The demon at last

After nearly three years of dodging the various incarnations of Covid bullets we both copped one right up the jacksy. Thanks, probably to the five vaccinations and all the other factors that have declawed the covid tiger it seems, luckily, for us, to be a kitten of a thing. Sniffles, bit of a cough and knackered are about it for both of us. Being such a poorly fella I am entitled to the anti virals and I felt so excited ringing the hospital and being rushed through to Covid Support services then telephoned three times on the wrong phone it was somewhat humiliating to have a very Yorkshire ‘clinical specialist’ say ‘now then Lovely, as your symptoms are so mild we won’t be issuing the antivirals to you.’ It was like Santa saying you weren’t going to get any presents this year because only sick people deserved them. I suppose I could have pleaded a lot sicker but that may have been unconvincing or evil.

We tested positive the day after the day after Boxing Day so Christmas was unaffected. No significant exodus of family was required though A&L had to leave a day early which was a shame. We are isolating, being very lazy and eating all the chocolate left over from Christmas to keep our strength up. Oh I forgot to say we have both lost our sense of taste for a day or two, my malt cake was very acerbic and Maria reported her Coca Cola ham as bland and the cranberry sauce as sulphuric – but I think it’s creeping back. The seaweed thins with wasabi certainly packed a punch last night. I recommend them btw -really amazing taste texture tip of the tongue tingly things. Actually very moreish. I was very doubtful being more of a snack size pork pie man myself. Another btw. Do not make the mistake of believing that scotch eggs are better now than you remember them – even the ‘finest’ are foul.

Maria is expected back at work on Thursday, we will see if she can go. We are very jolly pursuing our obsessions, sleeping quite a bit and watching telly. Blown away by Anthony Hopkins in Remains of The Day and Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick – both are that rare thing, proper screen stars.

Can’t be bothered to write anymore because the subject is really boring unless I had been rushed to intensive care or had died.

Happy new year


Please read the below after watching the above – its only 3 minutes 24 seconds – like an old 45

I am not anti christmas and i have nothing against santa. i wrote this a while back when still under the influence of steroids. they made me very opinionated such that innocents like santa got it in the neck just because i felt like it. santa is no longer on my hate list – not doubt he is relieved.

The video went through a whole series of versions that included me dressed as James Bond in a tux, as a film noire detective with trench coat and hat, wearing Christmas lights around my neck and dancing to the Rudolf tune in the box – i am astonished at how appalling some of my ‘how about if I…..’ ideas are. the challenge remains to translate a computer generated chris voice saying anything at all into some that can at least be endured, if not enjoyed.

the builders breakfast moon and the blood snow is rather cool though


I have given up linking to things to make me seem clever – but this very short video has brought about a temporary relapse. If the TikTok link confuses you, below it is a direct link to the video stored on this site. It will stream slowly and will need to load first.

i have always had the suspicion that the way global economies run is absurd. it seems to be based on trust in arbitrary numbers and anytime soon someone influential will announce that most of the money circulating in the world doesn’t exist.

according to this video my suspicions were well founded, however i would like to see the counter arguments expressed in a similarly compressed form – if anyone would care to have a go or share a link that would be great.

Lisa’s latest single and video

Lisa has released her latest single and accompanying social media campaign including this YouTube video. I think its remarkable not least because so much of the production of both the music and the video has been done by her in their tiny but lovely flat in Forest Hill. The quality of everything she has produced is quite extraordinary – I find it awe inspiring. Enjoy!!

Ring ring

I’m stuck.

I have to reconcile myself to the fact that I need an audience and without one I get stuck. i guess i have never grown out of the showing off – All my recent creative efforts have been directed toward a non existent audience. i have found myself performing to myself – Cancer and Covid made sure of that. Now that there is a possibility of rekindling the flames of an adoring crowd I just don’t know what to do, so I thought I would write to you, confident that most of you wont read this, but that doesn’t matter. The act of putting it out there seems to offer some relief, some path out of ‘stuck.’

in the spirit of some of the themes addressed below i have avoided correcting this (much) – hence it reads like shite!

i killed this blog because I was weary of listening to myself trying not to say the things that i wanted to say but instead saying the things that i thought you wanted to hear. thats got to stop. so this post is that most tiresome of posts – a navel gaze into my current artistic predicament

other than this bit

i am undertaking/subjecting myself to – a course of cognitive behavioural therapy in order to deal with what i refer to as my ABAS – Abducted By Aliens Syndrome (this is where i panic that something utterly unexpected and disastrous will happen to those i love)- it isn’t going to work of that i am certain and in case you were jumping to conclusions – this process – this writing a blog process – is not my self administered alternative – in fact i believe it has nothing whatsoever to do with the CBT but everything to do with the fact that i am so so very stuck and i need help.

