Thursday, September 30, 2004

High and Low Culture



Stewart and I meet at The Lowry tonight to see the English Touring Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night. It’s not a Shakespeare play I have ever seen or read before, but Stewart’s pre-show summary of “twins, people taking different identities, love triangles, misunderstandings, shipwrecks – you know the usual sort of Shakespeare comedy stuff…” proved pretty accurate.

A couple of the actors were a little below par, but others more than made up for them and overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable production. I should get to the theatre more often.

The only downside it that neither Stewart nor I had time to eat before the show and we turn out just after 10pm to find Lime has just stopped serving and with the knowledge that the fridge at home is pretty bare.

There’s only one thing for it – I introduce Stewart to the splendours of the Paradise kebab shop in Longsight (naan made to order whilst your heavenly chicken shish cooks on the charcoal grill). It’s Stewart’s turn to buy and he’s well impressed that his donner in naan, my chicken shish and two cans of drink come to £4.50. Somehow memories of the theatre fade with his remarks re me being a cheap date.

I think he was joking…

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Collateral

Phil, Sarah and I went to see Collateral tonight, which was surprisingly good. I normally have very little time for the smarm-bucket, ego-fest that is Tom Cruise, but in this he’s OK – or as Phil puts it “not too Tom Cruisey”. He is however acted off the screen by his co-star Jamie Foxx, who puts in a startling debut major film role as the taxi driver having the worst night of his life.

Above all though, this movie belongs to Michael Mann. His hallmarks are all over it: the pace, the motion, the attention to location, the mood, the use of music etc.

We’re agreed though that the final scene lets the film down badly. I won’t include any spoilers here, but the final acts just don’t ring true and it’s a shame that a fairly fantastical tale successfully manages to suspend one’s disbelief, only to falter at the final hurdle. It’s too big a price to pay for the ‘neat’ ending.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Secret TV Histories

Round at Stewart’s tonight, eating Chinese and watching Spaced DVDs, he makes the following admission:

"Well I was on Crackerjack you know…"

Sadly it seems he didn’t even get close to winning the famed pencil.

Whereas I do have a pen from my own sad childhood TV appearance, but I’d have to be far drunker before I’d admit what show that was…

Monday, September 27, 2004

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

I always find that each time I read a book, I discover new things; new layers, new angles, new stories, new things to love, new things to hate.

At book group tonight we gather upstairs at Fuel in Withington (our new improved home!) to discuss Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are Not the Only Fruit


I think this is the third time I’ve read this book and this time I found I could see beyond the abuses of the church community to see the love and belonging that is also there. I’m also more frustrated than ever at the jump to the final chapter. I want to know how the heroine moved from a place of being disowned and leaving to a restored (albeit strained and uneasy) relationship.

Others in the group clearly have different relationships with this book. One guy struggles with its meandering style and lack of firm direction and control. One woman can see it’s shortcomings, but holds it ever dear as being the source of her realisation of her own sexuality.

As ever one brings so much of one’s own situation and story to any novel.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Sunday - the end of a long weekend...



I think I’m too old to do two big nights out in a row…

I eventually emerge from my duvet mid-afternoon. Apologies to anyone who rang me before that point and got a rather incoherent response.

Secretly I’m glad that plans to meet up with friends tonight fell through, so I cook up some fajitas and curl up on the sofa for the rest of the day, alternately reading and listening to the iPod and watching TV/videos.

I even get to watch Gladiator in the evening, which means I can cross that one off my list of “films everyone apart from L1z has seen”.

My verdict? A good film, but I can’t quite see what all the fuss was about.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Hangovers and pirates

Still tired from last night, I somehow find the energy to head back into town in the evening to meet with Jo. We kick things off with a meal in Eden before heading on up Canal Street drinking, ending up in Vanilla with Steph and friends until the early hours.



As ever Jo and I have a great time and a good laugh together. Tonight strangely the main source of amusement is the Captain Jack Sparrow look-a-like perched at the bar in Eden. I kid you not the guy had the full pirate costume on from the ribbons in the hair to the pirate style boots. Bandanna and eyeliner – the lot. No sign of a costume party though – so we’re left struggling with ‘why?’.

