Sunday, 27 September 2009

In Which There Is (you guessed it) Another Writer

After having my books signed by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart I had about an hour before the final event of the day,Tony Lee 'Talking Graphic Novels' so I had time to pop down to the railway station to book tickets to go to London in 10 days time (for a Jason Webley gig)

I had decided to go to this event because I'd enjoyed reading Dr Who - The Forgotten and because I've been following him on Twitter and thought that it was likely to be interesting.

I was right - it was.

Tony was talking about his own experience and about writing comics in general - comparing it with writing novels - more 'show', less 'tell', with the need to be able to tell the story without acres of dialogue and description - also making excellent use of the flip-chart as a visual aid, encouraging audience participation to show how a stock situation (maid Marion on the scaffold, Robin Hood about to save her) becomes a story, looking at the web of connections, backstory and future possibilities which spread out from that single point, and make up the story.

Tony also demonstated his own awesome artistic talents to show what can be left out of a comic when telling the story. As you can see, his skills are such that Comic Artists everywhere will be looking to their laurels... He also spoke about how comics are laid out (i.e. cliffhanger at the bottom of a page - surprise twists on the left hand page so the eye doesn't skip ahead etc.)

I loved that Tony was so enthusiastic about his job - he also stressed that one should not become a writer to become famous - one should become a writer because one has stories to tell.

Also, if one wishes to break into comics, this can be achieved by lying ones way into interviews with DC & Marvel.

Tony was a little twitchy - he has, after all, just finished writing the graphic novel adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' and was a little concerned that the Jane Austen Society may havbe a hit out on him as a result, which, given that the Jane Austen Festival is still going on in Bath means he was taking his life in his hands to attend... (Although thinking about it, the Jane Austen Society ought surely to be challenging him to a duel, rather than sending assasins....)

I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and was happy to get my copy of 'The Forgotten' signed at the end.

After leaving the Guildhall I took the opportunity to pop up to Waterstones to pick up a copy of Mike Carey's latest Felix Castor novel - passing one of my favourite Bath buildings - the old circulating library, where, I like to imagine, Miss Jane Austen, Miss Anne Eliot and others may all have borrowed novels, in their day.
In Waterstones I was surprised to find one final author - Allan Gilliland - who was signing copies of his book 'The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion and Us in the Land at the Back of Beyond' - As it happens, I saw the book in my local bookshop a couple of weeks ago, and bought a copy on impulse, as the illustrations are beautiful, and the book itself looks interesting and unusual, so it was a nice surprise to be able to meet the author .
All in All, Saturday was a Good Day. It makes uo for the rest of the week, which was considerably less fun!
In other news, my sister E has reached Singapore en route for Australia, and managed to see the qualifying for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix, despite jet-lag, which I'm sure she enjoyed, and which has the advantage of being something I need not feel envious of!
[edited to add: I was tickled pink to see Mr Lee has "blatantly stolen" my pictures for his blog of the event. They couldn't have been stolen by a nicer person.]

Saturday, 26 September 2009

In Which There Are More Authors and an Illustrator

I was late getting to Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell's event, talking about their collaborative series The Edge Chronicles due to standing in line to get my books signed by Geraldine McCaughrean and Philip Reeve. I have to confess to not having read any of the Edge Chronicles - I booked my ticket on the strength of Chris Riddell's illustrations for 'The Graveyard Book' but I'm glad I went - Chris and Paul were fascinating and I now have another set of books (The Edge Chronicles) to read. . . helpfully, Chris & Paul gave a quick guide to the books. Paul talked about 'learning' to speak Banderbear. Apparently, the language consists of 3 words - 'Wuh', Wuugh' and 'Wugh?' (although I may have mis-spelled them) but has a much deeper and poetic sign-and-body language which Paul demonstrated. Chris talked about becoming concerned about Paul's mental health.

Chris revealed that he started his career as an illustrator as a child - his father was a vicar, and he would sit at the back of the church during services "[My father] would be preaching about peace on earth and goodwill to men and I'd be drawing pictures of knights with their heads cut off" He explained that an old lady would sit in the same pew and would give him wine gums, and it was at that point that he decided that "that's want I wnt to do for a living - draw pictures and have someone feed me wine gums" (I bet that one isn't in the school careers office database..)