let me tell you why.

first (you may sense i am rushing) i feel as if i have only limited time to get down all the stuff i want to get down. you may ask what makes you think you have something worth putting down – well i just do. – now i suppose i have good reason for feeling under pressure to get on with things, what with the cancer diagnosis – but fortunately that’s not a pressing concern just now – things on that front are quite miraculously OK. I can’t remember if i communicated in a previous post that i am, according to my last visit to the Royal Free, in a period of remission – so no worries there. Well that’s not true but you know what i mean. moving on – i said when i started this blog in 2014 that i had a list of priorities that i planned to stick to – or to put it another way these were the things i was going to worry about from then on: (in order) 1 – Family. 2- Health. 3 – Art. 4 – Work – as i have said health gets a tick – Family are very fine, and work is pretty Ok so that leaves Art – and dear readers it is in my Art – I AM STUCK and being stuck when time is running out induces a sense of panic that is not conducive to producing art – as you can imagine – a vicious circle.

now as i said I am very very aware that ponderous debates on one’s art are tiresome but i really need this and whether anyone reads this or not, whether anyone proffers any remedies doesn’t matter a jot – i am writing this under the illusion that i have an attentive audience and thats enough for me.

so whats the problem?

perhaps foolishly, no not perhaps – foolishly, i am under the impression that i need to produce a consummate piece of work – something that draws all my previous and current preoccupations into one summative ‘Ring Cycle.’ As i approach retirement from an undistinguished career at the university i fantasise about leaving with a flourish and publishing a groundbreaking something or other that makes them regret not making me Emeritus Professor of Total Brilliance – Now knowing that i am no Wagner – i don’t have, as it were, talent, originality, a consistent body of work that just needs a perfect exemplar to top it off – the best i can do is just assemble all the fragments, all the unrealised attempts, all the failures, the incompetent inarticulate fumbling with the various modes of artistic expression i have touched upon over the years into some sort of loose package that might encourage future generations of creative incompetents to do similar and might even be rather interesting art – while pondering this possibility I have become interested in Jospeh Cornell – He was an untrained amateur and recluse living in the new York suburbs with his mother and a disabled brother. He emerged as a true original during his lifetime so in that respect i have missed my chance to emulate him having not yet emerged as a true original probably as i have yet to do anything original – anyway he made ‘shadow boxes’ containing bits and pieces he got at thrift stores in the city – he assembled loose, surreal, dream-like narratives by juxtaposing seemingly random objects.

Randomness has fascinated me since being a teenager when i stole a copy of John Cages book ‘Silence’ from the school library. Needless to say i didn’t read it just carried it about. – (I have read it now its rather good) so the random nature of Cornell’s compositions tallies with the random noises, voices and musical samples i have been utilising in the phone box – some would say the disruptive result of letting serendipity or error into the proceedings provides a layer of amateurish incompetence but i would counter that when it works, and of course it only works some of the time, it blows away the cobwebs of excessive and potentially turgid control, rather effectively.

bad amateur art is one of my current preoccupations – i recognise that in many respects my work in the last few years has been amateurish – the result of not knowing what i am doing – i have tried a bit of poetry, a few short stories, some bits of visual art, even some musical compositions all of them are clearly the work of a first timer – but in my view that doesn’t diminish their worth i consider them all much better than any of the work i did as a ‘professional’ director.


amateur work can be much more engaging than professional work probably because the mask of professionalism doesn’t sit between the artist/performer and the audience – of course you are probably not experiencing the work you are too busy empathising with the performer struggling to disguise their amatuerness but that’s the appeal, that struggle replaces the intended art with something rather better – more engaging, more human – at least for a short while – and brevity i am convinced is a crucial creative component – no art should take longer than 20 minutes and most should be restricted to 20 seconds to assimilate – speaking of amateur, my dad, a first time writer of anything other than technical reports and letters of complaint, produced a short autobiography – as a family we were a tad cynical at the time, i am not sure why – i guess we thought it was the sort of thing that old people do and why bother? – who is going to read it? – but actually we rather value it now – it doesn’t even attempt to be art – it’s certainly not bad art – its simply a record – the formal style and tone reflects his personality perfectly – i think it was a good thing for him to do and nice for us – it leaves a mark, even if its only for a generation or two and its better than nothing. Conversely i don’t think i would be a good as my dad at leaving a record but think i can leave some bad art behind, after all i call myself an artist so i should be able to do that.

the question is how? – what is the medium? what is the platform?

and thats why i am stuck.

