Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cultural Review of the Year 2007

In the time honoured tradition (i.e. I did it last year), here is my Cultural Review of the Year. I realise it is a bit early but doubt anything is going to make a last minute bid for a place.

A pretty good year mainly due to Raindance Festival and film club. Favourites were In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Control and Zodiac. On DVD I loved Lives of Others and Little Miss Sunshine (even though I sobbed my way through the latter)

Better than last year in that I did actually get out to see a few bands and in particular the Connect Festival, but my interest in new music is still waning. Reading The Observer Music Monthly’s Top Albums and Singles of the Year, I knew shamefully few. Anyway, my album of the year would be Malcolm Middleton’s A Brighter Beat or Maximo Park’s Our Earthly Pleasures. Live act of the year would go to the Jesus and Mary Chain, followed by the Polyphonic Spree.

Without a doubt the best production I saw this year was Rock and Roll. The best production I’ve ever seen at all in fact.

The final series of the Sopranos was better than the one before but ‘Homicide Life on the Street’ was my favourite show of the year, even though it is very old and we were watching it on DVD so is possibly cheating.

So what were your highlights of 2007?

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Christmas Wish

As well as world peace and a shaggy dog, I would really like Malcolm Middleton to be the Christmas Number 1.

Please make my Christmas wish come true!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Today's Burning Issue: Fruit

Why has the lone market stall near by work changed from selling fruit to selling toasted chestnuts and fake designer t-shirts? The chestnuts, fair enough as they are staple Victorian Christmas fayre. But what is with the knocked-off t-shirts? What use are they to me? I need fruit. I still need my 5 a day, even if it is Christmas (actually I especially need my 5 a day to get me through). And aren't satsumas Christmassy?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in North London

The OH was very concerned last night that the arrival of the 'celebrities' would overshadow the reason everyone had gone to the concert - the music. So to redress the balance of my last post, I thought I should say something about Spiritualized.

They were very very good.

It was acoustic so it was Jason Pierce, a man on keyboards, a string quartet and a trio of gospel singers. It was particularly fitting in a church and at Christmas - they ended with Silent Night.

Its Different If You're Famous

Last night we went to see Spiritulized at Union Chapel. Union Chapel, in case you don't know or can't tell from its name, is a church. They have various concerts there but you can't drink 'within sight of the alter'. Fair enough - we were there to hear some music, not get drunk.

But then in walks Rhys Ifans. 'Is that that Welsh actor who was in the Observer this weekend?' said my friend Jane. I put on my glasses. I'm not that certain but then I notice his blonde fur-coated companion. 'Yes it is' I replied 'because that is Sienna Miller'.

They were seating in a row opposite ours, but one that had been reserved. It wasn't any different from the other pews, but you know you can't have famous people having to get there early to find a seat like everyone else.

Their party was joined by a mother and daughter double-act of screeching harpees who may or may not have been Pearl and Daisy Lowe. Who? You may well ask. A woman with a couple of failed attempts at a music career before she settled on being a rockstar girlfriend, married a drummer from a mediocre indie band (I actually quite like Supergrass but still...) and is now famous for not having a threesome, taking a lot of drugs and making overpriced net curtains. On the back of this, her daughter is now a model.

But then worst of all, Rhys pulls out a bottle of wine and starts swigging it. In a Church. Is God a fan of whatever films it is he's been in?

And for all the fuss these people make about wanting to be left alone, they don't exactly make themselves inconspicuous. Running up and down the aisles, wailing like banshees, insisting that the rules don't apply to you. Hardly blending in, is it?

The support act was Simple Kid, who has a song with the line "Celebrities go home, go home to your mama". I couldn't have put it better myself.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Public Transport Moans

I’m limiting myself to three for today.

Move Down Inside the Carriage
This announcement is frequently heard on rush hour tubes and in the main, the passengers obey. But without this reminder on other forms of transport, left to their own device, the public will cluster around the entrance way. I’ve witnessed several buses go past stops of people because the lower deck by the driver is full but the whole upstairs is empty. And its not just old folk who can’t manage the stairs either. Then this morning, people were left on the platform because they couldn’t’ get on the train but the aisles and even a few seats were empty, but the entrance way was blocked. Which brings me onto my next moan…

Two tickets please - one for me and one for my bag
Its rush hour, people are standing in the aisles if they’ve even managed to get on the train at all, but there are always people who are taking up a seat with their belongings. And the worst offenders are white upper middle class women who tut, glare and generally put up quite some resistance to letting fellow passengers sit down. On the tube or bus with bulky luggage, it is possibly understandable, but on a train with an overhead luggage rack, is there any real excuse? Unless of course, they are buying a separate ticket for their bag, in which case it is entitled to a seat.

A Good Service is Operating
My tube journey on a certain route to work should take 30 minutes, so how come for the last two weeks, every time I’ve gone that way, it has taken 50 minutes. And still they claim this is a good service. The times when they admit that they are problems on the line, is when it takes 90 minutes. But apparently they are meeting their targets of reliability. Perhaps I’m just very unlucky and manage to pick the two tubes running with problems each day and the other hundred or so run exactly on time?


I read in the newspaper yesterday about the engagement ring the footballer Joe Cole bought for his fiancee. It cost £50k.

My first thought was that was an obscene amount of money to spend on a ring.

My second thought was that he was a miser.

The reason? The article mentioned that his weekly wage is £80k. Traditionally, a man should spend the equal to a month's salary on the ring. I don't know if this is before or after tax and NI contributions as the OH has asked me before, but either way Mr Cole's spending falls well below that amount.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Don't Fancy Yours Much

I caught a bit of that Ewan McGregor travelling on his motorbike programme last night and I was reminded that the only time I’ve ever found him attractive is in Trainspotting. This is bizarre, perhaps worrying, but by no means an isolated incident as my taste in crushes has always been somewhat off kilter. They have fallen into three main categories:

The Dodgy Mancunian
I could say it is a musical thing, growing up on a diet of The Smiths, The Stone Roses and Joy Division, but that wouldn’t be strictly honest. Because as much as I have admired after Ian Brown and Johnny Marr, the first man from the north west I desired was Terry Duckworth, the errant son of Coronation Street stalwarts Jack and Vera Duckworth. Terry was always a wrong ‘un but for some reason I found him rather attractive. The passage of time has made me realise that I was clearly wrong.

The next manifestation was Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays, early days Happy Mondays I must point out when he had floppy hair, an arrogant swagger and the drug use hadn’t quite become abuse. Little did I know that he was going to evolve into a human slug like creature and I would bear the shame of once having fancies him on top of pity for him that it all went so wrong.

The Surly Scot
My love of Primal Scream and their frontman Bobby Gillespie has been well documented here, I’ve previously confessed to a liking for Ian Rankin but there lurks a dark secret. I really fancy Duncan Bannatyne, the dour, sour Scottish businessman from Dragon’s Den. There’s not much more to say about this really – I’m ashamed and embarrassed but there it is out in the open.

The Older Man
I have never ever been out with anyone older than me. Every partner has been around my age but usually a matter of weeks younger than me. And yet in the world of dream men, there have been quite a few of advanced years. As a child, I loved Gregory Peck which is understandable in that in his prime he was a fine figure of a man, but I also loved him as he was at the time, snow white haired. Then there is Anthony Hopkins. Again nothing wrong with him but at the height of my Anthony Hopkins phase, I was about 19, my friends all like Brad Pitt and the two of them were starring together in Legends of the Fall. I had to decline an invitation to see it as I was embarrassed that I’d be swooning over the wrong one.

However, the worst case of this love is my affection for the sadly deceased Paul Eddington. I loved him first in Yes Prime Minister and then in retrospect in The Good Life. IMDB describes him as a ‘tall debonair actor’ but it was his bumbling visible awkwardness that I loved. In real life he was unassuming and wanted his epitaph to be ‘He did very little harm’. I like that and I still like him, but now he’s gone I have to make do with Geoffrey Palmer.

All of this brings me onto the latest improbable crush. I’m still watching Prison Break despite the fact it is patently ridiculous and the reason for this is not the so-called star Wentworth Miller who is undoubtedly a very attractive being but now leaves me cold. My reason for viewing is Alexander Mahone (William Fitchner). He was the best thing in the second series, by virtue of being the best actor in it by a mile but in the third series, he’s toned, tanned and constantly shivering and sweating, a man on the brink of nervous collapse but he’s the one for me.

So now I’ve humiliated myself (believe me, I'm blushing here!), share your own guilty desires, please.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Waiting Room

My mum rang night to tell me that my auntie had a stroke yesterday. At that point they couldn’t tell how severe it had been but should know today, so I’m waiting to hear back. I feel rather numb but am trying not to think too much until I know what is happening. But one thing has stuck in my mind.

