lots of news for once

There has been an explosion of industry and creativity in the family with Lisa qualifying as a registered masseuse TODAY! – she is going onto specialise in musicians and people with RSI – and she knows loads of latin anatomical words. She did the whole very demanding course over the year of lockdowns which we reckon is pretty blooming impressive. We are lining up for treatment as soon as she can get to lay hands upon us. BRILLIANT!

George and Avani have done this fantastic adaptation of a Grimm tale for Ek’s birthday. Having put together the odd few minutes of movie footage myself i can tell you this is truly epic and must have taken days and days. I have watched it many times – i love it – the only thing is that having set myself up as the family avant-garde, surrealist, absurdist specialist it seems the grimm/shah/newell combo has blown me out of the water. Drat!

Arthur bought a cheapo classical guitar at the start of lockdown and has progressed to Bach preludes which to be frank pisses me off. I have now been playing bass for 20 years and have progressed to shoddy versions of the Allman Bros Band played very slowly.

I have had my vaccine – all down to my beloved who managed to get through to the right person at our surgery explain to them that my cancer treatment was on hold until i got it and within hours i had it done. She may have saved my life or is that a bit melodramatic – no i don’t think so. Needless to say i was too British to hustle and was quietly waiting in the queue as though expecting a number 25 bus to Upton Park to come along eventually.

My achievements – duh – a story about a cat that gets run over by a steam roller. Good though in my view.

My affairs

As I approach the Beatles song age on Saturday I feel the need to vent something important worthy of my imminent descent into ‘old geezerness.’ Albert Steptoe springs to mind although Wilfred Bram/bell/well was probably about 42 when he played the role. Talking of maturity I once tasted a 100 year old port – it was unpleasant but certainly memorable – perhaps I will be similarly rancidly recordable in 2057.

To celebrate my Birthday, It would be nice to hear other people’s news that hasn’t been passed through the social media “remove anything remotely challenging filter.” So get cracking you lot!

I am happy to report that our four kiddies are coping admirably with Lockdown 2 (or is it 3) and so are we. I admit to a touch of lethargy but they be the result of our coal burning polluting stoves being too roasty toasty (soon to be banned I gather). Actually I thought the myeloma was back with renewed lockdown enthusiasm because over XMAS along with the lethargy the dreaded back ache came back I was a wee bit of a misery – anyway since then the back ache has gone away (an Xmas miracle (must have been my dedication to the Presepio (or in Neopolitan dialect Presebio – Angela (p’s become b’s in Paupisan) ) so I am very very very very thankful.

Despite that welcome deliverance I am preparing to embark on the chemo journey again as advised by the National Amyloidosis Centre and my consultant at York – a newly approved formula that includes another derivative of thalidomide – some other compound I can’t remember – duh  – and steroids! Hurrah. This was predicted months and months ago as my numbers slowly deteriorated and is not a disappointment or setback. I have done really well for two years with only a very slow slide toward the stage where this intervention has become necessary.  That may be down to the stupidly expensive herbal curcumin I take but that may well be snake oil. Though delighted by the prospect of the creative hyperactivity the steroids impart I confess I am not looking forward to feeling ill again or the monthly visits to the hospital given the current danger of death that trips ‘abroad’ (touch of Bridgerton there (wasn’t it a fab show – I fancied him too – and the WIGS!)  however danger of death in the current climate is s certainly not my exclusive concern so I plan to suck it up – besides I am probably 64 when you read this, so times nearly up.

