Sunday, December 23, 2007

Music review 2007

Time for me to compile a list of my favourite music from the last year, and it has been a very good one on the music front. And I'll probably miss something

Top 10 Albums of 2007

1 Feist - The Reminder
This album is superb, from lilting pop to understated folk. Feist's voice is wonderful and beautifully backed by intricate melodies as she sings of love won and lost. Favourite track: The Park.

2 MIA - Kala
Bought on the back of glowing comments on teletext, this album proved to be huge. Inventive and fresh, these electronic noises rage with life. Challenging intelligent lyrics bolster this heady mix of beats, bringing issues of war and poverty to the dance floor. Fave song: $20

3 Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Once again they have managed to expertly bring together a myriad of instrumentation to make a sound that is vivid and not pompous. Hurdy Gurdy's and Cathedral Organs nestle with electric guitars and horns. Songs question the insignificance of the church and it's apparent failure to engage with modern life. Fave song: Intervention

4 Monkey Swallows the Universe - Casket Letters
I have been privilaged to have become friends with this bunch of musicians over the last year and as such it makes it harder to review their music. Their second album certainly produced the goods, lilting folk pop, songs full of charm and accessibility. Music this good should really be playing on iPods around the country. Fave song: Gravestones

5 Radiohead - In Rainbows
Radiohead return to form with this album. Mixing interesting electronic noises with their brand of guitar rock. Thom varies his vocal performances with falsettos providing frshness to tracks. They continue to show that rock music can evolve. Fave song: Reckoner

6 Stars - In our bedroom after the wall
Third entry by a canadian band in the top ten. Girl/boy vocals play together against sunny guitar pop. Songs of love and broken relationships interplay, as the music careers between 70s funk to piano ballads. Fave song: Personel

7 Strange Death of Liberal England - Forward March!
Passionate vocals are hollered against a backdrop of angry guitars. But it's not all noise as gentle glockenspiel and banjo are cleverly included. Vibrant and punchy. Fave track: A day another day

8 Justice - cross album
An album named by a symbol - how crazy (!) This album starts with the dirtiest rummbling bass that entrances your legs into a dancing frenzy. The beats continue to pound as funk laden melodies are carried along. Album begins to tire after the first half for me. Fave track: D.A.N.C.E.

9 Bjork - Volta
As always Bjork brings an album to the table that continues to bring music from the future. Working with some of the world's most inventive producers she brings alien noises to back her unique voice. The album suffers from patchy mediocre tunes, but the good ones are very very good. Fave track: Earth Intruders

10 Malcolm Middleton - A Brighter Beat
Malcolm sings about the downs and hurts of life with wit and uplifting tunes. Often overlooked for being depressing, his lyrics are actually filled with hope in the gritty reality that often you feel let down by life. Anti folk at its best. Fave track: Brighter Beat

Of course I haven't managed to listen to loads of albums that have been released this year and am sure that some of them may well have made my top ten and the alustrious acolades that that brings ;)

Top singles:

1 Justice - D.A.N.C.E.
2 Going to a town - Rufu Wainwright
3 Fire Escape - Fanfarlo

three singles will do cos I don't really pay attention to singles anymore

Top gigs of the year:

1 MIA - Manchester Academy 2
Only a few days ago, this stormed straight to the top of the gig list. I was so impressed with the live mixing of electronic loops and the ferocity of MIAs vocal delivery. A performance full of passion whipping the crowd into a frenzy of dancing. Astounding

2 Arcade Fire - Latitude
Awesome finish to a really great festival, with Final Fantasy joining them onstage the bombastic orchestral sound was electric.

3 Feist - Manchester
Small venue, big voice. Session musicians squeezed onto the stage gave a wonderful rounded sound to supplement her gossamer vocals. Wonderful

4 Monkey Swallows the Universe - Merlin
Launching their new album, this theatre proved the perfect venue for their wonderful indie folk pop.

5 Hush the Many - leadmill
Supporting The Fields - this support act blew me away with their wondrous soundscapes. Supplemented with cello and understated boy/girl vocals this sound was awe inspiring. Hope to hear more in the future.

more of my live reviews can be read in the teletext flickr set

Music I discovered this year that was out ages ago

Sufjan Stevens - this man is so good. His Illinois Album has been catapulted into my all time top albums ever. Wonderful instrumentation backs intelligent and heartfelt lyrics. You must own some of his music. Thanks to and cait for the recommendation.

Bat for Lashes - spotted on glastonbury this eccentric musician is not only beautiful, but creates wonderful folk pop.

Antony and the Johnsons - what a voice! Album picked up on the cheap, knew it was a mercury winner - and how.

Thom Yorke - solo album of chilled electronica fused with his varied vocals. great for focusing concentration when at work.

Bands to look out for this year:
Operator Please, I was a cub scout (for pink squares, a top pop tune), nat johnson, fanfarlo, hush the many

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Last Sunday Roast

Sunday I went to the parent's house. The place I used to refer to as home. It still is home in some sense, there'll be the odd time I'll say I'm going home, when what I mean is I'm going to see the parents. This was the last time I would go as they are due to move house shortly to downsize. It's been a great home and full of plenty of memories. Christmases, spectrum computers, lego, washing up liquid bottle water fights, snow, hurricanes, pets, friends. But really none of those memories are tied to the bricks of the place, rather the items and people that were in them. I loved living there and the rolling views, the ability to walk off the end of the garden and pick up a footpath and head up to Ashover, but it's not a place I've called home for a long time now. It was nice to gather as a family, eat and reminisce. I helped with a few chores before taking away the last few items that belong to me. It'll be a bit strange not to be going back there again, though my mark has been made. I scrawled on a number of the walls at various ages as the wall paper had been stripped :)

Nostalgic weekend

It's been ages since I've blogged, I seem to spend most of my net time on scrabulous these days. Anyway, thought I'd blog about some stuff, so I'll start with a few weeks ago, though I'll set the post date to match the time it occured.

Saturday afternoon I headed to Bolton to see the wonderful monkey swallows the universe and I gave a lift to ag to help with transportation. JT and his girlf came down too, so it was a good opportunity to meet up with them and introduce them to the live sound of mstu. The venue was actually quite nice, a little pub with small band stage and a huge video backdrop, that for the most part of the evening was playing anime. It was pretty strange to watch mstu with some futuristic japanese backdrop. As always I enjoyed the gig, despite a few technical problems with the mikes and mixing desk. Oh yes, the other really exciting part about the set was that I had been asked to put the songs on their set list into a running order. So the song order was in the main part how I'd picked them. A few changes had been made due to instruments required in the songs. The weather had turned for the worse so on the way back i decided to go via the m62, ag played dj on the iPod and we were making good progress despite the driving rain. As we came down the M1 the variable message signs were informing 'pedestrians in road' 50mph. We dismissed this as foolish, suggesting that surely they meant workers in road. A couple of miles later and out of apparently nowhere some guy was thumbing for a lift right in the hard shoulder. It was crazy, what on earth was he doing there!
Sunday afternoon I spent going through the numerous boxes of stuff I'd picked up from my parents a few days previously. I'm rubbish at throwing things away and I was faced with the quandry of what to do with a pile of smash hits from the late 80s, piles of school books, and boxes of old birthday and christmas cards. In the end most got sealed in boxes ready to go into my loft. I did come across a few interesting things. A class project on how to keep warm in winter was full of lots of useful advice, though I seemed to get sidetracked and talked about playing He-Man. I was Battle-Cat. Also a bit strange to read John's entry, even back then he got a mention for his beloved Liverpool FC in the scarf he wore. Reading through my creative writing journal was also tinged with sadness as I read many 'famous five' inspired adventures where me and my friend John would solve some mystery or other. I'm sure if John was still here he would've taken great delight in reading them now. There was another piece that described the things I liked and was amused that the things i liked when i was ten pretty much still stand: Reading, maths, walking.

More tips on how to keep warm in winter can be found here

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Music reviews

I've been to a couple of gigs this week and had one review published on teletext - hooray. This was from a gig at the leadmill on monday, though I actually preferred the support act - sound grade, but I quite liked it, so to rescue the words from obscurity I shall paste them here:
I was a cub scout - live leadmill 29/10

I don't know what Todd Marriott's fire making or knot tying skills are like, but on tonight's performance he will be gaining his synth twiddling badge with distinction. Bedroom synth pop is given life and vibrancy from driving live percussion, this is no geeky art noise but a colossus of pulsing pop. Todd's distinct vocals work well with the clattering guitar and his passionate performance is infective. Pinks squares epitomises the best of their catchy sound. Akela would be pleased.


