Friday, August 29, 2003

Forgot to say that I finished reading "Everything is illuminated" last week. It is a strange book, but one which is worth persevering with as the final chapters are very touching. I've started reading the stories of John Cheever, he is not an author that I know much about, other than the fact that he had his work published via the New Yorker for many years. Looks like I'm in for lots of mid century American angst, as I work my through the nearly 700 pages which make up this collection.

We had the excitement of a fire drill in work this afternoon. It's quite strange, our building is a large open plan office, on 5 floors with a large atrium area. However it often feels as though the place is deserted. You tend to see the same faces, hanging around in the canteen area (that's me!) or outside having a smoke (not me). Now logically I know that their could be about 700 people in the place at any one time, yet it normally feels more like 70. Consequently it was quite strange to be walking off to the meeting point with loads of other people that I've never seen before. It's always a good excuse for a bit of social chit chat, just disappointing that after only 10 minutes or so we had to go back to work.

Some of Orynthia's Burmese relatives will be in Bristol this weekend. So no doubt we will be getting together and eating the traditional mountain of delicious food.

As a post script to the Massive Attack gig on Monday, I was just told that poor old Grant (Daddy G) broke his foot when he jumped into the crowd at the end of the gig! Rock and roll eh, what a dangerous game.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I've been working hard at my Lithuanian history in preparation for our trip in 10 days time. It’s a fascinating country and we are both really looking forward to our trip. Talking of overseas things, my blog friend Kelpie is trying organise a sort of email pen pal scheme, so that people from different countries can get to find out something about life in different parts of the world. So if you are curious about Cairo, mystified by Massachusetts, or fascinated by France, get in touch with her via her website. It could be the start of an interesting friendship.

I spent the last 30 minutes or so tinkering with my team for this years BBC fantasy football league. It's something that I do with some of the guys in work and some other friends of Bill formally of Bristol but now resident in New York. Last year I was hopeless for most of the season, so I put extra effort into this seasons team. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

In the world of real football Bristol City have come back to earth with a bit of a bang! After the excitement of the 5-0 win on the first day of the season, we’ve drawn a couple of games in fairly unconvincing style and then last night we lost 1-0 at Colchester, so we find ourselves down in 11th place. Home to Grimsby on Saturday is looking like a bit of a must win game already!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

So what about the Massive Attack gig in Bristol on Monday? Well I have to say that I had a fine time. We missed Lupine Howl, so the first entertainment we caught in strangely remodelled Queens Square was the sublime Martina Topley-Bird, who played a short but sweet set of songs, which came with more of a blues influence than her album prepared me for. The sun shined and the good people of Bristol, relaxed into the afternoon with a nod of the head and polite applause.

Next up were The Bees, who captured their eclectic sound to perfection, reggae, pop, 1970’s afro jazz it’s all in the mix. I think they made a decent impression on people without exactly burning down the house.

By the time Goldfrapp took to the stage, Queens Square was getting very full indeed and the queue at the beer tent was longer than the gap between Portishead albums! After being besotted with the 1st Goldfrapp album, it’s taken me a long time to warm to the more commercial sound of the 2nd album. It’s starting to happen for me, but I do wish that we could have had more of the marvellous, cinematic soundscapes, which initially brought the band to our attention.

Final support of the day came from The Streets, now I know that they have many fans and indeed they went down really well today, but I just don’t get it. Oh well.

So at 9:15 Massive Attack took to the stage in Bristol for the fist time since the run of gigs at the Anson Rooms, which marked the end of the Mezzanine tour. Expectation levels were high and if I’m honest I think that carried the band through a slightly patchy opening. Once they relaxed the multitude vocalists did their stuff to great effect. The on stage line changing for virtually every song, reminiscent of the changing formations of an American football team, constantly evolving but always in control. Never the most dynamic performers visually, they have taken to bombarding the audience with an incredible array of electronic information from a giant screen behind the band. It can be a touch overwhelming at times, but is a very clever move. The set was heavily weighted towards the last two albums but enough of the old hits were thrown in to keep everyone happy. For me the highlight was a storming version of Safe From Harm.

At the end of the show the band seemed to be genuinely moved by the reaction, I guess that after the events of the past few months they must have worried about the bands ability to carry on. Well they managed it and I think that everyone that turned up (around 19,000) had something good to remember from the day.

By way of contrast, we spent Saturday evening at a very enjoyable Velvet Underground evening at The Cube. Various singers doing their versions of great V.U. songs complemented some strange old TV and film footage of the band itself. Some brilliant moments along with some chaotic ones. A classic Cube night that once again teetered on the edge of collapse on several occasions, but in tue Cube style, won through in the end.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Well I’m feeling a bit better now. Which is a good thing as we have a busy weekend coming up. Tomorrow it’s the second home game of the season for BCFC. It’s also the game that gives Steve a chance to catch up with the reds, as he is here on holiday for a few weeks from Madrid.

On Sunday we are aiming to take Orynthia’s mum and dad to see the open air jazz in Kings Street, so lets hope the weather holds up for that.

