Friday, December 23, 2005

The art of driving

Soundtrack: The Concretes by The Concretes

Music for this blog has been provided by the Herriett Family. Thanks folks for this, and the Loop CDs!

I've just returned from Mid Devon, where I spent most of my time coughing. In between this and eating cake I spent some time visiting my family.

Roll call of people I saw:
Sisters Number 1 thru 4;
Nieces Number 1 thru 5 (but no Nephews);
Small Monkeys Number 1 thru 3;
The Last Remaining Brother-In-Law;
Niece Number 1's spouse;
Boyfriends of Nieces Number 2 and 4.
It was great to see them, particularly the newest Monkey, whom is a lovely little boy.

I also visited Georgina, a lady in her mid-90s, whose depression at the onset of Christmas was very moving. Sometimes there just aren't enough cut flowers and sherry in the world to make things right. No matter how irritating the rigmarole of a family Christmas is, it pays to remember that for every person bemoaning spending time with their family, there is another person alone with their memories.

What I mean to talk about here was the art of driving. [This is also the title of a super song by the sometime-excellent Black Box Recorder: 'Boy: We could get the hood down/Throw away those learner plates' Girl: 'You've got the hang of steering/Now try stepping on the brakes'].

I love to drive. I don't think that I'm terrifically good at it, but I'm passable. I'm good at driving on country roads and motorways, but not in towns.

To get to Devon requires a three-hour drive through some of England's finest countryside, in fact the A303 takes you directly past one of this isle's most peculiar tourist attractions, Stonehenge. My journey down was notable for one thing. As I passed Fleet Services, I noticed a candy-pink Subaru approaching at speed up the outside lane. I thought: that's being driven by a blonde woman, possibly a hairdresser. I then felt guilty for making an assumption, but sure enough, it was indeed a big-haired blonde lady. For the next five or ten minutes I watched the way she was driving. Actually, she was hard to miss. I have never seen such horrific tailgating. Pleased that I was comfortably out of her way, she sped into the distance and I forgot about her.

About an hour later I noticed what we used to call a 'Jam Sandwich' in a layby, accompanied by said pink Subaru and said blonde. She was remonstrating with a policeman. It's hard to be inconspicuous in a car that stupid-looking, but particularly if you can't drive the damn thing properly.

On my return journey this evening, I spent some time in a motorway tailback. This is one of the most tiring things you can do when driving: it requires real skills: staying awake, good clutch control. I managed to get through OK. Usually I would have musical accompaniment but our CD player is cocking us around. I'm sure that the absolute sounds of Arthur Lee would have soothed me through the traffic queues much better than my internal jukebox, which appears to have got stuck on a medley of the worst seasonal novelty records ever.

So, I've spoken a bit about family, a bit about driving, now I'd like to send an Xmas message to you all, wherever you are. May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Xmases be puce. See you in a few days.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The light pours out of me

Soundtrack: Real Life by Magazine

Since we last spoke, I've had a lot of fun.

The work party was surprisingly good for a laugh. As predicted, myself and TheBoy lit up the dancefloor like human flamethrowers with our hilarious camp/ghetto-thrusting antics. The food this year was edible, which beats the previous couple of years. Also, and this is definitely a benefit, I didn't feel like I was in the centre of a horrible atmosphere. Given some of the events of the past few months, that was refreshing.

Saturday was mostly spent trying to shake off a hangover. In the evening I went with JJ to a local venue to see a band called Vincent Vincent and the Villains, whose name sadly makes them sound much more exciting than they actually are. Being sober, I found it rather tedious. Also, we were the oldest punters there by about ten years, which was odd. I felt like we had gatecrashed a Kingston Grammar School disco by accident.

Today we have been to see King Kong. Despite it being over-long, it was a pretty good film all told.

There's always a downside. Despiter feeling much better than I have done recently, I have a hacking cough that I can't get rid of. Bah.

Friday, December 16, 2005

21 again!

Soundtrack: various bootlegs downloaded from the internet

Woo, party time - Lose my breath by Destiny's Child spliced with Freedom of choice by Devo. Nice. Can you keep up, baby boy?

Yes, it's my birthday. I'm gonna party like it's my birthday, gonna drink alcopops like it's my those of you whom may have thought this was a few days ago, sorry, I was too ill to put you straight earlier this week. For this is the day, I'm 33 years old.

I've just been out for a greasy spoon lunch with Young Radish AKA TheBoy. Feels good. He and are going for the 'Best Homosexual/Faghag Dance Partnership' award this evening. I think we'll win hands-down.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Waiting to hit

Soundtrack: The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads by Lift to Experience

Ugghhhhh. I have a heavy cold and am writing this in our refrigerated back bedroom, having taken a day off work. I’ve got that great look that I always get when I’m ill – greasy hair, chapped nose/lips, grey complexion. Still, it beats yesterday, when I felt like a human pressure cooker.