Forward Russia were the headline act, and although they produced a riotous noise, the lack of vocal variety began to bore me a bit.i was a cub scout. The penned review didn't make the planet I'm always a little embarrassed when a slightly critical review is published, I really respect anyone who forms and plays in a band - creativity should be encouraged and i hope my criticism can help encourage them to greater things. They probably will never see it anyway ;)

The second gig was the remarkable arcade fire who i saw at nottingham arena. The third time i've seen them live this year. Being seated i felt that somehow the passion on the stage was sucked out by the cavernous venue and so i didn't really get into the live experience as much as previous times. The music was still unbelievably good, musical prowess at it's height, they have a knack of arranging a myriad of musical sounds to form a cacophony of pulsing rock. I'm pleased that they are reaching super group status, but sorry that the energy of more intimate gigs can not be felt as strongly. There were a couple of new songs played and also a Smiths cover, but disappointingly some idiots thought it would be good to throw bottles at the band. Win Butler was understandably annoyed and promptly left the stage after finishing the song where the incident occurred. The band did reappear but another bottle was thrown enraging Butler further who exclaimed the band would never play Nottingham again if anything else came their way. Thankfully nothing did and the band did return for an encore, but I can't help thinking that the encore was somewhat reduced in length because of the incident. Bah - arena gigs are a let down (apart from the white stripes who were awesome a few years ago)

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Had a nice day milling around yesterday. After a busy week of late nights and meetings it was nice to have some time relaxing. Didn't really achieve a great deal on my visit into the city centre. Popped to the library to see if they had Science of Sleep on dvd, which they do, but someone has failed to return it and it is now 2 weeks overdue. Still want to see this film, it looks interesting and i missed it when it was on at the showroom. Did have a look to see if i could buy it, but the cheapest i found was £9 which i wasn't prepared to shell out. Whilst in the library i went up to the graves gallery to take a few photos of the kiss, which is a piece i admire, and it is currently set in a nicely laid out gallery.
Also popped into the cathedral which is somewhere I've never been to in all my years in the city. Nice to wander around and there were a few people in there admiring the space and lighting a candle, saying a prayer. It's good that there is such a space in the city to do that, though it has never struck me to go in before. Whilst inside I decided to see if i could find john wesley who i'd heard was present in one of the stained glass windows. I found him with the help of the verger, nestling in the corner of the piece in the holy spirit chapel room. I don't think i'd've found it without help. It's actually quite large inside and there are loads of windows.
Click the images to see larger sizes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

runaway boy at runaway girl

I popped into the library on saturday whilst i was wandering around town, mainly to go and view the exhibition in the graves gallery. They have some nice photography and some abstract pieces in at the moment. One of the galleries looked especially good, a great use of space and colour and perhaps the best setting i've seen of the sculpture 'the kiss'. Whilst i was leaving i picked up an information booklet about the annual festival of reading and writing in sheffield, off the shelf. I'd noticed that tonight there was opportunity to go and read something aloud for up to 3 minutes at the runaway girl. It sounded interesting and I wondered if i could perhaps try reading a bit of the book I'm writing aloud. Bit apprehensive about mooting a work in progress, but there was a scene i'd read on saturday which i was quite happy with, and would also work as a stand alone piece. So off i toddled this evening, late cos getting into town for 7:30 isn't going to happen when you get home at 6:30 and have nothing in the fridge to eat. No matter, i envisaged a bar of bohemian writers and creative types, musing over beer and wine. Perhaps I may even find a creative writing class that could provide some assistance. I could slip in and listen to the readings and if brave, venture forwards and breath life into my sterile words. Take them off the page and see how they form when i articulate them audibly. Maybe receive some feedback. I got there and snuck a look through the window, all the tables were set out and they were filled with groups of people enjoying a meal over a glass of wine. Not looking particularly bohemian, more 'richard and judy book club' middle class women. A split decision, i'm not going to be able to sneek in here and sit and be comfortable. no way. I'll stick out like a fool with no friends.

run away....

Friday, October 12, 2007

Stars live at Leeds Brudenell

Last tuesday i went to leeds to see Stars and they were fantastic. I'd gone straight from work in the leeds office, but the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry and so it did that day too. My change of clothes so that i could change into indie kid for the evening gig was left in my house and i was seconded onto a two day future strategy meeting whilst at the office meaning that the next morning i would have to be up at 0530 to go to stratford and miss emma pollock.
Like eddie izzard i wonder what plans that mice make?

Anyway, the brudenell at leeds is fast becoming one of my favourite venues and after the passable support we were treated to a wonderful set by the stars. Canadian bands are ruling the roost at the moment and stars are right up there. Songs from their 3rd, breakthrough, album proved popular with the audience and the new material was sounding promising. As the set finished i rushed to purchase their new release and then wondered if there would be an encore, the guy at the mixing desk certainly looked like he was expecting more, but it had been some time since the band left the stage. Some people began making their way to the exit, but I hung back for a while and eventually the guy vocalist appeared back on stage and explained he'd taken off his shirt cos it was so sweaty and he didn't have anything else to wear and so he was late re-appearing whilst they searched for something for him!

Anyway, i've had time to listen to the new album a few times and it carries on where the last album left off and is very good indeed. I want to see them again now and appreciate the new songs live. As always I dropped a review to teletext, but this week i was disappointed to see that the editor had been to see them in london and published his review so I thought that mine would be lost. But today my review was there - hooray, it's been ages since my last teletext review.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

a new location for cvm

A new start on Sunday for crookes valley. It's been a long journey to get to this place, and it was quite exciting to start the next stage. Can't remember how long ago it is since we sold the old church building, four years or so, and we spent a good few years looking at potential properties, and in one case going a long way down the road of preparing to purchase it. Then we realised that we just don't have the personel base to run a building and keep it well maintained. So we continued with meeting at the community centre and had chance to meet together and try and work out where, as a methodist society, we were heading. Through various discussions and prayer it seemed that our way forward was to focus on our informal way of conducting worship, and not get tied to a specific geographical location. A difficult conclusion to reach, especially for those whom have been part of a particular geography for many years. So this year we have spent time visiting other churches in the area, looking for a suitable home, somewhere where we could offer an alternative type of service. It was interesting going to other churches and having a break from the routine, and after meeting with various leadership teams to talk about practicalities, we came to a decision to move to Broomhill. So is this the promised land, have we crossed over the Jordan? The metaphors of the fledging Israelite nation are apparent, and there's still a way to go. We've realised that we do have something to offer, but how to articulate what our 'worship style' is about has proved difficult. Saying it is 'cafe church' seems trite and loaded, but we do sit around tables and drink tea and coffee through the service. We're at home singing ancient hymns as we are with new worship songs. Open to discussion and yet able to listen too. It's definately a space i would like to invite friends to if they wanted to explore faith. And so it was our first sunday meeting at the same time as the broomhill service, but in another room. I'd been looking forward to it for some time, the last few services at the community centre have seemed a drag, expectant to be elsewhere, but knowing that the time is not yet come. It was good, a nice service, the venue suited our style, and we even had passing trade. People new to the area looking for a suitable church at which to worship. Something our previous location did not offer. So our journey continues, and unlike the Israelites i don't think it will involve the destruction and piliging of the current occupants, but hopefully some kind of partnership will evolve. We offering church for those who are dissatisfied with current models, and the current society offering church for those who enjoy the format of tradition. I wonder where we'll be in a years time

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I'd just finished eating my tea and having reached a suitable stopping point in the film i was watching I turned off the dvd. The tv flicked back onto channel four and i just caught the announcer informing that the very first episode of Countdown is to be aired on more4. Quickly turning over I was greeted with the old multi-coloured channel 4 logo before launching into Countdown. It began with these awful 80s graphics, reminiscent of school programmes of the same period. A slim richard whitely introduced the scope of the game, introducing the contestents: A solicitor from london who appeared to have stopped buying clothes in the 1950s, sporting a bryll creamed slicked back hair style and gestapo glasses. And some 28 year old guy with a tash, that could easily have passed for being 45. The game got underway and it was clear that the solicitor had a greater vocabularly than anyone else, having to spell out his words. Coupes, 'and what is that?' asks richard. 'I believe it is a kind of dish, or it could be the plural of a kind of car'. Dictionary corner confirmed it is a word, 'is it a dish?' the dictionary had obviously been closed 'er, yes, it is' is the unconvincing reply. Strangely, although carol vorderman is present for the numbers, there is another girl who takes out the letters and places them on the board. Trying to stifle a giggle as the letters sex come out consequetively. The contestants are pretty rubbish at the numbers, but a very young looking carol with very bad hair, makes easy work of it. Easing into the lead the solicitor dude has no problems with the final anagram, which has yet to be christened the countdown conundrum. However the loser reveals that he had worked out the anagram straight away, but had forgotten to press his buzzer, assuming a need to wait for the 30s to complete


