Down the Sofa of Memory, an Unhappy Birthday, and ALL THE PRESENTS


Good morrow, my friends! It has been some time since my last confession/blog post due to the rolling migraine situation here at l’hermitage. Which is annoying, because I have so much to tell you about, and I’m sure lots of BRILLIANT ideas will have been lost down the sofa of my piss poor memory. Obviously, I have been doing very little, but I have been thinking a lottle about what I want to do for Have A Word in October… It’s in a proper theatre so there’s the opportunity for projections, props, what have you. It’s nice to consider all these things before probably opting to write something down then, er, read it out.

Never mind! Lets live for today and search the camera for the yesterdays…

First of all, there’s a little catch up from foreign travels before they become too old timey to comment on. It was hard to edit down all the stuff from Paris, and this is a shot I didn’t take until I was already home. It’s from the ‘in flight’ magazine they give you on Eurostar. Well, I don’t think they mean you to take them, but at least I took a whole one, whereas the woman next to me tore pages out, which may or may not have been disappointing for the next traveller. These magazines are kind of meh. But there were a couple of things I wanted to refer to. Here’s one about what the French call a Brazilian.

ticket de metro

What you may need to know is that the Paris Metro ticket’s metallic strip is rather more elegant than the London Tube’s. Not judging, mind. Don’t have one for you to see because modern travellers on the Tube use Oyster cards which don’t have a strip. They have a COMPUTER which is sending INFORMATION about you to the GOVERNMENT (this sentence is dedicated to Amy’s Dad. Click on the side bar and look at virtually any Lucy’s Football post and you’ll see what I mean.) Pictured is the back of a Metro ticket, which I have kept, in the spirit of throwing a coin in a fountain, as a promise of return. Though without genital waxing, thankingyou.

My other thing from down the back of the sofa of time is this little rig featuring a mozzie repellent from Spain. What you may not know is that European plugs are different from UK ones, although, confusingly, we do use adaptors for electric shavers though not much else, so I had one lying around. But it goes uppy downy so I had to find an adaptor that would make it go sidey ways.

con fused

We were eaten ALIVE every night by mozzies and it was only on the eve of the last night that we thought of buying a repellent. This one is basically just citronelle presumably gently warmed up – seems to work here just fine, which is good because we do get the odd mozzie on the Tottenham Costa and I’ve never seen these gizmos on sale. Damned if I was going to leave it behind, though I did miss a trick leaving the garlic. Frankly, it didn’t take me long to wish I had thrown out all my clothes and just stuffed my suitcase with garlic and cheese.


Then there was my birthday. Being a monday, and last year having been a proper celebration, perhaps it was always going to be a non event at best, so things were surprisingly festive when Angie Nutt turned up with her balloons on birthday eve…

squeaky bouquet. note ten’s hand ready to restrain poppet from any inquiring bites

On the day lots of people sent me good wishes on the interwebs, and I even got some actual cards, and in the case of the Kirsties presents. One baked good being a hat, and one being a knitted pie.

the pie in question being a fairly accurate rendition of a mason’s pie, traditionally to be found in a scottish chip shop. my mum and her sister used to take them to the swimming pool and put them on the pipes for afterwards, calling them a ‘shivery bite’

the day started off well enough, with strawberries and cream for second breakfast. that’s last year’s present from phillip renshaw in the frame.

However, this perkiness did not last. I got a call from a friend who I chatted happily enough with for a bit, but then he started telling me what I “should” be doing about disability benefits and what I “should” be doing for myself. He meant well, but I started really spiralling while he was talking to me, and ended up saying that I couldn’t cope with the conversation and hanging up. I then went into the bedroom and had a proper howling cry, something which I know flares migraine, but which, for once, I indulged. A visit in the afternoon from Hazel and BJ who bore cake barely lifted me from the gutter, however, and what was worse was that the next morning I woke with the cold toad of depression squatting on my chest.

i saw this in the river and thought it summarised the downfall of my birthday rather well

Lets all sing along with Morrissey…


One nice thing that has happened is that I requested a CSI Helsingborg t shirt from my friend Mark whose band it is (of course it’s a BAND, did you think the POLIS are likely to give away their merch?) AND he sent me not one but TWO!

merch from sweden. i am well connected

Naturally, I had to attempt to take a slightly POLIS type photo – but in my half baked style you will just have to imagine a police badge instead of a camera, and while you’re at it de-domesticate the background, oh, and flip reverse the photo so you can read the T shirt. Thanks.

not photoshopped


Not to be outdone, Poppet has been acquiring presents, too. Neighbour Paul let her have his dear departed doggy’s toys. Buster had clearly kept his presents nice, but you can see in the picture that Poppet has made a start on ripping the face off one of these already…

not the face!

