Saturday, September 23, 2006

Little Big People

My electrically intelligent and always missed friend, Howard, who lives in Canada with Sharon and their children (and my only truly grown up and married friend) emailed me today. This is a very rare occurence, but so is Howard's friendship, one of those delicious and too few relationships where we hardly ever see each other but it makes no difference. When I see him, everything slots into place. There were no words in the email, but Howard's more of an action man (literally, not in the doll sense), so this didn't surprise me.

Instead, there were a series of about ten or so pictures of various sculptures by a man called Ron Mueck. If you, like me until about ten minutes ago, have never heard of this man, then I strongly urge you to Google him right now. And if you can't be bothered to do that, hit the MySpace link to my site on the right and click on Pics underneath the picture of the gorgeous smiling redhead. Apparently, Mueck first made it big with his sculpture of his half-sized, dead father, titled, baldly, 'Dead Dad'. Born in Australia, Mueck started out working in children's TV before becoming involved in puppetry for the film industry. He wasn't exhibited until 2000, when Charles Saatchi invited him to exhibit at his infamous Brit art show, Sensation at London't Royal Academy. In short, (or tall, pardon the pun) Mueck creates uncannily life-like sculptures that are always either smaller or larger than life. I think they're quite disturbing in the main, but no less amazing for that.

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's getting hot out there...and windy...and rainy...

It has been one hell of a day. PMT has been giving me hot flushes (no, it's not the menopause, thanks) and making me even more of a mood typhoon than usual. I'm in two minds over raised blood pressure, whether it's healthier to just find yourself a soundproof room and scream, or whether one should be a bit more zen and attempt to talk oneself into a calmer state of mind using logic and controlled breathing. I can see the benefits of both and suspect that the latter is better for you in the long run, but the former is always going to be more fun.

I have a couple of friends who swear by the benefits of screaming 'C U Next Tuesday' - in colloquial terms, for the more delicate or plain polite amongst you - in the safety of their cars, and it almost makes me want a car. Speaking of which, has anyone seen this advert on climate change? I haven't used an electric appliance since. Apart from my pc, but that's in the interests of communication. If you haven't seen it, check it out here.

Scary, isn't it? This is what started my crazy day off and dominated my thoughts all the way to work. Should we not fly anymore? Is it better to sail places, even though it might take six years to get there? Is sailing more expensive? Does anyone know the answers to these questions? I imagine it definitely means that flying to 'local' places like Glasgow isn't cool. I think I need to find out more about this climate change malarky. I'll let you know as I do.

The thing is, our own dangerousness is getting a bit ubiquitous, isn't it? I have a standing joke that it's impossible to get out of bed in the morning without oppressing someone or harming nature, but I think it's actually true. When it feels like that to people who WANT to change their nefarious ways, I think it means that most people must feel helpless and when we feel helpless we often turn away and try to distract ourselves with something else.

Can anyone recommend some ways to change the world please? Oh, what a coincidence - our gorgeous friend Lisa Clark has just posted some rather fabulous ways that you can change the world over at her equally fabulous myspace site blog: go and look at her pinkalicious site.

For more fabulous ideas about how to change the world, check out another of Lisa's recommended sites: You can get their book Change The World for a £5 from any Portsmouth library - I read a copy when I worked at Portsea, my fave library in the whole city.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The sky knows the reasons

I am very lucky with my commentors, if that is the right (made-up) word. Apologies to all those who have complained that they have not been able to post, this was my fault, and I have removed the need for you to be a member of Blogger to leave a post.

Anonymous number 2 on yesterday's blog (you know who you are - well, of course you do, actually, but what I mean is that I know who you are, too!) has got me thinking about the nature of inspiration. He quotes:

"A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed.It feels an implusion ...this is the place to go now.But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons."

I think there is something Buddhist about this image, something involving the inherent nature of all things and of people. I have read and heard a lot of writers talking about what inspires them to write, and where their ideas come from, and many concur that the inspiration for their stories or poems just seems to 'appear'. This has led some people to believe that ideas come from a Higher Power, but I think I prefer the idea that the quotation above hints at: "the sky knows the reasons."

This makes me think about what, in my mind, I call the 'bigger picture' or the 'process': by this I mean that all the issues and questions that arise in my mind, the individual thoughts, are often so all-consuming on a minute to minute level, that I cannot see the wood for the trees. I become hinged on these thoughts, goals or concerns: giving up smoking, writing the blog, going to work and so on, that they become all I think about. One leads neatly onto the next. Time passes.

