2009 Favourite Things
Forward For the benefit of those who didn’t participate in this little project, allow me to recap. Inspired by John Julius Norwich’s ‘Christmas Crackers’ which are collections of literary snippets made during the year and sent out to friends at Christmas, Favourite Things asks for contributions that somehow express someone’s favourite thing of the year. It is, or rather will be, for this is the first, sent out to everyone that has chipped in. Aside from the above there are no restrictions regarding subject or presentation, so long as it is possible to fit in two pages of this A5 pamphlet. I had little idea what to expect when I asked people to contribute but have been delighted with the response in it’s diversity and richness. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have in putting it together. Thank you to everyone that has helped and I hope we’ll keep it going next year. Happy Christmas and New Year,
Contents The Reynolds 531 A bicycle Sum by David Eagleman The French 75 A cocktail Ghost Villages England & France Donâ€™t Tell Sybil George Melly The Red Army Choir singing Kalinka, 1963 Venice in November Andrew Marr at Butlins Langeoog Germany Curtis Eller at The Duke of Yorkâ€™s, 11th April
Kelvin Pawsey Page 4
Nigel Browning Page 6
Guy Venables Page 7
David Bramwell Page 8
Adam Beeson Page 10
Frank France Page 12
Michael Brandt Page 14
Francis Whately Page 16
Duncan Henderson Page 17
Jason Hook Page 18
Ry Cooder & Esteban Jordan Friday 15th May, 2009, San Antonio, Texas
Tyne Cot & Langemark France & Germany
Eva Mae Hooley 12 July & What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
A year of Piracy for Peta
Ben Hooley Page 23
Peta Taylor Page 24
Marrakech Four days in Morocco Green Man Festival August, Brecon Beacons Lynton & Lynmouth North Devonâ€Ś where Goats Stare At Men Roskilde Festival Denmark Nodding Off at a Childrenâ€™s TV Conference. Sheffield, July 2nd Sort Kaffe og Vinyl & Lotte On the joys of low-level social interaction and why you should get a personal assistant. 3D Fractals by Danial White Existential moments before a concert at Brighton College Home Movies The finding of a hobby
Sam Hewitt Page 25
Chris Broughton Page 26
Pete Huddleston Page 28
Mark Watkins Page 30
Wayne Jackman Page 31
Mark Stevens Page 32
Richard Robinson Page 34
Samantha Dixon Page 35
Robert Brandt Page 36
The Reynolds 531 A bicycle I’ve spent the year fondling bicycles and the only book to pass my eyes has been The Penguin Book of the Bicycle 1978 so I’ve copied a helpful page from that. It tells of the wonder tubing that is Reynolds 531, seamless steel that I and many other cyclists obsess about at great length. I’ve just got a 1983 Holdsworth Professional back on the road with full compliment of Italian jewels and I’m about to embark on a full restoration of a 1938 Holdsworth La Quelda Supreme!! It’s all good stuff.
Kelvin Pawsey Folkstone, UK
Sum by David Eagleman In Sum, David Eagleman offers 40 brief alternative scenarios for what happens when you die, beginning with the possibility that “in the afterlife you relive all your experience, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together” – so you (all the tales are narrated in the second person, present tense) spend 30 years asleep, five months flipping through magazines on the loo, 15 months looking for lost items, seven months having sex, and so forth. Or you discover that death comes in three stages – when the body ceases to function, when it is buried, and when your name is spoken for the last time; in consequence, most of the afterlife is spent in a kind of limbo, waiting for the people you knew to die out. So remember, a good book is not just for Christmas, but for the After Life as well...
Nigel Browning Worthing, UK
The French 75 A cocktail
Champagne, like oysters and daughters of certain Italian families, is best left alone. A black velvet, in my opinion, is a waste of both champagne and Guinness and most champagne cocktails distract rather than add. There is only one exception; the French 75. It was created by Harry MacElhone of Henryâ€™s Bar,Paris in 1925, named after the 75 field gun used by the French in the First World War and concocted just when the French were digging up their champagne again and having a bloody good knees-up. It is fresh, sophisticated, very drinkable and hasnâ€™t dated. It is also the only mixture to champagne accepted by the French and found on the menus of only the finest cocktail bars. It is not considered cheating to use a Cremant de Borgogne, a cava or
most dry sparkling wines if you prefer. (Try decanting it first then A) no one will know and B) you will come across as the sort of uber-classy person who decants champagne.) 3/4 shot(s) gin(preferably Plymouth) 1/2 shot(s) freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/2 shot(s) sugar syrup top up with champagne Glass; flute garnish; Immerse cherry Shake first three ingredients with ice and strain into a glass,then top up with champagne and lightly stir. Then presumably swan around with an air of arrogant decadence smoking something with the tips of ones fingers. Well, I would.
