Thursday, 30 October 2003

BROTHA
The tube is running okay, the conservative party leader has gone, and rumours of yet another person who has no idea what this country is, take hold in the media. We go to Tescos & Argos. Eat breakfast, watch a movie. I’m in energy saving mode as BROTHATALK has a gig in Willesden Green tonight. I arrive early to set up. Meet Dike on the way. This is our first London gig; we're a bit nervy. Julian is already there when we arrive. Segun can't be with us tonight, and Buzz is on his way. We sound-check and get comfy and people start arriving 7pm, we start at 7.40 as people are still arriving. We have a big audience, and the night rocks. Lots of congratulations afterwards, lots of chatting with the audience including a few 'kids' of 15 or 16 saying how great it is. It is rare for men to come together and do something so positive, and it is true. We have a great future.

Wednesday, 29 October 2003

mix and match
Up at 6 to write. Into town today my friend Cherry Smyth's anthology of women's prison writings is nominated for the Raymond Williams Prize. We arrive at Russell Street early so go for an amble. Stephen wants to go to the gay bookshop so we do. I get talking with the lady who works there who shows me a beautiful book called Red Threads a lavish book of photos and texts about Asian queerness, it has a piece by Cherry in it. Sometimes people surprise you. In Manchester there used to be a radical bookshop and if you wanted to look at the women's books you got shouted at. Yet here I am in the cold stare capital, a straight man in a gay bookshop, and we're chatting fine. This is the world I need to live in where we are who we are. Where we are proud of colour and sexuality. Where heterosexuality is not something to be ashamed. It is a mostly grubby thing in the UK, mostly because of tabloids and furtiveness, fuck that stupid straight world. I want an honest sexy world, proud of its oddness and peccadilloes. The queer world is far more honest about itself. Anyway here we are now, entertain us.

Cherry's book wins, tears and hugs. Two of the women prisoners have been allowed to attend. They are overwhelmed. I take photos so Cherry can send a photo to her mum, who was supposed to come over but couldn't, and for the girls so they have a backup to their memories.

My musician friend Sherry lives round the corner so we meet up with her for a coffee. Then on to the Horse Hospital to have a look at the outsider art exhibition, which is mostly fantastic. The horse hospital is my kind of place. They’re having a Halloween bash on Friday here. It’s a shame I won't be here as I’m heading back north.

We go to Cecil Court to visit Watkins bookshop. I love it in here. There is something about good bookshops that makes one feel safe. I’m amazed by all the Bihar yoga books they have. Browse a little book on multiple orgasms for men, and end up buying some white sage for burning and purifying my house. Visit the luscious Coco de Mer, one of my favourite shops in the world, just to breath in its loveliness. Have a look in the new forbidden planet, which is now like a supermarket for geeks. I have nothing against the fine world of geekdom. I have my moments too especially in the star trek and Buffy regions, but this is shit, cold aisles of memorabilia. Darth Doodads Light sabre for 400 quid. Posable batmen, Vandal Pipes, once Forbidden plant was a cool place, underground books, Japanese anime, alternatives, and whilst it is still possible to get some of it. It is more expensive, and cynical than ever. Shop on ebay and Amazon instead.

Tuesday, 28 October 2003

Blag
Sleeping is something quite evasive these days. I wake at 4 am, lie there a long time. The recent ghosts, left from painful exchanges and broken hearts clanging their pots and calls. Get up at 7.30 ish. Wake Stephen up to try and lure him into some yoga. No way at first but he comes on line after a few minutes. My allergies to his cat are giving me hell today. I must buy some anti-histamines.

