"for the happy, the sad, I don't want to be, another page in your diary"

Saturday 30 November 2013

Guilty Pleasures

Free weekends are becoming a frequent guilty pleasure. Being permanently crocked does seem to have some benefits. 

John Lewis due disrupt a potential record breaking lie-in by delivering a new set of CD shelves I’ve ordered at an eye wateringly early 7.10am. Which, I suppose, was better than hanging around all day waiting for them to turn up.

I look at what they’ve delivered and assume they must be flat packed as the box is way too small but no, the shelves simply turn out to be a lot smaller than I expected. About a quarter of the size actually. Bugger, I’m going to need about four of these. That'll teach me to measure up first. Well it won't but it ought to.

After a park session, I start filling them and aligning everything alphabetically with the smart new index cards I’ve also bought. Luckily the shelves prove to be a bit of a Tardis and swallow up a large proportion of our amassed collection. I think just one more set will be needed.

We stay in tonight as L, the uninjured one, is running the Coalville10k tomorrow and I also have loads of stuff to print of for tomorrow dog club AGM.

(Saturday 30th November)

Friday 29 November 2013

The Art Of Lane Sharing

I take the car to work so that I can go for my weekly swim afterwards with fresh legs. I promptly forget my swimming kit and have to go back which freaked the dogs out who were just settling down for a mega kip.

Amazingly at the pool later I get a lane to myself which saves me from the problem L was highlighting this morning. She says that men are a bit all over the place when it comes to lane sharing as they cannot swim in a straight line, meaning she often comes home black and blue after having shared a lane with one. I do agree but I think women are rubbish at swimming straight as well, it’s just don’t hurt as much when you collide with them. Personally I always get tangled up in the line ropes which maims no one but myself and gives everyone a good laugh at the same time.

Back home we opt for a naughty take away although our favoured online service ‘Fill My Belly’ appears to be no more. They have been taken over by ‘Just Eat’ who add a £1 delivery charge and then a 50p credit card charge. So I shop around and use ‘Hungry Horse’ instead who are cheaper because they don’t have the credit card charge. Still I can see the old fashioned traditional ring them up way could be making a comeback.

Then we settle down for some more ‘White Queen’ shenanigans. 

(Friday 29th November)

Thursday 28 November 2013

Needs Another Coat

I attempt a bike ride this morning and funnily enough the knee seemed to better the further I went. At first I didn’t think I’d make it as far as Balloon Wood, just over a mile down the road from home, but in the end the ride was fine.

Almost as soon as I get home in the evening it’s time to head out again. Somehow the knees have survived a furious pedal and I try to make it home and then on to Rock City for when doors open at 6.30. It’s shockingly early gig due to student night later on and the support band, British Sea Power, are on at a ridiculous 6.45. BSP, of course, cannot be missed, but first I follow orders and shove L out the door for some street pounding. I tell the dogs she won’t be long, hopefully.

I don’t understand why bands book venues that have club nights, like Rock City, on the nights when these things take place and then have to wind things up by 10pm. A least half the venues on the Editors current tour do not have club nights... so play them on Thursday-Saturday and come to RC on say a Tuesday. This is just bad scheduling surely?

I still miss the first few tracks and arrive as they are winding down what may have been the ‘Scottish Wildlife Experience’... surely not... then they’re into ‘Oh Larsen B’, a track their own fans complain they’d don’t play anywhere near often enough.

It’s odd seeing one of your top five bands, albeit in a generous 45 minute slot, supporting one of your top 30 ones, Editors headline tonight. 

BSP could probably have been massive if they did not steadfastly refuse to attempt to appeal to even a minority of the majority. Like tonight, a set full of their most accessible numbers would have had a few Editors fans splashing out on their albums but that’s not their style and that is why we love them so. Whereas ‘No Lucifer’ and ‘Fear Of Drowning’ probably would appeal to most nonpartisan crowds, ‘When a Warm Wind Blows Through The Grass’ is one of the least accessible tracks on their new album, so of course they play it tonight.

As as well as no compromise on the set selection, it's good to see the same approach on the foliage and the stage is brilliantly decked out as ever.

Their set ends in slight chaos, after another slowie from the new album in ‘What You Need The Most’, with five minutes of their allotted time to go and, you suspect, the mighty ‘Carrion’ looming they appear to be unceremoniously chucked off the stage. Oh well, I just hope Editors plan to use those extra five minutes well by making this last night of the tour memorable.

So from a support band who have been rotating their set every night to a band who used to be very good themselves at swapping their set around whilst on tour, keeping things fresh and the audience guessing. Reports are that this isn't something they've been doing this time and they’re been sticking pretty much rigidly to the same songs every night, sadly.

Opening with a taped instrumental version of ‘The Weight’ (odd - why not play it!), they’re then into ‘Sugar’, one of the best tracks on the new record. Next up the welcome return of ‘Someone Says’ and it's going well. Then it’s ‘Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors’ and ‘Bones’ but things aren't quite what they were.

