Friday, August 28, 2015

And Watches...

I thought I had lost the watch that I bought to replace the watch that fell off my wrist because the strap was so old and tired, so I dug out my paternal grandmother's watch (after sifting through a bin bag of dusty rubbish, to no avail).
One satisfying, hot bath later, I realised that grandmother's watch was still on my wrist, no longer ticking. It's now in a bag of rice in the kitchen- if it works for iPhones it might work for old fashioned watches, n'est ce pas?
Weeping tears of frustration, I reached for my belt and there coiled up mischievously was the missing watch, snorting with digital derision.
Huh.

Lugging

Yesterday I did the second trip in a week to and from Brighton to move Offsprog Two's belongings.
I have now developed biceps that challenge Madonna's claim to be Queen of Sinews, and a bag full of dusty clothing to boot.
Offsprog Two's dust is happy to meet the plasterers' dust, I can say for certain.
The whole shebang meant four trips on the deadly M25; Thursday's journey involved a two-hour wait for animals on the road.
I was quite excited! A flock of sheep had escaped from their farm lorry, perhaps, or someone's family dog was bounding joyously amongst the juggernauts!
Alas, we were never to find out because everything had been sorted out by the time we got there. It did cross my mind that they might have been copying that train company who bumped their train into a herd of cows about two months ago. Two weeks later, Virgin Trains, who are busy cocking up the East Coast Line (first step: make all the trains smell of sewage like the ones on the West Coast Line), used the same excuse to explain a late train. Oh no, Richard B, you don't get away with a fib like that!
Here is another restaurant tip and this time with no baklava: Langlees in Brighton, who do unsurpassable all-day breakfasts that saved our exhausted lives yesterday afternoon. Yum yum.
I wish that I could bring them here to my home because I am far too tired to cook anything; my body hasn't seen so much physical activity in centuries, and those very centuries are telling me that perhaps I am getting too old to be a furniture removal lady any more.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Young Marble Giants at The Royal Festival Hall

There was no onstage twinkling Apple shining out of a brushed aluminium rectangle.
Phew, what a relief!
Three silent men took up their places to a cheer and played an instrumental that sounded remarkably spooky for such a friendly trio; then a huge cheer greeted Alison Statton as she walked over to her microphone to sing Radio Silents. The nerds of yesteryear, myself included in their number, had an evening to themselves in the dark with one of their fave bands, and we were damn well gonna enjoy it.
There is something home-made about the Young Marble Giants; they are the Bake-Off cake that doesn't quite get top marks, but that you know is going to be the most delicious one even though it topples over to one side and the icing has dribbled a bit. And seen from this distance in time, the humour shines through like a beacon. They don't show off but they are still mesmerising, and Alison Statton's vocals are just perfect. She is confident as a singer and too gutsy to sound ethereal, although I have heard her singing described as that. But she has a strong voice; it's just a very northern European voice, clear and full of  a fresh resonance.
And of course the little bippity boppity drum track is a star in its own right.
Choci Loni has the rhythm of Peter Sellers' and Sophia Loren's novelty single Goodness Gracious Me. It does! And that's 'See you next week' from the Double Deckers at the end of Colossal Youth. And the pips from Radio Four referenced, just in case you noticed.
The songs are short and where some people put cleverness, they leave space. This is why I like them so much; they don't bother with unnecessary fuss, which isn't to say the songs don't sound busy in places, but there is silence too where it is needed.
The chap playing a snare and bass drum has trouble sometimes; I think he has perfect metre and the brothers have their own rhythm which chops and pecks like a chicken but they are perfectly in time with each other. Walking home from the tube tonight I played it over in my head, and their metronome would be the way a car ignition turns over, repeatedly. Everything starts, starts, starts, until it stops. And often the ends of their songs sound like the beginnings of completely new ones. I think that is really clever.
 That's the other thing: you can hear how they made these songs up, which doesn't mean that you could have made them up yourself, but just that you can hear the way they are put together and I find that really appealing.
Back in the day when the policemen were so much older, those Fender guitars seemed huge. I think it was the brothers' skinny arms, and of course none of our arms are skinny any more. But the group are remarkably well-preserved and they still look like a proper group.
More than once, shivers went down my spine and once I cried: at the line 'You're haunting me because I let you', because someone very dear to me has had their heart broken and I can't bear it; we let people haunt us because that way we keep them. There is a lot of wisdom in these lyrics.
I wrote lots of notes on a bit of paper in the dark and of course I wrote over them.
I meant to say Ivor Cutler, and I meant to say soul music. But I didn't.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

