Saturday, 31 December 2005

denied by the post

Whenever I watch Match of the Day - like tonight, ah I know how to celebrate on New Year's Eve (I have now switched over to Jools's Hootenanny) - you can hear me shouting at the telly, 'No, he wasn't denied by the bar/post, you fool'. It wasn't like the bar or post had moved in or down. If they were using jumpers for goalposts the ball would have gone over the jumper and it wouldn't have been a goal. He just missed, that's all: no one, nothing, denied him anything. Who do I write to about this?

careless vespa

time can never mend
the careless vespa of a good friend

different books

‘I’m not mad,’ says Ken Campbell, ‘I’ve just read different books.’ - Guardian Guide, 17 December 2005

31 Songs - part 3

Lee, the proprietor [of Wood Music record shop in Upper Street], wasn’t there on the day I first visited. He’d gone to Liverpool, to see Bob Dylan, an unambiguous indication that he was serious abot his music. Later, when I met him, I found that he was serious about his football, too, just as I am, and that when his two passions clashed, the collision was spectacular and bloody: Dylan was playing Liverpool the night that England was playing Germany in the semi-final of Euro ’96, and Lee had got straight off the train to watch the game in a pub round the corner from the concert hall. The game went into extra time, and then there was the agony of the penalty shoot-out . . . He walked out of the pub just as the last Dylan fans were walking out of the gig. He’d travelled 200 miles to watch England play on the TV. This was a man I could do business with.
- p146

There is an enduring confusion in rock ’n’roll on the subject of authenticity. Those who have lived the sex-and-drugs life, the argument goes, are somehow more likely to speak to us with the voice of wisdom and self-knowledge, but this is rarely the case. There are plenty of screw-ups whose music is trite and shallow, and, besides, this theory of rock is very selective: it is applied to Kurt Cobain but not to, say, Elton John.
- p195

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

'wanting what's best for your children'

Too often Christian morals seem to be simply middle class morals, especially in relation to schooling of, and parental ambitions for, children. If we weren't Christian, but simply middle class, how much would actually change in our lifestyles, I wonder.

the Guardian and Christians

An interesting article by the Guardian's reader's editor, Ian Mayes, on their mentions of religion (some readers think they have increased - they have - and that there are too many of them now).

'Editing [the Face to Faith column] is the Guardian's religious affairs correspondent, Stephen Bates. He defends it enthusiastically. He said: "I am by no means averse to including humanist or secularist writers but I tell all would-be contributors that the column is intended, in my opinion, to be a space for non-polemical or philosophical reflection. This means not attacking the beliefs of others. In my experience, humanists and atheists find this very difficult ... "


'He said that at a recent conference on the church and the media he got the sense that both Anglicans and Catholics felt a bit bewildered by the Guardian even though, he said, they loved it and regarded it as their paper. "We share the same concerns in many ways. But they feel that too often we are hostile to religion or to their church, and I do think this is something we have to watch out for.

'"We have to be aware that there are a lot of Guardian readers, with broadly the same worldview as the rest of us, who are happy to be Christians, and who are disappointed that the exaggeration of differences sometimes obscures what we all have in common. They have just as much right to be heard as others."'

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

3 from fopp: undertones, stone roses, saint etienne

A while ago on one of my Fopp forays I came out with three CDs. Positive Touch by The Undertones wasn’t that good. It was interesting to read on the liner notes, written more recently, that the songwriters thought - at the time, and still, I think - that they were making a great leap forward in their songwriting, and that the songs on this album were so much better than their earlier, rougher/simpler material. The public didn’t think so, and the public were right. It’s interesting how often when people work harder to do something creative ‘properly’, it’s not as good as what comes unforced and naturally, even if they think it’s better. Lennon and MacCartney expected to graduate to writing musicals, proper stuff. I’d see it when editing the magazine at my old place sometimes; I’d ask somebody if I could use something from their newsletter in the magazine, and they’d say yes, but be surprised because they hadn’t written it ‘properly’, just naturally for their friends; conversely, people who wrote perfectly good newsletters might send me ‘an article’ which they’d written, and it would be heavy, flowery and formal.

I also got a Stone Roses compilation and a Saint Etienne compilation. The Stone Roses I had always thought I didn’t like, until a couple of years ago when I was hearing songs which I liked which turned out to be theirs; I’d been more aware of their image than their actual music. Saint Ettienne, on the other hand, were a band who I’d heard of, and who sounded like the kind of thing I might like, but whose whole career had passed me by. They turned out not to be quite my thing - the synthesiser sound didn’t appeal, the voice was quite plain - but hey.

I ‘met’ Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne at the Rocking Vicar’s social which I went to with John in the basement of a sushi bar on Farringdon Road. He and I were both much too early, and our quiz teams were sharing a table; we exchanged pleasantries before he wandered off. I didn’t recognise him, and he thought I might be on his team, a friend of the guy who’d got the team together, Peter Paphides whose name I did recognise, because he worked for Time Out at the time and now I see in the Guardian Guide sometimes. I asked Bob if he worked with Peter and he said no; what did he do?; he did some writing. When he and his team came back later Ronnie whispered to us that one of the guys from Saint Etienne was on our table, and I thought yes, of course, it’s Bob Stanley. And he had been a music journalist before his music career. But he’ll always be unfashionably early Bob to me.


