Sunday, January 30, 2005

We're off to Snowdonia for a couple of days, before going to Belfast on Thursday. Sounds like a pretty good way to use our week off.

Last night we went to see 2046 at The Watershed. As with director Wong Kar-Wai's previous film "In The Mood For Love" it's a sumptuious visual treat. The slightlty strained plot is not always easy to follow, but when it comes to atmosphere and style few people can touch him, it's like bathing your eyes in honey.

A shock 6-0 win for Bryan Munich today, for once we had 15 players, so we could really use the rolling subs rule. It certainly paid off, now we can't wait for the next match.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Talking of the 70's (which I was earlier), I've been thinking about my complete inability to wear anything which looked even remotely good during my school days.

It appears that kids these days know exactly what they want to wear the moment they emerge from the womb, "Take that Next baby grow away - I'll only be seen in ...(add your designer label of choice)". For me it was all so different, I was the classic kid who has his clothes bought for him by his mum. According to Orynthia, the photographic evidence from that period indicates that I was in receipt of some rather fine knitwear.

My main memory however is of complete bafflement as my schoolmates emerged butterfly like into adolescence, wearing all manner of clothing which was wider, brighter and texturally stranger than anything I could understand. In hindsight I suppose that my mother protected me from the worst excesses of the period, however to compensate for that I was subjected to a collection of clothes which were sensible to the point unreasonableness.

In the later stages of my schooling, a quiet rebellion of sorts started to rumble, within my nylon clad chest. I decided that the black sensible shoes from the Tuff factory outlet shop in Kingswood were no longer right for me. I put my foot down (no doubt clad in the black plastic shoe of my mothers choice) and said that I needed to have a pair of platforms, like every other boy in my school. Of course it was a dreadful mistake, the hideous pair of brown shoes I chose were ugly, ungainly and ultimately unwearable. Needless to say, fairly soon I was dutifully following my mum back to Kingswood for another pair of generic black shoes.

An earlier, more painfully memory around schoolboy clothing, is of my first trip to school in long trousers. This was in good old days of junior school, which is probably known as "year zero" or something in the new fangled American style school systems which we have now. I guess that I was probably one of the last 3 or 4 boys in my class who was still turning up for school, on freezing cold winter mornings wearing dark grey shorts and socks, which were nicely offset by the lovely blue of my freezing legs.

Eventually my parents took pity on me and I was taken to Hodges on Fishponds Road for a pair of full length trousers. The following Monday, I proudly marched into school feeling every inch the mature young man about town. Sadly disaster lurked just around the corner, that day my classmates and I embarked upon the making of a spectacular papier-mâché creation. I eagerly joined my young friends as we set about the task of creating a wonderful mountainous landscape.

The day ended with us standing back, admiring our handiwork, quite impressive it was too for a bunch of 8 year olds. I did what I'd been doing all day, wiped my gluey, gunky hands on my trousers! Then for the first time I looked at my previously impressive new leg wear - OH NO! They were of course covered in the detritus of our endeavours.

I returned home and was greeted by my stony faced mother, the next day I was back in the shorts. I had proved that I was not yet ready for the extra responsibility that comes with being grown up and the guardian of full length trousers. It was several weeks before, I was given the chance to test my maturity again.

Two remarkable people Ivan Noble and Michel Thomas.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

So last nights American Music Club gig left me none the wiser about the adoration which is often heaped upon the band. Occasionally the quality of the songs really did shine through, but in the main too many of the songs just sounded too clunky and unfocussed, the lyrical quality being lost in the average musical clothes which they were dressed in. I’m glad we went, but I don’t think that we will rush to see them again.

We just caught up with last nights showing of The Rotters Club which started on BBC2 last night. It looks like a perfect recreation of a time in my life which I well remember. Gently funny, yet prepared to show the horror of some of the events of the time, it was an impressive and enjoyable first show. Loved the brilliant review of “Tales From Topographic Oceans” by the Philip Chase character. Ah the happy days of my first flirtations with the world of prog rock.

