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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in neil's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, April 23rd, 2016
9:24 pm
sure you were swift when the handsome greek boys dropped by with gifts
April seems to be getting away from me! It started excellently with our return to Rumpus, this time in our best intrepid adventurer gear (First Prize to E's pith helmet), where a couple of bands that I had seen at Glastonbury last year were playing: Tell Tale Tusk and later King Porter Stomp, I also saw a more chilled out gypsyish outfit late on in proceedings called The Debt Collective. A good time was had by all and I went out clubbing on the Saturday night as well, having decided to celebrate my birthday back at Feeling Gloomy, who were having a Depeche Mode night, one of N's favourite bands. It worked pretty well, with a wave of people just coming for some drinks beforehand, then a mostly different bunch coming from about 10pm, who all came downstairs to the club. It took a little while to fill up and I had the usual birthday experience of feeling like I didn't talk properly to anyone but dancing occurred and people seemed to enjoy themselves. I'd left the rest of the weekend pretty empty, figuring I'd need plenty of recovery time, but I did manage a walk out on the Heath with M on Sunday.

I went back to the Sam Wanamaker theatre on the Monday and watched Cymbeline with Cousin A: it wasn't quite as uncomfortable, having learnt some lessons from my first visit there, and the play was pretty entertaining, with an amusingly long explanatory sequence at the end as all the play's secrets are unfolded. The rest of the week was pretty quiet: my actual birthday was the Wednesday which I just spent at home and cooked some food for M and N.

On the Friday I headed down to Southampton and spent the weekend trawling around some of the usual suspects: R & family Friday night, then down to my parents Saturday daytime (we went for some pleasant little walks along the Milford coast and Keyhaven Marshes) before heading back up into town to The Dolphin in St Denys where the tail end of a cool little 'festival' the pub was having in its beer garden was taking place; I'd gathered together Jonny, Allen and a guy I'd got to know through one of my London friends who'd gone to Uni down there. Jonny let me crash over again and, after going out for breakfast, I headed back to Totton to hang out with Lee on Sunday before getting the train (rather later than planned thanks to some annoying timings) back up to London.

I went out to Chelmsford on Monday evening, then Tuesday saw Midnight Special (which wasn't that special) at a cinema tantalisingly close to home with M & A, only to head off to N's afterwards so I could get to see him post-show, although some pleasant late evening socialising and food with his housemates made it well worth it. I went to FNB on the Wednesday, managed a stroll though Hyde Park on my way home on Thursday (having been feeling like I was stuck inside through all the Spring sunshine), then went out to The Black Heart on Friday night: it was put on by Sisteray, but they weren't playing, instead it was Paradise Underground, along with Lighthouse and The Bulletproof Bomb, who I'd previously seen supporting Sisteray there.

The weekend was mostly given over to decorating (we've nearly finished!), although I did sneak away for the last Angels game in Egham on Saturday evening, which finished very satisfyingly with us trying to steer a middle way between the relentless machinery of heaven and the orchestrator of our woes, who was happy to destroy everything in her efforts to take it down.

The shelters have now been closed three weeks but work doesn't seem to be calming down yet, especially as we've been having to deal with re-absorbing the numbers from the second drop-in, which we open over the winter, and a couple of difficult situations on top of everything else. I had anysbryd and ksirafai over to dinner on Monday, went to see the show N was working on this week (Godspell, which was pretty hectic but enthusiastically performed) as a means of seeing him on Tuesday, was back at the Sam Wanamaker with A to see A Winter's Tale on Wednesday (a grim first half giving way to lots of bucolic comedy in the second) and yesterday had a lovely night at the Griffin catching up with barty and ditzy_pole.

Not much on this weekend: N & I went down to check out the Shakespeare Walk along the South Bank today: 37 screens were supposed to be showing 10 minute excerpts of all of his plays but lots of them weren't working when we wandered along, which at least made it a more manageable endeavour, even if some weren't especially audible. It was nice to see the chronology, though: I think I've got to see four more to catch 'em all! My only plan for Sunday is to pop down to the end of the Marathon as a couple of my colleagues are running to raise money for us.
Thursday, March 31st, 2016
10:26 pm
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain
I was at the nightshelter on Monday last week, then Tuesday went to see Vukovi at the Barfly: unsurprisingly, the support were both on the heavier end of the scale. Chasing Cadence were impressive youngsters, very much of-a-type but done well (the lead singer had definitely perfected the rawwwk voice), whilst Empire's singer had a much more impressive range but their songs grabbed me less overall. Vukovi were good, with a more responsive crowd than last time: although it didn't really get completely into it until a chap slipped forwards, threw himself bodily into a few people and then slipped away again as carnage ensued. I wondered whether some bands have ringers they plant in crowds to get them going.

I was at The Garage the next night where Sisteray were doing one of their 'guerilla gigs': this usually means they announce at the last minute that they're going to open up for a band they would usually feature above on the bill. Their set was punchy and fun: I was going to get my fiver's worth and stick around for the other three bands too but the next one on (a keyboard and drums duo) were so bad that I figured I could go home and still have plenty of evening there instead.

N came over on Thursday night and then I launched off on my usual Easter Weekend trip to a muddy field for Empire. The new (last minute) site had the playing area quite a distance from the OOC camping field and given the site was already very muddy, no-one was allowed to drive their IC stuff onto the site, which is where we began to regret having gradually accumulated such an elaborate set-up. We were pretty exhausted by the time we'd lugged it all up there and erected everything, which didn't leave us much energy to throw ourselves into the Friday night game on a field we hadn't had the chance to explore in the daylight. A bunch of us did manage to make the most of the evening, although I woke up the next morning to the realisation that the zip no longer worked on my tent and the strong winds were making it pretty chilly in there. We were lucky with the battles on both Saturday and Sunday, which were fun and took place in the dry, but the weather was generally sub-optimal: there was only one really torrential downpour while I was there, so I never actually got wet, but the winds didn't really abate and having to constantly sure-up our awning and trudge through the mud got pretty tiresome. I was able to move into the South Wing of urizen's tent mansion for the Saturday night and Sunday daytime was actually pretty sunny but the promise of more wind and rain for all of Sunday night and Monday was enough to convince us to beat a retreat, so we packed up after lunch and headed home a day early. Everyone got a lot less done in game than usual but still had a good time: nice to see some old, familiar faces too, who didn't seem too put off by the weather!

M had also been away for Easter, so I made the most of my unexpected Monday at home, with the flat to myself, and the drop-in has been closed for this week so I've been mostly spending the week trying to catch up with stuff as much as possible, although I did make my last visit to the shelter, before it closes at the end of the week, on Tuesday evening. I went over to N's yesterday and his whole house was all in together for once, which was lovely: N cooked mac & cheese for the seven of us and we broke out the Cards Against Humanity.
Sunday, March 20th, 2016
4:07 pm
stop making me older, start making me new
The Monday before last had Model Aeroplanes playing at the Barfly: they're a Scottish band I've been following since last year's Great Escape, they have a poppier, more uplifting sound than I usually go for but are pretty infectiously danceable: of the support Shiners were a straightforwardly guitar-heavy band, whilst Lisbon had more of an electronic element. Model Aeroplanes' singer was losing his voice and they perhaps weren't at their best but still nice to see them headlining shows at last.