Guy Venables Hove, UK
Ghost Villages England & France I have always been fascinated with ghost villages: the abandoned public house littered with drinks and half-smoked cigarettes, the empty shops and houses, the child’s bike lying on its side in the road; the silence. It may have all been triggered by a chilling Dr Who story called the Zygons that I watched through my fingers in 1975. The episode began in a deserted Scottish village with the kind of scenario described above and gave me the willies. Maybe however, it was seeing the spire of Derwent Church poking out of Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire in 1976 after the notorious drought that summer that exposed a ‘drowned’ village. Or perhaps it’s simply that the idea of a ghost village inevitably equates with mysteries and hauntings. According to Wikipedia there are 138 ghost villages in the world but until this year I had never had the chance to visit one. Then
David Bramwell Brighton, UK
suddenly two came along at once. The first was Tyneham in Dorset. Six days before Christmas in 1943, the villagers of Tyneham were ordered to leave their homes so the army could practise for the D-Day landings. The promise that they could return was broken. The army kept the land and the villagers were banished to other parts of the county. It is still used today, on occasions, for target practise. Tyneham lies on a little-used road between East Lulworth and Kimmeridge and is only open to the public at certain weekends of the year, hence the reason it had eluded me so long, despite regular family holidays in the area. The visit was, I have to confess, a little disappointing. Many of the buildings have now all but crumbled away leaving the kind of skeletal structures you often find on country rambles. Only the school has been preserved: the children’s books left open on the desks, the teacher’s instructions scrawled on the blackboard. But rather than the mystery of a room left in haste, it’s all neatly preserved under perspex, giving instead a touch of the visit-to-a-statelyhome experience. The highlight for me was the old phone box, like something out
of an episode of the Avengers. But then a chance conversation at a party a few weeks later with film-maker Rupert Noble led to him telling me about Oradour-sur-Glane in France. In 1944, after the occupying Germans massacred the entire village’s population, the French authorities decided to preserve the village as a reminder of the atrocities. By chance I was heading to France the following week and staying less than an hour’s drive from the ghost village. It’s hard to put into words the feelings that come from walking round an empty village still littered with the rusting remains of cars, mangles and children’s bicycles, and the knowledge that every person who once lived there had been murdered. Like Tyneham, many of the buildings had crumbled but along with the abandoned household objects remained the telephone cables, street lights, road and door signs that somehow offered a greater sense of horror that this was once a community, a microcosm of love affairs, hardship, gossip and shared lives, all wiped out in the space of a few hours. I wandered round the place for hours peering into empty rooms, imagining the lives of those who had once lived there, my feelings sliding from
fascination to horror. At other times it simply felt like a spectacularly spooky film set. As a boy, the ghost villages of my imagination were haunted by stories of alien abductions, teleportation and time travel. Oradour-SurGlane is haunted by a different kind of story. It ranks amongst one of my most memorable experiences of 2009.
Don’t Tell Sybil George Melly I read this year one of George Melly’s very last books, “Don’t Tell Sybil” an account of his long friendship with the Belgian Surrealist ELT (Eduoard) Mesens. They met just after the war, when Melly was barely into his 20s and Mesens had settled in London. George worked for him at his London Gallery for some years. The gallery, which handled the most esoteric, largely Surrealist work, never made much money (it was to be decades before the great names from that period became collectible). But, although he was paid a pittance, George’s father had made him a partner in the business. He lived in squalor, surrounded by paintings that would, one day, be worth a fortune: One cold February evening, two weeks late with the rent and so broke that I’d nothing to spend in the pub, my landlord shouted up to me that Edouard, whom he’d met and liked, was on the phone. Running down the worn stair-carpet and wondering, despite the overdue rent, if I could ponce the bus fare if it was an invitation to dinner, I picked up the receiver. What in fact Edouard wanted was to bring round - immediately - a Belgian diamond merchant who was becoming a ‘serious collector’ (i.e. buying through and on the advice of Edouard) as he might be interested in some things I had.
Adam Beeson Hove, UK
It seemed like a miracle and in no time at all I heard a taxi pull up. Edouard was there with a small but immaculately dressed man whom he introduced as Monsieur Urvater. ‘As you can see,’ he explained to his client as I showed them into my room, ‘he lives like a student.’ By this he meant surrounded by shabby furniture and walking on dusty and threadbare carpets under a cracked ceiling, and it was certainly true, but I could see Monsieur Urvater’s bewilderment as he tried to equate this near squalor with pictures by Magritte and Ernst on the walls and graphic works by Klee, Arp, Schwitters and Picasso hung around the spluttering gas fire. He accepted to sit in a Victorian chair with very dodgy springs that had once belonged to a great-uncle. As there was only a limited wallspace in my single room, most of my collection had to be stored on part of the landing surrounded by banisters and jutting out over the stairwell. At ELT’s request I went out there and brought back two works, the wonderful orange and grey Max Ernst of the screaming figure of LopLop swarming with phantasmagoria, and the ‘ungrateful’ Miro, that huge savage representation of two women from the later thirties. I rested them against one of the two beds and Monsieur Urvater was immediately convinced, and offered me £450 for the pair. I immediately accepted. Four hundred and fifty pounds was half what I’d spent on my whole collection. While it doesn’t sound much now, it was a lot of money then, and Monsieur Urvater suggested he pay me in notes and that if I came along to the Savoy Hotel next morning with a suitcase ... I let them out, and the following day found myself in a grand suite overlooking the river and counting out the bundles of money while attempting to give the impression it was a perfectly commonplace event. A week later they collected the works by van. Having paid my debts, I should of course have
spent some of the money on replacing the pictures. I could have bought a Francis Bacon then for very little and, worse still, I suspected him to be a genius. I didn’t though. To quote a teetotal drummer of my acquaintance, I ‘pissed it up against a wall’. And very typical of ELT was that the next time I saw him about three weeks later, he told me I shouldn’t have sold the pictures. It was a great mistake. I would regret it.
