Thursday 29 March 2012

#Once upon a time - I Was A DJ.

Once upon a time .....

I stood in a DJ booth weaving a musical story to hundreds and sometimes thousands of punters on a pair of technics 1210's. Sometimes I went to work at 10.00 pm, sometimes at 2.00 am or sometimes even at 4.00 am. My office was a dark subterranean chamber impregnated with hypnotic rhythms, pounding bass and punctuated by a kaleidoscope of swirling illuminations, and the camera flashing winks of a dazzling strobe. Before me a swarming throng of misshapen silhouettes hugging, dancing, whooping, gyrating.  Arms swaying like seaweed at high tide or fists joyously punching the air as if a favourite team had scored a hat trick. Hands transformed into angular fish like shapes that carved out intertwining forms in the energetic pulse of the club atmosphere. A flowing togetherness. A community of loved up glowing clubbers sharing the same experience; MUSIC.

This was acid house. A nation of post indie rockers had finally learnt to dance.

It was no accident I became a DJ. I'd always loved music and made mix tapes for friends. I'd gravitated to boyfriends in bands. The arrival of acid house in '88 prised me away from my indie rock credentials and opened my eyes to unadulterated rhythm. And I was a 'keen member' of the, wait for it, Rave Society at University. It goes without saying that I didn't study very much in my third year.

Then I turned 21 and threw my savings and birthday money on a pair of technics record decks which in '92 didn't come cheap. It took me a while to master blending the beats of two records together. The moment I finally accomplished this nimble fingered skill sent a fated lightening bolt down my spine. Intuitively, I knew in the depths of my bones that DJ'ing was my life calling. Destiny.

My DJ moniker was Tantra.

And so it began. My singular vision to become a professional DJ sent a synchronistic wheel in motion attracting a belly full of opportunity; I met other DJ's, played at numerous house parties, and then I landed my first residency on a local pirate radio station. Tantra's dulcet tones transmitted on the airwaves of West Yorkshire but I wisely let the grooves do the talking. Mix tapes went out, club promoters bugged and DJ agencies joined. My first club gig was a night in Liverpool - I rocked it.

I was in the right place at the right time. I was in a minority; a talented female DJ, and I milked this for all its worth. My career snowballed as I played in clubs across the UK and Europe. My music of choice was deep house and techno; everything from Kraftwerk inspired European trance to the disco influenced, funk infused minimalism of Detroit electronica. I built a solid reputation for long, seamless mixes and emotive sets which undulated in musical style, tone and pace.

I spent my weeks making hallowed pilgrimages to record shops. My favourite was Eastern Bloc Records in Manchester. The boys there were great. An assorted pile of 12"s always greeted me when I eagerly rushed through the doors every Wednesday morning. I ate vinyl. I was what was affectionately termed as an anorak. I had a record collection of 1000's organised meticulously into different genres, labels and artists.

The memories are myriad ...

The comforting aromas wafting from Parisian bakeries at 6.00 am as weary street sweepers cleared the detritus from the night before. Racing precariously through a pot holed field on a bear hunt for the location of a very secret party. Bottle green dragon flies on a Southern French hill top hovering unnoticed over bobbing heads, and brightly painted faces in the soft light of dawn.

I played in a bunker in East Germany. I played on a moving float at the Zurich Love Parade; the streets overflowing with dancing, cheering, empty beer cans. I once played a gig in Germany on Christmas day - I can recall the eerie desertion of Manchester airport, the festive dish of rare beef and sauerkraut with the club promoter and her father. The strangest gig was an outdoor rave at 8.00 am. Can you imagine having breakfast and then spinning your best vinyl to, by that time of day, a hoard of messy, unappreciative clubbers? My biggest event was spinning a nerve wracking opening set to 20,000 ravers in Germany. That was a buzz on every level. But my favourite gigs were the homegrown ones, the smaller clubs, and playing to my friends.

And then one year it all crumbled. I met HIM. Not Younger Dad. But a rotten apple. An apocalyptic messenger of heartbreaking change. When I resurfaced a year or so later I found myself at the back end of my twenties with a withering career. Like parched paper evaporating in a flame, the European gigs shrivelled up. I was past my shelf life.

I moved to London. I worked in a grey office somewhere in Aldgate. I tried to revive my career and continued playing at a few select clubs here and there. I even promoted my own night. Then one day, somewhere in my mid thirties, I decided that enough was enough. I'd lost interest in late nights, parties and the must have release. It was time for something new. So I settled back and let life's compass point me in a fresh direction.

