MUSiC: guitars for sale

Hohner Acoustic
Hohner Acoustic.

Hohner Steel-String Acoustic, £80

Is this what’s known as a ‘dreadnought’ body shape? Whatever, it’s a full-size steel-string acoustic, by Hohner. Probably about 30 years or so old. I’ve had it 20-25 years, and I bought it second-hand.

Hohner Acoustic
Hohner Acoustic

A decent beginners or intermediate players guitar, I’ve recorded with it, even busked with it. And it could certainly be gigged. But it has no electronics, no pick-up, etc. It’s got a bright clean sound, and plays well. Needs new strings, naturally. And could be set up with a slightly sweeter lower action easily enough.

Hohner Acoustic
Hohner Acoustic: fading logo.

A sign of its age is that the Hohner logo on the headstock is actually wearing away. But it’s still clearly visible on the label inside.

Hohner Acoustic
Hohner Acoustic: soundhole and label.
Hohner Acoustic
Hohner Acoustic: fretboard wear.

Fretboards on cheaper instruments like this are often painted, not ebony. So with sufficient playing wear and tear the base wood starts to show through in certain heavily used areas. Doesn’t affect the playability or sound in the slightest.

Hohner Acoustic
Hohner Acoustic: machine-heads in good order.

Decent enough machine-heads, in good working order. I got a Tanglewood acoustic fairly recently, off Freecycle. In certain respect the Hohner appears better made, for example the rosette around the soundhole is an inlay, whereas on the Tanglewood it’s a thin ‘transfer’.

Indeed, the Tanglewood’s bridge was coming away from the body – which is why the owner was getting rid of it – due to a bad/cheap design flaw, common to such modern instruments (see my post about fixing the bridge). No such issues with the Hohner! But I made my own Bridge for the Tanglewood, and fitted it, transforming the instrument into something much better. I even prefer how my bridge looks!

I don’t really want to sell the Hohner, as I’ve had it aeons, and it’s really quite okay. But I need the money, and since getting the Tanglewood I’m playing that more. A good beginners instrument, ideal as an xmas gift for a young learner, I’m looking for £80 for it.

Classical Guitar
Classical Guitar

Red Classical Guitar, Unbranded, £40

This is a guitar I got from a music teacher at one of the several schools I’ve formerly taught at. She was retiring, and this was her classroom guitar, for when she wasn’t playing the piano (her first/primary instrument). It’s unbranded, but it’s actually a decent beginners classical style acoustic. It plays well, has a good action, sounds nice, and holds its tuning. All of which many cheapo beginner guitars don’t always do!

Classical Guitar
Classical Guitar

I got it as a spare instrument for when teaching beginner guitarists. Something I do occasionally to supplement my drum teaching income. But I’ve come into possession of a couple of other classical guitars, so I don’t need them all.

Classical Guitar
Classical Guitar: machine-heads in good order.

One feature of this one that might either attract or put off potential buyers is it’s strong bright red colouring. It looks slightly brighter in some of these pics than it does in the flesh. But it is a red guitar, no mistake!

Classical Guitar
Classical Guitar: fretboard wear.

As with the Hohner, frequent playing has worn away the paint on the no-it’s-not-ebony fretboard, near the nut. But, again like the Hohner, it’s of no consequence, as it doesn’t affect playability or sound at all.

Classical Guitar
Classical Guitar: soundhole, no makers’ label.

It has a printed rosette, and no label inside the sound-hole. The little plastic doodad for attaching a strap on the bottom of the instrument is broken. I’d repace it with a metal one if I was keeping the guitar. These can be bought for pence, or a quid or two, tops, and are easily replaced.

Ideal for beginners, this would make a good xmas present for a youngster wanting to learn guitar. I’m asking for £40 for this one.

MUSiC: Epiphone ET-270

Epiphone ET-270
Epiphone ET-270. She’s a beauty alright!

Over the years lack of funds has compelled me to sell various instruments I’ve acquired, including amongst others, a Rickenbacker electric bass, a Rhodes 54 electric piano, an acoustic double-bass, and… very nearly, this Epiphone ET-270.

