The Hawke Ascendancy

24 October 2014

I bought this book after reading the praise for this and its successor in a highly contesting review of Paul Kelly’s new book in the Monthly. 6701134Previously the only thing I had read about Australian political history were books about the Whitlam coup and his life after it, Abiding Interests or the diaries of a short term Labour leader.

So this, taking the story from the coup against the elected Labour government in 1975, through the Fraser government and into the first Hawke term was an interesting read. The story it set out as the period being the fate of three people and way it was written made it a page turner. And, even though you know the outcome it is still thrilling to see if things will happen in time or be overtaken by event. It is one of the most readable history of politics books I have read and draws a very effective picture of the time and the place with the characterisation of the people also effectively drawn. An absorbing read. I also love the title, even though it was written before they existed, it still sounds like it should be one the the Bourne films!

It also became highly relevant to be reading this, about the end of his career in Parliament and how he was seen as a loser after the coup, before going on and having further careers, at the time of the death of Gough Whitlam. It is also interesting in setting out how the Hake government differed from the Whitlam one and how that resulted in its legitimacy not being challenged. Though I think one thing that helped cause Whitlam’s government to be challenged was that it had come after 23 years of Liberal and coalition government how dare these Labor people do this “It belongs to us”. I am now looking forward to the arrival of the successor about Hawke’s further government and his defenestration by Keating.

St Luke’s Summer

19 October 2014

the Flashing Blade:

25 Degrees this afternoon. On the allotment in my shorts Putin gardening. 23 degrees yesterday. St Luke has struck again and how fab it is. I’ve been told we have the end of a Caribbean hurricane on Tuesday and to expect a rain storm. Raspberries from the allotment and fabulous artisanal ice-cream, in the middle of October? Too right.

Originally posted on The Flashing Blade:

According to the Oxford Dictionaries website St Luke’s Summer is “a period of fine weather around 18 October (the saint’s feast day).” That is certainly what we’ve been having recently here in Strasbourg. Today the weather was sunny and the temperature reached 23°, it has been warm for the end of the week and it is forecast to last into the beginning of next week. It is wonderful seeing the sun so late in the year, people are sat outside cafes and you can go out without a coat, although being France, every French person is still wearing a scarf although there is no need.

Getting up in the dark is no fun but seeing the dawn break is a consolation, as can be seen from the first photo above. The second picture has the Protestant Seminary on the right and the church of St Thomas, sometimes known as…

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How we beat Margaret Thatcher – What the 1980’s were really like

17 October 2014

This post follows a discussion at lunch and two films which are being shown at the moment. One, Pride, which seems to have been on release since I returned from working in the UK in the middle of September, I saw it on 21 st September as I thought it might not be on much longer. (My local UGC cinema says it is on for the 5th week which would fit. Trailer below).

The other film is one which has just started at the cinema this week and is called “White Bird” here in France but is known as “White Bird in a Blizzard” elsewhere. (Trailer below)

Both films are set in the 1980’s but there the similarity ends. Whilst Pride is about the efforts of members of the gay community to provide support and solidarity to members of the mining community during a long struggle against a right of centre government in the UK in the 1980’s, White Bird is a kind of coming of age of a teenager film set in the USA set against the backdrop of the disappearance of a girl’s mother.

I tried not to like Pride. I am fed up with heartwarming tales of overcoming the nastiness of the Margaret Thatcher government and imgres-1people on the left coming out victorious. At the time it didn’t feel that we ever won. It is a retelling of history that everyone was against the government of Margaret Thatcher. They weren’t. She won three elections. She beat the Miners. She introduced Section 28 which fostered a climate that was anti-Gay, Lesbian and Transgender people as a time when the start of AIDs and HIV meant we should be working together. As an example of the climate that was fostered at the time, ten years after the film I was an elected councillor in Reading and was one of a number on a committee that gave out grants to voluntary bodies. The local Gay and Lesbian helpline had applied for a grant of less than £1,000 to provide a telephone helpline to people in the area. Not a large amount for a committee that gave out much larger annual grants like that of over £150,000 to the local Council for Race Equality. The Tory spokesperson (Now an MP for the area, pictured right)images-3 on the committee, in line with their then ideology, challenged the grant on the basis it was illegal in view of Section 28. Section 28 outlawed the promotion of homosexuality to school children. How does awarding a grant to phone helpline comprise promotion to schoolchildren? Anyway, people were so scared of the prevaling climate that we had to get legal advice and face down the Tory attempt, supported by some people for questionable motives in the Labour Party. (One of whom went on to be a Labour MP, pictured leftimgres-2.) So, I was minded to dislike the attempt at re-writing history. However, it such a well-made film and heartwarming story that it is not possible not to like and enjoy the film.

Leaving the film the colleague who had seen the film with JTO commented that it isn’t really possible for a film to capture just how bad things were for people on the left in the 1980’s. Especially I guess for something that is being made for entertainment.

When I went to see White Bird I hadn’t really known what it was about apart from it being about a teenage girl’s loss of her mother. I hadn’t knowingly seen any other films by the same director. I must also confess that part of the reason I went is that I’ve had something of a thing about Eva Green since seeing her in Casino Royale and particularly liked what I saw of her in Sin City II.

The correctness of the reflection of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was also the subject of our discussion of the the ‘White Bird’. The soundtrack was written by Robin Guthrie, at the time a member of the Cocteau Twins and sometimes of This Mortal Coil, whose songs open the film and are the third of the 16 songs to feature. I liked the type of music that featured in the film at the time. (In fact I made a spotify playlist of the songs here.) Most of the 16 songs I own on vinyl. The thing about the 16 songs is that they are being played in the film, whether, for example, on a walkman, at an ‘alternative’ disco or just when hanging out. Some of them were from before the time the film was set, but then we all play songs from the past. The music is what an American 17 year old high school student and 21 year old university undergraduate might have listened to at that time. In late 1988 what became know as ‘Madchester‘ bloomed and brought with it clothes different from those of the early 1980’s, baggy trousers and tops. By 1991 though in the UK the music and clothes would have been different. But did those things cross the pond? Would someone who liked UK alternative music in 1988 developed and gone with the changes which took place in the UK too, or stayed frozen with what they liked in 1988. It was something I found unconvincing in the film. Although I enjoyed it.

So, the 1980’s reflected in films has become a story we tell about the time. Plucky, heartwarming leftists overcome nasty, brutish rightists and win, er when they don’t. A teenager who likes UK music and clothes in 1988 doesn’t notice any change in UK music and clothes by 1991 when there has been a massive change. Anyway all that depends upon my memory and how reliable is that?

I end with a quote from Remembering and Forgetting Milan Kundera by Aaron Retica published in the New York Times on April 18, 2011:

“It isn’t simply that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” as the novel’s most famous line has it. Kundera was showing us not only how one major event sweeps away another, but just how hard it is to remember at all, how disorienting to our own point of view and sense of time it is to try to follow what is going on around us. I get paid to do it and I can barely manage, and events often seem to me to happen in the wrong order, like spasms from an earlier history we thought we’d left behind or from a future we weren’t expecting so soon.”

Artbitch

24 September 2014

I’m not a regular visitor to art galleries, if I go once a year that is unusual. Unless I go somewhere like Amsterdam when I go and see the  Van Goghs. 14127_425053509347_4360261_nThis year I have been to three different galleries. What changed?

I don’t know how long I have been a fan of the paintings of Mondrian. I fell for the simplicity of three primary colours, three non colours, blocks and lines. It was seeing one, in the flesh to speak, in the 1980’s that showed me that the real ones have so much more, the intention, vivacity and life, totally the opposite to the cold austere painting you would expect. I went specially to find a studio in west London to get the T-Shirt, using the design, I am pictured wearing in 1986. I have written in the past about Strasbourg’s modern art ‘Sistine Chapel’ and Springtime for Mondrian.

It just so happened that this year there were two Mondrian exhibitions. None for ages, remarks about buses etc.
mill-in-the-evening-1905The first was an exhibition of Mondrian and Colour at the Turner Gallery in Margate in early August. It went back way before the abstract works he’s best known for to the time when he was a landscape painter in Holland painting pictures of the river near to his house like the one on the right. Trees, farms windmills and other normal landscape subjects. Then, he was influenced by the-red-millcubism and pointillism after spending time in Paris and the impact of painters like Braque and Picasso on his style. Stuck in Holland by the outbreak of the First World War during a visit home his style developed to what we know today. It was fascinating to follow the development from standard Dutch landscape painter through to the painter of the abstract grid shaped blocks of colours he is known for.

