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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

April 29, 2005

Yeah, No... I Blame the iPod

From the Nothing New Under the Sun department today, this article in the Guardian about "Firework" bands, who have been with us since the Dawn of Time, as record companies, radio stations, newspapers, and magazines try to out-do each other in hipness and hiposity.

These bands are so interchangeable they all need to have logos so as to be identifiable. I'm still not interested. As an official old fogey stick in the mud cynic, I've not been interested in this kind of thing since, natch, the Dawn of Time.

In my prime teenage years (in the 70s) I did and listened to my own thing (which happened to be the thing of around a decade before, so it goes), and by now I've about reached the early 70s and stopped. I'm afraid, dear people, that it's a stone fact that, around 1980 (or was it 1976?) record producers got a dose of the completely-forgotten-how-to-do-things-rights, and most records have sounded crap ever since.

I was reading in Sound on Sound about how some recording engineer, encouraged by the indifference of Glyn Johns, decided to use the ol' "close miking" technique on Keith Moon's drum kit in '77/78 for Who Are You. Before this time, engineers like Johns had tended to use no more than 3 microphones to record drums. Hence, drums in the 60s and 70s sounded miles better. Once close miking came in, we got in-your-face Big Drums on everything, and people wank on about snare sounds and use 18 different microphones. It all sounds shit.

NME circa '77-79 was in the business of launching and destroying new bands on a weekly basis. Clue to the nonplussed: it sells papers. It sells magazines. People keep lapping it up. Why? Because of the never-ending search for hipness and indeed hiposity.

iPod makes things worse. Spend hours immersed solipsistically in your iTunes library and you grow tired and bored of your collection and need novelty like a drug. But there's also that other thing, that need to have cooler and more exclusive things on your 'Pod than the guy sitting next to you on the Tube.

But here's another clue: if you read about them in The Guardian, or in the Observer Music Monthly, it's already too late. So don't bother. Once it's middle-class dinner party conversation fodder, you might as well stick on some white or pink noise and listen to that (I recommend Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music).

You wanna be hip? Don't take advice from me. But if you want to take advice from me (and free advice is worth the price you pay), the road to hipness lies in appreciating the unappreciated and unfashionable, not in following the herd in liking the latest hip logo act. It requires hard work and dedication, and the ability to know your onions, and opposed to knowing somebody else's.

Examples? It's easy to like Bob Dylan. I think you'd have to be dead not to appreciate the sparkling beauty of Blonde on Blonde. It's much harder to point to Self Portrait and say (and mean it!) that it's one of your favourite Dylan albums.

Lou Reed? Everyone likes New York, everyone knows Transformer, but only the true connoisseur loves Coney Island Baby above all others. Check out that 1975 production! Gorgeous.

Springsteen? Lucky Town and Human Touch were greeted with indifference by critics and many fans. They're very close to my heart.

You have to work at it, to really love something, to know something, and you need to benefit of T I M E for these things to become truly apparent. You can't get this stuff off the cover of a magazine or newspaper. It's like everything else: sheer effort and hard work leads to rich rewards. Feckless understudying of media whores' tastes leads to futility. You might as well listen to Elton and Phil Collins and be done with the whole scene.

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
A little unfairly, I'm going to give a big shrug of the shoulders to the new album, based on just one hearing. I heard the title track on Johnny Walker a couple of weeks ago, and I've yet to receive the copy I ordered, but someone I know downloaded it from iTunes and I blagged a copy for the car. Don't worry, Sony, I've still paid for the damn thing, so you're not out of pocket.

So I was listening to the compressed 128mbps version, but I still feel qualified to say I'm not all that bothered.

The voice he does when he sings these folk-blues acoustic things is just this whiny mumbling rumble in my ears, and it just does not make me want to pay attention and really listen. The Springsteen I've always gone for wrote good words and good melodies, songs you could sing. Frankly, when he tries to do a harder-rock thing, or the blues, I've always switched off. Even something like "Cover Me," for example, from BitUSA, I skipped every time it came on. Other tracks, like "Light of Day," "Soul Driver," "Gloria's Arms," "The Big Muddy," I couldn't even hum it for ya.

So I'm a fair weather fan, except that when he does move me, he moves me a long way, and I had a lot of emotional investment in him. Fact is, he did very few of these more, shall we say, rubbish numbers when he performed live.

As for this folky, mumbly Every Man character, the Tom Joad thing, Nebraska even. I quite liked a couple of the Nebraska tracks: "Atlantic City" is a fantastic song - but miles better when he does it live with a full band.

I'm not even going to talk about what the songs are all about - I just don't care. This Brendan O'Brien trendy producer bloke adds nothing to the mix, Springsteen, at 55, has lost his singing voice as badly as Bob has, and I can think of better ways to spend an hour.

I'll give it another listen when I get the full fat version, and it might grow on me, eh?

April 28, 2005

Can't, Won't

I sensitive subject this, so let's deal with it in a sensitive manner: my wife cannot cook.

We've been together 10 years, and I'm pretty good around the kitchen. I have my blind spots, but most of the time what I cook is edible, sometimes delicious, and I can both follow a recipe and make up my own based on what's in the fridge/cupboard.

So we muddle along. Occasionally, I ask my other half to do something. Sometimes, if I know I'll be late home, or if I want to avoid the nightly raid on the bread bin because I'm too hungry to wait till I've cooked, I try to arrange things so I can quickly throw a meal together when I get in.

Sometimes this works. If I ask her to put a potato in the oven to bake, this is usually all right. This task involves finding a potato of more or less the right size, putting it in the oven about an hour before I'm due home, and switching the oven on.

On the other hand, if I want to make a quick shepherd's pie or something, and I ask her to boil some potatoes for mashing - she fucks it up. For example, she might use the same time scale and boil the potatoes for an hour before I get in. Or boil them for the 15-20 minutes required and then leave them in the water.

Convenience food, of course, is to be avoided. Too many additives, too much salt, too much fat, too much sugar. Even the "healthy" ones probably contain cancer-causing food dyes etc. On occasion, we do have them. Many years ago, I had a pie or two in the freezer. I think they were Evil Linda McCartney "meat-free" pies. You put them in the oven for 30 minutes, whatever, and get them out when they're done. My wife will follow the instructions to the letter, getting them out of the oven after 20 minutes even if they are obviously not cooked properly.

You might find this hard to believe, but it's true.

Yesterday morning, I asked her to start the dinner before I got home, because I knew I'd raid the bread bin if I had to wait 25 minutes for the rice to cook. Use the medium saucepan, I said. Chop an onion, fry it gently in a little oil until it's transparent, then add the rice and stock. How much stock? Three times in volume the amount of rice in weight. So for 100g rice, 300ml stock. I've told her this formula 72,000 times in the years we've been together.

So I got in last night and there's the rice - almost boiled dry and still hard as rock - in the wok with a non-matching lid, with huge lumps of onion, which are hardly what you'd call "chopped".

So, for the millionth time, I had to start from scratch and do it all myself. A little bit tense about it all, because it's not rocket science, and you start to suspect a kind of deliberation to it, the, "Don't ask me to do this kind of thing, I don't want to do it and I'm not good at it," technique. She looks at me like I'm speaking Russian or something when I say words like "chop" and "onion" and "medium" and "saucepan."

Sigh. I blame her mother, of course.

