Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On Sunday evening we went along to St Georges here in Bristol to spend some more time in the company of Iron & Wine, as ever it was a joy. Well actually it's not quite right to say "as ever", the last time Sam Beam and friends were in town I had a very uncomfortable evening in an overfull Academy, so much so that I had to leave early as I was feeling unwell.

Luckily the surroundings at St Georges are much more conducive to a pleasant evening out, so no early dash for the car was required. Sitting up above the stage with a partial view of the performers below I'll admit that I had a slight pang of worry as the expanded Iron & Wine took to the stage. As well as a drummer the band now employ a percussionist who had a vast array of quirky things to poke, bang and stroke. It often strikes me that the use of additional professional "bangers" can mean than tunes are lost at the expense of tedious jams. Luckily it wasn't the case on Sunday as the band hit upon a perfect combination of songs old and new to produce a gently lovely evening.

So how good is Flight of the Conchords then? One of the few comedy programmes which can get me laughing out loud rather than just smirking in a vaguely condescending way. The standout part of the show is obviously the couple of songs which are featured each week, however the deadpan delivery during the rest of 30 minutes stands on it's own feet as well.

My reading of late has been rooted in the past in general and the work of W. Somerset Maugham in particular.Firstly I worked my way through the 600 page epic "Of Human Bondage" although it was published in 1915 and deals with a very different way of life, the themes are surprisingly contemporary ones - Isolation, loneliness, artistic experimentation, the vagaries of the stock market and the it's impact upon an individual, meditations on the quirks of attraction all of these and more help to make this a fascinating and enjoyable book. Maugham writes in a sparse and simple style, which makes his work very readable.

Following on from that I've just finished Cakes and Ale also by Maugham which covers a similar time although it was written 15 years later. As with many books from this period the issue of class and status raises it's head in a way that is difficult for us to comprehend now. Obviously people have social groupings which they feel comfortable in these days, but the whole idea of somebody not being able to talk to someone because they are not of a suitable class, seems so amazingly daft. How did England manage to move away from that suffocating mindset?

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