Rather bigger in scale was seeing Fat White Family play on the Wednesday, down at the Coronet; first on were the gloriously named I, Ludicrous, who were kinda like a comedy version of The Fall, and then blaring dance music Paranoid London: there are situations where I may have enjoyed that kind of thing, as a support act was not one of them. "I'm glad he's looking more healthy," one FWF veteran was saying as we stumbled away from the gig, "But they did have more edge when he was on heroin." There may have been less on-stage antics, but the seething mass of sweaty flesh that constituted the crowd certainly had edge enough for me.

I went to a pretty weird event with N at some Google building near Old Street the next night: it was the launch of an app called ReVu, which helps you edit video footage, remove the fish-eye effect from GoPros etc., which comprised of a demo of the app, a talk from a futurologist and then a career overview from a sound artist called Scanner, whom we were mostly there to see; he performed some music for about 10 minutes at the end, which was really lovely, but not really worth the hours of talking we'd sat through first.

I was at the shelter on the Friday, then spent pretty much the whole weekend decorating, other than escaping to Kentish Town on Saturday night for one of N's old friends' 40th: we kinda huddled in the corner with the people we already knew but it was still fun.

I was supposed to be going to the BFI on Monday with Cousin A, but he was sick so I trekked to Ealing to pick up the tickets, then back in again to take N instead: we saw High Rise, which we'd read for Book Group and had been pretty faithfully translated onto the screen, and there was a Q&A with Ben Wheatley and some of the cast afterwards. Spanish seems to have sputtered to a halt for now and I ended up on a boat in Gallions' Reach on Tuesday night instead.

N & I were also celebrating our 4th anniversary this week, so, either side of going to the Shelter on Thursday, we went out for dinner around here on Wednesday and then on a gin-tasting at the City of London Distillery on Friday. It was suavely delivered, with an expert blend of history, science and drinking.

Saturday was mostly taken up with more decorating, but then I headed out to the gothic splendour of Oakley Court (further from Windsor than it looks on the map!) to celebrate anonymous_james' 40th with a very nice meal; it was good to see some familiar faces I don't really cross paths with anymore. N & I checked out the Wellcome Collection's rather unsubstantial exhibition on states of consciousness this morning and now I'm trying to just take it easy for the rest of the weekend.
Sunday, March 6th, 2016
12:49 am
not in a Roman tomb, or an Italian womb, but buried deep in English slime
The Saturday night in Manchester turned out to be less a party than a bit of a hanging out: it was just a few of us sitting around, even the usual bedroom dancing didn't happen; I think I would have benefitted from being spurred into action a bit more but it was still fun and for once I'd managed to book a train back home on the Sunday, meaning I wasn't rushing off too early and could spend some more time chilling out with Joe, although I couldn't quite face dealing with M's Mum and friends when I got in and skulked off to my room like a teenager.

I had a pretty standard week, Rad Spanish, the shelters, some evenings in with N, before escaping work early on Friday to meet up with K and another friend mid-afternoon at Gordon's Wine Bar to celebrate her birthday: N joined us for a bit, then wisely left us to it as we careened off around the Strand and Old Compton Street, picking up a random Mancunian from the Retro Bar on the way, then back to a hotel-room in Southwark to dance around to 90s tunes until the early hours.

We parted ways after some brunch, then I engaged in some productive domesticity before heading down to Leatherhead to watch the Godalming Operatic Society's production of The Grand Duke, one of Gilbert & Sullivan's most rarely performed works. The audience and ambience were much as you may expect but, although the singing by a couple of the men could have been stronger, the production values were actually pretty impressive. On Sunday a bunch of us met up for a tour of the Roman fort gate which it turns out exists locked in what is essentially the back office of a car park next to the Museum of London: it felt like the tour could have had more substance to it but it was definitely worth a fiver to see. I headed on to the pub for our Empire group's pre-season planning meeting then on from there to the shelter in the evening.

With M and C from Book Club, I took advantage of The Royal Court's £10 Mondays again to see Caryl Churchill's Escaped Alone, a shortish piece interspersing four old ladies sitting in a garden and nattering over cups of tea with lurid post-apocalyptic monologues, which was better than it may sound. On Tuesday I was at The Lexington for a consistently impressive line-up of oddball-duo Her's, confident, soulful singer Tom Grennan, chirpy band Motes and finally Yonaka, who I'd come to see, having caught them as support somewhere before: they were thrashier than I remember and no worse for it.

A straightforward and successful cooking session at FNB on Wednesday gave way to an exciting coda as some local chancers tried to extort £150 out of one of my fellow volunteers to return the keys he had lost; I did a lot of standing around guarding his bike in ill-lit New Cross backstreets whilst he went off to tense rendez-vous, but it all ended happily. I checked out the Whitechapel Art Gallery's late-opening Thursday with N, where their little exhibition on the Kindred of the Kibbold Kift captured my attention far more than any of the art, and was gigging again last night with ketchgirl: one-girl-and-guitar Charlotte Carpenter had a good voice but struggled to keep the crowd's attention, an issue that energetic purveyors of Bedfordshire bluegrass, CC Smugglers, did not have any problems with.

This weekend's going to be pretty uneventful: M and I are spending it starting to decorate the hall (the last room that needs doing!), although I mixed it up by going off to work at the shelter this evening.
Saturday, February 20th, 2016
11:47 am
the canals in Camden are filled with bottles tonight
N has been in Show Hell for the last few weeks so two Saturdays ago, having taken some stuff to the tip in Kentish Town, I took a surprisingly easy stroll over to Holloway, where he was camped out in the Pleasance Theatre and managed to spend some time with him on his lunch break. I wandered home through Camden then went out again in the evening for the Feeling Gloomy Bowie Night we had booked before his death and which had obviously taken on a whole different significance since. It was nice to see emilydongray and barty there, in addition to my usual clubbing compadres, and much dancing ensued.

I reunited with some of the same people out in Egham the next day for Daniel’s 1st Birthday: if the rest of his childhood birthdays are as well attended he’ll be doing well, although he may want more guests his own age at some point. On Monday I took advantage of the Royal Court’s £10 Tickets On The Day policy to go to see Yen in their upstairs space with Cousin A. It was a depiction of Feltham youth and really good: not exactly cheerful but often funny as well as visceral and powerful.

I was at the Shelter on Tuesday then had hysteria74 over for dinner the next evening, which was also pretty much the last time I got to hang out with our Temporary Housemate S before she headed back to Canada at the weekend.