Epiphone ET-270
Epiphone ET-270. Phwaor!

Whilst photographing her for an ad I placed on Gumtree, it came home to me what a beauty she is. Just dig that headstock, with the mother of pearl Epiphone brand-name inlay. Gorgeous!

Epiphone ET-270
Epiphone ET-270. Note three-part construction of neck/headstock.

I also noted how the neck and headstock appear to be glued from three pieces, and again, look fabulous.  Over the years since I’d bought this from the brother of a pal, I’d tried several times to learn what model no/type it was, without success. Only when I tried to  sell it, thanks to a kind respondent to my ad’ (thanks Sam!), did I learn it was an ET-270.

Epiphone ET-270
Epiphone ET-270. Ser. no. 0182491.*

Furthermore, my asking price of £180, which I’d assumed might be asking too much, was, Sam suggested, too little. He’d sold his for over £300. There are several for sale on eBay for over £1,000! Boy, that kind of money would be really useful right now! As usual, I’m broke. But I’ve deleted my ad, and I’m going to try and hang on to this baby, ’cause I do love her.

Epiphone ET-270
Epiphone ET-270. Gorgeous!!!

Apparently the reason they’re worth a few bob is that Kurt Cobain had one, and used it a lot during Nirvana’s Bleach era. I enjoy a few Nirvana tracks, but I’m not a fan of the band or Cobain, as such. And I used mine a lot for home recording, as often as not for clean sounds on the jazz/funk/soul end of the spectrum. Though it has to be said, I did discover it was great for dirty, crunchy distorted sounds from the get go.

Other than having lost (or never had?) the tremolo arm, this is all original, as far as I know. The previous owner having it from new, and not modifying it in any way.

* Sometimes it’s poss to date a guitar from the serial no. Anyone know about Epiphones in that respect?


Book Review: The Odysseum, Bramwell & Tinsley


Wow! What a fun little book. I’ve only read the first two chapters so far – chapter one on the mental peregrinations of Albert Speer and Xavier de Maistre, and chapter two on the treasure hunt created by Kit Williams’ Masquerade – but I’m already loving it.

A small near square hardback running to a little over 200 pages, with a nicely designed cover, featuring numerous black and white images as illustrations, there are a few editorial gaffes (typos, poor grammar), and some of the pics aren’t very clear or good quality. So it’s not perfect.

Albert Speer
Albert Speer gardening at Spandau.

But it’s the content which makes this so good. Written in an easy going but erudite and informative style, it is, like its subject, a journey around the crazy worlds of human endeavour and imagination. From the literal imaginings of Speer, travelling the world from his Spandau confinement, to the kind of creative thinking behind a project like artist Kit Williams’ golden hare treasure hunt.

Travelling in style.

Happily for me, this book is filled with those kinds of personal resonances that can be very deeply satisfying. Numerous subjects or themes are already of interest to me; as a reader of much WWII and Napoleonic history, the stuff on Speer immediately grabs me, and I still have Hitler’s jaw and Napoleon’s willy to look forward to!

I’d already encountered Xavier de Maistre in numerous other places, such as Alain de Botton’s Art of Travel. Kit Williams Masquerade is even more personal, inasmuch as we had the book when it came out, and vainly tried to solve its many riddles. Hearing how it drove some folks potty, including unforeseen fallout for its creator, is fascinating. And there’s the added bonus of a Bamber Gascoine connection (to be further explored when time allows!).

We had this book, when I were a nipper.

I also like how the authors refer their readers, or ‘seekers’, to source material and beyond. So at the end of each chapter books and other material (TV, radio, internet) are referenced, so one can follow up any interests. Sadly some of these leads, e.g. to the Radio 4 afternoon play on Speer’s imaginary round the world walk, at the time of writing, lead nowhere.

I’ll probably return to this review to develop and augment it, as I read more of the book. Having discovered it, I now want to read their other books, The Odditorium, and The Mysterium. In the meantime, however, this is an absolute gem, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

MEDiA: Sounding Off About TV

Goggle-box addiction…

Blur’s second album, released 1993, featured a painting of a steam train – the Mallard, for any interested trainspotters – on the front, and was called Modern Life Is Rubbish.

