Thursday 21. Received a substantial offer of compensation from our mortgage provider, the Northpoint Mortgage Lenders, having previously lodged an official complaint with them regarding our poorly performing endowments. All K had to do was copy and customize a standard letter which he got off the web. Money for old rope, basically – and a highly recommended course of action, if you think you might be affected. Because £8300 (from £66k worth of endowments, taken out 12 years ago) is most emphatically NOT to be sniffed at.
Update: There’s more information here, and the standard letter generator can be found here.
Enjoyed a meal in a Polish diner with long-estranged old friends, newly re-united in grief over former guest blogger Alan’s permanent departure from Nottingham. (Right now, Alan doesn’t know whether he’ll end up in Shanghai or Southampton – although at this precise moment he is airborne, travelling from Brussels to his home in Cape Town. Selfishly, I’m kinda hoping for Southampton.)
From the menu, which is something of an extended eulogy to The Delights Of The Pig, I choose tripe soup (surprisingly palatable, given that I was expecting a Major Taste Challenge) followed by pork steak stuffed with ham and cheese; this latter because I felt strangely drawn to its tautological perversity. (“Yes, what that Dead Pig needs is a bit more Dead Pig; it will lift the flavour…”)
Polish beer is between 5.5% and 6.7% in strength, and is served in 500ml bottles. We all had two. And that was after the introductory shot of Polish vodka. And that was after the pre-dinner gin and tonic. And that was before the post-dinner pint in the Sir John Borlase Warren. And that was before the “nightcap” gin and tonic up the road. Yes, well. We had a lot of catching up to do.
Wednesday 20. Preview of the annual East Midlands Contemporary Arts Auction at the Lakeside Arts Centre. If you’re going: we liked the hyper-realist painting of the piles of green bank notes and slightly melted coins. (Funny, that.) We also liked the photo of what looked like a submerged lido on the beach at Broadstairs (although we would have liked the photo to be a bit bigger).
Afterwards, a drink with Dymbellina and Dymbel, who was due to be interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme the following morning.
(You can find out what happened on his blog.) Dymbel also gave us a signed pre-release copy of his new Young Adult Fiction novel, which – thrillingly – mentions our village in Derbyshire by name. (The heroine’s mother lives there, in what the heroine scathingly refers to as a designer “cottage”. Note the stealthy use of quotation marks, if you will. It’s OK though – we’re old friends. Besides, at least I don’t live in Derby, memorably described a couple of pages further on as “the armpit of the Midlands.” Heh.)
Update: Just finished it. Superb, powerful, affecting stuff, and one of his very best.
Finally finished Matthew Parris’s superb Peru travelogue, Inca Kola, which – despite having been written in 1989 – still perfectly captures many aspects of the experience of being there.
Tuesday 19. Booked a week’s holiday in Thailand for late November, staying at the celebrated Banyan Tree near Phuket. Because frankly, we both need a proper holiday, rather than another “experience”. (Peru, as you might have gathered, was not without its rigours. Maybe I’ll tell you about it some day.)
Picked up a useful personal recommendation for a non-NHS therapist; this might well be the way to go. (Although it has to be said that the wobbles have abated considerably over the past two weeks.)
Watched Fahrenheit 9/11 on DVD, having missed it at the cinema. Despite some heavy-handedness and the occasional misfire (e.g. the harrowing but still somewhat pointless scenes in front of the White House, where a weeping mother grieves for her dead son), this packed some mighty punches, refuelling all of my anti-Bush ire.
Monday 18. !!! (a.ka. Chk Chk Chk) at the Rescue Rooms, which had become Trendy Hairdo Central for the night. Like the Ordinary Boys a couple of weeks earlier, this was another 1981 Revisited experience – particularly in the case of the support band (Spektrum), who both looked and sounded like something off Dick O’Dell’s Y Records label (ask your trendy uncle), and could have fitted happily on the same bill as Rip, Rig & Panic and Maximum Joy (ditto).
However, likeable as they might have been as individuals (“Ten out of ten for sheer exuberance and energy”, as my old music teacher might have said), Chk Chk Chk still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn. Specifically: songwriting skills (as opposed to endless ten-minutes-plus jam sessions), rhythmic and melodic invention (as opposed to a thick, stodgy soup of clattering percussion and chukka-wukka-wukka white-boy-funk guitars), light and shade (instead of relentless full-tilt-at-all-times intensity), and emotional depth (instead of over-enthusiastic and ultimately wearing calls to party on down). The unavoidable comparisons with Stop Making Sense era Talking Heads ultimately worked against them, as did the too-much-too-soon cult success of last year’s punk-funk anthem “Me & Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard”.
F***ing OWW! My poor forefinger! Enough already.