scribbles tagged ‘1983’

S is for Scutage

Friday, August 19th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Berkshire Records Office Receptionist (BROR):What are you looking for?

Wendy: Um….history… …nothing in particular… …just browsing….  …um…….what have you got that’s good?

BROR: We’ve got lots of maps, even before the Ordnance Survey started

Wendy: Oh! that sounds good, I like maps, I’ll look at the maps

Large filing cabinates skirt the windows of the records office. Microfiche’s mount rows of dustless, grey, formica tables against the windowless walls. A large table holds the map-drawers down in the middle of the room. Can you tell I was getting a bit excited by it all?

At University in 1983 we had to book time using one of the 3 Microfiche machines – grubbied from thousands of sparingly washed students fingers.  Here there are sparkling rows of them, unused! My gleeful gawping was quickly interrupted

BRO librarian: what are you looking for?

Wendy: I’d like to just browse, your colleague suggested maps…   ….Reading’s Quaker history is interesting too…

The librarian looked disconcerted, I was getting disconcerted. He latched onto my Quaker suggestion and pointed me to the local records subject index filing cabinates. The drawer made a pleasing, heavy, swish sound as he opened it. He suggested looking under “Q” for Quakers or “S” for Society of friends. No hint of my ancient PhD on finding files in electronic filing systems had seeped into this librarians awareness. I smiled and resisted the urge to raise his awareness.



(The sound of my brain spasming within my cranium confines)

Index cards. Hand-typed in courier-font. Lined cards where the typing didn’t sit on the lines. Cards where one card is the index for multiple items – so it’s expensive to add new stuff in the right order. Thrilling!  The colour returned to my face with a big smile.   I didn’t need to find anything, this card system was enough to keep me happy for hours, days, possibly years if they don’t upgrade it. I wonder if they have any part time or volunteer jobs…..

The librarian noticed my smile and politely took his leave to help another lady, who was clutching a handful of cards.  I tucked into the “S“s – Settlement, Scutage, Sheriffs, Slavery, Suffragettes…

The Librarian returned about an hour later.  My hands still deep in the yellowing index cards

BRO librarian: are you doing ok?

Wendy: Oh yes! YES! I’ve found out lots of lovely stuff. I’d never heard of Scutage, Quietus or Lugg before now!

He beamed a lovely smile and grew quietly animated as he showed me how to use the index card reference numbers to track down the physical location of an item in a herd of big folders. To practice I picked a card titled “Services, Personal” where in 1396 a married couple had sold themselves in return for the things they needed to live – a home and a place to keep their sheep

The afternoon slip-slided away on paper cards labelled with “S”

An adult version of Sesame Street “S”exploration

S is for Suffragettes

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eternal romantic

Saturday, November 13th, 2010 | tags: ,  |

Soon after we met in 1975 Tiger became one of my closest friends, he still is. In our teens his gymnast’s body, deep dimples,  frequent wild giggle, and artistic talent all made him an exceptional boy. Exceptional. By definition not normal.

Once he phoned, upset, because a polterguiest was pestering him. The poltergiest would ring, he’d pick-up the receiver to hear only the dial tone, as soon as he put down the receiver the phone would ring again. Too short a time to rotary re-dial the number. This was about the time that touch dial phones came on the market. Neither Simon, I, nor anyone we knew had touch dial phones, automatic re-dial was not part of our understanding of the world.

Ne romanticHindsight can explain what we didn’t know then. Then, my confidence in his being alright, no evilness tracking him, helped him move beyond his fear.

In Tiger’s mother’s house he sculpted my hair for an evening out. The new romantic styling was the height of fashion, as was flock wallpaper. Nearly 30 years on he’s still artistic, beautiful, trying to improve my hairstyle, one of my best friends and a romantic.

An eternal romantic.

