Sunday, June 22, 2014

How Malaysia Never Reached the World Cup

I'm in KL for a regional arts meeting, my last in East Asia. It doesn't officially start till tomorrow so spent most of the time briefing my successor Nick on all things China. 
But never mind China, it's World Cup mania here. Malaysia have never reached the World Cup themselves, a fact forced home in an amusingly dry book of the same name I bought from a book stall today.
It is subtitled a '40-Year Chronicle of Failure', which is as good a description of England's participation in the same competition. 

Friday, June 13, 2014


So, another World Cup kicks off. They seem to come round quicker and quicker. Brazil 3 Croatia 1. Deserved to win after a shaky start, but it hinged on a penalty-that-wasn't. The TV timings in China are terrible middle-of-the-night jobs. And who would really want to get up at 3am and watch England play? I don't hold out much hope. We're rooting for Mexico.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

That First Album

Alyssa bought her first album today, Selena Gomez & the Scene's When the Sun Goes Down.  Whilst I make no comment about Miss Gomez - star of The Wizards of Waverly Place, a DVD of which is always on whenever A's friends come over - I do recognise the importance of That First Album. Especially one that she went to a shop to buy, not a download, and bought with pocket money. In fact, A remarked that I was more excited than she was!
For the, er, record, my first album was Focus 3, bought when I was 11, soon-to-be 12, so not much younger than Alyssa. The question is, what kind of collection will she amass? Will she get Gomez's previous two albums (like I did with Focus)? Will she go Latino or Grunge? Will she get into vinyl? It is, of course, as important as school.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Many years ago I had a little project going called 1927. It was the year my mother was born, and I often wondered what it was like living at that time. On the one hand it was the dawn of television and silent movies, transatlantic flights and phone calls, but on the other there were still horses on the streets and most people lived in abject poverty. 
But the more I read about art & history or listened to music or went to the cinema, the more it became obvious that 1927 was quite a year. Picasso, Magritte, Ernst, Man Ray, Surrealism generally, Chaplin, Metropolis, the Bauhaus, jazz, Milhaud, Ravel and on and on. I used to jot down new discoveries (like 'Dancing Bears banned in Berlin streets') in a home-made leather book with plastic sleeves for pictures. Later an Australian band and a British theatre company would call themselves 1927. Anyway, over time I lost interest in it and the book is in storage somewhere.
And then, up pops Bill Bryson to write a proper book about it - or rather its American summer. It's a good read: Lindbergh's flight, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and a cast full of colourful, energetic, entrepreneurial and downright eccentric characters.   

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

30 Years Ago Today...

...I started working at the British Council. Today there were no celebrations, commiserations or carriage clocks, because no-one knows. I was first employed through a temping agency, paid on a weekly basis, then on a short-term contractual basis, and finally, a year or so later, permanently. 
I still remember going into a Brook Street Bureau on Oxford Street on Friday 1 June 1984 asking for a job, any job, to supplement my meagre music writing. "Here's something for you, sir. The British Council". I'd never heard of it. But on Monday 4 June in I went and started wheeling parcels around while writing Sounds reviews in between deliveries, sitting in a dilapidated armchair in the loading bay, with Irish John (who liked a flutter) and Frank (a West Indian who had a good singing voice). 
And the rest is history...