After the excellent Feist performance in manchester back in July, I had immediately purchased tickets for her show in Nottingham, which was just over a week ago. AD drove and we found a side street to park in before wandering down to the venue. Nottingham has really changed since i lived here, barely recognising the main streets. The Social was very small, and too small for an act of Feist's calibre. I don't know who her booking agent is, but she could have filled the venue a couple of times over I'm sure. Again she was excellent, a voice to silence crowds, achingly sensuous, yet also passionate enough to carry her more rocky tunes. Her excellent backing band added to the mix, with guitar harmonies and delicatley placed horns. The rendition of 'The Park' was nothing short of sublime, she really is one of the best acts around at the moment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a year

This time last year I was grieving the loss of a good friend. It's been a year when he has often been in my thoughts. At football matches and watching it on tv, knowing that john would have an opinion on the performance. Knowing that he'd've been at the champion's league final. Then there are the small times like seeing post cards in jordan and remembering all the places which i have sent a post card from to him. Or the odd predicament i get in that i know would make him laugh if he were to hear my re-telling or see it on the blog. He'd've chuckled at my failed attempt on the 3 peaks and made some comment about my infirmities, and i think he'd enjoy seeing my reviews on teletext too. I guess these times will never go and it still pains knowing that i can't share them with him now.


So after Greenbelt I had about a day turnaround before heading off to Jordan with highway projects. I've been back for quite some time now, but just not sat down to blog. I have a journal of my time that runs to pages, and really it is hard to put all these experiences into a few words here. Not only had I gone to explore this country, but to get to know people who lived there, share my faith and experience and learn from the faith of the people I meet. The time in Jordan began with a few days orientation in Wadi Rum, the desert to the south of Jordan, made famous by the exploits of te lawrence. This was an awesome experience, living out in the desert, getting to know the rest of the guys on the mission teams. There is something rather special about a desert, the sun beating down, the awesome colours of sand and sandstone jabel changing with the angle of the sun. And life. It is remarkable to see how life thrives in such a hostile environment, greenery clinging to trickles of water. The sandstone monoliths acting as sponges during the infrequent rains, the water slowly working it's way through and impeded by inpenetrable granite returning to the rock's edge as a spring. It makes the biblical analogies based in deserts really come to life. There is one thing knowing that water is essential for life, seeing it in person greatly adds to the meaning.

Taking these thoughts with me, I travelled, with the other guys on the same team as me, to Amman. Here, I was one of many to be struck down by some rather bad gut troubles, that rendered me unavailable for the first day working in school. Thanks to some antibiotics and other drugs I was soon on the way to recovery. We were teaching in two schools, a boys and a girls, taking the christian religious instruction lessons for 10-18yr olds. It proved quite tricky to adapt the lessons for the different age profiles, and interest. Using Jonah, we tried to look at reasons we run away from god, prayer and the underlying truth of the book of jonah, that god loves and has compassion for all people, even our enemies. A hard lesson for Jonah to see compassion shown to his enemy, compassion he did not wish to see exerted, though he knew it would come if forgiveness was sought.
It's difficult to know the worth of such work, taking lessons, that would take place whether we are there or not. In the evenings we had chance to get to know the local church young people and it was great to hear the leadership responsibilities these young people had taken on, leading sunday school and camps etc. It was fun visiting the local sights and making friends, and i hope our friendship and solidaritory was beneficial to a group of similarly aged people expressing a faith that is a minority in their country. I was encouraged at how passionate these people were about their faith and using their gifts to share their passions with children. It was also a pleasure to join them on their retreat as they sought teaching and reflection from the minister and encouragement in their leadership roles. Though I would dearly have loved some conversations around their experiential interpretation of the bible and how it might differ from someone who reads the bible remote from the geographical settings, and how indeed, expressing a faith in the minority effetcs them too. We learnt that they did not feel persecuted and in fact along with the population were quick to praise the king and the skill he uses in keeping the diverse peoples together. Jordan's population consits mainly of waves of refugees, the most recent being iraqi. The king ensure that the voices of the minorities remain in power, something that would never happen if all ruling powers were democratically elected.
On reflection I'm pleased to have again experienced life in the middle east and made new friends. I've learnt a lot and felt encouraged by the people i met. I just hope that it has been recipricated and my presence has helped the faith journey of at least someone i encountered. There are plenty of pictures on flickr which can be found in my highway project set
Bizarrly, we also nearly met tony blair who was also in amman. He was due to attend church on the sunday, but had been invited to see the king instead.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Greenbelt 2007

Had another excellent Greenblet Weekend. This festival is great, and despite the music line up being the poorest for some time, I still managed to enjoy it greatly. Arriving Friday in blazing sunshine it appeared that the weather had once again looked favourably on a festival i was attending. There was quite a wait in a queue before getting on to the campsite, but this gave me plenty of time to scour the programme for things of interst. Each morning I would then browse through my checklist to discover numerous clashes and decisions had to be made as to which seminar sounded the best. A few brief highlights below, I've kept it a bit short this year cos I'm packing to go to Jordan with highway projects tomorrow.

Met up with mr clark who joined me and ad in the world cup tent. Good to see him and congratulate him on his first steps in gainful employment. Watched Sarah Mason on the mainstage, who has a nice voice, but seemed to get distracted re-tuning her instrument all the time - doesn't she have a tuner! A pleasant enough start. Wander around the extensive village and called in at the organic beer tent to continue conversation with cc and ad. I'd also read that there would be opportunity to dj at this venue on the Friday. I thought there would be loads of people wanting a go, and was too afraid of losing my iPod, so had just brought along 4 tracks. Despite the PA being wrong and too poor for the venue, I still enjoyed my time as a dj and mixed a bit of an indie disco party: Can't explain - the who, hotel yorba - white stripes, alala - css and DANCE - justice. Too early for any dancing action, but a guy behind the bar exclaimed his enthusiasm for DANCE by running up to the 'dj booth' proclaiming it to be 'a tune'. I christened him my number one fan. Finished off the night with Billy Bragg, who for a guy with just a guitar does a great job of headlining with his brand of protest songs, with an ironic cover of the carpenters thrown in to keep us amused.

Went to a couple of literature workshops which were quite good, i was amazed at some of the talent shown, people were writing some great prose in just a few minutes, it made my work look like that of a primary school kid. Some useful excerises nonetheless. Maggi Dawn did an interesting talk around the subject of her book questioning how we hear god in light of the fact that god doesn't often use angels to proclaim his will, in particular looking at the stories of mary and zechariah. Of course there were no straight answers to how to hear god, but pointers of how to disern his voice in the everyday and ordinary, and how there is an element of choice in finding god's will, we make creative choices and these are woven into the will of god. Some nice ideas. There followed a talk by bishop graham on the latest arcade fire album. A fairly dull but well researched look at the writing style and thoughts of win butler. Not only is it a great album, but bishop graham suggests that it is a call for the church to re-awaken and challenge issues of justice and to be counter-cultural, rather than a critique on the church itself. He didn't play any clips though.
Took part in the communion by numbers service by Grace in the afternoon. It was lovely in the sun and i bumped into ben askew a sheffield blogger who i finally got to meet in the flesh and share communion with. The service worked quite well, but i could imagine it working better in the 'dinner party' setting in which it originated. It was interactive, and i enjoyed the liturgy produced for the sharing of the elements. I might have to use those again. In the evening I opted to try speed dating through the lack of any decent music. It was better than i thought it would be, and a chance to meet a lot of people i wouldn't otherwise have done. No chance of meeting everyone and instead just met a small percentage of the eligable people in the tent. There were quite a few people who i wouldn't've minded continuing a conversation with, but by the time I'd decided i'd make some indication of this, the cards used to exchange details had run out as had most of the girls who had partaken in conversation with me. I expect they had dashed due to the poor quality of the other candidates that followed me (!) Anyway despite that, as i was meandering my way out of the tent got chatting with a few others who weren't part of my speed dating trial and we went to the beer tent to continue chatting. Maybe make a few more friends - or at least boost my facebook profile - lol.

The diversity of greenbelt is what, to me, makes it a special festival. People from all walks of the christian faith and those searching and those of no particular faith, all catered for, and not in a segrageted way either. You're just as likely to bump into a happy clappy charismatic as you are a caped goth. And this is exemplified in the communion service where thousands gather. This year we went to the arena venue for the live feed and a supposed 'alternative' style. Bit disappointing that the only alternative about it from the regular service being fed to us on the screen was some lame vjing during collection. However it was great to feel part of a hug assembly all sharing in the eucharistic feast. Helped remind of the diversity of the body of christ. Prayers of intercession were supplemented with a release of balloons which made a nic symbol of our prayers being raised heavenwards. Got a seat to see andy yorke perform, being brother of thom, i think i expected too much and his set of sub snow patrol rock was fairly uninspiring. No guest appearance from his more famous bro either. A few more talks and seminars in the afternoon and a fine performance from one nation in the early evening. Not as good on the mainstage as they are in an intamite venue, but still able to get the crowd dancing along to the funk. Met up with the highway projects people at the festival for beers in the evening.


Started the morning with some meditative chanting with taize. There's something really moving about the music and tuning in to god. A wonderful way to start the week. Also found this meditative artwork in a room that was playing 'prayer of the heart' a piece written by john tavener with bjork. It was an awesome piece of music, with bjork singing 'jesus son of god have mercy on me' in a number of ancient tongues. Her voice is magnificant and has an aching quality to it that inspires you to pray also for mercy in god's presence. Then a listen to John Bell which is a must at greenbelt. A fantastic orator and often opens my eyes to new ways of reading texts. Today teaching on the truth stories, not the true stories of the opening chapters of genesis, highlighting how the literal interpretation of some of these texts have been used for the acceptance of some atrocious behaviour, particularly in the south african apartheid system. Speaking of the truth contained in these allorgories refreshed the understanding of these tales. Though i wondered how do you teach these stories to kids. You can hardly tell a story and then go through some protracted deconstruction on what the texts say about god. Though teaching them as literal historical fact can lead to a dissolution of faith as they do not hold up to the rigors of intellectual questioning. I mean, what did noah really do with all that poo for a start. When faith fails because that which we were taught as truth unravels as not truth leads to the unsettling of actual truth and revelation of god in christ. Hearing great minds expose the truth of god contained in these tales comforts a cynic like me. The faith in christ i experience is not based on mere fables which do not stand up to scrutiny, but that these tales still contain within them revelations of the character of God that should help continue shape my faith and understanding. The next talk i went to was the best of the entire weekend. I'll probably blog on this later when I've read this book, but Rhidian Brook gave an account of his travels through the pandemic regions of HIV. During a slideshow i was struggling to battle tears as he showed fields full of orphans as a result of HIV and war.
After packing up the tent me and cc headed down to see chas and dave, i waited 20 minutes for run rabbit run or an appearance of steve davis for snooker loopy. I got none, and twenty minutes of cockney knees up piano twonking was more than enough! The evening brought the finest musical performance of the weekend from Duke Special. The set seemed to get better as it went on, his quality vocals supported by a cast of theatrical backing musicains led to a spectacular performance, and a great curtain riser for us leaving as we did before delirious.

Greenbelt photos on flickr

Saturday, August 18, 2007


My parents asked me to go and pick my sister up from heathrow today as she is flying back from the states, she doesn't enjoy flying and is usually ill, so I agreed to help out and pick her up. Flight due in at 1030, so I set off around 0645, and made good time getting to the terminal by about 1000. The flight was early, so I read for about 20minutes and then stood by the entrance from the arrival lounge. People went by, and I kept looking out. An hour went past, maybe she's not too well and had to have a lie down. Ninety minutes elapsed and I've now seen thousands of people wandering through. Do I go to the info desk - chances are she'll come just as I'm away and then not be able to find me. Another ten minutes, she really is late, best go and ask at the info point: That flight came in nearly two hours ago, does she have a british passport. yes. well she should be out. But she sometimes gets ill, has she perhaps been taken somewhere to recouperate, was she on that flight? I can't tell you that, because of data protection, are you sure she's on this flight? That's what I'm told. It's just that it's an overnight flight, there's another tomorrow with the same flight number, it leaves on the 18th and arrives here on the 19th.


Unbelievable, rang parents, are you sure she's on this flight. That's what we've got down, I'll give the place she's staying a ring and call you back.

Yes - she's still in america.

How annoyed am I to waste my last free saturday before going off to Jordan!

After five min calm down, I thought about going to see a friend in oxford, having driven all the way down here. Thankfully s was in and I was able to spend a pleasant afternoon with him and his family. So not all bad!

You'd have thought that being an avid fan of 80 days around the world with Willy Fog an error like this wouldn't happen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New season

The football season is upon us again and tonight I went to see Chesterfield play Sheff Utd at Bramall Lane. It was nice to be able to walk to the match, and see Chesterfield play the sheffield team for who I have the most affinity. Met up with s and we both had a great evening and enjoyed the football. Unfortunately, after an impressive first half, Chesterfield began to struggle against the pace and precision passing of United and lost 3-1. The worst point was losing pacy forward, jamie Ward, who pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury. He was causing United problems and led to our equalising goal, without his presence we looked mediocre up front. New signing Jack lester impressed, and worked tirelessly up front, but to little avail due to lack of support and decent crosses.

Merlin Theatre

Saturday saw monkey swallows the universe launch their new album, the casket letters, at the merlin theatre. I'd volunteered to help as an usher at the event, and along with the other ushers, we decided to dress up in suits to look the part. It was interesting to see the bands setting up, and it made a change to be apart from all the stress that sound checking can bring. The number of times we've set up sound stuff for an awe event and then spent hours trying to source an annoying hiss. Gremlins were found, and I thought that the sound in the theatre was really good. Didn't get to see the support acts as we were either staffing the doors or helping at the cafe. However, when mstu came on everyone was in their seats and we were able to sneek in at the back and enjoy the gig too. Having had the privilege to have heard the new tracks live and also had a pre-release copy of the album, I could really appreciate the songs. Talking to others later, less familiar with the new material, they were equally enthralled with hearing the brand new songs. After the gig everyone was invited to an aftershow party, showing the appreciation mstu have for their local fanbase. I enjoyed meeting new people and finding out how they had discovered mstu, and of course they had impecible musical taste, so no shortage of conversation. A great night, and maybe i'll get around to reviewing the album sometime! For a taster here are a couple of clips of songs from the new album: Gravestones and the Ballad of the Breakneck Bride. The latter of which has guest vocals from Rhys of Smokers Die Younger.

Friend Wheel

So I haven't blogged for a while, time to break the fast. To start a quick geeky post, following up on my earlier post about how much I liked the friend wheel application on facebook. It's now got even better, as you can open the wheel in flash and zoom into all the nodes, move them around and see in more detail how all your friends link up. Check it out.

Monday, July 30, 2007


I quite like writing and I often wonder what it would be like to be a writer. For a few years I've been mulling an idea for a novel in my head. The plot is all there, but the scenes and characters need developing. It's not a straight forward as just sitting down and letting the words just stream forth. Whilst at latitude festival i went to a Q&A with some authors (i don't recall their names). They were talking about the process of writing that they use, the fact that a lot of the time it looks like they are doing nothing, but in actual fact they are constantly thinking of the book. I knew exactly what they meant. I have little time to write and the odd few hours on a saturday morning I can glean, I wander to a local coffee shop to write. I can spend nearly an hour re-reading what I have written to try and get back into the situation, then there are the questions that pose themselves. How would this character react? what would this situation actually look like? Sometimes very little gets written at all. And this is how it was today. With a day off work, for which I was anticipating travelling back from snowdon left me with an opportunity. It's been ages since i last wrote anything and I was spending ages re-reading, then I was questioning my prose, what is the best narrative style. I think I want to use a couple of different styles, which makes it more complicated to write, and I wonder if it would actually work for the reader. So I decamped to Waterstones with the aim of finding some more books written in a particular perspective. The staff there were really helpful and one was able to think of such a book at once, though she couldn't think of anymore at that moment. A couple of books in hand, I thought how i'd relish to be able to do this for a living. Walking, meandering around town with ideas maturing. Reading, to draw inspiration for writing, studying to ensure what i write is credible and makes sense under scrutiny. Instead tomorrow it will be back to the world of data management, minute taking and copious ammounts of tapping on the computer.


