And as much as I love the West End part of London to the core

Joe's birthday has maintained its form while getting quieter year on year: we even only managed a short burst dancing around his bedroom on the party night two weeks ago, mostly it was just half a dozen of us sat around watching 90s music videos, although I still hadn't really slept by the time morning came round and I decided clearly the thing to do was walk from Chorlton into the centre of Manchester when the others finally crashed. Unsurprisingly, Sunday didn't feature much beyond the coach back to London.

I had Aberrant on Monday, the shelter Tuesday and on the Wednesday evening N, finally free of weeks of musicals, came over. I finished the week with gigs: down at Jamm on Thursday, where Arrows of Love were supporting The Wytches, although first up were all-girl rockers Brutalistas. Arrows gave one of their best sets and the enthusiastic young crowd responded well to them, I also got more into Wytches than the last time I'd seen them and had a nicely sociable night thanks to a friendly student and Nima. Then Friday I was at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen for Sisteray: they had Young Native and female-fronted Berries in support and were good, although could have done with more of a crowd.

Last weekend I got the train down to Wiltshire where K was celebrating her 40th at a gorgeous converted chapel in the equally picturesque Malmesbury, not that we saw much of it. Inevitably there was a Murder Mystery Dinner involved, although the original plan to do this in the afternoon, then go out for dinner and on to a pub soon devolved into drinking through the afternoon, doing half the Murder Mystery, getting distracted, half the people insisting we finish it in some kind of jumbled and chaotic fashion then stumbling across the road to the pub at about 10pm, although I took K back after about half an hour, the put-upon locals not responding well to her usual drunken sociability. We danced around the kitchen to all the usual songs until the others came back to hang out for a bit. I got to poke around the town a little before getting the (surprisingly swift) train home on Sunday, vegging out in the afternoon, then heading over to N's for an evening roast.

I had an evening in on Monday, M and I polishing off Westworld, then had the resurrected Book Group, albeit a trois, Tuesday (all of us more or less having enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities) before heading back to N's for pancakes with a rare Full House. I was at a work conference Wednesday and Thursday: Homelessness and Health, which was interesting but a bit above my pay-grade and, me being me, I didn't really chat to many people: good to hear Professor David Nutt speak and poke around Brompton Cemetery in the lunch breaks though. Wednesday evening I met up with ketchgirl to see Travesties in the West End, which was pure bliss: Freddie Fox in a Tom Stoppard may be some kind of 'die happy' moment. I went back to the office after the conference Thursday as there were some after-work drinks planned: N came along but it didn't go on very late and we went to the Stockpot before an interminable bus home. Last night I was at the shelter again, which at least kept me away from the flat that's once again been turned into DIY chaos by a visitation from M's Mum & her partner.

Written offline, Saturday morning

I had a nice day down in Southampton the Sunday before last, I met up with R & family for a walk in the New Forest and home-made rice pudding during the day, then hooked up with J and L to watch Gaz Brookfield at Talking Heads in the evening. He was supported by Nick Parker, who I’ve seen play with him before, and it finished early enough that I didn’t have to get the absolute last train back to London.

As at the shelter Monday night, then had a day off on Tuesday to head up to Oxford for this year’s Iris Project Festival, which was themed around Science Ancient & Modern: such luminaries as Robert Winston were speaking, although I was keeping the hordes at bay on the food stall with the whole time, so didn’t see much of it: there was a fabulously eccentric old professor at the drinks reception though, who had come with his telescope and habitually miaows down the phone to his wife.
Wednesday night our occasional school friend meet-up dinner had become a birthday dinner for Fiona, who brought some Outsiders along, that for once I think we managed not to scare off, then I had Aberrant the following evening. Friday night I indulged in the privilege of living where and when I do: having dinner and chilling out at home, finding out exactly what time a band I wanted to see (Desert Planes) were on at the Monarch (stage times are one of the things Facebook has been great for), popping into Camden just to see them then popping home again to chill out some more.

I had a pretty busy weekend, all of my plans involving M&E, who hopefully didn’t get too sick of me: we had a meet-up with the Empire group in town Saturday afternoon, in theory for planning but mostly just hanging out, then E and I had a brief interlude where I actually tried to spend some time with N, although this mostly just involved being in the background while he worked in various different locations; we headed up to Tottenham to reunite with M and brace Styx for an event called Gypsy Disco. We had taken their event times rather too literally and ended up being way too early: it was an endearingly shabby but rather cold warehouse space, although people were friendly around the braziers in the courtyard. We were mostly there for Jabul Gorba (who we’d seen before at Rumpus) but I may actually have preferred the other band playing, Crinkle Cuts, and their infectiously danceable funk/reggae/ska. I mostly missed the circus acts trying to get to the bar and once the bands were done, having got there so early, we didn’t really have the energy to stay on too late: luckily the night tube made getting home a breeze.

On Sunday I headed out to Egham for the hottest social date in town: Daniel’s 2nd Birthday. It was another good crowd at TBFKA The House of Plot and even the birthday boy throwing up in the middle of the lounge didn’t seem to dampen proceedings. I headed back into London with M&E: we seemed to be specialising in the North East as tonight’s gig was with the Walthamstow Folk Club, above Ye Olde Rose and Crown. I was a proper old school folk club, with members of the audience coming forward to sing fold standards at the start of each half before giving the floor to Grace Petrie, but much friendlier than my traumatising experience with the Islington one.

On Monday I went back to the Pleasance Theatre and watched N’s students perform Rent, which was great, although they did need to restart due to a microphone issue at one stage, and actually got to spend some time with him. Tuesday I had at home, Wednesday at the shelter, then Thursday I was supposed to see Yonaka but had come over all shivery and feverish: I had a lie down when I got in and never made it up again until the next morning. I was only working a half day on Friday so managed to make it through it then hopped on the bus up to Manchester for my annual attendance of Joe’s birthday, the end of an era as he’s finally moving out of his studenty Chorlton flat.

(no subject)

I felt slightly like I had betrayed myself when I came back from the wedding a couple of weekends ago: my friend M was having a party for his birthday at his brilliantly rickety place in Stoke Newington which was themed around bringing your awful teenage poetry and diaries to read to everyone (something I have in abundance); it was only about 10.30 when we got back into London but I felt quite tired and wasn't going to know anyone there except M and wasn't really drunk enough to push on through so I bailed out and went home. I disappointed myself on a number of levels: not only do I not get to see M very often these days but drunken late-night house-parties are one of the things I miss most about everyone growing up and the chance for me to go to one come around about twice per year at best, most of all though I felt like I'd offended against my self-image of someone who doesn't flake-out on things and worried that this was a sign that I was slowing down. And since I didn't get to read out any angsty teenage diary entries, you get to read an angsty journal entry instead ;-)

see them try to bring the hammer down

Last Sunday involved eggwhite's exceedingly civilised Stag Do, which comprised of meeting up in town for lunch, perusing the Wellcome Collection (I went back to the Bedlam exhibition and got to watch some of the great video exhibits all the way through) and an Escape Room up the Caledonian Road: our group seemed to blitz its way through (once we'd got out of the cell we'd been locked in to start with), although I'm not sure made a particularly sterling contribution to it all. The others headed back out to Staines for a meal but, being a Sunday night, I lingered in London.

I stayed in Monday night (M and I have started on Westworld), then went to see Love Labour's Lost the next evening with ketchgirl, anysbryd and others: it was pretty good, a fairly effective Edwardian setting, some really funny scenes and quite a bit of random singing. On Wednesday I was going to see some music at a cafe (MostArt) in Stoke Newington with M&E, only we couldn't really cope with the set-up so went and hid in Scenario (where N popped in for a drink en route home) until it was time for the music. Tell Tale Tusk were their own support, backing a guy called Kai Carter, who I'd previously seen playing with the Debt Collective; the band themselves were in their four-piece folky format and enjoyable despite the slightly random set-up.