Blur, Modern Life...
Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish.

Not much longer before that, in ’92, Spruce Bongstein released a single called 57 Channels (and Nothin’ On). Now, it’s not that I’m particularly fond of Blur or The Boss, but…

57 channels
Choice… what choice?

… somewhere in the mix between these two items of contemporary culture you can get a whiff of what I think of most modern TV.

First off, as per my recent post on my loathing of TV and other advertising (online, cinema, oh, and billboards in public spaces, etc.), almost all channels currently available are blighted by the evils of modern advertising.

They Live
They Live…
They Live
… part cheesy ’80s horror, part documentary.

Even the venerable aulde BBC seems under threat, with questions over the license fee, and ever-creeping commercialisation, most recently manifested in the launching of the BBC Store. In my view we’ve already paid for all this content, via our license fees. It’s not very public service spirited to then sell us access to the archives.

Virgin Media
Yep, that about sums it up.

At present we have Virgin Media, for TV, internet and home telephone. We had them once before, when we lived in Cambourne. And I swore, after several issues around crappy customer service, that I’d never give them our money again.

The truth is that the consumer capitalist buzzword so beloved of Thatcherites, ‘choice’, is more often than not a fairly empty concept. What good is choice if everything on offer is shit?

As already alluded to above, ‘Da Boss’ summed this up perfectly in the title of his song 57 Channels (and Nothin’ On). In a similar vein, I came up with a phrase of my own many years ago, about what can happen when confronted with walls of brightly packaged product which is essentially all the same, ‘consumer blackout’.

Miles of aisles.

It’s a form of paralysis that results from too much choice. And it’s especially infuriating where that choice is essentially rendered meaningless by the lack of any real substantive or qualitative difference amongst the options.

For me these days it’s either YouTube or DVDs. Which means either independently produced content from individuals, as opposed to the corporate puke served up by the big boys’n’gals, or the ability to choose selectively from archives unadulterated by the poison of advertising.

Mainstream TV is, for the most part, a whole lot of nothing.

Home: Kitchen Painting

Kitchen window
Kitchen window, painted Permoglaze white.

Having had a little break from DIY and home improvement, yesterday I decided I’d start painting some of the kitchen woodwork. Unfortunately the light in the accompanying pictures isn’t great.

Kitchen window
Alternate view.

I’ve started with the window and the door, as they are quite high-impact, visually. The door itself is painted in Valspar’s ‘Asian Silk, a pale green not too far off the green I used on the outside of the door. It also goes well with the green we used for the kitchen walls. A happy accident.

Kitchen door
Kitchen door and frame, newly painted.

The doorframe, window frame and sill are all in Permoglaze white. Which has a deliciously rich finish. Not quite gloss, but perfect for internal wood, in my view.

Kitchen door
Upper kitchen door.*

As usual, I neglected to take ‘before’ pics. Something I really should start doing. It’s nice not just to see the new look, but to compare it to how things were before.

Kitchen door
Lower kitchen door.

Cramped conditions and poor light make photographing these areas tricky. I dint feel these pics do my efforts justice! One other thing taking these pictures prompted me to do was mop and scrub the floor. It was appalling!

Also visible in several of these pics is a second potential front door. It’s actually too big for our doorway opening. But we’ve met a neighbour who used to be a joiner specialising in wooden doors and windows. So perhaps he can help?

* There’s a terrible draught through this door, and you can see why in this pic. In fact the whole of the kitchen and bathroom outbuilding areas of our home appear rather shoddily built!

MiSC: Random Thoughts

Friday morning, and Teresa’s off to work, doing teaching stuff for one of the agencies she’s with. I believe she’ll be working somewhere in Peterborough today. Tiggy’s on the bed next to me. And I’m not due to leave for my teaching for a couple of hours. So I’ve some time to think, reflect, and jot a few thoughts down.

One thing I’ve been wanting to have a think about is freedom. Not just freedom of thought or action, but freedom from the potentially wearying sense of expectations, be they one’s own, or those of others, real or imagined. I think one reason I vastly prefer living out in’t sticks is because I find it easier to be free of the burdensome sense of societal expectations here.