Then on bank holiday Monday it’s time for the big Massive Attack homecoming gig in Queens Square. As well as M.A. an excellent collection of bands make up the bill, Lupine Howl, Martina Topley-Bird, The Bees, Goldfrapp and The Streets should make for an interesting day. It’s the first really big gig that M.A. have ever played in Bristol, and virtually everyone that we know appears to be going. It’s also the first time that the lovely square has been used for a paying gig, so it will be interesting to see how that works out. The weather forecast is good, so all look to be in place for a memorable occasion.

Our tickets arrived today for the Lithuania holiday. Apparently we are going to be driven from the airport to our apartment, by a driver who will be waving our names around on a bit of cardboard at Vilnius airport. It’s always good fun when that happens, makes you feel like a celebratory, albeit a very small one.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Been struck down with some sort of cold bug, so being a man I’ve done the decent thing and spent most of my time in bed!

A couple of new Bristol based blogs added to the links. One is a person I know Paul Baxter and one I don’t The Thought Offering/NYC to the UK.

Off to relax on the sofa again now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

During our little trip to Cornwall we had a couple of very interesting but wildly contrasting meals. Just before leaving for our trip, our friend Jane told us about an old castle, which was located on the one of the hills overlooking Redruth. She started to tell us about the tricky route which you have to follow to find it and the amazing views from the hilltop, but then she mentioned that the castle was home to a Lebanese restaurant. This sounded like an interesting combination, so following an afternoon spent poking around in the 2nd hand shops that Redruth offers, we set off in search of the castle. I should just add that this included one fantastic Art Deco store, which was more like a small museum than a shop. Also found a great record shop, where Orynthia managed to pick up a vinyl copy of the first Monochrome Set album for only £5. We also wished that we had access to a van, as we kept coming across great pieces of furniture from the 1930's and 1940's at half the price you would pay in Bristol.

Eventually the shops started to close, an we decided that it was time to head to hills, in search of fine views and food. After spotting the castle on the skyline, we drove off and eventually found ourselves in the village of Carn Brea. Now Jane had mentioned that last bit of the route was on a pretty dodgy track, so we parked and after checking with one of the locals, set off on the "easy" path. 30 minutes later we emerged at the crown of the hill. The castle was indeed a strange thing, partially built on boulders, it really did have amazing views and it really was a Lebanese restaurant! Now before taking the long walk up the hill, we should have stopped to consider the fact that there had to some sort of road access, otherwise how on earth we the supplies get to the restaurant?

Sure enough a bumpy, rocky track did exist and several cars were proudly sitting in the small car parking area. We decided that rather than wait the 15 minutes or so for the place to open, we would walk back down the hill, pick up the car and come back via the bumpy road.

All went to plan and around 25 minutes later, we once again found ourselves on the threshold of the castle. The interior of the castle was as spartan as the food was tasty. Stone floors and walls and simple wooden furniture, combined with the candle light to produce a suitably rustic atmosphere. The food was a delight and we emerged just in time to watch a fantastic sunset as the sun dipped into the sea off the north Cornwall coast.

The next day we went to the Lost Gardens Of Heligan. Here we spent some time walking around the lovely grounds, sitting and reading, and enjoying a cream tea, whilst fielding calls from friends in Bristol who were having problems with their travel plans, for their trip to Cornwall for the wedding on Saturday. We decided to head off to the coast for some sitting by the sea reading time. Whilst heading coastward, we saw a sign advertising "Mambo, American 50's diner". We skidded quickly to the right and found ourselves eating some of the most cholesterol heavy food you can imagine. To add to the classy tone of the place the Cornish Elvis was giving a performance later that evening. We had left before he started his act, but were fortunate enough to see him waddling around (definitely late period Elvis!) without a care, as his pencil thin female partner lugged all his gear around. We drove round to Polkerris, parked at the top of the village and walked down the hill to the small bay, along the single car width road. Here we sat and read for a while whilst waiting the sunset.

The wedding was great, but I'll write more about that later.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Well we had a brilliant time in Cornwall. Will write more about that soon. Looks like I'll be leaving my job on October 31st!! Only 44 more work days to go!

In other news, we have booked a holiday in Lithuania, Vilnius to be precise for the middle of September.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

On a ludicrously hot Saturday afternoon, Bristol City kicked off the new season in emphatic style this afternoon. We thumped a disjointed Notts County side 5-0, bizarrely all the goals were scored by players called Lee! The newly christened “Lee Amigos” are Lee Peacock (2 goals), Lee Miller (1 goal) and Lee Mathews (2 goals). It could well have been more, as we had two disallowed through very tight off side calls. So after one game, we are at the top of division two, mind you it’s only on alphabetical sequence as QPR also won 5-0,Interesting really as we were the two teams who missed out in the promotion play offs last season. Maybe this time we can both get promoted.

Last night we were supposed to be watching the latest up and coming band from Liverpool "The Stands" in action at the Louisiana. Sadly the gig was cancelled because of health problems. It is a shame as they really are a top band, we've seen them a couple of times before, although on the first occasion they were 3rd on the bill to The Coral and we only caught their last few numbers. Orynthia loved them and spent ages trying to find out more about this, as yet unknown band. The only information that she had was their name and the fact that they were from Liverpool, not surprisingly when you enter those two pieces of information into web search engines, you do get masses of information, sadly though it was all about the various stands at the football grounds of Liverpool! All very nice, but not really what Orynthia was looking for. Their debut single is released on Monday and it looks as though it may even chart. Anyway we have just found out that they are due to play with Shack at the Fleece in October, so we should catch them then.

