Monday, August 29, 2005

So the last bank holiday weekend of the summer has almost come to an end. It’s been a gently social weekend for us, we’ve also been unusually vegetarian. On Friday Bob and Karen and Pete and Maggie came over, as 75% of them prefer their life without meat, Orynthia cooked up a lovely veggie couscous with corn bread and salad.

Whenever I have couscous my mind goes back to the outrageously over sized couscous meal we had near the Bastille opera house in Paris many years ago. We sat at an average sized table for two, watching in amazement as side dish after side dish, was placed upon it. Eventually the table was full, we assumed that we were clear to start eating. Just as we were about to tuck in, a member of staff produced another table, which he attached to ours, before adding yet more dishes. We are basically polite people, and they had gone to all the trouble of cooking the food, it seamed that we really had to try our best to clear the mass of dishes before us. When we finally left the place, we were considerably heavier and less nimble on our feet.

Saturday saw another gathering. This time we made the short walk to St Andrews to see Vikki and Simon. It was Vikki’s birthday, so Orynthia baked a cake. In addition to the cake, we worked our way through a lovely fish pie and several bottles of wine in the company of Jude, Russ & Becky and Heather. During the course of the evening, there was quite a lot talking of the supposed delights of camping. We needed to keep our wits about us as the camping fans tried ever more devious ways of trying to tempt us to join in the outdoor fun. Heather and Spider have gone for the happy medium of buying a camper van, which makes the prospect of spending time in the country almost appealing. At least you have a proper bed to sleep in. Tents are just rubbish, you can never find anything, it’s always too hot or too cold and as for getting dressed….!

Whilst in the house we’ve spent quite a bit of time listening to the splendid BBC Radio 7. Lot’s of great old comedy stuff, including “Vinyl Café”, which is good but so like Garrison Keillor as to be virtually a sample in musical terms.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A rather strange week of football fixtures has seen 3 home games for Bristol City this week. We still have one of those to go, with tomorrows game against the nomadic MK Dons, the first two games saw 12 goals being scored, with an even 6-6 split.

It all started so well last Saturday against Port Vale when we went 4-0 up after about 30 minutes. Since then it's gone downhill somewhat. We managed to hang on for a 4-2 win that day, before losing 4-2 to Barnet on Tuesday evening. It's not what we were hoping for at the start of the season and the pressure is already starting to build on our manager.

Oddly, they are home again the following Saturday, but I won't be around to see that one. We will be heading for our 2 week holiday. Initially we going to Berlin for 5 days, then we head down to Slovenia for a week, before heading back to Berlin for a few more days.

Having visited Berlin last year, we have a pretty good idea about what we plan to do there. Slovenia is however an unknown quantity, so we've been spending lot's of time reading about the place. It looks fab and we are expecting a similar holiday to our previous trips to Prague and Vilnius.

We have also been thinking about going to Valencia at the start of November. We were hoping combine a tip to a very exciting looking city with a chance to Teenage Fanclub playing with the Go-Betweens. We can fly pretty cheaply to Valencia from Bristol, so that's no problem, however hotel availability and costs are proving to be a bit of a problem. For some reason the end of the first week in November appears to show a sharp decline in the amount of affordable hotel rooms that are around.

I guess that there could be some sort of trade fair going on, or maybe those two bands have started a huge rush on trips to Valencia.

Friday, August 19, 2005

So sad to hear the news about Mo Mowlem today. She was that rare thing a politician who made a difference and was loved.

After a bit of a delay, thanks to the amazing cricket over recent weeks, last night I finished reading “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss. It’s a wonderfully poignant and understated book about the subtle connections which change our lives. It’s well worth your time.

Next up will be Small Island by Andrea Levy, although I may hold off starting that one until we go on holiday in a couple of weeks time. Between now and then I’ll be spending some quality time with the New Yorker; in fact today I read a great piece by Jonathan Franzen about the traumas of being a bird watcher. It’s something which Orynthia and I have become involved in over recent years, with the encouragement of my old boss Mark, and whilst in New York our friends Bill and Doreen.

Franzen captures brilliantly the strange addiction of waiting for the next sighting and the huge disappointment heading out with binoculars and books and have nothing to see. The only unsatisfactory thing about our trip to Lithuania a few years ago was the marked lack of any sort of feathered activity, lots of lovely countryside, not a bird to be seen!

Musically I’m still very taken with “Picaresque by “The Decemberists”. Also loving the latest Sufjan Stevens masterpiece “Illinois”. Other than those “I Trawl the Megahertz” by Paddy McAloon has been a constant partner this summer. It’s unlike anything he has done under the Prefab Spout name, more of a classical record than a pop one; it’s the perfect film score, for a film yet to be made. Put it on and let your head fill with a thousand stunning images – genius.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

We spent some time last night watching BBC4's 10th anniversary of Britpop coverage. It's quite amusing now to look back on the events of 1994. Whilst watching an interview with Louise Wener of Sleeper, we started chatting about the time that we saw Sleeper supporting Blur at the Anson Rooms in Bristol. At the time neither of us particular fans of Blur, going along out of a sense of curiosity more than expectation.

It was an amazing gig. Sleeper were OK - Blur were just fantastic, one of those times when you catch a band absolutely on the top of their form. The audience caught the mood and responded in kind, giving us a night of exuberance and exhilaration when band and crowd became one.

