Creative accounting

Astounding though it may sound, I somehow managed to develop a successful career in charity fundraising while being unable to do simple arithmetic. I did European Social Fund (ESF) applications and large-scale lottery funding bids without being able to do simple sums. Colleagues thought I was making a joke when I said I couldn’t use Excel and instead relied on a £5 calculator and determination.

Having managed to complete the design of a website for a small charity, in the next month or so I’m hoping to start some voluntary fundraising work for a local carnival arts organisation. Taking into account the usual mental health considerations, the text should be a breeze. The figures will be a fucking nightmare.

As you may guess, the management of my personal finances isn’t too great. I sometimes see living on benefits as a blessing as I don’t have much money to think about. Problem is, every penny has to be micromanaged to achieve maximum effect. I have mini-budgets for everything – weekly groceries, utilities, occasional meals with friends, clothes, my tea fund for gallery cafes, multiple miscellaneous – and spend an inordinate amount of time calculating and recalculating. It’s a form of anxiety reduction and coping mechanism, digital worry beads.

When I’m at my most ill (see Psychotic & proud) I do none of this and I’m reliant on people to help me with even the most basic financial management – making sure the bills are paid and putting the correct amount of money in my wallet to spend each week. In theory, I’m supposed to receive a small extra amount of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to help me with this but don’t seemingly because I have friends who are financially literate and we’ve reached the point in our society where if you have friends you don’t get help from the state.

This week I was frowning my way through a heavy session of constant recalculation when I just collapsed in frustration and gave up. Couldn’t for the life of me get the income and expenditure totals to add-up so asked a friend to see where I was going wrong. They took a quick look and said they didn’t tally because I had £70 surplus.

Pleasing news, an extra £70 (note this is on top of my contingency, what-if-it-all-fucks-up fund). What can I do with £70?

Sitting in the Victoria & Albert (V&A) cafe, doing what I always do which is to try and be invisible while uploading photos to Instagram that I probably shouldn’t have taken in the first place, I thought, Eureka! I’ll join the V&A.

I’m already a member of The National Gallery and The Tate Galleries so I may as well join the V&A. Of course, there will be people reading this who will be scandalized. People on benefits being able to afford to be members of galleries, does the Taxpayers’ Alliance know about this? When they’re not endlessly rewriting their CVs until their fingers bleed, shouldn’t they be idling in front of the telly watching Homes Under The Hammer, getting more tattoos, down the bookies or in Greggs eating a steak bake?

In my defense, I would point out that I don’t smoke or drink and subsist on the cheapest of everything – including laughs, obviously. My total gallery memberships work out at £3.75 per week. That’s less than I spend on a sandwich and coffee when I go on my near-weekly trips to the Mental Health Centre. I have been thinking of making my own sandwiches and taking a thermos flask. I wouldn’t look out of place with my packed lunch amongst all the other nut-jobs (I’m referring to the staff). With the money saved I could join The British Museum and The National Portrait Gallery.

Now I’m joining the V&A I will be able to fight for change from within. People who are aware of my Twitter oeuvre will know that I delight in mocking the V&A and others for their desire to cater to the Poppys & Millys insatiable appetite for yoga and intellectual disco. It’s my belief that if our great palaces of art want to increase their range of activities they should look to audiences beyond the Poppys. It’s not like there is a shortage of places in London for the Poppys and Millys to do yoga and intellectual disco.

The V&A could be laying on mini-buses for isolated pensioners to come in and do Tai Chi or they could be bringing in single moms from Barking & Dagenham council estates for their tots to do gymnastics – what could be finer that tiny tumblers in the Raphael Room? The elderly and the very young could wander wide-eyed around galleries and then enjoy a relaxing cappuccino.

The V&A will say they are diverse and will bang on about gal-dem. But gal-dem are sort of BAME Poppys & Millys (sorry, someone had to say it). It’s not like black working-class kids from the roughest estates in Tottenham and Hackney are not safe and at any moment the startled youths will be bundled into the back of a van by some Poppys and driven to the V&A and frog-marched around displays of art and design.

I launched a campaign on Twitter: Galleries for Sketching, not Stretching! I envisaged handing out leaflets at art venues like those prickly renegades The Stuckists.

