Thursday, 18 December 2008

Stopped and Searched

It is true, I am the dodgiest looking bloke in the world.
I am pure of heart, morally sound and crime free, but even the sight of a policeman makes me feel slightly shifty, and I suddenly develop a Nick Cotton like demeanor, but more cowardly. I become a prime suspect. I don't know why, perhaps I carry the weight of societys guilt. Perhaps I have never fulfilled my promise as a social champion, never became the darling of the downtrodden, because I spent too much time playing crappy computer games from aged 10, and part of me knows that I've wasted the latent talent that simmers beneath the surface. I'm the broth that's never overflowed, my destiny has taken me down another path forever to be greul, but never a lobster bisque.
In a parrallell universe, I bet there is another me, a cross between Michael Mansfield QC, Gandhi and Bruce Willis, much loved by the world. I bet that shitbag has won a nobel peace prize too. But I bet he's never taken Fulham to the champions league final beating AC Milan 4-3 on penalties after extra time, in Football Manager 2008 in a three day marathon without changing his pants once.
And that's why I feel guilty in the face of authority, because I coulda been a contenda, but actually I'm just another loser, one step from a slot on the Jeremy Kyle show.
So when I arrived at Milton Keynes station last week, with my rucksack and overnight bag, wearing my black coat and wooly hat pulled down over my ears, with my beatnik chin beard poking out, shivering in the cold, I noticed (even through the steamed up haze of my jam jar glasses, reacting to the change in temperature) a significant police presence, with semi-automatic guns, dogs and I knew I was going to get pulled. A multitude of commuters were in the station forecourt, and I sighed, my "guilt beacon" activated... I awaited my fate and seconds later...
"Excuse me sir, we are operating under wot is known as the the prevention of terrorism act, and we'd like to look in your bag please. My handsome assistant here will take down your details whilst I look in your bags."
He was polite, courteous and even though he was holding a gun, disarming and even warm. Officials in the UK are well meaning, and from my limited experience of being pulled in various countries :-), the best in Europe. if I was say in Spain, or Italy, or France and I was being asked questions by a policeman or customs officer with a gun, I'd be a lot more nervous.
However, why do coppers all speak in that faux posh clipped vaguely cockney accent? It makes me smile. He didn't bend his knees and say "Evening all" though, which would have been great, but not particularly in place at 7.00am.
The policemans spaniel turned his nose up at me, he had better things to do than check out some nerd waiting for his train.
What was most humiliating, more humiliating than being searched under the anti-terrorism act, more humiliating that trying to make a good fist of it in front of hundreds of commuters by swapping joshing jests with these amiable gents is having to tell them my occupation... it is devastating .... "I'm an IT manager"....... I remember my mate telling me about his experiences on dating websites, girls actually stipulate in their profiles they'd be happy to meet anyone in any occupation... but not IT! Felon.. tick, Cult Leader... tick.. I.T.... NO WAY! Secondly, IT I think is the breeding ground of many a terrorist cell (of any extreme), or the haven of the crazed loner, so they probably felt slightly justified by pulling me... I ticked a lot of boxes :
1. Unshaven
2. Rucksack
3. Glasses
4. IT nerd
5. Dodgy name
6. Perma-tan
IT people... Are we such wankers? The answer is of course, yes! Girls - men who work in IT suck, that's my advice to you.
Oh yes, I was of course clean... the police bade me a good day, and I went on my way!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Smelly Cheese

I purchased this smelly gooey rindy cheese the other day from a nice deli in Woburn Sands, they didn't have my normal supply of galician Chorizo sausages and i felt lost when I got there, so I felt I had to buy something as I had no "plan B" and it would be a dishonorable retreat if I walked out buying nothing. All military commanders should have a plan B. I didn't, and I was angry with myself as now I looked like a shuffling plum in front of the nice lady.
So I thought, I know, I'll buy some cheese from the counter. It looked a bit like brie so i thought it would be a safe bet, and it was only later I discovered the difference being it stinks like a dead cat and costs three times as much.
I'm forcing myself to eat it though, it makes my skin crawl when I open the box it's kept in and touch the grainy rind, and squishy innards of it, seeping milky liquid and bubbling. I'm throwing it away if I can find a secure strong box, it's like a fucking creature that will escape from the fridge and smother me one night. I can hear it breathing.... it's coming...

