Monday, June 13, 2005

Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan - your boys took one hell of a beating...

As part of his Post 8 campaign, JonnyB has recorded a song with MC Mr Mitt entitled 'Don't Close The Post Office'. Squarely in the line of classic protest songs, 'Don't Close The Post Office' is quite explicit about its creator's sentiments on the subject of post office closure.

You can download it here. It will make you laugh. A lot.
"It's so nice to see Billy playing with something besides fire"

The Perry Bible Fellowship: surreal off-the-wall comic strips that had me guffawing loudly over the weekend. My favourites include 'Pyro Billy', 'Angry Hammer' and 'No Survivors'.

(Thanks to Mike and Jonathan for the link.)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Putting Brum on the blogging map

Calling all Birmingham-based bloggers...

Earlier this week an email dropped into my inbox courtesy of a passing reader, Stu. Stu had noticed that both myself and Phill of Danger! High Postage were based in Birmingham, and floated the idea of setting up a collaborative Metrobloggers blog for the city.

Now, I've not been very impressed with what I've seen of other Metrobloggers sites, and I know a certain someone who would be rather less charitable about the writers for the London version as well as the Metrobloggers head honcho Sean Bonner. But the idea of contributing to a collaborative blog does appeal - so long as it isn't under the umbrella of Metrobloggers.

So, just to gauge interest and feasibility, who would be up for it? Andy's list of Brum bloggers is pretty impressive, so I know there are plenty of you out there. In the words of Delia Smith, let's be 'avin' ya!

(Of course, I don't want to tread on anyone's toes, so if a collaborative Brummie blog already exists then just let me know.)
Blogwatch

Welcome...

Monkey With A Typewriter, the new home of PB Curtis;

Vaguely Dot Org, whose creator is currently celebrating the end of her exams;

Bongo Vongo, another Brum-based blog with a Bangladeshi slant as recommended by Bushra.

Meanwhile...

There's only one thing to talk about in Blogland this week: Big Blogger 2005. The brainchild of Watski and The Long Lost Lagomorph, Big Blogger has just kicked off and will run for the next seven weeks. Housemates include several bona fide Friends Of SWSL to whom I wish all the very best: Mike, Mish, JonnyB and Zoe.

The housemates are currently introducing themselves, Mish with a customary flourish and JonnyB with customarily hilarious self-deprecation: "As ever, I am wearing trousers and a cool T-shirt. I wear cool T-shirts because they make me believe that I am younger and more trendy than I am and not just a fat bloke in a T-shirt that he thinks is cool, sweating and crying whilst with desperation he struggles with the fingertips of his soul to hang on to the last grim tatters of his youth as his life spirals down the shitty eternal plughole of missed opportunities and wasted talent".

Elsewhere...

Pete reports on the weekend's Wychwood Festival - "The first thing I noticed was the bewildering array of hats perched on middle aged, middle class heads. I tried to keep my new found principles of tolerance, love, kindness and friendliness at the forefront of my mind but Rome wasn't built in a day and as the day wore on these hats increasingly got on my wick";

Sarah meets Joe Jackson without realising it (and - whisper it - tries to fleece him subtly);

Willie reflects on ASBOs and the etiquette appropriate to dogowners witnessing their respective canines getting to know each other rather better - "Eventually, our dogs returned as blasé as if they'd just been chasing sticks and no longer much interested in each other. I asked Cato if she wanted a cigarette. Sebastian's owner was a rather humourless man and gave me a very strange look but he did graciously pay for her to have the doggy equivalent of the morning after pill. I felt a bit bad about not letting nature take its course but I talked it through with her and she seemed to understand that it was for the best, what with her being a single mother and everything and that I couldn't be responsible for the offspring of her sluttish and irresponsible behaviour";

JonnyB kicks off his Post 8 Campaign to save the Village Post Office from the (potential) threat of closure with news he's to record a rap single - " tried rapping myself, in the mirror, and I was very good at it. I was even tempted to jump into the audience and shoot people. I know there are some people who say that 'white men cannot rap' but that is just as stupidly racist as saying 'all Asian people own corner shops' or 'all French people smell of garlic' or 'Israeli policy regarding the Occupied Territories isn't absolutely perfect in every respect'";

