Highly inappropriate comments to leave on other people’s web logs.

(Post title suggested by miles away.)

Words. More words? No. No more words. Words, no more.

Outside: darkness. Inside: black, raven-black, black as ink-stained night.

Beside me, the crust of a half-eaten cheese sandwich curls up in silent reproach.

Semi-digested. Hardening, crumbling, returning to dust. As we all must. But some, sooner than others.

Above me the noose, seductive as your deadly, treacherous smile. Beckoning, siren-like, towards everlasting peace.

All that remains, now. Press Publish, step up, kick away, away, a final gasp, then, no more.

Adieu, dear imaginary so-called friends, adieu. Youve been such a lovely audience.

W00t, first! 🙂

LOL I hate cheese sandwiches too… have you tried adding pickle?

Cheese sandwiches give me nightmares. Stay off the cheese!

If I were you, I’d try prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes on a lightly toasted ciabatta. Then come back and tell me you don’t love it!

Sigh. Such powerful writing. I love you work.

Great post (as usual!), but you need to correct that missing apostrophe in the final sentence. Also, the sandwich metaphor is unconvincing and needs more work.

There are CHILDREN DYING and all you want to talk about is CHEESE SANDWICHES? You have BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS.

Congratulations on winning Post of the Week!

Tolerably diverting, but you’re no Troubled Diva.

after reading dis shitty post i felt like toppin meself to

Too high and mighty to reply to comments then, are we?

Hi. My name is Ria Pollof, and I’m researching an item on suicidal bloggers for BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour. Obviously we can’t pay, but it would be great publicity for your blog! If interested, please e-mail me.

I call bullshit. This is just a publicity stunt in order to land a book deal, isn’t it?

Self-absorbed narcissistic fame whore. You’ll probably ban this.

Suicide is the choice of the Islamofascist. This would never happen in America. THAT’S WHAT MAKES OUR NATION GREAT.

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Comments on this post are now closed.

Twenty-Five Things I Want To Do Before I Die.

(Post title actually suggested by Zinnia Cyclamen.)

Nonono, Mike, while I appreciate the time and effort that’s clearly gone into this, and not being jealous of your lovely sunny holiday afternoon at all – one title is aspirational, beautiful, a window to your dreams and a catalyst to our own imaginings, the other is merely unprompted advice and the gateway to TMI.

Do the other title instead! The other one! Do the other!


Now then young Diva, you may think it’s clever to change the title of your assignment, but we do not spend hours carefully thinking up titles that will both stretch you and entertain your readership for you to wilfully ignore them. We will therefore expect the set version to be completed and handed in before the end of the month (like wot Anna said) or There Will Be Trouble and You Will Be In It. Do I make myself clear?

Zinnia Cyclamen

OK, enough already! For I am nothing if not eager to please. The list which follows was compiled this morning, sitting out in PDMG#1, on the second gloriously scorching hot day of our 11-day holiday (which I think I might have briefly mentioned before, in passing).

Unlike its predecessor (see below), the order of which was jiggled around with for “artistic” purposes, this list is presented strictly in order of the thoughts which dropped into my head.

OK, let’s catalyse those imaginings!

1. Visit Australia.

2. Visit New Zealand. That’s two separate trips, and hence two separate items on the list. No, I don’t consider this cheating.

3. Go for an overnight trip on a traditional rice boat on the backwaters of Kerala. (Thanks for the suggestion, z.)

4. Interview one of my heroes. This year to date, I’ve already missed out on Neil Tennant (holiday-related communications cock-up) and Boy George (UK tour cancelled, and stretching the definition of “hero” in any case). But the time will surely come, won’t it?

5. Meet some of my most long-standing readers and/or fellow bloggers in person. To redress the imbalance of #1 and #2 above, I’m going to condense six items into one: asta in Canada, Peter in Leith, Gordon in Glasgow, Zed in Belgium, Joe in New York City, and the eternally elusive DG in Bow. Amongst others, naturellement

6. Leave Nottingham. Sorry, Nottingham. It’s not you, it’s me.

7. Give up full-time paid employment, well in advance of the official retirement age.

8. Dance the Hustle.

9. Dine at El Bulli.

10. Attend a Nick Cave concert. To the best of my knowledge, Cave has only played Nottingham once. I bought a ticket, and then FORGOT TO GO, only realising several days later. This had never happened before, and I intend to ensure that it never happens again.

11. Win a f**king blog award for just once in my f**king life, rather than just being nominated and short-listed and long-listed for the f**king things all the f**king time, I mean I know I should be grateful and all that, but to have the carrot repeatedly dangled and snatched away, well, it needs a little resolution is all, and then I can be all gracious and self-effacing and oh-but-these-things-don’t-really-matter, but not before, OK?

12. Host a radio show. Preferably one in which I get to play music. I loved doing those summer podcasts in 2005 and 2006.

13. Throw a 25th anniversary party. (There’s less than three years to go on that one.)

14. See the Northern Lights. Or aurora borealis, if you will.

15. Become a god-father. (As distinct from “Fairy Godmother of British blogging“.)

16. Write an article for a nationally distributed print-based publication. (Time Out London came closest, but not quite close enough.)

17. Get to the bottom of the Beatles mystery, once and for all. (I had a really good lead on this last year, but the trail fizzled out.)

18. Re-visit my home town; it’s “a cocktail of urban and rural where the delights of a modern bustling town centre are complemented by picturesque villages, historic market towns and unspoilt countryside”, apparently. Not having been back since my grandmother’s funeral in 1992, I can only conclude that the old place has seen some fairly massive changes…

19. DJ, for one last time, in an end-of-High-Fidelity kind of way. The old tunes, to the old crowd. I’m not fussed about no swanky venue or nothing; the village hall would do just fine.

20. Finish transcribing the second half of my mother’s memoirs (aka The London Years). Cracking good, they are.

21. Re-establish contact with a certain long lost cousin; I was a page-boy at her wedding in 1970.

22. Get a funky pied-à-terre in London Town.

23. Throw a 50th anniversary party.

24. Ensure that my mother is properly looked after in her old age.

25. Create something which people can remember me by; or, as K put it, “leave a lasting legacy”. Ah, how we feeble mortals strive for the eternal…

Twenty-Five Things To Do Before You Die.

