25-26th October: Untimely ripped

(Mark Sampson) #1

Alarmed by my mobile phone, we rose at five instead of six this morning. My wife wasn't best pleased, because she'd had one of her 'blips' around three. After an hour, and a game of telephone Scrabble, she'd managed to drift back to sleep – only to be untimely ripped from her slumber. The animals, however, looked upon their premature breakfast as an unexpected bonus.

At least it gave me an opportunity to think about my to-do list for the week ahead. How come there are always elements to carry over from one week to the next? I know I'm not a natural completer-finisher, but it remains one of life's quandaries – like Single Sock Syndrome. I try to put my friend Marek's sound advice into practice and keep the list short enough to trigger action rather than depression, but the brought-forward items always render it unwieldy. Like Jack's magic beanstalk, it grows, it grows.

There were several items to add following Bret's visit on Saturday afternoon. He knows me well enough now to roll me one of his cigarettes to accompany our customary catch-up. Then, ever solicitous and ever caring about hapless friends like me, he unzipped his laptop to give me a quick 15-minute tour of Facebook and Linked In. Now I appreciate the importance of updating my profile, adding contacts, joining groups, marking anniversaries, adding comments and so on. It seems to me like a full-time job, but he assured me that he spends no more than two hours a week. Another proper to-do...

Bret was off to a kind of residual Fête des Mecs, this one chez Christophe, the farmer who sold us the bales for this house. It was a last-minute affair, without the usual organisation that goes into these dos he sponsors. With too many friends crying off, a rump of revellers were going to see in the changing of the clocks. My excuse was dinner that evening with our doctor and his wife.

I'm always a little ill at ease before they come. Perhaps because they're both high-brow and rather religious and my French, I feel, has to be at its crackling best. It was the second time they've dined here at Camp Street and their enthusiasm is so genuine and so infectious that it made a nonsense of my trepidation. Thierry, our doctor, is a delightful man with a boyish giggle. Physically, were it not for the fact of his white skin, he could pass at 20 paces for Barack Obama. Benedict, his wife, despite her greying hair and deeply unfashionable courtly clothes, has the air of a little girl, trapped in an inappropriate era. Together, they come over like a pair of middle-aged young lovers. We got onto the subject of films over dinner and they asked us to draw them up a list of our favourites that they may not have seen. Being a man, there's nothing I enjoy more than a good list.

Later that night, the clocks went back. There's always an initial element of suspense about what this will mean in practice. When will first light dawn? At what time will the shutters come down to seal in the evening? It meant a leisurely morning, fortified by the security of knowing that you've still got an hour in hand. We didn't have to play our joker till after lunch.

It was a leisurely afternoon, too, with an entire American football match to watch on Channel 4. The Atlanta Falcons v the Detroit Lions live from Wembley stadium. Being perennial underdogs, I always have a soft spot for the Lions, even though their defeat would be good for my team, the Green Bay Packers. The uninitiated always moan about all the ad-breaks that break up the action, but they gave me a chance to pepper my self-indulgence with useful things: like updating my Linked In profile and generally making inroads into my to-do list. As it happened, the Lions won by a single point with the last kick of the game.

Watching the battle of the gridiron unfold made me think of My Man in Manhattan, probably busy doing something similar in his basement apartment on the corner of Columbus Avenue. He sent me not one but two marvellous e-mails this weekend. The first, a bit of graphic data showing the correlation between eating cheese and the number of deaths from getting tangled in bed sheets. It's things like this, he suggested, that make America 'the greatest nation in the world'.

In the second, he revealed that he has met Van Morrison twice in his life. The first time at a classmate's house somewhere near the first of our two Edwardian family homes in Belfast. The little portly ginger man wandered into the kitchen, apparently, looking for his sister. On the second occasion, an older and rather more portly songster in Cuban heels stepped in front of my friend while he was riffling through the bins of a New York bookstore. He answered Winston's cheery Belfast greeting of ''bout ye, Van' with some gruff apology. Yer man from Orangefield had some minder with him, so Winston didn't pursue the conversation.

