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>Day 181: Drive on

12 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Pet Shop Boys – Very

Today was spent out front, finishing off the driveway cleaning. A job that took most of the day, having unfortunately underestimated the halfway point yesterday. It’s actually quite therapeutic – at least the ‘washing’ bit is…the ‘shovelling up the crap’ bit is just backbreaking!

Still, by about half three, the bulk of the work was done, all the dirt that had wedged itself in the cracks had been dislodged, swept up and redistributed in the flower beds (I’ve convinced myself it’s really fertile stuff – we’ll see about that) and I was showered and freshened, a significant amount of the dirt had found its way beneath my clothes somehow, as well as lodging itself in my hair and beneath my fingernails – ugh!

With the promise of good weather continuing across the weekend, I’d persuaded Mrs W that this might be the opportunity to crank up the barbie. Not that she took a great deal of persuading. So it was off to the farm shop to get some essentials – burgers, beef, lamb and salad – to go with the marinaded chicken that’s been lurking in the freezer for a goodly while. Oh, and to pick up a few bottle of wine as well.

I really ought to check out the barbie itself – I’ve a horrible feeling there may still be some cremated ribs lurking on the grill from last time we cranked it up…over twelve months ago…

Then back home to put my feet up after my day of hard labour – until my services were required in the kitchen! A nice spag bol tonight, rich of sauce and piquant with herbiness. Eaten whilst watching The Killing Room on Sky, in the absence of any really rubbish films on DVD to watch.

Petties on the soundtrack again, with what is probably their strongest album. It is, quite literally, Very Pet Shop Boys!

I seem to remember buying my copy in Dublin, or maybe Cork, on one of my work trips over there. In any event, I got the album in its rather posh orange ‘dimple pack’ livery, which I’d like to think is some kind of rare ‘special edition’ but which is no doubt as common as muck.

Whatever. The Petties really hit their stride with this album. Go West was the big single, but the other singles off the album – ‘Can You Forgive Her’ and ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing’ – are archetypal PSB.

Here’s the video for ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ – nice headwear chaps!

Categories: driveway, Pet Shop Boys

>Day 124: Latitude Friday

21 July, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s highlight: Squeeze

Leisurely start to the day, as Simon was not due to arrive until after lunch. Filled the time by having a wander down to the ‘Village’ – a relatively small area of shops and foodstalls, where I managed to resist the siren call of the army surplus stall – it is an absolute given that at some festival in the future I shall buy some camouflage trousers or a flak jacket or somesuch nonsense – but not this one!

Still had some time to kill, so thought it best to start drinking the wine. That made the time pass rather more quickly and effortlessly!

Simon eventually turned up around half one, and after unpacking, we headed off into the main arena. After a quick wander round, it was off to the main (Obelisk) stage to catch the end of The Broken Family Band, about whom I’ve heard lots of good stuff. And they were…ok, I guess. I need to give them a bit more of a listen I think.

Simon then went off to see The Duckworth Lewis Method, a cricket-themed ensemble led by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon. I stayed at the main stage to see Of Montreal. I picked up one of their albums on eMusic, and thought it was pretty good, and had heard good things about their stage show, which was…interesting, to say the least. In the campness stakes, they made the Pet Shop Boys (see later) look like Slayer. Unfortunately, the music failed to live up to expectations – pleasant enough, but some tunes would have been nice?

A quick break for some Argentinian chorizo and chips – not my most inspired meal choice of the weekend, I have to say – then back to the Obelisk for Pretenders, who rocked like a mother (or something). Chrissie Hynde (who is wearing pretty well for an old bint) got the mood of the afternoon pretty well bang on, playing all the hits albeit interspersed with some new stuff, and got the crowd going as well. Best performance so far.

Then to the Uncut Stage, to get a decent speck for Squeeze. But before them, we caught the full set from Mew, an electro-ish band from Denmark – who were pretty damn good, I have to say. With a small but enthusiastic crowd (especially the bloke stood two down from me at the front) roaring them on, they played a pretty eclectic set that had us both nodding in appreciation – another one to explore further when we get home I feel.

