Monday, June 30, 2008

Vive España (Part 1)

I was incredibly pleased by Spain's Euro win last night.

I had declared my intention to support Spain before the tournament even began, but I didn't really expect them to win it. I'd picked them mainly because they are usually under-achievers. The OH at the same time had backed Germany, quoting one of his father's favourite mottos of "Never bet against the Germans".

So we had "our" final. And "my" team won!

I must say I've enjoyed this tournament more than any since Euro 96. It was better without England and I think I might stick with Spain from now on.


Yesterday, I spent the day at the Sanctuary Spa. It was part of my Christmas present from the OH, but it has taken me this long to pick a good time to go.

When I “checked in” I was a bit sceptical as the reception area was swarming with chattering women and I wondered how on earth it was going to be relaxing with this noise. But thankfully, once inside the spa, people were dispersed so it was actually pretty tranquil for most of the day (an exception being the morons in the restaurant who thought that the “no mobile phone rule” didn’t apply to them and also were claiming it was an infringement on their human rights not being allowed to smoke in the spa!)

For my treatment, I had an “Indulgent Egyptian Body Wrap”, where I was scrubbed, oiled, wrapped in cling film and left to stew on a water bed type thing. Later I also had a “Sleep Retreat” which involved lying on a gently vibrating bed, listening on headphones to instructions to picture yourself in a garden with a wall and a well. It was possibly hippie nonsense and it would have been easy to scoff, had I not fallen into a slumber.

My trip also included a two course meal which was delicious and my inability to decide between a starter and a dessert was overcome by the option to have a starter as a main. So I had poached eggs with asparagus spears, followed by bread pudding with whisky ice cream. Again the only word for it is indulgent!

Amongst all of this indulging and relaxing, I did manage to fit in quite a bit of exercise. I found myself having the pools to myself quite often so I had a good swim (it being women only, there were lots of people who didn’t want to get their hair wet so the pools weren’t that well used). As much as I love my outdoor pool, this was an altogether calmer experience. I even went on the “famous Sanctuary rope swing”, as they refer to, I’ve no idea whether it is famous beyond the world of their marketing materials.

To round of the day, I treated myself to a glass of bucks fizz, which I sipped while watching swimming carp.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa

Tuesday was the next instalment of the old men gigs, Primal Scream and MC5. Two gigs in one week! It is like I’m young again!

The Scream were good, perhaps not the best I’ve ever seen them but certainly not the worst. It was quite a short set consisting of several new songs (sounding quite good) and mainly stuff from XTMNTR.

Then the MC5 came on. “He wasn’t in them originally” pointed out the man next to me as a man in his forties came on stage “He’s far too young”. The original members (the MC3?) were quite obvious when they appeared. They were joined by a young(ish) lead singer who I’ve scoured the web for information on but still have no idea who he is, but he knew how to work the crowd. They go their “hit”, “Kick Out the Jams” out of the way a bit too early, and it did perhaps go on a bit too long in places (the drum solo wasn’t necessary) but you couldn’t fault them for energy.

Then what we’d really come for happened, Primal Scream joined the MC5 on stage. Suddenly each band member had a partner, so there was two singers, six guitarists (including the bassists), two drummers etc. It was like a musical ark!

It was brilliant. They were all enjoying it so much. Bobby Gillespie looked like all of his birthdays had come at once and was transformed from a 40-something into a delighted 12 year old boy. His bad dancing went into overdrive. The highlight was when they all played “Moving On Up” together which was so good.

Then, which I wasn’t expecting at all, John Sinclair, came on stage and did some poetry type thing over a jazzy saxophone. The OH said he would have preferred it if he’s just come on and waved, but I liked it, it fitted well with the evening of legends, given that Don Letts was the night’s DJ.

The Flickr Game

The Flickr Game, originally uploaded by sanddancer1.

The concept:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker.

The Questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

(idea taken from Bibbity-Bob)

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Letter "P"

This weekend was brought to me by the letter "P"

"P" was for:

Pear Cider
Pixie Geldof

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gazing at my shoes, ringing in my ears

Last night was the first of my series of gigs by older bands - My Bloody Valentine at the Roundhouse.

It reminded me of watching The Chart Show back in the early 90s when the three specialist charts (rock, dance and indie) would rotate and I'd eagerly anticipate the indie week. Back then alot of the indie (and dance) acts couldn't afford to make videos so The Chart Show would play their song accompanied by a swirling graphic. My Bloody Valentine were very much of that era (of a supposed scene and sound given the name "shoegazing") and whilst they evidently did have some videos, they weren't that much different from The Chart Show's graphics.

The music and the visuals last night took me back to those Saturday mornings in my teenage years.

This is what it looked like, and it sounded just like it looks.

It was ethreal, blurry and above all else incredibly noisy. My ears are still ringing now from the blaze of feedback that ended the show.


