Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 137: This football management lark...

Today's soundtrack: Fleetwood Mac - Live in Boston (Volume 1)

This football management lark is in severe danger of taking over my life. I knew it would - it's happened before (and no doubt it will happen again). The problem is that you need a good deal of time to get into a routine - something I've plenty of at the moment. It just doesn't work in fifteen minute spells, you need to be able to devote hours, nay days, of your time to the damn thing.

Which is what I did today, primarily. Still hanging in there, as we move into December, but half the team are now attracting the attention of bigger teams. Not sure why, as by and large they are playing like dogs, but somehow I'm in the quarter finals of the League Cup, where I'm about to be knocked out by Chelsea, it looks like I'll get through the group stages of the UEFA Cup (or whatever its called now) - following an excellent away draw at AC Milan (battered them for most of the game, took the lead, then conceded a raggy equaliser at the death). In fact, if it wasn't for some very ropey league form (languishing in 13th place at the moment) all would be fine. Perhaps I'll just let all these overpaid primadonnas go, and spend the money on a bunch of keen kids who actually want to play for me. Or not.

So that was my day, how was yours?

Actually, that's not quite true, I did do a couple of other things in and around my footballing activities. I finally caught up with my ex-boss regarding this job opportunity - as is often the case, we seem to have a number of agencies each claiming some degree of 'exclusivity' with the company offering the job, which kind of makes it difficult to know who you should really be dealing with. Probably best to have some contact with them all, making it clear who you have spoken to, and letting them deal with the conflicts. Anyway, details are going to be passed on - let's see where this one gets to!

Baked myself a seeded spelt loaf this week for lunchtime sandwiches, so headed off to the local farm shop for something nice to stick on top. Picked up some tasty pastrami, posh coleslaw, posh cheeses - and bacon and sausage for the weekend fry-up.

I also picked up some Eccles Cakes. And now I'm going to let you into a little secret. A secret recipe that will initially appal you, but which will delight and amaze you if you have the courage to try it out.

It is this.

Take your Eccles Cakes (I would assume more than one would be necessary) and warm up using your favoured approach to warming said cakes. Probably the oven, but maybe under the grill or even in the microwave.


Then do this.

Cut yourself a big slice of Stilton Cheese and stick it on top of the Eccles Cake. Stick under a grill so the cheese melts.

Eat with gusto.

Trust me - it's a taste sensation. How do I know this? Well there used to be (and for all I know, still is) a pub in Liverpool City Centre that served this on its lunchtime menu. I was in there with some fellow accountants, oh, probably twenty years ago now, and was persuaded to try the Eccles Cake/Cheese combo against, it has to be said, my better judgement. But I did, and it was lovely.

Try it and tell me I'm wrong.

The Fleetwood Mac on the soundtrack today is not the stega-rich, cocaine-hoovering supergroup of the late '70s and early '80s - rather, it is the original band, fronted at the time by Peter Green, wonderful guitarist but eventual drug casualty. This is volume one of three CDs, recorded live in Boston in 1970. I think they are bootlegs, but may actually have had a semi-official release at some stage. Whatever, the sound quality is fantastic, as is the music and the guitar playing. This version of Fleetwood Mac is the one that released such wonderful tracks as Man of the World, Albatross and Black Magic Woman, and shows up the more contemporary version of the band for the easy listening borefest that they are. Extremely rich and self-satisfied borefest, but there you go.

Happily Peter Green, although still somewhat fragile, is a lot healthier than he has been, and does now perform on stage on an intermittent basis. Worth catching if you can.

This is Peter and the Mac in happier days - Man of the World, recorded live (vocals anyway, backing sounds like the original) for the BBC. Quite possibly the most beautiful, saddest song ever recorded.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 136: Football's a cruel mistress...

Today's soundtrack: LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem

I could resist the siren call no longer. Was it the impending start of the new football season that dragged me back, or the potential for a new computer to handle the 3D graphics without st-st-stuttering? Or the box, sat enticingly next to the computer, Mourinho-alike on the cover giving me the come-on?

Or, most likely, the long day stretching ahead of me, jobbing and blogging out of the way by early morning?

Whatever. I slid the silver disc into the drive, waited for the game to load, and once more I was no longer Paul Waring, unemployed mild-mannered accountant, but Paul Waring, unknown football manager blithely promising my chairman that qualification for European competition through my eventual league placing was not only possible, but practically guaranteed.

And it all started so well. An unbeaten pre-season performance, including wins over Benfica, Anderlecht and Ajax suggested we would hit the ground running come the real thing. Sadly it was not to be. A tight (and undeserved) 3-4 reverse at Middlesborough was followed by a succession of 0-0 draws home and away as Jo and Saha flattered to deceive upfront and my team of expensive mercenaries decided they couldn't motivate themselves sufficiently under my management. Luckily, wins in Europe and in the League Cup (against, admittedly, far inferior opposition) is keeping the team together and goals from, of all people, Victor Anichibe, mean we enter October improving steadily from a poor start. Although 14th position needs to be improved upon rapidly if I am to make it to the next transfer window still in a job!

In other news, the real Everton continued this season's preparations with a win (on penalties) against an MLS select eleven - not a bad achievement, as the first team from England to beat the MLS in pre-season in the last seven years. And at the time of writing, Joleon Lescott is still an Everton player, despite continuing overtures from Man City. Which can only be a good thing.

Dragged myself away from the computer screen to have a long chat with Simon in Southampton, who seems to be getting some positive noises from the local job market - here's hoping! I also managed - by virtue of leaving my mobile on 'mute' after my trip to the job centre on Tuesday - to miss a succession of calls from my old boss about one of the opportunities I mentioned earlier this week. So maybe - just maybe - there are some hints of movement in the job market for us poor souls!

Oh, and I should point out - in relation to yesterday's comments - that it would appear that my recollection of the Pretty Woman affair is (probably) correct - I did buy the disc for my lovely wife, purely to obtain one song she wanted on her iPod. This must have been before the advent of the iTunes Music Store though - my usual source for the odd (in both senses of the word!) songs Mrs W asks me to track down from time to time...

I would also add (Mr Day) that I proudly own the greatest hits of Wham! - on both vinyl and CD, and also confess to more than a couple of Girls Aloud tracks lurking in the collection somewhere. Nowt wrong with a a bit of pure pop from time to time - especially when sung by hot young totty (ahem). Which also gives me the excuse to post one of my favourite t-shirt slogans of the summer, spotted at Glastonbury once or twice this year...

