Friday, 26 July 2013

Community Spirit

At the behest of a friend’s daughter I recently attended a free concert by a bunch of performers from a local high school.
I’m not sure what I expected but it was most definitely not to be as absolutely blown away by the amount of talent, joy, and love that burst off that little stage as I was.

There were three bands who were the match of many I’ve seen at major festivals around the world, and I’ve been to them all touring as I do with the likes of M83, Mogwai, and Caribou.
There was a singer with an acoustic guitar whose songs made me cry.
There was a human beatbox dancer who I wanted to wrap up in cotton wool and take home with me, that cute!

What makes this all the more incredible is that these performers were all aged 14 or under, were 50/50 girls and boys, and were from all races, creeds, religions, and backgrounds.

The school, Morpeth, and the organization that put on the show, Community Music, are in Tower Hamlets, the London borough that is one of the most culturally diverse in the country, if not the world.

This is exactly what the EDL want to smash.

Having not been living in the UK for the past decade I was unaware of the EDL.
They are the continuation of a cancer that we should by now have eradicated from our psyche.
The letters EDL do not as I thought stand for Extremely Dense Lumps, but should.
The members of this cretinous collective seem somehow unfinished, like a vital piece of their brains was omitted when they were cleaved from bulldog chalk.
They are I suspect the kind of people that in childhood pulled wings off gnats, drowned kittens, bullied peers mercilessly, failed to get exam points for spelling their name correctly.
They are white, predominately male, and so riddled with fear that they pummel anything they don’t understands with fists till it’s dead.
Queers, coons, pakis, slags, and poofs.
Translated that’s homosexuals, anyone of African descent, anyone from Asia, women, and the people they seem to fear more than anyone else, men in women’s clothing.

As a man who used to wear women’s clothing I have come face to face with the look of confusion turning to fear, to dread, and to hate in their eyes.
It’s very hard to comprehend that someone would want to beat you to a pulp for just being you.
Fortunately I don’t have to put up with that particular abuse any more as I am now a woman.

This behavior is passed down through generations, the abused becomes the abuser.
I’ve seen it in my own family.
My father was a violent sot who failed to come to terms with the pain inflicted on him by his own father and so carried it on by battering me.
When it became obvious that I was the most terrifying person in the world, a boy who wanted to be a girl, and he was not going to be able to punch me into shape, he disowned me.
He hasn’t spoken to me in 30 years.

After a while this blaming on the past for ones acts is a smokescreen, a copout.
Ultimately we must be responsible for our own patterns of behaviour.

What I witnessed at that performance the other day, from all those children, from all their parents, relatives, friends, was the complete rejection of this nonsense, embracing community, love, and acceptance of all people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, colour, background.

This is the true human condition, this is what we are, this is the next level of our evolution.
To those who preach hate, who would denying us our rights as individuals to be ourselves, to be joyous human beings expressing love, it’s time to put your knuckles down, hug each other, open up, try reading a book even, and begin to truly live.

When I see children embracing the differences in us like this with love, with compassion, I know we have a future.

Community spirit is alive and well.
Now, let’s save the planet too.

Julia Brightly
July 26, 2013

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Heart of Westminster

A couple of weeks ago I applied for the post of Production Assistant at a well known English Shakespearian theatre company.
Not Production Manager, just a mere assistant.
There were 220 applicants.

Feeling up a gumtree I browsed some online general job sites and was flabbergasted to see that while the number of posts on offer totaled just 1900, the number of people looking were 33,000.
33,000, and on just one site!

What jobs where they, you may wonder?
Gofer mostly, paying minimum wage which in London won't cover rent in a shared hovel.

Full employment, it will never ever happen again.
Instead of dealing with this head on successive governments have head spent their time putting their fingers in their ears and their heads up their bottoms.

This week some bright spark took it upon themselves to check the Houses of Parliament toilets for cocaine traces.
9 proved positive.

So, people with the power to literally decide who lives and who dies by what legislation they devise and pass into law are doing so coked up.
“I’ve got an idea, bedroom tax!”
“Brilliant!” (hoovers up line the size of arm and leg)

Let’s be clear about this, politicians may be wily, but they are far from smart.
Not having our best interests at heart their decisions are questionable at the best of times.
Under the influence of cocaine they are mad I tell you, mad.