This place sure is beautiful during the daytime. I have seen some excellent canines wandering past, and the sky has mostly been clear and blue. It seems to be clouding over, which may mean that the smoke from the oil refinery fire just north of London is beginning to reach us.

Until I was struck down with this miserable illness, I was having a great weekend. I went to the South London Gallery to check out the Kim Gordon installation. We listened to some wires making noise, looked at some plasticine models, and entered a glittery tent where we made a disastrous three-minute ‘song’ (me on guitar, Mr. R on drums and RedheadWalking on percussion). This consists of Kim Gordon talking/moaning and our shoddy instrumental backing. Our band’s name? Face Full of Slap. We then went to a pub, and as is always the case when I see this pair, we put the world to rights. Ace!

Yesterday was due to be fun, but there are times when fun has to be cancelled. However, this week sees my birthday so I intend to make up for that lost fun then.

A brief note on the soundtrack choice – this is currently rocking my world. And my goodness, it appears to be a concept album about the nativity, set in Texas! Crazy! And festive...

My niece gave birth to her third son on Saturday evening. His name is Bailey. I'm looking forward to making his accquaintance later this month.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Record box #3

3. Trevor Horn

Propaganda 'Duel'
Dollar 'Mirror mirror'

I think I might be in love with Trevor Horn. Or at the very least, I am in awe of him. He can take a bog-standard pop tune and turn it into something truly spectacular (if you've ever heard the rather listless early versions of 'Video killed the radio star', you'll know what I mean).

When I think of Trev I'm reminded of so many great songs over the years...such as 'Left to my own devices' by PSB or 'All the things she said' by tATu. Regarding the former, I recall an interview where Neil Tennant said that they asked Trevor to produce the track and waited six months for him to complete it. They were apparently irritated by this delay - until they heard the finished product, that is.

The two songs above are both good examples of the Horn canon. They are over-produced to a quite astonishing level, to the point where you wonder if he hasn't just got some robots in to do the vocals, and play all the instruments. They feature crashing synthetic drum sounds.

Duel is just fabulous. It has on it what sounds like an electronic elephant trumpeting. The middle eight features a wonderful classical-style piano solo, which isn't something that you hear on a pop song very often. The vocals are largely expressionless, which is surprising given the lyrics, which appear to be about sado-masochism:

'The first cut won't hurt at all/The second only makes you wonder/The third will have you on your knees/You start bleeding, I start screaming'

The B-side features a piece of music called 'Jewel'. This is basically an industrial version of Duel. Perfect, really - it sounds like a pop song being fed through a tree shredder by Blixa Bargeld.

As an aside, the sleeve of the single featured witterings by the well-known pundit Mr Paul Morley, whom was at that point was married to the Propaganda's lead singer, Claudia Bruecken. Sleeve be damned, I loved this single and its poor condition suggests that I must have played it to near-death.

Mirror mirror is brilliant. Anyone who says that Dollar are rubbish doesn't have ears. Actually, I should revise that statement - this is their finest hour, and much of what else they did was questionable (apart from 'Hand held in black and white'. At a push). In fact, I loved this song before I knew that Trevor had got his golden mitts on it. So there! This song has a fabulous modulation to a higher key towards the end, which makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end every time.

Go here to check out Trevor's extensive discography.

Some news from the real world: Niece number 2 is due to give birth to her third child at any time. When I spoke to her last night she said 'I am completely cheesed off now and can't wait for this to be over'. I can't say I blame her either.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Libraries gave us power

As a child, I was the bookish type. It’s only since I took a literature degree that my interest in books has waned. However, I still take enormous pleasure in going to libraries.

Yesterday I took myself up the road to the fringes of the council estate to the library, which, I’m pleased to report, is bright, welcoming and well-stocked. This is in stark contrast to Kingston’s nearest library. I feel slightly better about the high council tax here now that I know it’s being spent on books.

I’m still awaiting my food waste recycling containers, though.

Work has been too busy for me recently to find time to post here, much as I’ve wanted to. Most of the week was taken up with preparations for Miss JoJo’s leaving, handover meetings, plans, gift-buying and all that sort of thing. She left on Friday, as did my old friend Patrice. I’ll miss them both – but I know I’ll still see them both socially, and that’s the best bit anyway.

Wednesday night I went to see Todd and Part Chimp. It was a good night out. Had some entertaining banter with the Clouses and some other notables, and the bands weren’t half bad either.

Next week is likely to be the quiet before the storm. I intend to sit back and recuperate, because the week after is going to go bonkers with things to do.