8 Nov 2009

Post 165: Lots more events

Well, frankly, it has been another week where I have probably bitten off a bit more than I can chew given the new me that I struggle to grudgingly accept, by which I mean I think given the level of energy and lack of zest for anything that this imposter masquerading as me has, I am bloody exhausted! Last Sunday in advance of publishing the last nonsense that counts for a blog post I was taken out for coffee by a couple of college friends - Unfortunately, these days caffeine bounces off me, probably something to do with my fondness for the 'Stewdent and long distance lorry drivers favourite' Pro Plus back in my uni days doing all-night essays, fear and caffeine is a heady cocktail and no matter what they say about student life, it is ideal preparation for the world of work! e.g. my politics tutor was terrifying and I'm sure that 'Nosferatu' is still the most accurate way to describe himNeedless to say that despite my fear of him we used to get on famously and wile away long hours trying to get his blood alcohol level up to 200% proof and Nicotine up to dangerous levels, if smoking and drinking were an olympic sport, he would be a gold medalist, (in fact at one point in his life he was apparently an Olympian!) Anyway, I'm in much worse health – perhaps I should have persevered with my drinking and smoking? Maybe not. Anyway my point is is that caffeine appears to be ineffective, sure, it would be unthinkable to start the day without that psycho-somatic assurance that you've gulped down a mug of an insipid drink that has no effect whatsoever. That said there are those lucky b*stards that caffeine still seems to effect , people who say that they had the 'best times of their lives on a combination of alcohol and redbull'. It's so unfair how much redbull costs because lets face it – it tastes like cough medicine. I remember once having a conversation along these lines in a delightful establishment called Turnmills a legendary den of iniquity in Clerkenwell. Alex James, the blur bassist describes it 'as what seems like a network of Sewers' in his autobiography, in these very 'sewers' two close friends of mine bumped into their future wives a good mate of mine met his best mate and eventual best man. not sure whether they should be ashamed or proud of that? Turnmills is sadly(happily) no more. I spent many an hour being a bit of a DJ Trainspotter in that place, it makes me cringe at how I used to hangout in that bunker like DJ booth one day hoping it would be me spinning the tunes – I did play in the 2nd and 3rd rooms but the main room was reserved for people who were actually good!
Anyway, I have digressed yet again, the point I was making was about the ineffectiveness of tea BUT 'the British Empire was built on cups of tea and if you think I'm going into battle without one, you're very much mistaken my friend' so said Bacon in 'Lock, Stock...' a movie that despite it's being made by that fool of a man Guy Ritchie has more classic moments/lines than blowerscommentating on a Bradman century.
For instance the way that the boys nonchalantly walk into a pub past a man on FIRE makes me laugh just thinking about it and the Scousers who 'rob post offices and steal carsare priceless. I only caught a second of it the other night but it is classic. So this was all inspired by caffeine, ironically, not by drinking it, but the people who deserve credit for taking me out for that ineffective coffee in the first place, uni friends Helen VJ and James Renshaw, who came down here on Sunday to save me from the boredom of another Sunday on my own with only the
company of my deranged brain which just can't seem to cut it these days. Hels has been instrumental in helping me organise my life since the stroke and ever the artist (she did English) even cobbled together the logo for the trust. What a heroine!
So, following the lovely but not chemically stimulating coffee and chat I had on Sunday with Helen and James (James and I had a laugh because it turned out our views on who the most unpleasant man in history (apart from Hitler) coincided. I am seriously tempted to publish his name. His magnificence as an *rse was almost beaten by his son (who James happened to go to school with) and I used to square up to in a certain sport I used to play mostly in my schooldays, the likelihood of him reading this is slender and we think his dad is now worm fodder, A notable (and worthy) exception to the rule 'never speak ill of the dead'. I'll probably find out he's alive now!
So, what I was really going to write about: The bites in this so-called oversize mouthful were: Going to Brixton Academy on Monday for a huge Charity gig called 'the Concert for CARE' Now, as far as I can figure out CARE is one of these charities saving the world working in 70 countries and helps 55 million people to find ways out of poverty each year so says the blurb. In principle a noble and worthy cause. In practice a way of getting a bunch of top talent to perform for free while filling a seizable venue on a weekday, the organisers must be laughing, I'll stop there, sometimes I can be too cynical for my own good! The line-up was huge, topped by the Kaiser Chiefs and Gary Barlow and the thing that had primarily drawn my attention to this gig, the excellent stand up of Dara O' Briian. I haven't been to Brixton Academy for a good few years,Probably about 5/6 when I took a group of my friends to go and see The Chemical Brothers when I used to live about 10 minutes walk away, and a few years before when I'd had heinous, unforgivable taste in music to go to a dreadful thing called Earthdance (I think) headlined by a couple of dreadlocked, black latex-clad nutters called Lab 4 music is best described as 'melodic roadworks' and would probably make small children cry, god only knows what I was thinking. My conclusion, apart from having a blinding time (obviously) was that the Academy was a honky venue for dance music and even though the Chemical Brothers are basically a dance act they were much better because the sound they produce (although electronic) feels much more like a live act so the sound and ambience were better and this was proved to me on Monday. The runaway winners were the Kaiser Chiefs who were awesome. Even though their set was predictably short, 'I predict a Riot' and 'Angry Mob' even had me singing and I don't sing. They were utterly brilliant leaving me wondering when and where they're playing next, hmmm we'll see. The pleasant surprise of the night was the Academy which is so much better as a live music venue than as a dance venue. It's basically a huge art-deco theatre space whose accoustics are suited to live music, this was proved beyond question when Irish folk singer/songwriter Damian Rice sang one of his songs totally acoustically. To