Art, Film Review, life, lists, Live music review, Music, Uncategorized

My Cultural 2017

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After a pretty dull and devastating 2016 I became determined to make 2017 more interesting and engage myself with human life.  So far so good

I have been fortunate to meet a new and good friend this year via my yoga class; a woman, 12 years younger than me, just out of a 12 year same-sex relationship.  We’ve been great for each other and I’ve even found myself, recently, sitting in pubs on a Friday night with a group of men talking drunken nonsense and frankly enjoying it.  I’ve always been quite shy and introverted sitting in groups of other men, finding myself becoming detached and uninterested but now I think, what the hell, and join in, contributing my own slant and opinion on completely unimportant matters.

I’ve been on 2 dates; one in a new town to me; Hebden Bridge and the other in a beautiful old pub in Manchester called The Marble Arch Inn.  Nothing came of either but I’m feeling better for getting out there again.

At the start of 2017 I made a resolution to myself to visit the cinema at least once a month and read at least one book per month.  Progress is encouraging.  Not only have I made six visits to the cinema already this year I’ve been watching more films on the TV; here is my list to date:

Julieta (Cinema)

Whiplash (TV)

Deadpool (TV)

The Survivalist (TV)

La La Land (Cinema)

Venus In Fur (TV)

A Serious Man (TV)

T2 Trainspotting (Cinema)

Hail, Caesar (TV)

Fargo (TV)

Toni Erdmann (Cinema)

Raging Bull (TV)

Jackie (Cinema)

Moonlight (Cinema)

I’m on course with my books too, with 3 completed so far and a fourth on the go.  The first book read in 2017 (or rather finished after staring it in 2016) was Peter Ackroyd’s Rebellion, a book I was inspired to read after visiting The Houses Of Parliament in London last year.  After watching Paulo Almodovar’s excellent film Julieta, I then embarked on the series of short stories which inspired the film; Runaway by Alice Munro.  That was followed by John Hopper’s The Italians and now I’m reading The Lonely City by Olivia Laing.  The Italians satisfied my taste for all things Italian and Olivia Laing’s part autobiography, part biography helps me come to terms with the loneliness and feelings of being alone I have sporadically felt since I separated in 2014.

BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 4 are my constant companions; the former for great music the latter for excellent political commentary; ‘that talking shit‘, as my ex used to describe it.  6Music continues to be a great source for discovering new music and this year I saw the outrageous Cabbage in Liverpool and Josefin Ohrn and The Liberation at The Soup Kitchen, Manchester.  Honeyblood, Blue Oyster Cult and Radiohead already booked for this year and mustn’t forget Austra later this month.

When I’m at one of my yoga classes I often get asked what I’m up to and we talk about places visited, gigs attended, films watched.  People say I should write a blog about my ‘interesting’ lifestyle.  Funny, I don’t consider my lifestyle interesting.  Like social media, for every photograph we post of ourselves in smiling posture for the camera there are umpteen moments of boredom, ennui, trivia and outright dullness.  That’s pretty much how I would describe my life currently.  I envy those in relationships talking about their holidays and trips they’ve made with partners or friends. It makes me realise my life is not complete because I don’t have the intimate contact of a partner or lover.

I separated from my 2nd wife in April 2014 and last year discovered the guy she was having an affair with was my next door neighbour’s son.  It was a seriously devastating discovery which had a profound effect on my mental and physical health.  The next door neighbour thankfully moved house in January so that perpetual reminder is no longer in proximity and my pursuits in 2017 are have helped put that distraction behind me (again).  But what I have learned is that no relationship is better than a bad relationship.  I deeply regret ending my all too brief relationship with MFM in April 2015 but there is no mileage in believing half-hearted physical intimacy is a substitute for a mutually loving relationship; for me anyway.

Art, Live music review, Media, Music, Uncategorized

Cabbage – The Shimmer Band – April. Live at EBGBs, Liverpool. February 10th 2017

img_0728The first time I heard of Cabbage was during an interview on BBC Radio Five Live between Christmas and New Year.  They sounded young and bored and decried the lack of royalties they receive from Spotify.  As reward, no doubt for their appearance on the ‘serious’ talk radio station, one of their songs was played; Terrorist Sympathiser.  I liked it.  Sing-a-long lyrics sung by a bawdy lad drawing out his vowels with little regard for standing erect at a microphone stand. I thought of Johnny Rotten with his sleeves pulled over his clenched fists.