After breakfast and baths we head into town. The Turner Prize exhibition opens at the Tate today. On the news it’s the usual crap about how shocking the work is. We arrive to find its press only today so we go into another exhibition and run into my friend Cherry and her girlfriend, who we are meeting up with tomorrow. Cherry is a real star, she was a writer in prison at the same time as I, but I know her from before when we did some erotic poetry readings together. Cherry says we should just use my freelance status to get in to the show. I’m not able to at first. Not much of a blagger. But after they head off. Stephen and I do, and we get in. the first work is marvellous, by Anya Gallaccio. A tree cast in bronze with 250 real apples threaded onto rope and draped over it, very Zen like twigs and branches form another piece, again bronze. And a wall of red gerbera flowers. The apples and flowers are real and will decay and rot. Right now the smell is deep and sexy, and fulfilling. It will be interesting to see how it decays. Willie Doherty's piece is a looped film of someone running, shown on two screens. It makes no impression on me but his past work, when I read up about him seems interesting and urban. Then it’s the thing that will fill the papers and the news. The Chapman Brothers, who have put two blow up dolls as if the are having oral sex with each other. If this is shocking. I don't know. They have also reworked a set of Goya prints and created a hellish scene of skeletons and decay, from medical models and joke shop bits. This will fill the news and the point will be lost as usual. The last room, Grayson Perry, who makes Victorian looking pots with beautiful, glazes. When you look closer instead of Victorian birds and flowers there a scenes of people being mugged for their mobiles, pictures of his family, politics, and sexual underclassings. It’s a bit of a singular trick, but it works. For my money Anya Gallaccio is the best thing here, but oh well its all so shocking. Of course the rooms are full of arts editors and cameras. We listen to their discourses and commentaries. The Turner prize has a reputation of shock. It seems even when the art is in front of these so called commentators of taste, these people who will help you decide whether to go see the work or not; they themselves can't see what they're seeing. They only see the story and they only write about what is sensational.

After the Tate we head to Hammersmith to go to the wetlands centre, which is a big nature reserve. It is cold and bright and wander round taking in black swans with red beaks, different species of ducks and fowl. It’s amazing to have something like this just half an hour from the west end. We talk a lot Stephen has offered me unlimited use of the flat. We are like brothers we get on so easily. I have known him for 17 years now and he is such a good soul, and a dirty good laugh too. My plan is to come to London for a few days every month. Promote my work, go to see art etc, things that I’m missing in the north. I need feeding up. So I’m going to leave some stuff on a shelf in his cupboard. Get some keys, and book trains well in advance so I can afford to do these things. I think it is essential to spend more time in London for me. I need to sort his computer out though. He has no decent word processor, and he doesn't have a printer.

After the wetlands we head into town record shopping. No luck. In the film KILL BILL the first song is Bang Bang by Nancy Sinatra and while the soundtrack to the film has it on, I want the Nancy Sinatra cd to see what the rest of it is like. Bang Bang is so haunting.

I fall asleep as soon as we get home. Stephen cooks vegetables and rice. I eat and fall asleep again.

Monday, 27 October 2003

Squits
We don't go far today. Stephen is poorly with the squits so I shop and cook and feed him restoring food. We watch the long version of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' snore. And later when he's better we go into town to see a poetry reading at Soho Theatre. God it is awful. The first woman is okay until she starts singing very badly, but she thinks she's got soul. The next guy is without any poetry whatsoever its very bad stand up comedy hidden behind nothing, and the last poet is all death and childhood trauma we're supposed to feel sorry for her and its a manipulative, post feminist ride through her personal darkness. Not connection, not an ounce of relating it to what might be the audiences experience. Terrible the lot of it

Sunday, 26 October 2003

Rest Day
Just quiet after last night's show. Tired but very happy with it. Have a mooch around Brixton, meet up with Marie for lunch at some local Japanese restaurant. Quiet afternoon at the flat, we all just dose and when we wake up a bit we go to see KILL BILL on Marie's recommendation, which is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It is exhilarating and beautiful. If you grew up on Kung Fu and Star Trek you'll love it

Saturday, 25 October 2003

up and out
Early out to get the 7.30 train. The ghosts of the last year get on the train with me and trouble my heart. Their threads tightening and paining me. Halloween, samhain is near. And the people who are missing from our lives both living and dead walk close with us. I can feel you near me. I wish we could talk like we did, love like we did. The veil is so thin I can almost touch you. Letting you go is so impossible. Your heart is part of my heart. Your face is with me always.

