Monthly Archives: February 2019

Vision Of A Dinner Lady

From Norwich poetry ‘zine Speak Easy, number 2, May, 1982.

Vision of a Dinner Lady

Gastronomic maiden of the midday semolina shift cabbage traces under finger nails early riser bottle of tizer and a pinchful of malt. Angelface food coloured the tint of gravy chicken dumplings buried under soup stained apron black and blue baritone in a choir of culinary songbirds serving obese acned schoolboys masticating minors smiling while spooning spuds onto resigned and scowling dinner plates, smiling with lips moustachio- topped and dimple bottomed smiling- always smiling…
Oh! Empress Edible of shell-shocked mushy peas, let me crown your head with cheddar cheese slices, shower you with rice paper, adorn you with cabbage leaves.
Oh! La Grande Dame of chocolate concrete hailstones prunes cement mix custard heavenly rock crater apple tart and detonated sausage meat, I exist Only for your potato chips pirouetting on silver blades grease pudding, run out of steam.
Oh! My delicatessen dilettante, make mine minestrone bubble, my steak and kidney fry.
My beans bake for you- my pontious palate quakes for you.
Please.. satisfy… my appetite…..

Simon Pitt

The Bristol Recorder

The West Country compilation reviewed in NME, 25 October, 1980.

Various Bristol Bands
The Bristol Recorder
(Wavelength Records)

Any avid readers of Thrills and Garageland will know by now that The Bristol Recorder marks something of a departure from the tiring format of the (ahem) regional compilation album. A four-group, 14-track sampler, it is packaged as a magazine. If everything goes as planned, it should become a regular publication – quarterly in fact.
A colleague once remarked after hearing it once that the LP is just something to idly half-listen to while burying yourself in the accompanying mag. That’s an exaggeration, although it’s true enough that the music doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the neat packaging and some of the absorbing interview material – good stuff on Tony Benn, Rough Trade, Bristol City FC and the local music scene.
The four groups – Electric Guitars, Circus Circus, The Various Artists and Joe Public – were all recorded live at Carwardines Club in the city during the summer. Considering the restrictions of such low-budget operations, the sound quality is remarkably good and the bands all reasonably accessible.
The Electric Guitars and Circus Circus play guitar-laden rock that is still a long way from any heavy metal undertones, the former jerky, whacky and slightly muddled, the latter clean and tight.
The Various Artists – currently on the nationwide Fried Egg tour – play reflective, realistic pop in the Costello vein, although it is Joe Public’s evocative pop-rock that perhaps has the greatest vision.
Like Bob Last’s earcom series of a couple of years ago, the Recorder is at least showcasing bands at an early stage in their careers. And just as bands will need some time to breathe, so it takes any new magazine a couple of issues to find its niche – viz The Face.
I’ll be looking forward to the bumper Christmas issue of the ‘Recorder’ due in December. Really, at £2.50 a throw, every city should have one.

Adrian Thrills

Bandits At 4 O’Clock

Steve Kent from The Business and Nick Austin, previously of Chelsea, were members of this band reviewed by Susan ‘Seething Wells’ Williams in the NME, 25 February, 1984. The lad was spot on about The Smiths.

Bandits At 4 O’Clock
Leeds The Bierkeller

Dear Reader,
YOU WIMP! So the manky Manc misery merchants – purveyors of itty-bitty dribble-chinned gumby rhumba-toons got your vote for this year’s Great White Hope, eh? Hey Man, You still into Combat 84? God how passé! Don’tcha know it’s ‘BünkerFunk’ this time around?
You spineless filth. You jellyfish. You make me ill.
There are bands out there comprised of eager boys still screaming their bollocks off over such hackneyed motifs as ENERGY! (groan) HONESTY! (yawn) and, of course, AGGRESSION! (simper) from whom we barely hear a whisper such is your obsession with transvestism, fringes, sexually transmitted diseases and plastic fascism.
Such a band are the Bandits. Four chaps who probably have the word PASSION tattooed in black and red across their tightly clenched buttocks. They have style, they have guitars held at cock height, they are devilishly spunky, they have tons of tunes and as such they are doomed to shatter on the thick woolly hide of your miserable parochialism. You should be ashamed!
If I could write bad ennuff I would defect to Sounds, knowing that there I’d find a readership hip to the latest in pig-ignorant machismo, a foible infinitely more attractive than your drooling over grey cerebral pap.
It’s a matter of taste, Pal.
I’ve got it. You haven’t.
Ciao,

Susan Williams

Linton’s History Claas

LKJ’s Making History album reviewed in the NME, 25 February, 1984.