There is something very wrong in the heart of Westminster.
It’s a private club, its members peeing on us from a great stoned height, clutching bags of our cash as they sell off what’s left of the family silver.

Britain’s not working.
Oh sure, wander around vast swathes of London chock full of restaurants stuffed with diners pigging out on overpriced offal and you’ll think recession, what recession?
But try and find somewhere to live as a homeless single person over the age of 40 and reality will hit you like a steam train driven by a blond buffoon.
What will you do when your boss texts you in the morning to say you’ve been fired, and with no explanation or recompense?
Ragged Trousered Philanthropist anyone?

One thing we don’t have to worry about right now is being blasted back into the Stone Age by North Korea as we seem to be dismantling all we’ve held dear since the formation of the Welfare State quite nicely on our own thank you.

Do we really want to go back to soup kitchens, work houses, rickets, back street abortions, plague and pestilence?

A bunch of immoral chancers backed by barely elected tosspots gambled our history away in a casino, then stole all our savings, climbed up their towers, kicked away the ladders, laughing like drains, and they are laughing still.

We have spent so long looking up the backsides of people who deserve not a jiffy of our time that we’ve gone blind.
Well it really is time to squeegee our eyes and wake the hell up from this infant state before, as Flaubert memorably warned us, the edge of the crapper on which we stand crumbles and we plummet headlong into a century of shit.

Julia Brightly
July 20, 2013

Sunday, 7 July 2013

One Step Ahead Of The G-Man

The past four years of my life have been remarkable.
I came out as transgender and started hormone treatment to transition from male to female, and toured the world several times over with the bands Mogwai and M83 as their Front of House sound engineer. 
I moved from New York City, where I had been for a decade, to Los Angeles, into a fabulous little modern house with orange and lemon trees in the garden, and a little white car parked out back, christened Snowflake by one of my beautiful friends.
At Christmas last I and M83 finished off a triumphant year with a little run of arena shows, ending at The Gibson Theater in LA.
The after show party was, shall we say, legendary.
All was right with the world.

New Year came and went and I along with all my friends was confident that twenty thirteen was going to be amazing.
Easter arrived bringing still no work, but I was settling into my new home, relying on savings and credit cards to get me through what seemed just a sticky patch. 
I knew a couple of groups that were looking to hire and guessed I’d be high on the list.
Unfortunately they passed me over for young men, but I was still sure it was all going to be fine, though my savings had all but run out and my cards were getting close to being maxed.

By the middle of June things were getting fairly desperate.
It was looking like nothing was going to come my way.
I began to look around my little house with trepidation, with a feeling that I was mad to think it would all work out, that this life could be mine.
I started to feel like a fraud.
Then at the eleventh hour came an email with the offer of a high profile tour starting immediately.
I said yes yes yes.
A week later and I hadn’t heard back.
I’d been passed over again.
Now all my cards were maxed out, my bank account in the red, my rent and bills overdue.
Reality hit me like a punch in the guts.
The dream was over.

What to do?
I’d become the person I always should have been, a woman, living in a place I’d aways wanted to live, LA, and had seen the world.
It was time to go.

I’ve been meditating for a year and realized that I’d let go of my ego, was at peace with the world and myself, had been awestruck at the beauty of our little planet, had found the inner light, and was ready. 
I decided that I would drive out to Malibu to stand for one last time on the golden sands looking out at the mighty Pacific before heading up to Topanga national park where, at sunset, I was going to cut my wrists.
It seemed to make complete sense. 
I said my goodbyes online to my friends, being careful not to let them suspect anything as I didn’t want to be stopped, and went to sleep in my own bed for the last time.

Just as I was about to walk out the door the next morning my cell phone rang.
It was an old friend from London, England, who had clearly seen through my obfuscated farewell message and begged me to stay, saying she would wire me money for a flight, and that I should hot foot it post haste to London and stay with her till I sorted myself out.
It took some convincing, not because I didn’t want to see her or appreciate the love she was sending, but because I really had decided to go.
I was at peace, I was ready to leave this place.
She persuaded me to stay.

I’ve been in London for two weeks now, sleeping on my friend’s couch, trying to figure out what the hell to do.
I abandoned everything in LA, just walked away with a suitcase and guitar in hand.