(Post title almost suggested by Zinnia Cyclamen.)

(Except that Zinnia actually requested “Twenty-Five Things I Want To Do Before I Die”. As our teachers used to tell us, but did we listen: ALWAYS READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY.)

(Unfortunately, I didn’t spot the slip until the list had been compiled, with a certain amount of assistance from K, as we hung out in a gloriously and unexpectedly sunny PDMG#1, on the first day of our 11-day holiday.)

(So here’s a list of things that, if we might be so bold, we think that you should do, before you die. We’ve done most of them. But not all of them.)

1. Go for a balloon ride in Cappadocia.

2. Eat in a three-star Michelin restaurant.

3. Cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct by narrow boat.

4. Sunbathe in the nude, in public. It’s not exhibitionism; it’s liberation.

5. Meet one of your heroes.

6. Become a god-parent.

7. Sing karaoke.

8. Do a stint of regular voluntary work.

9. Attend a performance of Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians.

10. Visit the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon.

11. Buy an original work of art.

12. Overcome a fear.

13. Pick something that you’re good at and do it really, really well, to the point where you achieve public recognition for doing it.

14. Become good friends with someone at least twenty years older than you.

15. Become good friends with someone at least twenty years younger than you.

16. Experience an anal orgasm. (See #12 above.)

17. Forgive those who have wronged you; it will set you free.

18. Watch 12 Angry Men.

19. Listen to June Tabor’s And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.

20. Read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.

21. Order the petit pot au chocolat at the Bibendum Oyster Bar (after lunching on their oysters, naturally).

22. Visit the site of the My Lai massacre.

23. Descend into the Valley of the Kings on a donkey, shortly after daybreak.

24. Drink a pint of Marston’s Pedigree.

25. Eat a slice of Passionate Carrot Cake from the Chatsworth Farm Shop.

How many have you done?

And which ONE (repeat ONE) thing would you add to the list?

Hold the front page, Mike is READING BOOKZ…

As of less than an hour ago, I am officially on me hols for the rest of the month, my CD Discman choosing to mark the occasion by serendipitously furnishing me with the all-time summer pop classic “Beach Baby” by First Class (as dissected quite brilliantly here) on the walk home, nestling as it is on Disc Five of the newly released 5CD compilation 101 70s Hits, which I recommend unreservedly, despite the very occasional clunker, but then again, at a retail price which works out at 15 pence per track (or even less if you place your order here), there’s really very little to complain about.

But I over-subordinate. To make the next eleven days Truly Special, and bearing in mind that I have become the sort of culturally challenged dullard who only reads books on holiday, I have assembled a Summer Reading List With A Theme. I wonder if you can spot what it is?

Mike’s Summer Reading List With A Theme.

1. The Dying Of DelightClare Sudbery.

2. Gods Behaving BadlyMarie Phillips.

3. Out Of The TunnelRachel North.

4. The God InterviewsNatalie d’Arbeloff.

5. The Killing JarNicola Monaghan.

(Well, since I’ve given a talk about them, I thought it might be as well to read a few of them…)

Skoolz out 4evah! Happy holidays, everyone!

Open Mike #7 – the holiday assignment.

Since it has been an astonishing eight months since the last Open Mike session (which was directly instrumental in the launch of Post of the Week, as it happens), I’m going to widen the scope somewhat. Thus, instead of the usual quickfire, first-come-first-served, question and answer format, I’d like you to suggest proper post titles for me in the comments box. I shall then pick the ten most stimulating titles, and spin a few choice bons mots around them.

As we’ve got some holiday time coming up later in the week (11 days of it, to be precise), and as we can hardly expect the weather to be conducive to sun-worship, this should make for a handy little holiday assignment.

OK, fire away. As ever, my box is at your disposal.

“K would like a Waggledance Shandy, please.”

No, we’ve not been to a dodgy strip club; instead, yesterday saw me taking K to his first ever blogmeet, at a formerly gay (and now much improved) pub on the Bayswater Road. Waggledance was their guest beer – and at a whopping 5%, it was a fine ale indeed – but since K was going to have to be driving us home from Derby station that evening, shandies were the order of the day. I’m sure you can picture the amusement.

Perhaps I shouldn’t even be calling the blogmeet a blogmeet, since it wasn’t an openly publicised event. Rather it was a gathering of The British Blogpals Of Lucy Pepper From Portugal – who, amongst her many more celebrated achievements, is also responsible for the first two images at the top of my sidebar.

Most of the blogpals were familiar faces; others I was meeting for the first time. K had never met any of them before, and he doesn’t read blogs anyway, so I did a certain amount of discreet “background” hissing – but it wasn’t an easy social situation for him to step into, and he did well to last the course with such good grace. (Tellingly, he formed an immediate alliance with Lucy’s Professor, one of the two other non-bloggers in the room.) Perhaps I should have dragged him round the table with me, showing him off and making sure that EVERYONE LOVED HIM. But that’s not our style. So I was rather pleased when Bob (hooray, another Gay at a Blogmeet for once!) took me aside and told me that K was “lovely”. Because, well, he IS. And it always pleases me when people agree.

(I always operate on the default assumption that everybody who meets K is madly jealous that I got in there before they did. Yes, I might be delusional. But at least my delusions are romantic ones.)

(Example: the nice older lady on reception at our hairdressers, who didn’t realise that we were partners until it came out in passing a couple of months ago:

Nice older lady (with feeling): I love him.

Mike: So do I. But I saw him first.

Our hairdresser: Yeah, but she had him last.

You have never seen two people rouge up quite so swiftly. But I over-parenthesise.)

As for me, the usual phenomenon occurred, whereby I left the pub feeling I hadn’t spent nearly long enough talking to people, even though I had been there for over five hours solid. How does that happen?

