What’s in the news today?
Ukrainian Soldiers, have been officially photographed training in high heels. Maybe it’s a PR Stunt. If so, it’s a good one because everyone’s noticed. Maybe it’s saying, “look at brave these soldiers are. Notice anything in particular? Ah ha! That’s right. High heels. Brave AND useless. Unless you need to knock a hole in a balsa wood door”.
It can certainly be hard to cartwheel in them, which is why hardly anyone I know wears them. Sometimes I think designers hate people. High heels make some people feel wonderful, and that’s grand, but for me, high heels are great for being on stage in (rarely though), or standing still (posing) or lying about in. If I was going to wear high heels, I’d make myself a matching t-shirt that reads ‘For Display Purposes Only’ and not leave the house.
It seems a bit stymying to make the soldiers parade in something less comfortable than paraboots, which is what the opposition will be wearing. And actually, the opposition win on fashion counts too, because comfy boots are back, apparently. Grunge 2. I saw it in Brighton, England this week.
Let’s talk about Grunge 1 (the 1990s)
In the actual 1990’s, young people who shopped in jumble sales and charity shops and hardware stores didn’t know they were ‘grunge’ until The Clothes Show had J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr on as a guest.
As we watched, bored, someone used the word for the first time, and showed us Mascis’s clashing second hand ‘grunge’ clothes that we were all also wearing and we all went ‘oh, is that what I am then? I thought I was just poor’.
Shortly after this, UK music magazine The NME released their definitive poster guide of ‘Grunge Bands’ which included Led Zeppelin and Daniel Johnston, together in the same category at last.
Up until then, young people were either ‘fashionable’, ravers, metallers, hippies, rockers, mods, goths, teddies, beatniks, glam rockers, crusties, punks, pop culture or straight-edge. Everyone else was a colourful magpie mess.
Mens workbooks (no name industrial ones, or Doc Marten’s if you had £25, at least they’d last for nearly two years, worn solidly). Mine were dunlop, steel toe capped and one size too big but they were also £6 and virtually indestructible. In the end I just got rid of them because I really did look like an actual clown.
Checked lumberjack shirts were warm and unisex, and about a fiver.
Tiny 1970s t-shirts with anything written on them. (I’m pretty sure I saw the previously deeply common and uncool Harvey Wallbanger cocktail recipe on someone and my friend Alison had a vintage one with ‘Elastic’ written on it, that Justine Frischmann from Elastica asked to buy off her. Alison said no). Or we painted our own (with watered down acrylic paint).
Dresses from any era as long as they were very very cheap (1910 – 1980, all secondhand or made in India and bought from the market for £15 brand new). The huge ones were good for hiding both your figure and the rape alarm you were sold at the fresher’s ball, where you’d also be signed up for a ‘self defence course’, in case of enemy attack.
Of course, the steel toe cap boots could deliver a crippling blow, which I think is one of the first things the ladies were taught. It was all the rage.
The dresses weren’t particularly flattering but that wasn’t the point. they were cheap and individual and if you really wanted to show some shape, you could take the hem up by a foot and a half and cinch in the top of it by cramming on a too-small long-sleeved cropped cardigan, to create the allusion of a waist but without flaunting your wares like a cake shop window.
Courtney Love (the band Hole) popularised wearing the see-through nylon nightie on the cover of Face magazine around that time, which was pleasing. Because nylon nighties were very easy to find in perfect condition in junk shops and went for a song, being deeply unpleasant to wear as actual nightshirts. They were worn with cycling shorts, massive underwear, cardigans, fishnets, boots and ribbon-y necklaces.
It was all very DIY. It was like an anti-statement really. Look how little I have but how happy I am, haha! Those babydoll dresses were almost as indestructible as Dunlop workers boots, unless you stood next to a naked flame.
And at least we were sold see through nighties by a brilliant rocker instead of some boring old fart designer who’d not be seen dead in one.
It was amusing to see wealthy-looking people wearing GRUNGE in Brighton, UK this week. The main giveaway were luxury designer bags and sunglasses but the rest was heart-warmingly familiar. The dresses are still hideous, except now they’re 50000% times more expensive and you’ll see them being worn by more than one person at any one time. Now the high-street dresses are chosen for their fabric and cut, rather than being the only viable option at the jumble sale. The young people look gorgeous because they are. Hobnail boots and a dress that would be rejected by your great-aunt aren’t going to stop them looking excellent.
