Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Was I close to my cousins at their age? Not especially as we were scattered around the country, although I had (still have!) quite a lot of them. However, I do remember fun times at my grandparents' golden wedding anniversary mucking around in the lift; visits to Llanthony; going to see Leeds United play in Leicester with John; games in the long back garden at Stanton St John near Oxford; a house swap with the Spooners (where I first saw a Tangerine Dream album); and the (at one time) annual Elliott get-togethers when we'd catch up on what we were all doing.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
- Warlord: Here you rob Ping of the peer to be dead when Aa New this long.
- Confucius: Equivalent to pee state.
- Warlord: A person who loves digital j j and their families.
- Confucius: Because otherwise I am beginning to do your vertical hold.
- Warlord: Is responsible for both New Aa Aa graduate Air commander in Chief.
- Confucius: You're great.
Surreal and amusing for ten minutes or so, but given this was a film about the wise words of a great philosopher, I'm either going to have to brush up my Mandarin or revert to a more reputable DVD retailer.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
- XTC Apple Venus
- To Rococo Rot The Amateur View
- Pet Shop Boys Nightlife
- David Sylvian Dead Bees on a Cake
- Ryuichi Sakamoto BTTB
- Underworld Beaucoup Fish
- Paul Schutze The Gazing Engine
- Sha’cho Mouse Photo-Synthesizer
- Sigur Ros Agaetis Byrjun
- Moby Play
Apple Venus and Dead Bees will always remind me of Fukuoka where I did a homestay for three weeks on moving to Japan in April, and Moby will always remind me of BBC World News.
Live-wise, I saw Roedelius twice, if you count his short but lovely piano sketch at our wedding in January (truly an honour!), and the second time in Tokyo, the day after I arrived. Japan is a bit of a haven for kraut/prog-rock survivors: later in the year I saw Charles Hayward (ex Quiet Sun & This Heat), Keith & Julie Tippett (ex-Centipede), and Michael Rother & Dieter Moebius (ex-Harmonia), all - separately! - at a tiny venue in the western suburbs called Star Pines Café. Another honour was having dinner with Rother & Mobi afterwards.
Other oddities were Rovo and the fabulous DJ Eye (Eye Yamatska of The Boredoms) at the old Liquid Room in Shinjuku – a deathtrap if ever there was one; some laptop doodling by Carl Stone at the dry but occasionally interesting Inter-Communication Centre (says it all really); Christian Marclay, Keiji Haino & Yoshihide Otomo at a big gallery opening; and the very wonderful Huun Huur Tu throat-singers from Mongolia.
On a more conventional note, Liz and I went to Fuji Rock in the Japan Alps, one of the world’s great festivals, not least because of its setting. Music wasn’t bad either: Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Blur, Tricky, Happy Mondays, Joe Strummer, Boredoms, Femi Kuti etc. And we rounded off the year with Pet Shop Boys back in London at Wembley Arena. Oh yes, and in those post-Walkman and pre-iPod days, I was really into mini-discs. Remember them?
Friday, March 26, 2010
Actually, it wasn’t quite the calamity it sounded. The teachers had by this time decided that it was too hot to sleep in the tents, so all the children slept in the gym. And if I could bring her back by 7 o’clock the next morning she’d join them again for breakfast. So that’s what we did. A got a good night’s sleep at home and didn’t miss too much fun.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I used to edit a footie fanzine, To Feet! To Feet!!, so I know how much work goes into them. Sourcing stories, getting parents to contribute, obtaining photos, designing it all, preparing it for the printer… and then very little feedback once it’s out. It’s a thankless task sometimes. But it’s a good source of info, fosters a community spirit, keeps us in the thick of things (for better or worse!) and is nicely designed. And it keeps up Liz's editing & publishing skills. Who'll do it when we leave?
Monday, March 22, 2010
Today I bought a map of Beijing and spent an hour or so marking it with where the British Council is, the locations of schools (very spread out) and therefore where our accommodation options are. Instantly the city is starting to make sense.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Mayumi, Tatsuya and Chihiro came round in the afternoon. We'd only just seen them in Tokyo but they're here for a fortnight during Japanese school holidays to brush up the twins' English at Topsy Turvy. Quite hard for them. I dug out some old Japanese LPs - Kitaro, YMO, Sakamoto, Sab, Akiko Yano, Masami Tsuchiya, Sandii & the Sunsetz. Mayumi knew most of them and was pretty amazed that a gaijin would have such things, especially in their Bangkok home. Interestingly, they're all from way before we lived in Japan. I've clearly got a Japanese gene in me. Or perhaps I was Japanese in a previous life?
