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Inaugural post of 2012

Yes, it's my first LJ post of 2012 everyone!

I've been meaning to write various things at various points throughout the year, but have been too busy or lazy to do so. Recently, I've actually felt slightly anxious about trying to do it. No idea what that's about.

Anyway, because I've enjoyed being able to read what I was up to in years past, and because a lot of those years are sad years, or difficult years, I thought it was a shame that this year - which, on the whole, has been a pretty good one, should go unrecorded.

So I'm about to post a series of entries covering my year month by month, reconstructed from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and my rubbish memory.


Christmas mixing

You can download a rejigged version of the Christmas mix I made last year here. Yes, I'm re-gifting.

And you can find my "Best of 2011" mix here. This was surprisngly hard to compile; I started with a longlist that lasted well over 2 hours. The final version is just over an hour.

Tracklistings under the cutCollapse )

"That was uncalled for, Senator."

I made an 80s mix! It's available to download here. Leans towards the latter part of the 80s, heavily drizzled with samples, including Neil Kinnock, The Young Ones, Doctor Who (natch) and the 1988 US Vice-Presidential debate.

Tracklisting under the cutCollapse )

Life's a riot

Have you ever heard of Bến Tre? It's the capital city of Bến Tre province in Vietnam. The US Air Force bombed the crap out of it in 1968 and an USAF officer said - allegedly - "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it".

I've been reminded of this phrase twice in the past week. It was the underpinning insane logic of both the Tea Party right in their attempts to drive the US to default on its debts, and it's now the underpinning insane logic among some of the stranger parts of the anarcho-left in arguing in favour of working class people rioting and looting in their own communities. (NB - none of the working class people in any of these areas are arguing for rioting and looting in their own communities, apart from the selfish, idiot few who are actually doing it.) In both cases, the idea is the same, and identical in its idiocy. If tea partiers/rioters trash the economy, we can start again with libertarian free marketeering/social anarchism - actually, I'm pretty hazy about what we'll get instead, but that's okay, because so are they.

The key point here is TRASHING THE ECONOMY IS NO GOOD. If you have to take us apart to get there, then I don't want to go. Trashing the economy hurts ordinary, working-class people far more than it hurts the rich. You know when Germany's economy went belly up in the early 30s - who suffered the most? The rich? Or the poor? (Clue - more than 60 million people ended up dead, most of whom weren't hedge fund managers.)

This idea of "if we destroy the capitalist/Keynesian system, we can build it again in our image" is dangerous nonsense. Actually, it's worse than that - it's stupid nonsense. It's our old friend, "the end justifies the means," and it's an ill-defined - but undoubtedly better, of course - end, justified by unacceptable means.

If we want to save our society, or our community, I'm willing to listen to radical ideas, but none that start with the proposition, "First, we destroy it."

Grey Soul of London update

Yesterday, I mentioned Bob Kingham's new London walk, The Grey Soul of London, which he is hosting under the auspices of the Museum of London. All dates for April are now sold out, but new dates in May will become available - Sunday 8 May and Wednesday 11 May - if there is enough demand. If you're interested, phone the Museum box office on 020 7001 9844 and ask to be put on The Grey Soul of London list for one of the dates - they will then let you know as soon as there is a critical mass.

Bob's blog for the walk is here.

Those with iPhones or the ilk can check out this neat app, courtesy of Matt Brown of The Londonist.

Picture 045
F*cking hell, how can it be two months since I've last posted on here? TWO MONTHS. Very, very poor.

I have been busy. Still working in the Media Office for the HoC. Still sworn to secrecy on issues that you would almost certainly find stultifyingly tedious. I have not spoken to any celebrity journalists, although I did meet Floella Benjamin the other day, and - at this point I was going to name a particular Labour MP and describe them in very flattering terms, but I've got caught out by people having their name on Google alert before, so I shall leave it at that. Can't be arsed locking all my posts again.

Since January 15th, I have attended the joint 40th of my friends Ruth and Pete in Bristol, which was a blast. I have been to a lovely Burns' Night supper hosted by the lovely sleeperesque, where we drank lots of whisky sours, ate delicious haggis, neeps and tatties and listened to a terrific recording of drummygirl's grandad reciting Burns' "Ode to a Haggis". I went along with various other LJers and their ilk to see yiskah, who I hadn't seen for about three years at least, and it was awesome. I am eagerly anticipating Vampire Weekend's national anthem for Southern Sudan. Or Awesomeland, as they should have called it.

