Go on, I can do that. Gissa job.
Tuesday 10th November 2015
So, herewith the first site update for more than a year and it starts with a bit of a clean up. I have been using some of my currently copious free time (more of which in a moment) to have a bash at making something a bit more interesting out of this site. I've got a ton of music and film things on it, dating back several years, and a few other things lying around so I'm going to try to tidy it all up. I have made a start by re-organising my archives into files by year, which reduces the number of files you have to trawl through to read all my ramblings over the years. I've also taken the opportunity to apply my latest style sheet to all those old files and tidy up a few spelling mistakes and typos. (I've probably missed a few as well, so don't bother letting me know.) I've also tidied up the links lists on the left - winnowing out the old, dead and uninteresting. I reckon I can now create a new version of the site that makes a bit more sense and gives myself scope for updating things on a more frequent basis without having to re-write a load of files every time I've got something new to say. (And yes, I know I should just install Wordpress or something, but I like the old skool method of hand-cranking my own HTML...) Of course, this does mean that if you've linked to a specific page, then that link will possibly be broken, but I'm prepared to live with that if it makes things look nicer on here.
I've got some free time at the moment because I am between jobs. So if anyone needs a fat bloke to crank out a few thousand words about how to use their software, I am available. No job too small, no pay packet too large...
Apart from that, what else have I been up to? Well, I'm glad you asked, although I can't really remember much of it. Too much time has passed and too many beers have been consumed to be totally accurate. Luckily, I have made some notes along the way, because obviously, I've meant to get round to updating this site for ages. so here's a list of ten, mostly musical, things I've done since last we were all together on this web page:
- Turned 50 - Yes, despite my best efforts, I've made it to another milestone birthday. Not one I really want to celebrate, to be honest, because I'm now officially old but get none of the benefits of being old. I can't retire, I can't moan about the weather, I can't get a free TV Licence or a state-funded mobility scooter, I can't even ignore those ads on the telly for "Over-50s life plans". In fact, the only thing being 50 is good for is collecting free pens from the likes of Saga Sun Life Insurance. And having spent my working life in offices, I'm not short of them...
- Electro 80s - Have seen Britain's foremost electropop tribute act four times in the last 18 months - at The Studio (twice) and the Boot and Shoe in Nantwich and at the Crosville Club in Crewe. Top entertainment every time and increasingly popular it seems. Especially at the free gigs - The Studio was absolutely rammed for the free one they put on and we had to leave at half time during the Boot and Shoe gig as our friends who turned up late couldn't get in. The band themselves though certainly get the fatfakir thumbs-up, for whatever that's worth.
- The Nightingales - Birmingham's premier post-punk outfit, re-invigorated and churning out new material that stands comparison with anything they've done before. I've been out to see them a few times, mostly, of course, because they're always supported by the legendary Ted Chippington. They also seem to have a fine eye for a support act, so big shouts out to Jump The Shark (better than the single on there suggests), Ornamental Gentlemen (sadly defunct) and The Courtesy Group (fantastic Brummie barmy-ness). Ted Chippington was also fantastic, apart from that one gig when he decided he wasn't going to use his usual punchlines, but that was still good anyway, because he confounded our expectations. Curse him and his comedy genius! The 'Gales, mean time, are one solid rock beast and in their first guise were a non-stop rock attack, with barely a pause for breath between numbers. Following a line-up change they were a little bit looser, but that was probably to be expected as they bedded in the new guitarist. Highly recommended.
- British Sea Power - Quite possibly one of the bestest gigs I have ever been to. BSP celebrating the 12th Anniversary of the release of their debut album by playing it in full, in order, with the added bonus of Japanese post-metallers Bo Ningen in support. Bo Ningen were blisteringly awesome, as expected. Then BSP came out and really gave it to us as they ran through the outstanding 'The Decline Of...' album. The album itself is only about 44 minutes long, but luckily they'd thought of that and, between the penultimate and ultimate tracks they wheeled out a bagful of old favourites from their other albums. They were absolutely on fire. I've seen them a few times and they are always great but this time they seemd to be a notch better.
- Bhurtpore Beer Festival - Last year I went to what turned out to finally be the last ever Bhurtpore Summer beer festival. To be fair, the landlord has hosted 19 summer festivals and had been warning in recent years that he did not feel able to manage to run it for much longer. Anyway, I spent a couple of days there, sampling many ales with my mate Kev. I met up with a few other friends and managed to knacker my ankle walking across the fields. The proverbial good time was (mostly) had by all. This year, by way of a change, there was a "Not the Beer festival" festival - a few more guest ales than usual on and camping available for those who wanted to stay over. I went along on the Saturday and, I have to say, the turnout was much lower than you would expect on a Beer festival Saturday. The miserable weather probably didn't help. Still, it was reported to have been a success, so perhaps there'll be another not festival next year. (Early July, for those of you who need to put it in your diaries.)