Speaking of times nearly up – I am putting my affairs in order – not because I am pessimistic actually the opposite I am feeling very optimistic that I still have lots to offer and lots to add to my affairs that will consequently need ordering. Anyway the process involves purchasing a lovely bamboo box drawer set (something of a fetish of mine we now have three) from Amazon and every time I think of something that will confound my decedents I bung it in with the intent of explaining it later – so far it includes a scratchy awful video on CD of my production of La Pazzia Senile I did in the 90’s with no audience and an inaudible narration by a dear actor friend that should explain what’s going on – and  an equally inaudible live audio recording of an opera (Dirty Tricks) by my best friend Paul  Barker (concept by me) written in iambic pentameters (after Shakespeare) by Steven Chance – that SHOULD NOT HAVE FAILED TO DELIGHT IN THE WAY IT DID – cos it was rather brilliant – I will collect my catalogue of telephone box audio files in due course – my collection of old Eynsford memorabilia (mainly postcards) – all my poems and stories even the terrible and incomplete ones – the instructions for the telephone box to insure it chatters on in perpetuity – FAT CHANCE (sadly it would be months of work to document and even then I doubt I could communicate it in a way that would make any sense) – together with passwords to bill payment websites-  so that’s my legacy sorted out – inexplicable operas with associate funny and largely inaudible voices, a bunch of dog eared faded postcards sent by unknown people, and equally dog eared poems and bills.

The Uni work is intense – tons of prep and marking – the hard part is staying up with the tech. I guess it’s a good way of staving of Alzheimer’s but blimey modern software packages are so fiddly and so hard to remember (oh oh – early onset on its way).

I am planning but not producing the next live broadcast for the telephone box that talks like me. It’s for Easter Sunday so resurrection themes could fit the bill nicely. I am still obsessed with Berio’s sinfonia that quotes from Mahler 2nd Symphony (The Resurrection Symphony – aha) – so sampling a work that is a compilation of samples is suitably post-modern I suppose – but could be horribly dull – that’s as far as my thinking has gone so I have a bit to do.

I have also found another interesting alignment between my enthusiasms and heroes that may bare so telephone box fruit in the future. It’s probably not true but could it be the case that Charles Ives who lived close to New York heard or saw my anarchist heroine Emma Goldman (who also lived in New York up to 1919 when she was deported) speak at one of her rallies and as a consequence produced this text to a song in 1917.

This is just the last two verses of “They are There.”

When we're through this cursed war,
All started by a sneaking gouger,
making slaves of men
Then let all the people rise,
and stand together in brave, kind Humanity.
Most wars are made by small stupid
selfish bossing groups
while the people have no say.
But there'll come a day
Hip hip Hooray
when they'll smash all dictators to the wall.

Then it's build a people's world nation Hooray
Ev'ry honest country free to live its own native life.
They will stand for the right,
but if it comes to might,
They are there, they are there, they are there.
Then the people, not just politicians
will rule their own lands and lives.
Then you'll hear the whole universe
shouting the battle cry of Freedom.
Tenting on a new camp ground.

Here you will find Charles Ives singing it – really badly  – I LOVE IT

Further down the page are two other versions choral and band – both brilliant but kind of miss the vibe of the Ives original.

I really do feel a connection with Ives – sadly not his talent or genius – he was just so unencumbered by notions of appropriateness, taste, consistency, style, fashion, mood or anything – he just did his thing as it occurred to him on the day – oh how I wish!


Maria and I have been honing our craft skills somewhat obsessively .
I spent a silly amount of time building a stage for Jesus’s birth which Nonna and Maria know as a ‘Presebio.’ – nativity scene I guess. Needless to say I did not carve the figures, they are 1960/70/80’s made in Hong Kong Hong-Kong, incredibly brittle/delicate plastic figures that I think are totally brill. I bought them from E-Bay.

I like my Presebios realistic don’t you. A modernist/brutalist nativity set in the Barbican flats does not float my boat and given the subject matter and the legacy of ‘Life of Brian’ taking the piss or being ironic is miles too easy – besides Greggs nailed it last year with the sausage roll Jesus. Maria added the theatrical drape and the rock and the tree were recycled components of Arthur’s Bonsai that was left in our care which we forgot to water so it died so tried planting in the garden where it died a bit more and now it lives into eternity sprayed with varnish just like followers of Christ – so very fitting. The lucite Jesus is admittedly a bit kitsch but this if the first time we have housed a devotional object so I suppose we should give him a showing. The lighting is on a dimmer (and it really does look fab at night) and the figures are magnetised to the stable floor otherwise the meringue like material they are made from would cause them to tumble producing an unintended bacchanalian effect that could be offensive or comic – and we certainly don’t want that do we.