I spent a wonderful Valentine's day with Becky at Kew Gardens. We sheltered from cold winds inside a stifling Victorian greenhouse, saw the world's oldest pot plant, learned that tea comes from the camelia plant and saw many, many orchids.

Amy came to London and we went to the Science Museum, in part to celebrate her brand new surname, although a lot of the Moon merchandise in the gift shop wasn't up to par. We saw a large art installation with DO NOT TOUCH written on it, which gave you an electric shock if you touched it. We watched with amusement as many idiots went and touched it, and then got an electric shock. I suspect all of humanity can be divided into these two categories.

My Mum has moved house! It all happened v. quickly. A place came up for rent in a small village on the outskirts of Romiley, which is about 15 mins away from Stockport by bus. I went up for a day and helped to move a lot of heavy stuff out of her old flat, but I wasn't up for the actual move itself. My sister was there, and very much took charge of things, although the people Mum had hired to organise the move didn't exactly cover themselves in glory. Still, it's all done now. I've seen the flat, and it's great, and she's living in her own place but as part of a retirement community, and I'm very happy that she will have plenty of company there.

On the 24th Feb, Bob very kindly invited me along on a test run of his new London walk, which he the Museum of London have commissioned him to do. There are details at their website if you would like to come along - all the dates are in April.(All dates in April now sold out - see 18th March posting above).

I highly recommend it. It's as engaging, funny and exciting as Bob's previous walks, but with a tighter focus this time. There is a real sensation of placing a specific part of London (in this case, Finsbury) under the microscope, and getting to grips with its internal structure. The punctuation of the walk with writings and observations from author Arthur Machen gives the whole thing a different flavour to previous Kingham outings - a little less celebratory and exuberant, a little more melancholy and eerie. It will be interesting to do the walk again in slightly warmer weather.

Picture 131

(There are more pictures here)

I wrote some notes on the way up to Stockport to help with my Mum's move, and I may post something based on them tomorrow - they will kind of jar with the general catchy-uppy nature of this post, I think. I've also been doing lots of re-listening to Big Audio Dynamite, and I'd like to write some more about that, too.

Last thing I will mention for now though - went to see the Decemberists with Becky in Bexhill on Saturday night just gone. I've only been dimly aware of their stuff before, and wouldn't really count myself a fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The support band, Blind Pilot, were quite lovely, and I speak as a man frequently disappointed by support bands. The Decemberists themselves put on a fantastic performance, in an amazing venue - the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill. I don't want to sound like a muso bore, but the acoustics were absolutely terrific, and this was really important for the sort of show The Decemberists put on, which can veer from impossibly gentle to ferociously loud in the course of one song.

The Decemberists playing at De La Warr Pavillion - 12th March 2011. (Photo by James Mitchell, some rights reserved)

The lead singer, Colin Meloy, had a real stage presence and beautifully dry sense of humour. Hearing him croon the first verse of "Something About You" by Level 42 as a throwaway before launching into an encore was a personal highlight, as was watching him calmy drink a cup of water from a watercooler inexplicably in front of the stage, in the middle of a song, while the audience looked on, admiring and baffled in equal measure. Terrific stuff. I'd recommend you go yourself, but their UK tour ended last night. Another reason why I should post more frequently.

As I have recorded elsewhere, Becky and I took the indiest train ever back to Brighton. Conversations were taking place about a) My Bloody Valentine, b) the Rough Trade shop and c) the price of porridge at Holland and Barratt. The couple opposite us (she - all black hair and red lipstick faintly retro indie glamour; he - a slightly beefier Matt Smith lookalike in a brown leather jacket) were doing the NME crossword.

You can certainly expect another update in under 2 months.

Going up to 11

I can't believe that I've got this far into 2011 without wishing everyone a very happy new year!

I meant to post more over Christmas, but got completely sidetracked. To cut an extremely long story short, I am at the beginning of a new relationship. I met Becky at an outreach event in Brighton last year, and we've been seeing each other on and off since then. She was already in a relationship herself, and to say the least, things have been complicated, but things are on a more even keel now. I'm not going to go on and on about it - suffice to say that we love each other very much and my life is a great deal richer for having her in it.

