Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Too much turkey must have given me writer's block! I have a couple of things to write up here, but just didn't have time to finish them before work. Yes, I am one of the 5 people in Manchester that has to actually work this afternoon. Pah. Anyhow, I'm hoping to get the items up and running later on before our quiet new year's 'do. Later!

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

I'm at work, watching the seconds tick away until I can leave. I *know* I technically had to come in since I didn't have enough holiday left to take the day off, but it also seems stupid to make someone come in just in case the phone might ring (and trust me, it won't). Oh well.

In Christmassy news, I'd like to thank my Secret Santa for their excellent taste by choosing Ripples 8 from my wish list. It's the latest installment of a fantastic series of British takes on California sunshine pop. Whoever sent it even plumped for Amazon's gift wrapping service, which was a nice surprise (I must confess I didn't - sorry!). Maybe I shouldn't have opened it until tomorow, but I was desperate to open something! I should get an email tomorrow letting me know who it is. Anyhow, 541 people signed up for it this year which is pretty staggering. I was a bit dubious, not having done it before - but y'know what? It's kind of restored my faith in these kinds of things.

In other christmassy news, I have decided to take up knitting. My mother will be overjoyed, since she has been a knitting pro forever, and I'm certain she despaired that none of her three daughters took to it. Unlike her other prowesses, like cooking and sewing (both of which I've become pretty good at) when it came to knitting I just couldn't get it. My one attempt (a barbie scarf) turned into a mess so I gave up. However lately I've been thinking how cool it would be to knit my own fishnets (my mom has an old pattern from the 60s for that!) so it's my new hobby. And hey, if I get stuck I can always ask Faustus, MD for help!

Anyhow, a very happy holiday to you all. xxxx

Friday, December 20, 2002

Oooh! If you're into Saint Etienne, be sure to pick up the January 2003 issue of Record Collector, available in the UK from 28th December. The blurb from the website:

SAINT ETIENNE

Pop perfectionists


Some of the most finely-crafted pop tunes of the 1990s came courtesy of the media-shy Saint Etienne, whose reticence has often meant that they have been passed over in favour of more opinionated acts. But scratch the surface and the band have a whole host of subjects to get off their chest, from British pubs to the questionable merits of British boy bands.

A Christmas miracle...

This morning, I popped into my voluntary work office to say hi to everyone before the christmas break. About a half hour after I arrived, I looked in my handbag and was horrified to discover the contents floating in several inches of water. Somehow my water bottle had leaked, and because it's a vinyl bag, it just collected in the bottom. Expletives danced in my head as I fished out my wallet, switch/credit cards and my mobile. I grabbed that first and took it all apart - water actually *poured* out from the inside. I dried everything off, put it all back together and tried to switch it on - but all I got was a series of 4 ominous beeps which were obviously telling me "you...f*&ked...your...phone". Panic. Of all the days, this was the worst one to not have my mobile. I had people to meet for lunch (admittedly, I don't really care as it's a work related "party") but far worse, one of my friends is coming into town from outside Manchester and I said I would ring them this afternoon to arrange where to meet up. Mega panic!

The only thing I can think of is that there's a Virgin mobile shop on King Street that might be able to help. And you know what? I'd like to thank the extremely fabulous assistant there (I never got his name!), an affable, slightly scruffy manc indie boy who totally made my day. After listening sympathetically to my story, he took the remnants of my soggy phone, checked my sim card and reported it was fine (thank GOD!) - and then he told me I could have a reconditioned model for £20. I nearly fell over. No hard sell to convince me to upgrade to some flash new model or change my airtime package. Not even "That'll be £60 for the replacement handset", which is what I paid for it initially. Just "Yeah, don't worry, you can have the same phone for £20 cos we've got reconditioned ones that are pretty much like new." He also gave me a post-paid bag so I could mail the dead phone away to be recycled. I actually told him how helpful he'd been, something I rarely do.

