Half Time Oranges

August 10th, 2015

“I’ve been away, I’ve been working… But now I’m back, and I need to know that you’re still there.
I need to know that you still care…
Of course you do!”

We are at the mid point of the summer holidays, and school, plus those shopping lists, currently feel a long way away.

After three weeks of normal life, a little refresher is required, hence the titular pun, nit just because the football’s back but also because orange is the new black in terms of being my new favourite colour, and not just because it is the only colour named after a fruit, despite popular belief that the opposite was true.

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Anyway, back to the summer, and orange was a prominent colour during our trip to Italy. Betsy’s first foray abroad, she flew brilliantly, and was in good spirits when we touched down in Tuscany, so much so that her happy shouts of “MUMMY!” “NANNIE!” and “GRANDAD!” across the car hire office were met with smiles by all apart from the Hertz rental woman who scowled and moaned, complaining that she had to work in the noise, and that B should be quiet.

Welcome to Italy? Are you serious, I asked, to be met with a Tuscan profanity.

“Ma’ va te ne a fanculo,” I said.

Other than that, it was seven days of heaven, replete with Strega, sunshine, swimming, sightseeing in beautiful Siena, bistecca, Firenze, Peroni (the proper stuff) a few shopping lists too, and reading the really quite wonderful Pirlo autobiography as well as the Gazzetta everyday which whetted my appetite for what was to come at home.

Meanwhile, I adopted the look of a gondolier as we roamed the hot Florentine streets, marvelling at the signage and the lifestyle and wishing we could stay longer in the archipelago. I tasted lampredotto for the first time, drank grappa at 11am, caught a gecko to show B what nature abroad looked like, bought half decent bottles of wine for a Euro and most of all, indulged in quality family time that gets forgotten about when you live your life by a bell alongside unruly teens.

The holiday of a lifetime, then, for us all, and hopefully the first of many for Boo, even if she was secretly suffering from chicken pox throughout and the spots appeared once we got home, coming down to earth with a bump, alongside a flat tyre, lots of rain, and somewhat bizarrely, dead pigeons.

Now I wrote two years ago exactly, that an unwell pigeon appeared outside the flat as if a sign that B was on her way (she arrived a week later) and it was a test for me to nurse it overnight. It symbolised, I thought, the arrival not just of our daughter but of Duncan Ferguson as first team coach who I’d seen that day at a pre-season friendly with my Dad.

This is him, the day he came to school.

Duncan was my idol as a teenager and as a young man. My GCSE art exam was a portrait of him leaving court. Yes, many will say he never fulfilled his potential, and he did go to jail for an on-field misdemeanour following lots of off-field ones but he gave us hope, a voice, he was an enigma, a genius, mysterious yet open and both loved and loving. He even made it into my best man’s wedding speech.

Fast forward two years, I’m at another pre-season friendly with my Dad – Duncan’s testimonial no less, which ended in tears with me reminiscing during his post-match address – and then, later that evening, at about 8pm we heard a thud, went out to investigate and a baby pigeon lay dead on next door’s drive.

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Meanwhile, a lonely feather and a ghostly outline, like a chalk drawing at a murder scene, clung to the glass.

I’d seen it with its parent, presumably learning to fly, and couldn’t help but feel sadness at the episode, signalling the end as it did, of my project photographing dead pigeons: although, somewhat serendipitously, my best friend / man had that very day sent me a specimen he had seen, a nicer way to close the project, methinks, alongside this classic that my father in law introduced me to the night I started writing this post.

The next day sees us off to look for garden sheds. How things have changed, you might think, and you’d be right: apart from Italy, another highlight of the holiday at half time is two days spent nitromorsing a fireplace to restore it to a former glory and it’s taking time but coming on well. So, after choosing said shed, we opted for lunch out, and after our last visit to Formby when I saw three current and former Everton stars, I wondered what – or more accurately, whom – awaited us this time.

Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed: two current Liverpool ‘stars’ who front NIVEA campaigns, having a cosy lunch I tried to ignore, and, on the next table, a former Reds player whose little boy played with B as he sipped his wine, which might have resulted in a missed chance the following weekend… the strange world of professional footballers, who took home loads of boxes of pizza and pasta whilst I got a discount code from my inbox in advance of the bill, and they presumably went home to their mansion whilst we came home to – a shopping trolley?

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The dead pigeon had gone, whilst opposite the house had appeared a TESCO trolley. I immediately thought of the excellent Gomez album of b-sides from back in the noughties. I searched for said hotline, obviously nowadays there’s an app for everything so downloaded that instead, and I used it to report the trolley but after two days (enjoyed drinking among the hipsters in town and then, in the night garden) when it hadn’t been collected as the app promised, I contacted TESCO and they’d arrived within the hour to take it away.

This all brought me back to the shopping lists and, strangely, the future.

There are lots more lists on their way, don’t you worry, including some from Italy you’ll be pleased to know, but I just wonder whether the excellent series HUMANS will ‘come true’ anytime soon, what with their synths who do everything for their owners and can remember shopping lists easily, and if shopping lists – just like holiday memories and the pigeon – become a thing of the past…

056 (MELON?)

July 16th, 2015

056

A nice mix of specificity and disconcerting vagueness.

What seems at first to be particularly healthy, what with its fruit and benecol, then veers towards organic brand names and cheapish beers with a few intriguing question marks along the way.

The pedant in me would expect anyone who plans so meticulously their brand of peanut butter (what’s wrong with Sun-Pat?) to know that the ham has Parma in Italy as its Denominazione di origine proteta.

It then ends with another metaphorical question mark, in terms of type of juice needed.

I’m pretty sure it would have been organic, whatever flavour.

055 (BOGGY)

July 16th, 2015

055

Another list with multiple authors.

Another with items crossed out.

Another bundle of contradictions.

What stands out most on here is actually its title.

It should be quite self explanatory that this should be a shopping list, quite why the authors needed to write this in again is beyond me, perhaps it was drummed into them by their English teachers that every page needed a title? This idea is heightened by their care to spell chewing gum correctly: a self-fulfilling prophecy, then, that I, who do the same, should serendipiditously retrieve and write about this list.

The list itself contains a wide range of products, going from the sublime (high end goods such as butternut squash) to the quite ridiculous – I have an idea of what boggy is, nor basta, and whilst some ingredients seem suitable for an OAP, others we assume are for babies, especially the ones written in the younger looking and more feminine manuscript. Meanwhile, others are pretty much illegible.

But at least we know it’s part of a shopping list.

054 (TOM)

July 16th, 2015

054

A strange, minimalist, combination of items: one food, one toiletry, one confectionery.
Again, the notions of memory resonate, and the difficulty of remembering three items. Sesame Street reminds me most days, that even a child can recall three things when on an errand, what with its classic animation, I can remember:

Without wanting to slight anyone with amnesia or worse, surely the author could have remembered these three things, or not wasted paper and instead written them on their hand as I would have done in this situation, especially with the surreal mix of products…

I don’t really understand the link between them: maybe I’ve got the abbreviations wrong, and it’s simply a reminder that Tom has an interview so needs to smell nice in preparation.

053 (LEMONS X 2)

July 16th, 2015

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I like that this list is colourful, it makes a nice change from the boring white or lined paper that seem to be most common amongst Sefton’s shoppers.

This list interests me most not because of the still quite interesting contents – it looks like a Mediterranean roast might be on the menu – but more so for the extravagance of the paper it’s written on and also what isn’t on the list.

I once did a performance at a gallery partly inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning drawing, in which I rubbed out some of the drawings I had done as a young boy.

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Star Wars, Rambo, A-Team characters , all of which now exist only as grooves in thirty-year-old pieces of paper where pencil once sat thanks to that intervention on the theme of Demolition.

As B develops her mark-making skills at a fast rate, I wonder if she will be doing something similar in a few years, when space allows I will keep her scrawlings just in case. Talking of female artists, Sophie Calle once did a project involving eating things of the things of one colour each day of the week, entitled The Chromatic Diet.