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practical pairings (pt 5) – working fiction

Monday, July 26th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

Coursework finished 4 hrs before the 4pm submission deadline. A large vegetarian Kebab from the local take-away would make a grand treat for finishing with time to spare. I pounced fluffily across campus in the invigorating October sun.


Someone was running across the road towards me. I didn’t recognise the run, the outline, or the clothes. As he faded into my myopic focus I could see his black mohiecan haircut was lankily lying along his scalp and that his misshapen faded t-shirt had all the style of a salted slug.


Apparantly he’d had some sort of terrible time that involved lots of drugs, and rainbow hairdye experiments, that went horribly wrong. He was lucky to have any hair at all. Poor boy. He didnt get my messages. He tried to call for me but I was never in and my flatmates hadn’t passed on the messages he’d written.  But now he found me, just in time, 4 hours before the coursework submission deadline.

have you done the coursework?


can I borrow it?


so I can copy it and hand in the same work as you



You should let your tutor know about the problems you’ve been having, they’ll be able to arrange your coursework around your porblems. You could still get the full benefit of actually doing the work. Maybe they’ll give you an extension. I wouldn’t want your reputation sullied by the blemishes of having your name on my work.

Steve found Karen who leant him her work to copy, he wrote a piece of coursework in 4 hours, got reasonable grades for someoneelses work, for a firction, he was good at working fiction.

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practical pairings (pt 4) – elusive

Sunday, July 25th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

10 more days to produce a joint practical report. Each day I walked passed Steve’s home and called for him. He was always either out, off his head, or sleeping. He didn’t turn-up for classes either.  I suspect he was really living in Pill village.

After a week of not being able to coordinate any sensible time with Steve I decided to cut my losses.  Doing the work in half the allotted time, with half the workers, my maths told me this would be 4 times as hard to do now because I’d tried to work with Steve. Sigh. No more calling for Steve. Hoorah!

The experimental work, persuading 20 people, all strangers, to give me 15 mins of their time to make 30 line-length comparisions was a fun way to meet people in pubs. The research for, and writing of, the report was also fun.

Steve was soon forgotten.

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practical pairings (pt 3) – doors of perception

Saturday, July 24th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Paul let me into Steve’s home. Student accomodation, 9 boys sharing a kitchen and washrooms. Ewe. Steve was lying face-down on the hallway floor making a gurgling sound that could have been a variation on his normal giggling.

what’s wrong?

he’s stoned


No, high

I laughed. Steve had already started without me. Our coursework was an experimental study of the effects of the Muller-Lyer illusion characteristics on visual perception.  Steve had clearly bypassed the constraints of the specific illusion, the visual sense and the experimental method. Steve had gone straight for an immersive qualitative experiential study through the doors of all perception.  You had to admire his rebellious,  innovative and hands on approach to his degree studies.

I’d heard about drugs, not taken any, not really interested in taking any. The opportunity to talk to someone while stoned was a first for me and very tempting. Our interviewing skills practical wasn’t due for a while, but a bit of up front practice could come in handy.  Happily I bounced over Steve’s twitching body, sat on the floor by his head and tried to attract his attention.  He garbled and giggled and gurgled, but nothing recognisable as a word, no phrases. I got bored of watching this body with all the control skills of baby.

when is he likely to be compus mentus?

I dont know

can you let him know I called and ask him to call for me when he’s got his marbles together


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practical pairings (pt 2) – posing practice

Friday, July 23rd, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Not cute, like Brad Pitt or Jonny Depp are cute.

Not handsome, like Daniel Craig or Sean Connery are handsome.

Steve had something, like Robert Carlisle or Gary Oldman have something.

Instead of working on our psychology practical coursework we spent an October Saturday afternoon wandering round warehouses, photographing them. Steve giggled a lot, like my grandmother or Alan Carr giggle.  Often. I wandered after him, playing the audience, taking photographs, and enjoying the peace of the places.  Practical work? We can start on Monday, no hurry….