For a while my musical world consisted purely of the likes of Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis and Yes. I well remember the smug disdain my friends and I had for anyone who did not enjoy 20 minute songs about some sort of crazy hippy nonsense. Of course within a few years everything had turned full circle and we shook our heads in stunned amazement at our gullibility.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Well it’s been very exciting here over the past couple of days. We bought ourselves a lovely shiny new iMac on Sunday. So now we spend most of our time saying things like “wow, it’s so fast” Indeed it is!

It also means that we finally get to use out ipod with avengence, car journeys will never be the same again.

Tomorrow evening we are going to see American Music Club, must confess that it’s not a band that either of us know much about. Several of our friends are big fans and during the course of Friday evening they (and a few bottles of wine) persuaded us that it was high time we knew about them.

Friday turned into a very long, tipsy and enjoyable evening. A few of us gathered at the excellent Sergio’s to help Babs celebrate her birthday. After a lovely relaxed meal, most of the gang walked back up the hill to our place. The next thing we knew it was 3.30 in the morning. Saturday morning was not good!

Next week we both have the week off work, rather than go on any major trip, we are going to spend some time in Bristol and take a couple of day trips. One of those will be to Belfast. Thanks to Easyjet the pair of us can get there and back again for only £38.00 - at that price it would be rude not to go.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

You can't say that watching Vera Drake is an easy night out. Sure there are quite few laughs in the early stages of the film, as we grow to understand the life of a straightforward looking working class family in London, in the early 1950's. Everything seems set for another "life was hard, but look at the simple pleasures they enjoyed" type wander along a happy nostalgic byway.

Of course that is not what we get. The fabric of the family is ripped apart and all they hold dear is shattered, very slowly and painfully as we watch. The performances are beyond exceptional, much has been written about Imelda Staunton and her performance, everything is true. The way she shrinks and crumbles before you, is so brilliantly portrayed that it left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable and voyeuristic. Much of the strength of the later stages of the film comes from the almost oppressive levels of silence. No words or music to distract you, just watching people realise the consequences of what has gone before, it's amazingly powerful stuff.

When the credits started to roll, nobody in the packed auditorium moved for quite a while. A stunned silence fell over the auditorium, a lady behind me joked to her friend that the film had left her feeling depressed and that she wanted a happy ending. Her friend quickly replied, saying the happy ending is that women no longer have to live under those conditions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

On Sunday evening we went to see the revitalised Trashcan Sinatras at The Fleece. After a promising start in the early 90's, they suffered a series of misfortunes which culminated in them being declared bankrupt. Unsurprisingly the few dribbles of music which did emerge in recent years, had lost much of the spark and free flowing glorious melodies which marked them out as a special band.

The gig saw them picking the top tunes from their albums, avoiding in the main the rather more languid approach of some of their work. The crowd was full of men of a certain age and for some reason I found it slightly distressing to see a couple of chaps sporting rugby shirts. I really find the wearing of sportswear for anything other than sport to be totally inexcusable. Stupid I know, but it's my own special prejudice. Then again, it was quite easy to divert my gaze from these sartorially challenged fellows and watch Orynthia beaming from ear to ear, as one of her favourite bands came back to form.

Tonight we are off to the Watershed to see the filmVera Drake. it's rare for a film with such a potentially controversial point of view to receive such widespread acclaim. We popped into the newly expanded Watershed cafe/bar area before Sundays gig, very nice it is too. They have somehow managed to increase the previously tiny no-smoking area quite dramatically. All that we need now is for the refurbishment of cinema 1 & cinema 2 to be completed and all will be well in the world. Well actually that will be the Arnolfini reopens after it's major refit, never could understand why the two best arts places in Bristol had to be partially or totally closed at the same time.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

So the first official word of the Bristol Oxfam Tsunami benefit night has been released go to Crisis in Asia for the initial news. It should be a pretty amazing night – Massive Attack and Portished will be both be playing and indeed collaborating!