Both talked about the involvment of their children in the development of the books - the consensus seemed to be that daughters are much harsher critcs than sons, and also about their new website where they are writing an on-line novel set in the Edge Chronical's world.

They also spoke about inspirations for some of the creatures in the Edge chronicles, and the fact that they had determined that the world of Edge would not be a static world, so as you work through the books you pass through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd ages of flight, for example, and that there is a more industrialised society in the later books.

After the event (and giving the pictures which Chris drew to illustrate it to two members of the audience, the lucky dogs) Chris & Paul signed for all those who wanted it.

I had brought my copy of 'The Graveyard Book' for Chris to sign, and he kindly drew me a tombstone in it, as well. (Paul commented (tongue firly in cheek) that he had always preferred the Dave McKean illustrations . . ) I bought a copy of 'The Curse of the Gloamglozer' which is the first of the Edge Chronicals, which both signed - leving me with the happy feeling og having just discovered a new set of books to read.

In Which there Are Authors

I spent most of today in Bath, to attend several more events at the Bath Festival of Children's Literature, which ends tommorrow.

The first event I attended was a conversation with Philip Reeve and Geraldine McCaughrean hosted by a Daily Telegraph reporter, Sameer Rahim. Both authors seemed to be enjoying themselves..
Philip Reeve immediately made me think of the kind of dashing, if slightly rakish english gentleman whom one finds in Golden Age detective novels and adventure stories - I should love to believe that he might have arrived in a vintage Lagonda, or perhaps a bi-plane, pausing en route to solve a murder or recover the secret formula from a fiendish foreign spy. I wonder if I am letting my imagination run away with me?
Back to the festival. Both authors answering questions about their writing - both agreeing that while they will generally have a clear starting point or 'trailer' for a book at the outset, neither plans the story in great detail - indeed, both commented that thos would be very boring, as you would then be writing, knowing already what the end would be!
Philip Reeve then admitted that he perhaps "ought really to be writing historical novels, but can never be bothered to do all the research" whereas with his 'Mortal Engines' books he can pick the elements he wants from the Victorian era.
Both authors read short extracts from their new books - The Death Defying Pepper Roux and Fevercrumb (both of which I now want to read) before taking questions from the audience.
When asked for advice about becoming a write, McCaughrean's response was "lock yourself in a small room and then eat the key, because, frankly, we don't want the competition"... (followed up with some more ..conventional.. advice about telling the stories you want to tell, and the usefulness of getting feedback, (with reference to writing fanfic, and other online writing)
All in all, a well spent and entertaining hour. Followed by both authors signing, after which I moved on to the next event, which involved Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


I am suffering from wunderlust. My sister, E, leaves tomorrow for a month in Australia, my parents leave in 2 weeks time for 7 weeks in New Zealand, and I have just received postcards from friends visiting Turkey, Greece and Spain.

I want to be in all those places.

I'd settle, right now, for being anywhere but here.

I'm telling myself that that will pass. It's just been a stressful day in a bad week, but the weekend is almost here, and it should be a good weekend. There will be books, and authors, and maybe an art exhibition.

Just as long as I can make it through tomorrow.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Jenny Nimmo at the Bath Festival of Children's Literature

It's been a mixed week - I managed to acquire a revolting cold and very scratchy sore throat, with the effect that as well as feeling rather like death warmed up I completely lost my voice for two days and had to take some time off work. Very frustrating, as I end up feeling guilty for having stayed home from work, and at the same time utterly exhausted and unable to do anything. I dispprove.

However, I was back in work on Friday, and on Friday evening my parents arrived to stay for the night. My mum wanted to see a Patchwork/Quilting exhitition at a local shop, and then they are travelling on to Derbyshire for a bellringing holiday.

It was nice to see them, especially as they are going to New Zealand shortly, and will be away for 7 weeks, so I will not have another opportunity to see them until the end of November.

