Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Yesterday we had one of those strange days when we woke up to pretty thick fog, and it never really left us. From my office, I normally have nice views of St Mary Redcliffe church and the edge of the picturesque Ashton Court estate. However for most of yesterday, only the vague outline of the church spire was discernible in the gloom. As the clouds of fog, moved slowly around, huge buildings would suddenly emerge, only to be enveloped again just as quickly. I like the way that the buildings themselves appear to be moving rather than the fog, We still managed to play football last night and I think that the murky conditions must have helped, as unusually for me, I managed to sneak forward and score a couple of goals! Talking of football, what an amazing game for the Reds on Saturday, losing 4-2 with 3 minutes of normal time remaining, they somehow managed to win 5-4!

The first round of Christmas shopping went well on Saturday. It’s strange though, because of the health problems, which have recently afflicted Orynthia’s dad, we have realised how much unnecessary stuff her mum and dad have acquired over the years. Most of it sits unused or looked at, or even thought of for years and years and years. All the while, becoming more of a hindrance to making changes to your lifestyle as the task of moving things around or even out becomes just to much to think about. It has certainly made us think about the stuff that we have in our house, which we no longer need or want. The charity shops and rubbish collections have been doing quite well out of us over recent weeks as we make a determined effort to claim back the space within our house. Anyway, the point of that long ramble is that it has changed the way that we think about the sort of gifts that we will be buying for people this year. A lot of the gifts will have a natural life span, so hopefully, they won’t just go into that cupboard or box and sit there for years and years until no-one can remember how the item was acquired in the first place. Many more of our friends or family will be able to eat it or drink it then throw away the packaging and avoid the clutter that we all can be burdened with.

Been buying lots of music by guitar bands recently, people like The Libertines,D4, Interpol, Radio 4 and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. A lot of it very reminiscent of stuff that we have heard before. Interpol certainly owe a debt to the likes of Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen, Radio 4 remind me a bit of The Associates, Gang of Four and PIL. Along with people like The Datsuns and The Bellrays it just goes to show that guitars are back in fashion.

Over the weekend we watched the amazing film “Dancer in the Dark” directed by Lars Von Trier and staring Bjork and Cathrine DeNeuve. I don’t think that I have ever watched such a raw and emotional film as this. The film is shot in very naturalistic style, so much so that after about 10 minutes Orynthia asked me if all the cast were non actors. The film focuses on the plight of a single immigrant mum as she battles with failing sight and a wilful young son in small town America. The bizarre musical set pieces are very unusual and amusing, the end of the film is more harrowing and upsetting than anything I can remember. It’s no surprise that Bjork has said that she does not want to make another film, this looked like really tough emotional work.

I’m still reading “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen, just over 500 pages into this huge book and it just keeps getting better and better. The individual stories of each member of the immediate family reveal the complex people behind the public persona that they present or which is thrust upon them. All of this is done in a way, which is often humorous as you cringe your way through the mishaps and emotional catastrophes, which they encounter. The book is all leading towards a last grand family Christmas which the mother is begging her errant family to join her for. With Christmas fast approaching it looks as though I’ve picked the ideal time to read this fascinating book.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Hard to believe, but I think it's time for us to start thinking about Christmas! I think that we are going to make a start on the Christmas shopping tomorrow, because before we know it Christmas will have arrived. I can't help thinking about the fantastic time we had last year in New York, we really enjoyed being in a town that was visually part of our Christmas experience thanks to all the celluloid memories we have acquired over the years. Waking up on Christmas morning in our great little apartment on west 18th street, exchanging simple gifts with Orynthia and Ashton, lunch at the splendid Empire Diner and then a long walk along the Hudson river in cold clear intense sunshine. It was a very different kind of Christmas for us, made even more enjoyable for the simplicity of it all. This year, it's back to normal and although you hear a lot of people moaning about the whole Christmas thing, I have to say that for the most part I enjoy it. I enjoy the shopping experience, I do think it's great fun trying to get the right gift for the right person. You can't always do it, but when you spot the perfect present for someone it's a really nice feeling.

We had a lovely evening last night, went over to Orynthia's Mum and Dad's for another get together with Don's brother from Burma. At times, I felt as though I was an extra in the Burmese version of the old Woody Allen film Broadway Danny Rose, as the 4 brothers and 1 sister sat around and swapped tails of teenage high jinks from 50 years ago. The years just seamed to drift away as the stories came thick and fast. Then we enjoyed a huge array of splendid Burmese food (much of it cooked by Orynthia) before heading home.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

We had a great weekend in London, it was on of those times when everything just fell into place. The excitement started as soon as we arrived at the hotel, we had booked parking, but this was a new experience for me as the underground car park was accessed via a giant drive-in lift, a new experience for me.

