Just saying is all.

More Walker. As yesterday, in fact. Pah, I appear to have received the attentions of the Crapness Fairy. I watch a tape of the newer Simpsons. It seems that the critics have a point (and I’m not jaded to the programme, not having seen it for a while) – the process and structure of how Simpsons episodes are written and made has become so systematised that it appears they have turned the process over to their trained monkeys. Plots are recycled. Ironic winks are used to cover up genuine failings in the programme.

Interesting that the "Lisa Becomes a Buddhist" episode (featuring a toe-curling cameo from Richard Gere) starts with Homer and Bart firing a hamster into space. Just saying is all.

we start regardless

After spending the day mooching around, I get a call from Glyn asking whether I want to play bass for the Jazz Jam again. It was fun last time, so I agree. I arrive there at 7:30 and go to the upstairs room where the other "band" musicians are running through songs. Sadly, it seems that the room has been double-booked to another band, who are watching with evident impatience.

When we get downstairs, the pub is deserted – it being summer, I suppose, and too hot to go out. Still, we start regardless. It’s a lot more difficult this week, something about exceeding no expectations at all being a lot easier than trying to meet some. A relief bassist comes at half-time and I greet her with a hearty "at last someone who knows what they’re doing". There’s also a harmonica player (very good!). An influx, perhap, from this year’s Morley summer course, I don’t know.

It appears that some of the musicians are scouting to form a sextette, with guitar rather than piano as the chordal instrument. Would I like to be the guitar, and am I available this Thursday? Yes and very probably, I say.

Thank you London Transport!

I blag another lift from the Aged P up to Kensal Green with the extra stuff and arrive early. I sit on the speaker and wait. Then Matt the Drummer picks me up and we drive down to East Grinstead for the gig. Joan is travelling with David and Charlotte, and they are held up on the M25 (because they are on the east-side bit and we are on the west-side, we are held up less than they, and we arrive only just after we were supposed to).

When we get there Spekki Chris is just soundchecking.

Alastair (who will be doing sound for us) arrives in a big van, with a Fender combo, infinitely preferable to the H&H.

When it’s our turn to soundcheck I can’t hear anything at all of me. I think this is because I’m muted in the mixer, whereas it is in fact because I’m not making any sound. I have the guitar/synth switch switched to guitar. Nonetheless I play perfectly, oh yes. Perhaps inaudible guitar has a future.

There is a slow but constant stream of people arriving, but it being very hot in the marquee (and there not being anything very interesting happening there at the moment), they are wandering around the periphery – up to the house and down to the bouncy castle. It may well be when we play we will have a large but extremely dissipated audience.

A long line of ribbons is laid out on the grass in the marquee. Whether this is part of an Official Entertainment or just some child’s personal game I cannot say. Also some small boys naturally decide that on a hot day like this, inside a stuffy tent and right in front of the stage is a perfect place for a game of football.

There is a lengthy sitting around period (there being some uncertainty as to whether the timings should be theatrically disciplined or musically lax. Music wins out, quite properly) and then Sweet Laredo play first with a nicely chilled, bluesy set (perfect summer afternoon music), followed by Spekki and his bass-fellow. The small boys decide that the most appropriate form of audience participation must be running up and down in front of the stage holding a ribbon between them and shouting. This is an original approach.

When we take the stage, I am interested to see how loud the guitar is – too quiet for One More Button, so I turn it up a bit. On Mother therefore it’s quite noisy and jangly, which I like. I check with Joan and apparantly it’s not too loud, so I’m happy. I really enjoy playing the set, Summer Season with its Gilmouresque guitar solo is a high point and getting through the instrumental section of In My Life without ballsing it up is another (I actually count down the bars). I love doing the song, but have become fixated on making a huge boo-boo during this performance of it (it being done ‘specially). The box is a success from my point of view, although I should start thinking about getting a keyboard amp or something I can use as backline.

More enjoying the party (although it’s a family party for a family I’m not really a part of, so it’s a circumspect, proxy enjoyment. But then I like watching people having a good time anyway). The strange thing is that, this being a celebration of a theatre’s birthday there are many faces that I recognise from film and television. Now I have the worst memory for faces ever, the best that I can do is sort of recognise familiar faces – an alarm goes off in my head when I see someone I recognise and while I’m dredging around in my brain to try to remember where I recognise them from (or even a name if I’m lucky) I try to work out whether I ought to greet them. Today I have to keep telling myself that although people look familiar I must not say hello to them, because not only have we never met but here of all places they don’t want to be bothered by nutters.

It certainly proves that it’s possible for you to have more fun in East Grinstead than Alan Ayckbourne would have you believe.

