6.13.2015

terracotta

In 2008 I read a comment thread on a popular blog related to things that gave people the creeps. My favorite answer was from some guy named Matt. His reply was one word: terracotta. Naturally, a few dozen questions popped into my head and I had to have those answers. After brief research on his then-published blog I tossed my questions into his inbox all those years ago. He replied. Here is the Q/A.

From: 9/25/08



LF - Hey Matt- thanks for letting me interview you about the important 
topic of terracotta. And a whole bunch of random things, too. Because 
one day when I grow up (er, I mean my kids) I might actually be a 
reporter. If I feel like it. People just need to hear answers to the 
questions in my head. Okay here goes. Have some fun along with me- 
fully aware it's going to be posted on my blog. Which essentially gets 
posted on CNN every week and sometimes the New York Times, naturally. 
MP - My pleasure, Liz. Pleased (and guardedly flattered) to be of 
help. Can I just say that I feel completely weird being interviewed 
like this, for what was basically a single word comment on a blog, but 
that said, I can’t help but dive in and give my all. The question is, 
can you handle it? The answer is probably “yes”, which kind of 
deflates the question, but there you go.


LF - Okay so first memory of encounter with terracotta?
MP – Difficult to say. My parents had a nice garden, with fruit trees, 
and a small patio area with a couple of pots - possibly terracotta. I 
don’t remember being rubbed against them. My earliest memory was 
jumping from a stile and landing in a nettle patch, but the terracotta 
had nothing to do with that.


LF - Tell us specifically what it is you hate about it- help us feel the hate.
MP - Just the texture of it. I don’t like the way fingernails or dry 
skin drag against it. Like flaking fingernails on a used blackboard. A 
hangnail dragged across brickwork or a nylon sheet. Teeth chewing on 
foil. A knitting needle held close to the eye. A spider scuttling 
across the bedclothes. Hate is such a strong word, though. More like 
“don’t like much”. 

 
LF - Why do you think you hate it?
MP – One connection I can think of goes back to Xmas 1978. My sister 
got the double LP of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The 
Worlds. It’s fantastic rock opera album with ominous narration, some 
wonderful songs, and very creepy bits. I still have that copy in my 
collection. At the beginning the first Martian cylinder, lying in its 
crater, is slowly unscrewing. The sound it makes sounded like a 
terracotta pot being dragged slowly across concrete, in fact according 
to this page (http://www.war-ofthe-worlds.co.uk/music_mars_2.htm) 
ceramics were involved. 


LF - Is it anything made of the material, or just the pots?
MP - The material itself, in its rough unfinished form. I like the 
color of it, and the rustic feel it gives. I like varnished tiles made 
of it. 


LF - So in AZ there are stores on the side of the road (no joke) of 
people selling all sorts of variation of this stuff. If one of your 
friends blindfolded you as a joke and left you inside, what level of 
heebie jeebies would it create (1-10, 10 is shiver & shake).
MP - Blindfolded and not touching anything, I would be fine. Not 
blindfolded and not touching anything, fine. If they held me down and 
forced me to drag my fingernails or my teeth over it, then it would be 
a 5. But then I would have to bury them in the desert for their 
transgression. It’s not so terrifying an ordeal really. I am a 
supporter of Arizona cottage industries. I could live with terracotta. 
I have learned to live with terracotta. I have published a book called 
‘Learning To Live With Terracotta’. That last one was a lie. 


LF - What did you think when you read my post about you hating 
terracotta? I personally loved the party bit, how did that whole 
imaginary scene go over with you?
MP – I felt a bit strange, and surprised that such a small thing could 
spark someone’s imagination. Butterfly effect, I guess. The wonders of 
the web!
The party scenarios would be amusing, I think. The terracotta thing 
isn’t really debilitating, so I would probably fetch the ice, and then 
later slip something into the guy’s drink and film the results. 


LF - Do you say "cheers" instead of goodbye?
MP - I often say “Cheers”, as well as “Cheerio”. Also, “Goodbye”, 
“Bye”, “B’bye”, and “TTFN”. I also say “Same to you”, “that’s what 
your Mum said”, and “Up yer arse” depending on the situation and dress 
code. 