But all of these individual issues, the clouds, if you will, are part of my overall direction, part of "the sky" and they form an ever-moving, ever-changing and interacting loop, each part affecting the whole, the whole affecting each part. It may (and did) feel like the idea for yesterday's blog came from nowhere, but it came from everywhere: everything that happened to me yesterday, every day before.

I think it is the same with my creative urge. A sentence, or more often an image or a scene, comes into my mind with such clarity, it feels as if it has been placed there from outside. I write it down, and from this first seed comes the rest of the story, stage by stage. Characters become themselves and show me how they will behave. Environments build themselves and show me how they affect everything that happens inside them. The story feels as though it writes itself.

Later, sometimes years later, I look back on these creations and I can see that there are themes and symbols that have significance to things that happened in my life, and, after a time, I get to see what "the sky knows". But how do we, apart from allowing the passing of time, "lift ourselves high enough to se beyond horizons?" The Buddhists would answer meditation, but there are lots of ways to meditate.

My friend Lisa has advised me in the past to identify what is at the centre of my purpose, what do I want? We often answer this question firstly with very simple or material things, I want to be successful, I want to be thin! Lisa advises after every answer that you can identify that you ask again, "Why do you want this?" I want to be thin so that others will find me attractive, for example. When you run out of answers to the question, Why do I want this, you have probably found your core reason, what you really want. Hold onto this, it is your purpose. She advises that every time you consider taking on new project, or a new relationship, or a new job, that we remind ourselves of that core purpose and ask ourselves if what we are considering is congruent with it. I think these sort of exercises, performed often enough are a form of meditation, too.

I think this relationship to our core purpose, to who we are, who we want to be, is how we see beyond horizons, beyond the everyday.

Anonymous number 2, I hope that answers your question!?

Want a little help with your inspiration, or want to catch up with what the others are up to? May I recommend: BBC zine, the collective - for all your cultural needs Satirist, Cartoonist, Very Funny For those of us who love libraries Check out Flavor section to browse music by your mood - click on individual artists to listen to tracks from their cd's Hear the hits before they hit the charts


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

You are what an artist looks like

It's official: art is subversive and it's down there in the roots, it's out on the streets. No, I haven't turned into a ghetto love-child, I am, in fact filled with raw enthusiasm for all things independent and creative.

Today's blog is dedicated to Banksy. This amazing guerilla artist is an inspiration to anyone who's been waiting for permission to release their art into the world. Been waiting for the publisher, agent, recording studio or Tate Modern to call? Fuck them. (Yes, I'm rough and ready and I am dirty mouthed this evening. Strap yourselves in). Take a leaf out of Banksy's book - or a spraycan from his backpack, if you will - and put your work out there yourselves.

You know all that stuff I told you to be doing and making and singing and writing? Release it. Release it now. The doing is done and now it is time for your art to be free. Free.


We have never lived in more glorious times for liberating our creative offspring and setting them to wander out in the world, acquiring friends, admirers, and lovers (and STI's if they're not careful - don't ride bareback, kids, even if you trust the horse). What with MySpace, YouTube, Blogger, online journals, online galleries, it doesn't matter what you do, you can free it in a moment for the world to see.

And if you don't have access to the internet - how are you reading this then, aaaaAAAAaahh, caught you out there - you're not out of this game, oh no sirree.

My friend Gareth makes these wonderful tiles with these cool messages painted on them, things like 'Hallo Wonderful' and 'Good morning Starshine' and he takes a few out with him sometimes and leaves them around the city: propped up against cars, on park benches, anywhere. People pick them up and take them home. He's been doing it for years. Heard of book-crossing? Where you leave books in public places for people to take away and read, and then when they've finished they leave the book in a public place for someone to take away and read and then - you get it, right?

Why not leave copies of your short story, or your column, or your articles in cafes? Leave your poems in the library? Stick copies of your sketches into magazines in WH Smith's when no one's looking? Hide your CD demos in the stacks at the library or in Virgin Megastore with a label saying - You got lucky! Take me home and play me!

You're adding value, not damaging stock, it's only barely against the law, I imagine - try and keep it on the down low though, I'd be happy to argue that in court, but you might not be. I've seen copies of Banksy's stencilling images all over the city, there's one round the corner from me right now!

I know I'm wildly enthused, but think how amazing your day would be if you found a poem at the bus stop on your way to work, a sketch under your windscreen wiper as you get into your car. Free art, free the creativity, free your self! You have my personal guarantee, you will feel one thousand percent better for it. And so will someone else. Pay it forward.

