Fade into love. Repeat.

Fade into love. Repeat.

Another month, another plane ride to Germany. Like the George Clooney film “up in the air” I pretty much know exactly how to get through airport security without ever getting my bag (or myself) searched. But, boy, can I spot those who are going to get caught out. Like a clockwork mouse I know exactly where to go, the quietest and best place to get a coffee at the airport and exactly what time to get on the plane and the best place to sit (3A if you must ask). I know exactly what the Ryan Air air stewards are going to say, they stick to their script like robots. Once we land I head to the EU only section wave my Irish passport through in Germany so avoid all the hassle of passport control interrogating non-EU British people (why are you here? where are you staying? show me your return ticket?) . In actual fact I can’t be bothered to renew my British passport, I’ll stick to Ireland. In another country I effortlessly slip into my other life – my German life, where it’s just me and two teenage boys, causing havoc in the controlled German cities with only a spaghetti eis to keep our dreams alive. Late nights, early mornings, walking walking walking looking for fun wherever we might find it.

Then, before I know it, I’m home again and life is stable. it’s school runs, drama and music clubs, baking cookies, reading Haffertea hamster books and nursery rhyme records spinning with crazy girls dancing and stepping on lego. Days off school because “it’s boring” as life moves pretty fast….when you’re 6 years old.

Meanwhile and mysteriously there’s still music and books and art and love. Driving home from the airport the other month the radio was playing an incredible song by someone called CMAT. It caught me off guard and I had to stop the car to experience the full blazing effect. I’ve now bought her cassette, it’s rad. She’s rad. Everyone should support her. This is the song

The Welcome Wagon are one of those special bands, so beautiful and tender yet as they have only released 3 albums in about 15 years, any new release is to be savoured and appreciated like the piece of art it is. I was lucky enough to get given a copy of their latest album – Esther – on my birthday. Every song is magnificent. It was hard to pick one, but I went for this

Another song by somebody I’ve never heard of is I can’t get my head around you by Billie Marten. This is another song I heard on the radio late one night driving home fro the airport, it’s perfect for late night confusion – something I’m prone to – and I just dig the gentle breeze and laidback vibes I get from this track.

The final song is a gloomy as hell, it’s probably one of the most depressing albums of all time. All about a broken marriage. Old Frank Sinatra is stuck in a boring town trying to raise 2 kids on his own and his wife has left him. There is no happy ending in this album, only more heartache when Sinatra realizes he will never see his beloved wife again and life aint got much meaning anymore. So, if you’re feeling kind of emotional it might not be the best time for this music, but sad songs are my friends. Enjoy…if that’s the right word…each song is a masterpiece, and I guarantee you won’t get through it without noticing your eyes getting a little bit moist. If you thought you knew Frank Sinatra thing again….

I’ve been reading a couple of quite extraordinary books recently. First one is Summer before the Dark, a snapshot of a little seaside town in Belgium where writers and intellectuals (including the brilliant Stefan Zweig and the hopelessly flawed Joseph Roth) spend one last summer together in 1936 with the world falling apart around them and their dreams of a united liberal and free Europe evaporating day-by-day. It reads like a novel, it makes you feel you’re sitting their at a cafe watching Roth get drunk and Zweig pretend everything will be ok. Throw in a few crazy eccentrics thrown in too for good measure. Best book I’ve read for quite a while. After this book is done I’m going to finally start Meg Mason’s “Sorrow and Bliss”

Zweig (l) and Roth (r) frenemies

Back in the early 90’s I got really into Star Trek – the next generation as a tween kid, I liked the weird kind of intellectual aspect of it, and the slightly odd romances and loneliness of the characters. I also dug the little fun things like a machine that would make you any meal you wanted instantly appear, and a virtual reality holiday deck. So I was strangely happy when I saw old Picard was back on tv. I’m a bit slow as it’s been out a couple of years now, but I’m starting at season 1. It’s really very much in the spirit of the star trek stuff and it’s pure escapism at it’s best.

That’s all. Keep on dreaming of a better tomorrow 🙂

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regret regrets

One of the most brilliant writers of the 20th Century was Stefan Zweig, I don’t think anybody could express emotion or instability as well as he did.He did some crazy things in life, and there’s a thrilling biography out about him you can check out here if you’re looking for a szmore obscure story, here’s a throwback to something I wrote in my old days of magazine journalism

He wrote a novel called, in English, “Beware of Pity”. This has now been made into an a super intense razor sharp play that was performed in London last week. Sadly I couldn’t get to go, but the live steam is still up for a few more days. If you want to watch the grandmaster of intensity you can do so here. I doubt there will be a better or more powerful play out all year.

Then there is my favourite modern British writer Gwendoline Riley who has a new book out called “First Love”. If you’ve not heard of her before, you need to go to your local library or book shop and ask for either “Sick Notes”, “Cold Water”, or “Joshua Spassky”. A trilogy of brilliant short but addictive novels. She writes like a lonely British version of Holden Caulfield fighting against a world you’ll never understand. You can listen to her  here  talk about her
new book.

Talking of Salinger…New biopic  “Rebel in the Rye” is out at the Sundance film festival. People say it’s predictable and dull. Still, people say a lot these days.

Finally, by far the best new band I’ve heard over the past year is Wild Pink. They have a new album out, released last week. You can listen to their radness below playing a couple of
songs.

 

 

for the weak

Hi everybody! Grab yourself a cozy blanket and put the kettle on…Oh no, I am so sorry, for a moment there I thought I was a writer at “New Day” newspaper. It’s a UK newspaper that launched this week,  and I’ve bought a copy of issues. It’s umm, ok I guess. It’s ultra light with a lot of fun advice (“Smiling is good for you!”) and little quizzes  (“Did you marry the wrong person?”). It’s like a mix between Readers Digest magazine and spending a weekend with your oddball but harmless aunt whilst listening to Radio 1 newsbeat. Still I love newspapers so I suppose it’s a good thing, and I hope it works out.