More Burblings from a Shipwrecked Mariner

The rain has stopped but I am unable to concentrate; it was too exciting. I will sit and read a crime novel instead while next door's dog barks and howls: howoooool! howooool! and someone practices piano on the other side: donk, donk, bong.
I had almost forgotten the surreal sight of a poor homeless woman asleep outside a shop in Oxford Street this morning; beside her was a little cage, and across the inside of the cage a small black brassiere was suspended. Out of one of the cups poked the face of what looked like a skunk but was probably a ferret, its beady eyes fixed on the passers-by.
Did I imagine it?

A Restaurant Review

I suppose I had probably guessed; there had been rumblings from Pizza Express for years about the upper layers of management helping themselves to tips given to the waiting staff. However, I have been appalled at the greed of some restaurant chains that I've been using from time to time because of their relative affordability and decent food.
So stuff you, Bills, and Cote, and Las Iguanas. I will not be coming anywhere near you ever again.
What with boycotting Starbucks because of their dodgy tax, Costa because they have removed so much filling from their sandwiches that you really have to imagine the ingredients listed on the cellophane packet as you bite into their 'panini's, and MacDonalds and Burger King because I don't want slurry in my food,  there soon will be nowhere left to eat.
The streets of the West End were thronging and the rain was cascading down; I was starving and couldn't quite face John Lewis's fragrant gentility. I remembered a Lebanese restaurant that I had been to for coffee last year and I resolved to find it. In fact, I walked what seemed like miles when it popped up in front of me in Wigmore Street. It was relatively early so I managed to get a table. It is a cheerful place, with embroidered baskets lining the walls, bottles of rose water and orange flower water lined up in front of the counter, heaps of baklava and nice waiting staff.
As soon as I sipped the coffee I remembered what I had liked about it; this was proper coffee, none of yer tarry chain-cafe nonsense. I am pretentious enough to describe it as fragrant, because I had a sensation of wanting to savour it rather than chucking it down the hatch to give me a burst of caffeine energy to get home with. It came in a glass cup and saucer, which I felt was respectful to the brew.
Last week I went to a Lebanese restaurant in the Westfield Stratford shopping centre, partly because it is always empty but partly because I love Lebanese food. Even at Westfield, everything tasted fresh and cared-about even though it wasn't expensive.
So I had the same thing to eat here- a very basic wrap with salad. It was so gorgeous- the bread was crispy and actually tasted of toasted bread rather than flannel like the (c)wraps you get in M&S and Poshrose. The tomatoes tasted of tomato, the radishes tasted of radish, there was no slimy sauce to glue it together. It was perfect rainy-day grub, and suddenly I saw the point of eating rather than just stuffing food in my face to stop the hunger.
I checked with the waiter to make sure the staff get paid the service charge, which is why I'm writing this. And it was such a delicious lunch that I started raving about how nice it was to them, so they asked me to write a review on Trip Advisor. No chance- they would probably make me log in and then try to sell me things twice a day before being sold off to Rupert Murdoch; but I did tell them that I would write about them here, even though I am not a restaurant reviewer.
Perhaps rather craftily, they loaded a box with baklava which meant that when I got home, I couldn't forget to do this, because of course, I remembered when I ate the baklava. It doesn't count as I bribe, I don't think, because they gave it to me after I'd ranted about how lovely the food was. And it really was; the waiter was so pleased to hear it that he got all excited and started to plan what I would like to eat next time I came along. Sweet!
Anyway, now I have to tell you where it is and what it is called. It is the Comptoir Libanais in Wigmore Street. My substantial wrap, salad and coffee cost £11.25. You can get unusual stuff like rose-hip tea, it's perfect for vegetarians and it has a happy atmosphere. Red tin chairs, no one hurries you, food takes a while to arrive because it's freshly prepared, but it's a lovely, cheerful oasis in the grey and greedy West End of London if you need a resting place with proper food while you gather your strength on a rainy day.
Hope you read this, guys and girls in the restaurant- you didn't need to give me the baklava, you know! (I don't really like it very much, but your other food is gorgeous)


