Sitting and listening to music. I do more of that now than for ages.
We have a 1960s stereogram, mocked by some in the past – you know who you are – but now declared an impressive feature because vinyl is so frigging trendy again. A wooden coffin on legs, it cost ten pounds nearly twenty years ago, going strong in 2015 (and for £375 in some shops – get us).
Vinyl is fashionable now and the ultimate sound carrier.
Only it isn’t.
Sound carrier snobbery is an odd little hobby to have, one I don’t have time for. Life is too short.
I like a vinyl record because I know it will be there forever. When I buy an LP it will live in my house with me. There is no subsequent home for records I buy. They’re a love match, always. They won’t break if I handle them with careful fingers, which I do.
CDs from 1980s and later are deteriorating now, tape cassettes tangle, MP3s are nice but they give me nothing to hold. So problematic, each; but the sound quality of one is no better than the others, vinyl included, for at home listening; not if you care for them properly. Whoever says different is wrong and selling you a hipster authenticity lie. Don’t listen to them. You’ll feel all the better for it.
I don’t use music as background noise. I don’t jog with it on earphones (I don’t jog at all, but you get my drift), I write in silence now because instead I start humming and go off on a tangent. I like my vinyl in the evenings and early mornings, so I can listen and appreciate better, sit down with a cuppa tea of glass of something, and enjoy. You may be different and that’s okay, listening rules are just silly. There are so many rules now to everything, we’re best ignoring them. It’s less stressful that way.
Last week we went to a new thing at Liverpool’s Metal – cute rooms (with an Aga!) at Edge Hill railway station just outside the city centre. Vinyl Station is held each month. You sit with local music lovers in companionable silence with a cuppa tea or glass of something (I lead, others follow; what can I say?) and listen to a brand new album. When it’s finished playing and only then, we talk about the record.
The best idea I’ve heard for such a long time, a sweet evening. They played Hooton Tennis Club’s debut LP ‘Highest Point In Cliff Town’ this month, I really liked it, I have both their 7” singles already. Not many other people loved the album quite as much, but not everyone can have my exceptional taste, can they?
And do you know what, that’s ok. If we all liked the same thing, how crashingly dull would everything be? Looking forward to next month already.
“There’s no such thing as seagulls, they’re gulls.”
I’m told this a lot but I’m from a village in Lancashire on the rural–urban cusp, it’s not one thing or the other, no discernible identity but dull and unsexy instead, a tired sparrow’s wing of a place. I didn’t see seagulls as I grew up, so to me they mean the sea and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, pirates, journeys across the globe, adventure, birds carrying the souls of dead sailors and pursuing dreams cut short. In Lancashire there is no sea and instead ponds of gloomy black water solid with tadpoles in spring, but the rest of the year? Nothing.
I left Lancashire behind years ago and last month I was sat outside a Liverpool city centre pub drinking beer in the sunshine on a Saturday night watching two seagulls have fisticuffs over a discarded Happy Meal. It all felt very British and unapologetically northern, two lads squaring up to each other, chests stuck out, alpha males scrapping, each appalled at the affront of the other as they danced straight faced, yellow eyes unblinking, long curved scythe beaks jabbing the air. Those birds mean business; mean business.
I was at a gig in a flat nearby a few weeks before, three floors up on a warm evening, the windows open, you could see for miles, a lighthouse view of the city. The singers sang and played, the Anglican Cathedral chimed bells prettily, the seagulls flying overhead guffawing (or so it seemed to me). It was a very Liverpool night, the gulls and church bells stamping their own identity on it and making it theirs – and ours. The mix of people in the flat, the music, the ambience outside; it couldn’t happen anywhere else and was as romantic as Liverpool has ever been. It was beautiful.
Then two of the seagulls start shagging on the roof above our heads. It killed a part of me, a little bit; lowered the tone, at least.
But seagulls, I like them. I always vouch for the underdog, I can’t help it, and there’s so much anti-seagull propaganda and rhetoric now; seagulls are yanked down to the lowly level of asylum seekers and “that bloke down the road who’s never worked in his life, the arsehole”.
Nicked my chips once, the cheeky sods just swooped down.
They shit a lot, why don’t they ever stop shitting?
A seagull ate my hamster.
We’re dancing into David Cameron territory here, happily and easily, with immaculate quick step, in perfect time. Swarms of seagulls could be a thing if we try hard enough, with walls at Calais keeping them out. If only they were born as Zimbabwean lions with nerdy British sounding names, they’d be golden. As it stands, the anti-seagull brigade would wring Jonathan Livingston-Liverpool Seagull’s neck and stick him in an artisan pie with a craft beer brewed especially to match. Familiarity and shagging above peoples’ heads, it breeds contempt, that’s the seagulls’ problem. Maybe they need to make themselves a bit scarcer? Develop a less rustic palate, shift from junk food to quinoa, chia seeds? Go all hipster and authentic, rebrand themselves as gulls? People would fall for that.
