Friday, January 30, 2004

Last night I had the unexpected delight of seeing, the wonderful E.S.T. in fantastic form at St Georges. I say unexpected, because the opportunity to go to the gig, only arose in mid afternoon. They really are a brilliant group, who manage to escape the normal confines of a jazz trio, thanks to their innovative approach to sound, which works particularly well in a live environment.

Tomorrow we head off to Bilbao, I’ve stocked up on reading matter for the trip. The 600 plus pages of “The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier & Clay” should take most of my time, just in case I need further stimulus, I’ve got the latest 2 copies of the New Yorker magazine to get through as well. The weather forecast looks pretty good, considering that Bilbao is one of the wettest places in Spain, so we are hopping for lazy spells sitting reading in parks or outside café’s.

The reason for going away at this time of year is that February 4th marks our 17th wedding anniversary. We normally try to go away somewhere to celebrate, even if it’s only a few days in London. Quite often the weather can cause delays (our flight to Nice was cancelled last year!), so I’m pleased to see that the thaw has well and truly kicked in. Tomorrow, we will be driving to local railway station, getting a train to Temple Meads, from their we get a coach to Bristol Airport, from Bilbao airport we hope to get a bus to our hotel. Shame that we can’t fit a boat trip in as well to get most of the forms of transport covered!

Thursday, January 29, 2004

So after the biggest build up since the 3rd Oasis album, the snow finally reached us. In the same way that the record was such a disappointment, the expected blizzards failed to arrive. We had a brief spell of snow, which has now frozen solid on the ground leaving everything looking very slippery this morning. Indeed last night, we went straight to the hospital to see Orynthia’s dad and due to some complications which arose when we were there, we did not get home until 10pm, by which time the short walk from the car to front door of the house, had become a decidedly tricky operation.

Bristol City managed another win on Tuesday evening, so that makes it 7 straight victories now. We are only 2 points off the second promotion place, so who knows, maybe this season it may all come good for us. Certainly we have the most balanced team and squad that I have seen at Ashton Gate for many seasons.

In the wonderful world of Imperial Music everything has gone very Ninja! No, we are not leaping around drop kicking customers away from the counter, the Ninja Tunes record label is having a big promotional push at the moment and we been selling loads of their stuff. The likes of DJ Food, Amon Tobin, Cinematic Orchestra and Mr Scruff amongst others have been flying out of the shop, Indeed towards the end of business on Monday, one guy spent over £100 pounds on Ninja stuff, when you consider that these CD’s are selling for £4.99 to £6.99 you can imagine what a huge pile he came to the counter with.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Wow the Camera Obscura gig sure was packed! I’ve never seen so many people in The Cube. A top night though, really enjoyed Jessie’s latest Morning Star line up, in their role as support band. Camera Obscura were great, even if they did have a few problems remembering the words!

Football dominates the start of the week for me, playing on Monday evening and all the weather forecasts seem to thing that it’s going to absolutely freezing! Then on Tuesday City are home against Colchester, bizarrely City have managed to win their last 6 games, amazing when you consider that normally we are lucky to pick up 6 points in the whole month.

Last night we watched the splendid Man Without A Past on BBC4, quirky and understated we both enjoyed it greatly. We also watched the documentary film Etre et Avoir, which was mildly diverting but no more than that. Still it’s great to see this sort of films on TV.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

So Orynthia’s dad has had most of his left leg removed. It’s strange though, at first this sounded like such terrible news, but last Friday we had a real scare because of the problems that the poisons in his leg were causing him. So, with hindsight getting the leg removed sounds like the better option, if it stops additional problems within his body. His brother is in the same hospital for an operation today, so at least we can visit both of them at the same time rather than dash from hospital to hospital.

On a much less serious point, I managed to make quite a fool of myself in the shop yesterday. Jumping up from the lower levels of our CD racks, I managed to smash my forehead into one of the (actually pretty thick) hard plastic dividers, which we use to separate the vinyl. Resulting in a pretty stupid looking red line across my forehead, looking like an unfinished mark of Zorro!

Only just over a week to go before our trip to Bilbao, we really need to get organised for that, it’s creeping up on us very quickly.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Had a bit of a mixed bag of a weekend. On Friday we went to see the really rather good American Splendor at The Orpheus. On Saturday I saw Bristol City win their 5th game on the trot, although it has to be said the 4-0 score line did flatter us somewhat. Whilst I was enjoying that Orynthia was with her dad in the hospital. Then on Sunday we travelled down to see my dad in Devon, as he has now returned home from his hospital stay.

Quite a strange day in the shop, time for the annual January clear out. Some stuff being returned, other stuff being marked down. Kept seeing great Jazz albums being reduced and just wanted to buy them all. Still if you like Jazz and still have a record player, why not pop into Imperial Music, Park Street, Bristol and see what takes your fancy.