Maybe he's just running a week late on international talk-like-a-pirate day?

We do however manage to take a few surreptitious piccies on my camera phone so at least people can’t just say we were drunk and imagining things.

As if!

Friday, September 24, 2004

My New favourite Band?

The traffic getting back from work tonight is utterly horrendous, so plans of cooking before heading out are shelved and instead it's a rush to get to the Apollo in time. Thanks to the ever running 192 service we make it just in time.

We miss the first support (the ever a bridesmaid never a bride Ikira Colt), but catch the second a bunch of Swedish head cases called Cdoa. Very Talking Heads…well if Talking Heads were Swedish and had a bloke in a tweed jacket and leather driving gloves playing a xylophone…

This is just a taster of the Swedish mayhem that is about to be unleashed by the headline act.

The Hives rock! The new album is really good, but live it’s transformed into utter greatness.



Pelle demands adoration from the audience and the audience are happy to comply. This is a band that knows how to give a performance.

Elated we head on to one of our favourite late night drinking holes Big Hands although Laura who has been drinking since lunchtime bows out gracefully and heads home.

Big Hands is hard to describe. Laid back, yet trendy; excellent whilst eclectic music from the DJ; chilled yet buzzing atmosphere; welcoming yet slightly seedy d├ęcor.

Oh and good beer. Which turns out to be Stewart’s downfall. It was that fatal 11th pint…

Referrals

Firstly, thanks to Caroline for the info on how to set up a site meter - perusing the stats is fascinating. I'm stunned how many people pop past each day to read this strange exercise in journal keeping.

I particularly love seeing how people got to this Blog. Mostly through other Blogs unsurprisingly, but it's the Google searches that really intrigue.

So far searches that have led to my door include people trying to find a Manchester Curry house, a Buckfast Tonic Wine T'Shirt and an Evelyn Waugh quote.

Most intriguing though is that someone searched on Google for "L1z". Just "L1z". And this blog comes up as entry 91 out of (about) 16,900,000 hits.

How scary is that?

So scary in fact I'm editing everything to L1z now!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Decision made

Ok so I’ve made my decision.

I’m not going to go to Namibia next April.



It was supposed to happen this November with me accompanying Sarah on her work trip, combined with some ‘holiday time’.

Thing is Phil has now changed his mind and wants to go and the revised timing (due to issues over there) really sucks in terms of my work and the end of a 5yr contract, start of the next (potentially with different company etc).

Not that the three of us don’t get on really well, but it is a different dynamic. On the other hand it does give me the freedom of not feeling Sarah’s trip is dependant on me accompanying (aka driving) her.

I guess however the deciding factor is that the timing is appalling and financially it’s just not good. Job security right now is very low and the cost of the trip has increased significantly on early estimates (even with binning the going via Cape Town option that I was really wanting to do). Not the time to go into debt. The option of a trip in 2006 still remains – so I figure that’s the better option.

Will still feel hugely sad in April though when Phil and Sarah head off without me.

Of course that’s providing I find the courage to break the news of my decision to Sarah…

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Decisions, decisions...

I hate the decision making process. Weighing up the pros and cons, thinking through all the issues, trying to work out how you really feel about the choices etc.

Stewart tells me that I just need to listen to my “inner voice”. My full response doesn’t bare repeating, but involves phrases such as “taking adult responsibility for ones choices”.

Not that I don’t agree with what he means about trying to establish how you really feel about something, but surely that has to be in conjunction with using our rational abilities to consider the issues?

After all if I don’t check my diary to discover that the option being considered clashes with something else I really want to do, my ‘inner voice’ is uninformed.

Admittedly my line about “I have about as much respect for the inner guide approach as I have for people who say “just listen to what God is telling you” – in fact it’s pretty much the same thing if you ask me”, may have been going too far…

Strangely though, once I've made my decision I'm usually at peasce with it. Once I’ve done the process I stick with my choice and accept whatever consequences follow in the knowledge I made the best decision I could.

