Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A little fear of drowning

I have never been a confident or proficient swimmer. There are many things that have contributed to this state of affairs: I never had swimming lessons as a child (actually, no-one I knew did). Aged six on a beach in North Cornwall, I was dragged into the sea by an undertow, which left me terrified of drowning. I’m not what is known as “body confident”, so have always made excuses not to bear flesh. My breathing is shallow and I have bad posture (two dead giveaways that I’m asthmatic).

So I have swum (after a fashion) in the past, but I knew it was a less than graceful effort. If water splashed onto my face, I became panicky. My back and neck would ache like hell afterwards.

A couple of years ago there was an article in Time Out about a swimming technique called the Shaw Method, which was founded by an ex-professional swimmer. He retired from the sport after a serious neck injury and devised this method, using the basic principles of the Alexander Technique as a starting point. He argued that most swimmers were, at best, swimming inefficiently and at worst, causing themselves long-term injury to their necks and backs through poor technique. This way of swimming was also ideal for non-swimmers or for those with a fear of water. I classed myself in both of those categories. Recently, the idea of trying to swim properly occurred to me again, and I booked onto a ‘confidence building’ course.

Last night, I found myself in a tiny (and very warm) swimming pool in Swiss Cottage at my first Art of Swimming class. The other students’ reasons for fear of water were very similar to mine. Within an hour, I found myself gliding from one side of the pool to the other with my face entirely submerged. I've never managed to do that before.

It’s early days and I’m not going to get complacent: this is just week one of five (I’m having to miss one class owing to another commitment, much to my chagrin) – however, I came out of the class yesterday feeling really amazed at what I’d managed to achieve.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Che Guevera and Debussy to a disco beat

Just wanted to review some stuff briefly.


Little Miss Sunshine this made me plotz. Rick James!
My Architect I was concerned this would be a dry documentary: not so. Genius workaholic runs three families, builds only a handful of buildings (and a metal ship that becomes a concert stage) that are blindingly brilliant, dies alone in mysterious circumstances. Son pieces his father's life back together on film. Very touching.


Mad Men good to have this back. The women in this show, while treated as chattels, are drawn in a far more three-dimensional way than most other series on TV. Gorgeous detailing in the production design. Oh, for a mid-century modern home...hang on, I already live in one.
The Brits pleased Coldplay won nothing. Switched over at Estelle and Ting Tings collaboration, all out of tempo and toe-curlingly bad. Katy Perry winning when she was up against Beyonce and Santogold, that was just wrong. Pet Shop Boys did a pretty good medley but the inclusion of Lady Gaga (mauling both the Dusty vocal, and the coda of West End Girls) was not necessary. Especially as she was stood in a stupid, mannered position and appeared to be dressed as a piece of willow pattern china. FFS!!! Although her appearance did make me feel favourably disposed towards Brandon Flowers, which is a genuine first for me.


Twitter I gave in and joined up. Still feeling my way around. Find me at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Life is unfair

Over the weekend I read two books, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and Bad Vibes: Britpop and my Part in its Downfall.

The former was about a Victorian country house murder. I picked it up because the maiden name of one of my grandmothers was Witcher, a very close derivative. It was quite an interesting read, and more of a social history than a crime story, I'd say. For instance, it described what it was like to be a policeman in Victorian London. This was (by sheer chance) of interest to me, because it turns out that an ancestor of the aforementioned grandmother had a brief career in the early Metropolitan Police.

The latter book chronicles Luke Haines's life from 1992-1997. For those of you who don't know of him, Haines is the lead singer of bands such as The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder. I must admit I have very little exposure to The Auteurs…however, BBR’s first effort and the Baader Meinhof record (Haines’s funk concept album about 1970s terrorism(!)) feature on my mp3 player, and are two albums that I don’t immediately skip past if I get them on shuffle.

The book is an absolute hoot. It reads like fiction, and for all any of us know, it is fiction (sure, bits of it could probably be corroborated, but why let facts get in the way of a good story?). Targets for his rage include Justine Frischmann ("a drag"), early tour-mates Suede (Brett Anderson's early lyrics are dismissed as "pseudo bumboy") and Blur. When described by Momus as "the Adolf Hitler of Britpop" Haines responds that he feels that Damon Albarn would be better disposed to that particular title.

It's well worth a read if you are a fan of misanthropy, or have ever fantasised about mouthing obscenities at Chris Evans.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Life is short, filled with stuff

I have just heard news that Lux Interior, singer of The Cramps, has died.

The Cramps were Lux and his wife Poison Ivy, with various folk appearing in bit-part roles. The story went that they met when he picked her up while she was hitch-hiking, and that she was wearing odd-coloured contact lenses (a great story, but lord knows how embellished). And what a fierce couple they made too: the man was literally a colossus, towering over the mikestand, about 6'7" in spike heels, and Ivy cool as hell with flame red hair.

Their songs mainly covered drugs, sex, serial killers, sex, werewolves, sex, wigs, oral sex and surfing. A large proportion were old garage punk classics that they dusted off and claimed as their own.

Shows frequently descended into anarchy. The Cramps kicked ass in a way that bands half their age were afraid to do: Lux chugging wine from a bottle that he'd put between his teeth, smashing the bottle, then shredding his spandex trousers with it; Lux wearing one of Ivy's boots on his face; Lux singing while lying on the floor, looking up Ivy's mini-skirt.

The Cramps saved me. I was listening to goth nonsense in the late 1980s and was *this close* to losing my sense of humour for good. Luckily, I had a friend who made me a tape of the best of their output and...boom...that was it. They were trashy, dumb, weird, funny, clever and goddamn catchy. All of the things I have ever wanted from music, in essence. Hundreds of imitators have come and gone, of varying quality (The Birthday Party; The Horrors), but nothing really came close to the real thing.

I am heartbroken, but I can't imagine how terrible Ivy must be feeling, and I'd like to extend my sympathy.

The world is going to be a much less weird and sleazy place without Lux: more's the pity.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Oh and here comes the part where I break down and cry…

The over-arching theme of the past few days has been bizarre illness (and - whisper it - SNOW). My lip has been swelling up in a Leslie Ash “trout pout” manner (it have been afflicted with this a couple of times in the past, but never within a couple of days before): I assume that I am allergic to something. It's horrible.

On Friday I came home from work feeling nauseous and faintly depressed. I’d been at a company presentation at 9am that morning where lots of buzzwords were used, such as “enrichment” – which I can only assume is this year’s replacement for that awfully confusing, Dickensian word “improving”. I spent the time looking blankly at the presentation on the screen, wondering what else I could do for a living. Still none the wiser about that…with luck, some inspiration will come my way soon. My policy of trying to ignore what’s going on between the hours of 8.30 and 4.30 works out quite well for me in general, but I wonder if I can sustain it long-term? [Rhetorical question.]

The weekend was infected with this general malaise. Nothing of note was achieved or decided, aside from some exciteable devouring/post-it noting of a Las Vegas guidebook (our trip to the US is booked and paid for, I am thankful for this).

Yesterday it was snow-a-go-go! Neither of us went to work and instead went on a walk to Richmond Park via the Ham Common woodlands, which was great. The remainder of the day was taken up with some of those tasks that have been on the to-do list for aeons, like fixing the towel rail in the bathroom and completing the scarf that I started knitting for JJ about 3 years ago. He should really look upon that as an early birthday gift.

I note that Kate Winslet has going on again about how she difficult she finds awards ceremonies. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Here’s a thought: if you find it so hard, don’t attend. I'll vomit if I have to see her turn the waterworks on once more.

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