Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Poppies and Pumpkins

Slightly ironic that these things seem to come to my attention at the same time every year and I'm surprised to see them both even though I know the dates.

There's no real link in my mind or this post except that.

I wanted to write a short post today; partly because I think I'm finally getting into this blogging lark and partly because at the moment I only have 46 views of this blog and 2 followers and I would like to be marginally more popular. My ego is suffering.
So, Poppies. Hands down one of the most important charities in my opinion. Seeing them scattered over jackets and coats of various people I pass on the street and are squashed against on the tube makes me happy. I like that people can still be united in care about something. Though at school, and at particular places I've worked, being seen without one was disciplined severely. I don't like that. It just makes people resent them and forget what they stand for.
I myself tend to lose every Poppy I buy, so I buy another and another until I have lonely pins in all my jackets and I eventually find the little red blighters sadly squashed in various places around December. My friend and I are thinking of volunteering to sell them this year. I hope it's not to late.
I will also be opening my war poetry volume and remembering with others' words.

Pumpkin-wise, I have to confess to being a bit of a Halloween fan. It is the only time of year that other people indulge in my love of the magical. I love to carve pumpkins and to see them glowing on doorsteps, though these days it is likely that some kid with an ASBO would probably nick it and throw it at a passing car.
I also love dressing up. Becoming something fantastical for the night and its the only time really you can really push the fashion boundaries. This year I had the great idea of going to a party as Medusa. I was even going to buy those bright green coloured contact lenses. But I've just found out the theme is gore. Any suggestions?

Anyway, I hope that there is plenty of treats and no tricks for all of you out there this Halloween.

Image (c)

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Question Time and The Museum of Everything...

Last week I had a day which really made me think. Not a big surprise really, considering that most days I manage to overwhelm my brain with thoughts so frequent and varied that I'm often surprised that I'm not in a mental institute. However, these particular thoughts were more lucid and seemed to fit to a certain theme so I wanted to blog about it.

Of course, because of who I am, it has taken me four days to get round to it. It all started a few weeks ago when I received my posterous subscription from India Knight's page and found out about The Museum of Everything. I wanted to go immediately and the quirky website convinced me further but I only got round to going last week as I wanted my artist friend to come with me and she's always so busy working waitressing jobs. Eventually I gave up on Artist Friend and instead took Photographer Friend, a fashion fiend who I thought would also be a good option. Incidentally turned out not. Though an artistic person, she's also pretty conventional and had dislikes the pretentiousness of art - specially the modern kind. I think she switched off as soon as she saw the placards in the museum which were written by various eminent persons who were advocating each artist and did have an air of the consciously-culturefull about them. (and yes that is a new compound adjective- I love them and inventing new ones)

I loved the museum. It was not so much the art in it, though among the pieces were some beauties, but what it represented. Diversity, value in craft, in time and in hobbies and beauty in the everyday object. The pieces had been collected from far and wide from the attics and kitchens, cupboards under the stairs and garden sheds of the world. Made by old men, madmen, those with genetic disorders, middle-aged women, nuns, priests, the strange, the gifted, black, white, brown, yellow, cream, beige and everything in between. Yes these pieces might have been levered into the spotlight by some accepted notable figures, but they were shown. Yes, they may have been shown in a warehouse building in the typically more accepting North London but it was a stones throw from Regents Park and the leafy suburbs where a certain Hamlet-player surely copulated with the Nanny. They were shown and accepted and praised. From Nek Chand, with his life-size mosaic sculptures from the mountain rock garden of Chandigarh to the Nebraskan farmer Emery Blagdon who made recycled wire mobiles which he believed possessed healing powers. Much of it was odd and some a little discomforting; the religious connotations behind some of the work seemed to me, a young person raised in a time where religion has only really meant war or Christmas trees and paper-mache angels, a little unnerving.

However, above all, this exhibition gave me hope. Hope, not for the world; that is a tad idealistic even for me, but for the art world which has recently been so often an elite club where a few men's interest means money, party invites and controversy.

I left upbeat if a little confused.

I went on to a coffee on Primrose Hill where despite my epiphany I would not have been sad to catch a glimpse of a dishevelled Jude Law and then on to my Shorthand Class.

Shorthand, I can tell is going to be the bain of my life. As a mild dyslexic and someone who did not take easily to either driving or playing piano, I knew I would find it difficult. Apparently though, my ability to chatter in French, which I thought might be my saving grace is really no help at all. I struggled. It simply does not come naturally to me and seeing some of my favourite words squashed and forced to fit into a text speak stereotype only worsened the situation. I am already sure that the only way I will ever get it will be if I practise everyday. Yawn.

However it is not Shorthand that I wish to talk about in conjunction with The Museum of Everything, though its selectiveness when it comes to letters does sort of link with what I do wish to talk about; the BNP, Nick Griffin and Question Time.

My Irish Shorthand teacher, who incidentally is far from what I had imagined a Shorthand teacher to be, having the typical Irish hedonism that renders them so attractive. Anyway Irish Teacher asked us all if we planned to watch Question Time and I and most others rather emphatically said we were. He did not seem pleased and seemed to think that his not-watching would make the point of his distaste. However he did not persuade me. Despite my reservations that the BBC should not have given The Vile Man the honour of appearing on Question Time; a program which I believe is an honour to be asked on, as it suggests you have an opinion that people are interested in.