I tell you all of this because the omissions contradict the usual process. A shopping list is, by definition, an aide memoire and normally discarded only once it’s served its purpose: it is unusual to see things crossed out seemingly before the shopping trip takes place.

I wonder why certain ingredients on this list – what looks like avocado, broccoli, cauliflower and peas – were suddenly not needed that day.

Were they bought somewhere else?

Was there a last minute change of heart – or taste?

For someone seemingly into their colours, this list appears quite anti-green vegetables.

Maybe it was Sophie Calle’s list, written on a Thursday.

052 (SMOKE ALARMS)

July 16th, 2015

052

Sometimes, a list can almost too good to be true.

This person had ripped it up into four pieces, and I painstakingly reunited the fragments as carefully as Nino Quincampoix in Amelie when he carefully solves the puzzles within discarded passport photographs.

I suppose that’s what this project is all about – and every project I’ve done over the years which relates to collections and categorisation – trying to answer a question, to unravel a mystery, to understand and remember…

Going back to the list, though: why had they – she, I’d assume – ripped it up?

Perhaps she wasn’t expecting the meal, what looks like a delicious Thai curry, to go well. Hence the smoke alarms being on the list, too, in case they are also an essential part of the recipe.

051 (GET A SHAVE)

July 16th, 2015

051

A funny little list, this one.

It gets off to a bizarre start – as if the shaving ritual is the most important moment of the day, and the other products can only be bought after cleaning up of (presumably) the face.

Then there’s a diverse range of items that belie its quite aggressive opening. I wouldn’t have expected, for example, this person to only need an ECHO, some table salt and then some dark soy sauce, if the shave is all important just to nip out to buy those three items.

I found this on a busy road and spent the rest of the day looking out for clean shaven individuals with a penchant for Asian food, an eye for local news and invigorated tastebuds.

050 (CREM)

July 12th, 2015

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I really love the high & low mix of products on this list.

The handwriting is nice, it’s considerate buying for others, though quite what other types of whiskey (sic) there are other than drinking, the mind boggles.

I think they might actually have had a cold, hence the Fleetwood favourites, the Fisherman’s Friends so will forgive the whisky reference, and there is some healthy influence on there but the use of brackets for the cream is really perturbing.

Almost as if it’s taken for granted that the cream will be remembered, as if it’s a given… The use of punctuation for effect being something I now assess, well done for the subtle inclusion of subliminal reminders.

Or, maybe you just bought it somewhere else.

049 (LIDLE)

July 12th, 2015

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At first glance this looked to be a rather strange list, huge quantities of specific products, and I guessed straight away that it was for a café or restaurant.

Looking at the back, my beliefs were proven correct as it had been badly scrawled on a menu leaflet not just for any café, but for the nearest one to where I live, and regularly frequent, whose very good reputation and higher price range goes against not just shopping at LIDL but also the poorly written demands for essentials.

At least I now know what not to order on our next visit.

048 (MARMELADE)

July 12th, 2015

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The shortest of my lists, I think.

Quite why this product was ripped off from the other I have no idea, nor whatever else was on the list.

Presumably someone called Mary was ill, and in a fit of pique, made this symbolic gesture.

047 (RIB)

July 12th, 2015

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A really strange mix of products here, as well as other items.

A mobile phone number – I could have rung it if I wanted to know whose list this might be, but didn’t, and please don’t – a doctor’s appointment reminder, and an address.

Then, ingredients for the old and young alike, some indecipherable and others spelt incorrectly but generally, all very northern – Pop, chips, chops in piece – and then the rather sinister rib.

Spare Ribs? Rib of beef? A human bone for the doggy to gnaw on? Adam’s to create a new female version?

I guess we’ll never know.

046 (COTTIS)

July 12th, 2015

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The list itself is fascinating: exotic ingredients such as herring and the mysterious ‘cottis’ hint at an older shopper, who reads the Mail and also goes the bakers. Quite why milk should be scribbled on the list carelessly, though, is another question – who wrote that?