We are off to see the lovely Camera Obscura on Friday at The Cube, and was delighted to see that their first album has just been re-released, so I picked up a copy of that one straight away!

Friday, January 16, 2004

Well we spent last night in the company of the very strange but always beguiling Howe Gelb at St Georges. We both really enjoyed his album The Listener, which we picked up in Paris during our trip in April. I must confess to only hearing a little bit of his work with Giant Sand, and the vast array of material that he has recorded in the past 20+ years, so we did not really know what to expect.

Fortified by some excellent noodles from Wagamamas and sublime cakes from Boston Tea Party, we made our way to St Georges in a good mood. This was increased when we bumped into several friends in the bar (some of whom, had seats next to us by complete coincidence!). The start of the show was somewhat strange, Howe Gelb shuffled around the stage moving instruments around, whilst music played over the PA. He then walked over to a portable CD player and abruptly stopped a song mid way through, indicating that the show was about to commence.

As it turned out the CD player played an important part in the events of the evening. He used it to play us some unfinished tracks from the new Giant Sand album (joining in with some guitar solo’s as he did so), also using it to have Miles Davis add a trumpet solo to one of his songs and using some of the CD’s as effects by placing them on the stings of his piano, which produced at strange metallic sound, not dissimilar to a harpsichord.

The first 15 or 20 minutes of the show produced a lot of a confusion as Howe ambled around trying to find “the vibe” of the room, seemingly with no real idea about what he intended to do. Eventually he called Jon Parrish onto the stage to play drums and the addition of another musician seemed to have a calming effect, as he went on to perform some beautiful piano based songs. When he switched to the electric guitar things seemed a bit messy again, but that may be down to the acoustics of the room rather than the performer. Anyway it all made for a very entertaining (if occasionally confusing) evening. He is truly a maverick figure, completely at home with the idea of challenging both himself and the audience.

My dad returned home yesterday after his recent heart attack. The signs are good for the future, as long as he can keep away from the Clotted Cream, not easy for the men in our family! Things are not so good with Orynthia’s dad at the moment, but I don’t really want to go into that too much for the time being.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

One of the benefits of my new job is that I don’t start work until 10am, consequently I have more lazing around time in bed every morning. This used to consist of me laying in bed watching the breakfast news on TV. However since Xmas channel 4 have given up on having any sort of studio based show and has decided to give us old runs of comedy shows. One of these is called “Everybody Loves Raymond”. I don’t know anything about the show, not sure if it’s been shown over here before (it’s obviously a few years old) but I’m hooked. It still feels slightly decadent to be watching this sort of show at 8am, but why not?

Since Christmas I’ve been reading the Chet Baker biography – “Deep In A Dream”. It’s a pretty brutal book, the level of self-destruction which Baker and his fellow Jazz musicians put themselves through is really quite amazing. I still can’t figure out how Baker made such brutal music whilst his was so busy destroying everything around him.

Things have been a bit quiet on the music front, really enjoying the new 10 inch ep from The Earlies. Had a sneak preview of the new albums by Franz Ferdinand and Lambchop and they both sound good.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Well our trip to London was certainly rich in contrasts. From the cheap and cheerful indie splendour of the Ladybug Transistor gig in shabby old Kings Cross, to the opulent glamour of tea at The Ritz, I think we covered most of the bases.

After arriving in London around lunchtime, we decided to head off to The Design Museum for our first visit for several years, in order to catch the Alison & Peter Smithson exhibition. It was a bit disappointing to find that for one week only the museum was closed for maintenance work! We caught the bus up to Liverpool Street station and then had a wander around the Spitalfields Market – Brick Lane area for a while.

After checking into our hotel (where we discovered that breakfast was included in our bargain price), we set off for the gig. The evening got off to a slightly farcical start when we found ourselves part of a small group of fans (including one of the Ladybug Transistor and the obligatory Japanese indie fans, everyone being very nice and chatty) outside the venue, watching as the staff tried to bludgeon open a very resistant front door. Eventually, the door was prised open and in we went. The night was the middle evening of a 3-day mini festival set up by the people at Track And Field, so we had four bands from the labels roster to entertain us.

First up were Homescience, who were pleasant enough, but seemed to lack any defining quality, which would make them stand out from the crowd. Next were The Finishing School, who I really enjoyed. They are yet another offshoot from The Ladybug Transistor (in fact the whole band minus Gary Olson), Sasha Bell is very much in control of this project, judging buy some other reviews I have read, people appear to have doubts about her voice, but I though it was lovely, imagine Natalie Merchant fronting a more 60’s sounding keyboard lead 10.000 Maniacs and you won’t be far wrong.

By way of contrast, the next band to take to the rather chilly stage area were The Broken Family Band, They are that strangest of all things an English country band. Wonderfully cynical, with more than a touch of early Loudon Wainwright about them, they were very entertaining and certainly went down well with the enthusiastic crowd.