We would have packed swatches (see posts below; way to fill a comments box; updates as we get them), but they’d never have fitted in the day sack.

I am very tempted to give you neatly turned pencil portraits of the bloggers I’d never met before, but perhaps discretion is the better part of valour.

I had one Waggledance too many, and ended up burbling. But that’s all part of the experience.

Mike loves meeting bloggers!

The Great Scatter Cushion Dilemma 2007: The Quest Continues.

Those of you who were brave enough to tell us that none of our scatter cushion choices were quite right: in the final analysis, just before leaving for work this morning, we could only agree with you. Well, none of the colours and patterns really sang, did they?

For the record: our original preference was for Option Four – again until this morning, when we looked at each other and both simultaneously mouthed the dread word: contrived. Option Two nearly had it, but then we thought: can the room really sustain so much redness? After all, we’ll be buying eight of these things; a pair for every corner.

Our next big conceptual leap: each pair should consist of one smaller, patterned cushion, with a glossy sheen to the fabric, and one larger, plain cushion in a matt fabric.

To this end, K scampered back to Multiyork this lunchtime, and returned with a second batch of samples.

This is where we’ve got to. Take a look at the photos below. Now imagine the rear cushion of each pair in a larger, matt version of the background colour, i.e. gold or mushroom.

Today’s question involves a leap of imagination, followed by a straightforward binary choice. Would you favour:

OPTION ONE: A small shiny patterned gold (front) + a large matt plain mushroom (rear).

OPTION TWO: A small shiny patterned mushroom (front) + a large matt plain gold (rear).

To assist you with matching issues, and to draw your attention away from that small yellow vase (a detail, a mere detail, and easily dispensed with), K has photographed all four corners of the sofa.

(I also asked him to take a couple of wider shots of the whole room, for contextual purposes – but these didn’t materialise, and we had pressing evening engagements to attend to.)

Yes, this is a bit tougher. But you’re all warmed up now. You can do it.

Once more then, with feeling: Bring On The Scatter Cushions!







The Great Scatter Cushion Dilemma (2007 version). Who stays? You decide!

Now we have the Sofas for Life, we need a Scatter Cushion Solution that is truly worthy of them.

This is normally the point where K and I come to blows. We’re placid fellows, but our passions run deep.

In order to save us from ourselves, we’re throwing the options open to YOU.

Here are a selection of scatter cushions, currently on loan from those awfully nice people at Multiyork.

Study these four arrangements carefully. Using your skill and judgement, please decide which one would afford us the greatest degree of spiritual succour, on a medium to long-term basis.

When you have decided, please leave your choice in the comments box.

We shall take your opinions VERY SERIOUSLY.

And now… bring on the scatter cushions!









Our new sofas have arrived!!! (A social history in soft furnishings.)

Interior design-wise, one key requirement of the Nottingham property has consistently eluded us: namely, the casual seating solutions for the sitting room. Over the past fifteen years, we have chomped our way through rather too many sofas for our own good, each successive purchase never quite managing to resolve the problems posed by its predecessor.

Shall I list them all, then? Shall I? Oh go on, shall I?

1. The Sofa That Smelt Like Fish.

Originally bought in 1987 for the house in Sherwood, its pale grey cover with the tiny gold and black Pollock Lite splodges fairly screamed Faux Yuppie Lawson Boom Tastelessness, whilst the slippery sheen of the material meant that the cushions were forever sliding from underneath us. Set amidst the marginally yet significantly ahead-of-its-time minimalism of the new property – all clean lines, clear surfaces and gleaming beech parquet – a re-covering was urgently required.

2. The Sofa That Smelt Like Fish (Re-covered, But Still Smelling Like Fish).

In the newly untucked, post-baggy early 1990s, loose covers were all the rage, possibly as a reaction to the uptight fitted-ness of the unmourned 1980s. The key looks of the day, at least to World of Interiors honeymoon period subscribers such as ourselves, were New England Beach Hut (shitty old bits of reclaimed wood from architectural salvage joints, all peeling paint and artfully placed scuff marks; wooden yachts in the downstairs loo) and English Country House In Gentle Decline, which basically meant covering everything in stripey mattress ticking.

Stripey mattress ticking it was, then; to be precise, a nice dusty blue stripe on an off-white, sorry sorry, écru background. (I take it that we all remember the sartorial tyranny of the écru linen layers?)

Unfortunately, when pressed by the loose cover makers as to whether, for a small extra cost, we wanted additional piping in a complementary shade of navy blue, we wobbled and said yes. Big Mistake, as the popular movie of the day had it – for the piping threw out the whole look. K sulked for days, as I vainly tried to see the positive side. Only one thing for it…

3. The Squidgy Plaid Two-Piece From Sofa Workshop.

By 1994, plaid was taking over – not least on my side of the walk-in closet, as the Ben Sherman Years began to kick off in earnest. For our first excursion into the realm of the matching two-piece, we chose a lovely red and blue check, with subtle accents of orange and yellow, in a durable matt fibre. Comfort was our watchword this time round, so we went for the squidgiest, most capacious numbers in the shop, perfect for sinking into during those heartily communal post-clubbing All Back To Ours sessions.

There was one significant drawback. The extreme squidginess meant that, even after five minutes of dainty perching, the entire f**king sofa needed re-plumping. And with those giant cushions to manhandle, re-plumping was no easy task. God, did we ever develop Plumping Fatigue. As well as a severe case of Plaid Burn Out, which struck as the decade drew to a close. Only one thing for it…

4. The Ruinously Expensive Italian Modular System.

Thanks to K’s little stroke of good business fortune in 2000, we found ourselves surfing a fresh wave of flushness, following a period of comparative frugality. This time round, we decided that the best way to solve the seating problem was to chuck heaps – heaps, I tell you! – of money at it.

Off we trolled to the swanky showroom in North London, whose Senior Sales Executive had us eating out of her hand in minutes. (Those glassy, awe-struck, all-this-can-be-ours smiles were a dead giveaway. Or maybe she just saw us coming.)