Harsh indeed, but fair, I feel!

Mrs W came to her senses this evening, realising that a bowl of soup and a chunk of Italian bread, no matter how lovingly prepared and tasty it might be, does not a decent evening meal make. So tonight it is haddock fillets, baked in a citrus sauce, accompanied by potato croquettes and stir-fried vegetables. And a cheeky bottle of white. So normal order is restored once again, happily!

Despite owning a couple of their albums, LCD Soundsystem mean very little to me. Loosely dumped in my 'Electronica/Dance' genre in iTunes, they actually transcend this classification by covering a range of styles, aided by a series of collaborations with other artists. More than a touch of Talking Heads in this one, the snappily-entitled "Daft Punk is Playing at My House"

Right, off now to get the team ready for the next game, home to ManYoo (gulp...)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 135: Pane Italiano!

Today's soundtrack: Various Artists - Pretty Woman Soundtrack

Oh dear. Before you say anything, it's not mine. Honest. There are nearly four and a half thousand albums in my iTunes collection. Around 4,400 of these are mine. Probably less than 100 belong to Mrs W. This is one of those albums. But, in the spirit of taking things as they come, the soundtrack to Pretty Woman is what I have to listen to today whilst typing this blog.

It will be a short one today, I promise you.

To be fair, as I peruse the tracklist, I can see Roy Orbison, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, David Bowie and Robert Palmer. But then I can also see Roxette, Go West, Peter Cetera and Lauren Wood. And the unsettling image of Julia Roberts is hovering eerily at the back of my mind. What is it about Julia Roberts? I have severe doubts about her acting ability and find her singularly unattractive, yet she can apparently command higher fees per film than just about anyone out there. Is it all down to a big mouth and a set of shiny, even teeth? What am I missing?


Signing on day today, so off to Warrington for the fortnightly reminder of why I have to get a job sooner rather than later. Bit of a trial today, no fights to avoid, but for some reason they were heavily understaffed and those staff who were signing on us 'customers' also appeared to be training other staff - and taking twice as long as they normally would as a result. But after about a half hour wait, and being mildly patronised by a fourteen year old (possibly) member of the Job Centre team, I made good my escape.

At least things seem to be progressing with yesterday's headhunter - although holidays are holding back one of the opportunities, it looks like I might be getting an interview with the firm of accountants I mentioned yesterday. Will keep you all posted.

Took the opportunity today to clog up the new computer with all manner of games I had lying around today, so prepare to be regaled with stories of my attempts to manage Everton to a respectable position in the league soon. Whilst doing so, I found an old version of Microsoft Office that I managed to register and install. Spent a frustrating hour or two trying (and failing) to import my calendar details from Thunderbird into Outlook until I gave up and re-entered everything manually. I only bothered because my iPhone will only recognise, and sync with, the Outlook calendar. Still, I now have all my appointments (such as they are) in my iPhone, which should be convenient.

Mrs W is currently enjoying the renewed vigour that comes with recent gym membership, and translating that into a desire for healthy food in the evening rather than a plate of stodge and a bottle of wine. As a result, we had one of my Carrot and Coriander soups for tea tonight (recipe here) - but accompanied by some home-made Foccacia. This basically uses the pizza dough recipe I've been using for the home made pizzas I've been raving about here, but this time rolled and shaped into a rectangle, and sprinkled with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, olive oil, and rock salt and crushed peppercorns.

I'd show you a picture but it didn't last long enough. Very yummy, but the rock salt did give us both a raging thirst which, to our credit, was not slaked with a liter of sauvignon.

Right, I might have to listen to some old squit today, but I'm not going to impose the same rubbish on you. Instead, have some of this - it's the video for 'Just a Day' by Feeder and is possibly the most joyous thing on YouTube. Pulled together using footage of fans miming in their bedroom to the track, it cracks me up every time. Check out the two Japanese lads about thirty seconds in!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 134: The Hunter!

Today's soundtrack: The Kane Gang - The Miracle of The Kane Gang

Dragged early from my bed this morning to deal with The Hunter, (otherwise known as Pedro, Pedders or Pedderoni Pepperoni) who had decided to bring in a little vole (or was it a shrew?) to play with. Luckily, Mrs W had managed to cover the vole with the Tupperware box that doubles as a critter rescuer. This seemed to excite Pedro still further - he probably thought we'd helped him trap his new playmate for his entertainment...a notion that was summarily put to rest when he was thrown and locked in the living room while I took Mr Vole into the garden to be released into the wild, where he could take his chances. Unfortunately I was dressed only in a dressing gown to perform this delicate operation - a dressing gown that was not particularly securely fastened at the front, and which threatened to fly open at the slightest provocation. This was a touch difficult to deal with, both hands being engaged in keeping the vole under wraps until I got to the edge of the garden. Luckily I managed to preserve both my dignity and the vole's existence (in the short term at least) without further incident.

Pedro's getting a touch too good at this hunting lark - this is two voles, one mouse and a bird that have found their way into the house in the last week or two. Admittedly one of the two voles had been dead for some time when it found its way into the downstairs loo, but all the other critters were alive and kicking on their introduction to Waring Towers (and hopefully remained so for sometime after their release).

I think a bell is in order if things don't improve! At least he is finding all the entertainment he needs at the back of the house and has not been tempted further afield...yet!

Took a call from a headhunter this morning - something I though had gone away back in March appears to be back on the agenda again, and another opportunity with a national firm of accountants also appears to be imminent. So my CV is back out there and - hopefully - will get the attention it needs for one or both of these vacancies.

Oh, the postman knocked on the door as well today. Remember the poncho and shemagh I ordered a while ago, in plenty of time for Glastonbury and Latitude? Well they arrived today. A week after the end of Paul's festival season. They will do the job though. Next year.

After lunch, which comprised yesterday's leftover tacos (very nice too!) it was up to Preston, to drop Son No 2 off at his girlfriend's house. No need for the satnav, he insisted, I know the way!

Which he did. Kind of.