Last year my auntie was seriously ill with bowel related problems and caught both types of hospital superbug during her stay. She has never made a full recovery and has been feeling very sick again in the past couple of weeks. On visiting her doctor last week, he commented ‘Well, you’ve certainly had your money’s worth out of the NHS’.

My auntie has lived and worked here all of her life, contributing to the system. She has never been ill before last year and on entering the hospital to receive the treatment that she had been paying for all her working life, she caught not one, but two killer infections. Not what I would call ‘getting your money’s worth’.

I was angry enough about this when my mum told me that last week, but now I’m livid at the thought that this is what passes for healthcare – the word ‘care’ is sadly lacking.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Par for the Course

I’m pretty busy at the moment with various things, one of which is my photography course.

The class started off as eight of us, but last week we were down to five. It may have been the torrential rain but at least one person hasn’t been since the first week, so I suspect our numbers are dwindling, which is always the way with these courses.

The other stereotype that the class is conforming to as that there is one person who talks too much. Every course I’ve ever done has had one of these, someone who talks lots, but says little of substance. The current culprit is a retired doctor, who is writing a book on medical history and is mainly interested in photographing slides. He is obsessed with the word ‘cataloguing’ and at least once per session will say it loudly.

I am enjoying the course but strangely I’ve been struck by an inability to taking photographs since it started. I am learning how my camera works properly and am aiming to move off using the automatic setting. At the moment I’m still getting to grips with the controls so it takes time to fiddle about with it to set it up. The other problem is that it gets dark so early so I’m reliant on practising at lunchtime. The difficulty with this is that I’m in central London which may have a wealth of interesting things to photograph but I can’t see them for the swarms of people and its hard to find a quiet space to get my settings right. Yesterday I was experimenting with various shots when I was spotted by some tourists who asked me to take pictures of them with their cameras. I was happy to help out but it seems to be an occupational hazard if you stand still for too long.

So tonight I’m hoping to do some still life photographs in the house and some night time shots in the garden to practice, so hopefully I’ll get a better understanding of the camera and be more confident in my lunchtime session tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Money for Old Rope

The Spice Girls reunion tour is not for me. I don’t like them, I never have done, they’ve always had more money than talent. But I know that plenty of people want to see them and who am I to judge? I’m in no position to talk as I dutifully turn up to see The Wonder Stuff everytime they need the money from a tour and they aren’t that much more credible.

But then I read in the paper that it is likely that The Spice Girls will just mime on their tour. Is it just me who finds this shocking? What exactly are people paying for here? To see a group of thirtysomethings dance around a bit? I could go to a bar in any town centre on a Saturday night and see that for free.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


We are about to decorate our hallway. For a small London flat, we have a considerable corridor so it is not a small project. And the current colour scheme really won’t do – lilac and cream. I detest lilac at the best of times (why is it so popular with grey pale-faced mother-of-the-brides?) but really even if I loved it, it isn’t a hall colour.

I want something pretty neutral, two complementary tones, not too dark on account of its narrowness, but warming. I thought it was going to be easy. I was wrong. I’ve tried about ten different shades and none of them will do. They are too pink, too peach or just too yuck. My hall now resembles a teenagers year old experimenting with the foundations on her first trip to a makeup counter.

I didn’t think there would be so much choice. Simply Fawn, Summer Stone, Silk Gown, Natural Calico, Natural Hessian, Toasted Almond, Whiff of Nutmeg, Touch of Truffle, Dash of Coffee, Hoping for Latte, By George Its Beige. (I may have made up some of these). I even dreamt about looking for the right shade last night, in an anxious dream where I was juggling decorating with going on tour with Led Zeppelin, which was also causing me worry since I don’t play guitar.

I think this morning though I may have isolated the right tone. It’s a calm gold but towards the bluer end of the spectrum, as I informed the OH this morning who looked bemused. I’m off to B&Q again tonight and if I don’t find the right shade this time, I may have to repaint the whole lot lilac.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How was your journey?

I’ve just returned from an all too brief trip to my family in the north. As ever upon arriving, everyone asks me how my journey was or if I had a good journey. I realise this is a rhetorical question. I’m there, nobody really wants to know the station by station account of how I got there. But this time, I didn’t just nod and say fine. This time I told people about my journey and I’m fairly sure no one will ask again.

I made it to the train with only about a minute to spare, took my seat and started reading my book. After about 20 minutes we arrived at Stevenage, where the train stood for about 15 minutes. Then came the announcement. ‘This is an emergency. Please could all passengers get off the train as quickly as possible and head towards the north end of the platform’.

Everyone assumed it was a bomb scare (‘you would in the present climate, won’t you’ said everyone I told). People made for the exits. The woman next to me looked close to tears. I eventually got off (there was no chivalry about letting women and children off first). But then I overheard some staff saying it was a small fire in buffet carriage. A team of firemen arrived (what is the collective noun for firemen? A brigade?) and put out the fire while we all stood on the freezing platform.

Another announcement to tell us what was happening as many people still thought it may have been a terrorist threat and the news that they needed to call an engineer before anyone could get back on the train. Then another announcement to say that they had arranged for the train just leaving London to make an additional stop to pick us all up. So a full trains worth of people had to cram onto an already busy train. It was chaos and due to the time spent on the platform I never warmed back up.

So that was how my journey was.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


What has happened to the Pret A Manager Egg and Tomato on Rye sandwich? I went to buy one for my lunch and they have gone. I know I hadn't bought one in a while as I'd been trying to cut back on what I spend on lunch but really other people must have been buying them too so there was no need to stop doing them.

Instead I had a Falafel and Spinach sandwich which must be the replacement as it announced itself as new. It wasn't very nice - falafel between sliced bread is somehow wrong.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Yule Fool

It might be because the weather has turned suddenly cold. It might be because my sister has been demanding to know what I want. It may be the bombardment of Christmas gifts emails in my Inbox. It might be because I work near Covent Garden, a quintessentially Christmassy place. Whatever the reason, I’m feeling quite Christmassy already which is unusual for me.

So I was perusing the Christmas section of the John Lewis website, contemplating various decorations and colour schemes for our first Christmas in our new place, when I spotted this.

Apparently it is an idea imported from USA. The idea is that it saves space apparently, although my solution would be to just by a smaller tree. I’m sure it has been engineered to be safe, but really I wouldn’t trust it not to fall down. Besides which it looks hideous.

Although as a practical joke, you could swap the proper tree for this one in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve and stick all the presents on the ceiling. That would certainly liven things up on Christmas morning!

Funny Bone

Going to see live comedy is not something I do very often. The reasons for this are:

  1. I live in fear of audience participation and being bullied by the comedian
  2. There is nothing worse than seeing an unfunny comedian die on stage
  3. I’d usually rather go the cinema/theatre/concert

It is not because I have no sense of humour. My own mother accused me of this once a few years ago when I wasn’t looking forward to some improv thing, but that is not true – I just don’t share my family’s sense of humour which shamefully seems to amount to Jim Davidson and Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown (shudders at the thought and hopes that neither of these have new DVDs out this year in case I have to endure them at Christmas).

But last night we went to see Frankie Boyle do his stand-up, having enjoyed his contribution to Mock The Week. He did question and tease members of the audience more than I’d expected so that worry hung over me throughout the performance. And I’d heard him use some of the jokes before on the television, but still it was a good show and I laughed a lot.

Unlike some members of the audience. Three people walked out after about 10 minutes. Another couple, who he had bantered with, then sat there stony-faced for the rest of the show. Admittedly, his style can be quite offensive, not in a rude crude way, but he isn’t the most politically correct and I can understand that he wouldn’t be to many people’s taste, but why go? The show was sold out, so I don’t understand how people ended up there who didn’t know what it was going to be like.

My favourite joke involved a tramp, LCD and a unicorn. He ended the show with a sweet story about his daughter asking him what his favourite thing in the whole world was, to which he answered ‘You are, of course’ and she replied ‘For me, it would have to be sausages’.

The rest of his jokes weren’t really suitable for reprinting here in case all of my readers pick up their coats and head for the exits.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ohhhh, Ahhh, Fireworks

Last night we went to our local firework display, which had a James Bond 007 theme. Luckily we clarified what this meant before going and established that this theme was limited to the music accompanying the fireworks. Imagine the shame if the OH had gone in a tux, Matini in hand and me in a white bikini or sprayed gold!

Instead we wrapped up warm, and enjoyed the mulled wine and barbecue food before the display began in style with Henry Mancini's Bond signature tune before going through the hits of 'Goldfinger', 'View to a Kill', 'The Living Daylights', 'License to Kill' and culminating in 'Live and Let Die'. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the music, but that may have been because the pre-display music included much detested Queen so after them everything else sounded great - even possibly 2Unlimited!