Now I'm at work, my new phone (which is actually in much better condition than my old one after nearly 2 years of use) is charging up and my social life is saved. Well, I never made the lunch - when I called into work to check that people had left, it transpired that the only person who would be there too was the person in the story below. So needless to say, I didn't show.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

A last-minute Christmas present...

1. After rashly quitting her telly job in May, E finally lands a part-time job in late July that will a) pay half decently and b) work around her voluntary training.

2. After about a week in said job, E realises one her of co-workers (of which there are only 2) is very, well, eccentric. He talks to himself constantly while he types. He has this annoying way of eating out of tupperware containers (*scrape* *whack*) that is supremely unappetising. His idea of conversation is talk about how he feels persecuted by others in the company or to bore his listener with a barrage of jargon-laden ramblings. He does not appear to have discovered anti-perspirant. He is constantly clearing his throat loadly (verging on what can only be described as semi-horking) or even worse, burping. E is a very lady-like girl and does not care for this behaviour. She begins to wonder if this job was such a good idea.

3. A month later, E is told she must attend a company away day, but there are no flights from Manchester to this town so guess who is going to drive her there and back? She does her best, but there's no getting out of it. Now she must endure all his habits with only a foot of cramped car space between them. E stares out the window for most of both journeys.

4. A month later, E notices he's acting even stranger. The slightest request or reminder makes him lash out defensively, and he talks constantly about needing a holiday. One time, he comes over and stands at E's desk and just stares at her imploringly for ages. She doesn't know how to respond and ends up grabbing her coat and announcing she's got to do errands. E's other co-worker reports that he came in at 7 am one day and discovered him slumped over a table in the dark, muttering to himself. He starts disappearing for long periods during the day, and one day, he just doesn't turn up at all. 24 hours later, head office gets a call from a local hospital that he's checked himself in a la Ned Flanders.

5. He returns a few weeks later and seems ok. E consciously tries to be kind and not refer to the whole incident as she's heard others making jokes behind his back. Unfortunately, this seems to be taken the wrong way and E starts getting unwanted attention. In a small office where often it is just the two of them, this makes things incredibly uncomfortable. E does everything she can from then on to avoid any sort of conversation, and makes excuses to leave the office when it's just the two of them.

6. 2 months later, E comes back from a short break to find out he's been headhunted and will be leaving immediately. Sweet sweet relief. Although she wonders who on earth would actually seek him out, she is deeply grateful for their delusion.

Thank you for making my christmas, oh ye unwitting recruitment person!

Ahhhh...I love Christmas. I especially love Christmas when I can beat the rush. So excuse me while I go all Martha Stewart on you (again)...

Last year, you could not get fresh cranberries or herbs by the 24th. I must have gone round every shop within a 2 mile radius of my house, but was met with a disbelieving cackle every time I asked "sage...?" cautiously before fleeing in despair. If there was anything left (and it was always the one herb you didn't really need, but you start to believe you can "improvise") you'd have to get into a fight with some other shopper (much like the Cabbage Patch Kid riots in 1983 - yes, my mom was one of those who battled it out in the malls!)

So today, I had the morning off and decided to get all my food shopping done. I am now the proud owner of all the fresh basil, bay leaves, thyme, sage and parsley a girl could want. My fridge is stocked with cranberries and posh cheese, my freezer is full of fresh bread from my fantastic local deli, the Barbakan (just had one of their cheese and onion bagels, which was WRONG) and my cupboards are stuffed with nice nibbles for our christmas eve guests. I've got butter softening for one last big batch of my secret shortbread recipe to whip up tonight, and the tree is decorated. I'm just waiting for a few gifts to turn up in the post and I'll be sorted!

Oh yeah, here's a very silly seasonal game to play in the office before they let you go home. Hic!

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Of all the musicals in the world, one of the ones I hate the most is Rent. For ages, I thought that the adverts I heard for it on the radio were for Chevrolet or something.

Of all the crap popstars/models in the world, one of the ones I hate the most is Caprice. I have nothing else to add.