And lastly in Tales of the Riverbank, we had squatted moorings! Yes. All the excitement here on the Ferry Lane Estate. Obviously, Poppet had to go have a little investigate and made friends with them, and I ended up giving one of them a pair of flip flops. I guessed her shoe size – 5 1/2 – which might sound weird, but that is also my size, so no, I am not about to reveal a foot fetish or a past working in a shoe shop.

squat – tastic

So, that will have to do in the way of a catch up. In the meantime, if that’s still not enough, here’s a tumblr collection for your further edification “

He can run but he can’t hide – Katrine and Hanne are ON IT!


I am, as Lucy’s Football might say THE MOST EXCITED.

The pair of us have been watching/drooling over the Rayland/Boyd bromance in Justified. Ha! I was just looking for a trailer to share with you, but found this under ‘Rayland Boyd bromance’ and had to share. The quality is appalling, really, but it’s funny for anyone who’s seen it. And for anyone who hasn’t? It rather misrepresents the programme as a whole.


Anyway, the point is, that while there are many male friendships in the wide world of moving images, and even a fair few bromances, female friendship is kind of meh as far as I can see.

Imagine my pleasure when I was watching Borgen today, then, when the Katrine/Hanne friendship turns into SHENANIGANS!

the two journalists have hit a wall when a duplicitous businessman goes to ground… hanne cooks up a scheme that could flush him out…

this makes katrine pretty damn happy. she is on it like a boss!

I don’t even KNOW what happens next, I was so happy I had to screen grab and share!

Foam Slippers Redux


I am not good at anniversaries. Even my 21st birthday was spent in the cab of a lorry in France. My friend Helen had got me a bottle of Orangina. Orangina was GREAT. We didn’t have anything as nice in the UK. As a kid I thought the war was AGES ago, but as the years went by I realized that even in the 80′s we were still very post war in lots of ways.

i was given these to wear in hospital. i kept them and brought them home to photograph

Anyway, last year I took an overdose of pills and ended up in the local mental hospital. Via the general hospital, I am told, I don’t remember it. My memories of that time are vague and very partial.

I’d had a hard year. Every year since I got ill has been a hard year, and I thought I knew hard years. I don’t suppose I was ever entirely at home with myself, but I had some good times, and with health comes the promise of future. Without health, well, not so much. I’d moved house in the early autumn. Ten had done all the stuff I couldn’t, and the difficult summer seemed to hold that seed of hope that moving might improve things. What I didn’t expect was a flare up of every single thing that fibro had ever brought me. Weeks of being bed bound with cystitis, constant running migraines, all sorts of everything. What had happened on top of this was that this time the previous year, going into the hardest part of the year I had started having a lot of suicidal thoughts and had gone to the doctor’s in a panic. I needed some support and was given it, and then had it taken away again. This played out over a few months, and in the early summer I saw a psychiatrist who said that I was taking too many different medications, so I started coming off them – unsupervised. The psych was on a ‘rotation’ I was supposed to see another one but that never happened. I moved without medication, knowing I was spiraling and since I was moving boroughs not only did I have to sign up with a new GP but would have to start from scratch with psych services.

It was hard to get appointments. I had rising panic. I felt like I was shouting for help – who knows, maybe it was just a whisper? Or maybe my shouting is someone else’s whisper. At any rate, eventually I had a home visit from *someone* – I forget who. I told her I needed a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) to supervise me going on meds, since I was afraid of becoming manic. She told me that I wouldn’t get one unless I was hospitalized. By this time I heard ‘hospitalized’ not as  ‘turn up at hospital and tell them you need in’ but as ‘take an overdose and you’ll either die or get help’ which sounded like a win/win scenario to me.

This time last year, or, to be more specific, a bit later than that… I wrote this post and made light of it, rather. I was ready to show but not to tell.