April 27, 2005


I'm an emotional wreck, you should know that about me. If You could portray my general state of being with an emoticon it would be %^***((@?/""";; most of the time, and possibly ¬∆˙¬∆˙¬ at others.

In these past few days, I happen to have noticed a lot of songs coming on in my car that tend to make me blub a bit. Some country songs are as shamefully manipulative as an episode of ER; others hit the nail on the head for more complex reasons. Here's a list, by no means exhaustive and in no particular order, of songs that have made me blub at one time or another.

  • Stronger Than I Am - Lee Ann Womack, from I Hope You Dance. This one is ambiguously about a divorcee and/or widow (cleverly taking in a huge constituency) addressing her absent husband/partner on the subject of their little girl, and how she seems to be taking the absence of her father in her stride:
    She ain’t crackin’ under pressure
    First one step and then another she goes along
    And if she falls and skins her knee
    She cries awhile and then smiles at me and just goes on
    So many things that she can teach me
    Full of life and so completely innocent
    She still says she loves her daddy
    Goes on just like nothin’ happened
    Forgives and forgets

  • Please - Pam Tillis, from Thunder and Roses. Another one about a single parent - this time, she's going on a first date with a guy she really likes, and the song is her Ally McBeal-type inner dialogue of self-doubt and desire. I don't know why this affects me so strongly, but it did on first listen, before the first chorus even. Something about Tillis' high-piping plaintif voice and the 100% commitment she shows the material:
    Babysitter said 7
    She's 15 minutes late
    Jimmy's still playing in the bath
    Cold macaroni on his plate
    I still haven't done my hair
    I hate doing my hair
    It never comes out right
    I must have changed my clothes
    A half a dozen times
    Ended up in this little black dress
    Had to mend the hemline
    Now I can't find my shoes
    I can never find my shoes
    Man I hate this
    Am I nervous
    Am I scared
    Is it worth it
    Should I even care
    What a time to have these second thoughts
    Man I like this guy
    I really like him alot

  • My Wild Frontier - Faith Hill, from Faith. This one is a desperate tale of love and loss, featuring the loss of a newborn baby. 'Swhat Country music is supposed to be about, innit?
    Harvested peaches in a small border town
    Saved all our wages
    Put ten percent down
    I never thought I’d see the world through a child’s eyes
    Until early december

    Then one calgary morning
    Still as glass
    While my baby lay sleeping, an angel slipped past
    And with one breath said I’m taking him back
    To his father in heaven

    Through gravel and ice and new fallen snow
    I held him through my tears
    Because I was his lonesome prairie
    And he was my wild frontier

  • Godspeed (Sweet Dreams> - Dixie Chicks, from Home. It's the live version of this from the accompanyinig DVD that gets me. Partly this must be because live music in general makes me blub, and partly because she goes into the whole story of how the song was written. A divorce, mother moves to France with new partner; husband writes song for 9-year old kid he misses. Blub.

  • Pocket Full of Stones - Eve Selis, from Nothing But the Truth. I should be ashamed of myself. A blatant attempt at a blub song, featuring a little kid giving stones to a stranger - each of which means something different.
    You picked a good one, that one’s laughter
    And look, this one stops the rain
    See my mom over there watching
    She likes the white one, it’s for grace

  • Let's Dance - Sara Evans, from Born to Fly. Only because it was what was on a lot when my youngest was born.

  • Puff the Magic Dragon - Er... When I was in Junior school, this folk group came round and performed some songs for the class in the school hall. By the time this song got to the end I was blubbing, and desperately trying to conceal the fact. It's a tragedy:
    A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
    Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
    One grey night it happened, jackie paper came no more
    And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

    His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
    Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
    Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
    So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!

And that's more than I can really cope with at one time.

April 26, 2005

what's news, pus-y twat?

i try to avoid the news whenever possible, because it upsets me. i think there is an election or something going on at the moment. at least, there will be, in just over a week's time. my finger slipped and i inadvertently selected bbc1 yesterday evening, but it was ok because i discovered that the news had been replaced by the day today. when will a tv company be brave enough to say "nothing much happened today" and just play some nice calming music?

i miss the days when your average newsreader just sat at a desk, and you could imagine they were only dressed from the waist up. i bet you anything you like they will be dancing and reading the news within five years. it makes me want to kill myself, it really does. how many paracetamol do i need?

April 25, 2005

Missing the Point

In this review of "Devils and Dust" from The Observer, the reviewer does the usual trick of making something up and then skewing the writing to reflect it.

He's trying to create a nice black and white picture, in which Springsteen once wrote optimistic songs about cars and girls, and now writes pessimistic songs about death and loss.

But look back at his oevre, and he was always writing pessimistic songs about death and loss, losers - the characters in the songs were always kidding themselves, even in the midst of their optimism. What else is Jungle Land, Born to Run, Thunder Road, Incident on 57th Street. As for Darkness on the Edge of Town, hello? Have you been listening? Where's the optimism on that?

God. How do these people get work?

Jojo video

Has anyone else noted the visual references to that iconic "lolita" image that we are treated to in the latest video of Jojo's (not that kinda girl).

Personally, I think it is just a bit too obvious.

But then, as Oscar Wilde said, "there is no such thing as moral or immoral child porn. It is either well marketed or badly marketed."

Plumbing the Depths

Plumbers, as anyone knows, are complete and utter shyster bastards. Plumbing is the analogue equivalent of computing. If you're a lay user and don't know anyone who "knows about" computers, you're basically shagged and I wouldn't bother getting one. Because you won't get a decent level of technical support beyond your circle of family and friends.

Same goes with plumbers. Unless you know a tame one, you might as well go and live in a cave.

We've got a very small problem. The size of the problem makes the problem, paradoxically HUGE. Here's why.

We need a new valve on the hot water cylinder. While the heating is on, we get hot water at the same time, because I locked the valve open. When we switch the central heating off, however: no hot water. So we need a new valve. They cost around £25-40 quid, depending on whether you're a plumber or a sucker/customer.

As you probably know, most plumbers won't even come to your house without you having to pay £60 callout. And then the cost of the part, and the cost of the labour, which means this simple valve-swap should cost a minimum of £150-200. I accept this: such is life.

But even so, getting a plumber to come round has proved almost impossible so far. The first one we phoned said he'd call round and then "lost the number". Or, to put it another way, he arranged to visit one morning but then didn't show up. He left a garbled phone message to the effect that he'd call around 11 a.m., but didn't.

So we gave up on him, and I tried another. One problem with plumbers is you have to phone them out of hours, because otherwise you can't get them. The other problem is that they don't seem to have "out of hours." I phoned another, local, and got his wife. She took a message, indicating that he was very busy and might be able to get to us the following Friday.

The following Thursday evening, we hadn't heard back from them (I guess they're used to people basically stalking them in order to get a service, so they tend to ignore people who take them at their word), plumber #1 turned up at the door, with a story about "losing the number" which was why he didn't show up the first time. He looked at the job, told my wife we needed a new valve, then started his patter. Plumber #1 is called Adrian, and he advertises himself in the Yellow Pages as A B Plumbing and Heating.

But, so his story goes, he actually works full-time for a different company, and wouldn't normally do this kind of thing, but since we were local he'd do it "off the books." He'd charge us £45 for the valve and £25 to fit it, but he needed the money for the part in advance. He offered to drive my wife to a cashpoint to get cash out. Had I been home, he'd have been out on his ear at this point, with my Nicky Campbell Watchdog instincts.

