October 27: marshmallows

In the school where I sometimes work the Principal has a little speech to the new students at the beginning of the year which she ornaments with marshmallows. She explains the idea of deferred gratification through deciding to forego on an immediate pleasure, presumably the enjoyment of a marshmallow, for a later but greater pleasure, probably passing your exams at the end of the year. I’m not quite sure how the explanation fits together but I’m sure you get the gist. The marshmallows are therefore set up as a pleasure to be passed over. What happens then is that the dish of marshmallows is put in the hall downstairs for anyone to just take and enjoy as they pass through the school. What always surprises me is that none of the kids seem to take them. Either they are still under the influence of the speech about deferred gratification and think that eating a marshmallow would refelct poorly on them, or, more likely, they are upper middle class kids who have never seen a packet of industrially produced pink marshmallow and look down their noses at them. I, of course, as an ex-working class kid of the industrial north, can think of nothing more extravagant than a gelatin-laden cancerogenic marshmallow, and I multiply my trips through the hall to stuff my face with the heavenly pink and white mush. Oh yes. No matter how you try to hide your roots, your past; no matter how distant it all appears to be; no matter how you look to cover it all up with opera and string quartets and fancy literature, the truth will always out. Picture me, as scarlet-faced as Mr Bumble, stuffed to the gills with the spongey, vile confectionary – marshmallows make no attempt to portray themselves as anything other than pads of toooth-decaying squidge – attempting to be taken seriously in front of a set of seventeen or eighteen year olds just back from their summer break in St Tropez. And so begins the instruction of these young minds. The truth will always out.



October 23: advice for budding burglars

We went to a private art gallery. It was a gallery tucked away behind some scaffolding. You had to know it was there. It was an exhibition of Dubuffet works from 1978-79. You had to know who he was. It was one of those doors where you press and buzzer and say you want to come in to see the the exhibition. You had to be unintimidated. In the gallery there were a number of guards and just one pair of visitors, two oldish, well-dressed men. We went round the pictures. We liked them. We talked about them. One of the men caught our eye. We got talking about the art. He was a Canadian man who owned a Dubuffet at home in Canada. He told us where he hung it and what kind of picture it was. He asked me if I owned any Dubuffets. I said I had a poster in my hall. He was not threatened by the fact that I did not own any million dollar pictures. He said what was it like in London for security. I said nobody had ever tried to steal my Dubuffet poster. We all got on like a house of fire. Then we went on with our own individual visits and our own individual days. Thinking later, what we should have done is gone for a coffee with him and his friend. Then he would have given us his address and phone number in Canada. We would have gone to visit him there. That’s when we would have stolen the Dubuffet and some of his other art works. or maybe just stolen his money. My advice to any budding burglars is this: meet people in places where only initiates go. There you befriend them easily. They think you are like-minded. They trust you. You are like-minded but a bit different. They like that. It is exotic to them that you own a Dubuffet poster and not a genuine Dubuffet. That way you are in a position to rob them of their assets. Ah well, there’s another calling left unexploited.


October 1: glam rock and me

I was too old to be seduced by the zaniness of glam rock. I was a boy with nothing much to kick against and did not see the point of men dressing up in bright silver costumes and wearing glitter on their face. It alienated me. I liked reassuring things like Val Doonican singing in a jumper on a rocking chair. The other day I went on youtube to see, out of curiosity, if Gary Glitter was there and listen to Rock and Roll part two, which in my memory was pretty good, though at the time I didn’t like it. The footage of him on Top of the Pops was there and had one and a half million views. I remember once Mr and Mrs Shield, who were a bald man and his blond wife with a face like a bag of spanners, told someone that Gary Glitter had been to their house and they had made him either a soup or a suit (there was ambiguity in the message that got through to us). Why would Gary Glitter be getting a soup or a suit from Mr and Mrs Shield of all people. It was unfathomable to me. I like all that glam rock stuff now. T Rex, Sweet, early Bowie, Slade. Somehow as a middle aged man I am more in tune with their playful devil-may-care anarchy now than I was as a not very rebellious child. It is odd when you listen to the soundtrack of your childhood. You love it for nostalgic reasons and pick up on the mood and intent more now than then. I must have been a puritanical child. Slade all seemed to have such a great time on stage, taking the piss out of the lip syncing they were required to do. These boys were not in the same business of the marketing men. They were just having fun and if the syncing looked like shit so be it. These days the stars do marketing. Riannah, Beyonce, Katy Perry are mainly business people. Gary Glitter, on the other hand, was a pied piper chanting elemental rhythms with people feeding off his sorcery. There was somethng raw and elemental about it. I wonder why Gary Glitter was round at Mr and Mrs Shield’s house that night. They didn’t have children I don’t think, and I had never heard of their proficency in the suit or soup department. Now if it had been Val Doonican going round to Mr and Mrs Shield’s house for soup or a suit I might have understood, but I could not think that Gary Glitter would be interested in soup and it wouldn’t surely be a silver jewel-incrusted jumpsuit that Mrs Shield had been tailoring. Who knows? Fom the depths of the Thai prison where he is purging his 16 year sentence for sex with an underage child, could it be that Gary Glitter’s dreams spiral round that remarkable soup he once tasted in the early to mid 70s on Woodbank ave, Offerton, Stockport.