And at least they can be in complete comfort. Either sitting around or running or walking or pirouetting about, whatever they fancy (the dresses are great for twirling). They can cover up or reveal as much as you like, which for a painfully shy and body-conscious-in-a-bad-way teenager like I was, is ideal. For once, a fashion fad that made me smirk, is actually a very welcome return. And bonus ball, you don’t have to iron anything, freeing up moshing time for The Happy Flowers and Swans. Or if that NME poster guide was anything to go by; ‘anything vaguely good’.
I love sketchbooks and draw every day. This is a little doodled sequence from an A6 one, which I always carry when I’m out and about.
Have you seen ‘Hook’? We quite enjoyed it. I thought the message to make the most of the young years was a good one. Cast were ace too.
Rambles On Re-use, Re-cycle, Repair
I’ve always been interested in the history of clothes, the concept of ‘style’ and anthropology, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I just like reading about it and looking at other people.
When I was a kid, I collected books like ‘Christian Dior’s Little Dictionary of Fashion’ and ‘Here’s Looking at You Miss Teen’. At such an impressionable age, these outdated books gave me a skewed idea of what it was to be a teenager in the modern world. While everyone else was joy riding, hitch hiking, and skate boarding, I was reading about how to clean your kid gloves with white bread, creating a limited palette wardrobe and what that will do for your world (make it perfect) and practising how to remove a cardigan at a soirée, in one graceful swooping move.
The books contrasted beautifully with how I live my life. I’d lie about eating crackers and cheese, reading about how lying upside down on an ironing board will give you rosy cheeks, and never actually doing the things they suggest. Once I wrote the alphabet in the air with my toes, to improve the shape of my ankles but it was pretty much done with equal amounts of curiosity and sarcasm. The books look hilarious at first glance, but you get sucked in to believing that this is a world of bite-size, achievable and rewarding tasks and should be taken seriously. I’ve never been able to make much comedy out of them to be frank, I love them too much. I’d have to give it all to another persona – maybe Mrs Coil (see Wife On Earth podcast if you haven’t met that character yet! She stars in series 3).
These days I watch style and fashion youtubers in a semi-horrified fascination, as they spend hours on regimes while I drink red wine instead, sitting atop a nest of un-mended mending.
Here’s a dilemma. Skanky shoes.
These shoes might be for the chop.
(apologies if you find them revolting🌺👀💃🏽)
1. When is something worn out?
2. When does a pair of shoes or a garment reach the end of it’s life?
3. Is it ok to look GRUNGE or wear something one size too big when you’re 20’s but not in your 40’s?
4. Says who?
5. With so much stuff in the world, can I warrant getting rid of shoes I’ve worn for six years or is it ok to look ‘neglected’ for work at (for instance) a Nathan-Barley-like office in Soho for a swanky acting job? Or is it disrespectful to look scruffy when you’re looking or doing work?
6. What do you think about ‘age appropriate’?
7. What do you think about getting a uniform and just wearing that, à la Zuckerberg / TS Eliot / Bill Gates, freeing up time for other stuff?
One of these pairs (green, £45 2015) has a hole in. I tell myself that means I can wear them when it’s not raining. The other (gold, 2017? Not quite sure) are a men’s size which means they are too big so I wear them with massive trousers so just the clown toes show) i.e I am really good at justifying keeping things.
Why on earth have Adidas started making men’s and women’s trainers? They do a men’s size 6 which is a women’s 6.3. What the?! Grr.
I am genuinely struggling with how much stuff we’re meant to own / how to pass it on in a sustainable way / if my time is well spent in endless mending and cleaning. So far the solution has been to keep nearly EVERYTHING. I still have clothes I wore when I was 12.
When we were students we had one thing at a time. One pair of shoes. When they wore out and were actively agonising to wear, we were forced to admit defeat and fork out for the next pair. We weren’t targeted with spending all the time though.
A Mending Book
And here is a mending book I love and (below) a 1920’s silk coat that I’ve had since I was 16 and now it’s shredded. Can I throw it away? Can I %&$£. No, I am hoping to either a) use the coat to remake a copy, as a pattern. (It’s a beautiful shape). and b) use the original collar, cuffs and button as they’re intact. I just cannot throw stuff away. The battle with the world’s Kondo, Minimalist, and Anti-Hoarder continues apace. What about you? What’s your criteria for keeping something? Have you got into mending? If so, do you think the trend for mending is universal this time? Not just women and wives? I’d love to know what you think. The philosophy and anthropology surrounding this is constantly fascinating to me. I might have to put my ridiculous book collection at the heart of series 4 of Wife On Earth. Maybe I’ll try what the books suggest… gulp.
