Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Managed to get to the cinema again last night, when we went to see the excellent “Donnie Darko” at The Orpheus. We have been trying to catch up with this film for a couple of weeks and I have to say that it was well worth seeing. I can only really say that it’s a bit like David Lynch directing a teen/ coming of age type film, with the cheery story of mental breakdown underpinning the whole thing. The film is set in small town America in 1988, interestingly the Director: Richard Kelly uses lots of English music from the ‘80’s so we get to hear Echo & the Bunnymen, Duran Duran, Joy Division and more surprisingly Tears For Fears, sending those teenage American kids crazy. I’m never quite sure why English music was so successful in the states at that time, then again I have no idea if these bands were really successful or were they just hip with the “alternative” kids. Anyway, the film is great and I would recommend it to everyone.

We have been starting to make some travel plans for 2003. We are aiming to go to Paris in April for Orynthia’s birthday. It been quite a few years since we last went, when strangely we went in the February and April of the same year, thanks to generosity of the people who run the Eurostar rail service. It’s a great place and another visit is long overdue. When Autumn comes around we are hoping to head off to Australia to catch up with relatives. Because of the uncertainty with Orynthia’s job we had to forego invitations to several weddings down under this year, which was a real shame. Still next October/November we hope to be swapping the damp and murky English weather for something a bit warmer. If we really get our act together, we hope to append some time in Tokyo on either the way over or the way back. We went to Tokyo in 1999 and had an amazing time, fantastic people, interesting food and the best record shops in the world.

Monday, December 30, 2002

So after a week away from work, I joined the small gathering of people at Redland station for the 07:45 train this morning. Going to work at this time of year is always a bit strange, everyone is on half speed and can’t quite work out why they have gone back to work, when there is very little work to do.

I enjoyed the film last night, it’s certainly not the greatest film that Woody has ever made, but it did keep me amused. With the exception of Radio Days, which I really love, most of his “period” films are merely OK. Before Xmas we made a vague plan to go to the cinema a lot during our holiday, unfortunately the cinema screens in Bristol over the last week have been dominated by Harry Potter and The Two Towers, most of the other screens have been taken up with kids films, so we weren’t left with anything to go and see. It’s shame that all the interesting cinema’s (The Watershed, The Arnolfini, The Cube and The Orpheus) were closed for most of the Xmas period, meaning that we were left to suffer at the hands of the multiplex’s.

It’s strange but I did not get round to doing any reading during the break. So much of my reading time is linked to my working life. I normally read whilst I am on the train, and most lunchtime’s I go to the little café on platform 12 of Temple Meads station for a coffee and a piece of cake plus 45 min reading time. It’s almost as though work just gives me a space to find reading time. Anyway, the upshot of my lack of work last week was a complete lack of any reading. I have started to put that right this morning by working my way through the New Yorker double fiction issue which came out just before Xmas.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Having recorded yesterdays radio programme on The Singing Ringing Tree, we listened to it, whilst we drove down to Banwell to see Mark and Babs last night. Take a look at the previous link, for more information on one of the strangest shows ever shown on children’s TV. We went to Banwell Castle for a meal, with Mark and Babs, the restaurant is located in the gatehouse building and is built is lovely arc shape. I had Duck, which was scrummy! Talking of food, Orynthia is starting to transfer some of her old family recipes onto a website. As soon as it is ready, I’ll put a link on this page so that you will be able to cook some of our favourite Burmese treats. As those of you who have eaten at our house will know, Orynthia is a great cook; the wonderful thing about these recipes is that even, someone with basic cooking skills such as myself is able to make a splendid meal.

As a combined birthday and Christmas present, Orynthia’s mum and dad bought me the wonderful Velvet Underground 5 CD box set, we have both been having a great time working our way through the collection. It’s amazing to think that at the time The Velvet Underground sold hardly any records, yet they left an amazing legacy.

Tonight we are off to see The Curse of the Jade Scorpion at The Watershed, with a few friends. I know that Woody Allen has fallen from favour with many critics over the past couple of years, but I still think that his dialogue is a treat to hear. I guess it may just be part of my obsession with all things that are New York related.

