Monday, October 27, 2003
I don’t remember much of the past couple of weeks. It tends to get this way towards the end of a half term; all eyes are fixed on the start of the break, and little else is allowed to impinge on this vision. It seems to have been ‘worse’ this past half term too what with the debacle of the Arts Status funds, and the concern over whether or not I can actually buy the things I need to reach the targets set, despite all the costings being rigorously laid out in the bid, and oh… gargle gargle gargle. Plus the delays in actually getting the PowerBooks we ordered way back in July. They finally turned up Friday afternoon, so I promptly started unpacking, installing memory and airport extreme cards and commissioning. I got through three in an hour. I know I can speed that up when I get back next week, but when will I have the time? And when will I have a technician to help? It’s all a bit crap really. Oh, and I also set up an Airport Extreme base station in my classroom. It took ten minutes! How cool is that? And I was sitting in the staffroom with my machine on the other day and I had forgotten to turn off airport to save power when I noticed that there was actually a network available! It was called ‘Tiverton’, so I asked to join. There was no password, but when I tried to connect to the school proxy I got nothing at all. That’s when I remembered that the new wireless network is only for the admin network… they didn’t hook it up to the curriculum one, and hence despite the fact that the whole school is going to be wirelessly networked, we wont be able to do anything with it except do electronic registration. How totally stupid and a waste of a terrific opportunity is that? Bah.

But enough school. I ain’t here to think about school. I’m here to pass an hour before I can pick up my photos. Real photos. On paper. From a film. It’s from my Lomo Action Camera, and the film has been in there since the summer term, since when C came back from Melbourne in fact. I couldn’t remember if it was a 24 or a 36 film, so went out this morning not knowing if I had seven or nineteen pictures left to take. Turns out it was nineteen. So I was snapping away at god knows what, just idly letting the shutter fly. I am eager to see what transpires. I know I will have my finger in some of the shots, such is the way I tend to hold the camera. Plus I have big hands, so it’s kind of inevitable. I took other photos this morning too, on my digital camera. Took lots of the Debenhams building, which always looks amazing in the mornings, with the sun low in the sky. I really don’t understand the people who say it’s ugly. I think it’s maybe the most beautiful building in the city. So I’m strange…

People looked at me strangely this morning. They always do when I’m taking pictures of red painted circles on walls, or looking closely at garbage bags or whatever. I wish someone would invent a camera that you implant in your eye, so that you could just kind of send an impulse to your brain and then zap, it takes a photo. And then you can plug yourself into your mac and download it, or better still, have a wireless implant too so you can just log into the network, kind of neurally. Am I sounding like a sci-fi geek? I’m really not you know. It’s just these little things that seem appealing.

I’m now using one of the new 1Ghz 12” PowerBooks. I wonder if the battery will last significantly less time? It certainly seems to be noisier, which is a shame. I really noticed it, humming away with its little fan on the desktop last night. Certainly noisier than the old one. And for a small step in processor speed, it does seem to be noticeably snappier, which I wasn’t expecting, but which is great of course. Ho hum. C now has the old one, and is, I suspect, already appreciating the difference from her PC.

And on the subject of Macs, a big shout out to Paul for all the marvellous gifts. You are my saviour.

We watched ‘Gregory’s Girl’ on Friday night. It is still a terrific film. The penguin in the corridor is surely one of the sublime movie moments of all time. As is the dancing on the grass, laying down. It made me want to go watch ‘That Sinking Feeling’ again, and in fact speaking of that movie, I was also reminded of that when watching the ‘fans Only’ B&S DVD. The start of the video for, ah, I dunno what song it is off hand, it might be ‘legal man’, or ‘jonathan david’ maybe, but anyway it’s the one with Stevie and Stuart being in love with the same chick, and Stuart wins her hand… But anyway, the start is them pushing a bed past the statue of the bloke on the horse that stands atop Kelvingrove Park, the one where ‘That Sinking Feeling’ starts. So, you know, it all fits. Or something.

But ‘Gregory’s Girl’. Yes, that was terrific. Everyone looked scaggy too, which was funny. The early ‘80s really were not an attractive time, on the whole. Even Miss Grogan didn’t look as petite as I remember her being, although maybe our widescreen telly was making things look out of proportion. I think that happens, doesn’t it, with things not filmed in that format? Probably. So it was like watching an altered image, wasn’t it? Ha ha. That was an awful joke.

