Aunt Cyn – not just there for the lovely things in life

(posted by Aunt Cyn)

Hello, my dears. Oh, what a day it’s been! There was a serious jam explosion in my exquisite Laura Ashley kitchen earlier today, and there are the remains of what can only be described as ‘splattered’ loganberry simply everywhere. Fortunately, Tuesday is the day my lovely French cleaner, Jean-Paul, comes in to whip round the place with a duster, some J-cloths and Fairy Liquid Power. He’s a lovely boy. If I were twenty years younger … I’d still be too old for him.

Anyway, it turns out that young Michael – who’s no doubt chasing those lovely young French women in gay Paree as we speak – wanted me to do more during my week taking care of his website than just ramble on about my colourful, vibrant life. You may remember that I am the resident agony aunt on the Liechtenstein Mail & Herald – and we thought it would be a lovely idea to syndicate my advice column this week. I’ve dispensed my words of wisdom, pearls of advice and jolly homespun philosophies to Michael a number of times, and he’s always said to me, with pride, “Auntie Cyn, you’re full of it!” By which he means, of course, I’m full of problem-solving wisdom. He’s such a dear!

So for this week, and this week only, email me with your problems and I’ll attempt to solve them during my residency on Troubled Diva.

You can contact me at:, whereupon I will discuss your problems with all my friends at the Liechtenstein Whist Club, before returning here with a response.

As I always say to my loyal readers – “If you can’t trust your Auntie, who can you trust?”

Gimme an D [for Dumb*ss]

[Posted by Mac]

Mike seems vaguely fascinated by the fact that I used to be a cheerleader. Who can blame him? It’s a weird thing to do. Being a former crack addict is more respectable than being a former cheerleader.

I have cheerleading shame.

Really, it’s hard to be a former cheerleader. To own up to willingly putting on a brief polyester outfit and making a complete ass out of yourself in front of large crowds of drunken sports fans is to admit that you’re a freakin’ idiot. It’s embarrassing to know that I have picked a wedgie thousands of times in public. There’s nothing dignified about being a cheerleader.

Least dignifying of all is the memory of the horrible cheerleading episodes gone awry. Like the time I was cheering at a crowded basketball game, lost my balance, and fell backwards through the swinging doors into the boys locker room. Oh, the grace and beauty of such a move! As if the act of being a cheerleader isn’t bad enough, I have to be a big klutz.

You also lose your street cred when you become a cheerleader. There’s just no way to be cool anymore. When once I was a green haired, combat boot wearing, Ministry loving freak, I could not shake the image of the big haired, gum chewing, vacant eyed bimbo.

There is only one thing that cheerleading has prepared me for. Even though I may be a seething bag of hate on the inside, I can fake being happy and behind the team very, very well. I owe all of my employment success to this very useful tool.

Tracks To Educate Young People With

(posted by quarsan)

Number Three: Eine Symphonie Des Grauens – Monochrome Set (lyrics)

One of the funniest bands ever, the Monochrome Set epitomised the word quirky, and had a lovely sense of self-depreciation. Here’s a quote from their title song:

I fascinate, infatuate
You’re dreary, you’re base, deary
But your face is weary for me

I’m heaven sent, so eloquent
And curiously
I entertain your tiny brain
So spuriously

The Monochrome Set, Monochrome Set, Monochrome Set

Now, who could fail to be charmed by lyrics like that. I got into the set in my first flat in Edinburgh,one I shared with members of the Scars and Another Pretty Face. We had an almost nocturnal existance, sleeping during the day and speeding every night. We’d come home around 10 am from partying and put on a couple of discs to come down to.

There was something about the Set that gave me something good and strangely innocent to hang my psyche onto whilst my mind slowly crumbled into a daze that passed for sleep in those days. Eine symphonie seemed to fit into the mood with it’s comically dark lyrics, and it’s eccentric melody just made it a good track to wrap your psyche around.

Time has been kind to this most English of bands, their jollity is as lively as ever, their humour hasn’t faded and their charm is as infectious as ever. They managed the trick of being clever enough you admired them without being self important or pretentious.

Take your sense of fun for a walk and listen to their debut LP Strange Boutique.

Tunes To Educate Young People With

(posted by quarsan)

Number Two: Shadowplay – Joy Division (lyrics)

One of the delights of Kazaa-Lite is that I have been able to track down a lot of the songs from my youth that have long since vanished from my collection. I belong to the punk and post-punk era. To be honest, I largely stopped listening to music in 1982, since then I have been largely been listening by proxy – listening to stuff pointed out by friends and the occasional chance discovery.

