books

Books 2018 – Pond

Here’s the second book I completed in 2018.  I bought Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett in 2017 and started and finished it in January 2018.

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There’s an old saying and you’re familiar with it.  Never judge a book by its cover it goes.  The cover you see above is the cover on the book I bought.  I was book browsing in Rough Trade East in London and was attracted by the cover.  It’s a sort of azure blue.  I’ve looked the book up and spotted alternative covers but I judged this book worthy of buying because of its cover;  and the post-amble on the back cover.  Pond was for sale in a vinyl record shop but because I don’t have a record player I browse the books section instead.  Blue is the colour and this book had done its turn in high street book shops and was now on sale to savvy readers wary of quirky covers designed to lure unsuspecting readers.  Rough Trade is cool so Pond’s got a cool cover.

Claire-Louise is, I read, from Wiltshire.  A  rural county and at an early age she moved to Ireland.  Pond is about a woman living alone in a cottage by the sea in what seems like Ireland.  I’ve seen Pond described as a collection of short stories, a stream of consciousness or elsewhere as a collection of vignettes.  In an interview further afield the author deliberately avoids describing it as much at all giving the reader license to decide for themselves, if they want to.  I tried but couldn’t.

Each chapter of the book is named; the first is Voyage In The Dark, others are A Little Before Seven; Stir-Fry; Morning, 1908 and The Gloves Are Off, for example.  You’re not going to get much of a story out of this book but what you will get is great language, atmosphere and irritated at times.  The chapter Morning, Noon & Night begins; “Sometimes a banana with coffee is nice.  It ought not to be too ripe – in fact there should be a definite remainder of green along the stalk; and if there isn’t, forget about it.”  And so it goes on, a faithful record of one woman’s process of thinking, capturing those internal narratives and conflicts inside our brains.    In Finishing Touch Claire-Louise is in full-on neurotic narrative declaring, “I’m determined you see, quite determined to host a low-key, but impeccably conceived, soirée.”  You can almost hear the the voice of Hyacinth Bucket warbling against  itself offering self-assurance that everything must be just-so conflicted against the fear of guests ruining things simply by, by turning up and getting the party protocol all wrong.

Claire-Louise Bennet superbly captures the ebb and flow, the straightness and digression  of those vexing conversations that take place nowhere other than inside our heads.  A lone walk disturbed by the appearance of a hooded youth evokes fear one moment excitement in another.  This is what living alone is like; introversion coupled with introspection when you’ve got time on your hands.

books, Books 2018

Books 2018 – The Argonauts

Must.Find.A.Purpose.

And what better purpose than to make a list; a list of books I read this year?  I kept a list of the books I read last year which was 2017 in a Moleskin notebook with was like a blog without the digital transformation.  It was on paper.  So to get in the digital swing with my analogous reading I’m going to keep a list of books read in 2018 here.  It may be of interest to me it may be of interest to others who knows?  I’m also cutting down my use of the comma you may have noticed in that last paragraph I did.

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Maggie Nelson – The Argonauts

So here we go.  Book 1 of 2018.  I started reading Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts in 2017  inspired to read it after watching a 70 minute interview with the author by Olivia Laing at the London Review Bookshop on You Tube.  I didn’t keep too well up with the interview because Maggie Nelson seemed a bit coy and evasive, a bit shy I thought.  Read the book, watch the video, you’ll realise why (commas ffs!).

OK, the author is lesbian and she tells the story of the relationship with her partner the all round artisan, Harry Dodge.  Harry Dodge is gender fluid and the story starts with interests surrounding the son he gave birth to and their desire to give further birth which pans out at the end of the book.  The book is bookended by children but in between is an examination of what is is  like to embark on a queer relationship in the 21st Century – and here I imagine a venn diagram of hetero-normative relationships against homo-normative relations.  Ms Nelson uses challenging adjectives such as sodomite mothers (I know ‘mothers’ is a noun) and examines the progress or otherwise of Joe Public to accept relationships outside of the not-so-long-ago established norm.  It’s no wonder she appears coy in her interview with Olivia Laing, these are very personal issues easier committed to the blank page than to a stranger in front of a paying audience in a cosy Bloomsbury book shop.