Train after train to Windsor. Arrive at 2.30 everyone is stretching and warming up. We’ve got a technical run through in an hour so we go to get food. Its fab to see Phil & Allan & Xan & Sherry.

I do yoga before the show, on the stage itself. The theatre is small and comfy but we're only running 18 channels of lights tonight instead of the 52 we are used to, so we've had to come up with new stage placements and movements to work this out.

The show is great. Really buzzy, and in the bar afterwards lots of positive reaction from people. 3 people sign up to my own mailing list. They loved the poems, and we drink a bit and read the audience feedback sheets. Which is a joy to us. I’m offered a lift into Brixton, which is fantastic, as I don't know how I’d get home at all otherwise. We don't have another show of 'and SHE WAS' till December. I’m going to miss this strange family over the next weeks.

Stephen has cooked up pizza when I arrive, we talk until late. And the night begins

Friday, 24 October 2003

getting better
6.30 Yoga
9.00 Therapy
10.15 Bodywork & massage
Lunch at Ruby Juice

I’m fixing my soul by fixing my body

Pack for London, sort out the fish tank
Stay at Hannah's

Getting better, getting better.

Thursday, 23 October 2003

in the end.........
It starts with one thing...
The last session today with Chris at the school in Bradford. I do my job, but this is hell. The kids work so well. I keep my mind on the job. On them. This might be the last time I ever see Chris. We’ve known each other for many years and today is probably the last time like this. we have to finish off the project but I’m on another site and it will only be admin between us. Where do the love and the years go? What do they count for? Right now I couldn't tell you. Should I write such personal stuff in my journal? I don't know. This is not here to hurt anyone. I don't mind it being public. I’m not telling stories, just asking questions today. What will you think of me while reading this? I don't really care. My life and art are not separate things. This is more than just entertainment. Maybe its not, maybe this is soap opera. In the end it doesn't really matter

Wednesday, 22 October 2003

Resistance is Furtive (Old Borg Proverb)
Car in for servicing. I sit and look at the pile of work. Do mind maps resist planning tomorrow's sessions? Create a Halloween CD with Johnny next door for his upcoming party. Watch Neighbours. My one telly weakness is that I love Neighbours, okay and Buffy, but that's over now

Sunday, 12 October 2003

Homer
A day of resting, a bit of yoga, hang out with Hannah and Johnny..That’s all really
Chagall
Drove to Birmingham where Xan and Sherry are performing their Chagall piece. Part under the new weird bubbly Selfridges, and go to the theatre, which is a grotty hole. The piece is called a key to the eyelids and the images are so wonderful. The stories in Paris and the abstractions of Chagall's work into these tales blows me away. I have to see some of his paintings its been too long.

Drive home and have to stop at a services, as I’m so tired. Fall asleep in the car park. Wake up at 2.30 am and find a way to navigate my course

Friday, 10 October 2003

prepare, prayer & purpose
A day in the Bradford school working on the Learning Support Unit. I start off in a bad mood as last week had been so difficult emotionally. I am determined to do better this week. And I think we manage it. A lot more work gets done, and the strained relationships are mangaed somewhat better.

I head off for my massage which I’ve booked as a way to help me expel some of the difficulties of the day. Getting pre-emptive these days. I enjoy a good ironing out and the evening is spent quietly.

Music for the day: aphex twin – selected ambient works one

Thursday, 9 October 2003

poetry day
Its national poetry day, though you’d hardly know it since the BBC withdrew its funding for it, it has slid down the agendas somewhat. The Simon Elvin Foundation sponsor it these days and it is a much lower key affair, but poetry seems to be doing okay at the moment, certainly there is more real stuff about, less of the rhymed stuff we had to suffer about 6 years ago in the last renascence.