I was in Lewisham for Aberrant on Thursday then headed out to Feltham for dinner with molez, mistress_fran and their other halves on Friday (steak fondue!), then back out in Staines yesterday for eggwhite & K's wedding itself (or the UK leg at least) which was lovely and perfectly suited to them: lego-building competitions instead of awkward discos a definite winner and also lovely to see a couple of lesser-spotted (one-time) Eghamites. Spending today at home, then heading to the shelters this evening.

He died on Christmas Day and looking back it's really quite profound

I'd taken the Friday off before New Year's Eve and we once again appropriated N's work van to drive out through the fog to Suffolk, where twelve us of (mostly school-friends), plus four children, were spending a few nights in a converted barn somewhere near Southwold. It was a lovely place, albeit rather open plan, meaning that several of the sleeping areas weren't partitioned off from the main area by such niceties as walls or a door; it wasn't too bad, although did make the sound of plague-bearers coughing in the night and children playing table-football early in the morning more audible than usual.

We all had a meal and settled in the first night, then on New Year's Eve itself ventured into Southworld for some general wandering around of the beach, church and town before being joined by another couple for a pretty epic Murder Mystery Dinner in the evening. We went for that most traditional of English New Year's Day walks, tramping through unremarkable fields in the drizzle to a pub, then back again, hung out playing games (some of the kids had recently been gifted Keys to the Kingdom which I got dragged into several interminable games of) and tried to make a dent on our enormous stockpile of leftovers. We tried to get out early on the Bank Holiday Monday to experience the delights of Lowestoft, which sadly seemed entirely lacking in delights: my high hopes for the signs indicating a "Historic High Street" dashed when the most historic thing about it appeared to be a Wimpy. We said our goodbyes on the blustery sea-front and drove home.

Tuesday was officially the end of the lovely festive period with the drop-in back in full swing, although I had Aberrant in the evening, which was a welcome return. I was at the shelter on Wednesday, then was very excited the next day to be finally making it to DIY Space for London, a gloriously ramshackle venue on a surprisingly badly connected industrial estate in Bermondsey, to see Onsind, with cream_horn and M&E. Support came from very DIYish Megaflora and Swanning, a one-woman act who I really liked some of; I'd heard Onsind's name a lot from my compadres but never properly checked them out: turns out they played awesome queer, political, acoustic folk-punk and were cutely self-deprecating Northerners, a great discovery.

We all know the words to that Pogues one

The week before Christmas was pretty busy: we watched Rogue One in Walthamstow on the Monday, which was good fun and had dinner with N's cousin the next evening. I stayed in Wednesday evening to Make Christmas Happen and was at the shelter in the evening the next day. Friday was the annual December 23rd shindig in Winchester and I's able to slip away from work early for N to drive us down: we had a confluence of overseas visitors this year, with lesser-spotted friends pitching up from Canada, Fiji and Iraq. The usual suspects among us who were left awake after all the departures wandered into town, where we returned the next day for breakfast before driving back to London. I spent Christmas Evening making pastry for the first time in the cause of a Boxing Day dessert before heading over to N's.

I was spending Christmas in Bruce Grove with N's housemates for the first time, which turned out to be pretty lovely: no real pressures, the freedom to do stuff together then wander off and do things apart and obviously lots of food. We had a 10 year old with us for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, which engendered lots of Christmassy kids films but also playing with lego: she was whisked back to her Mum's after an enormous breakfast so N and I went for a wander around Tottenham, enjoying the weirdness of empty London streets (but not everything was closed: we ended up going shopping for tupperware, almost certainly a Christmas First) then started to prepare dinner for when the others reconvened, after which we hung out and played games.

On Boxing Day we drove up to my brother's, which was actually really nice (although could have done with a bit of activity between Enormous Lunch and Enormous Dinner): my nieces interacted really proactively with me, which is quite a change, I'm not sure whether because they're getting older or because I spent that time with them on their birthday.

