5. Slapdash

Old woman, theatre performer.
Harmonica player outside Baron's Court Station

There’s a woman standing outside Baron’s Court tube station playing, or rather attempting to play, a harmonica. I’ve seen her here before, she hangs out at Baron’s Court Housing project where they do free meals. She wears a wig and theatrical makeup. I thought at first she was a transvestite, like my neighbour Steve who goes to the Coop in stilettos and a mini skirt, but apparently not.

My other slightly more sober neighbour tells me she is an old theatre performer, been out of work for years though, a drinker with mental health issues. “A right care in the community that one” say’s my neighbour “a real special“.

The story goes that she was having medical treatment for a congenital brain disease during the privatisation of the NHS. She could’t afford to continue the treatment with the specialist hospital so ended up going through the Charity Care system. The hack-up job the church hospital did was well meaning but naive and slapdash, her memory was blown to pieces.

This is all just rumours you understand, but she is quite mad!

Still, she stands there at Barons Court station feather bower and all, screaching out lunacy and blowing down that poor old harmonica. The Station manager occasionally moves her along but she’s back the next day. On Sundays she is particularly enthusiastic, her words seem to take on a hell fearing vigor as she denounes the Sunday shopping  public.

Next – 6. Dread

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1. What YOU need!

2. Abel

3. Underlondon

4. Eyes in the Machines

Notes on the Grand Plan: The Further Adventures of The Spletzer-Martin No 5.

Warning – If you have never read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells this blog may well spoil it for you. Not completely ruin it, just tell you a little bit too much.

So this grand plan of mine, solo album/sci-fi novel/musical/radio show/religion,  is called The Further Adventures of The Spletzer Martin No.5.

I cannot just work with the Rude Mechanicals on it as it would just turn into the Rude Mechanicals. Besides Cos and Guy are sly cold blooded men, especially that Cos. He’d have slit my throat from behind by now if only he could find another blonde wigged front person like me. All smiles on the surface, he’d never show a sign. The two of them would be on the radio interview and Guy wouldn’t say a word and Cos would be saying how they miss me and how they are waiting for me to come back, whilst I’d be bleeding to death in some gutter, gnawed by flea-ridden dogs he’d been breeding and raising for years specially for the job. And Guy woudn’t rescue me.

So this project is going to take a long time.

I’ve been round recording noises, water, tunnels etc. It involved a vile poo-bathing incident with Monty which I won’t go into now, but I did get some good sounds. Now what?

Well I’ve got the story started. Its about a man called Abel, set in London during a recession, in the future, but not that far in the future. There is a mad woman in it who accidentally starts a new religion.

In The Time Machine  the human race has evolved into two species: the leisured classes have become the ineffectual Eloi who live on the surface, and the downtrodden working classes have become the brutish light-fearing Morlocks who live underground.

At the same time as I was reading The Time Machine I read an article in The National Geographic about how there is a community of people in Las Vegas who live in the tunnels under the city, coming up at night to feed off the leftovers of the above-landers. The start of the split between the Eloi and Morlock? Hmmm…

So this is the basic premise of my story, but its set in London. London has many tunnels and hidden rivers.

Carnival will be very important in the piece. Some experts think the term Carnival comes from carne vale a Latin expression meaning “Farewell to Meat”. Traditionally it was a festival before Lent when rich foods such as meat had to be consumed. A meat eating festival.

And Rough Music, plenty of that sort of stuff: Noisy, masked processions held outside the home of the supposed wrongdoer, involving the cacophonous rattling of bonesand cleavers, the ringing of bells, hooting, blowing bull’s horns, the banging of frying pans, saucepans, kettles, or other kitchen or barn implements with the intention of creating long-lasting embarrassment to the alleged perpetrator. (Wikipedia).

I think I will have to have a recording session where the musicians wear masks and hit bones and frying pans.  No I’m not joking.

Musicians, now there’s a tricky question. I have to use them, can’t not. I’m interested in the group, improvisation, collective action and rhythm. Slime Mold cells in sync! ( the majority of people who visit my blog seem to be looking for Slime Molds. They are great). But musicians do insist on doing music. And a lot of musicians see improvisation to be merely about individual grandeur rather than working together.