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practical pairings (pt 1)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

lecturer: you will work on this psychology practical in  pairs

Ony 2 weeks at University, one as a fresher and one on the course. It was easy to predict how the 29 girls and 3 boys would pair:

  • Tom, from Dudley, the folk music fan would pair with Rob the straight looking, quiet, guy. Rob was sectioned less than 2 weeks later.
  • Steve with his white and lime green mohiecan haircut, white leather biking jacket, gold nose-ring, black and bleached stained never-ending drainpipes would pair with Karen the silent dumpy shuffling goth who reminded me of a doormouse in need of a haircut.
  • The gaggle of girls who dressed for their intended career paths as personnel managers in neatly ironed pastel coloured blouses and pencil skirts would all pair together.
  • Heather from Sheffield, in her Def Lepoard t-shirt, locks that bounced on her hips, cowboy boots and a laugh that could stop a bus at 100 yards – would pair with her flatmate – me. I definitely got the best deal.  Me, straight a-line bob, pointy nose, cheshire-cat-grin and home-made 1920’s styled hand-made clothes in black and white.

I was wrong with two predictions.  Without a glance her way Steve strode straight passed Karen, placing himself between Heather and me.  There was something sneaky and slinky about the move. His first conversation with me was to ask if I would consider working with him on this practical.  I was flattered. People who clearly put so much time and effort into peacocking rarely noticed my acceptable variation on mainstream self-presentation. What prompted this?

Karen’s hand lifted a swathe of black backbrushed bush from her face and her piecing brown eyes clearly shifted from Steve to me. She turned abrubtly and shuffled double-speed in her overly tight long skirt, to Heather. Heather welcomed her with all the warmth of an earth mother. My already strong relationship with Heather wouldn’t be dented by this unexpected abberation.

I agreed to work with Steve, we arranged to meet that weekend ….

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mangled midget

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 | tags: , , , ,  |

I love her. Tears streaming down John’s face.   I know. Liz reassures him

I didn’t love any of the others. As one of ‘the others’ Liz understands, laugh’s, lowers and softens  her tone   I know.

Where is she?   Liz knows that  Maria is skinny-dipping with her new lover, John’s friend,  on a beach 5 miles west of the camp site.   She can look after herself,   where-ever she is,   she’ll be alright.

John takes the torch, scrambles out of Maria’s tent and starts stumbling from tent to tent,   peering in, stumbling.   He’s been drinking.   Liz curses the lads for leaving John with the holiday  whisky stash.

Modern dry stone wallWhere is she? Liz parries   ‘It doesn’t matter.    Where-ever she is,   it’s none of our business.   John,   ITS OVER, she’s left you, she doesn’t want to  see you.   Let her go’   John doesn’t appear to hear.   He makes his way to his aging MG midget and climbs in.   Liz runs to the car and jumps into the passenger seat.  

John,   you’re in no state to drive,   DONT DRIVE.   The car lurches over the field’s uneven ground, Liz wishes she was old enough to drive   Calm down,   where are you going?   As he shifts to second gear  he says ‘the pub’.    Liz tries again Can we walk?  John is determined   You can walk if you want.   The pub is only 3 miles away,   the roads are deserted,   they could make it.    The lad’s are in the pub,   support,   distraction and warmth.    They swerve down the  dry-stone-wall lined winding roads.

John  seemed to need  to move his relationship loss of control and emotional pain to something physical.

A wall mangled the Midget

Love crashed

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arm waving aids understanding

Monday, August 31st, 2009 | tags: ,  |

Magnus Pike’s arms, face, and language  worked like a symphony.      Together they  could  explain and make  memorable complex science.   They could add unexpected, playful, dimensions to  music videos.  

Thomas Dolby sings she blinded me with science

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Monday, June 22nd, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

subtitles are silent

Yazoo sang Nobody’s diary

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black and white

Monday, May 18th, 2009 | tags: , , , ,  |

I’m not so environmentally friendly since I paired up with Thomas.   On the otherhand, I’m not using a jet to get around. With the exception of a classic cathode ray tube,   few things are actually back and white.  