But my Mrs, naively, went and got cash (drove herself), and paid him £45 upfront. He was coming on Tuesday to fit it. She told me the story when I got home from work and I said that essentially she'd just lost £45, the same as if she dropped it down a drain. We'd not see him, or the money, again.

To make things worse, this same night plumber #2's wife phoned to check whether we still needed her husband on the following day. Er... I knew we did but told her about the other one showing up and told her we'd probably be in touch.
'Course, Adrian didn't turn up on Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or Thursday. I phoned him Friday and said we were thinking of reporting him to Trading Standards (and the Inland Revenue, I muttered under my breath). He gave his sob story about working all night etc., and promised he'd be there Saturday afternoon. He said to phone him at 3 pm and he'd know how long he'd be.

Which I did, and he said he'd be there in a couple of hours.

He wasn't.

He phoned later that night to explain he'd "injured himself" at work and would come the next day.

He didn't.

He phoned to say his ankle was fractured, but that he'd asked a friend to do the job instead. The friend would show up by lunchtime, or phone to say when he'd arrive.

Of course, he didn't.

It's not just that they don't show up. It's not even that they steal your money and don't show up. It's the cat-and-mouse game they play, keeping you hanging on, just at the point where you don't call another plumber, because he might turn up this time, as he said he would. If he'd just disappeared with the money, it would be all right - but he's kept us hanging on for three weeks, during which time we might even have been able to get a proper plumber in.

What a complete and utter cunt.

April 22, 2005



April 21, 2005


We've mentioned the fantasy writer Tim Powers in the past. A while ago I managed to get hold of On Stranger Tides, his book about pirates 'n' magic (which I'm convinced the Johnny Depp film Pirates of the Caribbean shamelessly plagiarised) - which means I now have all his novels, apart from the first two, which I don't think are in the same vein. Just ordered them anyway, along with his new collection of short stories.

Look around the web and you'll find plenty of garishly designed websites dedicated to Powers (book fans do not make good designers). The key thing about him, as we've said before, is that he doesn't so much write alternative histories as rewrite the history we know as if everything that happened was to do with magic, sorcery, or restless ghosts.

The key thing about his books that makes them ooze quality is the painstaking research that Powers has obviously done. You find it hard to separate the fact from the fiction, but you will discover that odd things did happen: things that Powers has built whole worlds of fiction around.

For example, Simon's Wordsworth quote below put me in mind of The Stress of Her Regard, which is about the poets Byron and Shelley and their dealings with supernatural creatures and magical doppelgangers. It's brilliant, and makes reference to Byron's Letter to John Murray, as featured on one of the Powers fan sites:
"He told me that in 1810 he met me as he thought in St. James's Street, but we passed without speaking. --He mentioned this -- and it was denied as impossible -- I being then in Turkey. --A day or two after he pointed out to his brother a person on the opposite side of the way -- 'there' --said he 'is the man I took for Byron' --his brother instantly answered 'why it is Byron & no one else.' --But this is not all -- I was seen by somebody to write down my name amongst the Enquirers after the King's health -- then attacked by insanity."

Fantastic indeed.


I have to admit that I rather like birds.

It goes back to childhood. My uncle gave me a copy of the observers book of birds. That started it.

The illustrations were old Victorian plates that had a strange other-worldliness about them, and that fired my imagination. Archibold Thorburn was the illustrator. I also had the complete set of ladybird books of birds. And another bird book with illustrations of birds by Thorburn. They all had that strangeness about them.

It was the backgrounds. Like a timeless misty Elysian world that you could wander off into. A world with no salesmen allowed.

I particularly like the plumage of ducks. It's the iridescence. I mean, what right do old-world animals have to be metallic or iridescent? It just shouldn't be!

Anyhow, serious stuff...

Crows are indeed the most recently evolved of all the songbirds, and are therefore, in a certain evolutionary sense, the most advanced, as Bob's observations would confirm.

I'm sure I've read that they are, for birds, highly intelligent.

I don't really think of crows as songbirds. In the World Of My Imagination there are two sorts of birds: song birds and big birds. And crows feel as though they should belong in the set of big birds.

I once made my wife plough through a whole flock of pheasants with our car. They were completely blocking a narrow country road in Shrewsbury once when we were driving back from Wales. We tried waiting, and we also tried using the horn, but they weren't interested.

It was worthwhile: after the first few were squashed, the rest moved out of the way.

However, I must admit, I rather like pheasants because you can see that they are actually modern-day dinosaurs (in the non metaphorical sense). They look, and move, just like raptors. There's quite a body of evidence to prove that they evolved directly from T-rex like dinosaurs.

Whenever a pheasant runs across the road in front of me I like to imagine that a small Utah Raptor or something just crossed my path. It's like it just burst out of that timeless world I mentioned above. And then disappeared back into it.

Which reminds me. Here's a favourite (mis)translation of some Old English by Wordsworth:

Man's life is like a Sparrow, mighty King!
That - while at banquet with your Chiefs you sit
Housed near a blazing fire - is seen to flit
Safe from the wintry tempest. Fluttering,
Here did it enter; there, on hasty wing,
Flies out, and passes on from cold to cold;
But whence it came we know not, nor behold
Whither it goes. Even such, that transient Thing,
The human Soul; not utterly unknown
While in the Body lodged, her warm abode;
But from what world She came, what woe or weal
On her departure waits, no tongue hath shown;
This mystery if the Stranger can reveal,
His be a welcome cordially bestowed!

I like it because it says that life is short and miserable. And then you die.

Anyhows, at least it's reassuring to know that dinosaurs must have been incredibly stoopid as well. Just in case Jurassic Park turns out to be true.

April 20, 2005

bob's big brain and the fuckworthiness game

rob's got a much bigger brain than most people. that's why he is able to make long lists of things he needs to do, while simon can only manage one thing. i'm with simon on this. because my brain is small, and because i've got a mild phobia about lists. there are a number of reasons for this phobia:

1. my general child of the universe state resists order
2. ...no, i can't do it.

anyway, rob also utilises his superior powers when playing the outrageous fuckworthiness game. we all do it, don't we? walking down the road on a sunny day, appraising approaching potential fuck partners. it's all pie in the sky, of course, with the massive assumption that these creatures would look twice at superannuated slobs like us. rob has the capacity to rate them on a scale of one to ten. i'm a binary man, myself. a "yes i would" or "no i would not" does the trick for me.

Millennial Hysteria

It's still going on, isn't it? The crazy behaviour of crowds and, well, people in general due to the turning of the minellium in 2001. You might have thought it would go away, but when we have the benefit of historical perspective, in 50 years or so, we will look back on the last few years of the 20th C and the first few years of the 21st as being an era of rabid religious nutcases and bonkers politicians.

Take the fuss about that Jerry Springer Opera on the BBC. Or the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. And the death and resurrection of his lordful worshipfulness Pope Benedictine and Bitters, amen.

And in the midst of all this, a media that likes to pretend we live in an Accelerated Culture, an era of instant transmission, instant news, and instant karma. Which they're completely wrong about, of course. First of all, as my old pal Michel Serres likes to say, we're always more ancient than we are modern. And our cities are mostly mediaeval places, not only in their design but in the speed with which we are able to move through them. And people still, on the whole, have mediaeval attitudes and superstitions sticking to them like leeches.

