Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I know that I’m a bit late picking up on this, better late than never though. Today I finally got round to buying the wonderful “Thunder, Lightning, Strike” album by The Go! Team.

A few people, notably my former Imperial colleague RLF had been telling me what good thing it was, boy are they right. It’s a brilliant collision of sounds, reminiscent of The Avalanches, but with a much harder edge. Really punchy rhythms, combine with frenetic guitar playing, great samples and old school rap to make this record a party all on it’s own.

No sign of any live dates from them in this neck of the woods at the moment, they have built up a great reputation for their live work, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they make it here soon.

Whilst I was out and about, I made another fine purchase and it only cost me 16p! During our last Sunday league match, I lost one of my screw-in studs, from the base of my boot. The heydays of the independent sports shop are long gone and I was worried that I might not be able to pick up a new one. Most places which sell football boots these days, don’t exactly stock a full range of sporting goods, being more interested in selling training shoes to people who’s idea of good workout is the walk from the fridge to the sofa. So, I was delighted to find that the sports shop in Clifton Down, did indeed sell individual studs. In fact they even had a range to choose from and best of all it was only 16p. What else could I buy for such a small sum of money, which could be so useful?

In all the Tom Waits excitement, I forgot to say how amazing Joanna Newsome was at her recent Cube gig. A stunning performance, with THAT voice and her beautiful harp playing bringing a capacity crowd to a level of hushed intensity which is seldom seen. My only slight gripe was that as I was sitting stage left, quite near the front, I had to watch her, through the harp. Which was rather like watching a football match through fencing, which of course we had to do, back in the 1980’s. Still, her exquisite performance was head and shoulders above most of the games I remember from that period.

Monday, November 29, 2004

So I’ve only got one more week to go before the new job starts. It’s strange to think that I’ve been out of work for two months, even stranger to think that I’ve been unemployed at a time when the unemployment is at it’s lowest record figure ever! Quite an achievement, then again I’ve been in constant employment since leaving school 26 years ago, so I guess that I was due a break.

The time gone really fast and often I’ve found myself running around like crazy trying to get things done. I can certainly understand why people say that they can’t understand how they found time to go to work, once they retire. In the same way that most people spend what they earn, no matter how many pay rises they get, I think the same is true of time. No mater how much free time you have and in theory I have had quite a bit over recent months, you just find more and more things to fill your time.

It’s strange, I did have an idea that I would have read a lot more than I have, watched more old films than I have, wandered around Bristol taking photo’s and generally lived the life if a man of leisure. Somehow that hasn’t happened, I guess that often self-imposed guilt has stopped me doing these things. How could I tell Orynthia that I had been lounging around all day when she came home from a hard day at work?

With reading, I think that I’ve discovered that I need to have a defined time to do my reading in. I used to really enjoy nipping off to a café at lunchtime and squeezing in around an hour with a book; the same was true of my short train journey to work. Well with the new job, I won’t be able to read whilst I commute, but I should get back in the swing of lunchtime reading, so expect to see a lot more updates on my reading habits here.

I also have enjoyed the whole house-husband thing, washing, shopping, cooking and the like it has been really good fun. I’ll miss my regular trips to the shops, and the oddly pleasing sight of an empty laundry basket.

Anyway this last week could well be pretty busy. I’ve got quite a lot of time lined up with Oxfam and Orynthia’s mum is having a large operation later in the week, so we will both be spending a lot of time with her.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Here I am back home after yesterdays trip to London to see the magnificent Tom Waits gig at the Hammersmith Apollo. How do you review the gig of the year?

After all the excitement of getting hold of one of the 3,400 tickets for his fist and only UK gig for 17 years, I was slightly worried that the show may be an anti climax – well it wasn’t!

The air was thick with anticipation as Mr Waits and his wonderful band walked onto the stage at around 8:30. Two hours later the crowd were still howling for more as the band departed for the final time on a memorable evening.

The show started with a raucous version of “Hoist That Rag” from his latest album “Real Gone”, that brilliant album formed the backbone of the 2-hour set. Time and again the clanking, clattering, jittery, funky blues of the record set the hall alight. Blistering versions of “Make It Rain”, “Sins Of The Father”, “Top Of The Hill” and most stridently “Don’t Go Into That Barn” with wonderful call and response section – “Did you bury your fire?” “YES SIR!”-“Did you cover your tracks?” “YES SIR!”- “Did you bring your knife?” “YES SIR!”- “Did they see your face?” “NO SIR!” being chanted by the exuberant crowd, set a tingle up the spine.