To some, that story may reveal a side of George Melly that they are unfamiliar with. But my other choice won’t. Here is George, in his early twenties, behaving disgracefully at an exclusive function — in the Belgian resort of Knokke Le Zoute. His host is the artist P. G. Van Hecke. — economic scruples played no part in the Van Heckes’ calculations. Happily they had taken a shine to me so that, almost every evening, I was in a position to observe PG’s legendary and profligate generosity. One evening I over-stepped the mark. At dinner he’d ordered bottle after bottle of vintage wine followed by several large brandies. When we had all trouped over to the casino nightclub for champagne, and he also offered Edouard and myself cigars. I was by this time ridiculously drunk, but perplexed as to how my huge cigar had suddenly disappeared. It had in fact slipped from my almost lifeless fingers and finished up in PG’s champagne. He was, momentarily, furious with me, but then he began to chuckle, bought me another cigar and had his glass replaced. The evening surged forward. The proprietress of the nightclub was a chic middle-aged woman dressed entirely in black and typical of her metier. After she had greeted us, Edouard explained to her that I was, in England, a famous exponent of ‘Le jazz authentique de Nouvelle Orleans’ and that I should sing a number with the rather dispirited trio grinding
out the lachrymose French hits of the period. Unfortunately, although clearly reluctant, she eventually agreed and, after a rather unsatisfactory conference with the pianist, I essayed a blues. I know hundreds of blues verses but they all deserted me, as too did any sense of time, melody or pitching. Clinging onto a column and shouting incoherent rubbish, I eventually slid to the floor. Helped back to my seat by several waiters, I heard ELT telling the appalled manageress that she should book me ‘in cabaret’. Her rejection of this notion was a masterpiece of diplomacy. ‘Alas no,’ she told him. ‘He is too existentialist for my bourgeois clientele!’ Don’t Tell Sybil, An Intimate memoir of ELT Mesens by George Melly, HEINEMANN 1997
The Red Army Choir singing Kalinka, 1963 The red army ensemble 1963 male choir singing Kalinka. Used to have to sing it in school assembly and loved it more than ‘we sow the seeds and scatter...’ song and completely lost touch with the song and singing until I heard it at a Fip night in the Kemp Town days, which are good enough for an article. This was the song that made me start buying vinyl, which I have only been doing for about a year. So a year into it I’m in the record store singing the worst rendition of this beautiful song in the most passionate way, I was singing the part of the bloke second from left third row in the audience. Shop keeper shows me various Russian periods and styles. Scanning track lists until I cry out Kalinka! “Oh kalinka, why didn’t you say so?”. “Well”, I said ... Any way £3 later (would have paid twenty) listened to manager talk about LP’s with such fondness that behind his glasses I watch his old eyes turn to chocolate brandy steam eyes. Played it so loud when I got home kinda crinkled the paint on my walls. Any one wanna start a skool choir? I’ve got a triple album russian language course, thick black old
(Received 1.13am -Ed.)
Frank France Hove, UK
Lyrics: Калинка, калинка, калинка моя! В саду ягода малинка, малинка моя! Ах, под сосною, под зеленою, Спать положите вы меня! Ай-люли, люли, ай-люли, Спать положите вы меня. Калинка, калинка, калинка моя! В саду ягода малинка, малинка моя! Ах, сосенушка ты зеленая, Не шуми же надо мной! Ай-люли, люли, ай-люли, Не шуми же надо мной! Калинка, калинка, калинка моя! В саду ягода малинка, малинка моя! Ах, красавица, душа-девица, Полюби же ты меня! Ай-люли, люли, ай-люли, Полюби же ты меня! Калинка, калинка, калинка моя! В саду ягода малинка, малинка моя!
Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! V sadu yagoda malinka, malinka moya! Akh, pod sosnoyu, pod zelenoyu, Spat’ polozhite vy menya! Ay-lyuli, lyuli, ay-lyuli, Spat’ polozhite vy menya. Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! V sadu yagoda malinka, malinka moya! Akh, sosyenushka ty zyelyenaya, Nye shumi zhe nado mnoy! Ay-lyuli, lyuli, ay-lyuli, Nye shumi zhe nado mnoy! Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! V sadu yagoda malinka, malinka moya! Akh, krasavitsa, dusha-dyevitsa, Polyubi zhe ty menya! Ay-lyuli, lyuli, ay-lyuli, Polyubi zhe ty menya! Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! V sadu yagoda malinka, malinka moya!
Little snowberry, snowberry of mine! Little raspberry in the garden, my little! (word by word: in garden raspberry little, little mine!) Ah, under the pine, the green one, Lay me down to sleep, Ah, rock-a-baby, Lay me down to sleep. Little snowberry, snowberry of mine! Little raspberry in the garden, my little! Ah, little pine, little green one, Donâ€™t rustle above me, Ah, rock-a-baby, Donâ€™t rustle above me. Little snowberry, snowberry of mine! Little raspberry in the garden, my little! Ah, you beauty, pretty maiden, Fall in love with me, Ah, rock-a-baby, Fall in love with me. Little snowberry, snowberry of mine! Little raspberry in the garden, my little!
