In Praise of Commas
H/T: Ralph Roberts.
JW Waterhouse: The Lady of Shalott (1888)
In recent years it has seemed like there has been a decline in working-class interest in art within Britain. Art has, once more, became a middle to upper-class interest which, for me, is a great shame. We can learn much from art as people and it should be all inclusive.
This is why applaud the work of http://arteverywhere.org.uk , a group which has took it upon themselves to place great pieces of art in public areas throughout the country: buses, train stations, shopping centres… you name, they’ve got it covered. Just imagine my surprise this morning when getting on my bus this morning and, instead of the usual variety of wonderful characters one finds on a bus that early, a poster of Waterhouse’s “Lady of Shalott” was facing me.
Not only does this campaign serve to brighten public spaces around the country, it is bringing art back to the working classes… I just hope we take notice. Kudos to you http://arteverywhere.org.uk
"People take pictures of the summer, to prove that it really existed…"
Both myself and my friend Mike have been avid fans of the work of David Byrne, formerly lead singer of the Talking Heads, for about 18 months. When it was announced last year that he was releasing a collaborative album with a lady called Annie Clark (a.k.a St. Vincent), titled “Love This Giant”, I was very excited at hearing a fresh release from Byrne rather than trawling through the youtube archives as I had been previously. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of St. Vincent. “Love This Giant” soon changed this.
It was a brass heavy disco, pop, rock record with elements of “world music” (the dreaded term). It oozed class, and instantly inspired a desire to dance like a loon. While the vocals were slightly Byrne biased, the elements of St. Vincent were fantastic. Indeed, so fantastic that I went out and bought her solo album “Strange Mercy”!
Imagine my happiness when it was announced that the two were going to tour the album, and were going to play in Britain. I was prepared to travel across the country to see them… and then they announced they were playing Birmingham, my home town! Not only were they playing Birmingham, they were playing Birmingham Symphony Hall with its world famous acoustics… a match made in heaven with the albums brassy focus.
The gig was last Wednesday. They didn’t disappoint! Many of the audience were there to see Byrne, and they got a vintage performance from him… but I think that many of them were won over by the mesmerising performance of Annie Clark. They put on such a slick show, it was a pleasure to watch as joy bounced across the stage.
The set list was a masterpiece, mixing tracks from the album with a few Talking Heads hits (Burning Down The House, This Must Be The Place and Road to Nowhere), St Vincent hits (Marrow, Northern Lights, Cruel and Cheerleader) and a few lesser known Byrne solo tracks which I’d never came across before. These included Lazy and Strange Overtones which I have been unable to get out of my head since the show.
The venue was both a blessing and a hindrance. It was perfectly matched acoustically to the genre of music… sometimes you leave a gig thinking “that was better than the album due to the energy levels”. This gig sounded better than the album (which was already a masterpiece), in fact this album was made to be played live.
The downside to the venue was the seats, which meant for much of the show the audience remained seated. This was a real shame, the music is made for dancing. During the encore however, there was a flood of audience members near the stage and the dancing started! And then it went mental with two folks in onesies dancing on stage (we actually met these in the city centre later).
It was great to see a performance of two of the musicians I adore not only living up to, but surpassing expectations! I would have paid any money to see this show. It absolutely smashed it!
After living student life for three years, I found that this summer I wouldn’t have enough lying around for a summer holiday with Laura. So I had an epiphany of sorts; I have a number of friends around the UK, thus I can see much of this beautiful country on the back of my train pass and the milk of human kindness.
My first stop in July was to the former industrial hotspot which is Sheffield, a trip which doubled up as an opportunity to see my beloved Glasgow Rangers play Sheffield Wednesday. What a day me and Timmy had, drinking a whole lot of rum and seeing a cracking game, even if the result wasn’t the one we’d have liked. The real highlight was my fellow ‘Gers fans, 5k+ travelling down from Glasgow for a friendly (an unprecedented figure), who created a really special atmosphere in great voice and spirit. After the match me, Tim and a friend of his, Charlyn went out to a bar playing 80s tunes with relatively cheap beer available. I’d be lying if I said I remembered much of the night, barring a dance-off in the middle of the club which led to me recreating David Byrne’s dance moves from the Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime”.