Forays into the music press revealed Cabbage as a bit of an upcoming band earning affection from music critics writing in broadsheet and music papers alike.  After looking them up and finding their scant website I discovered they were on tour and playing at both Manchester and Liverpool in the North West.  Manchester was sold out so I bought a dirt cheap ticket for the Liverpool gig at EBGBs.  The gig was last night.

EBGBs is the basement bar to it’s more grown up looking sibling Heebie Jeebies on Seel Street.  The cheerful door crew waived me through, I’d shaven my hair completely for the occasion, thinking the lack of grey stubble might help me blend in more with the kids. EBGBs is tiny with a bar in one section adjacent to the auditorium separated by a low arch carved out of the bowels of the pub and what once was, clearly, the cellar to the pub above.

After paying £4.50 for a bottle of Estrella Damm I ducked under the arch to see first support band April in full swing.  April are aptly named as the callowness of the band members matches the month which heralds the first days of Spring.  I imagine the band I played in at school looked a lot like April without the stresses and strains of being on a national tour.  They looked like a bunch of kids whose soap their mums had packed for them had long since worn out and they couldn’t work out how to recharge the batteries in their bum-fluff razors.  I was reminded of Ant & Decs attempt to re-create an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads with their appallingly applied 5 o’clock shadows fresh from make-up, in an attempt to make them look older and wearier.  These kids had it in spades.  They could play and their next single, Time, had a bass line worthy of a sample or two.  The bass player was probably the kid who took A level music and scored a grade 5 piano; there’s always one.

April dismantled and removed their equipment, The Shimmer Band moved  in and assembled theirs on stage.  Sound and light guys walked back and forth with tablets fiddling with the son et lumiere.  After much testing of microphones the Shimmer Band shimmied back off stage and the house sounds came on for another 10 minutes.  It was apparent the band couldn’t play their set without the benefit of sunglasses and they re-emerged donning cheap looking shades which suggested they’d spent the 10 minute hiatus in search of a 24 hour petrol station where they could buy emergency sunglasses.  A swirling opening worthy of the finest Dervish musicians began with the flabby arms of the  lardy singer emerging from a gold velvet t-shirt prodding towards the ceiling.   A stomp of his foot heralded the band joining in with the backing tape as it became suddenly apparent the boy could sing.  The white plastic sunglasses clashed strikingly with his velveteen t-shirt but the voice inside caused the audience to stop and register what sounded like an English Ronnie James Dio.  No sword and sorcery was this as punk energy met middle eastern rhythms during a noisy set of of well constructed songs.  I think they’re from Nuneaton…or was that April.  My listening and viewing pleasure was curtailed when a lady about 5′ 8″ tall stood on the step I was on at the back of the hall, smack bang in front of me with her 2 friends and they began to chatter and laugh loudly.  It was rude it was ignorant and I told them; selfish idiots.

Cabbage followed The Simmer Band.  I read a few live reviews of the band from their 2016 tour and to be honest they weren’t that positive.  The band’s antics were largely thought of as contrived and set them aside as rebels without much of a cause.  Another delay caused by the sound system and they arrived onstage at 10.10pm just after the chattering lady who’s rear neck I had become rather too familiar with had fucked off.   Cabbage continued the trend of the bands playing in ascending age order with their teenage years seemingly just behind them.  T shirts were quickly dispensed with by the two main protagonists of the band who between them shared lead vocal and guitar duties.  It was difficult to tell most of the time as the stage at EBGBs is only about a foot higher than the hall floor and even from my slightly elevated position, I could only see them from the neck up.

The moshpit was in full swing and I enjoyed the gig vicariously sharing the mayhem going on down the front which felt sticky and sweaty.  After two songs the road crew emerged to implore the audience to take a step back  as their momentum had caused something of a stage invasion.  The band said they were ‘fucking skint’ and couldn’t afford to replace any damaged pedals;  “There’s plenty of fuckin’ shit to go and smash up out there, but don’t smash up Cabbage’s equipment” the singer implored.  “Who thought this would be a good idea?” he rhetorically asked before bigging up the audience.  They were great; swigging beer and crowd surfing on an audience who provided backing vocals when the singer found himself po-going in the third row.  He amused me when he announced the next song was about dead people and ‘why we like shagging them’; I couldn’t restrain a reflective chortle.

