Friday, November 30, 2007

Dishwasher Blues

I'm supposed to be emptying the dishwasher. This is fact. Instead I'm sat here pontificating on the vagrancies of life and why the hell I never take a brolly with me when rain is forecast. I'm sporting the 'drowned rat' look right now, which is always appealling.

In today's mini-research session I've been thinking about Aesop's Fables. A charming young lad called Scott once cycled eighteen miles from South Shields to Blaydon to give me a copy of this when I was twenty year old hairspray harpy. I chose Chris over him (I'm shallow - Chris drove a tank, that was far more impressive than a poxy racing bike...) but I still have the book. There is a complete website dedicated to the Fables, which differentiates between tales, parables and fables:

'The tale, the Parable, and the Fable are all common and popular modes of conveying instruction. Each is distinguished by its own special characteristics. The Tale consists simply in the narration of a story either founded on facts, or created solely by the imagination, and not necessarily associated with the teaching of any moral lesson. The Parable is the designed use of language intended to convey a hidden and secret meaning other than that contained in the words themselves. The Fable partly agrees with, and partly differs from both of these. It will contain, like the Tale, a short but real narrative; it will seek, like the Parable, to convey a hidden meaning, and that not so much by the use of language, as by the skillful introduction of fictitious characters; and yet unlike to either Tale or Parable, it will ever keep in view, as its high prerogative, and inseparable attribute, the great purpose of instruction, and will necessarily seek to inculcate some moral maxim, social duty, or political truth.'

Crivens! I never realised that fables were such moral beasts. Perhaps the lovely mop headed Scott saw through my superficial choco-munching goth facade and decided I was much in need of moral instruction. I decided that my moral compass needed resetting and therefore I currently have the rather lovely book he gave me on my knee, deciding to trust to whatever page it fell open at. Well, it would be the wine fable now wouldn't it? Deep and meaningful my giddy aunt:

The Old Woman and the Wine Jar

An old woman once found
A wine jar lying on the ground
But though it had been drained
The fragrance of the lees that still remained,
When she sniffed was so fine
That she exclaimed, 'What a wonderful wine
You must have contained
If its ghost smells so divine'

Apparently the hidden meaning of this story is 'the memory of a good deed lives'. And so this tale comes full circle, because I still remember Scott. And I still wonder which direction that parallel path would have taken me down if I'd chosen him and not the tank driving Kiefer alike Chris (although to be fair, I did get handcuffed to Chris for two hours at a party and there was really nothing better to do...)

Today we are mostly...reading 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova (100 pages in and liking so far though Amazon reviewers have been unkind), listening to Girls Aloud (I really got over my pop shame in my old age, now didn't I!?), looking forward to the cultural desert that is the final of 'I'm a Celebrity', mourning the fact I am not allowed any alcohol until I've seen the doc on Monday. Pah!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ray of Light

It's been a good day. I am a smug git who has completed their Christmas shopping. I have discovered a new second hand book shop within ten minutes walking distance of my house that is charging so little for their quality books I almost felt sorry enough to tell them. But not quite. As I was on shank's pony I contented myself with three large hardbacks and three softbacks, plus a cd. I will be returning. Three lovely books on British history, one on the history of cartography, Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Garth Nix's Mr Monday. For a whole ten pounds (twenty US dollars)!!! BARGAIN!

Still happiness does not good blogging make so I'm dedicating today's post to the angst speckled diary of my sixteen year old self. I was a teenage goth - crimped hair, fishnets, a crucifix the size of a small pony and my beautiful kitten heeled goth boots with six little skulls buckling either side. Purrrrrr! I came across this when hunting my brother's school reports for my niece. It makes very funny reading (to me) full of 'bizarre love triangles' (I loved New Order and our lives were full of apparent romantic conundrums). I obviously had a mania for writing lists then as well, because there are the top five gorgeous men, top tunes etc etc. I understand Robert Smith's inclusion, Ian McCulloch (Echo & the Bunnymen) topped every weekly poll for two years but then I saw I'd included Griff Rhys Jones, bookish big chinned and serious chappie. I can appreciate him now but bloody hell I was only sixteen...did I have no life?! Was this the pattern forming for two distinct sets of men in my life - the nerds versus the rockers? Anyway, please compare and contrast...


Ian Mac (Still lush)

Anyway, I Tunes must be tapping into the nostalgic mood here in Whitley central because it just randomly started playing the Sisters of Mercy. Which is fine because they are one of the eighties bands I'll happily admit to liking. However, reminising with P the other day about Christmas reminded me of the bands I secretly liked but didn't dare admit to because it wasn't cool. So here for old times sake are the five worst bands of the eighties and yes, I really, really loved them:

  • Spandau Ballet. My first ever proper concert (I'm not including the Spinners). I was totally smitten with their smooth saxophone playing Steve Norman. Their faux-soul was music to my ears and I warbled 'I'll Fly for You' with gusto and apparent lack of irony over Mr McCulloch

  • Banarama. Oh, the Stock, Aitkin and Waterman PLC! Reviving the Narna brand with catchy tunes like Venus for all us teen non-rebels. We used to dance around Angela's bedroom warbling this at the top of our lungs whilst she applied orange fake tan. Which was always a bad move.