The fireworks were good although they only 20 minutes. Apparently this is standard but as a child, I'm sure it felt like longer although that may have been down to the northern cold as much as being young. I took some photographs but otherwise joined in with the obligatory'Ooohhh' and 'Ahhh' that the crowd have to make. Someone behind us varied things a bit by repeatedly exlaiming 'F*** look at that one' which wasn't altogether appropriate in front of children and disproportionate to the level of excitement the fireworks warranted.

We didn't hang around for the bonfire afterward but went home. Inside we could hear various amateur fireworks being set off and the noises were quite alarming - no wonder cats and dogs hate this time of year.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Gambler

Gambling seems to be everywhere these days. One of our friends quits his high-paid corporate job to play poker. The England Rugby team adopt Kenny Roger's song 'The Gambler' as their World Cup anthem. Then last night I watch the film 13 (Tzameti) which is also about gambling.

13 (Tzameti) was recommended to me some months ago by my cultural cohort over at Melanethos and I bought it immediately, but shamefully only got round to watching it last night. It was really very good - after a bit of a slow start, it became gripping, creating the tension the OH compared with a penalty shoot-out.

It involves a sort of gambling - I won't give away what but will use apt cliche of saying 'the stake were high'. It was far more tense than the card game scenes in 'Lock Stock...' and 'Rounders' which are the two gambling related films that immediately sprung to mind for comparison.

My stomach was in knots - I'm not good with tension, from gambling or penalties.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Catch Up

I haven’t felt particularly inspired to write anything much recently. Things are pretty much in neutral at the moment. But to stop the tumbleweed blowing through the blog, I thought I’d better write something, anything today.

So since I last posted, I’ve done the following things:

  • Been out for drinks with three separate groups of friends
  • Bought a pair of shoes called Sven!
  • Started my photography course, but not taken a single picture (we are going at a slow pace!)
  • Caught and almost got rid of a cold
  • Been to one screening at the London Film Festival
  • Dined in the flagship Carluccio’s for the first, but hopefully not last time
  • Starting half-heartedly contemplating Christmas and NYE

Friday, October 26, 2007

It’s a Hard Knock Life

This afternoon has involved making lots of phone calls to theatres around the country. Not the best task on a Friday afternoon, but this post is not going to be a moan about the things that are getting my down at the moment (it would be quite a list). This is actually a happy post.

In the course of this job, I was put on hold at one organisation and their hold music was the song ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ from the musical “Annie”. This is going to blow any credibility I may have, but I loved hearing that song again.

I had to resist the urge to sing along but my foot was tapping away and I was almost disappointed when I got through to speak to someone.

I loved ‘Annie’ so much as child. I saw the stage play, I saw the film numerous times, I even had the doll (which in retrospect I think was rather creepy looking). I pictured myself in the Molly role. But I really had completely forgotten all this until this afternoon. And now I really want to see it on stage again.

Actually the song is still going round in my head and I’m going out for drinks with friends quite soon, so I really need to get it out of my mind otherwise mixed with alcohol, it may escape out of my mouth, which won’t be good. I'll need to listen to something catchy but credible en route to displace the show tune!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Usual Suspects

Last night it was back to the Raindance Film Club. The end of the festival left a void so it was good to be back in the warmth and comfort of the Raindance organisation once more.

The film being screened was Exhibit A, which I had already seen, but standing with the first twenty and last ten minutes broken up by opening and closing the door, so it was good to see it uninterrupted from a very comfy sofa and with the ultimate Raindance accessory, a free bottle of Cobra beer (something everyone associated with the festival developed an unhealthy obsession with).

The film was good – an interesting idea, well executed. I’m wary of recommending to anyone though on two grounds. Firstly it hasn’t got proper distribution yet, despite winning an award at the festival and being nominated for a few at the British Independent Film Awards, so I’m not sure if/when/how anyone will actually get to see it. Secondly, it isn’t a barrel of laughs – in fact it makes for very uncomfortable viewing, so much so that one woman ran out of the first screening of it and one of the actors said it wasn’t the sort of thing they’d want to watch.

Unexpectedly the screening last night was followed by Q&A with the producer. And here is where I’m going to rant. He seemed like a great bloke, he spoke eloquently but unpretentiously about his film. I had no problem with anything he said or did – but rather with the contributions from the audience. The people who attend these things and ask questions/make comments always confirm to set stereotypes. Of course, I’m not referring to the people I knew there who are all wonderful, witty, talented, smart, cool, amazing people, and noticeably weren’t of the most vocal group. The types I’m referring to are these, who were all presented and correct last night and will always show up at this type of event:

  1. The Over-Familiar Expert – he (its normally a he) will talk to the speaker as if they are old mates and will quite persistently chase for snippets of information. Last night’s was keen to get the nitty-gritty budget details and was pretty dogged about it. He will also lavish praise on the speaker, but in a way that is reflecting back on himself e.g ‘I loved the dialogue. That is exactly how I would have done it’. His exact achievements in the world of cinema are unknown.
  2. The Slightly Drunk, Slightly Aggressive Man with a Strong Accent - his comments aren’t always clear because of the combination of drink, accent and excitement. He is definitely enthusiastic but there is an edge to his comments and you feel things could turn at any minute. Last night’s was Scottish but I’ve encountered them from every part of the UK.
  3. The Very Posh But Arty Emotional Woman – She is super confident, loves the sound of her own voice and is “keen to explore” some issue that is usually way off everyone else’s perception or interest. Despite being very definitely English, she will undoubtedly feel compelled to share some deeply personal information with the room. Last night’s tried to turn it onto the topic of the abuse she’d suffered and whilst I realise that its an awful thing to have gone through (not sure what exactly as the film wasn’t about abuse), my thoughts are that this is a film screening, not the Jeremy Kyle show.
  4. The Grizzled Old Cynic – His comments are brief and barbed in comparison to the others. He’s been there and seen it all before. I actually don’t mind this type that much.
  5. The Dog with Comedy Timing – Actually this one is probably unique to this film club (he was there last month too). I think he belongs to number 4. He had impeccable timing with his barking though and perhaps made the most astute observations of the evening.

I suppose though I belong to a sixth category - the people who will never say anything at all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My So Called Celebrity Life

Could it really have been a year since the last one? Last night was the Awards do for work and this year I did actually have to work at it, as opposed to previous years where I just turned up and enjoyed the champagne.

It felt strange travelling across London dressed up in the afternoon when everyone else was in jeans and cosy knitwear, but I was pleased to have the opportunity to wear my grey dress, purchased in the summer but unworn (pictured below taken before I’d ironed it!). It has a vast amount of drapey swingey fabric and I love it! I really expected the OH to hate it and he liked it too which is always a bonus.

The event went pretty well but it lacked the decadence of last year’s which was probably for the best really. This year’s celebrity count was higher than usual - as well as some theatre stars and soap actors, we had Stockard Channing and Patrick Stewart The latter was the latest victim of my inability to recognise famous people (not as bad as the time I failed to recognise Kathleen Turner) but as I was polite to everyone it just meant I wasn’t gushing over him and he had to wait in line for his ticket. I don’t think he minded though as he seemed pretty easy-going.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Day of Reckoning

One day, I will snap. One day, enough will be enough and I will fight back. I don't think that day is too far away.

What am I talking about? People playing their music loudly through their phones on the bus, that's what.

Last night for example. There I was listening to my ipod at a normal level so nobody but myself could hear it, but once on the bus I had to turn it right up to drown out the sound of some tinny shitty r'n'b being played at volume through some inconsiderate moron's phone. I was listening to 'Everybody Here Wants You' by Jeff Buckley, a song of sublime beauty, of swooning melodies, of lyrical subtlety. And it was competiting in my earlobe with some distorted clanging grunting noise that I suppose was ostensibly about the same thing, except in that one the singer showed his appreciation for the 'hotness' of the woman by wanting to take her roughly right now. Simply enchanting.

In my fantasy, I will stand up and tell them in no uncertain terms to turn it down, they'll snarl and be abusive of course, but then everyone else on the bus will applaud me and we'll all unite against the noise polluters. Or in an alternative version, I'll travel London with a sack of cheap earphones, dispensing them to the offenders like some sort of music police Santa Claus and I'll become legendary.

Of course, in reality none of those things will happen. If I do say something, I'll probably get stabbed and my fellow passengers will ignore it, or (more likely still) I'll continue to suffer it in silence.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Spy

As is probably apparent from past posts, my work situation is by no means ideal. So I’m always looking out for other possibilities. Last week I saw an advertisement for MI5 who were looking for English Language Transcribers. I read the ad and thought ‘hmm that’s interesting’ but put it to the back of my mind.

Then yesterday, I watched the film ‘The Lives of Others’ which I heard good things about but failed to see at the cinema. The film is about Eastern Germany in the 1980s and a Stasi employee whose job it is to listen in on the bugged apartment of a playwright. I was slightly concerned before it started that I might fall asleep – not because of the plot or the subtitles, but because I’d had a heroic number of cocktails the night before so my mind wasn’t at its sharpest and it was over 2 hours long (I’m normally a stickler for the 90 minute film). But I needn’t have worried. It was absolutely brilliant and I’ve seen some pretty good films recently.

