Dickon Edwards - Diary At The Centre Of The Earth
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Saturday, October 29th, 2005

Subject:Moving the Diary away from LJ
Time:2:03 am.
This diary has transferred to the new DE website here:



For LiveJournal users only

LJ users can continue to follow the diary by adding the syndicated Atom feed link (dickon_atom) as a Friend here.

If, however, you're worried about me posting large entries and images all over your Friends Page, plump for the RSS feed dickon_rss instead. It only quotes a link and brief excerpt, thus acting as a kind of 'cut tag'.

I'll still be using this account (dickon_edwards) for reading the LJ posts of others.

Friday, October 21st, 2005

Time:1:47 am.
A Ms Brandi from Los Angeles sends me a drawing.

For reasons best known to herself, she feels compelled to depict me in a suspicious-looking hot air balloon.

Time:12:28 am.
I write, driven to distraction, in every sense, by recent dental work. I've had a porcelain veneer fitted to one of my upper front teeth, to bring it into alignment with the others. It rather feels someone's rammed a piece of a sink into my face. Which is exactly what it is, of course. The tooth looks much better, but I'm not fully ready to judge until its neighbour is equally dressed in porcelain. For this other front tooth, a new crown was to be fitted at the same time as the veneer, but the dentist thought it wasn't fitting properly, and sent it back to the mysterious lab that forged it for a replacement.

I'm grateful that she takes this trouble over getting it right, but am irritated that I have to spend an unexpected 2 and a half weeks with a rather gappy temporary affair in its place. And the more I think about it, the more I'm starting to feel unhappy with the veneer. Is it really better? Does it really fit? Can I smile in the same way I did before? Has it made things worse? Should I see yet another dentist about it? The more I anguish over this, the less I can think straight about it.

Unlike doctors, I never seem to fully trust dentists, even the ones I like. I can't stop thinking about the incongruously large amounts of money asked for at every turn. I view lawyers with the same suspicion.

This is why I could never work in such fields myself. At the moment of telling the patient or client how much my services are going to cost, I would find it impossible not to laugh out loud.


The Quentin Crisp evening went well. At my suggestion, Xavior put a small charge on the door this time - less than half the cost of a drink from the bar. This was purely for crowd control, and made all the difference. We performed to those who wanted to see us, rather than those who were just drinking. People like to pay for things - especially if the things are cheap. And once they do, they tend to want to see what they've paid for rather than talk over it.

It turned out to be the first time I've performed spoken word and felt I actually did okay. It helped that the material was the work of someone else, so I thank Mr Crisp from beyond the grave. One of my recitals of Crisperanto occurred right at the end, when the kind fellow on door had retired for the night. Naturally, with no gate-keeping in place, a drunk fool immediately strode in and pulled up a chair right by the stage. He started to have a go at me, and to everyone's surprise (not least my own) I stopped my reading, glowered at him and hissed slowly, carefully, and in the most serious tone I've spoken in my life:

"Please respect me. And I will respect you afterwards."

I have no idea where that came from, or even quite what it means, but it does mark the first time I've spoken back to anyone in my life, to their face. A date for the diary indeed. And about time too, some might say.

It helped that the next line from Mr Crisp's philosophy was:

"Every day, when you wake up, you should say to yourself, preferably out aloud:


At which I paused and stared directly at the heckler for a little too long. The audience laughed and applauded. It seemed they were on my side, not his.

This was my first inkling of the feeling a stand-up comedian must get when he wins such battles in the field of their profession. And they ARE battles. I now realise such comedians must have a pugilist instinct in them, far more so than an actor. If they lose such battles, they 'die' on stage.

I used to think that was a rather over the top expression, but now I understand what it means only too well. Last Friday, at last, I managed to live.

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Time:12:28 am.
I'm sitting at home with my hair wrapped in the usual polythene hood holding my latest application of cheap purple peroxide. Once more unto the bleach, dear friends.

Someone asked me if I've developed any grey hairs yet, but their guess is as good as mine. I'm not too interested in properly growing out the blond to find out, just as I've never been interested in not shaving to see what a beard would look like. My face is more or less fixed for life.

Watching a video of the movie Resident Alien, the feature-length documentary about Quentin Crisp in New York circa 1989. This is in preparation for a Crisp-themed event at the Hanky Panky Cabaret tomorrow evening. The occasion has the official blessing of Phillip Ward, the executor of the Crisp estate, and I intend to perform some of the great man's many comforting words of wisdom.

My main concern is that the audience will shut up and listen. Holding what is essentially a spoken word evening in a cabaret bar, on a Friday night, and in the now fashionable Hoxton area, runs the risk of attracting people who are only present to have a drink. They may well not care for whatever's going on onstage and will assume it's okay to chat loudly among themselves just like any other bar.

It's the wrong kind of drunkenness - where alcohol bevels down any individuality until the crowd becomes one cliched, amorphous chattering idiot-creature with many heads. Turning what should be a special event into any other bar in London. Which is rather missing the point. I vividly recall one book event at the Boogaloo where the author Joolz Denby stopped her reading to directly address those chatting away at the same time.