BCFC continue to go well. A 4 -1 win at Stockport on Saturday means that we have not lost for the last 19 games. A pretty good way to end the year.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Very excited about this radio show.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Well here we are again, several days later and several pounds heavier! We have had a good but tiring few days. On my birthday we spent an enjoyable time in the recently opened commonwealth and empire museum. It covers an awkward and potentially embarrassing period of British history, it’s something that has shaped the way that many of us live our lives today, so it is important to look at the past and learn lessons from it. It’s not all serious but was very amused to read about the way our glorious leaders continue to export Opium to China, even though the Chinese authorities begged us to stop. Quite interesting, when you think about our present governments views of the Middle Eastern poppy growers that feed current drug problems in this country. After popping out to visit my nephew in hospital, we headed down to The Bell to meet up with some friends and continue the birthday/Christmas celebrations.

Christmas day itself was a quick trip round see my sister and her kids, then over to my mum before we went over to Orynthia’s Mum & Dad’s place for the meal. Quite a gathering, we all enjoyed the splendid food provided by Orynthia and Crescentia. Fat tums all round; we eventually made it home at around 9 PM, where we promptly fell asleep whilst watching Chicken Run.

On Boxing day City were playing at home against Plymouth, unfortunately the police decided that this would be a 12 noon kick off. As always seams to happen the early start resulted in a drab game, when neither side really got going. The inevitable 0-0 scoreline came as no real surprise after the first 20 minutes or so. Still the first 0-0 that I have watched this season, and it was enough to push us into 2nd place in the league. After the match a few friend came back to our place for cheese, cake, coffee and port. Once again we headed down to The Bell. The plan was that we were going to do onto another bar to see Bristol’s oldest DJ in action. DJ Derek, the OAP king of Ska was meant to playing in a small bar in St Pauls. When we got to the bar Derek was their along with only a couple of other people, whilst some dreadful music was being played. We got our drinks, sat down and then watched in dismay as Derek finished his pint, picked up his umbrella and left the bar. The owners of the bar told us that as most of Bristol had been struck with Boxing Day lethargy, so Derek would not be playing. At least it gave us a chance of an early night, so we dropped Ashton home and made our way back to Redland, stopping only to give Petunia and Simon an impromptu lift to a party.

Today, has been a tidy up the house, eat sensibly sort of day. We have not seen anyone else all day, and that’s been quite nice. Back to normal tomorrow though.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Here is a Christmas card for you all. Thanks to Orynthia's skill.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Well after all that talk of birthdays earlier, it is a real shock to hear of Joe Strummers death. As I mentioned recently, The Clash were a really important band to me and many of my friends, they were a band that educated me, as well entertained and inspired. It’s strange but because Punk was against the idea of nostalgia and was about living in the moment a lot of us feel a bit awkward about the fact that musicians like Joe carried on playing. Orynthia and I went to see him at the Closton Hall in Bristol about a year ago. I must admit that I was worried that I would see an old man going through the motions and that it could all be a bit embarrassing. On the contrary it was a fantastic night. Joe played a great mixture of old and new songs, but delivered each one as though it was crucial that he got his message across to you. It was never earnest and lecturing, it was inspiring and invigorating. On the way into the venue, you walk up a flight of about 60 steps, which are split by a central banister. Imagine my surprising on getting about halfway up these steps, when I was greeted with Mr Strummer sliding down the banisters, seemingly without a care in the world. Music in this country just would not have been the same with this man. Thanks Joe.
Well it’s that time of year, when we tend to spend all our time going from house to house to eat and drink and generally just catch up with people. Yesterday for example, we were out from early afternoon, spending time in 4 peoples houses, eating well and just relaxing into Christmas. Saturday evening was spent with Bob and Karen, as they invited a few friends round for mulled wine and mince pies. It was quite amusing to see the increasing anxious looks on Karen’s face, as the assembled young children got more and more boisterous! On Friday evening we went round to see my nephew Craig, as it was his 16th birthday this weekend. To celebrate, he has sold most of his CD collection and spent the money on an electric guitar and amp. Craig and his older brother Carl have made a couple of amusing tapes in the past, using a two string guitar and the bedroom floorboards as a percussion instrument. The 1st one was a Nirvana inspired noise complete with crowd sound effects. The last one was a tape of songs that they had heard of, but never actually heard! An inspired idea. So who knows what Craig will be able to come up with now?

We are smack bang in the middle of the birthday season here. In addition to Craigs, on Thursday it was Orynthia’s uncle’s birthday, today it’s Steve Dew, tomorrow it’s mine and then on Boxing Day it’s Brucene’s. The week before saw birthdays for Teresa and Gus, so it’s another reason why this time of year is such a busy time of year for us.

We just received a Christmas card from our friends John and Jill, they moved to France in September and was amused to hear that posting the Christmas cards, involves a 2 mile cycle ride to the nearest post box for Jill. Worse still the ride back is all uphill!