Now the two have merged in some sort of Room 101 from hell. And she's miming!! (alledgedly, despite ooooh, TWO weeks of "intensive vocal lessons".)

Monday, December 16, 2002

Grrrrr. I wrote a post last night about London, but Blogger had it for dinner. Anyhow! I've got a short break at home before running out to meet a friend for coffee in town, so here I am again.

The fatigue factor of this trip was definitely lower than usual. I've decided it's partly because I'm not as stressed these days, and partly because we didn't attempt any shopping in the centre.

Friday was spent pottering around our hosts' neighbourhood (Upper Norwood/Crystal Palace) at the Hayes Lane antique market, where we scored a fantastic space age Russian wall clock. Later on, I cooked a thank-you meal for Pam & Mike and had a wonderful night of catching up on gossip and relaxing with plenty of beer and music. I rolled into bed at about 2 am, tired as anything - but then woke up at about 6 am feeling kinda nervous about the day ahead. Drats! I lay around until I heard signs of life and ventured out for coffee and chit chat until it was time to go and meet Mick at Victoria to head over to Phil's.

It would be cheesy to go on too much about how much I enjoyed recording stuff that day, but let's just say a cheshire cat grin was rarely off my face. My voice, for lack of a better description, is probably what you would call "pretty" rather than growly soul power madam. However I'm concious of not wanting to sound twee, and I'd been practicing every night so I felt really prepared to do my own thing. And you know what? I think the fact that we managed to whip six songs into shape in the course of one afternoon is pretty amazing. I was so tired afterwards that dinner and the playback of rough mixes afterwards kind seemed like they were happening somewhere else. I kept thinking "Is that me????"

One long mini cab ride home later with a cd tucked safely in my pocket, I scuttled through the rain back to Pam & Mike's, where I promptly collapsed on the sofa while Pam made countless jars of chutney with my cd playing again in the background. How seasonal!

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

God. I was watching a video my friend loaned me this morning which had, amongst other things, a fairly comprehensive collection of all the news reports from when Dusty Springfield died. It still gets to me like it did back in 1999 - I sat there on the sofa, tears rolling into my latte.

Then I came upstairs to check my email and discovered:

Mary Hansen, member of Stereolab, 1/11/1966 - 9/12/2002

I immediately thought of the first time I heard them. Spring 1992, Lasbastide Marnhac (near Cahors), France. I was on a 3-month exchange and starting to seriously regret agreeing to live in a village after being so used to city life. The only record shop in Cahors stocked variete francaise (Elsa, Mireille Mathieu) and a bit of Mano Negra. I wasn't allowed to travel on my own, and trips to bigger cities weren't really on the agenda. So apart from my stash of music brought from Canada, my only access to new music was Les Inrocktibles, a late night radio show and pretty much the French equivalent to John Peel. I'm sure some people will be familiar with the magazine, which in its earlier days boasted some of the most exquisite black & white photography around. (Later, it would change format to a more NME - style mag and I lost interest. But that's a different story.)

I seem to recall it was on 3 or 4 nights a week. I would steal Sophie's tape player from her room and stay up every night recording anything that sounded promising. And frankly, it was the only way I survived that trip. I couldn't buy records anywhere, but at least I stayed informed. And one night, they played an amazing song with droning organs and bright, classy vocals. It was Super Electric by Stereolab, and I instantly fell in love. For about 5 years onwards, they remained one of my favourite bands and are probably one of the key sounds that would trigger a wave of nostalgia for the early 90s.

p.s. I wouldn't bother reading the contributing posts that follow the statement, unless you think things along the lines of "Wow. I am sad. I once blew smoke in Mary's face" is a fitting tribute.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Blah. Brain a bit shot. I'm on a course that runs on random days throughout December, as part of my advice training. I'm also swamped with eBay sales - you always forget that inevitably, a few people are going to a pain - no payment turning up after the initial promise, or even worse, no contact at all! Oddly enough, the people I'm having to chase are for small ticket items - the big spenders on the Saint Etienne fan club cds paid on the spot. Anyhow, I've filed a NPB (non-paying bidder) complaint to try and scare a couple of them into coughing up. I want my TWO DOLLARS! (ba da bing! I've wanted to reference that movie for aaaaages...and this has also reminded me to add it to my wish list!)