And do you know what...

Watching The Vile Man made me feel sad. Sad, yes that this country is in such a state that Britons feel it necessary to vote for The Vile Man's party. However mostly sad for The Vile Man himself. He is a disgusting, racist sexist. However, what is he shutting himself off from in being this person is far worse. He will not accept multiculturalism, different races or different people. Therefore he has closed himself off to so much. As he blathered and stuttered through his answers only pausing to chuckle haughtily; presumably to give the illusion of comfort and control of the situation, I cringed.

This man will never be happy. This man has closed himself off to really seeing the world and will miss so many of the incredible things it has to offer because of it.

The Museum of Everything encourages individuality and undiscovered talent and mainly the cosmopolitan. Nick Griffin has and is none of these, just a small-minded man who will never understand how wonderful humanity is.

Was that a little corny, do you think?

>>Please excuse my bad punctuation and grammar if you spot any, it is almost 2am and I slept not one hour last night<<
Image of Museum of Everything (c) Sarah Hartwell

Monday, 19 October 2009

Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit - The Unedited Version

So, the wonderful London Word website that occasionally publishes my musings has posted my latest review on their site.
Here it is.

It is however heavily edited which I do not blame them for at all as I do tend to be far too rambling and artistic and I was supposed to be reviewing a band and not talking about myself. However, I was quite proud of my original version so I'm posting it up here.

I hope you all enjoy it. May I take this time to say as well that if anyone gets the chance to go and see Johnny Flynn, do. He's a wonderful musician and very handsome to boot.

Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit for Transgressive Records 5th Anniversary at Union Chapel, Islington

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I am not “cool” in the sense which the compact Oxford Online Dictionary defines as “fashionably attractive or impressive (informal)”. To be more specific, I can hold my own in some circles. I do alright in the snotty nightclubs of SW and W London and I’m eccentric enough to fit into artsy circles, but amongst a folksy crowd well versed in alternative music and unknown bands, at a small, Islington venue; not-so-much.

I discovered the modern folk scene about two years ago and grew to love many artists under that casual descriptive-umbrella; adding track after track to my I pod where they lived amongst embarrassing company. However it was only when I heard Johnny Flynn that I felt enamoured enough to stray from my comfort zone and go to a live gig.

So that is what I did on Saturday 26th September. I dragged a friend with me who had no idea who we were going to see and actually favours rap music and electro- R&B despite her plummy tones and Surrey highlights. I also went with, wait for it, my mother and her friend. Perhaps this is not going to score me any rebellious, bohemian youth points, but she appreciates good music and is actually I think, more hip than me. So there we were an unlikely group pitching up at Union Chapel three hours late for the Transgressive Records 5th Anniversary Concert. We missed several of the other acts which was disappointing as I did have a hankering to see Jeremy Warmsley, who is a new favourite. We were far from inconspicuous as we arrived in the middle of Graham Coxon’s set and I began to wish at this stage that despite my later plans to go to a club, I had not worn a sequinned dress which reflected every light and rendered me a human glitter ball.

I won’t spend much time on Graham Coxon; he was disappointing and this view was held by others who are much more knowledgeable than me. His between song banter was quite funny, but I still miss Blur.

We managed to fit in a very quick bottle of wine in the bar before Johnny came on which gave me a chance to scope out the audience who seemed to me to be entirely made-up of long-haired, pouting, beautiful boys in holey jumpers. Having a weakness for these sorts anyway I couldn’t help but stare.

However, they were quickly forgotten when Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit – his eclectic and talented band took to the stage. Starting with Cold Bread, a favourite of mine, he was enthralling from the start. His songs are poetic and are Shakespeare crossed with Wilde with a nod to Bob Dylan. Live they’re even better, as his vocals are strong and smoky and seem both far beyond his years and time and full of youthful effortlessness. He’s multi-talented is Flynn as backed by his talented band he himself switched his instruments with ease playing banjo, mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar, violin and trumpet. His voice was never lost in the venue and rung out clearly, eerily transporting me to another time, though which, I could not say.

His songs Leftovers and The Box, two of my prior favourites and perhaps his most well-known got the most vociferous reception from the admiring, but generally still crowd. However it was The Wrote and The Writ, a song that seemed to chastise all the writers and poets among us that can only express ourselves on paper and not in reality that has since been repeating on my ipod.

After leaving the stage he came back for an encore singing one song alone on his acoustic guitar; a new one, not fully-formed but beautiful none the less. Then the band came back for a rousing performance of Tickle Me Pink, another great number filled with Flynn’s pretty but sometimes confusing poetry.

I left in a dream-like state and with, I’m not ashamed to admit it, a total crush which is often the result when I see or meet the talented. My companions were similarly glazed. However my flutterings aside, go and see Flynn and his Sussex Wit now, before they become well-known. I have no doubt that they will.

Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit can be found at

or at Transgressive Records

Their debut LP A Larum is out now in all good record stores.

(Image Copyright: Stacy Liu: