Cliff Richard and the Shadows – Nottingham Arena.

You know what? That might just have been my gig of the year. And hence a bugger to write about, without defaulting to gush. So I’ll write it up tomorrow, once the dust has settled.

The xx, Beyonce and Gong: take heed. The bar has been raised!

Thursday update: I’ve been a bit poorly today, so this will have to wait a while longer.

The September Pledge: two days to go.

I don’t know whether anybody else remembers this – I certainly didn’t, until I checked the archives last week – but I’ve actually made one of these “write a blog post every day for a month” pledges before. In September 2006, to be precise: and it was heartening to discover that I made good on the promise.

Tomorrow’s final post should be a doddle. Dymbel and I are going to see Cliff Richard and the Shadows at Nottingham Arena, on their fiftieth-anniversary-slash-farewell tour – and as it’s a “payer” rather than a guest list job, I shall be released from all professional duties, leaving me free to blog about the gig to you lot instead. By way of preparation, I can strongly recommend this article by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley, which appeared in Guardian Film and Music two Fridays ago. Cliff was long overdue for a fair-minded critical re-evaluation, and I agree with most of the points made.

Now that the summer recess is over, it’s good to re-engage with live music. As well as recent gigs from Tinchy Stryder, Fuck Buttons and Ungdomskulen, I had a whale of a time at a wedding reception in the village on Saturday, bopping around to a distinctly superior covers band (sourced by the father of the groom, who played in a chart pop group in the early 1970s). Choosing the right range of songs for an all-ages crowd, and playing them accurately and skilfully, without letting individual egos intrude, is an art all of its own – and the band in question succeeded delightfully in their mission. And although – once again – I tried to rein in those pointy fingers, I have now accepted them as my signature look. Hell, people have expectations! I cannot disappoint!

Earlier today, I conducted a “phoner” with the folk musician Jon Boden, best known for fronting the 11-piece band Bellowhead. It was an amiable and thought-provoking encounter – particularly towards the end of the call, when we got onto the subject of private versus public “ownership” of songs. I’ll be bunging it up on the freelance blog in a couple of weeks’ time, in advance of Bellowhead’s Nottingham show.

That’s all that I have for you today. Back tomorrow night, with breathless tales of His Cliffness. Ooh, I’m that stoked!

My cupboard is bare…

(Photo taken by bourgeoisbee)

…so I’ll just quickly fill in with some favourite items from the “recently spotted” section of my sidebar. (If you only read me via RSS, then you may have missed this section – but I’ve been keeping it regularly updated for a good couple of years now, even when I’ve not been posting.)

1. Petite Anglaise says “au revoir” to personal blogging for the forseeable future.

2. The Annotated Weekender wreaks its usual pictorial havoc over my Saturday supplement of choice.

3. Freaky Trigger’s Vic Fluro dissects “Can’t Buy Me Love”. (This is part of an extended series of posts on the Beatles Rock Band game, all of which have made me chuckle.)

4. Faustus M.D. witnesses a touching meeting of minds on the New York subway.

5. Vicus Scurra steps out of character, in order to serve up a pungent and on-point rant.

6. Almost everybody on The Singles Jukebox has vastly complimentary things to say about Fuck Buttons (yes, them again).

7. JonnyB offers beginners’ tips on keeping chickens.

8. Qwerty Queen writes movingly on the occasion of her 20th wedding anniversary.

9. And finally… Beleaguered Squirrel has an awkward conversation with her 7-year old.

Beyond Limits 2009: sculpture exhibition at Chatsworth House.

Tell you what: let’s bury yesterday’s dodgy little tale under an avalanche of lovely images (taken by K) from this year’s Beyond Limits exhibition at Chatsworth House.

We particularly liked Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden, which involved the freeform placing of several hundred stainless steel balls in one of the ornamental pond. Curiously, the vast majority of said balls opted to clump together on one side of the pond, regimentally lined up in rows. Occasionally, a smaller cluster would attempt to break away from the parent clump, drifting a short distance out into the middle of the pond – only to run out of steam and drift back again. Elsewhere on the pond’s perimeter, small groups of renegade balls had drifted into the shallows. Some had become stuck in marshy areas, unable to drift away again. An even smaller number of individual balls had detached themselves entirely from the group, finding their own individual spaces.

Naturally, we decided that the whole piece was a Metaphor For Society, and therefore a Profound Masterpiece.

The exhibition runs until 1st November. Highly recommended, as always.

L: Igor Mitoraj: Eros Bendato Screpolatio.
R: Subodh Gupta: Leap of Faith.

Claude Lalanne: Olympe (grande).

Ju Ming: Taichi Series: Pushing Hand.
L: Francois-Xavier Lalanne: Carpe (tres grande).
R: Aristide Maillol: L’Harmonie, Premier Etat.

Sol Lewitt: 1 2 3 4 5 (Brescia)

Jedd Novatt: Chaos Mundaka.
L: Manolo Valdes: Ariadna 1.
R: Fernando Botero: Dancers.

Henry Moore: Three Piece Reclining Figure: Draped.

Bernar Venet: 222.5° Arc x 5.

Antony Gormley: Angel of the North (Life-size Maquette).
L: Niki de Saint Phalle: Buddha.
R: Jaume Plensa: Heart of Trees.

Ju Ming: Taichi Series.