So it got me thinking about the job with MI5 and this morning I looked on their website and started the application process. Much to the bemusement of the OH, who asked me why I was interested in the job and looked wary when I mentioned the previous night’s film. He didn’t seem to think this was such a good reason to apply. My others reasons, I’m nosey & like listening to other people’s conversations and I’m unhappy where I am, didn’t seem much better. But pig-headedly I applied for an application form (this is how complex the process is – you have to apply to apply!)

But on the way to work, I was hit with some clarity and have abandoned my idea of becoming a low-level spy for a combination of the following reasons.

1. It was London-based and ideally in the future I want to leave London and don’t know what use they’d be for a former spy in Cornwall
2. The pay was less than I earn now and involved shift work
3. I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone other than my partner what I did for a living & I certainly wouldn’t be able to blog about it.
4. Discretion was vital and to be honest I’m not great at keeping secrets – I’d have to tell my mother and she always tells my sisters and aunties everything
5. I may not pass the security clearance thing – I went to some political meetings as a student and have read a lot of books by Che Guevara and Mark Steele so I’m probably already on a list somewhere
6. I don’t think my hearing is actually that good – I’m terrible at making out song lyrics so I’d probably be pretty useless at this which could led to all sorts of trouble on an international scale!

So I'm not going to join the ranks of James Bond and Jason Bourne. I always wanted to be a detective anyway, not a spy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Step aside David Bailey*

I have enrolled for a digital photography course. Its something I’d been meaning to do for a while but was spurred on by Chocolate & Cherries recent post. Then yesterday, I discovered my local authority offer a course at a bargain price and a convenient time and location for me. So I stopped dithering and phoned them to enrol. I was slightly embarrassed by giving the course title as ‘Digital Camera’ as it is in the course information as I’m sure Digital Photography would be more appropriate, but I made my booking undeterred.

I was feeling slightly smug about being so decisive until I remembered that my past experiences with the local authority’s adult education department have not been great. I have attempted to enrol on courses with them in the past, but they’ve either not sent the appropriate information until after the course has begun or cancelled the course due to lack of interest. And perhaps it will prove to be prophetic that the woman I enrolled with was at pains to take numerous contact numbers for me so they could get in touch “if we need to cancel it or you know something else”.

The other thought that has occurred to me since I signed away my Monday nights is that two hours on an evening in the winter is going to limited what photography we can do. So if it does go ahead (still a big if), look out for hundreds of shots of the inside of class room and west London at night.

* actually I think Martin Parr would be more appropriate, but for the sake of the title I went with the one photographer absolutely everyone knows.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tell Me About Macclesfield: Control

After the film festival where I managed to see 8 feature films and 5 shorts, you’d have thought I might have wanted a break from the cinema for a while. And ordinarily I probably would have, but Control has just come out and I was impatient to see it. So we went to the cinema on a miserable Tuesday evening.

I really enjoyed it although as with most films I’ve seen in the last two weeks ‘enjoyment’ doesn’t really seem an appropriate emotion. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but somehow I thought it would be more experimental than it was – it was very much a straightforward biopic, albeit a beautifully shot one with fantastic music.

A few years ago I did try to read Deborah Curtis’ book ‘Touching from a Distance’ on which it is based, but the ins and outs of Ian Curtis’ domestic arrangements didn’t really interest me. I think I preferred the image of the tragic artist to the reality, but perhaps it’s a sign that I’ve grown up that the ordinariness is just as interesting. And when I cried at the end (rather embarrassingly as we were soon thrust out into the glaring light of the shopping centre, where my red eyes and trembling lip couldn’t be hidden), it wasn’t so much for the waste of genius, but for the broken family and friends left behind.

In interviews with the surviving members, its always obvious how devastated they were by the loss of their frontman at a ridiculously young age, but as a friend probably more than a creative force (they did after all recover and go on to greater success as New Order) and I don’t think that has ever left them. Control shows that friendship, the laddish behaviour, the ordinariness and their absolute youth which hadn’t equipped them to deal with this.

I do wonder though who is going to see Control besides those who already love Joy Division?
It doesn’t have any big stars in it like ‘Walk the Line’ (which I found hugely disappointing) or the triumphing adversity that ‘Ray’ did that seems to pack ‘em in at the multiplex, and it certainly doesn't glamorise rock n roll death as perhaps The Doors might. To existing fans the story is probably already well known what with the book, 24 Hour Party People, various Manchester music documentaries (which have been in overdrive recently with the death of Tony Wilson and the anticipation of this film). The story of Factory Records and its various bands is something so familiar to me, I suppose as the story of The Beatles might be to someone growing up in the sixties or Bible stories are to a strong Christian. I might have wondered if I really needed to see another film about this but it still brought something new to the subject and especially proves an interesting counterpoint to 24 Hour Party People, which was very much Wilson's story whereas this is undoubtedly Ian Curtis'.

Friday, October 05, 2007

More Dispatches from the frontline of independent cinema

Working in the festival booth has been strange, mainly because it seems to be the first place members of the public go to on entering the cinema. This is a problem because we only do festival passes, passholder and guestlist tickets. We are not the Box Office which is the big thing with flashing screens and the words Box Office above it. But the Box Office must have some sort of invisibility shield around because nobody spots it - they all come to us with their questions. Questions about tickets are easy enough - they are pointed in the direction of the box office which will sudden materalise in the foyer. Its the other questions that I struggle with:

Question. Where is the toilet?(times this question by 1000)
Answer: (I know this one!) There is one downstairs but you have to pay 20p. Or there is one in here but it is once you go through to the screens so you need a ticket.

Question. Is it true that a film showing in one cinema be shown somewhere else in Leicester Square? I don't think that is right.
Answer. That is kind of the system. But we don't make the rules.

Question. Is this film good?
Answer. We don't know - we haven't seen all of the festival films
Question. Where is the best place to change dolllars to pounds?
Possible Answer: A currency exchange I would think but I don't actually know where the nearest one is.

Question. Is there anything showing that has lots of murders in it? All of the films I've seen at the festival so far have been a bit too 'arthouse'.
Answer. Desparately look through the catalogue and recommend anything that might be violent. Secretly want to shout in their face 'What do you expect? Its an independent film festival'

Question. Is this the place to see films?
Answer. Yes. Secretly wanting to say 'Well, it is a cinema, what else would you do here?'

But despite these random questions, the technical hitches and delays, I'm still smiling at everyone and loving it all., and I'm slightly worried that life is just going to be so dull next week when its all over.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Teenage Angst

I subscribe to an arts news & jobs service and received this notice this week.

Part public-service, part anti-vanity project; we are putting together the
most wonderfully, desperately, earnestly poor collection of teenage poetry we
can source and are hoping that you can help us. We will accept work from anyone
over 20 but the work has to be your own, the subject something you can look back
and laugh about now, and the quality along the lines of; '1it's a mystery how
this has escaped burning! The glory will be non-existent as the poems will be
printed anonymously, so this isn't a good option for anyone who is secretly
hoping that someone will think their poetry is really rather good and offer them
a massive publishing deal. Similarly, comedians need not apply, we're only
interested in work which is unintentionally humorous. Unfortunately we can't pay
you; this enterprise is purely for fun and to celebrate a shared pubescent
talent-deficit, however a lovely copy of the anthology can be sent to you for
the meagre cost of home-printing and postage. Please have a good root through
your old journals and select us some thrilling oddities! Poems should be sent to mailto:chickenwire_woman@hotmail.com

Sadly, I seem to have lost my book of teenage scrawlings somewhere along the line, otherwise I'm certain I would have several contributions to make to this.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Take Two

There was a huge buzz around the screening of 'Being Michael Madsen' mainly because the man himself was going to be there, and Michael Madsen is a genuine star. Okay, so he's not Robert De Niro, but people know him, even if he is apparently trying to shake off the tag of being 'the one from Reservoir Dogs'. So the screening was sold out, but I was lucky enough to get a free ticket.

The film is a mockumentary about Michael Madsen turning the tables on a tabloid journalist by having him filmed by a documentary crew. It mainly consisted of talking heads from Madsen, his celebrity friends and sisiter (who completely stole the show) and actors playing the documentary makers and the journalist (Jason Alan Smith from the bar the previous night!). I enjoyed the film - it lost pace a bit about three quarters of the way through and also probably suffered by everyone else (bar his sister) being so far overshadowed by Madsen, who is just so big a prescence. Afterwards, there was a quick Q&A, where the director came out with the same dislike for documentary makers he had expressed the night before. Madsen was gruff and huge, which is what being Michale Madsen is all about.