"Hey - If you want to have a drink and a loud chat," she spat at some volume, "I believe other London pubs are available. I am only performing in this pub, nowhere else. So please either shut up, or go elsewhere."

Though she used rather more f-words than that.

I was terribly impressed, and wish I had the same nerve when I take to the stage.

There's a scene in The Naked Civil Servant that springs to mind. It's an evening in the 1930s, and a bunch of flat capped 'roughs' invade the queers' Compton Street cafe, looking for trouble. Or rather looking for fun, which translates as trouble for those on the receiving end.

ROUGH: (aggressive, intimidating) You're going to buy us a cup of tea, aren't you darlin?

THE YOUNG QUENTIN CRISP: (smiling, one hand on hip, going on the camp as defensive) I thought it was for the gentleman to buy the drinks.

ROUGH: Well, we're not gentlemen, see. We come from 'oxton.

In 2005, this gets a knowing laugh. Hoxton is now a haunt for loud club-going media types, including plenty of metrosexuals and indeed fashion-following homosexuals. And yet one could say they are still the town roughs, travelling in packs to gigs and cabarets and chatting loudly over the performance about their high incomes, 'edgy' advertising campaigns or their tacky reality TV pilots. The meek individualists of London, whatever team they play for, are at their mercy.

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Subject:Echo and the Funny Man
Time:1:46 pm.
William writes:

Hi Dickon. I don't know whether you've been informed, but your livejournal is the Liverpool Echo Blog of the Day.

Thank you, Ms Liverpool Echo.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2005

Time:1:54 am.
I'm discussing Claudia Andrei's black and white cemetery photos of myself with Mr Scott, with a view to creating an appropriately stylish new DE website.

Comparing my 'natural' poses with those of silent movie stars, Mr Scott alerts me to a web site of fantastic movie posters from the 20s and 30s. Stunning inked renditions of wistful starlets and their slick leading men proposing to them in coin-like profiles.

In a particularly spooky two-tone affair for The Redeeming Sin, Dolores Costello in 1929 looks exactly the way her granddaughter Drew Barrymore looks in 2005.

From the poster, the movie looks like a formulaic melodrama churned out at the time, just as Ms Drew churns out formulaic fluff herself, with the exception of the astoundingly unique Donnie Darko.

Yet a poster for even the most disposable and predictable feature from the 20s still retains a certain class and sense of wonder lacking from the pedestrian counterparts of today. Perhaps in 80 years' time, the posters for 50 First Dates and Never Been Kissed will take on a equally sophisticated and chic quality. And the bulk of Mr Adam Sandler's work will finally make sense.

I'm horrified and yet secretly impressed by the way Dolores Costello's career ended. Years of industrial-strength pioneering movie make-up made the skin on her cheeks literally rot away.

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Time:12:33 am.
Going through stacks of CDs, selling and recycling, trying to live more in the present and less surrounded by the spoils - or the detritus - of the past. I use the rule that if I haven't felt the hem of a CD for a year, it has to go. I reason to myself that if I really like a song, I should know it so well that I can play it in my mind any time I want. So I don't even need to hang onto albums I actually like. In theory. Some albums I say fond farewells to, some I hurl out with disgust and embarrassment.

In the booklet for a 20th anniversary Style Council compilation, Paul Weller comments on how he feels about the songs with the benefit (or detriment) of two decades' hindsight.

"It Just Came To Pieces In My Hands is about how ego can be more destructive than drink or drugs. Ego takes you away from what you should be really going for, gets you sidetracked."

All very laudable. Deliciously, he then adds:

"You don't hear lyrics like that these days."

Monday, October 10th, 2005

Time:12:46 am.
To the Wolseley Restaurant on Piccadilly for the third Sunday in a row. This is Mr Xavior Roide's idea - a gathering of some of his bohemian friends and regulars from his Hanky Panky Cabaret event. The Wolseley is a very stylish but affordable place to take afternoon tea. Impossibly high ceilings, black Chinese panelled doors, well-dressed and friendly staff, not too touristy yet not too snobbish either. It may not have the reputation of The Ritz or Fortnum and Masons, but it suits us to a, well, to a tea.

We tend to get a nice round table in the corner, so naturally we all imagine we're taking up where Ms Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Hotel left off, passing around books, reading aloud, ruminating archly on Life and Love while the scones and Earl Grey are dispatched. Present are myself (the oldest person), Mr Roide (who I think is about 29 but very little is known about him at all), then some energetic young people who I tend to look upon as my club-going stunt doubles: Ms Lucinda Godwin, Ms Hazel Barkworth, Mr Laurence Gullo. There's also Ms Alison (a fellow American friend of Mr Gullo's), and today a Mr Rodrigo, who tells us he once made hats for Brazilian royalty. He also recently made a ten minute film of a dead sparrow decaying in his garden, which we all watched at the cabaret last Friday. This was in between the various musical acts and Mr Ernesto, a poet who takes all his clothes off while reciting his verse.

I've seen Ernesto's act so many times now, I fear I am better acquainted with his genitals than I am with my own.