This is not the first time I’ve been here.
In 1991 I was playing guitar and singing in a band and we all decided to move to Amsterdam.
After nearly a year of living in a squat, stealing food from the local supermarket because I didn’t have any money, I sold my guitar getting just enough cash for a bus ticket to London, turning up at the same friend’s house, this time with only a suitcase.

But now I’m 54, a middle aged woman, and it’s really hard.
Capitalism is going through its inevitable collapse and leaving millions of us by the wayside.
I have no money, no home, no history here for a decade so zero credit, and still no job.
My friend, my angel, is helping all she can but the reality has me still gasping for breath.
Being a freelance worker, self-employed, one is always one pay check away from the street, and I’ve lived like that for 20 years.
This time though the paycheck didn’t arrive.

So here I am, one step ahead of the G-Man.

Julia Brightly
July 7, 2013

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Whatever Happened To The East End Of London?

Where are the litter strewn streets, the pavements smeared with dog shit, the piss soaked phone boxes, the beaten up Cortinas and Jags belching unchecked emissions into pushchair strapped toddlers, the gangs of roaming racists, the queer bashers, gawd s’truth, strike a light?

I was born here in 1959, an epoch ago, moved to New York City, and after a decade have just come back.

OK, the days of Cortinas are long gone, but when I left it was a scary, miserable, grumpy, cold, grey, hateful place.

I decided to venture out and investigate, starting just the other day in Stratford east.
Now I know the 2012 Olympics generated bucket loads of cash with which to transform that part of the world, and in a hurry, but it’s beyond recognition.
The first thing one will notice upon exiting the much revamped but peculiarly painted in snot green underground station is the enormous shopping mall that has been plonked right next to it, like the result of a giant child playing with lego.

My initial thought was one of amazement, that maybe this paean to consumerism might be a good thing, especially as I was need of underwear, toiletries, a mobile phone, and fish and chips, all of which were located within spitting distance from each other.
After 30 minutes I felt like I had been scooped up by the giant child and dropped into a human ant farm.
At 3 on a Tuesday afternoon it was choc-a-bloc with folk all scurrying around on their particular missions, none of whom seemed to care a jot who or what they trampled over to fulfill.
I scampered out with bruised limbs and scrunched toes to survey the main street.

I attended school at Stratford Grammar from 1970, so this was my stomping ground.
It’s all gone.

The old shopping center across the way looked dejected, a bargain basement relic.
I remember before even it was built, before indeed the bus station was there, when Angel Lane existed in its place, full of two-up-two-down terraced houses, condemned then as slums, which now would have been absurdly high rent des reses.

As I looked out at the bijou coffee shops and restaurants my mind superimposed the old place, like Bobby Moore’s pub Mooro’s, previously The Two Puddings, a notorious watering hole full of stories of violence, where my old schoolfriend Carlton Leach worked as a bouncer before becoming a gangster proper.

Suddenly the clock chimes of the modern art inspired timepiece on the station forecourt brought me back with a jolt.
The good old days, they say.....

I jumped back on the tube to Bethnal Green, where I am staying, and went for a walk around Victoria Park, to clear my head.
Last time I was there the lake was brown.
Now it’s been dredged and is so clear it looks drinkable, with a brand new Chinese pagoda on the island in the middle, a cute little bridge to it.
I wonder when the lake was dredged if the bodies of all the war time aborted babies were found.

The Pavillion, once a rarely open workers caff selling mugs of PG tips and Mother’s Pride white toast, is now overrun with what appear to be trust fund couples paying ridiculous amounts of money for thin white lattes and soy cappucinos.
I mean, there’s even a bookshop!
When did Eastenders start to read?

Well, thing is you’d be hard pressed to find an Eastender around these days.
Is that a bad thing?
Eastenders to me were racist, homophobic bigots, with the IQ of an amoeba.
That was my family in fact, coming as I do from the East End, a cockney born and bred.
I hated the filthy dump and could not wait to get out.
But now I find myself back I’m more than happy to sit with the yummy mummies and sip a ginseng and cauliflower iced tea whilst perusing Kant.
It’s beats watching kids on a lager induced rage smashing up bus shelters any day.

Julia Brightly
July 2, 2013