So there was black smoke, grey smoke, white smoke. At ten to five last night, nobody was really sure what colour it was. I happened to have just got into my car to drive home. For the next hour or so, the speculation went on, and the airwaves were filled with media blather as the accelerated people who work in the media waited for events to catch up with them.

Events interest me, particularly the ways in which they defy analysis, and refuse to bow down before the steamroller of reason. They weren't sure about the colour of the smoke, you see. It was ambiguously grey as opposed to one of the extremes; and one thing the modern media can't cope with is shades of grey. One reason they weren't sure, we were supposed to have a bell ringing as an auditory confirmation of the visual cue.

At 6 o'clock, a bell rang: but only because it was 6 o'clock. Eventually the right bells rang, 20 minutes after the off-white smoke. Twenty real minutes which seemed to the reporter(s) like 2 million hours, giving them ample opportunity to repeat the lack of news news about the absence of the ringing bells - probably 20 times in the 20 minutes. Then the bells rang, but of course, you couldn't really hear them under the noise of the crowd and the media blather.

So they spent the 50 minutes after the light grey smoke explaining who would come out on which balcony and say which words. Over and over again we were told what the Cardinal would say, in Latin, and what the Latin meant. Still, when it finally happened, they felt the need to have a woman translating what he was saying, in case we'd forgotten in the 30 seconds since they last told us.And they were so busy talking over the Cardinal that they had to ask the studio in London what he'd said: they missed the name of the liqueur.

I'd have switched off, but I had to keep listening, fascinated, to this jaw-droppingly inept and pointless hour of radio.

April 19, 2005

"You can't handle the truth!"

It's a known well fact that the end of Western Civilisation As We Know It began when John met Yoko, and Paul decided not to marry that nice Jane Asher after all, and instead eloped with the evil, serial-killing cannibal Linda McCartney. Some have speculated that Paul, with happy childhood memories of visits to the circus, mistakenly believed she was a former human cannonball, only to realise his mistake, too late, one misty morning on the Mull of Kintyre.

Well, the truth by now is lost in those other mists... the mists that don't roll in from the sea, and so we'll never know for sure.

But how might the world have been different if these two pivotal events hadn't occurred?

The world of cake making and decorating might have lost a small contribution, and the world of pointless avant garde so-called "art" (aka "shit in a box") would have carried on regardless. But the fabulous Beat Brothers might have struggled on, settling into their 30s with renewed gusto, and then becoming an undignified national embarrassment in their 40s. Most importantly, Western Civilisation would have been safe, and "Evil" Phil Spector would never have got his grubby, murdering* hands on a National Treasure.

Roy and I speculated, a few years ago, on the shape an Imaginary post-'69 Beatles album might have taken. I even went as far as creating a compo, called "Imaginary," natch, but so desperate was the need for half-decent material, that I had to cheat, 'far as Macca was concerned, and go all the way up to 1973 and Band on the Run. Even then, listening back, it's pretty dire.

Lennon's not immune from this, neither. His post-split material is more polished and complete, at times, than Macca's, but it's still mostly shite. Sentimental, hippy-dippy, Dudley Do-Gooder claptrap mixed in with half-baked political naffness and screeching from Ono. George Harrison had a respectable pop, with All T'ings Must P'ass, but even then it was overlong and self-indulgent. Appallingly produced, too, by that little gnome.* You can barely hear the vocal. So I ended up with two tracks from that, plus Bongo's Photograph and the rest was just shit.

But, of course, and this is the point, it wouldn't have been, because what you see in their post-split material, is how shit they were without the Other One there to impress and/or compete against.

So the 60s ended, and we started to slip into mediocrity, almost immediately. It was like the Last Beatle to leave the building switched off the light of Western Civ on the way out of the Apple building, even as it was being plundered by righteous hippies. Never Trust a Hippy, went the saying in the 70s, and how right that was. Thieving, dishonest, selfish, grasping, lazy, and feckless were the secret watchwords of the Peace and Love era. Most of the blokes were in it for a cheap shag; the women ditto, and because it was better than working.

Meanwhile, "Evil" Linda McCartney started her Evil Empire, based on selling ground up human meat to vegetarians, and Ono insisted that each John Lennon release consisted of 50% screeching and wailing. No wonder he "retired" in 1975, only to emerge again in time to be shot by Phil Spector in disguise.


music for pleasure

my big favourite listening thing at the moment is the first three or four songs on open season by british sea power. that's not to say i don't like the rest of it, but i rarely hear it, modern life being what it is. it's pretty simple stuff, the way i like it, poppy with guitars, idiosyncratic singing which sounds a bit like the bloke in the psychedelic furs but i've got used to it now. i like the aura that bsp give off. i've not seen them live, but i wish i had and i fear it is now too late. i've missed early british sea power. they dress up in military uniforms on stage which has to be a good thing. i miss dressing up. i like those groups who make an effort yet still manage not to look showbiz.

i've also been listening to the first three or four songs on some cities by doves. please note that isn't the doves, just doves. like two bars of soap. or two ice creams. or the drugs that they get their name from. oooh, how risque. doves are sort of the antithesis of british sea power, and as a group i don't really like them at all. i don't like the way the singer sings. but somehow this doesn't matter with the songs i like. there are three of them. i don't like that. you need at least four people in a group, even if one is only standing there reading a newspaper. i don't like lead singing bass players either. it's just not right. and i hate their not-trying, take us or leave us, meat and potatoes ordinary appearance. the singer should have a shave and lose at least two stone. but i like the first three or four songs on the new disc, anyway.

low have a new record out, it's called the great destroyer. i like the first two songs on this. i really like low despite there being only three in the group. and i really only like one or two songs on each record. the rest i can completely leave. they do good harmonies but sometimes it just goes on a bit. i'm not into long songs, unless they're really long. i hate intros that go on forever. but sometimes you like people despite all the evidence against them, innit?

and the other thing i've just got hold of, which is very good, is a compilation of yo la tengo stuff. they control their feedback really well, i think. they play it. it tells me that they spend a lot of time on their sound. there are only three of them too, i've just realised, but it doesn't matter.

i want to get the new damon & naomi(2 people) disc when i've fully digested the above. stereolab(4? 5?) have a new compilation out next week of b sides and things, with a dvd too. i like to look at moving pictures of groups. and last but not at all least, the fantastic go-betweens(4) have a new lp out next week. i'll have to get that. don't know if i'll have enough money to feed the children(2).

hold on though, i won't be buying the bruce springsteen(1?) lp, so i can get them beans on toast.

Vatican disco inferno

CNN confirmed today that the Vatican has been razed to the ground in a tragic fire.

A spokesperson for Rome's fire service confirmed that they had received reports of black smoke rising from the Vatican but had chosen not to respond as they thought it was just another announcement that there was no news.

I am here

Took this political survey, which is a good, in-depth one (thanks to the Observer blog for the link), and I'm about where I thought I was*. Most Green voters agree with me, it seems, but of course I'm not going to vote for some bearded hippy dippy Dudley do-gooder, am I (in joke)?

The thing that annoys me most at the moment are the people who go on about making it easier for people to vote. You know, because it's just too hard to go for a ten minute walk on a spring evening and put a cross on a piece of paper. So people seriously suggest 100% postal voting (except you have to walk to the post box, don't you, fat people?); or mobile voting stations travelling around like cob vans, calling at work places. Or innernet voting. Fuck off, you lazy pieces of shit! Put your fucking shoes on and walk to the bleddy polling station. You can tape EastEnders for later.

