Sunday, November 09, 2008

I Remember My First Time

There was the anticipation as I eagerly eyed her curves, knowing that soon it’d all be over. There was the nervousness, what if I chickened out? What if it wasn’t the amazing experience I’d always imagined it to be, a bitter let down to feel bad about for ever more? Even worse, what if she made me vomit?

Slowly I eased myself in, protection in place... hoping it won’t fail. Then it started, the build up, slowly rising and rising to a climax before all that tension was released.


Swerving around the track banking to the right then down, down, down, that first drop straight into a hard right turn followed by the set piece – the double corkscrew hammering you down into your seat.

It wasn’t a letdown, it was exhilaration. A totally joyous experience that confirmed what I already knew – I was a rollercoaster junkie and The Corkscrew had taken my virginity. My first inversion, my first ride.

Sure, there are older, more revered coasters in the UK – The Big Dipper at Blackpool perhaps being the grandest of dames but there was something special about The Corkscrew. She was my first. Whenever I returned to Alton Towers I always secretly, mentally gave her a nod of respect for that fact. Sure in her later years she didn’t quiet have the kick. You were more likely to come off with a bad neck than a joyous high but we had a connection. The fact that we were both born just a week apart for one thing.

With the news that I’m soon to be a father I also had a secret hope. A desire to share my unborn child’s first coaster ride. A hobby we could share, not now obviously but in ten or so years time. Mentally I’d always hoped that his first ride would be mine – The Corkscrew at Alton but alas it’s not to be for today she dispatched her final ride.

Smeg, I hear you cry, it’s just a ride just a hunk of metal. There will be other coasters. Yes, you’re right of course but to passionate football fans is the old Wembley just an old stadium or a passionate symbol of football dreams? Is that building on the high street that’s all boarded up a rotting pile of bricks and mortar or is it the night club were you once shared your first kiss? Is your first car just a piece of metal on a scrapheap somewhere or a fond memory of your first taste of independence?

To me the Corkscrew is a special symbol of one of my beloved passions and she’ll be much missed.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quantum Sleep

IfIwritethislongscentencealltogethertryingtogetasenseofexcitementandquickpacethen,tobehonestitjustlookslikeanillegiblemess. You can’t read it can you? You’re not quite sure what I’m getting at or what’s going on. To get a sense of speed & excitement in text you don’t remove the spaces because that’s just confusing.

It’s a shame someone couldn’t explain this to the makers of A Quantum Of Solace. Whenever something exciting happens, rather than let us see it, they cut camera angles in rapid succession, zoom right in really quickly and go into shakey-cam mode. They think they’re making it visually exciting and putting you right into the picture – instead they’re putting up more of a barrier between you and the film because you haven’t got a clue what’s occurring. The first 5 minutes of Quantum feature a high speed car chase. Problem is I haven’t got a clue what actually happened during it because I couldn’t see it clearly. I know Bond’s car door came off but I don’t know how.

Compare that to the first 5 minutes of the original Italian Job which also includes an exciting drive down a very similar tunnel/cliff road. It’s beautifully shot, and with the backing of Matt Monroe you’re really in the film feeling a sense of bliss before the driver dramatically drives to his death into the tunnel. A far superior exciting sequence simply because they let the audience see what’s happening.

Sadly this happens every time Bond gets involved in action in Quantum and boy is it frustrating. How could the makers of a Bond film so near perfect as Casino Royale get it so, so wrong just two years later.

Quantum is just dull, boring and bland. I’d say it actually reminds me tonally of the Timothy Dalton Bond’s but that’s doing Dalton a disservice. He played the brutal side of Bond well without sacrificing his cutting humour. Sadly there’s none of Bond’s humour on display in Quantum. It’s gutting because Daniel Craig is potentially the best Bond ever.

I never expected ‘Casino Royal 2’ to live up to the original, because Casino is simply brilliant – but I also didn’t expect Quantum to be this bad.