I know myself, i know how lazy i am – the single most successful output of my creative life in terms of sustainability has been this blog – the reason is its very easy to do and consequently i can slip it in between indolent periods of watching TV and polishing my lighter collection – (i am doing this at 4:00 am because i can’t sleep, what other creative activity can be done when so bleary eyed and dull brained) – the telephone box that talks a bit like me has been a valuable stimulus for all sort of creative meandering but every step on its journey to fruition has been long winded, complicated and frankly at times not really worth the effort – that said it is something that excites people a lot more than a blog post – so the combination i am looking for is something that has the looseness and ease of this blog with the visual and auditory appeal of the telephone box but also the durability of my dads book – and i cannot find it.

Hence i am stuck!

I imagine a platform – i suppose it has to be digital to allow for multimedia content, in which you can sketch with video, scribble with speech, make pictures with text, graphics with sounds – interventions with live broadcasts – but effortlessly. A platform that isn’t owned by some mega media organisation, that doesn’t require a subscription and has some possibility of longevity. (i hope to be still doing it when i have retired from the university and my pipeline of free computers and software is cut off). I believe the solution lies somewhere in the idea of composited, overlapping and looped media eg. screen capturing websites as video, audio capture of live broadcasts and rebroadcasting them, filming and scanning handwritten document and sketches, layering and compositing media but not in an elegant broadcast quality style, maintaining the rough edges and collisions that occur spontaneously – somewhat similar to these website designs

I tried some of this in my latest telephone box film – certainly the best so far – but the last one to have documentary and explanatory content and still a significant distance from what I want to achieve

so the quest for the formula for my ‘ring’ – working title ‘ring ring’ goes on. I will put together a prototype miniature – a fragment made of fragments and circulate that – as i said at the beginning i need to share and the act of writing this has been very useful for me – it has brought some clarity, not a solution but a clear statement of the problem. if you have any suggestions please let me know although knowing me i almost certainly won’t listen – don’t mistake this for a discussion it’s a vent.

Thank you, if you have made it to here – you have my respect.

and if i hear the phrase ‘i just wanted to pay my respects’ one more time i will …

Uncle Doug and the Pink Pony

‘Alack’ the little one cries
‘My pink pony, the one with bright blue eyes
has died’

‘Oh brother’ says his mother ‘and I only bought that tuther day.’
‘Oh mother’ says her brother (the little one’s much loved uncle Doug) lend me a tenner and
I’ll get him another.

‘That’s canny’ says Nan (though she confuses gender) ‘If you lend her a tenner – she’ll scarper and buy heroin or a spanner.’

The little one’s no fool, he may be small, but he has balls.
‘Oh Nan don’t be a cow he’s a good man now – not a bit druggy, just a lovely cuddly puppy.’

Nan feels remorse and passes her purse to her son who with one long jump clears the little one the mum and mums mum and flies forth.

Through vale and wood
Cross stream and ford
By byway and highway
Twixt brook and flyway…

to the north parade toy shop but they have not one pink pony with bright blue eyes.
Nor nowt that toyish.
Instead, they offer
A razor with blades, a single skate, a book of tables, an earnest bear and a fake beard.

Doug proffers Nan’s purse for the the lot
…but the git what has the shop will part with nowt but the razor, the beard, and the blades
for nans purse holds but a tiny twist of hash, not a penny in cash.

Doug flies forth the back way.

Twixt brook and flyway
By byway and highway
Cross stream and ford
Through vale and wood…

till proud as he should, after such a journey, before the little one, the little one’s mum and the little one’s Nan he lavishes his hoard aboard the lap of his beloved.

The little bereft one so delights to sport the beard, to shave it clean with the razor and blades just like his uncle Doug does, that the pink pony’s bright blue eyes fill with tears, because you see she was only resting.

I changed my mind

I have changed my mind. I had decided to kill off my blog but when it came to doing it – it made me too sad.

The main reason is that were I to just stop posting but leave it up then it would look as if I had died unless I put up a last post explaining the rationale. If I went for that then it would quickly get dated, suspended in time in an unsettling way. There is no way I would remove the whole thing that’s too cruel, after all I have put in quite a bit of effort over the years – so it stays while I think of a way of restoring my enthusiasm – maybe just pictures, podcasts or videos, maybe themed in someway – I really don’t know.

Meanwhile I returned to campus today after 27 months. I tried to keep my mask on, but I kept slipping. My main discoveries were that the journey is long, that talking to people face to face is nice, that I have lost my academic ear (the presentations I attended were completely incomprehensible), that drama students at Hull are smart and engaged in interesting stuff, that I am old and talk too much of the old days, that I am lucky to have this job, that I am anxious that my energy levels will let me down in the autumn, that busking a presentation stops it being boring but means you don’t get to say half the things you wanted to.

