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Sunday, 11 February 2007

Ah, yes. Barcelona.

Just back from a longish trip. Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the sun on Las Ramblas, sipping sangria. It is a rather gauche thing to do, but very satisfying. We dined in Barcelona, as the train slipped northwards through the suburbs towards the Pyrannes. Breakfasted as the sun rose over the Seine to the south of Paris. Lunched in London and, less then 24 hours after pulling out of Barcelona I was having chips for supper on my own sofa back in Devon. It may not be the fastest way to travel but, by the gods, it’s civilised.

Flickr photos to follow.

A Walk in the Country

Monday, 18 July 2005

Public Footpath
Had a weekend up in Chipping Ongar, a few miles further out of London than Epping. Whereas Epping has cool forests dappled by sunlight, Ongar has fields of wheat going golden in the hard sun.

It was a summer barbeque at a friend’s and became one of those weekends where you suddenly realise how interesting life can be. Around the table, sipping wine until it became dark and slapping at bugs were: a civil servant; an actress; a writer; a consultant; a former futures trader; a florist; a trade unionist; a tube driver. All women, all not what the stereotypes those titles suggest. The florist does stuff for national institutions and the futures trader is now teaching parenting skills. One of those great evenings where the conversations drift and merge so that you come away with loads more ideas in your brain.

The next day six of us went for a walk down the public footpaths. The sun blazed, the crickets went insane buzzing at everything, the crops were turning almost white in the long summer, and at one point we got lost in one field.

I was distracted on the edge of town by the Epping-Ongar Railway which takes trains up and down the disused bits of line in the area. The station house was lived in, but was flying bunting, and old buses were slowly sagging in the yard: I must go back and have a proper afternoon there (I was aware that no-one else in the group was as curious as I was about it).

Of mice and festivals

Wednesday, 13 July 2005

So, back to Faringdon. Last year I arrived via a pub in Oxford, having had a few drinks with the Beloved Ex. This year, I tried the Swindon route. Not least because the BE and family are not in Oxford right now. First, though, I popped over to Cardiff to visit the Comic Guru. He’s a lovely chap and has a very shiny stack of Warring States for sale at UKP9.99 (and he delivers as well – bargain).

Up to Swindon and across on a bus, to find I was just in time for the ever interesting Gwyneth Jones talking about her rock revolution story series, Bold as Love. Brief hellos to Jon and Jo, formerly of the Exeter Univeristy SF club now of Brizzol. Then Brian Aldiss interviewed. I have to admit to not really having read that much Aldiss but it was a witty interview which means he is firmly on my ‘to be read’ pile. Some lovely detail about Kubrick, T.S. Eliot etc but also a burning intelligent desire not to become a relic of the SF past.

I was staying at the Eagle Tavern in Little Coxwell, along with Selina and her partner Jay. It’s one of those tiny English villages which seem caught in hot amber, as if it can only exist on blazingly hot still summer’s days when the streets bake and the air hums. It even had a sign on the only road in which said there was no through road i.e. you can’t pass through this village you have to actually visit it. The Eagle was a delight and I thoroughly recommend it: lovely rooms, good beer and very good food. The landlord is a chef. Also, the landlady said I looked like Miranda from Sex in the City, which is an easy way into my good books.

After a pint and the food, we went back to Faringdon to see Glenn Tilbrook in the Junior School Hall (see previous post re cat). The support band, Cooper Black, were a curious combination of bass, guitar, mandolin and violin. It was mostly covers, but well-played and well-arranged for the unusual set-up. As one guitarist was all in black and stood a little away from his white-clad band members, we amused ourselves imagining a backstage bust up of Pink Floyd proportions. And I never thought I’d hear the mandolin version of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Divison.

Glenn Tilbrook was amazing. Shorn of Squeeze and playing (miked-up) acoustic, I was immediately struck by how similar his songs are to Elvis Costello in his Attractions period: all sharp English accents and wordplay. You’d think that – given I love the thread of British pop which starts with the Kinks and runs through to Pulp etc. – that I’d have noticed this sooner. After the first set, he led the audience out to the carpark, climbed his bus and sang from its roof, getting us to join in. I believe the cat stayed put in the hall.