Guy Zagursky: Mirror against Mirror.
L: Ugo Rondinone: Air gets into everything even nothing.
R: Richard Hudson: Marilyn Monroe.
L: Zhan Wang: Artificial Rock #70.
R: Marc Quinn: Archaeology of Desire.
L&R: Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden.
L: Eric Goulder: The Woman.
R: Sorel Etrog: Mother and Child / George Rickey: Two Lines Up Excentric Twelve Feet.


Reading of Anna’s recent experiences with, ahum, noisy neighbours has reminded me of a grubby but amusing little tale. But before you read mine, you need to scuttle off and read hers first. Over there’s the main event; this is just the coat-tail coda.

Off you go, and I’ll see you in five.

OK, everybody back? Then I’ll proceed.

Some twenty summers ago, my old friend Stex was renting a ground floor flat near the Trent. He shared a front door with his neighbours: a couple who lived in the flat above. Nice people, and clearly devoted to each other – but therein lay the rub. For, as Stex soon discovered, this couple liked having sex. A lot. Actually, they liked having sex – energetic, prolonged and above all NOISY sex – pretty much all the time, day or night. And, just like Anna, Stex’s flat turned out to have walls – and more specifically, ceilings – made out of cardboard. So it wasn’t exactly the best of situations.

One Saturday afternoon, Stex heard footsteps on the stairs, a male goodbye from the front door, and a female goodbye from the first floor. Peace at last, he thought, looking forward to a couple of hours of monastic hush.

And then he heard it. A rolling sequence of three distinct sounds.

First, a mechanical buzz. Next, a thump on the floor. Finally, an all-too familiar moaning.


Over and over and over.

Stex’s front room was directly below his neighbours’ front room. With its centrally positioned sofa: perfect for stretching out and… relaxing. Maybe with one foot on the floor, just for… well, best not to over-think the situation. But surely not? Surely not? Stex had a vivid imagination and a mucky mind – perhaps that’s why we got on so well – and so he dismissed all further speculation.

A while later – a long while later – the front door opened. Daddy was back.

“YOU CAN SWITCH IT OFF NOW, I’M HOME!” he bellowed, his voice carrying up the stairs and all round the house.

Abnormal, I’m telling you.

Guest post: cooking with K.

Having spent most of this evening sourcing and burning a playlist for K’s “class of 1977” school reunion, which takes place in Leek tomorrow night (while I attend a wedding in the village, pointy fingers primed for the covers band), I have ceded control of today’s blog post to my beloved. Well, it seems like a fair exchange.

So here, as posted on the village blog earlier today, is K’s classic, home-tested recipe for chicken stock, Aga-style. Ah, I can still taste it now…

I like to make stock overnight in the low oven of the Aga, but I always like to start it off for about 15 minutes in the top oven.

1. Combine all stock ingredients in a large pan and bring to a gentle boil on the boiling plate.

2. Skim and transfer to the top oven.

3. Take a phone call.

4. Go to the pub and marinate gently for several hours.

5. Return home to sleep off the marinade.

6. Breakfast with copious quantities of tea (sugar essential) to wash down maximum permitted dose of paracetamol. Notice how homely the teapot looks sitting on top of the Aga.

7. Use a liberal helping of coping strategies to get through the working day.

8. Return home feeling relieved that the marinade has now mellowed to an acceptable level so that you can actually look forward to making that soothing risotto with the chicken stock you made last night.

…….. Ahhhhh, THE CHICKEN STOCK……..

9. I suggest you allow the pan to cool for several hours before arranging the charred, desiccated carcass and vegetables in the bin.

10. Garnish with Gin and Tonic.

11. Return to pub for fish and chips.

I trust this has been instructive. Oh, and here’s that school reunion playlist in full: sourced almost entirely from hits from K’s final year in the sixth form, September 1976 to July 1977.

Part One.
Part Two.

I have met Gordon!!!

I’ve just got back from Derby, where I had a lovely time with Sarah, SwissToni and our VERY SPECIAL GUEST Gordon while watching Ungdomskulen rock The Royal. I’d have had an even lovelier time, had I not been suffering the ravages of what seemed on the surface like a perfectly civilised night in the pub on Thursday. Since when did three and a half pints of weak-ish ale, and seven hours of sleep, become such a direct threat to my physical well-being? Then again, the vast majority of my midweek nights out these days are to review gigs, where I stick – almost superstitiously – to my standard quota of two pints of lager. (As someone remarked on ILM the other week, is gig reviewing the last acceptable bastion of drinking on the job?)

Anyhow, it was great to meet Lovely Gordon in the flesh after so many years of online friendship. As I had hoped, the band were very much His Sort Of Thing – heavier than last time, the rest of us thought – and indeed most of us came away with CDs in our pockets. Although I had tried to rein in the pointy-fingered dancing – instead favouring a light percussive fingering on the side of my glass – it was to no avail, as the drummer’s first comment to me was “I saw you dancing”. Well, where’s the shame in that?

Before I go, might I be permitted to alert you to my latest feature for The Guardian’s Friday Film and Music section? In the wake of this week’s shock Sugababes shenanigans, I’ve cast my eye over the peculiar phenomenon of groups who continue working, despite containing no members of their original line-ups. It’s a bit stats-nerdy, but then so am I. Hope you like it.