*By the way, in case you were wondering, it's probably my strong belief in the death penalty for Be eN Pee supporters and members that shades me towards the right.

April 18, 2005

The God of Luck

Once I had only ill fortune with taxation.

However, things have changed. I received a letter this morning that they have reconciled the terrible sum of twegen libra that I owe, and offset it against the money that I am owed by them.

Is this the dawning of a new age of transparent common sense? Can it be that fortune has turned its tide?

We'll just have to wait and see. I've just received a new batch of tax returns. I'm awaiting my P60 so I can send it all off and have done.

Listen... can you hear me?

bugger! (in the style of The Fast Show's Unlucky Alf)

Fed up with it

I've been cutting back on alcohol.

I'm not like Rob: ain't no way I could tackle nine things in a to do list at once. I just about cope with one. So I've imposed the following alcohol restrictions on myself:
i) weekdays - wednesday evening every other week a couple of glasses of wine, otherwise abstain;
ii) weekends - on Friday night a few beers are permissible, otherwise abstain.

I've been operating in accordance with this for over a week now. Except this Friday I had four beers. On Saturday morning, though, I was shocking ill with it. I had to have an afternoon sleep.

Think I might just not bother with drinking anymore. It will take something like laudenum to get me into it again after Saturday.

Apart from that, last time I stopped drinking for a month I lost about 15 stones in weight. That can't be bad for zero effort weight loss.

And I heard this morning that our house has sold and that our buyers have sold theirs, so it looks as though we could be moving soon.

That's good and bad.

Good because it means more room, including a whole room just for me, my guitars, and my books, so I will be able to become a total recluse and grow to hate the entire world even more than I already do).

But bad because it will be stressful and involve a lot of DIY. More DIY than I have ever had to tackle before.

There's only one thing I hate more than modern advertising, and that is DIY. (excepting ringtones, mobiles, computers, mp3, young people, the weather, middle aged people, motorists, old people, public transport, shops, umbrellas, TV, The News, CBBC, and the government (current and future)).

Things to Do....

1. Restring my guitars and hang them up so I don't have to keep moving them.
2. Restring and/or tune my mandolin
3. Invent an alter-ego on-line identity and then go on Flickr and tell everyone their photos are crap.
4. Catch up on episodes of The Practice on my HD recorder (backed up a week and a half and counting).
5. Never buy any Kit Kat Editions ever again. Certainly not buy them and eat two in a row.
6. Make mushroom soup.
7. Stop drinking Taste the Difference Raspberry Wheat Beer. It gives me headaches.
8. Dust
9. Stop watching The OC
10. Stop at 9.

April 15, 2005


I spent the entire day yesterday sitting in NHS waiting rooms. Aside from having to confirm our names, address, dates of birth, and have my daughter repeatedly describe what was wrong with her a grand total of eight times to apologising Health Trust staff, I managed to read two whole magazines from cover to cover and half a paperback book.

I went nearly insane with the agony of waiting with no hope of it ending.

And there was no food or drink. In fact my daughter was made to stay "nil by mouth" all day because "the consultant will be here soon and you can have something to eat after that". Except it never happened. The consultant remained in the status of "will be here soon" until 11pm.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not one to kick off about all the people who work in the hospital. I couldn't and wouldn't want to do any of their jobs. And I know that the lowest hospital auxiliary worker is performing a much more valuable role than the most precious sleb or ringtone composer could dream of.

All this shite about MRSA and washing hands is nowt but manipulation of us stoopid ones in pursuance of someone else's political gain.

There are much worse things in the world than hospitals. Much worse. Try chicken meat. Get your BSE, Avian flu, and MRSA 'ere! Not to mention the pork based proteins injected into chicken meat that cause muscle tissue to retain up to 50% water, eh Fat Boi?

Turns out that the pediatric consultant for this hospital also covers the other large hospital in the area. Classic case of understaffing again, then.

And there's this thing with multitasking. It starts off great - you use idle time to do something else. It seems like you can miraculously do two things at once. And the small amount of time you use in task switching is time well spent.

But when you start to do more and more tasks, the management element required to switch tasks starts to dominate. And I think that is probably starting to happen in hospitals. Everyone has too many things to do, and they've reached that point of "critical mass" where administration takes up more time than actually doing health care.

And if you tell hospitals that you will kick their ass if they have bad waiting time statistics, you can bet that your life that their statistics will be good.

And if you tell medical staff that they will get their asses sued to fuckdom if they so much as do anything, you can bet your life that they won't do anything, at least not without having a cliff face of cover behind their backs.

In the meantime my daughter and I sat, taking up a hospital bed, for 13 hours waiting for something to happen. In the end there wasn't enough time for the consultant to do the tests needed so my daughter was admitted overnight so they could continue this morning.

But I bet the stats said we were seen within 30 minutes.

April 14, 2005

On getting up early and getting dressed in the dark. And .

I'm tired most of the time, partly because I have to get up at ten to six every working day, and partly because I spend up to three and a half hours a day driving to work and back. This is all my own fault, so I'm not complaining, not really. I'm just tired.

This morning I thought there was a cat sitting in the conservatory, just outside the door, as if waiting to get into the living room. It was a bag of potatoes.

Two days ago, I got dressed in the dark as usual, and it's only because I happened to glance into a mirror as I was brushing my teeth that I realised my shirt was on inside out. I rarely look in mirrors, so there's a fair chance I've worn inside-out shirts to work a lot of times recently. As to the colour of the socks I'm wearing, your guess is as good as mine.

Talking of socks, yet another poor set of trading figures for Marks and Spencer earlier in the week. Extrapolating wildly, and generalising like mad from my own experience, I can confirm that their problem is in the sock department.

Here's what used to happen.

Mrs Shopper would say to her other half, "I want to look in ." Other half would say, "Okay - I'll wander round the men's dept." While there, he'd look at the socks. They used to do a variety of styles and colours. You could buy red ones, yellow ones, green ones, blue ones, as well as black grey brown beige and white sports socks. Other half would buy a few pars, then he'd notice the -t-shirts, buy a couple of those (in colours to match said socks, sometimes!), and he might look at some other stuff. Find a jacket he liked, a jumper, whatever.

Meanwhile, Mrs Shopper had all the time she wanted to seriously browse the clothes, try a few things on, buy a few bits.

Results: M & S profits.

Here's what happens now.

Mrs Shopper says to her other half, "Mind if I look in M & S?" Other half says, "Okay - I'll be in the men's dept." He goes up there, and is presented with a wide variety of socks in grey, black, brown, dark grey, beige, dark beige, black, black, brown, and black. And white sports socks. All with fucking Lycra™ impregnated into them so they squeeze your feet all day and make them hot and uncomfortable. And they all cost a frecking fortune, to boot.

So he gets fed up and wanders back to the Ladies dept, pesters Mrs Shopper because he's bored, and they walk out of the shop without buying anything.

See? It's all about socks. I've told them, but they don't listen. And aren't they sorry now? How can I put this? BRING BACK RED SOCKS!.

It's not a lot to ask.

You might wonder, where does Other Half get his socks? Well, he still buys them in M & S, probably, but only once or twice a year, and only in desperation. And anyway, you can buy shitty dull coloured Lycra™ impregnated socks anywhere, can't you?

April 13, 2005

The Remarkable Rocket and other metaphysics


Sometimes you hear songs in a minor key that feel as though they want to become the soundtrack to your life for a time. They get you thinking about things best left alone in the dark place.