Venice in November
This year the last day was the most memorable. The ship had relocated back to the dock area ready for our departure on the morrow and for the arrival of the next batch. The venue for the concert I was going to that night was in a converted church actually in Piazza San Marco, a long way from the docks. I left early to reconfirm my seat and to find a restaurant at which to eat prior to the performance. It was raining hard and the wind was rising. When I entered the auditorium all was well, dark, wet, windy and cold, normal for Venice in November. But, but, but November is unpredictable. When I emerged and stood on the high steps, the piazza below was flooded. The emergency walkways that had been stacked ready for winter had been partially set out, but were insufficient, of differing heights and widths, with gaps, and leading to the wrong places. It was late and getting even wetter and windier which made walking on the narrow portable walkways very difficult (they are like trestle tables laid end to end without hand rails). I had been going to walk back to the boat - over several hundred canals and bridges, or thereabouts but now that seemed even less of a good idea than hitherto. With some difficulty I made it to the deserted knee-deep quayside along the Grand Canal from which the vaparettos run. It is lined with posh hotels where they
Michael Brandt Camber, UK
were moving all the furniture upstairs. The floating landing stages were higher than the flooded quay and were undulating in sympathy with the incoming lagoon. Nothing appeared to be running but I found a bucking moored vaparetto and nearby two officials sheltering in a non-operating ticket office. They told me the boat would shortly be leaving for my destination, San Basilio, the last station before the dock area. The route zigged round the entrance to the Grand Canal, crossed to the island opposite, then zagged back again to the main Venetian island; it was more like the Atlantic than the Venetian Lagoon. At San Basilio landing was difficult. The emergency walkways were scrappier, incomplete and led not to the footbridge linking Venice with the dock area, but back into central Venice. There was absolutely nobody else wanting to go anywhere. Between the bucking landing stage and the footbridge was a brand new raging torrent, entirely separate from the canal that the bridge normally crosses. l did not have many options, but fortunately found that the tops of the railings leading from the quayside to the bridge were still above water and I was able to climb along them to the bridge. Once across, the â€˜mainlandâ€™ was just as wet and windy and cold, but not flooded, and there remained only the stroll back against the wind to the other end of the docks to my ship. In November it rains a lot, lot, lot and there can be extraordinarily fine flooding. Extract from an email.
Andrew Marr at Butlins
We were filming in Skegness earlier this year for Andrew Marr’s recent ‘The making of Modern Britain’. One of our sequences revolved around the creation of Butlins holiday camp in the mid 1930’s, but the more interesting story told is of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. Every year, throughout the Thirties, while Mussolini and Hitler invaded other peoples countries, Oswald Mosley and his merry gang would take a long summer holiday at the English seaside. There is a wonderful archive of Mosley in his swimming trunks, talking to other Blackshirts about strategy. It was all very English and, if they weren’t so sinister and misguided, dare I say it would have been rather charming! Anyway, Andrew was keen to tell the story of how the Daily Mail ran the headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ when that paper admired Mosley and his tin pot fascists. With this in mind I suggested, originally as a joke, that he might like to deliver this story, while sporting a rather natty 30’s style swim suit. He agreed immediately. So there we were on a bracing Skeggy beach with Andrew in a slightly ludicrous costume, discussing fascists in the media and elsewhere. Suddenly while Andrew addressed what he called ‘nipple drift’ on the top half, down below something more
Francis Whately London
challenging popped out. My researcher Kemi squealed in horror as I demanded that ‘he put that thing away’. Eventually we decided to put some gaffer tape over the offending section of swimming costume. Andrew has been dining out on the story for months!
Two weeks in Langeoog was enough to untangle the knots in my rigid back. One of a line of seven sand bank islands off the north coast of Germany it sits a suitably slow ferry trip a mile or so from the mainland. From the port a small train shuttles you to town. I say town; it has houses, shops, restaurants, hotels, but without cars, industry and radios outside after 9pm itâ€™s about as urban as Avebury. A good deal of the island is nature reserve while the rest is spoilt with young forest, an eight mile beach and pasture. The traffic consists of horses, both with and without carts. There are cycles to hire and electric service vehicles and this coupled with the pristine houses and gardens makes it all a bit
Prisoner, which was fine by me. The feel is still German rather than suffering a wash of general European with few of my kind, although there is enough English spoken if you need it. Large confounding games are played on the beach watched by punters in family sized wicker deck chairs called strandkorb. The sea isnâ€™t much fun, though I was told on the last day that towards the east of the island it becomes more lively. The climate is as expected, you will bronze, but it will take all summer. As for my two young girls, they moved about with more freedom than their childhoods may ever know again.
Duncan Henderson Hove
Curtis Eller at The Duke of York’s, 11th April www.curtiseller.com
A yodelling banjo player who perches like a suspicious crow on the back of a chair while plucking waltzes and dissecting half-forgotten Americana in sweet, dark verse. A vaudevillian throwback with an attic full of yellowed lyrics that paint pictures as clear as a yellowed newspaper or a Faulkner novel. There may only have been half a dozen of us paying homage at the Duke of York’s on 11th April 2009, but then it was 1 a.m., and we each and every one of us glimpsed both wirewalkers and assassins. “Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting.” Karl Wallenda, Wirewalker
Jason Hook Brighton
Plea of the Aerialist’s Wife from the album ‘Wirewalkers and Assassins’ My man is giving up on the wire, and he ain’t going up no more, But the platform’s at a foolish height, He’s up there one more time tonight, I’m standing helpless in another crowd, down here on the floor. And my man promised me that he would retire, sometimes it’s easy to forget, But these nightmares never flake with rust, Like a cable caught in a sudden gust, And this old fool said there ain’t no honour in working with a net. Bring my man down from the wire, I’ll do anything in return, Won’t you deliver this old heart from the circus fire, Don’t walk away and let it burn. I don’t care if the canvas calls to you, you promised me you would not be there, Will it take a mother fall to make this point, Or should I drag you back up to Detroit, Where I watched you fall and like a fool all I could do was stare. Bring my man down from the wire, You’d think after all these years I would learn, Won’t you deliver this old heart from the circus fire, Don’t walk away and let it burn.
Man on Wire And the wire walker himself, Philippe Petit, making his life art, making himself as close as a Man can be to a God, stealing fire from the heavens, and however scorched his wings become, however wasted the beautiful wirewalker’s wife, showing that we can dance on the clouds, force policemen to become poets, make the impossible both possible and extraordinary, transcend our mortality and dream our reality.
