Sunday, 1 March 2009

Lick Number Three, and an Irish theme to the weekend

There are many times that Danny has exclaimed "What do you mean you've never seen [insert classic/blockbuster film/TV show title here]?!!!". This probably stems from my carefully contructed facade of a stereotypical culture vulture, eg, the documentary-hoover-upping, piles-of-non-fiction-book-collecting, exhibition-going intellectual-in-waiting that suggests I'm someone who could be fairly well-infomed on the celluloid front too. However, among the many things that I may have done, I have a great big chunk of pop culture missing.

So while I've rewatched fluffy favourites like Spinal Tap, Dumb And Dumber, Pee Wee's Big Adventure (why isn't that on DVD?), Austin Powers and even Shaun The Sheep, I've never seen - deep breath - The Godfather, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, To Kill A Mockingbird, Das Boot, Raging Bull, The Great Escape, On The Waterfront, Back To The Future, Jaws, Cool Hand Luke, Ran, The Seven Samurai - or the Magnificent Seven - Ben Hur, La Dolce Vita... and loads more. I only recently saw Top Gun and The Lost Boys, on Danny's insistence. They were good.

I've got no excuses: I seem to have either watched abject cheese or subtitled obscurity and very little in-between. And I was quite busy in the years 1988-1999. I'd left home and was mostly drinking in the pub or going to clubs and watching bands.

So last night we watched another Danny recommendation, Alan Parker's 1991 production, The Commitments. On old-school VHS, no less!
What I liked about it was it wasn't super-slick, with some likably shy and cheeky performances from some of the young and inexperienced Irish cast, great music and a lot of the feel-good factor, which Commitments/Frames guitarist Glen Hansard took forward beautifully with his 2006 film, Once*. I remember The Commitments was very popular and spawned a few hit albums too. It's definitely a companion piece to one of my favourite films The Blues Brothers. But it did throw a few questions up, like: Does Alan Parker only do music films? Fame, Bugsy Malone, Evita, The Wall, Birdy (good news, I've seen three of those!)... and What happened to Andrew Strong, the young frontman with the big soul voice? (Strong was just sixteen when he was cast). Well, we found Andrew on MySpace - and his dad Rob and sister Niamh who seem to have a Dublin-based soul-singing dynasty - and we've dropped him a line. If he gets back to us, we'll let you know how he's been since he toured with the Rolling Stones in 1992.

And continuing on the Irish tip, on Friday night I saw U2 play on the roof of BBC Broadcasting House.

I knew they were going to be at the BBC cos Radio 2 had been plugging it all week, but as my 493 bus squeezed its way past crash barriers, tour trucks, news vans and police verging on panic on Upper Regent Street at 6.30 that evening, I realised something was up. I got off the bus at Oxford Circus where a huge crowd were already massed to see if I could get a look.

Luckily, my friend Nas got a good spot by Pizza Express and we heard two songs, Vertigo (appropriate!) and Beautiful Day. Bono looked like he'd slipped over the side at one Hitcockian point, but was still singing. Nas shouted "Throw us some of your money", which made people around us chuckle. I'd said I'd wanted to see U2 this year - I do like them in spite of those wilderness years of '88-'99 affecting my knowledge of their recorded output at that time - and now I kind of have.

Stuff like this doesn't happen everyday, but it is a perk of living in London, England.

Now, Danny's mate, Dublin boy Paul Bibby, had stories about both of the above mentioned - Roddy Doyle/The Commitments and U2 - but we'll save that for another day as I can't quite remember what they are... aside from him being in a band with U2's PR-to-be Regine Moylette, and the original Commitments, The Soulmates...

* I've seen this film too!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Lick Number Two

After a wrangle with the local Post Office about a registered parcel that they tried to deliver when I was out - twice - I came home last night to this, Lick Number Two.

It's a fiendish mini accordion, as promised to me by Miss Lisa Horton!

Danny had picked it up for me from the sorting orifice and described the size to me on the blower, but I was absolutely baffled. I wasn't expecting a delivery.

But as soon as I saw the writing on it, I knew what it was and who it was from.

Already, it's proving a tricky little device to cretins like us with bunches of bananas for hands and no co-ordination or skill. You slip your left hand through a big strap to press the three buttons, while your right thumb hooks into the other side, leaving your other fingers free to zip around the other keys as you get the bellows action going with a quite tough inside upper arm work-out. The first couple of attempts were soundless and blew the tea lights out on the table. Then we got some wheezy notes going - like a particular strain of asthma. And then we played the accordion, ha ha. Danny was most enthusiastic, soon getting stuck into the tempo of a Bill Bailey-style jazz jam, or the Belarus national anthem (1:51).

But not quite as good or as musical. Yet... There's always room for improvisation. And improvement.