Talking of musicians, I read with a certain sadness that Jack Bruce died during the weekend. Off they shuffle, one by one, my contemporaries... I was never a fan of Cream; I never carried about a copy of Disraeli Gears at school, for example. Nevertheless, they were symbols of an exciting age when re-conditioned American blues ruled the airwaves and I always kept a watchful eye on Jack's post-Cream career. Back then, I suppose I would have considered 71 or whatever it was a great age.

The last weekend in October (already!) concluded with Martin Scorsese's first family film, Hugo. The idea of the director of Taxi Driver and Casino making a movie for all the family seems a contradiction in terms. At what point would the baddies break the young hero's hand in a vice, for example? But no. It didn't happen. The film worked in an Amélie kind of way as a charming homage to the pioneers of cinema.

Alf has his frisky chum, Holly, here to stay for a couple of days. Another hound of uncertain pedigree, she has already helped to revitalise our old dog. The cats have got a little more accustomed to her muzzle now. Even Myrtle, who was traumatised by her predecessor, Ella. Myrtle who subsequently adopted a credo of yellow dog good; black dog bad. The dogs are in their respective baskets right now, sleeping off this morning's indecently early breakfast and crepuscular walk.

(Peter Bird) #2

Yep, say no more...


(Brian Milne) #3

Dachau blues those poor Jews
Dachau blues those poor Jews
Dachau blues, Dachau blues those poor Jews
Still cryin' 'bout the burnin' back in World War Two's
One mad man six million lose
Down in Dachau blues, down in Dachau blues
The world can't forget that misery
'n the young ones now beggin' the old ones please
t' stop bein' madmen
'fore they have t' tell their children
'bout the burnin's back in World War Three's
War One was balls 'n powder 'n blood 'n snow
War Two rained death 'n showers 'n skeletons
Dancin' 'n screamin' 'n dyin' in the ovens
Cough 'n smoke 'n dyin' by the dozens
Down in Dachau blues
Down in Dachau blues
Sweet little children with doves on their shoulders
Their eyes rolled back in ecstasy cryin'
Please old man stop this misery
They're countin' out the devil
With two fingers on their hands
Beggin' the Lord don't let the third one land
On World War Three
On World War Three

Beefie at his greatest!!

(Peter Bird) #4

Yep, classic Beefheart and just how he should be remembered

Some good intros too by the golden oldie presenters like 'Bomber' Harris, Williams, Hepworth & Ellen etc Brings back some great memories which is the idea I guess.

A similar artiste to VanM also on the dvd with regards to being 'fashionable' to follow was Tom Waits. I enjoy some of his music but he is overrated for me. The likes of Bob Harris & John Peel et al eulogized over him which must have boosted record sales a tad.

(Mark Sampson) #5

You're right, Peter. A touch of hyperbole on my part. Hardly superstardom in the Wacko Jackson category. Still, he is remarkably famous and followed. I've seen that Rory clip on the OGWT compilation(s). I think my favourite clip of all is the Captain's 'Upon the My-oh-My'. Never has a camera been leered at in quite such a quirky manner!

(Peter Bird) #6

VM totally overrated for me - don't know about his 'global superstardom' ! I think it was fashionable to like him in the 70s and his Irish following is probably worldwide, a bit like The Corries' worldwide fame amongst the scottish population maybe ? I saw him once and that was enough for me.

Rory WAS a class act, unpretentious but a maestro of the rock guitar. I only saw him once too but wished i'd had the chance to see him fifty times . He appears on a great OGWT compilation (2 dvds) performing live in the studio alongside probably his best (IMO) line-up (mentioned below)

Some other memorable performances on the OGWT Live dvds including John Otway, Feelgood, Beefheart, Talking Heads, Skynrd et al

(Mark Sampson) #7

Gents, I don't know how I contrived to miss this fascinating discussion. To my everlasting shame, I never went to see Rory play (as he did regularly) when I was a resident of Belfast. He was indeed a brilliant guitarist and completely unpretentious. I saw Dr. Strangely Strange once and I think they were from Norn Iron, as were Horslips, who had a brief moment in the sun. I can understand why people don't rate the poisonous dwarf, Van the Man. It's weird, his global superstardom. But while I've tired somewhat of his own songs over the years (with the exception of the material from 'Astral Weeks' and 'Moondance'), when he sings R&B - particularly when in the company of the magnificent Georgie Fame, that hold he has over his fans seems more logical. His live versions of 'Lonely Avenue' knock even Ray Charles' into a cocked hat. A crotchetty git, though, at the best of times. Methinks he could do with a good thrashing.