So since I last posted, I've celebrated Christmas with my Mum, auntie and sister in Kingston (as I never tire of pointing out, not the one in Jamaica), spent new year's eve drinking champagne and wine with Justin and Mary here in beautiful downtown Streatham, spent time with Becky exploring London and just generally hanging out, I've watched far too much television, been getting into aspects of my "new" job and trying to catch up with loads of people I haven't seen in ages. pageantmalarkey hosted a particularly fine party at her groovy pad in Tower Hill last weekend, which was enhanced yet further by muffins, cocktail fountain and Major Lazer. I also had a brilliant evening with i_jobot and lowlowprices at The Spaniards in Hampstead, which is a fantastic pub with terrific gastro style food that's not stupidly expensive. It dates back to 1585 and was run by Dick Turpin's Dad, so it's not short on atmosphere either.

"New" job - I keep bumping into people who have completely lost track of what the hell I'm doing (and after all, there's no reason why they should be keeping track in the first place.) In a nutshell, I've been transferred from my regular job - as parliamentary outreach officer for London and the south-east - to the House of Commons Media Office. I love my outreach work, in which I get to travel around talking to different groups about Parliament and how they can campaign there, and get their voice heard.

I know that some of you are involved in various campaigns yourself, seeking to draw Government's attention to various issues. If you are doing this, I'd be more than happy to discuss with you how outreach can help you get to grips with the parliamentary processes of holding Government to account, so just drop me a line.

Anyway, I'm still officially outreach and I did go to Belfast last Sunday for two presentations on the Monday. I had a brilliant time, as I always do in Belfast, meeting up with an old friend, Brendan, who I trained with when I started my Hansard career, and who now works for Hansard at the Parliament Buildings in Stormont. (We had dinner at the Little Wing pizzeria on Ann Street, which I recommend if you're ever passing through.) The presentations were for a sort of lobbying/campaigning network which took in representatives from charities, community groups and local business and for the consumer council of Northern Ireland. I thoroughly enjoyed both, and it was a welcome reminder of why I love my "regular" job so much.

The media work is interesting, I have to say, but I don't get the same thrill from it. And I can't talk about it as freely, which I find frustrating. I have to deal with inquiries from journalists, prepare press releases and briefing documents, work with the web centre team on Parliament stories and webpages and do a fair amount of historical digging and detective work in the course of research. It *is* a very good job, and if I hadn't done outreach, I'd be very satisfied with it, but back to outreach I suspect I'll go.

I'm off to my Dad's today for a very late Christmas celebration - after he spent the festive season in California. I would say lucky bugger, but he was very fortunate not to end up drowned due to the rotten weather in LA and Sacramento. Lots of visits and the like coming up - particularly looking forward to going to Bristol this time next week for a joint 40th party of friends Ruth and Pete.

Also, very important to let you know/remind you about the next and newest of Robert Kingham's London walks. Quite a few of you have already been on one of Bob's walks through London before - which consist of drinking in really amazing pubs and listening to intriguing and fascinating readings by the man himself - and many of you have expressed regret and not having been. Bob's newest walk is called "A walk into the 'grey soul' of London" and focuses on the Finsbury area and the works of novelist Arthur Machen, and it's organised by the Museum of London this time, so there is a charge. But those of you who have been on one of Bob's walks before will know that it will be well worth it. If you want to book a place, there are four dates available in April - two Sundays and two Wednesday evenings. The booking site is here

thefairmelissa wrote a little earlier about the comparative merits of Facebook and LJ, and I do really miss posting on LJ, but realise that there are lots of things I have posted links to on Facebook (which is a much better platform for this sort of thing) that I'd also like to share with people here. A couple of things (one of which I haven't even linked to yet on FB):

President Obama's wonderful, moving and uplifting speech from Tuscon this week:

Okay - this is mildly amusing. I heard this fantastic cover of "Telephone" by Pomplamoose without even realising it was a Lady Gaga song. My relationship with contemporary music is so odd these days - 1 part 6music, 1 part webofevil's extremely generous compilations and 1 part tip-offs on LJ from ultraruby and exliontamer. Occasionally, multi-million selling hits by globally ubiquitous stars do fall through the gap, it would seem.

