12:20. Outside the village shop, our friend P opens the glass door which covers the communal noticeboard. A loose sheet of paper flies straight out at me, landing at my feet. I stoop to pick it up. It is a hand-written notice, advertising a terrier for sale.
As regular readers will remember, K has been hankering after a dog for
months years, in the teeth of determined opposition. He’s playing a long game. It’s a war of attrition, in which K’s considerable powers of finesse (he won’t be satisified unless the suggestion comes voluntarily from me) are pitted against my immutable stubborness.
Despite being a near-evangelical atheist, K has evidently enlisted The Almighty onto his side. How mercenary. Truly, he still stop at nothing.
Defiantly, I shake my fist at the heavens. You’re going to have to do better than this, God! Cheap conjuring tricks aren’t going to change my mind!
12:30. Returning to the cottage, I check K’s moblog for the photo of the rainbow which he has just taken (see two posts below). As I do so, a bootleg mix assembles itself in my head, in which Over The Rainbow (Judy Garland) is “mashed up” with Girlfriend In A Coma (The Smiths, as performed by Morrissey at Nottingham Arena a few days earlier). It’s a bit of a mess – but as my mental jukebox has yet to be upgraded with Pro Tools, a rough manual mix will have to suffice.
12:40. We decide against trekking out to the Staffordshire Antiques Fair at Bingley Hall, as our advance party has declared itself unimpressed.
14:10. A simple bread and soup repast, before heading into Ashbourne to poke around the shops. P has tipped us off about a place called Eclectica, on the edge of town by the demolished Nestle factory. The owners run it mainly for fun, and so it only opens on Saturdays.
15:10. Leaving Eclectica, we experience a mutual rush of blood to the head, having just bought five darling little glass stopper bottles and an oil painting.
The painting, dated 1995, is by an obscure artist from Moscow, and was originally picked up as part of a job lot at a clearance sale at a now defunct Manchester gallery. It depicts a large ship, seemingly abandoned in an icy ocean, with wisps of white emerging from it that suggest the outlines of birds, or of escaping spirits. In the foreground, indistinct dwarf-like figures are standing on the ice. One is in the sea, arms aloft, drowning. While most of the ship is realistically portrayed, its rear section abruptly blurs, before fading away into thin air. The style is slightly naive and outsider-ish, but not without appreciable technical merit. It is a more realistic painting than we would normally go for, but its weird supernatural qualities have intrigued us and reeled us in.
16:40. Staring into space like a moody teenager in the fruit & veg section of Sainsburys. Decide to Twitter my mood from my mobile.
K (hotly): What on earth are you doing?
M (listlessly): ‘S boring innit. Texting me mates aren’t I.
16:45. Cheering up now that we’ve reached the cake section, because I get to choose. My sunny disposition is easily bought.
17:45. Judging by the admittedly scant information on the web, it would seem that, for once, we have landed ourselves a hefty bargain. It’s a difficult one to hang, though. Stylistically, it’s such a departure that it doesn’t really fit anywhere. We may be looking at a mini-rehang.
18:10. Enjoying a respite from bickering over where to put the painting (it’s all part of the ritual), as K’s mum has rung and she, um, likes a chat.
18:30. Clapping our hands with delight, having successfully positioned the darling little glass stopper bottles on the landing table. Aw, cute.
19:20. Have just missed most of Leona performing Over The Rainbow (equal parts Houston, W. and Cassidy, E., and sensibly sans mash-up) on The X Factor, as I was mixing gin and tonics in the kitchen.
19:45. Chig and I have decided to give next year’s Eurovision a miss. The tickets, which go on sale tomorrow morning, are expensive and in scarce supply; all but the very dearest hotels in Helsinki are already fully booked; and I don’t much fancy going through all of the many hassles involved, and booking more time off work away from K – and more importantly, so close to the first anniversary of the death of his sister M – merely so that I can repeat the experience which I already enjoyed in Athens earlier this year. It never does any harm to skip a year.
20:15. Flushed with triumph at the end of a particularly delicious supper, K insists that I Twitter the full list of ingredients, and proceeds to dictate them to me. Pork escalopes, Madeira, tarragon; watercress salad, lemon, porcini; and rye bread, for dunking. All the way through the day, he has been displaying a surprising interest in Twitter, often stopping to check my auto-refreshing “With Friends” page as he walks past the laptop on the kitchen table. He’s normally only like this when I’ve mentioned him on the blog, and people are talking about him in the comments.
20:50. Pacing around in my posh clothes (stone coloured Gucci civil partnership jacket, brand new Paul Smith shirt, indestructible six-years-old Prada shoes), in readiness for L&M’s 10th anniversary party at the memorial hall. This won’t be our ususal crowd, and we’re both a little nervous. A quick fag in the garden while K applies the finishing touches, and then we’ll be off…
21:25. Down at the memorial hall, we are watching a loud six-piece semi-professional rock band from Liverpool called The Laze, whose members include M’s brother. This isn’t exactly what we’re used to on a Saturday night in rural Derbyshire. Fab!
21:35. The band are playing a number called Your Poppa On Poppers. It is ace, especially with the sax. K and I are brain-storming their influences. Bluesy, rocky, jazzy and proggy. Shades of Little Feat, with a splash of Gong?
21:45. Oh my God, a recorder solo! Adding Jethro Tull to the list, I briefly step outside to get a signal on my mobile. A lone chuffer is out there already. He also mentions Little Feat – the fourth person to do so. Must be official, then.
21:50. They’re getting heavier – and proggier, which is surprising for a band so young. The only contemporary comparison which I can make is with fellow Liverpudlians The Coral, whose live sets can also tend towards dense free-form psych-outs.
22:30. The band have finished, and I’m talking to L. He is a landscape artist, whose studio is also in the village, and we have bought several of his paintings over the years. L is telling me about the band, and of their shared reverence for Frank Zappa (of course, Zappa, duh, slap), and that record labels have been up to see them, but haven’t known what stylistic bag to place them in for marketing purposes, and of the frustration which that causes.
22:40. E is telling me about his newly launched organic meat mail order site, and asking me how to boost its Googlejuice. I duly pledge a link. Every little helps.
23:50 S and I have just discovered that we were exact contemporaries at Nottingham University in the early 1980s, and that my major subject was her subsidiary subject. So that’s why I have spent the past six years wondering why she looked naggingly familiar. Does she remember him and her? Of course she does! Do I remember her and him? Of course I do! We continue excitedly in this vein for some time.
00:20. I am talking with the couple down the road about Devendra Banhart, the Aphex Twin, raving in the 1990s, and the way that young children particularly respond to bass. Evidently, there are sides to this village which I never knew existed before. It is all coming as something of a revelation.
00:55. After hours jam session, yeah! The hall has thinned out, but the remaining lurching stragglers are doing a good job of filling the space. Is it just me, or is everyone here steaming drunk?
01:10. The five remaining band members are thrashing out a cover of Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King. People are hurling themselves off the front of the stage.
01:50. We’re back from the party, and I have tracked down the band’s Myspace page. Turns out that they have supported Damo Suzuki, the former lead singer of Can. Buzzing around the kitchen as the music blares from the laptop, we still cannot get over just how good they were, and what a great night it was, and how this extraordinary village never ceases to amaze us.