Category Archives: Something For The Weekend

Can You Get Too Much Of A Good Thing? – Elbow Live In Liverpool

Bucharest(Why did the Romanian stop reading for night? To give his Bucharest!!! And moving swiftly on from that corniest of book jokes, this is yet another post where I give my book a rest!)

…………..Over the years I’ve been in some pretty odd pubs – the oddness makes them memorable! Usually. However, I remember one pub I visited about 15 years ago near Kings Cross. In my memory it Elbow 2was part kasbah-type “lounge” and part some sort of table-dancing establishment. It was odd – but hey it sold beer and we were desperate! But I don’t remember it for its odd decor or feel – I remember it because me and three friends shared it with only one other group of people – the members of the band Elbow. We’d gone to see them playing at Scala in Kings Cross and they’d obviously gone looking for a pub before they played because I guess back then, when they weren’t known by many people other than their friends and immediate family, they could! My journey with Elbow started then – Scala was hot, sweaty, loud and vibrant – and Elbow were brilliant. I was hooked!

Forward 15 years to last Saturday and I am seeing Elbow for the umpteenth time, at the cavernous, appropriately named “Echo Arena” in Liverpool. Musically they are as wonderful as ever. Beautiful produced waves of sound and atmospherics, especially in the gentler sounds of songs like “Lippy Kids”. And Guy Garvey’s voice is warm and mellow and still sounds as effortless as it did all those years ago. But something’s missing. Like a comfortable old jacket, Elbow still fit, they still feel good to put on but there isn’t quite the same buzz, the same tingle of excitement.

Elbow 1It’s partly the venue. Liverpudlians can sing and they certainly make a noise but somehow it never quite generates the tingle on the back your neck that I’d feel if I watched them at say Scala or Brixton Academy or up at the Junction in Cambridge. Its a vast arena, and as arenas go it certainly outstrips the truly awful O2 arena for atmosphere – but it’s the very opposite of everything Scala is – it’s not sweaty, it’s not dirty, it’s not a bit dog-eared, and it’s not a seething, heaving, entwined mass of bodies all moving together – and somehow I miss all that.

Elbow3But it’s also Elbow themselves. If anything it’s all a bit too clean, a bit too neat. It lacks edge and it lacks personality in some ways. Guy Garvey’s the most wonderful showman, an erudite raconteur in many ways. His ability to engage and hold an audience in the palm of his hand is among the best I’ve ever seen. But tonight he looks and indeed sounds tired – there’s a hint of going through the motions in his interaction with the crowd – somehow I got the feel this wasn’t the spontaneous banter of old but a series of rehearsed routines that Elbow trailed from Glasgow, to London, to Manchester, to Liverpool to wherever! And so much of Elbow’s personality live depends on Guy Garvey – the others dont really step up to the plate in the way they used to either.

I feel shite having written all this. I love Elbow – they are simply my favourite band ever, ever, ever, ever! It feels like a betrayal, like an act of heresy to say anything critical. But while it was really good, it wasn’t great, magnificent, overwhelming. And that’s what I’ve come to expect from Elbow over the last 15 years – so perhaps both them and me were a victim of my own expectations this time around.

But of course like all great love affairs – it isn’t over. Nothing will ever lure me away from the wonderfully crafted lyrics of Garvey and his mates – the songs are genuine stories in my view and absolutely belong here on my book blog! And nothing will ever get in the way of the swell in my heart every time I hear the melody of One Day Like This or the rolling piano intro to Scattered Black and Whites! I hear they are due to play the V Festival this year just along the road from where I live  – I’ll hope to go and look forward to it – though there’s a bit of me that would like to go back full circle and start again in that bizarre little pub in Kings Cross…………….!

The Bucharest Files……..3:15 PM Feb 22nd – At Last A Reason To Be Cheerful!

Bucharest(Why did the Romanian stop reading for night? To give his Bucharest!!! And moving swiftly on from that corniest of book jokes, this is yet another post where I give my book a rest!)

…………….Rugby. 6 Nations. Scotland. Success. Not often those phrases go together!!!!!!!

