Thursday, September 20, 2007

You Can Sleep While I Drive 

To Lancaster and LAWM, a music night put on by a generous spirited promoter in a room above a pub.
We met Looby there and a couple of his friends, A and M, and it was very good.

It was a 'find a patch of floor that's not too sticky and sit on it' sort of event, a kind of lo-fi Crufts with less poodles and no Clare Balding. To raise the stakes, someone (ie. emphatically not me) kicked over my drink so I asked the girl behind the bar if I could borrow a mop. She looked at me as if I'd asked her to go and find the nearest 24 hour Tesco then buy one out of her own wages. When she returned from downstairs, mop in hand, she refused to let me do my own mopping, shooting me with a withering glance that said “Yeah, like I'm going to let a man who can't keep his own glass upright loose with the pub mop.” I felt like I was putting the men's movement back twenty years.

The bands weren't anyone I'd heard of before.
There was a German girl called Golden Disko Ship, presumably not from birth, who wore a tin foil blouson and made an enjoyably raucous din with the aid of a guitar, a MacBook, and a dancing electric kitten whose eyes lit up in time with the racket.
Next up was Pacific Ocean Fire, who look and sound like they're from Texas but are actually from Leicester. They were pretty good in spite of, or perhaps even because of that.
After that it was the turn of The Lovely Eggs: two grown adults who performed with the willful petulance of over-indulged ten year olds, and oddly enough sported the same pudding bowl haircuts that my dad created for me when I was that age. They quickly drove a large section of the audience to the downstairs bar – us included – until their set was over and it was safe to return.
The main act was Josh T. Pearson, who is a curious egg indeed. Like Johnny Cash undergoing primal scream therapy, he was the hairiest singer I've ever seen and wore a cowboy hat and extremely tight trousers, which could explain a lot. His style was to build layer upon layer of acoustic guitar reverb until it was virtually unlistenable and then wail “Jesus, why do you hate me?” and suchlike as a kind of tormented icing on the Cake Of Angst.
At one point I scribbled a note and showed it to Girlfriend which read “He sings like a man having his leg sawn off.” I enjoyed it enormously but not enough to buy a CD afterwards.

We both enjoyed meeting A & M too, so much so that I offered the latter a lift home to save her ordering a taxi, batting away her Thanks, but it's quite a way actuallys with nonchalent Don't be dafts, and her But it's in the opposite direction of where you're goings with gallant It's no problem at alls.
And of course I didn't mind, though to her credit it was every bit as far as she'd said, only doubled, which I'd forgotten to take into consideration, on account of it being utterly in the wrong direction.

Still. You can't beat rural North Lancashire at ridiculous o'clock on a school night, driving along in a considerably more reliable motorcar with the jukebox on, the stars shining brightly in the black, black sky like beacons to guide you home, and your true love by your side, alternately gently snoozing and singing along to some of the drippiest 70's schmaltz known to man, and not dribbling in the slightest.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We Will Become Silhouettes 

For the purposes of wringing every last drop out of my birthday, Girlfriend, the older boy and myself hopped onto a train and went to our favoured pub to drink woolly beer.
There we were met by Fairly Famous Actor - still reeling from the previous night's beer festival - then Canoeing Instructor and Charlie, and in the fullness of time, Leanne and her new squeeze Harriet who most of us were meeting for the first time.
We had a very pleasant boozy time, then went to the nearby favoured cafe.
Girlfriend managed to drop a massive dollop of meringue onto my manbag – she says the resulting stain looks like bird poo; I'd say that it looks like an elephant has ejaculated on it, but I'm not that coarse - and I called Canoeing Instructor a slag.
Of course I wouldn't have said it if I didn't know she'd take it in the spirit in which it was intended. She's luvverley. All the same – note to self: take it easy when calling girls slags. It's a bit strong. Especially when they're not.
Anyway, she's in training for a marathon and I'm going to do the half marathon that's on at the same time, and when the time is right I'm going to be her training buddy and kick her up the bum and tell her to go faster, etc. like in the films. We will be comedy jogging silhouettes like Syd Little and Eddie Large with our sweatbands and sagging trackie bottoms along Lytham Green, frightening the dog walkers and their owners.

Then we caught the train back to our house and ate celery and crisps with salad cream and played What The Fuck, and it was all very agreeable.
I never knew that Charlie had a Nazi grandparent. You'd never guess to look at her. How come that's never come up before?
Harriet fitted in very well, I thought. She's nice and said interesting stuff and is funny and didn't seem to mind the penetrating interrogation with which I subject all new visitors to the house. I'm told she had a good time, so that's alright. It makes me really happy to see Leanne looking so happy and loved up, which I realise sounds soft but there it is and you can like it or lump it. She'd better take good care of Leanne or I'll write a nasty country song about her.