 LF - Have you ever watched The Changing of The Guard in London? Or do 
you think that's lame?
MP - I have seen the Changing Of The Guard, a long time ago on a 
childhood trip to London. I was more excited about seeing the Natural 
History Museum with its dinosaurs and the Science Museum, though. And 
the Planetarium. The display of royal pageantry was great to see, but 
now as a republican (in the UK sense – look it up) it’s a nice display 
for the tourists which hides in plain sight a side of the UK I’m not 
keen on.  


 LF - What are your top 5 (or 10) favorite bands of all time.
MP – Erm, in no order… New Order, Talking Heads, Underworld, Pet Shop 
Boys, Orbital, The Human League, Pulp, The Cars, Front 242, The Who, 
The Future Sound Of London, Big Audio Dynamite, Hawkwind, The Frogs. 
Take your pick. 


LF - What is your least favorite British band and / or song of all 
time. (Can I guess? Is it Queen?)
MP – One that always makes me grimace is ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis. The 
band were big with pub-and-football types, and this song especially 
was hollered drunkenly at the drop of a hat, because it sounds like it 
has some deep meaning, which it doesn’t. When it gets played now, I'm 
very aware of who is enjoying it, and those of us that don't bond over 
it. Queen occupy that kind of niche that the Beatles are in. They just 
existed, and I think it’s a bit strange to say “I’m a Queen fan”. 
They’re in the national consciousness, everyone knows their songs, 
likes some of them, but only in the background. I heard a joke about 
how if you leave a cassette* in a car long enough, it will always 
metamorphasize into Queen’s Greatest Hits.
* that dates me. 


LF - What do you think is strange about Americans?
MP – Too much to list. The USA is an amazing country. People sometimes 
comment on how many/few Americans have passports. But with a country 
so vast and stunningly varied, one can understand why many don’t. You 
guys swapped the red and blue meanings for conservative and democrat, 
which is totally confusing. In the UK, a ‘True Blue’ area is usually 
wealthy and traditional, and guess which way they vote? At the same 
time this huge variation means areas can be so different that two 
lifestyles in the same country can be completely alien. But then the 
idea comes along that one lifestyle is the “real” America, and then 
you’ve got trouble, division and conflict. There, that’s all the 
problems solved. Don’t thank me. It’s sad how the USA was founded on 
freedom of religion, but it doesn’t necessarily mean freedom _from_ 
religion. A strange twist. As the Euston Manifesto says, America has a 
“vibrant culture that is the pleasure, the source-book and the envy of 
millions”. I agree. 


 LF - What do you miss most about England [besides Nobbs]?
MP – This is a tricky one. By Nobbs, so you mean David Nobbs, one of 
the greatest comedy writers ever? Or Hobnobs, one of the greatest 
chocolate biscuits ever? Both of those I miss a lot. If you mean 
penises (or nobs), there’s no shortage over here, not that I crave 
them. I obviously miss my friends very much, and I hope they’ll come 
and visit me soon. I’ve been rotten at staying in contact, so I hope 
they remember who I am. I miss my old dog. I miss level-headed 
newsreaders, interviewers who ask proper questions, Radio 4, satire, 
shitty weather, public transport. I miss the marginalization of 
religious emphasis in state affairs. I miss scowling waitresses, bad 
drivers, small cars, narrow streets. I miss politeness and rudeness. 


LF - Who was your childhood hero?
MP – Douglas Adams



LF - What was your favorite American Sitcom (if any) while growing up?
MP – I liked ‘Cheers’ at lot, and ‘Moonlighting’ before it went all 
shit with the love story and writers’ strike and all (although that’s 
not really a sitcom). ‘The Munsters’ was shown in the UK, and ‘Taxi’ 
was a hit with my family. 


LF - Best British movie in your opinion and why.
MP – Brazil. Funny, terrifying, prescient, and for once the theatrical 
version had the downbeat ending. So many characters, great actors, 
great effects, design, music. 


LF - And British Show.
MP – TV show? Here’s a few in genres. News – Newsnight. Music – Later 
with Jools Holland, Top Of The Pops. Comedy – Father Ted, Black Books, 
The Young Ones, The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge. David Attenborough. 
Armando Iannucci. Jeremy Paxman, Stephen Fry, I’m getting carried away 
now. 