Logorama - a really entertaining animation that I saw at pageantmalarkey's party, and one of those things you can't believe that no one's done before:

Also - the Ashes win. YES!

Also also - I sent a captioned photo of Ed Miliband and the winner of the Old and Sad by-election based on a Pete and Dud sketch so obscure that I doubt anyone other than the recipient would get it. But if you knew the sketch, trust me, it was cracking.
What a weekend. Went to two lovely Christmas parties - one at my good friend Mr. Kingham's, where there was mulled wine and lamb and rabbit stew and German sausages, and the other at beingjdc's where there was a mulled cider and veggie kebabs and much wine and tiffin and small children throwing half-eaten food at arriving guests. Unfortunately, my Mum had another health scare in the middle of it all, and I spent a great deal of the weekend fretting.

On Saturday, my sis had called Mum to see how she was getting on (she had been sick during the week, but I knew nothing of this). Mum was slurring her words and finding it hard to finish her sentences. Catherine contacted Mum's sister (who's also called Cath, confusingly) and Cath got Mum down to A&E. Mum stayed overnight on Saturday night, and on Sunday the doctors ran some tests. Our worst fears - that Mum had had a stroke - were not confirmed; a CAT scan showed she definitely hadn't had one. She was still feeling fragile on Sunday morning, and feeling very nauseous when she sat up, but she gained strength through the day, and by the time I spoke to her, she was feeling and sounding quite chipper. I told her how happy I was to hear her so well, and told her I loved her - I was welling up a bit at this point. It felt good to let her know though. And so odd after all the Corriegeddon drama to have my own little corner of Weatherfield dragged into it all.

Mum is staying in tonight for another test in the morning, but should be out by the afternoon. I spoke to her today - she said, "I really enjoyed my tea!" I'm guessing she's better now.

Today was spent dealing with the fallout of a particularly nasty story carried in a national newspaper the name of which I'm sure you will all be able to guess. In the evening, I braved Oxford street to do Christmas shopping and bought nearly everything for everybody from HMV. I had just got myself a reward card, so was pretty pleased about it. And I managed to buy myself 2 CDs, 2 books and 2 DVDs. Merry Christmas to me! I still feel very loyal to HMV, some 16 years after I last worked there. I find the staff really knowledgeable and helpful, and often, like today, they have a bit of a chat with you about your purchases. If, by some chance, you are reading this - hello, HMV girl! Thank you for making Christmas shopping vaguely bearable.

I was going to moan about all the numpties wandering about town, and particularly moan about buskers, whom I normally loathe, but there was a particularly aces busker near Oxford Circus tube; he was drumming and singing along to his own compositions which were playing through some laptop/synth lashup. Not especially festive, but everyone was very much stopping what they were doing and standing about while he was playing.

I have made a Christmas mix which is available to download for about six more days, I think, from this very spot.

Tracklisting under the cutCollapse )

Staying in

I used to be something of a winter person - I looked forward to dark evenings, sat at home all warm and cosy on the sofa, eating stodgy food and watching TV. Now I've grown to loathe it. I crave sunlight, above all, feel guilty if I spend too long sat on my backside and am under doctor's orders to eat less rubbish. If anyone has any brilliant ideas about how I might engineer a long-term move to California, I'd love to hear them.

I am, largely thanks to the weather, but also possibly because of lunatic turnaround at work, sat at home for the second day running with a stinking cold, only a month after I got over my last one. This sucks.

Anyway, I had a great weekend despite the cold weather. First, I saw the mighty perfectlyvague in Ubu Rex at the Landor theatre in Clapham - in the company of shewho, no less. It was a fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I had no knowledge of Ubu Rex beforehand, but it is fascinating and very, very silly in equal measure. Vague's performance was not the only thing that beefed up the production - she had also provided some puppet choruses, and choreographed a v. entertaining shadow puppet chase sequence. As promised, it did feature the entire Polish army. But it also featured the entire Russian army, which I would have thought was more of a draw.

I dashed off from the Landor to the Fox and Hounds in Battersea to meet a host of Livejournal favourites to gather round a large round table, eat pasta, drink beer, engage in loud discussions about Orlando the Marmalade Cat (sorry folks, I was right about this one) and interject with cliches from American courtroom dramas - "I'll allow this, but show me where you're going with it, counsellor."