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Making History (Island)

If Linton Kwesi Johnson was a mere polemicist, his records would be unnecessary. You could get approximately the same hit by playing some heavy dub and reading Race Today or even New Statesman along with it: a hard shot of information and opinion with a groove behind. Alternatively you could simply check the deejay of your choice if all that attracted you to his work was the sound.
But Linton Kwesi Johnson is a poet in any sense of the word that you care to proffer: some of the work on this album has a linguistic depth, sophistication and precision that goes well beyond even the best of what he has done in the past. His three-year layoff from recording has resulted in much growth; not only in LKJ’s choice of subject matter and in the skill with which he explores it, but in the blending of the spoken word with the music of Dennis Bovell’s Dub Band. Never has it sounded less like a rap-over-a-track and more like a single, unified whole.
In 1984, the perspective is both wider and deeper. From his initial beginnings in the chronicling of the sufferation of blacks in the urban UK, LKJ broadens out to examine the effects of the ideological struggle between East and West on the Third World (in ‘Di Eagle An’ Di Bear’), the worldwide repression of people without much money (‘Wat About Di Workin’ Class?’), and the fate of Guyanese activist and historian Walter Rodney, assassinated by the army (‘Reggae Fi Radni’). For each one, Johnson and Bovell have conjured up entirely but appropriate settings: ‘Reggae Fi Radni’ has a jauntily sinister Mediterranean lilt and a solid thunk. ‘Wat About Di Workin’ Class?’ has a bluesy lope and simmering, tangy guitar from John Kpaye, and ‘Di Eagle An’ Di Bear’ swaggers along to a seriously martial horn line.
But everything comes together on ‘Reggae Fi Dada’, the most powerful and affecting performance of Johnson’s career. In June of ’82, Johnson’s father died in Jamaica after a long illness, and LKJ flew over to be with him. The poem is filled not only with the pain and love that welled up for his father, but the pain and love experienced at the sight of the suffering of the people and the astonishing skill that Johnson displays in creating the realisation that both ‘aspects’ of the poem represent the same issue (“just people live in shack people livin’ back to back/mongst cockroach and rat, mongst dirt and disease/subject to terrorist attack an political intrigue/constant grief an’ no sign a relief…”)
The band match him with music that melts from rhapsodic blues to a light reggae groove to a beat that could mash down a building… and with silence. It is Johnson and Bovell’s most perfect collaboration, but the screws tighten still further as Johnson transports the listener into the heart of the purest terror, anger and pity in ‘New Crass Massahkah.’
The poem is already justly celebrated in live performance, and LKJ has delivered it on TV, but this version goes further and deeper. Again it melds Johnson’s political rage and personal sorrow to devastating effect.
There are a couple of tunes on the album which are expressions of what he’s done before: ‘Di Great Insurreckshan’ – gorgeous skalypso groove! – and the title piece could have come from either of his last two albums (stylistically, that is – their theme of the battles of ’81 is more topical) and while they are none the worse for that, it is the tunes that most graphically depict Johnson’s development as an artist that are both the most moving and the most politically eloquent.

Charles Shaar Murray

Football As She Is Played

Women’s international football in Spare Rib, No. 31, January, 1975.