The biggest tingle factor for me however came from a very different song from that album. The wonderfully understated soldiers lament “Day After Tomorrow”, bought a hush and dignity to the hall, which was very moving.

Plenty of other highlights from albums old and new all enlivened by the wonderfully animated performance of the great man. Part crazed preacher man, part hard-bitten noir detective, gag teller, raconteur and genial host; he is the perfect front man.

Finally that voice, gruff and gravely yet somehow with perfect enunciation, not a phrase or nuance was lost in the excellent sound. Truly this was a very special performance, one that I doubt that I will ever see again, I’m so pleased that my friend Pete managed to track down the tickets, for this once in a lifetime event.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Haven’t been at home much over recent days for various reasons. As practise for my new job (starts on December 6th), I’ve been doing more work for Oxfam. I need to be ready to work all day rather than 3 or 4 hours, so I’ve increased my hours in the shop.

Also been out every night this week – dancing lessons on Tuesday, Gravenhurst + Ian Green gig on Wednesday, food and late night shopping last night. Tonight we are off to see the wonderful Joanna Newsome at The Cube, then tomorrow it’s off to Devon to catch up with my folks down there.

Next week I’m in London for a couple of days for the much anticipated Tom Waits gig! I’m really looking forward to it, the latest album is just fantastic, one of his best in my opinion, the live reviews have been good, so everything looks to be in place for a memorable evening.

More exciting news of the music front, Nick Cave is playing a long overdue gig in Bristol next February. I saw him play at Trinty Hall around 25 years ago, isn’t that crazy, nearly 25 years, how old we all are!

He has never been back to Bristol since then, well not to play a gig anyway. There was a time when you would see Mr Cave around town due to his romantic connection with a certain performer who lived in the area. That was really weird, imagine trying to find a spare seat outside The Arnolfini and realising that the only one you can see is next to Nick Cave!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Last night I did something, which I have never done before! It’s something which you do on your own in the bathroom, something which I’m sure millions of people all around the world do on a regular basis, yet I have never had the nerve to try before.

The build up took a while, we have quite a large bath, and so it takes time to get a good depth of bubbly-topped water swishing around. Whilst the bath was filling up I was listening to some very relaxing jazz on radio 3 and the thought came to me – why not do it now? I’ve thought of doing it before and have often been jealous, when I hear how some people can do it for hours.

After all it does combine several of my favourite things, listening to music, relaxing in deep warm water and “the thing”. After 2 games of football in as many days, my legs were feeling really stiff, so this was the perfect night for a long recuperating soak, and consequently the perfect time for me to take the plunge into this new world of delights.

I slowly took my aching limbs down the stairs, collected the tools for my new adventure and eased myself into the wonderfully inviting foam, before leaning back and opening up my copy of the review section of Saturdays Guardian. That’s right, my virgin experience was to read the newspaper, whilst lying in the bath!

To many of you that won’t sound like a big deal but I have always been convinced that some terrible soggy mishap would befall me. The crucial denouement in that exciting piece on 14the century Flemish poetry would literally disappear before my eyes, because of some inappropriate splashing.

I’m 42 and despite the fact that I lack the ability to swim, I have been safely taking baths for many years now. Surely I told myself, I’m ready to take this experience to the next level. What a lovely treat it was! I emerged some 40 minutes later, considerably more fragrant and clean than I had been earlier and mentally invigorated by reading splendid articles on James Ellroy, Edwin Lutyens, and German witchcraft as well as Richard Ford’s thoughts on being a Democrat, after their latest election setback.

Who knows, I may even try reading a book in the bath next time!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Well, we managed a 2-1 victory in our Sunday league match yesterday, despite playing for almost half the match with only 10 players. So, tough on the legs but a pleasing outcome, the next match comes around on December 5th.

Our trip to Cardiff on Saturday was interesting. My side of the family are not very good at keeping in touch, so this was probably the first time in over 25 years that my mum and I had been in the same room as her sister and my cousin Robert. After the initial “What are you doing now” type conversations, Orynthia and I were entertained with stories of life in the welsh valleys around the time of the Second World War. Without doubt by any modern levels by mothers family grew up living well below the poverty line, yet in those pre TV days, they said that they remained blissfully unaware of the fact. Virtually everyone they knew lived in the same fiscally challenged way, so they assumed that life was just like that. Not such a bad state of mind in comparison to the thrust for material things, which engulfs families today.