“Well”, you might think to yourself, ” Miss Roberts is very into individual granduer”, and you’d be right. That could be why The Spletzer Martin No.5 project might have to kill her off.

I went to exchange chilli peppers for cups of tea yesterday with Django Bates, and we got talking, or rather I harassed him with questions, about vocal improvising. He told me to listen to Phil Minton and played me some great stuff by Salsid Endersen ( I have probably spelt that wrong). The first one he played was just vocal noises she made in the more avantgarde album, appealing but noone would ever listen to an album of me doing that. No one would listen to more than 30 seconds. The second album was more like poetry, I may have to ask to borrow it. I like Phil Minton’s Feral Choir, will have to pinch that idea for the masked musicians.

I don’t know why I’m even interested in this vocal improvisation stuff really, but it seems I am, and Phil Minton can now be held responsible for some of the noises I am likely to make in this album/sci-fi novel/musical/film/radio show/religion/artwork. Which, although having considerble resemblance to music, will be everything but.

So first recording session end of January. Any questions?

Update – This has now been put off till May when I will be celebrating still being alive. 

Aliens – The Hammersmith & City Line

It was after Sexton Ming’s 50th Birthday party, I was sitting on the train in the platform waiting for it to leave, singing the Rude Mechanicals song Aliens to myself.

You see the mice on the tracks, you see them as you wait for your train

You think they’re vermin but they’re not

It was late. There was a man sitting opposite looking at me with a puzzled expression on his face as if to ask what I was doing. I stopped singing and asked him “Do you think this train is going all the way to Hammersmith? Or terminating at Edgware Road?

“Yes” he said with a sly glint in his eye, “its going all the way to Hammersmith. I’m the driver”.

We were silent for a minute, I still had the Aliens song going round in my head

They’re all aliens they’re aliens I’m sure

I hummed under my breath. He looked straight at me.

“Would you like to sit in the front of the train with me? ” he asked.

I was going to say no but something inside urdged me on. Up I got and followed him into the light blue cabin at the front of the train. He checked mirrors, pressed bright lighted buttons, and off we zoomed into the dark tunnels.

Bred by the train company

Fed till they’re big and fat

The stations appeared like small islands springing out of the blackness. They were mainly empty. Lonely looking controllers pressed buttons, grunted, and signalled us onwards. We chatted about his job as a train driver, the night shift, the hours between last train and first train, the appalling fact that the circle line nolonger goes in a circle.

Squeezed all they’re fluid flowing out

“what were you doing tonight?” he asked

“Performing” I said

“Are you in a band?”

“Yes”

“what do you sing about”

“Actually we’ve done a song about the mice on the train tracks and how they might be aliens”

The train jolted slightly. He turned his face to me. It twictched.

” And London Underground know the mice are aliens but they’re….”

“Breeding them so they can use alien juice to power the trains” He finished my sentence.

He knew! It was true!

Cheaper than gasoline

The train was pulling into Hammersmith now. He turned his head back to concentrate on the driving. I clamped my mouth shut tight.

“You are a little mouse like” he said

I said nothing

“I have my car at the station, I’d better drive you home”

The cabin door opened, he moved towards me but before he could grab my arm I’d scrambled down onto the platform.

Hurriedly I gasped “Thankyou but no, I’ve got to walk my dog now”

With that I jolted to the station exit and ran as fast as I could all the way back home.

Hideous grunting and blowing tonight and tomorrow.

Miss Roberts singing on the radioMyself and two Rude Mechanicals on CRMK 89.8 fm radio today, thanks to The Garden of Earthly Delights. Anyone who heard it , what did you make of my soft sexy radio voice?

Tomorrow I’m doing my solo act at Sexton Ming’s 50th birthday in Stoke, London. If you don’t know who Sexton Ming is you should. Type him in to google NOW!

Here is the sound of me upsetting my neighhbours earlier today http://soundcloud.com/missroberts/rebel-tongue, it will be like this tomorrow only I’ll be very drunk and stomping around a lot in big boots.