Back home then, to a quiet house to catch up on some blogging and some reading. I'm now reading 'Crosstown Traffic' by the great rock journalist Charles Shaar Murray. Ostensibly a biography of Jimi Hendrix, it gets the 'life story' over very quickly, before moving on to the far more interesting discussion of Hendrix's place in '60s culture, as a black man working in an essentially 'white' oeuvre, as an ex-paratrooper during the Vietnam war, and of course as the greatest guitarist who ever lived.

The Kane Gang were, briefly, on the verge of success and recognition in the mid '80s - success and recognition that ultimately passed them by despite a couple of cracking singles and a strong (if patchy) first album. They were on the Kitchenware label, home of a number of similarly melodic and intelligent bands, including Prefab Sprout, The Daintees and Hurrah! amongst others. Essentially a white soul band, the lack of a charismatic front man (or, you could argue, any charisma at all) ultimately stood against them at a time when image was all.

Despite the quality of their material.

'The Miracle of' is a two-cd collection released recently on CD, that brings together their first album (called, simply, 'Miracle', and which I have lurking on vinyl somewhere) with various singles and b-sides.

Their biggest non-hit was 'Closest Thing To Heaven' which was released to general indifference on more than a couple of occasions - but it is still a great example of mid-'80s blue-eyed soul.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 133: Family Ties

Today's soundtrack: Various Artists - Pocket Jukebox

Family Stuff today, what with Son No 2 spending the day with us after last night's concert. While Mrs W headed off to the gym to help preserve her curves, The Boy and I headed across to Rock Ferry to see the ageing grandparents. As always, nice to spend some time with my Mum and Dad, listening to the banter and bickering that has sustained their marriage over the last fifty-odd years. And, of course, to get fed and to pick up on the family gossip. One of my aunts has been spending the last few days in hospital with breathing difficulties, possibly brought about by living an an old, damp, smoky house surrounded by an ever-changing menagerie of cats and dogs. No surprise, perhaps, that her difficulties have eased significantly while she has been in hospital - the only concern is that the difficulties will return when she goes back the full knowledge that if the above factors are indeed relevant to her breathlessness, she'd prefer to be breathless than to remove the source(s) of the problem! I'd probably do exactly the same in her situation though, so who am I to talk?

Read through some schoolbook and reports produced by my nephew and niece while we were, they are good! In particular, my nephew (currently 10) had produced a piece of work (describing an Indian wedding) that I could never have produced at his age (or, to be honest, when I was much older). There's a lot of talk about declining educational standards compared to 'my day' - well, I'm not seeing it on the evidence of the two younger Warings!

Back home, via Tesco's, as we needed to pick up a few 'essentials' for the evening - with The Boy stopping over, our original planned tea was never going to be sufficient so we needed some tacos to bulk out the night's offering - eaten in front of a typically average weekend DVD (Vacancy 2, if you must. Motel room used for peeping-tommery and general slaughter and mayhem. Characters 'offed' in routine order and the bad man lives to justify the sequel).

Early night, leaving Son No 2 in charge of ransacking my music collection and utilising my downloading capacity to his heart's content.

Pocket Jukebox was one of a number of cassettes released by the NME back in the '80s. Long before the days when free CDs were attached to music magazines as a matter of course (long before CDs, come to that) the NME used to have occasional offers for the readership to buy compilation cassettes. I seem to recall vouchers needed to be collected as well. Most were collections of contemporary recordings, but Pocket Jukebox was issued in conjunction with - I think - the Charly record label and included a raft of old soul and blues classics from the likes of Nina Simone, Robert Parker, Lee Dorsey and others. Unlike most of the NME cassettes, Pocket Jukebox was later released in extended form on CD, which is what I am listening to at the moment. The quality o material is consistently high and introduced me to a lot of stuff I'd have struggled to come across ordinarily. As such, if you can find a copy, it's well worth the investment...although you might struggle - I can't find a copy available on either Amazon or eBay at the moment.

And you're not having mine!

One of the less well known songs on the album is George Perkins' 'Cryin' in the Streets'. Here is the inevitable YouTube clip, with some especially poignant images that sit perfectly with the song. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 132: Fireworks!

Today's soundtrack: Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady

Kept myself to myself this morning, as the girls slowly recovered from their night out last night.

My turn tonight!

Drove over to Huddersfield to pick up Son No 2 from his student house - we were off to see the temporarily-reformed Pele in Liverpool tonight at the Academy. I managed to find my way to his house without getting lost or caught out by one of Huddersfield's millions of speed cameras, and was pleased to see the house looking reasonably neat and tidy. For a student house, anyway. Naturally the sink was stacked with dirty dishes, but worksurfaces were still largely visible and there were only one or two old pans on the stove! Let's see what it looks like in a term or two's time!

We headed off to Liverpool in plenty of time, intending to have a bite to eat when we got there. After parking up by the academy, we wandered down to the food outlets in Liverpool One, where there was plenty to choose from - amongst hundreds of people with the same idea. What credit crunch?

After perusing the various menus, we settled upon the 'Gourmet Burger Kitchen', which was a new one on both of us. The restaurant works on the same principle as Nando's - ie you choose your food and order (and pay for) it yourself at the counter, after which it is served at your table. We had some little nibbly chicken bites to start, followed by a Cajun burger for The Boy and a Bacon/Avocado burger for yours truly, with portions of the nicest chips I've had in a restaurant for a goodly while. All very tasty, quick and relatively cheap - worth checking out if you can find one.

I did turn into my dad for a while though - when our drinks were served I had a real 'is that a boy or a girl?' moment with the server. Initially convinced it was a boy (hence my 'thanks mate' when my beer landed in front of me) I got flustered when I realised it just might be a be fair, I don't think Matt was sure either...

Suitably fuelled, we took the time to visit 'Everton 2' for just long enough to confirm that the new home kit is hopelessly, irredeemably, naff, before heading up to the Academy for doors at seven. We were just a touch too early, so stood outside the front cracking on to the roadie and saying hello to Ian Prowse, as he came up looking for the Chilean reporter who was there to interview him. Were Pele massive in Chile back in the day? Who knows?

First in when the doors opened (pathological fear of missing support acts instilled when staying too long in the pub in 1980, thus managing to miss my one and only chance of seeing Joy Division), we had a beer and sat, essentially, by ourselves in the bar until the first support came on - by which time there were probably about 16 of us in the club. So if this band make it big in years to come and everyone claims to have been at the early Liverpool gig - trust me, they weren't.