The crowd, mostly made up of students (I think I was the 2nd oldest there), got their moneys worth with a set of blistering energy and well crafted punk-pop songs.  Cabbage 2017 are kids on fire who, if they took any notice of their critics in 2016, have learned to have a fucking good time on stage and let their music do their talking for them. If they don’t implode they have a chance to replicate fellow Mancs, The Happy Mondays as stardom awaits.  After it all finished the band came out and mingled with the departing audience.  I shook one of the singer’s hands and he seemed genuinely pleased when I told him I enjoyed the performance and what a great gig it was.  There was enough humility which made him likeable which, along with his talent should see them through.

Well done cabbage, you fulfilled my 5 a day.

Film Review, Uncategorized

The Hateful Eight – A Review

My new year’s resolution for 2016 was to visit the cinema once a month, yesterday I went to The Island Cinema in St Annes On The Sea for my 3rd visit in as many weeks.

So Quentin, watcha got for us?  

A movie.

A movie, eh?  What kind of movie? 

A Western.

Ooh, a  western.  Any good?

Of course it’s good, it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Oh, OK.

Actually, it’s not that good.  I mean it’s ok but this is a guy who’s back catalogue revitalised the movie industry with classics such as Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and of course Pulp Fiction.  Django Unchained was uncomfortable but ultimately essential viewing and even Inglorious Basterds was a great watch.  It’s safe to say that my experience of the man’s movies to date left me perfectly satiated but The Hateful Eight is served like a big fat Christmas pudding that you don’t really have room for yet you masticate your way through it out of politeness before flopping ungracefully in front of the telly and dozing your way through the Queen’s speech.

I mean, it’s over 3 hours long.  What do you expect from QT?  Great dialogue, a cache of great tunes to add to your BBC Playlister, scintillating characters, ace acting and more twists than a box set of Tales Of The Unexpected.

First off we have Samuel L Jackson (again) and Michael Madsen (again).  Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and a host of other actors – and occasionally actresses – become the rather hateful 14 or so who make up the ensemble.  The action is shot almost entirely in the wooden shack that is Minnie’s Haberdashery – a late 19th Century truck stop of sorts where the coffee’s hot and the stew is good.  The outdoor shots are set in the snowy wilderness of Wyoming and compete with The Revenant for next year’s Christmas card vistas.

True to QT form there is the expected quota of gore, testicles being shot (a nod to IG) and a touch of nudity.  But 3 hours later you leave the cinema thinking there could have been so much more in so much less.  None of the cache of characters really develops into anything other than a cardboard cut-out of any number of Tarantino characters we’ve seen already through his back catalogue and maybe that’s the point.  We’re so familiar with them we know what they do and why they do it.

In a recent interview in Sight And Sound Magazine, Tarantino argued how the genre of Westerns through the decades reflected the prevailing zeitgeist of American political and social thinking.  If The Hateful Eight continues this trend and Tarantino’s brushes with American law enforcement departments over the past 12 months are anything to go by, then this post Civil War picture is a depiction of how the attitudes of post Civil War America are still prevalent in their country today although it is debatable whether Tarantino is doing a better job than Donald Trump of depicting the latter day bigoted American.

This, as you may have gathered is the least loved of Tarantino’s films, by me anyway.  The guy is an exceptional talent but this film might be an indication that either his skills are waning or his imagination has been sucked dry.  I’ll still await his next production with heightened anticipation but he lost a little of his gloss here. What’s next?  Something better, I hope.

Film Review, Uncategorized

The Assassin – A Review

IMG_0328I have wanted to see this film ever since I read a review in Sight & Sound magazine and also because my forays into the Wuxia genre – House OF Flying Daggers, Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger – left me hugely satisfied.

Last week I directed a Tweet to my nearby independent cinema and Odeon  asking why this picture wasn’t being shown at their cinemas local to me in the Fylde Coast area.  Odeon replied it is on limited release, something to do with print availability and distribution causing me to travel 50 miles to watch it in a tiny 60 seat cinema in the HomeMcr (Home Manchester) complex.

I confess I had no knowledge of Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien prior to engaging my interest with this film but I read about his incredible attention to historic and material detail, meticulous research as well as his disclosure that in historical terms we have little knowledge about the lives and times of the inhabitants of 10th Century China under the Tang dynasty other than its rich written and artistic culture.  Therefore it may be no coincidence that Hou declines to offer little in terms of character backstories but finds sufficient in the beauty of the country, art, furniture and costume to keep us spellbound by his sumptuous and vivid spectacle.