Books passed around at the Wolseley today include Ms Barkworth's copy of Joan Collins's My Secrets, an autobiography with an excellent section on make-up tips. Blusher is underrated, she maintains. I've come with a fascinating tome sent to me out of the blue by a young lady in Paris called Ms Sheridan Quaint. It's Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840 - 1918, by David Deitcher. The text is essentially about the art of speculation upon uncaptioned photographs. Specifically, ancient sepia images of male friends posing affectionately together. The onlooker has to imagine the backstory themselves. Fascinating in its own right, but also useful for inspiring future stories.

I do like the phrase "Men Together".


Today I have an email interview from an Italian woman, concerning Fosca. I always agree to interviews, and love nothing more than talking about myself at length. Even so, I sometimes have to decline a question if I feel it does little favour to me, however I respond.

Sample question: "Which one of these sentences would irk you more?"

I brace myself and read on.

"(a) You sound like Pulp.
(b) You sound out of tune.
(c) You sound not particularly 2005"

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Time:5:32 pm.
Ronnie Barker dies.

I light four candles.

(and expect the same joke to have already been made elsewhere. I check. Yes, yes it has.)

Friday, September 30th, 2005

Subject:The League Of Gentlemen's Apocalypse
Time:2:07 am.
To the Prince Charles Cinema, for a live DVD-style commentary-screening of The League Of Gentlemen's Apocalypse. It's just like watching a DVD with the audio commentary on, except the actors are in the front row of the cinema with radio mics. It's a strange event, but then the Prince Charles is a cinema famed for its umpteen 'singalong or shout-along' screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and more lately Singalong The Sound Of Music, where the audience are provided with their own puppet nuns.

One might imagine a 'shout-a-long' event for other films. For Revenge Of The Sith, the entire audience could scream throughout "please hurry up and turn into Darth Vader so we can all go home and get on with our lives."

Here, there's no puppet nuns given out. But I do get two free drinks. A 'glass' of wine turns out to be a generous beaker filled almost to the brim, so I am more than happy. Cheers to the League Of Gentlemen.

What most intrigues me about the LOG is how they're unashamedly self-mythologising when chatting about their own work. Like the makers of Spaced and Shaun Of The Dead, they are obsessive fans who create obsessive fans. It's narcissistic (an adjective I only ever use as a compliment) and deliberately self-aware cult entertainment. It knowingly feeds and encourages a following of disciples, because the makers themselves are the same sponge-like fan of culture, popular and highbrow. During the live commentary, they allude to anything from The Shining to Sartre's No Exit to Ms Fern Britton's weight.

Hearing them ramble on for 90 minutes over their own movie is perfectly engaging and enjoyable, as I generally enjoy DVD commentaries anyway. In my more perverse moods, I find comedy commentaries can be funnier or more interesting than whatever's being commented upon. As for the actual LOG movie, it's not entirely my cup of tea all the way through, and I would never place it in a time capsule as representative of the LOG at their best (for me, that would be a selection of episodes from the TV series). But I do find many of the jokes genuinely amusing, many of its ideas genuinely inspired. He said ungraciously, sipping on their free wine.

I suppose a live commentary has the added frisson not just of playing to an audience, but also being free of any editing for libel. Not that I can recall any salacious gossip from the evening.

An audience also provides a quick way of testing the best jokes - or rather the jokes that work best even when talked over. Going by this crowd, the movie's clear highlight is the ejaculating-giraffe scene towards the beginning. Further references to it solicit an equally fulsome response. "Calm down. We don't want to milk the giraffe... Oh, I didn't mean that, either..."

There's another big laugh when they mention an idea for a spin-off sitcom featuring Herr Lipp as a plumber: 'Lipp Sinks'. They're joking, which is a shame given the paucity of real spin-offs which do get made, like Joey or The Green Green Grass. Sitcoms where you have to spot the joke in Episode Four.

As audience members take their seats before the screening, I hear something which instantly reminds me I'm in fanbase territory. People are loudly swapping the addresses of websites.

The movie DVD's poster campaign relies upon two favourites from the TV series: Papa Lazarou and the 'Local Shop'. This gives rather a false impression, as both are barely in the movie at all. Seems a bit mercenary, given the film is about the LOG trying to move away from their past TV success. But perhaps that's the point of the ad.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

Subject:Portrait by BD Stevens
Time:11:41 pm.
Place: Glam-ou-rama Presents Club Bohemia at the Buffalo Bar, Highbury Corner, London.
Event: Night Of A Thousand Ziggys / Performances by John Howard and Shard / Simon Price's Birthday
Date: London September 24th 2005.
Photographer: Brian David Stevens.
Other nocturnal peacocks frozen in time here.
click for higher resolution

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Subject:How To Be 34
Time:12:24 am.
Yesterday: to the Kafka-esque Benefits Agency building in Euston, to prove I'm still eligible for the government's kindness and am not pulling a fast one. It's where you have to sum up and justify your entire life. This is who I am, you say, this is what I feel my vocation is, I haven't managed to make a living from it. So please can Mother Government not cut off her paltry if starvation-preventing payments? No problem for me, as I've done this so many times before. Which IS the problem.

How do I feel at the age of 34?

I notice things I didn't before. Never mind policemen getting younger; I feel there's more young people around full stop. And I think I resent them for being young. When really I'm resenting myself for not feeling older in any other sense than not having died yet. And for not having attained what I feel should be the position of a 34-year-old. There are compensations for being 34. It's just that I don't have them.

