Lucky Stars

It is 1977: I am 11 years old. I hear a song on the radio that I love: Ariel. It’s by a bloke called Dean Friedman: an American singer-songwriter for whom that is his only ‘major’ US hit. However, his quirkiness catches the ear of a Radio One DJ I listen to obsessively: Noel Edmunds. Thanks to him, I buy Friedman’s second album ‘Well, Well’ Said the Rocking Chair and become obsessed with a particular track.

I am still carrying it with me to this day.

It is a quintessentially perfect piece of narrative storytelling: it’s the breakup song to end all breakup songs. It’s uplifting and smart and has the most killer saxophone solo, but what keeps it in my head after forty years are these four lines:

Take a look at the place you call your home
you’re reflected in all the things you own
and the seeds of reason you have sown
they’re a measure of a part of you that’s already grown…

Not gonna lie: for a good few years I carried those lyrics around with me, in a tea ball locket. I am happy to reveal that to you, dear readers, because I know we’re at that stage in our relationship. It’s still on a playlist that gets listened to weekly, and it was stuck into last month’s Internet of Words #Soundtracking2020 playlist… and that’s when things get funky.

Monday, I’m sorting stuff out online post PT, and I get a notification: Dean Friedman liked my use of this song, in that playlist. I think to myself  ‘nah, can’t be the real fella, it’s gonna be a robot or a fan account, coz that’s how social media works…’ So, I went and took a look. I didn’t believe what I saw. So, I had to go check the account. IT’S THE ACTUAL REAL DEAN FRIEDMAN. No, really IT IS.


I’m not gonna lie, this is a MASSIVE huge deal for me. This song is so significant that it is indelibly threaded through my entire life, I could not separate me from it if I tried. Were I a singer (no I’m not, don’t worry) and there was a set list of covers I’d play, this would be the first song on it. Therefore to have the person who wrote it FOLLOW ME FIRST (I didn’t even know he was on Twitter ^^) is a massive deal.

It would be like Daniel Craig reading my Bond Fanfic and then chucking me a respective follow. It would be Guy Garvey knowing how much his lyrics have altered my life and doing the same. This is THE MOTHER OF BIG DEALS and let’s be honest, two days on, I’m still quietly revelling in the wonderful nature of social media. It also means that something has to happen as a result…

I am already writing it, despite the fact I planned other stuff this week. I suspect it will come with me doing an audio reading of it, when the thing is finally complete to my satisfaction. The title alone is the stuff of childhood dreams and aspiration, just beyond your creative reach. If the guy who wrote the song that altered my perception as a 12 year old can turn up and remind me that people do listen, anything is possible.

Needless to say, this is the beginning of a VERY interesting journey.

[EDIT: He now follows me on the Work account too… \o/]

Just Like Christmas

The sun is coming up and I’m in the kitchen, making my first cuppa of the day. On the radio Low’s ‘Just Like Christmas’ begins to play. There’s a moment of irrefutable resignation: this song has altered in resonance from the last time it was heard. It will now be forever associated with someone who, this year, was sued over something that was said on the Internet.

Let me tell you the story.


I’m not even sure where we first met: was it Usenet? Possibly, it could also have been LiveJournal, but that would have been during its very early days. At that point he was living in the South West; we regularly emailed each other. They were funny, interesting and enjoyable communications, yet the truth was very apparent. His interest was, it transpired, only relevant until I was married. Then, silence.

In the midst of what I thought was a friendship, he sent me a Christmas CD. It was, it must be said, a work of utter genius: songs I’d never heard before, impressive pieces including Low’s song, which immediately became synonymous with him. It was only years afterwards that the truth became apparent: it was not a hand-picked, curated selection. He’d copied it from someone else. Melody Maker.


When his name turned up in my Twitter feed this year I won’t lie, it was a surprise. Looking to see what had caused this, then it wasn’t. He was always unspoken, edgy, set in his ways, even back then. We were friends because he let me, I realise now. If there were any genuine care and sentiment that existed, I’m not sure I’d be able to judge it as such. Suddenly, knowing this past made an immediate connection with the moment.