In case you’re wondering, the fighting seagulls warring over the Happy Meal on that Saturday night, neither won. A patient pigeon sneaked in and scoffed the burger and chips while they flapped their wings at each other. There’s a lesson in there somewhere I think; for the seagulls and us.
(One thing I do know, experience dictates it, that the odds are both are sure to have got laid later on).
In Glasgow last weekend, on advice of Mslexia’s Little Ms, I went to Glasgow Women’s Library to see the Femme Fatales and Fragile Frails – Women In Pulp Fiction exhibition. Donna Moore, curator of the exhibition, showed us books and artwork and gave us some background. There’s so much for me to learn about the genre. I had no idea the early books featuring lesbian characters and storylines were marketed at men, for example; I believe the term “one handed read” might be appropriate.
We were given tea and biscuits, chatted to Donna and colleague for a while about book themes, how they changed over the decades and how the covers of pulp fiction books are the finest – the drawings are so damn sexy (all the broads have great racks).
The best “OMG! I think I follow you on Twitter” moment in the world ever came next, when Donna and I realised we knew each other (virtually, that is). Serendipity at its finest – I’m miles away from home, in another country, and stumble upon a kindred spirit.
The Femme Fatales and Fragile Frails exhibition is on all month, and you can try your hand at writing some pulp fiction while you’re there. Oh, and they make the loveliest tea and serve very nice biscuits; always a plus.
“Sorry to ask because I know how busy you are and how hard you work…”
An email I got last week, asking for a favour. I bit my lip and paused before replying. It’s the way to praise people now, isn’t it? Wow at how busy they are, and compliment them on work ethic, because hardworking is the only thing to be.
In paid employment, we sell our labour for money. The jobs I’ve done over the years have been wide ranging, schizophrenic almost. In alphabetical order they are:
Carer for family member
Cleaner in a private home
Cleaner in a residential home for the elderly
Cleaner in student accommodation
Manager at radio station
Radio talking head
Supply teacher at secondary school
Teaching assistant at secondary school
Tutor for disadvantaged young people
Tutor for knitting group
Writer of fact
Writer of fiction
Sometimes I am well rewarded for my labour, other times not so much. For me, some jobs are physically tiring or leave me with a tension headache; some I dread, and a number I enjoy. It’s a mixed bag. I’m a writer; I end up doing all manner of things on top, but in all of these jobs, I’ve worked at pretty much the same pace. There’s no working hard at one and sitting with feet up in another.
We’re told aren’t we, that if we work hard we’ll be prosperous, that’s the golden rule. Work will set you free, you’ll earn money to put food on the table and a roof over your head, all the clichés, work hard and everything will be fine.
But it’s not, is it? Everything isn’t fine, not at all.
I’m hearing more and more of friends in financial dire straits, homes with two incomes, it’s just not happening, the work hard and you’ll be ok thing. They say they’re lucky to have a job, fortunate for somewhere to live, pleased to be eating and having water in the tap to drink and wash with.
No, they are not lucky. You are not lucky. I am not lucky. We are not lucky. It’s our right to have a good and comfortable life no matter what, and we’ve forgotten that.
The hard working label is a myth. It doesn’t mean anything. How do we measure it, how hard we work? By how many hours we work? How much sweat is squeezed from our pores? How much our muscles ache? How exhausted we are at the end of a shift? By measuring how much we dislike our jobs? Because surely, if we enjoy our jobs then it can’t be work and we can’t be working hard. Do we measure it by how much coffee we have to drink (because we’ll collapse of exhaustion otherwise)?
What rubbish. No one is working harder than anyone else. We all work roughly the same but rewarded differently. We need to get our heads around that. People who work harder don’t get rewarded more. The person with the biggest car, house or shinier shoes and who goes on the poshest holiday doesn’t work harder than the one who scours the bargain shelf at the supermarket, or who shuttles from shop to shop sniffing out the bargains.
And it is not just those in paid employment. Disabled people can find it takes as much effort to get through the day as it does for someone else to teach a classroom of boisterous children over the same hours. Stay at home parents with children, the same. Unemployed people go through horrors at the job centre, forced to apply for jobs they’re never going to get, Kafkaesque job interviews where the vacancy is already filled, stress levels at the max, dodging sanctions. If that’s not hard work, I don’t know what is.
But still we all must stress how hard we work. Hard work is a virtue; work is the new god, one we must worship 24/7, because if we don’t we’re shirkers, or worse – heaven forbid – not hardworking. Hard working is the thing to be, the ideal to strive for. If we’re not exhausted at the end of the day, then how can we have been working hard?
We believe the hard work rhetoric, that if we work hard we get to have nice things. And those who don’t work hard? They deserve nothing, and if they have nice things, then that’s just not right.