On Thursday the 2016’s Gig Schedule got going in earnest: I popped over to Dingwalls to see Pretty Vicious (with decent support from Fronteers and, especially, Baby Strange). On Friday I went back to the Pleasance to watch one of the shows as an excuse to see N for a bit: alarmingly I was coinciding with a musical about cheerleaders, Bring It On, but it was actually well produced and pretty fun.

When I headed back home from his on Saturday, the flat was in chaos as M’s Mum and partner had descended and all kinds of DIY was going on, turning the place upside down, albeit in a good cause, so I wasn’t too sad to be heading back to Dalston in the evening to see Arrows of Love. I knew a couple of groups floating around, which was nice: T&A and friends, for whom the Shacklewell is their local, as well as A&co., who know the band. The supports both purported to be playing their first gigs: “and our last” according to first-on High Wasted Genes, although that hopefully won’t be the case for Lead Sister, who really impressed. The Arrows’ set was the most coherent I’ve seen them manage to deliver and afterwards we went back with some of them to a little warehouse party somewhere near Hackney Wick, complete with a box of wine bottles that A had bought. People were really friendly although I danced more than I socialised before an arduous trek back on early-morning buses to snatch a few hours’ sleep before the DIY started back up.

I made lunch for the workers then went up to Stoke Newington for tea with ex-housemate R, who was in town en route to her next adventure in China: we ended up in an atmospheric cellar wine-bar, although I think we may have been taken for a Valentinesing couple. Then I headed down from there to the Peckham Plex to watch Deadpool with lawrencegillies, who it’s exciting to have move into the city, rather than out of it.

I was at the Shelter on Monday this week, then Tuesday at the 100 Club to see Spring King (more energetic young indie rock, much as Pretty Vicious were) as well as catch Beach Baby and Fews, of whom the former were probably my favourite, in support. Then Wednesday what is rapidly becoming The Usual Crowd turned out for another Gaz Brookfield gig at The Monarch: of the two other solo acoustic guys supporting him, Trapper Schoepp had a good voice but sang heavily about Americana (his fondness for prairies and wagons prompting venta to speculate that Trapper may be his profession rather than his name) and Nick Parker was very funny.

I managed to fit in two of my many friends with February 18th birthdays this year, a bunch of us (mostly school friends) went out for dinner to Belgo with Ralph on the day itself and then yesterday I slipped away early to take the 6 ½ hour coach trip to Manchester to celebrate with Lovely Joe. We eschewed the usual Friday night out to hang out in his flat and have a 1am roast dinner and now I’m just waiting for the others to get up to start making preparations for tonight’s party.
Saturday, February 6th, 2016
11:39 am
where's the harm spending an evening manning the old barricades?
Work was the predominant flavour of the week post-N's gig, with an evening in the shelters on Thursday then heading into work on the Saturday too, as there's quite a bit of pressure to try to move our working guests on out of the shelter at the mo and that was the only really way to be able to sit down properly with them. I did meet up with N for some food out on Friday evening though, and then on Saturday we went to the BFI to see a showing of Todd Haynes' Poison which I've been on the look-out for for years. It's three interwoven, unrelated (but all Genet-inspired) stories in various pastichey styles; I quite enjoyed it, although N was less convinced. We headed from there up to Leytonstone for my ex T's boyfriend's birthday, which followed the usual formula of parties at their flat but it was good to catch up as it had been a while.

On the Sunday I headed out to Surrey to do family things: I had suggested teaming up with my cousin to visit our Granny on the same day that she had arranged to meet my brother and his family for lunch, so we had decided to combine them both. It was good to see them, as we'd not spent Xmas together, and visiting Granny mob-handed didn't go too badly: she didn't seem overwhelmed, as she had sometimes previously been by the little ones, although I think conversation would have been easier for her with a smaller number.

I was back at the shelter in the evening on Monday, then Tuesday evening was the first evening of a Rad Spanish group I'd heard about: a group of people from the activist community coming together to self-teach Spanish (inevitably in Hackney), there were around 8 of us, although I was the eldest by about a decade, and it was all pretty encouraging. Some were real beginners so it's been mainly going over old ground so far, but the main thing I want is conversation practise outside of the same things I use again and again at work. I took Wednesday off as TOIL and had a gloriously uneventful day and evening, catching up with home stuff, the we went out for a flat curry (plus N) on Thursday as our temporary flatmate is trying to eat it as much as possible while she is over from Canada, where (like Australia) they don't really do it well.

Last Friday we celebrated N's housemate's birthday, a nice contrast of cocktails and Mexican streetfood at the hipsterish bar attached to her Tottenham studio then pints and pool locked-in at the rough and ready Irish pub round the corner, N trekked down to Chelsea with me for brunch before I went into the office and then the shelter in the evening on Saturday. I'd pretty much forgotten until I left that I'd said I would go to Debbie, the wandering gayish night that only plays female-fronted acts, with our friend T over at the Shacklewell Arms. I headed over, drank my way through the lingering hangover and we danced as best we could in the crush of its packed-out back room. I was back in work on Sunday too (but only for a couple of hours before heading up to poke around the William Morris Gallery with N and D) and had to cancel my Monday night plans to head down to Roehampton to hand over a wodge of cash to a dodgy landlord, but at least it meant the extra hours had paid off.

We had Spanish again on Tuesday and I was back at FNB on Wednesday, we're probably just going to manage once a month until our co-ordinator has finished her finals but there were a couple of new volunteers and lots of people came to eat. I went to the shelter Thursday night but yesterday went to the National Gallery with a couple of Book Group folk to see Ali Smith do a talk related to How To Be Both, which we'd just read, and its relationship with all of the art in the novel. She seemed pretty lovely and the whole thing left time to head home and have a bit of an evening in as well.
Wednesday, January 20th, 2016
10:59 pm
we're not down with electronica, but we've all got a harmonica
I've realised that I edited out of history a visit to the British Museum in my last entry, N & I catching the Egyptian Religion After the Pharaohs exhibition between Xmas and NYE, which traced the shift from Roman to Christian to Islamic dominance, and the blurring between the various traditions, pretty effectively.

I started last week with a couple of evenings in, hanging out with our new flatmate, N came over on the Tuesday too. I was at the shelters on Wednesday and then a few of us went to see Hapgood at the Hampstead Theatre on Thursday evening: it's a Cold War era Stoppard, one that didn't do so well when it came out, although it seemed pretty much up to his usual calibre, exploring our capacity for duality via both spying and physics in typically wordy fashion.