Not to worry though, Bond is a master of reinvention. For every Moonraker there’s a From Russia With Love and I hope that Eon will give Bond his big book of cutting jibes back and tell the next director that there is a wide lense in the camera bag. Let Bond have some fun again – don’t be so miserable. It’s not as bad as Die Another Die – just slightly more depressing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bats The Way I Like It

A perfect halloween photo. This little fellow was asleep outside the radio studios i work at. Shhhh!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Being A Geek Ain't Easy

In 5 years of spouting my crap on here I'm pretty sure I've said before how annoying it is to be a geek at times. For starters there's the old cliched media view - fat, spotty virgins still living with the parents. (OK, so I'm overweight but hey...)

As if that's not bad enough we have the uber-geeks to contend with. The ones that totally live up to stereotype and give us normal fanboys a bad image. They're the ones that do dress as Vulcans or Borg.

Of course not only am I into Science Fiction but I'm also fascinated by ufology - another group derided by the media as 'nuts'. Once again though we're our own worst enemy as a high contingent of those fascinated by UFO's turn not to science but spiritualism. The answers to flying saucers lie not in the skies but in our minds... sigh. Being a man of science this pisses me off because each time one of these nuts who claim they can speak to General Korg of the Seventh Astral Empire through telepathy goes public then the general perception of ufology is set back by another 5 years or so. (Sort of like how Derek Acorah destroyed any of Most Haunted's credibility.)

Over the past few months the internet has been awash with 14/10/08 mania in ufology circles, thankfully this hasn't reached mainstream otherwise those interested in UFO's, but with a scientific mindset, would have been among the laughing stock... again.

Basically Blossom, an online spiritualist was convinced that a galactic lightship will reveal itself to the world on 14th October 2008 once and for all confirming the existence of UFOs/aliens. Of course it was never going to happen, just like the LHC wasn't going to kill us but it pisses me off that these spiritualists and crazy web-predictors are given any credibility.

I hate censorship but I'm with Tim Berners-Lee on his views when it comes to how the web spreads mis-information. These morons need protecting from themselves.

Want more online paranoia? Try Above Top Secret a forum where 50% of content is pure garbage - though, if you dig deep enough there's some genuinely fascinating & thought provoking content. (I hate slagging ATS of because I'm genuinely a fan, but bear in mind it's where I first discovered the predictions of Blossom then you'll realise some of it is guff of the highest order.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Best Big Brother Yet?

Every year I post on this blog how pissed off I am with Big Brother. Why oh why can't they return to the simple style of the first few series. No media wannabies, no bimbos, no freaks, no twists, no turns.

Just 10 INTERESTING people. People that are over 25, people that have actually experienced some real life not just the 'sample' of life that you get until your around 18/19 when your still sheltered by your parents. 

If the Big Brother producers aren't capable of that then why not really go down the twists route. Not the pathetic boring 'we have another house' style twists that they think are amazingly clever. (They're not.) Pretend there's been a huge life changing event outside the house, drip feed the housemates news of bombs or a mass pandemic really fuck with their minds.

For a while I though this would make an excellent book, so right now I'm really pissed off that someone has beaten me to it.... but when I discovered that someone to be Charlie Brooker the hatred ceased and now I just can't wait to see the results.

Big Brother + Zombie apocalypse x Charlie Brooker = awesome, it might just even top Shaun Of The Dead...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gym Buddies

There's one thing I hate about going to the gym and that's having to train with other men. 80% are fine, they come in use the equipment quietly and move on. If it were all like that it'd be great but there's 20% that let my own gender down.

They come in in the tightest branded sportswear possible and walk in with an air of 'oooooh look at me, I'm Adonis.'

When exercising they grunt and groan loudly as if to say, yes look at me, I'm a god I have muscles and I'm working out baby. Then when they've finished they go down to the changing room and walk around naked as id they're crying 'these are my testicles, deal with it'.  They're the type that did that shit male-bonding wet-towel-whipping-thing with their mates at school.

OK, I'm a fat introvert but I just don't get it. Great that they're fit and so obviously enjoy it but it's just so uncomfortable. Talking to a few female friends from the gym they admit this is why they'd love a women only gym - if it's not for the look-at-me-I'm-amazing types you've also got the letches eyeing them up while they're on the treadmill. Of course being male I don't have to suffer that do I... wrong.

