This post was supposed to have been written rather earlier in 2018 but somehow I seem to have become distracted by other matters. Then again, a man who constructed an entire post around an abandoned loaf of sliced white or, in the early days, the genetic purity of the ruddy duck was probably always going to struggle to stick to the point or, indeed, any over-arching plan for a frivolous blog of his life.
I trust that a few readers are still clinging on to the last tatters of their most recent annual resolutions or have managed to maintain their temporary new dalliance with an absence of ethanol or animal products in their diet. I expect the country’s gymnasia are quietening down again and many members will already have paid their last visit of 2018: though will continue to pay a direct-debited sacrifice to fitness for many months yet (it certainly satisfies one measure of “losing a few pounds”). To be honest, a bit of extra post-Christmas carriage has probably been a boon given the rather stormy nature to the start of the year and helped to keep a few feet on the ground, despite Eleanor doing rather more than picking up some discarded rice.
In many ways, I ended 2017 much as I lived through the rest of it and managed to find at least one ‘gig’ for each of those ill-defined days that lurk twixt Christmas and the New Year. The monthly acoustic (mostly folk) session at the Guide Dog restored much needed live music to my life after a two day absence on the 27th. It was at this event that the first of two incidents of me being recognised over this period occurred: on this occasion my ‘fan’ explained that she had ‘seen me in pubs’. She had me bang to rights, I think you’ll agree!
The following evening provides some more music but mostly poetry, the highlight of which was when a friend – who had bought some poems he wrote in the mid 90s just-in-case – found himself headlining the gig (or at least going on last). Let this be a warning to you all: never carry a poem if you aren’t willing to use it!
On the Friday, feeling that I had unfairly been neglecting the Joiners, I spent my evening at a gig expecting to know none of the bands on offer – but the options were limited and it seemed worth a punt. This became the second occasion that week for me to be recognised, this time as a member of previous audiences. It would seem that I have become the Troy McClure of Southampton gig audiences, “You may remember me from such audiences as…”. I had great fun at the gig: as it turned I had seen one of the supports (Myriad) before, but Eyes to the Skies and The Collision were both new to me and enormous fun.
The bands were all incredibly youthful, leaving me feeling particularly ancient and talentless: what was I doing at their age? A Levels, I seem to recall and both reading and listening to radio comedy (not much else springs to mind). The audience were also, mostly, young and so there was a lot more moshing and pogoing than I normally experience at a gig. I do love this as it gives a wonderful energy to affairs, but I do find myself worrying about the motor control of the young people and the risk of them landing on my relatively unprotected feet. I think I may acquire a pair of steel toe-capped shoes for such events where I can enjoy the youthful exuberance without fear of a crushing defeat (now, that’s what I call a pun!) style incident. On these occasions, I usually assume that other people of even roughly my age are either parents (or grandparents! Arghh!) of someone on stage – and can often confirm this: the lovely young lad fronting Eyes to the Skies name-checked his mum in the audience way more often than I imagine happens at the O2, I seem to recall she volunteered to ferry much of the audience round the country when he goes on tour.
On Saturday, I voyaged by posh bus to Winchester to see a friend play in the Oxfam music shop. It may be slower (usually) and more expensive than the train, but you do get a much broader range of sights from the top deck of a bus as it wends its way towards Alfred’s city. It was during this gig that I was unable to resist purchasing a second-hand book of 15 keyboard sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. This was an excellent buy and the first example (the D minor Kk.1) is bringing a lot of pleasure into my musical life as I attempt to play it. The range of second-hand keyboard music available was impressive, though I was left with the impression that children in the nineteenth century were much more gifted at the piano than middle-aged men in the 21st: repertoire for the young written by Schumann looked impossibly difficult to me. Or does this explain its presence in a charity shop?
I even bumped into my sister (OK, we had arranged this) and, despite the range of excellent pubs that Winchester offers, find myself accompanying her to a local Weatherspoons. Oh, the shame of it! The things one does for family, still I suppose I did get a pint of Upham’s Punter out of the deal!
In the evening, I was back at the Talking Heads to send off 2017 in style with three of my favourite local bands in action. The combined forces of Tenderlore, Jack Francis and Shy Boy provided a perfect musical conclusion to my year. The evening ended, unexpectedly) with a pilot for an exciting new reality TV series, in that it comprised a relative ordinary activity made dramatic by the injection of unnecessary temporal jeopardy. It did lack a formal judging panel, though the process was accompanied by a degree of badinage which I feel could have evolved in that direction.
A young guitarist due to travel back to Leicester the following day for an important party starts the attempt to purchase his advance rail ticket at 23:50, before the prices go up at midnight, using his mobile phone (I find the young often embrace the Japanese concept of Kanban to a greater extent than is strictly necessary). As a musician, this attempt was made using an account with £0.01 in it, and so also required a money transfer from an account which probably contained slightly more money. As the last few minutes of the day ticked over, tension mounted. Would he make it before the prices went up? Midnight came and went, and prices seemed not to rise but still the abortive attempts continued. Sadly, I was forced to leave before discovering the outcome – did Matt make it to Leicester? A future blog post may reveal the answer, if I ever discover…
On New Year’s Eve itself, I followed my own tradition of spending it with friends: eating, drinking and in wide-ranging conversation. This year was an away fixture for me, so I was able to eat like a king (actually, I suspect way better than any king and with less emphasis on swans and too many lamphreys) without having taken much part in the preparation. I did lend a hand beating a couple of egg whites into stiff peaks, but that was mostly to try out my friend’s rather excellent balloon whisk (it contained a contra-acting internal element I had never seen before, but did stiffen my peaks in record time). I was also inspired to make my own pasta as it was made to look both easy and fun. I have already bought the OO flour (I decided N-gauge would be too fiddly) and will soon start scouring charity shops for unwanted pasta makers going cheap.
At times during the evening, background music was provided from various programmes my friends had recorded from Radio 3. An unexpected number of these seemed to be music written for coronations – perhaps to remind me that I was dining royally – and many by William Walton. “Crown Imperial” seemed an obvious enough title for such a piece, but I was foxed for an embarrassingly long time by his piece “Auburn Sceptre”. This frankly sounded more like a piece to written to accompany saucy movies for (or about) the strawberry blonde than for a formal state occasion. It was eventually pointed out that the piece was called “Orb and Sceptre”, however, I am still hoping to use it to choreograph some adult “dance” using a ginger friend or two (or more, I’ll admit my knowledge of adult dance is quite basic).
Reading back through this post, I wonder if I am less aiming at becoming official blogger to the Southampton cultural scene and more the scriptwriter for a new batch of Carry-On films. Still, it is always good to have some achievable goals for the new year!