On Friday N and I poked around the Kings Cross end of the London Lumiere light festival: it was pretty crowded, despite the cold, and I enjoyed the experience of lots of people out and about on the streets of London, sharing something, probably more than the installations themselves, some of which we couldn't really get near, and we warmed up with a curry rather than head into town to catch the rest. After another Stoke Newington brunch the next morning, I met up with D (who was briefly over from Switzerland) on the South Bank and it was lovely to catch up, even if he's having a bit of a tough time. I popped home for a couple of hours before heading out to Egham for our Angels game, then back in and up to Stamford Hill for FNB M's birthday at his fabulously hostel-style house there. It was definitely a young person's party, of the kind I rarely get the opportunity to go to these days, with giant cardboard structures, friendly strangers and hallway DJs, who were still going when I bowed out at 4.30 in the morning, traipsing back across a London being gently dusted with snow.

It mostly didn't seem to settle but when M and I went for a tramp around the Heath the following afternoon, there were some scattered clumps of white stuff, which had been dragged together to make a couple of very sorry looking snowmen here and there. We'd invited some people over for a Sunday roast in the evening but it turned out to be just the three of us plus N, which was their loss as it was definitely one of our better efforts.

I had Monday off to head up to Oxford to help out at the Iris 'Festival of Lost Cities' at the Classics Centre there, which largely involved trying to cut up food as quickly as the ravening hordes of school children were devouring it whilst dressed as a Roman soldier. I didn't make it to any of the talks this time (Bettany Hughes and Martha Kearney were among the dignitaries) but it all seemed to go really well.

Last night I was at the Fiddlers' Elbow, a gloriously scuzzy Camden gig-pub I hadn't encountered before, to see N make his muscial debut at Zero Wave an Experimental Music night our friend B runs. N was performing as a guest artist with B's duo Far Rainbow: his modular synths adding to their percussion and looped sounds for a single 20ish minute piece with a very urban feel, underscored by some quite sinister industrial sounds. It was definitely an emotional journey. Also on the bill were a Classical experimental collective, who had one piece I really liked, based on the Tube Map, which changed with each performance depending on which lines they took. The big draw was Peter Zinovieff who played four recent compositions through his laptop. We rather guiltily snuck out before the last act and bundled back to Tottenham with N's housemates in my first Uber.
Monday, January 11th, 2016
8:47 pm
he left the coast and overdosed on that London sound
I managed to get ill the day before NYE, which was unfortunate timing, throwing all my "Catch Up On All The Things" plans for the Xmas-New Year lull (at home and at work) into disarray, at one stage I also wasn't sure I would be up to travelling down to Devon and a Little People laden environment for NYE itself. In the end it's just as well I went, as others had bailed, so we were a smaller than expected house party in an idyllic stone millhouse right on the water's edge at Lee Bay. I was still not full of beans for most of the weekend but no-one else really seemed to be either and we mostly huddled in front of the fire as the rain sheeted down outside, enjoying having no greater demands on us than keeping the kids entertained with the occasional game of Banangrams and failing to do justice to the enormous quantity of cheese and pate that we were presented with. We did manage a walk one day, up and down along the stunningly craggy coast, to the lighthouse which looked out to Lundy Island, and it was a wonderfully pleasant way to spend at least the start of 2016 in an oasis of peace, before the return to London and the rush of life started up again.

The first week of the year was largely spent celebrating N's 40th: we made a return to Pub Quiz on the Tuesday, went out for a meal* with our respective Other Other Halves on Wednesday, the birthday itself; I had Book Group on Thursday (where my choice, How To Be Both, was largely well-received) followed by another meal as one of our member's imminent fatherhood is putting us on hold for the time being. I was at the shelter Friday evening then on Saturday we marked N's birthday in all the most appropriate ways: cake in the afternoon, cocktails at Scenario, a games-themed bar in Dalston, then brunch for a small kernel of survivors the next morning.

I had to be back home for Sunday afternoon as our guest for the month, S (an old friend who now lives in Canada), was arriving: she's over here to study for a few weeks and staying with us, so yesterday and tonight we've been hanging out with her, readjusting to living with a third person, temporarily at least.

*N had settled on a vegetarian restaurant to go to (making it all the remarkable that M agreed to come at all) only when we approached it we could see there seemed to be some big rally going on inside, with dozens of people standing around. A sign on the door informed us it that it was closed in order to launch: "2016: Year of the Pulse." We went to a Turkish place and ate lots of meat instead.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
8:54 am
when I get stoned and sing all night long it's just a family tradition
Wow, two weeks into December already: I think I've seen all my bands for the year now, but I did sneak in a few this month. The Wednesday before last, I headed down to the O2 for a gig in their bowling alley (the Brooklyn Bowl), rather surreally, which started with the rather over-groomed and soulful Secret Company, I was there for Broken Hands, who continue to impress, then The Family Rain were headlining: a bit too straightforwardly rock for me but decent at it. I was rather closer to home the next night, at The Black Heart in Camden: two enthusiastic young supports set the tone, Lighthouse and a very energetic set from The Bulletproof Bomb, they were followed by the equally energetic Sisteray, Walthamstow boys fresh from making their views about the Syria vote known to Stella Creasey.

We've never gone in for big Christmas festivities at work but on Friday we followed our staff meeting with some tree decorating and a few drinks int he pub, which I had to scooch off from early to have dinner up in Dalston with T&A, which was very nice although festive drink-mixing made me pretty sleepy. I stayed over at N's but he had to head off pretty early on Saturday and I went back to spend a lazy day at home. We met up again in Greenwich the next day to go round the Pepys exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, it didn't really draw all that much out of the diaries that was a surprise (Great Fire, Restoration Theatre etc.) but some of the context of his life (Royal Society, Tangier colony) was pretty interesting and a lot of the quotes did make him sound very much like an erstwhile Boris, bumbling around the great institutions of the land without much of an idea of what they were all about. I headed from there to Chelsea to do some bucket-shaking for work, while carols were sung at Christmas shoppers, then was back at home for the rest of the day.

Last week I went to catch Cracker on one of their rare visits to the UK, thanks as ever to Professor W. I've scraped the name of the execrable rawwwk support act from my mind but luckily Cracker were fantastic. I love going to see all my laddish indie with its thrashy guitars but it is nice to see instruments being played really well every once in a while. Alternative country rock is not something that I would ever seek out, but it does make me wonder if I am seriously missing out or if it is just because they are so strongly associated with my late teens that I loved it so much.

Whilst I tend to rotate the evening I work at the Shelters, so all the venues and volunteers get to see me, I went back for my second Tuesday in a row, not a terrible thing as they definitely put on the best spread that night, and I even made it to FNB for the first time in an age on Wednesday, which seems to be thriving with the new generation of volunteers. N came over on Friday, we watched the Nick Cave film from a couple of years ago, which was pretty good but had some moments of horrible irony in the light of subsequent events.