Thus far it’s all been of a damp squib for Scotland in the rugby. Two weeks ago I think we reached our lowest point against ‘the auld enemy’ – in fact had they gone home at the end of that game and we’d kept playing in the empty stadium, I’m still not sure we’d have scored!

However, at last the clouds have lifted just a little and the sun started to peek through the gloom against Italy yesterday. But still it looked like it would all end in disappointment and a narrow defeat.

And then, at 3:15, with less than 60 seconds remaining against Italy yesterday, Duncan Weir’s kick finally put a bloody great smile on our miserable Jock countenances! Now if you’re a fan of the All Blacks, or the Wallabies, or the Springboks, or even Ireland or Wales or France or that other team who are in the 6 nations that I can’t mention without gritting my teeth, a win over Italy might not feel like much to celebrate! But to us, starved this season of not only success but even the tiniest glimpse we might be moving in the right direction, it was manna from heaven!!!!

On the pitch we celebrated like we’d won the World Cup and chez moi, the neighbours got a blast of Caledonian euphoria and chest-beating! It was bloody wonderful!

So Duncan Weir, thank you for helping make my weekend!

Only Robinson Crusoe Had Everything Done By Friday……….Something For The Weekend July 13th

After all things Scottish to link with Andy Murray in the Wimbledon Final and all things music to link with the Isle Of Wight Festival, I thought I’d have another theme this weekend – and what could be more apt than rain. We’ve got bucketloads of the stuff! After the wettest June since records began we apparently have had the average rainfall for July arrive in many areas in a period of 24 hours! This year, more than I can ever remember, the British Summer seems little more than the odd break between black clouds!

But what the hell – I’m from Glasgow and the one thing Glasgow prepares you for in life, above everything else, is rain – though preparation for “deep frying food” is a close second!

Something To Listen To……….

In recognition of all things Glasgow and wet, what could be a better combination than Deacon Blue’s Raintown. I bought this in 1987 when it was first released. I loved it – I thought it sounded great, I loved the voices of both Ricky Ross and Lorraine MacIntosh, the songs were clever and different and Ricky Ross had a kind of 1980’s mullet like I did! Since then much has changed but I think it’s an album that’s stood the test of time – at least it’s held up a damn sight better than my hairstyles!

Donkey’s years ago, back in those dark days when we had tape recorders, I taped a live Deacon Blue gig – I recorded it from Radio Clyde I think or it might have been Radio 1!  Anyway, the best bit was that it was Deacon Blue live in Glasgow for New Year – and they played a stomping version of Queen Of The New Year of course. I played that tape to death – eventually it just gave up and to be honest I was near to tears. These days I think Deacon Blue might be a bit of a guilty pleasure for some people but there’s no guilt about it for me – I loved everything they did and always will! If you like Deacon Blue there’s a comprehensive site which tells you everything you’d ever want to know about them, and some things you probably won’t want to know, at Glasgow Skyline.

Something To Watch……….

This is cheating a bit, but the best song ever with “rain” in the title is the gorgeous Tinseltown In The Rain by The Blue Nile. Here it is on  Later With Jools Holland – worth watching – honest!

Something To Read……….

I‘m struggling to maintain a theme on rain here as I’ve just started Karen Lord’s Redemption In Indigo – it’s set in Africa and is the re-telling of a Senegalese folk tale. Not much connection with rain I guess – however if the weather forecast is correct for this weekend, while there might not be much rain between the pages of the novel itself, it’s going to be battering off the windows here in Essex as I’m reading it!

I’m reading it as part of The Readers Summer Book Club and as you expect with that kind of book list, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag – some of the books were those I’d have read anyway and have loved them, but some were things I’d never have touched – and so far, of those, some have been great and a real surprise, and others haven’t been my thing at all – but I loved having a go at the book club list anyway!

I’m about half way through Redemption In Indigo but already I know it’s going to be one of those what I would never have chosen myself but that I will really enjoy!

I can’t think of a book with “rain” in the title that I have ever read. I do have one on my shelves, Jonathan Coe’s “The Rain Before It Falls”, but I’ve not read it yet (and it’s been on my shelves a couple of years I have to admit.) Coincidentally, I read a review of it the other day on someone else’s blog – but for the life of me I can’t remember whose blog it was! But it was a good review and left me thinking “Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm – maybe not!”.  As a result I won’t be reading it any time soon I don’t think!