Ry Cooder & Esteban Jordan Friday 15th May, 2009, San Antonio, Texas
For me, 2009 will be remembered for a remarkable adventure which took place earlier this year. I was fortunate enough to be introduced a musician I’d long-admired, who in turn, introduced me to his favourite living musician, playing at the astonishing Salute bar, San Antonio. Next time you have a free weekend, get yourself down there! My journal for the day in question reads as follows:
Where to begin? It suddenly dawns on me as I begin this entry that it’s almost ten years to the day since my dad’s funeral. God knows what he would have made of tonight. I can remember so clearly the last of the mourners leaving, and me perusing his vast record collection, searching for one album that would forever remind me of him. It was an easy choice: Ry Cooder’s 1970 eponymous debut album. At the time, it was more for the album cover than the actual quality of his music. It seemed to have always been lying around in our house or at the front of my dad’s gargantuan train of vinyl. As a child I was transfixed by the cover. There was this guy, Ry, in the middle of the desert, leaning against the most fantastic, stainless steel 1930’s Winnebago, with his name
Carl Vincent Brighton
emblazoned in red neon above. It looked a world apart from the caravan we had stayed in every year at Mablethorpe. Is that where he lives, I often pondered? He sure looks like he would. One thing was for sure, Ry looked like life was treating him very kindly indeed and that here was a man who could show you a real good time. Tonight, I found myself on the San Antonio McAllister freeway, supping ice-cold beer with Mr. Cooder in the back of his ribrattling station wagon, pulsated along by the boom-boom of John Lee Hooker, to the point of tympanic membrane disintegration. No gasoline in Ry’s car- It just seems to run on John Lee’s foot stomping Mississippi blues! Turns out, our intended destination is a legendary run-down Tex Mex establishment called the Salute bar, ten miles north of Downtown San Antonio. Ry and his wife Susan were insistent we all went along to witness a ‘true musical genius’. I have to confess, I was a little anxious when we first arrived. A small disturbance had erupted outside the Salute where a group of women were thrashing a three-foot man dressed as clown. It immediately becomes clear that the event unfolding on the street is just an extension of what’s happening inside the Salute. It’s very hot inside and there was a charge humming dangerously throughout the neon-lit room. But it felt good, very good. Then, at the stroke of midnight, a skinny, frowzy, draggletailed man with an eye-
patch and an accordion takes to the make-shift stage. The mood of the room changes; the clown rushes is in with the welter-weight women, tables and chairs are pushed back and Ry and the crowd begin chanting, ‘El Parche,El Parche, El Parche’. El Parche turns out to be one Esteban Jordan, who in turn welcomes on stage his 15 year-old protégé, Juanito Casillo. Two minutes later my spine and skin are fizzing and my eyes are filling as they burst effortlessly into a Tejano bolero. I haven’t got a clue what they’re singing about, but I can feel it, I can feel it like I’ve never felt it before. Three songs in and I’m standing on my seat chanting ‘El Parche, El Parche’. For the next three hours I’m lost in the great Esteban Jordan’s dazzling performance as he delights us with flourishes of traditional Tejano music intertwined with hints of polkas, samba, salsa, cumbias, jazz and even rock accordion. Ry later tells me he is also referred to as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of the accordion’ in Tex- Mex world. Castillo almost matches Jordan for accordion wizardry as he grunts and growls like Tom Waits, in- between singing with the grace and virtuosity of a seasoned Latin balladeer. But it’s the emotion I can feel, and it feels real. Not just on the stage either, but all around me. Music appears to mean something very different to these people and they show enormous respect to the genius on stage tonight. Esteban Jordan not only plays accordion, but with great éclat mesmerises the audience by also playing the drums, bass, guitar, flute, trumpet,piano and
mandolin. Apparently he plays over forty instruments! Tonight, Jordan is keen to talk about his new accordion that Hohner have custom made for him, in honour of musical genius and being the first to stretch the limits of the three-row diatonic accordion. I think what they are trying to say is that he’s a bit of a smart arse show off. At the close of the evening, Esteban Jordan’s 16 year old daughter takes to the stage to finally break our hearts with a spellbinding version of ‘Georgia on My Mind’-there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. For those three glorious hours in the Salute bar watching Esteban Jordan, Juanito Castillo, family and friends, I’m reminded why music is the highest art form .For a very short period of time, I even consider the greatest argument for the existence of God may well of be the scraggy-looking pirate on the make-shift stage. My introduction into the world of Tejano music is complete and cemented tonight in the most astonishing venue and there’s no going back. As for Ry, now there’s a man who can show you a real good time.
Esteban Jordan performs at the Salute every Friday and Saturday night at Salute International Bar Address: 2801 N. St. Mary’s Street San Antonio,TX 78212 Tel: 210 732 5307
Tyne Cot & Langemark France & Germany
I have two older brothers and every summer we spend a week travelling to the Nurburging (a 1920s racetrack) in Germany and back again. This year we stopped in Ypres for a night on the way home, looked at the museum, saw the last post at the Menin Gate, and visited the cemeteries at Tyne Cot and Langemark – all the things you’re supposed to do when you’re in Flanders. I found the latter, a German cemetery, to be particularly poignant. Its mood was more sombre than most military cemeteries, with dark stones and a thick canopy of oak trees, and of course far fewer visitors. The sheer number of the dead buried there – over 45,000, with 25,000 in one mass grave little larger than a tennis court – is humbling to say the least. Being there with my two brothers, after travelling freely and in comfort across the continent, was a sobering experience – but also an uplifting one that deepened my appreciation of living in modern Europe.