On Friday I ventured out to a club called Rumpus for the first time, in honour of cream_horn's birthday. It was billed as Santas v. Pandas and most people had made some kind of fancy dress effort and the night made good use of the labyrinthine Electrowerkz, with three rooms of bands and DJs, some stalls, a courtyard and various random entertainments. It was a fun night with enough distractions and friendly crowds, a bit Planet Angel-y albeit with more live music and a slightly younger crowd. Most of the music that we saw had a strong 'gypsy'/Balkan influence with energetic sets from Buffo's Wake, Shambolique and special gallic guests Jabul Gorba. It's an all-night affair but I flagged about 5am and headed home, not the worst thing in the world as I had agreed to be in Petersfield by midday to meet up with K and our usual crowd for a Christmas celebration: it was pretty restrained, mostly eating and containing three excitable small children, but lovely to get together.

I hung around until after lunch on Sunday then went home for a couple of hours before going back out to the Shelters in the evening. I's feeling okay yesterday but by the evening it had all caught up with me and I crashed out early: luckily I'm in tonight as well.
Sunday, November 29th, 2015
9:59 pm
All my friends are getting married, mortgages and pension plans
I wasn't on top form this week: Monday and Thursday were particularly hectic in the drop-in, I didn't manage to take my morning off and I came down with a cold, leaving me pretty worn down. I think Tuesday evening was probably the start of it, when I headed out to the Arrows of Love gig at The Lexington. They were preceded by Shark Dentist, who started off as though they were going to be pretty out there but formed into something a bit more identifiable as they went on, and WAW whose best song was sung by a different guy to the rest of the set. Arrows of Love are certainly never boring and after an indeterminate length of chaotic guitar fuzz, which may or may not have included their actual songs, some unexpected instrument smashing brought things to an end. I want to love them, especially having met them a little and found them lovely, but there wasn't quite enough energy in the room to make it fly.

I stayed for the shelter on Wednesday, then was already wiped up by the time I met up with M&E for the Frank Turner show at Alexandra Palace on Thursday. Will Varley was first on, who alternated whimsical comic songs which didn't quite work for me with some really good straightforward singer-songwriter stuff, then came Skinny Lister, who I guess were somewhere on the folk-punk spectrum and had plenty of energy. I perked up enough to enjoy the gig, Mr. Turner roaring through plenty of tunes old and new, although the interminable journey home didn't do me any favours.

I joined N over in De Beauvoir Town for an art exhibition linked in to the Hackney Queer Film Fest, which had some good pieces (some photos chronicling trans experience in particular) but mostly I wanted a bit more context to the endless representations of genitalia. N came back to mine for ease of heading up to Finchley the next morning for brunch with his cousins which was enjoyably rowdy, then I trekked down to Mottingham in SE London to say my goodbyes to Mogwai, the only cat I have every lived with, who is sadly not long for this world. She was certainly a shadow of her former elegance but responsive and seemed comfortable. In spite of the sad occasion, it was lovely to catch up with ex-housemate D and family before I headed home for a lazy evening in.

Today's also been pretty relaxed: I headed up to Didcot to see azrayus for the first time since his wedding and we had a nice afternoon board-gaming: Arctic Scavengers and Dead of Winter, in deference to the cold wind howling outside, as well as Machi Koro.
Monday, November 23rd, 2015
11:08 pm
I skid down icy streets and view my face in the reflection of a high street lingerie store
I was back at the shelters on Monday last week, then Tuesday evening headed over to MOTH Club in Hackney, which turned out to stand for Memorable Order of the Tin Hats and be some kind of re-purposed social hall for members of the South African military but really not a bad little gig venue. First on were Swedish Death Candy who self-define as "experimental psychedelic rock" and involved more in the way of walls of guitar noise than identifiable songs, unlike Abbatoir Blues, who were a bit more straightforward. I was there to see Yak, who were somewhere in between the two and all the better for it. It was a sweaty, messy affair, although suffered a little from being one of those gigs where a few guys are enjoying themselves so much on the dancefloor that it inhibited others from doing the same.

On Wednesday I continued my cultural odyssey with ketchgirl by checking out A Further Education at the Hampstead Theatre which had plenty of laughs, a couple of great characters (all the women, in fact), a peppering of ideas and a rather improbable plot. The next night I met up for drinks with my London-based school friends (albeit one of them has moved to Bath and one to Winchester since we started these meet-ups) in a Samuel Smiths off Oxford Street, then went back to N's, where I was afforded a lie-in as Friday mornings seem to be becoming my regular take-back time from the shelters.

I was going to see The Enemy at the Forum in Kentish Town in the evening, so arranged to meet J (the lad I had got to know from going to see The View) in the Bull & Gate, which turned out to be a mistake as it meant I witnessed the devastation refurbishment had visited upon a once beloved venue: the hall at the back where the bands played turned into a wanky dining area and the dark wooden booths torn out and replaced with offensive blandness. J and his friend were really friendly and fun, although the kind of blokes who drink rounds of pints with alacrity: we only went in for headliners (not the end of the world as I can't really afford to discover any other bands I like currently) and enjoyed them from a distance, then dived back into the pub afterwards.

I started off more of less okay on Saturday, despite having somehow put the time on my phone back by an hour, which I only discovered halfway through my overly leisurely (it turned out) preparations to head and meet N at the British Library to check out the little Alice in Wonderland exhibition, as well as their permanent 'Treasures' collection, which I don't think I'd ever seen before and was pretty mind-boggling: two of the three oldest copies of the Bible, the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible etc. all just dotted innocuously around. My afternoon was less productive as my energy levels dived, but I did manage to make it out to Egham for the Angels game, coming back on the train with M&E, who had sandwiched it in between their European adventures.

M had gone out to see some relatives in Berkhamsted for the night, so I got the train out on Sunday and we went for a walk along the Dunstable Downs, which took in some nice tumuli (the Five Knolls), red kites and a little airfield, although it's hard to do day-walks from London where you feel like you properly get away from civilisation. We headed home after poking the ruins of the castle there and managed to cook dinner in pretty much perfect time for me to go down to the Scala for the Los Campesinos! gig. I caught the end of Bruising, but was more taken by next-on Oscar, who were oddly gentle for an indie band but pretty good. Los Campesinos! were definitely my gig-of-the-week, though: lots of raw energy, an amazing crowd who forced them back on stage for a second encore and I think all the more special for knowing that tomorrow, after packing out the Scala, they were turning up to their day jobs, just like the rest of us.
Sunday, November 15th, 2015
3:35 pm
he went and took up with a Salvation Army band girl
I had a lovely afternoon last Sunday celebrating hysteria74's graduation, which means I also got to see her lovely new place and the enormous, underused garden she has access to, which I'm pleased to hear she has grand plans for. I spent that evening and Monday's making the most of having the flat to myself before M's return from her holidays, as Tuesday I went over to N's post-Book Group, where The Rabbit Back Literature Society had been pretty well received.