At the end of the evening Leanne's sister Bob turned up in a minibus to drive everybody home, but stopped by for a coffee first.
I've met her once before but never realised how funny she is – very funny indeed. She had us all ROFL. I like the story of when they went on holiday together and they stayed in some rubbish hotel and Leanne set fire to her legs. Or something.
Heaven knows I think the world of Leanne but it has to be said her sister is much funnier. Next time I throw a soiree I might ask Bob along instead and Leanne can just turn up at the end to take everyone home. I'm sure it wouldn't rile her at all.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Glittering Prize 

Here in my Attic Studio Complex, I keep a postcard by my desk of The Rochdale Canal.
There are four photos on the picture side, of the canal as it passes youths in hoodies in Hebden Bridge, Warland, Littleborough and Mytholmroyd, and it occupies pride of place on the magnetic noticeboard since it was the prize for winning Best Personal Blog at the Manchester Blog Awards last year.

I'm feeling very proud, and not just a little bit smug, because this blog has been nominated in this year's Awards as well, in the “Best Writing On A Bog” category. This is tremendously gratifying.
I'll be up against Airport Diaries, which I have a great deal of time for, and Day Of Moustaches and Community Fair, which are both new to me.

As well as Airport Diaries, I'll be rooting for Mancubist in the Most Useful Blog category, and Crinklybee in the 3.30 from Chepstow.
A comprehensive Who and What is listed here.

Last time there was a rather odd little ceremony sandwiched into the interval of a fairly, erm, dismal poetry reading at Urbis. This was followed by a trip to a smelly old man's pub, where some of us were grilled for Radio 5 on a low flame, and it was a good night.
This year, a glittering gala evening has been organised for Wednesday October 10th, at Matt and Phred's Jazz Club on Tib Street.

There'll be readings and stuff and it sounds like fun. Everybody is welcome.
I'm disappointed that I won't be able to make it due to a prior engagement with some progressive folk rockers from Portland, Oregon The Decemberists have cancelled their tour at the last minute, but am pleased, no really, that I'll be able to attend the Blog Awards instead.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hurry Home 

The crackly bing bong PA system fizzed and popped into life, and we gathered round the office loudspeaker like fishermen tuned in for the shipping forecast.
Bill Surname CEO - bon viveur, raconteur, a high living bratwurst of a man woven entirely from Harris Tweed - buffeted us through sales figures and disappearing margins, the newly appointeds and soon to be departeds, stories from the boardroom, news from the war, tales of sorrow and woe.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader - alpha kitten with a non-permanent dry marker pen – earnestly whiteboarded keyphrases while I settled down with a coffee style drink and sort of cake thing from the vending machine and thought about brie.
Upsize. Narrowcast. Onshoring. Data harvesting.
Terry and Mike, giddy as teenagers at their first Star Trek convention, shared ear buds and tittered to this week's Linux Humour podcast on Mike's laptop, thus missing all of the Billcast, which was more of the same old same old anyway: we must tighten our belts blah; ongoing process of service improvement blah; everybody and everything is to be audited, vaccinated and catalogued accordingly blah.
No stone shall be left uncategorised and we are to assist Charlotte, his loyal PA, in all of her endeavours, no matter how dimwitted they may seem to the casual observer.

Poor Charlotte - it's a difficult time for her, what with the markets in free fall and backstreet mortgage lenders pillaging and burning through every village and town, merciless in their hot hatchbacks and cheap suits, ubiquitous as pre-teen alcoholics, and now this: Mad Bluetooth Disease stalks the land, on every news bulletin and every front page – it's just one marauding invasion after another – and Bill Surname CEO, the only man she's ever loved, if only he knew it, says every PDA and phone, every mobile device in the company, must be disinfected and asset tagged by Wednesday week or we'll all be for the chop, tiddly-om-pom-pom, and her head will be first on the cheese board.

Oh my Lord, my goodness, my sweet darling Bill Surname, whatever are we to do? The crop is ruined and our enemies are advancing, our dreams are all in tatters and now who will look after the babies we never had, who will read them stories and tuck them in, what will we do, what shall we tell them? Who will iron their uniforms now, and who will pack their lunches? Where will it all end?
Oh my dear sweet child, don't cry, Daddy will be home soon, home soon, hush now my darling baby and dry your eyes, please don't cry, Daddy will soon be home.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tea For The Tillerman 

Drove home just a tiny bit hungover – is that legal? - and slobbed about the house all afternoon feeling tired, then went over to Kate and Rich's for tea.