Friday, 17 October 2008

The Gentleman's Cudgel

Yesterday, I had the journey from hell. Was on a train travelling back from the south coast, was in a customer meeting. There were delays, horrible delays. On the connecting train, approaching East Croydon, my loon beacon activated and a random stranger started talking to me. It happens a lot, I have no control over my loon beacon.

I suppose I brought it upon myself, his cudgel fascinated me. It was made of dark wood, ornately carved from a single piece of branch I guess, with what looked like a large acorn sculpted at the top, the handle or grip I assumed. Except the thing was 8 feet long and the owner had wedged it at an angle so it fitted in the foot rest with the top scraping the roof of the train. I observed this odd implement wondering as to it’s usage. Was he some sort of wizard? Did he harness the power of nature through it? (after dismissing the prospect it was a walking stick, the natural progression in my brain would immediately go to wizards staff instead of something more mundane).
But the gentleman owner suddenly addressed me.
“Do you know, I’ve been waiting on this train for two hours.” His voice had that softly spoken yet perfectly delivered tone and symmetry of one who what acts at Shakespeare. He was audible, crisp and clear, even over the background noise of the train. He was a proper posh luvvy.
“Yes, me too.." I responded politely. "There’s that bottleneck approaching Haywards Heath, only one track was in order.”

He was bald, clean shaven, with a David Niven moustache and wafer thin goatee.
“oh yes.” he replied. Then regaled me with one of his tales, no foreplay or anything, straight in there with an anecdote. “In 1974 I missed a train by mere seconds, then I heard it had ploughed through a crowd of people at Brighton. Many fatalities. It could have been me. When it’s your time, it’s your time. It clearly wasn’t my time that day.”

I didn’t want to entertain a philosophical discussion about fate, whether incidents in life are pre-destined or whether we are in control of our own destinies through the act of free will. It doesn’t interest me, because neither can be proven. If I’d turned my back to him at that moment, and shuffled backwards towards him whilst looking over my shoulder, calculating wind-speed and trajectory, before guffing loudly, would it have been an act of free will? Or would some greater power have it already mapped out. “On this day, Mel will point his posterior towards a posh gent on a delayed train and let out a fruity one. Why? I don’t know. But I’ve predestined it. So it must be…”

So I just replied politely. “Hmmm…” which means “I have no opinion, leave me alone, I’m a rude commuter.”
He then continued. “I’ve saved the lives of 5 people in my life, and two dogs.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yes.” he continued poshly. “I dragged a young lady and her child from a burning building. I can hold my breath in extreme conditions for well over three minutes, but the heat was invading my ears. The pain seared me. But I lived to tell the tale, as you can see.” He grinned waving his leather gloved hand around his face in a graceful manner.
I then lavished praise upon him.
“It’s amazing the courage we can muster at times of great stress” Which clearly was a lie, as using myself as a benchmark, I am a coward in all circumstances.
“indeed!” he said. “And the time I saved a young man from drowning, the press were very jubilant in their headlines. They wrote I dived in fully clothed, but I didn’t you know. I’d have sunk. I had heavy shoes on.”
“I see.” I said.

As I spoke to him, and slowly made more and more eye contact (I don’t do eye contact, I’m like a shifty Columbo type), I noticed actually he was a lot older than he looked. Although his skin was firm with a healthy sheen, not sagging, pock marked or dull, it was covered in liverspots. And his eyes, although full of life, had a dull cloudiness covering the deep blue. He could have been 50, but he was probably nearer 70 or older. He held a deep wisdom, maybe he *was* a wizard?
He was a dapper old goat in anycase. I then pretended to text someone and he gave up on telling me stories about life saving. But it was an interesting chat while it lasted. However, as I got my connection at East Croydon, I felt a pang of guilt for being a shitbag, so I did bid him a safe journey, “you too sir..” he gently replied, raising his leather gloved index finger in acknowledgement, the cool bastard, his whisper as clear as day. You see, I’m not as miserable as all of those other commuters. I’m just socially crippled. I don’t talk to people in any situation. That's the difference.