  • Duran Duran. I used to think lyrics to songs like Wild Boys and Save a Prayer were so profound. I used to think Nick Rhodes contain the secrets of the universe behind those cool green eyes. I used to fantasize about running wild in the woods with them, and I think that is where this bullet point should end...

  • Erasure. Now these electro pop gaylords are becoming retro popular again, this probably doesn't seem so shameful. However, in 1988 when you're polishing up your glossy black edges and living for liquid eyeliner, the local cemetary and snakebite and black (always made me puke, ghastly stuff) it WAS NOT COOL. They didn't have the dark edge of Depeche Mode (or Dave Gahan), they were pure pop bitches and I totally adored them. 'STOP! Before you break my heart, before you make a fool out of love!'. Etc.

  • A-ha. Finally, the great love of my tween years, Morten Harket (along with Marty McFly, but he didn't sing. Don't think Michael J Fox did either). Those cheekbones. Those cute Scandanavian accents. And they really did write some cracking tunes which I still play. 'Hunting High and Low' is a wondrous ballad, 'Take on Me' still fabulous. But 'Touchy' was a pop step too far. To remind myself how gorgeous Mr Harket was I found this picture. Blimey!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Origin of Titles

I created this sub-blog to Angel several years ago and then promptly never used it. Whilst the displayed title 'The Repository' has always been fluid (good for reflecting my state of mind!), the blogspot name remained the same. 'Pieces of me never seen' was taken from a Tori Amos lyric - 'Tear in your Hand' from Little Earthquakes which is possibly one of the most beautiful tragic records ever created.

As I have made the non-giant leap from angry to explanatory I revisited the lyric to the song. I knew that Tori was close to Neil Gaiman (he based the lovely Lady Delirium on her) but I'd obviously never payed close attention to the rest of the lyric. She's hanging out with Neil and the Dream King. Lucky cow...! Here's a Tori-esque representation of Delirium:

All that aside, it's a lovely song. As today is about starting anew I'm posting it to remind of where I've come from. And cause I also look a little like Lady Delirium, although sadly withour the little fishes.

"Tear In Your Hand"

All the world just stopped now

So you say you don't wanna stay together anymore

Let me take a deep breath babe

If you need me

Me and Neil'll be hangin' out with the dream king

Neil says hi

By the way I don't believe you're leaving

Cause me and Charles Manson like the same ice cream

I think it's that girl

And I think they're pieces of me you've never seen

Maybe she's just pieces of me you've never seen well

All the world is all I am

The black of the blackest ocean

And the tear in your hand

All the world is danging...Dangling'...

Danglin' for me darlin'

You don't know the power that you have

With that tear in your hand

Tear in you hand

Maybe I ain't used to maybes

Smashing in a cold room

Cutting my hands up every time I touch you

Maybe maybe it's time to wave goodbye now

Time to wave goodbye now

Caught a ride with the moon

I know I know you well Better than I

Used to haze all clouded up

My mind in the daze of why it could've never been

So you say and I say

You know you're full of wish

And your "baby baby baby babies"

I tell you they're pieces of me you've never seen

Maybe she's just pieces of me you've never seen

All the world is all I am

The black of the blackest ocean

And the tear in your hand

All the world is danglin'...Dangling'..

Danglin' for me darlin'

You don't know the power that you have

With that tear in your hand

Tear in your hand

With that tear in your hand

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Little Miss Muffet

One reason that the Pirate and I got along so famously was due to our mutual appreciation for folk lore, myth and history. One of our last discussions concerned the Greek Goddess Amalthea - however she has a much greater tale to tell than what can be outlined here, specifically how she lost the Cornucopia, her right hand and ended up in Whitby in the process. So more about her later when my research is more complete.

In the spirit of research I stumbled across the pictures of Arthur Rackham, a Victorian born English painter. Good grief! How could I not have seen his work before? It brought dim and distant memories flooding back, not least the nursery rhyme of Little Miss Muffet:

Little Miss Muffet

Sat on her tuffet

Eating her curds and whey

Down came a spider

and sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away!

Leaving aside the obvious fact that Little Miss Muffet is completely wet and overtly feminine, the accompanying picture is rather lovely. And to me the spider looks rather gentlemanly like, with his mandibles resembling a fine old curled moustache.

Actually, looking at the picture again, she not half resembles the pallid Gwenyth Paltrow. One hopes the spider eventually ate her up in great big mouthfuls but sadly he probably only scored for the sloppy seconds of custard. Curds and whey, the dish Little Miss Muffet enjoyed was a dish known as junket, a custard-like food made of sweetened milk. Junket was taken to market in little reed baskets called jonquettes (from Latin joncus, reed), from which the name was derived.