What this makes me grasp is that having fulfilling friendships with anyone online is dependant on two way honesty. If you’re not regularly communicating with someone, like every day, yes you can be friends, but… it only works if you’re giving as much as the other person. If all that happens is taking, if that relationship is largely passive? No, they don’t care about you unless you see them do it.


Sure, you can meet IRL once a year and it will be as if nothing changed, but to do this there is a fundamental part of yourself which needs to be given away, willingly. You can’t do it in letters, or emails, or blog posts. It doesn’t happen on Facebook or in Tweets. I’d need Skype and just you, tea and cake, actual physical interaction to move friendship past words on a screen.

I never met him IRL, and know why. If it had mattered, we would have kept in touch, and if that had happened there’s a better than average change I’d have distanced myself from him a while ago. In the end, his intractability was attractive as a discussion point but impractical as a basis for friendship. I’ve met people across all sexes who are like this. Sometimes, like it or not, you have to yield, or nothing is possible.


I hope, by writing this down, Low’s song will stop giving me a burst of melancholy every time it’s heard from now on… but maybe that’s a good thing. It can be the warning that occasionally, stuff just isn’t meant to happen, however much you’d like that not to be the case. You won’t be friends with everyone, and it’s a waste of effort to try.

You accept the loss, and move on.

The Vatican Museum

I’ve never been religious, neither are my parents… in fact, I’m pretty certain that God has never featured in anything other than marriages and deaths. Therefore it was with a sense of some discomfort myself and Mr Alt decided to visit the Vatican Museums on one of their Friday night ‘open late’ events, as it would certainly have been uncomfortable to do so during daylight hours. As it transpires, the humidity was an issue, but after a while this was forgotten as debate sparked, and then raged.


This museum is a celebration of two things: history and religion. If my understanding of the history is correct, it wasn’t just a good life and pious deeds that got you into the Eternal Kingdom, but your service to the Church. Some of that was manual, but an awful lot ended up as material contribution. The entire building is the exhibition of that accumulated ‘wealth’: probably billions of hours of work, care and appreciation from all over the Globe. In the most crass terms, this is a storage warehouse full to bursting with God’s gifts from those who worship his wonder. To see it all, you pay a not inconsiderable amount of money for the privilege.

The irony part of my brain last night was having a field day.


There are areas in this Museum where you cannot go, because it is still a church, and you are expected to dress appropriately… except last night many people didn’t and were still allowed in. Presumably after a while it doesn’t matter and you just take the money regardless. The Sistene Chapel, it must be said, remains an impressive example of religious devotion, but you cannot take pictures. I’m sure the low light levels will preserve Michelangelo’s legacy but still, half a mind flits back to making people buy prints from the Gift shop. Most ironically of all there’s a Priest stop outside which (presumably) is meant for Catholics who wish to discuss the significance of this work in relation to God. Last night, it was disappointingly empty.


Love of family and others are obviously familiar sensations: doing the same to a non-corporeal being has always been difficult to grasp. However, with respect to those for whom this is both important as well as a significant part of their lives, there’s an awful lot of jaw-dropping devotion to task on show. The amount of time and effort placed into gifts puts modern day efforts to shame. However, and this for me was crucial, all of this remains very much a product of the ages in which it was created. I can wonder at the artistry at work, but am fairly confident that those making the items were very much not a representation of their era’s reality. All of this has to be considered in judgement: art is beautiful and awe inspiring, but unless it truly mirrors the society it is created within, it is not the whole story.