I don't know how, considering I go at random times on random days, but almost every time I go THEY are there. The two lovebirds that never seem to set foot out of the weights room. I'm safe in the CV area but as soon as I go down to try and firm up my man boobs I have to share a room with them and it's so uncomfortable. They both blatantly check me out, which is odd considering I'm red and sweaty - I mean how is that attractive? 

So question is how can I send a non verbal cue that says - 'sorry lads, I'm hetrosexual'. Bear in mind I have a Doctor Who sports bottle and Harry Potter towel this message is made more difficult...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Large Queue Collider

I spent the eve of the end-of-the-world at work, realising that should the apocalypse not occur I'd need breakfast and I was out of bread.

I could have gone to the garage which was on my way home, instead I decided to walk the extra 40 minute round trip to ASDA and back. Of course, this meant I spent considerably more on crap than I would have at BP - after all, raspberry smoothie is essential at midnight.

So I arrived at the checkout to find two tills in operation, both with queues. Alas the latent autistic inside me kicked in and I tried to work out which would be quicker, then a more sensible plan arose. If I stood in the middle of the aisle I could simply join which ever queue frees up first - this would be beneficial to anyone joining behind me too as they would also get to join the fastest moving queue. My genius moment was shattered by a trappy bint behind me.

"Scuse me mate, which queue are you in?"

"Ahh well, you see it doesn't matter does it - whichever comes free first."

I though she'd cotton onto the logic, alas she was probably one of the population that was cowering under her breakfast table at 08.30 this morning because, instead off cool CERN style logic, she went for an end-of-the-world-fearing style rash decision.

"Well I'm going to join this queue 'cos that one nearest you is obviously moving faster."

*sigh* Well, yes she was right. But I'd already spotted the guy in front of me was Polish and yes, I'm about to be racist - but they're like students - they always pay with card... that takes slightly longer. Also what if one of the goods of the lady in front of him had a faulty barcode and the cashier had to type that 200 digit code in? (Seriously, I should be autistic...)

Anyway, I did get to the till first but still it left me wondering why, as a race, we're rarely logical. Then I realised I was turning into Mr Spock and fecked off home...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Real Radio

Every Monday morning I play at being a radio DJ. Yes that bastion of geekdom that is Hospital Radio. If you believe the image then Hospital radio contains 2 types of people.

1. The bitter middle-aged types that aren't quite good enough to be on proper radio.
2. The young ego types who are just using Hospital to break into proper radio.

Tis rubbish of course, Hospital Radio is great fun and yes while we're all geeky I'd argue that most proper radio DJ's have an element of geekdom anyway. (Seriously, most I know are either in to Star Trek, Doctor Who or collect radio jingles and TV themes...)

No, the station I work at contains wonderful people that are passionate about the place and its listeners. They all genuinely want to make the patients stay in the hospital as comfortable as possible and want the station to sound as professional as possible. 

Still, while sitting there at the mixing desk I often wonder how real stations work. Are people as passionate as us or is it all about the money? Thankfully a blog has arrived on the scene that gives amazing insight into the industry and its people and its all centered around what was Virgin 1215. 

It's a long story but Virgin has been recently sold, and proper Virgin, i.e. Branson, doesn't want the Virgin name attached to the new station (odd that, proper Virgin sold Virgin 1215 years ago, why so protective of the name now?!) Anyway this means the new owners have the unenviable task of rebranding an existing station. This is a huge mission - they don't want to alienate existing listeners but at the same time they have a unique opportunity to revitalize and relaunch the station. 

It's exciting for, as I hurtle towards 30 and Radio 1 insists I stop listening to them by generally putting shit personalities on air instead of jocks that actually care about the music & industry I've started to look for a new radio 'home'. Most of the time I listen to BBC 6 Music as alas, every time I tune into Virgin you can guarantee they'll either be playing Chasing Cars, All Summer Long or I Kissed A Girl. Still lately Virgolute is sounding better & better.

