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My freelance writing can now be found at mikeatkinson.wordpress.com.
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.
On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.
Friday, October 10, 2008
My fabulous week.
You know it's Autumn when the Monday morning journey back to Nottingham takes an hour and twenty minutes. I blame Derby. More specifically, I blame the University of Derby - who have installed queue-building gatekeepers, checking everybody's ID upon entry - and the dreaded traffic lights at Five Lamps.
As usual, I dozed off from the minute we hit the A52, the new Lindstrøm album (beautiful, atmospheric, custom-built for travelling) ably soundtracking my dreams.
An interview opportunity with Kim Wilde materialised. I'll be talking to her next week. Perhaps I'll ask her for some Autumn gardening tips.
The usual Monday night telly: University Challenge (there's usually at least one contestant per week with "Just K's Type" written all over him; he likes them pale, skinny and earnest); Only Connect (a delightfully old-fashioned lateral-thinking panel game on BBC4, of which my late grandmother would have approved - especially since it's hosted by the daughter of her beloved Alan Coren); the last part of that police thriller with Juliet Stevenson in it (CBATG the title, but K loved the book).
For various reasons (a poorly Plus One; no room in the newspaper; a declining interest in the band), I gave the Hot Club De Paris gig a miss. Another telly night ensued. Not the most memorable of days.
Oh, but wait! I forgot! Today was the day that I discovered the Best Bottled Beer Ever: St. Peter's Golden Ale, which is brewed near Bungay in Suffolk and comes in rather beautiful oval bottles. I've been going through a major Bottled Ale exploratory phase lately, and this really is the best that I've tasted.
Update: Having just fished the empty bottle out of the recycling bin, I now realise that it was the Organic Ale, not the Golden Ale. Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused.
After much diddling around with calendars, I finally sorted out the rest of this year's holidays: a series of long weekends, stretching from early November to the start of January. For nine consecutive weeks, I'll be working four days or fewer. There may be trips to London. There may be podcasts. I might even buy some new clothes; my trouser situation borders on the disgraceful.
Subscribed to a couple of new blogs: Advanced Style (a photo-blog dedicated to snappily dressed senior citizens in New York City) and Musicophilia (absolutely superb extended MP3 mixes, compiled with skill, passion and exceptional attention to detail).
As has become customary, our team (myself, LB, Sarah, Suburban Hen and SwissToni, aka The Shadowy Cabal) thrashed the competition down at the LeftLion Pub Quiz, romping home to victory for the sixth week running.
(If truth be told, it has all got a little embarrassing - but what can we do? Accept bungs to throw the match?)
There was, however, one question that no-one in the pub guessed correctly.
"What eight-syllable word will get you automatically fired from the BBC if you use it on the TV or the radio?"
I'll stick the "answer" in the comments.
Thursday was not the greatest of days. Work-wise, it was a day of chasing impossible deadlines, of trying to accommodate shall-we-say challenging last minute demands, of fevered instant messaging, dizzyingly complicated phone calls to the US, hold-your-mouth-right conference calls, of cock-ups averted, of managers placated... in short, the sort of day which would have stressed me to breaking point a few years ago, but which I seem to be able to cope with pretty well these days. Keep calm, take notes, don't be afraid to ask questions, hold your mouth right, adopt a tone of unflappable authority, and you're halfway there in this job.
(Sidenote: I was browsing through some of my archives this week, and was surprised to find several references to a tendency to self-subordinate in work-related or semi-formal situations. Surprised and also rather gladdened, as it dawned on me that, somewhere along the line, self-subordination has ceased to be a problem. 46 years old, and I have finally mastered the art of self-confidence! Such progress!)
The day's biggest disappointment: having to turn down a last-minute interview with Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Dammit, I just know she would have been good value. Always the most "real" one, the tell-it-like-it-is one, and the best singer to boot. Instead, I had to content myself with feeding questions to Simon, chasing that "additional research by" credit.
The day ended on a suitably crappy note, with SwissToni and I - hot, tired, bored, pissed off - bailing out of Rock City fifteen minutes before the end of the Seasick Steve show (see below), only to stumble into an ugly drunken brawl outside the Rescue Rooms. Once inside the bar, we observed a couple of trendy student DJs on a retro-ironic kick, playing George Harrison's "Got My Mind Set On You" and Dire Straits' "Walk Of Life" to their equally trendy mates.
I always swore that Dire Straits were ironic-revival-proof. Clearly, I was wrong.
Seasick Steve – Nottingham Rock City, Thursday October 9.