Not that that's likely to happen, although they were pretty good. Called The Verdict (a great name for a Liverpool band, if only for the way it sounds with a strong accent) they were a punchy three-piece with some tight songs that never outstayed their welcome. The inclusion of a few bars of 'Eton Rifles' mid-set gives some indication of their influences, although in fairness they were more punky than modish. Give them a listen here.

Next up were The Bo Weevils, another local band with a pretty good local following. It seems that tonight was originally meant to be 'their' gig, until the gig was combined with the Pele reunion, hence a fair few tickets had been sold directly to their fan base. So a good reception for the band, who delivered a shortish set notable for some remarkable guitar playing, harmonica and harmonised vocals. And for being bloody loud. I'd definitely give them another go, see what you think here.

And so to the main event. This is, loosely, a twenty year reunion for Pele, comprising just two shows in Liverpool and London. Although dimly aware of the band at the time, they really came into focus through my obsession with Amsterdam, the band formed by Ian Prowse some years after Pele split up and who still incorporate a few Pele numbers in their set. But this was the real deal, the original five piece reunited and on stage together for the first time in years.

We'd taken up our usual speck in the Academy, on the barrier to the left of the stage, a great spot (although the bass speakers we are essentially leaning on can ripple your flares at times) to view the action.

So could the group roll the years back and deliver? Oh yes, most definitely! Once used to seeing Prowsey on stage without his usual crew (and without the usual 'Intro'), it was a blast. Opening with 'Don't Worship Me, it was a ninety minute blast through the Pele songbook with all the hits (including South African number one, Megalomania) and a few less obvious selections. Highlights included a passionate Fat Black Heart, the audience participation through 'Fair Blows The Wind For France' and 'Fireworks', a gentle 'Policeman', and the explosion of joy and passion that is 'Raid The Palace'.

Tired and exhausted, we drove home (via Mackenzie's final resting place on Maryland). Great gig, great night.

Here's the original video for 'Raid The Palace'. Happier, simpler times! Oh, and get your haircut, Prowsey!

Buzzcocks on the soundtrack to all this, another band that fit joy and passion into their songs with aplomb. Singles Going Steady is just that - a collection of all their early 'A' and 'B' sides on one disc. Quality control is stupendous, with not a bad song on the album. Here's a quick taster - punk really did not get any better than this:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 131: Is This England?

Today's soundtrack: Mighty Diamonds - Deeper Roots

Started the day with a raft of housework today, changing beds and cleaning floors in anticipation of our houseguest, a colleague of Mrs W's. The girls are out on a 'works do' tonight, so I get control of the remote (for once!)

I also had to stay around the house today, following a letter from the water company regarding our water meter - a water meter I had no idea we had, nor where such a thing might be located if we did, indeed, have one. As is the norm, there was no set appointment time - 'sometime between one and five', the letter said. The letter stressed it was very important that I was around to give the water man access, so I positioned myself in the lounge with a view of the street, ready to answer the door when needed (we've a fickle doorbell, and I didn't want to miss the man when he turned up).

Sure enough, at two thirty, a big white van pulled up outside. The water man got out, went straight to an inspection hatch on the pavement outside our house, lifted the cover, unscrewed a metal cylinder about the size of my fist, replaced said cylinder with a new cylinder, got back into his van, filled in a few forms and drove off. Never got as far as the drive, let alone the front door.

At least I know where the water meter is now.

Dropped the ladies off in town, then back home to settle down in front of the telly with a Sainsbury's curry (lamb rogan josh, since you ask - very nice too, with some chick pea curry on the side and a plate of chapatis), a nice bottle of Cabernet and Shane Meadow's 'This Is England' in the DVD player.

I've had This Is England for a while now, but never got round to watching it. It always promised to be a touch depressing and unsympathetic - back in the day, probably like everyone of my age, I'd had one or two run ins with gangs of skinheads...let's just say they were never my youth tribe of choice! That said, I'd heard lots of good stuff about the film so thought, in the absence of a better alternative, to give it a go.

And I was so glad I did. The recreation of post-Falklands Thatcherite England was spot on, and the film was a lot more sympathetic and heartwarming than I expected - albeit with a simmering violence not far below the surface - that exploded dramatically at the film's climax. Plenty of strong performances, not least from Stephen Graham, in the role of Combo, the racist, violent skin recently released from prison. Watching the film, he looked strikingly familiar from other films, but I couldn't place him at all and it was only after consulting the IMDB that I realised he had played 'Tommy' in 'Snatch'. I'd never have made that connection - not least because, although clearly a scouser in This Is England (and real life, born in Kirkby), he produced a faultless (to my ears anyway) cockney accent in Snatch. Having a full head of hair probably helped, as well!

All in all an excellent film and I'm glad I got round to watching it. If you can get past the grim subject matter, I'd recommend it to you all as well. Although set in 1983, are their parallels for today's situation? No skins, but economic decline, the rise of the racist right, the aftermath of a distant war? Is this still our England?

Let's hope not.

With synchronicity at work, a touch of reggae on the soundtrack today from The Mighty Diamonds. Not the most famous of reggae bands in this country, although their 'Right Time' is one of the classics of the genre. Deeper Roots was released in 1979, and in my version comes with a separate album containing dub versions of the main album. And mighty fine it is too. My copy is a snide internet download - but I'm not sure how readily available the disc is in the shops anyway.

And through the magic of YouTube, here they are in Channel One Studios performing Long Time. Ridim!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 130: What's wrong with Thursday?

Today's soundtrack: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland

So I'm dicking around on the internet, when a message pops up from Son No.2, asking me to come up with - no cheating, now - song titles for each day of the week. Piece of piss, I thought.

Manic Monday;
Ruby Tuesday;
Wednesday Week,
Thursday.....err...let's come back to that one;
Friday On My Mind;
Saturday's Kids;
Gloomy Sunday.

Eventually I had to cheat. The only two songs I've got in my collection with 'Thursday' in the title are amongst the most obscure - 'Thursday' by The Fatima Mansions, and 'Thursday Night Drinking Song' by Alun Parry. All the other days of the week - no problem, although to be fair, Tuesday and Wednesday aren't particularly well served.

