Friday, 30 May 2008
Thursday, 29 May 2008
But now they’re back! For two hours anyway, and grateful we are for it too. Sex and the City: The Movie. It’s about now I realise I’m a die-hard. Chatting about the series in the weeks before the movie release, it seems I know everything about the show. I have watched it far more often than I realised. When I was going through a painful and excessive time in my life I watched it every day, it became a tonic. I couldn’t be hungover without it. I am here on the opening night of the movie. I am amongst the die-hards. They applaud when the theme tune begins and applaud again at the end. They drink home-made Cosmopolitans out of Lucozade bottles. Classy. I came to the movie without expectations or demands, just excitement. I left happy and a bit tearful, just like a good episode. I am writing this on my computer, alone in my apartment, while sirens wail outside my window. Don’t ask me if the movie’s any good. I’m far too biased to know.
Sex and the City Requiem
There’s no arguing that the writing was, at times, perfection, and the bits that make you bawl are the real meat of the series, so here are my top five Sex and the City tear-jerkers of all time. Read ‘em and weep, and kiss those girls goodbye for the last time …
Time and Punishment (Season 4). After her affair with Big, Carrie is on her second chance with Aidan but he can’t reconcile himself to Big still being in her life. The pressure eventually crushes her and she stands in the doorway sobbing, ‘You have to forgive me. You have to forgive me …’ a dozen unbearable times.
My Motherboard, My Self (Season 4). Miranda has to walk down the aisle alone behind her mother’s coffin. Carrie sees her begin to crumple as she passes by and leaps up to hold her, kisses her hand, and they walk on together.
An American Girl In Paris (Part Une) (Season 6). Carrie is about to leave New York to move to Paris. At her goodbye lunch she asks the girls, ‘What if I had never met you?’ Floodgates.
An American Girl In Paris (Part Une) (Season 6). In the middle of her uninspiring speech at the Breast Cancer benefit, Samantha caves in to a tropical moment brought on by her chemotherapy and pulls off her wig, inspiring a room full of women to do the same in solidarity. Cue hankies as they stand and applaud. The audience were in fact real cancer patients for additional blubbage.
An American Girl In Paris (Part Deux) (Season 6). Charlotte and Harry finally get a letter from the adoption agency, including a photograph of a baby girl. Charlotte holds the photograph and tells Harry, ‘That’s our baby’. Sob.
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
‘A postcard from romantic Italy. "The incomparable Giotto frescoes ... How triumphantly his figures vibrate with life. Yours truly, J. Brodie”…’
‘This is a picture of the Ponte Vecchio, “The old bridge". There's a famous painting of Dante meeting Beatrice ... It is pronounced "Beatrichi" in Italian, which makes it very beautiful … meeting Beatrice on the Ponte Vecchio. He fell in love with her at that moment. It is not unlikely that we shall never know that Beatrice reminded Dante sharply, in that moment when he first saw her, of an old love, a lost love, a sublime love, and he was seized with such a longing, such longing...’
‘He is there for any passer-by to gaze upon and be uplifted …’
My two fears were allayed the first day of cruising. One, that I would feel claustrophobic on a ship, and two, the vegetarian food would be rubbish. Firstly, the ship is vast. It’s bigger than the building I live in. It has 15 decks. It should not be able to float. It floats. Secondly, ‘why should we be fated to do nothing but brood on food, magical food, wonderful food, marvellous food, fabulous food!’ In other words the food was amazing and we ate and ate and ate, as though they were the final days of Rome, while attentive waiting staff from second world countries scurried to and fro with refills, empties, menus, more more more. Hence Pleasure and Guilt on the Grand Tour. Belch. Let’s hear it for goats’ cheese quesadillas, chilled strawberry bisque, chocolate malts, sweet potato and creamed chestnut soup, hash browns with Swiss cheese … Needless to say I am fat as a pig and I just don’t care.
Though the weather was disappointing in parts (three days glorious sunshine matched by three overcast days with showers, plus one day of complete Roman washout) nothing can sully the romance of Italy. In fact, standing in the rain before the replica of Michelangelo’s David while thunder and lightning raged about the Florentine sky and carthorses thrashed through the puddles around me is the kind of romance you want to bottle and sell. Rome was the only day where spirits were dampened to flickering point. Rain rain rain, and cold rain at that. We were assured it was the rainiest day there in a decade. By the time we got to the Trevi Fountain I thought ‘Oh good, more water’. Still, I had enough uplifting moments that I vowed to return, and threw a coin in the Trevi to ensure that I would.