The second exhibition was at the Tate Liverpool and was ‘Mondrian and his Studios’ complete with the recreation of one of his studios in Paris. The exhibition had photos from various of his studios showing that he tended to convert the places he lived in into his art, painting them the same colours and having his paintings on the walls. It was possible to walk around in the recreated studio to get an impression of what it would be like for him to be working, in amongst his art works and big blocks of colour. mondriansparisstudioI’ve taken the picture from the Tate website showing people looking around in the studio. What I learnt from this exhibition was that he worked on variations to the lines, the blocks of colour and edge of the painting so that the variation in different paintings is not just about the different arrangement of the blocks of colour. It’s interesting to speculate on the impact the place he lived had upon his broadway-boogie-woogiedevelopment with the cityscape of Paris, with the buildings giving the straight lines and block shapes. He was always a fan of music and in his last painting we can see the impact the move to New York had upon him, as the Mondrian sites says, “boogie-woogie obviously had a profound impact on him. Nevertheless, the most important factor in the origin of this painting, and of the “mutation” in his art, must have been the experience of the daily rhythm of New York itself, the pulsating movement that animates Broadway, especially at night, and, in thorough keeping with the old principles of De Stijl, creates a harmony out of the opposition of contraries.”

images-1Two Mondrian exhibitions but I thought you said you had been three times this year? Yes and the third was to a Tate gallery too but this time to the Tate Modern for the exhibition of Malevich. I didn’t really know anything about Kazimir Malevich before and it was not my intention to visit the exhibition before my 11 week visit to the UK. However the Margate exhibition had said that he was a big influence on Mondrian so after that I had to go. I went on my last day in the UK before returning to Strasbourg

He too started off painting landscapes but then influenced by what was happening in Paris with cubism and futurism in Italy his painting developed into a more abstract form like ‘the Scyther’ pictured. He developed further and in 1913 painted the imgresBlack Square which was what gained him fame. This time too there was a recreation (pictured) but this time it was of an exhibition from December 1915, ‘The Last exhibit of Futurist Painting 0.10′ of which only a photo remains. The original exhibit contained pictures from other members of the group Malevich was working with at the time although the recreation focused solely on his work. As in the original exhibit the Black Square is positioned in the corner high up. This is the position of an icon in Orthodox homes which has imagesbeen suggested emphasising the ‘spiritual qualities’ of the painting or that it might have been a ‘provocative blasphemy’. He went on to paint other Suprematist works but  returned to figurative painting although the influence of the abstraction and Suprematism were still obvious in them as can be seen in the painting.

images-2The title for this piece comes from a musical reference as so many do. It is from the Brazilian group CSS and is the title of one of their songs. I saw them play at the venue around the corner  and they were very good live. If you get the chance to see them then do.

Top of the pubs in Leeds

11 September 2014

I’ve spent the summer in Leeds teaching English for Academic Purposes to students from around the world. As well as seeing the Tour de France in it’s Yorkshire incarnation, as I wrote about earlier, I have had the opportunity to do a number of things. During this time I have been working though and this week we have been working particularly on a project related to supermarkets. Students have a question related to it, we give them information, they find information and then give a presentation on the matter with their take on the answer to the question. They then get assessed on their presentation which accounts for some percentage of their marks for the course.

2014-09-05 11.34.27Friday, as last year, myself and another teacher took the students to the local Morrisons.(Pictured left) Not, as they had done so often, as consumers buying, but to analyse the way the shop worked. Afterwards for feedback we went to a local pub. Quite often, after shopping at the same supermarket, as it is my closest I too have gone to the same pub for a rest before heading back up the hill with my gatherings. It turned out that a number of the students had not been to a pub in England before, so it was useful for that. Whilst there one student  asked me what was my favourite pub in Leeds and, not having thought about it before, I answered the Whitelock’s Ale House. Now that I have had time to think  about it my answer would have been different, so here are my top three and a highly commended.

P11301721.  Brewery Tap. It’s not a traditional pub having only been open four years. Inside the decor is very wood, it sells a range of always good beers and the staff are always friendly and helpful without being invasive. It has an upstairs and roof-garden (Pictured right) and when there at the weekend to research this piece it was nice to go outside, in between the showers. P1130170There is a mixture of regular clientelle and, being close to the station, people newly arrived in Leeds or groups of friends meeting up after arriving in Leeds separately. I was able to drown my sorrows with a fellow blue after City’s defeat against Stoke. It is a comfortable place to go for a drink whether with friends or on your own.

