Oi! England! SLOW DOWN!!!

wow, you go away for 7 weeks, come back, and find a new prime minister, a smoking ban, a massive terrorist weirdness thing going on, Wimbledon tennis in full swing… Will i recognise it when I get off the plane? Have all the men grown Amish beards? Have all the laydees grown Amish beards???

I fly to New York tomorrow, and then – hopefully – to London on Tuesday. We’ll see what happens with all the mentalism that’s going on in England at the moment… Does anyone have an email address for the nutters with the non-exploding car bombs? It’d be nice to email them, tell them how much they are potentially disrupting my travel plans, and ask nicely if they wouldn’t mind changing their method of protest… I’m sure they’d listen if they heard my concerns about the airlines reinstating the restrictions on hand-luggage…

A short tennis related intermission…

Now y’all know I’m not really much of a sport lover. Ambivalent would normally be an understatement.

However, I does love me some tennis, so hearing that Andy Murray had beaten Roger Federer yesterday was a pretty amazing moment. This is quite the biggest event in UK sport for quite some time, and it came second on this morning’s news to some football thing (I didn’t even know that England were playing yesterday til I heard the result this morning).

Roger Federer is pretty much the greatest Tennis player to hit the scene since Pete Sampras. He’ll go down in history as one of the all time greats, no doubt about that. His unbeaten record on grass is second to none. Ever. So for Andy to beat him is pretty amazing. And within only a few weeks of signing up with Brad Gilbert as his coach. Given that Brad’s last two high profile charges were Andre Agassi and that other American bloke with the huge serve – whassisname? Andy Roddick, that’s him – Andy Murray could really be onto something. If he does well in this tournament, it may well put him inside the world’s top 20! Amazing stuff.

OK, back to blogging about music and me.

homeless shelters and tax returns

Catching up – three very very busy teaching days Thurs/Fri/Saturday – much fun. Busy days like those are a great confirmation of how much I enjoy teaching, I love getting to the end of a day, feeling that I’ve worked hard, and the students have all taken away lots of good quality stuff to work on, hopefully been inspired and are beavering away at their practice!

Saturday after teaching was a visit to see my dad – really ought to see him more as he only lives half an hour away. A most enjoyable few hours.

Had to leave fairly early as I was doing an overnight shift in the St Luke’s homeless shelter – long-time blog readers will remember said shelter from previous years – this is i think my fifth or sixth year of helping out. It’s hardly a huge commitment – I tend to do every other saturday night from january to march, excluding saturdays when I’m not actually in the country…

this was the first night of the new year for the shelter, and was utterly without incident. But it did give me a chance to finish one of my christmas present books – ‘Serious’ by John McEnroe. A good read, for sure, clearly aimed at tennis fans (a fair few play by play dissections of big games, big sets big matches). He didn’t turn out to be quite the sage I’d assumed he was from his commentary skills – he’s one of the best sports commentators I’ve ever encountered (and, to be fair, that’s not many, given my general antipathy to all sport except tennis), but his wisdom in commentating on the psyche of the players doesn’t really seem to have come from having lived a sage life. Maybe he’s just learned from having got it all wrong in his own life. Definitely a worthwhile read though.

So not much sleep last night, which meant two things – a) I missed church by not waking up til 1pm after getting to bed at 6.45, and b) I missed most of the Soil Association organic market thingie happening down by the Barbican. It was organised by the lovely Ruthie, and featured some lovely live music from the lovely Andy Buzzard and Jonny Gee. Great to see them play, if only for one number. Also gave me a chance to meet lots of cuddly musos and invite them along to Thursday’s Recycle Collective gig, which I’m getting more and more excited about the closer it gets – the potential musical marvellousness in a trio of me, Cleveland and BJ is pretty huge, methinks. We’ve played together before, when I did a gig at Darbucka last year that both of them guested on, and it was magical. Don’t miss it!

So, after getting back from the organic thingie, I’ve just finished, submitted and paid my tax return/bill for 2004-2005. Fortunately, I only had about £50 to pay over and above what I’d already paid on account for last year… well, fortunately for now, unfortunate if you think that it means I earned less than the previous year (main reason for that is that in 2004 I was still receiving HUGE PRS cheques for the Level 42 tour…) Good news is, online CD sales were higher in 04-05 than ever before, which is great news.

One of my resolutions for next year is not to leave it til Jan 2006 to submit my tax return. I’d LOVE to actually get it done in April for the first time ever, and then have all year to pay a figure that I actually know. In order to do that, I’ll have to get my financial records for this year up to date in the next week, so I can stay on top of it from here on in… here’s hoping.