Yesterday, thursday, was – under my current dispensation (having recently given up my teaching in Bishops Stortford) – a day off. And having several books on the go, I wanted to find somewhere outside the home to go reading. Tuesday I had discovered the joys of Welney WWT as just such a perfect place, so I resolved to go there.

As often as I can, at present, when time allows, I’ll go out into the garden, and take a wheelbarrow or two (or more, if there’s lots of time), fill it with bricks and rubble – our garden is a mammoth project, esp. what with previous owners appearing to have smashed up and buried several outbuildings in the garden – and ferry them to the local dump, in the inevitably small batches that the boot of my poor little MX5 constrains me to.

So I gathered up my books and my iPad, donned some heavy working gloves, and set to work loading up the boot with hardcore…

No, no, no… not that type of hardcore…

Stopping off at the local PO depot to pick up some packages that I’d missed when out working wednesday,  I made my way to the local municipal dump, where I enjoyed smashing up some bathroom sinks as I emptied my car boot of broken bricks. Filled up at Tesco with petrol, and headed to Wisbech in search of a quick bite.

So far so good. But the trip to Wisbech wound up being ‘epic’, in the dullest and most tedious sense of that word; no idea why – roadworks, probably (East Anglia is lousy with ’em at present!) – but the traffic on the B198/Cromwell Road was appalling. It took 15 mins to get to the outskirts of Wisbech, and then 20 mins to get from there the less than one mile to the industrial estates where KFC and McRonalds are.

B198, Wisbech
Screenshot of Google Earth’s street-view of the B198, at a less congested time.
KFC's Dirty Louisiana
KFC’s Dirty Louisiana… mmm!*

The former, it transpired, no longer do their Dirty Louisiana, which I was rather partial to, so I bought cheeseburger and fries from the latter. But this whole ‘quick fix’ of fast food wound up taking bloomin’ aeons. Fivetunately for me I had time on my hands, as well as ketchup.

Lost in Space
Lost… but not *that* lost!

Next we come to the essence of what prompts this particular post: I got deliciously, wonderfully and semi-deliberately lost, by taking B-roads I’d never used before. One of the many things I like about such times is how the familiar local landscape can suddenly become an unknown foreign land, and produce the sensation of being a tourist at home. It’s also nice to be able to explore and get to know one’s own neighbourhood better.

For quite a while I was totally adrift, with no real idea – other than near Wisbech heading vaguely south-east – where I was. Occasionally I would drift through places I knew, albeit coming at them from different directions, some with such delightfully Fenny names as Three Holes, or Rings End.

The church at Welney.


At one point I stopped to ask a dog-walker where I was – Outwell, it transpired – and did they know which direction Welney was in. ‘About 15 minutes that way’, he said, pointing. And off I went, guessing my way along the indicated axis. And after a while, driving pretty slowly, frequently pulling over to let more impatient and local road-savvy traffic past, I found myself in Welney itself. Although once again coming at a relatively familiar place from a fresh and different angle.

Driving slowly like this, and almost aimlessly, no music, just the sounds of the car and the environment around me is, I find, really rather pleasant. At other times I’ve done similar things, but getting really into a particular CD, or enjoying an audiobook. But whereas those experiences can bring on highs of the epiphany type, the quieter moments can be just as joyful and intense, but in a much calmer way. And that, it seems, is my preferred MO these days.

Floods at Welney
Floods at Welney

I was half hoping that, what with some recent rain, the area around Welney might, as it sometimes is, be flooded. Indeed, the road there can be impassable, and is even shut off with gurt big metal gates occasionally. The perfect moment is when the water is just encroaching on the road, and the fields either side are flooded. It can be tremendously beautiful, driving slowly along that very winding stretch of the A1101, with stunted wind-blasted willows either side of the road, and sheets of water reflecting the huge fenland skies.

So I finally arrive at the WWT, my second visit in just three days. When we lived in Cambourne I went through a phase of reading and writing at the café at Anglesey Abbey. Could Welney WWT be my new haunt? The Anglesey Abbey centre tended to be very busy, and sometimes quite noisy. This WWT place is, by comparison, much calmer and quieter, which I definitely prefer.