Links to inspire you until you agree with me and are dancing naked in your living room (sorry if you're using public access in a library) with the sheer wild abandon and potential of it all:
If you have time, please look at as much of this as you can, I promise you, it's amazing and worth it. If you think you don't like grafitti, you're wrong and this is why. This man went to Palestine and placed images in the security barrier at the West Bank. Tell me this isn't art and I'll get right up in your face and giggle myself senseless. Make sure you have a look at his Manifesto, too. Trust me, it is not what you think.

Check out the clip from the Culture Show
Read the Piranha Pool, yes I mean all the way through.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The struggle that isn't joyous is the wrong struggle - Germaine Greer

Ok, I'm going to come clean, I'm in the middle of changing my life. This blog isn't for the benefit of womankind, it's part of a programme of carefully arranged changes to my existence that have been designed to make me a better person. And this morning, when wonderful things started to be said about the blog, I thought: uh-oh, people might actually read it!

So I'm starting with a clean slate. Ever since I made the decision to chase my dream of being a writer and I started my own writing/research business, Wise Words - for all your creative needs - the world has been shifting under my feet. My 'permanent' job at the Council has expanded beyond my wildest dreams and gets better almost every day, in one way or another (which isn't to say I always speak highly of it), work for Wise Words is coming in regularly and at points my time management is a more an experience of unmanageable time, and I've met some amazing and interesting people. Sounds perfect, right?

But life is funny this way, weird more than ha ha, and with all these things that I've wanted so long came a whole other set of new challenges - how do I manage my time so that everything gets done? I realised that I have an issue with making money, because living with just enough to pay the rent, eat occasionally and buy a bottle of wine has become firmly connected in my mind with rejecting the whole Ferengi (here the Trekkies amongst you become noticable) capitalist ethos. I also realised that one of the reasons that I hadn't done all this earlier was because I'd designed my life to ensure that I never risked the disappointment of risking my dream and failing. I worked too hard, wherever I was and was often subject to stress. I picked relationships that would dominate my time and energy and offer low returns for me. I drank too much wine, too much gin and smoked far too many cigarettes. Periodically, I would come down with stress and retire to my bed for days on end, like a Mills & Boon character in mourning for her lost love.

So I gave up smoking, I've stopped drinking too much, especially in order to relax or to unwind. I'm learning to manage my time, to say no to some people and to say not yet to others. Am I sounding like a nun yet? And I started the blog because in the evenings, like now, when I'm craving a cigarette (or ten) and a glass of wine (or a bottle), I know I have to get to my computer and write something. I can't say that I feel better all or most of the time. I find evenings hard sometimes because I'm not sure what to do with myself. But I can say that I'm doing more and that this morning I bounced into work singing!

I think this is where a lot of yesterday's blog came from. Sometimes we think that our success comes from some strange places: our relationship, our job, the place we live, but increasingly I think it comes from trying to do the best you can to risk being who we are, to risk trying to find out. Sometimes this means failing, landing quite spectacularly and publicly on our arses, sometimes it means risking everything on a dream and then losing that dream. For me, right now, it means sitting here, often well into the night (can't sleep, I got far too used to those late night bottles of wine) and writing who knows what for who knows who. I like the feeling of words flying from my fingertips, through the keyboard, into the ether, to you; not knowing what I'm about to write until I get here. And that's not so different from waking up in the morning, who knows where the day will take us?

My gorgeous friend Lisa told me today about a film she loves called 'Pay It Forward': the central concept to which is that you do three 'favours' or good things (like random acts of kindness) for three people and that this has a knock on effect, no thanks necessary, the kindness you extended to them causes them to act more kindly to others. I think the same is true of the way I treat myself sometimes. I'm going to pay it forwards, because writing my blog tonight and not smoking or drinking will make me leap out of bed tomorrow in a good mood. I'll be more attentive to my colleagues, I'll make them laugh, they'll be in a good mood and be cheerful about that meeting they're dreading.

By the end of the week, we'll have world peace and it'll all be down to me! Unless you all join in and then we can share the credit. If you doubt the efficacy of this plan, I urge you to have a quick look at the following links:,,1876502,00.html

Imagine if these governments had played it forward? At worst, it can't do any harm!

Thanks to Jane for being the first person to post on the blog and for starting her own blog after reading mine - that's better than a million compliments and it inspired me to write tonight. Thanks also to the lovely Carl Burton, who kindly allowed me to use one of his beautiful paintings for the blog today.

