Saturday, December 12, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
So I'm hunkered down on a train on a cold, grey, miserable winter's day, and we're not exactly racing from London to Brighton, it's stopping at places you've never heard of, like Three Bridges, when this guy gets on and sits opposite me. I'm already distracted from reading the Guardian - this being Climate Change Day or something I've bought the paper version for the first time in months - but a nearby man/woman person is talking loudly into his/her mobile about being at the bookies that morning. He/she is talking in that earpiercing, annoying, Estuary nasal twang that sets my teeth on edge.
"Yeah,ee dunno whaaat ee waas farkin tarkin abaht" he/she is bellowing, in a high pitched squeal, while I'm buried in The Media Section, trying to figure out what OfCom's position on News International should be, or why the Libel Laws in this country are fucked.
"Aaaah says to 'im, if YOU don farkin gimme that tenner I'll, so to God, I'll....." at this point the recipient of the news made a suggestion which I couldn't hear so I moved further down into my coat and scarf and tried to keep reading.
But the new guy had other ideas. I could feel him staring at me.
"Isss juss started..." he says, noticeably slurring. Since this was just after noon, I assumed the man was ill and looked up. He was dressed in short shorts and a tee shirt. Both tight and shiny.
"What has?" says I, trying not to appear rude.
"Th fkin rain," he slurs, barely audible.
He was pissed. As a newt. At noon.
And he was dressed in shorts in midwinter. And he appeared to be Italian.
"What?" I says, not too sharply, but sharp enough to show that I wasn't really going to engage, but was not impolite enough to totally ignore him. You never know, he might have been ill.
But he wasn't. He was totally bladdered.
"thefkn rain, jus started, Now. There. It's fkn wet. Fck".
I looked at him. He looked at me.
Mr/Mrs Bookie Customer was bellowing.
"eee jus was a waanka, a total wanka, an ah sez to im like ,wha..." but the other end interrupted again.
I decided to ignore everything, and sure enough, the world's drunkest Italian (I've never seen one before,) went away to engage at the next seat where a couple of lady shoppers giggled and held their breath at the audacity of this swarthy runner (for that was what he said he was) swaying and swearing all the way to his stop, somewhere even I've never heard of, never mind you.
And so back to the comfort of The Guardian. I was engrossed in every detail, including a short piece about the BBC, about BBC Worldwide in fact.
"That's funny," I thought to myself, drowning out drunken Italian and 90DB Estuary Mobile, "It's as if I've read this piece before"
And sure enough, I had. Or rather, I'd only feckin written it! As one of the anonymous commentators on the Guardian Media Online I witter away about everything from puddings to politics when I've got a short gap to fill between games of Bejewelled Twist, and occasionally they lift the more enlightened pieces and print them in the dead tree edition. Without telling.
There's apparently some small print in the online contract which allows them to do it, so it's all kosher.
So there's me beaming away at the three pars which I never got paid for, and I look up. The Italian is using the seats as training bars and the he/she is now talking to his/her mate sitting opposite, at the same decibel level, about how the person on the phone was also a fahkin idyit.
Somehow I don't think either of them would have been impressed with my coments about BBC Worldwide in the Grauniad.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Strange times when the brightest thing that happens to you is at a tube station, when you've just had the journey from hell from Baker St in the rush hour because the signals have gone down at Edgeware Road, and the pop legend or, ahem, POP GOLD, Darius comes up and asks to use your phone cos his is broke. He was polite (and no, popbitch, his credit had NOT run out) and called his dad to tell him he'd be late.
Which is what art is this month.
At the Royal Academy my fave, the sensational, understated, wholly creative genius that is Anish Kapoor, whom I have not only met but had dinner with in Venice and like enormously, opened his new mega blockbuster show. It's a mix of old riffs (bright pigments in strange shapes, lovely first time around) a room jammed with concrete extrusions in defiantly non-architectural forms, a fab mirrored room, a sensational courtyard piece of mirrorballs, and the climax, the mainstay, the bada-boom! (literally) several galleries given over to dark red wax being fired from a cannon or trundled along a rail. It's big. It's red. It's messy. It's about space and form and challenging the old, nay destroying the old, with the new. It's...it's er, well, it's um ...big.
Which Pop Life isn't. At the Tate Modern they've crammed a lot into a small, awkward, ill-fitting series of rooms - including family(twins) selected by Damien Hirst for his installation - and we're excitied and at the preview (these things get more and MORE packed) and, well, um....