Gigvember kicked back in the next night: I was up at The Dome in Tufnell Park (with its annoyingly closed tube station) early as I was mostly there to see Hyena who were first on and really good; the next support were Traams, although their noisy wall of sound weren't really my kind of thing. The headliners were Dinosaur Pile-Up, who I'd seen Hyena supporting before, and engendered a lot of enjoyable jumping around.

On Thursday I was at Dingwalls with ketchgirl, again mostly for the first act on, who was Gaz Brookfield and had more people singing along than your average bottom-of-the-bill singer. It was one of the best performances I've seen from him, actually, albeit not the longest of sets. Next up were Mad Dog McRae, a folk rock group with what I think of as quite an Irish sound, although they were actually from Devon. Plenty of people were dancing along then, which should have served as an indication of what was going to happen when the main act, Ferocious Dog, came on, who turned out to be the kind of band which causes lots of sizable men in their 40s to strip to the waist and throw each other about. It was energetic folk-punk and pretty good fun, although sounded a little bit samey to someone who didn't know the material.

I was in the shelters Friday evening so took the morning off to compensate, which I'm loving as it means I actually do all those little domestic things that you never usually have the time or energy for. I'm having an unusually unplanned weekend too: after more domestic pottering, I met up with N in town yesterday afternoon, we saw some neon art in a Soho gallery, ate some cake, meandered around some of the more neglected rooms of the British Museum and went for a pint before I headed home to spend an evening hanging out with M. This morning we went on a spontaneous tramp to the Heath and N's coming over for dinner later.
Saturday, November 7th, 2015
4:23 pm
too many sniffs and colds got up his Roman nose
I've survived a week of inducting this winter's minions and the first week of the shelters more or less unscathed, which is more than can be said for some flats above the O2 Centre here, which went up in flames at the start of last week: we'd smelt it in the morning, thinking there was some kind of early bonfire, but when I got back from work on Monday evening they were still trying to put it out and Sainsbury's was eerily deserted, as that whole section of Finchley Rd. was blocked off, when I wandered over to do a shop.

I was in Tuesday too, then went to the upstairs bit of The Garage on Wednesday to see Scottish metallers Vukovi: they were supported by Reigning Days, decent Devonian rockers, and the headliners themselves were really good, although the oddly immobile crowd slightly dampened the experience. I'd eventually decided to get a ticket for Dingwalls the next night where Fickle Friends (about whom I knew nothing) were playing, solely on the basis that they were being supported by Model Aeroplanes. Luckily they weren't first on as when I turned up there was an unexpectedly enormous and badly managed queue which took about half an hour to get me inside: all was well once I did though, Model Aeroplanes put in another good show, I almost didn't stay for the headliners, who hadn't sounded much like my kind of thing when I'd checked them out online, but was glad I did as they put on a fun show to an energetic crowd.

Then I hit Halloween season: the Friday night party at N's [Pet Sematary themed] was a smaller group but C&M, who I hadn't seen for ages, came along; we headed down to Victoria for a hangover-busting breakfast then met up briefly with Rachel & family, who had come up for emergency passport renewals, before I headed home to make a mini Wicker Man for my costume for Saturday night's [Villain themed] party in Egham. Lots of people came: the guys mostly managed to avoid last year's multiple clashes although we did have three Poison Ivys and two Cruella de Vils, suggesting there needs to be more female role-models in the world of villains.

I stayed the night in Egham but headed back pretty early to spend some time at home before heading out again in the evening to see CC Smugglers at The Lexington with ketchgirl. The support was Rodney Branigan, a Texan impressively able to play a guitar and mandolin at the same time without seeming to need to so much as look at either of them. I didn't know much about the headliners, other than that they had been on my list to look out for at Great Escape, but they turned out to be brilliant: energetic modern rootsy music from a bunch of rural British youngsters with a charismatic frontman.

I stayed for the first night of the nightshelters on Monday, then met my parents for pre-theatre dinner the next evening and took their case back to mine, attempting to do as much cleaning as possible before they came back from the show. On Wednesday I ventured into the unfamiliar gig territory of Tooting with local-boy R for a Radio X charity gig at the Tram Shed there, which had two bands I wanted to see on the bill. Broken Hands were first on and really impressed in their sadly fairly brief set, next up was Kimberly Anne, who I didn't know and didn't set my world on fire, then it finished with Nothing but Thieves, who had also been on my list (and had had the most effective publicity machine) at Great Escape: they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves and I enjoyed their rockier sound, even if the vocals got a bit operatic for me at times.

My parents had been going to see Kenneth Branagh's new company put on A Winter's Tale and two nights later I was at the same theatre watching the same company putting on two Terrence Rattigan plays with ketchgirl: a short monologue (All On Her Own) performed by Zoe Wanamaker, which didn't do much for me, then the much more entertaining theatrical farce Harlequinade. It was all very knowing, with Branagh playing an actor running a theatre company who were also putting on a production of A Winter's Tale.

N came over last night and this morning we went down to the City for a tour of the ruins of a Roman house and baths under old Billingsgate with ketchgirl and turtledisc: the remains were mostly the hypercausts and pilae, with some bits of wall and tiled floor, but you could get a pretty good idea of the layout and the exposition was fantastic, in contrast to our tour of the Museum of London's archive the other week, and really made the experience. Back home now, after briefly poking around Borough and Spitalfields Markets either side of the tour, then I'm heading out to do the nightshelters again this evening.
Sunday, October 25th, 2015
4:09 pm
watch our painted girls and boys join in the overwhelming noise
I've had a run of exhibitions recently: the Wednesday before last, N & I checked out The Koestler Trust's exhibition of prisoner art at the Royal Festival Hall, we happened to coincide by a guided tour from one of their volunteers and there were some great pieces in it. M's friend Marlena was over for dinner the next day and then on the Friday I went to the British Museum's Celts exhibition with hysteria74, which I enjoyed. The Friday lates don't seem to get as busy and they seem to have learnt from previous exhibitions by not having lots of things crammed closely into cases that people are bunching up to peer into. They were pretty explicit about the constructed notion of 'Celtic' culture and the last room was all about later revival and reinvention, which I was quite happy to skip through, but there were some great pieces in there.

Then the next day three of us were doing a tour of the Museum of London's archive near Old Street. It was themed around 'Ritual and Magic', fairly tenuously it turned out, but it was fascinating to see behind the scenes and the boxes and boxes of mothballed artefacts, Raiders of the Lost Ark style; they also have the Ceramics and Glass collection there, all out on shelves, which we were left to roam around at the end and it was pretty amazing to see the extent of. I spent some time at home then met back up with N for the evening part of his friends' wedding at the Hackney Downs Studios, which was a lovely occasion.

I spent the next few days being domestic, then on Wednesday we went to see Tankus the Henge playing at the Scala. Support came from the carnivalesque Cable Street Collective and the folky Patch and the Giant, although we were less enamoured of the in-yer-face DJing between bands. Tankus have lost a little of their distinctive quirkiness since we first saw them, but you can't expect a band not to evolve and it was still a lot of fun, the band clearly determined to make the most of their biggest gig to date.

