Thursday, September 06, 2001
Wednesday, September 05, 2001
Heading off to school Wednesday morning, making breakfast and playing Depeche Mode’s Construction Time Again in the kitchen (James brought round the first five Depeche Mode albums last night from the Mute vaults – at my request), making espresso and burning my wrist after spilling coffee on cooker and trying to clean when still hot and of course not thinking about leaning over the steam stream. Ouch. And later upstairs suddenly realising the battery for my video camera was dead so sticking it on charge for the last ten minutes before leaving, so I could maybe at least have enough power to film the stretch of road that enters dreaded Tiverton as part of my year long movie project. ‘Day In, Day Out’. And yes of course also filming another part of road leaving Tiverton on way home as part two of film; eventual plan to have both films projected on opposite walls so there is disorientating feeling… loops that aren’t really loops but to all intents and purposes are because life in work is just endless repeating loops with minor deviations and are they all that wonderful? Some days you day yes, others you cry no and want to run and hide.
But Depeche Mode.
Playing ‘See You’ on the geek lair stereo and with the window wide open whilst the battery charged, not thinking anyone else could hear, until out at car, loading bag in boot, here approaches Portias Dad, and… explanation required: Portias Dad is bloke who lives behind us with family at whom he sometimes yells loudly, and at Portia too, Portia being big black lolloping Labrador dog. Very sweet. Don’t know if Portia is actually called Portia after the Merchant Of Venice or Porsche after German sports cars (one of those alternate spellings – like how do YOU pronounce Neu?). Family also has cat which we call Mercedes although really it’s called Splat or something. We don’t really know. Mercedes regularly sings on the wall and sits on the window ledge outside our kitchen.
So here comes Portia’s Dad, after loading his kids in car for school run (can’t tell what school – green sweatshirts I think. Which school is that? I know so little about the Exeter schools. I’m really as interested as anyone reading this is, which is to say very little if at all) and he laughs ‘I’ll be singing that all day now!’ So I look confused and he smiles and goes ‘See you’ in a sing song voice that is nothing like the Depeche Mode song at all. I am partly embarrassed that he has heard my stereo through the open window (and wonder what else he and everyone other neighbour has ever heard), partly pleased that I can have made a man so cheery in the morning without even knowing it. And of course partly mortified that he now thinks I am some big Depeche Mode fan, or maybe worse, some fan of early ‘80s synth pop.
Although why I would be embarrassed about those things I don’t know.
Well, I do, of course. Depeche Mode were always one of those groups it was never really cool to like. They were like the Obvious Alternative. I never much cared about that though because I always thought they were a great Pop Singles band. Depeche Mode were one of those groups whose names I used to write on the covers of my school books; this at the time just after ‘Dreaming Of Me’ came out and no-one liked them of course, which suited me just fine. I think around the same time I would have written B-Movie and TV21 on the cover of my Latin book and been made to stand up and explain it all to the class. No-one understood or cared, which again suited me just fine.
Depeche Mode were embarrassingly naïve and innocent. It made for great Pop when innocence and naiveté of course were the requirements of great teenage Pop, and you can’t argue that songs like ‘See You’, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Sometimes I wish I Was Dead’ and more than any other ‘The Meaning of Love’ are terrifically empty headed daydreaming gems of teenage angst and escapism. Depeche Mode were embarrassingly naïve and innocent. It made for cringe-worthy hysterics on songs like ‘People are People’, ‘Master and Servant’ or the laughable sixth-form lyrics and mock-goth gloom and doom of ‘Blasphemous Rumours’. Even a song like ‘Everything Counts’ which stands for me personally as one of the greatest Pop moments of the ‘80s is unintentionally hilarious in its ‘seriousness’. That line about being in Korea and being insincere cracks me up every time… but in fact the saddest joke of all is that so many people I think took that song the wrong way and totally missed the stance, missed the point. Whatever. Listened to again now it’s a song that bristles with sadness; a hymn that anticipates the decay of the ’80s in the face of ‘boom’ times for a minority. It’s a song that houses so many lost dreams, but that’s of course another story that might involve sitting in someone’s bedroom on too many Sunday afternoons into evenings drinking too many bottles of cheap cider. Or it might not.