It's all to do with the weekly cycle, I suppose. Friday and Saturday - all about anticipation, or enjoyment, of the weekend. Sunday - weekend's over, back to work. Monday - bugger, I'm back at work (or school) and I don't like it. In that context, what is there to write about regarding the midweek period? Precious little, I suppose. Unless you're Craig David, of course, who had a more interesting weekly pattern than most of us.

So....any good Thursday songs out there? Answers on a postcard, please. Or put them in the 'comments' section below. Less faffing about.

Given that my current weekly cycle doesn't follow the norm at the moment, what did I get up to on this (not so) fine Thursday then? Well, reader, I did handyman stuff! One of those jobs I've been putting off for ages, but which had to be done as we have a house guest this evening. One of the pieces of coving in the spare bedroom had fallen down a while ago and has been sitting, accusingly, on top of the curtains (well, that boxy thing that sits over the top of the curtains, anyway - what are they called? Answers on a postcard etc) waiting for me to do something about it. Like stick the thing back up.

What's the point of coving anyway? Why do we need curvy bits of...wood? plaster? MDF? snaking round the wall/ceiling interface? It's fine if it just sits there, minding its own business, but when it falls off, it gives me work to do that I wouldn't otherwise have!

Anyway. A while ago, my dad had given me a bag of grey powder which, when mixed with water, turns into a sloppy paste designed especially for the sticking of coving to the wall/ceiling. So we mixed it up, allowed it to 'settle', slapped globs onto the edge of the coving and held the (heavier than it looks) coving into place. And, wonder of wonders, it stayed there! (and is still there, at the time of writing).

Some of the other pieces look to be on the verge of making a bid for freedom, however.

I can't recall whether Jimi has appeared on the soundtrack before, but I'm glad he has. Genius is a much abused word when it comes to 'rock' musicians, but Jimi deserved the title more than most. Dying at the ridiculously young age of 27, he could do things with an electric guitar that defied belief, using distortion, feedback and effects to extend the capabilities of the instrument to a level that has not been attained by anyone since. Electric Ladyland may well be his masterpiece, a sprawling double album that incorporates blues, rock, psychedelia and soul. I really liked the original cover (ahem) when I was a young impressionable lad as well, although that seems to have been replaced by a more innocuous design in the re-release programme!

Here's Jimi in Atlanta, playing Voodoo Chile from Electric Ladyland. Bear in mind there's only one guitarist on show here - no backing tracks, no studio effects - one man and his guitar. Jaw-dropping stuff!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 129: Blogjam!

Today's soundtrack: Miles Davis - A Tribute to Jack Johnson

It's no good going away for a week and then having to catch up on your self-imposed blogging discipline, especially when you've got so much to write about! I spent most of today getting up to date with my blog, pulling the final strands of my Latitude thoughts together and trying to get back into the swing of the daily routine. Eventually, I got there - and congratulations to you if you managed to get up to date with things as well!

Spent the rest of the day waiting for the phone to ring (which it did - once - a recruitment consultant kindly ringing up to see where I was up to, but also to admit that he had absolutely nothing for me) and trawling t'internet for this and that.

I also needed to sort out my antivirus protection. New computer came with a month's free subscription to McAfee that was on the point of expiring, so I uninstalled that and searched for something both cost- and bloat-free. I have learned over the years that Norton, McAfee and their ilk are designed to completely take over your computer and slow it down to a crawl - whilst charging you for the privilege. There are a lot of free, sleek alternatives out there if you care to look. I've used AVG in the past, but have heard good things about avast! recently so I downloaded and installed that. So far, so good - although losing the McAfee spam filter has caused lots of crap to sit in my inbox rather than being seamlessly hauled off to junk mail. I'm sure that will sort itself out in time though.

Otherwise, it was interesting to read the Latitude forums to see what other people were saying - good and bad - about the festival. My, there's a lot of moany people out there! Generally though, the festival seems to have been a lot more secure than previous years with very little crime reported and most (serious) gripes seem to revolve around the queue to get in on Thursday, the queues to get into the arena and the rain. Given that, I think the organisers can be pleased with a job well done.

On the back of the newer bands I saw at Latitude, I have 'saved for later' a number of albums in eMusic for when my next set of downloads kicks in, and ordered a couple of other albums from Amazon where eMusic doesn't have the artist in its inventory. Also ordered - at rock bottom price - a few more series of The Shield, as Mrs W and I are ploughing through the current box set (the third) at a rate of knots. It's not quite The Wire - what is? - but it's not a million miles away in terms of quality and consistency.

Speaking of The Wire, I am still working my way through Homicide, the 'year in the life of the Baltimore homicide unit' written by David Simon, the creator of The Wire. It's a really good read and I'd recommend it to you unreservedly.

Bit of jazz on the soundtrack today, although 'Jack Johnson' is as much a rock album as a jazz album. It consists of two tracks, one on each side of the original vinyl album (and both approaching half an hour long) and was originally recorded as the soundtrack to a documentary about the eponymous boxer. It builds upon Miles' earlier recordings - Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way and, to my ears at least, is better than both - more focused and melodic. It helps that it 'rocks' and is a good way of getting into jazz from a rock perspective.

As well as the single album version, there is a five-cd box set that includes a lot more material from the sessions that I picked up from iTunes for the price of the single album - one of a number of examples of iTunes mispricing box sets as single albums. Five cds of outtakes is a lot to subject yourself to in a single sitting however - I'd stick with the original if you want to explore!

There's a good article on the Jack Johnson Sessions here if you're interested. And here's the first ten minutes of 'Right Off' from the sessions. Jazz? This stuff rocks like a mother!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 128: Back to reality

Today's soundtrack: Roy Orbison - King of Hearts

Well, that's it, festival season over for another year, and in the words of Mrs W, I am SO grounded for the rest of the year! Which is fair enough really, I am given plenty of freedom to do the things I want to do (and that Mrs W wouldn't be seen dead doing) but I need to be careful I don't over-use (or abuse) that freedom.

So back to the daily grind. Which in the first instance meant catching up on emails, trawling the job sites and hopefully making some job applications. As it was, there were three particular opportunities that caught my eye today from three different sources - an email forwarded by an ex-colleague, a contact made via LinkedIn and an advert on exec-appointments. The applications have now been submitted for all three, all I can do now is wait and see if anything comes back.