I don't know many other 34-year-olds. I suspect this is because the average 34-year-old doesn't want to know me. When I do keep company, I find it tends to be with those a few years younger. Or older people who are a bit unconventional. Actually, I need to find a few more of those. One can only care about the love lives of young people so far - before they call the police.

Not that I'm ungrateful for the company and readership of the young. It's just that I worry if they'll still be about when they're 34.

Cut to the next decade, and a typical 34 Year Old. "Oh, Dickon Edwards! I remember him. But I'm over that phase now. Sorry, I have to go, we couldn't get an i-Babysitter for tonight..."

So, 34 and still living on state benefits. Which are never enough for 'living' in any real sense of the word. Added to which I'm in debt, with the bank charging me £35 this week for a bounced rent cheque, due to me not paying close enough attention to my budget. £35 is half my weekly income. I had to laugh.

I look around and see people of my own age or younger who are so much further ahead in life. I look at adverts in the press for flats and houses and again, I can only laugh. It's the sums written down. Thousands of pounds, hundreds of thousands of pounds, millions of pounds. I wonder what's it like to have that sort of money. What must it be like to have savings? What must it be like to NOT rent a furnished bedsit on housing benefit forever? Will I ever know? I've been like this for years now. No signs of changing. Just signs of ageing.

Admittedly, living in a cheap room in one of the wealthiest areas of London probably aggrandizes such thoughts. Down and Out in Hampstead and Highgate. But I can't deny there's an inner voice that cries, this is not as it should be. Not now. Not at 34. Not you...

Teenagers try to survive, full stop. Working out who you really are isn't the number one priority when you're trying to breathe. At school, you're surrounded by people you'd cross the street to avoid in later life. Yet you have to get along with them daily at the most fragile time of your life. The best advice to a teenager is to take cover, and to hang on.

Twentysomethings can breathe a little, meet as many different people as possible and try every social sphere available. They find out who they really are, and what they're best placed to be doing with their life, and have fun doing it. They care about what's going on, but also about Getting On.

By 34, you know what you care about. You can follow the news and the trends in music or fashion if you like, but it's finally okay to focus upon what only matters to you. You're meant to have worked out who you are, and be in some kind of stable career path. Or at least able to say what you do. You're meant to have savings. You're meant to have a flat. You're meant to have a direction. Maybe a loved one or a family. You're not meant to still be living alone on benefits with no sign of ever signing off.

I sometimes feel I appear to be living like a heroin addict, without the heroin. So when I wear short-sleeved shirts in hot weather, I'm pleased that people can see I'm not a junkie. Though I'm far more pleased they can also see I spend some of my benefit money on chemically removing the hair from my arms. And yes, Veet is such a silly name for what used to be Immac.

One recurring dream: I am running in a race, but impossibly left behind. I stop to catch my breath and wonder: is it worth continuing? Ah well, I never cared for Games. Can I be excused with a note from a doctor? From Life? (answer: yes). And does the racetrack have a bar?

In another, I'm in a relay race of great writers, songwriters, actors, wits and artists. The baton is handed to me - and I promptly break it.

I look in the newspaper Vacancies pages, and it's like the Properties pages again. An alien world, a world for other people. Not me. Experience X required. Qualification Y required. Would suit a young graduate. Competing, hustling, bullying and networking required. If you're not young, then you're expected to have experience and references. And if you're not young, and you don't... It's hard not to feel utterly useless, worthless, hopeless, suicidal.

So it's just as well I don't feel those things. Even a depressive narcissist has a sense of self-preservation. It's called a mirror.

I badly want to get off benefits and earn a modest living doing something I can do well. Which I think - I hope - is writing, or rather writing the way I write. It's just the thought of hustling and 'talking myself up' that drains me. What I want is someone to get in touch, rather than spy something and have to fight for it. The latter is just not me.

It's all true. I'm afraid I genuinely believe the world owes me a living. And I laugh again.

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

Time:5:58 am.
Cricket is in the air. The England team have won the Ashes, beating Australia for the first time in a rather astounding 18 years. On Archway Road, the off-licences and pubs have offers on English champagne, their pavement blackboards and computer-printed sheets of A4 in the window bedecked with celebratory St George's crosses.

Just as there was with rugby last year, I feel there's a fair-weather fans' trend, people only getting into a sport when their country's team becomes capable of winning a major prize. Popularity, like success, has a snowballing effect. Fair enough - it's the timeless urge to want to join in, to get into the party, to have a share of the zeitgeist fun, to belong, to not want to miss out.

My entire philosophy is based on resisting the rush to join in with whatever seems terribly popular at the time. In many sci-fi tales like Night Of The Comet (a great 80s b-movie, by the way) or Day Of The Triffids, most of the human race is left blinded, turned to dust or turned into zombies by taking part in some mass event like watching a comet. Those that miss out for whatever reason find themselves among a surviving minority, charged with continuing mankind - or not - on their own. It's possible that I read a little too much into these silly stories.