There is a story of a troubled girl, born to a noble family but exiled on grounds of political expediency to be raised by her aunt, a Taoist nun, who trains her in the martial arts to become an efficient and effective killer.  What we see about this assassin, similar to Uma Thurman’s Black Mambo in Kill Bill, she has a conscience, which tends to be pricked when children are involved.  Her failure to complete 2 of her assignments incurs the wrath of her mentor but in between lies all the political intrigue prevalent in a dying dynastic empire of the characters who’s decisions may determine the future of the dynasty and the lives of the many people we encounter. Farmers, nobles and servants are all stakeholders but you get the impression that life, in all its beauty will go on come what may.

We all like a fight scene and on screen death is entertaining.  People die and fight in The Assassin but the combat scenes are fast, short and sporadic.  In fact, the violence is incidental to the film with few gravity defying feats of swordplay at all even though there are occasional nods to the parallel Wuxia universe of jianghu where the constraints of earthly physics are relaxed.  But don’t worry about that.

What makes this film so spectacular and worth the entrance fee is the spectacle and the soundtrack.  There is very little music in the film but instead, vast open vistas of Chinese country are accompanied by the plaintive noises produced by nature.  The chirp of unseen insects or the breeze blowing through the grass; chuckling children at family gatherings, watched at a distance amongst lowing cattle.  It almost has a soporific drawing the viewer into it’s dreamlike landscape – you could almost be in a dream or a spiritual, unseen watcher of preceding behind gently cascading lace curtains, hidden behind a wooden pillar or amongst nature in a forest, perhaps behind a waterfall.

The gentle pace of this film will draw you into its beauty and wrap around you with the warmth of a duvet.  Watch it more than once, it’s intoxicating.

Film Review, Uncategorized

The Revenant – A Review

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I did something yesterday which I don’t do as often as I once did.  I went to the cinema.  I went to the only independent cinema on the Fylde Coast called Island Cinema and paid a very reasonable £3.50 to see The Revenant.

The Revenant, as well as being a feature film of 2h 36m duration, is a vehicle for the acting talent of Leonardo DiCaprio and, as some suggest, might just net him the Oscar for best actor – it’s that time of year.

OK, what happens?  It’s 1832, the movie starts off in a hail of arrows  as a team of fur trappers, at the end of a 6 month tour of duty, are attacked by an army of Pawnee Indians who show no mercy in their pursuit of the furs the trappers have worked all season to collect.  The pace is fast and the action brutal as cameras follow victims underwater to watch them  drown and arrows kill indiscriminantly.   Post battle the hero, Hugh Glass played by DiCaprio, is violently attacked andmauled to  within an inch of his life by a mother grizzly bear .  Of the surviving trappers, 2 remain behind with the seemingly dying glass with the promise of a bonus when they return to their fort base.  One of the trappers turns out to be the villain of the film: John Fitzgerald played by Tom Hardy.  Some of Fitzgerald’s dialogue will be misunderstood by many who aren’t familiar with his deep Texan drawl but  his actions throughout the film are pragmatic and necessary for his own survival even if his menace is made malevolent by his own religious zeal.

Glass is buried alive up to his neck and left for dead by Fitzgerald.  The badly mauled Glass hauls himself out of his grave and so begins his journey back to the fort to exact his revenge on his nemeses.  At this point The Revenant becomes a road movie – a journey and like most road movies, be it Saving Private Ryan, Soft Top Hard Shoulder or The Duel, the story of Glass’s remarkable struggle home is punctuated with encounters with people, friend and foe alike, who would help him or do him harm.  The action is similarly slow and fast paced throughout but DiCaprio is put through his acting paces in the rugged snow bound terrain of the frozen Northern United States.

If there is anything which has put me off visiting the cinema in recent year it is the battle between every studio in Hollywood to out-special effect,  out-gore or out-vista their rivals.  Somewhere in the race to create the greatest cinematic spectacle the story is often forgotten along with the development of character and the thrill of dialogue.  The Revenant, alas, maintains this trend upping the ante with scenes of aching brutality and big screen vistas of snow filled territory.  It looks good but but then so did most of John Ford’s output, Lawrence Of Arabia and probably Broke Back Mountain although I haven’t seen the latter.  Just anything filmed in Montana essentially.