Friday, November 12, 2004

What a glorious morning, the November sunshine has me squinting to see the screen on the computer, the birds are flying around the garden, pecking busily at the berries and I’ve just enjoyed a long and leisurely breakfast of piping hot toast and Marmite whilst perusing The Guardian. I’ll miss all this when I go back to work in earnest!

As part of my plan to reintroduce myself to the proper world of work, I’ve upped my hours in Oxfam. Having not worked more that 3 days in a week for the past year, I thought I needed to get back into a routine before I start the new job. I’m also going have a few practise runs at the potentially tricky commute to work, nothing worse than turning up late and hassled on the first day.

We had a good day in the shop yesterday, over the past few weeks quite a few collectable records came in, mainly rock albums from the 1960’s + 70’s. My job is to identify the goodies, take them out of pile of everyday stock and then get our resident vinyl expert John Stapleton to cast a serious eye over them and give us a price guide. Yesterday we ended up with about 10 albums with a total price of around £140.00, when they sell (and they should) that’s a lot of money for Oxfam to use in a positive way.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

This week I’ve been wrapped up in football fever. I’ll give you an insight into my busy schedule, so you can understand what a patient and understanding person Orynthia is.

Last Saturday I went to see Bristol City wallop a very poor MK Dons team 4-1. Monday evening saw me taking part in my regular Monday game. Last night (Tuesday), I watched Bristol City beat a pretty good Tranmere Rovers 4-0, including a goal by Luke Wilkshire, which was amongst the best that I have ever seen. This coming Friday evening I’ll be watching Bristol City again as they play Brentford in the first round of the F.A. Cup. On Sunday I’m playing for Brian Munich in a league game, then if I’m still standing I’ll be back for the normal Monday evening run around (which could well be a walk around!).

So in the space of 10 days I’ll have watched 3 games and played in 3 games. It’s not normally like this, it’s just that a strange quirk of the fixture list has meant that City have 5 consecutive home games. Now, often that could be a bit too much of a good thing, but at the moment the reds are playing some great football and scoring loads of goals, which makes every visit to Ashton Gate a bit of a treat. Anyone who supports a lower league club knows that you have to make the most of the good times, all too soon the football returns to shapeless, pointless nonsense, which we follow out of habit and camaraderie rather than in any real hope of being entertained.

In addition to all of this, we are hopefully going to “Shimmy” that’s the club night, not a type of dance, but then again who knows, at The Cooler on Friday evening (after the football) to catch a great DJ double bill – Andy Smith and Gaz Mayall for what should be a quality mixture of northern soul, hip-hop, reggae and ska. On Saturday we are having a bit of a family gathering in Cardiff during the day, before live music from either Bucky or Wilma back in Bristol in the evening.

So not too much time to draw breath really, but that’s just the way things work out from time to time.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

It’s strange the way your priorities change, as you get older. A few years ago I would have laughed at anyone who suggested that a new fireplace, new roof or new window would have caused me to get excited, yet here I am at the age of 42 spending far too long looking at (rather than through) our lovely new window.

The joy however is tinged with guilt. When we moved into our house around 10 years ago, we knew that this particular wooden window needed attention, yet we let things drift on year after year. Finally this winter, we decided that something had to be done, so sadly the old draughty wooden window had to go. So now we have a pristine, shiny double-glazed window. The old banging closure of the window has been replaced by a gentle “swoosh”. It’s quite shocking how grown up it makes me feel.

Today I formed a new and very successful partnership with Norah Jones! Our Oxfam shop had been rather quiet, so I had spent most of my time in the back room, sorting out new stock. My colleague Simon eventually tired of his rather fruitless time on the till, so I offered to take over from him. We also decided to change the music, plumping for Simon’s copy of Norah’s first album “Come away with me”. Suddenly customers were beating a path to till, like it was Xmas eve and we had the last of Santa’s goodies wrapped up and ready to go. Maybe the next time Norah is the country she could do an “in-store “show for us? I’ll be happy man the till, which I’m sure would be ringing away merrily!