Since the departure of Chris Urbanowicz, Editors have changed direction somewhat. The new album is more ‘stadium’ rock and their existing material seems to have been totally reinvented live. In that the songs are now bassier, louder, noiser, faster perhaps but does this make them better? Not really. 

Urbanowicz has been replaced by Justin Lockey who clearly approaches the songs in a different way. They have also added, at least temporarily, Elliott Williams to play keyboards which frees front man Tom Smith up to be, well, more of a front man. Smith tries theatrically to add emotion to the songs but sadly the cleverer, slower songs where he could do this have been left at home and culled from the set.

‘Two Hearted Spider’ off the new album is an exception and is very good tonight but another new one which would have been equally theatrical ‘Bird of Prey’ isn’t played. Tonight is a pure ‘rock out’ with everything played at a high tempo, loud and fast, all those slow brooding numbers have disappeared or been reworked.

I’ve never liked ‘You Don't Know Love’ but tonight it’s so different, bassed up and heavier that even I like it. So not all change is bad.

‘Formaldehyde’ sounds better live than it does on record and the other single ‘A Ton of Love’ goes down a storm. In fact all the new tracks come over well, it’s just the older tracks that sound ropey.

It’s good to see ‘In This Light and on This Evening’ still played and still impressive but among the new arrangements, a reworked ‘Munich’ leaves the song not what it was. This leaves the new track ‘Honesty’ and fan favourite ‘Fingers in the Factories’ to pick up the pieces but that too has lost something.

‘Bricks and Mortar’ lifts things a touch in the encore, as does the new record’s ‘Nothing’ and then they send us home with a lively ‘Papillon’

Tonight the Editors came, played louder, harder and faster than before and got the job done but... to use an odd analogy, if the Editors had painted your house, you’d ask them back to put another coat on it. Only this time lads, take your time and you’ll do a much better job. I think perhaps they’re trying too hard.

(Thursday 28th November)

Wednesday 27 November 2013

An Impartial Opinion

Today we get up early and again battle the oddities of train travel to head to Manchester again. This time to visit the University with Daughter for their Postgraduate Open Day, as she contemplates continuing her studies.

The route of the train takes us through Sheffield where she gets on and joins us. Although she can’t sit with us because of the peculiarities of the booking system. We were forced to book seats and are supposed to sit in them. Her tickets didn’t require a seat booking but if she requested one, there was no way of requesting it to be near ours. Then to take our seats we have to invariably move someone on, which we do. Then each time, both outbound and inbound, Daughter manages to find a reserved seat fairly nearby that isn’t being used.

The open day isn’t terribly well organised, Sheffield’s are much better Daughter informs us. That’s her impartial opinion of course and I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact she works at them.

After attending two morning ‘lectures’, for want of a better word, we join a brief campus tour before discovering that the Student Experience Exhibition had packed up and finished at lunch time. At least we manage to grab a complimentary coffee before they all disappear.

Then there is a subject specific session during the afternoon, which is the most helpful part of the day, answering many of my questions anyway.

Then with everything dealt with we take Daughter to a museum because apparently we denied her such delights as a child. I’m sure we didn’t but there you go. She heads straight for the mummy which is, as the attendant directs us, straight up the stairs and left at the elephant.

Then after all that excitement, it’s the train home. 

 (Wednesday 27th November)

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Never Too Late To Take Up Exercise

The BBC are saying you're never too old to take up exercise. L says she might start. I might join her, when I’m fit enough. They need to add the caveat that you’re never too old unless your knees, ankles and calves have gone.

You're also never too old to go to the pub, so I settle for a night there instead with the guys from school. A few beers in the Brunswick and then something cheap and uncheerful from the Babington Arms Wetherspoons.

(Tuesday 26th November)

Monday 25 November 2013

Saving His All For Training

L goes for her interview. She likes the job but isn’t sure if it's suitable for her but will be well miffed if they don’t offer it her... and she says she isn't competitive.

In the evening some arctic dog training. It's very cold up on the hill where we train and everything is rapidly frosting over. MD is paw perfect tonight including an incredibly fast A frame. Then we realise that all the dogs are doing a very fast A frame due to the amount of frost on it.

Even so, why couldn’t he have performed like that on Saturday in competition? 

(Monday 25th November)

Sunday 24 November 2013

Casing The Joint

We get up sometime after lunchtime by which time you’d think the dogs would have given up on the prospect of a walk on the park but no, so I take them.

In the evening, a few hours later, we go for a couple of pints in the Horse and Jockey at Stapleford on the premise of L wanting to go to Stapleford to case the joint as regards a job at the place there where she’s going for an interview tomorrow. Any excuse but I play along, naturally. 

(Sunday 24th November)

Saturday 23 November 2013

A Fair Amount Of Faffing

It’s our first indoor winter dog show of the season today. Doggo opens things up with no sign of a limp. At least not from him, I’m a different matter. Mine will get a good test the first time I run MD.