I think this might be my first double note.

However, there is something else equally perplexing: What struck me immediately about this list is the beautiful handwriting.

It almost looks like someone’s who is learning to write English, it’s so precise and neat, they even went to the trouble of drawing a neat little border around the list and then cut it out carefully with scissors.

This idea is borne out by what was on the back of the list: or, what the list was on the back of.

Someone seemingly learning Latin.

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045 (WRAPPING PAPER)

July 8th, 2015

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There is so much about this list I want to talk about.

The ingredients are impressive enough. Healthy, cleanliness obsessed, rice heavy… Well done, whoever compiled it!

But what I love most of all, especially in these times of austerity, is the meticulous planning of the week’s meals.

A really frugal housewife, perhaps, who has thought out in advance what to buy and what to cook and what the family(?) will eat regardless of weather, events, spanners in the works.

We do something similar, though not quite so rigid.

In fact, of all the 45 lists I have dissected so far, this perhaps is the most similar to what my own would look like, in that there is an eclectic mix of ingredients and meals and show some culinary expertise alongside pragmatism that improvisation isn’t always possible in the working week.

But enough of the praise. The big question is, what was the wrapping paper for?

044 (GNOCCHI)

July 8th, 2015

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An impressive list.

People with a quite archpelagal diet, they even eat in the colours of the tricolore and it whets my appetite for our upcoming visit to Italy.

Forget the football shirts, the grappa or the unforgettable sunsets, what will really make my trip will be finding an authentic Italian list.

I jest, of course – a first foreign jaunt for B, quality time with the family, a week away after an annus horribilis, are all more important and rewarding, and should I not find a lista della spesa then this one will do nicely.

Quite why it’s written on the bottom of a letter from the Nationwide, though, I’ll keep pondering.

043 (CAT FUD)

July 8th, 2015

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I set out on this project not wanting to be an English teacher, or come across as a snob, but I’ve honestly never seen food spelt this way.

I’m all for shorthand and code. It adds to the mystery of everything.

But to lose a letter and then lose a list for me to find, is lazy at best.

Still, the list itself suggests a lazy Sunday morning for kitty and human alike, with bacon sandwiches and Sheba all around. I picture a middle aged couple lying in bed, reading the paper, cat cosying up and enjoying being spoilt, happily devouring the bacon rind.

042 (USE COUPON)

July 8th, 2015

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A simple list with a simple instruction.

USE THE COUPON… OR ELSE.

A coupon for milk suggests savvy shoppers, as even a four pinter can cost lest than 2 quid.

Unless of course it’s maybe baby milk formula, which can be expensive but very rarely do you get coupons for, due to EU laws. I am something of an expert on this product, have been for the last twenty two and a half months, and would concur that the importance of it might have led to this rather aggressive reminder to remember the money off token.

I hark back to my childhood with this list: Macauley Culkin in Home Alone 2, doing the grocery shopping and the bored till girl rolling her eyes when Kevin says, “I got a coupon for that!” excitedly.

041 (LOAF)

July 8th, 2015

Quite a cosmopolitan list, someone with continental tastes: somewhat Neapolitan what with the pizza, the olives, ice cream, the tomatoes… and leaves?

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Presumably this is salad, but could be tea, which fits better with the stereotype of someone with a more traditional, English diet that comes with the rather aggressive finale which stands out most on this scrap.

“Said, d’yer like to go… for tea and toast?”

The LOAF seems to be essential. As if the other objects are relegated in importance, and the most important object is saved ‘til last so that it is remembered…

This goes against an aspect of psychology I learned when starting out as a waiter back in the summer of 1996, and we were encouraged by middle managers to always ask ‘standard or small?’ when selling glasses of wine because the former of the two options will stick in the mind.

At the minute my little girl is at an interesting stage in her development in terms of making choices, and theories we have read have suggested giving her guiding choices that we want her to make, so I might try this technique with her.

