Friday 28 May 2021

Fillum Reviews

Ever since Ted & Dougal protested against the blasphemous Passion Of St Tibulous in the hillarious sit-com Father Ted I've insisted on using the Irish pronounciation of the word Film (fill-um) so as I'm going to review two films set in Ireland now seemed a good time to use that alternate spelling as well - the connection between both films is that they are rooted in the process of making and recording music

Fullum #1
Sing Street

Conor "Cosmo" Lawlor is a young Irish lad in the 80s whose life takes a turn for the worse when, due to his family's monetary issues, is forced to transfer to a strict Catholic school run by priests (worth noting that the main priest also played a priest in Father Ted).  Unable to afford shoes he is picked out by the teachers and by the bullies alike until in an attempt to impress a girl he claims to be in a band and want her to star in a video.

All he needs now is a band and some songs.

The film then shows the journey as Cosmo makes friends with a small group of musicians (including one who looks a lot like he's meant to be The Edge as he was in the 80s), tries on costumes and a range of musical styles until he finds his own all the while trying to win the girls heart.

This is a good, fun film that really captures the excitement of being in a band with some great tunes and some laughs along the way

Fullum #2

I've been wanting to see this film since I saw this youtube video of a street musician singing Falling Slowly with Glen Hansard (star of the film and co-writer of the song with his fellow star Markita Iglova) 

It tells the story of a dissilusioned Irish street musician who meets a Czech immigrant who persuades him to give his music one more try as together their lives intertwine.  This is a lovely film, shot to feel intimate, as two seperate lives intertwine and influence each other.  Both of the leads are excellent and again the songs are strong.

NB: as both films are a few years old you may struggle to find them but they are well worth seeking out

Friday 7 May 2021

Mr Giles

 One day in the autumn of 2010 a black and white cat snuck his way into our house in search of food.  We kept the back door open for our siamese Willow (though she was often happy to stay inside) and he had obviously caught smell of her special diet food (kidney problems)

H was deshiveled and dirty with no collar and looked to be old.  Every time we approached he would dart back out of the door...and yet one day when I found him lying in the grass I was able to sit down and stroke him for a bit.

It was clear he was a stray, possibly abandoned: it was that kind of area where animals would be exchanged between mates at the pub (no word of a lie I woke up one morning to the sound of our next-door-but-one neighbour yelling at some newly aquired chickens to "shut the $%^& up" - they were gone within 2 weeks)

So we decided to trap him in so we could get him checked out at our vets and somehow managed to close the door, an event that led to him leaping up towards the window and scrabbling against the glass to try and get out.  Somehow we managed to catch him and take him to the vets, where we were surprised to find out he was only around 1 year old.

It was clear he wasn't being looked after and was having a rough time of it so we decided to adopt him and took him home, where he immediately hid under the sofa and refused to move.  We set up a litter tray and a food bowl under the table so he could go and use it without feeling threatened and two days later he stank the house out using it for the first time.  From time to time we would stick our head down and say hello but otherwise leave him to it.

Sooner or later he started getting braver and would go and hide under the bed and then, lay on top of it - it might have been two months before he was ready not to run away.

He continued to be afraid of strangers, particularly strange men but he started coming and sitting on us, rubbing his face into ours.

We decided to call him Giles - on the grounds that we had inherited a Willow and would keep with the Buffy The Vampire Slayer theme.  He had a few other nicknames (I was occasionally known to call him Chairman Miow because of his imperious expressions) and eventually we lengthened his name to include Mr

When we came to move house we had no choice but to leave him in a cattery for a few days - when we came to collect him his bed was wet and he was clearly stressed.  Again, as we were now in a new area we kept him inside until he acclimatized and took him out of the house on a lead to get him used to the area (something he disliked intensely) - once we were happy he was settled he came to love it and could often be found sitting on a rock or splayed out on the ground.  In the winter he would disappear upstairs and sit in a small box in the attic where we put a blanket and at night he would push his way into the bed and lay down beside me, or moreoften with his bum in Herself's face.