I treasure the fun times I had, the friends I met and the cultures I tasted. But I still live with a small handful of sadness. Where would I have been if I hadn't met HIM? But then life seems to have a mysterious trajectory for all of us. Its only when we look back that we can clearly see the road map that led us to this particular point. One thing I can confidently say is that if I'd carried on DJ'ing I wouldn't have met Younger Dad or held Little A in my arms. This is how it was meant to be ..... in the end I was intended for motherhood.

One day I will be able to regale Little A with all my turntable adventures.

Once upon a time her mummy was a cool DJ.

So once upon a time, what did you enjoy (or dislike) doing, seeing or creating? It could be anything. What were you like many moons ago? Do you have a once upon a time story to tell or picture to share? It could be a happy, sad or humorous tale. The skies the limit. I've decided to turn this into a monthly meme blog hop thing. So do Link up below and grab the badge code ... and don't forget to tweet #onceuponatime.

Once Upon A Time
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Monday 19 March 2012

#Art I Heart - Black

Mark Rothko - Black Form Painting

Apart from a very handy black dress that hangs under used in my wardrobe, I tend to view black as a heavy, burdensome colour. A colour associated with the unknown, depression and a threatening emptiness. Worn at funerals and revered as a symbol of angst and introspection by Goths and Emos. A colour identified with distortion and negativity; black and white thinking, the shadow of the yin and yang.

Yet my perception was altered upon experiencing Mark Rothko's Black Form paintings.

During the Summer of 2008 a rather jittery Younger Dad proposed to me in the familiar comfort of our living room. I promptly accepted his hand in marriage. Actually, I asked him to repeat his proposal again. I wanted to savour the moment. Poor Younger Dad. Asking once was nerve wrackingly bad enough. But twice? I was an exceptionally lucky girl. We had the engagement ring made; it has a diamond flanked by two sea green sapphires. Green is my favourite colour.

So I wanted to give Younger Dad something special in return. As part of my engagement present I bought two tickets to a Mark Rothko retrospective at the Tate Modern followed by a sumptuous dinner at the Oxo Tower restaurant.

On a Saturday afternoon in October I surprised Younger Dad with two tickets to the exhibition. He was over joyed as he really appreciates Rothko's work. So that evening we made our way to the Embankment. I remember the sunset well. Looking out of the upper deck window of the packed bus it was as if a bottle of claret had been nonchalantly poured over the heavens; a glowing mosaic of ruby splats and splodges staining the Autumn sky. What a visually vibrant start to a special occasion.

We spent at least an hour at the retrospective. I found myself drawn to a smaller room that housed a selection of Mark Rothko's Black Form paintings. The space was busy; full of post work chatter and the sharp clinking of wine glasses. I sat in front of one of the pieces and found myself seduced into stillness and quietude. The painting lured me into its darkness and invited an uncertain plunge into the deep space that dwells within my inner core. A starless night is what I discovered within. Not to sound too pretentious I touched upon an existential void; an empty nothingness. An abyss. And in this blackness I felt comforted and calmed. A serene blanket wrapped around me that drowned out the external hubbub. And I felt reassured, bolstered by the solidity of Rothko's Black.

Visually Rothko's Black may seem uninteresting, even bland. What's there to actually look at? But emotionally it had such a profound impact on my senses. I could have meditated in front of Black for hours. But with a soft tap on my shoulder Younger Dad distracted me from my reverie and off we strolled to satiate ourselves with a four course meal at the Oxo Tower.

Black isn't actually a colour; its the absence of all colours.  In a positive light, it represents an emptiness in which anything can disappear an re-emerge anew imbued with potential and possibility.

Mark Rothkos's Black paintings hang in the Mark Rothko Chapel, a tranquil environment that offers an 'intimate sanctuary to people of every belief'. I think I'm going to add the Chapel to my bucket list of essential places to visit before I'm paying for an annual subscription to readers digest and sucking on humbugs.   

Mark Rothko Chapel

I never realised that black could be so spiritually renewing and transformative.

I am linking up this post with Midlife Single Mum's very imaginative Art I Heart meme. The idea is that you choose one piece of art you feel drawn to and write a short story about it.

