Friday, 24 August 2007

Top 5 Gig Venues

Haven't done one of these for a while so having been to a cracking gig last night thought I'd do a nice easy one to get things going again.

1. Brighton Concorde 2

2. The Garage

3. Brixton Academy

4. (Old) Mean Fiddler

5. The 100 Club

Despite being some 60 miles away from home the Concorde 2 is remarkably easy to get to. Door to door in a little over an hour and I can park within 50 yards of the door. A converted sea front shelter within spitting distance of the beach, the C2 is a nice blend of historic building and contemporary refurbishments. The pillars down the right hand side can obstruct your view a bit if you end up on that side, but also give you a route to get nearer the front. Been twice so far this year, last nights corking "secret" show from Bloc Party and a simply dazzling performance from Breaks in June.

There's something about The Garage that has usually led me to consume vast amounts of alcohol whenever I go. The down side of this is I'm then really keen to stay for the after-gig disco and forget the consequences of finding yourself in North London at 2 in the morning trying to get back to the suburbs. The stage gives you a bizarre "widescreen" view of the bands due to the low dance floor ceiling, but easy access to the front can be gained thanks to the "toilet route" that runs to the front left of the stage. Great gigs I have seen hear include The Dirtbombs, The Soledad Brothers, Forward Russia (possibly hottest gig I ever been at) and the stunning Lightning Bolt show played from the middle of the dance floor instead of the stage.

Despite being in Brixton, the Academy is still a really good venue. Again there's good access down the front if you feel the need and the crowd barriers do an excellent job of ensuring when you do get down there you don't die! Seen a lot of great gigs here the ones that spring to mind are Faith No More in 1990, The White Stripes in 2003, the Pixies in 2004 and back to back gigs from Bloc Party and the Kaiser Chiefs in 2005. One positive about Brixton is my recent discovery (thanks Al!) of Speedy Noodles, a grotty little noodle bar down the Brixton Road, cheap food before or after the gig and they sell beer too. If you can cope with the occasional nutter passing by this is worth a visit.

The old Mean Fiddler was the one in Harlesden (another lovely part of London and probably the only place I have seen a MacDonald's with protective screening between customers and employees!), another bugger to get to unless you drove but well worth the trip. It had a very odd layout with a very small dance floor area but lots of bar space, and lots of odd spots where you could get a good view of the stage. They also served a really good pint of Guiness and I was very sad when they closed down and moved to the current Charing Cross Road location (which, I have just found out, is about to become the Astoria 2 again).

Final entry but one that could climb fast is the historic 100 club. I've only been to one gig here, a top night which saw The Futureheads supporting The Kills, but if I get along to a few more it could definitely claim the top spot. It's a venue steeped in history and there's something about the red walls, pictures of Jazz greats and the huge 100 Club letters that send a tingle down your spine. It has the feel of a proper working man's club and does not appear to have changed a great deal from it's 50's and 60's heyday. The other big selling point for me was they have a proper bar with a good selection of beer (including real ale's) and the staff were really friendly and helpful.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Top 5 Things I have bought

These are the top 5 things I have bought. They have to varying degrees provided me only with pleasure. They have not required that I go back to the shop and complain and they have not left me with that nagging doubt that I could have got a better deal or should have bought something different instead.

1. Engagement Ring

2. Apple 20GB iPod

3. Fulham Season Ticket

4. Canon Ixus II Digital Camera

5. Pure Digital Radio

Yes. OK. I am a chicken. Jane doesn't really know about the fact I'm writing this blog, she's giving me enough grief about the Fulham one, but she will inevitably find out soon and when she does I am not a brave enough man to put the engagement ring anywhere other than first on this list. It is almost certainly the single most expensive item I have ever bought that didn't require a mortgage or loan to pay for. It is a single square diamond which we got from Swag in Richmond back in ... er ... 1992, I think. It is perfect in every sense and despite it costing a fair penny back then I have never for one minute regretted buying it. The fact that it took us another 7 years before we finally got married meant that little ring probably earned its keep by remaining as a shining reminder that we were committed to each other, and it's still a beautiful peace of jewellery.

My iPod is wonderful. I don't care what people say about other MP3 players, the iPod is cool. It's white. It's got a cool click wheel. It's shiny on the back. I got my 20GB pod direct from Apple about two years ago. 20GB is a lot of music, though mine tends to stay consistently around the 16GB mark. It's more CD's than you could ever take on holiday with you, and lets me take all my favourite albums with me wherever I go. I've had no problems (touch wood) with the battery life and use it nearly every day. The shuffle facility has opened up whole areas of my music collection I had long forgotten (it's like listening to Radio Chop which only ever plays really great music). It occasionally displays an unnerving level of sentience, "Hello Dave .. today I am playing you a selection of New York Punk, later though we might try some soundtrack music". Though at other times the contrast of Folk followed by Garage Rock followed by Indie works just as well.

