The East Is Pink
Abi Frost

See you at the mailing comments, she said..........

Urp. Well, I've got this book on metal-colouring, and it's really heavy ... and sometimes I don't know whether I'm on my head or my heels, and then there were the fanzine reviews ... and I used that excuse last time ... not to mention the bedbugs.

(The bedbugs were what I call really fucking unfair. Finally I had to admit that I wasn't allergic to my new duvet cover, because they started biting my boyfriend, so we went out and spent seventy quid on a new bed, and it was only when we removed the grotty old mattress that I'd been sleeping on for the last year that we discovered that bedbugs don't live in mattresses ... they live in wallpaper. Under the bits you didn't stick down quite hard enough, to be precise. So we sprayed it all with smelly insecticide, and then had to strip it all off; and now Dick says I have to fill in the cracks underneath it before I paint it. I thought men were for that, but apparently not.)

No the horrid truth is that I've lost the sodding mailing I'm supposed to comment on. No doubt it will turn up, but for the moment I have to improvise. All that remains of the wonderful unnamed is gratitude to Janice Maule for putting the anti-apa case so well, and saving me the trouble, a faint evanescent memory of a Harvey malapropism or two, and sheer joy at the prospect of reading Pat Charnock again......

← Obligatory
bit no. 1

(I could fill several lines of reduced Courier with an analysis of why Wrinkled Shrew is the best fanzine I've ever seen, but since the membership of this thing presumably breaks down into those who know anyway, those who've never seen or heard of it, and Ms C herself, who would either get swollen headed or tell me she's never been so insulted in her life, there seems little point.... People do that, you know. At the Tun at which my second lot of fanzine reviews came out, I went to hide from Langford's delighted bulletins: "He says he'll hit you ... She just said 'well, sod her!' ... Martyn Taylor is muttering --" outside the pub. I met Phil Palmer, who rounded on me with blazing eyes "HOW DARE YOU say I'm 'coming on fine'? I'll get you for that....")

Actually, I'm not sure that there would have been much point in detailed comments anyway. Most of the thing consisted of people's views on how the apa should be run, for god's sake, and if I comment on all that, then you all comment on my and each other's comments, we ought at least to settle on calling the thing The Women's Journal of Democratic Procedure. I'm for a fascist dictator, myself, and no, I don't want the job. I hope this one will be a bit more varied in content; inevitably, I suppose it must be.

No, what you really want to know about is the bedbugs. Bedbugs are little pink things, which when they have eaten your blood become dark red with circular bodies, and when you squash them with a wallpaper brush full of disinfectant the blood runs down the wall rather entertainingly. And they bite something horrid -- cat fleas are friendly beasts by comparison. There is something very pleasing indeed about spraying your room with smelly stuff, and coming back hours later to find the floor an Armageddon of little buggy corpses.

The metals book continues, in fact when I stop typing this I have to take the latest proofs down to Michael's workshop, where the lads are furiously boiling things in stuff that smells worse than bug-killer in order to have lots of exciting new coloured samples for their exhibition. They actually asked my opinion of a bowl, which was dark brown with a punched pattern which should have filled up with green, last night....

← Heavy art-critical
bit – note the
change of typeface

What do you think of this eh, Abi?

Hmm ... makes an insufficiently articulate statement. Needs more green bits.

She's right, you know, Richard ... but there's no time to do it again now. Couldn't you just fill them in with paint or something?

Throw that woman out, Mike ... Could we use viridian poster paint, or shall I go to the shop in the morning?

The really massive thing in my life, though, is that I've resigned my job in order to go and be a student. It hasn't really quite hit me yet. I shan't have a grant, and have really very little idea what I'll live on. "I can always let the spare room," I say, and then calculate how long it will take me to move all my stuff out of it ... then I get bored and go out and spend money on things to wear, on the grounds that I soon won't be able to. There is a flaw in this argument, but don't point it out.

You don't want my lecture on the New Technology and Grammatical Elements in Typography, now do you? So I will merely explain that I'm going to the London College of Printing, to study book and periodical design and production, and anyone who laughs will be severely disciplined. It's only for a year -- next July I have to find a job again, and in fact the more I think about it the more I realise I must be soft in the head.