Bill muses on the disappearance of the bookshop browser;

Dave recalls being at several of Time Out's 100 Greatest London Gigs, including The Jesus & Mary Chain and pre-bollocks Manic Street Preachers;

Mike posts the first installment in what will be a series following his survey of the Troubled Diva reading demographic;

Del is bemused to learn that 'Revenge Of The Sith' is to blame for anti-social behaviour.
Politically incorrect?

(I thought this deserved its own post.)

In the course of today's net foraging I uncovered this particular truffle on Musings From Middle England: a post about the Ricky Gervais stand-up show 'Politics' screened last week on C4.

Willie's thoughts on Gervais's remarks about the gay age of consent have provoked a strong and heated debate in the comments box. Personal insults aside, it makes for fascinating reading - do peruse it, if you've got time.

Not wanting to weigh in seriously on an issue which I haven't given a great deal of thought, I won't address the age of consent. I do, however, feel inclined to step in, at least in part, in Gervais's defence.

I find him, by and large, very funny, though he's always treads a fine line between being funnily offensive and being downright offensive. In 'Politics' - which I didn't enjoy as much as 'Animals' or 'The Office' - he did perhaps overstep the mark. But I didn't feel it was with the material on homosexuality that he did this.

When quoting from a 1980s leaflet recommending sexual practices which don't involve intercourse to gay men, the object of his scorn, as far as I could make out, was the media-inflated hysteria surrounding HIV and AIDS - after all, it can only have been the level of hysteria that prompted people into thinking that recommending mutual masturbation out of windows was a reasonable alternative course of action...

Perhaps I'm being incredibly naive here - and feel free to say so - but for me it was the material on disability that was harder to stomach, as well as being pretty lazy comedy.
"Book 'im Danno!"

Spotted through the window of Steelhouse Lane Police Station in central Birmingham yesterday: The Complete Inspector Morse Collection.

A light read for quiet nights down the nick, or something much more significant? Is a well-thumbed Morse mystery yanked off the reference shelves when CID are at a loss for leads and in desperate need of pointers? "Hmmm, what would Morse do?" "Hang on - I remember a bit in 'The Secret Of Annexe 3' that might just help us out here..."

One thing's for sure: Aston, Newtown and Perry Barr might not resemble the leafy villages of Oxfordshire, but there are certainly plenty of murder mysteries to be solved.

Next week: the surgeons of the nearby Birmingham Children's Hospital are seen crowded round 'Holby City' learning new techniques.
The stuff of fiction

The Invisible Library: a fantastic site cataloguing books which exist only within the pages of other books - "imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound".

(Thanks to Bill for the link.)
House arrest

I reckon I'm pretty proficient when it comes to fulfilling the blogger's stereotype of posting lists, particularly lists about music, so here's my attempt at another staple type of post: the whinge...

My phone's broken. Not the end of the world, but certainly an inconvenience. I arrange for someone to come, collect the faulty handset and issue me with a replacement. I'll have to be in all day - they tell me it'll be some time between 8am and 6pm.

So, a day of house arrest for me, a ten hour "window" for them and yet they STILL fail to make it. If I'd taken the day off work just for that, I'd have been furious. Fortunate, then, I work from home. Even then, it's more than a little irritating.

I believe "fuckwits" may be the appropriate term.

Right, that's that base covered. Next up: some pictures of cats...
Tune in

Speakers Push The Air is an online music 'zine and forum, as well as the banner under which gigs and club nights are organised. And all based in the East Midlands' capital of all things great, Nottingham. If only I was still living there. Sigh.
Intellectual featherweight

Perhaps the most extreme case of misplaced self-confidence I've ever witnessed: Paul Danan saying of himself and one of his female companions on 'Celebrity Love Island', "Great minds think alike".

