Thursday, January 21, 2010


Thursday 21 January 2010

Today I wake up at 5.20AM feeling uncharacteristically tired while also being too restless to go back to sleep.

Maintaining the usual National Express standards of service the train is late arriving to pick us up with gives commuters good opportunity to freeze on the platform this morning. This freeze feels like contempt.

Once the train eventually arrives the ride from Colchester to London is generally eventless, I just want to sleep today. For a four-day week this is surprisingly hard going as I feel knackered heading up to town and into work.

Stepping into the restaurant my boss is not in until late today so first thing I have to check the bank and await his phone call. The poor guy is having a really hard time of it at the moment personally, just as the company is going through another stage of change. It never rains but it pours. I swear this is the fourth or fifth cycle I have experienced at the firm since I joined nearly two years ago. I would like to think I make his life somewhat easier at work but that is something not necessarily in my hands or capability.

After a morning of plodding at lunchtime I go for the salmon option. When I head down to collect the food I find myself caught up in gaggling banter with the floor staff. Three of them combine to make me feel awkward and uncomfortable as they harp on about sex until the inevitable question arrives: “when was the last time you had sex?” Knowing that it was October I shrug them off complaining that I am “too tired to shag.” Why do I care what they think? I probably earn the same as the three of them combined.

By now the day is astonishingly gorgeous, verging on a vision of summer. These are the kind of days I fear and feel have got away from me.

Eventually the afternoon sails of systematically. The boss eventually comes in looking stressed out and tired.

After work I head over to Farringdon and the BILLY CHILDISH book-burning event. It is being held at the L-13 Aquarium gallery just off Clerkenwell Road. This is a part of town I don’t usually frequent.

The L-13 Aquarium is not the friendliest of places, as I was fearing. As ever with an art event it runs the risk of having stepped into something out of Nathan Barley. Immediately upon stepping into the place I see BILLY CHILDISH and my heart pathetically flutters in that white boy indie rock way of internal recognition.

Looking around the first thing I do is check out the books that are being destroyed this evening. Tonight’s event is a book burning for the Penguin version of his Selected Poems book. From what I can gather is that they have just printed up a number of these books using the classic Penguin cover format without actually getting the permission from Penguin to do so. As a result they have issued a cease and desist warning and have ordered him to destroy all copies. Looking at the books they are a really gorgeous looking object. There are also some very regal hardcover printed copies that have been bound and published by Tangerine Press. These copies are selling for £30 and when I pick up a copy to flick through almost immediately I am being told in a stern voice that “if you touch those you have to buy them.” I draw a nervous laugh and put the book back, feeling scolded in the same way that I did in shops as a youngster. Welcome to L-13.

Mooching around the gallery I come across many nasty delights. There are action men reboxed with missing limbs, subversive versions of Rupert The Bear and tiny tiny models of police brutality plus various other items by James Cauty and Jamie Reid. I come across the actual bin full of copies of the book that is being burned and as I flick through it it never occurs to me that I should just take a copy. Indeed part of me expects that any second I will me told to take my hands off the merchandise.

I don’t feel like I fit in here. I feel I am made to feel like I should not be there. This is perhaps why it takes me half an hour to brave up and help myself to the free beer on offer.

Eventually BILLY CHILDISH gets introduced along with the back-story as to how this book-burning event has come about. By now the gallery has quite healthily filled up.

With his poem selections already chosen for him by the person publishing the lush version of his new book/collection BILLY CHILDISH begins his reading introducing each with an explanation and story behind the words, which naturally adds a lot of fun to proceedings (my experience of poetry readings alone are that they can often be a very dry experience).

BILLY CHILDISH is a true inspiration, unafraid to share and express his experiences in a most vivid sense while clinging to some kind of retro sensibility. There is also a certain calmness attached to him, one of unexpected manners and politeness. As he does his reading a baby can be heard squealing across the room often getting in the way of his words. When the distraction just proves too much CHILDISH then asks “where’s the baby?” before taking interest in the age of it and why it has been brought along this evening. These are modern parents after an art fix while being too tight to pay for a babysitter methinks. Seemingly now less daunted by this he then talks of his own son and how is a good boy, better mannered than his dad and potentially smarter with it.

Soon we find ourselves heading outside into the car park where the book burning and fire ensues. As those beautiful books go up in smoke it is genuinely disheartening. What a waste. Shame on your Penguin.

All in all it turns out to be a surprisingly fun affair akin to bonfire night only without the fireworks. As the smoke bellows high up into the London sky a slight expectation of a fire engine soon arriving surfaces.

In the process of the fire a few quick people grab up books before they get incinerated and I truly curse my own politeness of manners that I don’t grab one up as well.

Against the fire and smoke in the dark of the night wearing his now trademark hate BILLY CHILDISH cuts a great figure appearing to have stolen William Burroughs’ silhouette.

In the distance a few people emerge from a nearby pub seemingly concerned by events but once the situation is explained to them they calm down even if it is with a sense of dismay and confusion. As I look up I watch the smoke drift off into the night sky transcending the tall buildings of Farringdon and carrying the words of the books up to places where we can only ever guess what happens to humanity.

Gradually the crowd begins to get cold and begin disbanding, heading home to some warmth. Elsewhere others return inside to the gallery where hairstyles chase beer and wine. Personally I feel a desire to remain to the end and as CHILDISH passes me for a better view/perspective I give him a smile to acknowledge that this is a great thing.

Eventually convinced that I am now smelling of smoke I head back to the tube station feeling strangely perversely exhilarating and invigorated. In a way tonight felt wrongly special, like some kind of secret event only available to the smart.

Happily the tube ride to Liverpool Street is a quick and brief one and soon I manage to find myself on the strange 9PM Lowestoft train convinced that everyone can smell me, smelling of chicory.

I get home just after 10PM, which turns out to be great timing for such a successful night out. For the win.

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