Glass makes it home after being attacked, mauled, buried alive, falling off a cliff, eating raw offal and surviving practically every other mortal threat the harsh and rugged landscape can throw at him, motivated to exact his revenge.  His leg heels remarkably quickly, the muskets are incredibly accurate for the era and that water must be terribly cold to survive in.  But that’s me being picky.  But the film ends in that style made famous by Braveheart and Gladiator (sorry, is that a spoiler?) and after 156 minutes it’s almost a relief.

I enjoyed Revenant but have been surprised that in all the reviews I have watched and read, no-one has asked what a Revenant is; it’s like there is a hint of snobbery about, that one must surely know and shouldn’t really ask.  Well prior to today I did not know that a revenant is someone who, quite literally, returns.

As well as being a fine spectacle the film is ultimately about survival in the new American Republic.  The human and animal occupants have co-existed for centuries on this hostile land which has enabled them to survive and prosper but the encroachment of the white European man has rattled the utopian food chain as a new species bids for supremacy at its head. There can only be one winner.

Good luck to Leonardo, he will probably win his Oscar for all those grimaces of pain and cries of anguish and I doubt there will be a more robust acting performance from Hollywood this year; Leo went through the mill and survived.  Go and see it on the biggest screen possible but don’t drink too much beforehand.

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Two Thousand And Fifteen

I suspect that at this time of year, many will be reflecting on the past 12 months and looking forward to a new year and whatever it will bring.  To do this would seem on face value a very irrational thing to do.  One day flows into the next, night follows day, season after season, etc.  But somehow the norms of time seem not to apply.  For me, I’ve had an extended period of time off work and above all have to get through the month of December.  December was until recently a month that I loved but for the past two years, living through it has been a chore.  Why?  Because my wife’s birthday is in December and she used to make Christmas extra special.  Then we would do something exciting together for new year.  Readers of this blog will know that my wife #2 and I separated in April 2014 and that’s why December is shitty.  That’s why a year ends and a new one begins.

The clue above gives me the opportunity to state again that for me, 2014 was a bloody awful year.  I ended that year very optimistic about 2015 and was determined to put my life with wife #2 behind me and forge ahead in the new year.  So how have I got on?

The one thing I missed was being in a relationship so this became a focus for me.  I was determined to shed the baggage of our separation which had become an intrusion into the relationships I had attempted to nurture, mostly through internet dating, but had petered out pretty quickly had they got even remotely off the ground.

So I began the year meeting a lady in person who I  met on a dating site.  Things started off  promisingly, we had stuff in common, we made each other laugh but…it lasted less than a month.  The baggage was still there, it influenced my thinking, I still wanted a clone of wife #2.  I still yearned after her and I wanted her back.  This, in spite of knowing she was living about 4 miles away with another man.

I planned that on St Valentine’s Day I would send her one more missive asking her to meet me and come back.  It was at this moment I discovered she was off work on maternity leave.  Yes, she was having a baby.  Within 24 hours (we all know someone who knows someone who knows…) I learned she had the baby in January, 9 months after she left me.  I was…surprised, surprised more than shocked because I had suspected it but it brought down a curtain, the final curtain.  Without it being a thunderbolt from Zeus it quietly and calmly made me realise, that was it.  There would be no reconciliation, it was over.  It was already over but now I knew it was over.

And as luck would have it a lady who I met briefly (via an internet dating website – thanks Guardian Soulmates) in September 2014 got in contact with me and we met up in Manchester.  Manchester is roughly 50 miles away from me and about 90 minutes on a train.  I went.  And I went again.  And again after that to the point where I would catch a train to Manchester every Saturday lunchtime, we would meet up, drink, walk round, often end up in a gay bar and then…then I would catch the last train home at 8.45pm.  She has 3 daughters, I have 1 son.  But it was great.  I adored her, we had a meeting of minds, she was kind, compassionate, emotionally intelligent, attractive, politically aware, interesting, diverse, sexy.  I took a day off, my son went on an overnight school trip…we had our moments, occasionally; and if we could persevere for 3 years, our kids would be old enough, possibly be at university by 2018 all would be fine.  In theory.

