Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Blustery with some helicopters

I bumped into this on my walk home. Cool eh? I just missed seeing it land. There seemed to be a problem involving a coach outside the Tate.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Double dip

The record shopping in Wales was very fine. I was heading to Porthmadog anyway to take a trip on the Festiniog Railway and a tip from the Plashing Vole put me onto Cob Records there. It's a serious establishment. As usual I had to go through everything as I always forget particular albums that I want, only that I'll know them when I see them - so I was delighted to so quickly chance on It's My Way by Buffy Sainte Marie (I often start with the Ss, I don't know why). My elation evaporated when I saw the price though: £22. I kept going and moments later found the less crucial but nonetheless intriguing Best of the Vibrations but again reeled at the price tag: £42.

Later in the week I headed south and paid a visit to Hag's Records in Lampeter. Lampeter is where I went to college and in the three years I was there the almost daily purchases I made at Hag's provided a sizeable part of my collection. My customer loyalty was amply rewarded the first time I went back, about ten years after I graduated, when the great Hag himself walked in and, without any prompts on my part, recognised me straight away.

It's my favourite record shop for two reasons - I always find something that I really, really want there. And it's always incredibly cheap. This visit was no different and I was, very discreetly (it never does to show too much emotion on these occasions), ecstatic to find a copy of Buffy Sainte Marie's It's My Way for a mere fiver.

Buffy Sainte Marie Ananias

Saturday, 16 October 2010

South Stack lighting

I find lighthouses a bit terrifying for some reason. It may stem from a Dr Who story I vaguely remember set in one - featuring a classic blob-type creature killing off the occupants one by one. (I looked it up: The Horror of Fang Rock. Broadcast September 1977. I was five).

Lighthouses perched atop headlands I can deal with, in fact I'd love to live in one. But those standing in the sea, rearing up from the very waters themselves, I can hardly bear to look at them. I think because when I do I inevitably imagine myself in those waters desperately scabbling for a hold on the slippery walls. It isn't just a straightforward fear of drowning, even if I were safely afloat in a lifejacket and knew help was on the way I wouldn't be able to look up at my surroundings. I'm not sure what this is all about - possibly some kind of cosmic dread, like the sea is the universe or something.

Despite all that I'm quite into going to see lighthouses. While I was planning my recent holiday my research consisted of checking Lighthouses of England & Wales and The Modern Antiquarian (and, er...the Readers Digest Touring Guide to Great Britain). I'd been thinking more of heading south and so it was only a couple weeks before I set off that I looked north and realised Anglesey was in easy striking distance and that South Stack, somewhere I've wanted to visit for years, was seriously on the agenda. I did my homework and was gutted to discover that the lighthouse would be closed to the public from the end of September - a few days before I could get there.

I crossed the drab expanse of Anglesey to get there anyway and sure enough the little office was shut up. However, I obstinately made my way down the four hundred steps and, magically, found the gate across the little bridge unpadlocked. I snuck across and approached the tower. I didn't go right up to it as I could see an open door with paint pots lying about and I didn't fancy a telling off from some gruff, nautical type.

It was certainly a weird environment, half sacred precinct and half secret military installation (the latter effect heightened by the pair of jet fighters circling about). I don't know why I found the tower so sinister - it works, after all, unceasingly for good. But I dunno, its whiteness, its height, the barely audible turning of its great cyclopean eye and its remote location all added up to a very strange vibe.

The authority responsible for lighthouses in the UK is Trinity House, which I think sounds ancient, respectable and somehow quietly evil. And that was before I read that it was governed by a court of elder brethern, and presided over by a master, none other than arch-lizard HRH the Duke of Edinburgh himself.

Monday, 4 October 2010

C'est Fab, part deux

Yesterday I killed two birds with one stone and saw the impossibly svelte Fabienne Delsol at the 100 Club. I'd never been to this legendary venue and apparently sky high rents are forcing it to close by Christmas - which, now that I've been, I can say would be a great shame - it's exactly the kind of club that I love. It's just the right size and last night it was reasonably full of blokes in snazzy cardigans and aging retro beauties.

The first support act, an instrumental three piece, efficiently cranked it out and I missed most of the second band as I went for a wander down Wardour Street in search of cigarettes. When I got back in I walked over to the stage and positioned myself near where the microphone had been set up and that was that - I'm so used to hardly being able to see bands it was weird to be standing two yards away, I didn't know quite where to look half the time.

The show was to promote her new album which I haven't heard but according to the blurb is meant to be a bit mellower than her previous output, but everything sounded pretty crunchy last night. The highlights for me, not very adventurously, were the ones I'd heard before, the best being the closer - a cover of early Quo tune When My Mind Is Not Live. After this they left the stage and someone (the club owner?) jumped up and tried to cajole them into an encore - Fabienne returned to the stage and said she'd sing if the band were up for it. They weren't. At least I think that's what happened - I was a bit drunk. I was hoping that they'd play My Love Is Like A Spaceship.

I was surprised at how low key the event was, I clearly have a tendency to assume that bands I like are bigger than they are - I was amazed when I saw Fabienne walk around the stage placing out the set lists and just generally hanging around throughout the evening. I'm fairly sure that kind of thing didn't happen at even the crummiest gigs I attended as a teenager. Someone's posted a tune from the very night on youtube already. My bowlcut makes an appearance from 1' 03" onwards.