Next Maria has spent a similarly obsessive degree of energy collecting materials for a holly (with berries – had to have berries) and spruce arch around our door. We have captured it for posterity as in common with many of our Christmas adornments it is held up by faith and ‘command strips’ – said pair have historically been known to let us down when outside conditions turn particularly North Yorks. (If you haven’t discovered command strips yet they are great cos they leave your paint in tact when you remove them – dead clever but not cheap.)

Finally I am doing finishing touches to my Christmas web radio broadcast from the phone box scheduled for 8:00 pm on the 25th. https://k6.gravityisahat.com/wp/live-feeds/

I chose this as a particularly disruptive time for both the posh people who start Christmas dinner at eight or the common people who watch telly at eight – this way I can be sure of my martyrdom as its likely no one will be listening and I can rest comfortably on the myth of neglected geniushood that currently sustains me.

i cant stand being wished Happy Christmas, Season Greetings, have a good one, a happy new year and all that blah blah banal meaningless platitudinous bollocks so i wont – so there – suck it up – deal with it – cope – humpf. Tra..

The red telephone box that talks a bit like me

Instead of talking about important things like Trump losing, how difficult it is to get replacement bulbs for old style Christmas lights, how Anne with an E is too emotional to watch, how two hospitals in consort forgot to send me my blood test results, how the enormous choice of bike lights is daunting, I find myself obsessing about my stupid creative projects. Should I feel guilty? Probably – but my colleagues have had proper experiences of guilt that made me realise that it’s an emotion I don’t really ever feel – (Don’t bother to ask why we were discussing it) – That said I can’t rid myself of the feeling that what I actually end up producing creatively isn’t really very good and I think I feel guilty at spending time making shite that nobody is interested in. When I was in the depths of illness it didn’t matter and I didn’t care, but now that I have got used to wearing the same tired holey, illness vest every day it has become a bit of an issue.

That’s the problem with so many ways of seeing how creative other people are.

Pinterest and YouTube are bursting at the seams with people’s creative endeavours and I have to say too many people are pretty good at it. Youth seems to be a factor- the average Etsy entrepreneur appears to be about 30, your average soundcloud contributor about 20 and your average YouTuber about 15 which is a bit depressing. Despite a sense of hopeless unlikely-to-become-famous-now-or-even-noticedness, I seem to have an overwhelming urge to try to test my creative chops by putting on shows. I can only assume that since dropping out of theatre, well really it dropped me, I am left with residual ‘show-off withdrawal’ and that manifests itself in pathetic attempts to recapture the opportunity to ‘strut my stuff’ in public in anyway I can.

So I do feel guilty at putting all this nonsense out there. I genuinely don’t expect anyone to watch or listen – I wouldn’t watch or listen to yours – that is unless you were my children or partners in which case I would because I can bask in their glories, they being my progeny and therefore by extension their art being mine. Hah! – but I feel good once it’s out there – even if no audience ever witnesses it I can move on

So here goes.

This is a video of the broadcast I made on Halloween night from ‘the red telephone box that talks a bit like me.’ https://k6.gravityisahat.com/wp/ I am glad I did it because it should help me make something better the next time – but it’s not much cop.

Here are the things I got wrong and the things I have learnt from both the live broadcast and making the video