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It was, all told, a very interesting experience. There was only one complaint, and that is that the Ladies toilets are some of the most shockingly awful I’ve had to deal with on any foreign holiday. If there was going to be a metaphor for how I fit into the Catholic Church’s grand plan, this might be it. Making your church more welcoming should really be the order of the day, and if you could start by improving the little things, the larger stuff will end up being far less stressful…

The Colosseum

One of the reasons why our holiday this year is in Europe was because of me. Italy’s always held a special allure, and with European travel (potentially) becoming a bit of a minefield starting next year (cheers Brexit) it seemed like a good idea to push for this trip before that happened. The fact Rome became a Bond location in SPECTRE is an added bonus (*cough* Florence and Lake Como on the way back *cough*) but this belittles a very important part of my real reasoning for being here. I’m a massive history nut, and the home of the Roman Empire’s been on the To Do list since I first learnt what a Gladiator was, and we’re not talking about the spandex clad athletes on ITV who used to battle with giant cotton buds.


Our farmhouse is on the end of the Metro line which deposits tourists literally outside the front door: this was Nero’s grand plan, to transform the existing structure on the site to a massive stadium. Begun in AD 69, it became the Empire’s centre for entertainment and spectacle and, most importantly, one of the most famous examples of religious persecution in History. For a city that remains deeply Christian, this serves as the permanent reminder of how intolerance must take place for acceptance to flourish. I’ve never been religious but the multiple significances at play continue to fuel interesting and challenging moral dilemma.


It is also a RIDICULOUSLY photogenic landmark, which has detail and depth that I suspect most tourists don’t even consider. The regulation in brickwork is frankly staggering, and the skill in construction means that it has survived several major earthquakes (and attempts to recycle its structure) to surprising effect. I will be poring over the books I’ve bought in the next few weeks, and the pictures taken are more than likely to end up in a collage in my working space at home. The place is a testament not only to the people who built the structure, but those who perished within it for their beliefs. This was entertainment, pure and simple, and there are still parallels we can draw from within the walls that mirror our own modern existence.

There are those who will maintain that history is only useful if it provides the means to make good the mistakes that took place, but monuments like this are the exception to that rule. Here is a structure that mirrors the continuation of religious persecution for entertainment: these guys stuck believers in with lions, we vilify opposition via a global arena. When all is said and done, very little has changed in 2000 years. This monument however has survived attempts to destroy it, reminding us that sometimes, it isn’t about the memories of a place, but the place itself which defines an experience.

Once we’d done here, it was time for a change of clothes and then off to the institution that grew from their humble beginnings as cat-food to utterly dominate the same city that once considered them as heretics…

In Dreams :: May 29th

I should make a graphic for this, hang on.

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My subconscious loves to fuck with me, especially at the weekends, so I’ve decided that as a cheap means of providing content, plus as an insight into my past, we’ll be recording dreams from now on with context.

This morning, it was all about our first house. It was a railway cottage (two up, two down) with the third room converted to a bathroom quite late on. When we moved in, the outside toilet still existed. The kitchen was an afterthought, literally and metaphorically, but it was within our budget and allowed a notion of autonomy. One Christmas we built our own fireplace in the front room, and there was a painting party to make the place habitable.

It was the place I first accessed the Internet in. It was also the place where I took the phone call that my husband’s father had died, and I would have to be the person to tell him. As a result, it is probably no wonder that my brain returns there periodically.

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The house is in various states of disrepair, though from the outside looks as it always did. Within, it becomes the TARDIS: multiple rooms, often dilapidated and damp, which as wallpaper is removed or panels exposed becomes affected by entropy. Small cupboards open up into vast, uneven spaces. There is wood panelling, boxes of damp clothing, and this morning what was clearly a mummified corpse amongst the decomposing woodwork.

My birth family is always somewhere, causing trouble and arguing over something. Normal life continues unabated too: in this case, a field hockey match was being played outside, with a stadium conveniently located next to the house. I can remember seeing images that reminded me of New York, even though this was clearly in my hometown. It also appears that the house was, at some point, a car dealership. Before it has been exposed as a cinema and a nightclub, with the various signage that would entail.

There were also a lot of Christmas decorations around, in various boxes across the house. The Council arrived shortly before waking up, I’d assumed to condemn the property as unsafe. Instead, the house was declared an Area of Special Historical Interest and I’d be expected to live there and restore everything to it’s original state… 

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I promise to be as honest as possible when I record dreams. If it’s adult, however, I may skip over the more lurid details…