Moleskine Notebooks

On Wednesday, I was in London, having a work meeting. I left my moleskine notebook (always a good ploy if you want to look like some sort of beatnik muthhafukka cool writer) on the desk. One of my colleagues, who incidentally I’d only just met in that meeting, passed it back to me… “er Mel, is this yours?”. “Yes!” I declared, thinking, “She thinks I am one cool son of a bitch now”, but then I realised….. all sorts of weird shit is written in there. I should have two really, one for work stuff, to jot down meaningless guff in meetings that I then cannot follow when I revisit, scratching my head thinking “what the fuck does that actually mean?”, and a second one, the one that I write my insane ramblings, holding the pen or crayon in my fist and feverishly (tongue out and wild eyed) scrawl my innermost thoughts, be it short story ideas, comedy sketches or sickening doodles of farmyard animals being ripped apart by aliens with heat rays.
I wondered whether she took a peek, not because she was nosey, but she might have been looking for the owner.
So, wincing, I opened my book to see what she might have seen had she opened it at the first page. It reads thus, it is the beginning of a chapter of the novel I’ve been tinkering with for the past ten years. The novel I will never finish, because it's shit.

Ronald Carters journal. "I'm not a mans man, I don't even feel like a man. I'm impotent, unimportant, I'm nothing. A ghost, a voyeur. When I'm not ignored I'm teased or pitied. I get a lot of time to think."

She probably thinks I’m a serial killer now.

Monday, 15 September 2008


A buzzard swept in front of my car this morning, it opened its wings majestically before effortlessly pulling upwards into the air. I felt it was a sign of some sort. It was beautiful. I wonder what buzzards taste of?

Monday, 7 July 2008

Gigs Gigs Gigs

Since my last update..... I've seen Isobel Campbell/Mark Lanegan, Leonard Cohen in Dublin, My Bloody Valentine, The Transmitters and most recently Pentangle.
So here's my update and some photos....
First up, Campbell and Lanegan. Went with Debbie to see them at Shepherds Bush. Playing tracks from their new collaboration as well as a mixture of tracks from their first album and a sprinkling of Lanegan classics. Was great, got there early and got front row Tier 1 seats. Marvellous!
Campbell has pulled together another great album and used the magic of Lanegan's awesome voice, their harmonies complementary...... stunning. And they finished with "Wedding Dress", a Lanegan classic, his bourbon growl leaving me most happy!

Next up, Leonard Cohen, after being robbed blind by his accountant whilst in a bhuddist retreat, the now skint poet and singer songwriter needed this tour. As the O2 was sold out, we flew over to Dublin for 1p return (15 quid with tax!), I expected a downbeat gig, melancholic, reflective, the audience was comprised of all ages, pensioners to young goth girls. The weather looked miserable, clouds swirled and darkened as he began his set and I thought here goes.... But he surprised me, Deb had told me it wouldn't be depressing, his songs *are* full of joy, and I was geniunely moved by the passion, dignity and graciousness of the man. The rain was threatening, and eventually it came, but it didn't matter. For half an hour it poured, and as the clouds cleared, he upped it a level. His lyrics are beautiful, complex without being contrived. He sings of love, sex, religion, the human spirit....well worth seeing him if you ever get a chance.... I am honoured to have been there. He's 74 now, I would hope he would tour again, but this may be the last time I will meet him (he made it feel personal for me...ok!)