Extreme

What a week of extremes it has been.
Yesterday, Gina invited me over and we started mixing one of the tracks for her new album. Her version of Logic has developed several eccentricities which we had to work around but we made a sample sound really good, and also a vocal sample at the beginning of a song.
We are going to do it, and we are going to do it well; it's gonna be a great project to work on. The music is going to be released simultaneously with an exhibition of gigantic paintings that Gina's been working on for several months. Thirty six degrees of politics in music and art!
Today, I braved the crowds and the rain and headed into town for some essential shopping after rising at 6.30 to take a pair of very heavy, very knackered white close-painted louvre doors to the local dump in my very knackered car that miraculously passed it's MOT with no hiccups on Monday afternoon.
I have just returned home in the most bucketing rain that I have experienced since buckets were invented. I was so wet that I had to dump my clothes on the door mat and find a bucket to put them in so they didn't flood the living room. My plastic carrier bags had so much water in them that I had to pour it out, likewise my shoes; the shopping is soaking wet.
I'm checking the street, which has turned into a small swift-flowing stream. I am afraid that the house will get flooded in spite of the fact that I live up a hill.
And I think I have thrown my watch away by accident.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dave Laing, One Chord Wonders Celebration Event, October

Fancy an awayday in Brighton on October 17th?
I will be presenting a paper at this event on 17th October before the Spinningchilli Gigs​ concert at the Green Door Store with the Piranhas Four​, I Ludicrous, myself and more.
Dave supervised my PhD and it's a great book which I am very glad to see published again, and these are some of the most interesting scholars around. I am greatly honoured to have been invited to be part of both of these things:
http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/30-years-of-one-chord-wonders-tickets-18223220142?aff=es2
and
https://www.wegottickets.com/event/318096

Radiators

Message to students, everywhere: in the summer, the radiators aren't on. If you bundle your wet bath towels on top of them, they won't get dry.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Plasterers

The plasterers are here, lingering over their work. They should have been gone last week. Water has been coming in the front of the house, requiring urgent attention, and now a subtle film of sticky plaster dust covers everything, including the linings of my lungs.
The plasterers know people in faraway places, to whom they shout at high volume through their mobile phones. Frankly, I think the phones aren't necessary because you can hear them at the end of the street, but maybe that's just me.
The plasterers are robust, taking numerous fag breaks just outside the front door in spite of the fact that drenching rain is cascading down.
The plasterers don't want tea, although they have pilfered my laundry bucket; maybe they are brewing up in that? Who knows.
The plasterers are polite, though loud.
I'm scared to go upstairs in case the thumping noises that I can hear are the sound of my remaining furniture being destroyed; rather than covering everything in the promised thick-gauge plastic, they simply flung a bit of canvas over part of the bed and then lathered it in layers of pink concrete dust.
I could weep at it all, if I weren't weeping at the broken washing machine full of water and sodden towels, the broken computer wrapped in plastic, the blocked dishwasher that I was fishing about in with a tea-strainer at the crack of dawn, and the living room full of half of Offsprog Two's belongings waiting for the room to be finished.
Which is should be tonight, I hear.
I predict a late-night room-scrubbing session and a sigh of relief so loud that it will be audible in the land of plasterers, goddammit.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Daintees at High Newton