Did you ever catch yourself sitting there, thinking, "if only I knew how to unravel it all. If only I could make it all simple again like it was at first"?

Like a job you've held for more than 18 months. Like somebody else's misery. Like the electronics chapter in a physics textbook. Like anything else that's all ragged with loose ends and distractions.

And like a computer that's been running too long: if only it were possible to purge the registry and remove unwanted applications without having to reinstall the OS.

But it's not like that, is it. Time makes our lives like one way streets. Or disposable cameras, hardwired for single use.

And if you drop your life onto a stone floor, or expose its film to light, or waste all your shots on your drunken mates getting their arses out in Yates's on Saturday night, or however else it gets all fucked and tangled up, it is just tough.

You just happened to choose, inadvertantly, to light one of the damp squibs in the existential firework display.

But maybe all the squibs are like that. And maybe all the cameras in the box are flawed seconds.

If so, maybe that is an elegant and simple truth in itself. Maybe there is an ethereal "so fucking what?" floating through everything.

April 11, 2005

Ferrous or just a bit ironic?

I was just a-thinking.

Henry-the-eighth banned catholicism in this country because it wouldn't, in a sense, stop a royal wedding. Whereas we've just seen catholicism do exactly that.

Funny that.

I wonder when it stopped being illegal to be catholic here? Was it ever a capital offense?

The royals always did have questionable allegience to protestantism aside from when they stood to gain from it.

Nice and Depressing

Less than a week into the official campaign, and I already reach for the off switch after about 30 secs of meaningless drivel on the radio or TV. Here's a nice depressing article from the Guardian in which Michael White considers how campaigning has changed in 35 years:
"And that was the future. We were now so closely in touch all the time in real time that you could ask for comment on an event that had not yet happened."

Which seems like an appropriate quote for the Hallmark Universe.

I remember the 1974 campaign(s) quite well - Jeremy Thorpe and all that. When a Liberal was a Liberal and the SDP was gleam in a bitter Michael Owen's eye. I have a dim recollection of 1970, but that year was more about playing football in the back garden because I couldn't bear to watch the England games during the World Cup.

The awful thing about the blanket coverage of this and previous elections is that very few people are interested. Which is stating the bleedin' obvious, but is a message that doesn't get through. The more intense the coverage, the lower the voter turnout. And most of those voting have made their minds up already, ergo, the 24/24 coverage is aimed at, what, about 6 floating voters in a marginal constituency? And 2 of those 6 are listening to Radio 2, one is listening to Radio 1, another is on Classic FM... which leaves about two people actually listening to or watching election coverage.

An exaggeration, but there's my point. On Friday, was it?, when Pope John Paul the Average was funeralised, the local news came on at 6.30, as usual. But instead of local news, it was yet more Pope funeral coverage, because clearly the BBC felt there had not been enough. And yet, there before my eyes, they showed the scenes inside a couple of (local) catholic churches, where memorial services had taken place. In one, it looked like maybe 12 people, including staff. In the other, half a dozen, no more than that.*

Which is about the size of interest in religion and religionists in this country, and still we were force-fed Pope-ups all day long for days and days. Get this: all the people who cared were in Rome. Those unable to travel went to a local church. So I assume we had a billion hours of television and radio, with 20,000 reporters (paid for out of my licence fee blah bblah blah) for a few housebound old ladies. Fantastic! Don't they have their own channel?

So it is with the election. Nobody gives a rat's arse, but we're still forced to sit through it or, more likely, switch off.

When I rule the world, I will ban national campaigning and reporting. Candidates will only be able to campaign within their own constituency. No national coverage, no PM/Chancellor double-act: because they're not, are they? From today, they all lose their status and salaries, so they should all just go home and pound the local streets, knocking on local doors, kissing local babies. Parties will still be able to waste ink and paper by printing manifestos, but apart from that, it will be the local candidates and their local supporters campaigning for each seat in Parliament.

*Another fascinating aspect of these sparsely populated churches was the way in which everyone was sitting as far away as possible from everyone else. Like you do in a cinema. Feel the love, baby Jesus, feel the love.

Jim Davidson for Prince

I heard Brian Walden talking about Camilla Saxe-Coburg yesterday on the radio. Or is it Windsor? Or is it something else?

You may be wondering what the fuck am I going on about.

I mean of course the way that, now Camilla nee Parker-Bowles is Princess of Wales and may very well be Queen, they've had to invent a new title for her, viz. The Duchess of Cornwall, in order to prevent offending those worshippers at the Temple of Diana.

Now it ain't new to invent name changes - and when you're blowing the hell out of the hun, the surname Windsor is much softer sounding than the teutonic Saxe-Coburg.

But the reason then was one of national importance. It made war look stupid. But you can't just go making things up to please people. It's just wrong.

You see, I don't think it is right to start bending statute and tradition in order to appease the bleeting flocks of Diana worshippers, who are, in their turn, being egged on by Media sheepdogs, into fecking deadsleb hysteria over titles.

Let me tell you that Camilla, being married to the Prince of Wales, is the Princess of Wales. Legally, and constitutionally. Whether she or anyone else likes it or not. One day, car accidents permitting, she will probably be Queen too.

Let's stop pissing about with all this namby-pamby idolatry and homesezual egg-shell avoiding. It's time we called a pope a pope.

The Princess of Wales is dead! Long live the Princess of Wales.

Painful, embarrassing, introspective - wince alert!

Nothing like exposing yourself publicly.

Roy's post about my post has in turn lingered with me and turned my attention back on things. Got me feeling sentimental and nostalgic. But I am prone at the moment. Feeling old, fat and mortal.

Two things happened over the weekend.

Yesterday I went to my mother's with the kids and she put on some home movies. One was of my eldest son's first birthday (twelve years ago). It was shocking. Not least because of how different both myself and my wife looked. Actually everyone looked different. I even sounded different. I didn't have a Nottingham accent for a start. It's an odd thing how you don't notice those around you getting older and changing.

This aspect troubled me as well. The roll call...
My mother - still alive
My father - dead
Fiona's grandmother - dead
Sarah - still alive
Ian - dead
Our dog - dead
Our cat - dead
(you get the trend?)

It was also the first time I'd seen a moving image of my dad, or heard a recording of his voice since he died. On the premise that his death has generally fucked me up quite a bit, I was expecting to find the video upsetting, but it was fine.

And on Friday I found myself trying to dig out a picture of Elizabeth Ford. I knew I had one somewhere. I thought it was in the green heineken carrier bag in the bottom of my wardrobe where most of my 80s snaps are dumped. Denied.

Checked a few other places. Denied.

Gave up.

And then I remembered that it was in a big red photo album. I think that it is in a box (our house is up for sale so we have mucho baggage sealed in cardboard boxes) in the garage.

However I did find an envelope containing letters and postcards from her. I looked at one of them. Funny how instantly recognisable her writing still is to me. She was in a sandwich bar in Moorgate as she wrote. She would phone me later that night (no mobiles or txting in those days).

It was a bad thing, being indulgent like that. Because I found myself missing her. Wishing I could travel back for a moment and say, "hello, you!"

Too much change and spaghetti.

I've not thought about her very much since 1984. How odd it is that I should be thinking about her now with any sort of fondness. I mean, at the time we were ferociously unfaithful to each other too.