show their respect the crowd stayed totally quiet and lo and behold it sounded fine, it may not be my kind of music but you take notice of that kind of talent and bravery, just incredible. The pleasant musical surprises continued when big boned (ok fat) funnyman James Cordon belted out 'the spy who loved me' after he'd made everyone laugh before he started by admitting 'this sounded so much better in my head', but the big surprise was how good Gary Barlow had been ' quipped Cordon, 'that man is an Adonis, the best I can hope for is that people imagine me as a fat Gary Barlow', Cordon's rendition of 'the spy who loved me' was good though and I think made everyone realise how challenging and exacting solo singing is, because if you make one slip up everyone knows. There was also James Dean Bradfield, far as I know still lead singer and guitarist for the Manic Street Preachers. I have just remembered admitting being a Manics fan in the first love letter I ever wrote, 25 years ago and I still recall Richie Edwards (the Manic's then bassplayer) carving '4 Real' into his arm with a razorblade. My word, music, love and strange memories transcend serious illness and time. He sang a couple of well known Manics tunes 'if we tolerate this' and 'design for life' - no doubt a talented man but I could have done without him describing 'design for life' as a working class anthem, popstars claiming to be working class or socialists (Morrissey, Maximo Park) winds me up almost as much as Bono lecturing us on 3rd world poverty, or as Jeremy Kyle claiming to understand what it's like living Rough or I'm sorry to say healthy people who say 'I can understand why learning to walk again must be so tiring'. How can they understand it? If they think it's the right thing to say it's a nice try at best.
Anyway, the metaphorical (ie non-existent) prizes for the evening go to Rob Brydon who I can't shake as being a sort of Welsh Alan Partridge) for his amazing impressions of Tom Jones and Hugh Grant (ie you looked away and listened but all you could imagine was that they were actually there instead of the funny little welshman, The Kaiser Chiefs (despite Ricky Wilsons new haircut) were the best band and Dara O'Briian takes the plaudits for making us laugh despite regurgitating almost word for word the set he must use for charity gigs, I had seen him the week before at the Palladium in another charity event. The biggest prize of the lot goes to my friends Anetta and her other half Timmy who at late notice took me to both events, my breath was taken away by their help, I would be nowhere without this sort of kindness. I am grateful to anyone and everyone who takes me out but I was genuinely astounded by the way they braved such complicated itineraries to help me. I am profoundly touched and more than a little humbled.
On Tuesday, for once things did go to plan, I'd bought the tickets back in March for Shameless middle class observational comedian Michael MacIntyre at the Dome. It was a sellout which is always a good sign and it was brilliant, for starters we were in my favourite seats in the dome, all his material was new and my consorts (my brother Chris and friend Sacha were laughing away and they are both fairly discerning about what makes them laugh, unlike me who'll laugh at anything, in fact my best mate Tony just told me a corker, his girlfriend Kate said she thought it was crap. Judge for yourselves:
What's yellow and dangerous?
A banana with a machine-gun. Now that is funny.
Anyway, I'd had Chris and Sacha earmarked for these tickets for months, no last minute disasters and Macintyre was on fire (not an intentional reference to his joke about the Kings of Leon song) His observations were spot on, ones that really made me laugh were about male locker-room etiquette and the fact that he can't play snooker with a straight face because he feels like he's giving a handjob to a bloke standing behind him. Despite being very funny I think he was profoundly grateful to everyone for having come out to see him on a weeknight and humbled by having sold out such a big venue. No lectures on 3rd world poverty here, just gratitude and humility which is what he showed when at the beginning he said 'thanks for coming to the biggest gig of my life'! Saying thankyou is often what it's all about.
Finally, Wednesday, usually my toughest day, two physio sessions, and today needing to find a driver to take me to the Dome again to see scandinavian 80s synthesizer ballad bandits A-Ha. Now I am just old enough to appreciate A-Ha, and believe I even owned their album 'Scoundrel Days' on 12” LP as well as a bunch of their singles on 7” vinyl. Those were the days, when Top of the Pops was king Elton John was so deeply inside the closet he was virtually in Narnia! Anyway, I was supposed to be going with my friends the Dugdales, but along the way some wires got crossed and they couldn't drive me but in the meantime Chris Dugdale (practically a celeb himself by virtue of being a great magician (post 162))
had managed to wangle backstage passes, anyway, the upshot was my lift had dematerialised but my knight in shining armour appeared by surprise, my new housemate Claire who is a breath of fresh air by sticking to compliments and not criticisms had said a few weeks back that her niece Katie might occasionally be able to help out, and so she did even though a-ha are a little too old for her vintage, let's face it, I myself have said the 80s should not be revived. Well a-ha are like Philadelphia to Spandau Ballets Stinking Bishop, both cheese, just one smells a lot stronger, and one could argue that neither keep! Enough of the cheese Metaphor! I wouldn't say it's the best gig I've been too but it certainly wasn't the worst, if I was to try and pick between this and Spandau Ballet, it was like chalk and er........
Anyway, the main thing for me was getting there, and Katie was charming and despite accidentally making a 40 mile detour because we were too busy talking we got there and saw the Dugdale brothers after the gig, the big news is that Will has just got engaged, so huge congratulations to him and his beautiful bride to be Liga on the right, Chris (the magician) is on the left and the lovely Helen 'Hels Bells' Turnbull (erstwhile Exeter College JCR president and great friend of mine and Will's at my 32nd birthday back in March.And finally, thanks to Tony and Kate for bringing me lunch today (Saturday), I'm lucky to have friends like these. This evening Katie has driven to the rescue again to take me to my favourite venue, the Albert Hall to see comedy headcase Russell Brand. will be the 2nd time I have seen him (1st time was back in April - post121), and no matter what my mail-reader mother thinks of him, he's bloody funny.

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