(Not that I've been watching it or anything. For the record: total amount of time spent / wasted watching 'Big Brother' so far = less than an hour. Of course, all that could very well change...)
Quote of the day

"Stunningly creative and beautiful cinematography, though. I'll grant you that. But a turd in a chocolate box is still a turd."

Mike on 'Sin City'.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Friday night's alright for TV

I can just picture the meeting now.

"Right, we've got this new comedy panel show called '8 Out Of 10 Cats'."

"OK, when's it going to be screened?"

"Well, we're looking at a late evening slot on a Friday. Who on earth can we get to present it? We've been scratching our heads but just can't come up with anybody who would fit the bill."

"I've got it! Jimmy Carr!"

And so it was that Carr got the opportunity to descend further into smug unfunnyness in front of a pissed-up yoof audience of which I was one. The show's only real laughs came courtesy of Sean Lock.

On BBC1 it was the final 'Have I Got News For You', with Des Lynam hamming up to his suave libidinous image in the presenter's chair and David Mitchell of 'Peepshow' semi-fame in excellent form. No sooner was the show bundled off into the night than another topical news comedy, 'Mock The Week', appeared, hosted by Dara O'Briain and featuring Rory Bremner amongst others. The team behind the show, which airs on Sunday evenings on BBC2, worked on 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?', and it shows in the format and performance rounds. Just about enough to keep '...News''s throne warm until the next series, anyway.

'Monkey Trousers' (ITV1, 10pm), written by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer with significant involvement from Steve Coogan, is turning out to be a real dud. This press release for the forthcoming DVD of the series begins by asking: "Ever wondered what would happen if the cream of British comedy got together to star in their own show, writing and performing their own comedy sketches alongside a pool of the best writing talent available?" Well, I had, and I'd hoped it wouldn't be this predominantly feeble dilution of talent, a collective exercise in shark-jumping.

Much better was 'Grumpy Old Men' - no idea whether it was a repeat or not, but it was worth watching for Geoffrey Palmer's drily laconic commentary alone. OK, so you have to endure Jeremy Clarkson and (worse still) Rick Wakeman, but Arthur Smith is always liable to come out with some miserable misanthropic gem. Friday's was "most children these days are illiterate morons".

Back on BBC1, Jonathan Ross had the sort of line-up that must have made the show's booking agents laugh themselves stupid: Fern Britton of 'This Morning', Jane Fonda, Coldplay ... and Vince Neil and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue (sorry, I can't be bothered to try and find the requisite umlaut on this keyboard). It made for great viewing, particularly when Ross was talking to Neil about the fact that his wedding ceremony was conducted by MC Hammer.

"So, how did you know he was the right man to marry you?"

"He's not a white man..."

Fair play to Chris Martin too for not taking himself too seriously and slipping a bit of the Crazy Frog ringtone into 'Speed Of Sound'.

And, to wrap the evening's viewing up, more music on 'Later With Jools Holland'. James Blunt only got a solitary song to impress and looked scared stiff, The Coral looked faintly bored playing a song I've come to think perhaps is faintly boring itself ('In The Morning') but came to life for 'Arabian Sand', and during his pianoside chat Rufus Wainwright completely unnecessarily confessed a long-term love of Judy Garland - I think we'd guessed that much, darling.

Much less expected were Acoustic Ladyland, a spazz-jazz outfit of the sort Mike Patton would no doubt like to be involved with. Equally pleasing was the fact that, after opening with 'Krafty' and following it up with the title track of their new LP 'Waiting For The Siren's Call', New Order avoided closing the show with that shitstorm of a single 'Jetstream', instead commemorating the 25th anniversary of Ian Curtis's death with a run-through of 'Transmission'.
Climate for change

A very interesting Guardian article on the Make Poverty History campaign in the light of its growing momentum.

As you've probably noticed, there's been a Make Poverty History band across the top of this page for the last couple of months, and I've been sporting one of the wristbands for a while too. The article made me reflect on my involvement in the campaign.