Nobody wants to see snaps of my sunburned mush so I’ll post a few photographic highlights instead. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was on my mind the entire time in Florence, hence some of the gushing captions …
Thursday, 15 May 2008
On my travels abroad I often find myself chatting drunkenly with the natives. When they ask where I’m from I need never worry that they won’t have heard of either my hometown Blackpool (‘Aha! The rollah coastah, ey?’) or my adopted hometown of Manchester (‘Aha! Manchistah Oonited, ey?’) Particularly with the latter they are wont to shake my hand and sometimes to cheer and one time to put their arms about me and make me bounce up and down on the spot in a sort of a jig. After they’ve bought me a drink I cautiously explain that I don’t really do football and I watch them wondering why else anyone would live here. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to live a football-free life in this football-obsessed city, most of my friends do it with ease, and I do it too. I am after all the man who found himself in a crowded pub one Derby Day wondering when horse-racing got so popular.
Needless to say I was not prepared for the round-the-clock chanting that began outside my window Tuesday night followed by a sea of royal blue man-made fibres and more colours of puke than I’ve ever witnessed on our fair streets. Imagine my horror when I discovered this was the day before the match! One hundred thousand fans in the city filled every pub, bar and public space from here to Salford and back. That’s a whole lot of bladders. In truth, lack of sleep and traffic jams aside, I loved the drama of it all!
‘I saw one doing a poo in the middle of the pavement! In daylight!’
‘One of them climbed up the front of the Town Hall!’
‘The girls have painted their tits blue!’
‘The trams are cancelled, the motorway’s closed, there’s a police helicopter landing in Sackville Park!’
I think that last one was untrue. But it’s all so exciting! Sirens all night, people hanging out of windows, the singing, the sunshine, the News, the helicopters going round and round and round …
And then it’s morning, and there actually is vomit all over your doorstep and human excrement in the park and a bloke knifed, in the back for God’s sake, and a thousand thousand Spar bags clogging up the trees, gutters and doorways and you realise that football will always find you in the end.
The audience, despite dozens of empty seats, was hyped and ready for Sandra Bernhard’s much-vaunted return and to be fair it took a while for her to kill our enthusiasm, but kill it she eventually did. The act was pretty much split between gorgeous musical pieces and hilarious scripted fantasy scenarios (becoming Stevie Nicks’ best friend, the WASP childhood she never had) and meandering, whining, ad-libbed, uncomfortable, monotonous crowd-baiting. Miss Bernhard doesn’t like the time slot, Miss Bernhard doesn’t like the flight she was on, Miss Bernhard doesn’t like Queer Up North (‘Get over it!’), Miss Bernhard might not actually like England, Manchester, us, me! Miss Bernard certainly doesn’t like coming on after Miss Tina C. ‘Maybe if I put on a little dress and ooh! Is that what you want? I’m working my ass off up here. This is REAL!’ Ouch.
At one point she pulled out a faintly embarrassing gay disco anthem style tune from the archives. I have a feeling this was meant to save the show. When that failed to get us on our feet things got nasty and not a little desperate. When she began an unprompted tirade against the white middle-class heterosexual patriarchal powers that be (so seventies) and their damn institution of marriage and us poor homos it would just have taken too long for anyone to heckle ‘In actual fact we have a system of Civil Partnership which, though not a full social equivalent to marriage per se, nevertheless provides fundamentally equal status in most significant areas of social partnership.’ Who could be bothered?
When we realised the people going to the loo in droves weren’t coming back, we too called it a night (at that point she was walking around the stalls beating a druum and shrieking ‘Jesus walks!’). We met some friends and fellow escapees outside the theatre, headed to the Village to recoup and spent the rest of the blissfully warm night drinking cold lagers on the boat at Eden (from actual glasses, amen!) and laughing our asses off.
Sorry Miss Bernhard, you might think drag is dated but I aint gonna roll over and shit Mars Bars every time someone says ‘Disco!’ either. Maybe they did that twenty years ago, thankfully those days are over.
We love you Sandra, go home.