On the younger generation's birthday, coincidentally, I had a request played on Brian Matthew’s Sounds of the Sixties programme on R2. I didn’t really write in for a request; I wanted to do a thank you email for the programme - before, frankly, Mr Matthew shuffles off. You could listen to oldies stations for months and never hear a song you’d never heard before, whereas it’s a rare half hour of Sots in which I don’t hear at least one song I’ve never heard before (and I’ve heard a lot). Anyway, I thought I’d better ask for something as I was writing in, so in the spirit of my praise I asked for something I’d never heard before, nor even knew the title of - the B-side of the record which was number one when I was born, Frank & Nancy Sinatra’s Something Stupid. It turned out to be a song by Frank alone, Call Me (not the Blondie song). I’m not a big fan of Frank, but hey.

song of a pin

see a pin and pick it up,
then all day long you’ll have a pin.

coughing in church

A simple incident which occurred during my first morning attendance at [Dr M’Crie’s] chapel [in Edinburgh] strongly impressed me with a sense of his sagacity. There was a great deal of coughing in the place, the effect of a recent change of weather; and the Doctor, whose voice was not a strong one, and who seemed somewhat annoyed by the ruthless interruptions, stopping suddenly short in the middle of his argument, made a dead pause. When people are taken greatly by surprise they cease to cough - a circumstance on which he had evidently calculated. Every eye now turned towards him, and for a full minute so dead was the silence that one might have heard a pin drop. ‘I see, my friends,’ said the Doctor, resuming speeech, with a suppressed smile - ‘I see you can be all quiet enough when I am quiet.’ There was not a little genuine strategy in the rebuke; and as cough lies a good deal more under the influences of the will than most coughers suppose, such was its effect, that during the rest of the day there was not a tithe of the previous coughing.
- Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters, p336

Reminds me of a story which I think I heard from John Macpherson (or my father) of another minister preaching in a church where the floor was raked. Someone near the back - they were probably all near the back - dropped a sweetie, which rattled and rolled all the way down to the front. Near the end of its progress the minister stopped, and when it came to rest he said, after a pause, ‘Why do they make them round?’

I think it was also John who passed on, from the horse’s mouth, the tale of another minister who was making quite a long prayer, and while he was in the middle of it he used one of the phrases which traditionally comes at the end of a prayer - ‘in Jesus’ name’, say, or ‘for Jesus’ sake’ - whereupon everyone sat down, anticipating the ‘amen’. With good grace, he decided to end the prayer there.

I learnt more from John (and my father) than just curious tales of the pulpit, I should say.

Monday, 5 December 2005

george best

On Saturday I tuned into Radio 5 to listen to Fighting Talk, but found they were relaying George Best's funeral live. Turned out they were also showing it on BBC1. I really can't get my head round it. George Best's productive playing career was short, and its unpleasant aftermath was long - and extended by a liver transplant. His three extra years of life continued just as those before it. I guess it's human nature that we abuse our second chances. But I presume that someone who needed a liver transplant didn't get one because George Best did. There must be families with loved ones who needed a liver transplant in 2002 and didn't get it who are bitterly wondering about that.

Friday, 2 December 2005

serving your constituency

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
- Edmund Burke, quoted in a letter (on why it was reasonable for MPs to vote against something their constituents were in favour of) in The Guardian, Monday 14 November 2005

yellow police signs; london at work

On halloween a young woman on our estate was shot in the eye in what appears to have been a random shooting through a letterbox; the first we knew was the yellow police sign. Walking to the park one day last week I passed a yellow sign about an armed robbery at the bookmaker's near Kennington tube, and on the way back another yellow sign about an armed mugging off the other side of Kennington Park Road.

Conversely, yesterday we were coming back down Southwark Bridge Road and passed in quick succession some firemen training in a fake building with watery hoses and everything, and then a big crane lowering a bucket to be filled with cement from a big mixer vehicle - sights to delight any small child's heart.

'It's all about what you want and when you want it'

Article of this title in today's Guardian, springing from research finding that 'over a 10-year period, the number of men in Britain who have paid for sex has doubled'.

The study's co-author is quoted: "My feeling," says Ward, "is there is a general and continual increase in the way sex is presented as something continually available; it's a commodity now, with lads mags, you see it more in films and so on. In all aspects of society it has become much more about what you want, when you want it, whether it's 24-hour shopping or whatever, and sex has become part of that - this idea of 'no strings sex' just increasingly fits in with the lifestyle."

Article writer Laura Barton: 'Indeed, the shift in the British perception of sex over the past decade has been dramatic. It has moved beyond Page 3 titillation and drifted down from the top shelf to encompass lads mags, ready access to pornographic films, and an increased sexualisation of TV content both pre and post-watershed, from Hollyoaks to Footballers' Wives, not to mention music videos and song lyrics.'

The article generally thinks this is a bad thing, but has to say near the end, 'An increasingly open attitude to sex should, of course, be applauded, and there is a very reasonable case for the decriminalisation of prostitution.'