The Monochrome set sang jet set junta

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quite good

Monday, March 9th, 2009 | tags: , , , , ,  |

In 1983 a poster in the local Student’s Union said ‘The Housemartins are quite good,   London – 0, Hull – 4  .   Being as the ever sensible and caring mumzie hails from Hull and ‘quite good’ is well-worthy praise I popped along to enjoy an unexpectedly outstanding evening of hip wiggling, cardigan-wearing, socialist music of fitting proportions.        They also had a fairly prophetic perspective on bankers.

The Housemartins sang sheep

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stand-in fridge

Thursday, September 28th, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

House party!   As  we entered the house my friends seemed to melt into the colourful crowd of over-dressed and under-weared party-goers.   This was the 80’s.   The house awash with colour, exotic make-up and loud loud underwear.   I made my way towards the kitchen in search of alcohol to mellow the noisey tones.    A crowd had gathered around the doorway and against the kitchen counters.   In a large  arc with the fridge,   and Burnel,  at it’s apex.

Burnel,  simultaneously beside,   around, and on top of the fridge.   Wearing his performance persona.   At first I didn’t recognize him.   The imaccualte make-up,   tight fitting black leather trousers wrapping themselves around and over the fridge, the cape gently obeying the movements of his body.   Girls giggled.  Boys smirked.   Gradually they lost interest and dispersed into the main rooms of the party.  

I stood riveted to the scene.   To me a fridge is cold,   angular,   almost definitively unsensuous.   Yet here,   with his own movements,  Burnel managed to imbue the fridge with a delicate coquetishness.   It was clearly desirable.   He may have acknowledged my presence with a glance,   I may have said ‘hello’.   It’s unlikely.    The fridge was undoubtedly recieving his  undivided attention and I certainly didn’t want to break the unique experience he was building.   I suspect I remained in the kitchen watching him for the duration of the performance.   I certainly pondered on that philosophically fundamental question

‘what is it like to be a fridge?‘  

Several months later on a nightclub dancefloor I found the answer.   Burnel spontaneously mistook me for a fridge.    My compressor promptly broke,   resulting in giggle fits and an unceremonious  dash to the shadows for emotional repairs.  

How appropriate that a picture of Burnel now clings to my fridge.

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respect Tom Robinson

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006 | tags: , , , ,  |

(gush warning)  

 only the very young and the very beautiful can be so aloof

this opening lyric of Tom Robinson’s song ‘War Baby’ (1983) spoken softly over  saxophone with the  keyboards creating a gentle relaxing atmosphere hints at sadness.   His alternating soft then demandingly passionate voice dominates and drives the song in stark  contrast to  the gentle pace and tone of the music.    He paints the fun and tensions of living in the gay scene “hanging out with the boys,   all swagger and poise…”  “…I’m scared,   so scared”  then  deftly shifts focus to bigger themes as he raises the pace “corresponding disasters every night on the TV,   sickening reality keeps gripping  me in its disgust”    The song just has so much in it.   It sounds good too   🙂   23 years later it’s still one of my favourite songs.   Tom’s been one of my personal hero’s since the late 1970’s.       The directness and poigniency of Tom’s beliefs and writing  in so many forms (songs, web-pages, DJ-ing)  is extremely impressive. To me he is awe inspiring.

Despite the original BBC ban on “Sing if you’re glad to be gay” it was heard in streets, homes, clubs and  during political  protests.    It was a wonderfully positive rallying song in a time when homophobia was much more overtly prevalent than today.    Followed by a notable turnaround  when the  BBC employed Tom as a World Service presentes then DJ and gave him awards for his documentary on the history of ‘gay music’.  

I was lucky enough to attend two of Tom’s birthday parties  in the mid 1990’s.  Able to luxuriate in listening to his conversations and singing in the intimacy of a small room….  


(gush over)

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