The first time he was properly ill was when he suddenly started having manic episodes and would lash out and bite a hand, or run around crazily.  It turned out that he had a thyroid problem and he had to have radiation treatment meaning we had to keep him seperate from us for ten days after he came back

Then, last year, i noticed some blood in his urine and we found out he'd been hiding stage three kidney failure (there are only four stages)

From there we tried him on specialist foods (which he ignored) and had to start him on diatry supplements.  He began going off his food entirely and we had to put him on more pills to stimulate this and dull the pain...this worked for a while and we even got to the stage where we were lessening the doses for a while but then the pills started having less and less effect and last weekend, over the Bank Holiday, he refused even chicken and tuna which he would usually enjoy when all else failed.  We took him in on Bank Holiday Monday and the vet gave him some medicine but the effect was negligible and so, on Thursday, we took the decision not to make him suffer any longer

We are now, for pretty much the first time, entirely cat-less: but our house is surrounded by his things and his memory.  We will always miss him x

Monday 29 March 2021

Movie Review x3

 Whilst the cinemas have been closed there hasn't been much chance to watch any blockbusters other than on the screen and no one has been allowed to queue around the block to our house to watch a film due to social distancing so you could argue there have been no blockbusters at all, but here's three films we've watched on the iplayer recently

Love And Mercy

Flitting between 1968-69 and the mid 80s this tells the story of Brian Wilson, genius songwriter of The Beach Boys, at two very different points in life: Paul Dano plays the young Brian at the peak of his powers as he pulls out of live performances to concentrate on the studio work for what will become Pet Sounds and John Cusak plays 80s Brian - a man who is clearly not in charge of his own life.  Both eras are well played out - the scenes in the studio creating Good Vibrations are a particularly high point and there's just enough eerieness in the 80s scenes to make you aware there's something horribly wrong.  Paul Dano is excellent and John Cusak gives good levels of John Cusak angst - if you're at all interested in music and popular music history then I think you'll like this


Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig star as Sylvia Plaith and Ted Hughes in the story of their tempetous relationship as Plaith struggles with depression and feeling outshone by her husband to create her works.  Not a cheerful film this but an interesting character study - although I did feel that the film was very much geared towards showing Plaith's instability to the point where (not being previously aware of the story) I wasn't sure if Hughes's philandering was all in her head.  I think that having read up on the two since I'd like to have seen something more balanced and that got under the skin a bit more but in general it was a good film


Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth play rival racing drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt respectively in the story of the twos rivaly in Formula 1 in 1976.  Again - not being a big fan of sport I wasn't familiar with the story - but I did meet the real-life James Hunt (he presented me with a camera as a prize when I was a kid) and was aware of his playboy image so I was interested to find out more.

The film is well directed and as it progresses you become aware that the two drivers had a lot of respect for each other despite their distances - the race scenes are exciting enough for someone with no interest in F1 to be drawn in (Herself really enjoyed it as well and neither of us are sports fans) - definately worth a watch.

What have you been watching?

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Accordion To You

 About 12 months ago, give or take a week here or there, I went to a live music event for the last time.

I didn't know, as most of us didn't, that this would be the last occasion of going anywhere much for the next year or so - infact the event itself was very much a precursor to another event: my friend's Folk Musical

I have to say that I hadn't been previously aware that you could have an entire musical written in the style of Folk Music, but if anyone can do it then KF could - one of those people that you know who is just annoyingly talented and nice with it so that there's nothing you can actually get grumpy about as a lesser talent.

But the point of this story is that one of the people making up her band was the wife of a friend who plays accordion....

Now, if you're not a musician then you may not be aware of the following equation: n+1

This, mathematically speaking, shows the correct amount of instruments that you should own - where n = what you have now and, at the point during which i was watching the performance, my collection was sadly lacking in the accordion department.