I wasn't sure whether I was going to stay for the next film or not - being out late every night was taking its toil. But the tickets weren't selling well and having been talking to the man behind the film the night before, I felt bad at the thought of it being empty. Of course, I didn't exactly buy a ticket, I got a freebie as part of my volunteer staff status. I am so so glad I decided to stay. Alex Holdridge (is this name dropping if someone isn't actually famous yet -future namedropping perhaps?) was so nervous and to make matters worse, there was a technical problem with the sound. While it was being sorted, the lead actor, Scoot went down to the front of the audience and started talking to keep people's attention.

"In Search of a Midnight Kiss" is the best film I've seen in a long time. It was so good, I nearly cried. Its about a man going on a date with a woman on New Year's Eve. Alex described it to me as like 'Before Sunrise' with more jokes, and comparisons with that are inevitable as it involves a couple who've just met, walking around a city talking. But really that does it an enormous disservice (and I told him this afterwards when he asked what I thought). I found Before Sunrise rather pretentious, the dialogue and situation unrealistic but this felt so real. It was beautifully shot in black & white, the music was amazing, the acting was great - Scoot McNairy being incredibly likeable (unlike Ethan Hawke). But if you liked Before Sunrise, you'd like this, and if you didn't like Before Sunrise, you'll like this. There was an older couple sat in our row (probably in their sixties) and the man stood up and said that he realised he wasn't the film's demographic, but he and his wife thought it was wonderful.

Anyway, I really can't do this film justice. Go and see it when it is released. It is going to be released in America (and hopefully the UK too) around Valetine's Day as "a romantic film for cynics", which it is perfect for if you believe that every cynic is just a disappointed romantic.


I am consumed by the Raindance Film Festival. Apologies if this is boring to anyone, but there isn't much else going on in my life at the moment - my existence has been taken over by indie films, indie actors, indie directors and indie producers. I'm still going to work during the day, but my evenings have been all about the festival.

Wednesday night - I was working the festival box office in Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue. This Cineworld is located in the lower reaches of hell, aka the top floor of the Trocadero Centre. The Trocadero Centre is so awful - the tacky shops, the flashing lights and infinite noise of the arcades of the inappropriately named Fun World. In the midst of this, is an independent film festival - two worlds have collided!

Thursday night - I was ushering at the Rex. The Rex is a private club and screening room (it used to be called The Other Cinema, which always led to confusion). It is plush, comfortable and a brilliant setting for the festival, even if the beer is stupidly expensive. So I'm ushering, but its a private party for Delta Airlines, so there isn't much to do. I hold the door open, smile at people, make sure the screening goes ok. The screening is the 5 short films that are up for the Best UK Short prize at the festival. As is often the way with shorts, they were a mixed bag. The first one Cherries was my favourite, a dark vision of the not-too-distant future where the continuing war in Iraq means schoolboys are conscripted into the armed forces.

After the screening, there wasn't anything to do other so I ended up sat with a mixture of Raindance volunteers & staff and associated film types. Actually, Thursday ended up being a prequel to Friday as I was talking with Alex Holdridge, the writer and director of "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" and Mike Mongillo and Jason Alan Smith, the writer/director and actor respectively from "Being Michael Madsen", which were the two films I saw on the Friday night. I don't expect anyone to have heard of any of these people yet, but if Alex Holdridge doesn't become a famous director, there is no justice in the world, but I'm getting ahead of myself here - I'll come onto the films later.

As I may have mentioned before, I suffer from almost crippling shyness at times, so finding myself in these situations where I need to make conversations with total strangers is incrediby hard for me, but that aside it was a surprisingly fun night. The bizarre conversations we had in our group included the following:

the size of Jude Law's penis, politics & apathy, Ethan Hawke, why big breasts are unnecessary, the smoking ban, what's wrong with documentary makers, suicide, Michael Madsen

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Petty Criminals

On the radio this morning there was a discussion about defending yourself and your property from burglars, what you can and can’t do etc. They were interviewing a man who interrupted a burglar and was told by the police that he should have given the burglar “a good kicking”.

I’m not interested at the moment in discussing the rights and wrongs of this, but it was the man’s next comment that interested me. He said that as well as breaking into his house with the intention of stealing, the burglar had bitten the heads off all of the gingerbread men his children had baked! How nasty is that?

I don’t expect burglars to be nice but really that seems a rather petty thing to do. And rather stupid too as if he hadn’t stopped to bite their heads, he may have had time to get away with the television etc.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Moonlighting at Raindance

Volunteering at an independent film festival probably isn’t most people’s idea of fun and I’ve no idea how it became mine, but this week and next, I’m volunteering at the Raindance Film Festival. I volunteered a few years back and had a great time, but since then life and mainly work commitments (the small matter of having a gallery to run in my spare time) stopped me from doing it again. But this year, I’ve got more time on my hands so I offered to help out again. I love film festivals but unless you can somehow blag a pass (I’ve achieved this once) it is either very expensive or you’re faced with the choice of deciding between umpteen films. But by volunteering, I’m saving myself the money and procrastination.

Last night was the opening night and as befits the name, it was a dreary rainy night, but what a great night it was. I was ushering for the opening night film, a none-too-difficult job of just making sure people could find their seats (including Mick Jones from The Clash!!!), after which I got to watch the film for free. The film was Weirdsville, a Canadian slacker comedy directed by the same person who did Pump Up the Volume. Its no Citizen Kane, but it was really funny and set the tone for the evening nicely. Before the film was a prize draw (what is it with raffles at film screenings lately?) for a guitar which was drawn by Mick Jones – sadly as a volunteer I couldn’t enter.

After the film, naturally was the After Party which was at Sound in Leicester Square. I wouldn’t normally go to a nightclub in Leicester Square, especially not on a Tuesday night, but as ever there was the irresistible pull of getting something for free. So a group of us went down there, all still resplendent in our festival t-shirts and feasted on free Cobra lager. The music was pretty good (mainly current indie stuff, then a live band along the lines of Hot Chip), Russell Brand was there, along with a lot of wannabe actors hoping to be discovered. Us volunteers stuck together, finding each other easily due to the t-shirts (it was still possible to tell a lot about a person by the way they wore their t-shirt). It was good fun considering we were a bunch of people who didn't know each other at the start of the day.

I showed remarkable restraint and left at 11.30 - I'm not as young as I once was and it was a Tuesday. I'm still absolutely exhausted today though. My keyboard has looked inviting as a pillow and I was tempted to crawl into a discarded box in the corridor for a nap earlier.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Window onto Another World

On Wednesday afternoon I went to a fashion show. Yes, that’s right – me at a fashion show! I was at the SmithSpence show at the Royal Academy of the Arts, part of the On/Off series.

I’m not really a fashion person. I realise I have written about fashion a few times here but that has mainly been my obsession with appropriateness – wearing the right thing at the right time (which might actually be the antithesis of fashion to many). I suppose I’m also interested in where fashion crosses over with other things - if life was a Venn diagram, I’d be interested in the bit of fashion where it intersects with music, film, art etc. But I don’t know anything much about fashion designers as it isn’t something that impacts on my life, having a resoundingly high street budget.

So what was I doing at a fashion show? This will blow my anonymity if anyone involved finds this, but I think I should explain – I wouldn’t want people thinking I’d gatecrashed. The designer Julian (the Smith) is the younger brother of my best friend (K) from university. K was in London for one day to see her brother’s show so invited me along so that we could meet up while she was here.

The champagne was free-flowing and it was great to see K and her whole family again. Parents, aunts and cousins had all turned up en masse to see the show - the father compared it to the end of Billy Elliot where the northern folk go to see him dance. Their mother was still an absolute star, fussing, probing and giving advice in exactly the same way she had throughout our university days and still comparing me to her old college friend. We were then invited back to the house of the business partner (the Spence) – a smart Belgravia house, the likes of which the likes of me wouldn’t normally see the inside of, which added a further surreal dimension to the day.

So what of the fashion show itself? Speaking as someone involved in the theatre and events organisation, I realised the immense pressure that putting on a show must create. Months of work all leading up to this brief show, this one chance to get it right, to impress. No wonder people were nervous. It started late (I believe this is common – unlike in the theatre where great pride is taken in getting that curtain up on time) but other than that it seemed to go smoothly. None of the model tripped coming down the staircase. And the dresses were amazing.

Every industry has its own vocabulary and in writing this, I realise I don’t really possess the right words to describe it as it isn’t my realm (perhaps Mrs Fashion might pop up to help?). The collection was dresses. I think it is what would be described as couture as they won’t be selling the dresses onto shops, but are individually handmade for each customer. On the whole, they were the sort of thing you’d wear at a premiere, although there were a few that could work as day dresses. Julian is obviously very talented and it was great to see someone having some success in their chosen field.