I read this book and it made me think a lot.  Maggie Nelson is very happy in her relationship in which she notes both her own and Harry Dodge’s perversions align perfectly.  They sound like a great couple and I’m confident those kids will grow up confident, healthy, tolerant and wise.

Art, books, Film Review, lists, Live music review, Uncategorized

2017

2017

Books:
The Civil War – Peter Ackroyd
Runaway – Alice Munro
The Italians – John Hopper
The Lonely City – Olivia Laing
A Room Of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
Imagine Me Gone – Adam Haslett
To The River – Olivia Laing
The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood
Eating Rome – Elizabeth Minchilli
1984 – George Orwell
Our Man In Havana – Graham Greene
As Consciousness Is Harnessed To Flesh – Susan Sontag
Winter – Ali Smith
Civilisation & Its Malcontents – Sarah Wood
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson (unfinished)

Films:
Julietta – dir Pedro Almodóvar
Whiplash – dir Damien Chazelle (TV)
The Survivalist – dir Stephen Fingleton (TV)
Deadpool – dir Tim Miller
La La Land – dir Damien Chazelle
Venus In Fur – dir Roman Polanski (TV)
A Serious Man – dir Ethan & Joel Coen
T2 Trainspotting – dir Danny Boyle
Hail, Caesar – dir Ethan & Joel Coen (TV)
Fargo – dir Ethan & Joel Coen (TV)
Toni Erdmann – dir Maren Ade
Raging Bull – dir Martin Scorsese (TV)
Jackie – dir Pablo Larrain
Moonlight – dir Barry Jenkins
Elle – dir Paul Verhoeven
Dunkirk – dir Christopher Nolan
The Bourne Identity – dir Doug Liman (TV)
Carol – dir Todd Haynes (TV)
The Big Lebowski – dir Ethan & Joel Coen (TV)
Panfilov’s 28 – dir Kim Druzhinin & Audrey Shalopa (TV)
In Bruges – dir Martin McDonagh (TV)

Live Music:
Cabbage + The Shimmer Band + – EBGBS, Liverpool
Josefin Ohrn & The Liberation – The Soup Kitchen, Manchester
Honeyblood – Museum Of Life, Wigan
Various – Folk Roots Festival, Hebden Bridge
Saint Etienne – Trades Club, Hebden Bridge
Blue Öyster Cult – The Academy, Manchester
UFO – King George’s Hall, Blackburn
The Duke Spirit – The Deaf Institute, Manchester
Lana Del Rey – Echo Arena, Liverpool
Gorillaz – Arena, Manchester
Saint Etienne – The Ritz, Manchester

Galleries/Museums:
The Whitworth, Manchester – Andy Warhol exhib
The Manchester Gallery – True Faith exhib (Joy Division/New Order)
The Harris, Liverpool
Fylde Council Art Collection – St Annes Town Hall (guided)
The Charles Dickens Museum – London
The Manchester Gallery – Waqa Khan (closed), Dutch painters 1600 – 1800, etc

travel

London

I visited London yesterday; caught the 5.58am train from Preston and arrived at Euston for 8.16.

At Tapas Brindisa restaurant I was served Spanish food by Spanish people.  At Boggi Milano I bought Italian clothes from Italian people and at The French Comte I bought French cheese and pork from French people.

In the evening I returned to my small town in Lancashire where the people voted by the majority for Brexit.  It had been Lytham Club Day where local people displayed their civic pride by trundling through the streets on slow driven floats celebrating this boys’ club or that church group.  It was a million times remove from the cosmopolitan vibrancy of the capital city.  The locals in Lancashire may feel that their way of life is threatened by the EU and the freedom of movement of people, the people of London have embraced it and it is a greater city for it.