I wanted to write this for two reasons. One, in a show of solidarity with all the other people in the UK who are currently literally being hounded to death by the current government’s sickness and disability ‘reforms’ and another to say thank you to everyone who helped me through that very dark time.

Ten, Hazel & Che, BJ, Lottie, Ian, Al, Lucy J, St Ann’s Home Team, my lovely friends on the interwebs, everyone who came to my birthday, Steven next door, my dad who wasn’t told at the time, but who takes me as I am whatever state I am in, my mum, my brother, Julie, who gave me holiday time in Brighton, and my darling little Poppet, this one’s for you:

This year has been so much better. Many difficult days, but better, always better than last year.

So-called Screensavers, A Stray Dog at Christmas, and Scary Santas


The Guardian kindly offered us a seasonal selection of what they called, quaintly, “screensavers”. They’re not, they are desktop pictures, but never mind. So I chose this one

ai weiwei

which looked marvelous projected up in between our xmas viewings. We started off watching the rather bizarre little film Love of a Kind, then we ate some Chinese food, then we settled down for the main event which was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This, courtesy of one of the mystery Kirsties who I have mentioned before, and who like being mysterious, so mysterious they remain. Anyway, she’d sent me the set, and as it turns out it is the set I would have preferred anyway, featuring, as it does, Swedish with subtitles. We are now a third of the way through and thoroughly hooked.

I will now be changing our so-called “screensaver” to Cornelia Parker’s one.

cornelia parker

which will be less festive, but which I think will look super nice projected up.


Now then, though, I didn’t tell you what happened before that. We were taking the dog a festive walk to the chemist (I am awaiting, nervously, a shipment of triptans, which I knew I would run out of during the festive, bank holiday littered, season. And Lo, it has come to pass. I am now mid migraine and have officially RUN OUT.) Anyway, a guy with a dog said he’d seen a dog around without an owner and he asked us to keep an eye open. We found the dog and took it home. Poppet liked the little girl, and they played all along the towpath – until new dog FELL IN! It’s just as well we are on flood alert, because Ten managed to drag her out. We went home, dried off both dogs, fed newdog, then went back to try the chemist (who said to phone him on Thursday – I am on sodding tenterhooks, here) whereupon this guy said she was his dog and we had to give her up. I was quite sorry, her and Pops got on so well, and he seemed ill equipped to be looking after two dogs. He hadn’t brought a lead out for her and dragged her by the collar, and she did properly flinch at one point… still, nowt to be done.


And finally, our Amy of Lucy’s Football posted a link to something truly frightening.


A whole collection of 10 scary santas. In a fight against scary clowns I think the scary santas would have pretty good odds. And that is saying something.

I leave you with David Sedaris reading Six to Eight Black Men, which seems topical on more than one front right now.

Babs Cartland, My Day, and The Hindenburg Scale Explained


Monday, November 12, 2012
Where is your favourite place to blog?

Dame Barbara Cartland was noted for her prolific writing, her title of ‘queen of romance’ and her hideous mask of make up which she continued to slather on til the day she died. She had a policy of wearing pink, and the legend is that she would lay on her chaise longue and dictate her novels to her secretary.

my role model

I, however, do not have a secretary, but I can touch type and I have a laptop. I almost invariably blog from my bed, with my secretary, Poppet, snoring beside me. Frankly, she contributes very little in terms of labour, though she knows some key commands that I don’t. When she stretches a paw over to my keyboard I often find she has done something I wouldn’t know how to do myself. Even though she has quite big paws, that make her look like she is wearing kick flares she can’t really type as such.

In an ideal world I would wear only pink, too. but light colours are expensive to wear, and although she had a dog, I doubt Dame Barbara ever got really grubby playing ball with hers.


As for me, I started the day in the park with the doggie, watched The Mentalist, tidied the garden up as best I could after all the busywork from yesterday, and next up is bath time. I hope to do a bit of painting later, and I will update when I have something to report. For the past few days I have not had to take triptans, but that’s because I have upped my intake of codeine. I think my earlier experience of having some time off from migraining just from the preventatives was more of a weather based coincidence than anything else. For now, I have to do what I can with the tools that I have.