Nevertheless, one must never be afraid to not join in. There's no need to follow the cricket if you're not that way inclined. Similarly, there's no need to get married and have 2.4 children, or 2.4 cats, or 2.4 iPods, to watch a comet, to tune in for Lost, to wear trainers, to rush out and buy a few more Coldplay records just in case no one else does.

Relax. Other people WILL do all these unpleasant things for you. And they will INSIST! Look upon the rest of mankind as your unpaid stunt doubles.

What an incredible sentence to write. It's nice to remind myself I am who I claim to be. If I woke up tomorrow and found myself to be Judi Dench, I wouldn't know what to do. One for the Dickon Edwards section in future books of quotations.

Look upon the rest of mankind as your unpaid stunt doubles.

This default against-the-grain pose of mine is, of course, ridiculous, and I don't always embrace it myself. Many popular things are actually rather good and should be tried at least once. And many unpopular or (as the euphemism goes) 'cult' works remain unloved by the masses for a very good reason. But if you believe in Mr Robin Hood's principle of redistribution of wealth, you must recognise that much of the modern world's wealth is the Currency of Attention. When most heads seem turned in one particular direction, looking to one side can be no bad thing. Other experiences are available.

For my part, I have tried to get into cricket in the past. But like bisexuality and bungee-jumping, it's not for everyone.

Fowler: Are you trying to be clever or something?
Judd: I don't have to try. I am clever.

The above dialogue is from Another Country, the film that most springs to my mind whenever anyone mentions cricket. In one scene, schoolboy Rupert Everett umpires a match. He deliberately skews the proceedings in order to favour bowler Cary Elwes, with whom he is in floppy-fringed love.

Perhaps this year's England team are just much better-looking than the previous 18 years' lot.

I don't know, I'm not looking in the same direction.

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Time:2:20 am.
Sunday - A nice rainy day, so time to get out and about. I saunter off to Barnes for walk with Ms Nina Antonia. She is the author of books about parent-baiting androgynous rockers from the 1970s: the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders and most recently the doomed teenage star-that-never-was, Brett Smiley, in 'The Prettiest Star - Whatever Happened To Brett Smiley?". This week she will appear on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour talking about this latest and I think most accessible work. You don't have to know about Brett Smiley to enjoy it, because it's about why Brett Smiley isn't famous in the first place. It's a more universal tale of thwarted and frustrated dreams, and of a pop fan's own teenage dreams (of escape, of self-realisation) projected upon hubris-tainted pin-ups.

It's also about what I consider to be historically essential to pop music - the reaching out of the Deliberate Weirdo to fragile teenagers' Inner Weirdo everywhere. The appearance on mass family TV of an exotically androgynous performer, confusing and scaring the parents while enticing those who never realised they were of a different stripe. It's the most redeemable moment in the film 'Velvet Goldmine', where suburban teenager Christian Bale sits in front of the TV and points at a Bowie-esque pop star on the screen. He gasps, watches, then shouts back to his appalled mother and father on the sofa, "That - That's ME, that is! That's ME!"

I wonder now if that same cry manifested itself in living rooms last week, when Antony and The Johnsons won the Mercury Prize. The Importance Of Being Publicly Weird can never be underestimated or indeed under-promoted. The Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park, and their New-Britpop kind are all very well, but when Antony & The Johnsons appeared, I imagined a million "What the hell is - THAT?" expressions on more than a few sofas. Elsewhere, tender and solitary hearts fluttered with the relief of a new connection, a new projection, a new representative.

All pop music should never just be about pop music. Because it never used to be. A while ago there was always at least one artist comforting those that felt they were the only unusual ones in the world. There's not been enough of that lately. So hats off to the Mercury judges.

Thinking back to Mr Smiley's musical failure, I feel Ms Antonia's book is released from the pitfalls of a genuinely successful artist's biography, where the readership is limited to a book-buying subset of the subject's fans. I don't care how beautifully-written a Coldplay biography might be; even if Harper Lee were to suddenly emerge from her sequestered world to pen it, I would never consider a life lived without an Exclusive Coldplay Interview to be a life unfulfilled. Chris Heath's study of Robbie Williams, 'Feel', might be a rare exception, critically acclaimed thanks to Mr Heath's eminently readable fly-on-the-wall style. But even so, I had to put it down after a smattering of pages, because I just don't want to spend time lurking around Robbie Williams. He's not unusual enough - even though he thinks he is.


In Barnes we pass an car showroom that specialises in those zeitgeist-gobbling 4-by-4 SUV vehicles. I've never gotten close to a whole fleet of the things before. They really are more similar to tanks than jeeps. So palpably unnecessary in leafy London suburbs, they seethe with sadistic imperial I'm-All-Right-Jack (or George W) smugness. A firm reminder, as if there weren't enough, that whether you visit the USA or not, the USA will always pay a visit to you. Enormous fender grates, ripe for easily scraping off the bodies of slow-moving environmentalists. I wouldn't go as far as Mayor Livingstone's unkind labelling of London SUV owners as 'complete idiots', but when apologists speak of 'increased personal safety' for their children, I can't help thinking of similar arguments by those who want to keep handguns under their pillows. Still, stopped in my strollings by such a silent and gleaming flotilla of status symbols, I cheekily ask Ms Antonia to pose among them.