Yesterday we finally got round to buying a Christmas tree, it’s only about 3 feet high, but it looks great and it just provides that glorious Christmas smell, that only a real tree can give you. We have a couple more things to sort out today and then Christmas will be with us.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Wow, what a glorious morning. I had to leave for the station at 7:30 this morning and emerged from the house into a thick glistening frost. The sun was just rising and as I walked through Redland Green, resulting in a glorious red sky framing the shimmering beauty of the park as birds skipped to and fro. It was a lovely way to start the day.

Took my mum back to the hospital yesterday afternoon, so that the doctors could take another look at her shoulder. Pleased to say that everything was OK. Her arm will be in a sling for a couple of weeks, but she is already feeling much better. As we got to the hospital with quit a bit of time to spare, I had the unusual experience of taking my mum to look at coffins! Very handily placed for the hospital in a wonderful shop called Heaven on Earth. The shop sells all maner of fantasticaly kitch religious items, an incrediable selection of old games from around the world and all maner of weired and wonderful stuff. However, this is all a sideline to the main business which provides unusual and very personal methods of dealing with death, from coffins made from Cardboard to coffins that can be used as a bookcase whilst you are still alive, then converted upon you death, its all here. I've never been to California, but it looks that the sort of place that would be quite at home in that strangest of States.

Tonight, its Orynthia’s company Xmas bash. Partners are invited, so I’m meeting Orynthia at 4:30 and then a coach will whisk us away to a hall in South Bristol. Here we will be fed and watered and also entertained. The Dynamo Rhythm Aces are providing the music. They are a very entertaining local band who play songs by the likes of Motorhead, Nirvana, Sex Pistols and Frankie Goes to Hollywood in a sort of Jazz -Jump-Jive style! Think Louis Jordan doing The Ace of Spades and you will be have the idea. They play it dead straight, which makes even funnier. Should be a good night. Then we only have one more day to get through,Friday is the last day in work for both us before, having the week off around Xmas. Fantastic.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

We had lots of fun of Sunday afternoon, as wrapped the Xmas gifts and listened to our Xmas CD’s. The best of which was Its a Cool Cool Christmas.
We had a bit of late night yesterday, I know that’s not unusual at this time of year, but this was a bit unexpected. I was on my way home from playing football for the last time before the Xmas break, when I had a call from Orynthia. On her return home from seeing John, she picked up a message from a friend of my mum’s saying, that my mum had fallen over in town and was in hospital. We dashed into the hospital to see how mum was, this was at about 11:00, and mum was not looking too good and was convinced that she had broken a bone in her left arm. We had to wait around for several hours before the doctors had a chance to take a look at her. It emerged that she had dislocated her shoulder. They pumped her full of drugs and popped her shoulder back in. By the time that we had taken her home and then driven back it was gone 4am by the time we crawled into bed! Luckily for me I’m pretty quiet in work, so I was able to take today off. Orynthia made it into work this afternoon, but is exhausted now, so it’s time for an early night. Let’s hope that this is the last bit of misfortune to hit our friends and family this year. It has been a shocking year for lots of people that we know. My sister has had cancer, her eldest son has had a mental breakdown, and Orynthia’s dad has lost the use of his legs. Lots of our friends have had work related traumas. At times 2002 has been a pretty tough year, roll on 2003!

On Sunday evening we went to see the film Bowling for Columbine. I thought it was a pretty amazing film and really does make you think about the climate of fear that so many people live with. The worst thing is that very often, it is an unnecessary state of mind and the likelihood of suffering an attack of some sort is still pretty slim. However fear breeds more fear and pretty soon everyone is afraid to go out and experience real life. It was great to hear "Take the skinheads bowling" blasting out at the start and end of the film.

Friday, December 13, 2002

OK, here we go. As mentioned below here are 20 (well as close as I could get) tracks that changed my life in one way or another. Quite a few records that I have not played for years, some that I may never play again, but all of them had a major impact on me. I’ve put them in a vaguely chronological order

1) Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon. My sisters album, the 1st record that made me really listen.
2) ELP – Pictures at an exhibition Oops! Prog rock!!
3) Thelonious Monk – Round Midnight . It’s a jazz thang
4) Magazine – Shot by both sides. New wave arrives and it’s great
5) Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative Ulster. Blistering angry passionate punk
6) Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning. Fragile beauty
7) The Clash – Complete Control. Could be almost anything by The Clash. Great ending.
10) Black Uhuru – Shine Eye Girl. The excitement of 12”Jamacan dub singles. Hear that bass
11) Joy Division – Transmission. It sounded like music from another world.
12) Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hong Kong Garden. Angular spiky punk pop at its best
13) Kraftwerk – Neon Lights. Electronic beauty
14) Motorhead – Overkill. Is it rock? Is it punk? Who cares?
15) Grandmaster Flash - Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels Of Steel. Just amazing
16) U2 – I Will Follow. And I did! All around the UK before they became superstars.
17) Echo & The Bunnymen – Do it clean. Great scouse pop
18) The Smiths - Hand in Glove. Being in a shop in New York whilst 2 guys debated Morrissey's gender! Should we intervene?
19) Elvis Costello – I’ll wear it proudly. He dedicated this to us on our wedding night!
20) Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy. Bristol can produce great music
21) Portishead – Glory Box. Bristol does it again.
22) Belle & Sebastian – Like Dylan in the movies. Memories of an amazing night at the union chapel.
23) Cornelius – Fantasma. Crazy cut up music from Japan, It’s music Jim but not as we know it!
24) The Strokes – Last Nite. New York strikes back, it’s 1977 again!

So many great bands and individuals that I have not included, as I said these were records that changed the sort of music that I was buying and watching.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

The football on Monday evening was actually really good fun. It was really, really cold, and the pitch did have quite a bit of ice on it, but there is something madly exhilarating about running around in conditions which would cause any sensible person to snuggle up in front of the fireplace.

I have been racking my brains over the past few days. A fellow blogger, Jen from Washington has been writing about putting together a list of the 20 songs, which have had the biggest influence of your life. I normally hate being asked to name you 5 favourite records of all time, or best record of the year type things. Anyone that loves music will tell you that favourites change from day to day. However this question has got me thinking, in a way it’s more about the sort of music that has been a stepping stone to a different part of your life, so it could be something that is sort of embarrassing now, but at the time changed the way you thought about things. Music often opens the door to other area’s it can spark an interest in, films, politics, books, history, food, people and places in fact virtually anything. I think that’s why I am amazed when I talk to people that aren’t interested in music. Although I enjoyed my time in school, it’s fair to say that I was not overburdened with academic qualifications when I left. A large amount of the knowledge, which I have acquired, has been prompted by a musician’s lyrics or sleeve notes, making me go away and find out about the background to a story, which they have been inspired to make music by. Sometimes this can be a very direct link, The Clash singing about Nicaragua, on other occasions it’s a bit more obtuse, say Charles Mingus working with beat poet’s this leads me to the writing of people like Kerouac and Ginsberg and then onto people like Lenny Bruce, from here I go to Jewish history and politics and so it goes on. Of course it’s not just education that music provides me with, it’s the sheer joy that a great song can bring to you, moments wistful beauty that can stop you dead in your tracks or the mad adrenaline rush that a powerful band can give you. How do people live without the contrast’s that music can provide for you? Anyway I’m working on that list, when it’s done I’ll post it here, so that you can snigger at my embarrassing choices.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Just come back from lunch and it's freezing outside. Looking forward to tonights game of football! According to the weather people it could be about -4 this evening! I'll just have to run around more than normal in order to keep warm.
Well Christmas began for us yesterday. My dad and step-mum dropped in for brunch on their way back home to Devon. Presents were exchanged (but not opened!) and then last night we sat down and wrote out all our Christmas cards. In fact I went to bed feeling a bit icky, thanks to licking all that lovely gum on the back of the envelopes. Thank goodness that we don't have to lick the stamps any more, I just love those peel off sticky backed stamps that emerged a couple of years ago.