There are loads more brilliant performers who names will announced during the run up to the gig, which takes place on February 19th at the Bristol Carling Academy.

If you can’t make it to Bristol for this extraordinary evening you should still be able to see and hear all the action via a live web broadcast.

Gigs are also taking place at The Thekla and The Louisiana on the same night for the same cause, featuring more of Bristol’s finest. If all that wasn’t enough, Saturday 12th will see many of Bristol’s top DJ’s – Boca 45, Geoff Barrow, Daddy G, John Stapleton, Queen Bee and Stereo 8 joining forces to present what should be another brilliant night at the Carling Academy (along with live sets from top Bristol Hop-Hop crew Aspects and the always entertaining Babyhead).

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Ice on the windscreen this morning, could it signal the start of a colder period of weather? I really enjoy waking up and looking out on a frost covered garden - better still if it's snow. Sadly in Bristol we are blessed with an extremely mild and temperate climate. What a shame.

Nothing quite beats the fun of adding layer upon layer of clothing, before opening the door and plunging into the icy blast. Part of the fun is definitely the dressing up, I must admit to being a bit of a coat junkie and the colder weather is the perfect opportunity to indulge the habit. I've got a couple of overcoats with varying levels of density. My favourite option though is the classic American hunting jacket which I picked up in a Greenwich Village 2nd hand store back in the early 90's.

It weighs about the same as Orynthia and I put together, so it has to be really cold to justify the strain on the shoulders. Should the temperature drop to the required level, this beast of a coat comes into it's own. It comes with a multitude of pockets, including one which appears to around the whole back of the jacket, and is accessible from both hips. At first Orynthia used to joke that it was a hugging pocket, indeed if the huggers arms are long enough to work around those extra layers which have to added to my normally svelte body it would be a lovely thing. Sadly Orynthia's arms proved to little on the short side for a full blooded hug, especially whilst wearing her extra thick winter coat. Then someone told us that lovely voluminous pocket was actually a place for the hunter to keep his catch for the day! Suddenly Orynthia was not so keen to hug me anyway!

I'm at about the halfway point in Kafka On The Shore, the latest Haruki Murakami and it's the proceeding along very nicely. As is often the way with Murakami (and an increasing number of novelists these days) we are lead through the novel by a dual narrative, as we hear the story of two seemingly unconnected people. Inevitably their paths are starting to cross, as they do more questions arise. Some of these issues may get resolved, but Murakami normally likes to leave a few threads hanging in the breeze.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Last night I spent an interesting hour or so at the BBC here in Bristol, when I was invited to attend a selection meeting for the BBC Bristol listeners committee. A small group of us gathered to discuss our opinions of various shows which the people at the Whiteladies Road put together.

As the group came together in a reception room, there was that deliciously strange atmosphere that I last experienced on the assessment day for my new job. I may be a bit strange, but I quite enjoy the nervous tension that such gatherings generate. In last nights case most of us spent around 10 minutes in each others company with hardly a word being exchanged. It's always fun trying to guess what sort of personality traits people are going to have from the way they look. Obviously any of them looking at me would have been thinking - well he looks sophisticated, well educated, witty and charming. How disappointed they would have been when I opened my mouth!

When the meeting started the group proved to be a lively bunch, most of my guesses about the respective characters were, as ever hopelessly adrift. My favourite comments came from a woman who lives in a small town quite a way from Bristol, she explained that previously her impression of Bristol was that it was a big, chaotic place which was really best avoided. Recently however some of her family members had moved here and she thought that she had needed to know a bit more about the mysterious place. Consequently she has been listening to Radio Bristol over recent months and found that ratherthan the dark forbidding place she had imagined, Bristol is full of wonderfully varied and interesting places and people. She now finds herself coming into the city to see things which have caught her attention, a pretty good advert for the good that radio can do, when it comes to changing peoples perception of things.