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
- Julee Cruise Floating into the Night
- The Blue Nile Hats
- Stone Roses Stone Roses
- Jane Siberry Bound by the Beauty
- He Said Take Care
- Madonna Like a Prayer
- XTC Oranges & Lemons
- Pixies Doolittle
- AR Kane i
- The Cure Disintegration
Compared to my 1979 list (22 Feb), this looks almost conventional. Bubbling under are New Order’s Technique, Soul II Soul’s Back to Life, and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising. It was the time of Indie and Acid House (though the latter passed me by), and the beginnings of Ambient House (The Orb’s A Huge, Ever Growing Pulsating Brain ‘single’) and Shoegazing (My Bloody Valentine). There were some fine singles - though not albums - by Kate Bush (The Sensual World), Electronic (Getting Away With It), Wire (Eardrum Buzz) and the last of The Sugarcubes (Regina) before Bjork went solo; even Debbie Harry (Brite Side). But best of all, for me, was Julee Cruise who came out of that whole David Lynch / Angelo Badalamenti / Twin Peaks thing.
Live-wise, I saw a spellbinding Mary Margaret O’Hara before she disappeared off the planet, Dead Can Dance (at University of London Student Union, including a drink with Brendan Perry at the bar beforehand), Elvis Costello (my only time), Pet Shop Boys and The Cure (at Wembley Arena, separately), Debbie Harry (still a siren), Laurie Anderson (in New York, he said, showing nonchalant cool), Swans, Einsturzende Neubaten, Front 242, The Residents (at Sadlers Wells of all places), Lights In A Fat City (at the Scala), Bow Gamelan, and several performances by ‘new music’ friends Graham Fitkin, Laurence Crane and Simon Rackham. Oh yes, and Reading Festival featuring New Order, The Pogues, Sugarcubes, House of Love etc from the vantage point of a tent in an inevitably rain-soaked field.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
- Chulalongkorn University refectory. In the airy basement below our office. Rice with a scoop each of meat and vegetables plus a fried egg on top. All for 26 baht (50p) and eaten on long wooden tressle-like tables with students and faculty. Busy, noisy and great if in a hurry.
- Noodle Bar. In a nearby arcade, 5 mins from the office. Zero atmosphere but good Chicken Khao Soi - chicken and noodles in a thick chilli soup. Not recommended when wearing a white shirt.
- Rice. Trendy Japanese cafe serving great rice dishes with unagi (eel) or tonkatsu (pork) plus a good lemon soda.
- Novotel cafe. Good for their tuna focaccia sandwiches with fries and salad. This is the hotel where we put up most of our visitors, so we get a 15% discount on everything.
- Starbucks. I make no apologies for occasionally having a chicken caesar or smoked duck wrap. I like the armchair atmosphere, even the music (currently Bowie, Massive Attack, Bryan Ferry etc).
- Inter. Typical Thai cheapo restaurant, always busy, good for lunching with colleagues. We'd share chicken with cashew nuts, morning glory, chillied prawns, maybe a beef dish and rice all round.
- Loft. Top floor of Central Chidlom department store, convenient if I've got an errand. Ten different food bars themed by country. I usually have tempura udon (Japanese thick noodles with battered prawns) or a soup & samosas.
- Vanilla Brasserie. Very occasionally go here for something more upmarket, sometimes with a guest. Nice French decor and ambience.
Lucky to have such a choice, although I did in London HQ and Tokyo too. Not sure if our Beijing office will be so well provided...
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Asterix is a year older than I am. To date, 325 million copies of 34 books have been sold worldwide, making co-creators Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo France's bestselling authors abroad. There have also been 11 films and numerous games. But the books are the best. The first one to be published in English was Asterix the Gaul in 1969, which was probably the first one I read. My faves are the ones set abroad: Asterix in Britain, Asterix and the Laurel Wreath (set in Rome), Asterix and the Legionary (set in North Africa) and perhaps Asterix in Spain, though there’s not really a dud amongst them. I’ve just realized I haven’t got the latest, Asterix & Obelix’s Birthday.