They've chosen the name 'Absolute. Radio' which I think's great. But how did they arrive at this? What's the thought process and what's going on at the station in the meantime? Well, this blog, as I said, is an amazing insight into running a radio station and if you're remotely interested I highly recommend it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Living In A Box

What's the greatest invention of all time?

The microchip? Phone? Computer? The Wheel? All candidates I'm sure you'll agree. I would argue that it is quite simply the box. You can put stuff in a box, surprise people with it's contents, keep things safe.

The daddy of all boxes - the shipping container - first appeared in the 60s and since then has revolutionised global commerce. Now 80% of stuff coming into the UK arrives in a shipping container.

The BBC this week have started a new feature to measure the humble shipping container's impact on the world. They've bought their very own, branded it and fitted it with a GPS tracker. Now thanks to this site you can see where in the world it is. Over the next year they'll report on it and follow it's journey.

Sounds mind numbingly dull doesn't it? Still the more you think about the more amazing it is how stuff is shipped from China factories to our shop shelves all thanks to these containers. Think how many of these containers you pass on lorries as you travel along the motorway - they all have their own destination and are all controlled by someone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Things I've Learnt From AQA 63336 - Part 1

I have an amazing secret... actually, I have two. But the one I can reveal right now is that I'm a researcher for the SMS text service AQA 63336. They're lovely folk who will answer any question you ask - simple as that. You can even try them for free here.

Anyway, as well as research for them I also regularly use them to further my own knowledge - usually during drunken nights out... thanks to their new AQA Club service I can now access every question I've ever asked. So, here's some things AQA have taught me:

Q.(20/04/07) How do you get rid of hic-cups?
A.To get rid of the hiccups, drink slowly out of the back of a glass (bend over double) or blow slowly into a paper bag and inhale slowly a few times.
Q.(06/04/07) Can a drinking straw be used to pierce human skin? (As seen in Doctor Who last week.. I'm not actually intending to obviously!)
A.A standard drinking straw doesn't have the strength to penetrate human skin. It would crumple. Marvin C Stone patented the drinking straw in 1888.
Q.(05/04/07) What are baby rats called?
A.A baby rat is called a 'pup'. A male rat is called a 'buck' and a female rat is called a 'doe'. Two rats can parent 15,000 rats in less than a year.
Q.(07/03/07) Which costs the Royal Mint more to produce - a »1 coin or a »5 note?
A.It costs the Royal Mint £1.50 to make a pound coin. The pound coin is 70% Copper, 24.5% Zinc and 5.5% Nickel. Costs for £5 notes are not revealed.
Q.(06/02/07) Who would win in a battle between yoda and godzilla?
A.AQA thinks that in a fight between Yoda & Godzilla, Yoda would win. He may be small and green but his mastery of Jedi skills would see him through.
Q.(06/02/07) Who would have won in a fight between muhammed ali and mike tyson?
A.AQA thinks that Muhammad Ali would beat Mike Tyson in a fight, if both were in their prime, due to his superior mental stamina, guile and ability.
Q.(21/12/06) Why is boxing day called boxing day?
A.The name Boxing Day dates back to medieval times, when alms boxes were placed at the back of churches and distributed to the poor after Christmas.
Q.(25/03/06) In battlestar galactica (the new version) is Dr Baltar a cylon?
A."Baltar" was the human involved with the "Cylons" in the original "Battlestar Galactica". "Dr Gaius Baltar" is the more modern version, not as evil.
Q.(25/03/06) Does size matter?
A.Penis size doesn't matter. Skill as a lover and satisfying women has little to do with penis length. It ain't what you got, it's what you do with it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Spectre Psychology

Have you ever spent a night in a haunted house?

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a charming cornish farmhouse, miles from anywhere deep in the countryside.

It was a truly rustic building with sloping, creaky floors and doors that were anything but rectangular. Also, being 6 foot meant I’d developed a hunched back and sore head from avoiding all the low ceilings. Not to worry though, I was on holiday and wanted to do nothing – literally.