I haven’t missed much. But 20 years later I can see where the new-fangled young person’s music came from. I much prefer the originals. Who needs artists that re-invent themselves with every release? whatever happened to music that didn’t have to hide behind artifice? Who are those singing out with passion, with anger?

I remember seeing Joy Division for the first time in an underground club. From the first bars of ‘Dead Souls’ to the last beat of ‘The Atrocity Exhibition’ I knew I was hearing something different, something just overpowering. They were the first band that actually scared me.

I recall feeling rather intimidated as I interviewed them afterwards, but their answers to my naive questions were polite, if curt. It was a strange feeling sitting with them, as though a burly bouncer was standing behind me, just out of vision. I left with a feeling of relief and a strong sense that my teenage angst was paper thin comapred to their vision.

Although their finest moment is probably the haunting and unforgettable Atmosphere, I have chosen Shadowplay, with it’s brutally insistant bass building up to crechendoes with a wildly discordant and cutting guitar. As an instrumental it would be challenging and disturbing, but when the vocals are added, full of power and angry questioning, it becomes something deeper, something that has a substance beyond the sum of it’s parts.

As I write this I am picturing the first time I saw them, the first time I was transfixed by their strangeness, their confidence and their sense of mission. As a naive young boy, I felt as though I was on the edge of something I just didn’t understand, but I knew it was something that captured the essence of the times, an essense that was going to take music somewhere different.

I have often wondered if, that night, I caught a glimpse of what was to come. Transfixed by Ian Curtis’s strange convulsions, his unblinking penetrating stare (photo), I did ask myself, just what was I watching. These guys weren’t faking and Ian was a very troubled young man.

I can’t recall how I felt when I heard of his suicide. It was a shock, but not unexpected. Perhaps that was one of the days when I realised that the world was a serious place and life was, sometimes, a great burden. I never since criticised anyone for killing themselves, because I discovered, that for some, the world is simply too much to bear.

Cyn: a life story

(posted by Aunt Cyn)

Oh, I DO love jam! I love it! I do! I do!

Jam has been very kind to me, seeing my through my twilight years here in not terribly sunny Liechtenstein. It’s difficult getting by on just a meagre pension, and jam has been my saviour in that respect – ever since I had to stop travelling the highways and byways here in central Europe, selling my ‘special rock cakes’ from the back of my Morris Minor Traveller. Illegal, you see. Nobody told me though, did they?

That’s one reason why I’m not really on speaking terms with the rest of the Troubled Diva clan – my criminal record was frowned upon. But I suppose I should tell you a little more about my tumultuous life history, shouldn’t I?

My full name is Lady Cynthia Gotterdammerung. It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know! I’m not really German, but in the run-up to the Second World War my father – Daddy – who was something big in industrial lawnmowers and had a lot of rich society friends, regrettably rather admired that awfully short and awfully loud Mister Hitler. Two days before war broke out in 1939, he decided to demonstrate his admiration by having his surname changed from the perfectly respectable Murgatroyd to – well, what you see above. Gotterdammerung. He even wrote to the royal family to tell them that Saxe-Coburg Gotha was a much more aristocratic-sounding name than Windsor. They never replied. Daddy’s family name change didn’t go down terribly well in suburban Woking, but our neighbours put up with it – or at least they did until he started wearing a German officer’s uniform and goose-stepping round the garden. We were forced to leave dear old Blighty and hotfoot it to Borneo, where we lived on the edge of the jungle for the next twenty years, whittling wood into supposedly erotic shapes that we then sold as tribal trinkets. (I did meet a nice boy from the tribe, though – and we spent many happy hours whittling in our jungle clearing).

The worst part was that Daddy never told us that war was actually over. He lied to us. For two decades, we lived in the belief that Mister Hitler had succeeded in invading the United Kingdom and was ruling over it with a rod of iron from a large Gothic castle on the outskirts of Redditch. It was only when I saw the young Beatles and their extremely long hair on the jungle community’s first television that I realised how awful Daddy had been. I confronted him with the truth, and he dropped down dead, there and then, on the spot. He didn’t even finish whittling the rather too curvacious statue of a jungle girl that he was working on at the time. He shuffled off this mortal coil while he was mid-thigh, which was especially tragic as Daddy always took particular pride in whittling thighs.