LF - What were people like where you lived that like The Cure? I am 
curious if it was a strictly gothic crowd or a mix of that plus normal 
people or simply everyone.
MP – In my home town (Bedford, Bedfordshire) there were state schools, 
and private schools. I went to a state school. The Cure seemed to be 
more popular in the private schools, for some reason. Cure fans 
weren’t always full-blown Goths, more like trendy kids with spiky 
(yes, sometimes dyed black) hair, or floppy collapsed quiffs. The real 
Goths liked Sisters Of Mercy (Temple of Love is a great tune), Fields 
of the Nephilim ("The Neff") and so on. 


LF - Also, are you a fan? If so- top 5 favorite songs please.
MP – No, I’m not. I did like that one song ‘In Between Days’ though. 
‘The Walk’ was OK. ‘Lovecats’ annoyed the shit out of me, and 
‘Lullaby’ was tedious. Sorry. 


LF - Man, this interview is really going to be boring if you hate 
music. Sure hope you are into music. At least a little. And not Queen. 
jk.
MP – No problem, I love music. Although I can feel my tastes 
calcifying with age. 


LF - Favorite band in the early 90s?
MP - New Order 


LF - Favorite band today?
MP – Wow, tough one. Not necessarily my favorite bands, but currently 
in my car’s creaking CD player are Ladytron, Nick Cave, The Burning Of 
Rome.
If I set my iPod to Shuffle Songs, the first 5 bands that come up are 
as follows (honest): Spiritualized, The Primitives, Depeche Mode, 
Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Richard Hawley. That was pretty 
representative, so here’s the next five, to show I’m not ashamed: 
Hawkwind, New Order, David Bowie, Howard Jones, OMD.
And just for luck, the next five: Boards of Canada, Jane’s Addiction, 
Kraftwerk, Schmoof, William Orbit. Take yer pick. 


 LF - First concert
MP – I’ve never been a big concert-goer, which is something I truly 
regret, and which I am working on changing. It’s Nick Cave in San 
Diego next week. My first concert was 1990, Inspiral Carpets, Brixton 
Academy. 


 LF - What would your reaction be if I mailed you a wild, rare, million 
dollar plant (what? they totally exist.) nestled inside of a 
terracotta pot? Would you transfer it into something else and risk its 
death or try to overcome The Terracotta?
MP – I would be cool with transferring it to another pot. Or I would 
leave it. I would just have to be careful. Like I said, this thing 
isn’t debilitating. Please go ahead with the sending, thanks. 

 LF - Do people really eat beans for breakfast often in England?
MP - Yes they do, as part of the de-licious, nu-tricious (said in Slim 
Pickens accent) Full English Breakfast, which in my favorite 
heart-stopping incarnation consists of bacon (juicy UK style), 
sausage, toast, fried eggs, baked beans in tomato sauce, and thick 
chips. All with lots of ketchup and HP sauce. But it’s up to you – add 
black pudding, fried bread, white pudding (Scottish or Irish), fried 
tomatoes, fried mushrooms, whatever you like. Don’t listen to people 
who claim there’s a “real” Full English Breakfast, or to people who 
claim there’s a “real” England or a “real” America. Sorry, carping on 
again. 


 LF - Someone tried to run me over when I was visiting London. When my 
husband tried to fight him, he (the other guy) kept saying in his 
British accent "I am going to eff you in the ass". (although he didn't 
say 'eff' he said the real F). Is this a normal expression of anger(?)?
MP – No it’s not, but the sort of person who gets angry and violent 
when they are called out for attempted murder are not really a good 
barometer of language trends. 


LF - If you could tell my readers the best places to visit in the UK 
where would you suggest they visit?
MP – I wish I was more qualified to answer this. I have friends who 
enjoy hiking and walking – they could probably tell you more.
* London obviously. Do all the tourist stuff, it’s great. But also try 
to find the smaller stuff – there’s so much going on, and so much to 
see. I regret not doing more when I was there.
* The Peak District
* The Lake District
* The north-east coast.
* The south-west coast. The small fishing/tourist seaside towns are beautiful.
* Avoid Peterborough. Seriously. 

 LF - Link me to your favorite blog post of your own.
MP – In the absence of a better idea, this one: 
http://petty.me.uk/wordpress/?p=162
Other than that, have look around. The old theatre stuff is quite fun, 
as I blogged the run of a show. The site’s in a bit of a state after a 
problematic upgrade, so just have a wander. 