While I certainly wouldn't say I've leapt upon the bandwagon in the last few weeks when the publicity and media coverage has increased massively, at the same time I'm not as informed about the specifics of the campaign as I'd like to be or ought to be, and neither am I going to Edinburgh at the beginning of next month. I do take part in the regular email and letter-writing campaigns, though, so my support is more than just superficial.

Baggini's piece has prompted me to read more widely around the issues, but it ultimately concludes that there's not necessarily anything wrong with those who don't know the specifics nevertheless supporting the campaign as an inherently "good thing". He also makes the point that it's easy to be cynical about those calling for our involvement - the sight of Elton John, who lest we forget spends a quarter of a million pounds every year on flowers, sat next to Bob Geldof appealing for support turned my stomach - but it's in such a good cause that we should be able to overlook the spectre of self-interest and self-promotion.

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)
The chips are down

Is This A Good Idea? Yes, Paul, it is.

Is This A Good Idea? is the latest addition to the SWSL blogroll, after I had the pleasure of meeting its creator at Phill's on Saturday evening. The occasion? A game of poker - or, rather, three games of poker running on well into the early hours of Sunday. Our host was victorious in the second game and came close to triumphing in the last. As for my performance, let's just say it's a good thing we weren't playing for real money...
A Magic night

Congratulations to me old mucker LMT, whose dreams came true when his band Autons supported The Magic Band at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth last night. Not only did the gig go swimmingly, with Autons making lots of new fans, but they were also put in contact with The Magic Band's record label by the band themselves, who were friendly and encouraging to a man. A night to remember, by all accounts.
"12) Blue. Or maybe Bisto chicken gravy"

A glaring omission from last week's edition of Blogwatch: Jonny B's guest post on Paranoid Prom Queen. Oh the joys of leaving things to the imagination...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Normal service resumed

Well, not quite.

What I said about there being a bit of a lull round these 'ere parts still stands - it's just that I hadn't intended for things to go quite as quiet as they have.

I survived the madness and intense bouts of alcohol consumption surrounding my brother's wedding last Friday (a fantastic day in every respect, thanks in a large part to the wonderful venue) and now I'm back in Brum just about recovered from it all.

Anyway, more postage over the next few weeks, I promise.
Reasons To Be Cheerful #10

(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)

The Anchor Inn

When I first moved to Birmingham last September, there was one imperative that motivated me more than any other: to find a decent pub within easy reach of our city centre flat.

Despite having spent increasing amounts of time over here over the course of the previous three years, I still hadn't found a good, honest, unpretentious boozer. The city centre itself often bizarrely resembles a ghost town of an evening because of the lack of drinking establishments. Those that there are are all crowded together on Broad Street, a fuckbunch of awful neon-lit hellholes where weekend revellers go to sweat on and rub flesh with one another, all at great cost.

(Is it a sign of age to want to find somewhere that you're not pressed up against someone's armpit clutching a £3 bottle of Stella? Perhaps, but I don't give a shit.)

So thank goodness for The Anchor Inn in Digbeth, Birmingham's Irish quarter - not the place to go if you're out to impress your companions with glitz, glamour and style, but a must if you're at all a fan of the humble public house.

The Anchor is a three-time winner of Birmingham CAMRA's Pub Of The Year award (following their most recent success the owners handed it on to The Bartons Arms, #2 in the Reasons To Be Cheerful series), and so unsurprisingly offers a plentiful array of real ales at all times, in addition to holding regular beer festivals showcasing the best produce of small local breweries as well as the odd beer imported from afar. Don't expect common-or-garden Chardonnay or Merlot if you ask for wine, either - it's flavoured fruit wines or nowt.

Best of all, though, and my particular favourite is the hand-pumped Thatchers Cheddar Valley Cider - 6%, flat and the same nuclear orange colour as Tango. If you're lucky you might find a bit of apple floating in your pint. A few of those and speech becomes a challenge.

The first few times we went to The Anchor, something always happened.