I was devastated, and mourned Daddy’s passing for twelve, thirteen, maybe even fourteen minutes. But I also realised that I was a healthy young woman who had barely ever seen beyond the four walls of my tropical jungle home, so I waved goodbye to the rest of the family (whatever did happen to them, I wonder?) and caught the first BEA flight back to Swinging London. Ah! London! Carnaby Street! Kings Road! What wonderful years! Of course, I would so love to tell you more about my wild times with Mick, Keef, John, Paul, Ringo and Herman’s Hermits – but as all the books say, if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there! Gosh! I do dimly recall playing tambourine on the amazing All You Need Is Love worldwide broadcast, but they didn’t give me a microphone because Ringo said I couldn’t keep the beat. And they hid me behind a large palm tree.

Then in ’69, of course, there was the famous drugs bust at the home of Tarquin Etherington. I was pictured on the front page of the Didcot Advertiser, being led away in handcuffs accompanied by the bass player from The Pigeons. What, you’ve never heard of this famous case? You’ve never heard of The Pigeons? Shocking. I’ll admit that this brush with the law wasn’t as huge as others, but it could have ruined my career as a face about town. Fortunately, it all went well for me, because standing in the dock I looked across the courtroom and saw the man who was to become the love of my life. The judge.

Lord Cecil McTavish and I were married in THE society wedding of 1971 – and I became a Lady! Gosh! Shortly after, Cecil gave up his everso dull High Court work and we set up the charity which was to occupy the next ten years of our lives – Save The Tree. The ’70s and the early ’80s were a positive blur, as we travelled around the world putting stickers on endangered trees. You probably remember the unforgettable catchphrase – “This tree saved by Cecil and Cynthia”. We would cover trees with our bright yellow stickers and KNOW that we’d done something worthwhile for the future of the planet, for our children, for the human race. And then we would watch the trees being cut down. Ah, heady days!

We thought of ourselves very much as the John and Yoko of the tree movement, you know – although I wasn’t Japanese and Cecil didn’t have peculiar facial hair. Our ‘tree-in’ atop a large diseased elm made headlines throughout Oxfordshire in the summer of 1976. One of my proudest moments. There were many times that the police were forced to drag us away from our protests, and I probably would have had a criminal record as long as your arm if the magistrate hadn’t been Cecil’s brother.

Of course, the danger with hanging round all those trees is that you might catch something. And so it was that my dearest, darling Cecil went to sleep for the last time in 1983, having succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease. I was traumatised, since he’d never told me that one of his legs was wooden (we never slept together, you see, due to my peculiar lifelong phobia of being in close proximity to other people’s knees; ours was a purely intellectual marriage). Distraught that the very things I’d sought to save had taken my beloved, I vowed never to save another tree and, since then, I’ve fought a one-woman campaign to cut down and burn as many of the branchy little bastards (sorry! I get quite emotional about this!) as possible.

Calm yourself, Cyn. Calm yourself.

Shortly after Cecil’s death, the scandal broke. The News of the World discovered Daddy’s past, and the headline LADY CYN’S DOTTY DADDY WAS GOOSE-STEPPING KRAUT DUMMKOPF hit the news-stands. For a while, people naturally thought that I must share his views, and I had to stop going to see German operas and even threw out my Wagner collection.

Fortunately, the chance soon came my way to prove that I was really a peace-loving, well-off aristocrat from the Home Counties – as I became one of the camp of women protesting against the nuclear presence at Greenham Common. I’m proud to say that I was arrested 157 times during my time there, although I’ve never quite forgiven my so-called ‘sisters’ for leaving without telling me that the US military threat had gone. Three more years I was there, sitting in a leaky tent pitched up against the wire fence, eating nothing but soup. So much for solidarity.

In the ’90s I found myself rather alone. My wonderful Cecil was gone, half my family were probably living as cannibals in the jungle, and I found it hard to live down my drug-taking, tree-saving, nuclear-protesting past – not forgetting Daddy’s penchant for listening to Hitler’s speeches for relaxation. I tried getting in touch with young Michael and the rest of the Diva family, but they didn’t want to know – although Mike always sends Christmas cards, bless him. And then this opportunity in Liechtenstein came up – writing the weekly agony aunt column for the Liechtenstein Mail & Herald. Well, of course, I have no experience of solving people’s emotional problems, but I’ve had a lively old life and can turn my hand to anything. And the newspaper has been very good to me, deciding not to sack me when they discovered the ‘special rock cakes’ incident I mentioned way back at the start.

What a life I’ve had, readers! Did I mention that I make jam too?