The bed was cosy, but you know how it is sleeping in a strange environment – it’s never the same as your actual bed and it led to waking up more that I normally do in the course of a usual night. Often in those times of waking I’d hear a few bangs from somewhere within the house. Nothing sinister, probably the dog stirring or someone else banging their head on the toilet door.

I didn’t think much of it until well into the second week when we discovered, and read the visitor book. All fairly normal apart from one entry:

"Lovely holiday though I do feel sorry for my friends staying in room 3. On the Thursday night they awoke to find a blurry figure of a man with a pitchfork opening their wardrobe. He disappeared but not before opening and closing the main door too. This happened again on the Friday – both times at around 3am."

And yes, guess who was sleeping in room 3 this time. So that night I went to bed and low and behold had a less well-settled night. Of course it was utter nonsense, one paragraph in a visitor book but it played at the back of my mind. We hadn’t seen any evidence of a haunting, though there was the occasional banging which could have been anything.

Nothing happened in the remaining nights but it goes to show that suggestion is a powerful thing.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Originally uploaded by smeg_head
It's odd that the destruction of a building can evoke feelings of sadness. It's just a building, bricks an mortar. It has no soul.

Oh but that building contains memories, those memories are its soul.

Memories of playing in the funhouse aged 8. Memories of riding the dodgems with a hangover after a friends wedding. Memories of running around it like a loon trying to find clues on a charity Jailbreak.

When I saw the news the other week I was devestated for Weston. The effect the destruction of the pier will have on the town is huge - it's the heart and soul of the community.

RIP Grand Pier, I just hope that your future isn't as glum as that of Brighton's East Pier.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Other Woman

Kylie | I Believe In You
Originally uploaded by smeg_head
Poor Miss Smeg. She know she's the most important woman in my life, however last night she had to share a room with The Woman that tops my list - you know, 'that list'. The list that a lot of couples have these days where, should circumstance happen - you're 'allowed'.

Obviously The Minogue has no intentions of letting circumstance happen and concentrated instead on performing a cracking live show. It lacked the emotional underpinning of her previous tour, though that was always going to be emotional for obvious reasons.

It did show though and the first half, while being stunning, didn't seem to totally grab me. (Don’t get me wrong she was amazing but something just didn’t click.) All changed in the second half, following a frankly odd opener riding a skull and then an even odder Eastern themed set she just seemed to up the performance a notch.

It began with a new song. Flower. A moving ballad that displayed Kylie’s vocals at their best. The crowd were visibly in awe of this beautiful new song. Then came a spine-tingling rendition of I Believe In You which no other word but stunning can describe. From then on she had the crowd, and me, in the palm of her hand. She belted out Kids with fearless panache, finally the audience were all on their feet and she didn’t let us go until she rocked our worlds with Wow and No More Rain.

Finally it was Old School with I Should Be So Lucky – it was truly old school too. For the last near-decade she’s only ever performed this in it’s re-jigged ‘jazz’ style but last night saw the original mix live, loud and very proud.

Then came a moment of bitter disappointment. She was so overwhelmed by the crowd she offered us one more unplanned song for the road as a thank you… what was it to be…. Ugh. ‘All I See’. My least favourite track of the X album. You see, to me it’s always sounded like a bland R&B song that any of the current crop of US Diva’s would churn out. More J-Lo than Kylie.

Thankfully I was totally wrong. This was no album version – it was an acapella and it was beautiful. Far, far superior to the Album’s representation.

So the verdict? Simply brilliant.

Yes I know I said some of the stuff was ‘odd’ but that’s what I love about Kylie. She does things differently. Any popstar could turn up in a skin tight out fit and sing. Kylie takes it further and gives you a full show to dazzle, and sometime confuse, the senses. Only Kylie can pull off a show that balances a cheerleading routine with macabre imagery of death and flying skulls. Or make a riding outfit look like some of the kinkiest fetish gear going – in front of an audience containing many youngsters, yet have the innocence to get away with it.

A brilliant show that tops anything she’s ever doen and doesn’t fail to disappoint. The only downside is the day after a live Kylie show you know you’re the furthest possible time away from the next chance you get to see her.