After all the alternative outcome is always lost to us, so we can never ‘know’ if we made the ‘right’ choice. Kundera explains what I mean far better.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Good Gadget, Bad Gadget?

I’m still deeply in love with my iPod. I haven’t quite got all my music loaded yet (the downside of a large CD collection), but being able to carry even what I do have done anywhere with me is fantastic.

Given that Chris Moyles is becoming increasingly annoying and in the absence of DAB in the car (and sorry I just ‘don’t do Radio 2), I wanted a way of linking my iPod to my car stereo. Or in fact any radio anywhere. So I now own one of these:



And after some tweaking around I’ve got it working reasonably satisfactorily in the car (obviously for legal reasons, only when I’m driving in the US), if I place the iPod in one particular place and don’t wave my arm around between it and the aerial.

At home though (obviously for legal reasons, only when my home has been transported Wizard of Oz style to the US) I still get major interference between the iPod and either one of my stereo systems. The only really good signal is achieved if I prop the iPod so it’s literally touching the wire aerial. So much for the 10-30ft abilities its spec boasted.

Which kind of destroys the point of being wireless.

I’ve tried all different frequencies and volumes and still no joy.

Any ideas anyone?

Monday, September 20, 2004

Last night was bought to you by the letter 'L'

It appears that I have been made to unwittingly listen to copious amounts of Led Zeppelin.

Basically we fell asleep to Lambchop and woke up to Lemonjelly, which means during much of the intervening time, thanks to iTunes, the Zep was making its way into my subconscious.

Aren’t there laws against this kind of subliminal influence thing?

I’m just grateful the alarm clock went off before we hit M and Marillion…

Note to self – insist on vetted playlists in future!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Peaceful Weekend

A lovely peaceful weekend; lots of relaxing intermingled with a ton of paperwork and further progress on the immense task of getting my CD collection onto my iPod.

(still lovely – purrrrr, purrrr!)

Priority booking privileges on Friday also mean I manage to sort REM tickets for Old Trafford in June and thus avoid having to get up at dawn on Saturday. Not cheap though and quite how a company justifies both a service charge and a processing fee is beyond me.

The weekend is rounded off with a Sunday night curry at the Punjab and then back to Stewart’s place. The cats are it seems, becoming savvy to what my arrival in the house means and a very amusing Benny Hill style chase ensues as Stewart attempts to get both cats into the back half of the house and shut the door.

I’m sure my spectating and laughing was helpful in some way…

In a fatal end move, Sweep leaps from the ironing board onto my lap in pursuit of sanctuary. Bad move - no sanctuary here buddy!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Politically aware mice and zombies

Mouse update... activity could be clearly heard in house when I got home around 6.15pm. Tracked the sound down and have discovered their food source. A bag with some mini bars of Green and Black's chocolate in, that Sarah gave me as a pressie some time ago (and I have to be in the right mood to eat straight chocolate...weird I know). Anyway... at least I can now say this about my unwelcome tenants, at least they are on the organic and Fairtrade tip...

Much as I hate to discourage such right on scavenging, I remove the chocolate, save for small piece that I place on a trap at the previous location of bag. Let's see how the like it now...

Having set this up I head out for dinner and DVD's.

Shaun of the Dead - fantastic. If you haven't already seen this film then I highly recommend it. If you liked Spaced, you'll love this.

Probably the best British film for a long while and it's a testament to the strength of the whole cast , that for once Bill Nighy, even in what is a fairly minor role, doesn't steal the show.

The DVD has some good extras on it as well. I particularly like the section entitled "Plot Holes". Wondering how Ed survives the sacking of the pub and ends up in the garden shed? Well now you can find out - all explained by pictureboards accompanied by a voiceover from the relevant actor.

Maybe the Hell Boy DVD will explain that spotlight. Somehow I don't think I'll be buying it to find out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Announcement of a New Arrival



After an annoying (even if in retrospect quite comical) start to the day, my mood is instantly brightened with the arrival of my new baby.

If I was a cat I’d be purring right now.

Oh fuck it, the thing's so lovely I'm going to purr anyway! Purrrrrrrrrrrr!

Promise you won't laugh?