It’s always interesting to see what music gets people going in a shop. It was great in Imperial, you could put a CD on and then people would come to the counter to ask what was playing and before you knew it you’d sold 5 copies of an album, which people had never heard of when they came through the door. Obviously it’s a bit different in a second hand shop, when you sell a CD that’s it – it’s gone. You can though, still set a tone for the place, it is mainly a bookshop, so we can’t really be blasting the latest drum and bass classic from Roni Size. Consequently a lot of laid-back jazz gets played, nothing that’s going to upset or confuse, not quite the same as playing Captain Beefheart to the confused looking tourists in Imperial.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Manchester pictures have been found! You can see them here

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

So yesterday was quite an interesting day. 1 person kept his job, 1 person, just missed out on a new job and 1 person picked up a new job.

Obviously Mr Bush and Mr Kerry take care of the 1st couple of options, I’m pleased to say that the third role was filled by me!

That’s right my days of being a house-husband are numbered, it’s a bit of a shame as I have really enjoyed it, no doubt Mr Kerry will enjoy it as well. Quite a few of you will know that I was hopping to get a job in the library service, sadly the whole process just seamed to be moving too slowly so when I was often a worthwhile and interesting job (with good pay and perks as well), I decided to take it.

I’m going to work for a charitable organisation called Motability. They help to provide reasonably priced transport options for people with disabilities. After our experiences last year with Orynthia’s dad, I realised how debilitating the lack of transport that is under your control can be, it will nice to be able to help people to keep a degree of independence in their life.

Last night I managed to watch quite a bit of the US election coverage and found it to be a strangely bloodless affair. I guess that we are quite spoilt on election night over here; with literally hundreds off results flowing in for a number of hours it really keeps you on your toes. Few things are as much fun as watching the result being announced live, with the prospective candidates squirming behind the returning off icier.

All we had were projected results from each of the states, with hardly a sign of a politician all night. Just an endless procession of talking heads, most of whom appeared to be pollsters. So no gloating or embarrassed excuses, in short not half as much fun, I know that some pretty important issues for the whole world were at stake in this election, so it’s ability to make a middle aged man in Bristol chuckle in the small hours was not really that important, still I have to say that I was disappointed.

I have to say that I am stunned that people would have to wait for hours and hours to cast their vote. I don’t think that I have ever waited more that around 10 seconds, it’s amazing that people hung around. The other thing that seems really odd is the fact that by the time some people in the far western states go to vote, the outcome can already be decided. Obviously this is a simple problem of geography as America is such a huge country, with so many time zones. I just think that if I was voting I’d like to do so from the same position as the person casting the first vote. I know that this would mean that the result would not be known in America until a day later, but as the previous U.S. election proved, speed is not everything.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

We had a great weekend in Manchester, apart from some nightmare travel arrangements, thanks to Virgin trains, which meant that we were 2 hours late getting home on Sunday evening.

The Magnetic Fields were at their most perky and although this meant we had a playful and comedic set, Orynthia and I both agreed that the taciturn, grumpy, hypochondriac side of Stephin Merritt, which we have been used to seeing, does add a certain fragile beauty to the live experience. It would often seem as though each song could be the last in the set, if they even made it to the end of the song! No such problems at this show though.

We also loved the playful cabaret jazz sound of The Real Tuesday Weld. The live experience is very different to the sound of the albums, but deliciously entertaining. This lot really should be better known than they are; with their knowing, arch lyrics they were the perfect aperitif for the Magnetic Fields.

Other than that we spent lots of time in the wonderful URBIS, marvelled at an extensive exhibition on the work of the fantastic Erich Mendelsohn at CUBE, visited some outstanding new architecture at Salford Quays, namely The Lowry Centre and the amazing Imperial War Museum (a stunning building). Took lots and lots of pictures but managed to delete them from my camera, when attempting to transfer them to the computer! Doh!!!

Last night we had the chance to see the divine Iron & Wine in action for the second time this year. This time support came from the intense and commanding Micah P. Hinson. Once again they drew a packed crowd to intimate surroundings of St Bonn’s, so much so that most of the crowd were not able to see anything of the 3-piece line up. Eventually a murmur of dissatisfaction went around the room and it was agreed that everyone at the front would sit down. This produced an unintentionally humorous moment, our friend John had nipped out of the hall to visit the toilet whilst the audience was still standing. On his return to the room, suddenly everyone was sitting down, as John towered over them trying to work out how he would squeeze between all the newly floored bottoms to get back to our corner of the room. The look of confusion and anguish on his face was very amusing to his unsympathetic friends in the far corner!

Once everyone was sitting down the show became a real treat, the simple understated songs weaved their insidious magic on us all. At the end of the show happy and contented faces were all around. Another top night at St Bonn’s.