Monday, 12 May 2008
Listening to ‘Christine’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees at work I find it suddenly and weirdly morphing into ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’ by Stevie Wonder (was he still Little Stevie Wonder then … ?) After a couple of second’s cognitive dissonance I realise the Stevie track is coming from outside so I lean out the window and witness a modestly-sized but determined demo wending its way past our building. It turns out to be the Reclaim the Uni crowd who have apparently been admirably vocal of late, disrupting finance meetings at The University of Manchester and generally causing a ruckus about the campus.
Good for them. The cost of education has ballooned and not everyone feels they’re getting value for money. Falling contact hours and inadequate study resources are sticking in the craw of those stretched to the limit to pay for it all. I have a wodge of debt myself from my three year stint (much good has it done me, I still don’t earn enough to pay back the loans) but it’s nothing like the five figure whoppers today’s students incur. If you (or your family) are paying all that money and putting a serious dint in your finances to do it, you deserve a decent service back. If they want to turn Universities into corporations and students into consumers, well, consumers have rights and they’re going to shout about them.
I recall reading in Naomi Klein’s No Logo of the despair amongst American academics at the laissez faire attitude of their students to University life, swanning into lectures halfway through, sipping lattes bought at the campus branch of Starbucks. It’s a pretty depressing notion, but that’s consumerism for you. Under this system it seems they will have to water down degrees in order to keep up demand and the appearance of high quality teaching; a degree might not look so desirable when you need two jobs to get through it, it sets you back a decade on the property ladder and there’s no guarantee of a decent starting salary either.
They have to find a way to maximise hours fairly and boost access to resources to complement the death of free education otherwise they’ll eventually be forced to dish out meaningless degrees like so many Chancellor’s platitudes. But lots of people want the education they’re paying for, not some watered-down degree to wave under people’s noses. It seems the concept of a free education was devalued virtually under our noses in a couple of generations. How did it happen?
Friday, 9 May 2008
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Today the sunshine is causing anticipatory thrills about my forthcoming holiday. From the 17th to the 24th I will be cruising the Med (on a ship, smartarse), with my folks, starting and ending in Barcelona, my favourite place in the world. On the agenda are historical tours of Rome, Florence, Pisa, Pompeii plus days out in Ville Franche, Naples and Palermo. Eek! My step-dad turned 50 this year and this is to celebrate. It’s the first proper holiday ever taken by Ma, Pa and us four sibs together. It will make us or break us. I am mostly intensely excited but also partially frustrated at having missed so much gym time in the last fortnight that when I’m eventually forced to take my shirt off I will look like an overweight ten year old. The ship holds about 3000 people which is actually quite frightening. I intend to dress to the nines nightly and shmooze my way around the decks romantically fleecing as many wealthy divorcees as it takes to pay off Neil’s mortgage.
Reading and writing aside …
The reason I’m forbidden to read John Kennedy Toole, or any fiction in fact, is that I am forcing myself to work on my own fiction which makes it impossible to read other people’s. ‘Forcing’ is a little strong. I enjoy writing very much but time spent writing is time spent away from boyfriend, gym, movies, cat, pub, not to mention the busman’s holiday aspect when one has already spent all day in front of a computer screen. After my hol though it will be my main priority, the gym won’t matter so much and I won’t be able to afford a social life anyway.
The reading embargo stays however, for these tried and tested reasons: Firstly if you like what you read you end up a) copying the style, and b) despairing that what you write will never be as good. And if you don’t enjoy it you find your own efforts mired in bitterness because ‘How can this shit get published while I’m doomed to flounder in obscurity?’ Plus it’s a question of time, word overload, eye strain and so forth.
Speaking of books I don’t enjoy I‘ve had to give up halfway through Steven Hall’s Raw Shark Texts. I found the beginning most intriguing but dear God can I be expected to remain intrigued for a further 200 pages? His writing is nice and serviceable but never quite convincing enough for the metaphysically demanding plot he’s set up for himself. I am forever tempted to read ‘just ten more pages’ and see if the thing picks up but I just don’t care enough what happens to them. In fact I will go online tonight and read a spoiler to deter further efforts. After ten more pages …
If I must read something from time to time (and I must) I pick up The Manga Bible (a Xmas present from monkey) which is great fun and quite beautiful in parts (especially Adam … phwoar). I’m just at the bit where Moses has freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage only to find they are a bevy of irredeemable whiners. In his temper he smashes the Commandment tablets then somewhat sheepishly has to begin them from scratch. I have to admire the nonchalant ingratitude of the Jewish folk in this story though. Not only does Moses release them from a life of servitude, he parts a vast body of water to aid them to safety then obtains nourishment from the very skies to feed and water them. Their reaction? ‘At least in Egypt we had proper meat.’ I love it. Surely this contains the origins of Woody Allen’s apocryphal Jewish old ladies skit: ‘The food was awful ... and such small portions.’ Genius.
