Monday, November 29, 2010

Hit the North, Parts 1 and 2

We are hurtling towards the end of the year at speed, and it's been busy. Work brings budget machinations and planning for next year; home has brought projects of varying kinds. We now have new carpets, replacing the stuff that has been down since we moved in, which was moth-eaten, threadbare and filthy to varying degrees: our new floor-covering appears to have warmed the place up very slightly, although I did spend five minutes chipping ice off the inside of the bedroom windows this morning...

We have been getting out and about at last. We spent a lovely weekend in the gorgeous home of toocool and R, which was splendid, and sampled what Birmingham had to offer. Brum has changed radically since I was last there in 1991 (for a Fuzztones concert at Edwards No.8, with support from ZuZu's Petals. Ouch, that dates me). For the better, I should add. We had a splendid time, which variously included curry, a drink in a fine local, a whole lotta chat and some napping (some of us are getting on a bit).

I spent some time with Mrs Hall at the Cockpit Arts Open Studios, which was a pleasant Friday afternoon diversion. Then, to Manchester, which was cold and frosty and packed with people (We have never had it so good, apparently). We caught up with a few notables (PL, TL and their respective partners). At a tiki bar in the Northern Quarter, I was served a flaming cocktail in a pint pot, which was a first for me, I must say. We also briefly caught up with Mr and Mrs Green in slightly less boozy/flammable circumstances the next day. Again, this was great, if long-overdue.

This week - Janelle Monae! Hooray.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

I can't remember a worse time

On Friday night I went to a wet and windy City to meet up with DC and his lovely missus M post-honeymoon. I have skipped mentioning their wedding (which occurred a few weeks back) on this blog. It was fun, is all you need to know. We discussed getting chatted up by strip club barmen (him), the merits of the most recent MGMT album (me), the dearth of decent British TV (him) and being heartbroken about Charlie Brooker's marriage (me).

Last week brought the news that Pulp will be reforming for some gigs this year. At this point, I'm going to admit that I never bothered with seeing them live the first time around. So I won't be going to them play next year.

Going to see reformed bands is always a gamble.

Jane's Addiction
I don't know what possessed me, to be honest. I saw them twice in the height of their indie fame in the early 1990s at small venues, and they gave absolutely blinding performances on both occasions. Quite why I didn't leave well enough alone is anybody's guess. I saw them at the Hammersmith Apollo/Odeon/Carling Apollo/Horlicks Odeon or whatever it was called that week: an error in itself. These two things should tell you how bad the gig was. Firstly, a cover of 'Wild Thing'. Secondly, Dave Navarro's Louis Vuitton guitar strap. As a final insult, the merchandise stall had Jane's Addiction knickers on sale. I will neither forget nor forgive this.

Worth it, if nothing else, for the breakdown in the middle of 'In 'n' Out of Grace'. They weren't bad. Neither were they brilliant.

Iggy and the Stooges
Admittedly, I had never seen them in the 1970s (bit difficult, what with their classic Scala gig happening around the same time as my being born). But they were superb. I'm pleased I made the effort to see them before the sad demise of Rock Action. *Takes hat off, bows head, observes a minute's silence*

The Pixies
I first saw them in 1990, I think (around the same time as Bossanova). They were a bit of a shambles, albeit a charming one. My friends up on the balcony noticed that the set list had loads of songs crossed off it. I came away feeling a bit let down. Not so at their comeback at Brixton Academy, which was awesome. The only false note was sounded by the support act: a magic act by the drummer, David Lovering. But hey, you can't have everything; where would you put it?

My Bloody Valentine
Loud, disorientating and amazing, first time. Loud (but less painful, owing to earplugs), disorientating and amazing, second time.

And that's all. Any advance on that, readers?


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not with a bang

I had a post half-written but I've since scrapped it. It was mainly about the mood I'm in at the moment. I might come back to that later. But first, here's a brief interlude.

On Saturday night we spent time over with Mrs and Mrs Crimmings. Mrs is an old pal of mine from the worst job in the world. They invited us over with a couple of other mates to enjoy some food and fireworks. Both were excellent, but especially the fireworks.

I think it's been about 30 years since I last stood in a garden watching fireworks. I recall my Dad getting a small box of Standard fireworks, which were incredibly expensive, and he set up a display next to our coal bunker. [I also have a vague memory of him nailing something to our garage, which was made of asbestos panels, but let us gloss over that detail.] Without fail, almost every single firework failed to light, or fizzled out. That was the late 1970s/early 80s for you. We all felt like we'd been swindled.

Not so this time. We had more fireworks than we knew what do do with, so we split them into two batches. They were awesome, mainly because they were for medium-sized firework displays and we were in a small suburban garden. At one point the fireworks shot themselves directly at us - oops. It was uproariously funny, although I imagine we'd have been less amused if any of us had been disfigured.

It was a real tonic of an evening.

So, back to my mood. It'll be six months since Mum died this week. Here's some things I've learnt this year.

1) No matter how shit I've felt, I've been amazed at how resilient I am when I'm forced to be. In the week or so following Mum's death I was overcome with what felt like almost superhuman mental strength. I sat calmly in interviews and meetings and didn't break down. I functioned to a far superior level than I usually do. As time has gone on, this feeling has evaporated somewhat, but I can still pull it out of the bag when I need to.

2) Despite the above, the slightest thing will set me off. An ancient coffee stain on our carpet was yesterday's thing. Something catches you off-guard, and before you know it, you're a wreck.

3) Time doesn't really heal. I think that with the passing of time, you find the best coping strategies, and you wear them like a piece of armour. There are a million and one ways to deal, you just pick what suits you best. I'm not sure that I can even explain how I do it.

In the meantime, life continues and re-adjusting to the world is still a main priority.