This weekend me and jt were due to attempt the three peaks challenge, but we had to cut it short due to me picking up a knee injury on the decent of ben nevis. The jarring of the uneven decent had somehow damaged the knee of my leading leg to the point that it was terribly painful to walk downhill. I feel like a failure, i hate not accomplishing what i set out to do. Not being one of these athletic types, walking is one of the only sporting activities that i'm any good at, and this would be a great test of endurance, of which I've failed to prove I can achieve. What is worse is the fact that people had agreed to sponsor my efforts in the bid to raise some money for christie's hospital where my friend died of cancer last year. I think I can now understand the frustrations of professional footballers who get injured and are unable to prove to the supporters that they are worthy of the transfer fee paid for them. It is terribly disappointing. However I'll blog about are attempt:

Not only had we set ourselves a challenge in climbing the three highest peaks we had no driver and so would also be driving between the locations, making the challenge much harder. We had decided that if we could hit all three peaks within a 24 hour period we'd have done really well. The challenge started early on sat morning as we began the drive up to ben nevis. We were 15 minutes into the journey when I suddenly had a vision of my walking boots still in the kitchen. Great start! After doubling back our journey was fairly uneventful until we got caught in traffic in callander. There was some highland games event happening and it held us up by about an hour, we eventually arrived at ben nevis around 1630. No chance for the planned rest, we donned our walking gear and began the first ascent around 1700. It was really busy with a redcross challenge also taking place. The first hour was tough going ascent leaving us stripped to our t-shirts and sweating profusely. A five minute stop for water and a break left me feeling reinvigorated and able to march upwards, soon arriving at a flatter plateau where the pace could be quickened. The incline soon steepened and the higher we went the colder it became and coats were put back on. In the clouds the uphill trek seemed never ending and the minutes seemed to drag. My glasses became obscured by rain and my fingers were frozen. We took a short break and ate some chocolate and I could feel the energy returning, the chocolate pumping through my blood and the walk continued. It seemed we would never make the top, and then suddenly the high plateau appeared and our goal was reached. Any sense of lack of energy seemed to evaporate as euphoria at reaching the summit reinvigorated. The descent saw our bodies gradually warm and clothes once again stripped off. The setting sun bathing the surrounding landscape in awesome colour, it looked superb. Being tall and gangly I always find descents difficult, like I'm always stopping myself from falling forwards. This causes me to plant my leading leg rather stiffly and down steep uneven surfaces the toll of this caused a pain in my right knee. Battling through, though losing a bit of pace, we were back at the car before the light had faded. Swift change of shoes and the long night time drive began. Jt driving for the first hour and half before switching to allow him to grab a bit of sleep whilst I drove. We continued this swapping of driving and napping every 90 min or so and it seemed to work fine. Alert enough to drive and we reached wasdale head at the base of scafell at 0400. I'd noticed that my knee was still hurting every time we'd swapped driving duties and had bought some painkillers from a petrol station in a determined effort to continue. Starting the ascent of scafell pike at 0430 as the sun began to rise the uphill trek was going fine, but any mild descent on the path was really hurting and i had to make the difficult decision to return to the car. To carry on could lead to me becoming stuck at the top, unable to walk down and that would be crazy. I might also damage the knee further, so I slowly made my way back down, taking nearly an hour to cover ground we'd made in about 20 minutes! Jt carried on to the summit and returned at 0830. This time would've had us well on schedule to complete all the three peaks in 24 hours and we'd have achieved our goal. JT didn't fancy doing another climb alone so we headed back home with a determination to complete the challenge next year. I'll have to invest in some walking poles and see if using them I can take the weight of my knee better on the descents. Grrrr I know i can do this, but I'm as yet unable to say I have.

Photo set of the attempt on flickr

Friday, July 27, 2007

Feist teletext review

Yeah - it's another teletext review. I still manage to get excited by seeing them published.

Monday, July 23, 2007


As if a weekend's worth of music wasn't enough on thursday i went to see Feist in manchester. She was awesome, a truely amazing gig. Her vocals are like liquid chocolate, and ease between her sensuous lounge jazz and punky pop. She was backed by a superb band that played a myriad of instruments that added intricate harmonies that aid in giving the sound a real fullness. So much better than the generic guitar bands that are around that lack imagination in song writing. Feist sings so well and she even used a loop to create her own backing vocals, adding them at the start of a song and then singing over them. Then addressing the audience she was able to sing out intructions to split the audience in three to humm various notes to start a song. Superb talent. I made a coupld of videos, one of a quiet song and another of a punkier number. Unfortunately the sound was too loud on the latter for my camera and it is terribly distorted. Here is the quieter tune, one of my favourites, but blighted by a bit of pesky feedback.

Feist pics on flickr

Just found this link on youtube of Feist performing showing her backing vocal looping thing. It's a bit distorted, but gives you an idea

Friday, July 20, 2007


Last weekend I went to the latitude festival in suffolk and it was tremendous. Haven't had chance to blog since as I've been busy every night, which also means I haven't full caught up on my sleep. We were really lucky with the weather too, i'd been praying for some sun, cos rain reduces the fun of camping. And the sun certainly shone. Left work a bit early on the thurs to drive down, giving a lift to ad, sb and ms. The traffic wasn't bad and we made good time, getting there before nightfall. However it was quite a queue to get our wrist bands so by the time we started on the tents it was getting dark. This resulted in one tent taking over an hour to erect, what with poles getting jumbled and the canves getting twisted!

There were a myriad of excellent acts playing at the festival and sometimes it was impossible to choose who to see. I was very lucky to be invited to stay as a guest of monkey swallows the universe as I had been helping them with a marketing scam. I'd written their stage time on one side of a peg and on the other a web address for an exclusive download. We then spent the weekend surrepticiously pegging people, on hats, jumpers, coats and bags in the hope they'd be intrigued enough to check out the band and even download the free tune. It was fun watching people wander around unsuspectingly with pegs dangling from their person.

I saw numerous acts and won't review them all, just a special mention for a few. The strange death of liberal england were even better than when i saw them at the leadmill. They were really drawing adrenelin from playing to a large crowd and I shall have to track down their cd. I was a cub scout also showed promise, bedroom rock backed by sequencers. A vibrant sound that can only mature. MSTU were on fine form and their music really suited the early evening sunshine. Bat for Lashes were plagued with technical difficulties but still managed to perform an entertaining set with natasha dressed in a skeleton costume. Finally Arcade Fire were awesome. Joined onstage by Final Fantasy they played probably one of the best performances i've ever seen. There is little more i can say to embellish this performance. Phenomenal.

Then there was the long drive back, the last hour of which I found a real struggle, battling with sleep and fog.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Strange Death of Liberal England Review

Last minute decision to go to the Leadmill on Monday, mainly to meet up with ag of mstu to discuss upcoming festival marketing ploy ‘operation peggy’. After a couple of local bands, the oddly titled ‘strange death of liberal england’ took to the stage. They did remarkably well to grab the attention of an audience mainly there to support friends in the local bands. Having a unique sound and strange presence certainly helps. Here’s my review that appeared on teletext today which added to the excitement of going to Latitude. More later on my return from the festival. Click the image to see full size.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


I came across this facebook application, friend wheel, thanks to ben askew. It links all your friends together by who they know. Ben's wheel was very well interconnected suggesting a lot of people he knows all know each other. My wheel is quite different and suggests a number of disparate 'communities' which i belong to. I'm quite interested in what communities mean these days and which communities we belong to. This wheel shows church friends, people from the youth group i used to help lead, uni friends, highway projects, music friends etc. There are also quite a few people i know that none of my friends know, does that mean i am on the periphery of their communities (or just cos other people from that group of friends just aren't on facebook yet). It's interesting, a geographical one would be interesting too. Geographical communites eh? That's so twentieth centuary.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

End of an era

This week has seen the end of two eras. The first came on Wednesday at the community centre. Earlier this year one of the major tenants, sheffield college, who held their ESOL classes at the centre, informed that they would be leaving in September. That added to the fact that a number of trustees planned to step down, and seemingly no more volunteers on the horizan things were looking quite bleak. A survey conducted by Sheffield City Council, who own the building, highlighted major repairs that were required and as their community building fund is very small it seemed like winding up the charity that has run the building as a commmunity centre for nearly 25 years was the sensible choice. Not a decision taken lightly, but a recognition that there was not the time or energy required to raise significant income and funding for refurbishment. And even if we did, for how much longer would the centre continue to be sustainable? So on Wednesday we held a number of meetings, agm and extraordinary meetings to agree to wind up the charity over the coming months. It's sad in a way that another local resource will close and the building most likely sold byt he council, but it has served it's cause well over the years and things always come to an end. Better to end positively than to fizzle out under financial strains. At least we hope to have considerable funds when the charity closes which we hope will benefit other local centres and groups in the area.