Monday 5 March 2012

#Art I Heart - Friendship

H is my closest and dearest friend. Our friendship presently spans 22 years. We met through a mutual acquaintance at university. If you met us you might think we were chalk and cheese but our chemistry works. There are similarities in our personal histories and we are both independent and creative women. To this day I don't think we have ever missed each others birthdays. H isn't just a friend though, she is family and my most trusted confidant.

Amongst her many qualities H is dependable, down to earth, a great listener, a skilled thinker, empathic, warm hearted, cultured and particularly well read.  She is also a very talented visual artist. I am very proud to say that I own three of her original artworks that each mark an important moment in my life.

I think H gave me this piece when I was either 21 or 22. I love the earthy textures and colours, and the way the paint has been manipulated and scratched away. We were both post graduates at this point. H escaped the desolation of a ramshackle Lancashire farmhouse to come and live with me and a bunch of other twenty somethings in an even more run down terraced house in the post graduate and burglar friendly enclave of Hyde Park, Leeds.

These were very happy and creative times.

H found an art studio and networked with other local artists. I was a burgeoning DJ. H always accompanied me to my weekly radio show on Dream FM; a pirate station which was particularly popular with the petty inmates of Armley jail as my fan mail will testify.

Anyway we had far too much time on our hands. It was an era of leisurely ease, late nights and large vats of vegetable pasta. Our home became ground zero for many a riotous house party. A lot of fun and buffoonery was had.

This was my 30th birthday present from H. Its a small pencil sketch based on one of her larger pieces. By our third decade H had become an established artist and had moved to London with her long term partner to participate in a three year art residency scholarship based in the East End. I moved to the big smoke during my thirty first year. I still DJ'ed occasionally but was now in the throes of reinventing myself as a tai chi floating, yoga bending, corporate clad 'jobs to pay the rent' woman. 

Our early thirties was a period when H and I spent many a Sunday afternoon engrossed in conversation on Hampstead Heath or encased in the inviting darkness of a North London cinema. I've lost count the number of movies we've seen together. I don't want to picture the mountainous heap of sweet pop corn that got scoffed. Actually H never really ate pop corn, she always used to smuggle in a packet, or three, of Mintolas. I've no idea where she purchased them from. I still haven't located anywhere in London that stocks them.

We once found ourselves rather spectacularly lost on Hampstead Heath. It was a damp, drizzly November day. H and I had decided upon an afternoon amble as part of my 31st celebrations. The idea of a bracing walk had seemed like a good one. Not when we found ourselves in a directional muddle and at the mercy of our map reading skills. The icy drizzle morphed into vengeful rain pellets that targeted us with missilic gusto. Then the swift arrival of an inky dusk mid afternoon sent us into a tail spin. Tree branches that had offered a protective canopy in the daylight now clawed menacingly over our heads. There was no one else about but our nervous selves as we trudged aimlessly round and round the same path. It all got a little Blair Witch. After an hour we eventually found the exit and the reassuring sight of H's car. Still, the afternoon had not been not in vain. It made several generous servings of victoria sponge and a mug of strong brew back at H's taste all the more sweeter.

This masterpiece is my wedding gift from H. I always secretly hoped she would bequeath Younger Dad and I an original canvas to mark our nuptials. And I wasn't disappointed. On the day before our wedding H arrived in her car and unloaded a very large and beautifully wrapped square shape.

"No" I gasped. I couldn't believe it. I was ecstatic.

Inside our living room, I carefully prised the delicate tissue off to reveal an H original.

H and I spent a decadent afternoon together getting pampered at the Cow Shed. Then the night before the ceremony we kicked back, ate food, drank sparkling wine and watched Wood Allen.

We also talked about the years gone by and our hopes and fears for the future.


I love H's work and not just because she is my best friend. I love her subject matter; the relationship between architecture and urban space. I really like the way she plays with perspective and cleverly incorporates industrial materials into her pieces.

H was the best woman at my wedding and will be for the rest of my days. I honestly can't imagine life without her.

Ten months separate H and I in age and do you know what is so poetic? Ten months now separate the age between our daughters. And we are both God Mothers to each others children.

This post is dedicated to H. A wonderful, wonderful friend.

I am linking up this post with Midlife Single Mum's very imaginative Art I Heart meme. The idea is that you choose one piece of art you feel drawn to and write a short story about it. Although in this case it was three pictures and long rambling prose. 

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