Yesterdays Gowns of Rags and Silks

It was well past midnight, too late for me. I was struggling to keep my eyes open, but I couldn’t let it go, I couldn’t close the laptop and just go to bed, not without knowing for sure.

Of course, in my mind I did know for sure. I knew perfectly well. It had always been one of my strongest memories  of my early twenties. The story was my party piece when conversation lagged, my go-to name-drop when people were boring me. Except now, with there being no evidence on the internet, I was begining to doubt it even happened.

It was in 1985, was it? or maybe 1986…

The posters advertising the gig had been plain and photocopied, black words on a white A4 sheet. “Nico” they read, then in brackets “(of the Velvet Underground)”. There was the day, the time, the venue and the price – a straight flat fiver in cash. No promoters name, no funding acknowledgement.  As I push deep into the memory it seems to become implausible, unsteadily unreal. The posters had been scattered around town, stuck to lamp-posts, like a flyer about a stolen bike, or an ad for knocked off garden furniture, a scam or a hoax. A world before social media. Who can say now what’s real and what was not.

It was summer, all the other students had gone home, but I stayed on in my bedsit. Living alone, on the dole, I guess I liked the solitude. So, I went to the gig by myself, which of course means there’s no one to check with, nobody to confirm that Nico had played the little rundown provincial town in that wet and lonely summer. The internet will not confirm my memory, I search and search, but I find no reference to it among Nico’s online setlist and gig archives. My reality is turning to fiction.

At the door I paid my cash fiver, there was no receipt, no ticket, no souvenirs, just an inky stamp on the back of my left hand. I followed a dark corridor down to a tiny windowless rehearsal studio, tucked away beneath a theatre.

Working lights, dim, the stage area filled half the space  of the room, an Harmonium pretty much in the middle of the room, behind it to the left a piano,  and a collection of percussion, gongs and a variety of drums crowded to the right.

The audience, of maybe 30 people, sat on the uncarpeted floor, buzzing for an Exploding Plastic Inevitable. I felt them double take as the three piece shuffled on stage. A question rippled through the watchers “Which one is Lou Reed?” None of them I remember thinking out loud.  I felt the punters groan collectively as the band rolled into Janitor of Lunacy. A catatonic harmomium drone, scattered striken percussion, sparse percussive piano. And then her voice. Her voice, gravelly deep and funereal, without hope, perfected. I wallowed deep in thick sonic delirium, it was all quite special to me.

Some people left, head shaking bitterly. Nico had waited too long before placating them with All Tomorow’s Parties. The journalists had already left, heading for a bar, by the time Nico gave them a single Velvet’s number. The song wasn’t instantly recognisable except for her plangent growlling voice. I thought it was beautiful, like the best sort of cover version. Different, better than before.

When the last song came round, she said “This is for my friend, Jim Morrison” and slipped into The End. Stripped bare of The Doors cocky swagger Nico’s trembling trio of finality dirged me out into the cool dark night. It was an experience to remember, and I remembered it, I relished it. But the cyber world does not.

And today there is no evidence that it ever happened, google can’t look that far back, there is no indellible facebook page about it, no twitter memory that old, no instagram to prove it real. But it did happen, I was there and I know it happened.

I found one photograph in an image search that tugged my memory, that reminded me of a part of the story I had forgotten. The photo of Nico dressed entirely in black, a pudgy middle-aged woman, hunched forward, staring down at her feet, her motorcycle boots wilting unbuckled, stilled in time. Exactly how I seen her before the show, in a tiny scrubby playground behind the venue, where I stopped to smoke a cigarette. As I sat she caught my eye with her pacing, boots flapping, she circled the seesaw, stopped short of the swings, then slumped herself onto the bench opposite me, just like the internet photo. I don’t think she even registered me there. I wanted, I wanted to run over to her, embrace her, fawn over her, beg her to bless me, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. She’d have despised me, I am sure, she’d have sneered at my fangirl superficiality. I don’t know, it’s hard being young and desperate to be cool. In anycase, she was obviously waiting for the man, the moment had passed. I finished my cigarette just as a shoddy dead-eyed street junkie sloped into view, he circled the seesaw and sidled to  her bench.

And I left, Eulogy For Lenny Bruce singing in my head: “And why after every last shot was there always another”

Novelty Magazine Issue 3 – Under The Skin

This evening sees the launch of issue three of Novelty Magazine – a quarterly online magazine thematically exploring fresh perspectives on unconventional themes.

