The Ghosts Of East End Children

Taken in the early 1880’s, this is one of the earliest images of the East End of London.

I love the way the children appear insubstantial and ghost-like, which in effect they are. Lingering echoes of lives long lost, wandering along now vanished streets.

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When Your Child is ill But it’s You That’s Got The Fever

In 2012 my daughter was off school ill, fourteen days before her fifth birthday.  What follows are just two of the many conversations that pushed me right over the edge:

 

Millie: “Do you like my necklace? Derek bought it me.”
“No, Eric bought it you.”
“Eric? And he took me to The Wiggles.”
“No Derek took you to The Wiggles.”
Derek?”
Yes.”
“And bought me this necklace?”
“No. Eric. There is Eric. And there is Derek.”
“Where did Eric take me?”
“The cinema.”
“Eric took me to the cinema. Did Derek come? With the necklace?”

Andy picks up his phone, calls school. ” I think I will chance her in.”

Next:

Millie:”Is it my birthday in the morning?”
No.”
There is night and there is morning. Is it my birthday after that?”
No.”
“The night and then the morning after that?”
No.
“Is it my birthday after that?”
No.”
“After the night?”
No.
After the morning?
No.”
“Is it my birthday?”

Andy picks up his phone, calls the adoption agency.

Cross My Arms And Hope To Spy

Another one of those old photographs that I love. A young woman standing on top of a wash tub. At first glance it appears from her stance that she is displaying no little attitude.

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But close up you see a playful smile.

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Maybe she stands on that tub to fit into the shot the plant on the window ledge behind her.

Of more interest, though, is the little girl in the background: the spy; the photobomber; maybe awaiting her turn.

Next in line for a photograph now lost to time’s censor.

However here she survives, perhaps only here: the eternal spy; the photobomber; the girl who intrudes. Pushing herself forward for 21st Century eyes.

A Dagger In The Art

We recently had a Dutch student stay with us, and a conversation about famous Dutch people provoked two inevitables:

1. My son contributing every single footballer from the Netherlands that he could think of,

and 2. the namedrop of Vincent Van Gogh.

“Van Gogh!” exclaimed my daughter, “wasn’t that him that bit off his own ear?”

What followed were some incredible attempts by my children to fit their ears into their mouths, a feat surely impossible unless they were elephants.

Later that evening I finished a biography I was reading of The Mamas and the Papas. If ever there was a group that was destined not to stay together it was these guys. Remember that great 90’s film The Commitments, about an Irish group that imploded just as they were about to hit the big time?


It was like that. You had Michelle who was married to John; John who was friends with Denny; Denny who was friends with Cass; Cass who was both in love with Denny and friends with Michelle.

Then, just as they were about to sign a recording contract with a record company, Michelle and Denny had an affair. John was angry with Denny. Denny felt guilty about cheating on his friend and upsetting Cass. Cass was angry with Denny and Michelle. Michelle was angry because John blamed her and not Denny. And on and on ad nauseum.

Now it was time to make music. Somehow they managed to last two years.

John, much in the way of songwriters both before and after, used the turmoil in his life to create art. Just like Abba, where the recently divorced Björn came up with the lyrics of The Winner Takes It All and  gave it thoughtfully to his ex-wife to sing,


John wrote I Saw Her Again about this betrayal and the group took their medicine and recorded it. Probably with many sideways glances.

From this I began to think of the recently deceased Dolores O’Riordan. Although the cause of death in that London hotel has yet to be disclosed, and it would be wrong to speculate, there are tales of depression and breakdowns, bipolar and a suicide attempt, all in the wake of her terrible  experience as a young girl when she was sexually abused between the age of eight and twelve by a man known to her family.

A man who, though she never publically named, approached her at her father’s funeral, as she had long dreaded, tearfully apologising for what he had done.

I thought once again about how artists turn pain into art; about creative tension, struggle and catharsis. How some need to somehow get it out in their work.

And, with Dolores’ personal disclosures, witnessed the heartbreak of this Cranberries song, Fee Fi Fo, shared below complete with lyrics.


Time And The Swede

Speaking of Time: posted three years ago.
Time, please be gentle.

City Jackdaw

A while ago, on Facebook, I stumbled across this photograph of my old Swedish friend Agnetha Fältskog, taken from the first Abba Greatest Hits album of 1975. If you look closely, you will see that inserted into her hand is a copy of her last solo album, A, released in 2013. Both albums, both images, separated by thirty-eight years, stand, in a way, like chronological bookends of a linear journey. Of her linear journey, along that particular period of her life. In between, of course, much has changed. For better, or for worse. Such is life.

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I like to think that the photoshopping artist, whoever he or she may be, has, like I, a penchant for both history and continuity, similarly casting an appreciative eye over the progressive journey, yet, also, being cut to the quick by the unstoppable, winnowing effect of time itself.

There is a song on Agnetha’s…

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