Last night I watched “Amy“, the Amy Winehouse documentary. I’ve also been listening to the Elliot Smith “heaven adores you” soundtrack – more of him in a second… I’m also reading a bleak biography of a fantastic Austrian writer who killed himself (Stefan Zweig).  I’ve just been sent “love and mercy“, a  film about Brian Wilson I’m going to watch tonight.

Oh happy day…

No, but this is where life is for me. I’ve always being drawn to the broken, the weak, the outsiders, to people who don’t quite fit in, those who have broken families and broken hearts. People who try to make sense of the world with music, with words, with art. Sure it’s fun to tune into Absolute 80’s radio and dance around when I’m doing the washing up, but put on a Mark Kozelek record and life makes sense again. Somebody makes a record, makes a song and It feels real and pure, and I think it’s those moments when you can experience life for what it is, feel it’s presence around you, and you feel connected, if only for a moment, of yourself, the music and of the spinning crazy world around you.

So Elliot Smith…That sums him up,  and I’m really excited about a new tribute album “Say Yes!” out later this year with covers by J Mascis, Lou Barlow, Juliana Hatfield,  Mark Kozelek and Tanya Donnelly…who also has just reformed Belly, a really cool band from the 90’s!

 

And whilst we’re at it here’s a an original song

 

Last of all here’s a Belly song.

 

the secret world of books

peanutsRural England, where I live, is don’t get me wrong – very beautiful and tranquil.  You feel a strange connection with nature and the passing seasons, and I don’t want to live anywhere else right now. But I always love going to the city because there you can find treasure and life. No, I’m not talking about the cattle market at H+M, I’m talking about book shops.

The little town near us, just a 15 minute drive away, is where I spend a lot of my time.  At the moment I’m working at the school there, and it’s a busy little market town that has everything I pretty much need. Supermarket, bakery, town hall café, hair dresser, green grocer, travel agent, cinema, but the best of all is the library. It’s a small library, there’s probably only a few hundred books, but I always find something interesting (Last week I picked up two books one called “The Internet Delusion – how not to liberate the world”, and the new Goldsmith prize winning sensation Ali Smith novel “How to be both”. (I like to mix things up a little!) There’s also a really ace childrens section in the library and there’s nothing cooler than hanging out with my kids there on Saturday mornings while they’re checking out the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and I’m leisurely reading the Saturday Independent newspaper (I forgot the other cool thing about libraries is the free newspapers!)

But then if I really want to discover something magical, I need to go further afield. To a city either Brighton or Tunbrdige Wells and the Waterstones Book Shop.  It’s a beautiful old fashioned bookshop with lush wooden exterior. Every time I go in there I see pearls and rubys – last week if was a new biography of Stefan Zweig, and a book called “My Salinger Year” written by JD Salinger’s literary agent.  It’s where I first discovered Richard Yates, and it’s where I have just discovered my “New favourite writer” William Maxwell.

mwaxI never heard of this guy before, but I am totally blown away by his elegance and writing prose. You know sometimes you read a paragraph and it just knocks you down, you have to re-read it again and it fills you with a sense of joy and wonder?  Someone who seems to “get” human nature, and explores all the love and the heartbreak of life in a compelling and, most important, enjoyable way. I have no idea if his other books are any good, but the one I’m reading – “the folded leaf” is my book recommendation to you. I guess it was written around 1950, a golden time as far as I’m concerned in literature. life.

Ok got to go. I wish I could go and read Maxwell now, but Open Hands awaits….

the lost world of book lovers

Ever since I read a rather charming review back in November in the Guardian newspaper about an unusual novel-within-a-novel called “S” written by JJ Abrams and Dorst I’ve been anxiously waiting for a copy to turn up at my local library. “S” is the strangest book you’re likely to read this year – it’s written in the form of an old novel called “Ship of Theseus” from 1949, and it’s lovingly scribbled in with pen notes from two university grad students who fall in love, and try to decode the mystery of the novel. Inside the book too there are letters, postcards, pictures, and it’s a celebration of boosk, book collecting, anImaged the simple joy of finding treasures and connecting with “uncool” people. Here’s the thing – I had no idea who JJ Abrams was. I’m not really into sci-fi he’s directing the new Star Wars and Star Trek, I’ve have never seen “Lost” which he wrote, so I guess that makes me not only slightly at odds with that offbeat world of mass consumption and nerd-hipsters, so I suppose I approached the book with a kind of naivety and innocence, but ever since I picked it up I’ve been fascinated with it. Ship of Theseus is a great adventure story, but all those beautiful handwritten notes scribbled across the pages and the little secrets within this book is the real joy. For the most part I tend to skip books written in the 21st Century, and somehow this modern book is a celebration of the lost world and romance of someone like Stefan Zweig. It’s a book for book lovers, and those of us who feel strangely connected to the simple ways of old. It’s so enjoyable (even if perhaps not “great” but who cares about that when you’re having fun?) I’m tempted to join the rest of civilisation and watch “Lost”, but then again I’d rather listen to Mark Kozelek….

Whose new Sun Kil Moon album is getting serious attention 9/10 on pitchfork, 8/10 in nme. There’s little else to say, apart from this is surely the album of the year, right? February and it’s all over….

Last note – I’m off to see Matt Pryor from the get up kids on Sunday who sounds as cool today as he ever did, at least those old get up kids emo songs got my little family dancing and whirling around the living room the other night, which is always a good thing, right?

Goodnight xo