Then on Friday I heard that Fopp were in financial difficulty and within hours a press release said that the chain had closed. I was a great fan of Fopp, and I've probably spent many hundreds of pounds over the years on music, film and books in there. It was great, a wide range of excellent music, and support for local unsigned artists. Many a time I'd pop in to buy an album and come out with at least four! Maybe it is a sign of the times and it's only people like me in their 30s that still enjoy buying music in a tangiable format that you can hold. I love the art work and reading the words and placing the disc in my cd player. Though I guess these days I listen to most of my music on my iPod. There was always a great selection of contemporary novels too, and there's been a number i've just bought cos they looked interesting, and you knew that cos they were on sale in Fopp it wouldn't be rubbish. I don't know where I'll shop for my music now.

My flood pics have also been popular, I've had more views for them then for any other set of photos and I was even asked if one could be used for a website. You can see it here

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sheffield Flood

What a day yesterday was. It was just raining and raining constantly. It got to the point at work where the site was closed and we were told to leave cos Grimethorpe was almost cut off by floods. Left about 3pm and thought I'd be home by 4pm. How wrong I was. The river Don had burst it's banks in sheffield causing traffic gridlock. I spent over four hours on the A61 not knowing if it was passable. Every now and again it would go for ages before any vehicles passed from the opposite directions. Numerous emergency vehicles overtuck and came past. I was quite concerned when one police land rover came past towing a boat! Just outside Grenoside a huge flood was just about passable, police were allowing a number of cars to pass in turn from wither direction. I had to mount the kerb and skirt the edge of the flood water. Then it was fairly good going down into Hillsborough, though I noticed all the traffic lights were out. At the roundabout I suddenly realised I was unable to continue my journey as Penistone road outside Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground was now a deep river. All routes home were cut off by the Don, so I abandoned the car in a side street near Leppings Lane. I then had to take my shoes and socks off, roll up my trousers and wade knee deep through the Don that was now flowing over the road. The water wasn't too cold, and it was quite strange feeling my way across with my feet, knowing that there should be a kerb somewhere around. There were numerous people making the journey through the water and at each side a bank of people holding aloft mobile phones and cameras to capture the event. At this point I decided to call in at m&e as they lived nearby. They too had had eventful journeys home and had walked from town. No power, so we had some sandwiches. Refreshed I walked back home and then went for a walk down towards the don, which is only 2min walk away. All Shalesmoor and Kelham Island had been badly affected. Luxury riverside appartments looked marooned and underground car parking areas were submerged. I took a few photos to record the events.

More pictures on my sheffield flood flickr set

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reviews that never appeared

Here's my reviews I sent to teletext for the gigs at the Spitz. They never appeared on screen, i blame the amount of pages devoted to the current spate of festivals. Best not let the words go to waste:

Shady Bard at Spitz London 9th June

Shady Bard make music about the environment that is a far cry from the
fey folky guff Swampy and his friends may conduct whilst living in
holes. Using orchestration to enhance piano and guitar melodies, Shady
Bard conjure visions of fruiting woods and rolling seas, ignited with
sonic soundscapes. Frontman, Lawrence, sings passionately about issues
that are clearly close to the heart, challenging the listener as he
rasps 'It's all our fault'. This is Eco-rock for people who wash.


monkey swallows the universe live at the spitz 9th june

Once again Monkey Swallows The Universe manage to woo the crowd.
Already a wealth of material allows for a varied set of acoustic folk,
downbeat melancholy and upbeat twindie-pop. Guitars gently create
melodies that are embellished with strings and melodicas. Songs of
love triumphing over adversity are sung passionately with a subtle
tone that is reminiscent of Emma Pollock at her best. How bands can
conjure a feeling of warmth and freshness is a mystery, but one that
MSTU seem to have solved.


Saturday, June 23, 2007


How good is Bjork!

I've just finished watching her performance at Glastonbury that I recorded and she was astonishingly good. Her music is incredible, diverse and ground breaking. I started re-listening to Debut earlier this year when i was thrown back into the realm of singleness. And I found it uplifting, one of the first albums I ever bought on CD and it still sounded fresh. Incredible.
Bjork at Glastonbury by bbc
There's no-one else that makes music as passionate as she does, her lyrics are often calmly erotic brought to life with her unique voice. Just watching her bounding around the stage like some alien pixie backed with an incredible ensemble of horns, keyboards and electronic jiggery pokery. The way she could hold the crowd with her, almost, unaccompanied version of Venus As a Boy highlights the power of her vocals. When she turned to sing 'I love him, i love him' at the end of Pagan Poetry my spine was tingling. I'll have to see if it's possible to see her live sometime.

photo is from bbc glastonbury flickr stream

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

updating blogger

I'm slowly bringing my blog into beta mode, and i've found this lovely code to make a label cloud in the side bar. If you want the code it is from phydeux3. I'm struggling to get a widget to work. It keeps throwing up and error that has me clueless. I'm slowly back blogging a few items too. Sorry I've not been around on the blogosphere much, I've been carried away milling on facebook.

Monday, June 18, 2007

central st martin's

London again, this time just for the day on the train. I went down to see the final year degree show at central st martins. HC was exhibiting her final year piece which was the main reason i went along. However, i really enjoyed browsing all the displays. Spent over 2.5 hours there was so much to see and investigate. A number of the pieces seemed to be influenced by construction. Either by items discarded, or by structures themselves.
One such piece had a small space you could climb and squeeze through which was fun. The process of construction in shaping our surroundings. It was amazing to see so many inovative ideas, so forward thinking and vital. Such a change to the mundaneness of everyday life, it's great to see that there are people who are experimenting and trying new things, whilst i spend days bored at work tapping on a computer. Unfortunately cos hc was part of her installation, cos it included performance art I wasn't able to chat about some of the pieces with her. After browsing i found myself a coffee shop to sit and write some of my book, i seemed to hit a bit of a roll, which is good. I have all these scenes in my heaed, it's all about interpreting them onto the page, it's not straight forward.
In the evening i met up with cem and we enjoyed yo sushi, I was particulalry amused by a young girl sat opposite who was attempting to stick a noodle up her nose, until her mum intervened.

More photos in my st martin's flickr set

Friday, June 15, 2007

But still the rain comes

It seems like it has been raining none stop for an age. Today was like Sheffield Shanty by mstu the journey to work was crazy. First I had to skirt around the edge of a pool that had developed on penistone road. Further ahead on Halifax road I had to negotiate a flood that stretched about 30cm deep right across the road. the traffic moved slowly through it and continued it's slow progress. Then the worst flood, just following the car in front it was impossible to guage the extent of this pool of water. Once in the water i was just hoping the car in front would not stop, again it was at least 30cm deep and it seemed unending. When was it going to end, to make it worse a car in front seemed to be emitting white smoke from it's bonnet. It seemed an age before I was out onto drier land again. Water seemed to be pouring in from neighbouring fields and ran like torrents down the roads. Still it wasn't over, the next acumulation was on the by-pass through the Dearne Valley. At the bottom another huge flood spread across the road under a bridge. This was shallower if skirted on the furtherst point to the right of the road, but it continued right onto the roundabout, which had to be negotiated through the water. Still not over, as arriving in Grimethorpe my route to the site was blocked by a flood that was too deep to even begin to try. An escort van went ahead and the water was brimming over the bonnet - no way I'm doing that, so i took a wide diversion to approach the village from the north. Best start collating those animals two by two.

Monday, June 11, 2007

london weekend and mstu

Leading up to June I'd been feeling a bit down, probably cos in another world I'd've been travelling to canada to spend time with v. Instead I'd decided to try and keep myself busy, which i think i've done pretty successfully. This weekend I took the opportunity to visit hc in london and see monkey swallows the universe live at the Spitz. Arriving around mid-day, i'd got a fair amount of time to kill and wandered into green park to read in the sun. Nice and relaxing, i'd arrange to meet hc around trafalgar late afternoon, so wandered over to see if i could find a nice coffee bar nearby. Arrived at trafalgar and noticed that there was due to be a free palestine march. It sounded interesting so took a seat on the steps outside the national gallery and awaited the arrival of the march. I'd happeded to be sat next to a group of knitters, who apparently meet up in random locations around the city to knit. There were a couple of guys too - how metrosexual. One of them was knitting with a pair of huge needles, about a metre tall. It seemed to be attracting considerable attention.