Actually when she'd voicemailed, the invitation had been to come over for “dinner,” but that sounds so grown up it makes me giggle like a girl just to think of it, so I prefer to think of it as “going round for our tea.”

Funny how the lexicon of meal times varies from person to person.
In his diaries, Alan Bennett frequently mentions going to someone or other's house for supper, which to me suggests that he changes into his pyjamas and dressing gown before leaving the house, then has a cup of warm milk and a couple of chocolate biscuits with his friends, before returning home once Match Of The Day has finished, all snuggly and warm and ready for bedtime. Don't forget to brush your teeth, Alan! Have you really? Well brush them again, you've had hobnobs since then.
I don't think I'm mature enough to go to somebody's house for dinner just yet.

Anyway, it was a very enjoyable evening and we had a lovely tea, thank you, to mark Kate's birthday later this week. There are so many birthdays in early September, it makes you wonder what all our parents were up to during those long rainy Easter bank holiday weekends.
Her friends H and M were there who, like Kate, are in the newspaper game. Ooh, the stories they told that can't be repeated for anti-libel reasons... let's just say there are some celebrity gardeners who should spend a bit more time with their spellcheckers instead.
And I'm shocked and stunned at revelations of institutionalised racism at the NME. I was practically suckled on that rag. Say it ain't so, Joe.

There was lots of talks of journalists who can't write to save their lives, and grotesque lecherous proprietors who just love leering at female employee's breasts – who'd have guessed that? - and afterwards me and Girlfriend both confessed to thinking how very strange it was to be eating at a table on a Sunday night with people who work for the national papers. How did that come to be?
When I was a kid I used to help my friend Liam with his newspaper round after school. That's as close as I got, and even then, he never once paid me. I guess I just liked hanging out with him.

B was there too, full of fascinating stories of international oak tree trading. She was really interesting.
I hadn't realised until now that we have a new variant on the “If a tree falls down in a deserted forest, does it make a sound?” quandary. The new one goes “If there's a thriving market in transporting trees around the world, does it have a positive or negative effect on carbon emissions?” Hmmm. They're sold by girth, apparently.

The bit I think Girlfriend liked best was when Rich had a rant about housing, and the absolute bloody disgrace it was when the right to buy council houses was introduced, but the proceeds weren't then put back into building new houses. It's not enough that he supports Leeds, speaks with a Yorkshire accent and can rustle up an excellent fajita buffet, he's also passionate and authoritative on a subject v. close to Girlfriend's heart. I think she may have a soft spot.

So a very lovely evening, with lots of laughs and talk about music and general interesting stuff. I really enjoyed it, and the whole 'meeting new people' thing was very effortless and easy and just, you know, dead nice. Thanks Kate.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Seven Nation Army 

We shuffled round York checking out chocolate shops and bookstores, and witnessed a really scary procession of morris dancers, then in a rare moment of spontaneity, went to Leeds to watch the mighty LUFC win their fifth successive league match, taking their points tally for the season to a very impressive zero.

In the evening we caught up with my friend Steve – my own friend! - who had organised a piss up in a brewery to celebrate his fortieth. It was great. There was a really good disco and we jumped about like loonies. Very sweet to see him dancing with his Mum to Seven Nation Army, I think it was.
Because the brewery closed quite early, we progressed on to some Heavy Metal theme bar – Dire Straits was playing as we entered – then later still we ended up back at his house.

He's such a good lad and it was funny looking at the various photos his sister had put around the brewery illustrating the many ages of Steve.
To a social misfit like myself it's maddening as maddening can be to see how many friends he has – how does he do that? There are hundreds of us, thousands even; we could form our own country - and the cult-like affection he inspires in everybody, but more power to his elbow, I guess, begrudgingly. It was an honour to have been invited.

So a boozy night and a really fun one. Had a very good time.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Handsome Devil 

Forty one and still beautiful. If only I knew how I do it I'd bottle it and make good my fortune.

We took the afternoon off work and put the Suzuki Migraine through its paces on the lovely A59. The sun shone and the engine purred as we fair whizzed through the Dales, past fields of hay bales and the North European Gas Pipeline, and all was green and golden.

Girlfriend had booked us into a B&B in York, an attractive place with lots of glass and wooden cladding, which looked like it might well have arrived that very morning from Stockholm in kit form.
We checked into our room and she presented me with a Green and Blacks variety pack and a half bottle of something cold and fizzy, so we sat out in the garden looking at the frogs and the goldfish, and it was very pleasant.