For the rest of the day, I had a fair bit of catching up to do on this here blog, getting all my Latitude experiences recorded for posterity. Overall, it was a fine festival with a number of highlights that you've no doubt ploughed through in getting to this post. If I was to do anything differently, I should probably have cut down on revisiting the bands I'd already seen recently, and explored some more 'new' stuff. All I really did was confirm how good the bands I knew about were and, compared to last year, I made relatively few 'new' discoveries. But that said, I saw a lot of really good bands and finally got into the Comedy Tent and Guilty Pleasures tent, picked up a bit of 'culture' and enjoyed the company of some really nice people.

In other news, my season ticket for Everton has arrived - unfortunately, unaccompanied by a whole raft of new signings to 'take the team to the next level'. New season, same old Everton. At least Joleon hasn't gone - yet!

Fascinated by the Stevie G case, particularly after seeing the video evidence that seems to have found its way onto the internet. Can't understand why Stevie is the only one of the whole party who is, apparently, not guilty of any offence, when all of his mates have found it necessary to plead guilty. Particularly in the light of the video, which seems to show our hero landing three particularly tasty uppercuts - landed after the DJ had been incapacitated by Stevie's mate's elbow, which kind of dilutes any 'self defence' argument.

All that said, I fully expect Stevie to walk free a the conclusion of the trial - why else would he have pleaded not guilty?

The Big O on the soundtrack today. King of Hearts is a posthumous album, released just after his death in 1988 at the age of 52 (only two years older than Michael Jackson, note!) sadly just as his career was going through a renaissance following his involvement with the Travelling Wilburys and the excellent 'Mystery Girl' album. From around this time also came the 'Black and White Night' show, when he revisited a raft of his greatest songs, supported by a stellar cast of superstars including Springsteen, Costello, Tom Waits, kd lang and many others. Well worth seeking out on DVD.

Inevitably, King of Hearts is a 'bitty' album, with some gems and a lot of filler, but it has the beautiful duet with kd lang on 'Crying', which is worth the price of admission alone.

But what a voice. Bruce Springsteen said of his song 'Thunder Road' that "I wanted a record with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector—but, most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. Now everyone knows that no one sings like Roy Orbison."

And Bruce is right, too. Here's The Big O performing 'In Dreams' as part of the Black and White Night. Marvellous stuff.

Day 127: Latitude Monday

Today's highlight: The early start

With all the entertainment over, all that remained was to get off site as quickly and painlessly as possible. Having dismissed the idea of leaving after the last act, the only other serious option was to get away at first light - ie before 6 o'clock.

So it was that I started packing at 4am, a process helped by the still-noisy campsite as last night parties continued into the early hours. We were both fully packed with tents folded and stashed before six, and made our way to the exits, along with a few other hardy souls with the same idea.

And what a good idea it was, as I was straight out of the gates and on the road without another car in sight. Putting my trust in the satnav, I picked my way round some small country roads before picking up the main A14 via Cambridge to Coventry, onto the M6 and then home, by a hugely respectable 10am.

On a roll, I then spent the morning drying the tent (sodden with early morning condensation), unpacking and washing both clothes and myself, and generally getting myself out of festival mode and - reluctantly - into unemployed accountant mode once again.

And also into cook mode. I thought I'd treat Mrs W to one of my specialities, a big fat lasagne. I enjoy a lasagne, but it takes a lot of cooking, but what the hell, I'd got all day! Dashed out to pick up some onions, spinach and mushrooms - and a nice bottle of red - and got to work.

Firstly, I fried off some onions with some decent bacon that was lurking in the fridge (ideally I'd use pancetta, but Mrs W is not a fan) then added a pound of good butcher's mince, about three quarters of a large carrot (diced), the mushrooms and some garlic. When nicely cooked, I added some mixed herbs, basil and oregano, some tomato puree and a tin of chopped tomatoes. Just to make sure there was sufficient tomatoey goodness in the dish, I then added the best part of a jar of passata that was lurking in the fridge. When this was bubbling away nicely, I added the bag of spinach which, as spinach is wont to do, gradually disappeared into the sauce.

Plenty of time for this to cook gently, so I set it to a low simmer for an hour or so, allowing the meat to tenderise, the flavours to mingle and the sauce to reduce. You really want quite a dry sauce for a lasagne - with enough moisture to cook the pasta but not enough to make the dish sloppy.

When the meat was just about ready, it was on with the cheese sauce. A roux of around 50g of butter combined with a similar quantity of plain flour, cooked until it begins to brown but before it burns. Add around a pint of milk in batches, stirring as you go to ensure lumps don't form, until you have a reasonably firm sauce, to which you should add a decent handful or two of cheese of your choice (think we were on Red Leicester today).

When the sauce is cooked, you can start constructing your lasagne. A layer of meat sauce in the bottom of your dish, followed by a layer of lasagne sheets. Another layer of meat sauce, another layer of pasta. Finally ladle your cheese sauce over the top and stick in a hot oven for 30-40 minutes.

Serve with garlic bread and plenty of ground black pepper and fresh grated parmesan. Oh, and that bottle of red wine you bought for the occasion.

Welcome home, Paul!

Day 126: Latitude Sunday

Today's highlight: Magazine (by a whisker)

Our early morning finish didn't translate into a decent lie-in - one of the laws of camping dictates that you wake up when it's light, whatever the quality of the previous night's sleep. But we needed to be up pretty early today, to get into the arena before the inevitable crush for Thom Yorke. Plenty of activity around us, as quite a few people started packing up, obviously planning on leaving straight after the final act. Not me - I tried that plan last year and suffered desperately trying to keep awake on the journey back firstly to Wells, and then up North. No way was I doing that again!

So we wandered down to the arena with, we thought, plenty of time in hand, only to be greeted by a massive queue - everyone had, of course, had the same idea as us. Eventually the stewards realised that to retain a measure of control over the situation they would need to relax bag-checking duties and we started to move quickly.

Despite my vociferous protestations*, Simon again insisted we sit in the cheap seats for Thom Yorke, so we settled back for an hour of angst and misery from the lazy-eyed Radioheadista. Actually, Thom was quite chipper throughout, engaging in some hearty banter with the front row as he played a set of solo songs and unreleased experiments interspersed with a few post-Kid A Radiohead numbers (I spotted 'Everything In It's Right Place' and 'True Love Waits' amongst others). The languid sounds caused Simon to 'rest his eyes' for a couple of numbers, but not before spotting Tom Robinson standing to our right, taking in the sounds.