Soundtrack: Freedy Johnston, Felt (thankyou Matthew!)
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
A veerrry slow Bank Holiday Monday (have I ever had any other kind??) with Joffrey, Neil, Pugling, plus my usual dread and hatred of going to bed with a hangover. I wish I knew why I loathed it so? Still in advanced physical meltdown now. Managing to get fiddly bits of work done though. Slowly digesting enormous carb lunch from Gregg’s and listening to clarinet rehearsals from the music rooms across the way which began as soothing interludes then breached the upper reaches of squalling “weasel “weasel” scales, then back again. Might pop a request through for a bit of Cagney and Lacey. I do realise that’s the third mention of C&L in a week’s blogging. It can’t be helped.
Sunday, 4 May 2008
This morning was a blissful hungover morning with the monkey, of the kind I love. He really is the most amazing and wonderful person I know and will blush furiously reading this but I don’t care. It’s like a part of me has been hacked off when he’s not around, which is often, since he is busy PhD-ing and we don’t live together, but I think I appreciate him all the more for it.
Am completely in love with last fm. Have just been spazzed to death by amazing Autechre track on there. It’s like a foreign language in parts. If you like Autechre you might also like Secede, Proem, Ochre, Bola, Arovane, Ilkae … They sound like Tolkien characters. Don’t fancy the idea of friending anyone though, I’m not using it to network, but being able to flit between all this wonderful unheard music at the click of a mouse is something my fifteen year old self would literally have given an arm for. Lots of talk of dismemberment today, forgive me.
Have to be back in the boozer in less than an hour for Stag drinking festivities. My planned-for disco kip hasn’t happened and I look and probably smell appalling. 'Like Bigfoot’s dick', to quote my friend Kirsty. Still, can’t let the boys side down can I? My, I am marauding with the heterosexual masses this weekend aren't I? I love it. Thank God for bank holidays.
Soundtrack: ‘Set the Fire to The Third Bar’, Hercules and Love Affair, Enya ‘Book of Days’ (I’m suddenly addicted to this one song, I’ve no idea why …), The Concretes, especially ‘Chosen One’
*fanzy, as opposed to just plain fancy, is our lingo for when something is right special. You’d say ‘I fancy that boy’ but, like, a cake with all sparklers stuck in it would be fanzy, thus emphasising it’s innate fanciness.
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Friday afternoon my friend Kate and I inter-rail to the picturesque Lancashire village of Adlington to visit our dear friends Ange and Chris who have fashioned a tiny new person named Evan Douglas Jones. He is a mere 8 weeks old and I cannot wait to meet him. My intention is to challenge him to an arm-wrestle then play him the entire Smiths back catalogue. I know babies.
In the flesh he is absolutely adorable. During her pregnancy Ange and I discussed the worries of producing a monkey/alien/potato baby, which can happen no matter how beautiful the parents are. Evan fortunately is a two month old movie star with beautiful big blue eyes, soft downy hair, dapper Hawaiian outfit from Gap Kids and the sweetest, affable demeanour to boot. I am of course smitten. We lunch at Thyme Café in Horwich, a plush village on the Lancs/Mancs border where my train usually stops en route to Blackpool but which I‘ve never actually visited before. I am impressed. Evan makes not a peep as we scoff deli sandwiches, catch up on gossip and have a good old laugh.
Back in the city we hook up with after work drinkers in Odder: Emma, Adam, Kim, Laure, Ioannis, Tony, Eunice, Greg. Ben and Katy are also in attendance, warming up for their forthcoming hen and stag do’s. Hen on the Saturday, Stag on the Sunday, both of which I will be attending (and they are marrying one another, just to clarify). I am dosing myself up with green tea and milk thistle in preparation for the punishing weekend and am very excited about it. Tonight though I drink just enough St George’s bitter to take the edge off my hangover then head to see Neil and the Pugling in Levenshulme where we watch Family Guy and American Dad, both of which I’m beginning to love but can’t yet pick a favourite. Takeaway and sleeeep.