Saturday brought my first visit to this year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature, to see Jenny Nimmo , author of the 'Snow Spider' and 'Charlie Bone' series of children's books. I remember reading, and enjoying, the Snow Spider when I was younger, and more recently have enjoyed the 'Charlie Bone' books - they are intended for children 8+ and have many of the staples of a rip-roaring read - boarding school with sinister teachers, magical gifts, missing parents and so on, as well non-(magically) talented children - lots of fun. From the answers in her Q&A session I learned that she has been comissioned to write a trilogy about the Red King - the ancestor of Charlie Bone and the other talented children, which should be interesting.

The event was held in one of the smaller rooms in the Guildhall, and I would guess that around 80-100 people were there, including a high proportion of children, which is always good to see. Jenny started by speaking a little about why she became a writer, having started by telling stories to her friends when she was at boarding school, and later being encouraged to write her first novel by her boss, when she was working on 'Jackanory' at the BBC. She then spoke a little about the Charlie Bone series, including calling up various volunteers from the audience to illustrate the various 'gifts' which the characters in Charlie Bone have, and then ended by taking questions from the audience, from children wanting to know whether she has any pets (yes, several cats), what 'gift' she would like to have (the ability to write without having to use a pen or keyboard) and who her favourite character is, from the Charlie Bone books (Uncle Peyton).

I always find it interesting to hear writers talking about what they do - in this instance, it was clear that Jenny was pitching her talk to the children, not to the accompanying parents, and that they appreciated this.

After the talk, there was a short queue for those wishing to get books signed.

As I wandered back towards the station (sneezing softly as I went) I was mildly surprised to meet several groups of elegant regency females (many with vastly fetching bonnets), several soldiers (or possibly members of the militia - I need a Miss Lydia Bennett to set me right) and one or two gentlemen, including a very young gentleman in a beautiful lilac coat.
I settled back in my seat on the train, wondering whether I was suffering from Bath-induced hallucinations, brought on by a combination of cold-virus and too much Georgette Heyer, but have now learned that it was all part of the Jane Austen festival, and specifically their (apparently successful) attempt to obtain the world record for the highest number of people in regency dress. (presumably entired from large events which took place during the Regency period are not eligible to enter...)
I find it mildly amusing that so many of Miss J. Austen's fans should chose to gather and celebrate her life in a city which she, like her creation Miss Anne Elliot, apparently coridally disliked. .
I was interested to learn, however, in reading about the festival, that when she visited Bath in 1799, Jane Austen stayed (in lodgings, with her brother & mother) at 13 Queen Square. The building is now the offices of a firm of solicitors and I have often attended meetings there, but had not been aware of the Austen connection. I wonder what she would make of its current use?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

In Which there are Curiosities of Many Kinds

Having enjoyed a wonderful evening seeing Amanda Palmer, and with my train back not due to leave til almost 4 p.m. I decided to visit some museums. You will all, no doubt, be relieved to hear that I fortified myself with an excellent breakfast, first.

I walked back towards St Pauls - I love the Millennium Bridge, and the contrast between its modern, industrial lines, and the giant wedding cake which is St Paul's. It's a very nice wedding cake, don't get me wrong....

As I came up to the cathedral, I started seeing lots of Fire Fighters in full dress uniform. There is a National Monument to Fire Fighters just down from the Cathedral, and so I presume that there was to be a memorial service - I believe the monument was originally put up in memory of those in the fire service who died in WW2, but more recently was put on to a plinth which is used to display the names of firefighters from all over the country, who are killed in service. It's one of those places you tend to wander past without really noticing most of the time. . .

I headed to the Victoria & Albert Museum; I'd seen that there was an exhibition named 'Telling Tales' featuring pieces inspired by faerie tales. It was interesting, although not exactly what I had been expecting - included 'cinderella' and 'witch' chairs, a wardrobe made of fig-leaves, a stuffed fox with gold-plated maggots and some stuffed mushroom-clouds, (to cuddle, in order to embrace ones fears...)

