Hanging on

A conversation in the work kitchen this morning:

Colleague: What did you do this weekend?
Me: I un-hung a door.
C: Why?
Me: It was in the way.
C: Isn’t that sort of the point of a door? To be in the way? Between you and the other room?

And well, yes. It is. But it’s also the point of a door to open more than 45 degrees without being hindered by a bed. Strictly I suppose the bed was in the way, but the bed is less movable. And I need a bed. I don’t need a door in front of a closet. Especially as the closet will soon be a micro library.

I was going to put the door under above obstructive bed but the handles are not the detachable sort, so it wouldn’t fit. Instead it’s behind my desk doubling as an impromptu notice board and a ‘unique bijou feature’. I think that’s the term. It was a bit of a struggle to move the unhinged door but I managed it without injury. Just. Doors, you will be shocked to hear, are heavy.

I have such DIY plans for my tiny tiny bedroom.

I assembled the desk last week, without any of the necessary equipment. It turns out that although an instruction manual claims you will need a screwdriver, a second person and a hammer, in fact all you need is a pair of scissors, a stack of books and sheer bloody will. Incidentally, this is not the first time I have used books as a substitute for a person, and I doubt it will be the last.

*assumes some kind of Keatsian pose, exits stage left*

Between desire and reality

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a slight change in the wallpaper. For many a happy year the top few pixels of my beloved weblog were emblazoned with the somewhat opaque Fact & Breakfast the supposed title to all the musings that lay within.

Underneath sat a P.G. Wodehouse quote: No good can come of any association with anything labelled Kathryn just so the reader was sure they’d arrived at the right place, given the only other mention of my name is in the url itself.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I could just show you:

But now, alas, no more.

I picked the name back in 2009 when I needed ‘proper’ website (I use the term lightly). It comes from the usual dated obscurity I thrive on: the opening title to A Bit of Fry & Laurie series four.

I’ve long admired their mix of stupidity and sarcasm. Between fact and breakfast madness lies was full of brusied language and mangled semantics and its shortened version summed up my content perfectly: the occasional ‘proper’ article mixed with all manner of nonsense I needed to get out of my head. And between the two there surely is madness.

It’s served me in good stead. It’s proved as incomprehensible as much of the content that sits beneath it. And yet… the darling site needed an overhaul because it broke several IA rules (101: let the user know where they are. 208: Use clear, understandable language., 305: don’t expect everyone to live their lives via comedy quotes from the 1990s.), it didn’t look right in IE9 and… you know what? I’m looking for a job and I didn’t want to put people off. There you go: your favourite left-wing slapstick lover is MERCENARY AT HEART. Damnit, John, we’re not in Uxbridge anymore.

So, it’s gone. But it’s still all over the site. Partly as tribute, party because I’m not going to edit out every reference to it. If anything the stupidity lives on its Tumblr sister site. But for now we’re boring old Kathryn Hegarty. Some comfort at least that if nothing else you finally know my name.

This one’s for the freaks

Version A
In an attempt to evaluate the user experience of the popular blogging platform Tumblr, I have undertaken to publish a work of my own devising, thus experimenting with its user, admin and customisation features. Because, apparently, we’re all so short of spannable attention, I’m going to publish it scene-by-scene three times a week, till the end. I will attempt to gain followers (gasp). The result of this experiment will also influence when and how I publish my novel Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland.

Version B
Because of reasons I am uploading Star Cross-dressed Lovers a spoof jukebox show, a Manic Street Musical, if you will. (It’s built around Manics songs. Of course it is.) It’s got James eating pies, Nicky nearly destroying the world, Sean being evil and best of all, Richey isn’t dead (much).

If Tumblr and I get on, I’ll use it to publish my completed (in the sense that I’m not bloody doing it again) typo-ridden novel which is NOT called Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland, but it probably should be.

You can visit the Manic Street Musical site any time you like.

The words we’ve heard

After much procrastination, I can present The illustrated Brett Anderson, a rather messy series of infographics (delusions of grandeur, right there) based on Brett’s most frequently used words.

Geeky method and stuff
It was pretty simple really. I took all of the lyrics to every officially published Suede, The Tears and Solo song and ran them through a frequency count. I also manually checked each one (kill me now) and adjusted for declensions, congugations, plurals etc. An information science degree does not prepare one for the sheer tedium of this and I nearly gave up at Suede, but felt guilty about abandonning The Tears and solo material. I think this means I have issues.

Almost all words which occur more than 20 times are included, and quite a few down to 4 occurances as I chose. I discounted all pronouns, bits of sentences that had no meaning (e.g. because, so) and variations of ‘to be’ (e.g. am, were). I didn’t include ‘la’ or ‘awwwwhowwww’ because that would have tipped me over the edge, and there’s a few more like ‘make’ that seemed too abstract to bother with. I wanted to include phrases like ‘you and me’ but I let my data integrity slide in favour of leaving the house occasionally. Basically it started off as a statistical exercise then I got bored and wanted to draw doomed spaceshuttles.

I drew all the pictures in Powerpoint. This is because I felt like giving myself an extra level of misery and is in no way an excuse to cover my poor design skills.

Anyway, here are the results.

Pretty pictures

You can download the whole lot as a PDF, should you be so inclined.

I don’t bloody know. There’s something distinctive about Brett’s lyrics, Suede in particular and I wanted to investigate. In essence I guess it’s that whole suburban apocalypse thing, which I hope is reflected in the images. I’m not sure if this exercise brought me any closer to understanding it, but awwwhowww well.

Beauty is duty and duty beauty. So there.

I’m sure you’ll all be delighted to know that I’ve written some poetry in Latvian. You might wonder how, being here less than two months, I’ve grasped enough of the subtleties of the Latvian tongue to delve into the true depths of love and life that poetry requires, but let me assure you that it’s all here: time, beauty, and a very real sense of hunger all permeate my early work.