I was distracted.  Distracted by a lady at work, a senior lady and a local lady.  I cut Manchester off.  Completely and abruptly.   It was a risk but I took it.  Big mistake.  This lady was leaving a disastrous relationship, was needy, boozy, desperate.  I called it off.  Manchester was gone.  I tried again with local, same result.  Back to internet dating…met a larger than life lady, twice, then over.  I tried local again who had by now moved away from the abuse.  Hello, changed person, in control, settled, content, happy.  It’s working, it’s going well, it could work, it will work!  What could possibly go wrong?! This:

My boss at work left for another job.  A vacancy arose, I applied for it.  So did a few others, I got the job!  Jealousy, bitterness, pettiness, call it what you will, the local lady who had no influence in the recruitment process became the focus of people’s bile.  Comments were made, rumours started, she called the whole thing off.  I’m single again.  The job is temporary until March 31st 2016, I may get it but she cannot afford to be seen to be in a relationship with me and be accused of any bias.  It’s over.

2015 teased me.  It was good. Manchester was beautiful, my lady, my kind of woman but circumstances were against us.  Local may not have worked but it might work.  Post March 2016 who knows?  Career, relationship, surely 2 things can’t go right for me at once?  My life doesn’t tend to work like that.  It’s time for me to take control.  To work hard, to get the job and then do what is appropriate romantically.  What I want and get it.  Roll on 2016.IMG_0122

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Barren Times

Fact of the matter is, I barely blog any more.  I started this 2 or 3 years ago when I was happy, full of optimism, the future was bright, it looked like dreams I had would be fulfilled in the company of a woman I considered beautiful and I loved dearly.  That all changed on 24th April 2014 when she left me, moved in with another guy 6 months later and had a baby by him exactly 9 months after she walked out.  It’s been tough.

But in past 15/16 months my mind has never been so active, so fertile, so bursting with thoughts and opinion just dying to be released and put into writing.  All the sadness, all the grief, all the bitterness, the humiliation, the drinking, the anger, the drinking followed by anger.  The on-line dating websites.  The messages, the money spent on subscriptions, the replies, the non-replies, the dates.  How many now…10, maybe 12.  First base, past first base, fears, concerns, thoughts…what if she comes back?!  Money, lack of money, loss of benefits I was previously entitled to, no more savings, DIY, yoga.  Elephant Journal (thank you).

A few attempts last year helped me get a bit off my chest and I discovered there were others out there just like me, mostly women it seems.  Aren’t men supposed to be pigs?

Where am I?  Where am I today in the ongoing process that above all motivates me to pursue, at the age of 52, love?  The internet is full of men and women just like me.  The lonely, the rejected, the spurned, the sad, the singles by choice, the serial players.  Slags, sluts, whores.  Players, gigolos and misogynists.  Wankers.  I’m in there amongst them, somewhere. Honest, caring thoughtful.  Me and my on-line profile.  Log on to match.com and it proudly boasts 65,703 currently on-line.  All of us, after just one thing, trying to find one in 65,703.  It should be easy, shouldn’t it?  No, it isn’t.  It’s a conveyor belt, a meat market, a ‘shit against the wall’ scattergun approach.  I’m a glass half full person.  I love to travel.  I’m bubbly with a zest for like.  Looking for my knight in shining armour.  Players and married men need not apply.  I go to the gym twice a week.  I love walking my little dog.  Fuck off!!  Fuck off the lot of you.  No don’t.  I’m here.  I need love, I’m lonely but I won’t admit it.  I like getting pissed now and again but I won’t tell you.  I like to be a little edgy but that might put you off.  I’m lazy around the house but hey, I’m loyal.

I don’t know. Really, I don’t.  I may have another date soon.  It’s on the cards.  But I know it will probably lead to nothing but I’m optimistic.  No-one is perfect.  No-one.  I’ve learned tons, loads.  More in the past year than in my previous 51 about life, love, friendship, people, men and women.  It’s all in my head and in my heart and has been processed incessantly day and night but not expressed on here but in me.  The way I am, not via a medium but through me.  As it should or what’s the point?  One day I’ll die and then I probably will think what’s the point.  Frankly there isn’t a point.  Or is there?  Another question.  My last for now.

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On-Line Dating Pt. 1

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Dates.  The only time I ever heard this word was either on American TV shows in my youth or something my mum used to serve me from a box with a two-pronged fork covered in sweet and sticky goo…which I liked to eat.  Then, when I met my first wife, she had two children from her previous marriage who although were still quite young when I met them, as they grew into their teenage years this American phenomena of ‘dating’ seemed to enter into their Lancastrian lives.  And now, instead of ‘going out’ with someone like we used to we ‘date’ them instead, although I have yet to notice the difference between the two.

