Mike’s fantasy Glastonbury (updated).

Oh, is it Glasto time already? Although I know that I’ll never go, this doesn’t stop me daydreaming about what it might be like. And so, having studied the detailed line-up for this year’s festival, I’ve put together a fantasy timetable for the weekend. Come, let us tramp together through the dappled fields of Avalon…

Working assumptions:

1. That I can magically teleport from one part of the festival site to another, landing in the perfect spot in front of each stage.

2. That at the end of each evening, I can magically teleport from the festival site to a recherché little boutique hotel, complete with Egyptian cotton sheets and chi-chi little bottles of body wash in the bathroom. Because I simply don’t DO canvas, or whatever state of the art micro-fibres they make tents out of these days.

3. That all published timetables are rigorously adhered to by the festival organisers, with no time delay between each act.

4. That all food and toilet breaks are deemed totally unecessary, and that energy levels remain in peak condition throughout the day. (No, that’s NOT code for an unlimited supply of top-of-the-range Fair Trade narcotics. High on the music, me.)

Friday.

11:30-12:20: The Ralfe Band (The Park Stage).

A rousing yet gentle start to the festival, in which a suitably Glasto-esque Celtic/folk feel is mixed with elements of country and blues, and a degree of Bad Seeds/Kurt Weill theatricality. They promised much 18 months ago, and I’d like to see how they’ve developed.

12:20 – 13:00: Fear Of Music (John Peel Stage).

A friend in The Biz tipped this lot for greatness over two years ago, but I’ve heard little since then. As his other tips have since come to fruition, I’d like to see whether his faith was justified.

13:20 – 14:20: Los Campesinos! (The Park Stage).

So great when I saw them in March, and the future classic “You! Me! Dancing!” could be the weekend’s first Glasto Anfum.

14:20 – 15:10: Gogol Bordello (Pyramid Stage).

Although unconvinced by their recorded work, I’m banking on them coming into their own in a live setting. Also, I’m quite liking the way that each successive act is faster and noisier than the one before. Don’t want to peak too soon, though…

15:10 – 16:40: Amy Winehouse (Pyramid Stage).

Time to give both my teleporter and my boogie shoes a rest, as we stay at the Pyramid Stage for one of a growing number of acts who give me moderate pleasure on record, but a massive thrill in a live setting. Just as long as she stays off the sauce, of course.

16:50 – 17:15: Super Furry Animals (Other Stage).

I’m just going to catch the first twenty-five minutes, before zooming off elsewhere. The SFA’s and I have drifted apart over recent years, but they used to be a stunning live act. Maybe they still are…

17:15 – 18:10: Julie Fowlis (Acoustic Stage).

…but the Outer Hebrides are calling, and I must away. Always a bit of an unreconstructed old folkie, K is currently big on the award-winning Julie, who hails from North Uist and sings in Socttish Gaelic. Honestly, this is great stuff. But even so, I’m going to bail out before the end, for…

18:10 – 19:25: The Hold Steady (John Peel Stage).

OK, so I’ll be seeing them in August, at the Summer Sundae festival in Leicester. But I can’t be expected to wait that long. Worth it just for the anthemic “Stuck Between Stations” alone. The acceptable face of Uncut magazine Americana.

19:25 – 19:45: Martha Wainwright (The Park Stage).

Just a quick 20 minute blast of Martha, before I get to tackle one of the biggest dilemmas of the weekend. How COULD they put the next two acts on simultaneously? How COULD they? Only one thing for it: see ’em both. So let’s start with…

19:45 – 20:30: Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra (JazzWorld Stage).

The Malian kora maestro, cooking up a storm with his dance band, may well prove impossible to tear myself away from… but I have to be there for…

20:30 – 21:20: Rufus Wainwright (Other Stage).

Rufus’s 2005 Nottingham show ranks among the very best that I have ever seen, and his new album is sublime. Bit of a no-brainer, really.

21:20 – 23:05: Arcade Fire (Other Stage).

Look, just HOW fantastic is the Friday night Glasto line-up? This is just getting ridiculous. The Arcade Fire are playing Nottingham Arena in October, and I can. Not. Wait.