In the past, I’ve been sceptical of designer clothes and their price tags, thinking how much better can a bag/shoe/dress be (there is a book out now that is about the top designer names not using the best quality materials these days) but these dresses were entirely something else. Everything had been handsewn, the detailing was amazing, even down to how the fastening had been sewn on (I had the benefit of seeing them up close afterwards) and the cut of the material was so good that words like float and flow could be taken quite literally. And whilst I’m unlikely to ever have the money if I did have a spare couple of thousand, I think it would be better spent on one of these dresses than a couple of big name designer handbags.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


The only seat free on the bus this morning was in front of a man and woman talking at an intrusive volume. At first I was annoyed that I couldn’t concentrate on reading my book with their incessant talking behind me but then I abandoned my reading and decided their conversation was more interesting anyway.

It was immediately obvious that this pair were not friends, family or lovers but work colleagues and their whole conversation revolved around someone called Trevor who was causing them both a problem. But this was a work conversation, so their dislike for Trevor was shrouded in business speak, each of them using carefully selected phrases that whilst getting their message across, could not be used against them at a later date should the other one turn. People do not speak like this in real life, only at work, but what struck me as odd about this conversation was that it was taking place on a bus in the suburbs. These sorts of conversations don’t seem so strange on a train but it seemed so wrong on a double-decker bus.

It was not evident what Trevor had done, but apparently he was in a better position than our pair as he had a powerful ally in (the Dickensian named) Gerry Mudd. Gerry Mudd was taking Trevor’s side and this was a problem. The man of our pair understood this to be a problem, but a solution was not so simple.

“We need a representative on earth” he said. Were they some sort of gods? I’m picturing a council of immortals like in ‘Clash of the Titans’. He continued ‘Of course we did have Drysdale in there, but then he went native’. Went native! A term I’ve only heard used when talking about undercover police work! Who speaks like this?

There was some mention of a railway. I was disappointed when the bus journey ended as I was intrigued by what field this pair were in – railway espionage it sounded like. (I think they might have worked for a local authority in reality)

I think I talk too plainly to ever succeed in these sorts of fields. On a related note, tomorrow I’m going to Lichfield. I’ve nothing against Lichfield. I know absolutely nothing about it. Except it sounds like the sort of place people like the bus pair would go on business. If I say outloud the phrase ‘I’m in Lichfield tomorrow’ I sound like one of them.

Friday, September 14, 2007

In the news

Amongst the doom, gloom and Madelaine McCann rumours, these have been my favourite news stories this week:

The couple who live in a Travelodge
The old couple who have been living in a motorway hotel for 22 years which has saved them hundreds of pounds in bills. I’ve always fancied taking up residence in a hotel myself – Howard Hughes did, although he had a whole floor to himself and I presume it was somewhere a bit grander than Travelodge.

Paddington Bear advertises Marmite
This made the news because the Bear was famous for his love of marmalade sandwiches, but now he is advertising Marmite. The report I read had even got a quote from a marmalade company expressing their disappointment that Paddington was abandoning marmalade for another choice of spread.

Italians boycott pasta for a day
Consumer groups urged Italians not to buy pasta on Thursday in protest at its rise in price. I’m all for people power and the right to protest, and as much as I love this story, I’m not sure how effective it was, because it would only make a difference if you ran out of pasta on Thursday. If you had a good stock of various types at home, its unlikely you’d have to buy some on that given day. Even I never run out of pasta entirely and I’m no domestic goddess. A week or longer abstention may have had more effect.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Daytime Pyjamas: Discuss

I had heard of about ‘Daytime Pyjamas’ on the radio, but I had not witnessed first hand this cultural phenomena. Until this morning.

I was caught up in the pavement traffic of mothers dropping off young children at nursery, and amongst their number was a woman in cotton powder pink, blue and white striped bottoms. Could they just be ill-advised trousers? Surely not? Surely nobody makes trousers in that pattern and colours for adults? They were definitely pyjamas.

I’d heard about this new trend, supposedly very big in Liverpool, coming to popular attention when a head teacher complained about it. But I didn’t realise it had spread to London. Why do this? Apparently it isn’t mega laziness of not getting ready, but women have a dedicated daytime pair to change into especially for these purposes.

Now I love a comfortable pair of pjs as much as the next slacker, and I do confess to popping out into the garden in my slippers and dressing gown to tend to my tomatoes (they are so demanding at times I don’t have a chance to get dressed, I just have to answer their calls!), but really I wouldn’t go out the front of the house in that state and certainly wouldn’t walk the streets in that state of undress.

What kind of an example is that to set their children? Society is crumbling before our eyes!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Heroes of the Week

1. Jim Reid
The second Friday in a row, I spent the evening watching The Jesus and Mary Chain. Once again they were brilliant, better by miles than most of today's young rock n roll upstarts. And the part played by their frontman can not be overplayed. He is the definition of cool, from the way he hangs on his mike stand to his insouciant 'hey hey heys' and 'ah ha has' .

2. Ian Rankin
His Rebus books are my stock travel readings, because they are pretty easy-going without the brain-numbness of Chick Lit. But the reason for his inclusion here is the answer he gave to an interview question in Metro this week. He was asked what he was bought with the money from the Rebus books, to which he replied 'I'm basically still living like a student. I've just bought loads of CDs, books and films, but I've just bought a USB turntable to convert my vinyl'. Truly a man after my own heart. (I find him quite attractive too - is this wrong?)

3. Elliot Grove
He is the founder of Raindance, the independent film festival and training company. He introduced the film on Wednesday night. I've met him before, but I'd forgotten how cool he is. Even when he's doing the hard sell on his festival or talking technical film speak. He's like a Canadian Christopher Lee (circa The Wicker Man) - that's a good thing.

4. Frankie Boyle
The cynical Scottish comedian who is the funniest person on 'Mock the Week' week after week. He's convinced the world is about to end, he's harsh, shows no mercy for anything or anyone, sometimes takes things too far. But he consistently makes me laugh, which is much needed when everywhere else is all death and destruction.

5. Chuck Klosterman
I came across his writing recently after following links on the Melanethos blog, and based on this I decided to give one of his books ago. I started with 'Killing Yourself To Live' which Chuck travels around the USA visiting the sites of rock n roll deaths. Boy, can this man write. I read it in about a day. I bought 'Chuck Klosterman IV' a collection of his essays for my trip to Scotland and again read that in record time. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in music and pop culture (even he does look a bit like Corey Feldman!). I'm waiting for 'Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Pops' to arrive next, and I'm hoping he'll get a move on and write some more books as I'm running out.

6. The Abode Hotel in Glasgow
We recuperated here after the festival. I wish we could have stayed longer. It was the best hotel I've ever stayed in. Housed in an old Education Department Building, it had an old-fashioned elevator with a cage. Our room had a triple height ceiling, stained glass window, the world's most comfortable bed, and a shiny bathroom (I have a thing for hotel bathrooms - I think it might be the tiling!), as well as a flatscreen tv, cd/dvd player, robes etc. I think we may have been given a free upgrade, as I can't believe this was their standard level room - we had a sofa and armchair too and a vast amount of space. I could easily have lived there, but as that isn't possible, I'll definitely be having a break in another of their hotels.

7. Keira Knightly's Green Dress in Atonement
I've no intention of seeing the film as I can't stand Keira Knightly usually, but I've seen several pictures of this green dress this week, and it is stunning. I'm quite partial to a green dress myself anyway and this is devine.

I realise now that four of these Heroes are Scottish (I'm uncertain of the nationality of the dress!) - perhaps this week I wish I was Scottish.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Action Packed

As is my habit, this week I’ve been watching “popular films that everybody else saw years ago”, namely the first two Bourne films. I think we decided to watch them because of the excitement the third film seemed to be greeted with by everybody, and we wanted something easy-on-the-brain to watch following the festival exhaustions. I actually quite enjoyed the first one, the European locations looked good and it allowed me to contemplate the significance of memory loss and the strange workings of the human brain. The second one I enjoyed less – there didn’t really seem much to it, except a few big chases, very little to provoke thoughts. So I won’t be rushing to the nearest multiplex (shudders) to catch the third instalment.

In sharp contrast, I ended up at the Raindance Film Club on Wednesday evening. As the publicity for the Film Club says, there are 3 rules of Raindance Film Club:
Fab Film, 2. Free Admission, 3. Free Beers.
It really is surprising I’ve not managed to get myself along to one of these before.
The film this month was ‘Cavite’ a low-budget thriller about a Muslim American man who returns to his roots in Philippines to visit his mother and sister, only to receive a phonecall on arrival to say they are being held hostage. He is then guided around the area of Cavite by the voice on the phone, through an alien world of slums and violence, where he must obey the terrorist to secure his family’s safety. The plot was a simple premise and I’m sure Hollywood will at some point have done something similar but without the same intelligence.