LF - What are you top 5 favorite blogs to read?
MP - I read a lot, and my favorites change from day to day, but here 
are some that I grab as soon as they’re up.
Both Bars On – music and gig reviews from author and lecturer, UCL’s 
Dr James Kneale (http://books.google.com/books?id=KaFmL7zMcDgC) 
(cheers James, say Hi to Shiv)
Lifehacker – they go off-topic a lot, but I like the stuff they post. 
Aspirational geekiness.
Vespastics – Just started up again after a hiatus, but some great 
scooter run photos up there already. Cheers, Zom-B.
Flesh Is Grass – excellent political and local stuff.
The Achewood webcomic has a blog for each of the main characters.
Of course, Sarah Brown’s Que Sera Sera is always great, but she’s been 
a bit me me me recently. Anyone would think she’d written a book and 
it was a top seller in more than one Amazon category or something. 


 LF - Favorite concert ever- who/ where?
MP – Jarvis Cocker, London Astoria, February 2007. The man’s a star. 


LF - What did you think of the movie 28 Days Later?
MP – The first half was great, deserted London, sudden shocks, David 
Schneider as a vivisectionist (something I can now cross off the 
wishlist). The second half was a disappointment. It suddenly reduced 
the scale of the film. Christopher Eccleston was great, of course, in 
his saliva spraying madness, but I wanted to see the whole country in 
decay, not just one small group. I like seeing large-scale shots of 
devastation and chaos. 


LF - What was Manchester scene like in the 90s when you were in school there?
MP - Ha, well, you’re asking the wrong person really. I got into 
college there, and arrived in September 1990. I wasn’t really equipped 
to cope with studying and looking after myself. Planning my time, 
getting up, all that stuff. I wasn’t ready. Add to that the fact that 
it was a huge buzzing place that everyone was talking about, and I 
think I got out of my depth. That’s not to say that I partied all the 
time. In fact, when I failed my exams and left after the second year, 
it was just because I didn’t study. I don’t have much in the way of 
happy memories from that time. A shame. 


 LF - I saw on your blog you are into theatre. Favorite show and why.
MP – My favorite show was The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, in which I 
played the eponymous lead. Great play, great director. Hi Mike!
http://www.carltondrama.org.uk/productions/arturoui/arturoui_index.php 


LF - There is really a place called TOOTING on London? Is this funny 
to anyone else besides me? Sorry, I joke about tooting with my 1 and 4 
year old every single day. We need to know more about this place. We 
hope people there appreciate how awesome it is to be there.
MP – Some people do. It’s a really mixed place, with lovely small 
terraced houses, some kept nicely, some not. “Partially gentrified 
multi-ethnic” is how it’s been described. It was made famous in the 
1970’s by the (pretty bad in retrospect) ‘Citizen Smith’, a TV sitcom 
about a hapless Che Guevara-t-shirt-wearing Marxist revolutionary 
wannabe and his group, the Tooting Popular Front. The intro had him 
walking past Tooting Broadway tube station, then stopping, raising his 
fist and yelling, “Power to the people!”. Probably on YouTube 
somewhere. He lived with a right-wing security guard, with hilarious 
results. Tooting Bec Common is a lovely park, with the huge (cold) Lido.
Visit Tooting! Less snobby and expensive than Balham to the north, 
less of a total shithole than Mitcham to the south! 


LF - Thoughts on San Diego so far?
MP - Warm, dry, good food, good dog beach. Still collating. 


LF - Biggest regret / disappointment album purchased? (mine = Sublime)
MP – You mean which album do I regret buying the most? Good one. 
Recently, Spiritualized, Songs in A&E. Ever? Dunno. 


LF - Favorite Wonder Stuff album?
MP - I was never really a Stuffies fan, but I like ‘Eight-Legged 
Groove Machine’ the best – great fun, simple songs. They got all 
showbiz and circussy after that. Plaid suits and violins, yeuchhh. For 
a while, Miles Hunt was his own Cockney Rhyming Slang, until James 
Blunt came along. That said, ‘On The Ropes’ from ‘Construction for the 
Modern Idiot’ is one of my favorite songs ever. 


LF - If you could pull together your ideal concert summer series who 
would you put in the line-up (old and current bands alike).
MP - Wow, blimey, that’s gonna take some work. Can I get back to you 
on that? Perhaps a gathering of all the old political dub-rock 
festival groups from the early 80’s. Or perhaps not.



Thanks Matt- you were a good sport and hilarious!
Liz

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