To be clear here there's several instruments of different types that are often referred to as accordions:

* Hand-held squeeze box often with eight edges to each side panel comprising buttons on each side as often used threateningly by salty sailor types before they launch headlong into a forty verse sea shanty about mermaids

* larger instrument usually with one shoulder strap and buttons on both sides usually used for Cajun music where moving the bellows in and out creates a different sound

* the basic piano accordion - which is the one I was looking at.  These sit on both shoulders with a strap, make the same noise whether going in or out (essentially a loud screech to the untrained ear) with a piano keyboard for the right hand and buttons for the left hand.  To extract sound one has to: squeeze the bellows in and out, press the bass buttons (left hand) and play the notes (right hand) whilst somehow still singing said forty verse sea shanty

The amount of buttons available varies from instrument to instrument from 8 to 120, as does the amount of piano keys from around 40 to requiring two people to lift from the floor

It is quite the hardest instrument i have ever tried to learn - a fact that has not been helped by the fact that three lessons in we went into a national Lockdown and have been learning via zoom lessons ever since where the sound is deliberately set up to make everything other than human speech sound like a robot from 80s science fiction programmes

I'm also having to learn the bass cleff in music in order to try and fathom out what buttons my left hand should be doing and there has been much use of fruity language since we started but i am now able to play a broken version of Green Green Grass Of Home, a dodgy version of Tennessee Waltz, a version of Dirty Old Town in an uncertain time signature and a version of I Walk The Line that sounds like it just fell off said line....and it's only taken me a year

Still - it was something to do during lockdown, where i've found myself with lots of time to practice and no reasonable excuse not to....

What new skills have you/are you learning?

Monday 8 March 2021

Right, That's It! I've Had It....(oh grow up)

 I utter a deep sigh of dismay.

Not just for the original comment, but for those people who've chosen to respond and therefore fallen into the trap.

You've probably seen this yourself if you're on social media and have joined any kind of group/forum/page and I have to wonder: why?

Most recently I've seen this on a page I joined for Musicians Of A Certain Age - a talent competition for original songs with a closing date of end of February 2021.  At first everything was all very friendly, a bit too friendly maybe and then, as the competition closing date neared it started.

"I'm not happy with this group" complains Impotent Of Norwich, "I posted a funny thing and it got deleted"

"Why are we being asked to make a donation" cries Saddo of Westward Ho! (and yes, that does exist) "I'm off!"

And then it starts - people, who should be old enough to know better, start making snide comments back - buying into the argument and creating An Atmosphere

I've had this with various groups i've been in - a sculpting group, a comedy show appreciation group, a pop-star's page....and just recently i've started to investigate a bit further

On the last few occasions I've seen this the person who posts the original bomb immediately leaves the group so they don't see the responses - but more interestingly when i've followed the link to their page they turn out to have no linked friends and only very generic posts

My conclusion from this, along with other types of internet comment, is that there are people who do this just to start a fight - they seem to be wanting some kind of validation or attention in much the way that a baby might cry

So my advice is - if you see someone whining about a page/group/internet clip - just report them and move on.  Life's too short 

Monday 2 March 2020

The Name Of This Band Is...

A couple of months ago I read the inside story of (80s synth pop legends) New Order, as written and extensively researched by former bassist Peter Hook (aka Hooky)

I'd read his inside-story of Joy Division (the band they were previously) and thoroughly enjoyed that, but knew that rough times were ahead.

For those unaware of Manchester in the 80s and 90s it was a city knee deep in drugs, dance and guns - where the new rave culture was in control of the local nightlife and a small nightclub was being run incredibly badly by a bunch of people who had no idea what they were doing (look up the Hacienda nightclub if you want to know more)

Anyway - as expected the book centered largely on Hook's own battles with drugs, drink and demons and his slowly deteriorating relationship with singer Bernard (Barney) Sumner - leading to the inevitable split in a rock n roll tale that has been told time after time.

And today I was watching a video of them at their height and thinking what a shame it is when people who have previously been friends can barely stand to be in the same room as one another and it got me thinking:

Joy Division were formed in 1976 - Hooky left New Order in 2007.  That's 30 years.