The very first time, on my birthday, we went for a last orders pint and ended up getting regaled with tall tales by a nutter from Stockton.

The second time was on a pub crawl with fellow Birmingham bloggers Kenny, Phill, Andy and Donna, when we discovered the delights of Craic and Kenny had the pleasure of being serenaded by a rather camp gentleman singing 'Fly Me To The Moon'.

The third time a friend and I accidentally hustled a couple of locals on the pool table despite being four or five sheets to the wind on the aforementioned cider.

There was also the time when a night on the cider resulted in a friend's girlfriend vomiting orangely all over his car in the vicinity of Walsall the next day.

I could quite happily take up residence at the bar there - a pub I can now almost call home.

And of course they sell pork scratchings.
Blogwatch

Welcome...

Smacked Face, who's currently in the process of reading Geoff Dyer's 'Out Of Sheer Rage' which I finished only a couple of months ago.

Elsewhere...

Phill reviews last weekend's Dot-Dash-Dot-Dash Festival in Nottingham, which featured Radio 4, Ladytron and Komakino amongst others;

Jonathan and the new Stephen Malkmus LP Face The Truth "are getting on like a house on fire";

He Who Cannot Be Named finds his recovery from arse surgery (yes, really) is made more bearable by the 'I Am Not An Animal' DVD and a Hot Snakes gig;

Mish recalls the time she was maimed by P G Wodehouse, Dorothy Parker, James Thurber and Flaubert;

Jonathan has difficulty choosing a tie for a wedding;

Skif, in his capacity as a fanzine writer, discovers that even bands that have issued what constitutes a death threat upon receiving a bad review expect the follow-up record to be well received;

Vicky offers her Guide To Cheap Flights Websites;

Jonny B gets some new pants for his birthday - happy (belated) birthday, Jonny!
This week on Stylus

Anthony Miccio's disappointment with Sleater-Kinney's The Woods has provoked quite a storm of comments.

Elsewhere, Anthony's rather more positive about Face The Truth, Stephen Malkmus's third solo offering since Pavement bit the dust: "Malkmus will probably never drop the oddball shtick entirely — it’s both his defense mechanism and date bait — but America could use its own Robyn Hitchcock".

Meanwhile, Ross McGowan takes a look back at the unhappily curtailed career of At The Drive-In in the company of Anthology: The Status Is Non-Operational, and is particularly impressed by the covers of tracks by The Smiths and Pink Floyd which reveal the band "in a completely new light".
To hell with... waiting for the print version

Hurrah! The music fanzine To Hell With has a website, and very good it is too. Recent additions well worth a read include a review of the new Sleater-Kinney LP The Woods, a live review of Editors and an interview with Rod Jones of Idlewild.

(Thanks to Kenny and Skif for the link.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Blogwatch

Welcome...

But She's A Girl - another blogger resident in Birmingham, and an academic to boot. Good to know there are more of us about... (Thanks to Sarah for the link.)

Meanwhile...

Congratulations to Mike on his venture into print journalism, a Eurovision article for Time Out. You can read about the accuracy of his predictions here, while Jonny B also has a Eurovision-centric post - who would have thought that the contest could be the glue that holds a whole community together?

Elsewhere...

Phill's been eating his breakfast "beneath a giant crucifix" in Prague and Swiss Toni's back from Korea, where he'd been attending his brother's wedding - well, it's my brother's this Friday, and he's chosen the slightly less exotic location of Tynemouth (at least it ain't Whitley Bay, eh?);

Jonathan recalls a time when Fenham was gripped by Panini sticker fever;

Robin hails Oasis, if only for inspiring the game 'Name That Resprayed Tune';

Paul posts his recollections of the other week's pub-crawl-by-tram;

Jonathan tries his hand at podcasting;

Vaughan is relieved to discover that he's not alone in labelling 'Property Ladder' presenter Sarah Beeny toxic.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Surviving the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

My review of Six By Seven's forthcoming fifth LP Artists, Cannibals, Poets, Thieves is up on the Vanity Project site. Many thanks to Skif for inviting me to contribute to the latest issue of the fanzine.