Sunday was stupidly hot. I mean, stupidly, shirt-stickingly hot. We got back to Faringdon with plenty of time to wander before Stephen Briggs‘s talk. After some more wandering, we sat down for cream teas just as Jasper and Mari Fforde arrived. And a bagpiper. The reading was hastily moved to the bar – not due to the bagpiper – and was very good. I have a terrible feeling I snorted with laughter at the Dogsberry bit. I was far too easily swayed into buying a hardback (instead of my normal paperback habit) of The Big Over Easy justifying it to myself as a good book to read on the journey home.

I raced up the hill in time to see most of an intersting talk on a local highwayman, Captain Hind, by Gillian Spraggs. This was one of those wonderful talks which isn’t quite what I expect but which causes small receptors in my brain to wake up and insist that I take some mental notes and buy the book. Interesting stuff about myths and images and about the Romantic notion of the gentleman robber. Since during tai chi practise the other week I realised that one move is very familiar and satisfying because it’s the main move to ‘Prince Charming’ by Adam Ant, clearly some bit of my brain is flinging dandy highwaymen at me.

Faringdon Festival is curious: the place is much smaller than Exeter yet there is a much stronger sense of something happening. At Faringdon I saw 6 events over two days: at Exeter’s recent festival I saw…zero. OK, so I am going to the Exeter fringe’s cinema in the park tomorrow and will doubtless go to the Shakespeare in the park in the next week or two but you have to wonder why a small town in the Vale of the White Horse produces more engaging events.


More cat stuff, because where would blogs be without photos of cats? Hush up whoever is saying “better”.

Let It Be! On Monday night Sébastian got very interested in the old rack of vinyl. He was doing that strange triangulating thing with his head and running from end to end of it. After an initial burst of laughter, I realised I’d have to see what he had. Lifting the rack, I saw a small brown mouse dart off to hide behind the box next to it. As the mouse ran for the open back door, the large gray tom cat skidded after. I was following and, unable to resist the image that sprang to mind, ended up yelling “Thomaas! Thomaas! You bad cat!”. After I hung onto Séba, the mouse reached the freedom of the flowerbeds. At this point, I figure I need no longer worry and left them to solve their differences outside.

dish of the day On Wednesday morning, I wake wondering why that cat is sleeping contentedly rather than clawing my feet (his preferred method of rousing me). Yawning, I head downstairs to feed him. To discover Jerry – or possibly one of Jerry’s many friends and relations – is back. In a rather Godfather like manner, his body has been dumped in Sébastian’s water bowl. I assume by Sébastian but possibly this is some complex gangland killing since Samuel was back tonight…

Cool for Cats

Monday, 11 July 2005

Cool for Cats Went to Faringdon at the weekend, for the festival. It included talks from Gwyneth Jones, Brian Aldiss, Stephen Briggs and Jasper Fforde.

At the Glenn Tilbrook gig on Saturday night, the audience included a cat. A very unimpressed cat.

I’ll sort out a fuller report later, but look! cat at gig!

Bonjour!

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Je suis retourné. En Paris, je mange le mieux dinée végétarien de mon vie!

Photos etc tonight but things Kelly and I did next included: a walking tour of the Strand and Covent Garden called ‘in the footsteps of Holmes’; going on the London Eye (couldn’t find the nestene though); going to my favourite Italian restaurant in London; going to the Tav; going to the V&A’s ‘Arts &Crafts’ exhibition; going to my favourite Indian restaurant in London; going in every fabric shop in Berwick Street; going on the Eurostar; pickernicking in the Tuilleries; drinking very nice Martinis in Harry’s Bar; going to the flea markets; wandering around Montmartre and discovering my new favourite restaurant in Paris (c’est un Vietnamese en Montmartre).


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