And thanks to the wonders of YouTube, here's Thom doing True Love Waits. Look! He's smiling and everything!

Most of the set is up there - as he predicted - if you care to look.

After Thom, we drifted down to the Lake Stage and caught a set by a Scottish band called Alfonzo. Dreadful name, but quite entertaining in a no-nonsense heads-down rockin' sort of way. Worth a listen if you like your hair long and your guitars solo-ing rifftastically.

Time for food, and while Simon braved the Australian steak sandwich combo, Paul decided the time was right for pie. More to the point, for steak and ale pie, chips and gravy. Whilst in the queue, I called Mrs W to catch up, and to gloat about our luck with the weather thus far. Which kind of rebounded on me when the heavens opened on me mid-pie.

Eventually giving up before my pastry turned into wallpaper paste, we decided to raise our flagging spirits by indulging in some comedy. Now the Comedy Tent at Latitude plays host to a vast array of comedians/ennes over the course of the weekend, but unfortunately is too small to house all the people who want to see them. In order to address this, the organisers have installed two screens outside the main tent to cope with the overflow. Which is where we stood to watch Jamie Kilstein, an American comic with a concern for the gay community that verged on the graphic at times - cue the exit of some families with young kids, parental hands glued firmly to their tender ears. All the comedians are, in theory anyway, given a parental guidance rating in advance but Jamie seemed to have slipped through that particular net somehow. Jamie was ok I guess, generated a few titters but not so's you'd actively seek him out at your local comedy club.

Jamie was followed by Brendon Burns, an Aussie comedian who did come with a '15' rating which was possibly a touch optimistic - but he was genuinely funny with it. Brendon comes from the 'shout, swear loudly and often and berate your audience' school of comedy, but with a charm that allowed him to get away with some genuinely outrageous stuff. I liked him a lot, actually.

Halfway through Brendon's set, the rain that had been promised all weekend came upon us with a vengeance, and we were lucky enough to take advantage of a plea for people to make room in the Comedy Tent, allowing us to shelter from a vicious downpour for half an hour or so.

Leaving the comedy tent, we went back to the cheap seats (for the last time) to see The Rumble Strips. I was expecting good things from the 'Strips, their first album is pretty good and the reviews for their second suggest a group that have grown and developed beyond their indie roots. Unfortunately it just wasn't happening today though a combination of poor sound mix and, quite frankly, some pretty weak material. Simon showed what he felt about it by falling into a deep sleep for the majority of their set. Bless.

He did rouse himself for the wonderful Gaslight Anthem, and we made sure we were on the barriers for their set, incidentally stood next to a lovely old lady who is, quite possibly, the trendiest old lady in the country. She'd been ignoring all the established acts, choosing instead to get down with the kids at the ravey ravey end of the spectrum. Respect, old lady!

No Springsteen this time, but the Gaslight Anthem don't need special guests to confirm their quality. No nonsense rock and soul, not a superfluous note anywhere and a real sense of joy in their music. They are a wonderful band and you should take them to your hearts immediately. Excellent tatts as well!

Time for more beers, drunk back at the Lake Stage watching Marina and the Diamonds. Sounding like a cross between Hazel O'Connor and Toyah, initial thoughts were mixed, but as the set went on, with a bit more variation and pacing in the set we warmed to her more. I won't be rushing out to buy the album, but not a bad accompaniment to a sit down and a pint of Scarecrow.

So where next? I was looking forward to Magazine and Nick Cave, but what to see beforehand? We decided to get into the Uncut Tent early, which meant watching (albeit from behind a massive pillar) Saint Etienne. Not a band I'd have gone out of my way to see, but quite possibly the surprise of the day, as they were excellent. Another band who really seemed to be enjoying themselves, and genuinely surprised by the positive response they got from a huge crowd in the tent. I'll definitely be exploring their back catalogue carefully on the back of this performance.

As the Saint Etienne crowd dispersed, I managed to get a decent spot for Magazine. One of my favourite bands of the post-punk era, I'd seen the reformed band in Manchester earlier this year and they were marvellous. Could they still deliver? Was the desire still there? Yes, of course it was. A slightly cut-down set still managed to incorporate all my favourites and Howard Devoto still manages to amuse, puzzle and provoke with his oblique pronouncements between songs. And what wonderful, wonderful songs. Performed by a band that has as much funk as punk in its make-up. Just about my highlight of the day.

So back to the Obelisk for the last performance of the festival from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I'd sacrificed most of their Glastonbury set, safe in the knowledge that I'd be seeing them here. Looking back at their rather 'polite' performance at Glastonbury over ten years ago, the current Bad Seeds are a noisy lot indeed, due as much as anything I think to the influence of Warren Ellis, Cave's Rasputin-like right hand man. Tonight's set was a raucous affair, with some excellent performances - Dig, Lazarus, Dig, The Mercy Seat and Stagger Lee in particular delivering on all levels. Simon was a bit meh, but I loved it - the performance only let down by the absence of an encore, possibly driven by the Sunday night curfew.

Back to the tent then, with the intention of an early night, followed by an early start tomorrow to beat the rush off site. A decision that was made easier by the arrival of the final rainfall of the festival.

*Some of this might not be strictly true.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 125: Latitude Saturday

Today's highlight - Doves

Relaxed start to the day today, hanging round the tents until the Arena opened at around ten. After wandering around the Village we made our way into the Arena and had a quick coffee, sitting at one of the many picnic tables dotted around. Decided we ought to eat, so invested in the festival staple, the Aussie Steak Sandwich - combo version. A freshly baked baguette, stuffed to the gunnels with steak, bacon, onion and cheese. Delicious, although naturally I managed to lose half of it in the eating - unwieldy rascal, the combo!

After lunch, we hung around the Lake Stage, where we saw The New York Fund and The Cheek.

I'd seen The New York Fund last year, in a similar slot, and was very impressed by them. Essentially one Scottish bloke, supported by either his regular band (who seem to have a problem getting to Latitude) or, as in this case, his mate - who apparently had only learned the songs that morning (yeah, right). In any event, it was a good set of originals with a couple of interesting covers - good band, and I'd be made up if they gained a following. Find 'em on iTunes and MySpace - or below...check them out, they're good!