The Italian Modular System came in, what else, Seventies Retro Shit Brown, and incorporated elements of Chaise Longue and Sofa Classique. It came with an oversized footstool that doubled up as an extension to the Sofa Classique section, thus effectively converting the whole piece into a double day bed.

It dominated the room, ruining the flow and forcing us to watch telly in a position of advanced slumpedness, with nowhere to put our wine glasses (there being no remaining space for a coffee table). The stuffing soon sagged, the matted fabric developed smooth shiny areas where our arses had been, and the Shit Brown started fading to Guano Grey. An expensive aberration, whose prime purpose was to mock us for our pretensions to Bleeding Hedge 21st Century Urban Living. Only one thing for it…

5. The Rock Hard Leather Numbers.

Durable, firm, and with an understated elegance, the Leather Numbers (again in Seventies Retro Timeless Classic Shit Brown) promised to be our Sofas For Life. They looked smart, if a little on the dark side for a north-facing room with no direct sunlight, and their firmness meant that, at long last, we could sit up straight.

There’s a fine line between non-squidgy and rock hard. It’s not a line which can readily be detected in the furniture shop, where every sofa feels comfortable to the weary shopper – but within a couple of days of delivery, we both secretly knew that we’d boobed again.

With cosy sprawling off the agenda for four nights a week – hell, even holding hands presented problems, our bodies forced into prim Victorian side-by-sideness by the inflexible cow-hide – the comfy green Multiyork number in the cottage grew ever more tantalising by its absence. Only one thing for it…

6. The Perfect Multiyork Twinset.
(This morning – the end of time)

They’re roomy, but they don’t dominate; they’re sharp and contemporary, but they won’t look passé in five years time; they straddle the divide betwixt squidgy and supportive; and they’re ours for keeps.

No, really, they are.

No, I think you’ll find they are, actually.

Our quest is at an end. Let posterior joy be unbounded!

Bloggers, how’s yer traffic?

If my increasingly limited excursions through Blogland are anything to go by, then it would seem that a fair number of long-time regular bloggers are experiencing a downturn in traffic to their sites. In order to confirm or deny this, I’ve set up a wee poll. (Don’t worry, it’s completely anonymous, so please be open and honest.)

Yes, there might well be a think-piece at the end of all this. Hey, you know what I’m like…

Bloggers, how’s yer traffic?
Has traffic to your blog increased or decreased over the last six months? (NOTE: Please answer this question only if you have been blogging regularly for 12 months or longer.)

My traffic has significantly increased.
My traffic has slightly increased.
My traffic has stayed more or less the same.
My traffic has slightly decreased.
My traffic has significantly decreased.

Twittering the Leicester Summer Sundae festival.

Feeling slightly amazed that I’ve already been up for 2 hours. On a Sunday morning.

Worrying about the weather.

Nipping round the Myspace pages of the acts which I haven’t heard before. Hmm. Really wish the Hold Steady hadn’t cancelled.

Heavy showers forecast. Packing lightweight waterproof, Gore-tex lined cap, fleece & mat into day-sack, along with optimistic sunglasses.

Still agonising about the one major clash in the Summer Sundae line-up: Fujiya & Miyagi versus Spoon. It’s not easy having leftfield tastes.

Questioning the purpose of wearing my “lucky pants”. (Olive green Aussie Bum, white piping, curiously flattering.) (TMI?) (TMI.)

Sunday drivers plus traffic jams equals missed train. It’s only a 30 minute wait though. And chill…

The Lea Shores. Jesus fronted post baggy/shoegaze, Ride meets Roses. With violin.

And that was our first mention of the word “shine”. With stuff like this, it’s a statuory obligation.

Now rhyming flyyy, hiiigh and “you’re my butterflyyy”. Time to move on.

Vetiver: a perfect sunday lunchtime band. Nothing to disturb the Observer readers mooching on the grass.

Foxy busty blonde lady, to me and Dymbel: “I fancy you. And you. It’s for a dare… but maybe I would have done anyway.” Oh dear!

Packed tent for The Strange Death Of Liberal England, possibly benefiting from We’ve Not Heard Of Any Of These People, So Let’s Go For The Ones With The Interesting Name Syndrome. Ooh, 10 out of 10 for youthful energy and exuberance…

Ben Taylor. Son of James. Similar lack of hair. Acoustic. Droll. Best so far.

Ben Taylor throwing out so many Myspace addresses that one wonders if he’s on a Murdoch kickback…

Cherry Ghost: the word “solid” could have been invented for him. Overly precarious trousers for a man in his 30s. Not his “lucky pants”, one feels. Earnest, mildly dishy supply teacher rock. All very 6music/word magazine. I’m not won over.

In the market area, resisting the urge for a Tracy from Big Brother makeover.

Stephanie Dosen: seen her before, supporting Tina Dico was it? Kooky and lugubrious. Cameron Diaz goes folk.

Koop: pleasant Gilles Peterson approved mellow jazzy funkiness. And still no rain! Result!

Mm, tinkly vibes. Rob is texting me crap jokes from the cabaret tent. I shan’t share.

Koop remind me a little too much of my snotty soulboy acid jazz years. I’d have loved them in 1992.

And the vibes tinkle on. Not the most emotionally expressive of instruments, are they?

Spoon: again, solid. Better than Cherry Ghost, but I am unmoved. Dymbel loves ’em though. Shall try Fujiya & Miyaji instead.

Spoon were improving as I left. But Fujiya & Miyaji are more my thing. Funky krautrock from Brighton.

People are dancing! And about time too. Young people are holding up cardboard signs. FREE ANAL HERE! (plus arrow) and GET YOUR OWL OUT! Surreal…

Fujiya & Miyaji deffo the best yet. And now, the generic & wildly popular indie sounds of the Pigeon Detectives. Hmm, Johnny Borrell lite, anyone? Yes Virginia, there is such a thing.

Aw, I shouldn’t be such an old curmudgeon. They’re the right band at the right time and they’re working it well. Cross generational respect!

Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals: performing solo inside a giant TV set, with cartoon test card. Experimental!

K is stuck on the phone with my aunt (a chatty woman), and sending increasingly angsty text messages.

Gruff Rhys now joined by lady singer inside TV set, both seated behind desk, news reader style. Oh, and now there’s a band.

There’s a bit of a lull, so I’m relaxing in the run with a beer. Nice day, if a little short on epochal, life changing music. Pleasant innocuous vibe.

Cheerfully ignoring Echo and his Bunny Men, to whom I fell asleep at the London Lyceum in 1980. 40-something blokes with eyes half shut are gyrating drunkenly in the evening sunshine.

Ok, The Cutter, I’ll give them that. I was young once!

Polytechnic: competent guitar band, but I am developing indie indigestion. It’s been a long day.

Oh! This one sounds like Los Campesinos: “You! Me! Dancing!” I can get behind this.

Spiritualized Acoustic Mainline. As my friend says, perhaps I’ve never taken the right drugs. That said, their symphonic lugubriousness is appropriately crepuscular.

Ah, me old mate Duke Special, headlining inside the De Montfort Hall. Nice to be on familiar ground. As cosy and comforting as a steaming mug of cocoa, and hence just what these aching old bones are in need of.

Duke Special was a lovely end to 10 hours of good, if not often great music… and my first festival to boot.

Searching in vain for meteor showers on the drive home. 45 degrees south, if you’re looking…

See also: Lisa Rullsenberg’s proper joined-up review of the same day. You know, with proper paragraphs and everything…

“I never drink anything other than alcohol after 6pm.”

Wise words from my beloved K, who memorably reduced an entire posh country house dining room to an awed hush, merely by declaiming them, with some measure of force, when offered a post-prandial coffee by the well-meaning waitress.

Would that I had heeded them last night, at the blogpals’ get-together at the Secret Mystery Location. But, no. Fearful of peaking too soon (for the wine had been flowing from earlier than I am used to, bearing in mind the louche bohemian hours that I am wont to keep), I thought that a tall mug of fresh-from-the-cafetière would Perk Me Up and help me Stay Focused.

Which is probably why I woke at 4am this morning, and stayed restlessly semi-conscious for the next three hours, until knocked up by my Secret Mystery Hostess for a lift to the railway station.

(Two small pieces of information that I might safely divulge: Secret Mystery Hostess keeps a superlative cheese board, and she makes a mean chocolate tart. Honest, I thought it was from Marks and Sparks!)

Zee to the oh to the onked, that’s what I’m feeling right now. I might not even be able to make it all the way through Big Brother tonight, let alone the totally ace, are-you-watching-it-yet, oh-you-should-you-should, Studio 60 On Sunset Strip (which does require a good deal more concentration than “does Amanda fancy Brian back”, or “they’re all being mean to Amy, especially that Carole, ooh you wanna watch her, she’s taking over”).

So, let mine be a cautionary tale.

Hey, at least my reasons for crappy half-hearted posts are varied ones…

Honestly, how did I ever find the time for practising this sort of bloggery on a regular basis? People often used to ask me this, during Troubled Diva’s most prolific periods, and now I find that I’m asking myself the same question.

I am once again resorting to the email-to-Blogger facility (hence the lack of post title), as I shall be jumping on a train to a Secret Location straight after work, in order to spend an evening with three blogpals. To this end, and because I no longer even have the time to keep up with Essential Capsule Collection blog reading (I’m currently following just six blogs regularly, dipping into the rest on all too infrequent occasions), I have taken hard copies of the front pages of their respective blogs, in order to do some essential preparatory reading over lunch and on the train. Because, you know, I’d hate to be caught out or anything…

Meanwhile, in the offline world, PDMG#1 (aka The Cottage Garden, for newer readers) is being entered for next year’s Association of Professional Landscapers Awards. And, hey, you know how much I love being entered for awards. (Not our doing! We’ve been approached! We’ve got to send a photo CD off and everything!) Photos of PDMG#1 have also, or so we’ve been told, appeared in a Japanese gardening magazine. Perhaps one of my Tokyo readers could investigate? (Ah, for the old days of Global Reach…)

It was a pleasant surprise to find Ambling Sheep from the Hangzhou office hanging out at reception this morning. What with JP having returned from Hangzhou at the end of last week, we’re quite the expat community all of a sudden. A lunch date is in the offing.

In other work-related news, I have been passionately arguing against the “disco” option for the office Christmas party. Look, it’s quite simple. I sit in near silence next to these people for months on end; so how can I possibly expected to dance in front of them? It’s too much of a leap. And I’ll be drunk by then, and hence prone to overly literal interpretive hand motions (as this guy witnessed at Club Revenge in Brighton a couple of months back, to the strains of Girls Aloud’s I Think We’re Alone Now… "running just as fast as we can, holding onto one another's hands… oh, for SHAME).

And another thing. Security access photo passes, what sort of cruel punishment are they? For in a reversal of The Picture of Dorian Gray, I am obliged to shackle myself, five days a week, to a photo of myself on my first day of employment here, back in July 2001. Oh, the fresh-faced optimism! I could weep! How long will it be until the security guards stop me at the door? ("I'm sorry sir, but the borrowing of photo passes is strictly forbidden.")

And finally: Never, ever stay at the Brighton Charter Hotel. You want more proof? Here's more proof…

Prince at the O2 Arena: The Great Funk & Soul Swindle, Part Two.

(Part One is here.)

The 2000-odd capacity Indigo club – whoops, sorry, IndigO2, can’t be missing a Brand Reinforcement Opportunity – is billed as the Arena’s, ahem, “intimate space”. And fair play to their design team: it’s a swish-looking, well-appointed venue, which does its level best to make you forget that you’re actually still trapped inside a corporate hell-hole in the middle of nowhere. OK, so some seats would have been a nice touch, but they were strictly reserved for the 75-quid-a-pop “VIP” crowd, separated off from the rest of us in their own dedicated balcony area.