This is Pop Art that I've known all my life. Warhol, Haring, Koons, Emin, Hirst etc and it's all jammed into a space that's slightly claustrophobic, all the photocopies, dirty bits and pieces and thoroughly tastless porn of Koons. It should be exciting. I was at the original Pop Shop set up by Keith Haring on Lafayette in New York City to sell his ephemera to the people, my kids played with the fridge magnets for years. It was fun at the time and still looks good in some respects, although the shock news of the night (for me) which didn't come from the exhibition at all but a friend who told me that haring was never really a graffiti artist, the very thing he's famous for, he was an art type who used chalk. (to the purist graffiti artists that's a different thing entirely) Hirst's new gold plated stuff is amazing. The Japanese maestro Takashi Murakami has a video with Kirsten Dunst going Japanese in what appears to be Akihabara (Electric Town) which I am stunned by and it's all, well, it's all....
Quite unexciting. Like Anish Kapoor.
It's not that I don't get it, I understand the rampant commercialisation that has informed 'Pop' Art from Warhol onwards, I understand Anish Kapoor's strategic attack on the Academy, I even enjoyed the parties and previews. But there's no wit, no enjoyment.
I do know about modern art, it's just that I don't know what I like.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
So ....we're standing listening to a Yorkshireman, in Yorkshire, as you do, and he's telling us an amusing story about David Hockney, Britain's greatest living artist (that's my opinion, but may very well be his too). Hockney, Bradford's most famous son, has forsaken some time ago the colouful life he has led in Los Angeles and returned to his native roots. Not to Bradford exactly, but to Bridlington on the coast, a few miles away, where he's painting away merrily, smoking like a chimney, and generally enjoying the rain and intermittent sun.
Anyway, there's to be a big retrospective in New York in the Autumn and Time Magazine decides to send its Art Correspondent to interview The Man. I have no idea who this poor hack is (Robert Hughes?) but on the phone Hockney gives him directions from downtown Manhattan to Bridlington, right the way to his front gate. With an added rider that if he is lost (in Bridlington) to ask anyone as everyone now knows exactly where he, and everyone else presumeably, lives.
Exhausted and not a little put out, the metropolitan scribe arrives huffing and puffing, plaintively asking (over restorative Yorkshire Tea and biscuits, or possibly a Dandelion and Burdock with a slice of Curd Tart) why anyone would possibly want to live in such a place, as "no sane man would ever want to visit here".
"Yes, I agree," Hockney replies, rather waspishly.
The interview is conducted, and at the end Hockney declares that the Mighty Hack must, while he is in town (he's not going to be rushing back after all) visit the Bridlington Arts Society Annual Show, a big deal around these parts. Slightly nonplussed, the Hack ambles down to the Town Hall and looks around. Hockney has told him there's even a 'Hockney' on show and sure enough, there is, by his elder sister Margaret, a gifted manipulator of scanned images and artist in her own right. The hack wanders around aimlessly and is joined by a local dignitary, either the Mayor or President of The Art Society, or both.
The Hack asks what it's all for.
"Well it's our annual show" The Dignitary beams proudly.
The Hack looks dismissively at the sea of amateur art before him.
"Yes but what's it for?"
"Well it's OUR SHOW." comes the rather frustrated reply."Don't you have them in America?"
Time Magazine's Mighty Hack says he has no idea, having possibly only spent time examining numbered Pollock drip paintings or Rothko's colorblock path to suicide. He leaves with a weary sigh, having wasted a good half hour of his valuable time, to start the journey back, a daunting prospect: strange taxis, trains, buses, planes. Instead of just a short cab ride from Columbus Circle to midtown.
In a subsequent telephone conversation with Hockney, the Dignitary mentions the visit, and suggests that in future David holds fire.
"Don't send another one of them, David. He were a right waste o' space"
We laugh politley at the vast chasms that exist in life, before The Yorkshireman asks us how long we're staying in the area.
"Just a few days" I answer and so he helpfully points towards some vague greenery, the hills and moor leading to Ilkley.
"You must go there," he urges, "It's fantastic. Great countryside. Only about seven miles. No problem. You just need stout shoes"
At which point my partner, who rarely strays north of Regent's Park, asks her first question of the day.
"Isn't there a taxi?"
