Last month, I spent some time in Newcastle at an art project called Convention habit or Custom, run by the artists Toby Lloyd and Andrew Wilson. I was doing some visual recording (aka ‘drawing’), so at some point I’ll put the drawings from there on display online. This picture was made afterwards, using photo reference sources and the drawings I made on-site.
I’ve just come back from spending about three weeks up in Newcastle, and because I’ve been away I’ve almost totally lost the thread of what I was doing. I had a great time while I was away, sleeping in my friend’s houses (thanks Topsy, Helen, and Matt and Debbie) and getting involved in some art projects.
While I’ve been away, some great food places have opened up in Newcastle. Above is a picture of Pink Lane Coffee, which serves amazing coffee just near the train station. There was another truly great coffee place near the Haymarket, called Flat Caps Coffee, underneath a hippy shop. Both of these places made coffee that is actually fun to drink, with their espressos being a sort of short, sharp, tangy coffee that is nothing like boring chain coffee.
I also happened to be in town for a conference, which I found surprisingly enjoyable. I thought I’d end up sneaking out at lunchtime and going off drawing, but Isabella Streffen and Sarah Cook had organised a fascinating set of speakers so I stuck around. Instead, at lunchtime I got introduced to the amazing “Pizza by the Slice” place in Grainger Market. My stomach is rumbling at the thought of that place, as it was possibly the best food I ate in Newcastle, ever.
This week sees me bouncing back and forth between here (an unlovable town in the Bedfordshire area) and Newcastle. I lived in Newcastle for about a decade, and I’ve always found it odd that people in the south exclaim surprise about my casual visits to that city. “Newcastle!”, they proclaim. “I’ve never been past Stevenage!”, despite there being the usual range of transport options. I’ve literally lost count of the people who say this to me, despite it being about half-way up the UK’s length.
This is a picture of the view from Byker, which had a unique architectural estate, the Byker Wall, built sometime during the 1960s. My great-grandparents used to run a business in the area, which was purchased off them and bulldozed to form this mega-estate which my friend now lives in. The amazing panoramic view shows the Baltic in Gateshead, where I used to work, right up to the hills near Consett (I could only squeeze a little of the view into my notebook, as I was quite busy).
I spent all last week in Newcastle, because I’ve been paying to store loads of stuff up there, and the payments on my rental unit keep making me go into my overdraft. I figured I’d go up there, throw out a bunch of stuff, and see a few friends while I was there. I also wanted to keep drawing, so I took a few sketchbooks with me.
Almost immediately, I ran into a problem. The cops tried to blow up my luggage.
A man can’t even take a whizz on a train without the state getting up in his grill. Damn these post-terrorist times. Thankfully, the rest of the train journey was less eventful. In fact, it was so uneventful that I decided to do some watercolours out of the window, after drawing a dog and my waterbottle.
Painting on the train was ace, and I really enjoyed it. Sadly, it was the most productive – in terms of work I made – during my trip. As soon as I got off the train I was involved in the process of picking up my stuff and working out what to do with it.
I thought I would draw all the boxes from storage, but dealing with it was so exhausting – and so distracting – that it was hard to keep it together. Just waking up to the thought of all my boxes of crap was enough to wipe me out on Tuesday, and I spent the morning in bed under a giant fluffy duvet.
On Wednesday I picked myself up and went into town to see some friends. I took an early bus into the city centre so I could do some drawing, and this was pretty much the only time I managed to do so in the city. Lesson learned: if you want to do drawing, you have to make time for it. I particularly wanted to draw the train station, but those builders grabbed the good seats so they could smoke. I ended up surrounded by a bunch of teenagers.
(Oh, and by the way, excuse my fingers – this sketchbook’s uneven spine doesn’t make for good scanning. It does have lovely paper though, which makes it quite useful for on-the-go sketching.)