Finally the wonderful Ladybug Transistor arrived on stage, giving us our first chance to see them since discovering them at The Bowlie back in 1999. They played a great selection of their best songs, including plenty from their recent and best self-titled album. Gary Olson has the best crooning voice in the world and we just love the minimal simplicity of Jeff Barron’s guitar playing (also love his strange knee’s and feet together, bottom thrust out stance as he drifts through those beautiful solo’s!). We took the short walk back to our hotel with a jaunty skip in our step.

On Friday morning we caught the tube to Camden and had one of those fortunate instances, where we found a great building by chance. On a whim, on leaving the tube station we went looking for the Jewish museum. Our track was unsuccessful, but we did come across Greater London House, formerly the Carreras cigarette factory. It’s recently been restored to its Tutankhamun inspired Art Deco beauty. A pair of huge cats guards the entranceway, whilst rather bizarrely the building is topped with an enormous row of smiling cats heads, which go the full length of this extraordinary building. Camden itself was rather disappointing, in the old days, you really felt that you could find anything there, now with a few exceptions it appears to either clothing or food, some of which is great, but the variety which made it fascinating is somewhat lacking.

We then made our way back into the west end in order to meet up with Crescentia for our afternoon tea at the Ritz. It was splendid, and even committed cake lovers such as ourselves had to admit defeat in the end and wave some away.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Things are going well for my dad, we are off to London for a couple of days.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

On Friday evening we bravely ventured off to The Cube to see the latest knock about from the Coen brothers, Intolerable Cruelty. I say bravely because at this time of year The Cube can be a rather daunting prospect.

We have no problem with their splendidly idiosyncratic programming, or the fact that you can take piece of home made cake or pleasant drink of Polish vodka into the auditorium with you. Nor do we mind the fact that it’s quite likely that the film could start much later than the advertised time (approx 15 minutes on Friday) for any number of strange reasons. In fact all of these things help to make The Cube the wonderful place that it is. No the problem is that winter visits to The Cube, can be similar to sitting in an igloo, wearing only your underwear. To be honest it can be absolutely freezing! Any way this time we decided to go prepared, so as well as coats, hats and gloves, Orynthia came up with the brilliant idea of taking a blanket as well. To be fait to the marvellous folk who run the place, the place was nowhere near as cold as it has been on previous visits (see January 8th2003), but it still gave us a toasty glow, as we snuggled under the blanket like a couple of pensioners on a daytrip to Weston Super Mare.

We really enjoyed the film, a classic screwball comedy, worthy of anything from the 1940’s heyday of that genre. George Clooney was just marvellous as the superbly slimy legal whiz, bought to his knees by the startling beauty of Catherine Zeta-Jones.

We spent yesterday with my dad and step mum, in the hospital in Taunton (thanks for the messages of good will), he was in good spirits. Tomorrow he undergoes the tests, which should give us an indication of the extent of the damage.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

So here we are in 2004, the old year ended on a familiar note for me yesterday with a hospital visit! Over the Xmas period my dad suffered a heart attack, luckily it looks as though it was only a mild one, so hopefully things should be alright in the long run.

Mark kindly let me take yesterday morning off, so I set off at 8am for the hour journey to the hospital in Taunton. Orynthia was working, so for the first time in awhile I found myself heading off to a potentially traumatic family situation without her at my side. I have to admit that I was quite pensive during the drive, but was delighted to find dad up and about and in good spirits. The facilities really are excellent. Alongside his bed he has a strange sort of pod, which houses TV, radio, Internet and E-mail access along with a phone, which enables us to call directly to his bed for a chat at any time. He is in a large room of his own, with en-suite facilities, so we were laughingly comparing this with some of the lower grade hotels, which we have both stayed in over the years. It’s good to see the much-maligned National Health Service coming up trumps.

Nature managed to provide a stunning diversion for me during the journey. The day had dawned clear and cold in Bristol. However as my journey took me into Somerset, the spectacular low lying fog over the Somerset levels made for some beautifully mysterious images, as several feet of fog hovered over the fields with the pinkish glow of the winter sunshine peeping through both above and below.

So in next few weeks, my sister will be starting the next phase of her chemotherapy cancer treatment, Orynthia’s mum will be having a heart bypass operation, Orynthia’s dad continues to come to terms with being in a wheelchair, and my dad will be recuperating from this incident. No point in us getting despondent though, it’s just one of the natural consequences of aging, inevitably people of our parents generation will have more health problems. As we can’t actually do anything about those medical issues, we just have to offer the help and support which we are able to and carry on enjoying our free time as much as we can.

We spent last night at home with Caroline, Jane (John was involved with the big Blowpop party) and from about 11:15 Jon and Katja joined us to see the New Year in. With the exception of Jane they all stayed over, although poor Katja had a rather disturbed evening and morning, requiring several visits to the smallest room, not a pleasant way for her to start the year, but I’m sure many others found themselves in a similar situation this morning.