James Evans Lewes, UK
Eva Mae Hooley
& What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
by The Hooleys and Ramond Carver, respectively.
Got lent that book this year and highly recommend it, although Iâ€™ve heard that Carverâ€™s success was all down to the genius editor :)
Ben Hooley Brighton
A year of Piracy for Peta
aqueduct near Bath now lives in my bedroom and makes me very happy indeed. Here he is. My personal piracy this year involved making
This year I was in danger of being ‘solitary as an oyster’* because it’s been mainly about sorting things out for my mum and it meant a lot of travelling & trawling through family ephemera: especially the photos and letters. I found pictures I’d not seen before and thought it might be an idea to put them in an album for her. One of my favourites is of my Pop sailing across the English channel with his bro & some student pals in a (wait for it) Chinese JUNK called the ‘Boleh’. It was the early ‘50s but sailing boats have always been big in my family… I also realised that, among all the family paintings we grew up with (lucky me), there were none by the big daddy of them all - a great (x5) grandpa who was a phenomenal maritime artist 200 years ago (Cptn Nicholas Pocock). I decided to make it my job to add something by him to the ‘archive’… so I have. His little annotated drawing of an
‘The Hunt’ which looked, at face value, like a hellish experience: a pal’s graduation film (no money) about pirates (no kidding) over Easter Bank Holiday weekend (no sun) with me driving everyone in a minibus (no drinking) to a Haven Homes holiday camp (no WAY!) in Devon. The best lark I had all year: incredible weather, gorgeous location and delightful people. The newly graduated director, Chris Nunn, deserves success: look out for him (no, really…).
I’ll be busy with my seascapes in 2010. Happy Christmas and New Year!
Peta Taylor Brighton
*Dickens describing Scrooge
Marrakech Four days in Morocco In January I went to Marrakech. We stayed in a riad called Ak tak ak in the depths of the souks which is the oldest bit, an ancient market around which the whole town was built. It is an impenetrable maze, some of the alleys become tunnels then open into squares with a dozen new directions to take. The smells, light, incredible complexity of visuals and sound combined with high speed mopeds and low speed donkeys in various states of happiness made my awareness levels much higher than normal. The riad was an incredible oasis, stepping out of the madness into such tranquility and luxury as I would have expected to pay a fortune for, but it was 36 euros a night for the room with a beautiful breakfast each morning on the roof terrace or cushioned colonnade.
The only problem was that they had said a driver would meet me at the airport but nobody showed up so I had to find it on my own which was a great adventure in itself I had half a day there on my own before my girlfriend arrived and I spent it drinking mint tea with rug salesmen, getting covered in snakes, getting some semblance of my bearings and listening to various sales pitches. I hate haggling but even I developed a taste for it with the street vendors and shop owners. The food was great, even as a vegetarian. The weather was warm and the town wasnâ€™t as tourist-ridden as I had feared. We were only there for four days but it felt like two weeks, many adventures had and great things discovered. I urge anyone to throw themselves into Marrakech, it seems scary but the water is fine once your in.
Sam Hewitt Brighton
Green Man Festival August, Brecon Beacons
I didn’t expect to have my bestever festival experience at 38, but this year’s Green Man, held on a country estate deep in the Brecon Beacons - on the sunniest (Welsh) weekend of the year - was nothing less than a series of epiphanies yoked together with rolled-up picnic blankets and twine. Musical highlights were legion - I’ll just mention Beach House, who made me glow, the always delightful Euros Childs and his beautiful songs of crows and cavemen (and service station anecdotes) one-man chamber orchestra Andrew Bird, who played his sublime ‘Weather Systems’ at my request and Wilco, dear Wilco, who passed in a daze. Undoubted highlight, though, was the Dirty Three - from the moment Antipodean
Chris Broughton Hastings, UK
Rasputin-lookalike Warren Ellis scissorkicked onto the stage and bellowed “Good evening, Scotland”, the trio (who are and always have been so much more than Nick Cave’s backing monsters) gave us an hourlong epiphany as we were tossed like corks on Ellis’s fiddle tsunami - often tender, sometimes frenzied, always overwhelming.
“I’m experiencing an epiphany!” we assured ourselves, pouring more whiskey down one another’s throats. We were, as well, and I still can’t think about that hour without feeling wistful. I
also ate the best pie I’ve ever eaten. An epiphany? Anyway, it was a PieMinster Heidi Pie, suitable for vegetarians. I saw the dawn in three times, on one occasion while
drinking tea and eating toast (outside the tea and toast van). And I swam naked in the Usk. Actually, that was Ed. Can I say it was me? Great - it was me. It all happens again next August - 20th, 21st and 22nd. The first headline act is about to be announced. Do come. Bring: extra layers of clothing (for after dark), plenty of whiskey decanted into plastic bottles (security is lax). Donâ€™t bring: a unicycle, juggling items, children (unless your child is one of those who hid inside a cardboard box and gave me one of my best laughs of the year.) Iechyd da! NB - I didn't take a camera - these pictures have been stolen off the internet.