There was also an interesting story behind the making of the film. The writers/directors were all set to go to Manila when their main backer pulled out, leaving them with no money to pay for actors or crew. But they made the decision to make the film regardless – one of them took on the lead role, the other became the cameraman. It was a bold move, but the film is still great. The titles are hilarious though as everything was pretty much done by these two.

As the subject matter suggests, this ain’t a barrel of laughs, but it is available on Region 1 DVD from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why I won't be going to another festival

There are lots of bad things about festivals, but really I think I can put up with most of them:

Mud - Buy a pair of wellingtons, then it really isn't much of a problem. And it gives your thighs a good workout walking through it for three days.

Weather - It might rain, but again this isn't a problem if you are properly attired, and I've finally cracked the way to dress at a festival. Flimsy dress (it will dry quickly), tights and wellingtons, add cardigan & waterproof jacket as required. Looks good but practical. I was told by a random woman that I looked perfect! This was on the second day - she may not have said that same by the end of the third day, but still it was a nice thing to have said.

Toilets - They are going to be horrid but its only a couple of minutes out of your life. It also stops you drinking too much as you don't want to have to go more than is strictly necessary.

Sleeping in a Tent - the way forward is definitely Tangerine Fields - a perfectly pitched tent waiting for you, with no hassle. Ours didn't leak despite the rain and I was warm enough.

Queuing - you queue to get in, you queue for beer, you queue for food and worst of all you queue for the loo. Its boring, but I'm English, its practically a national sport.

Lack of Cleanliness - everyone is the same situation, so it really isn't that big a deal. Its amazing what you can do with an assortment of wipes and dry shampoo. It is probably better if the weather isn't too good though as lots of sweaty bodies is actually worse than mud.

So what is it that has made me decide I don't want to go to another festival? Let me explain.

Whilst undoubtedly there is more to most festivals than the headline acts (especially at Glastonbury), to me it is still about music, one way or another. The camping and all that other stuff is just a means to an end, a way to get to see a lot of good bands and DJs at once. But it would seem that to many other festival goers, this isn't the means to an end, but the end itself. There were people in our field who weren't bothering to go into the festival site much, they were content to sit around outside their tents, smoking and talking. And I can't see the point in paying £130 to do that, but it seems I'm in the minority.

The reason I'm in the minority of course is that I don't smoke cannabis/dope/weed (I don't even know what people call it these days). I have absolutely nothing against this for a health/legality/moral standpoint, but really it is incredibly dull. Stoned people are incredibly dull. And I don't need a drug to make me dull - I'm boring enough naturally.

So I'm trying to get some sleep and I'm actually pretty good at sleeping when there is noise. If I'm tired enough I'll crash out. But having to listen to the inane, repetitive conversations of stoned people was too much for me.

There was one group of twenty-somethings who were all enthralled to the ramblings of an older bloke (probably late 40s, but it was hard to tell) - we'll call him the Tin Pot Philosopher (TPP). I've honestly never heard some much nonsense come from one human being. He sang sang the entire theme tune from the kids' programme 'Poddington Peas' much to everyone else's delight, as if they were witnessing the second coming of John Lennon. TPP then incesantly made comparisons between a dog's penis and a lipstick (I swear he must have said this 50 times between the hours of 4am and 6am). Then apropos of nothing (at around 7.30), he just shouted 'Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly' - I'm well aware that this is the name of a band, but why he chose to shout it then wasn't clear.

But the final straw was when one of his followers asked him what the meaning of life was. His response:

'I'd rather be an Emporer Penguin than give you a simple answer to that question'

So that is why I'm not going to festivals anymore.

Get Yourself Connected

We went to the festival for the music, so here it is.


Andy Votel (DJ Set) - he turned up very late, which gave the DJ before an excuse to play 'Slave to the Rhythm' by Grace Jones, which is unacceptable. Votel played a lot of good stuff that nobody else has ever heard of, which is kind of the point, but makes writing about it difficult.

The Aliens - A band comprising a couple of ex-members of the Beta Band and Lone Pigeon. They were ok, but really haven't developed a distinctive sound of their own yet. Apart from the song Robot Man, everything they did sounded like something from the 60s, which normally I don't mind, but really I could pretty much sing 'Jean Genie' in its entirety over one song, and another was just 'Comfortably Numb'.

The Jesus & Mary Chain - the main reason for going and they didn't disappoint. Despite recent reports, I was pleased to see that Jim Reid did not look like Pete Postlethwaite. Yes, they're older (but aren't we all? Most people at the festival were over 30) but they didn't sound old which was the main thing. The OH expressed some disappointment that the whole crowd didn't sing along with 'Snakedriver' as he was looking forward to hearing thousands of people singing "I've got syphilitic hetro friends in every part of town".

The Go! Team - we just saw the last two songs of their set. I hate them with a passion. Their music is ok, some of its quite good, but they are just too upbeat for me, and the woman's inane chatter drives me mad. "Tonight, we are going to do the live version of this song". Stating the bleeding obvious woman, what else were you going to do playing live?

Beastie Boys - I must say I was rather disappointed with them. I don't know what more I was expecting (I've seen them twice before so kind of know what they do) but following the majesty of the JAMC, they sounded a bit like a novelty act. The best bit was Mike D threatening to storm the castle and take on the Duke, and claiming that their DJ had made the streets safe to walk by killing the Loch Ness monster.


1990s/Fire Engines/The Only Ones - We fully intended to see these groups, and I really wish we had, however we got caught up in a conversation with a fisherman/farmer called Graham in the pub. He hadn't heard of any of the bands on the bill except Bjork (who he mispronounced) and who quizzed us about the festival and life in London as if we were aliens. Big wave to Graham if he's reading, which of course, he won't be, because he doesn't own a compter.

Bats for Lashes/Vashti Bunyan - we saw the end of the former, waiting for the start of the latter, but left after two songs of Vashti as frankly she was poor. She had a huge choir on stage with her, and didn't seem to be singing much herself. Both acts were a bit wet really.

Teenage Fanclub - There's nothing to not like about the Fannies (as a few people still call them). They call melodic power power, they play very well and I seemed to know all of the words to most of their songs, despite not having bought an album by them for about 12 years.

Modest Mouse - the OH stayed at the main stage to watch Mogwai and I braved walking across the site on my own to see Modest Mouse, and I'm really glad I did. They now have Johnny Marr playing guitar for them, after he replied to an ad looking for a Johnny Marr-like guitarist. Johnny Marr is the most beautiful person on the planet. This is a fact. He's also pretty good on the guitar and I think most people were there to see him, which most be difficult for any band he joins. I wasn't just there to see him (I've gone beyond walking through mud because I fancy a guitarist) -I do actually like Modest Mouse. They played a great set and played my favourite song 'Bukowski' which I really didn't think they would.

Echo & The Bunnymen - another band we didn't actually see. Ordinarily we would have, but they were up against Primal Scream. A lad from Bath said he was going to watch them because he'd 'probably never get the chance to see them play to so few people again' - this argument didn't persuade us - I can understand the rational if it is seeing them in a small venue, but not just because they aren't as popular as another band. I feared McCulloch would take it personally.

Primal Scream - I cannot remember how many times I've seen Primal Scream live, but I do know that this is the most sober I've ever been, even though I was sipping a mojito throughout their set! It started ominously when someone in the crowd soaked Mani with a pint of lagar and Mani called a halt to everything and invited the coward who'd thrown it to come up stage and have a proper fight. Unsurprisingly nobody stepped forward. Besides this minor setback, they were on good form. Bobby was upbeat and danced like a fool. The songs from the last record sounded pretty good, but it was the old stuff that was the best. They ended with 'Damaged' 'Loaded' and 'Movin' On Up' - all brilliant. Bizarrely, they didn't play 'Kowalski' which we'd heard being soundchecked all day.


Idlewild - We saw them do a soundcheck on our walk into the town. I'm not a fan really but it sounded pretty good.

Paul Hartnoll's Ideal Condition - They were excellent and they did a version of Orbital's The Box with instruments. But (and this is hardly their fault), I don't really want to hear Orbital stuff anymore - it makes me too nostalgic for a time that has passed.

Polyphonic Spree - one of the highlights of the festival. They set up behind a big red ribbon which Tim de Laughter cut through in a heart shape. They know how to put on a show. They started off in their new black military uniforms but they were still singing songs about the sun. Then they went off and changed into their robes, and did a cover version of Nirvana's Lithium (see below & fast forward 3 minutes). Near enough Gospel music. I had to put my sunglasses on as I was very near to crying (and I wasn't alone).

The Bays - Really really good dance music. We couldn't stay for all their set as we had to watch Big Star.