We came back to London in the evening and on the 27th we went down early to Tate Modern to meet up with S&P, over from Canada for Xmas, who were going to stay at M & my place for a few days: we went straight up to the top and marvelled at London in the crisp December sunlight before trawling around a few galleries. We took P to Rough Trade then I returned with them to West Hampstead and hung out. I was back at work on the 28th & 29th, which was actually blissful as hardly anyone was around and I completely caught up on all my admin. I was at the shelter too the Wednesday evening and Thursday evening we all went out for a curry (often the thing that friends who live in other parts of the world say they miss the most about the UK) with S&P before they headed off; I nipped into Camden afterwards to have a couple of drinks with Joe, who was down for Christmas, as I was heading out of London for the New Year.

Life goes on and round we go and words can kill these things I know

I went up to Walthamstow on the Tuesday after we got back from Somerset to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with N, which was perfectly enjoyable. I was at the shelter Wednesday evening then N came over on Thursday.

Last weekend was one of those where all of the plans piled on top of one another:I hung around after work on Friday to head down to the Royal Court with some Book Group buddies to see The Children, which I really liked: it's a three-hander about some nuclear scientists reuniting after a meltdown at the plant and combined some entertaining inter-personal drama with a thought-provoking exploration of inter-generational responsibility. Afterwards I popped back to the office to change into Rumpus-gear (the theme was Captains v. Bandits, I'm not entirely sure which I was going for) then headed up to Islington to join the usual crowd. I only saw a couple of bands this time (Buffo's Wake, who I'd caught there before, plus Shamus Oblivion and the Megadeth Morrismen, who in truth I don't remember all that much about) but there was a little selection of belly-dancing/juggling/gymnastics as well. I was reasonably sensible and left at 4, although my travel choices were less sensible and I still managed to spend an hour getting home.

I'd partly bailed early because my cousin was having a birthday lunch on Saturday, at a steak place in the West End, which I actually made it to in reasonably good shape. We retired to a nearby pub afterwards until it was time for me to head down to Brixton to re-unite with E to see The Levellers. The crowd are definitely starting to look like they've seen better days but nothing has dimmed their enthusiasm, even if there wasn't quite such a solid mass of pogoing as I remember from bygone years. Gaz Brookfield was opening for them, as he was the first time I saw him four years ago, and it transpired that that was the "London final show" he references in his Land Pirate's Life lyrics. Next up were Ferocious Dog, who seemed a bit more disjointed than the last times I'd seen them, before the Levellers played Levelling the Land all the way through (they were marking 25 years since its release), followed by a bunch of other songs.

Sunday was a lot more chilled out, although I did head out to the Museum of London's Great Fire of London exhibition with N: I enjoyed it more than I expected (fearing it may just replicate things I'd seen from the recent Pepys exhibition) as they had lots of items of the day that gave a really good feel of how society looked at that time.

I was home Monday then went up to N's for a cheese-fest with his housemates old and new the next evening. I was supposed to be going out to a gig Wednesday but had an energy crash and didn't make it. I did make it to the Lexington on Thursday where Arrows of Love were being supported by "dark psych" Southamptoners Melt Dunes and post-punk heroes The Homosexuals. The Arrows conjured a pretty coherent performance out of their usual chaos.

I was at the shelter last night and am just heading back to London from Oxford, having come up for an Iris Project Trustee Meeting today, so it's not felt very weekendy so far but was good to catch up with iruineverything if nothing else!

As much as I love the West End part of London to the core . . .

I spent most of the weekend at home, two weeks ago, catching up on stuff and work and only venturing out in the evenings. On the Saturday it was to Nambucca for bands: first off The Trap, who had a sneering appeal, then highly danceable Mancunians Dantevilles; I was there for White Room, who continue to impress, there was another band afterwards but I scooted off home. On Sunday evening I trekked up to Walthamstow to see I, Daniel Blake: I wouldn't say it was the best written or acted thing I've even seen, the over-expositiony dialogue maybe particularly stood out because I'm so familiar with the processes it was portraying, but it did a good job of presenting the commonplace processes and situations, by which aspects of the welfare system dehumanise people and wear them down, in a fairly engaging way. It was pretty restrained in only presenting the everyday outrages too, rather than be tempted to portray some of the more extreme examples of institutional abuse that occur.