I carry on walking and stop at the second-hand book man outside the Met Union building where I immediately spot something funny: David Attenborough’s ‘Trials of Life‘: Reader’s Digest Expanded and Enlarged Version. I think, surely you could have just left it as it was then, couldn‘t you? I reason I’m possibly the only person in the world who might find this funny and turn away smiling, only to find racing bike man glaring directly at me. I beat a hasty retreat.
At home the entire building is now under scaffolding with a platform invitingly placed right outside my window. The temptation is overwhelming, so much so that, distracted, I manage to burn the microwave popcorn that represents tonight’s dinner (I 'm usually much healthier than this). Moments later the fire alarm sounds throughout the building. This surely can’t be the fault of my few blackened kernels, can it? I finish eating anyway and amble down the back stairs and onto the street. Only half a dozen evacuees are waiting there so I give it ten minutes then head back up, somewhat guiltily. With the fire alarm still ringing I can think of no better opportunity to scramble out onto the scaffolding and run up and down. I could say I smelt smoke and panicked. Then I remember I have tickets for Sandra Bernhard this month and I’ve promised to feed the Pugling while Neil is in France and it would be mortifying to die like that man off the hilarious ‘Don’t drink and climb scaffolding’ advert. So I stay put. God help me if I come back to this flat drunk though …
Later the same evening I head to the Thirsty Scholar last minute to see my sister Clare do her stuff at the open mic night. (Managed to pop to the LGF on Princess Street first to exercise my suffrage. Green Party since you ask, I wouldn’t touch the rest with a sterilised knitting needle). At the pub almost the entire clan is in attendance: Ma, Pa, auntie Dee, Uncle John, sister Emma and boyf James. We accidentally get rollicking drunk and have a blast. Biased I might be but Clare utterly shines amongst the dreary boys with acoustic guitars and Melua-likes that tend to populate these things, although the couple with the banjo last night were excellent. Clare’s voice is huge and she knows how to control it, she really is preternaturally talented, it quite frightens me. She’s done a gazillion such nights now and is ready to make the subtle shift from open mic circuit to ‘unsigned’. Hopefully the forthcoming London gigs will be just the ticket.
Return home late, drunk and starving but resist the scaffolding.
Thursday, 1 May 2008
He wears a smart armband made of fox fur so was clearly a dapper chap, and the archaeologists make a great fuss over the immaculate state of his nails. To add intrigue it seems he was ‘killed’ three times in the Celtic style, perhaps to honour gods, meaning he was probably someone to know. To me it’s plain what actually happened: the accessories, the manicure, the brutal yobbish overkill … This was a homophobic killing of the worst kind. Still, Lindy gets the last laugh with eternal stardom in his Sleeping Beauty glass case.
A typically earthy Mancunian response was overheard while we were there. A chav couple peered into the display case whereupon the girl was heard to honk loudly: ‘Is that real or has someone made it?’ To which her paramour replied: ‘Course it’s fucking real, that’s why it’s here’. After a lengthy pause she wondered aloud: ‘Is there nowt else?’ Well, the heathens are always amongst us, from the 1st Century to this very day.
This reignited my love of overheads so I submitted that nugget, plus another, to Overheard in Manchester. While there are some gems on there nothing can match the bitter, nasty, dumbfounding street wit and stupidity of Overheard in New York. ‘Move you pregnant bitch’ being forever a high point for me.
Speaking of pregnancy and the like, it seems prolapsed vaginas are pressed right up to the watershed these days. Embarrassing Bodies was one of my rare forays into telly watching of late ... what on earth have I been missing? Who are these women crippled with self-consciousness by various vaginal ailments but happy to bare all, inside and out, on national TV? Well, good on ‘em I say. It’ll all be forgotten by next week anyhow when it’s the chaps turn to whip ‘em out and get them stitched and cauterised up close for our edification. I can’t wait. The promise of sitting there with my brew and going ‘Ooh I know him’ looms tantalisingly close. Don’t forget to tune in.