Football as she is played

Curiosity, a desire to see some good football, an active interest in the women’s movement – all these motivated me to make the trek to Wimbledon Football Club one damp dark evening in November to watch England beat France 2:0 in the first women’s international football match that I had seen.
The ground was small, half empty and the ‘big match’ tension, often felt at first division men’s football, not at all apparent. The majority of the 2,000 spectators were men and the atmosphere very jokey: ‘nice one Cynthia’; ‘now, now, naughty girl’; ‘a couple of them look like women’; ‘loosen your brassieres now, girls’ were just a few of the remarks I heard coming from the terraces as the game progressed. Sexist jokes and whistles buzzed around the ground. One man in front of me wandered off just before half time muttering, ‘I don’t agree with women playing football anyway’.
All this I had half expected as it does seem to me that neither men, the media, nor indeed women take women’s football very seriously. However it must be said that in spite of the sexist jokes and light-hearted atmosphere every good piece of play, whether by France or England, was cheered and there was vociferous support for any sign of skill or determination. The audience clearly did want to see a good game even though it is probable that most had come along to see the tits and bums.
It was disheartening and depressing to observe that the standard of football was dreadful. Both teams failed to demonstrate the basic footballing skills of control over the ball and accurate passing; both teams appeared to be very confused in mid-field. Shots at goal on each side were few and far more often than not lacked any force or direction – kicking generally lacked strength or accuracy. On the other hand the marking was leech like and there were some good crosses and useful heading of the ball from both England and France. One or two individuals showed speed and balance and everyone ran with determination, putting in an enormous amount of effort. France was particularly adept at using the offside rule. However the score line did not reflect any real differences between the two sides; the second goal was entirely due to an error on the part of the French goalkeeper. Comparisons are invidious but it is impossible not to make comparative assessments with me playing football, when watching women. I would expect, and get, a higher standard of play from any non league men’s team.
What was really interesting was the coverage of the match in the next morning’s national newspapers. The Mirror published a picture of the England ‘girls’ drinking champagne in the dressing room after the game, with the caption ‘Our girls figure it out right’; a few lines followed on the reasons for celebrating in champers after their ‘splendid win … which extended their vital statistics to eight unbeaten matches’. The Sun had an action picture with the caption ‘Pat’s pow(d)er shot wins it (?!). The Express and the Mail gave the match less than two inches coverage each – no pictures and no analyses of the game. The Telegraph published the same picture as the Sun but restrained itself from sexist captions. By commenting on the competitive aspects of the match it was the one paper to suggest that at least on that level women’s football was on a par with men’s. I couldn’t get The Times, but the Guardian, with eight inches of description and no criticism, managed to slip in the stupidest comment of the lot in describing one of the players as ‘a petite Bardoesque blonde … with socks rolled down’.
None of the papers suggested that the football was awful; that the game was disjointed, dismal and boring. I can’t help feeling that had it been a men’s match the reviewers would have torn the game apart. By not taking women’s football seriously the media do little to help women themselves take the game seriously. It must be very difficult to play good football when you are not expected to play good football; when the kind of tension produced by an excited, turned-on, highly expectant crowd (as at a men’s match) is dissipated as attention wanders and groups chat together. The highly critical observant comments I have heard from spectators at men’s football are not possible when the game is basically regarded as a joke. The papers might as well all resort to the kind of idiot cracks made by the Sun and the Mirror. I was surprised not to see the headline – French girl boobs again – perhaps it was in The Times.

Liz Cooper

Salvadora Carmen Medina Onrubia

Argentine feminist anarchist poet Salvadora Carmen Medina Onrubia was born in La Plata city in Buenos Aires province on 23 March 1894, the daughter of Ildefonso Medina and Teresa Onrubia, both Spaniards. She was still just a girl when her father died and she then moved with her mother and sister to Gualeguay in Entre Ríos, although for a time she attended the American College in Buenos Aires. In Gualeguay her mother secured a position as a rural schoolmistress in the Carbó district and Salvadora would also work as a teacher in her early youth. Her writing began when she was an adolescent and she contributed to the local newspaper and sent articles off to the reviews Fray Mocho and P.B.T. and these were published. She was still very young when she moved to the city of Rosario where she struck up a connection with anarchist activism and amateur dramatic groups, in which she was involved. In Rosario she worked as secretary to the lawyer Pérez Colman with whom she had an affair, leading to her giving birth to her first child as a single mother. She then broke off their relationship and moved away to Buenos Aires with her young son to live in a boarding house.

By 1913 she was ensconced in Buenos Aires working as a permanent staffer with the anarchist daily La Protesta, for which she was paid 150 pesos per month. She was also published in La Antorcha and Caras y Caretas. On 1 February 1914, Salvadora spoke at a street meeting calling for the release of Simón Radowitzky, the libertarian icon who she protected all her life. A snapshot survives of her addressing the meeting on the corner of the Engineering Faculty in Buenos Aires with the Calle Montes de Oca; it has become famous and represents Salvadora’s first public image. In 1915 the very beautiful young redheaded fire-cracker met the Uruguayan journalist Natalio Félix Botana and they became a couple; from then on her life changed at a dizzying rate, although she was never to abandon her libertarian beliefs. She and Botana were very soon living together and Natalio adopted Carlos (Pitón), Salvadora’s first-born and together they would have another three children: Helvio, Jaime and Georgina.

In 1915 Botana was beginning to dabble in business with an ambitious journalistic project, the daily newspaper Crítica that was to achieve a large print-run and attract a wide spectrum of readers. His talent and commitment made a success of it, but at the start he faced a few tough years of day by day struggle and Salvadora was equally involved. Crítica was Argentina’s most popular daily paper up until the 1950s, an oddity, being sensationalist yet boasting a cultural supplement for the elite, with contributions from Borges, Roberto Arlt and the Gonzâlez Tuñons. In its heyday it was selling upwards of 700,000 copies a day. Critica‘s clout in national politics was unquestionable and it was even capable of toppling a government, for which reason Botana was appreciated as much as he was cursed and comparisons were drawn with the US media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Actually, Botana stored up not just power but also a huge fortune that allowed his family and Salvadora to live in the lap of luxury. Salvadora used such privilege to build up an out and out solidarity network for the libertarian comrades who used to refer to her as “hermanita/little sister”. A number of unemployed comrades were found jobs at Crítica, securing their release as political prisoners and a number of needy women would receive sewing machines from Salavora’s own hands; she used to deliver them in her de luxe Rolls Royce in a practice replicated later by Evita.