The mythology surrounding Seasick Steve is a powerful one. Having drifted around the fringes of the music industry since the Sixties, an appearance on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny dramatically raised his profile. Now in his seventh decade, his third album in the Top Ten, this former train-hopping hobo has become one of the year’s more unlikely stars.
Last night at Rock City, a capacity crowd treated the grizzly, bearded bluesman to a hero’s welcome. Like thousands before them, they seemed keen to buy into Steve’s heart-warming rags-to-riches story.
The set began promisingly enough. Mixing traditional blues stylings with a dash of rock-based, Jack White-style showmanship, Steve played well – if not spectacularly – and quickly developed an easy, jokey rapport with the crowd. Good natured heckles were met with a brandished baseball bat. Showy slugs were taken from a bottle of Jack Daniels. A female admirer was serenaded on stage. A clock was theatrically smashed.
Nevertheless, attention spans soon started to drift. We might have warmed to the man and the myth, but how many were truly in love with the music? The songs became interchangeable, the genre’s limitations ever more exposed. Worst of all, most of us could barely see Steve’s seated figure – an awkward situation which eventually drew an apology.
As the crowd chatter escalated to uncomfortable levels (*), Steve worked ever harder to save the show. Quieter numbers were dropped. The rock-star flourishes grew flashier. It still wasn’t enough. Two years from now, will we still be indulging him like this?
(*) I'm being way too polite here. The crowd were ghastly. The rudest, most attention-deficited audience I've had to endure since Rodrigo Y Gabriela played the same venue.
Photo of Seasick Steve taken at Cois Fharraige (Ireland) on September 6 2008 by timsnell and reproduced under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license.
The Death of Blogging Poll - results.
1. Book deals. 15
2. Blogging ain't dead! Get with the programme, Grandad! 14
3. The death of the blogroll. 13
4. Facebook. 12
5. RSS feeds. 10
6= Twitter. 9
6= Weight of numbers / critical mass. 9
8. Blogging awards. 8
9. Spammers. 7
10= All of the above ( give or take the odd one or two). 6
10= Perez Chuffing Hilton, and all *that* lot. 6
12= Assimilation by Old Media. 5
12= Blog ads. 5
12= The Web 2.0 dis-aggregation effect. 5
15. Farming your links out to del.icio.us. 4
16= Other (please specify). 3
16= Permalinks to standalone posts rather than bookmarks on the archive page. 3
18. Post titles. 2
Monday, October 06, 2008
A poll for the terminally jaded. (Multiple options permitted.)
Village pub gets on the telly AGAIN, good grief...
Our village pub has become quite the Local Media Hub this year.
Firstly, when our local TV celebrity opened our new village shop, conveniently situated up the passage from the lounge bar...
Secondly, when freak flash floods devastated the ground floor and the car park...
Thirdly, when it won "Best Community Pub 2008" and "Best Midlands Pub" in the national Great British Pub Awards...
And most recently - and if you tune into BBC1's East Midlands Today at 18:30 this evening (Monday), you'll be able to see this for yourselves - when a few dozen villagers crammed into the bar on Saturday evening, in order to cheer on the aforementioned local TV celebrity as he danced the jive on Strictly Come Dancing.
I do keep forgetting to mention this at the right time, but for future reference:
Troubled Diva says: VOTE FOR TOM CHAMBERS!
Update: For the Flash-enabled, here's the village pub footage on the BBC website. Please note that K and I are discreetly hidden by the landlady's mum (in the pink cardie) and the chap with his arms in the air. As regular readers will be aware, we do like to keep a low media profile.
Beyond Limits sculpture exhibition at Chatsworth House.
The tiny cluster of readers who still arrive at this site by typing the address into their browsers (ah, bless!) will already have noticed this, as I have temporarily re-instated my Flickr feed at the top of the page... but for the rest of you (*), might I direct your attention to K's splendid photo gallery, taken at the third annual Sotheby's Beyond Limits sculpture exhibition in the gardens of Chatsworth House?
The exhibition runs until Sunday November 2nd, and we can highly recommend it - particularly on a clear, bright afternoon, when the sunlight displays the works to their best advantage.
The same images can also be viewed on the village blog, where I've squashed them all together onto one page. You might find this a more convenient way of viewing them.
(*) Unless you've already picked up K's Flickr stream via RSS, or via the link which I posted on my Facebook profile, or... sheesh, this brave new "multiple points of entry" paradigm doesn't half get complicated at times...