Thursday, September 24, 2009


This is the place to be if you like Golf. Vilamoura, down on the Algarve, Portugal's number one tourist destination, is a kind of vast, cultivated mecca for the sport. The hotels and the roads dot and skirt at the edges of the enormous golf courses - and people like me (wearing my businessman hat) come here to pretend we're on holiday when in fact we're working. No one has played any golf. Instead I've just spent four days in meetings and bars, discussing education publishing and, actually, rather enjoying myself. Have managed to avoid overdosing on alcohol, have eaten some good fish - and am off out shortly to enjoy my final evening here before I return to Brighton. Went out earlier and took some photographs of the surrounding area; they're below - it's a strange environment. No-one around. Thick, unyielding grass, professionally manicured. And lots of plush villas and half-built hotels. This is not my holiday destination of choice. But it's kind of fascinating anyway.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

curly hair, live at the duke of york's

Just a quick post this - to bring a band to your attention. Curly Hair are a Brighton-based band operating in that loosely-afililated group of musicians which goes under the name the Willkommen Collective. Playing charming, pretty, lo-fi pop, they supported fellow Willkommen alumni The Leisure Society (also featured on Sounds of Brighton, here) at the Duke of York's cinema on September 21st. Dan and Lyndsey went, and the former made this video.

Friday, September 18, 2009

our mother gave us new clothes to wear

Here's a new song. I was thinking about raffles, village halls, coat pegs and varnished flooring when I was writing it. Video by Dan; filmed in Lewes at the weekend. Thanks Dan!

Email me if you want an mp3 copy, or leave any comments below. Ta.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

on siblings

This article in the Guardian today is really really fascinating; after a shared childhood which was both mutually-supportive and unsettling, the Kaczynski brothers became estranged. And one, David, gradually realised that the other, Ted, was the Unabomber, the American murderer who carried out a campaign of mail bombings over almost two decades in protest at the encroaching influence of technology on society. His victims – thankfully only three were killed – ranged from University Professors to airline passengers, from lobbyists in the Timber Industry to a computer rental shop owner. Most suffered because of a sometimes only minor connection with technology. David, noticing similarities between the Unabomber’s manifesto and the furious letters he sometimes received (a key recurring phrase was ‘cool-headed logicians’), notified the FBI.

I’m always powerfully attracted to stories about siblings, and intrigued by the relationship between them. It’s common I think for only children to be interested in this concept – and people often ask me if, when I was young, I wanted a brother or a sister. The answer is that I never, even for one moment, considered it a possibility. I never imagined having a sibling, never felt that my position as an only child was under threat – which is testament I suppose to how loved my parents made me feel. It’s only since I’ve been an adult that sibling relationships have started to interest me – not in such a way as to induce any feelings of envy or regret; but as a powerful spur to my imagination. I often find myself, when I write, returning to the idea of siblings, which is probably a bad idea as I’m not in a position to write with any authority on the subject.

The other day, working on a new song, I was struggling with finding lyrics for the vocal harmony I had in mind. Just as I was at the point of giving up, I invented a completely different melody and grabbed a piece of paper, and wrote a very quick, almost stream-of-consciousness lyric about waiting to be collected from some kind of meeting or event in a village hall. Without thinking, I included the verse:

"I collect up the bodies,
I fold down the chairs,
I wait for my brother.
I whistle a tune,
And our mother – she gave us new clothes to wear".

Flicking through song lyrics I’ve written, I often write as if I’m one of a pair of siblings. How strange. Another song opens with the line,

"Oh Catherine… I know you’re not my sister".

Dr Freud? Any thoughts?

Friday, September 11, 2009

dog playing pool

I think possibly the two minutes I just spent watching this video were the happiest two minutes of my life.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

geographical ignorance

Overheard on the train this morning.

Tall, feckless youth: "Did you see the football? Fucking qualified for the World Cup!"
Short, feckless companion: "Did we?"
Tall youth: "Yeeeah. Thrashed Croatia. 5-1."
Short companion. "Who are Croatia?".