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Subject:Fanzines: on Real Paper
Time:4:14 am.
A couple of notable paper-based fanzines to recommend.

The High Horse.
Impressively screen-printed to resemble an ancient newspaper, the HH collates writings from various London types about absolutely anything at all. Philosophy, buses, music hall, burglars. My own contributions have been a short story in issue 2 about Tube advert-inspired madness, Constantin Underground; while an article on my narrowboat activities, Tossing Upon The Spume, appeared in issue 4.

Priced £1.50, copies of the HH are available in London at the ICA bookshop, Reckless Records (Berwick St) and Rough Trade (Neals Yard).
For mail order details, write to: thehighhorse@hotmail.co.uk.
Website: www.thehighhorse.net

If Destroyed Still True
Autobiographical board games, angsty cartoons and tragicomic tales of drinking and snogging one's way across the world. All from the charming desk of Ms Nine of Edinburgh. She's on her second print run already. More details at: http://jinxremoving.org/

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Subject:Announcement: DE's Birthday
Time:5:01 am.
My 34th birthday is this Saturday the 3rd. I share it with actress Pauline Collins (the star of Shirley Valentine), Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, and the anniversary of the outbreak of World War 2. Today I discovered I also share it with the TV presenter Fearne Cotton, who did for Live 8 viewers' consciousness what Mr Hitler did for Poland.

Traditionally, I never hold any kind of organised gathering for the celebration of my advancing demise. This year, though, I have decided to spend the evening in The Boogaloo, not least because it's the nearest bar to my bed. Possibly the best London pub to feature the soundtrack albums for Performance and Bugsy Malone on its jukebox.

I shall be there from about 7pm to closing with my friends Mr Smirnoff, Ms Tonic, and Ms Sense Of Increasingly Wasted Potential. All human friends, kind strangers and wary acquaintances are invited, but only if their hearts are genuinely inclined. I hereby absolve all Slaves of Token Birthday Duty from their burden. I adore company, but find dutiful company far more depressing than comfortingly sincere solitude.

Photo: DE comforting himself with sincere solitude at Cafe Royal, Edinburgh, August 23rd 2005. Taken by obliging barwoman.

Edinburgh diaries to follow. I've been laid low (or rather, laid lower) by a summer cold for the last 7 days. It now seems to be taking its leave and I'm keen to get on with getting things done.

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

Time:2:19 am.
Thursday and Friday - solo spoken word gigs. Thursday is the painter Ella Guru's art show launch at a curious Kentish Town venue - Flaxton Ptootch - half hairdressers, half art gallery. Her portrait of me with the pelican and fox is one of those on wall. For the next few weeks, people will be having a shampoo and set while staring at my face.

I came up with the title for the painting - Pelican Blond. It's a reference to a rather good song by Glasgow band The Orchids, on Sarah Records circa 1990.

Ms Guru's own nom de plume is also taken from a song - by Captain Beefheart. Lately some new Liverpool band also christened themselves Ella Guru, and have been getting enough attention for Ms G to add a disclaimer to her website. Must be slightly annoying for her after using the name for years. At least her own music is under a different name - the Deptford Beach Babes - a rather good twangy surf-guitar band who also perform at her art launch.

I recall how Suede had to rename themselves 'The London Suede' for the US, because of some other musical Suede already existing over there. Such a cumbersome and ugly sobriquet can't have helped their Stateside progress. These days, when you start a group and give it a name, you really should spend 5 minutes on the Web to check if someone else is already using it in a creative capacity. Surely even Liverpool has the Internet now?

[August 23rd. Ms Guru writes: "The band Ella Guru has been going quite a while. Though i would agree not as long as I have been called Ella Guru - 1987 was the first time for me. But they got to the web before me - they took .com or .co.uk so i am an .org.uk."]

In a nervous mood generally. I like being recognised at the art launch as one of the paintings, though (as with my slot at Hanky Panky the following night) I'm not too happy with my spoken word performance. I really do dislike my voice at the moment - spoken or singing - and it seems unfair to expect anyone else to like it. I feel very nervous and am unconvinced if I should even be doing it at all. Looking forward to future cabaret slots where I finally try different singers performing songs I've written. People who can really sing and actually enjoy singing, leaving me free to concentrate on playing guitar beside them. It'd be good to hear the likes of 'Confused and Proud' sung by a vocalist who can really do it justice. Which definitely isn't me.


Talking of androgyny-obsessed frustrated musicians, I've had a bit of a Brett Smiley weekend. At the Hanky Panky cabaret, David R-P screens a tape of a 1970s Russell Harty TV chat show, featuring the delicately girlish teenage pop star wannabe Mr Smiley, flicking his long hair at the microphone as he sings a very Bowie-influenced number. Afterwards he chats with Harty alongside the louche Mr Andrew Oldham, who declares the boy to be the Next Big Thing. It's all very Velvet Goldmine, of course. The clip ends with a shot of the typical 70s chat-show studio audience applauding. Their average age must be 68, and I notice about five Mary Whitehouse clones clapping away politely. Goodness knows what they made of it all.