I managed a few quick watercolours before it was time for my lunch date, and then I barely managed to scribble anything on Thursday. I was exhausted by the prospect of throwing away, or giving away, pretty much a decade’s worth of stuff. Most of that stuff was books that I had built up, thinking they were the backbone of my “adult” possessions, but were just another lump of stuff that ended up needing to be disposed of.
I’m trying to write a short essay about it, but my thoughts are complicated by the reasons why I had to throw all that stuff away. Bad relationships, serious illnesses, and confused education choices made my life a lot more interesting than it normally is. The act of actually getting rid of the stuff was quite nice – a chance to see old friends, catch up, and give them presents. The act of sorting it out in some literary form is really tough, and I worry I’ve traded a talent with words for a talent with images…
My visit was generally fun, and it reinforced my urge to make more drawings, to make better drawings. But it also made me want to communicate better with those drawings, because otherwise, what’s the point?
Last week I went to London to see a gig by the effervescent Merrill Garbus, who performs as Tune Yards. This is really rare for me; I don’t usually go and see any live music, and I don’t usually go out at night. Like I said a few weeks ago, the evening is really the time I knuckle down and start making things, so I like to be at home making rather than out partying. I didn’t take my sketchbook, but I did take my camera. I snapped off this quick shot as we stood outside the gig.
One of the weirder aspects about returning to Biggleswade is that there are almost no people between 20 – 35. Back in Newcastle I lived in areas that were mostly comprised of people in that age range, but now I’m back in the parental abode I can go days before having a face-to-face conversation with somebody in my age range. I often complain about this to the few friends I have here over a coffee. The Tune Yards gig was, of course, full of people in my generation, making me look like an overly grumpy fool.
This is my penultimate email from NewcastleGraft, an email group that I ran for over three years. As all email groups do, we had our off-topic conversations, and this is my reply to something I found particularly annoying…
It’s no fun running an email group. You end up doing a lot of work that nobody really acknowledges, and having to spend time listening to crazy people who just happen to have your email address, so therefore feel it’s applicable to send you any old bullshit they believe in. I can’t tell you the amount of unasked-for crap that ends up in my inbox these days.
At least most of that crap is about art though.
Now, in the past I’ve been somewhat respectful but disinclined to believe this stuff. Of course, I’m quitting ‘graft and have left newcastle, so I can just annoy people and not worry about it now. Hurrah.
With all due respect to (redacted), she’s one of those nice people who believe in a lot of airy-fairy bullshit. I have friends who are deeply into auras, chanting, magic, etc, and I’ve observed a few things about them. I’ve noticed that being inclined to believe in that sort of thing (auras, etc) seems to mean that you don’t have a very good critical facility; they tend to go on what “feels” right to them. They have trusted networks that send them emails – which I would consider to be spam – warning them about whatever cause du jour they consider important now.
Some people refer to this as relativism, meaning that what is important to one person must be given the same weight as what is important to another person. Or something. That’s not really a great explanation, but it’s one of the terms used to describe airy-fairy thinkers. It’s actually a bit of a bending of the term relativism, but that’s not so important.
I’m currently reading a Stephen King book about writing, and he describes how poetry in the sixties and seventies was full of relativists. They would write poems about the mountain – using it as a never-fully-explained analogy, and if you asked them to explain the analogy, the poet would decry you as somebody who doesn’t “get it”. King’s attitude to this sort of poetry seems to be “fuck you, I just wanted to know what you were talking about”.
That’s the problem with arguing the toss over geo-engineering, vaccines, or any of the other hot-button topics that airy-fairy thinkers favour. You make a logical reply and it’s all “you don’t understand”, or “but what about this proof from <a dodgy blog on the internet>” or “if you love science so much why don’t you marry it”.
I mean, it’d be perfectly possibly for me to go through those links and say what they really mean. I was even considering doing that. But we’ve been down that road before and it just leads to people asking me why I’m not getting gay married to science because I obviously love it so much. So bollocks to that. Did you expect me to sit here and let you pelt (metaphorical) rotten vegetables at me? No thanks!