Later on we had a birthday meal in a quiet little place down one of those ambling cobbled streets that York does terrifically well – those Roman town planners really knew their shit - while a young lad picked away classically on a guitar.
Then we looked for somewhere to pursue our new hobby - consuming cocktails; I'd never have seen that coming five years ago - but the place we'd been recommended was way too noisy so we settled instead for a few in the world's oldest pub, like, ever.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Youth And Beauty Brigade 

My poor old Toyota Nosebleed reached the point where the only humane thing left for it was to lead it into a field and put a gun to its head.

It was a long time coming.
The main beam flicked itself on each time I stopped right indicating.
The brake disks suffered chronic arthritis, and made a point of broadcasting the fact to everybody within a mile radius.
Assorted dashboard lights twinkled randomly off and on for their own demented amusement – you're out of petrol; you've loads of petrol; you've left the handbrake on; just kidding! Fasten your seatbelt! The boot's not shut properly! Ejector seat countdown initiated! This model doesn't have an ejector seat! Oh yes it does! - like Christmas tree lights gone mad. It was a merciful end.

After the dullest week of my life spent studying the form on Autobore.co.uk, today I've taken the plunge and bought me one of them little Suzuki Migraines.
It's not the sexiest thing on four wheels but it's nippy enough for my sedate requirements, and at least it doesn't sound like a donkey with toothache.
On the downside, it's in LOOK AT ME!!! lime green, not my colour of choice, but I'd had as much as I could take of Autobore and that's the price you pay for getting your life back.

This evening I donned my leatherette driving gloves and with a roguish twirl of my moustache took Girlfriend for a spin through the Blackpool Illuminations – the greatest test of any car's willingness to serve; the Nosebleed would have refused at the first jump – and it came though with no faults. It's an evocative ride, the cheerfully gaudy lights offsetting the “Bloody hell! How did it get dark so early?” gloominess of the “But it's only just September” evening.

Best of all, it's the first car I've owned with a CD player.
I dusted off my California compilation CDs – the opening guitar figure of Don't Fear The Reaper sounds fantastic wherever you are, da da da der, der der, da da da danggGG – momentarily swapping the muted blue grey of the Irish Sea for the vivid electroshock of the Pacific Ocean, and pretended I was back on Highway One, the California sun pouring down my face, the wind in my parts.

Squint and you could easily take Cleveleys to be Santa Cruz.
Close your eyes and I'll kiss you.

Monday, September 03, 2007

You Keep Me Hanging On 

Mike and Terry have spent the whole day bothering Tabs on reception every five minutes, asking if their parcel has arrived yet.

Last week, they ordered a shipment of gadgets from one of those sites that sell electronic gifts for men to treat themselves to since nobody else will.
They don't even like music, so what they plan to do with a USB MP3 to Vinyl Converter is anybody's guess.

Now they're firmly ensconsed in the "Has it come yet?" phase of the transaction, tracking its lack of progress on the courier's website, taking it in turns to stand guard by the window on the lookout for delivery vans, and generally getting on everybody's nerves.
They waited and waited all day and it never came.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, was still in her office well after the hometime bell had rang.
She was waiting for her friend Becky to call to be picked up from work, so they could go to their shibari class together.
She was idly flicking through a magazine, pausing at an article entitled "Ten Hot New Sex Tips For When He's Horny And Just Won't Leave You Alone For Pity's Sake."

"I have some sympathy," I said.
"Huh?" she mumbled, not really listening.
"I'm still waiting for my goggles to arrive. I ordered them weeks ago. I'm starting to wonder if I haven't been ripped off by a bogus goggle company."
"Right," she mumbled again.
"I guess the more you hang aound waiting for the postman, the less likely it is he'll show up."
"Watched pots and all that."
"They're prescription ones," I said.

Her phone rang and she immediately perked up.
"Hi!" she answered, a big smile lighting up her face. "Yeah, I'm on my way now. See you soon."
She stuffed the magazine into her bag and grabbed her car keys.

"You know, Tim," she said, her voice faraway and dreamy, more to herself than me, probably, "there are some days when my friend Becky only has to so much as look at me in a certain way and it makes me come straightaway."
"They're so I don't keep bumping into things when I'm swimming," I said, but by now she was already down the corridor and out of here.
"Other people mainly, but sometimes flotation aids, or even just the sides of the pool."

It can get kind of embarrassing when your feet keep getting caught up in the handrails.

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