After a small pause, we get our coats and leave.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Last year I was sat in Claridges, taking tea, as one does, explaining to a friend of mine who in my view is a complete idiot, the advantages of having all of one's work on memory sticks. I had, only recently, transferred years of paper files to the digital world, literally crates of paperwork now on a something gigabyte stick, two actually, which I occasionally kept about my person. All neatly filed, categorised. I even marked the sticks "FILM" and "TV" in case I got confused between their corporate logos. Tiny little things they were, I didn't even buy them, they were freebies given away instead of pens. Later that night, as we had moved on to liquids stronger than tea, I left the sticks, in their little box, on the table (which also had a day's worth of detritus, not mine, spread over it) and they were never seen again.
A search the following day confirmed their loss.
"Don't you have them backed up?" some not-so-stupid friends asked. "Er, they were the back up". Lots of important stuff was still on the main computer and was saved. Lots of stuff was lost forever.
So who would be so stupid as to let something like that happen again? What kind of dolt would carry all his important work around on an even smaller memory stick. in a wee plastic box less than an inch long attached to nothing more than a bit of string, like some homeless mutt? Who?
In my defence, I did have a backup system until a few weeks ago when the main computer was dragged off for some repairs which have proved complex. I can't access anything and the files may be wiped.
So, an appeal. EVERYTHING on this tiny little stick was written on this ere laptop, including a recent splurge of intense creativity which, at the last count, had reached 55,000 words which are rather tragically not backed up. I've watched CSI, Family Guy, and the X-Files so I KNOW all that stuff is still here on my laptop where it was written, viewed, edited every day for the last few months. Question is, how do I get to it?
Answers in a comment please, in the box below.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Just before I left the metrolops by train to Cornwall, I watched Michelle Mone - the blonde bombshell bra magnate from Apprentice fame - explaining to ITVNews that she was fed up listening to the media drone on and on about how we're all going to hell, with or without a handcart, and how this very explanation of how terrible everything is partly explains how, well, terrible everything is.
So if you don't mind this will be an unrelentingly happy column today.
St Ives is a place to love. A bejewelled and sparkling sea. Dinky fishermen's cottages. A haven from the drudge. Cornish friends and family may disagree but what do they know, they only live here. I've been coming here for donkeys, and it's as refreshing a place today as it was when I first brought a girlfriend here for, er, a cultural weekend many years ago. A walk round Down-A-Long, the old fishing bit which once smelt of pilchards but now has a 'Chocolat!' shop, is as time-eroding as anything you'll find in Venice or Stonetown, Zanzibar. There may be big green council bins outside every door but the architecture is of another time; there may be more holiday homes than residences but you'd barely know as a visitor; and while the credit crunch means that more people are snacking than dining, here they're scarfing Cornish pasties, proper ones. There are no McDonalds or KFC. Hurrah!
There are no double red lines either, just a few yellow ones, no troublesome law enforcers beating your legs or Sky Helicopters hovering over funerals, few nutters (apart from retired Cornwallians studying the effects of Scrumpy on the mind), limited pub opportunities and, as far as I can see, no more than one Pound Shop. The only supermarket is a Co-op where the 'till-bunnies' (as they call themselves) do a neat line in witty repartee.
I'd say this + a beach or two + a Cornish pasty for lunch = a lot of people enjoying themselves. From surfer dudes to families to preening teens studying their oppos. (I'm a visitor, right? So don't email me about the credit crunch in Cornwall, I'm being Mr Happy today. I saw those teeshirts - "It's tourist season so why can't we shoot them?")
Porthmeor Beach is where you want to be - sunning yourself or scoffing fresh fish and chips (with a cup of tea and two slices please) in the beachfront cafe. It's here that I learned to surf and it's here that I intend to take it up again. Soon. In the meantime, I'm over the road in the Tate Gallery - the smallest of the Tate Empire and possibly my favourite - which at the moment has a retrospective of Ben Nicholson, the early modernist who came to live in St Ives, and an explosion of colour by Luke Frost. A brilliant coupling of St Ives 'old' modernist school and the very latest from what has become a local dynasty. Joy. No crowds, a beautiful building with the best rooftop caff in Britain, and sand underfoot, which is not something you get in Pimlico.