I went to Lewisham to roleplay Monday night, to the shelter on Tuesday, had my ex T and his partner over to dinner Wednesday, hung out with M's Mum and boyfriend, who had descended to inflict DIY on us, the next evening, then headed out to the Hoxton Bar & Grill on Friday night. I was in time to see Fizzy Blood, who I've been following, and then stayed for Jpnsgrls, touring Canadians who turned out to be a really good find, sardonic-lyriced rock delivered with hip-wiggling elan.

I spent the weekend mostly trying to avoid the chaos filling the flat: I headed out into Surrey on Saturday, had lunch with cousin H & family before we went to visit Granny, who was on pretty good form, blissfully unaware that her nursing home is closing down. They say they can't retain the staff to make it pay, which seems pretty weak given this is the Church of England not a private company, and we're all pretty worried about the effect the upheaval will have on her. I headed over to Egham afterwards, dropped in on urizen, lucifermourning and their new arrival, then proceeded to the Englefield Green Social Hall for out latest local LARP. On Sunday I poked about town with N: we checked out the board game exhibition at the Museum of Childhood, eventually found somewhere to have cake, saw The Debt Collective (who I'd encountered at four in the morning one Rumpus) play some Sunday afternoon jazz in a pub called the Enterprise not far away, then meandered over to T&A's in Dalston for dinner.

Last week I had ketchgirl over for dinner on Monday, back from what sounded like a magical time in Chicago, played Aberrant on Tuesday and headed to the Old Queen's Head on Wednesday for a trio of Brightonian bands: breathy-voiced duo Realms, Bloom, who had one song that made me think they were going to be amazing but the rest didn't quite sustain it, then Yonaka, who really got the glitter-clouded crowd going. I was at the shelter Thursday night then headed over to N's on Friday for fondue.

We headed off early on Saturday, driving down to Glastonbury, which happened to be in the midst of its annual Frost Fair, lots of stalls and bands spreading themselves through the town centre for us to poke around. We were down to visit my friend L who lives near by with her family and exponentially increasing number of animals. They've started a smallholding and we went down in the evening to the friends whose land they use for a bonfire, mulled cider, pulled pork from a pig they had reared themselves and to hang out in the Anderson Shelter and corrugated iron Land Girls shed they have in their garden. The people were all lovely and we came back the next morning to help L with her daily routine, seeing to all the animals, before driving home after lunch.

You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record

Saturday before last was the annual Halloween Party at N's aka: David Boowie's Spook Oddity, as Bowie had been honoured as this year's theme. There were some pretty good efforts, more from his films than music (I went as Hunger Bowie) and pretty much the ususal suspects as guests, although M&E came too this year. Quite a few of us made it to brunch in Tottenham the next day, then I headed home to catch up on some work.

It's getting to the busy time of year and the new caseworkers started on Monday so I was in full on induction mode all week: it went pretty well but all the talking the first couple of days was pretty tiring. On Tuesday N & I had managed to find some common-gig-ground in the form of Teleman, who were playing at the Kentish Town Forum. The core of the band used to in the more-guitary Pete & the Pirates, who I saw quite a bit, but their new incarnation is closer to N's preferred, electronic end of the spectrum. They were good though, although I remained unexcited by the dreamy Babeheaven in support, there was also the unexpected pleasure of running into venta & C up on the balcony where exhaustion had convinced us to settle.

S came over to see me on the Wednesday and we simply sat and chatted for a few hours. Then on Thursday I popped into Camden just to catch one mid-bill band (Paradise Underground) at The Black Heart before heading home again. N & I went one of Fiona's private-views, in a wonderfully dilapidated house in Lambeth (where the Palma Violets also rehearse apparently!); we headed up to the bar at N's housemate's studio in Tottenham afterwards but didn't stay long.