If you can get tickets for her remaining The O2 dates, do so – it’s the best party you’ll go to this year.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jones, Jones, Calling Dr Jones...

Ah crap Vengaboys songs, marvellous. Fear not I’m not about to waffle on about the greatness of 90s cheese instead it’s positively 80s as I talk Indiana Jones.

As I child of the 80s I love these films… well 2 of them, Temple of Doom is a bit meh however Raiders is simply one of the greatest films ever made and it’s with much excitement I settled down to watch the Crystal Skull this week.

Oh dear. First 40 minutes is class, pure Indy as he stomps around Area 51 and gets debriefed by the CIA. Harrison Ford is superb and I can even excuse THAT fridge scene. (Indy did after all plummet god-knows how many feet in a rubber dinghy in Temple so the twisted physics are well established in the Indy universe.)

Mutt’s not that bad and the scene in the diner is great and well paced, then it all goes wrong really. Once Indy’s off on his travels the film unravels. Indy arrives at a cemetery to find the crystal skull and that’s what he does. Eh? He literally walks into the tomb and picks it up…. Where’s the booby traps? Where’s the creepy crawlies?

It’s this lack of immediate threat and lack of suspense that spoils the rest of the film. At no point do you feel Indy’s life is threatened. Remember clinging onto your cinema seat during Crusade’s fantastic tank fight or Temple’s mine cart scene? Sure there’s a big chase scene in a jungle but there’s no danger to it. Also there’s the anti-communist CGI monkeys…. Seriously, what the fuck’s that about? A steaming pile of Jar-Jar shaped CGI ruined Star Wars please Lucas, for the love of god learn from your mistakes.

Then there’s the waterfall. I said before that twisted physics are an established feature of the Indyverse however twisted physics on a massive scale thrice in a row jars my belief heavily.

So ultimately you go away from the film with a feeling of sorrow, it could have been so good and indeed it does perhaps rise above Temple Of Doom but falls flat of Crusade & Raiders by far.

The big mistake is forgetting Indy is human. He’s not a superhero. This is the same trap Bond producers fell into on Die Another Day. Seeing Pierce Brosnan smugly surfing a crap CGI tsunami almost had me sharply exiting the cinema. Thankfully Bond was fixed and in Casino Royale the producers realised it’s Bond’s subtle human traits that make him such a fascinating character. Spielberg & Lucas should have taken notes from Royale, with the inclusion of Connery in Crusade they blatantly admitted Bond is Indy’s cinematic father and Indy 4 should have followed the lead. Instead we’re treated to a superhuman Indy who can survive 3, 300ft waterfalls with no problem leaving the audience with no sense of threat. Sorry, but Indy 4 is a miss for me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nan's Song

You said when you'd die that you'd walkwith me everyday
And I'd start to cry and say please don't talk that way
With the blink of an eye the lord cameand asked you to leave
You went to a better place but He stole youaway from me

And now she lives in heaven
But i know they let her out
To take care of me
There's a strange kind of light
Caressing me tonight
Pray silence my fears she is near
Bringing heaven down here

I miss your love i miss your touch
But I'm feeling you everyday
And i can almost hear you say
"You've come along way baby"

And now you live in heaven
But i know they let you out
To take care of me
There's a strange kind of light
In my bedroom tonight
Prayer silence my fears she is near
Bringing heaven down here

You taught me kings and queens
While stroking my hair
In my darkest hour I know you are there
Kneeling down beside me
Whispering my prayer

Yes there's a strange kind of light
Caressing me tonight
Pray silence my fear
She is near Bringing heaven down here

The next time that we meet
I will bow at her feet
And say wasn't life sweet
Then we'll prepare
To take heaven down there.

Rest well nan.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rita | Alton Towers

Rita | Alton Towers
Originally uploaded by smeg_head
Stepping into the car park filled us with dread. It was pouring down, proper rain too not just drizzle. As much as I adore Alton Towers a visit in a downpour isn't great.

Thankfully a monorail ride later and the sky had become miraculously sunny and blue.