But hey, we proles in the £27.50 (incl. booking fee) standing area – some of whom had been queuing for over an hour (but not us, diligent researchers that we are), only to discover that we all had equally good views of the stage anyway – didn’t care about any of that. After all, we had gained admittance to the hallowed inner sanctum, and to the opportunity that some of us had been dreaming of for years: to see Prince in after-hours mode, kicking loose and jamming with his band, all in the name of pure musicianship rather than stadium show-boating. As I said before, these Prince after-shows are the stuff of legend.

The atmosphere in the Indigo2 was buzzing. On Wednesday night, the band had played for an hour and three quarters, with Prince joining them for lengthy sections. Sure, we didn’t expect him to be on stage for the whole period. We knew that. There would probably be 30 or 40 minutes of warm-up first, that kind of thing.

For now, Prince’s dedicated DJ was spinning a set of predominantly funky house over the superbly crisp and warm sound system, mixed with the occasional “special”, such as an exclusive new mix of Sexy MF, cut up with samples from the C&C Music Factory’s Gonna Make You Sweat. Chelsea Rodgers, my favourite track from the new album, got people smiling and even a few of us dancing. Not too much of a crush in front of the stage, plenty of people chilling out on the floor towards the back of the venue, saving their energy for later.

At around 1:15 – same time as Wednesday, nice bit of consistency there – the lights went down. “Please welcome, from New Orleans, Dr John and his band!”

Woah, tres tres cool! As the veteran New Orleans performer settled at his piano, leading his band through a delightfully rolling Iko Iko, the four of us exchanged grins, marvelling at our extra luck. Fancy Prince being able to land such an impressive special guest! That’s influence for you.

(Well, how were we to know that Dr John had already played a scheduled concert at the same venue, earlier that evening? We can’t all be experts.)

I wondered how the rest of the show would pan out. Dr John’s band were over to the right side of the stage, with most of the left side left empty, including spare microphone and instrument stands, and even a spare keyboard. Presumably the John band would hand over to the Prince band at some stage, maybe with some combined jamming. Woah, a Prince and Dr John collaboration would be something special all right… we’d just have to wait and see.

Time passed. Dr John’s old favourite Such A Night got an airing, but I didn’t recognise much else. Actually, my attention was starting to wander. So far, so Jools Holland. We needed to step up a little.

My attention was wandering so much that I didn’t particularly notice the stage hands clearing away some of the unused equipment on the left hand side, even as the band played on… although was it just me, or were they beginning to flag now? Did I detect an uncertainty, an awkwardness, a reticence to hog the whole show?

As one number finished, a figure in the wings made a motion to the band with his outstretched fingers. It looked like the international sign language for “five more minutes”. Phew, and not before time.

A couple more numbers later, the same figure made the same hand signal. And was it just me, or was the end of each song being greeted by ever louder applause, as if to hasten the end of the set?

At around 2:30, after about an hour and a quarter on stage, Dr John finally called it a day, “so that Prince can come on and do his stuff”. Big cheer. About bloody time and all! I noted with some amusement that Dr John hadn’t played his best known song, Right Place, Wrong Time. That really would have been rubbing salt in the wound. Two chuffing thirty in the chuffing morning! Ee, the accommodations that we make for genius!

The curtains closed, and the music came on again. A notably less scintillating selection than last time, but we were barely concentrating. Although, hang about, did we really need to hear Chelsea Rodgers again? And why were they starting to focus more on Prince’s biggest hits? What a strange way of building the mood for a jam session…

Time passed. A good forty-five minutes or so, I’d say. And then, a friendly word from a young guy who was just on his way back from the bar.

“Thought you might like to know. They’ve just told me at the bar that Prince left the building about 20 minutes ago. He’s tired and he won’t be playing.”

Even as we began to process the news, the music started to fade and the house lights started to flicker on and off. No announcement, just a general numbed-out bemusement as word slowly began to spread. Nearly three chuffing thirty in the chuffing morning, over four and a half hours after our last sighting of the man, and now, NOW he deigns to tell us.

I stared at my £27.50 ticket again. “PRINCE AFTERSHOW”, it said, in big capitals. By the exit door, a member of the Indigo2 staff was all placatory apologies, they weren’t to know, he just upped and went, etc etc. And by the way, sir, you can’t take that out with you. I handed him the flat dregs of my plastic mug of lager and stumbled out of the venue, still in a daze.

The reason that we bought the tickets in the first place? There was an item on Radio 4’s Front Row, telling their listeners that Prince would be playing a late night set after each one of his 21 London dates.

Throughout the complete online ordering process, via the O2 website and Ticketmaster, at no point was it ever suggested that Prince might not play.

During the whole of that Friday night, not one announcement was made to that effect. Oh, of course, they never actually said that he would be playing, either. We were just rather led to assume that. Because, you know, who would pay £27.50 for a DJ, an act that we hadn’t come to see (who was already in the venue anyway), no seats, no food, and the chance to buy the only alcohol left on sale for miles around?

As to how much money Prince himself will be earning from lending his name to this rather costly ongoing lottery (the following night, he joined his support act Nikka Costa on stage for just one number), one can only speculate.

Over on the main fan forum, the hardcore faithful had little sympathy for our collective plight. These aftershow no-shows are commonplace, apparently. It’s all part of being a Prince fan, apparently. God, didn’t we know that? This was an aftershow party, a chance for like-minded souls to hang out together and discuss the tour. If there was no atmosphere, that was our fault for not making an effort. In fact, it was probably our fault that Prince had decided not to play. Not enough dancing, everybody squashed in front of the stage, how uncouth! All those drunks, slumped on the floor, how disrespectful! How could he be expected to face that?

And, for heavens sakes, hadn’t we read the posting on Prince’s official site? (Posted on Monday July 30th, well after we had bought our tickets, but that’s by the by.)

After each gig in London, walk over 2 the indigO2 (which will be renamed 3121 of course) 4 the official aftershow parties. This will be the white hot place 2 hang 4 those still in need of some serious grooves. Prince and the band are not guaranteed 2 per4m, but as we all know with these cats – xpect the unexpected.