Eventually the march arrived and a number of seakers addressed the crowd. Some were much better than others, I must admit some of the speakers that were addressing us as comrades and encouraging us to support the freedom fighters were not using the most tactful of language. It's such a shame a week after the event to see the political turmoil that has enveloped the state of palestine. A coalition of democratically elected governers is overturned because other countries refuse to deal with Hamas. It makes a mockery of democracy. And the embargos enforced on the palestinian authorities is one of the main issues to lead to the conflict and in-fighting that only serves to ridicule the ability of the palestinian people to govern themselves. What a situation.

As the afternoon wore on I looked down to see that I was beginning to turn a bright shade of red, so i swiftly made for the shade and awaited hc.

We headed out to liverpool st station and got something to eat before making our way to the spitz. It was absolutely roasting hot in the venue, and we were in time to see the first act. They were pretty poor, playing chaotic rock that followed obvious progressions from loud to quiet. Yawn. Then it was mstu who again put on an absolutley fabulous gig. Nat's vocals were particularly passionate and the new songs hint that the new album will be just as good as the debut. Finally, shady bard, the headline take the stage and wow the crowd with their orchestral indie rock. Songs about the environment, reminiscent of 'we love life' by pulp. Good stuff.

Sunday i appreciated the warm weather, browsed the tate modern before arranging to meet a myspace friend. Passing st paul's i decided to pop in and say a prayer. The sung eucharist had just started, so i took a seat near the back and listened to the pomp of the ceremony. Not my usual thing high anglican worship, but nothing else would have done in this magnificant venue. The architecture and paintings are incredible and with the bombastic sounds of the organ vibrating through the church you can't help but get a sense of the awesomeness of god. Something that is easy to forget when sat around tables with coffee chatting, which is my normal worship preference. I also liked the fact that there were people coming and going at the back of the church, some to get a free look at the architecture, others to perhaps pray or sit in on the service for a while before leaving. It gave fluid nature to the worship, strange in a venue that follows such a rigid formal worship. Of course those who wished to take an active participation in the service could be lead to the front of the church by one of the nuerous ushers.

Finally met up with ys in shepherds bush and enjoyed mint tea and some food at a little arabic cafe before going for a walk through st james park. It was a lovely day and interesting to meet someone who is also a big fan of music.

A few more pics in the flickr set

Fanfarlo on teletext

My review did finally turn up on teletext. Hooray, click on image below to read it in old school teletext style.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Microwave meal for one

Couldn't be bothered to cook on monday so opted for the lazy microwave meal for one option. Cooked some rice and followed the microwave instructions. After the last blast in the microwave I took the korma out to stand and removed the film lid. Hmmm think I'll give it a stir to ensure that the heat is distributed in an homogenous manner. Stuck my fork in and whirled it around BANG! the korma exploded firing splashes of orange korma right up my t-shirt, on my glassses, on the walls, on the ceiling, on my housemates recently washed washing. Everywhere. No quick and convenient meal here, no had to spend ages going around mopping it up. Changed my t-shirt, but thought I'd do the trousers later. Then just as i started eating the neighbour came round for a chat, I felt such a scruff trying to hide behind the door with korma splashes all down my trousers and I hadn't even looked in the mirror and was fearing my hair was also streaked.

Guitar tuning

So I decided it was time to re-string the guitar and start playing again, well by playing I really mean strumming a few chords. I'm not to adept at the whole stringing process and it took me ages to get all the strings on. Later I discovered that my tuner had broken but I set out to get it vaguely in tune by ear. It takes a bit of practice but I'm not too bad at it. Apart from when I came to tune the high E string, for some reason I tuned it to the 7th fret of the B string instead of the 5th. Sounds a bit flat, tighten the string, play a note, still flat, tighten the string, play note, that's almost it, still a bit flat, another the string broke and nearly took my eye out. Going to have to get some more strings now - grrr

What's this?

Went shopping in tesco the other day, wandering around listening to my iPod. I seleected the least busy checkout where a young lad was making swift work of scanning the items and sending them down the converyor. As I was packing I noticed there was a hold up and thought he was asking me something. I looked up and took my earphones out. "Can you tell me what this is please?" He asked waving the object and pointing to is cashier button machine indicating he needed to know what it was to weigh the item. I looked bemused and he asked me again. "It's a courgette" I replied. Unbelievable! It's hardly an exotic item, wish I'd said it was a carrot now, they're cheaper to the kilo.


Another gig review that hasn't made it on to teletext - grrr, I must be losing my touch and I quite liked this one:

Fanfarlo - Runaway Girl Sheffield 28/05/07

Fanfarlo play the musical equivalent of T-shirt weather. Squeezed on
to a small stage, this six-piece produce a wondrously full sound.
Strings and brass accompany this indie guitar pop, breathing life into
the tunes in a manner worthy of Arcade Fire. Songs are sung with
delicate cracked vocals reminiscent of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
Imminent single, Fire Escape, feels like summer is officially here and
deserves to be heard from every open window. The only downside is the
short 30min set leaves you wanting more.


You should check these guys out tho, they're superb. It was a good evening too meeting up with a couple of mstu members. I have some pictures which I guess I'll get round to uploading some time

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Emma Pollock live

It's a while since i've been blogging, and it's not through a lack of things to say. Maybe it's a lack of time, or i just can't be bothered anymore. Perhaps it has run it's course. Maybe I'll offer the odd review, but perhpas my time can be better spent. If i get loads of people saying - chris we love reading your blog, i may change my mind. I doubt that is a likely outcome.

So it was a little over a week ago i went to see emma pollock performing live at leeds Brudenell Social Club. I'd been looking forward to this gig for ages. Emma used to be a member of the delgados, one of my all time favourite bands, and i was also a little apprehensive that i'd just will it to be good, even if it wasn't. Thankfully there was no need for any rose tinted glasses, the performance was fine and some of the songs were extremely good too. Her husband, paul savage, played the drums, though on future tours another drummer will be employed. I sent a review off to planet sound, but the editor went to see her live in London, so his review was aired and thus far mine has not been screened.

I'd gone straight from work as I'd planned to work from our leeds office. Not familiar with this venue, or indeed with leeds, i set off in the car, spying a maccy D i decided to pull in and get something to eat. Thinking ahead i'd remembered to bring a book with me and i 'enjoyed' a delicious meal whilst reading. It must've been my lucky day as i won a mcfluffy or whatever it is they call an ice cream there. Headed on down towards the venue, i was still a bit early so read some more before trying to seek it out. Found the place, some kind of working mens club, and the doors didn't open till 8pm, i'd guessed a 7:30 opening. The club bar was open, so i ventured inside, drinking a j20 cos i was driving. Got a funny look when i asked if i could have a glass for my drink when presented with a bottle. Scanned the room and amongst the smoking men there was an indie looking kid. Got to be going to the gig I thought, so siddled over and started chatting with him. No gig goer, but a nice guy, in fact he was writing a book and we talked quite a bit about writing and things. That was great and inspired me to get on with my prose. Went into the next door room about 8:20, the doors finally open. Saw Emma by the bar and had a chat with her, she's really very pleasant and seemed guenuinely pleased that an old delgado fan had come along. I'll maybe post my teletext review here, but i'll give it a couple more days to see if it gets a screening.
Below are a couple of youtube links of the performance and John Earl's review.

emma pollock teletext review

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The adelphi

I knew there was something else....
On wednesday I went to visit kb in hull, it was good to catch up and see her. Some friends of hers were playing a gig that evening and they were playing at the adelphi. Fantastic, i thought, not only a gig, but one at the fabled adelphi. Hull's premier seedy music venue. I can't imagine there is another venue like this in england, if not the world. Situated down a normal street of housing an end terrace house has been converted into a small, dark gig venue. The lower floors knocked through to create a performance area, with small bar and sound desk at the back. Even better, real ale pub on hand pull. Once inside i sent a txt to my friend who had previously described the venue to me. He replied asking if the beer was still rancid. It was! First up was some uni prof playing acoustic covers on his guitar. Then some scream majors, screaming nonsense over beats supplied by music geek with his iBook, whilst hairy beast played heavy guitar riffs. All kids seem to be using i-This or that these days. Sounds good, but looks a bit naff live. Then kb's friends, KIERANONONONONO, take the stage in comedy hawaii outfits. More screeching guitars and apple macs with keyboards and decks. They made quite a racquet, not too disimilar to Wyld Stallyions of Bill and Ted fame, before they had travelled in time to get music lessons! Quality, such energy and enthusiasm. Pity it sounded dreadful. Apart from the shouty rendition of happy birthday, that was actually quite good.