Left to right: Martin Stephenson (guitar and vocals), Chris Mordey (bass guitar), John Steel (guitar) and Kate Stephenson (drums). John was brought up in Geordieland like me, and his sister Alison was my playmate; our dads knew each other. This photograph was taken at a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness, on the way to the Belladrum Festival. Catch the band on tour this September, supported by Danielle Howle on most of the gigs, Nicky Murray on the Scottish leg and myself on the rest. They are on top form at the moment. Details here http://daintees.co.uk

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Ferocious Iron

Then the ferocious red and white iron hissed, snorted and fused all the light. Twice.

Everything is Breaking

My computer... an hour on the phone with a man in Portugal, trying this, trying that. Hold down these keys, start it up, is it working now? No?
At least I managed to get all of my files off it. Every hard drive and USB stick is bursting at the technological seams with information. I am going to have to go back to my dictaphone to finish off the interviews because I can't play the files any more.
And then the washing machine. Stubborn creature! It wouldn't drain and sudsy water simpered at me through the porthole at the front. Bah! I called the washing machine man and wept tears of miser-y (that's when you cry because you don't want to pay the call-out charge) at the thought not only of coughing up to fix the bloody thing, but also wasting a precious Saturday morning waiting in for Mr Repairs.
So I did that exercise that I'd done with Portuguese computer man. Off. On. Stop. Start.
It worked! It's merrily screeching away in the kitchen and I've cancelled Mr Repairs. For now, anyway.
Glasses. Computer, Washing machine.
That's enough, thanks.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Very Expensive Designer Spectacles

Two years ago, I treated myself to some Expensive Designer Spectacles. They weren't very expensive, I just wrote that to attract your attention; they were just a bit more than the cheapest ones. I thought I was it when I wore them!
'Mad Men', said people and I swanked about, tilting my head this way and that so people could admire the view.
I did suspect, however, that they were a mite fragile, and kicking about in the bottom of my work bag might not be a suitable existence for them, so they became my pose-at-home pair. Very few people ever saw me in them, really: but I could still stand in front of the mirror tilting my head this way and that, admiring the view of myself, by myself.
I bought cheap Eric Morecambes to use everywhere else in the Universe that I go.
Alas, one of the arms of the posh ones fell off the other day (is that what they are called? ear-arms?), even though they are remarkable spoiled for a pair of specs,  and I took them to the opticians to get fixed.
'Out of guarantee', said the new girl, triumphantly, 'you'll have to buy a new pair'.
WHAT! I pulled my body to its maximum angry middle-aged-lady extent and looked at her over my... oh no, I didn't have them on. But you know what I mean.
Blithely she continued, 'The problem is that when you've been taking the off you've only been pulling them off with one hand. You should've been taking them off holding both sides'.
Well, nobody told me this when I bought them. Was I being accused of maltreating my glasses?
Later, wearing me Eric Morecambes, which cost £25 and which I have been pulling off with one hand  many times an hour for approximately two years now without any adverse effect, I made the decision never to attempt to spoil myself by paying too much money for a pair of flimsy fashion statements again.
I can't pose in the Eric Morecambes because I look like a prat who wears functional spectacles because she breaks the posh ones. But that's me, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Musings on the Absence of Mouse

Well where is it? The trap's been cocked for 24 hours with a luscious gobbet of brown bread trembling in anticipation on the prong.
Rather like those two cars on the 100 mile desert road that drive towards each other in opposite directions and then can't help crashing in the middle, I have a horrible feeling that I'm going to spring the trap on my toes. Something seems to be drawing me towards it...
NO! NO!
Maybe I'm pre-punishing myself for anticipating the murder of a sweet little mousie. I'm not scared of them, or even rats (which used to bubble up from our toilets in south London in days gone by).
It's more the hygiene thing, the little poos left as hieroglyphic signatures amongst the dust balls behind the sofa. Oops, that's not over-hygienic either. Where's the vacuum cleaner?

Long Day

It's still today!