers in the 1970s. Like the music of the time, movies were aimed at young adults who were the people with disposable incomes in those days.
I quite liked young adult cinema but the passion I shared with my friends was for the films of Bruce Lee. Passion is the right word too, I felt them.In the above clip Bruce Lee sums up his own appeal very well: he had emotional content. What he achieved was not just physically impressive it was beautiful.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What was your worst experience as a waitress?

A few years ago I invented an entertaining game for myself. Craigslist was an open highway then, and I would post a list of questions in the m4w personals across the USA, and all over the world and see who responded. I think I might have been the first person to do this, but there is nothing like the internet to undermine a person's sense of originality. I was certainly the most prolific. Here are some of the answers to one of the questions.
What was your worst experience as a waitress?

I grew up in a restaurant and I think being robbed was the worst

a guy asking for my number and leaving me a shitty tip

Man Alive

This is the Centenary year of G. K. Chesterton’s novel Man Alive!, an early satire on Social Science, and a philosophical romance. Chesterton was born in London in 1874 at the very beginning of our modern world. He appeared simultaneously with domestic electricity and mass communication. He was to become the modern world’s first critic. Between 1904 and 1914 he published five fantastic, as opposed to fantasy novels (including The Flying Inn). They begin in our familiar world which is then stretched preposterously with an eerie logic. Chesterton is a novelist of ideas, and, like a classic sci-fi writer, asks what would happen if a concept was followed through to its conclusion. The result is usually both absurd and dangerous, all the more so if the concept was originally rational and well intentioned.
Of the fantastic novels The Man Who Was Thursday has become a classic, while the other four have dropped from sight. Novels of ideas are traditonally gloomy and introspective. Since Psychology was one of the new schools of thought Chesterton refused to believe in, his are exhuberant. Nevertheless in Innocent Smith, the childish madman protagonist of Man Alive there is something of a self-portrait that is more revealing of Chesterton than even his Autobiography. Man Alive at project Gutenberg.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vile May

Rain and hail bouncing off the window. Here is a May Song from my poetry collection Mothering Sunday

When I lived in London
I believed in True Love
and the passions of youth
ran warm through my blood
my arms were wide open
my heart was my Crown
my feet were quicksilver
and I sang through the town.

When May comes to London
light hums in the air
and blossoms burst out
in the parks and the squares
dawn comes by surprise
moist with soft rain
and the rain makes the city
sparkle again.

The heart has its summer
and its autumn days too
the dusk sinks from nowhere
and drives out the blue
eyes full of thunder
which were driving me mad
are clouded and secret
and make me feel sad

I'm sailing down South
where the sea it is blue
where the weather is warm
and the fishes fly too
goodbye to you sweetheart
with nothing to say
goodbye to the rain
and goodbye to the grey

Smoking waitress