- Manchester to Crewe Rail Ale Trail - This happened many moons ago and came in the middle of a three day session that I was on at the time. Think I'd been to see a band on the Friday night and had the annual family gathering the day after, but one beautiful Saturday, a few friends and I went on a train-based, all-day stag do. We took an early train to Manchester and had breakfast there and then commenced a long haul back to Crewe using the Northern Trains services, which stop at about twelve stations along the way. The service is approximately hourly (there are some slight variations during the day) giving us plenty of time to find a pub near each station and consume a beer or two before getting the next train to the next station. Luckily one of our party had done a bit of research so we had an idea of where to go at each stop. For the first half of the journey, out to Wilmslow, this is fairly straightforward anyway - you're still inside the Greater Manchester conurbation - but once you get past Alderley Edge you're pretty much in bandit country (AKA rural Cheshire) so your choices becvome somewhat limited. At Chelford and Goostrey, for example you have a bit of a walk to the nearest hostelries. That said, when you get to Holmes Chapel and find the cheapest pub of the day, then all is forgotten. Also, if you time your departure from Manchester right, you have the leeway to miss one train on the way back, so if you find a pub you like, you can linger longer. If you're with a bunch of like-minded friends, it's actually a great way to spend a day out, so I'm surprised no-one has ever suggested it before. With the trains being so regular and a large number of stations on the route, you can easily pick and choose your stops, so you don't even have to do them all. Perhaps I need to check in with my local branch of CAMRA and see if they're interested.
- Monochrome Set - Obscure 1980's darlings who released a new, decent, album - Spaces Everywhere - and set out on tour in support of it in spring of this year. I bought tickets cheap, intending to drag my mate Charlie along. Unfortunately, he had to work, so I whistled up a late sub in Kerri, and we had a bit of a pub crawl round that there Manchester before heading to Band on the Wall to catch them in action. They were very good, giving us a great mix of the new stuff and the old favourites, although Kerri was a bit weirded out by the stick-thin keyboard player, with his kaftan and hippy hair.
- Pere Ubu - This was last November, if I remember rightly. They were touring in support of their "Carnival of Souls" record. To be honest, I'm not a great fan of it. The opening track Golden Surf II is terrific but it all goes a bit downhill from there, gets a bit slow-paced and there's far too much clarinet noodling on it for my liking. Of course, they didn't make it to please me (God forbid) so, you know, I should suck it up. As per last time I went to see them, they were playing at the Band on the Wall in Manchester and they were pretty punctual with their stage timings. This time round though, they were their own support band, giving us a run through of a lot of works in progress that may form the basis of the next record. Then returning to the stage pretty much dead on 9pm (again) they gave us a show heavy on the currrent album and the last one (of course) and it was all going well until about two-thirds of the way through, when David Thomas asked us not to clap at the end of the songs, as this formed some sort of contract between the band and the audience, whereby the band became performing monkeys, there simply for our entertainment. Or something like that. It was a bit curmudgeonly, I thought, not to mention patronising, and completely drained the life out of the rest of the gig. There were half-hearted attempts at whoops and hollers in between numbers, but the typically reserved English audience either claps or doesn't. As the set neared it's end, songs were greeted by the sort of background chuntering usually reserved for a second support band that hasn't managed to persuade any of their friends to turn up... As a result, I'm not sure I 'll be spending my hard-earned to see them again.
- Elvis Costello - A second trip to see the mighty EC in as many years. This time doing a solo show in that there Liverpool. Proof, if it were needed, that he is a consumate entertainer. Just him, a selection of guitars and a few stage props and the time just flew by. With his extensive back catalogue to draw upon, there was little overlap between this show and the Spinning Songbook tour that I saw him on previously, but it was still packed with hits a well known tracks. Top stuff. We even had time to stop chips on the way back to the station although, thanks to having to wait for each protion to be cooked, we ended up cutting it a bit fine. Luckily the last train was a few minutes late too, so I had time to get my breath back before heading home.
- Crewe Alexandra - Would like to report that the team have gone from strength to strength after winning the Johnstone's Paints Trophy back in 2013, but frankly they have been awful. The past couple of seasons have started off badly, picked up a bit during the winter months following the addition of a few loanees, and then dipped again till a late surge has seen the team avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth. This season has started in pretty much the same vein, but with no sign of loan players bcoming in, there's not much hope that things will improve. Matters have not been helped by injuries to key players (Harry Davis, Billy Bingham, Stephen Kingsley and David Fox, to name but four) but with a distinct lack of bite in the midfield and a strike force that is distinctly goal-shy, it looks like the best we can hope for is to keep a clean sheet every now and again. And even that isn't looking likely. It's no coincidence that Ben Garratt has been the busiest keeper in the Leagues this season. I can't see there being any inmprovement in the short term, and in the long term, it's probably for the best if the manager, Steve Davis, finds himself another job. Not sure we'll get anyone in to do a better job, but something has to change and it doesn't look like the board are going to throw some money at the team. Might as well see if someone can get more out of the side. And Steve needs to go somewhere where the board will spend some cash and his hands aren't tied by the Director of Football. Crewe can then get on with promoting their ex-coaches and players through the ranks and abandon the pretence of being anything other than a showcase for our Academy products. Provided they can stay in the Football League of course...
And that's about it. Have definitely missed out my trip to see the Allah-Las in that there Manchester and I've probably seen The Crookes at least once since last time (although I can't be sure to be honest). Haven't even mentioned that I've had to move out of my old draughty house into a new flat. I can absolutely guarantee that within an hour of finally uploading this update I'll also remember some other incredible event that I went to that I ought to be discussing. Oh well. Here's hoping I can get round to another update before next Christmas.