How much stuff do we even need? I don’t think the holes in my trainers are mendable. So for now I’ll carry on wearing the gold ones with wide trousers to cover up the fact they’re too long, and the green fabric ones when it’s not raining. End of training triggered ramble. More soon! What shall we look at next? Maybe knitting jewels.
Delighted to announce the return of Celia and the largest cast yet. Recorded during Lockdown, this series has a strange ‘collage’ feel to it, but manages to thread through some themes of longing and sarcasm, review books without leaving the house and bring three new special sections. These are Russell Nigel’s Thoughts For The Day, including a sea shanty about a famous actor; George Egg’s brilliant Wife On Earth almost-debut* as Dr James Willoughby (George already recorded a great advert for his favourite Brighton independent shop in Series 2) and Mrs Coil’s Capital Offences, in which she visits cities during lockdown.
You can find Wife On Earth Series 3 – THE TRAVEL SERIES at Cosmic Shambles Network and in the all the places you find podcasts. We already have some great plans afoot for series 4 so feel free to subscribe for future notifications. You can support Wife On Earth and Cosmic Shambles Network on Patreon if you fancy, from £1 a month I think it is.
Coming next – tour dates for the live shows. Celia and some ladies from Lower Upping WI take to the road to fund raise for ST Mary’s. The vicar has gone all extinction rebellion and is re-leading the church roof with lead-free lead.
I’ve recently put out a new Celia track ‘Dear Frank’ and the response has been terrific. In fact, I’m in the process of recording Celia’s Lockdown Diaries as a sort of Thought For The Day Mini Series, will keep you posted. It’s so heart warming to create something you’re proud of and for it to be well received in these show-free times, so I sincerely thank everyone who’s bought the track and sent lovely messages. For anyone who hasn’t found it yet, here is a link and some info below. It’s available from £1.
I’m offering some FREE GIFTS to subscribers on my mailing list, so feel free to add your details to the form on here and receive a Happy New Year present from me. And do share wherever you like, if you have friends who’d like this too. You can always unsubscribe if I’m not longer a good fit for your daily pottering.
Please can I recommend that everyone watches American Utopia by Spike Lee? It’s just terrific. It’s out on DVD now.
X Love Jo
Dear Frank – A Letter By Celia
New track on Bandcamp out now
Who wouldn’t want a letter from this lovin’ clown?
‘Dear Frank’ is a letter from Celia, a new character comedy set in UK Lockdown 3.0. It’s a five minute, spoken word thing, written and performed in between home schooling, recording adverts under the stairs and being grateful. Co-written with TV comedy writer Joseph Nixon (co-writer of ‘The Crab Prince’), with original music by Glen Richardson. It’s suitable for all the family and is now available from just one pound.
I hope you like it!
Who wouldn’t want a letter from this lovin’ clown? 📮
– warning – we did commas today, for home schooling, and now I can’t stop, using them.
‘Dear Frank, A Letter From Celia’ is a new character comedy, set in lockdown 3.0. It’s a five minute, spoken word thing, written and performed by me, Jo Neary, in between home schooling, performing tank battles and being grateful. Co-written with the wonderful and hilarious @josephnixon with original music by Glen Richardson, it’s suitable for all the family. It’s now available on Bandcamp for just one pound and I’m very grateful that I was given a thirty minute break today, so I could achieve something😙😙
You can go to my Instagram (@WifeOnEarth) to check out my horrific meme thing 🎈I am really struggling with reels and stories, learning this stuff with a bewildered brain like mine feels like I’d advance more quickly if I were mainly cheese scone.
Anyway, I’ve finally got round to doing things again after all sorts of nonsense. What about you? Are you being stirred into action, carrying on as normally as this stuff permits or just about ready to start anew? Celia is my beloved Brief Encounter homage and is star of my podcast ‘Wife On Earth’ produced by the marvellous @cosmicshamblesnetwork – series 3 coming soon. You can join my mailing list here on my website to hear about announcements and new delights/plans afoot for 2021. And if all this sounds a bit confused, it’s because I’m writing this on a postage stamp sized screen, off the top of my head and I’m rubbish at improv.
I hope you like my thing.
Happy New Year, be cosy and stay safe.
Love from Jo
Photograph by Andy Hollingworth who I just really love. I didn’t even know he’d pressed ‘take’.