P11301642. Whitelcok’s Ale House. I found this pub last year. There are a number of pubs like this where the street they were built upon no longer exists apart from the alley giving access to them from either the main shopping street, Briggate or another street. In this case it is almost hidden away by the back entrance to Marks and Spencer (Pictured left). P1130173When you go down the alley you turn left then right and you come out into Turk’s Head Yard and there it is , facing the back of shops. It means there is a nice area to sit outside in the summer and not raining. It too does good beer and food and well worth taking time out from shopping to visit.

P11301743. The Pack Horse. As one of two pubs that are close enough to be my local it’s not one I visit a lot. It was towards the end of my first contract in Leeds that I discovered this real old boozer. The beer is good and it has a great jukebox. As I am in Leeds outside term time I have not experienced it when the students are around I should imagine it is full with them as it is across the road from the University.

P1130163Honourable mention. The New Conservatory. Describes itself as a Cafe-bar which gives a clue that it is not really a boozer but a place where you can go for a coffee, something to drink or some food. In a basement on different levels including an area made out like a library and another with a pool table, it has a nice atmosphere as a place you can meet someone. I hadn’t visited it until I had a visit this summer from JTO, who found it and it seemed to quickly become a favourite of hers.

Le Tour diary II

7 July 2014

So, after being awoken by the caravan going past (previous here) Steve and I headed down into town.     At about the spot where we had seen the cyclists heading to the presentation on Thursday there were the tour buses and cars with bikes on them. We got a bit sidetracked looking around the outside of the ‘Village technique’ which was based upon Millennium Square so that when we got to the part of Leeds the Départ was leaving from they were not letting any more people into it as it was so full. We walked along the length of the Headrow and found a place at Eastgate, with the incongruent mix of being opposite the West Yorkshire Playhouse and underneath the imposing, Orwellian building on the hill that houses the Department for Work and Pensions. We were about three or four back from the barrier but them being on the road and us on the pavement meant we had a good view. That deteriorated as the tallest family in Leeds seemed to come and stand in front of us which meant we could see what was happening but didn’t get any decent pictures. So the tour came past and we got to see them but it had a phony war sense to it as the race didn’t start until it had been decided to by royalty. The excitement having passed we headed off back into town and I took photos of some of the interesting use of language including the photo above. The rest of the tour was watched on TV followed by the World Cup.

Sunday we got up early and headed into Leeds to the station. Tickets were bought and then we headed to the platform for the train. As the picture shows it was platform 2b, or not! (Thesp. joke there) P1120927 A train came into the platform,people got off and our train was announced and we got on it. After the time for the train to leave had passed people started getting off it and heading further down the platform. We went out and asked the guard what was happening and another train had come in and would be the earlier train we wanted and the one we had been sat on would now be a later train. So we got on the new train but still left almost quarter of an hour later than timetabled. P1120929 At every station the platforms were packed and it wasn’t long before the train was standing room only. There was a party atmosphere on it though with people were going out for the day, they were going to have fun and they were talking about where they were planning to see the cycling, people were seen to change their mind and go with others. We didn’t.

On arrival at Keighley we got off. We left national railways behind and queued up to get onto the Worth Valley Railway, a steam route run by volunteers. It too left late to allow the people who were in the train from Leeds behind us that had been the one we were sitting on. At least getting on the earlier train meant we got to sit by the window. So the train slowly left the station and we had to listen to the usual guff that these trains were so much better and the carriage was so much better when it was clearly so much slower than a modern train would have been over the track and the seating, whilst not as uncomfortable as boards would be, was certainly not as comfortable as modern trains. P1120935 An experience not helped any by the chap speaking all this guff allowed his kid to bounce up and down on the seat, making the ride more sea-ship like than one would want. Despite the slowness, and despite nearly choking when the engine went in a tunnel, I still felt a certain romance looking out the window and seeing the engine, full-steam-ahead heading over a bridge towards a tunnel on a bend as pictured above. After twenty to thirty minutes we arrived at our destination and got off the train and headed out of the station.