I bought my first Fulham season ticket in 1996, Micky Adams had just taken over as manager of the club and there was an air of optimism about the future. Previously the four of us who went regularly had found it just as easy to turn up when we wanted, but as the team improved and eventually rose through the divisions, we realised we were going to nearly every game anyway and a season ticket made more sense. It makes you feel a bigger part of the club, and also ensures that you are there for all the good games whereas when you pick and choose you nearly always go to the worst games. Having made the Premier League and enjoyed a couple of seasons in the top flight, the financial reality of supporting two children began to tell and I had to drop the ever more expensive season ticket. This coming year Fulham have made an unbelievably good offer for Season tickets in the part of the ground I normally sit so I am once more going to be a full ticket holder. I can't wait.

My digital camera is a Canon Ixus II. It's a 3.2 mega pixel camera with a 1GB SD memory card. It's shiny and silver. It's very small. It may not compare with the current cameras on the market and I might well buy a new one in the next couple of years, but I have been very happy with my Canon.

I had admired the Pure digital radios from afar for a long time. I first saw one at a party in Reigate and was struck by it's retro styling with wooden trim which looked great and nicey understates the level of technology involved. I kept an eye on the price for a long time. They stayed the same. Hardly dropped a penny. Then we bought one for my Mum and Dad. It looked nice and they seemed to like it. We didn't really need one though. The price still didn't drop. Eventually we just caved in and bought one anyway. An Evoke XT1 in beech. It is, much like the iPod, both beautiful and reliable.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Top 5 Avengers Ladies

Ba-ba-baa-bah, da-da-daa-dah. Dum dum dum dum dum dum double-dum, dum dum dum dum dum dum double-dum. Still with me? The Avengers was classic British television at its best, mixing 60's spy drama with science fiction elements, it was a show that never failed to deliver. Steed was the focal point throughout (even in that first series in which he was not officially the lead role) but it was the ladies that really defined each era.

1. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg)

2. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman)

3. Purdey (Joanna Lumley)

4. Tara King (Linda Thorson)

5. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman)

The original show ran for six series between 1961 and 1969, so all my viewing was based on repeat showings. It was Diana Rigg, therefore, who was the first Avengers lady I ever saw, and she was pretty much single handedly responsible for me watching it from then on. During those two series I was entranced by Rigg's beauty and confidence. The chemistry between her and Patrick Macnee was palpable and the show at the point found all elements combine to achieve the perfect drama.

Whilst Honor Blackman should take some credit for defining the blueprint for Mrs Peel, she did not provide the same underlying level of sexual tension. She is good though and whilst I've not seen as many of the series she starred in the ones I have seen are very watchable. The story that part of her characters style was a result of her performing lines originally written for Ian Hendry show that it's not always by design that a TV show hits the mark. I was 8 when The New Avengers came along and only rarely allowed to stay up and watch it. I must have seen the Peel episodes by that time as I remember being disappointed with it in comparison. It also failed to compete with the raucous excitement of The Professionals which was grabbing my attention around the same time. The one bright point of The New Avengers though was Joanna Lumley, a woman who would later make me stay up half the night with the prospect that she might strip for Children In Need (this was before the internet remember, you had to get your thrills where you could!).

I only discovered the Tara King shows when Channel Four ran a repeat in the late 80's. These shows were surprisingly good once I'd got used to Thorson's less confident style. Finding a 5th lady for this was always going to be tricky. There are a few (Carol Wilson a receptionist in the first series and Venus Smith who appeared in six episodes of the first "Cathy Gale" series) but I've not seen enough (if any) of them to really let them count. Emma Peel, therefore, gets a second spot in the list thanks to Uma Thurman's portrayal in the truly execrable Avengers Film. Uma certainly looks the part in her leather cat suit and is as feisty and capable as a Mrs Peel should be, but she's not a patch on Dame Diana so really only makes the list by default.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Top 5 Words I Frequently Mispell (sic)

I am ashamed to say my spelling is atrocious. Without a decent spell checker my blog's would undoubtedly be littered with misspellings and typos. I still rely on those old strategies taught at school to deal with certain words; Wed-nes-day, B-e-a-u-tiful and Bus-i-ness being particular favourites. However there are other words that have alluded my brain's capacity to cope with for so long I doubt I will ever avoid them.