It's a strange place, the LCP, a combination of art school and day-release college, I have always associated it with very severely traditional typographic designers, super-cool type which you need microscope eyes to read, and also with hack photographers like Dick; but I keep hearing about rather more interesting people who went there. According to John Clute, Charles Platt was one ... but I think it's recovered. A jeweller I know told me that her former partner suddenly decided to give up jewelling and do typography at LCP; and the very wonderful (and according to Phil Palmer, defunct) colour-xerox artzine, Cipher (Jake Tilson) was/is partly printed there.

When I walked in for the interview (back in May) I was overcome by sentimental memories of Lost Youth. It took a little time (like the time it took to find the lift) to identify the reason: the good old ILEA smell, composed of mystic potions of ILEA food and the special ILEA floor polish, which cleaners push around (soaked into heaps of sawdust -- at primary school I was convinced it was deodorised sick) with very wide brooms, and other things of which only ILEA know. Oddly, I've had to visit most of the other London art colleges in the course of my job, and none of them have it. I'm not sure it bodes all that well.

Oh, it will be FUN, playing with composing machines, and getting ink all over myself; after nine years working in offices I deserve to do something practical. I'm even reconciled to General Studies, having found out that the tutor is Brian Behan, brother of my dad's old drinking mate and seminal sixties figure, Brendan Behan. (This is no big deal -- Brendan drank with everyone on Fleet Street). I think, actually, there should be some sort of compulsory break for everyone after a few years' work; how anyone gets anything done with all that residue of tiredness beats me. Why do we have to all work a five-day week for forty or fifty years -- especially when there isn't enough work for all of us, anyway? The craftspeople I work with all teach two or three days a week, and do their own stuff the rest of the time; this seems sensible to me. The writers I know, on the other hand, either try to combine writing with a full time job, or think they have some kind of divine right to earn a standard middle-class income from writing alone -which seems a bit optimistic, if nothing else.


Actually, in terms of the other page, it's now tomorrow (if you see what I mean), so I can exclusively reveal that when I went to the workshop the lads were re-boiling the bowl with green bits. It looked purple when they took it out of the pot to show me, but no doubt that was meant.


I shall miss those two. It was really only a sense of duty to them that stopped me from resigning months ago; why should four years' work for them go down the tubes just because the Crafts Council can't organise its man(woman)power properly? Once I'd taken the job on, I had to stay, or there would have been a two-month gap with nobody working on it, followed by the arrival of whatever little arty deb my boss could hire for the miserable salary she would offer a new person. For most of this year I've been working entirely on my own; when my boss and her secretary moved over the road to our spanking new gallery, they effectively ceased to work on publications; at the same time, we took on two projects (the metals book and a series of science textbooks for conservators) which really demanded two editorial staff each. Plus, I am expected to organise all the typesetting etc for the information section, since the secretary there is too bloody thick/idle to learn how. (Her predecessor was a miracle; but she left to learn carpentry.)


Moan, groan ... it'll all be over soon. Meanwhile, I can enjoy myself actually saying what I think for once, on the excuse that I don't want my successor to have as hard a time as I have, this past year. Bureaucrats quiver under the lash of my venomous tongue, while fellow creative staff (the magazine staff) give three cheers. At this rate, though, no one will come to my leaving party....

Does anyone know if Joyce had read Freud? Bloom's random associations are very like those in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, which I've just started reading -- though I have a feeling I may have read it before. I'm fascinated by the way a lot of the associations seem to turn on quotations from Goethe; assuming Freud isn't talking through his hat, this must prove that (in some people at least) literary quotation is a very deep-rooted habit. Obviously, there are quotations (like Orwell's famous group from Kipling) that people don't even recognise as quotations, but I'm really talking about my own habit of slipping a bit of Yeats into everyday chatter, which seems to irritate the hell out of some of the rougher beasts of fandom. Groups of words, for me, begin to act as single words in a particular context; they have extra meaning for their associative qualities.

Time to stop. The next one, since I won't have the Council's photocopier any more, will be Monotype set and printed in six colours on a web-offset. Or maybe duplicated, just for a change.

This comes from Abigail Frost, 69, Robin Hood Gardens, Cotton Street, E14.

12 August 1982.

The Women's Periodical 1 (August 1982)
Cover for this mailing by Abigail