Thursday was possibly a gig too far in my recent ticket buying spree: I'd booked to see Swim Deep largely on the basis that I'd caught the last five minutes of their set at Glastonbury and it had sounded promising, that it was just round the corner (albeit at The Hated Roundhouse) and they'd said something vaguely political on their Facebook. I've gone to see quite a few young bands recently without feeling particularly out-of-place but I was by myself for this one and it was basically me and a sea of 17 year-olds. The support were both fairly generic (Catholic Action and The Magic Gang) and Swim Deep were more electronic than my usual fare but it was fun and energetic nonetheless, culminating with a whirling dervish dancer joining them onstage.

Since then I have headed out to Essex on Friday night for a lovely dinner chez mistress_fran, which turned out to be surprisingly easy to get back to Tottenham from. Yesterday I went to the exhibition of Goya's Portraits at the National Gallery with M and cousin A, who came back to ours for dinner. I headed back out again late to Manor House where Eighteen Nightmares at the Lux had advertised they were playing at a 'Warehouse Party' in the area. N's housemate D had gamely agreed to come along with me and after quite a bit of wandering around we finally managed to track it down: it was more like a party in some studios than any kind of illegal rave but turned out to be really nice, a friendly crowd of young East London creative types, a few bands (The Straynge and The Dilenquents (sic) were the others) and then dancing the early hours away.

I didn't have much luck sleeping for too long once I did get back home but I'm just having another domestic Sunday, with N coming over for dinner later. It all gets serious at work tomorrow, with our seasonal caseworkers starting in preparation for the Nightshelters opening in a week's time. I'm going to be actually working back at the shelters for the first time in a few years, which I realised I hadn't really considered when I filled up my November evenings . . .
Sunday, September 27th, 2015
5:05 pm
In a dead seaside town, I tried to change my mind
Two weekends ago was the last Empire of the year, one of the two-night events, from Friday to Sunday, which I slightly prefer, and it was pretty much the perfect event: there were a couple of showers but not at crucial times and the ground remained firm, group-members who like to get involved in plot seemed to have plenty to do, we had a couple of fun battles and I had two sociable late nights of carousing, thanks in no small part to the magnet of knife-club.

N came over the evening after I got back and then on the Tuesday I met up with my friend R at Bar Wotever, in part to support the under-threat RVT but mostly because it’s such a friendly night. It had a set from an Americana band called Auburn, which wasn’t really my sort of thing, alongside its usual assortment of more eclectic cabaret.

Wednesday was Book Group (M’s choice, Graham Greene’s Ministry of Fear, seemed to provoke plenty of discussion) and I rushed off from there to the Barfly for an XFM Exposure gig, introduced by John Kennedy himself. I'd been keen to get there in time for the support as the first band was Eighteen Nightmares at the Lux, who I’d seen supporting Queen Kwong a couple of weeks earlier. The middle band, Broken Hands were really impressive too, the whole line-up having a fuzzy/acid rock theme, but Yak still just about managed to steal the show, Oli Burslem crashing around the crowd in a storm of hair and guitar. Then I was back in Camden the next night to see The Jacques at Our Black Heart: supported by Sisteray who were punchy, political and well-worth following up on, although I was less excited by velvet-jacketed Queenslanders Millions.

I spent Friday night at N’s then headed out to Godalming the next morning to have lunch with cousin H and family prior to a joint visit to our Granny, who seemed on pretty good form. I wiggled across Surrey for the Egham Game, getting back into the swing of Angels after missing a couple of sessions, although happily I didn’t seem to have any less of an idea about what was going on than anyone else. I was at home on Sunday, which meant decorating, although we’re getting close to being done with the landing now, and N came over for dinner.

This week I had drinks with Ralph in Waterloo on Monday, hung out at home with M Tuesday and went out to see The View at the Electric Ballroom on Wednesday. I arrived during the support, Electric Child House, who didn’t set my world on fire, but The View themselves didn’t disappoint and I randomly encountered a guy I’d previously sold a ticket to in the crowd, which added to the fun. I ate out in Soho with N on Thursday then had some after-work drinks with colleagues on Friday before heading up to the Dome in Tufnell Park just in time to catch Pretty Vicious, who had smaller crowd than I’d expected but it livened up eventually.

On Saturday morning I caught the train down to Seaford to meet up with cream_horn and others, taking over his parents’ house again in their absence: we strode across the surprisingly sunny South Downs, saw a Long Man and a Horse (but no goats), then hung out listening to music in the evening prior to a late-night seaside stroll, an excellent way to spend a day.
Thursday, September 10th, 2015
11:39 pm
so free up the cheaper seats, here comes the Greek Tragedy
I had the weird timezone thing coming back from holiday, we were kinda flying overnight, just a rather compressed one which had lost a bunch of hours: this could have worked out well but I didn't sleep at all anyway as that would have interfered with in-flight entertainment. So we left Portland on the Monday afternoon and arrived back in London around Tuesday lunchtime. I was straight back in work on Wednesday but the drop-in didn't re-open until the following week so I was able to ease myself back into things.

After going round to N's on Thursday night, I headed down to Peckham the following evening to see Lovely Joe, who was down: although slightly randomly the friend he was staying with had gone out, so we were sat by ourselves in the garden when her housemates come home, they were very friendly though and easily distracted from the fact that they were all moving out over the weekend by the chance to hang out convivially. I ended up crashing over but raced home in the morning to start the Bank Holiday weekend's planned decorating boot-camp, which was interrupted only by N coming over on Sunday evening and a lot of cooking, something I'd not done any of while I was away.

I emerged in the evening of BH Monday to head back to the Old Blue Last to see Queen Kwong play, who weren't quite as raucous as they'd been at Great Escape, although the frontwoman had some kind of cold which was probably why; the suppport, Eighteen Nightmares at the Lux had been pretty rowdy though. On Tuesday N and I swung by one of Fiona's shows, (her pieces were made from symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast, which was pretty awesome,) then grabbed some food in Soho.

I ate out again on Thursday pre-Globe where we watched their production of the Oresteia which was worth seeing at least: I couldn't decide if the actor playing Clytemnestra was terrible or amazing, possibly both but definitely not anywhere in between, and they laid the 'message' on pretty thickly in the last play, but it kept the attention and was very 'Globe' in that it turned up the entertainment quotient. I was round N's on Friday night, we had brunch (along with his housemate) in Stoke Newington the next morning, then I was back home decorating for the rest of the weekend.

