Ground Zero

Popped to Brum on Wednesday night for Miriam’s leaving drinks. Miriam has been on Doctors a lot longer than I had been and being frustrated with the lack of opportunities to move up she’s taken the decision cut loose and have a well deserved break. The evening was partly about remembering the good times and making it clear that everyone would miss her but also about celebrating the next phase of her career, and indeed life, now that the world of Letherbridge (the fictional Midlands town that the GP’s inhabit – it’s all on the website) is behind her. It was a bit like a New Orleans street funeral where people are sad and sombre and then explode into wild and euphoric dancing. There was drinking, and then there was more drinking. And then there was karaoke. I had actually got the courage up to sing but the song I had chosen wouldn’t play. Which at the time, seemed a shame but the next morning had a been a cause for rejoicing.

On the way to Selly Park from the city centre I was awestruck as we drove past Pebble Mill…
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Or at least, where Pebble Mill had been. This mammoth (albeit profoundly ugly) building had stood for about 33 years and now it was reduced to a few modest banks of rubble, waiting the developers who are soon to move in and begin work on the science park that will eventually appear in its place. I can remember that anyone new to Pebble Mill always got an overwhelming sense of the history of the place. The BBC in Birmingham had facilitated a vast host of great programmes of every genre that helped to reflect the midlands and give programme makers a way of showing viewers that not everyone in BBC in England was London-centric and that people in the regions could have there own voice and, to some extent, identity in the same way that people in Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast had enjoyed. I had only worked there for a few years before it was closed but I still remember being impressed by the many pictures that adorned the walls including Warren Clarke in Dalziel and Pascoe, Richard E. Grant in The Scarlet Pimpernell, Pete Postlethwaite in Martin Chuzzlewitt and of course the assembled casts of Doctors and The Archers, and that was just the drama. I’ve yet to visit the guys in the new Drama Village in Selly Oak and it really does sound comfortable and well designed but won’t ever be as remarkable in the way that Pebble Mill was. And it probably struggles to double for an ancient and neglected hospital exterior. But anyway, enough of all this moping – best of luck Miriam! Enjoy Palm Springs and enjoy the future!

The Man with the Movie Camera

Apologies to Liam if you had already used this title when the DV Stork visited you recently, but I felt that this post deserved it. And anyway, we’re both indebted to a Polish gentleman called Dziga Vertov for his film and more recently The Cinematic Orchestra for reminding us of it anyway. All I wanted to boast about say is that I am now the proud owner of a Panasonic NV-GS280 which is the little distant cousin (whose family probably only ever visits at Easter) of Alex’s NV-GS400. I plan to spend time familiarising myself with the machine so that I can get the most from it. Having dedicated pretty much my whole life to being crap at using a camera this will be no small achievment. At this time I will also be using the camera in conjunction with Le Big Mac to transfer as much stuff from VHS to DVD as poss whilst leaving a healthy and satisfying residue of good stuff on the ol’ hard drive for my own delectation. Fortuitously today is one of those days where it actually is about two seconds away from snowing so all I neeed now is an old Tesco’s carrier bag to remind me how much beauty there is in the world.

This does now represent the last of the Big Spends of the moment. I had been saving for a rainy day and whilst it hasn’t been a downpour, it has been a continual drizzle for a good few months now and I am acquiring useful stuff I’ve wanted for some time. I’ve always been good at justifying purchases to myself or maybe I too subscribe to Yuzu Daimon’s theory in number9dream that Whoever dies with the most stuff wins.

Warmer Climes

The year is really picking up. As you can see in the below post and here if you crane your neck a bit, Saturday was Benj and Ros’ house warming. This was excellent for many reasons. Firstly I just got to see their last flat before they moved and while it was well appointed and homely, Ros was able to give me the tour to entire place without requiring me to move anything except my eyes and my head. A bit. This upgrade has a bit more breathing space and enough room to swing Molly. I think it’s great that the whole family (pictured below; left to right – Benj, Molly and Ros) now has a more permanent, not to mention larger, space to entertain me in get on with their lives in. I know there is decorating afoot (the wardrobe is coming along nicely) and I’m sure the place will be thoroughly resplendent before too long (the red wine skirmishes notwithstanding).

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Secondly, since Alex and Soni (and Jill for that matter) now have their own Isle of Pleasure too and Meg and Kelvin are plotting their own domestic set-up in Brighton things are really starting to come together and I’m delighted for you all. The weekend heralded a sense that hopefully we can all start seeing more of each other soon. Of course there were absent friends as there invariably are with these situations all of whom were missed.  Do try and see that it doesn’t happen again, would you, there’s good people.

A Good Compilation Tape

Rob Gordon (John Cusack) Embarks on Another Superb Mix Tape...

Having recently been a position to digitise my sizeable music collection, I been able to reassess how I’ve enjoyed music and how I’ve discovered new things and spotted links between artists and genres. And also friendships. When looking for holes in my iTunes music library – things I will need to download or buy on CD – I’ve had to acknowledge that there are many things that I only own on minidisc, or going back even further, on cassette.

I was reminded of the significance of the compilation (or mix) tape in the opening chapter of “Starter for Ten” by David Nicholls (a book I’ve wanted to find time to read ever since he headed a very interesting and inspirational course on script editing I was fortunate to be sent on). The protagonist is about to leave for university and one of his best friends, unable to find any other way to convey his feelings (sound familiar, guys?) gives his mate a mix tape. The protagonist thanks his friend and his friend responds;

“‘Alright, Jackson, it’s only a sixty-nine pee tape from the market, no need to cry about it.’ He says that, but we’re both aware that a ninety-minute compilation tape represents a good three hours of work, more if you’re going to design an inlay card.”

I realised that this is very true. Although this story is set in 1985, things didn’t really move forward much until the digital revolution – you had to actually sit there and listen to each and every track to make sure that it recorded OK but more importantly that the order of the songs was right for the general message you wanted to convey. I immediately thought of Nick Hornby’s memorable explanation of the guidelines of preparing a successful compilation in High Fidelity;

“Making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing a rethinking and starting again… You’ve got to kick it off with a corker, to hold the attention, and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds black, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and… oh, there are lots of rules.”

The cassettes I’ve recently found are “Schrodinger’s Astrochicken”, from my buddy Robert that he posted when I was in my first term of uni and cheered me up no end, “Fish Pan Skillet Trousers” from another good friend Liam who forwarded the cassette to me in the first term of my second year and similarly brought a smile to face, and another by my uni housemate of two years Graeme, who sent me a minidisc just after I’d moved to Brum called (rather less imaginatively) “Compilation for James”. All three were full of memorable tunes by artists I went off and bought more music by and still listen to today. As well as bringing endless enjoyment, they let me know I was missed.

I’ve made many a mix tape for friends and significant others and have each and every time been amazed at how much time and thought they have required. Because of this you knew that when you were given one, it must mean that someone had spent an equivalent effort for you. I don’t think the same can be said for assembling a playlist and burning a CD for you. It’ll still be special because you’ve carefully selected the songs and the order (even if random play can negate the structure) but won’t ever quite recapture that feeling that someone has written off a whole evening to put a smile on your face.

Man with the Plan

Wow. Me with a blog – who would have thunked it? Thanks to my good friend Robert I now have one. Hurrah! There may well be teething problems as I try and learn how to use this blogging equipment but hopefully not. I’m delighted to finally have an internet presence! I look forward to your support in the matter 🙂