The V&A is a big museum: last time I went I seem to remember seeing Queen Victoria's bloomers, and some amazing, if rather sad hatpins (sad because so many of them made from dead hummingbirds, and feathers from birds of paradise). There's lots of bits I've never seen. After seeing the exhibition, I took a wrong turning on my way to look at Beatrix Potter's original sketches, and ended up in the textiles galleries. It's fascinating. There are racks and racks containing samples of textiles, all painstakingly marked up with typewritten labels. You can simply pull out a rack from your chosen centuary and weaving and embroidery laid out before you.

Whether what you happen to want to see is 4th Century Mespotomanian weaving (pic. to left) or Roman, or 14th Century Italian (pic to right), or Victorian lace, or anything in between.
Another cabinet is filled with samples of different stiches, all carefully embroidered in different colours to show how the stiches are formed, by a member of staff in 1913.

There was no-one but me in the room. Perhaps samples of ancient fabric are generally considered interesting than Elton John's old clothes, which are a few corridors along.

I wandered through the India exhibit, to see the famous 'Tippoo's Tiger', a giant automaton from around 1790. You have to admire a wooden mannikin who can wave cheerfully and smile while being eaten alive by a tiger with a pipe-organ in it's belly.

And the tiger seemed to lead naturally to my moving on from the V&A, across the street to the Natural History Museum.

I wasn't able to visit the new Darwin Centre, because I was 2 days too early, so I wandered past the petrified wood and, having taken a wrong turning somewhere in human biology, and started looking not at the exhibits, but the architecture.

The musueum was custom built, and the style is Victorian Gothick, but the decoration is themed around Natural History - in the main hall (Where the Brontosaurus Skeleton lives) for example, the ceiling panels feature paintings of botanical specimens, and the pillars, archways etc are decorated with different animals, plants and insects, all as accurate as possible, like a cathedral to science. apparently Sir Richard Owen (The first director, and moving spirit in the building), insisted that extinct and living species were kept to different sections of the building, although of course they were caught out by the Coeleocanth

I particularly liked the Octopi and other sealife, in what is currently the dinosaur hall.

I also enjoyed wandering around the museum alone, which allowed me to look only at the parts which happened to catch my fancy, without worrying about what any companion might want to see.
All in all, I enjoyed my day wandering around in museums, and having done so, also enjoyed my smooth rail journey back home.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

In Which there is an Excellent Night Out (With no Tambourines)

On Saturday evening, I went to Union Chapel, to see the 2nd of Amanda Palmer's gigs there. It turned out that the tube's Victoria Line wasn't running, so I left myself extra time for the added cahnges, and to walk up to the venue from Caledonian Road. When I arrived, there were around a dozen people outside the chapel, so I decided to go & find some food... in which I was entirely sicessful, finding a sushi restaurant about 200 yards down the road.

When I got back to the Chapel the queue was much longer, and was being kept entertained by several puppets, the amazing cycling piano, and a black-robed, performance artist (?) collecting sins. . . All of this, together with interesting people to talk to, made for a much more interesting queueing experience than I had expected! I did have to change queues, however - there were queses going both ways from the front door, but it turned out that one was for people who were collecting their tickets, and I had joined the wrong one :-( Fortunately found out soon enough that I was able to joint the correct queue while it was still a semi-managable length.

Union Chapel itself is a fascinating venue. It is still a working church, having been built in the 1870s and being one of London's earliest non-conformist (Methodist) churches (As far as I can make out, there was a chapel there from 1806, but the present building was built in the 1870s) The Chapel is Octagonal, with pews arranged in blocks facing the front and sides of the stage area, and with a slightly raked floor - when the chapel was built, they specifically wanted to make sure no-one's view of the preacher was obstructed, which makes it ideal now as a venue. There are also galleries above the main body of the chapel, and the dramatically lit pulpit and carvings, the Rose Window above the Pulpit / Stage and the tea-lights arranged around the base of the balconies, gave it a real atmosphere. We were able to find space about 5 pews from the front, on the left hand side, which gave us a very good view.

The gig started with the support act - Polly Scattergood who is a was very glamourous in silver dress and pink feather accessories, and who sang 4 or 5 songs - she is a 22 year old singer from Essex whose debut album came out earlier this year - I enjoyed her performance although I found the band (esp. drums) a bit too loud both for the size of the venue and for her singing!