At this point, the dilemma becomes almost intolerable. The Arctic Monkeys at the Pyramid Stage, for a collective moment of generation-defining mass communion? The suddenly-interesting-again Bjork at the Other Stage? Nope. I’m going to split the Friday night climax in two, heading first for the second half of…

23:05 – 23:40: The Aliens (The Park Stage).

Formed from the ashes of The Beta Band, another act who never quite captured their staggering live show on record. I’m still kicking myself for missing them in Nottingham a couple of weeks ago – but Beyoncé was in town that night, and what’s a boy supposed to do?

Just twenty minutes left to curfew, which gives enough time for a small taster of…

23:40 – 00:00: Hot Chip (John Peel Stage).

…before the lure of the Egyptian cotton lures me away. After that lot, the rest of the weekend can only be an anti-climax, surely?

Saturday.

12:15 – 13:30: The Pipettes (Pyramid Stage)
13:40 – 14:40: The Long Blondes (Other Stage)

Two reasonable starters, before we hit a very rough patch indeed. Guillemots? Once was enough, thanks. Dirty Pretty Things? Biffy Clyro? Dear me, no. So I’m zooming forward to:

15:50 – 17:00: CSS (Other Stage)
17:00 – 17:30: Klaxons (Other Stage)
17:30 – 18:35: K’Naan (JazzWorld Stage)
18:35 – 19:55: Mr Hudson & the Library (JazzWorld Stage)
20:00 – 21:30: Maximo Park (Other Stage)
21:30 – 22:00: Patrick Wolf (John Peel Stage)
22:00 – 23:10: Get Cape Wear Cape Fly (John Peel Stage)

And again, another rough patch. Our illustrious Saturday night headliners include The Killers, The Twang, The Waterboys, The Saw Doctors, Mr Scruff and Sasha. Not a chance. Iggy & The Stooges might be diverting, but I’m playing it safe with:

23:15 – 00:00: Rodrigo Y Gabriela (JazzWorld Stage)

Sunday

14:30 – 15:15: Koop (JazzWorld Stage)
I’ve got an old album of theirs. Tasteful jazz-house. It’s quite nice.

15:15 – 15:45: The Horrors (John Peel Stage)
For the social anthropology more than the music.

15:45 – 16:10: Seth Lakeman (JazzWorld Stage)
16:10 – 16:40: Get Cape Wear Cape Fly (Other Stage)

A second veiwing of the Capester, who strikes me as an ideal Glastonbury act.

16:45 – 17:10: Young Knives (John Peel Stage)
17:10 – 18:40: Tinariwen (JazzWorld Stage)

(with occasional teleportations to Dame Shirley Bassey on the Pyramid stage, just to see what’s going on)

18:40 – 20:00: Beirut (JazzWorld Stage)

(with occasional teleportations to Mika on the Other stage, just to check that I haven’t been wrong about him for the past few months)

20:00 – 21:00: The Go! Team (Other Stage)
21:00 – 21:25: Just Jack (John Peel Stage)
21:25 – 22:40: Bellowhead (Avalon Stage)
22:40 – 00:00: Chemical Brothers (Other Stage)

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The news in “brief”. At least, that was the intention.

BING-BONG!

After just over twelve years of so-called “casual” smoking (for which I have my mid-1990s hardcore clubbing phase to blame, ecstasy having turned out to be my gateway drug to nicotine), I stubbed out my final cigarette on Wednesday May 23, just before midnight. Interestingly, and I have to say surprisingly, I could barely wait to finish the godawful stinky thing – despite having smoked my penultimate cigarette with more or less total equanimity, mere minutes earlier.

That, my friends, is the genius of Alan Carr, whose “Easy Way To Stop Smoking” book comes heartily recommended. His is the first (and hopefully the only) self-help book that I have ever read, and it is quite unquestionably the worst written and most annoyingly repetitive book I have ever read – but nobody said that medicine had to taste nice, and its overriding virtue is that, bugger me sideways with a Camberwell Carrot, IT WORKS.

Sure, the actual “method” itself could be condensed onto three pages – and in large type at that – and you do find yourself wondering when Carr is going to stop droning on and Get To The Bloody Point Already, but the ground has to be prepared for the subtle but significant cognitive shift which you will be performing upon yourself, and there simply isn’t a shortcut.