We had discovered the day before our trip that a documentary film called “Standing in the shadows of Motown” was going to be shown twice as part of the London Film Festival. Now my initial enquiries had indicated that the Saturday evening show was sold out, luckily for us we were able to get tickets for the Friday afternoon showing. The film is a long overdue tribute to “The Funk Brothers”, Never heard of them? Well neither had I, but they were the cornerstone of the large collective of musicians that played on all those great Motown records, which were recorded when the label was based in Detroit. Loads of great old footage, combined with interviews and footage from a reunion concert all combined to make an enthralling and moving film.

After leaving the Odeon on Leicester Square, we were able to wander up Tottenham Court Road in a leisurely manner, on the way to our next port of call. This was a small theatre called The Drill Hall, for the recording of a couple of radio shows called “Lloyd Cole knew my father”, an amusing look at the music industry presented by 3 former music journalist’s turned presenters.

Saturday morning, we had breakfast in our nice little apartment and then took the short walk to The Royal Academy, stopping briefly in the always fascinating Japan centre, and to admire the animated clock strike the hour outside Fortnum & Mason. The exhibition itself was a bit of a disappointment to be honest, a few things were nice but the problem may be with us, On our travels over the years, we have fortunate enough to see most of the sort of art that we really like. The problem with this is that it is increasingly difficult to find new things that really excite us. We will keep looking though.

After that we went back to the Japan centre to pick up some food for our late lunch/early tea, which we enjoyed back at the apartment. At about 3.10 pm I was momentarily very confused. I switched on the TV to check for any early goals in City’s cup match against the non-league minnows. I slightly shocked to see a 7-0 scoreline flash up on the screen. 7 goals in minutes, I thought! Before realising that our match had been played earlier in the afternoon. Still a very nice result though.

In the evening, we caught to the tube over to East End of London to see BMX bandits and 3 other bands in a nice venue on the edge of Spitalfields market. Before the gig, we had a bit of a walk round this most interesting part of London, including a walk down Brick Lane, where every shop is an Indian restaurant, complete with hawkers outside trying to tempt you in with special offers and the promise of fantastic food. Having just eaten it was quite easy to resist, our favourite the guy who proudly proclaimed that his restaurant had no special offers, only special food.

On Sunday, we had time for bit of general shopping and lunch before the drive back to Bristol.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

After a couple of fairly manic weekends in Bristol, we thought that we would give ourselves a bit of a treat this weekend. Both of us have managed to get Friday off work, so we are heading up to London for the weekend. Managed to get a bargain on the cost of an apartment right next to Trafalgar Square, so we are right in the centre of things. We have a few plans, as always London offers a large array of contrasting entertainments, and it’s just up to us to make the right choices.

I forgot to mention that I’m currently reading Jonathan Franzen's amazing novel “The Corrections”. The book should be compulsory reading for anyone whose parents are starting to lose control of the lives that they lead, It’s a brilliant, funny, moving and thought provoking book.

Last night we went to see Baxter Dury in action, he is the son of Ian Dury, and him and his slightly oddball band put on a brief but very entertaining performance.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Well, what have we been doing during the past couple of weeks; while our little iMac has been out of action? Quite a few of you will know that we have been pretty busy with health related problems on both sides of our families. It’s been a pretty hectic and worrying time, pleased to say that things look as though they may be settling down a bit now (fingers crossed).

Apart from that we managed to sneak out, on bonfire night to see The Boggs. Mark and Bab’s came round for some food before going to the gig and they bought a box of fireworks with them for our pre gig entertainment. Our resident pyromaniac, Orynthia put on a splendid show, as we all oohed and ahhed at the right moments. The gig itself was a strange affair, imagine the scene, church social club with no stage, plays host to super cool New York band, who are best described as the band that could do for Bluegrass music, what The Pogues did for traditional Irish music. It has to be said that the singer has a slightly “difficult” vocal style, but the energy of the band won most of the crowd over, long before the night was out.

Also managed to catch one of Steve Dew’s many bands “Fuzz Against Junk” at The Cube, where an evening of improvised madness entertained the crowd. We made another trip to our local cinema last Friday to see the creepy and uncomfortable “One Hour Photo”. An excellent film, with superb use of colour and sound. Never before has the blandness of the American shopping centre, been so well captured, and made to look so beautiful, in it’s simplicity.

Because of the extra time commitment that we are going to have to make to our families, we decided that we should get another car for running about in. Yes, we have the lovely old Fiat 500, but even at it’s best, it is not really the trouble free, easy driving car that we need. In typical Thomas fashion, we went out the other Sunday, looking for a little run around and fell in love with brand new Citroen C3! We booked a test drive, but within a day, our needs had changed and so it’s back to the hunt for a cheep 2nd hand small car. Probably another Fiat Cinquecento to add to Redland motor museum!

Saturday, November 09, 2002

The iMac is fit and well again! Will write more soon.