My campaign didn’t snowball in quite the way I expected. In fact, the only person who was enthusiastic was some fellow who is into “men’s rights”. He complains bitterly that feminists are trying to stop men doing yoga. It’s very unfortunate.

Featured image: Christ driving the Traders from the Temple, about 1600, El Greco. The National Gallery.

Yes, I have taken my medication.

Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains at the V&A

I hate Pink Floyd

Old punks never die, instead, they end up going to Pink Floyd exhibitions (also see my Instagram). I had a school friend who was obsessed with Pink Floyd and was always trying to get me to listen to The Dark Side of the Moon. I’d sneer and say, “never trust a hippy”.

The exhibition was very good and worth V&A membership. I’ve ordered The Dark Side of the Moon from the local library, 40p for poor old schizos and other disabled.

Different, but the same

Don’t really have much by way of fancy book learning other than my O level in geography, but I’d love to be able to write well. I have never actively tried to cultivate writing skills. I can’t see myself working through How To Be A Writer books or style guides, so I thought I’d stumble along using this blog as a vehicle to learn and turn to Google from time-to-time. Hopefully, there will be a noticeable improvement in a year or so.

I have deleted some previous posts I wasn’t happy with. They were written before I had worked out what I wanted to achieve with this blog. Act first, think later. An old habit.

Don’t be alarmed, I will continue to mock the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) for their love of yoga and intellectual disco (included in the Unlikely graffiti artist post). If you read the Psychotic & proud page you will see I’m still incredulous at the behaviour of some mental health and homelessness charities (scroll down to the Burn the Witch! heading).

Featured image: Plaster casts from Salisbury Cathedral in the Simon Sainsbury Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), taken with my iPhone, September 2017.

An unlikely graffiti artist

It’s unusual for me to attend art shows where you have to pay and book in advance. I don’t have the money and I can never be reasonably confident that I’ll be up to attending on the day. Basquiat’s Boom for Real may seem an odd choice for an uncool miserablist like myself (I’m an unlikely graffiti artist), but I have never been to the Barbican so I thought it would be a bit of a day out.

Note: There’s a Barbican photo gallery at the bottom of the page

I never find tube journeys easy. For a while, I was unable to get on a train other than on the District Line to High Street Kensington (for the Central Library). Those trains are spacious and not deep underground.  The problem began after getting stuck in a tunnel on a Piccadilly Line train for almost an hour one swelting Summer’s day. Now I’m OK-ish if I get a seat and don’t make eye contact. It’s a relief if a young woman doesn’t offer me her seat. This has happened to me twice in the past few months. I get the message. Because of the chain-smoking and the prematurely grey hair I look old for my age. But I’m not THAT decrepit.

The Barbican seems like quite a swanky neighborhood. Brutalist architecture apparently. I know nothing about architecture. I thought brutalism was something you occasionally see in photographs on Whores of Yore (Twitter).

Had a bit of a mooch around the arts centre. Theatres, restaurants, galleries occupied by the usual types. Might have been a convention on for creative industry workers, university lecturers, and those fruity charity comms girls. But there plonked down amongst all the plushness was a bag lady. No, not some Daphne down on her luck, drowning her sorrows having made herself destitute helping her children through university and getting them on the property ladder, a proper bag lady. Several overcoats, a couple of dozen carrier bags, happily reliving aloud her fond memories: once was an art student, the first girl at college to wear a mini-skirt, exhibited all around Europe, caught gonorrhea in Venice. It’s always a joy to hear people talk aloud in public.

The Barbican is noted for its theatre. I’ve only been to the theatre once. A girlfriend took me to see a performance of The Slab Boys her flatmate was in. He kept forgetting his lines and saying “prompt”. I was so ignorant I thought it was part of the play. That’s probably a very state joke, but I’m so clueless about what happens on the stage I wouldn’t know.

After the performance, there was another performance. My girlfriend insisted that the theatre had more relevance to working-class lives than pop music. Superficially this seems absurd, but then who am I to say? I make jokes about not really liking music, but it’s not that far from the truth. When I was younger my musical tastes were always influenced by what music a girlfriend was listening to – along with interests in books and art. I could be described as a late developer when it comes to having an intellectual life. I split up with the theatre girl on the grounds of me being a philistine.