Oh, it was unexpected, all right. Can’t fault ’em on that one.

Over an hour into our homeward journey, at Toddington services on the M1, the four of us finally found somewhere that served food. Desultorily chowing down on my egg mayonnaise roll and smoothie (£6.48, plus a free apology from the cashier at the ruinous expense), a few yards away from the heap of prostrate bodies on the floor of the amusement arcade, I wondered whether, at that time of the morning, there was any more desolate place to be found in the British Isles. Cheers for that, Prince. Cheers for that, O2.

My final waking thought, as my head hit the pillow at 7:00 am: I am too old for this shit.

I mean to say. A well respected and much admired, nay loved, figure of immense cultural influence, who earned his reputation years ago but who has been coasting ever since, now well past his peak, teasing his remaining supporters with half-shows and no-shows, and arrogantly assuming that they will put up with whatever shit he deigns to throw at them? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Prince at the O2 Arena: The Great Funk & Soul Swindle, Part One.

It was an ill-starred evening from the off. A section of the southbound M1 was officially closed, with an accident to the north of it causing traffic to crawl for miles before coming to a complete standstill. Fortunately, or so it seemed, we could see the standstill kicking in just beyond the last-but-one junction before the closure, allowing us to leave the motorway in the nick of time.

Less fortunately, the crawl continued, bumper-to-bumper solid, all the way into St. Albans, and through it, and out the other side again. By the time we hit the unexpectedly and blissfully empty M25, we had less than an hour to get from Hertfordshire to the O2 Arena in North Greenwich, in time for the predicted show-time of 20:30. I was already mentally preparing myself for missing the first thirty minutes of Prince’s set. Not to worry, though; we also had tickets for the after-show, and so could expect many, many hours of music ahead of us. What was the odd half hour or so? A drop in the ocean.

At 20:25, we screeched into the O2 car park (advance cost: £22.30 including booking fee). By 20:45, we were in our seats, beers in hands. Given that our four-and-a-quarter hour journey had allowed us no time to stop for food, a liquid dinner (plus one banana each, smuggled through security by Dymbel) would have to suffice.

Three minutes later, the show began. Bless him for waiting for us. Our luck was changing. Smiles all round.

Just under two hours later, the band left the stage for the last time. During those two hours, Prince had been absent for the opening number, two lengthy instrumental interludes, two teasingly over-streched intervals between the two encores, and the first number of the first encore: a good 25 minutes, at the most conservative estimate.

Of the 20 songs performed, just 7 of Prince’s 37 UK Top Thirty hits were represented: Cream, U Got The Look, Peach, Kiss, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy and Take Me With U, plus a spirited version of I Feel For You. Four other numbers were covers, with Prince performing on just one of them: a perfunctory slog through Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music, for which he forgot nearly all the words.

The sound quality in the O2 Arena was abysmal: booming, sludgy and echo-laden, with a general absence of top-end clarity. However, our seats gave us a good overall view of the stage, which bore the shape of that funny little squiggle from the “Artist Formerly Known As” years. Although billed as an “in the round” show, the main performance area was the extended catwalk formed by the squiggle’s downwards arrow, with additional curly runways running off to each side. However, for those of us who were seated at the top of the squiggle – a circular area, with the band seated in the middle – Prince’s face-forward appearances were limited, and frustratingly brief. About once every ten or fifteen minutes, he would quickly trot round the uppermost circumference, barely pausing to acknowledge us. No matter; we had an excellent view of the screen, and much better all-round vision than the people down on the main floor. A shame, then, that the spot-lighting was so poorly arranged, with Prince all too often cavorting in near-darkness.

For a large chunk of the audience, getting the beers in seemed to be of equal importance to actually watching the show, with what amounted to a mass exodus during the first and longest of the instrumentals (Maceo Parker from James Brown’s old band, parping his way at leisure through a languid and syrupy What A Wonderful World). The people directly behind us swiftly reached the Totally Shitfaced stage, but at least their noisiness was benign. (Elsewhere in the Arena, a spectacularly inebriated woman threw up over the backs of the people in front of her. We wuz lucky.)

Oh, but we mustn’t grumble. The show had its moments, and the band were shit-hot – especially the four-piece brass troupe, as led by the aforementioned Mr. Parker, and especially during the set’s “funk” section, with Black Sweat and Controversy scaling the very heights of tightness. For the diehard fans, following the seldom heard Joy In Repetition (from Graffiti Bridge) with Parade‘s Anotherloverholenyohead was altogether A Bit On The Special Side. For the more casual crowd, solid, bankable tracks from Purple Rain dominated the end of the show, and it was fun to hear an updated Kiss: “You don’t have to watch Big Brother, to have an attitude…”

Only one track – the straightforward old-school rocker Guitar – was performed from the new album, copies of which were handed out to everyone who entered the arena, just in case our ideological scruples had prevented us from picking it up with the Mail On Sunday a couple of weeks earlier. Hearteningly, it turned out to be one of the strongest and best received performances of the night, already sounding like a bona fide hit in its own right. Saving it up for the last song of the last encore was a bold but justified move.

But oh dear, what a pointless palaver those encores turned out to be. We already knew that on the opening night of his 21-date run, two days earlier, Prince had fooled half the crowd by waiting until the house lights were up and the venue emptying, before dashing back on stage for a seemingly impromptu third encore. So we weren’t about to be fooled again. A stand-off ensued, with absolutely no-one budging, even though the house lights had been on for ages. And yes, oh GOODNESS what a shock, back on he bounded, for a repeat version of the same stunt. Which of course meant that we certainly weren’t going anywhere after the next exit. After all, there had been three encores on Wednesday, with nearly two and a half hours of playing time, so surely he wasn’t going to call it a night after two encores and less than two hours?

No such luck. After another expectant stand-off, during which we noticed our nearest camera operator patiently sitting tight and checking his text messages (so THAT was a sign, right?), a tannoy announcement was made, asking us to clear the venue. Which of course prompted a certain measure of booing. Oops. It was a ragged end to what had sometimes felt like a ragged, under-powered and half-hearted performance. Two dates into the run, wasn’t it a little early for Just Another Day At The Office Syndrome to be kicking in?