Just a typical Wednesday.

It starts at 6.30am when Stewart disappears off to work and my attempts to fit in a final hours sleep are thwarted by the b’stard mice that have decided to move into my loft.

Now let me be clear I have tried to get rid of them in humane ways (loud music, ultrasonic transmitters etc), but they won’t shift and are starting to a) do damage and b) wake me up each night with their noise. Accordingly my animal loving patience has run out and now I just want them gone – dispatched in as quick a manner as possible. So anyway…

Ten minutes after Stewart has gone, one bold mice, clearly thinking that the coast is now clear, ventures brazenly into the box room and is making a right din. When I creep into the room it can clearly be heard rummaging about in the large box that holds my old PC tower (awaiting cannibalisation) and various spare computer peripherals and lots of packing.

Being the sort that always has gaffer tape close to hand, I act quickly and seal the box. Gotcha!

So now what do I do?

Answer, manhandle box outside onto picnic bench in cold garden. Arm oneself with heavy saucepan and slowly open box and remove contents.

Midway through this I hear the door of the house opposite and duck behind the fence quickly before my neighbour Peter is treated to the strange view of L1z in pyjamas at 6.40am in cold garden apparently preparing to beat up a computer with a heavy saucepan…

Soon I have removed everything apart from the tower and it becomes clear that the mickey must be sheltering inside. I decide against going further and unscrewing the side panel – after all how will I hit the mouse if it’s between the PCI cards?

So instead I resort to placing a tray of fast acting poison in the box and resealing it.

In a Schrodinger’s Cat style experiment, the box will be reopened in a few days time and I’ll investigate properly.

Place your bets now…

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Film from Hell?

With Jo’s words of “be nice to him” still ringing in my ears, I was persuaded to go with Stewart to see Hell Boy tonight.

It won’t be counted as my best decision of the week I feel.

The more I think of it the poorer it seems – it wasn’t painful to watch, but ultimately was hollow and lacking in anything that truly engaged the audience.

Most annoying of all was that it had the potential to be so much better. The hellboy character and backstory is promising, but the majority of the characters are unsympathetic (love triangle? Who cares who gets the girl? Not me!) and the plot and dialogue were so weak and derivative as to make one question as to whether it was really trying to be parody.

Do we really need another law enforcement ‘chief’ down on the maverick hero for being a ‘risk to the team’, before making it up in the final sequences as they come together against the common foe?

Similarly Raiders of the Lost Ark is ripped off mercilessly in the opening sequence (though one question – if the Nazis are performing secret black magic ceremonies in a ruined Scottish abbey, why have they hung huge swastika banners on the outside of the abbey walls?).

Which leads me to a prime example of bad ‘science’ in movies; when the portal to hell is opened (hmmm clues this is not my ‘type’ of film eh?) a spotlight with trailing flex is sucked through. The camera follows the light, which is ‘used’ to light up shots of what is on the ‘other side’. So my question is this, what sort of extension lead is it that can stretch into different realities and still do it’s job? Bet they didn’t buy that one at B&Q…

Anyway by the time Hellboy faces up to one of the baddies with the line “You killed my father…your arse is mine!”, I’ve kind of lost it with even trying to take the film remotely seriously.

Accordingly by the end when the ‘portal’ is almost reopened (the ‘eye’ from LoTRs anyone?) and the seven evil gods of chaos are freed, it comes as no great surprise that they turn out to be tentacled creatures reminiscent of the type of badly animated space-squid that attacks the space-ship in The Darkness’ I Believe in a Thing Called Love video.

In fact it’s the ludicrousness that is the films saving grace. Crap as it is, I can’t quite bring myself to hate it. I wouldn’t see it again, but I’m not left actually feeling actively aggrieved at having lost two hours from my life in its care.

Besides there’s always a silver lining and in this case it’s the embarrassed Stewart’s final comment on the matter: “OK you get to chose the next film we see…”.

Shame really that I’m trying to be nice to the boy, ‘cos there’s just so many ‘chick-flicks’ that it would be tempting to make him sit through in revenge…

Hurricane Nomenclature

Thanks to Rachel for the following link that tells you all the hurricane names used in the Pacific and Atlantic so far this year.

