Tag Archives: Little Elf

Five or six musical things I loved in 2011

It was a year of live music – Josh T Pearson holding a revival tent meeting for the Church of the Sacred and the Profane in the Barbican, Wolvserpent and Wolves In The Throne Room generating a churning, fearsome spiral of energy in Clerkenwell, Callers and Wye Oak whipping up a prowling, smoking take on Wire’s Heartbeat. But I’ll have to pick on Earth at the Scala as my favourite gig of the year by a hair (Josh T. Pearson ran it close, mind). The energy there was one of the subtle, contemplative kind of joy that rises from watching craftsmen build a dry stone wall. The band quietly came on stage and went to work, with an physical sense of something being made out of the barest, most fundamental materials.

It was also the year I waited and waited for Janice Whaley’s crowd-funded boxset of her a capella re-envisioning of the entire Smiths catalogue, aka ‘The Smiths Project‘. She brought new meaning to over-played old favourites like ‘The Queen Is Dead…’ and brought long-ignored deep cuts back into daylight. It was a joy to join in with someone so commitedly realising a dream then watching that dream run so much further than they’d dare anticipate.

I also discovered Liturgy, whose Aesthetica was the first thing I reached for when asked to educate a certain Lady Gaga Little Monster (aka the teenage daughter of two close friends) in something a bit more challenging. Operating in a similar aesthetic zone of transcendence, openings and questionings, I immersed myself in Grouper (who’ll probably be my first gig of 2012 next week, not counting the piece of media theatre supermum and I are heading off to on Friday*).

Then (and quite unexpectedly) little elf and I discovered a shared passion for Tori Amos through the stunning return to form that was Night of Hunters. I don’t exactly know what resonated so strongly with my four year old (possibly her original confusion of Tori with Karen Gillan who plays Amy Pond on Doctor Who. That settled, she continued to request the CD, paging solemnly through the lyrics and photos and commenting especially on the dresses and relationships of Tori, her daughter and niece as pictured in the lyric book. She’s also watched the ‘special edition’s accompanying DVD about a dozen times. Thank God she fixated on this instead of (say) the Wriggles who’ve so far remained confined to the TV and have yet to contaminate the stereo. I do wish I’d bought Night of Hunters on vinyl, though.

A final bonus item – Richard Skelton’s *SKURA. It’s a limited run of high quality mp3s of every piece he’s recorded to date archived on DVD and enclosed with a beautifully produced discography included notes, essays and other ephemeral details. Consequently, I spent much of my free time over Christmas immersed in an imaginary snowy landscape deep in the moors that form the heartland of his music. Somewhere along the line, all this leaked into my most recent draft of Shaper. Now the whole book is full of snow. I’ll have to get that Kate Bush album to help out with the vocabulary before I start seriously revising…

*Or rather went to the other Friday. This post is rather behind schedule.

Southport Seafront, clichéd decay, weird paddle boats

The fact is, Southport isn’t anywhere near as bad as I remembered. Every toilet in every chain restaurant seems papered over in posters warning about meow-meow and suggesting one ‘asks Frank’ but the expected gangs of feral tweens wandering the seaside wastelands seem to keep themselves voluntarily confined to a large skatepark. Tottenham and Hackney could learn a thing or two there.

We’ve been here for three days, visiting my elderly relatives and taking a ride round ‘my old haunts’, as a obscure track by The Dream Syndicate might put it. There’s a decaying Victorian park sandwiched between an immense Travel Lodge and an even larger Best Western that offers a pleasantly melancholy tour of Southport’s former grandeur.

I had my iPhone so I took a picture of a decaying and pleasantly melancholy park gazebo (or meow-meow house).

In the distance, there’s the deserted coils of the giant rollercoaster in Pleasureland. I’ve no idea if it opens in winter. Probably not. It looks like the council decided to put a lot of money into it at some point and sort of…stopped. But not before they built a heritage centre. I walked around it (it was closed) and couldn’t really work out what it was for. It was surrounded by truncated lampost pillars, like a Greek ruin.


There’s a circular chamber at the back. Perhaps its the airconditioning for a vast underground system of tunnels and bombshelters. Perhaps not.


Dudelet and I took a walk while we waited for the arcades to open. There are rituals associated with seaside towns which must be observed at all costs and the exchange of money for noise, coloured lights and unreliable hits of serotonin is one of them. Dudelet, though he didn’t know it at the time, was about to win a jackpot amount of tickets* and acquire a memory which will remain with him for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, we passed a building with a sign proclaiming it to be the Smallest Pub In Britain.


Next to the Smallest Pub In Britain was an equally small sternwheel paddle steamer. I have no idea how they acquired it.


Back in the park, we found a deserted miniature railway station. It was a forlorn sight.


Elsewhere, the Most Gothic Hotel In Southport stood waiting R-PAT’s wedding party.


Then I discovered Hipstamatic and turned everything into the 1960s.


And here’s a picture of my family. They’re the cold looking little group trudging wearily towards Fun.


Later this week, I’ll do the happy post about the joyous, uplifting things. But today is all about the cliché and the decay. I suppose I’m listening to too many Cure reissues.

*If you don’t already know, it’s far too complicated to explain.

School, Little Elf, Change

Always different and always the same.