Lunch at the Mermaid, one of the oldest in the hood where the happy waiter who's been there for years tells me the special is a whole local lemon sole with chips for a tenner. He points surreptitiously at the next table and eyeballs the message "that's what they've got". So I get it. While trying to decide on a glass (how much?) or a bottle of Provence Rose he offers to do me a small carafe 'for six quid'. Done deal mate. They do a five pound lunch. They do lobster and chips. Oooooooh can I live here now please? (a moment recorded on every visit)
Because I'm working I'm in the apartment from heaven, the Sail Lofts, which have recently been reconverted from artists studios (of which several remain downstairs) because long before that this was a pilchard processing factory, and along with every mod con that my own home aspires to this spacious white loft has a flat screen TV which is this weekend dedicated to BBC 3 because they're showing 'Family Guy' the funniest thing now on TV. I'm jaded, a Simpsons fan who's turned in his Homer tee a long time ago, the consequence being that I find it very hard to find anything remotely amusing on TV at all. Family Guy is it.
It's the new series so the BBC have splashed out £2.74p on a behind-the-scenes effort. What would once have been a documentary is now a local crew fishing around the Family Guy production office for shots. Piece of crap really but it allowed me to see Seth McFarlane - the creator, writer, performer and drawer - say the words "as long as we don't do anything the Simpsons did" which sums it up. The baton has now been officially passed. Laugh your bloody socks off people. Or Brian gets it.
Which reminds me, down at the harbour I buy a huge spider crab straight off the boat for two quid. It's live (look away now if you're squeamish) and despite having a pot which is just a little too small it is cooked, prepped and served with potato salad and a crisp white wine. It is delicious. But is also tiny. I have discovered the difference between cock and hen spider crabs. One has loads of meat. The other doesn't.
Can't all be good news. Sorry.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
But man cannot live on the Guardian Crossword, websites and the pub alone. Noooo...
So on Friday at BAFTA we watch Britain's greatest film director (official) have praise heaped on him by every living luminary from cinema - Danny Boyle, Stephen Frears, Mike Figgis, et al - a true BAFTA love-in at the feet of Nicolas Roeg who, at 80 years old, is still making films - Nic Roeg films - and who sat modestly listening to all these current whizzos explain how he'd influenced them, how they'd stolen his ideas, and how brilliant he was/is. The clips of his best movies - Performance, Don't Look Now, Walkabout, The Man Who Fell To Earth - were played over and over, as exciting now as they were thirty years ago. There's something about breathing the same air, scoffing the same canapes, and networking with the same people as the genius in the room that beats staying in to see Jonathan Ross.
And then to the theatre to see Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen trip the light fantastic through 'Waiting For Godot' Becket's marathon which - with Simon Callow and Richard Thackery in tow - is an absolute comedy joy. Both leads at the peak of their powers here, teasing out comedy line after comedy line, filling every space with precisely the right nuance and body language, constantly chattering for an hour, then after the break another hour in an awe inspiring display of actor supremacy. I do not know how they did it. McKellen is his character, no question, and the longer it went on the more I didn't want it to stop. I've always thought of it as a long play and yet time flew with this pair. Masterclass Theatre.
Michael Sheen's out again, this time as Brian Clough in the Damned United about his 44 days at Leeds in the 70's. He's been so stunning in his previous impersonations it's sometimes like watching Kenneth Williams or Tony Blair doing Cloughie, but that's the price you pay for being mesmerising in characters you look vaguely like. Tim Spall's senasational and the arch nemesis Don Revie is played suitably dark and brooding by Colm Meaney. Jim Broadbent is, sigh, his usual brilliant self (is he ever bad at anything?). And yes, it is the best film about football you'll ever see although to be fair it's a TV film blown up for the big screen to allow BBC Films to recoup some of that dosh.
A second visit to the Picasso exhibition at the National is even more rewarding than the first now that I know and understand what "Challenging the Past" is actually about, the artist's obsession with the grand traditions of past European Masters. Picasso's take, and responses to his esteemed forebears reveals not only a great deal about his passions, but theirs too, and the motivations of all great artists with a desire to make great art their own. Easily one of the best curated shows you'll ever see.
And before Duplicity sinks from sight, an hour or two in the company of Clive Owen trying his hardest to playact in shiny Armani suits, smooth tanned skin, from New York to Rome in a dense, almost impenetrable tale of artful deception, making love to Julia Roberts along the way. Is this what he would have been like as Bond? I'm glad he didn't get it if it is, but it's still pretty flash stuff written and directed by Tony Gilroy, our fave screenwriter (Bourne, Bourne, Bourne!) who put a lot of effort into the pace and intrigue.