Not as awful a joke as ‘Gregory’s Two Girls’, however, which we watched later. Maybe it was just us being teachers and all, but aren’t the first 15 minutes or so of that film just in appallingly bad taste? Thankfully the whole nature of student/teacher relationships was given a slightly more sympathetic treatment in the remainder of the movie, but it still only hinted at the reality. There was one line or so about the complexity of those relationships which rang true, but it was brief and fleeting and lost within the brooding on sexuality. And sex, sadly, sells. The rest of the movie is shit too, in case you were wondering: interesting themes – the aforementioned student/teacher relationship thing; the impotent middle class outrage over human rights issues and so on (reading the right papers and magazines doesn’t mean/change a thing – well duh…), both of which should have been engaging, but which were just so badly dealt with I found I couldn’t give a shit about any of it. The two movies come in a two-for one DVD pack, although no-one in their right minds is going to buy it for anything but the classic opener.

Right, the hour is up, so I’m off to pick up my photos. I type (and think) slowly.

Friday, October 17, 2003
Friday afternoon, totally knackered. What a difference a day makes, and all that. Well what a difference a week makes. Huh. No nice days out this week, just the daily grind of school, and the added delight of a late night in school yesterday; not getting home until half nine or thereabouts. All in the duty of our by now traditional yearly celebration of our GCSE students’ work – the ‘Ab Fab’ (tired name, I know…) event wherein we stick up displays of artwork, and some of the current year 10 do some music and drama items. It’s kind of cool actually. Pretty low-key, but all the better for that I think. Anyway, that would have been okay, only yesterday afternoon a member of SMT said ‘can we make a video of it for a conference in Birmingham next week?’ So I had to scrabble about getting stuff together and trying to figure out where to put the camera, and yeah, well, just something else I could have done without really. So today, whilst teaching, I’ve been downloading the film, taking stills shots of the artwork, and trying to weave it all together into a rich tapestry. Ha! I tried in iMovie, but it’s too complex a task, so I started using Final Cut Express for the first time. It seems pretty easy to learn, thank goodness. And stable. I remember trying to work with premiere on a PC for the first time some four years ago and it just kept crashing. Maybe it would be more stable now, but still and all…

Uh, yeah, so I cobbled together something. It’s not finished and I expect I’ll be working on it over the weekend. See, people really do not understand just how long it takes, and how intensive that time is, editing a film… particularly when you care about doing it well. Maybe next year I’ll have a gang of kids who know the ropes and who can do it all as part of their coursework. Something to aim for.

The Ab Fab event was good though. Some of the music was excellent. Abiel did some cool improv on his electric geetar, and I was thinking, ah, someone should give this kid a Godspeed! CD or two, or hook him up with a singer and then they could do some magic things, like maybe if they listened to The Young People or somesuch, but heh, I guess they’ll stick with their Hendrix and AC/DC or whatever the hell they listen to. Uh… And Fiona was glorious with her version of ‘somewhere over the rainbow’, even if there was way too much of that faux ‘r’n’b’ style warbling all over the place. Underneath it all there was the sound of an indie queen struggling to get out, I swear. It reminded me a bit of Amelia singing at ET’s wedding, she had a similar kind of phrasing and poise. But I expect Fiona’s going more for Atomic Kitten than Talulah Gosh, which is fair enough, but I cant help wishing… which has always been my problem. Wishing for things that ain’t gonna happen. Like, I remember thinking that when ‘Atmosphere’ was released as a single back in the early 90s (or was it the late ‘80s?) I seriously thought it was going to be a number 1. I thought it was a given. It just seemed obvious to me… and it reached number 40 or something. I was gutted. So yeah, what the fuck do I know about anything?

I’ve barely thought about anything but school this week. It’s been all pervasive. Shouts out to everyone, however, who have helped answer my Cave question (it was ‘Johnny Suede’ of course), and who have offered copies of the Primal Scream Peel session. I love you all dearly.

Last weekend was a mad scramble making tapes and CDs of various things for a variety of people. Nicola was after a ‘best of’ Sarah singles CD, so I dug out some old singles and indulged myself. I ended up making three volumes, although the majority was from the first twenty or thirty releases. It was good to hear a lot of those records again. They sounded pretty good. I knew just about every nuance by heart too. I spent so many hours playing those records… they were so important. I hope Nicola likes the CDs and manages to play some on his radio show. Imagine, a radio show doing a Sarah special. Who’d have thought?

Sethe finally updated her blog yesterday with a line about not being close to the internet of late. I miss reading her missives. They always made / make me smile. But she sent hugs, which is good because they seem to be in short supply elsewhere. Maybe fall is when we all feel lonely. I dunno. The Boston is filled with Young People (but not The Young People, sadly) chatting, laughing and making out, and it makes me feel old and a bit lost. Or maybe I’m just too tired. Maybe I shouldn’t have bought decaf today.