Welney WWT
Crepuscule at Welney

I spent three hours there, reading several chapters of The Iron Marshal, and also having a look over The Dark Powers of Tolkien, by David Day. Both are free review copies, the first from Greenhill/Pen & Sword, the second from Amazon Vine.

I was the only person there on my own. Everyone else was in either a pair or a larger group. They all came and went, many having their lunch in the café. Myself, not being a paid up visitor to the centre, and being stony broke as usual, I was nursing first a tea, and later a latté. I had toasted tea cake with the coffee; £4.95 for the burnt offering and beverage… outrageous!!!

The key thing in all this was that I was free, and I could spend my day as I wished. And some of the most pleasant time was that in which I was temporarily ‘lost’.

* See my post about advertising. Needless to say, the real thing doesn’t look quite so good.

Book Review: A Handful of Happiness, Massimo Vachetta

Handful of happiness

Subtitled Ninna, the tiny hedgehog with a big heart, this is a very touching and moving story, with a great title and a beautiful cover. Whilst this isn’t a literary masterpiece, by any means, it is a candid and – I found – profoundly emotionally affecting tale.

Handful of happiness
Massimo Vachetta with one of his hedgehogs.

Massimo Vachetta is a vet, for whom caring for hedgehogs becomes a purpose in life that brings joy and healing. We meet many characters, both human and animal. Most of the latter are, naturally, ‘hedgies’; I was moved to tears many times by Massimo’s heartfelt stories of tending to ill or wounded hedgehogs.

Handful of happiness
Aah… how unutterably sweet!

Through his newfound passion/vocation, he came to set up a hedgehog rescue care centre, named after his first prickly patient, Ninna. I absolutely adored this book. Not, as I already said above, as a literary work, but as a beautiful and moving slice of life. Living with other non-human animals – I’ve nearly always had a cat – is a strange and wonderfully enriching thing.

Handful of happiness
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this.

At just under 200 pages, ghost-written in an easy going fairly informal style by Italian journalist Antonella Tomaselli, this is a fun and quick/easy read. But be warned, if you’re of a sentimental animal loving weepy sort, as I am, you might prefer to read this in the privacy of your own home. Moving, cathartic, and inspirational. Fab!

I fully intend to make our garden a haven for these fabulous little cuties. Not only are they wonderful creatures, but they eat slugs, the bane of the gardener and veg-grower!

MUSiC: Recycled Archives

Some years ago I really had a lucky break, when, thanks to bumping into an old school friend in a bookshop, I wound up meeting another long lost secondary school buddy, and through him… and so on.

Anyway, the upshot was that one of these ol’ pals now worked in a local publishing company, who were about to launch a drumming mag, imaginatively titled Drummer. They had an editor, and he was looking for writers. Was I interested?

You betcha!

My first assignment was perfect, a dream come true: could I write x-hundred words on Led Zep I and John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham. Could I ever!?

Well, I was (and still am) a drummer, and I’d always been good at writing at school. But could I, as an adult not writing professionally, pull this off, on my first attempt?

I went for a curry with Ian ‘Croftie’ Croft, and we also went to see a local singer do a gig. I guess he was getting a feel for me; was I articulate enough, did we get on ok?

I submitted my piece. And the rest, as they say, is history. So things went about as peachily as they could’ve done, as far as I was concerned.

Having passed my test assignment, which was published in issue #1 of Drummer, I continued writing a monthly column, called Recycled, in which I discussed a classic album from a drumming perspective, every month for about a decade.

In that time the mag went under three times. Owing me money on the first two occasions. It was always a borderline affair, as Drummer never became as established as Rhythm, our main U.K. equivalent/competitor.

Rhythm has been around for donkey’s ears, and has outlived Drummer, which did eventually fold for good. Every time things got parlous, and often that would mean a change of editor as well as bankruptcy/non-payment of contributors, etc, I’d worry I’d be given the heave-ho.

Miraculously I survived two bankruptcies and numerous changes of editor. But there did finally come a day when I was told they were no longer going to run my Recycled feature.