Then she announced Amanda, after which there was a long pause where we applauded first an empty stage, then Beth bringing drinks and a play-list, and then Amnanda herself. She opened the show singing 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' without accompaniment, which was beautiful, and then took off her (also beautiful) coat, sat down, and started to talk and sing to us.

The set included 'Ampersand', some Dresden Dolls numbers, a new song ('The Bed Song') which I now really want to hear again and several 'ask Amanda' segments, with Amanda answering questions which had been written out and left for her at the door - including one about what she is reading at present (among other books, some short stories by some obscure British author called Neil Gaiman, apprently..... )

There was also an unexpected Organ solo played on the Chapel's pipe organ by a young man whose name I didn't catch, and Amanda herself played us some Bach, taking care to explain to us that it was by Johann Sebastien Bach, not just any old Bach as we might otherwise have thought. I didn't hear her say which particular piece it was and my Bach-recognition skills are not sufficiently well honed to be able to identify it unaided, but it was damn good, is all I can say!

The unexpected classical interludes were not the only unforeseen parts of the evening. In honour of our being in a church, Amanda explained that there was a Hymn which she planned to play, and to accompany a different vocalist, a certain Mr N. Gaiman.

Mr Gaiman is of course best known for his mastery of the Tambourine but it turns out he can sing, too. The song 'Jump' was one which Amanda apparently sang at the Friday night gig, and as she didn't want people going to both gigs to get bored had decided that the variety provided by getting Neil to sing it this time.

I think I can say, in all honesty, that this was an inspired decision!

Nor was Neil the only guest artist. Amanda also had, quite literally, a second guest artist who produced a large (approx 5' x 5') painting over the course of the two nights, which was then autioned off for £500 towards the end of the show.

Polly Scattergood also returned to firstly providethe vocals to Amanda's keyboard for a surprisingly poignant rendition of 'Puff the Magic Dragon', and then Polly and her band returend to accompany Amanda performing 'Oasis'.

Which, appropriately enought, was introduced by Amanda explaining that we were all going straight to Hell, for playing it in a church. . . Judgeing by the extremely enthusiastic audience participation, no-one was overly concerned for their immortal soul!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the gig was due to finish at 10.30. After much cheering and stamping of feet and a standing ovation, Amada did return for an encore - her version of Tori Amos's 'Me & a Gun' - which she sang unaccompanied, bringing the evening full circle from her opening number which was also unaccompanied.

Much to my (and many others') delight, Amanda & Neil then came out to sign stuff by candlelight in the almost total darkness at the back of the chapel, so I was able to get my copy of the WKAP book signed by them both (complete with Neil's confession to thetitle question...) Much to my pleasure & surprise Neil recognised me from our meeting back in July (I'm sure having an unusual name helps!)

After getting the book signed I by Neil and Amanda I was also able to find Beth and get her, as one of the photographers in the book, to sign it also, and to give her some keys for her collection and ask talk about cats for a little.

As I left the venue I was delighted to see Oliver, (Pianist of the Flaming Piano) emerge, mount the piano, light the candelabras and cyle out into the Islington traffic, playing as he went.

My only regret is that I did not get my camera out quickly enough to capture the utterly bemused and disbeliveing expression on the face of the black-cab driver coming the other way.

All in all, it was a practically perfect night. So often, things you have been looking forward to don't live up to expectations but in this case, my expectations (which ere pretty high to start with!) were exceeded. I just hope that Amanda will be tourig the UK again soon, so I can do it all again!

In which I travel to London, and enjoy myself

I have two alternatives when I travel anywhere - (a) I get everything together, leave myself plenty of time for expected delays and arrive at the station /airport /restaurant with enough time to spare to write a short novel, or mentally unpack and re-pack my entire baggage and convince myself that I have completely misjudged the trip and have packed the wrong things, in the wrong kind of bag and that I am probably going to the wrong destination. Or (b) carefully pack and prepare everything ahead of time so that I have nothing to do but pick it up and walk out of the door, leave myself ample time to double-lock everything and get myself out of the house and away in a leisurely fashion, and then suddenly find myself behind schedule and rushing like a mad thing to get to the station/ airport/ whatever on time.