My Bloody Valentine at the Roundhouse.... muuurrrghhhhhhhh (that's the sound of me drooling). Extreme shoegazing... I was so excited about this one, was playing both of their albums at ear bleeding volume in the car before the gig as gig training. They were magnificent! I was too young and skint to see them the first time round, so this was kid in a candy shop time. Got seats and saw them with John from work. I would reccomend seats at the roundhouse, a couple of dodgy pillars can restrict the view of the stage, but the views are pretty much clear from any seat.
And so it began, Bilinda Butcher at one end of the stage, Kevin Shields at the other, dwarfed by mega-sized amps, almost lazilly thrashing out their melodic noise onslaught, harmonising their vocals and building up the wall of sound that crashed into us wave after wave. One reviewer described Butcher as looking like she was doing the dishes, a little faraway smile on her face. It was reverb, pitch bending and shearing metal, but underneath it all, glorious pop songs. The rythym section in the middle was more animated, Debbie Googe side on to the stage bouncing around and bludgeoning her bass and Colm O'Ciosoig battering the shit out of his kit.
It was wonderful. Feed Me With Your Kiss was a highlight for me, so much more to it live, and it's a big tune already! Apparantley they were handing out ear plugs before the gig. Missed out on that, but being in seats I was lucky to be far enough away for it not to be uncomfortable when they finished with You Made Me Realise. Being a newbie to the live experience, I had no idea I was to witness a traditional 25 minute white noise, one chord frenzy. On the Friday and Saturday I am told they played this for 15 minutes, we got the 25 minute special :)
It was like the military were testing a new sound weapon, people were wincing and dropping like flies, leaving the auditorium. It was like having your fillings electrocuted, your ears gouged out with a spanner and your chest pounded by four gorrillas fighting over a sledgehammer. I didn't quite see anyone's head explode, but the guy sitting in front of us, a middle aged man who was moments before swapping tongues with his wife, was suddenly holding his head and writhing in some noise-induced-sado-masochistic ecstacy. His wife (embarrassed) sort of shuffled across to an empty seat, (vacated by a noise casualty) and twiddled her thumbs until her hubby calmed down enough to stop his mind-wank. I know I shouldn't laugh, but I did, heartily, and as it was so loud, no one could hear me scream.
Here is a youtube link to the carnage. I will look forward to their new album, my ears are now thankfully tinitus free.
My Bloody Valentine White Noise Onslaught
Who next? The Transmitters, my second time to see the Transmitters, this time at a fave venue of mine the Water Rats. Good to see Matt before the gig, and Gloria the new singer was great, did justice to the established songs and made her mark with the new too. Glad to see the band won the war of nerves and played through Dirty Sister in the dark until the lights came back on!
Here's some pics. First up, me, Bossman and Laura Bossman cheesing it up! I've got 5 chins in this though. I must sort out my fitness!

Finally, if you are still awake, I was excited about seeing the Folk-Jazz-Blues supergroup of the 60's and early 70's, Pentangle. This was their reunion tour. 40 years to the day, they played Queen Elizabeth Hall, and here they were again. Me and Deb were joined by Sue (it was her b'day pressie having been present at the first gig 40 years previously) and her friend Annie.
And they were great, it was the classic line up, John Renbourn and Bert Jansch are two of the best blues/folk guitarists around, backed up by the tight jazz duo of Terry Cox on drums and Danny Thompson on upright bass, who he affectionately calls Victoria, he's had her over 50 years! Thompson is a bit of a legend, he's worked with many seminal artists (John Lee Hooker, Tim Buckley, Kate Bush, Nick Drake, John Martyn, David Sylvian to sprinkle a few names) and I was surprised and pleased to hear he sessioned on Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk, probably one of the finest albums ever written.
And on vocals Jacqui Mcshee, who's voice seems to have got better with age.
An example of their work here....
Travelling Song by Pentangle
And how they look today (I would have taken more photos but we were "encouraged" not to, on pain of medieval torture)

Saturday, 17 May 2008

The Black Angels @ the ICA

Was great to hook up with Bossman for my first gig in ages. Been busy recently though, what with being a married man, going on honeymoon and having a haircut. It seems whenever we go to a gig, it p8sses down, this was no exception!
First up were the Sian Alice Group, really liked them, multi-instrumentalists, at times bluesy, at times, quietly beautiful. Will be buying their album.