I am super knackered and super uninspired but never mind.

Well, I coped brilliantly with that…

Didn’t I!

My disposition inclines me toward panic and pessimism, and I can only apologise for the stream of worries I offloaded onto my blog during the last week.

The results from my health tests have been very positive and now I am left with the shame of not having been able to face them with a bit more guts. Oh, to be the sort of person who can face fear with a strong jaw, a stout pair of brogues and a slice of Dundee cake. Stuff it I am a wimp.

Anyway, the worse is over and to celebrate I am contemplating killing off this blog to prevent me ever vomiting up my (what should remain) private and personal concerns to my loyal readership again.

Escaping some more

I have hours to kill before my scan and results. You probably haven’t noticed (ha ha)  but when I am on my own and discombobulated I like to share a disorderly stream of reflections and anecdotes. Call it therapy if you like – I call it escape.

The hospital accommodation is super posh in a minimalist way. It’s on the fifth floor of a brand new science block. The ground floor is wall to wall labs for UCL immunology students I think. Really really impressive looking kit being manipulated by really really impressive looking students. You can sense the brainwaves circulating as you enter. Access to the accommodation means you need to do fancy things with cards in the lift which confounds all of us wrinklies who were hoping for the presence of an attendant in a maroon uniform sporting a peaked cap. The room is small but the quality is high without being fancy – quite lab like actually – absolutely no complaints. Breakfast is like a child’s pack up from a disinterested parent but is delivered to your room by a charming hostess. Chocolate muffin, clementine, long life croissant, milk, Museli + polystyrene bowl for said – to be honest – yuk – but again this is all on the house, so zero complaints. Only two things could, for some, be a deal breaker, both are somewhat relevant to the human computer interaction  module I teach, so worth documenting in this post. Remarkably it appears (and remember this is part of a super efficient eco build) you cannot turn the TV screen off. You can turn the TV off but the screen glows like a full moon throughout the night smack bang at the bottom of the bed. Insomniacs would go bonkers. I had a look at the back of the telly and it appears that it’s not a telly at all it’s a computer. So now it makes sense. It on permanent standby just in case it gets an instruction to do something important, the fact that it has no means of receiving an important instruction is by the by- It does not know it’s a Telly!

Hey and guess what neither can you turn the air con off. You can adjust the room temperature by accessing a tiny tiny button that gives you about 5 seconds to read the screen and respond appropriately, it’s effectively a wack-a-mole control, should you manage to wack the mole you basically have three times three options: on, on a lot, on a hell of a lot, cold, hot, Sahara, windy, stormy, hurricane. So my night was spent engulfed in a windy, warm, noisy airflow oscillating between so sweaty my tee shirt was wringing and so cold I had to put my cardigan on. 

This and other experiences yesterday have convinced me that some technical innovations are actually based on the principals of gaming. Here’s a few examples.

Rail tickets on your phone. You get sent a link to your ticket. Super all done I have my ticket. What you may not have appreciated is that the link is to your account not your ticket. Now in all probability you set up your account at the last minute in order to purchase the ticket so you haven’t necessarily memorised your account details. So the game is how much embarrassment can you endure when the ticket inspector wishes to see your ticket and your confident ‘here it is’ manifests no ticket but an entertaining game of guess the login details that may include a password reset while entering a tunnel with no internet access.

Paying for the taxi with Apple Pay. The payment device is attached to a side panel inside the cab. The cab is quite dark inside. The device is quite small. Because of early onset cataracts and outdated glasses prescription you can’t see the screen. You know that you have options as to the amount of tip but can’t read them. In your haste to look like an experienced Londoner you press random buttons and hope. You then pass a massive cash tip to the driver just in case you have tipped him nothing at all. He looks surprised as if you had just passed him your gold watch. Which of course is another option.

Paying for coffee at Pret. So I have got the hang of the Apple Pay thing after the taxi debacle. I put on my London face, not too smiley, not too much of a rural grin, authoritative, in a bit of a rush, successful. I hold my finger at the ready as the person before me managed her transaction in a fraction of a second and set a high bar. Go! Pay! I look down – there are three payment machines, any of which could be the right one. How do I know? Should I perform a sweeping gesture over all three or would I have just treated the queue to a full complement of macchiatos? My hesitation had reached an uncomfortable 5 seconds. I mumble something about which one that goes unnoticed she is already onto the next order. Finally one of them lights up and I recognise my order. I press and Siri kicks in. Yes I have over depressed the home button and the Siri game has barged in. More frantic button pressing – it beeps I have paid. No one has noticed, no one cares. A minute or so later the barista confesses her ordering system dropped my order. She apologises nicely, she’s friendly. We bemoan the perils of new technology, little does she know.