Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Enough already

I suppose I must have had the same New Year's resolutions for about thirty years - don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with them. Having failed to attend to those resolutions, I then add more, so that I am now like Marley's ghost, dragging chains of these things, each link a reminder of some perceived inadequacy or shortcoming.

The other thing that seems to have happened as I have become older is that the list of things I feel I ought to start doing on a regular basis now far outweighs the things I think I ought to stop doing. I don't so much have bad habits now as bad character traits - or at least character traits I have decided I would be better off without.

Maybe I'm too boring now. Maybe I ought to do a kind of reverse resolution list: I must be more aggressive to complete strangers. I must eat more red meat and exercise less. I must drink more and learn to juggle with knives. I must swear more. I must totally lose contact with all my friends and family. I must try and be less tolerant of other people's stupid ideas. . .

But enough already. I hereby pardon myself from all my past unresolved resolutions. In fact this year, my new New Year's resolution is not to make any New Year's resolutions.

Apart from that one.

The one about not making any.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Buone Natale!

We spent Christmas in Venice this year. My son was given the choice of the usual pile of presents or a holiday. He chose Venice.

And it was a good choice. I don't think we will ever see St Mark's Square so empty and despite the fact that the city had the worst floods for several decades in early December, there was less sign of flooding this this time than there was when we visited in October 2007. Back then there was a queue stretching out of the Doge's Palace and right round the building. This time we walked straight in.

The skies were clear and blue the whole time apart from two wonderfully atmospheric misty days. . .

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Number four all over



It is 1979 and I am so desperate to look cool that I am smoking. I don't smoke anymore, I should hasten to add. It is, of course, a disgusting habit and, as this photograph clearly shows, does not so much make you look cool, as makes you look worried.

Or a little bit like an unconvincing undercover member of the vice squad.

I am modelling a borrowed leather jacket and suede shoes. The haircut is a 'number 4 all over'.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Leather tie and big badge


Here I am in about 1977. The photograph was taken one morning as we set off to college by my old friend Alan Adler. I don't look too thrilled at either the prospect of study or of being photographed. I seem to be going for a young Bob Dylan/John Cooper-Clarke look here. I notice that I am wearing my old school blazer and what - if memory serves - was a leather tie. I can't remember what the enormous badge said, but I'm sure it was pithy.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

School tie and purple shirt


So here I am in Manchester in what I'm guessing to be about 1978. I look quite cross about something. I may have been trying to look cool. Or it may have been something to do with the itchy purple nylon shirt I was wearing (a shirt that was a favourite because it was vile). I may be wearing my old school tie.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

I wanna destroy passers by. . .

We went to a party at Joad Raymond's house yesterday. I have never really got the knack of parties. I always mean to mingle, but I rarely do. I seem to end up with someone I already know and talk to them over the surrounding noise until I am hoarse. So it was, pretty much, this time.

I had a long chat to my friend Paul Grunfeld who at one point told me how he used to be a punk, the image of which I have struggled to get out of my head ever since. Paul must have been the most charming, well-spoken and polite punk in the land! But it did get me thinking about my time at college in the late seventies. . .

I was at Manchester between 1976 and 1980. Punk took off as I arrived, but I struggle to think of many 'punks' at the art college apart from maybe the artist and musician Linder who was a couple of years ahead of me doing Graphic Design and going out with Howard Devoto of the Buzzocks and then Magazine (a favourite band of mine).

I suppose the problem is that punk has come to mean something different. If you say 'punk' to someone now, they see one of those sad King's Road types with their spiked crest and piercings, but punk was never that clear a style. Being a punk was not like being a skinhead or a teddy boy: there was no dress code. It was supposed to anarchic for goodness sake. If you look at a photograph of a punk gig from the time, you will struggle to find anyone who looks like a 'punk'. Punk was as much an attitude as anything else.

Punk was also, to my mind, a very young and suburban kind of a thing. I already felt too old at 19/20. In any case I remember finding the music faintly ridiculous on first hearing, though that changed quite quickly. But I think I was always more interested in American bands like Television and Patti Smith and Richard Hell than I was with The Vibrators or The Adverts (though I saw the Clash and the Buzzcocks and many, many others, many, many times). I still get a buzz out of hearing the odd blast from that era but I hate nostalgia. It's lazy and dishonest.

Punk was too visceral and raw to ever be widely popular and even those who took part got tired of its limitations. I can remember watching Magazine walk off twice because people were spitting at them - a shower of spittle being the equivalent to a standing ovation in 1978). As far as they were concerned punk was over and they wanted to move on. And so did we all, really. Spitting is not a very accurate form of applause and I liked to be near the front.

The punks I knew that used to hang out at the Student's Union bar in Manchester and come to the gigs there and at the other small venues like Rafters or the Russell Club, were not art students at all. Most art students I knew were very, very straight and conservative, whatever the caricature of them being wild and crazy might be. Soul and disco, reggae and funk music were a much bigger deal to most art students I knew in the late seventies and you were much more likely to hear Bob Marley or Funkadelic on someone's record player (you may need to Google this term if you are under 40) than the Clash.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

So cold

I went to the studio yesterday for the first time in ages. It was so cold, I just put my coat back on and left after about ten minutes.

I went again today, but it was just as cold. I did stick it out a bit longer this time, but I had lost contact with my feet by the time I left. There is a romantic idea of artists and writers freezing away in garrets, so I suppose I'm embracing the cliche.

But not with any enthusiasm.