In leaving for London I skillfully managed to combine the two. Having packed an overnight bag and found the elusive rail tickets (which had carelessly put in a safe place, when I bought them 8 weeks ago, I had of course then been unable to find ) I then woke up early with masses of time to have breakfast, lock everything up and walk down to the station. So naturally I then found myself suddenly in danger f running late, ended up walking EXREMELY briskly to the station at which point I found myself with 15 minutes to spare…

It was something of a disappointment to find that the train had no buffet or any other catering facilities, until 2/3 of the way through the journey - I wouldn’t’t want to eat the kind of food you find on a train, but I had been counting on some coffee…

In fairness, other than the regrettable caffeine deficiency the journey went smoothly and the train was on time. The carriage was blessedly free from loud or obnoxious passengers and I was able to unwind and read the papers.

On arriving, I walked from Waterloo to my hotel, in Southwark. It turns out here there is something called ‘the mayor’s festival’ going on along the river, although he wasn’t keeping it to himself, anyone could join in! There were various old-fashioned fairground rides such as a Helter-Skelter, performers, and loads of stalls selling food from practically any country or tradition you can imagine, as well as stalls selling jewellery, books, clothes etc. There were people creating sand sculptures by the Thames and literally thousands of people there. I’m not over found of crowds but it seemed as though a lot of people were enjoying themselves a great deal.
I particularly liked the Dali-inspired sculptures along the embankment,outside the old LCC building (They are permanent, not part off the festival)

Spent part of the afternoon in the National Gallery - One of the things I love about visiting London is that so many of the museums and galleries are free, so it is possible to pop in for short periods without any pressure to try to see everything, or ‘enough’ to feel one has had one’s money’s worth! On this occasion, I spent some time with the Dutch Masters, and visiting Holbein’s The Ambassadors , which is an old favourite of mine. I also took a look at the 4th Plinth, which was featuring an individual wearing a dog-suit (which must have been extremely hot, as it was very bright and sunshiney) in protest against puppy farming.

Trafalgar Square was full of people, most of whom seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were some Hellfire-Christians preaching from below Nelson's column - which made be think what a disadvantage it must be, if you wish to be a preacher, if you happen to have a monotonous, grating voice...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Changing seasons

I think autumn is here. This morning was clear and sunny, but with a definite bite in the air, and as I drove to work, under skies full of hot air balloons, I realised that it has all been creeping up on me without my noticing

The hedges are full of purplish-red unripe blackberries, the leaves on the beech trees and horse chestnut trees are starting to turn every shade of yellow and brown. It's going to be a bumper year for conkers.

I have the same drive to work every day and it is easy to focus only on the irritations - the everlasting roadworks, for instance, or the drivers who think tail-gating is a good idea, but I do drive through some lovely bits of countryside.
This morning, I saw a little animal run out from the hedge and across the road - my first thought was 'squirrel', then 'rat', but when I got to look a little more carefully, I reaslised it was a Stoat - they tend to be quite elusive and I can only remember seeing one about 2 or three times in the past.
The guy behind me hooted at me for having braked but I'm glad I did. (I wouldn't have wanted to run over it even if it had been a rat)
It ran into the opposite hedge just under a magnificant Rowan tree absolutely loaded with berries - very dramatic againt the pale blue sky.
I didn't have my camera with me so the pictures are from a trip to Westonbirt Arboreatum, last autumn. I think maybe it's time I went back there.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

In Which There is Music, and a New House

Another busy weekend (In a very good way!) We had tickets for Tori Amos's gig at the Manchester Apollo on Sunday night, so I decided to make a weekend of it.

I travelled up to Birmingham on Friday evening to meet up with my cousin and her husband, to catch up, and to meet their two burmese cats - both beautiful, one cuddly and one shy (and both very lively, expecially at 4 a.m. when they decided that 'let's gallop around the house and bounce on all the humans' would be a good game...