These days a junket describes a politician's luxury trip charged to the taxpayers, which could lead to you thinking that Cherie Blair spent her entire time as PM's wife as a Junket Junkie. This use of the word dates back to 1814, when a picnic basket was known as a junket basket. The politicians were having a picnic at public expense. Curds and whey was also an old name for cottage cheese with the curds being lumpy and the whey milky. Sounds almost as delightful as eating vomit. Sorry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Friend called Jack

This story is dedicated to my friend and pirate twin Gary, who sadly left me on 8th November 2007. For you I will always write.

Like rats we chased one another through the rubbish strewn corridors of Knotts Flats. Like vermin we grew into teen awkwardness with little more than a sense of home, a time, a place. Our territory expanded into the surrounding urban wilderness – the sharp metallic ruins of Victorian railway architecture that was filled with endless possibilities from its shattered iron and steel construction, coupled with the relief of thick vegetation that crawled with life and small boys when private refuge from public mischief was required.
We cut feet and teeth on the shore below the flats, angling our kicks on the sharp rocks to ensure that the limpets that lived in harmless state would fly loose from their rock sanctuary to face the internal inspection of small fingers before being cast aside indifferently to a certain death. There were worlds within worlds on our shoreline, and you created and embellished their stories with each breath that you took, a story teller dressed in thin skin and scrawny sinew. Your bright eyes could see beyond the mundane greyness of adult explanations that sought to strip the glamour you painted from our childhood views.
There were casualties amongst us. All childhoods hold some form of tragedy and ours was no exception. The industrial heartland of our playground was cruel. Tommy was lost, crushed by the fall of gigantic machinery at the shipyard, illegally accessed one balmy Sunday evening, prompting the bile to pattern my boots as you stood wide eyed with distress as we watched the light fading for eternity before adult support arrived. Soon after, following the path of the freight giants along the tracks we found so little of Petey Harrison’s father left by the sleepers that all I recall now is the sharp stench of diesel and the faint cast of rotten meat spilling from his sad remains.
We were chased by the dead as we scaled the cliffs at the Priory, then hunted by the living, a chorus of disapproval from the good folk of Tynemouth who despised the sewer children of social housing. No respect, they would mutter, as we ran gloriously free, too wily to be caught by their lumbering, well upholstered bodies.
You wove these times into your tales, embellishing our small victories and painting a vivid world of colour through which your joy for life shone. You incorporated the sharp phizzz and SLAM! of the call to sea for the rescue crews, a sign of ships in distress in the harbour. We’d rush onto our respective balconies and hang precariously over the edges as we shouted and waved at the small craft flying past into the harbour, then we’d watch anxiously for their return, carrying the hopes of all sea dwelling folk in our small prayers.

Then the call to war caught us tight in its implacable march. Separately we were deployed, you to the Navy, myself with the foot soldiers. Without your bright chatter I entered the iron giant that I’d watched constructed, with childhood awe stripped away and replaced by fear, a fear left to gnaw at me silently without your light tales to turn it into something new. I imagined you on your separate metal warrior, cresting the waves with aplomb as your charmed your new companions with your memories of the girls you’d flattered at the fish quay, your patter woven with charm and flattery as you spun their beauty into your starry world.
Before leaving we had strutted in our uniforms, brisk with purpose and bonhomie. I will never forget how you turned to me when the bright eyes of the girls were distracted, and clasped my hand tightly. You spoke quietly, with hesitation so unlike you I was concerned. You spoke of your fear, and it burned into my very bones as you spoke. There were no fancy words, no false bravado, and as my gut clenched in agreement I hated myself for the cheery platitudes I made myself spout to calm your fears. You smiled briefly, I remember, and briefly clasped my rigid body before turning back to our bright haired companions who’d come to wave us off with furtive kisses on our separate journeys.

No need to write of the horror of war. We were both medalled for honour, although in truth I felt nothing but numbness at the reward for peddling death. There was no return for you however, no long evenings for us to spend at the Comrades Club sipping our stout, me your silent companion whilst your tales drew in the young people. The raconteur of Knott’s Flats was forever silenced beneath a grey sea, the same sea in which we sent countless small molluscs to certain death. The sea that coloured our dreams with the sound of the wash upon the banks below our childhood home, that same endless body of water we blithely ignored daily. She claimed your tales in tribute, I believe when I think of you - this the first thought I had when all eyes in the Flats watched the slow progress of the sailor bearing the telegraph to your mother. My dreams are still peppered by the piercing sound of her keening as she fell to her knees before the young man whose eyes were swimming with unshed tears as he stared straight ahead.

There were to be no more childhood tales from your lively tongue echoing those concrete corridors, Jack. Childhood ended with the silencing of your vibrant voice and the marshalling of mine. I took up your mantle. I became a tale spinner, widening my eyes to the unreality of life and the bright beauty that dances all around me, even in the bleakest of northern industrial life. I sought to enchant the generation of the jaded and exhausted. To carry on with your voice that implored that adults ought not fall into greyness, your greatest fear, but to show that even from apparent ugliness the most beautiful seeds can be sprung.