Lynton & Lynmouth North Devon… where Goats Stare At Men Named “Little Switzerland” by the Victorians, the two seaside villages of Lynton (high up on the steep cliffs) & Lynmouth (base fishing village) are in my top list of favourite hideaway places on the North Devon coast. Fantastic Exmoor coastal walk scenery whilst stuffing your faces with the best Devon cream teas or fish and chips you’ll unearth doesn’t get better than this! There’s an amazingly… spectacularly… high and severely sheer cliff walk named the ‘Valley of Rocks’, where, if you’re luck’s in, you’ll be spotted by hungry buzzards,
Pete Huddleston Oxford, UK
and teased by the local feral mountain goat fraternity who will be more than happy to demonstrate their vertical, cliff hugging gymnastic skills. Ohhhhh – and to top it all train spotters, there’s a water fuelled cliff railway… yes indeed, they’ve got their own funicular which is most definitely welcome after a couple of afternoon sea shandies. Accommodation is very reasonably priced, and as a quick foodie tip – the Rising Sun pub nestled in Lynmouth’s fishing harbour serves the most delicious food and ale. More name dropping opportunities; Lorna Doone, Sherlock Holmes and Peter Pan… there are more associations and histories to delve into than I can simply list here. ‘Nuff said, take a loved one and explore for yourselves – I’m getting dizzy and crosseyed at the prospect of planning my next visit.
Roskilde Festival Denmark http://www.roskilde-festival.dk/uk/
My best experience of 2009 was taking my six year old son James to his first music festival in Roskilde. The headline band that afternoon were Madness and as we sat in the sun waiting for them to take the stage, I taught James the opening lines of One Step Beyond. Sure enough, this was the opening song of the concert, followed by the perfect mix of old classic songs and highlights from their new album, The Liberty Of Norton Folgate. Madness are little known in Denmark, so we had that rare festival experience of being at a crush barrier close to the front, but with space behind us to dance and jump around, while still being able to reclaim our place at the front for a rest from time to time. As the sun set, we danced to one of their newer songs, NW5, me and James, with the sun blazing, both of us laughing, and the chorus sounding in our ears: â€œI would give you everything, for just that smile you bring...â€? Yes I would.
Mark Watkins Roskilde, Denmark
Nodding Off at a Children’s TV Conference. Sheffield, July 2nd Children’s TV Conference for the industry movers & shakers, insiders, jobbers & wannabes. After lunch, after the night-before, after the long journey there. I attended a discussion, moderated by one of the UK’s most successful independent producers – the topic, ‘Writer’s – who needs them?’ The hall was fairly intimate and since many writers in attendance at the conference were naturally inclined to show up, it was packed. Standing room at the back only. And so, the important producer introduced the discussion and then the ‘panel’. I’m afraid to say that they were unknown to me and seemed to be exclusively from the world of ‘gaming’ (which I know is the one area of the children’s media that is growing apace in this country). They began to give their thoughts. Now, forgive me, but people who spend their lives exclusively designing in front of computer screens, assailed by ‘shoot ‘em up graphics’ must be very clever and astute people – but they sure as hell don’t know how to speak up, interest an audience
and promote a lively public discussion. There was an atmosphere of ‘hush’ therefore as they mumbled their thoughts. The result was that following my ‘enjoyment’ of the social life before hand I settled myself on the floor against the back wall and nodded very soundly off. And apparently proceeded to snore. After a few minutes, one of the ushers then tried to stir me by shaking my shoulder. I duly awoke from a ‘night terror’, screamed loudly, “I don’t want to do it” and tried to wrestle the usher to the ground. Quite naturally the conference stopped dead and all heads turned (luckily I was mostly hidden behind the back seats). I duly announced my contrite apologies for interrupting and the discussion carried on – although what transpired I don’t know since I crawled out of the swing doors on my hands and knees and slunk away back to the bar and the company of the few sensible fellow writers who had had more sense than to turn up, preferring to continue their ‘research’ on the terrace with a glass and a fag. I think I probably proved to be a prime example of the discussion’s theme – ‘Writers? Who needs them?’
Wayne Jackman Brighton, UK
Sort Kaffe og Vinyl & Lotte On the joys of low-level social interaction and why you should get a personal assistant. So I’ve got two recommendations. The first is to establish yourself in your micro community by burrowing into a local cafe (a pub would do but think of your liver) and second, get a PA. These were two things that substantially improved my life in 2009, though one of them was sadly very brief. OK so this is a highly hypothetical situation. Say that you’re moving to Copenhagen and want to build up a social network without really trying, I’d tell you to drink a cup of coffee everyday for a couple of weeks in a cafe called Sort Kaffe og Vinyl. They sell vinyl records which are displayed along one wall, the covers the only decoration. It’s long and narrow and there are two connected rooms. If you are on your own, you’ll want to be perched on the windowsill at the front — staring out at into the street before dipping back into your book. With friends, you’ll head further back, to the green bench that snakes around the back room. Neither is very comfortable but that’s hardly the point. Very soon you’ll be on nodding terms with some of the regulars and chatting with the
Mark Stevens Copenhagen, Denmark
good looking staff (yes this is Denmark after all). And then you’ll start to know people a little better, taking an espresso hit of social interaction. At least that was my experience. If you’re lucky Svetlana will soon be inviting you to brunch on Sunday mornings.You’ll hear about the adventures of travel journalists Monica and Tom. Nina will be telling you all about the lunatics that she cares for in Copenhagen’s nut house. Davy will be entertaining you with his Edinburgh cheeky chappy chat. And you’ll be falling in love with the various beautiful girls that make some of the best coffee in town (female readers of this august publication will be equally well catered for). Sort Kaffe og Vinyl (the name means black coffee and vinyl (as in records)) changed the way that I related to my little bit of Copenhagen and opened it up, despite my living around here for many years. It happens slowly. There’s not the pressure of social situations like a party or dinner. A few words here and there build up.You don’t have to perform. And I enjoy the randomness of it. Turn up with a book and the chances are you’ll have an hour long conversation and then possibly lunch elsewhere. Wherever you are in the world, there must be something similar nearby. Be choosy, find the one with great coffee and staff who don’t mind you hanging around. See if people are allowed to sit and stand around the counter. Avoid the centre of town if you can. Look for places where people turn up on their