And I remember the night I phoned her at her flat in Poplar, in London and said that I thought it was time to call it a day, I think I rather enjoyed the drama of it. And life went on. I saw her a couple of times after that, of course. But her drifting out of my life was painless and natural. Effortless.

Odd that nostalgia should visit me so powerfully and unexpectedly after 21 years.

I have a theory that the friendships we form during our teenage years become archetypes of relationships with people - and in later life we look to project those models onto the relationships with other people we meet. You know? We accept people as friends if they fit one of our archetypes - I have Russell-type friends, or Iain-type friends, or Roger-type friends, or Richard-type friends, or Rob-type friends.

What I'm driving at is that I suspect, having brooded over things, that all the long-term relationships I've had with women have involved a certain Elizabeth-type woman.

John Paul the Average

Normal service seems to be resumed, but if you are experiencing difficulty with Blogger due to heavy Pope traffic, it's worth downloading the latest version of Safari, which has a built-in Pope-up blocker.

April 08, 2005


I wonder what the Rev Ian Paisley and others of his ilk are thinking today? Pious thoughts?

First things first. Hat's off to the <BBC for choosing a swash letter e at the end of the word Pope in their little Pope logo. Well done. Reminds me of that scene in 3rd Rock from the Sun where that guys says, "I'm right behind you Mary - I just downloaded some angry fonts."

As I was driving home yesterday I wondered idly what it is that cows and sheep think about all day. Standing in the field, chewing the cud. I mean, our goldfish are capable of recognising when someone is near their tank and start begging for food. Horsey people will tell you that the horses "love" going round the Grand National, risking their bollocks, if they've got any bollocks, on the high fences. They'll tell you horses have personalities etc.

But do cows and sheep think at all? What's it like, as a life? For insight, one need turn no further than the streets of Rome, to see the herds queuing for hours on end, grieving to order, weeping and wailing and generally making utter twats of themselves.

Or turn inwards, let's do that, to us bloggers and our pages and pages of utter gobshite. Afraid to be left behind, everybody writes about the same thing, ad nauseam.

I'm getting tired of several things in life. Flickr is one. I'll still upload photos, but the much vaunted community vibe is leaving me behind. There are a couple of decent coves on Flickr, and then there are an awful lot of anal retentives, and a collective of pervy old blokes. Photographers: let's admit it. Photographers are mostly a bunch of pervy middle aged and older men. There are also disturbing amounts of male nudity on Flickr. Flickr is the new dirty mac for the exhibitionist tendency. Please fuck off.

And I'm tired of people being nice all the time. I'm just not. I'm a miserable old bastard, a cynic, 100% unsympathetic, contrarian. I'm not a joiner, in short, and if I can't be sarcastic and cutting, I'd rather not bother.

And television. I love television, but I'm tired of seeing children beaten and starved - albeit fictionally - in the name of entertainment. So that means I'll prolly stop watching ER and CSI, and possibly other shows with acronyms for names. Scriptwriters should fucking cut it out. Just because it's a short cut to people's emotions doesn't mean you should do it all the time. In the end, all it does is make us inured to the very idea of child abuse.

And America. You sick, sick, bastards. To show the viscera, the violence, the bruising, the injury and death, the horror of child abuse and neglect - to hammer us with that, over and over again, and then throw an epileptic fit just because someone flashes a tit or arse. To do all that, and then call yourselves christians and talk about how wonderful JP II was - well, I'm tired of you, too.

April 07, 2005

After Tiger, the Future?

Thanks to Lewis for this link concerning hybridisation of big cats, among other things.

As G5 Desktop Macs become quite hard to find (...wonder why?), and we await the release of Mac OS X Tiger, inevitably, your mind turns to future developments, and (most importantly) which big cats they will name Mac OS iterations after in the future.

I would have thought the Apple Geeks would find a great deal of appeal in the Liger or the Tigon (and the Ti-Tigon), Leopons, Pumapards and so on. I'm delighted to learn that there's a stuffed Pumapard at the Tring natural history museum, which is quite near where I live. I went there many years ago, but all I remember are the two fleas which you looked through a magnifier at to see they were dressed like people.

Personally, I'd support a move away from cats, and I'd like to see product names like Beefalo, Zorse, or Zonkey. They could even swap the Z for an X, hmmm?


simon's post from a few days' ago has stayed with me, resonating around the gloopy corridors of my brain. he speaks for me too, and i will vote for him in the coming election.

and this about grease:

That bit at the end where they leave school and it is full of hope for their futures. And yet you know if you could roll forward twenty-odd years you would see that they had all become overweight no-hope wage-slavers. Sad. And dark.

it struck me, what a fantastic movie that would make. if you've got to make sequels, and yes, hollywood got to, then why not make one like this? i'd love to see olivia newton-john as a crack whore, turning tricks for crusts. and that bloke out of taxi, he could be an internet paedo. or something. if someone wants to write a treatment i'll give them 40% of the deal.

but then, some smart-arse is now going to tell me that they've done something similar before. there's something on the tip of my brain, actually, but i can't get to it.

April 06, 2005

Bellow the Belt

Another one bites the dust: Saul Bellow, giant of American literature, dies at 89. His funeral will be fitted in between the Grand National and Chuck 'n' Millie's barbecue. In the meantime, his corpse will be on display in the Chicago art museum thing. Probably.

Blue pope

Perhaps those in St Peters Square should all embrace the cult of the dead, as Catholics do in Mexico. I mean, if we get a South American pope, perhaps it will be compulsory anyway.

I always liked the idea of spending one day a year with the dead. South American culture walks arm in arm with death anyhow. And the Aztecs and Mayans had a very sanguine existence - death was part of life: eating, entertainment, sport, war, religion; they all involved ritual deaths.

Can you picture it: get your picnic out and wheel-out, from her catacomb in the necropolis, Stinky Desiccated Grandma Mummy Man to share the meal with you. Nice... I suppose at least she wouldn't be complaining about mustard grains stuck under her dentures.

Anyway, what I'm really enjoying at the moment are the stupid machinations of the Media, talking about what would make a good pope.

Rob was saying the other day, that historically the pope has always been chosen from among the rank outsiders. And that's how it should be. Mysterious and opaque to us mortal plebs. But the newsfelch talk on television is all as though the media will have a bearing on the selection.

I tell you, if the cardinals are influenced by television and popular opinion I will NEVER become a catholic. I've always admired the element of ritual in Catholicism: and the contradictions. Religion should be removed from secular concerns.

I mean, the catholic church is all that remains of the roman empire. It would be sad if the roman empire were to be finally destroyed, after over two millennia, by modern television with all its incontinence.

PS. And what's all this cow-arse on telly about "surely, he must become John-Paul the great". They use English epithets in the Vatican do they? Not Latin? Or Italian? Or Polish? Or South American? Or even African?


The death of dignity

I would be terribly funny if Prince Rainier's funeral is on Saturday, causing another postponement to Chuck and Millie's wedding.

In other news, I thought it was hilarious that scuffles broke out among morbid mourners queuing morbidly to view the Pope's decaying body. I loved the scenes of people dashing and pushing and scuffling in order to join the back of a 9-mile queue. Reminded me of those scenes at Mecca, with people being crushed after walking ten million miles to see a rock, or something.

It occurs to me that a fair percentage of the ghoulish queuers must be, in fact, non-catholics, there for the crack. I particularly admire those who have taken young children with them, for the full pant-wetting, back-breaking, leg-aching experience. It would surely revive the British tourist industry to have a few dead bodies on display here and there? Any volunteers?