Big Star - I was so worried this was going to be bad, but it wasn't. We were stood right at the front - thank you to the OH for standing through this, even though he doesn't really know them. They were pretty good and played Ballad of El Goodo' which was great. I was slightly disappointed that they didn't play some of my favourites (She's a Mover, Get What You Deserve) but I'm still really pleased I saw them. They made a few good jokes about Teenage Fanclub too.

LCD Soundsystem - Very disappointing. They didn't do 'Losing My Edge' or 'Jump into the Fire'. We should have gone to see Hot Chip instead.

Outdoor Gear

I'm sat in Glasgow Bus Station looking at the rucksack at my feet, and the label on it that says 'Outdoor Gear'. I can't believe that I own something called 'Outdoor Gear', much less have cause to use it.

My youth was (mis) spent in clubs, gigs, cinemas, galleries - I am decidely indoorsy. But here I am about to get on a bus to the middle of nowhere, where I will spend three nights in a tent.

How did this happen? What mistakes did I make in life that led me at 32 years of age to be going to be camping at a music festival?

The next few posts are the story of my recent trip to the Connect Music Festival. Its a tale that involves Music, Mud and Mojitos, but mainly Mud.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

I've never really read Mojo magazine. Back in the days when music was my big thing, I used to read NME, Melody Maker, Select and Vox, but never Mojo. Mojo was for the oldies, it was what the Ex's dad read. But the Stax film the other week was sponsored by Mojo, so we each got a free copy of it, and I've been reading it on my journeys over the past week. And its surprisingly good. I nearly missed my stop the other night, I was so engrossed in an article about Fleetwood Mac! This issue of Mojo was a Rolling Stones special.

I've never been a huge Stones fan. I mean I like them, used to have a 'Best Of' tape and have a few of their songs on my ipod, but I've never really been that into them. I think it might be partly due to them continuing too long, Jaggar becoming almost a parody of his former self and the rather distasteful way he now runs the band as a business (charging the support acts to stay for their concerts!). And Jaggar's outfit in the 'Its Only Rock n Roll But I like It' video, a favourite of the aforementioned Ex's father. It may also have something to do with me actually being scared of Bill Wyman - I used to have nightmares about him when I was a teenager, although obviously I'm long out of this preferred age range for girlfriends now, so I'm probably safe on that score.

But I enjoyed the articles and have been listening to more of their stuff this weekend, discovering some of the 50 Greatest Stones tracks that I didn't know before. The thing that struck me most about the Mojo articles were the photographs and how good they looked. I don't think they were particularly good looking in a traditional handsome way, but together they just looked so right. And their girlfriends too - I've developed a slight crush on Anita Pallenberg in the past few days - I don't want to know if she's become haggard and had an awful life - back then she was stunning.

Last night, we went to see the film 'The Hoax' - it was quite good (the OH loves Howard Hughes - he is his favourite billionaire!) but it ended with 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' which has always been my favourite of their songs, and it sounds particularly good last night.

The question 'Beatles or the Stones?' is often asked and I would always have unwaiveringly said the Beatles, but at the moment I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Off Line

I've not posted anything for a while. A combination of things - I've been feeling a bit low, had nothing much of interest to say, and it appears that my work is going through a phase of monitoring what everyone looks at on the internet. So I've been off-line for a few days.

Today, I had a huge tidy up at work - not very interesting but I feel so much better for having done it. The gloom clouds that had gathered in my head about work haven't entirely gone, but now I can actually see my desk and have usable drawers and shelf space, I'm not dreading going into work quite so much tomorrow.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Good Consumerism

My recent gallery visit also, inevitably involved a just as long visit to the gallery shop. The Photographers Gallery shop (unlike say the V&A which stocks anything tenuously related to any of its displays), does stick to things related to the gallery – photography books, postcards, design magazines and photography equipment. But it is still one of my favourite gallery shops because I love photography books. I covet them. I could spend all day browsing them.

And I was thinking as I sadly put down the £23 exhibition book that if I won the lottery/robbed a bank*, I would buy loads of books. Glossy photography books, to fill bookcases and rest on my coffee table, to be dipped into, flicked through, admired and inspired by.

Forget designer clothes, flashy cars and big houses, all of these things I can manage without, but I hate not being able to buy all the books I want. Because books are good things, providers of knowledge and they should be free to everyone. (I realise there are libraries, which are fine for some things but not the sort of book I’m currently coveting, which I want to be surrounded by, not have to remember to return after four weeks).
To me, buying books is good consumerism, likewise films and music (of a certain quality obviously) – as opposed to clothes and shoes buying which always makes me feel guilty = bad consumerism.

The other thing about this is that these books are usually available to buy online cheaper (Amazon has the exhibition book for £16) but somehow it isn’t the same. There is something about buying the books in the gallery shop, it feels more special that way, then just clicking to put a pixilated purchased into a cyber shopping trolley.

* Would a Judge show leniency if I was caught robbing a bank to buy books?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Soul (Wo)Man

Last night we went to a special screening of a new documentary about Stax Records, ‘Respect Yourself’. You may think you don’t know Stax as it perhaps isn’t quite as much of household name as its big rival Motown, but it was home to some of the biggest names in soul music in the sixties – Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T and the MGs, Sam & Dave and The Staple Singers.

It was the first UK screening of the documentary and I was shocked at the poor turnout – probably less than 100 people and most of those were probably connected to the film in some way. It only cost £15 which isn’t much more than the usual price of a cinema ticket in the West End. But as well as the film, there was a Q&A session with Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame). I’m not sure he actually answered the questions that were asked, not directly anyway, but he was full of anecdotes and spark, and very charming. The film was ok, perhaps a little negative as it seemed to dwell on the bad times a bit too much - the music, obviously was fantastic – but really it was the session with Sam that made the night special. They showed some footage of them performing in Norway in the sixties which was bizarre – they were amazing performers, with such energy and great dance routines, but the audience were sat on the floor and when they were encouraged to get up by the singers, army officers moved in to sit them back down.

Sam’s wife was also present and she introduced some special footage of the soul musician Billy Preston (who played with the Beatles) who died last year. She was overcome with emotion and had a bit of cry. At that point, the record label boss stood up to announce the prize draw! He did apologise and said how typically British it was to follow a legend with a raffle. Sam and his wife (still fighting back tears) drew the winning numbers – at this point we decide we would rather not win as it was rather embarrassing. Following on from last week’s surreal pub quiz win, I’ve found this week’s surreal moment – the soul legend and the raffle!

Anyway, here is a clip of Sam & Dave back in the day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Am Not An Art Critic

Having remembered last week how calming I find galleries, and being much in need of soothing, this lunchtime I popped into The Photographers Gallery. I wasn’t really bothered what was showing, I just hoped the white walls would give me solace and space to relax. But it turned out to be pretty good.

The exhibition was of work by Keith Arnatt entitled ‘I am a Real Photographer’. Arnatt used to be an artist but back in the seventies decided to concentrate on photography. The title of the exhibition comes from an earlier work of his, where he was photographed holding a plaque proclaiming ‘I am a Real Artist’.

I know very little about art (as it is probably painfully apparent) but it seems to me that art is frequently described as humorous or playful, and usually I just can’t see it. But in this case I could see it plainly, particularly in his series of photographs of notes left for him by his wife. I wondered though whether they were real and if so, how did his wife feel about them being exhibited for all and sundry to question their relationship?

Another set was of owners and their dogs, with a description about how both may look equally attentive, but the dogs were only responding to his presence or calls of their name, rather than being aware of him as a photographer. All very interesting, but really I liked this set just because I like dogs!

There were other photographs of rubbish, discarded items, old cans, but photographed to bring out a hidden beauty – which would assert for me that he is indeed an artist as none of my photographs of random debris looks so good.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

RIP, Anthony H Wilson

I was on my home from the office party last night and texted the OH. He replied to tell me Tony Wilson had died.

I'm not normally one for public outpourings of grief for people you don't actually know, but on this occasion I'm going to make an exception. I didn't know Anthony H Wilson, but (as you may have noticed), music is incredibly important to me and he was the man who brought three of my favourites bands (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays) to the world. His effect on the cultural landscape of this country has been enormous - not only was Factory home to some brilliant bands, but there was the Hacienda and he employed Peter Saville as a designer too. I even loved that ridiculous quiz he hosted, Remote Control (despite the presence of Frank Sidebottom who terrified me)
The tributes to him have already started, for the man once described as "a twat, but he was great twat". Stephen Morris said of him this morning "You couldn't fall out with him. We tried enough times over the years". Paul Morley described him as the "Metaphysical Mayor of Manchester".

He was just 57 which is very young, but I was even sadder by what I read about his illness. The local health authority (of city that he did so much for) wouldn't pay for the cancer drug he needed so there had been a fund set up by the bands he supported to pay for it. If I'd known about this, I would have contributes (I should point out, his music business did not make him rich).

So I'm sitting here listening to the Mondays, and tonight we are going to watch "24 Hour Party People" in remembrance of him.