Funny ha ha

I'm sure i had a few things i wanted to blog about, but i just can't seem to recall them at the moment. Wasn't the fa cup boring, though predictably so. Without an early goal it was always going to be a case of not giving the opposition the edge. I'm pleased it didn't end up going to penalties. ad came round for some food after and we headed out to the winter garden to listen to this aural artwork that was being aired, supposedly as an experiment to see if music affected the plants. It was a kind of etheral ambient noise, rumbling bass and slow beeps, not unlike the free cd that came with 'everything is wrong' by moby, back in the day. Not the kind of music you'd listen on your stereo, but a sound that created an 'other-worldly' atmosphere in the winter garden alongside the weird and wonderful plants from around the globe. It reminded me of the forbidden planet. Quite a few of the plants were in bloom so i took some photos (in my sheffield set), some of which look quite nice, haven't a clue what plants they are though.
Went to the showroom to see an american indie flick called funny ha ha. It's filmed in 16mm with mono sound and follows the life of well educated twentysomething searching for love, a decent job and purpose in life. There's no plot as such, it's quite postmodern in that sense that you jump straight into a glimpse of the characters life and abruptly leave it again as the fim ends. The conversations were mainly improvised and the 'you knows' and 'i means' and 'it's likes' really add to the reality. Not like those flowing profound sentances that are the staple of programmes like dawson's creek. I thought it really explored a sense of purposelessness of life faced by recent graduates searching for jobs that utilise their skill base adequately, as well as the search for a relationship. The film was clearly not enjoyed by the philistine sat behind me with his girlf, almost constantly making unwitty remarks to her throughout the show. I was just about ready to smack him in the face. If i wanted people to talk through the film I'd've gone to the odeon.

Look at the audience and go blah..

From reading jonny baker's blog i was aware of some kind of discussion forum called Blah... It seemed to be the place trendy christians go to discuss spirituality in contemporary society. They just started one in sheffield and ad reminded me it was on this week. We decided to go and see if we could blend in with the 'trendyness' despite not having any daft sculptured facial hair or howie t shirts, or even an i-book. Thankfully we did. The event was held at the showroom and discussions were around god in contemporary film and tv. In particular films surrounding the paranormal, stories that traditionally draw on christian imagery in the good/evil fight eg crucifixes etc. We watched clips from constantine (which looks diabolically bad) and buffy the vampire slayer (yay). To be honest the clips were overlong, but the discussions were interesting. The clips seemed to portray a sense of evil that had to be overcome by the strength and action of the 'hero' usually human. A physical action, rather than a spiritual one. There was not any explicit reference to god, rather an implicit being, creator, force of good that is older than all religions. This 'god' was portrayed as present, but in the background, inactive and passive. Whereas the christian faith is about an active and caring god, present and acting through the holy spirit now. There was quite a lot of theology babble around though - metanarrative and nietzsche. Some guy raised a point about the metanarative of buffy, which i thought was nonsense. He was clearly using the term to encompass the whole of the buffy story, failing to take into account the metanarrative that it was written by educated westerners brought up in an, although nominal, christian tradition, steeped in spiritual folklore also risen from a christendom perspective. I'd be interested to hear equivalent stories from india and compare. There was plenty of time to chat with people afterwards, and i had a somewhat awkward conversation with some girl who i clearly had little in common with. It was quite a struggle, then her husband arrived and she introduced us. He asked what kind of construction work i did, and i explained the LIFT schemes which led to an interesting conversation on the privatisation of buildings for public services. During which I noticed his wife's eyes glazing over, then he started asking about my phd, which was clearly more than she could take, leaving, as I began discussing the regulation of cholesterol - lol

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Eurovision clips

I hardly ever get any traffic to my blog, but there was a small spike of activity these last few days. One of the most searched for items to reach this blog, bar my name, is eurovision clips. I posted some clips of the wonderful lordi last year and people still drop by - have they not heard of youtube!
This post has nothing to do with eurovision, cos I didn't see it, instead here is my review of the 65 days of static gig i went to the other day. It's been edited to read more scathing than my original text.
Click the image to see it enlarged if you want to read it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

bank holiday iv - 65 days of static

Just to finish my star wars-esque bank holiday double trilogy. Went to the plug, one of my least favourite venues, to see 65dos. Always a breath of fresh air to see these guys in action, competely different to the usual lilting indie pop i prefer. As usual, Mirimar disaster are in support, screaming primaeval grunts over heavy rock. It always amuses me that the singer has such good diction and incredibly clear when addressing the crowd, and completely incoherant when singing! 65 dos produced another tight set of new and old music, roaring guitar melodies and manic bleeps makes for a good combination. Visuals mixed in a bit of vjaying to add to the mix. Hopefully there will be a review on teletext this week - so watch out on p344 channel 4 (or 824 if you use digital).
Some pics flickr

bank holiday v - number9dream

I picked this book up at fopp merely because it was only £3 and i'd really enjoyed cloud atlas by the same author. I'm pleased i did as it's the best read i've had in ages. Written in a really dynamic first person present tense, the story flows rapidly, interspersed with fantasy, memories and dreams. As illustrated in cloud atlas, david mitchell seems to enjoy using a variaty of techniques and genres within one book, and again there are stories nested within this book. Set in Tokyo the story follows a country boy on his search to find his father who abandoned his mother before he was born. Now 20, his search brings him to the big city and an unfortunate encounter with the underworld, that may just reveal the secrets to his father's location. Can't recommend this book highly enough. The author spent a number of years out in japan teaching engliish, and he obviously draws richly from his experience out there. Though, i recently read a review of the book stating that it borrowed heavily on ideas from 'norwegian wood' by Haruki Murakami, so i shall have to read that and see.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

bank holiday iv - a new hope

There's a walk called the sheffield round walk. I had heard of it. Where does it start? and where does it go? Interested cos i like sheffield and i wanted a chance to explore some more of the city. Searched the internet and discovered that it wasn't a very round walk when it was first conceived 80 odd years ago, but it has subsequently been 'joined up'. Found the route guide at the millenium galleries on saturday and had it in my mind to try the walk on monday. Weather forecast was pretty poor - rain all day.

woke up on monday - sunlight and wind shaking my window causing me to stir - too early. Tried to sleep again - too light. Read some. Fell asleep. Awoke with my alarm and read some more. And just to the end of the chapter for good measure. Hey - it's not raining, i'll do that walk.

The walk

Drove to hunter's bar (arctic monkeys - fake tales of sanfransisco) and began the walk in endcliffe park. It was quite busy, joggers, dog walkers, kids on bicycles. Fairly straightforward walk alongside the river porter. The river was followed up and up, past forge dam (pulp - the wicker man) and into a wooded area. Fewer people now, and although i'm still in the city limits the only sound is that of birdsong. Followed the river up through porter clough and out at ringinglow by the alpaca farm. Crossed over by the round house and took a path down limb valley, negotiated some cows that seemed as nervous of me as I of them. Remembered my walk by lake niavasha in kenya when i stumpled upon a herd of buffalo. Followed the path into yet another wooded area, used to supply fuel to kilns involved in lead smelting years ago. Never been here before and it was really nice, there were bluebells everywhere. Eventually came out at eccleshall road, amazed to hit civilisation again. Crossed over the road across a playing field and up into eccleshall woods. Another place I've never been, one of englands largest areas of ancient woodland in an urban area. It's a hive of footpaths criss-crossing and again loads of bluebells. Arriving at abbeydale road, pass dore station, crossing the river sheath, and up into ladies spring wood, steep uphill climb. Another ancient woodland, previously a coppice supplying wood for burning. On and on, past beauchief golf course and over to meadowhead. Into Graves park, another area of greenery bestowed upon the town by one of it's famous philantropists. There was some kind of may day event on that appeared to be very busy. Onto the last stretch of the walk, and probably the least walked, heading back towards the city centre. Down through gleadless valley, past bishops house and into meersbrook park. There are some stunning views across the city centre from here. Through the park and into the edge of sharrow/nether edge. Interesting urban demographics here, through highly asian populations, walking up the hill to the more affluent area of the city, skirting brincliffe edge and coming out in the centre of nether edge, with it's mansions - even passing a house with a tennis court! From mansions, down into student digs and back to hunters bar. I don't quite know the distance but i'm sure that's far - i'm sure that's pretty far. Well about 14 mile if the guide is to be believed. Took me about 5 hours with 30min for lunch, though i was sure i was walking faster. The latter part of the journey was fairly difficult to navigate. It's well worth doing - it's amazing the tranquil places nestled in this city.

More pics in my sheffield flickr set