My sister came over for brunch, and to bring us up to date with her moving plans - she had to leave her rented flat and has been between homes until the purchase of her new house is completed...

So, after some more socilaising I headed onwards to Manchester to meet up with my oldest and bestest friend, J, and her partner - wandered around their village a little - it's very pretty, if somewhat bleak in the winter

Cue lots and lots of talking, and some excellent home-made mezze - sometimes the simplest things are the best, and quality time with friends takes a lot of beating!

Then, on Sunday evening, following a quite magnificant meal and some very good beer, was the main event - Tori Amos!!

We booked our tickets early, and were able to get tickets for the stalls, and I was also happy to be meeting another fiend - we had met very briefly last October, when I was giving out cupcakes at Neil Gaiman's reading in Manchester last October, but we didn't know each other then.

We also unexpectedly bumped into several people who work with J and her partner - obviously Tori has a wider range of fans than we'd anticipated, so there was lots of conversation in the bar before the show began.

Tori was supported by a band called One Eskimo - I hadn't heard of them before, and I had a certain amount of sympathy for them - it must be difficult to be a support band - on the plus side, I guess you get to play bigger venues that you might otherwise do, but on the other hand you a playing to a theatre full of people who are there for something else. I have to say that I liked their music, although it was diffcult to hear them as the 3 women behind us decided that during a gig was a good time to have a conversation - after all, you can aways rasie your voice so as to be heard over that pesky music, can't you?

They seemed totally oblivious to widening circle of people they were pissing off, and when I (being bolshy enough that my irritation got the better of my English reserve) asked them to keep their voices down, they seemed genuinely shocked (especially when their indignation was met by several other people sitting around them agreeing, that actually, yes, we were there to listen to the music and not their conversation...) They did then pipe down, at least for a while.

Later, they decided to sing along (for which read: 1/2 beat behind, off-key and very loud. Especially in the quieter songs) *Sigh*

But despite them, the gig was great. And I refrained from committing assault, which is probably good for my karma. I love some of the newer stuff from the current album, but a real highlight was hearing 'Spacedog' and 'Tear in my hand'...

Then on Monday morning, after a fairly leisurely breakfast, I headed hme, stopping off in Birmingham for long enough to call in on my sister, and go with her to pick up the keys to her new (and first ever) house, and to see over the hosue itself! I think having a younger sister who is buying a house feels almost stranger than buying one myself (although I still can't get over the feeling that one day They will find out that I am not really grown up, and will decide that I shouldn't have a house, or mortgage, or a respnsible job, or any of those grown-up things).

E's house is small, but nice - and no doubt when she has put into action her formitable gardening and home decorating skills it will be nicer than ever.

I'm going to be heading North at the stat of October - I wonder whether she will let me stay there overnioght on my way past (she will be in Australia, by then....)

[Edited to add: More Photos on Flickr]

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Family, and other entertainments.

Being in Cambridgshire it seemed like a good idea to call by to visit my brother, who recently moved to Cambridge. He has a new job, which seems a little odd, as I still have a little trouble remembering that he is a real grown up, now. I think it is partly because he is enough younger than me that he was a student for lots of the time since I started working, and partly because I don't really understand his job, so it's hard for me to put it in context!

And as well as working full time, he's currently studying for an Open University degree, so it's not as though he's busy, or anything.... It was really nice to have the chance to just sit down and talk - mostly we tend to meet up at family parties, where there tends not to be time for lengthy conversations.

So that was a very pleasant morning :-)

I couldn't stay longer, as in order to get back home in time to go to Bill Bailey's show in Bristol I needed to leave just after lunch.

I hadn't realised when I booked the ticket that it was not only the last night he was in Bristol, but also the final show if the tour, which I think added a certain end-of-term feeling to the show! Such as the part where the crew had put glue on one of the monitors so Bill's foot stuck to it, and the part where he threatened to keep the whole theatre in until the audience member explained her comment about Nelson's Column....

It's difficult to pick a favourite part of the show, although hearing 'I've got a Brand New Combine Harvester' sung in German, with a West Country accent, in the style of KraftWerk was, I think, the most memorable....

I'm glad I went. The man is a comic genius.