And I realised that the longest i'd ever worked with any one person was around 7 years

And that's the nature of working in the world - you may stay or leave but the people around you will be constantly changing.  In a band you're pretty much seeing the same people day in, day out for the whole of your career.  Bands like the Rolling Stones have been working together since the 60s with only a few changes of personnel and none recently

I've always said that the creative tension that makes any band great will only last so long - Hooky himself has said that the arguments over the songs were necessary to make the songs better, but sooner or later they can turn into bitterness.  Add to that the strange working hours, long journeys and access to the seedier sides of life and its no wonder that the pressure cooker blows

And for those of us sitting on the sidelines forever hoping that Morrissey and Marr, or Byrne/Franz/Weymouth/Harrison (insert favourite split band of choice) will sort out their differences and get back together maybe we need to just let those people move on to the new, better job - where they can, presumably, fall out with someone entirely new?

NB: I've seen the Talking Heads Hall Of Fame induction performance....and it would have been better to have just let the memories alone

Wednesday 4 December 2019

I Walk The Line

There's been a lot of talk on social media recently about self-service checkouts.

Possibly not the most vital subject in the world, certainly further down the chain of importance than achieving world peace, stopping climate change and free asparagus for the under 5s (you know it makes sense), but contentious nonetheless.

The main gist of this talk has fallen into two categories:
#1 - it's putting people out of jobs so you should use the manned kiosk instead
#2 - I'm not paid to work here - you should pay someone to do this for me

Of the two above arguments I suspect that what's behind door number two is a bit more truthful.  Let's face it - I've been getting cash out of a hole in the wall for a good thirty or so years and have not been into my local branch for at least 15 years (other than to steal one of those pens-on-a-chain they always have), thus putting many a potential cashier out of a job and now, increasingly, I am paying for things with a jaunty little tap or a swipe of my card and, by dint of doing so, presumably putting the people who fill the holes in the walls jobs into jeopardy as well.

This is, of course, because cash out of a hole in a wall, or even better magical cash produced with a swipe, is less of a hassle for us than going into a queue, filling in a slip, handing it over to a person, having to make idle chit-chat about the weather whilst the lady with a life-savings worth of two pence pieces chooses peak time to deposit them...and this is why i suspect that reason two is the truth because of course having to swipe and bag our own purchases is less convenient to us so why should we have to do it, right? (What do we want? More shop assistants, when do we want them?  At sensible shopping times in accordance with our working and leisure needs!)

But none of the above is my problem with the machines - it's that because of their placement we British are losing our ability to queue.

There are many things that are, despite all the evidence to the contrary, known internationally about the British: We're all cockneys and talk like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins (caw bloimey Muuury PoppIns, ows yer father, let's have a sing around the owld pianna), we wear bowler hats and carry umbrellas everywhere and look like Jacob Rees-Mogg, we're awfully polite and drink tea and we can queue like there's no tomorrow with nerry a sigh or complaint

But the positioning in shops of these new-fangled gadgets is spoiling this because they are usually placed in a corner that is near, but not inline with, the regular tills.

Now what should happen in a fair and just society is that everyone would join a single queue - and when either a machine or a cashier becomes free then you should go to that accordingly - however, because the line of approach is not consistent or clear you find people suddenly pushing past you and moving to form seperate sub-queues.

Being British, no one complains or even raises an eyebrow - there might be a slight "tsk" of disapproval but even that is stretching things to the limit.

I mention this in passing because just this week, for the first time in 20 years, I had occasion to fly somewhere from a plane station (and why are they called Airports when train stations aren't called train ports that's what i'd like to know).  It was an economy flight - one of those in a rotor-blade plane with Amelia Earheart behind the wheel - the type where everything, including your seat, is extra.  The flight was only an hour but as we taxied down at the next air station (I'm sticking with it, it's a thing OK?) and people began walking along the concourse we turned a corner and there, under the signs for Arrivals, was a nice, orderly queue of people.  The type of queue that makes one nostalgic for days gone by.

And so, being British, I joined it and politely stood in line for a good five minutes as a few of the other passengers continued past and around a corner - assuming that they had paid some additional fast-pass exit fee that i knew my company would have not paid (That Pixie can stand and queue, my boss would have said, twirling his hipster moustache)

It was a full five minutes before the queue started moving and, at that point, i realised what i was actually standing in was the queue to board a plane back to where i had just come from

Quietly, and with as much dignity as i could salvage, i made my excuses to the man in front of me and stepped out of the queue and around the corner.  I didn't look back to see if anyone else would follow me