Then up came the Black Angels, haven't heard their new album yet, it's on my list, but Passover, their first album, is a rocking psychedelic masterpiece. Live, they are even better. Expert musicians, with many indulgent blissfully loud overdriven moments of guitar mayhem, the occasional organ and the heartbeat bass / drums thumping through your chest, it was a breathtaking experience.
They played for nearly an hour an a half I think, and never a dud moment. Some pics.

oh yeah, and obligatory shot of me and Bossman. I look slightly more crazy than normal in this one.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Being Electrocuted

As I was readying myself to watch Jools Holland last night, excited about seeing Pentangle *and* the Gutter Twins on the same show..... I reached behind the cabinet to plug the bedroom telly in, but little did I know the back had fallen off the plug, and as I shoved it into the slot, the previously inert exposed copper wiring was now alive with electricity.
A surge shot through my body and threw me backwards. I felt the intense pain and heat. I held my arm in front of me, wide eyed, gasping for breath. At times like these, superpowers are born. I thought of Spider Man's foe, Electro, who got beaten up all the time, he was a bit rubbish to be honest. Electro - aka Max Dillon, whose backstory was thus :
"While he was repairing a power line, a freak lightning accident resulted in a mutagenic change in his nervous system, transforming Dillon into a living electrical capacitor. Taking the name Electro, he turned to a life of a professional criminal"

As I reeled back, beads of cold sweat trickled down my forehead I looked at my shaking hand. The middle finger of my right hand tingled and burned. And partly shocked, partly acutely aware of my new found powers, a feverish grin splashed across my face. I pointed my middle finger towards the cat, hoping to stick a few volts up her with a lightning bolt. I readied myself for hysterical laughter and a life of criminality. Nothing happened.
So instead I ran it under the tap and got Debbie to kiss it better and watched Jools Holland.
It's still a bit sore today, and there are some distinct if rather tiny melted bits on the tip of my finger.
Perhaps my powers are building within me, who can tell. That moment when I yelped like a girl and jumped in the air with a camp flourish may come back to haunt you all. Melectro is born! Muahahahahahahahahahah!!!!

Friday, 18 January 2008

New Years Resolutions

Happy new year.
Here are my resolutions
1) Learn some Spanish.
2) Finish some more short stories. (I'm writing one about intelligent cows visiting Earth at the moment - it's better than it sounds)
3) Send short stories to publishers.
4) Have Will Self say I'm a shit writer in a review should someone decide to publish me.
5) Have fight with Will Self outside the Ivy and smash him in the hooter then run away
6) Have Will Self chase me down Oxford Street before giving me a posh shoeing near Marble Arch.
7) Claim Will Self was lucky. That I could take him anytime.
8) Sell my story for 1 million pounds to Hello magazine. Have them zoom in on my puffy bruised eyes.
9) Get a makeover, courtesy of hello magazine.
10) Have a fight with Trinny and Susannah. Smash the skinny one when she's not looking, before the macho one takes me down and kicks me in. (I don't know which is which)
11) Sell my story for 1 million pounds to Ok! magazine.
12) Buy some shoes with the money.
13) Get a tattoo of some crows or ravens.
14) Find myself a Greek Orthodox Priests outfit. I think the easiest way is to study to be a priest, but I can't wait so many years. I just want the clothes man! And that cool insence burner you flail at people. And an olive branch to splash holy water on everyone with. And an entourage.
15) Hunt vampires dressed as a Greek Orthodox Priest.
16) If I meet a real vampire, try and blag him that I'm a real priest.
17) Shave... more often.
18) Listen to more Radio 6. "Discover" some bands before they are famous. Go to a few well chosen gigs (i'm going to cut down, I live too far from London, I'm too old to do this 3 times a month stuff)
19) Go to more art exhibitions. (Been to Millais and Louise Bourgeois recently with Deb, both excellent)
20) Try and understand wine a bit better, I have a huge nose, it should just be a precursor to being an expert, why can't I tell the difference between hock and sancerre? It's not fair.
21) Visit more countries.
22) Discover a new species of lizard.
23) Eat new species of lizard then realise it was the last one in the world and I am personally responsible for its extinction.
24) Sell my story to hello magazine.
25) Score a goal with my right foot.
26) Keep fit and healthy.
27) Find somewhere comfortable in London where I can smoke a narkileh like an ottoman sultan on some huge cushions, clap my hands and summon a muscular oiled eunuch with ostrich feathers to fan me down and belly dancers to do my bidding.
I think that is all for now, I will review in June and mark my progress.