Sunday, 2 September 2007

Summer in review

home improvements
broadband installation at home
purchasing a digital camera
visiting Manchester (2 days)
visiting Paris (6 days)

films: 'Waitress' (v. good); Eagle vs Shark (not so good)
theatre: 'Saint Joan' (interesting, thought-provoking, startlingly contemporary; poor acting from the younger cast members)

'South Of The River', Blake Morrison (technically great; characters objectionable);
'JPod', Douglas Coupland (one of his best, intelligent, laugh-out-loud funny, immensely enjoyable, highly recommended); 'Hey Nostradamus', Douglas Coupland (intelligent, moving, highly recommended)

song of the summer: 'Tears Dry On Their Own', Amy Winehouse ('He walks away/The sun goes down'- so simple yet so emotionally devastating; 6 small words that convey enormous loss simply, starkly, uneqivocally);
various tracks by Keane as posted on Hype Machine

Monday, 27 August 2007

catch-up 2

Just over a week ago, I visited Manchester and spent a couple of days there. I've been visiting the city every 3 or 4 years since 1994. The changes that have taken place there are striking, and all for the better (? But what do I know? It's not as if I live there!). It's always a pleasure to return, especially now that the train journey is quicker and more efficient (and to think that in the past I would attempt these visits as a day trip!). It's a vibrant and exciting place, and I could easily spend more time there. This time around, more than ever before, I was transported back to my early teens: devouring the music press, listening to The Smiths, worshipping their music, savouring every little reference on the sleeves and run-out grooves of their records, feeding insatiably on the interviews. I'm impressed by the pride Manchester has in its local heroes, especially the musical ones: you are reminded of it constantly (in the museums and in the record shops... and it doesn't come across as tacky or naff); Morrissey is now a colossus of popular culture, on the surface no longer an outsider- how different is that to way he was received and perceived (by those outside of the cognoscenti) during his 80s heyday?

By brilliant accident, I came across an exhibition celebrating the Hacienda (in the recently opened URBIS space/museum/gallery). As part of that, there was some fantastic footage from The Tube ('legendary' 80s music programme, international readers). I was particularly taken with the clips of Madonna dancing and miming to 'Holiday' and 'Burning Up' back in '83/'84 (classic, and familiar to fans). It's compelling viewing, in all of its charming naivety (the between song gap reminded me so much of school kids preparing for a performance in assembly). She's accompanied by two dancers, one of whom is her brother (I'm sure Madonna watchers can tell me what he's doing these days, but whatever happened to the woman dancer, Erika Belle?). For the record, 'disco Madonna' is by far my favourite Madonna mode (of which there are several).

I'm still in Paris, still enjoying the experience (fingers crossed that it stays that way).

Sunday, 26 August 2007


I realise that it has been a while since I last posted on here. There is much to fill you in on, not least the fact that I am writing this from Paris (France!). Yes, I did make it over here in the end, and, as I write this, I am very pleased that I went through with my decision to come here. I love this city: it is beautiful and inspiring; its understated beauty is inspiring. This is my fourth visit, but my second in the last three years, and that means that I have the confidence to venture off the well-worn tourist path (relatively speaking) and explore the various neighbourhoods, and that is what I am managing to do, walking around near-suburban districts, seeing people go about their daily business, and often to a backdrop of gorgeous aromas wafting from countless boulangeries.

I'm staying in a hotel off the Champs Elysees; I really cannot do gritty and scuzzy, but I think that I may have shot myself in the foot because the place is a bit too peripheral... not by Metro, but it is a trek getting back from the centre of town if you choose to walk eveywhere which is what, increasingly, I like to do when I'm here. I love the walk that starts at the Rue de Rivoli and leads all the way up to Place de La Bastille: the ever-changing nature of this seemingly endless thoroughfare akin to four seasons in one day. I still cannot comprehend the traffic lights: even when the green man lights up, cars insist on driving past! What's that all about? This time around, the proliferation of multi-national chain stores (am I being tautologous?) has hit me: there are so many branches of GAP, Zara, H&M, and Starbucks here. I have even spotted a branch of C&A; it would seem that the UK's loss is not France's gain!

I'm struggling with this keyboard: small, seemingly imperceptible changes, have resulted in a very frustrating blogging experience! Until next time...

Monday, 20 August 2007

what a terrible mess (sort of)

After a couple of great days in Manchester (more about that at a later date, I hope), I spent Sunday cursing myself for my holiday-booking ineptitude (a few days earlier, I had to shelve a big trip to substantially distant climes); Paris is my fallback, and I can't even get that right! After much to-ing and fro-ing, I have booked the Eurostar ticket, and now I'm wrestling with the hotel arrangements...I'm that close to packing it all in again, even if it does mean losing the less-than-100 pounds that I spent on my ticket. I can't understand why I'm so contrary.

The 'week-end in review' post will have to wait....
...but before I go: 'Gogol Bordello are purely and simply a novelty act'. Discuss.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

getting to know you, getting to know me

Back in April, I sent a friend a list of some of my favourite all-time tracks. I've updated it, and this is how it stands now (in band/artist alphabetical order): :

'I'm A Cuckoo', Belle and Sebastian
'Ice Blink Luck', Cocteau Twins
'The Killing Moon', Echo and The Bunnymen
'Sorry Somehow', Husker Du
'Another Girl, Another Planet', The Only Ones
'Closer To Heaven', Pet Shop Boys
'Driver 8', REM
'Like A Daydream', Ride
'The Boy With The Thorn In His Side' (album version), The Smiths
'Animal Nitrate', Suede

While I'm at it, here are my favourite singles from last year:
1. 'Crystal Ball', Keane
2. 'Minimal', Pet Shop Boys
3. 'A Woman Of A Certain Age', Divine Comedy
4. 'Who Knew?', Pink (she has great choruses)
5. 'Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken', Camera Obscura

This year, the following singles have been 'floating my boat':

'Love Is Dead', Brett Anderson
'Thursday', Asobi Seksu
'The Bomb', New Young Pony Club (and I really love the Tiga remix of 'Ice Cream')
'Gravity's Rainbow', Klaxons
'No Cars Go', Arcade Fire

Thursday, 16 August 2007

get me to the train station on time

I'm supposed to be getting ready for a trip to Manchester...shirts to iron, bags to pack, wardrobe handles to install. I'm behind in my prep. (obviously!), not helped by the fact that I thought I had lost my passport earlier (yes, I know that I don't need a passport to travel from London to Manchester...). The idea for this blog has been germinating for a while now, and I promised myself that, once I had domestic access to broadband, I would start blogging... The installation was completed on Monday (Not without little trouble! I really should have paid more attention to Andrew Collins!). So here I am. More to follow soon, but, in the meantime, please listen to Brett Anderson's debut solo album and spread the good word; he really is a criminally underrated talent. Will any of you be attending the October 20 one-off-with-strings concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall? If the Union Chapel acoustic performance was anything to go by, this will be a special evening.