Next on the magical mystery tour was Aberystwyth where Laura and myself visited a couple of friends for a few days. We were based in a village a few miles out of Aberystwyth, and we had a wonderful time! The cottage was the oldest in the village and, while it rained much of the time (Wales, right?), we did loads! We went to the animalarium in Borth which had an albino marsupial… I was besotted! The rain on that day was particularly torrential and, having lacked the foresight to bring a waterproof (Wales, right?) I wanted to buy a one-pound poncho… which were all out of stock. I had to settle for a children’s frog poncho, complete with stick up eyes… I can travel for miles and still make myself look like a doofus. We did go for a wonderful meal on the last night, playing darts and having a few bevvies in the middle of rural Wales. I was just about to start singing “Men of Harlech” and thinking of adopting rugby as my sport of choice when it was time to come home!
In mid-august, Laura and I paid a visit to our nations capital London, with our eyes on a couple of museum exhibits which we particularly fancied seeing. I have to admit straight up here, I do have an incredibly vehement hatred for London- yes, there may well be an infinite number of things to see and do… you just have to deal with the millions of other people and their stress levels to see and do them. Too much hassle! However, we did manage to have a great day, visiting the 80s fashion exhibit at the V&A which focused heavily on the New Romantic scene around the Blitz nightclub. We also took in the exhibit on Asian propaganda at the British museum which was fascinating; both of us took a module on propaganda at uni last semester and it was interesting to see the techniques the various regimes had enforced to reach their aims. I’d recommend both exhibits to everyone, they’re brilliant!
My last major trip was also the longest, 4 nights in the city of Canterbury in Kent with Mike. What a place?! For a city of its size, there is so much to fill the time. We actually attended evensong at the Cathedral and, while neither of us are overtly religious, it was great to be taking part in a piece of History, that particular service having taken place at the cathedral for 1400 years! We spent a lot of our time in the Chocolate Cafe which, in my opinion, is one of the best tea shops in Britain. It has teas of every taste and type, great food, really friendly staff and a view of the Cathedral’s tower. We tried dark tea, berry fruit tea, and flower tea which came in a glass teapot while you watched the flower unravel. We also drank a lot of rum, a hell of a lot of rum! I had a wonderful week, in a wonderful city, with a wonderful friend, drinking wonderful tea, listening to wonderful music… drinking passable rum!
I’ve been very lucky this summer; while I have had no beach holiday nor foreign city break, I have seen the very best that this wonderful country has to offer- making new friends en-route. Britain, thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Those of you who know me will know that I am a passionate supporter of both Birmingham City and Rangers, both of whom have felt the full force of the global recession.
Birmingham, after relegation in 2011 and the arrest of our chairman Carson Yeung, have had to sell nearly every valuable asset to our name. Jack Butland, Nathan Redmond, Jordan Mutch, Curtis Davies, Cameron Jerome… the list goes on of players who Birmingham have been forced to sell in an attempt to remain solvent. The result of this is that the team is now a hungry one, made up of youngsters, and players getting a second crack of the whip at a big club,
Similarly, Rangers were hit with massive financial difficulties towards the end of the 2011/2012 season. As a result of this, and an apparent vendetta that the rest of scottish football holds against us as a club, we found ourselves in the Scottish Third Division in the 2012/2013 season. We retained three big name players from the SPL team in Neil Alexander, Lee McCulloch and Lee Wallace; we made a few other signings such as Emilson Cribari, Seb Faure and Francisco Sandaza; and we promoted a selection of youth players straight into the starting XI, for example Lewis McLeod, Robbie Crawford and Barrie McKay. Again, a young and hungry side, and though the SFL saw fit to throw a transfer embargo, we were promoted at the first time of asking. As a club, I am looking forward to the new season with an array of signings and an optimistic atmosphere surrounding the club.