own. Buy a good book and only read it in that place. And then see how your own and other people’s natural curiosity will form new social links and weave you into the community. So that’s your social life taken care of. Installed in your cafe, surrounded by new-found friends you can turn your thoughts to a flourishing professional life or world domination (whatever takes your fancy really). Throughout this year I was working on something called Copenhagen Design Week — doing the communications. Now, I really hate managing people. It always seems easier and faster to do it yourself. So I fought getting any kind of communications assistant or similar the whole year. But with the event about to kick off one week before, I was drowning in work and not quite sure how I was going to be manning a press office, making a film, answering journalist enquiries and hobnobbing with various self-appointed important people at hideous design parties — all at the same time. There must have been a worried look on my face because my boss, Mette, said: “I’m getting you a PA.” And Lotte turned up a few days later and my life was substantially better. Now the thing about a good personal assistant is that you don’t have to think up things for them to do, they just do stuff. Lotte just took charge of my life, answered phone calls, made
decisions and sent time-wasters packing. Making me a cup of coffee as she informed me who had visited the press office, where she had sent them, who had called and who I actually needed to call back, I was somewhat distracted by the pens on her desk. They were all lined up. And her to-do list was written in neat handwriting. And journalists were sitting around reviewing a programme for the next day that she had typed up. And she had got the technician in to fix the internet. And the fruit basket was refilled. And the dinner reservation was made. So I’ve come to the opinion that it’s not that successful people need PA but rather that you become successful if you have a good PA. And you will of course appear much more successful if you have a PA. There’s a Japanese designer called Kenya Hara, who’s the creative director of Muji among other things, and he has these beautiful Japanese women who glide before him, fixing the world to allow his frictionless passing. I’m more envious of this than I am of his talent. So here’s the thing: everyone should have a PA. They help you do what you’re good at and charm and terrify those who seek to stop you. Lotte fixed my life for a week. And ever since, it’s been kinda messy again. And as I’m sipping this good coffee and listening to the African beats, I miss her and the terrifying organization she brought to my life.
3D Fractals by Danial White
Richard Robinson Brighton, UK
Existential moments before a concert at Brighton College I don’t have one thing, or time, that I can recall from ’09 as my favourite bit, but I do have moments that I would classify as ‘favourites.’ They are fleeting, quiet events that happen when I least expect it. And they remind me of my belief in God. It’s never the same scenario, but they all leave me with a similar feeling of gratitude or humility that I find reassuring. The latest time, I was about to play the piano at a school concert (accompanying the chamber choir) and had left it very late to look at the music. On doing so, I realised that there was a particular phrase that needed a bit of application to play it well. I practised these bars until they were under the fingers but by that time I had already given myself apprehension about them. Out of rehearsal, I played them again and again fine, but I knew that under pressure, in a hall full of hundreds of parents, I would falter. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to bluff my way through them and hope no one would notice. Then walking through the Chaplins office on the way to the Great Hall, I saw a piece of paper stuck to the wall with the following written on it…
…and even though the text was talking about more than my immediate feelings of inadequacy, it spoke to me. I got the feeling that something was watching out for me; that something made me notice that paper (which I had already walked passed many times throughout the day) and made it mean something to me. And I felt grateful! That is definitely one of my favourite feelings. I still cocked up the phrase, but I don’t think anyone noticed.
Samantha Dixon Portslade, UK
The finding of a hobby
let things play out in front of you, people, light and sound are constantly on the move, creating patterns that can’t be captured with a still photograph.
At some point in the year I clicked on a web link that took me a site called vimeo.com that’s a lot like You Tube but almost entirely populated with work posted by it’s makers, that is to say film enthusiasts. The films range from high budget slick, professional commercials, sly attempts at viral marketing, student animations, little documentaries, art films and plenty, but perhaps not as many as you would expect, of home movies.
The greater discovery was that editing, that unavoidable and tedious looking business one must do back at home, turns out to be really fun. Sure, it’s time consuming but computers make it really easy now and with a barrage of ruthless cuts you’re left with a fraction of what you shot and can start pushing the surviving snippets around to try to make a sequence that makes sense. Trawl through your music collection for an appropriate soundtrack and you’re done.
Vimeo had me hooked and it wasn’t long before I bought myself a little camera, a Panasonic Lumix ZS3 (the US version of the TZ7, the ZS3 is the same camera but without the 15min record time limit, something to do with import duties). It’s a still camera that takes 720p HD video, it has a really good wide lens with a big zoom and is almost idiot proof, it fits in my pocket, takes great still and moving pictures and I love it like a pet. Those of you that think they’re rotten photographers might try taking video. I’m really useless at stills but found the added dimension of movement and sound made things much easier, I guess you don’t have to commit yourself to one angle or moment. I made the obvious discoveries, that most of the time it’s best to hold the camera still and
Robert Brandt Brighton, UK
Naturally you’ll want to show the results to people, but reactions will never beat the process for satisfaction. It’s a hobby, it’s fun and there’s no need to compare the results with professional efforts. So now I have a hobby that isn’t just unpaid work. Maybe I’ll have a new passion next year (I’ve just been given a sewing machine for my birthday) but, combined with the times I had the camera with me, like a canoe trip down the River Wye, this was definitely the most fun I’ve had this year.