It’s only one more week until half term. God knows I need the break.

Friday, October 10, 2003
Fuck! This is GREAT! A CD that comes packed in a sleeve of blue watercolour splodges (kind of like that Windy and Carl 10”, cant remember the songs, it was blue vinyl), all the way from Sweden, along with a note saying ‘Dear Mr Fitchett, I’m sure the competition for your stereo time must be fierce. But we try anyway….’ And ‘maybe it would be better if we screamed more. If we sounded angry, cocky, hostile, upset or just driven by the turbo-angst known to make old male Swedish critics exclaim: This band is for real!’

Well, this band is for real too. They’re called Shade Tree and these four songs are glorious fragile country folk, all sweetly strummed guitars and two voices mingling like Emmylou and Gram, or maybe more accurately Gene and Carla. Yeah, that good.

I hope Shade Tree never start screaming. They sound too perfect the way they do right now. Pure, this must be, it has to be…

Damn, now I REALLY want to start a record label.

Okay, so it took me four hours to actually post that last entry. So sue me. I had to shop. I had to unpack a new TV and a new vacuum cleaner (we got a Dyson! We are contemporary! – perhaps – It is silver and turquoise! It sucks like a big mad sucking thing that sucks really hard! - It doesn’t suck at sucking! – and I SO want to go into George Cole’s ‘it beats as it sweeps as it cleans’ shtick from ‘The Green Man’, but of course it doesn’t beat at all, so, uh, accuracy demands that I don’t) and have dinner and do the cleaning, so, uh, that’s why there was such a delay.

Hmmm, now I have had to switch off my new Apple Bluetooth keyboard and go back to the trusty black USB one, which is a shame because the Bluetooth one looks nice and it’s good not having a cable trailing all over the place, but hey, I just can’t be doing with the delay in typing, waiting for the screen to catch up with the keystrokes. Bloody annoying. Sigh.

And for those of you who asked, the Action Biker single is tres chic. Is Poptastic. And other such voluminous adjectives.

And yes, Rupert, vacuum cleaners ARE the new rock’n’roll. Sheesh.

Right, I’m off to watch ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’. Or possibly ‘Matinee’ (A fiver! Result!) on our new Sony widescreen telly. It doesn’t dominate our living room at all… oh no it doesn’t. Honest. (And we couldn’t get one any smaller! Erk!)

Another nice day, made nicer by the fact that here I am in the Boston and it’s barely gone ten to three. Normally on a Friday at this time I would be… actually normally on a Friday I would be running around school trying to catch up with things stored up from the previous couple of days, during which I teach all day without a break. I’m glad, and lucky, to have last lesson on a Friday as a non-contact, at least for the first two terms. In the summer term I will have to do my time-out-room duty, supervising all the naughty kids who get sent out of lessons. But I’m not even thinking that far ahead at the moment.

So, uh, yeah, a day’s drawing down at the museum. I managed to do a couple of drawings using my 0.5 rotring (realised this morning as I packed my bag that I’d left all my pencils in school). A couple of the drawings turned out okay. Our kids were superb all day and really showed up a group from Ilfracombe who descended on the museum a half hour or so after we arrived. They were dreadful. They just wandered around doing bugger all except making a noise and trying to get a rise out of our kids, who to their credit refused to respond. I was really proud of our lot, staying focused and doing good work, whilst the North Devon lot, who were the same age, spent about five minutes on a hasty sketch before flitting off to something else. I guess we must be doing something right in our classes…

We lunched at the Phoenix, which isn’t as good as it used to be, either in quality or service, but I suppose it was better than cup-a-soup and pitta breads in my art room.

I need to pick up a new movie on the way home. I was searching on Amazon last night for a couple of things, one of which was Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Who remembers that movie? It’s a classic. But it’s unavailable, except for a second hand VHS copy going for forty quid. Criminal. I have a feeling actually having written that, that I’ve mentioned this before. Hmmm. I was also looking for that movie that Nick Cave was in, the name of which escapes me, but which had Cave as a white suited dude, and as I recall also starred some other dude with a huge quaff. Or maybe I’m getting that confused with the Leningrad Cowboys, who also had quaffs of stupendous stature. Anyway, if anyone has an idea of what film I’m talking about, please let me know.