Thus, today when the news broke of Coventry City Football Club Ltd going into liquidation, I felt genuine sadness. Not because of any affiliation to the club, I have none. It could have been anyone, Crystal Palace, Stoke City. I felt genuinely sad for another part of English footballing tradition seems to be going by the way side… and no one really seems to care. I mean, this club won the FA cup in 1987. They were premier league just over 10 years ago.
When people think of liquidation and administration in football, people just focus on the 11 on the park. No one thinks of the saturday kids working in the club shop for their pocket money. No one thinks of the people who work in the club offices, paying off their mortgages. No one thinks about its impact upon the local community. No one thinks about the ordinary people. No one thinks about the fans.
Thus, I was really disappointed to hear some football fans joking about the demise of Cov. Generally they were Villa fans, Arsenal fans, United fans… for fans of clubs outside the premier league, the Coventry situation is an all too realistic prospect for their clubs.
So I now address fans of Premier League sides: In a few years the money will drop out of football, and your clubs will hit hard times. I hope beyond hope you enter administration, I hope you have to sell all you’ve got, I hope you hit the wall… but come back. Because I would not wish liquidation on my worst enemy. I think the Premier League and its fans, and football in general, needs to take a long hard look at itself: Gareth Bale is currently in the process of a £100+ million transfer, it would have cost £500k to save Cov from this fate. Today was the day that I finally saw that the truth in the statement “no player is bigger than the club” had diminished.
To Cov fans: we know what you’re going through. Rangers fans, Pompey fans, Chester fans, Wimbledon fans… we’ve all been their, and many more will follow. But you will be back, follow your club till the end. You can’t just delete over a century of footballing history.
I saw an advert the other day for a nightly slot on the TV called “Comedy Britannia”, showcasing the best in new British comedy; I have to admit, I was stupendously disappointed.
The best aspect of British comedy for me is the sitcom, for example Open All Hours, Only Fools and Horses, Porridge and Hancock’s Half Hour. Within these programmes the comedy is centred around self-depreciation, while the main characters are endearing caricatures of people we all recognise as the staples of British society.
As you can imagine, the advert for “Comedy Britannia” did not advertise such programme’s. It extolled the merits of such comedians as Seann Walsh who, while British, does not represent “the best of British comedy”. He is a British comedian imitating the style of American comedy and, while I am sure he is excellent at what he does, American comedy is a very different beast to that which we so lovingly call our own.
So tomorrow, Laura and I are going abroad to visit some friends… in Wales. My plan when we cross the border is to stand up in my seat and start singing “Men of Harlech” to endear me to the locals.
Sounds like a plan, right?
Christian “Chucho” Benitez 1986-2013
As football seasons go, the 09/10 season rates among the best for Birmingham City Football Club. We went unbeaten for 9 games; we finished high mid-table; we had a young hungry side full of talented players. Joe Hart, Scott Dann, Seb Larsson… and Chucho Benitez.
Chucho nearly became the clubs most expensive signing in a nine-million pound deal, though this fell through due to knee injuries, eventually joining the club on a one-year loan deal.
While as a striker, he was somewhat goal shy, his work-rate and enthusiasm was something we hadn’t seen at St. Andrews in a long time. His blistering pace and tenacity made him a firm fans favourite, and there was uproar when the decision was made not to take up the permanent option on his deal. Chucho returned to South America.
Today the sad news broke that Chucho had tragically died in Qatar at the age of 27. I think his death has really affected me, I have so many good memories of him; the excitement fans got when he was on the pitch, the look of utter relief on his face when he broke his duck on his last game at St. Andrews. If enough players had his level of dedication, commitment and love for the game, football would be a very different prospect. Benitez reminded me why I loved football.
Keep Right On Chucho.