I'd already been aware of the Brett Smiley story due to standing in Borders the other day, leafing through the recent book by Nina Antonia, 'The Prettiest Star: Whatever Happened To Brett Smiley?'. It's as much about her own life as it is a biography of the failed star. Seeing him on the Russell Harty programme was a pivotal moment in her formative years. My interest in picking up the book was entirely down to its rather striking cover depicting Mr Smiley in golden profile: young, beautiful, androgynous, doomed.

The next evening, I share my journey home from Emma J and Marie N's shared birthday bash with Ms Lora, a friend of theirs I'd not previously met. She turns out to be the designer of the Brett Smiley book jacket.

Packing for Edinburgh, doing my roots, listening to Boston's Brechtian-punk-piano duo the Dresden Dolls. They're playing Edinburgh on Wednesday, and I'm reviewing it for Plan B magazine. I say 'they're' but it now transpires the drummer can't make it, so it'll be a gig by The Dresden Doll, singular.

Friday, August 19th, 2005

Subject:Tangerine Dream
Time:12:48 pm.
Last week: I receive possibly the most Decadent (with very much a capital 'D') voicemail message I've had to date: Mr Shane MacGowan inviting me to go on holiday to Tangier with him. "Mr Edwards.... This is your wake-up call..... Kehhhhhhrrrrrrrrrrr!" [which is my attempt to transcribe his rattlesnake giggle.]

He seems serious about Tangier. Why me? Well, I suppose being jobless I'm more able than some to drop whatever I'm doing and jump on a plane tomorrow, assuming my expenses are paid. Also, he's been there before and I haven't, and we had been discussing it lately in the context of Literary Decadence. And I already have the Paul Bowles hairdo and linen suit.

The city is associated with more than a few Decadent names: Wilde, Orton, Gide, Kerouac, Williams (Tennessee and Kenneth), Beaton, Capote. Mr Burroughs wrote The Naked Lunch there; he called Tangier 'Interzone', a name that quickly became part of alternative culture vocabulary, referenced in a song by Joy Division.

The main Tangier-associated writer, though, has to be Mr Bowles, author of The Sheltering Sky. For decades he was the person to visit if you were an arty type passing through the city - like Quentin Crisp in NYC.

I was in the pub a few weeks ago, bemoaning the umpteen times people feel the need to come up and tell me who I apparently look like: Andy Warhol, David Sylvian, a New Romantic butler, or in one case, just "The Eighties". Lately I have been tempted to be quite unkind and withering:

"Goodness! Thank you SO much for coming up to me and saying I look like Andy Warhol. Do you know, no one's ever said that to me before! "

No, I couldn't possibly say that outwardly. It's a broken record, I know, but it'd be nice to at least hear some less common comparisons. High on the list has to be the time a middle-aged visibly-gay American tourist turned to me at a Camden bus stop to say I resembled Kim Novak in the film Bell, Book and Candle.

More recently, Mr MacGowan told me I looked less like Warhol or 'the 80s', and more like Paul Bowles. And so we talked about Tangier.

There's a panel on Mr Bowles in the Tangier chapter of the Lonely Planet Guide To Morocco. He and his wife Jane are described as "an ambivalent bisexual and an active lesbian". As opposed to a lesbian who just sits around eating crisps, I suppose.

We were meant to go this week, but a combination of my Edinburgh jaunt's imminence and his inability on our hoped-for day of departure to leave his Highgate sofa, let alone the country, has postponed the trip till I get back from the Fringe. To be honest, I'm happy to go later rather than sooner anyway, given the suffocating temperatures Tangier solicits in August.

The Boogaloo jukebox has been updated with choices by Mr Johnny Marr. They include records by Donovan, Django Reinhardt and the soundtrack to Performance. There can't be many pubs with that kind of selection. I spend all of Sunday night locked in the pub with Mr MacGowan till sunrise. I put on The Supremes 'Someday We'll Be Together' next to 'Memo From Turner' from Performance. It was just the two of us for the last hour or so. Can't recall any more details, other than I enjoyed myself. That's sometimes the problem with enjoying oneself too much.

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

Time:12:28 am.
Currently sneezing and snuffling. I naturally assume I am the Patient Zero of Europe's forthcoming Bird Flu pandemic, as mentioned in some newspapers in the bits between bombs and knifes. As if there wasn't enough to get worried about right now. Is it more reassuring to see police at the entrance of every tube station, or less?

What is impressive is the speed with which suspects of terrorism or recent well-publicised violent killings have been tracked down and apprehended. Seems to be a combination of media saturation and CCTV use. It's now harder to hide than ever, if the authorities are after you. One can only hope they've got the right people. With suspected suicide bombers, it's not so much 'come out with your hands up' as 'come out with your trousers down'. Tabloid newspaper covers of captured men in their smalls, echoing what must now be referred to as the Saddam look. I've just invested in new Marks and Spencer underwear, in case they come for me.

Looking forward to getting away from it all... or at least, to where London's arts scene relocates for most of August. My Edinburgh accommodation is sorted out. Have booked a ticket to The Book Club on the 22nd, as I'm keen to see Stewart Lee and Martin White on the same bill. Also booked a ticket to 'Tomfoolery', the Tom Lehrer show with Kit and the Widow.