Salvadora helped out with the running of the paper and even took issue with her husband, such as the time she vetoed Crítica‘s being used as a platform for the Communist Party. She could always find some space to squeeze in an article by an anarchist and was particularly careful to find room for feminist items. Even though they came from differing political viewpoints, Alfonsina Storni, Alicia Moreau de Justo, Herminia Brumana and Juana Rouco were all contributors to Crítica. Among her more celebrated feats was her involvement in the liberation of Simón Radowitzky; on two separate occasions, Salvadora dispatched employees of the paper to orchestrate his escape from Ushuaia penitentiary, but those ventures were discovered and Simon was left to languish behind bars. In the end, thanks to the power she wielded, Salvadora succeeded in 1929 in securing an order from the already weakened President Yrigoyen allowing Radowitzky’s release and departure into exile in Uruguay. On arrival in Montevideo, the renowned anarchist hero was helped and welcomed by a relative of Botana’s.

During the Spanish Civil War, the Botanas fought Francoism and helped out exiles arriving in Argentina. Botana personally was down in the docks arranging leave for Spanish exiles in transit to come ashore in Buenos Aires, sent money for the orphaned children of republican soldiers and welcomed writers like Rafael Alberti and María Teresa León to her estate in Don Torcuato and lent a helping hand to Margarita Xirgu and other Spanish artistes.

But for all her multiple family and intellectual commitments, Salvadora never ceased to be the active militant. In 1919 she was just another activist in the Tragic Week mobilisation, pregnant and holding her oldest son by the hand. On 7 January she spoke in La Chacarita cemetery at the burial of two of the martyrs of that week, clambering on to the coffins for a rally that ended in a tough crackdown. One of the many steps taken in the wake of the Tragic Weeks events was the closure of the libertarian daily paper La Protesta, with its employees being thrown out of work; thanks to Salvadora’s solidarity, they were hired by Crítica.

In 1931, one year on from General Uriburu’s coup d’etat, Crítica was shut down and Botana and Salvadora were both jailed by Inspector Polo Lugones (son of the writer Leopoldo Lugones) because of their political differences with the regime, even though Critica had initially supported the coup. From the Buen Pastor women’s prison, Salvadora sent the dictator, Uriburu, a famous letter which ended with these words: “From this corner of wretchedness, I slap your face with my complete contempt.” Following this, the Botanas had to move away to Montevideo, from where they opened a sub-office of the paper which survived despite all the difficulties and later they set off on a lengthy tour of Europe. Those were tough times for Salvadora and Natalio. In addition to the political problems of the time and the shutting down of their paper Salvadora’s oldest son, Pitón, died in 1929 in unclear circumstances. It was classed as an accident since he had shot himself while chatting with his sisters, but it was also said that the lad had taken his own life on learning from Salvadora that his father was not Botana but someone else. Salvadora never got over the tragedy and the trip to Europe was a pilgrimage in search of some ease, but the couple were eventually to part company.

Alongside her family, political and business roles, Salvadora turned to writing and was a prolific writer of poetry, narrative and plays. Her very first play was Almafuerte (1914) and it was to be staged that same year at the Apolo Theatre. It was followed by La solución (1921) Lo que estaba escrito (1928), Las descentradas (1929) and Un hombre y su vida (1936). She also wrote plays for children. But she really hit the mark with Las descentradas which was performed at the Ideal Theatre with Gloria Ferrandiz in the lead. It was a stirring piece that found Salvadora at the height of her powers. Las descentradas represented a critique of woman’s subjection to patriarchal rules and put forward the case for women’s autonomy on foot of anarcho-feminist principles. The play carried a significant message denouncing the role in which men had cast woman; Salvadora urged women not to put up with any repression and just be themselves. In terms of a discussion of gender identity, Las descentradas is a bona fide avant-garde production several decades ahead of its time. And as a playwright, Salvador became the first woman member of Argentores (Argentinean Playwrights’ Society).

She translated plays from the French and English, especially the plays of Noel Coward, and staged productions of Perrault’s tales for children.

