Tuesday, October 18, 2016


These questions ocurred to me today while on the bus to Camden Town.

Is posting on the internet our thoughts, our pictures, our stories, our rants, our activities, then eagerly, hungrily, checking for responses, is it a bit like being a child again, seeking parental approval or if not approval, any kind of response? Are all internet social media like metaphorical parents of whatever sort of child we were (and still are to some degree)?

For my part I can answer a hesitant yes. Does anybody else reading this feel the same?

I cross-post to Facebook and some people have replied over there.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Same period of time (1962), same place. The reason why Reg and I are in Rome is only because my sister Anne and her Italian husband, the writer Gerardo Guerrieri, said  'Come! You can work with us.' when we were wondering what was next after our years in Paraguay ended (more about all of it in my ongoing online autobiography).

So we're both working in the office of the Teatro Club, an extraordinary organisation created by Anne and Gerardo which brings international theatre, dance, music - myriad roads really leading to Rome. I'm designing posters for a forthcoming show by the Moisseiev Russian ballet company but meanwhile, Odetta is about to give a solo performance and I'm helping out backstage. 

Odetta, whose unforgettable voice I've never heard before and whose majestic presence overwhelms me, is standing calm and serene before her curtain call while I'm running around panicking in case I've forgotten something and catastrophe is imminent.

Odetta, the Odetta, turns to me smiling like a Buddha and says something...why why why why can't I remember her actual words?...something which means don't sweat the small stuff, but so much more eloquently, and in that voice, with that presence, so calm, it's like a shower of blessings and all my panic melts away and all the panics melt away and you have to laugh.

She goes on stage and she sings her songs and now, all I have to do is to put her records on and I'm back in that moment. If you've never heard Odetta, or even if you have, listen to her. This is from one of her blues albums:

Friday, October 14, 2016


It's 1962 or 1961. My husband Reg Dixon and I have left Paraguay behind and are living in a rooftop apartment in Trastevere, Rome's left-bank. In the evenings we often drop in at the Folk Studio, a cavernous musical haven for world citizens and restless locals, run by Harold Bradley, a hugely talented African American singer, actor, painter and all-around exceptional human being. His deep velvet basso profundo version of the old Gospel classic God's Gonna Cut You Down can easily persuade you Harold is God (but he'll never cut you down because he loves you too much). 

We've made friends with Harold and since Reg plays the guitar and we both sing, sometimes we perform our American, English, French, Spanish or Mexican repertoire. Other amateur and professional musicians often come on stage from the audience and, one winter night, a skinny kid wearing a casquette (you know, those flat caps) gets up there. 

To my shame, I cannot remember what or how he sang or even if he had his guitar with him but I know it was good. Reg and I and another man and the kid, who is very very drunk and hilariously funny with it, go round the corner to a bar for some food. The kid's sense of humour is so sharp and so contagious that we are all falling about in blissful hilarity. The kid's name is Bob Dylan. He isn't yet very famous but his manager Al Grossman is with him protectively on that evening in Rome.

I'm absolutely sure that neither Dylan or the late Grossman would remember the incident but herewith my very good wishes to the Nobel prizewinner.

Looking for a photo to include, I came across an astonishingly detailed account by Olof Björner of Dylan's comings and goings, which includes his trip to Rome in 1961 (I'm pretty sure it was actually 1962 but never mind). I've copied the relevant extract below. Also found a photo of Harold Bradley at the Folk Studio around that time.

Harold Bradley (centre) at his Folk Studio in Rome in the 1960s
I found the above photo on this website.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Foolishly, I stayed up last night to watch the Trump/Clinton debate - if that word can be applied to the infantile slanging match I witnessed, my jaw dropping so low that I still haven't quite retrieved it.

In 1984, when some of you were still in swaddling clothes (does swaddling still exist?) I won a Guardian competition for political montages and got a bottle of champagne (not Bollinger). Below is my original cartoon and above it is a new version I've just done, simply changing the faces and the context. I rest my case.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


What is the title for someone you're related to but not actually related to in terms of DNA and stuff of that kind?

For instance: this beautiful young woman whose birthday is today and who happens to be on a quick trip to London from her home in Vancouver and so of course she came to see me because not only are we sort of related but we also like each other very much and she could, sort of, be my daughter because she is the daughter of my ex-husband and his third wife - I was the second - and her step-brother and sister are also, sort of, my step-children. Well, whatever the title of our relationship, it's great and we had a wonderful lunch at a local pub and talked of almost everything under the sun, apart from the weather.

Although she looks like a teen-ager, Valerie is also a brilliant lawyer.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Can't let today go by without congratulating Jeremy Corbyn.

Bravo Jeremy! A non-triumphalist speech, generous to his opponents, no bitterness, no recriminations, no blaming, no waffle, only a positive, constructive, grateful message spoken from the heart. A new kind of politics? Almost makes one optimistic about the future.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Rulers: I hate them, Especially the measuring kind. I'm good at DIY in general, always have done my own putting up/taking down shelves, painting, plastering, caulking, basic electrical stuff, self-assembling furniture (even when instructions are in ancient Greek) and so on. However, my bête noire is/are rulers. All those fine little lines between actual proper numbers are beyond the pale. I more or less ignore them. A piece of cardboard marked wherever marks are needed is much handier.

So here we are, latest box construction in full flow, and I just happen to put the big ruler (centimetres) against the left side of the box and then again on the right side.

Well, as you can see in the two photos below, the height of the left side is 41 (minus two-ish little lines) whereas the height of the right side is 40 (plus four-ish little lines). Conclusion: the left is higher than the right by a certain number of little lines. Now I don't mind some roughness, I often prefer it. But if one side of the finished box when hung on a wall will be noticeably higher than the other, it will drive me nuts. Therefore it must be corrected.

Unfortunately I have been extremely conscientious and every bit of wood etc. is firmly glued to every other bit so lowering one side is out of the question. No worries! As usual, I'll bluff my way out of measurement by improvisation. I will...erm...simply build up the top of the shorter side with some clever packing. Or maybe lower the higher side by planing the hardboard down. Or maybe......