1. Definitely

2. Whether

3. Lettuce

4. Twelfth

5. Disappointed

Definitely should definitely be spelt definately. I am sure in this one case I am right and the rest of the world in error. This one is stuck so solidly in my psyche that I don't recognise it as being wrong unless a spell checker picks it up, and even then I question whether the spell checker is not working on some flawed U.S. based version.

My difficulties with whether stem mainly from my geography studies. The introduction of weathering somehow introduced into my brain a previously unheard of third variation of the word spelt wether. My strategy for avoiding this one is to remember that there are actually only two variations and if I'm not talking about the rain or the sun then I need to add an 'H'.

Lettuce is not a word you have to write down very often, in fact I'm almost certain the only time I do it's on my shopping list. For some unexplained reason I feel the overwhelming need to add an 'A' and so for a long time ended up with the version 'lettauce'. My wife was quick to point out the error of my ways and I have now managed to improve my spelling in a slight, but still completely incorrect manner, so that my shopping lists now read 'lettace'.

Twelfth has long been a struggle. I think mainly it's the confusion between having a 'v' in the standard version (i.e. twelve) which then becomes completely redundant in the ordinal version.

Disappointed is just one of those words which you suspect has far too many double constants. For ages I have spelt it dissappointed, which I then adapt to dissapointed as I think I've spotted it's evil trick. Thank heavens for spell checkers they really have contributed to the well being of the world!

Irony of ironies - turns out I can't spell misspell either. I've left it in the title as a stark reminder to myself that sometimes there are areas that even spell checkers fear to tread.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Top 5 Football teams other than Fulham

Yes, I might get mullered for this depending who reads it but I do have to admit to having a soft spot for some other Football teams other than Fulham.

1. Kingstonian

2. Arsenal

3. Hibernian

4. Brighton & Hove Albion

5. Whatever team Mickey Adams is involved with (currently Colchester United)

Kingstonian - I was born in Kingston and everyone has to have a non-league team don't they? Really caught interest when they did quite well a few years back and culminated in them reaching the Conference. I actually saw them play at Wembley (they won the F.A. Trophy 1-0 against Forest Green Rovers) which is more than I've managed with Fulham. They've fallen on harder times more recently but I still keep an eye out for their results.

Arsenal - They played in the first two F.A. Cups that I really remember watching and I was also lured in further when collecting my first Panini sticker album. Lost a lot of my interest when Willie Young viciously scythed down little Paul Allen in the 1980 Cup Final, but then regained my interest when Mr Wenger turned them into one of the most attractive teams I had ever seen. Oh, and I read Fever Pitch about then too. All this has resulted (in some unconscious way) to my eldest, Ben, becoming a Arsenal supporter. At four he was already taking a big interest in Football and wanted to follow a team, with red being his favourite colour I could see him being drawn to the perils of Man Utd and Liverpool so had to take action. I never realised that it would stick quite so solidly. Damn, if only I'd thought of Charlton!

Hibernian - My Scottish team. Mainly a result of George Best moving on to play for them after he'd left Fulham. Been up to Easter Road to see them play, managing through some fluke of luck to get a ticket for the Edinburgh derby against Hearts about 1/2 hour before kick off.

Brighton & Hove Albion - Partly a result of No. 5 (see below) and the numbers of ex-Fulham that have played for them recently. Also always enjoyed the trip down there and like the fact they are sponsored by Skint (a Brighton record company) which must be the most appropriate sponsor in all football.

Colchester United - Micky Adams deserves so much credit for turning around Fulham, and I really believed he was going to go on and be a big success in management. Hasn't turned out that way so far but you never know. Last year it was Coventry this year he's first team coach at Colchester. Come on you U's.

A quick mention for West Ham United who would almost certainly have made this list prior to Tevez-gate. I've already covered my interest in the Hammers in my post about how I became a Fulham fan on The Hammy End Chronicle but as it stands, and partly due to the Premier League's bungling, I don't feel much sympathy for them at all.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Top 5 TV shows I liked as a child

We're pretty much talking the early seventies here and TV shows that made a lasting impression on me. Interestingly I think all of these were aired on BBC. I have long held the opinion that ITV is rubbish and all really good telly is only ever shown on BBC or Channel 4 (which wasn't on when I was little) so today's poll (and in fact my earlier one about Quiz shows) would seem to bear this out.

