pointless activity

I have lots of writing projects on the go at the moment, and, after a packed day my head gets full of all sorts of gumph. In the evenings I need to empty it . . . through exercise, or a few beers, or chit-chat, or some sort of craft activity (or indeed all of these things). You will be grateful to know that I’ve taken a break from the sewing. But I have found other things to help me empty my head. Oh yes.

Yesterday Ma phoned me up to ask:
“What are you doing this evening?”
“I’m making badges.”
“Badges? What sort of badges?
“I don’t know. Just badges”
Why are you making badges?”
“erm, I don’t know . . . I just fancy making badges”

All I did know was that a few days ago I found this in the letter-tray by the side of my desk:

It is a badge (obviously). It was made for me a few years ago by my niece, Robyn. Like me, she likes Spongebob Squarepants and (for the ignorant among you) the badge is illustrated with her incredible likeness of Spongebob’s canny pet snail, Gary. When I found this the other day I was impressed not only with how well Robyn had captured Gary’s perpetually exasperated expression, but also by what a neat little badge-thing it was. “I could make that.” I thought. So I acquired a child’s badge-maker and some badge bits. And, with them and some old moviemail catalogues and other scraps of stuff, I got on with it:

sweet badge madness!

there were some early attempts with images from the Ordnance Survey:


(this is just a tiny image from the online OS — worry not — I would never massacre me maps).

. . .and reproductions of manuscripts . . .


(Bergman’s 1939 notebook)

. . . and then some pleasing experiments with the faces of the early silver screen:


(Louise Brooks, ah me).

But my pointless badge-making activity soon resolved itself — unintentionally — into a particular aesthetic:

I like these badges more than words can say. It is not just what they depict — though obviously this is important (particularly in the case of the badges to the top left and right, which show favourite moments from my all-time favourite film, Lindsay Anderson’s O! Lucky Man. This, by the way, is now finally available on DVD in the UK! Rush out now and get yerselves a copy!). But really, its just the overall feel of the badge-objects that I like. They remind me very powerfully of the crappy summer fairs that would appear in Heywood, Middleton and Boggart Hole Clough and that I went to as a child. These were the sort of fairs where you could — and did — win goldfish; from which you might come home wearing a terrible pink scarf over which the figure of John Travolta cavorted, and where there was always a stall selling dusty button badges, in washed-out ’70s colours, decorated with the faces of Paul Weller, The Police, or a Low-era Bowie.

Apologies for this shameless nostalgia, folks. I am obviously liking the badges. Enormously. But what am I going to do with them? I no longer wear badges. Really, they are nigh-functionless objects resulting from an evening’s pointless activity. I suppose sometimes its just nice to make stuff. . .