Issue three is subtitled Under The Skin and explores notions of body and cultural identity, In their editorial Marta Faustino and Francesca Ponzini state “being truly comfortable in your skin is a courageous act of rebellion”, a principle that is evident is their careful selection and presentation. So, as you can imagine, I was delighted that my own piece – Strawberry Fair Armpit Hair – was chosen to be part of this project.

See Novelty Magazine Here 

about Bella Basura Online here



The Wall of Girls
7. Sheela-Na-Gig
9. Sheila-Na-Gig
This particular image of a Sheela-Na-Gig is by Essex artist Karen Cater and is of a carving in Kilpeck.

The Sheela-Na-Gig image occurs profusely across Ireland and the UK, principally over church doorways, thresholds and boundaries…read more

Frida Kahlo

The Wall of Girls
5. Frida Kahlo

5a. Frida Kahlo

“…Twentieth century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo positively celebrated her own excess facial hair – a so-called mono-brow, in numerous of her self-portraits she accentuates it almost into the brow of a third eye, a bindi, an organ of inner sight, pituitary gland…read more…”


The Wall of Girls
4. Kali

4. Kali

Visions of Kali

Kali Mati Murti Puja
Sacred Hindu image
Lurid with significance
Incomprehensible jumble
Of surreal symbols shuffles
To my Western eyes
Flitting randomly

Kali four blue arms
Third eye & bindi
Long poking tongue
Beads & necklaces strung
From the faces of dead men
Skirts of their limbs.
All her decapitated lovers.

Kali chthonic radiance.
The clammy ascetic air
Of the grave
Breathed out at sunrise.
At her feet flowers feed
On spilled blood & flesh
Flowing & clotting, both.

Sharp trident pierces the sky.
Glowing sunrise morning aura
And against the dark of
Her shimmering black hair,
The reborn and growing
Crescent moon is
Tucked behind her ear.

Kali Chandra crescent moon
Her foot hard down
On Shiva’s naked chest.
He be-cobra-ed ecstatic
Crescent moon waning
And Shri Kali moon waxing
Is premenstrual I think.

Jean Dark


The Wall of Girls

3.Amanda Hall

Image by Cambridge Book Illustrator – Amanda Hall

This image has delighted and fascinated me for many years since I first bought it printed up as a greetings card. I have come  to imagine the image is of the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes – Pele. Pele is also a goddess of love, and as the somewhat Freudian cigar and phallic cactus suggest the physical nature of that love. Perhaps I am wrong, there is nothing on the card to say who is the figure in the illustration, but I like to think it’s of hot old Pele, basking under a pure blue sky, her feet in a bowl of water to cool her down. I love this picture – I’d like to be this version of Pele, with her boldly painted face and cute kiss curled hair giving her a heady, alluring appeal that I can’t take my eyes from…read more…

Kathy Acker

The Wall of Girls
2. Kathy Acker

2. Kathy Acker

Memorial 1998
Kathy Acker, who has often been described as post-punk post-feminist and post-industrial, in fact  first appeared in print as part of the burgeoning New York literary underground of the mid 70s. She remained on the margins of the literary establishment, only being published in small presses until the mid 80s, thus earning herself the epithet of literary terrorist. 1984 saw her first British publication, her shit-kicking hell-hole of a novel –Blood and Guts in High School…read more…

Cat Anna

The Wall of Girls
1. Cat Anna

1.Black Annis

Also called Black Annis
Image by Jenny Clarke
taken from the cover of
Leicestershire Legends retold by Black Annis
Bob Trubshaw ISBN 978 1872 883 779)

Deep in the Dane Hills area of Leicester there is said to be a dark dank cave inhabited by a terrifying woman-creature known as Cat Anna. Her skin is blue, her hair is matted unkempt fur, her fingernails are blood-blacken claws, her tongue long long and sandpaper rough, she is naked apart from a girdle made of babies-skulls…read more...

The Wall of Girls

Goddesses, Heroines and Role Models


Bella Basura’s “The Wall of Girls” is an evolving site-specific installation of prints, photographs & postcards that has been following me around and building up volume for many years. Acquiring new images and losing others each and every time I move house.

In the past three years “The Wall of Girls” has been dismantled and re-assembled five times. As if my concept of womanhood is in flux.

My most recent move happened the weekend before last, and the girls were down, transported and back on the wall overlooking my writing desk within two days. I need them there. They are my barometer of myself.

Have no doubt , they will be edited, moved around and settled in over the next few months, just as I will become solidified, consolidated and celebratory. Thankful for the stillness.

I offer this projected sequence of blogs to be a snapshot-memoria to “The Wall of Girls 2013 – Goddesses, Heroines and Role Models”.

List of Images