Delving deeper into the FAQs one can find out how the names are chosen and by whom.

Interestingly there has been a recent move to change the list of names used in the Northwest Pacific basin. Appropriately enough the progression is to use Asian names, as contributed by all the nations and territories that are members of the WMO's Typhoon Committee (you know...those guys).

Well that makes good sense (I suspect Hurricane Howard doesn't play so well over there), but the other changes I don't understand the reason for:
There are a few men's and women's names, but the majority are names of flowers, animals, birds, trees, or even foods, etc, while some are descriptive adjectives. Secondly, the names will not be allotted in alphabetical order, but are arranged by contributing nation with the countries being alphabetized.

A consequence of naming by committee I guess...

Monday, September 13, 2004

Tit for Tat

Sarah excels herself this evening, cooking a fab salmon in honey mustard dish, followed by the most amazing bowl made out of chocolate (freezer and tin foil involved apparently), filled with fresh fruit in a raspberry coulis. Fair trade chocolate too - hurrah, saving the world through gluttony!

The other guest is the local Catholic priest, who I’ve not met before; lovely bloke with a wicked sense of humour.

Sadly it would be inappropriate of me to share any of the tales that got told, but one phrase will linger regarding a certain colleague of his who hoards discarded ecclesiastical regalia and accoutrements: “up to his tits in tat”.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Not exactly a day of rest

I have to confess that after all the busy months leading up to the festival, it takes a rather large act of will to re-engage and do some of the outstanding post festival duties.

However I’m a good girl and in the course of the day manage to fill in various forms, reply to at least some of the emails that have flooded in and write close to 60 thank you cards (nearly finished – hurrah!).

The last task in particular leaves my head and hand aching, but so many people give so much to the festival that the least I can do is drop them a couple of lines of thank you. A standard computer produced affair just wouldn’t seem personal enough.

Mind you I only have postal addresses for people I ticketed, so an email thank you will have to do for the rest…

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Country Pubs

I love these September days when the sun shines and you’re aware that you might just eek a final few ‘outdoor’ days out of the summer before Autumn fully kicks in.

Sarah and I head into the country for a lovely pub lunch that extends well into the afternoon/evening. We consider walking the lunch off round a reservoir, but the sky threatens rain and we’re not really kitted out for inclement weather.

One more round then…

Friday, September 10, 2004

Meetings and being nice

Jo and I had plans for a boozy night out in town tonight. We meet at Dimitris to kick off proceedings with tapas and lots of wine. Lots of wine.

We’ve not been there long however, before a forlorn Stewart rings seeking an escape from his last minute preparations for tomorrow’s Best Man’s speech (last minute fill in as first choice’s wife is having to be induced on Saturday on health grounds) and DJ set (various length sets being all programmed on the iPod).

Before I can really think it through I agree to let him meet up with Jo and I for a few drinks later on.

And so unwittingly and unplanned the first ‘meeting of the other’s friends’ takes place (N.B. Phil and Sarah don't count!)

The verdict from Jo after he heads off: “he seems really nice – be nice to him Chapman!”.

I can’t imagine what she means. I haven’t even told her what an arse I was to him yesterday…

I suspect it’s more that she knows me well enough to know that one of the principle reasons I prefer being single is that I tend to turn into a ‘not very nice person’ when I’m in a relationship. I mean, I have warned him of this, but I don’t think he really believes me. He’ll see…

She’s right though and as she and I continue to drink the night away in Atlas bar, she convinces me that I should at least try my best to keep the “Bitch Queen” at bay…

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The best laid plans...

In going for a curry last night, I had forgotten that I was also due to go for a curry tonight.

Even this doesn’t go smoothly as the Punjab is closed due to a problem with their gas. We go to the Sanam instead. Stew’s Lamb Achari is good (though a bit hot for him – wimp!), but my Chicken Shashlik is decidedly odd and unappetising (tip: dunking a chicken breast in lemon juice isn’t really the same as marinading it now is it…). Disaster is also narrowly averted as I stop Stewart absent-mindedly helping himself to my Peshwari Naan. Not that I mind the food theft (I left half of it anyway), but not the best choice for someone with a nut allergy…

So overall, a decidedly average meal – and a reminder as to why we keep going back to the Punjab.