I spend a fairly quiet day, just munching through paper. Last nights whiskey session slows me down a bit. I head off to Manchester to take part in a slam. Yeah me in a slam, I can hardly believe it but I need to get seen if I’m going to make it out there. So I dress well, good suit and a white Indian shirt. Looking good is a weapon I try to use more often these days. Clothes maketh the man and all that. A slam is like ice-skating for poets, you get judged by the audience. I don’t expect to win as I don’t do the popular things, and I’m not a rhymer. I am surprised by the quality of some of the stuff. Some of it is well frightful too. Nazi death camps and the usual playing the women’s issue card are in evidence, but there are a few really good bits. A guy called Steve who fits more poems into 4 minutes than I can believe but its good stuff, a girl called Anne who sticks to the real thing, and its her first time, and the guy who wins, is good at painting his brand of urban grit. I get chatting to Anne and her chap Kevin, they’re lovely and bright. We talk about reading and poetry and believing in yourself. I get talking to Steve too, have a whisky with him and talk crap at the bar while the evening’s bands warm up. Fab. Swap email addresses with all these lovely folk and head back over the border to one horse Hebden. Tomorrow I’m in school so I prep my session and collapse. Yeah I like this. Reading poems and meeting people. That will do for a job.

Wednesday, 8 October 2003

Troubadour
Off to Bolton this morning, Brothatalk are doing a gig at Bolton Boys School, a very lovely private school. I arrive first and set up the venue. We’re in the arts centre, which is gorgeous. I arrive to a lad practicing piano. I wish I knew what he was playing. But he disappears before I can chat to him. When you get to sixth form here you wear a suit and there are some beautiful pieces of cloth in evidence. Very moneyed.

Julian and Dike arrive and we go straight in. this our first school together and we keep it light, but real, Julian lightening the load, dike being young and hip and me floating between very simple pieces to one or two pieces of the tough stuff. And t works great. We let the lads ask questions whenever they like and the do. We get some call and responses going, and then after an encore we are invited for lunch. The staff enjoyed the work too. One of the teachers cried at ‘Cheap moisturiser.’ That poem is worth its weight in gold, diamonds platinum whatever..

Drive home knowing I’m doing the right job. I am meant to be a troubadour, a poet. Then I get the tea on. Birgit & Eric are coming to tea. I run into Keith and invite him too. I make far too much. I make chicken curry. Okra and potatoes, and rice. Hannah joins us too as do the kids. Lovely. Eric and I get all literary; he’s come to pick my brains on the nature of black writing in the UK. It is a very polemical chat. Are writers of colour duty bound to be political. I surmise that all writing even a love poem is a political event, and then we crack into the whiskey. A 17-year-old Ardbeg & an 18-year-old Caol Ila.

Music in the house:
Yann Tiersenn
Opeth: Morningrise

Tuesday, 7 October 2003

Maps
Got lost in it all, but started well, mediation, yoga, morning pages, wrote a poem about things not to put down yr pants. Went into town and paid in cheques at the banks, and then came back and lost it. So I’m dressed head to toe in leather pants and coat, and I want to make noise, be glamorous, decadent, and wild, and I’m in this half horse town. Damn.

Get things back in the late afternoon. Plan for tomorrows gig. Ring round a few people. Do mind maps of basic jobs that need doing then map out this week. Realise how much there is to do, and get scared.

Going to shop and cook now. I have guests tomorrow so I’m prepping some stuff tonight. Then I have to rehearse for tomorrow

Monday, 6 October 2003

New day
Here we go then. The first Monday in 3 years when I haven’t been at the prison, bar some very short holidays and some illness. Its all over I’m a free man, and I spend the day throwing out paper from the filing cabinet, clearing piles of paper, devising a new filing and work system, and wow. I’ve included in the new system an area about developing my life the way I want to. For too long now, I think I’ve been blown along, now it is time to focus on what I’d like my life to be like and work on the conditions to bring that about. I know I’ll fall on my face at times, and that unexpected things will come. That’s part if it all, but I’ve got to try. There has been too much not understanding in my past. We are allowed to choose, to be aware. At least I’m going to have a go.

Sunday, 5 October 2003

post gig wakeful tired
Great gig with BROTHATALK in Warrington tonight. Very intimate, quite different to our last outing. We're performing again next Wednesday, in a school!!, gotta tone down that material. Its going to be one of those post gig nights where sleep is elusive, so much in my head, will eat some, drink some, watch a film or something.