Basquiat, what can I say? Happily, I wasn’t the only unlikely graffiti artist at the exhibition. The usual grand old duchesses and dukes of the avant-garde were present, now in their 70s and 80s with their ripped jeans and bohemian hair. That said, it was very largely a young crowd. Few parents with nippers in pushchairs which is always a pleasure to see.

For those of you who don’t know, Basquiat was a graffiti/street artist from the late-70s and early-80s who became a pioneer in the 1980s downtown New York art scene. Precocious and self-taught, he played an important role in bringing graffiti art into the mainstream. He was establishing himself as a major contemporary painter when he died at 27 from a heroin and cocaine overdose.

I know a little about New York’s art scene in the 70s and 80s. I’m aware of the culture from which Patti Smith emerged, I had a girlfriend-inspired interest in Talking Heads and I read a history of New York nightclubs: The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night. This charts the rise and fall of club culture including the Mudd Club where Basquiat hung out as a DJ and hip-hop early adopter.

Admittedly I have more or less gone out of my way to avoid hip-hop and take a Morrisseyesque view of DJs. You may have seen me mocking the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) and others on Twitter for the championing of intellectual disco.

Forty years ago in the emerging street culture of New York’s South Bronx, music and visual arts fusing must have seemed full of possibilities. Aunts and uncles dancing at the V&A these days doesn’t, especially given that there is no shortage of venues where they could be letting their hair down. And on Friday nights the Poppys and Millys have turned the once august institution that is the National Portrait Gallery into Faliraki.

The graffiti in the exhibition left me as puzzled as ever. I haven’t the faintest idea what distinguishes some scribble on a wall from street art: I’m probably being an elitist describing anything as scribble. That why I went, looking for clues. Here’s a clue, I’ve lived on 60s-built concrete estates smothered in graffiti. There was no graffiti anywhere around the Barbican estate amongst the polite signs to respect the residents and keep noise to a minimum. I don’t think graffiti survives very long around the Barbican.

I try to read as much poetry as I can, but I need a huge flashing neon sign to tell me if anything is any good. I noticed that Basquiat’s poetry was influenced by William Burroughs and that he performed with him.

I enjoyed the paintings. Even with my untrained eye, I could see the influences of and references back to Picasso. I liked the sheer elan of it all.

Not sure we’re supposed to shit ourselves in amazement that a street artist had heard of Leonardo da Vinci. Basquiat’s mother took him around galleries as a kid. It’s worth noting that while Basquiat didn’t go to art school he wasn’t exactly from the ghetto. He had a comfortable middle-class upbringing.

I think the curators may have been overselling some points. The guy was interested in ancient Eygpt. That didn’t make him an Egyptologist. I’m not sure Basquiat was over-reaching himself, but his boosters appear to be stretching it.

This exhibition is definitely worth seeing. If you can’t make it, there’s an extremely good website run by Basquiat’s Estate. The BBC has a video interview with three young black artists about his influence and an interview with one of his contemporaries and friends.

The Barbican looks like a great place for a mental patient to loll around. If I were the type and had the money I’d go for a day and see an exhibition, a film and have a meal. Maybe next birthday.

Note that the Basquiat exhibition is £12 for the unwaged.

Featured image: Photo of the gallery guide & a postcard from the Basquiat exhibition taken with my iPhone, September 2017.

The gallery: Photos taken around the Barbican with my iPhone, September 2017.

Too much lolling about

Why did the warm, dry weather have to come to an end?

It’s true I wasn’t reading as much as I might like to have while lolling about in St James’s Park. Instead spent a lot of time watching Youtube art gallery videos. You don’t get free wi-fi in the Park, but a very good 4G connection.

In a holding pattern. Not really up-to-speed with the voluntary work. A bit overwhelmed by the psychotic symptoms I’ll bore you with when I publish the Psychotic & proud page. Now lolling about in the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) sending photos up to Schizosomething on Instagram.

Update 1 October 2017

The Psychotic & proud page has been published.

Featured image: The Schizosomething Reading Kit in my favourite reading spot in St James’s Park, taken with my iPhone, September 2017.