  1. Ultimately it’s quite boring and I don’t know how to fix that – I guess that’s the hard bit about art.
  2. Don’t set up an expectation for one thing (in this case something scary) and deliver something else – unless it’s better than expected (this wasn’t)
  3. Profit from silences and stillness. I am scared of silence and stillness so I rush to avoid them
  4. Out of sync only really works when framed by in sync. Ever since being a teenager unconsciously soaking up the post 1960’s ‘everything is art and nothing is art’ philosophy, I have been enamoured by serendipity. Serendipity results in several asynchronous sections in the video, but do I like them?
  5. Transitions and effects are only for the desperate – I don’t like what I did at the end but I had run out ideas and patience
  6. Earnestness is off putting and comes across as fake – hmm hard one cos in a way this project is full of earnest aspirations – it’s not ever going to be Instagram friendly – let’s celebrate that at least.
  7. Are you acting? If so learn to do so. Never could, never will be able act – but I enjoy trying
  8. Too many ideas too quickly – very tricky as in a way this piece is boring because of long sections where nowt happens but to dress it up will fall foul of item 3
  9. Randomness only works some of the time. See item 4
  10. I cannot rely on controlling the audio mix to maintain attention. Yep the mix is a law unto itself due to variables I can’t control in the phone box. Mainly how close to the ear the listener holds the handset.
  11. Rely most on what is said and when – this follows on from 10. The script is key and is for me is by far the hardest thing now that the tech issues are largely resolved
  12. Fragment the samples – not such long chunks. The music is a relief but I need to be more sparing and cleverer with my use of it.
  13. Use literal background effects sparingly. Let’s face it, the blitz sound track is embarrassing
  14. Video edits are millisecond specific so take the time to get it right. Can’t be bothered just now but appreciate it should be done in future.
  15. Videos need a bespoke sound design not just the live recorded performance duplicated.

The things I got right.

• Dispassionate security cameras suit the mood
• It is audio collage mainly. I think that’s the genre
• The occasional funny bits please me – I like the raspberries
• The mix of personal memories and cultural memories is a good starting point
• The three voices have potential – yep happy with that
• Making myself do the broadcasts by announcing them in advance is a good idea. I have learnt so much and feel ready for the next. So good


Video about my research

I was very pleased when I was approached by Steinar Kvia Kittilsen a masters student at Sound and Music Computing MSc at Aalborg University Copenhagen to give an interview about my favourite topic – and I was particularly pleased with the result. I think he did a great job and for once I did not come across as a complete wally (I have a back catalogue of those moments I intend to take to the grave – you know the occasions where you are determined to use big words and then discover halfway through using them that they are so big they don’t fit in your mouth). I particularly liked he’s solution to my appalling internet connection and the sync issues – “The video often freezes during the interview, but we can pretend this is on purpose to remind the audience of the artifice!”

Btw if the video preview frame from YouTube for you folk is the same as for me I really should have put my bottom set in (see below)

Dr Christopher Newell missing his bottom set

Current focus of my creative life – My Telephone Box Theatre

…so if you are interested in (possibly) one of the smallest theatres in the world, in computer generated voices, in old telephone technology or finding out more about some old guy trying to figure out who he is – then go here https://k6.gravityisahat.com/wp

and forget this site. If you are a member of my family, want to read about them or about yourself, my cancer, my politics or my cats – stick around on this site.

Thanks loyal listeners

Thanks so much to all my loyal listeners last night. Yes there was more than one! I was very pleased that the whole thing kinda worked but the mistakes and miss dials were mainly for real – cunningly covered by me. It went on a bit didn’t it! Pat reported that she lost the plot, to which I replied so did I, to which she replied what plot! – yes it was a bit of a pic’n’mix wasn’t it. My objective is to make my Christmas offering a little less Beckett and a bit more Mrs Browns Boys – We will see how that goes. Meanwhile I am taking a break from the box to prepare to examine someones utterly incomprehensible PhD – serves me right I suppose.

Broadcast update

Now that I know the audience has expanded to arena size numbers, well at least more than one, I realise that we are in uncharted waters with regard to the capacity of my service provider to host multiple listeners. I can say with some confidence that it will cope with two cos I have tested it on Maria but beyond that, who knows. So in order not to disappoint my loyal listeners, should my broadcast appear to be on permanent mute or be heavily punctuated with unintended pauses then retreat to https://soundcloud.com/gravityisahat/ashes-live and let’s pretend it’s live. Ta

Broadcasting live from the ‘Telephone box that talks a bit like me’ on Halloween Night at 8 pm

I am displaying my dirty washing (AGAIN! – you may say) on Saturday night Halloween at 8:00pm. There is so much I could say about it, apologies and pathetic justifications to alleviate the pressure to show something good, worthy, arty, entertaining… but instead i will say nothing …………………. except its only 20 minutes long:

and then recordings and videos