It's about time I followed up last month's What's Hot On The SWSL Stereo, so one of these days I might get round to posting some reviews of my most recent acquisitions: Queens Of The Stone Age, Bloc Party, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Arcade Fire, Eels, The Shins, Stereolab...
Feel good hits of the 24th May

An extended version, thanks to an afternoon larking about with a friend's iTunes library...

1. 'Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)' - The Arcade Fire
2. 'Graffiti' - Maximo Park
3. 'Forever Lost' - The Magic Numbers
4. 'All I Really Need From You Is Love' - Six By Seven
5. 'You Know You're Right' - Nirvana
6. 'Chinese Rocks' - Johnny Thunders
7. 'Minerva' - Deftones
8. 'Vonal Declosion' - Stereolab
9. 'Neat Neat Neat' - The Damned
10. 'Tongue Tied' - Erase Errata
11. 'Just Can't Get Enough' - Nouvelle Vague
12. 'Black And White Town' - Doves
13. 'Is This It' - The Strokes
14. 'Cover Up' - Part Chimp
15. 'Just Like Heaven' - The Cure
Quote of the day

"A novel is an impression, not an argument."

Thomas Hardy in the preface to 'Tess Of The D'Urbervilles'.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Brothers and sisters, believe the hype: it all adds up

THE MAGIC NUMBERS / THE PIPETTES, 15TH MAY 2005, BIRMINGHAM ACADEMY

And so an inexcusable two month lapse since my last live music experience is brought to an end.

Yet even that drought, stretching back to early March, isn't enough to get me scampering back from Nottingham in time to catch first support act, the appropriately named Absentee.

So my first taste of live goodness after the stupid self-imposed diet comes courtesy of The Pipettes, three rather charming young ladies in polka dot dresses shimmying and cooing along to the sounds kicked out by a backing band clad in burgundy tank tops. Hailing from - where else? - Brighton, The Pipettes situate themselves neatly within the historical context of Spector-produced pop, 50s girl groups, doo-wop and Motown on their website, and their music bears this out.

I'm guessing the moniker is the girls' way of claiming to be the cutesy diminutive offspring of The Pips, but it might just as well refer to the item of scientific apparatus, as that, like most of their songs, takes the listener back to school and the first flushes of lust and romantic entanglements of youth. It's the new Pretty In Black style Raveonettes doing the theme music from 'Grease' - bubblegum innocence on the surface but sexual attractions and tensions bubbling along underneath.

But the stumbling block, for me, is that this faux naivety is just that - underneath, they're the sort of sharply self-conscious post-feminist concept band Le Tigre's Kathleen Hanna would love. Nothing wrong with that, perhaps, but they're SO knowing, and the songs aren't quite strong enough to distract me from that fact, so I probably won't be buying their records. Let's just say that a large part of their appeal is visual, skin-deep.

If, as expected on this showing, headliners The Magic Numbers make it big, it won't be because of anything as superficial as image. Photogenic they ain't, but talented they most certainly are.

This is just one of the reasons why they're such a refreshing change from the Kasabians and Braverys clogging up the pages of the music press. Another is the fact that they probably wouldn't know a Joy Division or Duran Duran record if slapped about their ample chops with it.

My first thought on seeing bearded man-mountain vocalist / guitarist Romeo is of My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, a huge long-haired bear of a man who deceptively looks like an escapee from a primitive metal band but possesses the sweetest of voices.

And in truth, Romeo's band - he is backed by his sister Michele on bass, and another brother-sister combo of Sean and Angela on drums and percussion / melodica respectively - don't sound a million miles away from My Morning Jacket and their dusky country blues, though The Magic Numbers have less of a stoner rock sensibility and a better developed sense of when to bring songs to heel and to an end. They also have more strings to their bow than their American counterparts, switching easily between sumptuous slow torch songs ('Hymn To Her', 'Wheels On Fire') and upbeat power pop tunes (forthcoming much-plugged single 'Forever Lost'), though perhaps dwelling a little too much on the former.