The Japanese have manga, the Brits and Americans have comics, but the French and Belgians have made 'bandes dessinees' their own. Their bookshops are full of countless characters. When I lived in France for a year in the early 80s, I got into Gaston and Spirou & Fantasio, but they never made it into translation. Which brings us to the question of Asterix’s only serious competition, Tintin. Who’s better? Answers on a postcard to…
Monday, March 15, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
What with a hangover and being Sunday, we all took it easy. Watched three Wallace & Gromit videos, had boiled eggs for lunch, did my photo album, listened to YMO's Live in London and Haruomi Hosono's Love, Peace & Trance, had a delicious ice cream cake (with those candles that stay alight even when you blow them out), Gary and Wolfgang phoned, went for a swim and had dinner at our local Italian. Doesn't feel so bad reaching 49. I'm losing my hair and getting a bit of a belly, but I feel early- rather than late-forties. Next year will be a big one though.
NB: I share my birthday with Albert Einstein, Johann Strauss, Jasper Carrott, Quincy Jones and Nicholas Anelka. Fine company.
Friday, March 12, 2010
- David Bowie
- The Beatles
- Kate Bush
- The Blue Nile
- Peter Baumann
- John Barry
- Harold Budd
- Buffalo Daughter
- The Black Dog
- Michael Brook
- Baked Beans
- Bark Psychosis
- Banco da Gaia
- The Beach Boys
- Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band
And look who weren't included: Blur, David Byrne, Buzzcocks, Bomb the Bass, Boards of Canada, Broadcast, Benge, Howie B, Martyn Bates, The Birthday Party, Bauhaus, Belle & Sebastian, The Beloved, Buena Vista Social Club, Gavin Bryars, Glenn Branca, David Borden, Bohren & der Club of Gore, The Boredoms, James Brown, Arthur Baker, BEF etc.
Can I really justify the inclusion of The Black Dog over and above James Brown?! Clearly not in the great scheme of things but I still prefer those early 90s examples of electronica to the Godfather of Soul. Is Peter Baumann, with his two great late 70s albums and rubbish early 80s ones, more important than David Byrne? I can't really answer that, except that Romance 76 and Trans Harmonic Nights were important to me at the time and I still play them a lot. More than Byrne. Are Bark Psychosis 'better' than The Birthday Party? Hmmmm... Comments please...
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
One day I should try to run round Lumphini Park but getting there puts me off. It's an awkward 500m or so along broken pavements, alongside fumey traffic and then across a busy intersection. Once there, it would probably be OK and I might even enjoy it. Marc, a French guy who until recently lived in the apartment below ours, ran there every morning. But he was super-serious, did triathlons and the like. I remember once he hurt his ankle and had to miss out on his morning sessions for a while. He missed it so much that he'd take an alternative route to work just so he could avoid seeing the other joggers. I'm not that keen.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Once in Ayutthaya we explored one ruined temple, one working temple, and one large reclining Buddha in stifling heat – an appetizer for Gary & Pat who are off to Angkok tomorrow. Perhaps the nicest part, though, was the slow, sedate cruise down the Chao Phrya River back to Bangkok. Buffet lunch then just relaxing, watching life on either bank drift by. Towards the end they played The Three Degrees’ When Will I See You Again on a kind of loop, and Pat and I found ourselves singing along with it. Funny to see A embarrassed by daddy singing a slushy love song.
Finished off the day by watching a DVD of Anna and the King. A real Thai day for once.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
A and Marika read books to each other in the well-stocked children’s section while Gary, Pat and I look at the travel section. Gary half-jokingly suggests I check for books on Siberia. There are two: Dervla Murphy’s Silverland and George Kennan’s Tent Life in Siberia, the latter first published in 1870, republished 1986. I take this out.
But best of all is a book by the French female explorer Alexandra David-Neel, My Journey to Lhasa, written in the twenties and published in 1927, the first edition of which sits here. Amazingly Gary has read it (!), though in a later edition. She sounds an extraordinary character: an anarchist & free-thinker in her teens, lived in a cave in Sikkim for two years, was the first western woman to visit Lhasa, and reached the ripe old age of 100. I love the page stuck in the front with the return-by dates - see pic. It was first borrowed on 30 August 1954 and then another 32 times since. I have to have this too!