Then again the Matthew Perry look-a-like in the corner was a bit of a plus though…

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Fun things you can do for free

Curry tonight with Phil and Sarah and our first chance to catch up properly post Greenbelt. They helped run the Escape to Safety and I hear about how that went and catch up on how the lives of some of the Refugees that helped out have moved on since last year.

One Ugandan lad is just amazing – in fact we’ve yet to find something he doesn’t do well.

Despite having been left homeless and destitute by our delightful government the other year when he was a 17 yr old lad with no family or friends, he has an amazing commitment to getting involved in the community that he is now an adopted member of.

He says he loves the people of Gloucester and feels they have taken him to their hearts (conveniently forgetting the 7 nights he had to sleep rough in a park then…).

He gave up double-time paid work to volunteer at Greenbelt this year, because “this stuff is important”.

He has a place to study Engineering at University, but is going to take a gap year so he can “give something back first” doing care work and voluntary stuff.

He continues to work alongside Asylum Seeker and Refugee communities where he lives and harangues the Albanian’s he knows re getting more involved in British life. In fact the guy has learnt to speak good Albanian just so that he can help teach them English to aid this cause.

People like this leave me in awe.

At the end of the festival punters and traders once again donated huge amounts of left-over provisions that Escape to Safety will pass on to a project in Manchester that supports destitute Asylum Seekers. The project in question is run by a guy I know from years back, who also attended with the Escape to Safety gang – his first visit to Greenbelt.

I always liked him and his wife despite their rather fundamental evangelical ways, but it’s hard not to have your opinion of someone dented rather when they bring a vote to have you and your friends removed from membership of a church for being too political and liberal. In fact although the vote went in our favour, the episode still ultimately put an end to my attempts at mainstream church attendance.

That however is a long, long time ago. Years on and through his involvement in a homeless charity and increasing work with Asylum Seekers, it’s fair to say the guy has moved on somewhat. The traces of the evangelical are still there, but far from being the sort of person who would have condemned Greenbelt for it’s non-evangelistic and rather broad church ways, his verdict was “really good, but not political enough”.

Similarly on discussion of what to do with several hundred condoms donated by one of the traders, his verdict was to give them out to destitute Asylum Seekers, “after all there’s not many fun things you can do for free…”.

Backslider ;-)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

There goes the neighbourhood

I love the close I live on. We all seem to rub along pretty well together. United in adversity some might say.

In the last couple of weeks however things have been a little strained. Two families have fallen out (I have no idea of the details); the set of kids from one end of the close won’t play with the set from the other; neither set will play with the two young kids from the house in the middle (in fact there is open antagonism at times) and Tony, who has been on the close longer than I have, has just moved out.

At least the latter one I understand. Tony battles valiantly with MS, but he’s not getting any younger and his son and nephew live on the north side of Manchester, so he’s decided to move close to them. I’ll miss him though.

As for all the various fractures in the neighbourly relationships, well let’s hope it all blows over. I hate having to tread carefully, remembering who is talking to who. Also it’s one thing for ‘Aunty L1z’ to get pounced on by kids when she gets home, but to mediate in their squabbles I can do without right now (“Attika – I don’t care if she did try to push you off your bike earlier – put the hockey stick DOWN!”).

Monday, September 06, 2004

Weekend Break?

Stewart’s bright idea of the day: we should go to a Pontin’s Holiday Camp of the East Sussex coast for a weekend in December.

So OK it’s actually this year’s All Tomorrow’s Parties do aka Nightmare before Christmas and the line-up includes Mercury Rev, Peaches, Violent Femmes and The Fall, but it’s still not exactly what one would call a romantic weekend away.

The one potential obstacle (other than the “look we might not even be talking to each other by then”, but I’ve been told off for such pessimism/realism), is that to book a chalet you need a minimum of 4 people.