On Wednesday evening, we are driving down to see my dad in Devon. We are just staying overnight before heading on to Cornwall for a few days, culminating in a wedding on Saturday. Lots of our friends are making the trip to the southwest including Steve Vowles, who is having a holiday in the UK, now that he is a resident of Madrid. Very impressed that Steve called tonight to find out how BCFC got on in today’s game. Although he lives in the city which hosts arguably the greatest football team in the world, he has said on many occasions that, great as it may be to watch Real Madrid in action, it can’t come close to the thrill of watching “your” team in action. Luckily he will be able to catch a couple of games whilst he is back in Bristol.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

So I finished reading Ghostwritten by David Mitchell today. To be honest I was a little disappointed. The book is constructed in the format of 10 seemingly stand alone short stories, however the stories are linked by characters, who straddle the boundaries of their own tale, often appearing as peripheral parts of the next link in the chain.

I loved the start of the book, the chapters set in in Okinawa and Tokyo were splendid, although obviously influenced by the hand of Haruki Murakmi. An air of calm detachment, so typical of Murakami, cleverly understates the momentous events taking place, particularly in the Okinawa chapter. With my curiosity engaged, I quickly moved onto the next section. The themes of the following couple of chapters were equally engaging, but I thought the book really slumped during the middle three chapters, set in Mongolia, Petersburg and London. These elements of the book seemed predictable and mundane, not something which I normally associate with Mitchell's work. Thankfully the book then springs to life again, with the brilliant story of the Irish scientist, who decides that the technology which she has been developing, is going to be used in unacceptable ways. Prompting her to flee, with interesting results. The final couple of chapters are also captivating, and a few lose ends are successfully tied up, which makes the mid book lull even more frustrating.

I've mentioned here before, how much I enjoyed David Mitchell's second book - Number 9 Dream, a brilliant book which shows real progression from Ghostwritten. If he continues to hone his skills at this rate then his 3rd book should really be something to look forward to.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Haruki Murakami’s short story “The Folklore Of Our Times” is back on line here, thanks to The Guardian. You can also find stories by David Eggers and Ali Smith amongst others, well worth taking a look at.

Last night we went to see the beautiful film “Dolls” by Takeshi Kitano. It’s miles away from the work which made his reputation in this country. Stunning imagery fills the screen as three love stories gently overlap. The mood is quiet and reflective and ultimately very moving.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

What a busy weekend! On Friday night, we went to a couple of different events where a couple of my Monday night football pals were involved in entertaining the good people of Bristol. Through August a series of free jazz events are taking place in Queen’s Square, a short walk from my office coincided nicely with the start of The Organelles set, featuring tough tackling Dan on bass, they entertained the small but enthusiastic crowd.

Then we made our way home briefly before heading off to Four Corners at The Croft, where the normal holy trinity of Phil, Ian and John were joined by midfield star Scott Hendy, for a night of top tunes and dynamic dancing, most notably by that whirling dervish, Sarah Clarke.

Saturday evening was spent in the company of some old friends at a 40th birthday party for Rick. Not expense was spared, and the chandeliers in the marquee shone done on the 100 + people gathered together to celebrate Rick’s milestone birthday. A top time was had by all, especially when the power failed on a couple of occasions, and we realised that when it’s dark in the country, it really is dark.

Today we spent a few hours in the blazing sunshine at the harbour festival. Huge crowds of people were out, enjoying the hundreds of stalls and water related activity. Our main reason for going was to see one of Orynthia’s favourite bands from her youth – Heatwave. It’s been a running joke all week, as Orynthia would go up to people saying “Heatwave on Sunday”, they would reply with something along the lines of “ teas the weather forecast is pretty good” causing Orynthia to laughingly shout back “ No, Heatwave, the band!” As British soul / disco bands go they were probably on the best. And even I had to say they have fantastic voices and just seamed to be lovely guys.

Then after spending some time with Orynthia’s mum & dad, it was back home for relaxed tea in the early evening warmth of our back garden.

When we have been at home, we’ve been listening to a great album from James Kirk called “You can make it if you boogie”. It on Marina records, from that part of Germany, which is forever Glasgow. James was one of the original members of Orange Juice, it been many, many years since he recorded anything, but the album is fantastic. It’s just like he never went away.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Last night was the start of a pretty intense social phase. We went to the lovely Red Snapper restaurant on Chandos Road. With my dad and step mum and a couple of old family friends. Lovely meal, I had scallops fried with lardons and mushrooms to start. Followed this with a lovely piece of lemon sole, with capers, baked fennel and mash. Could not resist having a side portion of samphire with it – yum. Finished off with an individual lemon tart served with mascapone cheese. It was all great, Chandos road is one of the hidden gems of Bristol, I’m so pleased that we are within a short walk of all it's culinary delights.