Something To Eat……….

With only a week now to go of the school year, my daughter has been in full sleepover mode this weekend! After spending Friday sleeping over at her friends house, where they seem to have talked for much longer than they slept, they both spent Saturday night with us – the ratio of sleep to talk improved a bit, but not my much!

However with the kids here we had one of those ‘pick at delicious things’ dinners – all from good old Marks and Spencers and the best were the gorgeous barbeque spare ribs – if you’re in M and S you should try them – they are great!

Messy to eat of course – but great!

Something To Learn Off By Heart……….

I am still learning snippets of poetry off by heart in the hope it will help preserve my memory – though my family might say there wasn’t much there to start with! – and help to stave off the onset of old age. This small piece is by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and as I’m a bit of an old romantic in my head at least, he’s one of my favourite poets!

I’m actually reading Emily Dickinson at the moment – it’s kind of like returning to my youth. I read her work voraciously when I first discovered it at the age of about 15. Since then I’ve read the odd poem here and there but it’s been some time since I read through a collection of her work – and already I can honestly say, I missed you Emily!

It feels like putting on a favourite old jacket, it wraps around you and feels comfortable and right. Much to my family’s amusement, and sometimes horror, I have a collection of t-shirts, jackets, and sweatshirts that I’ve had for years – and I mean more than 15-20 years! We call them my “old campaigners!” If Emily Dickinson was a t-shirt, she’d be an old campaigner!

And Finally, Something To Remember……….

I read the other day in the Guardian the tragic news, that Gabriel Garcia Marquez will no longer be able to write as the dementia from which he suffers now prevents it. The news was released to the media by Garcia Marquez’s brother. It left me feeling so sad that life would somehow perversely take away from this great writer the very skill that defined him and that even more perversely, the cause of the dementia was the chemotherapy which had initially saved him from cancer. It seems to me such a cruel thing to happen to any writer, and indeed to anyone at any time.

But of course, Gabriel Garcia Marquez isn’t just any writer. He was one of the most influential of his time, much loved in his native South America and around the world and a Nobel Prize winner in the 1980’s. I’ve loved every one of his books that I’ve read – ,”One Hundred Years Of Solitude”,  “Of Love and Other Demons”, “News Of A Kidnapping”, “Love In The Time Of Cholera” and my own favourite “The General In His Labyrinth”. I’m currently keeping a re-read on the go at the moment – my next one will be a Garcia Marquez, just to remind me how good a writer he was and how much I enjoyed his writing over the years.


Only Robinson Crusoe Had Everything Done By Friday……….Something For The Weekend 6th July 2012

……….The last time I posted about a selection of things for the weekend was just before I headed off to the Isle Of Wight festival and so pretty much all of it was about music. This weekend, with Andy Murray in the final of the Men’s Singles at Wimbledon, I’m going for all things Scottish!

Something To Watch………..

Andy MurrayEasy choice to start with. It’s got to be the Mens Final.

At last we have a Brit in the final – and more importantly he’s Scottish. Murray has performed well at Wimbledon several times but until now he’s always fallen at one of the late hurdles – and a couple of times the last hurdle! But not this time. He’s been terrific in the last two games against Tsonga and Ferrer and now he’s in the Final to play against Federer. It’s a terrific achievement when you consider the last time a Biritish player made the final was 1938! However if he doesn’t win, he’ll still get slaughtered by the idiotic sections of the British media and it would seem a considerable number of his fellow countrymen here in the UK. It seems madness to me – the guy’s a wonderful tennis player so you’d think the whole country would be behind him. But sadly it isn’t – though I have a feeling the proportions behind him will be pretty high in Scotland itself – and why shouldn’t it be! I’ve also got the feeling that he himself will be devastated if he doesn’t win – I’d reckon he didn’t employ Lendl as his coach to get him to Grand Slam finals – he employed him to help him win them so I think they’d see anything less than a win as failure. I’ll just be glued to it, fervently hoping Murray will win. If he does, I’ll be the proudest of Scotsmen (and that’s pretty proud, for I’m a proud Scotsmen most of the time anyway!)