Perhaps they could display the body of that bloke nobody found for 6 years after his death? In the ghost train on Yarmouth pleasure beach perhaps? It's what he would have wanted.

April Gale

A very strange thing happened this morning. I was still in bed. It was dark. Fiona had already left for work. Oliver had crawled into my bed and dozed off again. I was putting off the inevitable of having to get up.

And then the light in the en-suite came on all by itself.

Very very odd. I didn't freak because nothing else happened. No noises, no scraping chains, no haunting moans. Nothing.

I can only imagine that Fiona had been in there earlier and not switched the light off properly, so the switch was hovering half way and eventually slipped back to "on".

Anyway, it was fucking windy this morning. Several wheely-bins on the street blew over. Bloody gorgeous. Makes me remember that that only real way to feel alive is through the physical: action, exercise, doing, feeling. I love it when the wind blasts me.

And here's one of my all time favourite poems that seems apt. April Gale by Ivor Gurney. I don't care if it does make a few cheap shots: it tells the story perfectly. And criticism, like ethics, is descriptive really, rather than prescriptive.

The wind frightens my dog, but I bathe in it,
Sound, rush, scent of the spring fields.

My dog's hairs are blown like feathers askew,
My coat's a demon, torturing like life.

April 05, 2005

Can You Feel Him?

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.

I wasn't present when this happened, but my mother once went all mystical on my dad as they were driving down to the South West of the UK, and happened to pass through Glastonbury. They parked next to the Tor glastonbury_tor to take a look, take a photo or two, and she sat in the car and started:

"Can you feel him? I can feel him? Can you feel him? You can tell he's here..."

Etc. She wasn't talking about sweet bubby Jaysus, she was talking about King Arthur. This is why a certain kind of person should steer clear of Glastonbury, lest they make total idiots of themselves.

I'm not given to this kind of thing, don't feel the aura of a place. After all, every cell in your body is replaced every 7 years, and places get painted, refurbished, dne up, torn down.

I was reading about some new sound system being installed in the Cavern club in Liverpool, and the story went on about how it was the place the Beatles had played. Except it wasn't was it? Because the original Cavern was demolished, and the replacement one is a facsimile.

Doubtless the white lines on the Abbey Road zebra crossing have been painted over hundreds of times since 1969. And new innovations like zig-zag lines have been added to the road. Buildings have been torn down, built, trees have grown (considerably).

But we were there, and embarrassing as it might have been, we joined in with the photo opportunity. The Most Photographed Barn in America, as Don DeLillo put it, or the Most Photographed Zebra Crossing in England.

The connoisseur's photo, we both agreed, was the one on the steps of the Abbey Road studios. Like this one:

Or the one of them waiting at the crossing, which is funny to see.

We went into Studio 2, as well, or at least the live room of Studio 2, which actually looks pretty much the same as it always has: it's the control room equipment which will have been renewed over and over again. Disappointed to see crappy memorabilia on sale in there, it was a place without any real atmosphere, but it started me wondering about the bands who record in there.

Any band that has recorded an album in Studio 2 since the 60s must have been aware that it was the recording base of the Beatles, and some kind of reaction to that would have been impossible to avoid. Do you feel like a lukcy sumbitch, priveliged to work in the same room? Or do you toss your hair and profess not to be impressed? In which case, turn sideways as you leave the room, lest your head get stuck in the door. Or do you sink into depressive despair, aware that nothing you could do would match the magic and fabness of the glory years?

April 04, 2005

Hit me baby one more time

Was it just me or did anyone else watch all the old tarts on Hit me baby one more time, and enjoy a certain irony in seeing the beskirted Nick Beggs playing Stick for Howard "like to get to know you well" Jones rather than on Too Shy with old Kajagoogoo bandmate Limahl "limahl" Hamill.

Look homeward, angel

Pope! Pope! POPE!!

God, how I wish I still had my celebrity shares. I had millions of Pope shares! I'd have been as rich as Bill Gates by now.

The Ladyprince Diana(r) idol-worshipping side of me thinks, begorra, I remember my school friend Russ making a joke about the Pope - "it is an aboooominaaaation". Blimey, I was still at school when he became Pope.

Indeed, if the next Pope holds his position for that long, and I live to the traditional age of 65 for men in my father's family I shan't see the next Pope die.

I've been getting depressed a lot recently. Just the usual feeling that I've wasted my life, that it's gone by now, and that all the things I care about (and even the things I'm not really that bothered about) are eroding away and getting replaced with things that I despise.

It's kinda like home sickness. And yes, "nostalgia" is derived from the Greek for "home sickness". I don't feel that I belong in my own life even. It all feels alien, including me. The person I see in the mirror isn't the person I expect to see.

Anyway, I was alright over the weekend until I watched Grease on TV. Couldn't believe how old it looked - the colours and film quality (scratchy blurry artifacts) - and that kinda depressed me. That bit at the end where they leave school and it is full of hope for their futures. And yet you know if you could roll forward twenty-odd years you would see that they had all become overweight no-hope wage-slavers. Sad. And dark.

And that's not all. I took my son to Wollaton Park yesterday morning. We had a great time: football, swings, deer, deep dark woods, running, and an ice cream each.

But we walked into some woods near the golf course and I had an awful flashback and realisation. I felt nauseous with the sheer vertigo of the realisation. I remembered the last time I went into those woods. It was a lovely August day in 1984.

I went there for a picnic with Elizabeth Ford. I was 20. She was 18. She was going off to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to study Piano in September, so at the back of my mind I knew we were doomed. But she was lovely and clever, it was sunny and we had the entire day to ourselves.

And she gave me one of the most perfect days of my life.


She doesn't exist anymore. The person I was then, doesn't exist anymore. And already I can feel the memory of that day eroding. I couldn't have imagined on that day that I would return to the spot 21 years later or how different things would be. I still thought then that both of us would have a life in music...

Anyway. On a lighter note... Bob, you still got the Trembling Pope?

Holy Holy Holy

I haven't got a lot of time for religionists, you should know that about me. So While I think we should get at least a week off work because the Pope has died, that's not because I care.

I come from a large family, had 4 sisters and 2 brothers. My mum was married twice and started young, and that's how it was. When I was 7,8 years old, I had a friend at school, Andrew Brammer, and we were inseparable, lost in our own little world of made-up characters and a rich fantasy life. I remember once we decided to build and launch our own space ship. We were very serious about it. It involved a vaguely rocket-shaped piece of wood, a cardboard box, and a lump of coal.

Anyway, that's by the by. We were probably friends because we were, jointly, the last boys in our year to still wear shorts in the summer. Yeah, man, I'm hip. One day, walking home from school (we lived at opposite ends of the same, very long, road), he stopped me just as I was about to cross over to my house, and asked, sotto voice, if I was a Roman Catholic.

That's how he put it. "Don't tell anyone I asked you this, but are you a Roman Catholic?"

Not being a religionist of any ilk, I had no idea what he was talking about. At all. Took me years to put together his membership of the Boy's Brigade (as opposed to the Scouts), and the delicate question, which was obviously prompted by his rabidly Protestant parents, who didn't want him playing with any Catholic boys. Fuckers. Also made me a little bit sad, that his parents should contaminate his 8-year-old mind and life with questions of sectarianism.

Ironically, and I didn't know this till many years later, it turns out that my family name made me, probably, more orange than they were.