Another curious item from Salvadora’s pen was her novel Akasha. Based on certain notion in the theosophy of Krishnamurti and the theory of reincarnation, the romantic novel is set among the upper classes of the Buenos Aires of the author’s own day and provides the backdrop for a feminist critique. In the day to day publication of Crítica, Salvadora’s closet colleagues were the journalist Sebastian Marotta and Roberto Arlt. Along with Arlt, Salvadora took off on esoteric tours of greater Buenos Aires in search of rather theatrical spiritualist experiences that the author of Los siete locos (Arlt) was later to send up in his book. Salvadora was also a great friend of the poetess Alfonsina Storni with whom she associated and whom she had as her house-guest up until Storni committed suicide.

The scathing, humorous political vignettes published by Salvadora are indicative of her powerfully incisive style, as in the case of the article called “El gato anarquista” (The Anarchist Cat) about a cat that happens to fall on to the apron of the Colon Theatre, striking terror into the audience which mistakes the noise for the explosion of a bomb. As for her poetry, she penned melancholic poems along modernist lines with the oriental references typical of the earliest decades of the 20th century. And she published the poetry anthologies El vaso intacto, La rueca milagrosa and El misal de mi yoga.

In Critica y su verdad (1958) Salvadora Medina tackled a number of genres, for one finds alongside objective narrative testimony, essays, booklets and pamphlets, creating a hybrid feel. That book not only lifts the lid on some aspects of the author’s life but also on her (unsuccessful) battles to recover her newspaper after it was seized by the Peronists. From 1946 to 1951, following Botana’s death in a car accident in Jujuy province, Salvadora was the managing editor of Crítica. By the time Peronism came to power, the Botana family had been greatly weakened by Natalio’s death. Salvadora and Eva Peron did not get on together, although initially they were on friendly and cooperative terms. In a “Letter to Evita” which the government had pressed the director of Crítica to write by way of a homage, Salvadora was naïve enough to place herself on a par with Eva, both of them being battlers, but this did not go down well. When women were granted the vote in 1947, Salvadora had no hesitation in talking exception to that right, so long campaigned for by women, being credited exclusively to Eva Peron and she insisted that the parts played by Cecilia Grierson, Julieta Lanteri, Elvira Rawson de Dellepiane, Alicia Moreau, Carolina Muzzilli and Juana Repetto, historical suffragist activists, also deserved recognition.

Salvadora Medina Onrubia was forever surrounded by rumours and she acquired an almost legendary status, being dubbed “The Red Venus”, “The Red Lady” or the “Argentinean Pasionaria”, and she was also regarded as an extravagant woman hard to pigeon-hole. In actual fact, those who knew her well said that she was an impassioned, selfless anarchist, albeit more by temperament than doctrine and Luce Fabbri described her as a romantic. There was a consistency to her feminist activism, in her private life as well as in her work; she had resisted marriage until Botana persuaded her of the need to legalise their connection following the birth of her last child, her daughter. She backed the suffragists even though the ballot box is looked at askance in anarchist dogma. She worked alongside men, became addicted to ether, was very poor and then very wealthy and welcomed international intellectuals to her famous estate in Don Torcuato where Siqueiros painted a famous mural and then fled it to live in a tiny apartment. She had a large family, looked out for everybody and finished up very much alone. When she died in Buenos Aires city in 1972 she had barely a couple of female friends to follow her coffin. She slipped out of memory until slowly she was brought to prominence again in recent years and her anarcho-feminist record and the eclectic power of her literary efforts were brought to light.

From: Libertarias en America del Sur, pp. 92-97. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.
With thanks to comrades at Kate Sharpley Library

February

Yuli Daniel wrote these poems in a Moscow prison while he was under investigation and on trial. They were published in his book Prison Poems in 1971.

February

Outside my window the day is radiant
The sky shows spring and is child-painted blue;
It seems I have no reason to expect
Comfort or hope of help apart from this.

Evil is quite forgotten. Only yesterday
It howled and crucified our souls.
And so, dear girls, and so it’s time for me
To look through the window as you would look into a mirror.

Now the grey wool of the snow is unravelled
And outside the window great drops dangle like ear-rings.
A few more days and you’ll all be prettier
With shining eyes and kerchiefs round your shoulders.

A few more days, then no more sleep at night,
You’ll dream uncurbed, put off your daily tasks.
Outside, the years will rush into reverse
Drawing the breath away from everyone.

(And then the clatter of the wheels will stop,
I’ll pack my satchel and get off at a tiny station.
I’ll scent the beauty a thousand miles away,
And then I’ll smile all envious and grudging.)

The spring will pierce you through and through
With its words, coarse ones as well as tender.
Well, dear girls, it’s time, it’s really time
For you to shed your sorrows and your furs.

Yuli Daniel
22 February, 1966