In the intervening years I’d also got to interview a number of drummers, review quite a lot of drum kits, percussion, CDs and DVDs, and attend some interesting events, like product launches and gigs.

All told it was great. Of course it’s annoying that some of my work – a few hundred quids worth – was never paid for. But the positives outweigh the negatives as Jupiter is to a grain of sand.

Travel: Out & About, Welney Wetland Centre

Welney WWT
The Welney WWT visitor centre.
Welney WWT
Slightly more dramatic looking, as the light fades.

I’ve often passed a particular turning, out in The Fens on the A1101, that proclaims the nearby presence of the Welney Wetland Centre.

Today, on my way home from Ely, I decided  to go cross-country, by the back roads (always my preferred method, when time allows), in the hope I’d find somewhere nice I could stop and read, or work on my blog.

As I approached the corner where I often pass the brown ‘tourist attraction’ sign, I spotted knife and fork symbols on it. Aha! A café… Let’s check it out.

Welney WWT
View from the café.

And I’m very glad I did. Entrance to the wetlands proper costs. But they let you into the café gratis. The location is nice, the visitor centre funkily and woodily contemporary, and there are huge glass windows, opening onto beautiful vistas of The Fens.

It’s a pretty typical dull, grey East Anglian day today, although of late we’ve been spoiled by a lot of warmth and sunshine. Nevertheless, it’s a terrific view, plus there are feeding stations directly outside, so you can watch the birds chow down.

Welney WWT café.
The wetlands from the outdoor area of the café.
Welney WWT
The impressive footbridge, as seen from the café.

The bridge pictured above takes visitors – paying visitors that is, unlike me – over to the main part of the wetlands, where there are numerous hides and the like. But I’m here to read my book, The Iron Marshal, a biog of Louis Nicolas Davout, one of Napoleon’s most esteemed Marshals, by John G. Gallagher.

Welney WWT
The café, from my position by the window.

The café is pretty good; plenty of nice green chairs! Shame there are no comfy sofas. And today the place is fairly empty and quiet, which totally suits me. In fact there are about 50 or so cars, poss more, in the car park. So it is pretty busy. But I guess most folk are out twitching?

Welney WWT
Another view of the wetlands from the café.

I read the first couple of chapters of The Iron Marshal. It’s a reprint of a 1975 publication. But it reads fine. Indeed, I’m loving it.

Welney WWT
The illuminated paths near the car park.

By the time I left the café it had turned dark. It’s a great discovery, perfect for me in my quest for peaceful and even inspiring reading spaces outside the home.

Welney WWT
Welney WWT
This is more or less the same view as the pic at the top of this post, only in’t dark.

Book Review: Born Lippy, Jo Brand

Born Lippy

‘I’m optimistic about the future and I do look forward to women dominating in all areas.’

Is Jo Brand really so fem-centric she doesn’t recognise this’d probably be just as bad as any allegedly male-dominated scenario? Some of the work I do takes place in a very strongly female-dominated area, primary education. And such places are no closer to nirvana as a result – for the women or the men that work in them – than some still male dominated areas like, I dunno, let’s say the road-building industry. [1]

As well as writing about, as her subtitle says, ‘How to Do Female’ [2], she touches on issues that can have a huge impact on the lives of both men and women, albeit from a deliberate and more or less completely female perspective. And some of the areas she covers are foreign territory not only to me as a male, but to women like my wife, as we have no children of our own.

Well, I suppose it’s pretty obvious I’m not the target audience for this book, being male*. But when offered it, via Amazon’s Vine programme, after glancing at the list of topics covered, e.g. ‘how to manage a bully, being different, your family and how to survive it,’ I thought, ok, I’ll have a read. For one thing much of what these phrases cover suggest Brand’s insights might just as well apply to men as well as women. And for another, as a man I want to better understand women, for a variety of reasons.