Strangely, I have been listening to a lot of old ‘80s synth pop just recently and tonight in fact am playing the eponymous 1980 album by Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls, Pauline Murray of course being the one-time voice of Penetration, and the Invisible Girls being Steve Hopkins and Martin Hannett, legendary Manchester producer. And is it synth pop at all? I don’t know. I do know it’s a great, atmospheric album full of the kinds of wintry, metallic noise that you might expect of Hannett, but also full of tremendous Pop tunes, notably ‘Dream Sequence 1’ and ‘Time Slipping’, which are just the kinds of soaring and trembling things you might expect me to fall for, helped on their way, as they were, by the inestimable Vini Reilly. Of course I didn’t buy the album in 1980, and I don’t even know if it was released then at all, because I finally bought it in 1983. I say ‘finally’ because it was a record that I had been seeing in the racks of the record section in the Ayr John Menzies store for months before I finally bought it. In those days Scott and I used to go into Ayr every Saturday morning, riding the fifteen or so miles each way on our bikes if it was dry, or taking the bus that went through the South Woods of Troon if it was wet. That winter you could still see the tyre marks on the road by the old (some said haunted) Crosby churchyard, where in June a car had skidded through a 180% sweep to collect me sprawling on its bonnet, feet still strapped into pedals.
I saw the Pauline Murray album in the record racks and always lifted it out to see what price it was. Each month it got cheaper as it was always passed over. It was kind of sad really. In the end I really felt sorry for the record and went and asked the marginally more acned than me teenager at the till to let me hear it. Of course in those days they had no headphones and if you wanted to hear something before buying they would just play it over the whole store soundsystem. So we had the sounds of ‘Dream Sequence 1’ thundering through the speakers of John Menzies for all to hear. It was a magnificent moment. Of course I feigned doubt and asked to hear it again. And again. Eventually he played that song four times and each time it sounded more majestic than before. So of course I bought it. It wasn’t in doubt.
Monday, September 03, 2001
Can't juggle. Don't juggle. Won't juggle.
Back to school this morning and right back into the kind of shit that makes it all seem like a waste of time… or at least like I’m in the wrong job or at least in a different job to everyone else. Well not everyone, but still… First two hours of the morning spent in hall on painful plastic chairs – we make students sit on these for the same length of time and longer when they do their exams in summer term, which is a hateful thing to do. If we want to get better exam results the first thing we should do is give them more comfortable positions to work in. So yes. Sat in plastic chairs, in rows, and there’s a guy telling us all about methods of learning and telling us all to juggle with balled up sheets of paper. Hateful.
I don’t like juggling. I never did like juggling. Possible because I could never do it all that well and partly because, well, I could never see the point. I was never interested in juggling. Why should I be? Nothing against people who like to juggle, but you know… it’s not for me. But this morning that wasn’t an option. It was made very clear that ‘opting out’ was not an acceptable option… I hate that kind of pressure. The kind of pressure that says you have to smile and look happy and join in and be part of the communal spirit. The pressure that implicitly says ‘you will conform to the common level of expectation; you will tread the middle ground’. Well bollocks to that, quite frankly.
I hate people dressing up interesting, intelligent theories in games. I know the juggling thing was a metaphor for how people learn and I didn’t need to participate in the action to realise it. I’m not stupid. I mean, I’m quite interested in learning how the brain works and how people learn, but I just don’t want to have to juggle balls of paper. If you have serious points to make, make them seriously, otherwise you just belittle the theories and the audience.
So fuck that.
Also, I was considering what this guy was saying about learning and how he goes into other industrial workplaces peddling these theories, and how ‘successful’ they are at raising standards, and I was thinking it’s all just brainwashing… It’s all this kind of ‘positive at all costs’, rubbish that is creating the hyper-smug society we currently live in. These people are stripping away the frailty; they are saying you have to be STRONG and that if you feel weakness, self-doubt, the fragility of looking the world in the face and trembling before the very awful beauty or recoiling from the repulsive garishness, then you are a failure, that you must change. We’re running the risk of losing the ability to question the values of ‘success’, of asking ourselves what ‘success’ means in the first place. I hate it.
Modern Life is truly rubbish.
So, escaping to seeing the world through a picture frame, as Everett says. Recoiling to my room and hiding out from the world. Can a classroom be a sanctuary from the foul stench of commerce? I have no fucking idea. I doubt it very much. But I can try I guess…