I get the unused and perhaps unusable H&H and speaker onto a Londonward van and get a lift home with Matt who drops me off at Kensal Green again. I can’t get a ticket, but the turnstiles are open so I decide to risk it and pay at the excess fares counter when I get to Elephant. But I now need the loo very much. I practise deep breathing and buddhist tolerance and read a discarded News of the World entirely, it seems, to do with the recently concluded Big Brother 3. Not having a television or, indeed, any interest at all for this diversion, it’s all news to me. But not very interesting news. Still, the notion of celebrity is a Theme of the Day. It comes to something when someone can be famous for being in a short-term flatshare, though.

The turnstiles are open at the Elephant so my journey was free. Thank you London Transport!

I eat four vegeburgers (making up for the fact that there were piles of beefburgers available earlier on, but I’m a vegetarian) and go to bed.

with the advantage of being free

I play through the Joan stuff to the CD several times, with particular attention to the Summer Season monkey tricks. I have decided to take an old H&H PA thing and beaten up 12" speaker in case I need it to make myself louder tomorrow.

I also have a haircut at the taciturn turk’s place around the corner. I ask for a short back and sides, and he says "not too short, eh?" and I have no choice but to agree. There is a myth that people choose their haircuts, but they are actually foisted upon us by hairdressers and we are all too weak-willed to stop them. Also, when they’ve had their wicked way, what are we going to do about it? This time, he decides that I am supposed to have a side parting. I look like Billy Bunter. I remove the side parting, but only when I’m out of view of the barber shop. No need to make him angry.

Phil H calls up and says that the public showing of an art project he was involved in is on tonight at the Beaufoy Institute, a building on Black Prince road that I’ve passed many times but never really thought about what it was, and that he’s intending to go to the 6:00 showing of it. Someone had organised for individual members of the London Philharmonic to visit people who lived in the area and whose name was Phil and play their part of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. I am curious to see how they’ll synchronise the parts, if at all.

I then manage to get to the gym, although in a sort of brush with exertion way rather than any really coherent form of exercise.

As I’m about to leave to go to the Beaufoy Institute I notice that Phil’s left a message saying that he’ll have to go to the 9:00 showing instead, so I settle down to more bits and pieces for a couple of hours.


I hang around outside with a crowd of arty types waiting for Phil to turn up, and then we go in. It is a very impressive building, I have to say, and in particular the main hall where the show is happening. There are a number of monitors set up, with three or four volunteers in front of them with (I surmise) their fingers on the pause buttons of several video recorders. So I guess that we are not in for split-second editing here.

I’m right – essentially the different videos run at their own speed, with the first violin getting there several seconds before everyone else. I split into two parts for the verdict. On the one hand it’s a very impressive noise, out of which readily recognisable chunks of Mozart make themselves felt; on the other hand it does seem very lazy and sloppy, a half-good idea that someone had in the pub stretched to an illogical conclusion.

After the showing, Danielle Arnaud says a few words, although I’m hard-pressed to remember what those words might have been and what they signified, and also a representative of an organisation called Riverside Community Development Trust (the website’s just a logo at the time of writing, but I’ve included it on the offchance that they decide to include some content) who says the following things: that this a very fine building (agreed), that it has been grossly underused and abused by Lambeth Council (agreed) and that of several options under consideration (including relocating the Michael Tippett school here) the one that involves the building becoming an Arts Centre is the natural Best Choice (some dispute). Then somone called Ricky (or, possibly, Rikki) stands up, declares himself to be from the Local Community and wants to say a few words. He wonders what this projected arts centre would do for the Local Community and notices that there’s nobody from the estate next door here (although no one would have stopped them coming in). He mentions hip hip, to show that he’s Down With The Kids. People start wandering away. I hear Ricky say that "someone is trying to shut him up". No one’s trying to shut you up, Ricky, it’s just that no one is interested. There is a difference.

In some ways I have more sympathy with his point of view – I wonder whether the RCDT movement is anything more than an Arts Lobby colonization move, that it’s all a power struggle, and that people at the lower reaches of Arts Administration have to make their own chances. After all it worked for the Battersea Arts Centre and Jackson’s Lane. It’s the sort of thing I’d quite like to have within walking distance, even in addition to the South Bank Centre. On the other hand, I wonder about the administration of such a thing by a self-appointed "ruling class". On the other hand, "self-appointed community representatives" like Ricky only muddy the water. Turning up at shows and trying to convert them into rallies is an entrist strategy, and if a disinterested audience just wander away he has no one to blame but himself, certainly not "someone trying to shut [him] up". I’ve never seen entrism achieve anything positive ever, and I wonder why people still bother.

Phil and I go for a walk down the South Bank to the Millenium Wheel and then back a bit before parting company at Lambeth Bridge Road. It’s a lovely evening, perfect for a walk and I’m very glad we have had the opportunity. Looking at the Wheel from underneath is almost as impressive as looking from it, with the advantage of being free.

Perhaps I will be given a banana if I play the song correctly.