So Squeeze – highlight of the day for both of us, I think. All the hits, band tight as a gnat’s chuff, and they were really enjoying themselves as well. Only Difford and Tilbrook from the original band, but that’s all you need, really. Lots of singing along and big smiles from both the band and the audience. Top entertainment and very cool (for cats).

Simon then hung around for Bat For Lashes, while I dashed back the the Obelisk for the Pet Shop Boys. Good to see them again after the Manchester Apollo show reported on the other week – and that’s essentially what we got tonight – same set, same dancers, same little dance from Chris Lowe. Very, very good, but I’d seen it all before which kind of took the edge off for me.

So back to the tent, where any thought of a late night was stymied by the arrival of the rain that had been promised all day. Early(ish) night with the promise of more fun tomorrow!

>Day 95: Opportunities (let’s make lots of money?)

19 June, 2009 2 comments

>Today’s soundtrack: The Wedding Present – Peel Sessions

My God, Canal Street must have been quiet tonight!

Impressive turnout for the Pet Shop Boys at Manchester Apollo, and whilst the crowd was actually quite mixed, there was no denying the prominent presence of designer jeans, tight t-shirts and expensive aftershave in the crowd.

And that was just me.

The place was rammed (NB: please don’t look for double entendres in everything I type today – they are all either unintentional or figments of your own overenthusiastic imaginations) which was no surprise really – they had already sold out the O2 Arena in London for the following night, and are already selling tickets to their natural Manchester venue, the MEN Arena, for later this year.

Too late to get down the front, so hung about a third of the way back, with a great view that was unfortunately blocked late on by a group of four young lads who seemed slightly overexcited by the occasion. Managed to manoeuvre into a decent position for most of the set though.

Support band were called ‘Frankmusik‘ – a synthesiser band led by Vincent Frank who, despite appearances, is currently dating Holly Valance. Remix duties for the Pet Shop Boys led to the tour slot, apparently. Not really my cup of tea, although the bass frequencies set my designer jeans flapping rather pleasantly.

As you would expect with the Petties, it was less about the two group members and more about the visuals, which had a very interesting ‘cubic’ theme – lots and lots of white boxes. Obviously there were dancers – three girls and a big black guy who got a very enthusiastic cheer from the audience – and very clever and varied projections and stuff. And costume changes and silly hats.

But what about the music, Paul? Well it was fab, actually. Obviously mostly pre-recorded and sequenced, although Chris Lowe did seem to be playing something most of the time, whilst stood behind his desk, obligatory sunglasses in place throughout (Chris. A word. You’re indoors mate, and it’s already dark.) Again sonically superb, and Neil Tennant can definitely carry a tune in his own inimitable way. And they’ve got a very deep and high quality back catalogue to call upon. Highlights? Lots of happy singalongs to Go West (a bit gay, that one), Domino Dancing, Always on my Mind and Left To My Own Devices amongst others, a quite moving ‘Jealousy’ (with dancers on stage) and a fine encore of Being Boring and West End Girls. It says something about the quality of the set that I thought ‘Oh yeah – forgot about this’ when West End Girls started.

Was it rock and roll? Probably not. Was it fun? Oh yes, probably as much as I’ve had (on my own) for a very long time.

So a good end to a day that could have been quite difficult. Following his interview ‘success’ yesterday…and my final understanding of just what the job entailed, Son No 1 and I needed to have a chat about one or two things. Potentially awkward, as I felt the role was completely wrong for him – but I wanted to get this across to him without pissing on his firework, as it were, or influencing him unduly – he’s old enough to make his own decisions. In the end it proved ok – I think he had his own reservations deep down, and his girlfriend and Mum also gave him the same message. So he’s (rightly, I think) turned down the role, and his search (alongside mine) continues. Doesn’t detract from the fact he was mature and motivated enough to explore the opportunity, go through the interview and assessment, and even be prepared to take on the role as a route to asserting and gaining his own independence, despite his reservations. Hugely proud of him for all that.

In stark contrast to the Petties, it’s the Wedding Present and John Peel on the soundtrack today.

Bet the Pet Shop Boys never did a Peel Session.