The day was the usual mix of thrills and soggy spills largely thanks to the excellent brand new Battle Galleons attraction great, great fun. Still it's the big guns I go for and Rita & Oblivion still have the adrenaline packing punch I crave.

The new Burger King stalls, replacing the park McDonalds are all simply awful. Very slow service, none of which is with a smile so we opted for KFC instead – though this wasn’t anywhere near as good as Rita’s Restaurant which we vow to return to next time.

I won’t waffle on about the trip to Alton as I mention it about twice a year on this blog. Suffice to say it was blooming marvellous.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fat Fighter

I used to be slim, then along came uni, takeaways and microwave dinners turning me into a fat git. This year is fit year - i want to get back in shape and so far the gym has helped me to lose nearly a stone. Problem is its also boring. Today my secret weapon arrived - will it work? I will let you know.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Sportsman/Bull's Head | Hereford

Remember the summers of your youth?

It’s clich├ęd to say so but they were longer, and they were sunnier. Much of those blissful years, for me, were spent haunting Widemarsh Common while my dad played cricket. I’d explore all the nooks and crannies within the radius of the Hereford Lads Club. The swings and slide of the cricket pavilion the half built, never finished and now demolished Lads Club adventure play ground. The disused railway track creeping into Bulmers and the babbling clean waters of the Canny Brook.

Off to one side was the oddly placed public house the Bulls Head. Built in the late 19th Century and extended in 1929 this building stood guard over one corner of the Widemarsh Common. In the 1990s it changed its name to the Sportsman and often held remote control car racing events. Then, all of a sudden, it closed. Although it has looked derelict for years it has actually been home to Polish immigrants until last week when it was ravished not once, but twice by fire. Thankfully no one was hurt but this once proud building was irreparably damaged. It’s now due for immediate demolition – tomorrow if the local paper is correct.

I managed to get some final snaps this afternoon as I bid farewell to part of the scenery of my childhood.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

If We Are Together Again, Surely This'll Never End

At long last - and by long I mean 12 years, I finally got to see my favourite band live. The venue was the Birmingham Academy, the same venue as The Feeling just two weeks ago. Back then I posted that The Feeling are challenging Dodgy to title of 'Smeg's Favourite Band' but seeing Dodgy live utterly confirmed that The Feeling are no where near.

Dodgy lacked the amazing light show, they lacked the leaping across the stage. In fact they just stood their with roughly 5 different coloured lights but they dominated the stage and held your attention in a far more powerful way. They simply let their talents shine through and Dodgy have buckets of it.

For the last few weeks its odd but I've discovered that Dodgy are the biggest band no one as ever heard of. Weird to think that back in the Summer of '96 they were huge. Still, sing a few bars of Good Enough to those who'd 'never heard of them' and a glimmer of recognition would spring to life in their eyes. It was reassuring to find that on Tuesday I was in the comapany of 300 others who had not only heard of The Dodge but, like me, loved 'em too.

Oddly though it wasn't the anthems, Good Enough & Staying Out For The Summer that got me going on Tues, it was the album tracks, UKRIP, Grassman, Longlife (a stunning rendition of that!), Melodies Haunt You, oh I could go on but I was so, so happy.

I contemplated this, I've seen a lot of bands live, Kylie, Scissor Sisters, George Michael, Feeling, Kaiser Chiefs, Basement Jaxx, Robbie, Bowie, Coors, Bush, Eurythmics, Stereophonics, Catatonia etc but Tuesday was something special, it was more personal. Obviously it was an intimate gig but Dodgy are the one band I've grown up listening to and listening to.

It was worth the wait. So Nigel, Andy, Matt & Richard thanks - not only for a stunning gig but for the gift of your music for all these years.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

That Friday Feeling

18 months ago I swore I’d see them again, tonight I fulfilled that promise. The venue was The Birmingham Carling Academy and the band was The Feeling.

They are my favourite band of the moment. Dodgy will always be THE favourite but secretly, the Feeling are nudging them slightly off the top the list. (Though finally, after 12 years having the chance to see Dodgy live in a few weeks my restore the love!)