Anybody who believes in airy-fairy bullshit because they “feel” it to be true, anybody who ignores the evidence that contradicts them because they have a set of beliefs, anybody who talks down science because “it doesn’t know all the answers”, is basically out to fuck you up. They want you to believe in something rather than think for yourself. They want your trust.
Because then they can feed you any bullshit they want.
I wrote this application for the Platform ’09 live art event back before I knew I was ill, but I was definitely suffering from all of the symptoms that would later see me hospitalised. I checked with a few people I knew, and found out that at least two of the people on the Platform judging panel had a sense of humour, but before I could send it off I found myself taken into hospital. I don’t know if I would have been given a place at the event, but the application, I think, stands by itself as a piece of writing.
Not only am I sure that I shouldn’t really be in Platform this year, I’m also sure that if you were to award/chose me to be in Platform you’d only be getting something along the lines of “Pete Hindle is nebbishly funny in a sarcastic manner about an element of geekdom.” This would suck; not that I’m not funny – far from it, the other day I made somebody laugh by putting on a jumper, and I’m pretty practised at making ladies laugh from the other side of the room by wiggling my eyebrows. But the reason that it would suck is that you’ve commissioned it before, I’ve done it already, and frankly, we’re all a little tired of stuff like that happening.
Hey, since Platform… whenever I did my last thing… nerds have taken off. In fact, you better be nerdy these days, since all the other social niches are pretty much played out, giving us this massive glut of homogenised stylish young people (girls: pretty, boys: dishevelled) who will no doubt be applying to do various things at this event. Hoo-fucking-rah; even the audiences at Platform are pretty darn hot these days, and considering that it’s a live art event (the epitome of niche) that’s saying something. I came to Platform last year with the pretty young girlfriend who broke my heart into a thousand pieces when she dumped me in Berlin, and even she was intimidated by some of the girls in the audience. Which is why I left early to go and drink mojitoes with her rather than stare at performance art.
Because, honestly, drinking with pretty girls is far more fun than performance art.
I was actually drinking with a few pretty girls recently when I made my nerd credentials quite clear. I said I was going to go home and watch Star Trek, at which point they laughed. I pointed out that I was wearing a red bodywarmer, and that I really was going home to watch Star Trek. I think they might have laughed some more at that point, but in a good way. I was, in fact, desperate to get home owing to the side effects of carrying around an ulcer in my stomach area for the past few months, such as not being able to drink and creating evil smelling farts out of my bottom. I’m presumably carrying around this ulcer owing to the stress of not working on my thesis, but I’m not entirely sure that having a useless fine art education and nowhere to display my “skillz” hasn’t also played a part in it.
So, if you really want an evil smelling, post-graduate educated sarcastic asshole who would rather be off drinking with pretty girls than making lame jokes about the puerile obsessions of a set of closeted individuals that value gadgetry and science fiction over personal contact and the real world, I’m your man. I do carry around in my head a few ideas that I might be able to turn into performances, so I thought I’d make a note of them in a list format in case you didn’t read any of the above.
• The Quaker Performance: everybody sits in a circle and we have a traditional Quaker meeting, where there is silence for an hour. It’ll be awesome, promise.
• Juggling: possibly with glasses. I can do a three ball cascade for around ten minutes.
• Dialogue: I talk with the people in the audience, making them the focus of the performance. People will laugh.
• The Fleetwood Mac Thing: I explain how I was in the unlikely position of having two girlfriends, and how I adopted the Fleetwood Mac album “Rumours” during that period.
• The Roman Talk: I heart Romans. Did you know that Caligula tried to make his favourite horse a consul of Rome? Romans are comedy gold.
• Full Lock: Somebody puts a car in the full lock position and does multiple donuts outside the venue. Again: awesome, with the added bonuses of illegality and danger of death.
Obviously, rather than fleshing out any of these ideas you’d be better employing another artist and giving them an opportunity that they’d enjoy. I’d probably find the whole prospect of standing in front of another audience gut-wrenchingly fear inducing and it’s not like I care enough to keep my CV updated anyway.