Oh and wearing slap of course. I was feeling lazy today what with it being radio and all. No dirty bra straps showing tomorrow!

Derek part 4. Truth

Derek
Derek - the man in my loft

Truth is an awkward thing don’t you think?

When I started telling you this story I said it would be the truth about Derek, and I am trying very hard to tell you the full truth. But it’s slippery. My memory has wobbly parts. I remember when I came round I didn’t know who I was, I had to piece myself back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Remembering what a bath was, remembering how to get out of it, remembering that there was a world on the other side of the bathroom door. So much stimuli hitting me, using me as a punch bag. Such a strenuous and desperate process fitting each piece into the correct space, and knowing which pieces to ignore because they’re part of a different jigsaw altogether.

How long did I lay in the bath? How much water did I cough up? How long did it take me to open the bathroom door? Truth is supposed to be “in accordance with fact” as it says in my computer dictionary here. Me on my own alone in my flat, entirely dependent on subjective experience percieved through my own battered senses, ordered in my error riddled brain, how can I ever be in accordance with fact? How can I alone ever tell the full truth?

It is just as well then that I was not alone that night, for the fact is I had a man in my loft.

I decided to call him Derek.

To be continued

Part 5.

The Bones in the Back Garden

Monday 3rd May 2010

Today was a day for considering the bones in my garden.  Why today I don’t know, had planned to make paper from the heap of paper pulp currently festering in my kitchen, but somehow at 2 this afternoon I found myself writing a song about the bones I had discovered.

I moved into this flat a year ago, it’s a nice flat despite sitting on an edge between a massive road and the train line. The nicest thing about the flat is that it has a garden. When I first moved here I had an idea about being a great gardener, but this soon faded as I came to realize the state the garden was in. It was a mess! And underneath all the nettles was junk, bottles, cans, razors, the remains of a mattress, old rotting clothes. You can’t park a car anywhere near my flat so I couldn’t get anyone in to help clear the mess. I temporarily gave up on the idea of doing major work on it and instead decided to have a wildlife garden. Right, I thought, well frogs, and in fact all amphibians, are on the verge of extinction, so what I’ll do is build a pond. I started digging. Then I found the bones.  Lots of them of all different shapes and sizes.

Some of the bones I found in the garden
The bones I found buried in the garden

Now when you find things like bones it gets the brain going, wondering what they are from. Are they one creature or many? Are they a pet dog or a person?

The last occupier was a man called Wolfgang. I think he was a nice person, feels like he was, the flat has a pleasent feeling to it. The neighbour says Wolfgang was “a right care in the community case”, he was certainly eccentric, had crammed the place full of gadgets and wires according to the removal men. What had happened to Wolfgang? Had he died? Did Wolfgang know who was buried in the garden?

When Wolfgang had lived here the garden had been very overgrown, the council had come along and chopped some huge trees down. Then there was all the rubbish I’d found, the clothes still on a clothes line buried under a layer of mud with moss growing on them. I started to worry that the place might be haunted, I was living there alone but there was always the feeling of someone else being near. Next band rehearsal I mentioned this to the Rude Mechanicals. Tommy G rather brilliantly wrote the song Wolfgang in which there is a seance and Wolfgang possesses me, but it turns out that he’s a very normal old man who says “I know” a lot and likes chatting with Greta Garbo. This made things seem much better, and now I have a friendly ghost living here with me and the Rude Mechanicals have a fine, rather odd, seance song for the end of The Cyclops & The Wildebeest album.

Back to today. My garden is fascinating! I’ve decided to build a box for the bones. The Bone Box. It is going to be quite lavish, maybe with some gold leaf, and on the box lid I’m going to put a picture of skeletons, one of a dog, one of a cat, and one of a human. And maybe I’ll finish the Back Garden Blues song I started writing at 2, and that can go in the box with the bones. Maybe I should take the box along to a rehearsal to find out what the Rude Mechanicals make of it. But first I must finish the box and wash the bones!

My overgrown garden in May
My overgrown garden on Bank Holiday Monday in May