Tuesday, May 30, 2006

So we find ourselves on the brink of another World Cup, it will be the 10th one that I’ve watched. If you do the maths you can work out that I don’t remember watching the tournament in 1966, when England won.

In fact my first memory of football was back in 1968, when my normally placid father shocked me by getting very excited as Manchester United overcame Benfica to claim the European cup for the first time. I don’t remember much about the game itself, just my startled response to dad’s behaviour.

Over the years football has caused me to have pretty excited reactions to the events unfolding before me. Will it be the same during this World Cup? My knowledge of football and footballers is less than it has been since I was a schoolboy. That can bring it’s own excitement, in the past I’m sure that I’ve spent too much time looking for the players I know to perform the star turn. Who knows which players will have me leaping from seat in amazement?

On a rather more parochial level, I have decided to renew my season ticket for Bristol City. After a long period of doom and gloom around the end of last year, I did see enough in the last few months of the season to convince me that watching City could be fun after all.

I’m currently reading “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell, it’s quite different to his previous works in that the narrative structure if fairly conventional. What I’ve read so far it set around the time of Falklands War, such a strange time in our recent history. It was the first time that became fully aware of the fact that I didn’t think the way the media told me to think. I was deeply uncomfortable about the war and was really concerned that if things carried on for some time, I might to go and fight. Of course it never got close to the sort of call-up, which would have involved me, but I well remember the appalling jingoistic tone of the country at large.

Then a few years later we had the miners strike and the battle lines were clearly drawn. To this day I can’t imagine liking or even warming to anyone that had any level of support for Thatcher and the mood, which she created in the country at that time. I’m not sure where David Mitchell is going to lead us, with this nostalgic schoolboy tale, he normally has a trick or two hidden in the narrative, and so I’m intrigued to see what he has lined up for us.
On Saturday evening, a few of the Grumpy Man gang and myself were asked to play a some tunes at benefit gig for the NO2ID campaign group here in Bristol. It was a strange evening featuring some interesting and some not so interesting music, a speech from our local MP Stephen Williams and of course some top notch tunes from the Grumpy Gang. The organisers were able to swell their rather meagre funds by around £200, which was pretty good news for them.

A couple things I forgot to mention previously. I recently read Everyman by Philip Roth, it’s a pretty slim novel, in fact it could probably be reading in one sitting if you live the sort of life where you have time to do that sort of thing. Anyway, I thought it was great, it perfectly captured the way we unthinkingly push ourselves into corners, cutting ourselves off from those that care for us with a mixture of stupidity, carelessness and fear. I also forgot to mention how fab Micah P. Hinson was when he played with Richard Hawley last week. He burns with real intensity, looking forward to a new record from him.

Over the course of the weekend we’ve spent a bit of time with one of Orynthia’s uncles. He is the captain of one of those huge ships that move coal around the world. This weekend his boat was dropping of a massive amount of Russian coal at Portbury Dock. This afternoon we got to look around the ship and hang out for a while in his Captains Quarters.

Not quite as glamorous as you might imagine, it was still cute in faded glamour kitsch 60’s sort of way. I’m not very good on boats, so was quite happy that this one was securely docked, especially when we discussed how the sea could throw around even a monster ship, such as the one we were on. Being a sea for months on end is the strangest way to earn a living that I can imagine, it’s certainly not an easy life.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ok let’s get this straight; if Richard Hawley comes anywhere near playing a gig in your town, you MUST get yourself a ticket

His gig in Bristol last night was the best show we’ve seen in ages. What a band, what songs, what a raconteur, what amazing guitar playing! Just superb, from start to finish. I did have a small concern that it may have been a slightly one-tempo evening – no way. We had a bit of everything country, ballads, rockabilly, big old anthemic indie rock, killer tune after killer tune.

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Monday, May 22, 2006

So Saturday evening saw us partaking in the festival of bad taste which a Eurovision Song Contest Party. We decided to adopt Lithuania for the evening, on account of the splendid holiday, which we enjoyed there a few years ago, the fact that they had a ludicrous song helped as well.

Orynthia found a Lithuanian recipe for poppy seed cake, and we made froze a bottle of Vodka in some water, giving us fine traditional treats from the area. Jon & Katja’s house was a mass of adults and children wearing a strange verity of costumes as the fun began. Had to feel sorry for the bemused Zimbabwean neighbours we arrived late in the evening as the spectacle neared its conclusion. Lot’s of truly awful music, but a top night of fun.

Last night we nipped along to see, the indie survivors Shack and new kid on the block Jim Noir. The lad Noir and his band produced a sparkling set of tunes – witty, catchy and beautifully played they were indeed a treat.

Shack are very much at the other end of their career and by all accounts it’s a miracle that Michael Head is still alive, let alone producing great music. Pleased to say that Mick and the lads looked to be in rude health and stormed their way through a psychedelic / folky array of gems. Sometimes the guitar solo’s may have been a little too long, but the crowd (mainly men of a certain age) loved it. The final song from the band was the spellbindingly lovely “Comedy”. One of the hit’s that should have been from way back in 1999, at the time it sounded like a great comeback record, now its just sounds like a classic.