"Classic songwriting" is an epithet I often turn my nose up at, but it's applicable in a non-pejorative sense to what The Magic Numbers do. Several tracks sound like you must have heard them before, without at the same time slavishly aping any distinctive predecessors.

Judging by the rapturous response they receive here, one which visibly bowls them over, and the prospect of a Glastonbury appearance on the horizon (sadly not outdoors in the sun but on the John Peel Stage), they could well take this summer by storm.

Link:

Kenny's assessment of the gig
How to see more of Nottingham through a tram window and the bottom of a pint glass

NET (Nottingham Express Transit) and CAMRA have together produced the Nottingham Beer By Tram Guide which recommends some of the best real ale pubs easily accessible from the new Hucknall-Nottingham tram route.

The opportunity to sample a wide range of local ales in some unfamiliar surroundings and become more acquainted with lesser-visited bits of Nottingham while travelling around by tram (a mere £2.20 for an all-day ticket) - how could we resist?

And thus it was that at 12.45pm on Saturday, four of us met up in The Green Dragon in Hucknall. By the third pub, The Bowman (Butler's Hill), the remainder of the hardcore majority had joined us, our numbers swelling to 13.

The plan was to try and have at least a half in each of the 25 pubs en route. Unsurprisingly, neither NET nor CAMRA recommend this, and so for legal reasons you can chalk that bit down to our own youthful irresponsibility.

We opted to give a couple of pubs (The Miller's Barn, The Park Tavern) a miss because they're out on the offshoot branch of the line that on Saturday was only being serviced by bus. It was a beautiful day and so the pubs blessed with beer gardens - The Fox & Crown, The Horse & Groom, The Lion Inn, The Vernon Arms - all scored highly in our impromptu points system. The first two did especially well owing to the presence of a resident pub dog and to the excellent large bags of pork scratchings on sale respectively.

Arriving in the city centre, the group expanded some more, and it was enjoyable venturing into some city centre pubs I'd never visited during seven years of residence in Nottingham (Langtry's, The Turf Tavern).

By this point, some of the original group (myself included) were very definitely the wrong side of sobriety, the group splintered into different factions after The Bell Inn and after another couple of pubs (only one of which was in the guide) I were ready to hit the sack, having managed 18 of the 25 and 19 in total. A sterling effort, for which my liver, head and stomach were not thanking me on Sunday.

Quite a day, all told.
This is a Low

Hard on the heels of the news that Kylie has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has consequently had to cancel her headline slot at Glastonbury, I discover that Low have cancelled their May / June tour owing to guitarist / vocalist Alan Sparhawk's mental instability which was making life on the road very stressful for the whole band.

Obviously, touring commitments must come a distant second when it's a matter of physical and mental health, and Sparhawk's heartfelt apology to fans is indicative of just how much he appreciates their support but unnecessary all the same, as I'm sure everyone is understanding of the situation.

Best wishes to them both for a swift recovery.

(Thanks to Kenny, with whom I saw Low in February, for the link.)
Acting the part

Sir Ian McKellen really is living up to all expectations of his stint in 'Coronation Street', isn't he? He's thrown himself into the role of author Mel Hutchright - failing, critically lambasted, deceitful and sleazy - and some of the scenes he's had with other long-established characters - especially his drunkenly asking Audrey for a threesome and the numerous confrontations with Ken Barlow - have been priceless. It's just a shame that his time in the show will soon be up.
On fire

Friday night, and I'm watching 'Later With Jools Holland' consumed with regret. The reason? The Arcade Fire, who I - unlike Kenny and He Who Cannot Be Named - passed up the opportunity to see on their recent UK tour, are blowing minds, including my own, with storming renditions of 'Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)' and 'Rebellion (Lies)'. I'm still awaiting postal delivery of the album, but now it can't come soon enough.
Is it just me...

... or is the new New Order single 'Jetstream' absolute shite?