On Thursday, we're off to London for the weekend. No money to shop at Super Lovers or Harvey Nicks (ok, all I ever used to do was buy stuff from the food hall...) but I don't care. I'm kind of happy not to be such a consumer these days. Spending makes me edgy. Anyhow, there are two reasons I'm visiting. One: to catch up with our hosts, two very good friends who we don't get to see as often as we like due to all of us penny pinching at the moment. London might be only 3 hours away by train, but try getting a cheap train ticket these days!

Second, I'll finally be getting the chance to record some of the 60s songs I've been performing in the last 4 months at my friend Phil's studio. I haven't done any serious recording for at least 5 years, and it's really just a fun experiment - putting as many vocals down as we can over the original backing tracks to make a cd for friends. I have no idea how it's going to turn out. The thing is, when you sing, you can only hear a fraction of what you actually sound like. I'm really looking forward to having a permanent souvenir. And who knows? I could break into doing Phoenix Nights or the launch of a new Asda - the possibilities are endless...

Speaking of that show, Peter Kay on Friday was flawless. Completely. I laughed so much, my throat hurt until the next morning. Tag bought a mouse mat, mug, souvenir programme/cd and heaps of other merchandise for some of his co-workers who couldn't get tickets. Total spend: quite a lot. Suddenly, the vendor shouted "£61 going in" and everyone clapped and cheered. Later on during the show, it all made sense. And hooray, my link searching revealed that Dave Spikey (aka Jerry St. Clair) has a stand up tour starting in February...

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Darn. The Ladytron gig tonight in Sheffield has been cancelled. They've been invited to perform on that new Sarah Cox show Born Sloppy. This has cast the deciding vote of whether or not to watch it. On the plus side, the opening theme features the slightly-overhyped-yet-still-cute punk rock kittens dancing to the White Stripes. On the negative side, Sarah Cox and Colin Murray (he of the dire R.I.S.E morning torture) are the hosts. If she says "Eh laaady" even once, I will be tempted to hurl the remote through the screen. But maybe after the 'Trrron play.

Besides, I'll have to set t'video as we're seeing lovely lovely Peter Kay at the Lowry tomorrow night. I can't believe that doing the same routine for about 4 months non-stop hasn't killed him yet, but here's hoping it'll still be hilarious. I demand to laugh! (especially after the season finale of Six Feet Under...god, I was weepy all night!)

Goodies. If you've got a Nokia, you can get the Phoenix Nights ring tone here. I have an Alcatel, so I'll treat myself to a "T'internet" mouse mat or "Fancy a brew?" mug from the merchandise stall instead.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

I can be pretty easy going about living with less-than-mint condition when it comes to buying my beloved vintage stuff, but I draw the line at manure... (oh, and what's a warpy feeling?) p.s. I found this item because I was searching for Gillian Hills records...

Puzzah Update

Although I know for a fact that one person who reads my blog doesn't care, I'm going to fill you in on Charlotte. We picked her up from the vet last night - she was surprisingly chipper despite having had major surgery and about 20 stitches down her abdomen. She just wanted to get HOME! Anyhow, we won't have the biopsy results until tomorrow, but by all accounts it appears to be an infection that could be treated with steroids and antibiotics. One of her kidneys has also packed in, but like humans, cats can survive on just the one. I know this doesn't all sounds particularly healthy, but she settled right back in once we got home and has been eating and demanding attention as usual.

All the trauma didn't stop us from giggling when we saw her paw that had the drip in it though - it's currently doubled in size and looks like one of those fake foam hands that people wear to sporting events a la Homer Simpson - hence Tag repeating "We're #1!" at her all night. Awww.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

This is quite shocking...

Degrassi actor held in killing...