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

[posted by Mac]

It is a strange road that we take from childhood to adulthood. Me, I think I’m right in the middle. At age 31, I still haven’t quite made it to full-fledged adulthood yet. Oh, sure, I’m married and I pay my bills and I even just bought my first house. I just don’t feel like an adult.

More importantly, I haven’t accepted my fate.

As a kid, remember thinking that you would grow up to be an astronaut or a ballerina? Remember planning out your life, thinking that by [insert age here], I will be this and will have accomplished this? I was a chick with a plan.

From the time I learned how to form letters with my pudgy little kid hands, I knew I wanted to be a writer. And over the years I formulated this imagined view of my future. By now I planned to be a newspaper reporter, famous for breaking political scams wide open. I would be single and successful with no children, while still hanging on to some sort of cool bohemian style. I would be wildly beautiful and have many hot men in my harem. I would live in a gorgeous loft in Manhattan.

Who wants to guess which of these things actually came to pass?

Well….I don’t have any children and don’t plan to, and I’d like to think I’m kinda cool in my own spastic way. Everything else sort of went, well, sssfpht!

The funny thing is that I’m not sad that I’m not all those things I thought I would be. Oh, sure it would be nice to be super hot with a nice Manhattan loft and I’d love to get paid to write [although I no longer want to be a newspaper reporter]. But I kind of like the way my life has turned out.

Of course, I’m convinced that this is not where I will end up when I finally become an adult. While I intend to stay married and happy, I really just get the feeling that my life has some big twist waiting for me right around the corner.

Maybe it’s a harem of hot men.

Hello from Liechtenstein

(posted by Aunt Cyn)

I haven’t actually posted anything. What? Oh, apparently it’s called ‘posting’. Nothing to do with letters. Oh, I see. Thank you, dear.

Young Michael was very specific with his instructions, wasn’t he?

Please start your postings with the following text:

(posted by your-name-here)

Or, if you want to plug the blog:

(posted by a href=”http://your-blog-URL”your-name-here /a)

Plug a blog? I don’t even understand what he’s talking about. Sounds a bit like unblocking a sink.

I can see that there’s going to be a lot to learn about ‘logging on’ to the ‘web’ this week.

I’m sorry my dears, I would write more now, but my recipe for Damson and Artichoke Jam is about to come to fruition. And the jam residue on my fingers is making it a little difficult to type. More soon, promise!

lots of love,

Introducing this week’s guests.

dowellDidn’t they do well?

Massive props to Lyle, Mr.D., qB & Robin, for collectively providing an absolutely storming start to Troubled Diva Guest Month. Blimey, just look at the height of that bar already!

My only regret thus far is that I have been unable to participate as much as I would have liked. The dear, deluded Parisians seem to think that I am some sort of tireless toil machine, and have consequently been working me into the ground over the past week or so. OK, so I’m talking comparatively here, but really. The sheer impudence of it all. Why, I even had to go into the office for over five hours yesterday, just to get everything done before flying back over tomorrow afternoon.

Added to this, a woefully embarrassing episode with a mis-configured laptop on the first afternoon made me look like an utter chump from the off – after which, I couldn’t shake off the idea that I was starring in Mr. Bean Goes To Paris. It was one of those weeks where everything I said or did felt mis-judged, or doomed to failure, or amusingly inept, or just plain wrong – from being desperate for a slash at the top of the Eiffel Tower, to ordering escargots for dinner and not having a clue how to eat them (were you supposed to smash the shells first, or what? I even tried to phone K for emergency culinary advice, but he wasn’t picking up), to finding that the Atelier Brancusi was shut, to getting hopelessly lost in the middle of the Marais…oh, it was pitiful.

Then, there was the alienation to contend with. In the office, I was nothing more than a Human Labour Unit, whilst at night I dined and drank alone, with only the new Robert Harris novel for company. With fourteen years’ experience of overseas business travel behind him, K is entirely acclimatised to this kind of situation – indeed, he has frequently commented that sitting on his own in a restaurant with a good book is one of his great pleasures in life. As for me: after more than one night of it, I just feel lonely, miserable, increasingly invisible and insignificant.

(On the other hand: with fourteen years’ experience of being home alone in Nottingham, while K gads about the globe, I am more than happy with my own company under my own roof – hey, I can play nasty loud pop music all night without fear of censure! As for K: after more than one night of it, he begins to go a bit stir crazy. There’s something of a hair-raising story to tell here, but no time (as yet) to do it justice. Just you wait, though.)