Four years ago, I had a turn at delivering dudelet to nursery. Supermum had actually taken him to his first day so by the time I walked him to school he’d already been ‘socialised’ into the norms of the nursery experience. Back then, parents could lead their children right into the large, awkwardly-shaped open-plan space with its 19th century hall.  Dudelet held on to my hand and showed me the hamster, the place where he put his bag, the sand tray and the funny-things-hanging-from-the-ceiling until the teacher clapped her hands and he toddled off obediently to sit on the carpet with his nearly-four-year old peers. He still sneaked me a quick “look-at-me” wave, though and a wide-eyed grin, amazed to be sitting there in the midst of a newly independent, mysterious world, at once circumscribed and vast.

I went outside, overwhelmed by the sense of gateways opening and closing and, to be honest, my own memories of more than forty years previously. It wasn’t the scent or taste of a madeline so much as the high angle of the ceiling and the low sticky-back plastic covered tables and…and…

Well, I cried a bit.

Little elf was different. Supermum and I took her together for her first day after we’d persuaded to put some clothes on (she’s very prone to naked protests). First we dropped dudelet off at the ‘big’ playground with the other Year Threes then  headed across the school to the nursery classrooms. Little elf showed me her hook with her name on but (different building, new head teacher, change in policy) I had to stop at the classroom door and watch her scamper off to join the other children on the assembly mat. She was already chatting and didn’t even look at me.

Earlier, she’d shared a few anxieties, mostly about lunch.

“I won’t be able to eat.”

“You’ll be able to choose something you like.”

“But how will they know?”

“You can tell them what you want to eat.”

“But what if I can’t tell them?”

“You can point.”


This time, I didn’t cry. I don’t know why. Perhaps we suspect there’s something more resilient about our daughter? Or perhaps we’ve just grown thicker skins? There are so many transitions, so may never-to-be-turned-back motions of the clock and we can’t cry about them all. There aren’t enough tears in the world.

Ten minutes on book burning and three year olds

Book burning is a heinous crime in our house. As is book vandalism, book tearing, page ripping, book shredding or book re-cycling. Dog-earing pages, marginalia and sticky notes are acceptable. Creasing spines isn’t something supermum seems to pay attention to but gets filthy looks from me. Which supermum ignores.

The context is little elf who’s developing a bad habit of attacking anything related to a momentary instance of frustration or displeasure. This morning, it was the turn of a Thomas book she wanted to someone to her read now. Now. I didn’t wake up fast enough. A few moments later, I heard the sound of paper tearing from below eye-level at the bottom of our bed. Little elf (who’s three, by the way) was sitting there systematically removing each page with the kind of sullen precision an American Bible-belt schismatic Methodist would have been proud of.

“Naughty! You NEVER hurt books!”

I scooped her up, wailing and suddenly aware she was disapproved of, and dumped her firmly on the Thinking Step. I managed to leave her there for about two minutes before I went back and picked her up feeling like an atrocious bully.

“Are you sorry for hurting the book?”


Little arms flung around my neck. Disintegration of discipline effort. I don’t know what she took in but hopefully her books will be safe for a little while.

Could I have handled it better? Almost certainly. But I’d react the same way to biting and when you attack a book, you’re attacking a living embodiment (living in the sense of all the constructions and sense-makings we read onto, over and into books) of learning and I want my children to grow up knowing that learning is to be accumulated, interrogated, rejected even, but never destroyed or treated with disrespect. Unless…well, the ‘unless’ and all the other caveats can come when she’s a bit older. Meanwhile don’t hurt books.

I know, it’s a lot for a three year old to take on board, let alone a Thomas the Tank Engine Ladybird book. But there you go.

Another short burst of little elf speak

It’s Tuesday. It’s time for an update on little elf and her decidedly telegraphic language skills.

She discovered adjectives! Or, at any rate, ‘big’. She’s also discovered verbs, though through implication and intonation rather than explicit statement. “Dad mama TEA!” does service for “Dada make mummy some tea.” (“Please!” “‘Ese.”)

“Help’” however, is now a fixture. She’s probably so used to hearing us offer to help her that it’s hardly surprizing how, after ‘do’, it’s her most used verb. I suspect ‘go’ may soon be joining it.

So here’s a quick summary of a few Words of the Week from little elf at 2 years and 4 months.

“Dada choo-choo?” – Are you going on the train, daddy?

“Dada choo-choo. DADA CHOO-CHOO!” – Dada get on the train and go away. Now.

“‘ilp…me.” – Help me.

“Dada ‘ilp baba.” – Dad help baba.

“Mama ‘ilp me.’ – Mummy help me.

“Ta!” – guitar.

“Wo-wo!” – Wriggles. [Oh Christ, the Wriggles.]

“Dada wowo me.” – Dada put the Wriggles on for me.

“Bi’ ouse.” – Big house.

[Hides under table screaming with hands over ears.] – Leave me alone.

[Pushes me, dudelet or supermum through a door and closes it in our face.] – Leave me alone.

[Throws herself at my leg like a mantrap and clamps herself around it.] – I’m happy to see you. Can you put the Wriggles on? Now get on a train and go away.

I should also add that her rabbits now have a name – Bibi. I have no idea where that’s come from but it definitely isn’t ‘baby’. All her babies are called Lola. No prizes for guessing the etymology in that particular case.