When I do, we have the last pole down. It didn’t help that the last jump was about four foot from a wall and someone placed his lead in the gap. No wonder he slammed his brakes on and fetched the pole down. The perils of indoor shows in confined spaces.

His next run is clear but with a fair amount of faffing. We come 9th but he could have won that, faff free.

He celebrated that minor success with an elimination in his next run and every mistake imaginable bar an elimination in his last run.

Doggo is clear in his ‘Allsorts’ agility. Which is a feat itself even before you take into account his Lazarus like recovery from Friday’s crippling limp because they leave the contact equipment on full height, which I’ve never seen them do before on an ‘Allsorts’ course although we don’t do that many. They’d certainly drop the heights for a Veterans class.

L takes the opportunity of our absence to do some painting at home, glossing whilst the hairy ones are out, the backdoor isn’t wide open and there’s no requirement to throw footballs at the same time. Now it’s time for us to head back to disrupt this, at least all the hairs are well plastered down with mud.

Then we head over to Derby where we eat in the Dolphin, then pop in the refurbished Bell for one before we head to the Flowerpot for a gig. 

The test of an artist is often whether they can ‘pull it off’ when they’re up against it. Peter Coyle, it is probably fair to say, is up against it. He turns up tonight totally on his own, no band, no instruments and is at first mistaken for a roadie by the bulk of the audience.

So it is to his immense credit that he then swiftly gets everyone’s attention, and at the same time turns the entire venue into respectful silence, as he delivers his three minutes of fame from 1983, ‘The First Picture of You’, totally a capella. Coyle you see was the vocalist with the Lotus Eaters. A band that had great promise and even Peel sessions but despite several subsequent singles, they never really achieved another three minutes in the spotlight and Coyle went solo, again without making much of an impression.

Thirty years on Coyle certainly still has that brilliant voice even if he does not possess either his own guitar (or keyboard) or perhaps the capacity to play one. Instead he fires up a backing tape and does karaoke for the remainder of his support slot. Faced with this, and the fact it’s all unfamiliar material, the majority of the crowd turn back to their conversations and their pints.

China Crises on the other hand arrive as a three piece and with instruments. The band's core has remained constant throughout their long career with Gary Daly on vocals and Eddie Lundon on guitar. They do introduce their keyboard player several times but I, amateurishly, don’t make a note of his name.

I look forward to seeing how this slimmed down line-up handles their back catalogue but I’m quickly disappointed as sadly, like Coyle, they also make heavy use of backing tapes. Thinking back now, I bet they always did to get all those twiddly bits into their songs for their live shows.

I’ve seen the band several times back in the day and I can even now vividly recall them at Rock City in 1987 bemoaning the fact they’d been downgraded from the Concert Hall because their fourth album, the excellent (in their opinion and mine) ‘What Price Paradise’ didn’t sell as well as their earlier stuff. Of course to me the Concert Hall not Rock City is the downgrade and they were back at Rock City in 1989 a bit more chastened.
Two things are striking tonight as regards that memory. Firstly they’re now very at home in a pub (a downgrade deluxe), albeit a full one, and they play nothing from that excellent fourth album, sadly. It is, slightly predictably, mostly a hits set.

The start though is a bit more leftfield. First up ‘The Soul Awakening’ from ‘Working with Fire and Steel’ followed by ‘Temptation’s Big Blue Eyes’ and ‘Seven Sports for All’ from ‘Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms’ which Gary urges us ‘to get out of the loft’. As if I’d assign any records to the loft.

‘Temptation’s Big Blue Eyes’ particularly is a surprise and they admit that this gem off their debut album remained pretty much unplayed for the last thirty years until recently.

Then it’s time to plunder their most famous offering ‘Flaunt the Imperfection’ for a clutch of tracks. ‘Gift Of Freedom’ and ‘You Did Cut Me’ are played without the tapes and with only the audience as backing. Resulting in a far less polished offering but the songs are the better for it. The whole point of seeing someone live is to see what they can do outside the comfort of the studio and not to reproduce everything in prefect CD quality.

After that they revert to using the tapes and ‘Black Man Ray’ opens a run of all singles through to the end. Among them is a song which transports me back to Sixth Form College and starting my A Levels. Do I really want to go back there? Probably not, but a note perfect ‘Wishful Thinking’ does it anyway. Assisted by those immaculate backing tapes of course.

Peter Coyne reappears for the encore of ‘Here Comes a Raincloud’ from ‘Working with Fire and Steel’ but he leaves them to close what has been a pleasant evening on their own. Gary and Eddie have been chatty throughout, pleasant hosts, and we’ve even managed to overcome the language problems posed by their Scouse accents.
In fact the only track they don’t chat about and introduce is the last one. It’s also the only one the majority of the audience don’t know, as they close with ‘Diary of a Hollow Horse’ from album number five.

We close our own night with a swift one in the Royal Standard before getting the bus home.

(Saturday 23rd November)