Despite being urged, via a special reminder e-mail, to “hang out” in the O2 after the show, the crushing reality was that, at a couple of minutes before 11pm, seemingly all of the venue’s food and drink outlets were closing for the night. If there was a funky little after-hours joint to be found in this gargantuan, antiseptic Branding Opportunity of a venue, with its faintly menacing air of regimented slickness, then we certainly didn’t stumble across it. Back to the car park we trudged, vainly casting around for non-existent burger vans, for the only sit-down we were likely to find between now and the after-show party, queues for which were already stretching far outside the building.

Ah, the after-show party. The anticipatory buzz was palpable, even in these corporate hell-hole surroundings. Prince’s after-show sets are the stuff of legend, after all. Our night of mixed fortunes was about to get very special indeed. Of that at least, we had no doubt.

Jump straight to Part Two.

I’ve let you down, I’ve let myself down, I’ve let the whole blogosphere down.

Well. So much for the brave new “one blog post per day for the whole of August” initiative, which spluttered to a premature halt yesterday, on Day Four.

My excuse? Yesterday was my first day over at the cottage in three weeks, the first decent weather we’ve had in living memory, and the first chance to get to grips with the unkempt wilderness that PDMG#1 has become since our last visit. Oh, and I hadn’t actually gone to bed until 7am on Saturday morning, for reasons that shall be made abundantly clear in my next post, to be titled “Prince at the O2 Arena: The Great Funk And Soul Swindle.” All things considered, it just wasn’t a day for switching on a laptop. The Germans have a word for it: Hitzefrei. And quite right too.

So, yeah, I owe you one extra post in recompense for my lapse. Consider it banked.

I am writing this from the cottage kitchen, upon our return from an uncommonly agreeable “early doors” at the Hartington Youth Hostel, of all places. No, really, you’d be surprised. Beautiful old Elizabethan manor house, locally brewed beer (I started with the “Hairy Helmet” and progressed to the sublime Hartington IPA), outside seating in the capacious and leafy gardens… a hidden gem, so it was.

The bright pink rose on the boundary wall of PDMG#1 is nothing short of spectacular this year. Here’s what it looked like, ten minutes ago.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s al fresco supper time. (Oh dear, when did our meetings become so rushed? It’s not you, it’s me…)

Curses. Today's post was going to be a straight re-print of a lengthy freelance article which I wrote this week, all about a local independent hip-hop label and its roster of artists. Unfortunately, the article isn't actually appearing until next Friday. So I'm a little scuppered for content, and am having to resort to the "e-mail to Blogger" facility in order to get something published…

…before I get on the train to London this afternoon, and head over to the O2 Arena for NOT one, but TWO shows by Prince: the big show in the main arena, followed the after-show jam session in the smaller Indigo venue next door. Apparently, the after-show set doesn't start until around 1:15 am, so it's going to be a long – but hopefully brilliant – night.

I'll then be cadging a lift back up to Nottingham with Dymbel's brother – who I'm looking forward to meeting, as I've been told that he administers a Yahoo group for my teenage musical idol, Kevin Ayers. Oh, there'll be chat a-plenty back up the M1 tomorrow morning…

Then it's over to t'cottage tomorrow, for my (and indeed our) first visit in three weeks. Gawd knows what state PDMG#1 will be in, following such a lengthy period of neglect. Secateurs wa-hey! Where do I start chopping?

There will be a full review of both Prince shows in due course – but again, probably not until next week, as I'm writing them up for t'local paper. What a tease I am.

If I haven't remembered the drill for e-mail to Blogger, I'm absolutely jiggered. Fingers crossed!

The benefits of being Class Of 2001 Old Skool…

…are that, when you make rash promises about blogging every day for a month, you don’t actually have to follow through with beautifully constructed vignettes in a tightly defined Site Style, that will have everyone sighing and cooing and wishing they could nominate you for Post of the Week (for which I’m doing this week’s shortlist, so please get over there and nominate).

Oh no. Instead, you can just switch the damned thing on and burble until your time’s up. Which, in my case, will be when K gets off the phone to his mum. (He’s a dutiful son, and rings her every night. She’s a “chatty” sort, and phone calls rarely last less than 20 minutes, bare minimum).

What can I tell you about today? Well, we’ve landed ourselves another magazine cover story, as the oh-so-aspirational Derbyshire Life has seen fit to lead their August issue with a lengthy article about our village, complete with a photo of the cottage. I’d link, but the “This Month” section of their website is currently displaying a scan of the March issue. Ah, bless.

On the freelance front, I’ve conducted three interviews this week: one with a local hip-hop label, another with a “turntablist” who records for the same label, and another with the guitarist out of Hard-Fi, whose new album arrived by post at the start of the week. How do you conduct a courteous and respectful interview with someone from a band whom you used to love (“Hard To Beat” was my Fave Single of 2005), but who are just about to release an underwhelming follow-up? Well, I tried to accentuate the positive. Other than that, it looks like I’ve secured an interview with Andy Bell from Erasure (having talked to Vince Clarke earlier in the year), but wasn’t quick enough off the mark to bag the Super Furry Animals. You win some, you lose some.

K and his mum are still nattering, and I’m stalling. Ooh, tell you what right: BT have been giving us the runaround summat shocking. We’ve been trying to order BT Vision at both addresses, but they’ve not only accidentally cancelled both orders – they have also posted us fifty, yes that’s right, FIFTY, bills to the cottage, on the same day, in separate envelopes, only to have them intercepted by K’s mum and returned straight to the postman. What kind of madness is that?

I just heard a click downstairs. Either she’s on one of her longer monologues, or they’re all done and dusted. So I’ll be off, then. But before I go, a big shout-out to z of Razor-blade of Life, who has promised to match my one-post-per-day with one-comment-per-day. Do feel free to play along, won’t you?