We left the station and, after talking to a Tour guide, found that the caravan was due soon and the race itself in a couple of hours. We got across the road from the station and found a café and had a coffee to fortify ourselves for the day. The caravan came past and I saw again the things that had almost been part of my nightmares, or wakingmares the day before. I did fail in my challenge of taking a photo of the Yorkshire Tea floats as they came past. However, this time it wasn’t my morning befuddledness but chasing after the free pack of tea hurled my way. How did they know. I’m not a proper Englishman.  I don’t understand tea. If my childhood was deprived in any way (clue; it wasn’t) it was that I never leant how to make or appreciate proper tea. I have learnt something of the former from having to care for someone who does appreciate their tea, in fact needs it in the morning to be human. So I was pleased to get a pack of the special THÉ for the Tour. I then discovered that they were giving away a years supply of tea if you tweeted a picture of yourself with yourself and the pack, hence the picture above. I added a few hashtags relating to the fact it was in Haworth, home to the Brontés, etc etc.

After the caravan had passed we looked around and found a place round the corner with a view of the cyclists coming towards us and, whilst I saved it Steve scouted around Haworth to see if there was a better place to be. There wasn’t.  By the time he returned the sun had crossed the yardarm and, our new position just happening to be outside a pub, we sought help for our thirst inside. And, it just had to be Velo, a special brew from local Yorkshire Masham brewery to celebrate the Tour in France, Black Sheep, which Steve had visited the previous year.

After a couple the leaders raced through and people hardly noticed. They were there and gone. I managed to get a photo of them,(above). A few support vehicles came through and then the motorbikes and the peloton was upon us. People were cheering. banners were up, photos were being taken. The carnival mood reached a fever pitch as we witnessed what we had come to see.  Then they were gone.

There is more to come. You too can experience what it was like to be there. Come back in a day and see what it was like.

Well I promised it and here it is. The Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact. Experience the Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact, through the wonder of Stevecam. It’s almost like you were there:

 

 

Le tour diary 1.

7 July 2014

I’ve lived in France for seven years, more or less, now. During that time I’ve worked in the UK every summer. Initially at a summer school teaching teenagers from all over Europe or the world general English and last year and this at a university (pictured left) teaching students, about to start a Masters course at the university, how Academic English is different from the general English they learnt before, or what they did to earn their qualification to get to the university. I do that because people in France go away for July or August so you cannot organise classes in those months and now, increasingly working at the local university, courses finish mainly at Easter with a few lasting into or to the end of May and not starting until the middle of September.

Over time I’ve increasingly become interested in cycling. Initially, as a result of working on it for my job in the early part of this century, in track cycling – I saw races at the Manchester Commonwealth Games and at my local track when living in Reading. Over time this moved to interest in road racing, particularly the Tour de France. I even got to the last two and had an interview to manage the administration for Team Sky three or four years ago. In 2012, whilst working in the UK, I followed the race every day, when work had finished obsessively watching the races as the first Englishman and the first English based team went on to win the Tour de France. It wasn’t quite as obsessive, I had a new job in a new environment so hadn’t the time available, but I still followed the race last year and the second victory.

In seven years living in France I had never seen the race in the country that is my home. I had hardly seen the French TV coverage of the race. My knowledge of it came from the UK coverage on ITV4 and the previous coverage on a number of channels. You would think the tour coming to Leeds for this year would make me excited. I would be happy to be getting a chance to see it at last. Not, at all, it seemed wrong. So, it was with an ambivalence about this aspect that I returned to Leeds just over a week ago.

Thursday and work finished and preparation for Friday done so I went shopping to get a few things. Before leaving work I had talked with a few colleagues about the parade of teams which was taking place that evening through the streets of Leeds before they were presented at the Firstdirect arena.  Having finished shopping I noticed my route home was being closed off with barriers. I spied what would be a good spot to see the riders coming up from Millennium Square. So, I hung around in that spot and was joined by a flatmate and we saw the teams on their way from Millennium Square to the Arena. The one pictured are the Cofidis team. Whilst there I was given a ‘Spectator Guide‘ for stages 1 and 2 which led us to talk about the possibility of going to the ‘Grand Depart’ and possibly going out of Leeds to visit somewhere of interest and also take in stage 2.