Last Saturday we headed out early to see David Bowie's art collection exhibited pre-sale at Sotheby's: mostly 20th Century British art, not my usual area, but still fascinating and impressive. We headed on out to Ealing afterwards for a long lunch at with Cousin A: it was great feeling no pressure to finish and be off by a particular time and it stretched pleasantly through the afternoon. I headed home for a bit then went back into town for Feeling Gloomy's Pulp celebration of 21 years since Different Class, which played plenty of alt indie classics between the Pulp. There was more art on Sunday when M, A and I re-convened for the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition at the National: it was pleasant but we zipped round it fairly quickly, the few Caravaggios stood out markedly from his apparent imitators.

This week the shelters themselves opened so I stayed for the first night on Monday then headed up to Walthamstow to watch Dr. Strange at the cinema Tuesday. I didn't intend to stay up for the election results but after checking my phone when I woke up at 2.30 and seeing that things weren't going well, I couldn't go back to sleep and spent the rest of the night compulsively refreshing. As such, I was not disappointed that roleplaying was cancelled on Wednesday and I managed to get earlyish nights both then and Thursday where I once again popped into Camden just to see one set (neo-grunge youngsters Subterranean Popular at Proud) then home again.

It was fortunate that I had pre-existing plans to spend Friday night back in Kentish Town with some school friends, brought together by T being down from Sheffield, which took some of the edge off the week's second bombshell. We raised a toast to Leonard in the restaurant, then carried on drinking in a subterranean bar: I've mostly spent today home alone, doing not much at all while the hangover subsides. No more weeks like this, please.

wake up to see your true emancipation is a fallacy

Last week we had our occasional KES crew meet-up on Tuesday at a pub in Paddington which was fun, although we fall so easily and naturally into the same old nonsense that we never really catch up with what everyone's been up to. The next night I went to see Tony Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures at the Hampstead Theatre which had Tamsin Greig in it and was okay: it had some nice moments and was trying to explore some Big Ideas but it was hard to get past the artificiality of the set-up. I had Aberrant on Thursday then popped out to Hoxton Friday night to see Marsicans at the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen. The support bands were both solid: Shanghai Blues, who seemed to have brought quite a crowd with them, and Chester-lads Idle Frets but the poppy exuberance of their headlining fellow-northerners was hard to match.

N & I chained several small exhibitions around Bloomsbury Saturday daytime: a rather under-signposted and oddly curated affair on Utopias and Dystopias in various locations around the University of London Senate House (which had some interesting material in nonetheless), then two cool little exibitions in the British Museum on South-East Asian puppet theatre and damnatii memoriae in Roman coins and statues. We headed back to his and had a nice evening hanging out with his housemates. On Sunday I had the slightly random experience of being interviewed about homelessness live on Premier Gospel Radio, which was basically just a plug for the charity and seemed to go fine. I went on into the office afterwards to try to get on top of stuff before the shelters hit.

This week's been pretty gig-heavy: N came with me to see CC Smugglers at the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton, with pleasant enough support from Megan & the Common Threads, on Tuesday. After an Aberrant interval, I saw Yak at the Scala on Thursday, supported by Splashh and then the dreamier Goat Girl.

Then last night I managed to finesse two different events: the Spring King gig was early in the evening to allow Koko to become a club venue afterwards, whilst just down the road at 229 This Feeling, who put on band/club nights, were celebrating their 10th birthday with a night that had the bands I wanted to see on quite late, as it was carrying on with DJs until the early hours. I got to the first gig in time to catch most of Get Inuit who I also like, the next support were Kagoule who had a less formulaic, edgier sound, then Spring King themselves provided the predictable sweat-fest, much as Yak the night before. I made it to the This Feeling bash in perfect time to see first White Room and then Broken Hands, two of my favourite bands of the moment, perform their psychedelic rock: the crowd were attentive but less interactive, it being a more general event, although a very friendly dude, who was clearly having a very good time, buddied up with me to make sure there was some dancing going on for the headliners. It was an unexpectedly sociable night in fact: one of the guys from Lighthouse, who recognised me from their gigs, came over and said hi and I also ran into some friends of my gig-buddy J's. I slightly regret not hanging around more for the club night and cultivating their acquaintance further but I was pretty knackered by this stage and headed home.