Putting my own gender to one side momentarily – and I’m not referring to dressing to the left for a change – whilst both candid and reasonably entertaining, Born Lippy is disappointing for being almost entirely anecdotal, i.e. just an extended monologue presenting Brand’s opinions. There’s also something a bit contradictory in how she’s frequently quite self-effacing, and yet ultimately this is a book that’s by and large, like certain friends she suggests one might want to jettison, one person continually talking about themselves. [3]

As a male reader, it disappoints by being practically as sexist, only from the other side of the fence, as much of what she attacks. Leaving aside the purely personal aspects, and that would be most of the book, in favour of the bigger social picture; surely society would be better if it valued more what both sexes want/need, rather than hoping the pendulum swings the ‘other way’, as is suggested by the quote at the top of my review.

Wall of Vag
Talk about lippy: part of artist Jamie McCartney’s Great Wall of Vagina. [4]
But, as she admits in numerous places, ‘I have not been scientific, this has been totally my own subjective view’. Other similar provisos include: ‘I should add that this theory is not research-based but having Googled it a few times…’ Or ‘As you may have gathered this is not a formal reference book.’ Ultimately this makes Born Lippy** the printed equivalent of a long soliloquy from Jo, perhaps down the pub.

The following extract even sounds like exactly the sort of thing to start a booze-fuelled battle of the sexes down the local: ‘just, to be annoying, research shows that being married is better for the man and worse for the woman…’

Funny that, I’ve more often heard/read the exact opposite: marriage suits the needs and desires of the woman, providing a stable ‘nest’ where children can be reared, whilst discouraging the male from being a roaming predatory breeder, instead constraining him to the role of domesticated provider. But, like Jo, I will offer no evidence here, merely anecdotal hearsay.

Indeed, whilst there are plenty of moments where she says things I can relate to, such as people becoming far less polite and tolerant than they might normally be once they get behind the wheel of a vehicle, there are quite a number of moments where she says things that completely contradict my experience. As for example where she says that as soon as you start pushing a pram around you become invisible. I’ve often noticed how a lot of mothers – and it’s noticeably the mothers, not fathers or grandparents or helpful siblings. – use their prams, baby and all, as either battering rams or territorial markers. [5]

Brand’s adult perspectives do seem dominated by a legacy of negative experiences, mostly around the nexus of issues around women’s bodies, beauty, and weight. Her professional success has enabled her to salvage some positives from it all, and that’s really at the core of the best of what this book has to offer.

Millie Tant
Viz Comics’ Millie Tant. [6]
Overall, though I know Brand a bit better now, I’m not sure I know woman-kind much better. Like her I come from a less than affluent left-leaning background. But unlike her I’m neither a fan of Morrisey nor an advocate of legalising marijuana. [7]

In the chapter ‘Adventures In Your Head’ Brand sings the praises of books, reading, and literacy. Feelings I share completely. She also addresses whether one should slog through a book one isn’t really enjoying. Well, I did enjoy this just enough to ignore her own advice to ‘give up and find something more interesting.’

All things considered, Born Lippy is ok. I certainly wouldn’t rave about it. It seems to me too simplistic and obvious. Lacking in any great perception, depth, or insight. Sure, we all rage against the machine from time time, for a whole raft of reasons. But this doesn’t give any deep understanding of either the self, female or otherwise, nor the machine.

I suspect, as one might expect, female readers are likely to get more from this. And perhaps those struggling with self-image issues (but then again who, male or female, doesn’t have such struggles at times?) most of all? If Jo Brand reaches folks like them, I guess she’ll have achieved her goal.

* When Brand addresses her reader, it’s pretty much always assumed they’re female. Indeed, the only allusion to a male encountering the contents is a disparaging reference to a female reader reading a part out loud to her partner, as he watches Top Gear, for him to chortle at the use of the word ‘crack’.

** A terrible name for the book, which doesn’t chime at all with her own account of youthful transformation from ‘nice little girl … to reformed ‘Man Hater’ turned National Disgrace.’ But, rather ironically, given Brand’s sensitivity over language and her berating of societal hypocrisy, this misleading but catchy phrase does chime with a popular image of Brand. It works for the marketing department, so fine … great title!