And for a closer, check out the latest work by Guerilla Artist, Banksy:,,1875576,00.html

Monday, September 18, 2006

Loving Everyone's Work

I've been thinking a lot today about the creative urge, wondering if the person next to me in the Co-op queue is a secret poet, or painter, or if he makes secret sculptures from his Smash over dinner.

Over the past few months, I've had every expectation shattered that artists are intellectuals (pretty much always with berets) who devote their predominantly penniless existence to the perfection of their creative preference. I know, there are so many examples of famous artists, be they actors, writers, artists, singers or whichever, who do not conform to this stereotype, but I've easily dismissed most of them under Hicks' rule of advertising, thus:

"Do a commercial, you're off the artistic roll call, every word you say is suspect, you're a corporate whore and eh, end of story."

Exactly. There aren't many writers who conform to this rule, but where writing is concerned, I think in the main if you let Jennifer Lopez - or any of her commercial ilk - star in the movie of your masterpiece (in fact, if your masterpiece becomes a movie, rather than a, preferably independent, film) you're probably in this category too. Yes, it will be humiliating if I have to eat this blog in ten years time, but I'm a purist, so I doubt it.
So, what challenged my intellectual beret wearing, one-eared artist stereotype, and thus liberated me to think that I could be a writer just by, well, writing my truth, was the best lesson of all. Life showed me different and proved me wrong.

Carl, who works in my office, at Portsmouth City Council, is an artist. He paints the most amazing pictures of flowers (amongst other things) that have more emotion inherent within them than Gwyneth Paltrow at an awards ceremony. Dave Kemp, who works at Central Library as a library assistant is an illustrator, he creates these beautiful images and animations: Check out the haunting Dr Gladpole's Machine, I watched it for the first time yesterday, for the second time today, and I'll probably watch it again tomorrow. Cheryl Missing, who runs Portsea Library, writes children's stories (I've worked with the woman for almost three years and I didn't find that out until last Tuesday - amazing what you can find out when you ask!). Paul Raven, also of Central Library, writes science fiction and is also a blog writer. My best friend Kitty Kat Kate (below right) is an artist of gentle and powerful experimental images and the crafter of lamps, wall hangings and wind-chimes. What that girl can't do with a piece of wire and a bit of copper isn't worth making. My mum makes toys, clothes, cards, glass painting (see image left) and most recently, paper flowers. My uncle is a poet and thinks nobody knows (Bean, you've been outed). These are just the friends who spring to mind.

Why have I spent so long thinking that creativity is the unique privilege of an exceptional few, when everyone has a truth unlike anyone else's and a thousand and one ways that they are longing to express it? I think part of it is the mystique we give to artists in our culture, so that we remove it from the 'everyday' - how many people at school were told they were no good at art and have never drawn or painted since (guilty as charged myself on that one). I was told my sentences were too long and that I never used a sentence when a paragraph would do. OK, that was true, but lots of people now find that endearing! Mostly because I tell them it's art, but it still counts.
So pick up the pen. Pick up the brush (seriously, your hair looks awful). Create. Sing. Do it now. I don't care if you're in the office, I don't care if it's a doodle. Just do it. Do it now. Then mail it to me. Let's start a creative revolution from the roots up. OK, I'm leaping on that bandwagon a little late, MySpace got there before me. It's the message not the messenger that counts.

And check out these people's lovely labours:
Mr Gladpole's Machine, David Kemp

And his beautiful website:

Paul in Velcro-City

And the beautiful Lisa Clark, without whom.....

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Welcome to The Daily

Hey folks! I've set up The Daily for many reasons, not all of them entirely pure, but then, what writer's motivations are ever entirely pure?

I have always wanted a column, and those of you who followed my recent blog journey in America will know that I set my heart on San Francisco's Guardian. I intend to launch a campaign to stalk this particular publication until they decide to take me on and one of my chief weapons will be The Daily. Oh yes. Soon the power will be mine.........mine.......

The Daily isn't the only place you'll find me. In this virtual world, I hang out simultaneously at a number of venues, listed under Links. Check them out, too.

So, what's The Daily about? Truth is, I'm not sure yet. There are lots of things t
hat I'm interested in - writing, literature, art, politics, film, feminism, music, sex - and you'll find all of them here, though maybe not together, but never say never. So check back, whenever you feel like it. There'll be something different every day - I'm flinching as I make this promise, knowing only too well how lazy I am - and you can tell me what you think via these nifty comment boxes.

Before you go, make sure you wave goodbye to Dorothy P, the muse of the muse. We're both a long way from Kansas. See you soon.