We had a really nice evening on Saturday, went to The Cube to see some interesting bands and strange films. First up were a 3 piece from London called Florida, I wonder if there is a band in Florida called London? They reminded me a bit of the Magnetic Fields, sparse electronic arrangements and vocal's split 50-50 between male and female singers. On occasions it was pretty difficult watching the band, as behind them a very bizarre Mexican film was keeping us amused, appalled, shocked and guffawing with laughter in equal measures. We saw all sorts, as a Christ like figure wondered through a chaotic landscape dealing with an army of toads dressed in strange costumes (later to be blown up!), and old man removing his false eye (prompting huge squeals from the audience) and lots of ritualistic icon smashing and eating. At times the band themselves were distracted by the film and when everyone trooped off to the bar, it has to be said the conversation was more about the cinematic exploits than the musical ones. Next up were the laconic, John E. Vistic , they played using some Clint Eastwood spaghetti western as a backdrop. Very appt for their country tinged swamp blues. By this stage of the evening the rather potent Polish Vodka (in my case) and Polish lager (in Jane's case) resulted in us giggling at the supreme performance of posing and non stop fag rolling by one of bands guitarists. A very jolly fellow, who managed to get through most of the performance, without playing a note! After another break Munter took the stage to a backdrop of wild tango dancing and strange Japanese snake women! They appeared to be beset by on stage problems, most of which we were oblivious to. However the feeling of increasing gloom which radiated from the band hindered rather than helped the enjoyment of the fragile melodies which make this band stand out from many of their local contemporaries. The other problem that Munter have is that they are a very quiet band, unless people come to see them in particular, the general level of chat at a gig can seriously impede the enjoyment of fans (and maybe the band as well). They need someone to tell the rest of the country how good they are, maybe then people will actually come and listen to band, rather than using it as chance to pay to go and have a conversation. By the time Munter had finished, the curfew time for live music had been exceeded, Florida had been supposed to come back on and play another set, so after an impassioned rant from the band they managed to get enough gear plugged in to enable them to play one more song, before we all drifted back into the bar to appreciate the excellent music (Nick Cave, The Smiths etc) being played by the splendid Grumpy Men DJ collective. Orynthia, Steve and I walked home in a very jolly frame of mind.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

A couple of the guys that I play football with on Monday evenings are making me quite jealous at the moment.
Geoff is about to head out to Sydney for his normal winter break, 6 weeks in one the nicest cities in the world can’t be bad. We have had quite a few invitations to weddings in Australia this winter, and it’s a real shame that we won’t be able to attend any of them. Now that Orynthia has a permanent job we can plan a bit more, so we are hoping to catch up the family in OZ next October/November time. It’s something that we are both really looking forward to, as it’s been far too long since we have seen some of the gang.
Even better though are the prospects for Mick. In December 19th Mick and his wife start a proposed year off work to travel around Europe in a camper van. The thought of a year off work travelling around Europe sounds just fantastic. Then again, I can never work out how you even start to decide what you take with you on that sort of journey? What clothes do you take, how about music, books and the rest? If you take a look at Bill and Doreen’s website via my friend’s links, you see the inventory of stuff that they took on their mammoth bird watching world tour and some very strange things they took with them. We always get in a pickle packing for a weekend in London, when we know what the weather is going to be like, what if you are going to be in Norway at Christmas and Naples in June?

Whilst I was watching City win again on Tuesday night (13 games without defeat!), Orynthia went see Badly Sung Songs, sorry I mean Badly Drawn Boy. Although I quite like some of his records, whenever I have watched doing any live stuff on TV it sounds awful. However Orynthia and Babs both had a fine time in the company of the strange woolly hatted man.

Monday, December 02, 2002

If you don’t live in England, you might not be aware that our firemen and women are going through a period of industrial action at the moment. Whilst they are on strike, fire cover is provided by military staff using 30 year old fire fighting vehicles know as green goddess’s. Much has been made in the media of the slow response time of these ancient trucks from another time, in the early hours of Saturday morning; I got my first look at one. Walking home from our team Xmas meal at about 2:30 AM I was initially somewhat confused when a police car drove past my friend Ant and I, with siren blaring and lights flashing, but instead of zooming along the nearly deserted Whiteladies Road it ambled along at around 30 miles an hour. I thought that maybe, they were looking for a specific individual in a none to discreet way. Then eventually from behind us the green goddess lumbered into view struggling like a middle aged over weight jogger, when approached with a small incline. It was not a sight to give you confidence in our safety.

A few moths ago it emerged that Euan Blair the son of that Mr Blair (no not Lionel) was going to be a student at Bristol university, cue much excitement in the local media. Mercifully since the start of the academic year, we have been pretty much Euan free in the local press. All that has changed since when the weekend, when that paragon of virtue the Sunday Mail decided to announce that the Mr & Mrs P.M. had managed to do a dodgy bit of work buying 2 new luxury flats near the University and somehow were able to knock about price down from £270, 000 to £250, 000 per flat. This is at a time when things are selling like hot cakes and everyone else is paying the full asking price. Of course it may just be coincidence that full stamp duty (3%) is payable on any thing over £250,000 rather than the 1% that they will know pay. Very nice saving, when it’s all added up. Mind you it does seam a bit odd that everyone in Bristol now knows where little Euan will be living. Not very clever from a security point of view!