Everyone does it, goes on about their own hard work. Everyone. Even if you don’t think you do, watch yourself. At some point it’s slipped out, your mouth forming the words before your brain catches up and chastises you. Sedentary workers stress coffee on an IV drip to survive an exhausting day. “NEED COFFEE NOW!” No wonder Starbucks do so well.
The unemployed are forced to plead how hard they are working to try and find a job. Hardworking families, hardworking tax payers… Being hard working makes us righteous, indignant, angry, part of the hard working good; better than those who are not. The lazy, the workshy, the idle bastards, they mean us harm. And if we’re working hard and still skint then it’s our own fault. It must be.
We’ve been sold a lie. The lie that if we work hard then we get the good stuff, that if we do the right thing – whatever that means – we’ll be ok, and that if we don’t do the right thing, we deserve our poverty.
We’ve been fed the lie and we suckle it up, guzzle it, smacking our lips in approval afterwards. Yes, we’ve been flogged a lie, alright. Though few of us can afford it, it’s one we’re more than happy to buy.
It’s not as naughty as it sounds and perfectly legal, but still secret.
Each month or six weeks I get an email telling me “you’re in!” and to expect further communication soon. Sure enough it arrives, 24 hours before the event, instructions where to go and at what time. And to bring a bottle of something refreshing.
What I’m not told is why I’m there and what is going to happen to me.
Actually, that last line isn’t quite true…
Sofar Sounds is a worldwide phenomenon, people arranging secret concerts in unconventional places, typically residential homes. What the audience is not told is who will be performing on the actual night, in fact we don’t know that until they take to the stage (or living room floor); it could be a name you’re familiar with or someone brand new. The need for respect and trust, no leaking of addresses or locations, makes it kinda sexy, with a rent party vibe. Some Sofar Sounds are free, others you chuck in a few bob and the cash goes to the artists.
Saturday’s Liverpool Sofar was at a new venue/café/art space in the city centre, The Well Space. And it was brilliant! My favourites – singer songwriter Esme Bridie, and R&B soul singer Jálen N’Gonda.
Our first time in The Well Space – tucked away in a quiet corner in town on Roscoe Street, and it has a library too.
I love initiatives like Sofar Sounds, so positive and very creative.
(My secret is now out, I hope you’re not too shocked. More on Sofar Sounds here)
I hear this, all the time. Everyone knows everyone else, and if you don’t, you know their mum. There’s an essential noseyness in the blood. I like that. It means you can walk through town anytime and see a familiar face (or their mum’s).
I went to Liverpool author Amanda Brooke’s launch party for The Missing Husband, her brand new novel, on Thursday last at Waterstones in Liverpool ONE. As ever, because it’s Liverpool, I end up talking to people I know, lots of them.
Ahh! You’re here too!
None of them writing people, just folk I know. It’s a joy. A grand evening of wine and words.
I stumbled onto the wonder that is Fleabay, online classifieds. The working class equivalent of vintage, no recycled or pre-loved monikers to soften the blow, no Saturday morning traipse around the charity shops. Fleabay is second hand – or die trying. It sells everything. A collection of shoes, sizes three to nine (how many people are in your family, exactly? And why so many feet?), drum kit (“played once”), One Direction duvet set (“daughter scared of it”).
On Fleabay, I see a Superwoman dress. It’s in my size.
A noisy thing, primary colours shouting, Superwoman logo printed on plasticky cloth, belt drawn on, it has a suspicious shine. It’s a second skin, clinging over breasts, hips and bottom, no cute nipping in at the waist, no flared skirt to hide a pot belly. A squeeze-into frock with hem mid-thigh on the shortest of women (a knicker-skimmer on me) – and like Fleabay, irony free. I just know the belt will ride up, printed on belts never stay where they’re meant to, inching northwards with every breath. I know it will look awful on me, unflattering, and yet…
A few months ago I read Shelley Harris’ magnificent novel Vigilante. Harris’ heroine, ignored by her family and husband and the world, fashions herself a superhero costume, goes out at night and fights crime. It’s the best feminist novel I’ve read since Nina De La Mer’s Layla.
While I read it, I was like, “every woman needs to read this”.
“Ok,” said my husband, not listening. “I will, sometime.”
“Hell, that’s an idea! Every MAN needs to read this!”
The idea of a woman gone invisible to the world restoring justice and her sense of self is fucking brilliant. So now, post-Vigilante, I’m looking at this dress on Fleabay and I‘m wondering, dreaming.
The dress is only a fiver. I could hang it in the wardrobe and look at it. I’ll know it’s there, just in case. In case I need to wear it and sort out the world. I like this, the way I’m thinking now.
But the dress has no cape. Super heroines need a cape. Everybody knows that. A super heroine without a cape won’t fly.
I eye up the curtains in the spare bedroom and wonder what could be.