The instructions are a particular joy as they give no clue as to what musical key the instrument is in (helpfully suggesting "the key of the Harmonica". What harmonica? Any old harmonica? I think they come in different keys...) and they encourage you to "add in your own accompaniment with the beat of the music using the sounds 'Boong' and 'Sah' by alternately pressing the middle and top buttons... eg for 2/4: boong, sah, boong, sah... and for 3/4 boong, sah, sah, boong sah, sah...

As we mouth this together, does this remind anyone else of Morecambe And Wise's Boom Oo Ya-ta-ta sketch?

We'll keep you posted with our progress...

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Hang on. Is that sunshine?

Finsbury Park, 3pm Saturday.

It's roasting. Is spring here?

Tonight is Mark Paytress' 50th birthday - something I've been looking forward to attending as he's a lovely man and it's a momentous event, but I've got a razorblade-sore throat, which I've been staving off all week with just minor cold symptoms and today I'm the illest I've been. Bah. I reckon it's punishment for going out yesterday and having two lunches. The first was at 4 Market Place with Lucy and Katie P - smashing scrambled egg - the second with Anna at Bar Remo, which used to look like this but has had a swanky refit and has kinda ditched the Builder's Breakfast in exchange for a date with the wood-fired pizza devil. A little pricier, but still lovely. Anyway, I decandantly had a coffee and an apple pie with cream. Then the air conditioning went down the back of my neck and - voila - A Bug's Life 2. I 've only just got rid of the dysentery I had the week before last *.

Anyway, here's to Mr Paytress and his Hollyhock Café celebration. I hope to get the full story and pics at a later date! I'm putting in a remote request for Good Vibrations by Psychic TV to be played at some point in the evening, in his honour. Happy birthday, Mark!

* it wasn't dysentery. It was a week of the sh[deleted from post by decency ed]ts.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Lick Number One

As I write, I'm chomping through Lick Number One. It's some very fancy chocolate by Paul A Young, bought for me by Amy and James for my birthday which has lasted until now, unbelievably. But shan't much longer. It's a delicious milk pavé (does that mean pavement?) with ras el hanout spices in. And some salt, I think. It doesn't say so on Paul A Young's site - not to be confused with the big quiffed 80s soul crooner of No Parlez fame (an album I got for my 14th birthday on cassette!) – but ras el hanout is a North African spice mix based on the phrase 'Top Of The Shop' in Arabic. This refers to - quoted from - "Moroccan souks, where each merchant offers a house blend of his finest spices. These nuanced blends can include at least a dozen, and up to a hundred different spices, both common - nutmeg, mace, ginger, black pepper - and exotic - chufa nuts, ash berries, orisroot, cantharides and the now banned beetle spanish fly". The aphrodisiac?. Oh, hello. However, Spanish Fly was also the ingredient that made up the first stink bomb.

It's still yummy posh choc, though.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Small print...

While you have your thinking caps on, I thought it best to put a few terms in place for my 40 things to do.

I've already stated nothing harmful or disgusting. That covers a lot of bases. Also, it cuts out any insurance.

Most things will probably have to be London based - but I would be willing to travel 40 miles from the M25 or up to one hour and 40 minutes by train from any main central London Station (that's King's Cross, Euston, Paddington, Victoria, Charing Cross, London Bridge or Fenchurch Street). I can't drive, but I'm happy to use any bus/train/tram/bicycle-type transport.

Any costs must not exceed £40.

Any activities have to be done within a day, or a 24-hour period.

If I think of anything else, I'll post it up asap!

In the meantime, check out this track by The Capes, Tightly Wound, which is currently playing as a soundbed for a trail for  a programme called Grow Your Own Drugs on BBC2. Danny looked after these guys a few years ago and although they have now moved on to other projects like Spring Tigers, it's nice to hear a blast from the (recent) past. More Capes here. And here's a nice picture of them.


Welcome to my new blog - one specifically set up to celebrate my biggest birthday yet. That's 40 years of age (which I was on January 13). Suddenly I feel a little bit faint.

Needless to say I don't feel 40 - and, oh, you flattering people thankyou for reminding me that on the phone I sound 12, and with my twinkling Malteser eyes - I've got two of them you know - lustrous busby of hair and girlish laugh that could cut glass, my real age must surely be anything from 21 to 106 depending on where I'm working, what I'm drinking and/or what I've been up to the night before.

Anyway, it's highly likely that you've come here in search of some guidance in the 40 Licks challenge - that's 40 things for me to do that I have never done before, in the next year.

Well, that's for another day as tomorrow I'll be posting a few helpful hints, some more info about me and, unfortunately, a couple of rules that I thought I may have to put in place so we don't all go bankrupt or break our necks.

I'll also be having some spin-offs such as this Ben Myers blog
from yesterday on morris dancing, also qualifying as something that I've never done before, eg. being in The Grauniad. Thanks, Ben!