As an aside, I submitted my tax return online – what a breeze! It does all the calculating for you, tells you the boxes you’ve missed, makes sure your sums all add up, and gives you a print out at the end. Couldn’t be easier.

And now I’ve done the taxation bit, I feel inspired to write some letters to my MP to do something about the representation bit. I’m a fan of tax, in principle, I’m happy to pay my way, and to pay more to help those who haven’t got enough. But I do wish we had more say over how it was spent, and a less wasteful exchequer – Government spending is a disaster, which while not doing away with the need for taxation, certainly makes most people’s loathing of it a lot easier to understand.

Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire

believe it or not, I didn’t actually go to the cinema once in the whole of 2005. We saw a few films on DVD, but not one trip to the big screen. The last time I went was to see the 3rd Harry Potter film.

So tonight we went to see the 4th one! We usually go to Barnet Odeon – fairly nice old school cinema, though the sweets ‘n’ stuff are still massively overpriced. But they didn’t have Harry Potter on in the evenings, so we went to the Vue complex at Finchley Lido.

What a shit place! The design is like some really unimaginative 70s version of ‘the future’, with nowhere nice to sit down, and just stupid prices for munchables. Given that the two tickets booked online came to over £15, and the snacks came to over £6, I think it’ll be a while before we bother going there again, given that we could hire three films and get a rather nice curry for that at home. Those mail-order DVD clubs are looking ever more tempting…

Anyway, enough of the shitness of Vue, onto the film, which was fab! I’m a sucker for all the Harry Potter films(them being the only film series that I’ve ever been to all of them at the cinema… hang on, that’s really bad grammar… ah, well, it’s never stopped me before). As the kids grow up, the acting gets better and the plots get darker – this one had some genuine shocker moments, and some horror-type effects around Voldemort. Rupert Grint in particular is shaping up to be a fine lil’ actor.

I’m not sure if it was quite as good as Prisoner Of Azkerban, but definitely at least the second best of the HP films so far. And one of these days I’ll get round to reading the books!

Talking of books, I started one of my Christmas pressies today – ‘Serious’ by John McEnroe. I’m a bit of a tennis fan anyway, and particularly like Mac’s commentary, so thought his take on the world would be worth reading… interesting stuff so far!

Edinburgh MPH March/Live8

So, despite it being Wimbledon finals weekend, I didn’t see a stroke of tennis played… But for good reason.

On Friday I drove up to Berwick–On-Tweed (the Lawson ancestral home), in order to go up to Edinburgh on Saturday for the Make Poverty History March and rally, arranged to coincide with the G8 summit meeting in Gleneagles this week.

Estimates on the attendance at Edinburgh vary working upwards from about 200,000, but that’s the figure for Fringe Sunday in August, and this was WAYYYY more crowded than Fringe Sunday.

The march itself was just huge – for a lot of people, they were waiting for almost three hours just to get out of The Meadows (that is, a secret location, known only as ‘the meadows’). The atmosphere was fabulous, though the food was a bit crap for veggies (I’ve got too used to ‘london food’). The first people to set off on the march were back at the start by one o’clock so the continuous white band lasted for a good few hours.

The talk from the stage was largely good – Billy Bragg was on form as always – talking not playing (at least not that I heard, sadly), Jonathan Dimbleby was marvellous. Some twat from the Church Of Scotland was congratulating Gordon Brown on all he’s done so far… hello? Done what exactly? Announced a supposed debt relief package so tied to IMF trade and services liberalisations that it’s virtually worthless? FFS, stop pandering to these goons – they’ve done just about nothing as yet, the situation is still brutally inequitous, and so far Gordon Brown has done pretty much sweet FA.

Anyway, the rest of the talk was good.

We got back into Berwick, and in front of a TV at the time The Killers were on at Live8, who made no impression whatsoever. The evening was definitely all about the old guys showing the youngsters how it was done – Floyd, Robbie, The Who and Macca all rocked the party that rocks the party, while the Scissor Sisters were dull, Velvet Revolver were shit-on-a-stick, Joss Stone and Mariah both did well and Peter Kay was the only Accapella singer of the day and lost the americans royally.

I was struck by how little comment was being made about the cause, both between bands, and by the bands. Now that I’m watching the AOL online feed of the show, I see just how much the BBC had edited out in the name of impartiality. Good God, I hope I never rely on the BBC’s impartiality to save my life from rapacious world trade laws. How can you be impartial on this? Grrrrrrrr.