Go On Murray My Son!!!!!!!!!!!

Something To Listen To………

About 6 weeks ago, Paul Buchanan released a new album, his first solo album since the eventual demise of The Blue Nile. You may of course have heard of neither. The Blue Nile were first a cult band in Scotland in the mid-80’s before going on to be much-loved favourites of many people across the world – but with an output of 4 albums in 22 years they were never aiming for world domination. I first heard The Blue Nile one Sunday night on Annie Nightingale on Radio 1. At the time I lived in a flat with two other blokes and had just started my teaching career in Scotland. A song called “Heatwave” came on – I’d never heard anything like it. Next day I bought their debut album, A Walk Across The Roofstops and have been an avid fan ever since. The music is beautiful, haunting and gentle, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes hopeful. Paul Buchanan is now in his mid-50’s – he feels like somebody I’ve grown up with!

His first solo album, Mid-Air, was released in May. Around that time he appeared on Jools Holland’s ‘Later’ – it was stunningly beautiful. This is the title track from the album as it sounded that night with Jools Holland himself playing piano. Have a listen, it’ll take your breath away!

Something For Sky Plus……….

Nicola BenedettiNicola Benedetti, the Scottish violinist with the movie star looks is on South Bank Show on Sky Arts 1 this weekend. Although from an Italian family, she was born in Ayrshire and still has a lovely Scottish accent!! She’s got a reputation for being glamorous of course, but equally she has a reputation for being very down to earth and very, very talented.

The programme follows her working as a violinist on the road, with children in schools and her preparations to return to Scotland to play with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The programme is also partly about the instrument she plays – in her case a 300 year old Stradivarius worth apparently £3 million! Ordinarily I’m more of an Indie music fan than a classical music fan, but I saw Nicola Benedetti on another programme on BBC 3 and she came across really well – so I’ll watch this and I reckon I’ll enjoy!

Something To Read……….

A Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic GibbonInspired by another blog, HeavenAli, I’ve chosen a few books to re-read over the summer. One of those is one of my favourite books set in Scotland, Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s “A Scots Quair”. I first read it when at Uni in the early 1980’s – it was bought for me as a gift by a friend at the time and I read it almost non-stop to find out about the lives of first Chris Guthrie and her brother Will, and then of her son Ewan, in the desolate, bleak but beautiful North East of Scotland. A ‘quair’ is the old Scots word for a book – and this is a Trilogy made up of ‘Sunset Song’, about Chris’ adolescence and hard life growing up on the farms of Kinraddie, ‘Cloud Howe’ following Chris’ life through her two marriages, the second one to a Church Of Scotland minister, and the third book ‘Grey Granite’ with Chris moving to the city of Duncairn and with her son by her first marriage, Ewan Tavendale, coming into the books as a main character.

Vivien Heilbron in Sunset Song

There’s something poignant and lonely in the books, and the harsh realities of life of the time are laid bare on the pages, but it’s a beautifully written book. In the 70’s and then again in the 80’s there were television programmes made on each of the three books, with Vivien Heilbron in the role of Chris Guthrie – I loved the series as much as I’d loved the books. It’s perhaps the re-read I’m most looking forward to over the summer!

Something To Learn Off By Heart……..

The Little White Rose by Hugh MacDiarmid

I’m cheating a bit here as this piece of poetry is one of my absolute favourites – so I already know it off by heart and in my sleep – but as I’m thinking of things Scottish it couldn’t be more apt. This is Hugh MacDiarmid’s “The Little White Rose”. The only part of it I want to change – for this weekend at least – is the heartbreak! This weekend, for Andy Murrray and for all of Scotland, I hope we have joy and something wonderful to celebrate come Sunday evening!

‘Only Robinson Crusoe Had Everything Done By Friday!’ ……….Something For The Weekend

……….I meant to finish this on Friday but I didn’t! Still better late than never!

Courtesy of the Jubilee celebrations, we’ve got an extra long weekend to enjoy (thank you Elizabeth!!). Much of our weekend will be about the Jubilee but there’s got to be more to life than that, so the things below are some of those I like or am looking forward to – and with the extra days this weekend it should be feasible to fit them in around the bunting!