Apparently there was something on TV too this weekend, but I can't remember what exactly.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Hugh Grant is wibbling at the camera and Rhys Ifans, resplendent in laundrette-grey Y's, is no doubt in a nightclub somewhere desperately hoping that people aren't watching so he can finally move on from Spike. Julia Roberts, playing herself, is doing that simul cry/smile thing.
Notting Hill, the movie, is on again. ITV something (3? 4? 87?)
I'm watching Hugh, dumped by Julia, walking up Portobello Road from the Electric Cinema (as was) two blocks north through all the seasons, snow, everything, to the sound of "Ain't No Sunshine". The sequence starts with a pregnant woman and ends with the same woman holding a baby. Clever. Poignant.
Come on, you've seen it plenty! I've seen it bloody millions of times (mild exaggeration) at the cinema then on planes because it was a "safe" film to show on flights. I got to know it almost off by heart. Literally, I can nearly recite the script now.
Thing is, I'm dragging some cool-out of towners around, because I've spent most of my life in Notting Hill. Not as a born-and-bred local council estate market stall holder, or a trustafarian whose £2m flat has no mortgage, or even a fashionista, but someone who just, er, lived here and shopped on Portobello Road of a Sa'aday mayte. . I wasn't just passing through either. We're talking years. Decades. And while it may not be fashionable, I like the movie too.
On Friday we had dinner at Galicia, the Spanish home from home, (and David Cameron's) so fantastic we had lunch again on Saturday; drinks and stuff at the Electric, downstairs, and more upstairs; after some kosher canapes at a Barmitzvah, some roast halal chicken (a whole one) from Chicken Cottage on Ladbroke Grove, some weekly shopping at the market, pizza in Kensington Park Road opposite where 192 used to be (RIP), Red Velvet cupcakes from Hummingbird, coffee and pastries from Kitchen and Pantry plus breakfast at Mike's (the best!).
No wonder I was fucking fat when I lived there.
As The Travel Bookshop's best ever customer (I travel. I buy travel books) I'm tempted to tell the crowds taking snaps of the exterior that the bookshop in the movie was faked in Portobello Road and also that Richard Curtis's Blue Front Door, opposite Nu-Line, which framed Spike in said undies, wasn't just painted black but has actually been replaced entirely, the real one being sold for charity. But I didn't. So many Japanese kids doing that V-sign, who am I to spoil it?
Gary sings outside the Market Bar, Mary sells her Balinese jewellery; gentrification is relentless and while the Oxfam Shop now sells nowt but books (it's the best one, save possibly for Marylebone High Street) and there are tables and chairs on the pavement north of Westway (as opposed to guys selling, er, stuff at the corner of Cambridge Gardens) it's still the real deal.
Richard Curtis's movie is good, neither the date stamped imagery of Four Weddings, nor the American prism of 'Love, Actually', but a likeable love story, set against a real backdrop.
Because that's what that part of Notting Hill actually looks like. Really.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
It's not my fault that I have to spend a lot of time in Paris, eating and drinking my way around the city. It's a tough job but..... it's not all joie de vivre.
Given the exchange rate fun we're having with the Euro, last week was more pain than joy, prices being calculated UP the way rather than DOWN, so much so that one night I decided to stay in, which I can't ever remember doing before. Admittedly I was in a suite with a large plasma screen TV, free peanuts and a very comfortable sofa.
So I went to the local traiteur, a grocer which makes Fortnum and Mason look like Aldi.
I was escorted from counter to counter by a small lady wearing an apron who cut, sliced, wrapped and generally prettified everything I bought. Some ham, celeriac remoulade, pate, egg and vegetable terrine, etc. Little bits of this and little bits of that. Parisian delicacies rather than a vast takeaway curry or somesuch. She managed to avoid the question "how much is that?" every time I asked.
At the final counter, where one is given a slip of paper which is then taken across the floor to the cash desk, I was smiled at by the manageress as she totted it all up.
"Fifty two euros monsieur" she said sweetly, still smiling.
"Fifty two euros". Her smile was beatific.
There wasn't even any wine. It would have been cheaper going out. Possibly.
Admittedly there was a sliver of foie gras maison which was €25 itself (I later looked at the price tag - €250 per kg - gah!)