During lockdown, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to make some little puppet shows for children. My tour of The Crab Prince had to be cancelled and instead I made five short little films using puppets and focussing on art history and making. Seashore Art School starred Fiona Fish Finger, the mermaid who lives under The Erskine Bridge, and her friend Lucy Le Crayon, a little girl who’d like to make things inspired by her library books.
For instance, a picture of a monster, some wrapping paper for her friend’s present, and a little doll to play with and send on holiday, inspired by Eileen Agar and Paul Nash’s found personages. The idea was to reference some artists and creatives that aren’t usually mentioned in the National Curriculum or in children’s art books, such as Ronald Searle and Aardman Films. The age group for the films was 5+ with the added remit of using no specialist art materials as much as possible, just stuff that most people have lying about.
We added sweet music by Heather Minor and Pad Mclean to make the making sections as soothing and sweet as possible. Early lockdown was such a bonkers time, home schooling was a real challenge, to be honest in the end I was proud to have completed them at all. A big thank you to Julia without whom I might have thrown in the towel, and my family who ended up on photography, sound, lighting, acting, music and direction. One of the episodes features a music video with psychedelic effects.
You can find a link to these films here on our website under videos, or search for Seashore Art School on Youtube.
We hope you enjoy them! Here is Lucy with her mum Cathy.
I was thrilled to be able to work during lockdown, after an initial horror show of having all work cancelled overnight.
Robin Ince and Trent Burton at Cosmic Shambles Network invited me to join them for two episodes of The Stay At Home Festival (this one with Nicole Smit, Tim Minchin, Robin Ince and Josie Long) and another as Celia Jesson with David Baddiel, Josie Long, Robin Ince and the sublime Phil Jeays). Celia’s lockdown diary with a beach romance theme was part of Sea Shambles for The Royal Albert Hall, and at that point, I pretty much burst with pride.
Radio 3’s The Verb with Ian Mcmillan included some new entries from Celia’s diary too, so all in all, very pleasing to feel like there was some life outside of home schooling and general despair.
As well as making some little films for Renfrewshire TV (more on that soon), Michael Spicer had his own brilliant, much deserved and well received comedy show on Radio 4 which I was proud to join in with, albeit as a character called Josephine who was boring, perhaps it was based on me.
But happiest of all, my second series of Wife On Earth Podcast has just come out on Cosmic Shambles Network. The first episode was recorded before any of the lockdown took place. I wanted to set the second series in Celia and Fred’s suburban home. Little did I know how appropriate that would turn out to be. The series isn’t overtly about lockdown as I didn’t want it to date, but there are moments and mentions, such as Fred taking up learning ukulele and Celia recording in the airing cupboard. The second episode is set in a supermarket, and I called it Supermarket Surrender as a homage to Mills and Boon.
Working from home and home schooling has been very difficult. And hats off to all my fellow creative types who lost all their paid work overnight and are now working for free in an attempt to keep their creative work going when all this is over. It’s horrid feeling like you’re not doing anything well enough. Instead, we’re juggling all things and hoping our best will do.
Listen to my podcast if you fancy, it’d mean the world to me. Aside from shouting about handwriting and concentrating, and using a puppet to be the teacher, it’s currently all I’ve got.
Gosh, too many colours and choices. An outfit for the day…
I need to be warm, and to be able to run off at the drop of a hat (in case of murderers).
Eventually settled on = Grey Prince Of Wales checked trousers, cotton knitted beret, St Michael’s (1960’s Marks And Spencer) fine wool classic cardigan, brown leather boots, handmade red leather belt. Finally, have found a cosy and elegant look. Must show husband how nice I feel.
It wasn’t meant to be a costume but maybe it was. And I was meant to be pleased that I didn’t look like Norman. Right, must go and practice my pratfalls. Boink.
Postscript if you’re still reading this nonsense. Youtubers suggest LAYERING, which means putting a cardigan on.
Minimalists/French Style gurus suggest wearing only three colours. And not even colourful colours. They suggest ‘teaming’ grey with white (gasp!) and black (Swoon). And they get sponsored for this. Wish I’d thought of being a style youtuber, but I’d just sound sarcastic and I can hardly be arsed to do more than wash my face.
So. To conclude. Come and see my freshly washed face at Greater Manchester Fringe this July and also Machfest in May. Tickets just gone on sale. It’s my best show yet, I hope you like it. If you love me, I’ll see you there. It’ll be our Valentines gift to me and you.