Something To Listen To……….

A couple of weeks ago I listened to John Cooper Clarke being interviewed by Stuart MacConie on Radio 6. He was as brilliant as ever! Funny, sharp, and with that simple, plain speaking but very observant commentary on life around him. He says it like it is – but with humour! I’ve always liked him since I saw him donkey’s years ago at a festival in the early 1980’s. I’d heard him occasionally on the radio on things like John Peel but till then, hadn’t seen him live. I thought he was brilliant! One of the poems he did that day was ‘You Never See A Nipple In The Daily Express!’. I thought it was brilliant when I was nineteen and I still think it’s great today! I guess it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but just in case there’s another John Cooper Clarke fan out there, here it is!

Something To Watch……….

With the European Championships, the Olympics and the England v South Africa test series all on the horizon, this feels like a bit of a ‘sport on TV lull before the storm’, this weekend. Combine that relatively low-level sporting offer with the inevitable blanket coverage of all things Jubilee, there’s not that much to really look forward to this weekend! However Sky Arts has two of my favourite authors featured over the weekend and so they will definitely be going on my Sky+. On Saturday, The Book Show is at The Hay Festival and includes an interview with Hilary Mantel. Then on Sunday, Melvyn Bragg interviews Pat Barker about her works on The South Bank Show. As someone who thought the Regeneration trilogy was fantastic, I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about it.

Something To Learn Off By Heart……….

1970 – The Year Nijinsky Won The Triple Crown by Kit Wright

As I have mentioned before, I’ve gone back to learning snippets of poetry off by heart in the hope that it might join forces with Sudoku and stave off the onset of any dementia! I’m still enjoying the Carol Ann Duffy edited Jubilee Lines anthology. Last week I learned a piece from just after I was born, Brian Patten’s ‘Sixteen’ which was the poem for 1962. This weekend I’m planning to learn the poem for my partner’s year of birth 1970. What a year that was! She was born (though of course I didnt know that at the time) and I was mesmerised as a young boy watching colour TV for the first time from the Mexico World Cup with those wonderful Brazilians of Pele, Jairzhino, Rivelino, Tostao, Carlos Alberto, Clodoaldo etc! Suddenly every kid in Glasgow wanted to discover that they had a bit of Brazilian blood in their family somewhere! The poem for that year does celebrate an incredible sporting achievement – but not the World Cup winning Brazilians. Instead it celebrates the wonderful horse Nijinsky, which won the flat racing Triple Crown of the Derby, The 2000 Guineas, and the St Leger. Personally if id been Kit Wright, writing about 1970, I’d have gone for the poetry in motion that was Brazil’s fourth goal in the Final v Italy! But then again, as the poems are linked to the Queen’s Jubilee, Nijinsky might be the right choice as I guess the Queen is obviously a lot keener on horses than on footballers!

Something To Eat And Drink………………..

We are still on a diet and our discussions reverberate to an emerging new language of ‘ how many points are in that?!’ It had been working OK for both of us, but I fell off the wagon a bit on Friday night. We went up to The Emirates Stadium to see Coldplay. The gig was….well….rubbish to be honest. I might write about it over the next few days, but then again it was so dull, I might just try and forget I ever went to it!

Anyway before the tedium that was Coldplay live, we found a cracking Irish pub next to Finsbury Park tube station. As well as few pints of Guinness I had their Chilli. I didn’t expect it to be much more than your standard pub-grub Chilli – but it was fantastic! Probably the best bowl of Chilli I’ve ever tasted! So the eat and drink recommendation for the weekend is the down to earth but bloody lovely Guinness and Chilli at the Twelve Pins pub in Finsbury Park!

Something To Read…………………

Song Of Achilles By Madeleine Miller

I’ve had this on my waiting shelf for a few weeks. It’s due to be one of the books in The Readers Summer Book Club and now that it has also won the final Orange-sponsored fiction prize I think it’s time to start it. As well as its Orange Prize accolade, several other bloggers I follow have all written glowing reviews of the book so it’s definitely time for me to discover it ,for myself!

Something To Ignore……….