I left feeling slightly miserable, wondering how I was going to explain this back at the ranch. I then walked into their wine shop and asked if they had any sauternes.
"Certainly sir, " the man said with a flourish, "This half bottle is €140. Would sir be looking for a full bottle?"
No, sir, would be looking for the exit, rapido, pronto, it's hot in here and I'm looking for the nearest offie where - thankfully - we come back down to planet earth with a jolly little beaujolais costing €8.
I was then introduced to the current Parisian scam du jour, which involves the mug (me) looking down at the gutter while waiting to cross the road and seeing a large gold wedding ring, at which point the perp (small weasely person) picks it up looking both astonished and quizzical, and then asking if it belongs to moi (the mug). Conversation then ensues in which you offer to buy the stupid thing for €10 or something. First time I couldn't be arsed even talking and walked off. Second day I laughed and the third - when the variation was a large shiny watch, I said (in English) while pointing at my forehead - "does it say stupid on here?"
Caution is rarely the watchword in Paris, but it was for the rest of the week. Until after dinner on Friday when I was persuaded to go to our favourite nightspot, a scruffy little jazz cafe I've been going to for years because the music is excellent. I had a cognac and a coffee. Then another cognac before making my excuses and leaving, citing an early Eurostar.
I offered a €20 bill. But our patron advised that there was now a €10 'entrance fee' which I remarked he'd never charged me before. He just looked at me. I rummaged around my pockets and found a €10 bill - the only one I had - and graciously offered that, the man has a living to make after all..
"Non, monsieur," he explained, pointing, "It is €30.50"
I stared, disbelieving and said. "You are joking, aren't you. It's only 50 cents"
He looked straight at me.
"Non. Do you have a card?"
He took my card and processed the entire €30.50. The handset asked 'Gratuity?'
I stamped in 'Non' and left rather deflated.
The Eurostar back to London the following morning was unusually comfortable. Thankfully next time I'm going back to slightly scruffier parts, you know, the ones where they have the riots.
At least the food will be cheap.
Friday, February 13, 2009
OK, you want romance? Sing this to your loved one on Valentine's Night.
O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like the melodie
That’s sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve
And fare thee weel, awhile!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
The choice is yours, accompanied by a large man playing the bagpipes in the corner of the kitchen, some dry ice and Full Highland Dress, or possibly just slipped inside the card.
In the ensuing seconds of silence, as your stunned partner takes in the full might of what you have just done - it will surely resonate for years to come - you can fill the gap with the following fact.
"It's the song that inspired Bob Dylan"
That should do the trick.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
So, it's prediction day again. After last year's poor show (they only made six right decisions) let's see how well the BAFTA jury does this year in their deliberations. Are they going to get it right?
(results added Monday am)
It's gotta be SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.
OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
It should be MAMMA MIA. All that Tom Hanks star-buying money has gotta have some effect!
Obv not going for the pop vote, but Man on Wire is a damn fine film.
CARL FOREMAN AWARD
STEVE McQUEEN (Hunger) please - although this is the only time JUDY CRAMER (Mamma Mia) stands a chance.
DANNY BOYLE did a brilliant job on Slumdog Millionaire.
IN BRUGES should get it.
Haven't seen Benjamin Button yet. So money's on SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
FILM NOT ENGLISH
GOMORRAH. Gotta be.
WALL-E please. I'm the only person in the world that wasn't thrilled beyond belief by Persepolis.
SEAN PENN - no contest - although it has been pointed out that his nose is too big for his face. Nevertheless he is the Nationwide fave actor of his generation still. Man's a creative genius.
Wrong - Boo!
Mickey Rourke? When's it out on DVD?
Looks like KATE WINSLETT
HEATH LEDGER, posthumously, althoug Aaron Eckhart did a very impressive job in that film too. .
TILDA SWINTON was utterly superb but all five here are strong.
Wrong - ish..
Should ABBA get a BAFTA? The whole film is the music so why not? Give it to Benny and Bjorn!
ANTHONY DOD MANTLE (Slumdog) Fabulous.
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE definitely, although I ain't seen this Benjamin Button
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. I don't know how they did it - apart from the studio set courtesy of Celador.
No idea. Wall-e? James Bond?
It would be midly ironic if Indiana Jones was to get (or anything frankly) after Spielberg's pre-publicity line - "it's all for real, no special effects". Oh yeah?