When I got home, I'd locked myself out. This should be close to impossible. I cannot lock my front door behind me without my keys, and I cannot get out of my property without unlocking the iron gate that leads to it. The key to the gate is on the same ring as my house key. However - a recent burglary upstairs had led them to issue new keys to the main entrance (which I use to collect post). So I'd transferred my keys to a new ring with the new upstairs ones on. But, I hear you cry - if you've actually managed to make it this far - you still can't get out without a key because of the iron gate. Except the iron gate had been left open for some workmen building an extension to the flat behind mine. So I breezed out, sans key to that gate, and didn't realise until I was stood before it some nine hours later, cold and needing a wee.

Fortunately, Dan and Elliot - the guys who live in the flat above mine - were in, and lent me a stepladder. Unfortunately, I am a clumsy, unco-ordinated fool, and in trying to use it to scale the gates, I somehow lost my footing and fell. I was sat on top of the gates at one point, which felt like quite an achievement, but had absolutely no idea what to do next. I can't remember what I did do, but it resulted in me falling and - for some stupid reason, as I wasn't very far off the ground - trying to hold on to the top of the gate with my hand. I think - I'm not sure; I'm not a doctor - that I pulled all the muscles in the palm of my hand. Or possibly I sprained it. It f*cking hurt anyway.

Fortunately, Elliot emerged at this point. He took charge, wondering aloud whether he "might be more athletic than me" - not difficult, I assured him, between winces of pain - and deftly ascended the ladder and slipped over the gates. From then on, it was all plain sailing. Hand is healing nicely now, so no harm done.

Sunday I spent in Aylesbury with Amy, looking at lovely, Tove Jansson style art and checking out a variety of stuffed animals in the zoological museum in Tring, (looking for the stars of this Cracked article I saw a mongoose, which I was particularly pleased about.) It was lovely to get out of town for the day again (after my visit to flaneurette the week before) and the trip down was all pale winter sunshine. This didn't last long though and the trip home was shrouded in freezing fog.

And so here I am, stuck indoors with Christmas on the horizon. Haven't even started cards yet. Hope I'm all better by the weekend.

I also forgot to mention that I saw a very excellent BBC4 documentary on Krautrock on the weekend, and if it's still on iPlayer, I recommend it highly. It was inspiring, in an odd sort of way - how artists could just start with a cultural blank sheet of paper and create such beautiful and striking music.
I met Justin for a swift half last night and realised that I hadn't told him about my new job. And I realised that I haven't told a lot of people about my new job.

I haven't left outreach - thank goodness - but I have been seconded to the media office in the Commons until the end of April. There's not an awful lot to say about it because I literally am not allowed to talk about the substance of what we do there. I can tell you that I have to prepare briefings, do research, take phone calls from the press, monitor news coverage, but that's pretty much it. I'm not sure I enjoy it that much, but the main problem is that I did really really enjoy outreach work and anything after that is going to seem a bit of a comedown.

Anyway, an offshoot of that is that I've been busy and knackered in the middle of weather that just makes me want to hide under the sofa. I send apologies to beingjdc and exliontamer for missing their birthday celebrations - I really have missed people recently, and hopefully Christmas will provide an opportunity for some catching up.

Every year I try to get Christmas shopping sewn up early, and every year, it gets away from me. I've got to do some more shopping this week, and sit down and do all my cards. I'm feeling quite happy about Christmas this year - I'm not sure why. I think I'm just feeling happier in general. And I have the Saint Etienne Christmas album to listen to while I'm wrapping my presents.

What else? Last episode of Mad Men series 4 this week. It's so wonderful. Beautifully shot, beautifully written, beautifully acted. It is just so poised. Like all good fiction, it deftly explores the vagaries of human nature, without lecturing or finger pointing. It trusts the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Also - I am really enjoying The Apprentice again. Was so pleased that Laura left this week - but once again, watching the "You're Fired" show afterwards found myself thinking, "Where was *this* person on the programme?" She was rather lovely.

Today, I am going to see perfectlyvague in Ubu Rex at the Landor in Clapham, and then out for some drinks with people I haven't seen for far too long.