Brexit might mean I can no longer buy outstanding Italian clothes, taste exotic French cheeses and eat Jamon Iberico for breakfast in my own country but as long as the floats still trundle then we shall forever have our England.8D2D55BC-EDFC-406F-89B7-07F7612DCE8E

Art, books, film, lists, Music

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.

life, relationships

St Valentine’s Day Blues

If you’re in love, great!  You have my best wishes, you don’t know how lucky you are.

The last time I was truly in love on a February 14th was in 2013 when my marriage to C was strong.  Twelve months later it was faltering, 14 months later we separated.

That was 2014, it’s two years on and I’m pretty much over it now.  I wish we hadn’t separated but we have; she now lives elsewhere with a child from another man, I no longer wish to be with her.

So, moving on, things should be better, they should be good.  Well no, they aren’t .  Not at the moment anyway.

For me, 2015, after a dreadful 2014, began with renewed optimism and a determination to get out of the funk of my failed marriage and move on.  I was on dating websites and actively pursued dates.  Things started ok and by the end of March I met the wonderful M who I utterly adored.  We would meet on Saturday afternoons in her home town of Manchester, drink, talk, laugh, mooch around and be great company for each other.  Then at 8.45pm I would have to catch the last train home and she would catch a bus home.  After all, our respective children needed to be looked after.  We had our moments, we were good for each other but living 50 miles apart presented its own problems.

In April last year, me very senior lady boss texted me and asked to meet.  We met.  She was leaving her partner although still living with him at the time but their relationship was breaking down and there was DV involved.  She pursued me, vigorously.  She was/is attractive, successful, solvent.  She did nice things for me, paid for me, bought me presents, we liked each other, we laughed and the great thing was, she was local.

I stopped seeing M.  That was difficult. LB was going through a tough time and liked a drink.  Liked a drink a little too much.  It was too much for me; I began to question whether I had made a mistake with M and found I couldn’t cope with LB’s super-charged emotional state.  I stopped seeing her; for a couple of weeks anyway.  Then we tried again.  She moved out, worked hard and drank hard.  I didn’t fare well with it and called it off.  I told her this wasn’t our time, that she had to well and truly move out, find her own place, move in with her kid.  I told her she should begin to love herself again, be content with her life and start again.  The way things were, LB was in a classic rebound situation.

In July 2015 my first line manager announced he was leaving the company.  I went to see LB and her boss and asked for the job.  I, along with 5 other internal employees was interviewed by my first line manager and an independent manager.  LB deliberately did not get involved with the recruitment process.  I got the job.

LB suddenly became my new first line manager, I felt we needed to rebuild our bridge.  We went out, chatted, drank in moderation and had fun.  It felt natural, normal and right for us to get back together, so we did.  I was still not 100% certain but after we made a couple of mundane trips out together I found myself really enjoying her company.  She had by now bought her own house, moved her kids in, cut the drinking down, was exercising and looked great.

Then, after about 6 weeks of me being in the role the rumours began.  The whispers; I had only got the job because I was sleeping with LB; people felt uncomfortable speaking in my presence in case it got back to LB.  I told LB about this and she called off the relationship immediately.  That was the end of September 2015, it’s now February.  What makes the situation worse is that my position is on a 6 month temporary contract so within the next couple of months I should know whether I have the job permanently.  In the meantime, LB cannot be seen to allow any decision she makes to be compromised by accusations of bias by being in a relationship with me.  She reports to some very senior people who hold the power.

I hold out the hope that I WILL get the job and LB and I WILL get back together.  But I don’t know, it has become a taboo subject.  And you know what?  It is utterly unfair.  I have been widowed and I have had a wife leave me but because of rumour, innuendo and jealousy(?) I cannot be with the woman I want to be with.

It feels like being in a movie but movies only last a couple of hours, this is lasting for months with the ending unknown to the cast.

And that is why I sit alone on St Valentine’s Day.  Frustrated and a annoyed.  I hope I get the job, I hope LB and I get back together.  I could date someone else but I can’t.  As someone said, first I need to mend it or end it.  Still waiting.