If the likes of Alcoholics Anonymous insist that their members accept the existence of a so-called “higher power”, into which they must place their trust, then the same holds true with the “Easy Way” method – except that in this case, the “higher power” in question is Mr. Carr himself. It is my hunch that people who fail to stop smoking after reading his book do so because they have failed to take this initial leap of faith, clinging onto the belief that they are uniquely different in some way that he has failed to address. In this respect, some degree of humility is called for. Perhaps that’s the book’s greatest demand of all.

The most remarkable discovery which I have made – and until completing Carr’s instructions, I never believed it possible – is that deciding never to smoke another cigarette again, and sticking to that decision, is an absolute walk in the park. Honestly, it’s a doddle. The addiction under which I suffered turns out be more of a psychological than a physical one, and once its psychological aspects have been exposed and blown out of the water, then its physical aspects present only the most minor of challenges. Sure, there’s the occasional twinge – but these are invariably momentary, and swiftly dealt with.

Perhaps the course of cognitive behavioural therapy which I took some eighteen months ago helped pave the way – for there are certain aspects of the Carr method which seem markedly similar to CBT techniques. Well, whatever. All I know for certain is that I’ll never spark up another fag again, and that feels f**king fantastic.

My thanks once again to darling Peter at Naked Blog for turning me onto the Carr method in the first place.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering whether there was any significance attached to the date on which I chose to give up, then here’s your answer. Let’s just say that it seemed like a highly appropriate occasion upon which to stop killing myself.)

BING-BONG!

PDMG2 (the Nottingham version) has been planted (by one of the gold award winners at this year’s Chelsea flower show, as we were more than a little thrilled to discover), and is already looking delightful, despite being little more than a collection of differently shaped leaves separated by large expanses of soil, brick and stone. With PDMG1 reaching full maturity in its fifth summer, we can now look forward to the same pattern of steady growth repeating itself in a new location.

After many long months of snail-like progress (and they told us it was going to be a quick in-and-out job, HAH), the Nottingham kitchen has finally been finished. (Apart from the new light fittings, and a replacement for the over-large dining table, but those are but mere trifles.) It’s been a while since we dabbled with the nightmare world of the mid-range mass market design solution, but the budget was tight and we were determined to stick to it. Oh, the frugality! There is hope for us all.

In the final analysis, and despite all the buckets of shit which their various logistical cock-ups threw at us along the way, MFI (yes, you read me right) actually provided us with a smart, attractive and well-designed set of units, which make far better use of the limited space. Decent products, shite service, but all matters satisfactorily resolved in the fullness of time. (We even managed to get a free top-of-the-range washing machine out of them. Long boring story, but a tribute to K’s negotiation skills, his saint-like patience, and his disarming capacity for charm.) You gets what you pays for, basically.

As even the least observant of you will have spotted by now, this blog has now become Flickr-enabled, thanks to the Sony DSLR camera which I gave K for his birthday, right at the start of last week’s holiday in Derbyshire. As it’s fully compatible with his existing collection of pre-digital Minolta lenses and filters, he has been having lots of fun experimenting with techniques, and seeing what can and can’t be done.

Consequently – and not entirely without a degree of self-interest, as this blog has always been somewhat lacking in original photographic material, and it’s good to be able to bring his skills on board – I spent much of last week working as K’s picture editor: downloading, rotating, re-sizing, advising on what to keep and what to chuck, suggesting new ideas for shots, and doing all the uploading to Flickr. Well, what else is there to do on a rainy day, when you haven’t brought any books and your partner refuses to play board games? (As far as I’m concerned, this latter is our most glaring and troublesome incompatibility as a couple.)

So, from now on, TD will be more of a team effort than before. I do words, he does pictures. This is what we call “synergy”.

BING-BONG!

The holiday, yes. Chiefly characterised by hour upon hour of sodding rain, interspersed by brief breaks in the weather during which K would eagerly scamper into PDMG1, in pursuit of yet more “raindrops glistening upon new growth” macro shots.

Also characterised by a succession of house guests – both family and friends alike – and finishing with a visit by Dymbel and Dymbellina, who walked with us to The Gate in Brassington for Sunday lunch…

BING-BONG!

