Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections: Adelle Stripe

Adelle Stripe | 12th December 2019

It’s time once again for the annual series of postings we like to call Shadows and Reflections, in which our contributors and friends look back on the past twelve months. From Adelle Stripe:

2019 has been a year of travel, in a physical and psychological sense. As a non-driver (incapable, not for lack of trying) I spend the majority of my waking hours on the dreaded northern rail bone-shakers, trundling between Calderdale, Leeds, York, and Manchester on the pacers from hell. Although I say this with gritted teeth, there is one benefit to our appalling public transport system and its delays: extended daydreaming time, reading time, and listening to music time has provided me with a fountain of material to draw from.

I have read a vast amount of books this year and have worked on a fair few words myself: namely, a pamphlet for Rough Trade Books – Sweating Tears with Fat White Family, and a memoir piece in Common People: An Anthology of Working-Class Writers. Oh yes, and the intro to Faber’s new edition of Gordon Burn’s Alma Cogan, a first draft of a new novel over summer, and the stage adaptation of Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile that toured Yorkshire in June. Thankfully Lisa Holdsworth took good care of that, and the resulting play reconfigured my little book into something new entirely. The opening night was held upstairs at a boozer in Bradford – and the moment Emily Spowage walked onto The Beacon set dressed as Andrea Dunbar was jaw-dropping. It felt as though her ghost has appeared in front of me. It was even more surprising that so many London theatre journalists came to Bradford to see it. This was a major coup for the city, and I am glad to have played a small part in it.

So. here is a list of stuff that has tickled my fancy this year. Let’s start with BooksIt Gets Me Home, This Curving Track by Ian Penman features some of the finest music writing I have read this century and is a masterclass in literary journalism. This is how it’s done. Although I’m a year late, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh was a smart and witty portrait of a nonchalant arsehole of a character that had me in fits of laughter at various points. Ottessa rules. To Evelyn: Posters from the Stars is a collection of club entertainer flyers from a working men’s club in Rotherham during the 1980s and 90s. An old lady called ‘Evelyn’ watched each one and had her flyers signed, before adding them to her magnificent archive. Her grandson discovered the collection following her death, and this resulting book is a window into the world of bad Northern cabaret. It reminds me of family members in Hull, so it was a delight to stumble over this beautifully designed tribute to Evelyn’s life. Other honourable mentions include Jenn Ashworth’s Notes Made While Falling, an unflinching and often harrowing account of childbirth that is flawlessly executed, and the forthcoming Threshold by Rob Doyle. This is one of the most thrilling drug memoirs in recent history that I’d describe as, erm…Geoff Dyer on DMT. Apparently, the businessman’s lunch trip is all the rage amongst the chattering classes these days… 

I have been to many gigs this year, but a highlight was Richard Dawson’s benefit show for the RNIB at the Golden Lion in Todmorden. He sang a cover of The Bangles’ Eternal Flame that triggered floods of tears; it felt poignant considering his recent struggles with sight-loss. Sometimes music can elevate you to another plane, and Richard’s voice somehow pushed me over the edge that night. Or perhaps the full moon and hormones had entered the equation. Another terrific show was Viagra Boys at the Brudenell Social Club. Sebastian Murphy’s prowler routine was electrifying. I had no idea who they were, or what they were about, but stumbled across them by accident and had my head blown off, Stooges-style, in the process. When they played ‘Sports’, crowdsurfers kicked the venue’s ceiling in. It was a tremendous show. 

Vinyl highlights of 2019 include Serfs Up! by Fat White Family, in particular its haunted mambo, ‘When I Leave, a song so heavy in duende it burns the blood like powdered glass; the Lynchian ‘Dead of Night‘ by masked gay cowboy singer, Orville Peck (Roy Orbison would be proud); Missy Elliott’s dancefloor detonator, ‘Throw it Back‘, who shows the boys how heavy bass is really done; and not forgetting Warmduscher’s fizzing ‘Disco Peanuts‘. What a video, too. 

In the Kingdom of Mytholmroyd we have fifty words for rain, such is the desperate situation of our unholy climate. The positive side to this is that many residents are productive, seeing as the weather’s too awful to spend much time in. Thankfully we have television, and log fires. This year I devoured Russian Doll featuring the divine Natasha Lyonne (Nadia is the woman I’d most like to go out on the tiles with), and Euphoria, which was an unexpected pleasure of a series that transformed a coming-of-age drama into a much darker prospect. 

As the end of this decade draws to a close, I am planning on a quiet Christmas and New Year before 2020 kicks in. Big plans are afoot, and I hope to finally fling myself into writing a music book that’s been bullying me since the age of 15. The time feels right for a revolution of the head. See you all down the rabbit hole…