Otherwise, my Edinburgh To See list currently reads: Gonzo Dog gig (Mr White plays the hits of Stanshall, Innes and co), Joanna Neary, Sue Perkins, Stew Lee's latest show and book reading, Ms Silke's flatmate's gay Woody Allen-esque play, something featuring Xavior, Ryan, Yr Mum & Yr Dad, and other Kash Pointy sorts, a gig by Dresden Dolls, a Francis Bacon exhibition... I'll try to cram as much as possible into my smattering of days in the city (22nd-25th), and report back here, Dear Reader.

Fosca recordings progressing well in Radlett. Guitar stabs on 'Kim' sound very Field Mice-esque. Performed it at the cabaret last Friday using a lecturn, a la Mark E Smith. This week we also had Ernesto, a poet who takes his clothes off while reciting. The Bistrotheque decor is increasingly odd. Glass bell jars on shelves around the room containing model animals: a parrot admiring itself in a mirror, above a mouseskin rug. A squirrel holding an even smaller bell jar, containing an illuminated sugar lump over which hovers a fly. What can it all mean? Such sights wouldn't be out of place in Ms Angela Carter's excellent Nights At The Circus, which I'm currently reading. The first page contains the word steatopygous, meaning 'fat-buttocked'. As opposed to callipygian, which is more 'shapely-buttocked'.

Doing holiday relief at Archway Video. Today I tried to optimize the shop computer to work faster, but instead made it crash into a pre-Windows bluescreen state and reduced poor Ms Silke to running the shop with pen and paper for an hour or so. Thankfully managed to get it working again after much fiddling about in Safe Mode. I have learned my lesson, and shall concentrate more on dusting and explaining to customers why they can't get 'The Machinist' on video. (Frequently Given Answer: 70% of new films are released on DVD only, and rising).

This should really remind me that lately I've been spending too much of my own life in Safe Mode. About time I got on with the real stuff, even if I risk a few crashes.

Two new gay-ish Colin Farrell movies out this week: the popcorn 'Alexander' and the carrot-cake 'A Home At The End Of The World'.

The former DVD's cover depicts an armoured Mr Farrell shouting on a horse, in front of thousands of Ancient World troops. The message is: it's that sort of film.

The latter has a photo of him in a nice jumper drinking coffee in a New York cafe and meaning it. The message being: it's that sort of film.

'Sideways' is the runaway rental hit in Highgate, though. It's very good of the director Mr Payne to make a film that I can recommend to pretty much anyone at all. It's the movie equivalent of Carole King's 'Tapestry'; it manages to please most people, while retaining a sense of tasteful, non-pandering artistic worth.

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

Time:7:54 am.
Have bought train tickets for Edinburgh (arriving Mon 22nd, returning Thurs 25th) without confirmation that I've got somewhere to park my sleeping bag for those three nights. It's such bad form to nag when you're asking a favour, so I sincerely hope the person who offered to help returns my last email. Otherwise, I shall have to depend upon the kindness of strangers.

Some days ago: As I queue up at Angel Waterstones, buying Mr Kundera's The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting, a slightly grizzled 40-something man in a Hawaiian shirt is signing a book for a staff member. I glance over to see it's a copy of Simon Reynolds' ubiquitous doorstopping guide to the post-punk genre, Rip It Up And Start Again. He is not Mr Reynolds, so I assume he must be in one of the bands covered in the book. Should have had the nerve to ask. He looked the way many 40-something former band people look: an air of lost boyishness.

This week: rather excited to meet the utterly recognisable Ms Maureen Lipman. Chatted about her late husband Jack Rosenthal's TV movie Ready When You Are Mr Gill, about the pathos and tragicomedy of the film extra world. Made 30 years before Ricky Gervais's new series Extras, and remade with Tom Courtenay, Bill Nighy and Amanda Holden for Sky Movies two years ago. One hopes that it will see a DVD release if only to compare and contrast with the Gervais programme.

The latter is a bit Nathan Barley: has its funny moments, but there's something not quite right about the whole tone. In the second episode, the main joke is meant to be that Mr Ross Kemp thinks he's terribly tough and can handle himself in a fight. Not only is this rather obvious and not funny enough per se, but the whole premise is rather upstaged by the grimace-inducing sight of Mr Kemp mugging his part. He's such an astonishingly bad actor, he can't even play himself convincingly.

Email from someone at the Evening Standard. They read my 2002 diary entry about how the classical music-dominated Royal Festival Hall has become such a great venue for enjoying alternative rock music in a civilised, seated fashion, without the danger of cigarettes burns, sweaty moshpits, spilt beer, and where the audience is less likely to chat during the performance. Ms Jude Kelly has just taken over the building, and there's fears in the classical music world that she'll have the RFH booking more Brian Wilson and less Beethoven. The ES person wanted me to comment. I said I'm very glad the RFH is in the hands of the director of The National Theatre Of Brent's Messiah, one of the funniest 80s TV shows unavailable beyond a deceased Betamax video recording. Probably not what the ES wanted to hear, but take away my love of obscure comedy references and I am nothing.

Dickon Edwards - Diary At The Centre Of The Earth.

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