…which turned out to be my last square meal until Wednesday evening, thanks to a dodgy prawn in my baguette which wreaked its hideous revenge over the course of Monday and Tuesday. The positive spin: at least this gave me an unexpected extension to the holiday, even if much of it was spent in a horizontal position (amongst others more distressing to mention).

BING-BONG!

And finally: a plug, a moan and a thank you.

The plug is for my forthcoming talk at the Lowdham book festival at the end of the month, in which I shall attempt to yak on about blogging for thirty-five minutes or so, with particular reference to Shaggy Blog Stories and the whole “bloggers with book deals” phenomenon. (Dontcha just love the bit in the blurb which says “How come they get them but I don’t?” Like I’d know the answer to that one…)

There will then be a question-and-answer session, and possibly an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of the book (should you not already have one, by some strange twist of fate). Entrance is free, and it’s a lunchtime gig, giving you the rest of the afternoon to pootle around what I am reliably told is a damned good book festival. (Blake Morrison! Rosie Boycott! Simon Hoggart! KIKI BLOODY DEE, sweetie! And ME!)

The moan is at you miserable lot, for failing to shell out two measly quid for the Shaggy Blog Podcast. Wanna know how many we’ve sold so far? A pathetic SEVEN copies, that’s how many. Come on, readers! Hands in pockets! Dig deep!

The thank you goes out to those of you who were nice enough to vote for Troubled Diva in the “Best Personal Weblog” category at the Third Annual Satin Pajama Awards… in which I am proud to report that we finished in joint last place, with 2% of the vote. Congratulations to Petite Anglaise, who romped home in pole position.


Coming up tomorrow: a Freelance Friday with a difference, as Troubled Diva proudly presents an exclusive interview with Marc Almond.

(Apart from the bit that’s going in t’local paper, but that’s only a fraction of the finished article. Let’s just say that I was lucky enough to catch Marc in an expansive frame of mind.)

Shaggy Blog Stories: the official podcast.

As Shaggy Blog Stories approaches its 500th sale (just one more copy to go), the long-awaited Shaggy Blog Podcast is finally available for purchase.

Featuring readings by 14 of the 100 contributors, and with a playing time of 67 minutes, the Shaggy Blog Podcast can be purchased for a measly Two Quid, of which £1.60 will be donated to the Comic Relief charity.

A list of contributors can be found on the ordering page, along with a free two-minute preview.

Inevitably, the recording quality does vary somewhat – one of the contributions was even phoned in from Namibia – but the quality of the readings themselves is uniformly great, and That’s What Counts.

Hope you enjoy it. Perfect pool-side listening for the holiday season!

Freelance Friday #9

Despite having been on holiday all week from my Proper Job, the freelance stuff keeps on rolling, regardless of such irrelevant concepts as annual leave entitlements. This week’s bunch includes:

1. A review of last night’s Rodrigo Y Gabriela gig at Rock City, which I attended along with Sarah and SwissToni (also running into Rullsenberg and Cloud inside the venue, so it was a right old Nottingham Bloggers’ Convention). Having raved about R&G the first two times I saw them, it was perhaps inevitable that last night’s show didn’t grab me in the same way – a situation which wasn’t helped by K’s feeling too unwell to attend, almost at the last minute. Hence a rather jaded gig review – which is thankfully balanced by SwissToni’s much more upbeat assessment.

2. A review of the new Marc Almond album, Stardom Road, which is released on Monday. Never a massive fan, I’ve really been enjoying this collection of covers from the 1950s to the 1970s over the past few weeks – although I do have to be in the right mood for it, which generally means making sure that K is well out of earshot. (It’s all a bit emotionally overwrought for his austere sensibilities.) I interviewed Marc earlier today, for a short piece in next Friday’s Nottingham Evening Post – but a longer version of our conversation will be appearing here next week (even if it takes me all week to transcribe; let’s just say I caught him in a “chatty” mood).

3. An interview with the comedian Caroline Reid, best known for her trolley-dolly-from-hell creation Pam Ann. A review of Pam’s live show will also be appearing here next week.

4. I’ve also done a spot of reviewing for The Art Of Noise, where I was asked to listen to five songs by supposedly “hot” unsigned bands, without knowing any further details. Had I known that my favourite song of the five was by a band called – oh, dear Lord – Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, would my judgement have been a harsher one? I rather fear that it might.
Continue reading “Freelance Friday #9”