Join With Us, the second Feeling album, hit the shops last week and secretly first play was a bit odd. It all seemed so downbeat after the every-track-an-anthem-love-it-on-first-play catchiness of the first album. I thought this trend would continue when I first heard the outstanding ‘I Thought It Was Over’ but no initially ‘Join With Us’ is a different beast, and do you know what that’s probably why I like it more. It takes a number of listens to get into but the amazing lyrics soon win you over. In an era when guitar music is starting to become a bit ‘paint by numbers’ The Feeling are refreshingly different in that you can’t quite pin them down. I remember trying to describe them to my dad – they’re sort of rock, but then pop at times a bit ‘Queenish’ sometimes ‘ELO’ arrgh, I dunno?!

Anyway, talking of dads one nice surprise to my second dose of The Feeling live was a very pleasant couple stood next to me. Initially they were chatting to Miss Smeg. “Ooh, is that a Feeling T-Shirt your wearing, bet you haven’t got this one” said the cheery guy stood next to us.. the T-Shirt said in bold lettering “Kev & Ciaran Are My Kids!” Yes we were stood next to 2/5 of The Feeling’s parents. Mr Jeremiah happily told us tales of Rose being written in his shed and the guys sleeping on the floor of his living room. You could tell he was immensely proud of the Feeling and so he should be, as the night would prove. The Feeling have become a formidable stage presence. They were confident back in 2006 but now they commanded attention like never before. This was evident from the outset as the traditional Feeling intro used on their last tour was literally ousted in favour of a bolder, brighter and louder start to the show. An attitude that carried on for the whole 60 odd minutes only slowing for the return of Dan’s sparkly piano and a stunning rendition of ‘Strange’.

There are a few surprises throughout the night, I don’t wish to spoil them however I will say if you loved ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ you’re in for a treat. In fact for much of the gig you won’t be able to do much other than wave and clap your hands in the air – a fact that was evident by the time of the finale – an overly energetic version of ‘Love It When You Call’ that just has you begging for more.

There are a few people that are keen to knock the Feeling, however I don’t think it’s by accident that the new album and tour are entitled ‘Join With Us’. After the 60+ minute show you’d be mad to say ‘no’.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Blue! Blue! Blue!

I spent today huddled with approximately 100 other people in and old paint factory in Bristol watching two people open 44 cardboard boxes. Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? Well, also there was Mr Noel Edmonds Esq. Does that make it more enticing? Yep, I was in the audience for 2 episodes of ‘Deal Or No Deal’.

I’m not allowed to actually tell you what happened. Apparently Endamol Productions will be legally entitled to my first-born child if I were to do that. Not to worry, tune in to Channel 4 on the 19th & 20th of May and you’ll see the shows I saw being filmed.

What I can talk about is the incredible atmosphere – especially in the second show. When your separated by the boundary of the glowing box Deal Or No Deal (or DOND as the fans apparently call it) is just another quiz show. People are sacrificing 30-mins or so of their life purely for your entertainment. What do you care if they win Bully’s Special Prize or lose that teasmaid in a bad gamble? Being in the studio made that totally different. I could talk to the contestants – they were real people, with real issues and real reasons for desiring to beat the banker. I cared – something I never really have done about DOND. I wanted contestant 2 to win, I chewed my nails in despair as they agonised over the decision to deal or not. Worse still the contestant closest relations were sat right behind me. I heard them suffer as they watched their loved ones get closer to their dreams and closer to their despairs. It made the experience tense and exciting – so much more so than I have ever seen on TV. I’m embarrassed to say I caught myself screaming at one decision and dread watching it back for the fear that it’s very audible.

The DOND format is genius. The show should be over in 5-mins flat however the long drawn out game of luck (because no matte how much the stat-whores kid themselves that’s all it is) with the added sublime twist of a banker – a figure of hate makes the show fascinating viewing – it’s more about the psychology of the contestant that it is choosing boxes. Noel, throughout was a genuinely nice bloke and wants the contestant to do well… though that doesn’t necessarily mean winning the quarter of a million.