Similarly if anyone has copies of the Primal Scream Peel sessions from the ‘80s, an email would be appreciated. A copy of the sessions would be even more appreciated… I recall them fondly, and regret my cherished cassette going ‘twang’ some years ago. Of course it didn’t go ‘twang’ at all, but rather went ‘scrunch munch chew munch scrunch’. As tapes were apt to do. Thankfully CD-Rs don’t do such things. Hurrah! for technology.

And boo for technology because I haven’t been able to get my animation movie onto the web yet… I should be able to do that from iMovie or Quicktime Pro, surely? I’ll have another go. Not that it’s really worth it, but heh.

Oh, and back to Nick Cave; I’ve been changing my mind about ole Nick of late. I used to consider him with something approaching contempt, but I’m not afraid to admit I may have been wrong. Or that I may have been right in the context of my times, but that in the context of my times now it’s right to consider him in a more positive light. It’s all Dylan’s fault. See, there I was letting my iPod run through all my Dylan songs, and on came ‘the Girl From the North Country’, the duet with Johnny Cash of Nashville Skyline, which I hadn’t actually listened to for ages, and of course then I started getting all wistful about the man in black, so dug out his stuff, and whilst playing American 3, there’s his cover of Cave and Harvey’s ‘The Mercy Seat’, which is ace, of course, and so then I’m thinking, hey, maybe I should give the Cave man another chance. So I popped out and got that ‘best of’ collection and bugger me if it isn’t stuffed full of wonderful tunes and performances that make me want to raid the Mute bank.

Strange dreams last night. First, arguing with my father about why I wasn’t interested in being an Interior Designer. My degree was in design, I did it at Glasgow Art School, a couple years after I aborted on the Architecture course, also run at the Mac, and looking back on it now I can’t say I was ever really all that passionate about it at the time. Certainly as soon as I discovered writing and music, well, that was pretty much it. After that all my efforts went on making fanzines and thinking about Pop music. Sometimes I think I’d have been much better off doing the graphics course, or illustration or something, but that’s talking with hindsight and twenty years experience, so what the hell… But yeah, this dream no doubt sparked by the fact that we’re having the small bathroom redecorated and that I have little interest in the whole procedure, and resent the feeling that is put on me (mostly subliminal by myself I guess) that because I did that degree I ought to be in there designing and doing more than I have been. But as I said to my dad in my dream, that was 15 years ago, and we’ve all changed in that time. I couldn’t really care less about interior design any more, and anyway, what we were doing at the Mac was all pretty much conceptual stuff. No-one hassled you to think too hard about how the fuck you were actually going to build the designs, or even too much about anything except the idea… we talked a lot about rhythms of space and qualities of light and the experience of moving through spaces. Pretentious bullshit stuff. And that’s what I liked. That’s why I stuck it out. But the real world isn’t like that, which is fine because I’m not one for saying that education ought to be about preparing you for ‘adult’ life; I think that’s true for some, but we too often lose touch with the sheer fun of learning for knowledge’s sake. Yeah, so… So there it was, this dream, with me arguing with my dad / myself about why I don’t care about interior design anymore.

See, maybe it is true about turning into your parents as you grow older. Whatever.

Dream two was even stranger because my maternal grandfather was in it. I have, to the best of my knowledge (and this is clouded because I usually don’t remember dreams) never dreamt about my grandfather, perhaps because he died when I was about four or five years old. In the dream, however, he was clear as day, looking out the kitchen window of his old house (except it kind of wasn’t, you know what dreams are) in New Cumnock (depths of Ayrshire, Scotland – dark and some might say foreboding place – maybe it’s the perpetual rain, maybe it’s the abandoned mines) watching me wander in his garden, taking photographs of the trees and flowers. He said ‘see if you can find your tree’, but I didn’t know what he meant. Later Carrie was with me and we were looking out a window at a distant hill and C went ‘that’s Coursencone, isn’t it?’ and I said ‘yes it is’. I haven’t spelt that right though. I don’t know the correct spelling. It’s this big hill outside New Cumnock and there are these sayings about it that relate to the weather. Like if he’s got his hat on it’s going to be cold… I think that the ‘hat’ would be a dusting of snow on the summit, so, you know, it wasn’t exactly rocket science to know it was going to be cold.

Dream three was still in New Cumnock, and was me taking more photographs. I was working on a new project, which was basically recording my birthplace in photographs. I had a lovely digital SLR and a medium format analogue camera with me, and I was standing outside the chip shop taking pictures of the locals eating their fish suppers and smoking their fags. Later I was in a pub, taking pictures of the drinkers, telling them what I was doing and why. I expected them to beat me up but they didn’t. Later still I went back to the house on Ardnith Avenue where I was born (no wussy hospitals for me) and asked the family who are there now if I could go in and take photos, and they said okay. I don’t remember what it was like though.