How do you answer that?

snow angels

I've not seen his later films, but I'm a massive fan of the two early movies by the American writer and director, David Gordon Green - George Washington and All The Real Girls (which I've written about before). Since those films Green has made a couple more indie pictures and a couple more which suggest he's keen to move in to the mainstream: he's currently making a stoner comedy starring Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman. Having lost track of his films somewhat, I just took a quick look at Wikipedia to see what I've missed, and noted that he made a film in 2006 called Snow Angels, starring Sam Rockwell (who was excellent in Moon) and Kate Beckinsale. Anyone seen it? Worth seeing?

Anyway, curious about it I just flicked over to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and read a few user comments. This one delighted me - I love it.

"The only problem I found with the movie was that its setting was a bit confusing. There were scenes where the characters used cell phones, and others where there were those record players for LPs. But other than that, the movie was flawless."

Mobile Phones and record players. Can any of my clever readers solve this complex chronophysical puzzle?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

deep in thought

drama in the old steine

Ooh, gosh, ouch, wince etc. This must have hurt. Argh.

stussy vs dr martens

When I was a teenager, having the right shoes was very important. At 16, I had four pairs, and couldn't ever imagine needing anything else.

Chelsea boot. Dr Martens 8 eye (cherry red). Desert boot. Adidas Gazelle (dark blue).

Looking back, I've made some pretty horrific fashion choices over the years, but I think I was pretty much on the ball back in '93.

If I'd have seen these back then, I would have died. Stussy have teamed up with Dr Martens to design a new mid-cut boot which seems to take the best of the DM boot, combine it with the sleek beauty of a desert boot, and leaven the mix with the lightness of touch of the best trainer. Weirdly, I think the 16 year old me would have been happier spending £168 on a pair of shoes than I am now - but I know that he'd be scrabbling around for loose change if he was here now.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

a day in saltdean

I had some time off last week, and spent it in the least interesting, but most psychologically valuable, way possible – doing nothing. I’ve not had a week off work in years (unless you count those when I’m moving house) so to have a few days of doing nothing was not so much a treat as a necessity. Funnily enough, I didn’t much enjoy it, finding it hard to really relax, but since I’ve been back at work this week I’ve been able to notice the difference. My concentration has improved, my spirits imperceptibly raised. So I’m glad I took a break.

On Saturday, though, I woke feeling like I’d wasted, rather than used wisely, my time, and decided to get out of Brighton. I’d toyed with getting up to London during the week but not done it, and felt that unless I did something I’d feel like an opportunity had been missed. So, glancing up approvingly at the blue sky, I jumped on a bus and made my way East along the Sussex coast, disembarking at the nearby town of Saltdean, intent on taking the air, and a few photographs.

Saltdean isn’t exactly a pretty town, but a characteristic of the English coast holds true; that there is something glorious about the feeling of sea air snapping at one’s neck in the summertime, and that the plainest of towns are immeasurably improved by a clear sky. Saltdean is actually, nominally, part of the city of Brighton and Hove, but really it started as an off-shoot of Rottingdean, the nearby town that was once home to Rudyard Kipling, and a key inspiration for the League of Gentlemen’s Royston Vasey. When Rottingdean’s population rose in the 1920s, the farm land of Saltdean was developed and the small town emerged.

It's not by any means without its charms; although the majority of buildings are poky and functional, there are some real oddities at the Southernmost tip, with kooky nods to Bauhaus and Cubism sandwiched next to suburban bungalows. It's most famous building is Saltdean Lido, a Grade 2 listed outdoor swimming pool which is a lovely, Art Deco landmark on the Sussex coast. It's listed status is no guarantee of its preservation, but it seems to be doing pretty well for itself, although it’s invariably empty when I pass it.

And along the coast in Saltdean is a lovely, small, pebbled beach and promenade, called the Undercliff walk. It was here that, for about four glorious hours, I simply sat on the sea wall and watched the water and the gulls swooping up over the cliffs, ‘til Dan joined me and we started leaning over to take photos of the waves, and got so comprehensively soaked by them that we had to retreat to Rottingdean and have a couple of pints as we dried off.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

horizon at saltdean