So all in all, a monumental event – the biggest ever public protest in Scotland, the biggest ever worldwide TV audience for a show, millions and millions of people signing up th the MPH campaign. Surely this will send a message to the tossers in the G8 that things need to change?….

…apparently not, that arch-enemy of freedom, democracy and all things decent, George Bush, has announced that there’ll be no climate change deal in the G8 – you know, right now, I’m wishing someone would blow up Gleneagles. I know something of how Bruce Cockburn felt when he wrote ‘If I Had A Rocket Launcher’, with it’s censor-baiting line, ‘if I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die’ – why does the G8 even exist? The idea that there is a coalition of the wealthy deciding the mortal future of over half the planet is disgusting. That fuckers like George Bush would come into the meeting saying he’ll be doing what’s best for the US only…

From the bbc news site
‘But he rejected the idea he should support the British prime minister’s G8 plan in return for his support during the war in Iraq.

“Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for keeping the peace and winning the war on terror, as I did,” he told the programme.

“So I go to the G8 not really trying to make him look bad or good, but I go to the G8 with an agenda that I think is best for our country.” ‘

He’s an evil, pernicious, twisted blight on the planet, and anyone who voted for him should be seriously ashamed of themselves. There is a political will within sections of the G8 to improve on these issues but while Bush, under the influence of his PNAC cronies, undermines anything that makes the rich accountable, that makes the rich empire-building countries of Europe and North America feel any sense of responsibility for the fuck-up that is modern day African economics. The most resource-rich continent on earth is its poorest. It makes me cry.

If the G8 don’t listen, who’s in for a revolution?

Soundtrack – The AOL Live8 stream.

and on a lighter note

Had a fun weekend, though not got as much work done as I should have.

Starting Friday lunch-time, it was yet another ‘last ever’ gig for the RFH Foyer as booked by JazzShark. It was a particularly fitting booking, as it was Rebecca Hollweg, a fabulous singer/songwriter, with a great lil’ quartet, featuring Andy Hamill on bass – one of my favourite bassists in the country. It was a lovely gig, with yet another ‘thanks, Sue!’ speech at the end, and a great rendition of ‘How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You’, with Winston Clifford changing the words to ‘How Sweet It Is To Be Booked By Sue’!

Friday night was a Soul Space meeting, planning the next service, which I won’t be at. They’re doing a Labyrinth service, which are always fun – see labyrinth.org.uk for more on what they are (and do the online version – it’s very chilled and lovely.)

Saturday started with teaching, and then in the afternoon it was Malcolm’s ordination at St Paul’s Cathedral. Malcolm (and his other half, Meryl) have been at St Luke’s for ages, and have had a pretty huge influence on the way the church looks, feels and thinks. Very lovely peoples. Malcolm has been at Vicar Hogwarts for a couple of years, and was ordained on Saturday. I got there 10 minutes before the service started and already all the seats were gone – seems there are lots of people in London who like the high-camp of some C of E pomp and ceremony on a Saturday afternoon. So I stood at the back, gave Malcolm a wave as he came in, and left after about half an hour, and headed over to The RFH, to go to the Patti Smith gig at Meltdown.

Was there very early, so was following the score in the Tennis. Murray was two sets to love up, looking good for another upset. Fell apart in the third, lost it 6-0. Was a break up in the fourth, all going v. well, but the length of the match got the better of him, and he still lost. It was a very odd experience just following the score – no news, no report, no audio. Just the score changing on my phone screen as I hit refresh… Very sad to see him lose.

Anyway, Juliet turned up, and we went in to see John Cale – who was on startling form. The opening tune was a spooky surreal monologue in the style of Velvet Underground’s ‘The Gift’, which some fantastic spacey noises.. and a very recogniseable bass sound… …which I soon recognised as being Flea from the Chili Peppers. I’m still not sure if I really dug what he was doing… it was a lot more pentatonic/obvious lick-based stuff than the rest of the band, but maybe in needed that to ground it… hmmm

Anyway, the rest of the set blended so many fantastic elements, from the spookiness of the opener, to some really straight ahead piano-playing singer-songwriter stuff through to full on Neil Young stylee guitar-rage in the last track. A sublime set. Always good to see the old guys rock out!

during the break, we realised we were sat next to Roy Harper, a genial chatty bloke, for sure, who amusingly kept throwing plastic cups at the losers in front of us who kept blocking our view by standing in stupid places.