On Friday further discussions took place and it was decided to go down to the centre of Leeds at 10ish on Saturday morning. Before that happened though I was wakened by a din from people playing popular beat combo music and talking French. But I’d left all that behind. was this some nightmare with my French living come to haunt me in Leeds? No. In seven years living in France I’d never seen the Tour De France and here theP1120919 caravan was going past my window. As well as the music there were vehicles advertising Haribo, ibis hotels, sugary fizzy drinks (pictured) and, best of all I thought, Yorkshire Tea. The last seemed so out of place with the rest but quite cool that it was present, like a very English intervention in the Tour de France.

 

Words of the Seventies

2 June 2014

Things are supposed to come in threes. That’s what they say. So, it must be true. It certainly has for me recently with books about the music industry in the 70’s.

For a long time I’ve been meaning to buy a copy of Danny Baker’s autobiography, ‘Going to Sea in a Sieve’ and didn’t get round to it then in April I did. I listen to his radio show on five live as a podcast and enjoy the warm and positive attitude he has, though he could do with listening to what the people who call in say a bit more often! I had already heard some of the anecdotes from the show but enjoyed reading a lot more about growing up in south-east London and then going to work in a record shop after leaving school and then to New Musical Express(NME) in the seventies and into television in the eighties. I enjoyed reading his take on a time and music that had a big impact upon my teenage self.

The next two books I read I had pre-ordered to get them on publication so the timing of their arrival was outside my control.

I first came across Mark Ellen on the music programme ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ though it might have been modernised to, ‘Whistle Test’ by the time he joined it. I loathed him. I thought he was a smug, self-satisfied public schoolboy and I just wanted to slap him. This opinion continued for some time. Together with his only slightly more acceptable sidekick, although it was probably the other way round and he was the sidekick to David Hepworth, he had been involved in running Smash Hits, the magazine for girls, that as a reader of NME, you looked down upon as been ephemeral and so not serious. Cause pop music isn’t supposed to be fun and ephemeral is it? As I grew older I stopped reading NME and stopped being interested in music for a while. Around the middle of the last decade I started buying different magazines, Q, Mojo, and the Word. As regular readers will know I fell heavily for the Word and was a subscriber for the last few years of its life. I came to look forward to a literate but not showy magazine about the latest releases and things which were happening in the music world but also had interesting coverage of writers, books and films. I even came round to a fondness for the podcast, it was the Word podcast which first hooked me onto what has now become a heavy podcast habit, and I would enjoy the conversations involving Mark Ellen and David Hepworth. I recognise from the book being bitten by the music bug as a teenager, it being the only thing that is important. Reading books because they’ve been referenced by the latest idol, seeing films because the idol has talked positively about them. Mark went on to work for the NME too and then went onto work and edit magazines like Smash Hits, Q etc before the Word. For me there was too much about interviewing Lady Gaga when she didn’t have a stitch on or what it was like touring as part of a massive press and fan entourage following Rhianna around five cities in five days and not enough about the Word. But then I can understand that might be a minority view. I saw Mark Ellen on ‘Later with Jools Holland’ last weekend and they showed a clip of him introducing the Smiths on Whistle Test. It says something of how he has grown that his response to seeing his 80’s self doing a poncey introduction was that he needed a slap.

The last book of the trilogy is ‘Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music,boys, boys, boys.’ by Viv Albertine. Viv also grew up in London, north, and was different from the previous two, as well as being a woman, because she made music rather than wrote about it. From being a music obsessed teenager via a job at a venue and the epiphany that Patti Smith showed that a girl like her, and from Johnny Rotten that someone from a council estate like her, could  play in a band. The first attempt, ‘Flowers of Romance’ with Sid Vicious failed but then she joined the Slits and wrote some of, recorded and released the seminal album, ‘Cut’. I remember the shock the subjects of the songs created when it was released, songs about a girls experience, that’s not music! Something added to by the cover of the album where they are topless covered in mud. Like the previous book this brings the story up to the present day, through a career as a fitness instructor in the 80’s and attempts at domestic bliss up to the album ‘The Vermilion Border‘ released in February last year and one of the albums of the year – different from ‘Cut’ but then she’s a different person – singing about being a woman in her 50’s, how many times do you hear about that? Here she is talking about the book:

It’s not only that the first two are written by men and the last by a woman and that they wrote about music whilst she played it that differentiates them. The first two are very heavy on anecdote and told in the boy way to create camaraderie with other boys sat around in a gang. The last is searingly honest, talks about experiences and emotions, talks about the failures as fully and in as much detail as the successes. The bad times as much as the good times. The first two are mostly failure free, unless it can be turned into a funny anecdote against themselves, even the failure of the Word is dealt with in a throw-away remark. I was entertained by the first two, I learnt something and was engaged emotionally and personally by the last one.