Yesterday, I had a clumsy day. I was an accident waiting to happen and invariably it did happen.
  • Knocked into the glass doorway with my side on my way out of H&M
  • Banged my head on my desk when I was charging my ipod
  • Slammed my desk drawer closed on my hand when I was putting something away
  • Tripped over someone's feet getting off the tube
  • Had my drink kicked over at the concert (actually that one wasn't so much my clumsiness as the person next to me)

Then during the night, I banged my head on the bedside chest of drawers,which has been next to my bed for five years, and I've never banged my head on it before.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fatherless Day

My Dad died three and a half years ago. I'd like to be able to say its getting easier but I'm not sure that would be true. I still feel guilty, lonely and at times utterly lost. I'm not putting him on a pedastal. He wasn't perfect. He could be difficult, petty and stubborn. At times, he perhaps wasn't even that good a father, but he was mine.

He still appears in my dreams, sometimes I wake up crying, other times I'm happy just to have seen him again, one time recently he turned up in the dream and was being difficult, and I told him that he was behaving ridiculously as he was, afterall, dead.

Father's Day this year has been particularly bad. I'm not sure it has bothered me as much other years as I realise other people still have Father's and have every right to give them cards and gifts, but this year there doesn't seem to have been any escape from it. Every other email I've received in the last week has been from a website suggesting Father's Day presents and I've felt particularly sensitive about it. I was quite close to emailing HMV to tell them that even if he had been alive, he wouldn't have been interested in a brain training game, but as he's dead, he's got even less use for it.

Strangely though when he was alive he was incredibly difficult to buy presents for, but since he's died, at Christmas, around his birthday and Father's Day, I see things in the shops that I think he would like and sometimes I wonder if I was to buy them for him, it might bring him back.

I'd like to be able to write something beautiful in tribute to him, but I don't have the words.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

You Only Get What You Pay For

Scenes from a depressing Birmingham hotel.

What these pictures fail to convey is the uncomfortableness of a room without air conditioning on a hot night on a very busy and noisy street.

Monday, June 09, 2008

To the Midlands!

Such is the cyclical nature of my life and this blog that we’ve reached that time of year again for my annual jaunt to Birmingham. We are not staying the window-less hotel this time, but will be sampling another of Birmingham’s finest budget hotels.

I'm trying to muster some enthusiasm for it by calling it a jaunt, but a traipse would be more accurate. My schedule will be thus:

Train - Hotel - Food - Bed - Venue - Train

Back not soon enough.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Compost was my downfall

I've been really good with exercise this last week, going to a new more intense water workout class on Monday and swimming every week day since. I didn't feell tired or ache. I felt motivated and energised.

Yesterday, I couldn't get to the pool, but I was active with plenty of walking and gardening. This year's tomato plants were long overdue to be repotted so I walked to the shops to buy a sack of compost. And walked back carrying the bag of compost. It is a brisk 20 minute walk, which I managed without too much trouble. The tomatoes are now re-homed in large pots and my garden resembles a tomato farm.

All good, except this morning my arms are very sore. They ache so much that even lifting a mug this morning seems like a chore.

Friday, June 06, 2008

All My World's a Stage

Last year, I only went to the theatre five times. When I say "only" I'm well aware that I still went more an the average person, but I live in London, I work in the industry and do occasionally get free tickets. I even drink out of a "Chicago" mug (as do most people in our office - we were sent a shipment of them).

So one of the things I was determined to do this year was to go to the theatre more. So far, I'm level with last year's record, which is still probably way less than most people in our office, but then I am limited in my choices as (whisper it) I don't really like musicals.

My theatrical experiences this year have been as follows:

Spamalot - I'm aware that this is a musical but it is more Monty Python than musical, and I like Monty Python. This is rather a double-edged sword though, because you have to like Monty Python to enjoy this, but if you like Monty Python, chances are you will already know all of the best jokes.

Ring Around the Moon - A farce about mistaken identity by Jean Anouilh. It was funny, but I couldn't help but think that if I'd been directing it, I'd have done it darker as there was definitely potential in there for the comedy to be blacker. Sadly, as it wasn't a musical or a play starring a big name from television (just lots of good actors), it closed pretty quickly.

Festen - I returned to my old theatre, an amateur place that prides itself on producing to professional standards. I used to do backstage work there but hadn't been back for about four years. I was the youngest person in the audience by about 30 years, although there weren't many in the audience anyway. According to the programme notes, many members had vowed to stay away as they did not like the subject matter - incest basically. It was a good production and I was reassured to find that the old place hadn't changed a bit - I'd worked with the director and a few of the actors back in my time there.