As if to endorse the ‘date’ and give it credence in our post English 21st century lives, instead of single men and women scouring the local evening gazette’s lonely hearts column we now visit the dating websites of national newspapers and independent, stand-alone dating websites.  Or rather, we carry them around in our pockets as instantly accessible apps where we can scroll through reams of computer generated ‘matches’ or have them completely delivered in photographic form into our email in-boxes conveniently timed to coincide with a chap’s morning wood should he wake before the scheduled minute when another app will sound an alarm on his phone.

Of course the whole on-line dating phenomenon removes that terribly old fashioned practise of going down the pub on a Saturday night followed by venturing off clubbing to the local Astoria, Ritz, Madisons or Cinderella Rockerfellas depending on what your ludicrously named night club of choice was in your 1980s neck of the woods.  But whereas 30 odd years ago you might venture into a bar or nightclub discerningly chosen to enhance your chances of ‘copping-off’ for the night, nowadays you can afford to be a little more choosey with so many dating websites competing for your hard earned lolly, each of them with hundreds and thousands of equally single (or not so single) people doing pretty much the same as you are.  Log on to the match.com app at around 7 o’clock of an evening and a slightly irritating pop-up erm…pops up telling you that there are currently 47,964 users on-line!  How can you go wrong?  Well you can

There is an aptly name dating app called Plenty O’ Fish (POF) because the process of attracting a date is not dissimilar to going down to the canal by the local gasworks and doing you best to catch a gudgeon or two out of the murkyFirst of all, you have to create a profile.  A lot of the hard work for this is taken out of this because you just have to answer questions.  You can fib a bit about your physique (if you want), perhaps you are slim going on athletic (athletic it is then) or you are possibly heavy set but still in decent enough shape (that’ll be athletic then).  Most people over a certain age tend to put down the hair colour of their youth even though it might have a) turned mostly grey (or choose ‘salt and pepper’) or b) fallen out (shaved).  Then it’s interests and there’s usually a list to pick from.  Well, we all like pubs, don’t we?  Dining out, of course and it’s surprising to see how many people just love to hike.  Perhaps it’s just a common thing amongst singles that they all love to hike or perhaps all hikers are just shit at pulling the birds (or blokes) and end up being single.  Who knows?  And I’ve yet to see anyone describe themselves as a glass half empty kind of person or admit to doing drugs as POF happens to ask.

OK, so you’ve done your profile, you need to add a few photos.  Now, most of us go out at least occasionally and with the ubiquity of camera phones these days, someone must have downloaded a picture of you on Facebook somewhere.  If that’s all you’ve got, you might as well use it.  Or, there’s the ‘selfie through the looking glass’ – just be careful what’s behind you reflected in the mirror though, bathroom furniture is rarely a turn-on.  So, you’re good to go (another Americanism), almost.  You’ve downloaded your photos, ticked all the interest and description boxes but now comes the hard part, the bit where you have to describe yourself…your sales pitch.  A lot of people start off by modestly announcing that they hate describing themselves (dull) or describe how their friends would describe them (if they had any).  These are usually people with a row of photos which are all selfies and mostly taken in public WCs.  But you have to sell yourself, even though many think no-one reads the profiles (I do…OOPS, what a giveaway!).

Yes, I admit, since my wife left me in April 2014 I’ve been on Zoosk, POF, match.com, Guardian Soulmates, Telegraph personals, something called Love Match (I think) all of which (bar the free POF) I’ve paid good money to display my profile on. And, I’ve been on a few dates.  I’ve also messaged a lot of people and received a few too.  But more of that later.  I’m 52, a single dad, sometimes lonely, sometimes quite pissed off about things, but God Bless America for giving us dating and more to the point, on-line dating.

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Down The Hatch Recipes #1 – Lamb Harira Soup.

This soupl looks so amazing I simply had to re-blog it.

Southsea Food Social

Allow me to welcome you to episode #1 of the Down The Hatch recipe series. With the winter months truly upon us and the new batch of Strong Island enamel mugs now released, we shall be unveiling a weekly range of winter busting recipes to warm the cockles of your heart. Kicking off this mug friendly series is a simple and spicy North African soup which is guaranteed to keep the cold at bay: Lamb Harira soup. Ya salam!

3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
Cubed lamb on or off the bone
1 leek, washed and finely sliced
4 fat celery sticks, chopped into small pieces
3 large carrots, chopped into small pieces
Coriander, stalks finely chopped, leaves reserved to serve
1 tbsp cumin seed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp harissa
2 x 400g cans…

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