What an influence, eleven objects on a shopping list can have…

Wanderlust

July 8th, 2015

I write in advance of the release of some more lists, basking in the ‘glory’ of some press recognition – not just for me, but also for one of my heroes, someone very few people will have ever heard of.

The links between our ideas and work are clear, although a little contrived because, whilst I had had a fascination with collection from an early age, it was the showing of a VHSd South Bank Show documentary entitled ‘Worlds in a Box’ on a dark and dreary midweek afternoon in Blackpool College, on my foundation and during which at least two fellow students fell asleep, I was falling in love with the work of Joseph Cornell.

Seeing his boxes affected my work for years onwards, aswell as my understanding of beauty and sublime in the everyday, the notion of flotsam and jetsam being all important, and certainly influenced this current obsession I painstakingly upload for your enjoyment twice weekly.

I have read a lot about the recluse, I have been lucky enough to spend hours looking at those couple of ‘poetical theatres’ up close and personal when they have been on show locally, and most bizarrely, on my first visit to New York I took a train out to Flushing and wandered up and down his street – the aptly named Utopia Parkway – in the hope of finding his house.

I didn’t, and stumbled back through Queens with a bizarre sense of regret but also knowing that it was lovely just to have been on the street where he lived, searching the gutters for more odds and ends to display with loving care in his ‘toys for adults’. The romance, the childish yet heartfeltly knowing nature of the boxes have to be seen to be believed: therefore, I would urge anyone near London to drop everything and go the Royal Academy for their current offering which ends on my birthday.

I read a gushing review at the weekend and recognized the links with what I am doing. I haven’t yet seen a way to display the lists so beautifully, but some of the quotes resonated with my ideas and show that, fifteen years on, his inspiration remains.

He died seven years before I was born, but the critic described him as having ‘had the mind of a visionary and the mind of an archivist’ which is something I’d like to aim for, as well as his work making ‘you peer through the glass into these alien places, and what you see may be both captivating and incomprehensible…’

Talking of write ups, the Hannah Festival press release finally made it in to the local newspaper at the weekend although I only found out thanks to an astute colleague, because the feature didn’t make it into my town’s version of said ‘paper.

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Still, it was nice to read the take on it, the comments associated, and to wonder what readers who didn’t know me, might have made of this strange fellow and his shopping lists.

I wondered more when twice out shopping last weekend, as the paper was being read by people nearby, for the first time in what feels like months, I didn’t find one list!

It was almost as if my idea that somebody is playing a game, became a bit more true, and the locals had purposely withheld the information I crave… as the Observer critic Laura Cumming said, ‘like a puzzle that only a savant could solve’.

Thankfully, Huyton folk don’t get the same paper, so I found three more today to add to the list of lists.

040 (SKORPER)

July 2nd, 2015

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Another foreign list, this one is apparently Scandinavian – Swedish to be precise, thanks to Google Translate and I might actually have picked it up on one of our many visits to IKEA a while back.

I can’t be sure, I would have been in too much of a daze, but it’s interesting to think there may be Swedes shopping and living amongst us.

The list contains baby items, including rusks – a childhood favourite of mine (Farley’s, not IKEA’s) – and affelsposer which is bin bags.

Also, seemingly, balm and spray paint…

I recently watched the incredibly impressive Banksy Does New York documentary, and wonder if this list is by the Swedish version of him / her.

039 (2 CHEWY)

July 2nd, 2015

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This is definitely one of my favourite lists of all – if only for the handwriting.

As someone who once got on guest lists and into museum displays for his calligraphic skills, I greatly admire the angular scrawl and even the totemic shape of the list.

It’s quite aggressive, too: as if the list is being shouted out like a Francis Bacon painting, and strikes me as being by someone whose interest in the aesthetic matches their precise shopping needs – and the strange code it is written in.

Boilham? Birdsfish? These items sound amazing.

2 Chewy presumably means chewing gum, which is fine, but the word afterwards hints at Frosties which isn’t on the list (unless it was torn off at the top?)