Towards the end of the show Damon Albarn disappeared into the throng for a bit of crowd surfing, emerging a while later minus his shoes. Interesting then to hear Ms Wiener talking about the madness that surrounded that tour, and we both chuckled when she mentioned that people were chanting "Jesus" to Damon and pinching his shoes when he went into the crowd.

Obviously the scene fizzled out in the end, as too many drugs and an inability to change scuppered the long term plans for most of the bands. Yet it was fun for a while, what a treat it was to see bands like Teenage Fanclub, Pulp and Boo Radleys make it into the charts, if only briefly.

My replacement iPod arrived at the end of last week – and it works!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Oh I forgot to say how wonderful the new album from The Decemberists – “Picaresque” is. In the past I’ve thought that their was bit too much of the sea shanty about them. Well the new album finds them sprinkled with more than a dash of lovely indie pop sheen. Songs such as “The Sporting Life” and “On the Bus Mall” are gorgeous. Lyrically inventive, the whole album is a joy. Intelligent, articulate, able to switch between the sombre and playful with consummate ease, it really is a fine piece of work.

Friday night was strange, after eating lots of yummy Burmese food with Orynthia’s family, we rushed down to Trinity for the Devendra Banhart gig. A very strange night it was. After a dreadful opening act, whose name escapes me (which is a worry as we may accidentally see her again), Espers took the stage. They had a modicum of interest within their desperate 60’s / 70’s prog folk sound, but really this whole obsession with bad folk music is threatening to get out of hand!

Things were so bad that I was fully expecting to last only 20 or 30 mins of Mr Banhart’s set, so miserable had the musical entertainment been. However our fears were swept away, as his band and him remembered that tunes really do matter. There were a few cringe worthy moments when the hippy influence came to the fore, but overall he really was very entertaining.

Saturday morning saw of waking up rather earlier than anticipated, when I was woken by the sound of a hot air balloon going over the house at around 7:30am. It was soon followed by another one, which I managed to get a few snaps of.

Bristol City are off to a dismal start to the season, 3 games played, no goals scored, only 1 point = bottom of the league. The only way is up. Isn’t it?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

As ever we’ve been stupidly busy of late, Sunday being a case in point. Over the course of the day, we met up with Orynthia’s family for a huge Chinese Dim sum brunch, went to the Fleece to see the ever improving Wilma, had a nice stroll round the docks, have a light meal in Café Havana, then went to Mr Wolfs noodle bar to help one of the Bryan Munich boys turn 40.

I forgot to say that we managed to go our lovely local cinema The Orpheus last week to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – wonderful, just wonderful. Burton and Depp at their best, I was lost in their magical world.

We are trying to have a quieter week; in fact we have 2 consecutive nights when we are both at home. On Friday we are off to Trinity to see Devendra Banhart, I really hope that it won’t be too hippy drippy folksy. All these new fangled folk types are starting to worry me, I don’t want to hear about pixies, elves and hey nonny nonny thank you very much. I will not wear a smock and grow a beard for anyone; in fact maybe I should wear a suit that might be interesting!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Last night was a sad night for lovers of music and traditional pubs in Bristol. After a painful 18 months of waiting for the axe to fall, The Albert Inn in Bedminster finally closed it’s doors for the last time.

Over the previous 20 years this small and simple pub played host to scores of fantastic musicians from the world of jazz and folk. For many years it punched way above it’s weight when it came to booking bands, because of the way the landlords Ian and Lorraine looked after and encouraged the performers.

It was not unusual to hear that some one who was playing one of the legendary Sunday night sessions at The Albert for a £5 admission fee, would be playing somewhere else in the country for 2 or 3 times that price the next night.

Sadly all that came to an end 18 months ago, when news of the impending sale of the building came to light. No time scale was given so no further gigs could be booked. The pub stoically limped on until last night. Now the people who own the building (who are of course based in London) are going to have flats built on the site, bringing to an end years of history in the process.

Even when the music stopped, it was still a great little pub to pass the time in. You could spend hours looking at the highly individual wall coverings, and those classic 70’s lampshades without fear of being rushed along.

Bristol has lost a very special place.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Well we had a great few days away. Saw some interesting architecture in Birmingham, before heading further north for the delights of Liverpool. Well actually we spent most of Friday afternoon and evening in Crosby. The sculptor Anthony Gormley has created a strange installation on the beach there.

It consists of 100 life size metal body figures, buried in the sand along 3km of beach. When we arrived the weather was murky yet warm, which suited the earie nature of the work perfectly. You can see lots of pictures of it on my flickr site.

The next day was spent mainly around the Albert Dock area of Liverpool and in the Tate in particular. The current exhibition is a huge collection of psychedila related artefacts from the 1960’s. Now Orynthia and I are not as taken with the whole psychedlia thing as some of our friends so it was not really the best thing for us to see. There were however, some fantastic photos, which made the visit worthwhile for me.

That evening we went back to the west midlands to stay in a truly wonderful old hotel (more pictures at Flickr). One of the nicest places we have stayed in, it was a lovely treat. Sunday saw a gentle journey home including stops in Ironbridge and Shrewsbury.

I’ve started reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, it’s really rather splendid.

Monday, August 01, 2005

On the beach