The Cheek used to be called 'Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds' and were being touted in some circles as the Next Big Thing. They weren't. So, regrouped and renamed, here they are near the bottom of the bill on one of the festival's smallest stages. Not difficult to understand why - indie by numbers with nothing to set them apart from a thousand other bands.

I believe Beer was taken at this stage. Specifically, a wicked brew called 'Scarecrow', recommended by our neighbours, and which slipped down a treat, on this and many more occasions over the weekend. Hic!

So off to the Obelisk, where we caught the tail end of Datarock (European electro-stuff in red hoodies). We then sat in the sun listening to Broken Records from Edinburgh, who we liked a lot - a bit Arcade Fire-y (in a good way). We then caught the beginning of The Airborne Toxic Event, about whom I'd heard good things but who were a bit, well, meh, I think the expression is. So we wandered off for an explore, which took us into the Woods and to the Sunrise Arena, where we saw some of the DM Stith set. My God, he is so sensitive! A lot of Buckley pere et fils (but mostly pere), a lot of eyes closed, acoustic guitar (of course) and a bloody cello! He made Nick Drake sound like Motorhead.

Needing something a bit more meaty to listen to, we went back to the Obelisk stage for White Lies. Last year they opened the stage in front of about a hundred people, this year the stage was mobbed. They've come a long way in twelve months! Clearly influenced by Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen, they do use these influences well and are well worth the price of admission.

Oh, before White Lies, we inadvertently caught the tail end of Patrick Wolf's set. Oh my. Did I mention how camp Of Montreal were yesterday? Well Patrick showed me there are levels of campness that I did not know existed. He made Of Montreal look as camp as....actually no, just look at the picture. Actually, the music was not half bad, once you got past the image. He might just yet be the next big thing...

At this stage I have a confession to make. You know me as a hardened festival goer, forged in the mud of Glastonbury 2007, prepared for all weathers and every eventuality, no matter how extreme the elements or the conditions. Well, reader, today I weakened. You see dotted around the Obelisk Stage are a small number of shiny blue plastic seats, arranged in four mini-stands, if you will. And yes, we sat in the seats throughout Saturday evening. With the old people and the little children.

Simon made me do it.

Anyway, Doves were up next. Saw them recently as well, as described here. Ace little band, a bit in the shadow of their good friends Elbow (who coincidentally had the same slot on Saturday last year) but with some great tunes and a stonking new album I have already pushed hard on the blog. Go out and buy it! They didn't disappoint either, a great set that was well-paced and full of little gems. The final two songs - The Cedar Room and There Goes The Fear - were as good as anything else we heard all weekend.

So decisions - should we hang around for Grace Jones or should we do something more interesting and worthwhile? The latter, obviously. Caught the tail end of Bombay Bicycle Club on the Lake Stage, who were ok in a jangly, slightly twee indie way. Whether they justify the hype they are currently getting - I'm not so sure.

Wandered across into the Cabaret area to see a rather strange production involving dome tents that I'm sure was hugely meaningful and significant. If it was, it went way over my head. Fun though. Then the rain came, just as we went to catch a bit of Grace Jones, who seemed to be doing as much costume changing as singing (or, in her case, talking). Underwhelmed, we left to drink beer.

Finally we headed into the Guilty Pleasures tent, where an '80s Prom night was in progress. Hung around for an hour or so, soaking up the '80s vibe (Kevin, you'd have loved it) then back to the tent in anticipation of a quiet night. As it was, our neighbours had other ideas and we ended up sat around the fire chatting and drinking until about three.

Happy days!

Day 124: Latitude Friday

Today's highlight: Squeeze

Leisurely start to the day, as Simon was not due to arrive until after lunch. Filled the time by having a wander down to the 'Village' - a relatively small area of shops and foodstalls, where I managed to resist the siren call of the army surplus stall - it is an absolute given that at some festival in the future I shall buy some camouflage trousers or a flak jacket or somesuch nonsense - but not this one!

Still had some time to kill, so thought it best to start drinking the wine. That made the time pass rather more quickly and effortlessly!

Simon eventually turned up around half one, and after unpacking, we headed off into the main arena. After a quick wander round, it was off to the main (Obelisk) stage to catch the end of The Broken Family Band, about whom I've heard lots of good stuff. And they were...ok, I guess. I need to give them a bit more of a listen I think.

Simon then went off to see The Duckworth Lewis Method, a cricket-themed ensemble led by The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon. I stayed at the main stage to see Of Montreal. I picked up one of their albums on eMusic, and thought it was pretty good, and had heard good things about their stage show, which was...interesting, to say the least. In the campness stakes, they made the Pet Shop Boys (see later) look like Slayer. Unfortunately, the music failed to live up to expectations - pleasant enough, but some tunes would have been nice?

A quick break for some Argentinian chorizo and chips - not my most inspired meal choice of the weekend, I have to say - then back to the Obelisk for Pretenders, who rocked like a mother (or something). Chrissie Hynde (who is wearing pretty well for an old bint) got the mood of the afternoon pretty well bang on, playing all the hits albeit interspersed with some new stuff, and got the crowd going as well. Best performance so far.

Then to the Uncut Stage, to get a decent speck for Squeeze. But before them, we caught the full set from Mew, an electro-ish band from Denmark - who were pretty damn good, I have to say. With a small but enthusiastic crowd (especially the bloke stood two down from me at the front) roaring them on, they played a pretty eclectic set that had us both nodding in appreciation - another one to explore further when we get home I feel.

So Squeeze - highlight of the day for both of us, I think. All the hits, band tight as a gnat's chuff, and they were really enjoying themselves as well. Only Difford and Tilbrook from the original band, but that's all you need, really. Lots of singing along and big smiles from both the band and the audience. Top entertainment and very cool (for cats).

Simon then hung around for Bat For Lashes, while I dashed back the the Obelisk for the Pet Shop Boys. Good to see them again after the Manchester Apollo show reported on the other week - and that's essentially what we got tonight - same set, same dancers, same little dance from Chris Lowe. Very, very good, but I'd seen it all before which kind of took the edge off for me.

So back to the tent, where any thought of a late night was stymied by the arrival of the rain that had been promised all day. Early(ish) night with the promise of more fun tomorrow!