Billy Elliot - I was at the 3rd Birthday Party for the show, which meant it was introduced by the director and there was a special performance at the end by the new set of Billys who are going to New York. The show is excellent, that is undeniable. However, I did have problems with the casting. Its terribly un-pc to even mention this, but in some pieces such as this "colour blind casting" just doesn't work. If you have play set in a precise time and location, especially one in such recent history, to me it looks frankly odd if one member of a family from a white working class area is black. The dialect coach should also be fired. The accents, on the whole, were woeful and kept hopping over the pennines. There were about four people in the cast with a north east accent, and only one with the correct accent for that area. Obviously, being from there, I'm more sensitive to this than the average person. In fact one of the snooty "never been out of London" types in my office said they didn't like it because they couldn't understand a word that anyone said. But so long as you aren't from the north east but have heard someone who speaks with anything other than an RP accent before, it is a brilliant show.

Fat Pig - A comedy by Neil La Bute starring a trio of people currently very popular in the world of television comedy. This promised more than it delivered. It was entertaining enough for the first half, but after the interval it dipped and it really didn't have anything special to say.

I had the chance to see "Gone with the Wind" but decided that free ticket or not, I didn't fancy sitting there for over three hours.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through...

There is always a busker in the tube station I use when I go home from work. Occasionally they are terrible, occasionally they are excellent (in which case, I may even give them some money) but usually they are just ok. Inoffensive and forgettable.

However, I've noticed over the last few weeks, that on a Thursday it is the same man. The reason I've noticed him in particular is not that he is terrible or excellent. He pretty much falls into the average category. I noticed him because he played the song "The Streets of London". The first time I heard it, I thought "that's a good song for a London busker to play" but then today, on about the fourth time of seeing him play, I've given it some more thought.

Either, it is a huge coincidence that I happen to walk past every week when he's playing that song from his repetoire (I do leave work at roughly the same time every day, but still it seems unlikely). Or that is all he plays.

I don't know how long he is positioned there, but even if it is just one hour, that means playing that song about 12 times.

Either he only knows one song (in which case becoming a busker is particularly a poor career choice). Or he is the most cynical busker ever as this is obviously a winner with passers-by.

Surely though just for variety he could play another London-themed song? "London's Burning" might not be a good choice, but there must be others?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Aqua Alfresco

I can’t believe that I’ve been working in central London for over three and a half years and this was the first time I’d gone for a swim in my lunch break. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.

The pool is less than 10 minutes walk from the office and complete with free hairdryers, making it just about doable in an hour. But better than that, it has an outdoor pool.

Swimming outdoors is so much better than swimming inside. Even though the London air isn’t the cleanest, it still feels so much fresher. It was a wonderful sensation. It has been an overcast day with frequent outbreaks of rain (I could be a weather forecaster!) but I was disappointed that it didn’t rain during my time in the pool, because I would have loved the experience of swimming in the rain. I’m not entirely sure whether the outdoor pool remains open during rain showers, but given the unpredictability of our weather, I think it must.

I’m rather smitten with the whole place. It is pretty shabby and the pool is overlooked by the rest of the leisure centre and what look like council flats, all ugly Brutalist concrete structures that I find oddly reassuring.

I intend to go back again tomorrow and for once I’m hoping for rain.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Totally Devoted

Is there anything that you love so much that you have lost all objectivity.? That you would defend to the death, defying all reason and can hear no other side of an argument to?

I don't mean things like "freedom of speech", "democracy" or anything else that we go to war over. I mean is there something that you are a fan of, but that, if you are honest, it has gone beyond that into obsession, fanatism?

The reason I've been pondering this is that in my little bit of freelance writing that I do, I made the mistake of mentioning a certain pop star and the site has since been bombarded with abusive comments and I wouldn't be surprised a death threat was imminent. I'm not going to mention the pop star's name here as it is obvious that these people receive notifications whenever and wherever he is mentioned on the web. All I said was that he was past his best and then the fanatics appeared quoting figures of record sales (since when has that been a mark of quality?) and alternating their messages of hate for me, with their messages of love for him (is he really going to be reading?).

What inspires such blind devotion?

I've given this some thought and there really isn't anything that I feel that passionately about (perhaps I'm missing out?). There are lot of things I love, but not to that extent. Actually, I even feel uncomfortable using the word "love". I love my family, the OH and my friends - feelings I have for a band, television programme, painting or book, aren't the same.

I really like the television programme "The Wire". There was an article in "Sight and Sound" about it recently that wasn't entirely glowing. I agreed with some of their less positive comments (namely the final season wasn't as good as the past ones), other criticisms I didn't agree with, but I've not written to the magazine to complain.

Musically, the band I've liked most consistently for the longest would be Primal Scream, but I will admit that whilst I like their last album, it wasn't as good as their second album, there is at least one album that I don't like at all and a few years back they went through a phase of being dreadful live. I realise they aren't to everyone's taste and I don't now expect to receive abusive comments from other fans on account of these opinions.

Differences of opinion, varying tastes make the world more interesting. And these fanatics are entitled to their opinions too. But its the lack of intelligent, adult debate, the lack of being able to see that someone might disagree with them that I find so hard to understand.