As anyone who’s thrashed their way through GSCE English will know, it’s not just about the overarching themes but the personal context in which the poems are placed. Here I am in this far flung land – so cut off I can’t watch the 6 o’clock news in English, never mind Scotish dialect – perhaps it’s only natural I should find those very English reflections on the weather and the decline of aristocratic classes creeping into my work. For they have, as you will see when you enage with my lines:

1. Skatās Debesīs
Laiks ir skaists,
Bet skaistums ir laiks.

1. I stare at the sky
The weather is beautiful,
But beauty is time.

I think this speaks entirely for itself. No explanation required. If you don’t grasp its multi-layered sensations as they ripple past one another, you are heartless indeed.

2. Čau Ģīvs!
Man ir viens piens
Tev ir divi zivi
Mums ir trīs pilis
Bet mēs esam izsalcis.

2. What ho, Jeeves!
I have one milk
You have two fish
We have three castles
But we are hungry.

What better way to express distate at our worship of property at the expense of proper financial management than by invoking an image of a lonely breadline existence against a backdrop of comparative wealth?

I await my Nobel Prize.

Cuttings from his glory days

I’ve walked Las Ramblas but not with real intent.

I’m a big fan of the local library. Not library as I might usually mean it, not the slightly over-heated, out-of-the-way, never-have-what-I-want-in cubby holes that I treasure dearly. But the other local library, the streets of London and beyond which I tread daily, living and breathing the present but so often the past, or the made up.

Here, in Tufnell Park I am in spitting distance of the following:
– The house George Orwell used to live in
– The Seven Sisters which Brett Anderson left ‘for a room in a seaside shack’.
– The Hotel Splendide which inspired a Bernard Butler bside
– The Good Mixer which cooked up Britpop until it boiled over
– The St John’s Road, Archway where Spike Milligan used to visit his friend Harry Edgington
– The house where Spaced was filmed. (I even shop in the same Londis as Tim did.)

The locations in songs, TV and books captivate me as much as the emotions, and send me on stupid Saturday morning missions to seek out a brick wall somewhere in Highgate. Cast the nets a little further, to the rest of London, Worthing, Sheffield and the list could go on.

You know, I walked around Merrian Square in Dublin, and sure people know Oscar Wilde lived there, but who else spots the estate agent Morrisseys on the corner and Yeats’ house opposite, and sees Cemetry Gates made flesh? And then I walked down Las Ramblas in Barcelona thinking of Orwell and thinking of Nicky Wire feeling inadequate in his steps, and I felt inadequate in both their steps, but was somehow thrilled, as if I was doing a secret thing which only I knew about.

Often it’s me on a treasure hunt but sometimes it’s accidental and it catches me unawares. Take this week. I have been reading High Fidelity by Nicky Hornby. It’s set around here, Crouch End, Seven Sister Road, Camden, Kentish Town. Familiar terrirtory but I don’t recognise many of the road or shop names. I know Crouch End well so there’s no need to seek it out.

But then, the book finds me. On Friday evening a friend of mine from work, Rachel, invites me to see her band play in Camden. Suddenly I’m in the Hope & Anchor and the Purple Turtle and seeing Rachel sing, meeting the band and their friends and having awkward but fun conversations and the memory of the book, of Marie’s gigs comes crashing in. Waves of sensation – something like deja vu – make me laugh and I find myself asking my new aquaintances what music they like just to keep the illusion going. It’s not even as if the personal situation is similar, it’s the same thrill as Baracelona – being in a joke that no one else is.

Saturday morning I walk to Oxfam Books & Music in Kentish Town to see what I can dig out for my scruffy book pile. The guy in the shop is berating his younger assistant: “I can’t believe you haven’t seen Zulu! How can you not have seen Zulu? Where have you been?!” I take my books to the counter and he critiques them, all the while continuing to tell his assistant how great Blondie are. As I’m paying the assistant is asked “OK, top 10 records from the 80s?”. On my way out I ask them both if they’ve read High Fidelity. No, says the man. Yes, says the assistant. “Well,” I said to the assistant, “he is definitely Barry.”

She giggles, I leave. But not before I catch the expression on her face, which I know well myself. It’s the joy of being in on a joke that you can’t explain and you couldn’t even if you wanted to.

Revisionism for the masses

For reasons too boring to list, I was forced to use the Labour party’s online contact form.

The auto-reply I received was from ‘no-reply@new.labour.org.uk’.

As someone who’ll chase even the slightest whiff of sarcasm or cynicism, the irony wasn’t lost on me.

Neither was it lost on Labour:
New Labour screen cap
Image: new.labour.org.uk.

The humour might be accidental but the intention was not. Other addresses (haha.labour.org.uk, abolishthepast.labour.org.uk, and weneedtolooknewanddifferentbutnottoodifferentorthedailymailwillhateus.labour.org.uk) are all standard addresses. This is deliberate and my flat cap goes off to whoever did it.

Manic Street Musical

So, I did it. I spent the summer writing and the autumn editing and correcting endless typos.

Here is Star Cross-dressed Lovers (A Manic Street Musical) [Linked updated May 2012]. A time-travelling political rom-com of a show in two acts, neither of which are credible.

I’m weirdly proud of this. I know I said it was a joke but I did actually try to make this entertaining trash, if not high-level. I suspect if you don’t know the Manics it will make no sense at all. And if you do know them I suspect you’ll be horrifed I placed such firey, jealous, all-consuming songs into a musical at all. But that’s why it’s funny. It’s all a joke.

Feel free to download and use as you will. I only ask for credit (and protection if you send it to James).