This is reputedly the best joke ever, as told by Billy Connolly. I’m not sure I’d go as far as the best ever but it’s very funny. In addition Billy’s lead in to it also talks about supply teachers and so that makes it doubly funny for me as an ex-teacher!

And Something To Puzzle Over……….

As I wrote before, the newspaper’s are always full of puzzles, and challenges and quizzy type things at the weekend – so if this is going to be a self-respecting, grown-up, book blog, I guess it has to do the same. So I’ll leave with this……….

They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in this case you have to. Below is a section from the cover of a well-known novel – can you identify it?

Something In His Genes, Told Him To Pretend, ‘Twas Something For The Weekend……….

……….You probably recognise these lyrics from The Divine Comedy’s “Something For The Weekend!”. I love the song, it’s lovely mix of a decent melody, slightly eccentric vocals and equally slightly eccentric lyrics. Anyway, it gives me an excuse to write a post about things for this weekend. This is nothing more than a list of things that I’m either doing or thinking about doing or just things that amuse me. Here goes!

Something To Listen To……….

Poetry Please With Roger McGough on BBC iPlayer

My love of Roger McGough is a hangover from my days as a teacher – I loved reading his poetry to my class and I think the kids in my class loved them back – well some of them did! This edition of  Poetry Please includes a reading of Seamus Heaney’s The Play Way. He was a teacher like me. His career went from Belfast to Harvard apparently. Mine went from Glasgow to Basildon! Not as exotic but every bit as enjoyable I reckon!

Something To Watch……….

England v West Indies Second Test

Even with the football season ending – sort of – there’s still a wonderful weekend of sport ahead including the Football League Play-Offs, the Monaco Grand Prix and the PGA Golf at Wentworth. However the sun is out, the sky is blue and there’s a Test Match – all is well with my world when these three joys are in alignment in the heavens. Do you know, I once saw Andy Roberts, the West Indian fast bowling machine of the 70’s, in a service station on the M1! Oh joy, oh joy, oh joy!

Something To Learn Off By Heart……….

Sixteen by Brian Patten (Verse 3)

I got into learning at least snippets of poetry or other words through my English teacher Ma Biscuit. She encouraged it and I learned many but gave up in my twenties – it seemed unnecessary and irrelevant to learn things off by heart. However as I got nearer to 50 i was keen to find ways to keep my brain as active as possible – and so I have slipped back to learning some things off by heart – after al there’s only so much Sudoku a man can take! This is from Brian patten’s poem “Sixteen” from the Jubilee Lines anthology I’m reading at the moment. It’s the poem for 1962 – just after I’d been born in December 1961. I like to think that it reflects that poetry was in the air when I was a baby in 1962 and I absorbed it through my lungs and my skin! Fanciful rubbish I know but it keeps me happy!

Something To Eat…………………

Weightwatchers Sausages!

We are on a diet chez nous and so we buy lots of stuff with the “Weighwatchers” label / logo. Some of it is pretty grim – they do a kind of chocolate biscuit thing which reminds me of the sorts of things I used to bake and then send home with the kids when I was teaching a Reception Class! (It involved sponge fingers, icing and Smarties! – 8 million calories, a million more e-additives and tasted like an old shoe!). However a pleasant surprise is Weightwatchers sausages – they’re all right!

Something To Read…………………

1Q84 Book Three by Haruki Murakami

I started Murakami’s 1Q84 Book Three yesterday and already, a couple of chapters in, I’m wallowing in the world of Aomame and Tengo! It”s a brilliant book. If you’ve not read it, you should try it. You really should!

Something To Ignore……….

I read this pun somewhere – and it made me smile! I’d guess I’ll be the only one amused by it though!

“Be A Lumberjack And Saw The World!”

And Something To Puzzle Over……….

……….The newspaper’s are always full of puzzles, and challenges and quizzy type things at the weekend – so if this is going to be a self-respecting, grown-up, book blog, I guess it has to do the same. So I’ll leave with this……….

Which book begins with an authors dedication to ‘The Duke Of Bejar, Trusting in the favourable reception and honour your Excellency accords to all books, as a Prince so well disposed towards the liberal arts, more especially those which, out of nobility, are not abased to the service and profit of the vulgar…?’