And – we’re back. Although I have done a fair amount in the way of TASKS today – including vacuuming the bedroom which really needed doing (how does a bedroom get actual mud on the carpet, it’s ridiculous) today has been regraded from a manageable Category 1 Hindenburg, to a get on top of possible flare ups as soon as possible Category 3 Hindenburg day. So it’s stopped being about possibly getting to some painting or the next bit of project garden to take some pain killers and get back to the bed and the hot blanket on the neck to try and get a handle on the situation before I end up like I did last week, with a bruise that made me look like Gorbachev and lots of referred pain and a series of small events that added together created a Category 5 Hindenburg.

The Hindenberg scale is based on a conversation I had in the thread with Lucy’s Football in this post she wrote last week.

how was your day in terms of catastrophe?

I have based the scale as expressed here on a like for like as described by NASA regarding hurricanes. I know, topical.

Here’s their scale, in case you can’t be bothered clicking;

Category 1: Winds 119-153 km/hr (74-95 mph) — faster than a cheetah

Category 2: Winds 154-177 km/hr (96-110 mph) — as fast or faster than a baseball pitcher’s fastball

Category 3: Winds 178-209 km/hr (111-130 mph) — similar, or close, to the serving speed of many professional tennis players

Category 4: Winds 210-249 km/hr (131-155 mph) — faster than the world’s fastest rollercoaster

Category 5: Winds more than 259 km/hr (155 mph) — similar, or close, to the speed of some high-speed trains

Who knew you could get such useful information from NASA? It’s not all teflon and biros that can work upside down. Okay, I have to stop reading the NASA site now, because I found a page where you can go and do space stuff if you are a US citizen and it’s making me feel all kind of sick in my stomach. Imagine working at NASA? It’d be as cool as having a degree from MIT before they jumped the shark and invented the facebook hug jacket.



A friend asked me on facebook what the other Hindenburg Categories looked like. This was my reply;

 i think a category 2 day is replete with obstacles. you know you’re not getting away with doing anything productive, battening down the hatches is the order of the day. 
a category 4 is full catastrophe living. priorities are eating and drinking and taking medication at appropriate times. and that is all you can hope for. probably you won’t manage it and you will compound your catastrophe in unforseen ways. 
we don’t even discuss category 5.

I started painting


After my big paint supply shop a couple or three weeks ago, there has been a great deal of limbering up.

I had wondered how I might break through into making some marks after such a long break… and when Helen Lopez  was visiting the other week, she suggested just doing colour experiments to get a feel for the paint, and see how that came out. That sounded like good advice, and given that she has actually taught painting I reckoned on it being a tested method and a great way to learn about a new (to me) medium. (Acrylics have changed a lot since I abandoned them for favour of oil, and there’s a learning curve ahead of me.)

Then I got inspiration from  this poem, Oubilette from Out of True by Amy Durant of lucysfootball fame. In the poem she writes about obliterating unwanted people from her past;

I can’t catch up on something I don’t have. I spent
a long time putting them all behind me.
There is no catching up to do. I have forgotten
their names and their faces; there is nothing left
of them inside of me except what they did to me,
the scars they left, the traps they set that I seem to
stupidly trip with every misstep.

and I recognized the feeling… For me, it’s not just people, it’s events, it’s my own actions and my own weaknesses. It’s my relationship with the restrictions of my illness, life regrets, a disconnect from my past art work, all sorts of things. I, too, wanted to put the past behind me and insist on the present. I grabbed a sketchbook from 2003 in which I had written and I began to paint.

a kind of ‘palimpsest’ after ‘oubilette’ by amy durant. elaine axten 2003-2012

There’s another thing. When I was a young thing at art school a preferred method was to draw, then tear out whatever passage in the drawing was working for me, glue it onto a new sheet and carry on working. I had been wondering exactly what to do with old work. I don’t want to keep it, and it doesn’t reflect who I am now. My plan had been to simply document and dump, but there’s a third way – cannibalize what can be used, paint over the pain. obliterate the clinging past. Acknowledging that the past exists, but insisting on the present day. Insisting on not telling the sad old stories over again. Creating a kind of palimpsestic form and letting the past peek through, but not letting it dominate.

There we have it, then. Here is the first image I have made in what turns out to have been six years – i just googled my last exhibition, and it was Silly Cow in 2006. Even that more recent work is worlds away from who I am and what I want to do now.

In short? GAME ON!