I was going to try to get a cheap-‘n’-crappy amplifier (Torque, if that means anything to anybody, and those to whom it does mean something will, no doubt, be shuddering) to the Van Down To East Grinstead at the Donmar, but when I switch it on it makes a hideous (and very loud) screeching noise which I silence as soon as I can in case it attracts whales or colossal bats. I’ll have to think of an alternative.

I spend some more time refining the patches for Joan’s gig. In particular I set up the patch for Summer Season, so that it requires me to use both programmable switches on the box and both assignable switches on the guitar several times throughout the song, such that I resemble nothing less than a monkey in some Pavlovian experiment. Perhaps I will be given a banana if I play the song correctly.

I manage to get to Shinay before they close for a couple of weeks. I suspect (but without any proof) they’re going off to Samye Ling for their summer hols.

When I get home I watch M. Hulot’s Holiday largely because I can. It remains one of my favourite films ever, and even though I’ve seen the gags so many times they still leave me in stitches (the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy also have this effect on me). Although there is an English-language version and a subtitled version, neither are really necessary (I turn the subtitles off, since they’re more intrusive than helpful). Tati is an unusual director in that he eschews the otherwise almost universal technique of having the audience identify with the main character, by deliberately distancing him. Partly this is by hardly ever using close-ups (there some in M. Hulot’s Holiday, but none at all, I think, in Playtime) and also by explicitly using characters who observe the action – the young artist and the old woman with the goat in Jour de Fete, for example, the nephew and his father in Mon Oncle. In M. Hulot’s Holiday, it’s the young woman, the English woman and the hen-pecked husband. Another thing he does is to establish the situation first and then introduce his character (the postman in Jour de Fete, Hulot in the rest). And there are all the "fake" Hulots in Playtime. The result is that the films seem a bit cerebral to some people, because we are denied the emotional involvement that we’ve come to expect. I’m not sure that this is a bad thing though.

I might get through the whole lot in one night

I spend the day sitting around.

I do change strings on the Godin in preparation for Sunday’s gig. Having bought Daddario strings, which are all bagged together and have different ball-end colours to tell the strings apart, I put a B string on the first course by mistake and trim it before realising what I’ve done. So I have to open another packet. I worry that I might get through the whole lot in one night.

heaven forfend

Into Walker’s in the morning with my gear to straight off to Holloway at lunchtime and then go to the Joan Coffey rehearsal. The last one before the gig on Sunday. We run through the set a few times. I feel that I’m going to have to refine the patches on the VG-88 and do some heavy with-the-CD practise. Very hot and moist in that room. Sauna-esque in fact.

Coming out of the tube, the SWP are out in force trying to get people to sign a petition (with prominent SWP letterhead, natch) saying that the Israeli bombing of a Palestinian residential building is a Bad Thing and possibly to buy their wretched paper. Not that they are exploiting an international outrage to promote their agenda, heaven forfend.

I complete my relationship with Donnie Darko by watching it with the second commentary, which features the director and the main cast members and is lovely. The side of film-making which is like being in a gang (cf Truffaut’s La Nuit Americaine) comes out, and must be exacerbated by the fact that many people were working unpaid to get the film made. Some wonderfully candid remarks from Drew Barrymore as well.

The Way of the Loofah

I sort of manage to get up and soak in the bath for a long time in lieu of sitting. Perhaps having a bath is a peculiarly English form of meditation. Could we have a bath-centric contemplative movement – The Way of the Loofah?

Into Walker and the usual stuff.

In the evening Ben comes round to chat about a Big Idea, inspect the VG-88 and eat. I try to download something for him, but the internet connection is playing hard to get The movie of the evening is Donnie Darko, because I’m shallow enough to want to show off my access to a film that hasn’t been released here yet. It’s getting more and more normal for me, so it’s interesting to see the reaction of someone for whom it’s a wierd experience.

the green-and-white awning as a measurement of time

It’s Graduation time again at the various local educational establishments, which means that the green-and-white awning has been dragged out again. I have a terrible feeling that I’m starting to use the green-and-white awning as a measurement of time.
Back to Walker.
After yesterday’s excess of exercise I elect to sleep all of lunchtime with my headphones on (chamber music live from the Proms which seems to have become less of a concert series and more of a brand, so you have auxiliary Proms-brand concerts in addition to the "official" evening gigs. If I can call them gigs. Hell, why not).
Home. I get a call from Chicky about the Three Stags jam – could I play bass for them tonight? Yes, apart from the fact that I’ve not played bass in a Jazz context before and have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I roll up at 8:30 and get to play on everything, which is a plus. A lot of things go well, some things are less successful, but generally it’s not the rank humiliation I’d been expecting, but then few things are. I sing Angel Eyes (the jazz standard rather than the Roxy Music song), which probably ought to be filed under less successful. Consequently I have a late return.