The Weddoes did plenty, and they are all collected on a six-cd box set that my iPhone and iTunes is totally infatuated with. It’s all good stuff in a gruff, indie sort of way, but I find a little goes a long way.

Here’s a pretty ropey clip of them performing ‘Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?’ from back in the day. A title that could just as easily belong to a Pet Shop Boys tune, now I come to think of it.

I don’t just throw this blog together, you know.

>Day 88: Interview Success! (but not mine…)

12 June, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Pet Shop Boys – Introspective

Minor bombshell this morning with the announcement that the shy and retiring Mr Ronaldo was on the verge of moving to Real Madrid for a piffling £80 million, and a salary that could amount to half a million a week by the end of his contract. Now whilst it would be easy to say that it is an obscene amount of money (which it is) and that no footballer can be worth that much money (debatable – Real anticipate the move generating around £500 million in wider income – shirts, sponsorship etc), I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to the impact of the sale on the shape of the Premier League next season.

For a start, what impact will it have on ManYoo? With a potential transfer kitty in excess of £100m (assuming Siralex gets all the Ronaldo money), they could add four or five world class players to their squad, which should more than compensate for the loss of one (albeit exceptional) player. More interestingly, this may now give The Boy the opportunity to play in his natural position, rather than being stuck out wide to accommodate Ronaldo. Thus allowing him to finally develop into the player he can be.

But then throw Man City into the mix. It looks like they have tempted Tevez away from Utd and will no doubt spend big (if not wisely) elsewhere. How will they perform – will Hughes (or his successor) be able to mould a team from a collection of talented, wealthy egos?

What of Chelsea? Yet another new manager, unproven in the English game – a Scolari or a Hiddink?

Will Big Red across the park be able to find any money down the back of the sofa to attract nine quality players to add to the two man team they’ve latterly overperformed with?

Oh yes – this close season and next season could be fun.

Good news on the job front, for Son No 1 at least. Took him into Manchester for his interview, which has resulted in a second interview/assessment next week. Coupled with a parallel interview with another company in Bristol tomorrow, his future is looking reasonably bright – without underestimating the hurdles he’s still to climb.

While he was undergoing the interview process, I headed into town for a coffee with Kevin and Alison from the previous employer. Nice to meet up with old friends again and pick up on the office gossip – and nice to be one step removed from it as well. Think they’re missing me though. Like a hole in the head, no doubt, but missing me all the same. Bit of celebrity spotting as well – one of the actresses from Corrie was having a coffee on the next table. Now whilst it’s sometimes difficult in Manchester City Centre not to be bumping into actors/actresses from Corrie, I do still get a mild frisson to be breathing the same air as our local minor celebrities.

I am nothing if not shallow.

In a whirlwind day for those around me, Mrs W dashed in and out of the house after work, rushing to get ready for a charity do in Frodsham supported by her employer. Not really her cup of tea, a bit too much pressure to put your hand in your pocket, but she got a decent meal and a night out out of it. More than she gets from her husband.

In Pedro news, we have adjusted his diet from sachets of food to tins of food. Basically, to try and fill him up a bit. Initial signs are good, although he’s still hoovering up everything put in front of him. It worries me to speculate how much food would be too much food – not sure we’ll ever get there! We are reliably informed this is not a new thing, he’s been this way since birth, so we are working on the basis it’s not worms – he’s just greedy!

Petties on the soundtrack today – a group with a huge pop sensibility that sometimes hides the quality and depth of their material. Like Doves yesterday, I’ll be seeing them a couple of times this summer – next week in Manchester, then on the Friday night at Latitude. Their live show is supposed to be stunning, and would think that, outdoors especially, it should be a night or two to remember.

One of the areas where the Pet Shop Boys excel is in their remixes, and today we are listening to the ‘Further Listening’ disc of Introspective, including disco and other mixes of their late ’80s material. Excellent stuff.

The album contains a demo version of Nothing Can Be Proved from the film ‘Scandal’ (about the Profumo affair), with Dusty on vocals. Here’s the video – any excuse to see Joanne Whalley as well…