And that was my dreams.

I think the photography ones might have been partly influenced by my reading Stuart’s sleevenotes for the new Belle & Sebastian album, where he’s on about buying a Hasselblad medium format camera. At least that’s probably why I had one in my dream. I don’t particularly yearn for a medium format camera though, unless I could have a digital back on it… which brings me to thinking about what Stuart said about digital artforms, and me thinking that whilst he’s partly right (the democratisation of any art form will lead to an overload of dross), he’s also wrong; it doesn’t matter if you are using a digital or a film camera. If you don’t ‘see’ the photo, you’ll never take it, regardless of what you use, and vice-versa.

And on that note I need to go into town and meet my class.

Thursday, October 09, 2003
I made a movie. Or iMade a movie. Ha ha. That wasn’t even funny, was it? Anyway, what a difference a day away from school makes… Spent the day on a course down at the media centre here in Exeter on an animation workshop, during which we worked in groups of three on making a short movie based on the theme of ‘bugs’. It was meant to tie in with an exhibition at the museum here, hence the bugs thing… Well, whatever, it was really cool. I worked with Josie and Simon. Josie has worked at the school for the deaf here in Exeter for the past 30 years or so, and Simon is an art teacher at QE up in Crediton, and actually I’d met him at the previous meeting about animation at the media centre, so, uh, that was cool. We had a choice to make plasticene models or to work in 2D, and at first I was the only one who wanted to do 2D (why do I so naturally recoil from 3D work? Is it a result of the hell of 3D experience in school, down the woodwork and metalwork dungeons where I would be threatened by chisel wielding psychos?), but Josie and Simon thankfully said they’d work with me, so I hope they didn’t regret their decision. We made a movie about three bug characters. Simon had a wood louse kind of creature called Bob. Josie made a dragonfly that I christened Britney. I meanwhile had a kind of dragonfly without wings that ended up being a scuttling kind of ground dwelling bug called Lawrence.

Our movie revolved around the idea of Britney flying around, showing off and Lawrence scuttling along, rolling his eyes at her display, and Bob uncurling and recurling, before Britney landed on Bob, Lawrence scuttling back off-screen, and Britney snacking on poor old Bob leaving nothing but a skeleton behind. Then we had leaves falling at the end for the credits. It was cool! If I get time I’ll try and upload a version of it to the web for your amusement. Or not.


So yeah, a day away from school, and after feeling utterly deflated of late, I feel much better. Despite lunch being all meat so I was stuck with a few crisps and some Rich T biscuits, plus a bag of hula hoops and a Snickers that I went out for (sudden flashback to when they were called Marathon bars… ah, pernicious nostalgia). Still totally pissed with the lack of PowerBooks in school, and the fact that hey, I really can’t do the job I’m expected to do properly, but what the hey. I’ll keep on doing whatever I can and fuck everything/one else. We had year team meeting Tuesday and everyone just griped. Management getting their knickers in a twist with the prospect of OFSTED and missing the point that what really matters is what happens in the damn classroom.

Hmmm. So yeah, the Boston is busy for once. Stuffed full of students from the college, being young and blah blah blah. I watched the top three of the NME charts on MTV2 last night and it was a bit of a strange experience. BRMC just ARE the Mary Chain nearly twenty years on. It made me kind of nostalgic for those times when, as Tim Footman said, we all wore bowlcuts and tried to look like Bobby Gillespie, or Stephen Pastel, or whoever. Actually I started to think, ‘where have all the Popkids gone?’ I don’t see any around. Surely that’s due a ‘revival’? What would the contemporary equivalent of a Pastels badge be? I dunno.

I’m looking forward to getting home and playing the new Action Biker single that I picked up in the mail today. Yum. Also the July Skies live show from the Spitz. Thanks, uh, was it David? And thanks to Leonard Roberge for the Jasmine Minks ‘Pure’ single, for which I had been searching for many a year. Great stuff. My Esurient collection is now complete…

Okay, coffee mug emptied, it’s time I headed home, via the post office to mail off that copy of CTCL to Jamie in Poland, and some mix CDs to Nicola in Canada. Tomorrow I can have another lie in before meeting the year 10 kids at the museum for their day of drawing, which will be nice. Actually I didn’t lie in today anyway, but was able instead to get some work done before heading into town… I’ll probably do the same thing tomorrow. And we get a new TV and vacuum cleaner delivered tomorrow too. Ah the simple things that delight, and the not inconsiderable power of retail therapy.