Tomorrow we are off to see Richard Hawley and Micha P. Hinson, should be another top night.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Well our London trip was a big success; the gigs by Irene, Bricolage and Camera Obscura were pretty fab. Three bands at different, but exciting stages of their careers, for Irene it was their first gig in the UK. They whisked their way through a blistering set of power pop gems, they were so good that I was convinced they had only played for about 10 minutes, Orynthia assured me that they had played for much longer than that, but it was over far too fast for me.

Bricolage are the being courted by a few labels at the moment and are trying to make sure that they make the right decision. Their gig was in the basement of a club in Shoreditch, the main focus of the evening for most of the crowd was the DJ stuff going on upstairs. They still managed to sound crisp and tuneful, when they eventually hit the stage at 1 AM, it would be good to see them in Bristol soon.

Sunday evening saw us heading to the other side of London, to see Camera Obscura playing in Kilburn. They played all of their soon to be released new album, including the brilliant new Single “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” which was released this Monday. It may even be a hit, now that would be something.

We also caught up with a couple of excellent exhibitions; firstly we went to the V&A for the big Modernism show. So many wonderful things here, loads of fantastic architectural stuff, being the highlight for me. On Saturday we went to the Tate Modern for the joint exhibition of the work of Josef Albers & Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. It was the perfect companion piece for the Modernism show. Lot’s of overlapping themes between the two shows, so many brilliant ideas.

When we see exhibitions such as these which focus on work from the early to middle period of the 20th century, I always want to ask older people at the shows what their memories of the artists / designers are. Did they like the work at the time? Did their friends like it? Did it influence their life or have they only become aware of the stuff in later years? Of course being English, I never talk to strangers unless they speak to me first.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

We were so sad to hear about the sudden death of Grant McLennan this weekend. The Go-Betweens were one of those bands they never quite became as big as they should have done in the UK. So many great songs over so many years, they even managed to make wonderful records when they got back together after a 10-year break, not many bands can that. Last November we very nearly went to Valencia to see them playing with Teenage Fanclub, two classic guitar bands playing on the same bill, in a interesting city was very tempting, in the end we didn’t make the trip. It’s sad to think that we will never get the chance to see The Go-Betweens again, they were a fine band.

Other than The Go-Betweens I’ve been listening to lots of new stuff recently. The new single by the brilliant Camera Obscura – "Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken" comes out next Monday, it’s just wonderful and should be a stonking great big hit single. Also been enjoying the following:
Sol Seppy – The Bells of 12
Calexico / Iron & Wine – In the Reins
Jenny Lewis – Rabbit Fur Coat
Freddie Hubbard – Open Sesame (not exactly new, as it was recorded in 1960!)
Bricolage – 4 track promo single featuring Flowers of Deceit, Footsteps and 2 others
Flaming Lips – At War With the Mystics

Very excited that we are going to see both Camera Obscura and Bricolage in London this weekend!!!

Picked up new books by David Mitchell and Philip Roth the other day, haven’t had a chance to start either of them yet as I’ve been doing a lot of New Yorker catching up. Tomorrow night we are going to a talk which Nick Hornby is giving here in Bristol. I’m sure that’s his a very happy man at the moment, given the success which his beloves Arsenal are enjoying.

Speaking of the New Yorker I’ve got hundreds of back-issues, which I need to get rid of I guess I should go down the ebay route, but can’t really be bothered with all the fuss. Any ideas?

Monday, May 01, 2006

So the 1-1 all draw at Ashton Gate this weekend means that City will not be making the playoffs. The last 15 -20 minutes were amongst the funniest times I have spent at Ashton Gate, with a draw meaning that we would be staying in Div 1 for another year and that Swindon would be making a swift departure to Div 2. Consequently both sides gave up any idea of defending, giving the best game of playground football I’ve ever seen. The fact that both sides failed to score even though no one was really trying to stop explains a lot about the sort of season that both clubs have had. Still I’ll be back for more next season.

Yesterday we hooked up with Dad and Step Mum, as they stopped off in Bristol for the afternoon, whilst heading from Gloucester to London. We had a brilliant lunch in The Olive Shed, before spending an hour or so in the Bristol industrial museum. Must be the first time in about 30 years that I’d been in a museum with my Dad, it turned to be great fun. As every good parent does in these situations the pair of them filled in all sort gaps in my knowledge of the industrial past of the region.

Given my Dads background in the motor trade, it was great fun to look at the part of the museum with him. One of the first things you see upon entering the place is an old wooden wagon, donated by the Gazard family of Oldbury-On-Seven, a family that were well known to him, as his parents lived in the village for many years. At the other end of the spectrum was a lovely example of a Bristol car, a gorgeously sleek car from the 1950’s which my dad used to drive from time to time as his former boss at the Evening Post had one, which Dad sometimes drove him around in.

Upstairs we took a look at the printing history of Bristol, both of them had connections to the print trade through there newspaper related work, so yet more little pearls of wisdom came to light. I felt just like a kid.

Today was spent at Redland fair; we managed not to spend too much money this year, a couple of books for me and few items of clothing for Orynthia. Hooked up with countless friends in a lovely informal way, shame the weather was not a few degrees warmer, but we had fun anyway. Another 3 day working week ahead of me, I love these bank holiday weekends!