Amanda Palmer’s ‘Dear Daily Mail Song’ and how history is written


A shorter-than-it-should-be post this week, with a lesson to me on curation, how history is written and the dangers of cat litter tray-cleaning.

Back in the spring, my smartphone met a watery death. I can’t go into details because I will cry but it involves the bathroom and a cat litter tray. I can’t afford to replace it.

My ever-wonderful husband bought me a Kindle for my birthday so I could load up books without the usual ensuing sprained wrist for carrying a portable library. And it takes photos: what a joy. If you can deal with the misery of a front-facing screen with all its slowness and visibility problems, that is. There also needs to be blockbuster film set lighting to get a decent shot.

So now I have many pictures of fingers and thumbs over staged scenes that would put a Victorian family death photograph to shame for the time taken to set up.

I’ve had an amazing couple of weeks, starting with a concert that a lot people know about, thanks to Amanda Palmer’s phenomenal Dear Daily Mail song. If you haven’t yet heard this most charming and target-hitting of ripostes to the constant deriding and shaming of women that is the Mail’s stock in trade, you’re in for a treat. If you have, read her post and listen again. You deserve it.

It’s the fourth time I’ve seen her live, including one of her Kickstarter small gigs which was incredible. The recent concert was amazing in different ways, not least due to the terrific array of guests she introduced. Her blog post lists them all: please check them out.

I’ve read so many terrific features and posts about the evening that it’s far too late in the day to do it in full now. I’ll just mention one/several of her guests here. Members of the cast of LIMBO were on stage for some brief sword swallowing and the ‘mind-bending manoeuvres’ for which they’re renowned.  So that’s where we went a couple of days later: off to the glorious Spiegeltent for acrobatics, music and cabaret. The show is one of the best arguments for live spectacle that I’ve ever seen.

We stayed on for the first of a pair of after-parties, featuring the  omni-talented Sxip Shirey who can do more with his voice, found and repurposed objects and instruments than most orchestras. There was marvellous soul singing, from Raff who kindly gave us a CD, intense tap dancing (I didn’t think that was possible either) and the best beatboxing. So we did it all again this Sunday …

This is where the historical lesson comes in. I couldn’t take any pictures of Amanda Palmer’s gig. I have a couple of photos from each of the LIMBO after-parties that aren’t really fit for a Twitter snapshot. I wouldn’t bring the glorious name of the Weekly Blog Club into disrepute with such bad pics.

Last week, we had a few days in Brockenhurst, in the New Forest: a lovely time of cycling and swimming and eating too much and writing in a sunny garden by a fountain. These donkeys chased us for our fish and chips on our first night there (had to barricade ourselves in a churchyard) and were lurking ready to attack as we left in this dark and scary alley …

They’re used to tourists and stay still long enough even for the dreaded Kindle frontfacing lens.

I wanted to write the full and detailed posts that the three concerts deserve but just don’t have the images and the weekly deadline is fast approaching. So donkeys and a brief mention it is.

I wonder how many historical accounts have been dictated by the facts and figures and illustrations available. There are theses out there and academic departments on the selection and curation of information, of course. It’s just that it struck me that anyone, a potential grandchild maybe, might see this when I’m not around to explain the whole wonder and joy of the music and people I saw over the last few days.

You’re great, donkeys. But you wouldn’t have been my first choice of post if it wasn’t for cleaning that cat litter tray.

Guerilla Gardening

guerilla_roof_gardenI live on the fourth floor in the East End. 70 stairs, no lift. No garden, no balcony. Directly above my early 20th Century flat is a huge flat roof covered in dozens of tall red chimneys.

There are lots of rules about the roof and its neighbouring sibling: no parties, barbecues or access of any kind other than to hang out washing. I’m actually glad about the rules as people walking on the roof may as well be in the same room as me.

Frequent requests for the these wonderful spaces to be turned into green roofs fall on deaf ears with the local authority that owns the buildings. It has negligible interest for anything that happens outside the Square Mile where it resides. Our flats are lived in by people who are by and large poor, from ethnic minorities and unversed in dealing with byzantine organisations.

Never mind that this would improve insulation, the environment and the quality of life for people who live here. Nothing to be gained in helping us for the City of London.

So, I have an illegal stash of plants on the roof. This runs its own risks. They’re tempting to the kids who throw everything from eggs to water bombs to bits of concrete off the edge. I’ve explained gravity and potential impact to them and we have a stand-off. I turn a blind eye to them hiding the pots around the place occasionally, let them help and so far they haven’t killed anyone with a lupin.

Some of the less savoury characters who get in to hang out by buzzing the doors of confused old folk are less receptive to the joys of gardening. My Christmas tree that we brought indoors each year has been set on fire and had its branches torn off. The flowers have been damaged, urinated on and used as ashtrays or rubbish bins.

I’ll keep clearing up and hoping for the best. Five minutes watching bees and sniffing lemon-scented leaves and jasmine makes the effort worthwhile.