(Brian Milne) #8

Yessss Kent, Christie Moore with that gravel in his voice knocks spots off them all. My brother-in-law is a Dubliner, he learned to sing from seeing Moore and has that gravelly type voice anyway. He was also a great Gallagher fan and wonders why people bother with Morrison. I have just about the whole Planxty and Moving Hearts collection bar perhaps a couple of obscure singles, so Moore every time.

Mark, think we've deviated a bit but be jaasus, it's wort it!

(Peter Bird) #9

Kent, the thing is with Rory that he was as 'natural' (raucas ?) on stage as in the studio. Many bands sound perfect on the studio albums and 'rougher' on the live albums or at gigs (all except for BJH IMO who were clinical on stage as they were in the studio). Rory was rough and ready with a kind of innocence which made him shine for me. He was awesome live when I saw him in about '76 ish with his mate Gerry McAvoy and Rab Déath on percussion and Lou Martin on keyboards. That line-up for me was the best.

(Kent Shelley) #10

Rory gets my vote too; an excellent guitarist. Saw him on the pier at Paignton one time yonks ago and you got the impression that his battered old Strat was a part of him; that he rarely put the beast down. It had certainly had its fair share of wear and tear. All that noodling had paid off though - what a player ! RIP Rory - - - - and ditto Jack. They’ll be jamming in that Great Gig in the Sky.

Irish voice wise, I’d say Christy Moore knocks spots off Van. Back in ’67 in the MSG folk club where we both used to prowl, I learnt “The Rocky Road To Dublin” off him; something of a party-piece that song: no time to breath for 5 long verses. He’s got a voice that comes right from the heart - and the gut.

(Brian Milne) #11

I'll go along with that Peter. I couldn't stand Them because they were neither fish nor foul claiming to be rhythm and blues but Van Morrison was inconsequential. Mind you, some of his collaborations have been genius. Rory Gallagher was from the republic though, best bluesman there for many years before making it big internationally.

(Peter Bird) #12

Could never see the attraction of Van Morrison myself, completely overhyped for me. But if you want a real Northern irish superstar look no further than yer man himself in the stupendous Rory Gallagher. The booze eventually did for this unassuming genius of the rock guitar. Definitely one of THE best artistes live.

(Kent Shelley) #13

Re' "Van the Man", some years ago in Exeter I was one half of a duo. The other half; my pal "Cathedral Steve" was a BIG fan of Van Morrison. (myself; not so much).

One day he came across a bloke browsing the shop windows of the town and went up to him with the challenge, "Has anyone ever told you that you look just like Van Morrison."

And the guy responded in a rather unkind and unnecessarily impolite way with, "It's probably because I am Van Fecking Morrison…?"

Steve was quite upset. A hero tumbles off his pedestal.

And who would have thought he had such a peculiar middle name?

Ha ha. Truck off, Van!

(Brian Milne) #14

We were flying off to Berlin early on Sunday, so changing the clock stressed like hell. Did we do it the right way or not? Alone the two and a half hour drive to Bordeaux to catch the plane with the possibility of pilots striking was daunting, missing the conference would have been soul-destroying, so all afternoon and evening we asked backwards or forwards and then promptly became confused so looked and asked again.

In the end we go it right BUT I did not think about changing the car clock or the GPS so that the ETA at Mérignac was an hour out and we go nervous. Did I think of looking at the watch on my arm that I had changed correctly? No, I did not because I was so transfixed on car and GPS times...

Ironically, I have globe-trotted for much of my life and have never had a problem adjusting then. Spring and autumn at home just never worked in my head, nor in my OH's. So now we have time to breath until they screw us again next spring!

As for new films and old, well the new Wim Wenders looks interesting. I also found a DVD of Jules and Jim, François Truffaut's 1962 gem last week. Jack Bruce was more than just the Cream phase, I saw him playing in a jazz quartet at the Bull in Barnes 20 odd years back and he had real talent. He did a duet with Danny Thompson that was incredible, electric and upright bass having a duel as part of the duet is interesting if not my cup of tea, but memorable.