1. Mr Benn

2. Camberwick Green

3. Wacky Races

4. Bod

5. Bagpuss

Mr Benn - They only made 13 episodes of this but every single one is solid gold. Written and based on the illustrations of David McKee, Mr Benn was both beautifully drawn and beautifully told. Mr Benn lived at number 52 Festive Road, the place where every show began and ended, and this was apparently based on Festing Road in Putney where David McKee used to live. It was also narrated by (famous Fulham fan) Ray Brooks. A new book "Gladiator" was published in the 90's (and is a favourite story of both my boys) and this has subsequently been turned into the 14th TV episode.

Camberwick Green - This is really an idealised view of what it was (and should be) like to live in Britain. A lovely little picturesque village with no crime and friendly people helping each other out. Nothing particularly amazing ever happens just nice little stories. Succeeded by "Trumpton", which introduced the Fire Brigade with their "Pugh! Pugh! Barney McGrew! Cuthbert! Dibble! Grubb!" roll call, and "Chigley", which had the 6 o'clock whistle at Cresswell's Chigley Biscuit factory to mark the end of the working day. Also made "cool" by 80's indie band Half Man Half Biscuit writing two songs based on the shows.

Wacky Races - Hanna-Barbera were responsible for some great cartoons, but this was the first one I remember watching on a regular basis. Eleven different cars race against each other in two races each episode. Dick Dastardly and Muttley in their Mean Machine being the only racers to never win a race.

Bod - Narrated by the immaculate John Le Mesurier with music by the multi-talented Derek Griffiths. It also featured a frankly bizarre interlude from Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band every week. This always ended with Alberto choosing a different flavour of milkshake as his reward for solving a problem. The theme tune is forever stuck in my head.

Bagpuss - "Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, Old Fat Furry Catpuss, Wake up and look at this thing that I bring". Created and voiced by Oliver Postgate, who was also creator of "Noggin the Nog", "Ivor the Engine" and "The Clangers". One of my favourite parts involved "The Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ" and it's mice that sang in high pitched voices about fixing and mending whatever had been brought into the shop that week.

Ah, happy days.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Top 5 Alcoholic Beverages

My alcohol preferences seem to change every five years or so, as a youngster I was a big Cider fan but that ended suddenly and in predictable circumstances. Hope this isn't going to sound like I'm an alcoholic, my opportunities for actually going out and drinking are few and far between, but when I get the chance I do enjoy it!

1. Kronenburg 1664

2. Guinness

3. Bombay Sapphire Gin (& Tonic)

4. Red Wine

5. Traditional English Ale (T.E.A.)

So currently I am still a lager fan and for me Kroney is the top dog. Stella's OK for the odd bottle at home, but try drinking it on a serious night out and your going to regret it. I have had a couple of "incidents" with Stella which I don't plan on repeating. Stella is also the only drink that can give me a hangover before the end of the evening. I prefer the taste of Kroney and generally the next day is not as bad. Guinness was my long held favourite drink and I still enjoy the odd pint, however, once you've drunk Guinness in Ireland it's never quite the same anywhere else again. I also need to make a point here about the current fad for "extra cold" Guinness. What is the point of that? It's quite cold enough already thank you very much and on the rare occasion that I'm forced to relent and accept an "extra cold" one I can't tell the bloody difference anyway! Pah! Stupid marketing people involved there I reckon.

The rise of "a nice gin & tonic" in my list must surely be a sign that I'm getting older. I don't think I'd even have thought of trying this before I was 30. In a big tall glass with some ice and a slice of lemon it's fantastic, kind of like Alcopops for grown ups. Blue Sapphire is great partly because it is blue (well the bottle is) and partly because it is slightly stronger than Beefeater. Though I like Beefeater a lot as well so it's probably mainly because it's blue. My love of red wine is another sign of my maturing taste buds. I used to only drink white wine (a bit of Blue Nun with some lemonade when I was 12 or 13!) but now have completely reversed that choice. You'll notice this is the only entry in which I've not named a specific brand. That's because as far as wine is concerned I'm a philistine. If it's red and wet it'll do fine thanks. I really wish I knew more about wine and could discuss the various merits of different types, but I tend to drink it, enjoy it and forget what is was called. I do know that I like a decent Pinot Noir (especially a good New Zealand one), and also like a lot of Merlot's but that's about as far as my knowledge goes.

The final entry goes to Traditional English Ale, a real ale brewed by the independent Hog's Back Brewery from Surrey. I've recently been making an attempt to get back into Real Ale and T.E.A. has been one of my best discoveries so far. The problem with real ale is finding a pub that actually serves it (or at least knows how to look after it) especially when, as a parent, my trips to the pub tend to be limited to a fairly small locality (i.e. Friday lunchtimes at work and the occasional Saturday evening with my mates)