MAKE UP and HAIR
Probably Benjamin Button but the hair in MILK is something else.
WALLACE AND GROMIT deserve a British Award!
Correct - yay!
From 20 predictions, 13 were correct. Not bad going BAFTA jury but you must try harder next year.
Oh, and the Americans are going to hate us.
Monday, February 02, 2009
Well it may as well be in cold, wintry Brighton where the city's tens of thousands of London commuters are stuck at home, building snowmen on the beach and filling the pubs. "It's like the War!" said a blackboard outside one, with a tiny note below "but without the war bit".
Snow doesn't normally reach Brighton, a city more used to the bracing sea air of La Manche, but if it does it just means travel to London is a little more cold and difficult. Except this morning, worst snow for 18 years, there were no trains, buses, or even routes of escape by car. Hordes of office workers suddenly marooned in Snowtown-on-sea.
"You can't have sausages" said the barman, "We only had two to start" perfectly illustrating that morning's expectation of a man and his dog coming in for a half pint of stout at lunchtime, instead of which he's got card schools, men in suits, babies crying and general pandemonium.
"Why don't you go over the road to the shop then?" he was asked.
"Well even if I could go over I haven't got anyone to cook it" he said, pouring a pint of Harveys with one hand a Guinness with the other.
Meanwhile, this being Brighton, beach snowmen with seaweed hair, were being supplemented with anatomically correct snow women,
and snow bicycles.
Back in the pub, a man is on his mobile asking bus inquiries if there is likely to be a London service tomorrow. "No?" he asked, slightly worried, unaware that the whole pub was listening to him until they broke into spontaneous loud cheering. "Call the railways too! You're good luck!"
Today, the recession seems very, very far away.
And we are not in the Highlands of Scotland or the Alps or the Rockies. We are in the sunny seaside English coastal resort of Brighton, where families and gay couples come to frolick in the sun.
Not today they don't.
In the "worst weather since... etc etc" we've had some lovely snow overnight, with more to come, and outside, while there may be no trains, buses, roads open, or anything normal, Brighton Beach is suddenly white.
In Scotland this morning, the BBC teletext tells me with some glee "flights are cancelled" because English airports are closed - I can hear the sound of raucous laughter all the way down here ("a wee bitta snow??") - but for a few moments it's going to lie and cause some trouble.
Schools are closed, obviously, and if I were a kid I'd be out NOW with a tin tray sliding down the nearest hill which, rather ironically, is likely to be one of the shingle slopes on the beach.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
It's also Chinese New Year, the year of the Ox, and the two have conjoined as twins.
Burns is 250 this year, which the Scottish Executive - those guys in Edinburgh who call themselves a 'government' - have evolved into a thing called 'homecoming' which purports to attract exiled Scots back home. In the middle of a recession. When the biggest bank bailouts have been for financial institutions whose names include the word "Scotland". No matter, the recession knows no borders really, it's just unfortunate that the Executive didn't see it coming. Like everyone else.
Anyway, we kick off credit crunch style with the bargain of the day, where your humble blogger scores a bottle of Highland Malt for £14 - at least ten British pounds (or a few Euros) under the normal price - and although it's Aberlour that's good enough for the Sassenachs who'll be drinking it. They won't know it's from the Co-op. The Burns Night is a party and those stupid enough to be drinking wine and then agreeing to a 'wee half' (they were warned) are quickly dancing in the living room while the rest of us are scoffing haggis neeps and tatties in the kitchen, MacSween's Haggis don't you know, and it goes down well with the Aberlour. Wee nips of it, not great gulps. That way lies dancing to Abba and Jimmy Shand, before curling up and falling asleep on the carpet.
In the kitchen we also have Tablet, one of Scotland's great health foods. It basically has two ingredients - sugar and condensed milk - left to mix, settle in the fridge, and then be broken into chunks and eaten. It is single handedly responsible for the rotting teeth of several generations but is irresistible. I put several people off by telling them tales of horror, thus securing more for myself. Yum.
The night descends into mayhem, with grown adults wondering why they're whirling and reeling around the living room (they have forgotten the whisky already) and hangovers starting before cabs have been entered.
Sunday is a very quiet day.