THis week's been fun: I started it by going down to Greenwich for drinks in a really nice old-mannish pub with my ex-minion (now far-outstripping me in the career progression stakes, and deservedly so), had dinner with N in Islington on Tuesday, then yesterday headed over to Shadwell for a night of rock bands at The George Tavern, which I don't think I'd been to before but was a great, shabby space in this amazing historical pub. There were four bands including Badly Stuffed Pandas (self-effacing and seemingly just starting out), Los & The Deadlines (social commentary, playing with form and a guitarist with dreadlocks that completely concealed him when he played) and The Survival Code (the most straight-down-the-line but my attention wandered). I was there for Arrows of Love, however, who I'd seen at jamese's birthday and there were a couple of other Party By The Sea attendees present too. They were every bit the fabulous chaos I had hoped for.
Sunday, September 6th, 2015
11:26 pm
It was only a few hours in the coach down from Seattle to Portland, although another hot day so we didn't have energy for much other than trekking out to the North Eastern suburbs to our final host, who kept himself to himself more than the others but nonetheless faultless. We actually ate in for the only time during the holiday: we'd thought one of the advantages of AirBnB was that we could save some money by cooking for ourselves some of the time, but when we looked at prices it didn't really seem that way, although we did tend to end up in areas more likely to have an organic wholefoods co-op than a fuck off great Safeway. We made sandwiches some days but often ended up eating out twice a day, a couple of times in something more restauranty but often something with fries in a bar, although the brunches (we went to iHoP once but mostly in cafes) were probably the culinary highlight. We were certainly very glad of the opportunity to feed ourselves some salad as we hung out at 'home' and made plans for our final city.

Last DaysCollapse )

Portland probably had the least in the way of obvious sights and attractions of the cities we visited, we spent a lot of our days there just wandering around different neighbourhoods, but there was clearly a lot going on: the music scene seemed really vibrant and its quirkiness and independent spirit made hanging out in bars and coffee shops a joy in itself without ever appearing forced or irritating. It's perhaps more a city to live in than a tourist destination but I'm glad I got to see it nonetheless.
Thursday, August 27th, 2015
12:10 am
We'd caught the coach down to Seattle and in the end found negotiating the border crossing into the US less problematic than negotiating the right change for the bus out to our hosts once we'd got there. They were a US-Aussie couple in their 50s this time and lived up one of Seattle's many hills in Fremont, which turned out to be an enjoyably quriky and vibrant neighbourhood that we spent quite a bit of time in- we spent our first evening recovering from the four hour coach ride by just going out locally and poking around the area.

art, bands, bearsCollapse )

Seattle was my favourite of the cities we visited, it was the biggest and had the most going on: several buzzy neighbourhoods and close to amazing scenery we only scratched the surface of. Like everywhere, the people were friendly but without pretension, we saw as much hair just left to grow long as trendy cuts; although there were a few posters for the upcoming elections (it has the US's only openly socialist elected official) there wasn't as much openly political activity going on as I'd expected, I guess the stalls and flyering I associate with activism have moved online in various forms these days.
Tuesday, August 18th, 2015
11:56 pm
Currently about two-thirds of the way through Pacific North-West holiday with N. Our first stop was Vancouver: the flight (via Frankfurt!) was pretty bearable (as was getting to the airport despite the Tube Strike) and the magic of time zones meant we arrived in the early afternoon of the Thursday, despite many hours of travelling. We're AirBnBing it all the way round and so we struggled off to our hosts, a gay couple with a lovely place out in the Commercial Drive area of the city: which turned out to be a cool locale itself as well as an easy bus ride from Downtown Vancouver. They were really helpful and responsive to our needs, lovely guys, although homos of the isolationist kind, commenting how much more comfortable they were playing host to 'our people'. We went out for food locally and tried to stay awake as long as possible, although we'd both conked out by 9pm and I was wide awake by three in the morning as a result.

What We DidCollapse )

Vancouver had a really chilled out vibe to it: we’d been lucky with the weather, but even so, it was pretty stunning with the mountains looming over it and so much waterfront. Some places we went to were busy but nowhere was ever hectic, the people were all really friendly and helpful and the transport system was great. We saw a lot of yoga/shiatsu/alternative medicine places, not to mention medicinal cannabis prescribers, and everyone seemed to own dogs, which we saw out and about everywhere we went. There was a surprisingly big homeless population too, they seemed to have a very concentrated encampment on Hastings, the road we went down to get into town, but apparently that’s because Vancouver’s the only city in Canada where you’re likely to survive the winter sleeping rough. What was amazing was that anyone poor or vulnerable seemed to be able to ask the bus drivers if they could catch a ride and the drivers would let them on without paying, which the rest of the community supported rather than resented.
Sunday, August 9th, 2015
4:44 pm
you could be home with Oprah Winfrey
I caught another Great Escape discovery, Spring King, at the Old Blue Last near Old St the Tuesday before last, although they came atop a line-up of bands that could all be considered discoveries in their own right. Claudia Kane performed her enjoyably dark songs accompanied by a dude with an acoustic guitar, Drones Club were almost more an experience than a band, coming on like some kind of post-apocalyptic nuclear power-plant workers with their own accessorised dancers standing in the crowd, Yonaka were stylistically different again, female-fronted and big sounds. It was great to see Spring King again, clearly loving the moment and unabashed at getting one of their Dads up to do a stint with the saxophone at one point.

The next night I went for a few drinks with a friend of M's and cousin A (who M is trying to socially engineer into friends, in some kind of bizarre platonic set-up) which made me realise how little I just go to the pub for a drink with a bunch of people and what a shame that is. I was in Highgate on the Thursday to revisit the production of The Bald Prima Donna I had previously seen at the Network Theatre, with unexpected bonus anysbryd and ksirafai: it's unusual to see two performances of the same production so close together and was fascinating to see how differently a text can be interpreted, although some of the changes meant it didn't quite quite as much humour as before.

I worked half a day on Friday before escaping down to Cornwall and a camp site that had been hired out to celebrate jamese's 40th. It had been turned into a mini-festival site with food stalls, a cushion-strewn bar/dance tent, a stage for bands, a kids area and circus performers. I was there in time to see the lovely Arrows of Love, who I'm going to go with post-punk to describe, then the Ska-Reggae fusion of The Downsetters, who got everyone dancing, on the Friday night. After a stint as Official Bloody Mary Maker on the Saturday morning, I walked down to the beach (accidentally infiltrating the Boardmasters set-up en route) then wandered along from Watergate Bay to Porth before heading back. That evening's bands were The Simmertones (more Ska) and the rockabilly Caezars, who had a great energy to them, although it took people a little while to get dancing. The DJs went on until two and then we carried the party on back at the one non-canvas structure on site until the sun came up and the booze ran out.

I grabbed a few hours sleep before facing up to Sunday: luckily getting in early for the in-demand Sunday lunch before enduring the train back to London. Although I was back at work on Monday, the drop-in had closed for August, which meant surviving it whilst not feeling in the best of shape was a more realistic proposition. On Tuesday I headed out with N and his housemates to Pub Quiz for the first time in an age, then Wednesday was all about getting ready to head off on my hols!
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