Monday, January 10, 2005

So what's been going on around here then? Well Just the usual dashing about really, we popped down to Devon on Saturday to see my dad. As ever when weare planning a trip to that part of the world, something goes awry with the weather, so it came as no surprise to see the weather forecasts predicting doom and gloom, with the occasional side helping of plague and pestilence thrown in for good measure.

As it happens thinks weren't as bad as expected, the heavy winds and rain of Friday evening left us relatively unscathed in this part of the world, leading to trouble free journeys both ways. Whilst at my Dad's we amused ourselves by watching the crazy antics of thesheep in the field on the other side of the valley as they ran around in ever decreasing circles. Who needs TV?

Later, we joined in the general excitement in the Devon area, as non league Exeter City managed to hold Manchester United to a draw at Old Trafford. The Radio Devon live coverage was only on good old crackly medium wave, so for the last 20 minutes of the game poor dad was getting himself into increasing bizarre positions as he tried to manipulate the aerial into a location where the ever decreasing signal would hold. Memories of night time radio listening came rushing back from my teenage years, as the commentary reception ebbed and flowed, whist all the time the wonderfully exotic sounds of Bhangra would be battling for supremacy. We just about managed to hear the end of the game, what a wonderful performance by Exeter!

Talking of radio, Sunday marked the end of the temporary broadcasts by the team at Caroline Rocks. I've really enjoyed having a different source of musical entertainment and the occasional technical glitches just made it even more fun. The weekend broadcasts from Adrian and Geoff of the group Portishead saw them confirm their participation in the forthcoming tsunami relief fund benefit gig. This is the gig which I mentioned previously and if all goes to plan a host of great names are also due to take part. Hopefully it should raise lots and lots of money for this most worthwhile of causes.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Two things to be very pleased about if you live in Bristol.

1) Arbi ‘n’ Tap – Fantastic floating café type place moored just across from The Watershed. Wonderful tea and coffee (including coffee made with condensed milk!), fantastic cakes and all manner of quirky and delightful furnishings and fittings (many of which you can buy).
2) The reopened Sergio’s restaurant. Now conveniently located only a short walk from our house. Amazingly tasty and inventive, yet unpretentious it’s the perfect local restaurant and better still it’s a B.Y.O.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Well the whole Xmas / New Year shebang is almost over; soon it will be time to get on with real life again.

Sadly much of the period has been dominated by the truly stunning and hideous news from South East Asia. We spent an anxious hour or so trying to establish whether Orynthia’s relatives in Burma would be affected. Luckily for them, although sadly not for so many thousands of others in the region, the news was good.

We have had a reasonably quiet time of it, which has been quite nice. It was a sure sign of the advancing years of my friends and I, when it emerged that all of us chatting in the Nova Scotia before BCFC’s new years day match had spent the preceding evening either at home or at a friends house. The days of wild nights on the town appear to be over. As midnight approached Orynthia and I were actually getting soundly thrashed at Scrabble by Orynthia’s mum – how rock n’ roll!

So after the turmoil of 2004, what do we have to look forward to in 2005? Well first up is the long awaited new novel from Haruki Murakami – Kafka On The Shore, which will be with us on January 6th. His only worthy UK challenger, David Mitchell has the paperback version of his latest work – Cloud Atlas, published on February 21st. Lot’s of live music to look forward to over the next 6 or 7 weeks, Adam Green, Sondre Lerche, The Go! Team, Elvis Costello, Nick Cave, Trashcan Sinatras to name a few. There could also be a very special Bristol event to raise money for the disaster relief fund, but the plans are still sketchy at the moment, so I can’t say too much.

Talking of things musical, during this festive period the good people of Bristol have been enjoying the treat of having an alternative radio station again. Radio Caroline or Caroline Rocks as it is now known had been broadcasting on 87.7FM. People who aren’t lucky enough to live here can always listen via the net at the Caroline Rocks website. In fact if you tune in this Monday evening at around 10:30 you will be able to hear a live set from top local lads Aspen Woods.

Oh and I’ve added another blog to bookmarks – Cage Of Monkeys, well worth taking a look at if you are interested in music.