Anyway: this week, things will be different. Remember the slightly apologetic shout-out I made for Sarah in Paris, just over a week ago? Well, she’s been in touch and we’ll be meeting for a drink in the next couple of days. Ah, the sweet balm of social contact…

Also, now that I know where the Net Caffs are, I’ll be trying to fulfil last week’s thwarted aim of leaving a comment on every single one of the coming week’s guest posts. (I was able to complete a short flush of these towards the end of last week, but quickly ran out of time.)

Which brings us back round to the subject of this week’s guests. Who are, in alphabetic order:

Aunt Cyn. Yes: for the first time, a real life relative of mine takes to blogging! Cynthia, whom I haven’t seen in person for over a decade, stumbled across TD quite by accident, earlier in the year. She’s a lady who’s had a lively old time during her sixty-plus years – so lively in fact that she now lives in disgraced exile from the rest of the Troubled Diva family (i.e. they don’t talk about her) in a small country chalet in Liechtenstein, where she spends her days making home-produced jams and writing the Dear Cyn agony aunt column for the Liechtenstein Mail & Herald. You’re gonna love her.

John of Rainbow Villa. Originally from Cardiff, and now studying medicine in Liverpool, John is the youngest of my sixteen guests – and quite possibly the gayest, in every sense of the word. OK, in both senses. Tsk. Pedants. “I’m too young, hot and smart to be a twink”, he claims, impishly. Which is a slight shame, as I think that this place could benefit from a little twinking up from time to time.

Mac of go fish. Well now, this is exciting. Until Mac got in touch to volunteer her services, I had never knowingly visited her popular and much linked-to blog – making her one of the “unknown quantities” that I was hoping to attract over the course of the month. Mac is married to Mr. Fish, lives in Philadelphia, and – oh my God, how fantastic is this?used to be a cheerleader. Pom-poms ahoy! Go Mac! Go Mac! Go Mac!

quarsan of my life in the bush of ghosts. Look everybody, it’s the Twat! Yes: the founder member of the mighty blogging dynasty which now includes My Boyfriend Is A Twat and Quickos Daily News takes a break from all that Bush-n-Blair-bashing on his own blog to join us here at Troubled Diva, where he has promised (amongst other things) to tell us a bit about his punk rock past. In fact, he’s started already (see below). Just Don’t Mention The War, OK?

Guests, it’s over to you. Week Two of Troubled Diva Guest Month starts…NOW.

Tracks to educate young people with in no particular order:

(posted by quarsan)

Number One: Can’t Stand My Baby – The Rezillos

There have been some constant pleasures in life and the Rezillos are one of them. Ever since I heard the opening chords of ‘Can’t Stand My Baby’ I’ve been hooked. It is hard to describe the sound, the nearest is putting every crazed early sixties track in a blender, then applying enough volts to awaken Frankenstein.

Never has a guitar sounded so electric.

Helping my enjoyment was Fay Fife – the Mary Quant of punk – and their comic book image brought a sense of fun and excitement to the late 70’s. I got involved in their circle when I was doing some minor stuff with Fast Product, which was run by the Rezillos manager, Bob Last. I really liked Jo Callis, Angel and Simon.

Eugene and Fay were a bit standoffish, but I don’t blame them – I was as uncool then as I am now. nobody could compete with them as they drove around the city in a Messerschmidt bubble car. They were a group that lived a concept full on, full time.

They were a fantastic band to watch, running around the stage like demons whilst a roadie climbed into a dalek and roamed around the stage exterminating everything that moved. They had some classic songs, such as flying Saucer Attack, Good Sculptures and Top of the Pops. Listen to them and feel the excitement of being young.

Check out their debut LP – Can’t Stand The Rezillos

Jo was the only person I have known who kept a dalek in his cupboard. Unfortunately when the band split he was left with massive debts and had been in a deep hole for a long time. He then did something surprising. He joined the Human League, who has also split in two.

The League were looking, unashamedly, for chart success and Jo’s sense of melody and deep knowledge of the history of pop gave him the chance to write some great pop songs. It was also rumoured that the League were also looking for someone to teach them how to play. The first song to show Jo’s writing was ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ where a simple synth riff became a hook that launched an instant classic.

The last time I saw Jo was sitting in his Edinburgh flat drinking coffee and pawing over dalek plans. He told me that he had just had his first royalty cheque for the single. 200k for six months of sales. He was able to pay off all his debts and sort out his parents. Nothing had changed about him, fame just wasn’t what he was after, he just wanted to write great pop songs.

None of this explains why he later wrote songs for Samantha Fox though.