But it's not only January 25th (Rabbie's proper birthday) it's also Chinese New Year. However because of the slowness of human movement, let's just call it lethargy, we eschew London's vibrant and no doubt overcrowded Chinatown for Brighton's Good Friends where you can have normal Cantonese or enjoy jellyfish with ham hock, pigs trotters, duck tongues, and a whole variety of soups and savoury dishes which delight the palate.
And halfway through, in from the pouring rain and wild winds of Brighton's seafront, enters The Dragon, a pantomime horse with bells on, followed by a noisy band of players whose determination to play loud puts them up there with the pipers who mark the entry of the haggis at 100 decibels and the announcers on the London to Brighton commuter trains.
Last night's haggis, neeps and tatties (at least two helpings) is followed by at least four courses of astounding Chinese food. Which is why I'm relieved that my two lunch companions the following day, fresh from Beijing, don't really feel like Chinese. They want Greek.
We order the full meze, a whole tableful of plates piled with humous, prawns, chickpeas, then grilled and fried fish then kebabs, which defies all attempts at restraint by the Chinese and Scottish contingents. We hoover it up.
Sadly, I have to leave my greek coffee as I'm late for another Burns Night, where the haggis, neeps and tatties are served by maidens in mini kilts who exhort excessive consumption. They then dance the night away, having eaten nothing themselves except the ice cubes in their whiskies.
A late snack of last night's Chinese doggie bag goes down well as I remember that there are two more Burns Nights this week, more meetings with Beijing execs and no doubt celebratory dim sum lunches for, oh, anything really.
Note to self: stop eating you fat bastard.
And Happy New Ox Chinese Year and Rabbie Burns 250th Birthday Homecoming thingy.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2009
I like a pea, me.
Maybe it's just midwinter, freezing, miserable dog days after festive merriment, which turn thoughts inexorably to the summer pea. Or possibly it was that pulao rice. Always ask for peas pulao, even if it turns out to be a few desultory thawed out bullets mixed in the microwave. Last night I was lucky: egg, beans, and lots of little bright green peas.
Peas are one of the joys of spring, but frozen peas are just as good. Picked young and fresh they taste fantastic when heated up (DO NOT cook them). They have a myriad of uses. Straightforward greenery with melting butter. Whizzed up for soup and ham. Braised with little onions, lardons and lettuce. Apparently northern people like them mashed with vinegar (yuk). Or kept in the bag and used as a relief for bad back/ injured knee / hangover (apply to sweaty forehead).
As a kid in the back garden if I managed to get 50% back to the kitchen that was a good day. Most of the young pods I picked would be clicked open and their contents rolled straight onto the tongue. They were then, and are now, the perfect snack food. In cinemas, 500g of fresh peas beats chocolate peanuts any day.
But I find myself in regular argument on the M25.
Me: (driving roofless with paper bag of peapods on lap, throwing emptied pods into the air while munching happily) "They are NOT rubbish! They are organic! Biodegradable! Whatever"
She: "They are litter! Don't be so disgusting!"
Me: (munching). "Not"
There is nothing quite like scarfing handfuls of fresh peas from the pod (on the M25 they must be opened with one hand, otherwise it gets dangerous. Especially if you're on the phone at the time and don't have hands free). Even late in the season, big, starchy, peas are still better than snackfood wotsits.
When the sun shines, peas should be served with every meal. On their own, with asparagus, in omelettes, in a primavera risotto with fresh beans, cold in salads, warm with chicken. With mint, with onion, with bacon, with fish and chips. In winter no dinner is complete without the pea.
In a two star Michelin restaurant in France recently a sashimi of raw langoustine was accompanied by a disc of aspic jelly, looking for all the world like a paperweight, in which were suspended a few reminders of summer - mostly peas. Delightful.
In pasta it is obligatory. A friend in the Groucho Club will cause trouble, not the drug fuelled drunken variety, but gastronomic when his pasta arrives unadorned with the little green jewels. Some chefs have had the temerity to disagree. Pea-inspired shouting generally ensues.
In the curry last night, a Goan chicken dish was warming, juicy and just the ticket for sub zero temperatures. But the rice was spiked with tasty, juicy, freshly thawed petit pois. Joy. It won the plate competition.
The only thing I hold against the genius of John Lloyd and his Spitting Image puppetry magic was the association he drew between Prime Minister John Major's grey, boring private life with Norma, and peas. Damaged their image forever. Peas, I mean. Turned out, I am relieved to say, to be complete fiction. But the reality came a little late. Peas were boring.
I suppose that's more for me.