[1] Okay, the women may enjoy or benefit from the fact that it’s a mainly female workforce. But my point is that it’s still a far from perfect working environment. And the fact it’s dominated by women doesn’t make it significantly better. Just different. Regarding roadworks: the parts of East Anglia we inhabit are utterly infested with roadworks of late, from the massive A14 ‘improvements’ to the many closed minor country roads out in The Fens. I’m not sure I’ve seen any women when I’ve driven past all these works. Certainly not doing the labouring work.

[2] I, like Jo, have my own foibles and sensitivities around language. I suppose we all do, to differing degrees. She dislikes the word lady, preferring ‘woman’, and cites being feminist as her reason for this position. Lady implies, to her at any rate, a meekly submissive vision of woman. It doesn’t to me. To me it implies the female equivalent of gentleman, i.e. a well-mannered female. And sensitivity towards the feelings of others has traditionally been a part of what is meant by terms such as lady and gentleman. But as Brand is a dyed in the wool lefty – I used to think I was but, as with Christianity, I ditched such simplemindedness years ago – she lets the fact that many uncouth toffs have labelled themselves as ladies and gentleman tarnish the terms.

She also dislikes such words or phrases as chavs and bingo-wings, both of which I neither really like or dislike, but I feel they convey very well certain ideas and images, some of which have value. Plus bingo-wings is very funny.

A similar sort of case could possibly be made against her preferred word, woman, on the etymological grounds that it derives from the Old English wifman, meaning ‘wife-person’. But it’d be a bit tenuous, so I can’t be arsed. And it even turns out that the word ‘man’ was originally gender-neutral, being more equivalent to person than the common modern gendered understanding. Fascinating! But the politicisation of language is a minefield, and some of Brand’s personal bugbears strike me as almost dourly puritanical, in a pseudo-lefty way, and surprisingly humourless for a person whose stock in trade is laughter.

And as if this titanic footnote wasn’t long enough, and before my numerous digressions prompt me to completely forget, I dislike her choice (or was it an editorial suggestion? such things happen) of ‘do’ rather than ‘be’, in her subtitle. To be something suggests a truth and authenticity, perhaps even born of reflection and conviction, whereas to do something might be ‘merely obeying orders’ (a subject she touches upon when she mentions the infamous Milgram experiments), and sounds totally like modern marketing or business speak, as in let’s do lunch, let’s do the books, or let’s do the sights. It’s an ugly turn of phrase suggestive of objectivised consumerist culture, in my view.

[3] This fact reminds me of when I heard Germaine Greer – who’s cited as a feminist hero of Brand’s – on Radio 4 fairly recently, and it turned out that, not at all surprisingly to me, the entire edifice of her career as a feminist is built, at least in part (and by her own admission), on the troubles she encountered getting dancing partners as an above average height young girl. I.e. a few less inches in height, and she might just have been another happy camper, and we’d have had to wait for her insights to come from some other disgruntled lady at some other time, quite possibly couched in some other terms, rather than ‘woman is the nigger of the world’, or The Female Enoch, etc. A similar thing struck me many years ago when I noticed that many of the most ardent lefties I encountered were simply crap capitalists who liked the sound of their own voices and having a good moan.

[4] In the bit about the female body, periods, menopause, etc, Brand laments that people still don’t talk openly about such things. I agree, and I further agree that the current state of affairs is lamentable. I’m perfectly happy to talk about practically anything. But that doesn’t seem to be the norm. But with works like his Wall of Vagina, artist Jamie McCartney shows it’s not just women who are helping us bring such things out into the open.

[5] In a way that smacks of lack of proof-reading (as well as the numerous typos that the book contains) Brand makes this point, re prams as obstacles to other pedestrians, when she’s talking about manners, kind of contradicting her own invisibility idea. Perhaps it’s that mothers think they have become invisible behind their prams? Is this why so many compensate by thrusting their infants into the roads, or trying, Moses-like, to use them to part the seas of pedestrians?

[6]Viz do their bit for the sisterhood on the theme of menstrual pride.

[7] Cannabis may well wind up providing us with many useful medicines. It’s certainly been looking that way for some time now. But it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be delivered via the rolling and smoking of joints. For one thing the active ingredients that produce the highs and the health benefits are different. But this a whole different topic, for exploration some other time.