Here’s one of my favourite songs from ‘The Vermilion Border’, ‘Confessions of a MILF';

 

2013 in review

31 December 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Is there anything I can do to help?

13 October 2013

The principle I generally adopt with my writing on this blog is that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.(I don’t know why you’d want to be catching flies but I can see that if you did the saying makes sense.) P1120299 The launch of an enjoyable, more ranty blog by a friend I worked with in the UK and an event last weekend have resulted in a post that I intend will be more vinegar than honey.

To continue the football theme from last postings, but having now returned to France, I did not see the recent Manchester City games at their ground. Last Saturday I was in the town centre Irish pub with a friend and fellow  supporter to watch the game against Everton. 1381394_10152257576129348_297195993_nEverton had been something of a bogey team to us so, after the football lesson we’d received from Bayern Munich in the midweek I was apprehensive about how things would go. However Everton had changed their manager and it did seem to be him who inspired them to reach heights when they played City. When they went one down after fifteen minutes I feared for what was about to come but we equalised one minute later and ended up winning quite comprehensively. The pub was having a Oktoberfest promotion and the beer was being sold in litre glasses and, despite the early start of the match I got around to trying them in one of the glasses, The result of having such a large glass is that it is difficult to lift when full. That, together with the result, left me in quite a good mood.

As you will see from the photo, despite Strasbourg being a brewery town – an area of the town is called canonCronenbourg and that is where Kronenbourg was brewed until they moved out of the city about forty years ago – I was drinking Paulaner. I drink German beer because I do not like French beer, It is strange but I find the French beer I’ve tried too bitter to like it yet I can drink 1664 in the UK because it is brewed to British taste for Lager but not in France. Incidentally it is called 1664 because on 1 June that year Jérôme Hatt started brewing beer in Strasbourg at what is now the restaurant Au Canon pictured on the left.

JimmysI had agreed to meet a friend for a drink the following weekend at the new version of Académie de la Bière at 29 Rue des Juifs, in what had been Jimmy’s Pub (pictured right) but then did not know whereabouts it was on the street so on leaving the Irish bar I headed  down Rue des Juifs to find where it was. As luck would have it near the end of the street was where it was located.

I was told when growing up that my handwriting is not the best in the world. I didn’t really agree as I think it is quite easy to read but as a result I have used a fountain pen since the 90’s as I think it makes my handwriting even easier to read. Papetrie du CentreEarlier this year I lost my pen. I had decided to replace it as a reward to myself for my work in the UK over the summer but had not yet got round to it. Rue des Juifs is the kind of street that has two shops selling fountain pens on it, one opposite Académie de la Bière.

By now you are probably thinking I have sold you short, I promised a ranty post and have not delivered on it, even when I said I do not like French Lager I did so quite levelheadedly, it couldn’t be further from as rant if it tried. OK so here goes.

20131013_144258What is it about customer service that shops in France do not get? Apart from all of it that is. I am going back to the UK for work in a weeks time and I’m looking forward to getting a cheery greeting and a smile from the people in the shops I go into. So I go into the shop I try and look at a number of pens and decide to buy the one pictured. I also buy the case to protect it and a bottle of ink, learning the French for a bottle of ink whilst doing so. I refuse the offer of cartridges, as I’m buying ink! 20131013_144447So I get the pen home and take it out of it’s box and all I have is as pictured on the right.Where does the ink go? It doesn’t as they had not thought that I might need an ink reservoir with my pen. I, clearly stupidly as it turns out, had assumed it was in the pen. I had delayed the moment of gratification of filling up and using my new pen until after the time when the shop was closed. As everything is shut here on Sunday I therefore have to spend an hour of my life on Monday going back to the shop to buy the ‘pump’ as I discover it is called here. How can anyone think someone will spend money on a pen, something to carry it around in and a bottle of ink and it is OK to sell it without a pump? The answer is, if they are French and working in a pen shop.


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