Patti’s gig was very fine too – she played through the whole ‘Horses’ album, start to finish, and then did ‘My Generation’ as cover at the end, not wholly convincingly, with a ‘rise up and take the streets’ rant in the middle… A fine sentiment, but a tricky one to deliver in the middle of a song without looking like a raving polemicist. Discourse works better than shouting, methinks. Or am I just getting old?

Anyway, I was very pleasantly surprised by her set – most of Rock’s sacred cows have no place, in my humble opinion, being on the throne they are on, but she was entertaining, engaging, intelligent and captivating.

Sunday – church in the morning (sermon was way too long and I can’t can’t handle full-on exegesis on a Sunday morning…), followed by coffee in Highgate with Steve and Lorna, after which the three of us meet up with Harry, Karen and Juliet for more cakes. Too much cake.

And finally, last night, called round to Orphy’s to drop off a copy of Jazz Review (he does the blindfold test this month), and ended up helping him register orphyrobinson.com and getting orphyrobinson.blogspot.com set up as well, so he’s now got a news page, and an atom feed – here.

Soundtrack – Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder, ‘Talking Timbuktu’.

Should the words 'Big Brother' and 'Role Models' appear in the same sentence??

From the BBC News site,

“Reality TV show Big Brother portrays role models with values that inspire its viewers, the chief executive of Channel 4 has said.”

OK, Andy Duncan is a christian, who was talking to a christian group about C4’s religious output. Surely this is just bollocks? I don’t think Andy has anything to defend from the point of being a christian – I’ve never really thought about it from that point of view – but to suggest that there’s anything ‘wholesome’ about BB is clearly rubbish.

The contestants this year in particular have been chosen because they are likely to get hammered, show their boobs and hopefully start shagging at some point. They weren’t chosen because that posessed any qualities that people aspire to…

Why do Christians always come out with this nonsense? If he’d just said ‘look, I might be Chief Exec of C4 but I didn’t start the station, and there’s only so much I can do to change it. It’s a commercial station, and BB brings in huge revenue from the ads – I couldn’t cancel it if I wanted to. However, if I want to have any kind of positive influence here, I’m going to have to put up with broadcasting the odd hour of drivel now and again, OK?’

It would be more honest…

(oh, and in Tennis news, Andrew Murray has just taken the first set in his second round match… it’s looking good.)

Tim's out…

By and large, I’m not a sports person at all. Just don’t get the competitive side, don’t care about the teams, find it absurd when people talk in terms of ‘we won’ when they had nothing to do with the game etc.

However, I do have a soft spot for tennis. I don’t generally care who wins, I just enjoy watching it.

Having grown up in Wimbledon, the Wimbledon tennis tournament has more interest for me than any other sporting event. For one, it just looks nice – people in white running around against a green background, making graceful movements and playing strategically is just fun to watch, like a goldfish bowl or a really cool screen saver.

The more tennis I watch the more I can get drawn into the mythology of it, so I’m slightly sad that I’ve just watched Tim Henman get knocked out by Dmitry Tursunov in the second round. As those of you watching it or listening to it will know, this is the first time that Tim’s gone out of Wimbledon in the first week for 10 years – that’s a pretty impressive record! He has been the great hope of British tennis for all that time, and it would have been a lot of fun to see him watch it. Fortunately Tennis doesn’t seem to suffer from the same xenophobic rhetoric as many other sports that Brits compete in (I once wrote an article for Third Way magazine about football fundementalism), so supporting Henman seems more like a pro-Tim move than a pro-Brit move. I have very little desire to support the English in any of their sporting ventures…

Anyway, Tim’s out, but it was a fantastic match, hats off to Tursunov. Of the Brit contingent, Andrew Murray is the only one still in. Oh, and Raphael Nadal was knocked out today as well – lots of seeds disappearing!

SoundtrackVikki Clayton, ‘Looking And The Stars’ & ‘Live’ (singer/songwriter, who sings with Fairport Convention – lovely stuff)

amusing article

DIY Glastonbury – it’s not a new article, but I was just emailed it without the credit, but this seems like the source…

Soundtrack – nothing! I haven’t listened to a single piece of music all day, and I think that’s a first for me, for a heck of a long time. I’ve not had the radio on, not put a CD on, or an MP3 or anything. Nothing, nada, nowt, bugger-all. Very bizarre. All I’ve heard is the sweet sound of tennis ball on tennis racket. Ah, wimbledon fortnight – gotta love it!

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