So if anyone…hmmm let me clarify, anyone we know (no random internet freaks need apply thanks!), fancies a December weekend in a cold chalet, checking out a strange collection of bands and DJs, please get in touch.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Little Fish, Big Fish



Watching Polly Harvey at the Apollo tonight, you are left in doubt as to her strength as a musician, vocalist and performer. Sadly however the set concentrates on her latest album and whilst a lot of it does sound better live, there is still a noticeable gap between this album and PJ at her very best. The odd track such as Who the Fuck? and The Life and Death of Mr Badmouth stand out, but even they pale against the few old favourites that she throws in.

As she breaks into Down By the Water, I'm drinning like a loon, but numbers like this do highlight how her latest work is a little off the boil.

That said, PJ is still a force to be reckoned with. Live, she is immensely imposing, a true rock goddess. Accordingly whilst this latest album and tour may not win her many new fans, the stalwarts all appear to be going home happy.

Polly on a bad day still whips the arse of 90% of the opposition.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Catch-up

Well it’s been a while. My apologies, but it’s one of the ironies of blogging that when a lot is happening in your life, you don’t have time to blog. Accordingly I will continue to maintain that my life is in reality more interesting than my blog reflects, but time constraints and the desire to keep certain things out of the public arena mean I only seem to end up writing about mundanities like shoe shopping.

So in an effort to cover the gap, let me summarise. Well I say summarise, it’s two weeks of blogging in one go, so you may want to make a brew first (or skip this entry altogether).

The weekend of the 21st-22nd I spent in London with my parents and over at my brother’s place. I mustered all my energy to entertain my niece and nephew (who are great fun). The day turned into a celebration as my brother announced that they have paid off the mortgage (no mean feat given they own a nice house in Hampton) and that certain life-changes (that I can’t go into here) are afoot. I’m delighted for them, the freedom is a fantastic thing, but their financial situation and life choices highlight to me how we live in such different worlds and I feel slightly sad that we seem to have so little in common. Sometimes the blood bond feels so weak.

On Monday I head to Cheltenham for build week, leading up to Greenbelt. It’s great to meet up with such fantastic people again and in many ways this feels far more like family, than life in Hampton.

On Tuesday things are going well, but come crashing down in the evening when Stewart rings just as we are about to go out for a Turkish meal. I can tell in his opening words that something is wrong. Basically he has just found out that his good friend Ian committed suicide the previous night.

Suddenly I don’t want to be in Cheltenham anymore but back in Manchester to hold him and ease the pain. Over the next few days the dilemma of where to be continues. I stay in Cheltenham at the end of a phone line whenever needed, but remain unsure as to whether this is the right thing to do. Stewart’s comments of “Jamelia needs you more than I do”, do little to convince me.

Come Friday the site opens and as ever life takes a turn for the manic. It’s good to see the plans we put in place working out. For example on the traffic front the festival inevitably creates more traffic in the area, but this year the massive planning exercise pre-festival and major operation on site means we only back up onto the roundabout for 45 secs in the whole day. Hopefully therefore the locals will not have been too inconvenienced and will see we’re trying to do everything we can to be good neighbours.

Over the next few days, the pattern of Ops teams plans working beautifully becomes a theme. Everywhere I look, things are flowing wonderfully and I’m struck once again by how amazing all these people are and feel truly humbled and inadequate to be counted in their number.

As ever I don’t get much time off and get to see so little. I do manage to see the Inconvenience of History exhibition (invited to the VIP reception for the first time ever – lordy!) and I’m blown away by John Keane's intensely powerful paintings. I get dragged away early though, in order to deal with a water supply issue that needs urgent attention. It all gets resolved ok, but it does mean I miss the Handsome Family, which was one of my four ‘must-sees’ for the weekend.

I do manage to get free in time to make it to see ‘must-see’ number two, Lambchop. I watch the gig from the side of the stage with Oli. They are fantastic as ever and it’s good to watch with someone else who ‘gets’ them. It’s also good to look out over a crowd that is also getting into their mellow vibe.

Oh and by the way if anyone knows whom the chap in the second row, stage left was that seemed in utter ecstasy through the entire set, could you say thank you. You have no idea how it warms the heart to see someone enjoying the festival that much!

Post Lambchop I sort a few more work issues and then manage to make it up to Centaur for most of Terry Callier (must-see number three). His voice is amazing, but I have to say the band were erring a little on the ‘jazz-club’ side of pretentious. Nice…

It’s also good to hang out with a friend at the gig, who I’d just bumped into looking really down. Life is pretty tough for him right now and he’d hit a real low. Through the course of the set however, I can see his mood lift as the amazing music washes over us. It’s always good to see Greenbelt healing someone in this way.

Part way through the gig, he leans over to me, gestures at the bongo player and whispers “do you remember Raw Sex?”. I collapse in laughter and I know that in turn I’m being healed a little bit too.

Sadly the weekend does not appear to be having the same effect on another dear friend who is in pain right now. I manage to get time out to go and see dfg with her (bloody excellent btw!) on the Saturday, but I can see she’s not in the right place for it. I wish I could do more and be there more for her, but I’m being pulled in all directions.

By Monday it hits crisis point and what should have been the day I actually get to see something of the festival, turns into one of the worst days of my life. I hesitate to write that, knowing she will read this, but heck she’ll have worked it out herself already so let’s not pretend eh?

I feel useless and incompetent in the face of everything. I try to tell myself that maybe some good will come out of it long term, but that doesn’t alter the fact that for now I am drained and exhausted.

The love and care of my Greenbelt family envelops me and the others directly involved and I can’t tell you what that means. Similarly the fact that I’m surrounded by such amazing and competent people gives me the permission to fall apart and know that things will still run ok. I feel bad that others will have to take up the slack and that I’m not about much on the last day to support all the teams, but the fact that they are so understanding and gracious about everything blows me away.

I couldn’t feel more cared for, but actually it gets to the point where I can’t deal with anyone anymore. I need to get away and talk to someone not directly involved. I’m so tired.

Having ensured that Jamelia closed down ok and that everything is “alright” I go off duty for a while at about midnight and finally catch up with Stewart properly. He’s ascertained from various hurried texts and a 5 second phone call, when I really couldn’t speak, that a) I want to speak to him and b) I’m really upset about something. He manages to put the two together and decide it must be something he’s done. We sort that one out quickly when I explain to him what has happened.

I feel bad dumping on him when he is still dealing with losing Ian, but it’s so good to talk to someone slightly removed from the situation, but who knows enough about the background to understand. He knows what I’m going through and is fantastically supportive. He persuades me to go back ‘out’ and find friends and join the end of festival parties. I feel so tired and un-partylike, but he’s right, I need to be amongst friends and find some happy memories to take away from the festival and I think the good it does my soul outweighs the downside of yet another 5am finish.

Tuesday we clear up and I head home late afternoon. Stewart comes round and it’s good to reconnect after 2 weeks apart. We’ve both been through the wringer in that time and it’s good to be able to hold each other and share the pain.

Wednesday is my recovery day, but plans to sleep-in are somewhat disrupted by Stewart’s alarm going off at 6am, Stewart shouting “oh f***!” at 8am when he realised he’d fallen back asleep and was now running 2hrs late, the doorbell going at 10am for a recorded delivery (Franz Ferdinand tickets – yay!) and then lovely people ringing and texting to check I was ok throughout the rest of the day!

I manage to get three loads of washing sorted, but the boxes and crates remain piled in the lounge.

By the evening however I’m rested enough to make a curry with Stuart, Karen and the kids, just back from Cheltenham themselves. A lovely way to round off the festival and good to be around their kids who always know how to cheer “Aunty L1z” up.

Thursday is back to work and I try to summon the energy to plough through 400+ emails.

Somewhere in the middle is an email from Matt telling me that Karen gave birth to the twins on Monday and despite some complications all is now well.

Now it’s well known that I dislike babies, but I can’t help but smile at the photo of a proud dad in scrubs with a tiny bundle of new life cradled in each arm.

Welcome to the world boys. It’s a fair old rollercoaster, but overall it’s worth the ride…