Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'Small Town England' by Tim Bradford

Friend of Bandy
It’s a bad job when your friends bring out a book and you can’t even get around to plugging it on your blog. Not that a mention on here has been historically proven as a shuttle ride to the bestseller list. But still, Small Town England by Tim Bradford (published by Ebury Press earlier this month) is not only a book by my oldest mate, it’s principally a memoir about the time we grew up together in Lincolnshire during the years 1978-1983. I feature throughout as a character called Bandy (I wasn’t called that, but it’s a fair description of my legs), perhaps more generously portrayed than I deserve given that I was a feral, foul-mouthed, deeply insecure adolescent who thought he was right about everything, apart from when the lights went out or I was drunk, when I thought I was probably wrong about everything, and that I would never, ever get a girlfriend.

I am hailed in the acknowledgments as a person “whose memory is a spectacularly efficient database of facts, anecdotes, football scores and mundane events.” You’ll note there’s none of the useful stuff in there, like geographical data, chemical symbols, mathematical formulae, an encyclopaedic knowledge of the English Civil War, or the correct way to mix and shake 101 head-crushing cocktails. Somehow, my memory evolved into a vault of useless clutter that I’ve never bothered clearing out to replace with something new, functional and up-to-date. So if something goes wrong with this computer, I won’t be able to fix it, but I can tell you all about the day I watched Lincoln City beat Northampton Town 5-4 in 1977. This at least made me a valuable oral consultant on several incidents described in the book, but now that period has been documented and illustrated by Tim, the call for my services could well be facing a barren stretch.

Why, you might ask, would anyone want to read about what it’s like to grow up in a small town in Lincolnshire between 1978 and 1983? It was interesting to me, because I was there. I’ve yet to meet anyone who wasn’t there, but who’s had the chance to read the book, so it’s hard to say how wide the appeal might be. The author is of course highly entertaining in the way he describes and illustrates all the crappy little bands we were in and the terrible gigs we played, and all the times we got drunk and ran away from fights and got crushes on all the wrong girls, and that the experience of being snared as a teenager in a dull country town is broadly universal. You can’t wait to leave, but 25 years later you can’t help but return with a little retrospective insight to take a look at all the mistakes that helped set you off on the path to nowhere.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Concert Irritants No.1: 40-Something Pogo Dancers

I had an inner dialogue slamming backwards and forwards in my head on Friday night as I watched The Wedding Present perform their ‘Bizarro’ album at The Black Cat. The music was all buzz-frenetic brilliance, but it wasn’t quite distracting enough to take my mind off the half dozen or so men who formed a midlife mosh-pit just in front of me.
Voice 1: Oh Christ, look at those sad bastards in their 40s trying to pogo dance.
Voice 2: Ah just relax, it’s a Friday night, they’re trying to have a good time.
Voice 1: Yeah, but they’re nearly all bald, and they’re taking it way too seriously, like this is 1976. I mean, the original Wedding Present came more than ten years after punk. No one pogoed to The Wedding Present even back in 1989.
Voice 2: Shut up, you miserable bastard, just enjoy the concert.
Voice 1: I am enjoying it. Except for these idiots. One of them just barged into me. I don’t mind that on the football field when I’m steeled for it, but he could have spilt my beer.
Voice 2: Do you want to make something of it?
Voice 1: Maybe. Especially with the balding wanker in the brown leather jacket bouncing up and down wearing that self-conscious, shit-eating grin like he’s on the bouncy fucking castle at Chuck-E-Cheese.
Voice 2: So you’ve never danced badly when you were drunk?
Voice 1 (ignoring Voice 2): And look at that lass there, she’s really learning something about her boyfriend tonight, isn’t she? Lucky she’s into him enough to pretend that she finds it really charming that he dances like a psychotic gibbon trapped inside a popcorn machine.
Voice 2: Maybe she really does. And maybe you wish that you weren’t too uptight to just let go and freak out without a care about what other people around you might be thinking.
Voice 1: Maybe you could shut up and stop spoiling my enjoyment of moaning about other people at the concert. Ah, look at that, how sweet - one of the twats fell over and the slap-headed wannabe hard man helped him to his feet. Almost like a real mosh pit.
Voice 2: You’re going bald too, you now.
Voice 1: Wrong. We’re going bald.
Voice 2: Oh Christ, am I really part of you?
Voice 1: Yes, we came together and we’ll leave together, whether you like it or not.
Voice 2: What if I want to dance?
Voice 1: But you don’t, really. You want to have another beer and stand here slouching and bellyaching. It’s what we always do.
Voice 2 (quietly): But maybe we could just try…
Voice 1 (to barman): Is this all you have on draft? Bloody crap selection...
Fine band, great night. Apart from the odd moaner.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Daffodil In The Dirt

I mooched over to my compost bin yesterday with the idea of starting to think about fertilising my herb garden. There growing inside was a proud, solitary daffodil. It would be an insult to nature's cycles to disturb it, and so I have the perfect excuse not to do any outside work until its bloom has wilted. Viva spring.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Insultingly Bad Thief

I regularly portray our neighbourhood as an existential vacuum bereft of all human activity, life and character, but I’m really just trying to keep property prices high by hiding the fact that it’s a criminal hot-bed. Here's the truth - last night I accidentally left my car open, and what do you know, some audacious larcenist took advantage during the night and pilfered my supply of quarters from the little compartment between the two front seats. Naturally I feel violated, and have just come back from six hours of counselling with the Montgomery County Police Department’s Victim Liaison Officer. But when she'd refused for the seventh time my impassioned plea to be gagged, handcuffed to a chair, and thrashed with her leather-bound portfolio outlining the sixteen stages of post-crime trauma, I decided to cut my losses and leave.

Given that apart from the odd shuffling dog and its owner there is rarely anyone stalking our streets after dark, I was surprised that someone had spotted the giveaway raised lock knob, and then bothered risking a look inside. I’d guess the perpetrator was a criminal virgin, likely aged 14-16, who impulsively stuffed his or her pockets with quarters, then panicked and ran – there were still a couple of bucks in silver left behind, and he or she didn’t bother to close the door. I only hope they spent it wisely on cider and cigarettes.

Like most teenagers, my petty thief has no taste. Insultingly, they ignored all the CDs in the car – Lucinda Williams’s throaty classic Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Swedish dance goddess Annie’s poppy Don’t Stop, and the beautiful new Midlake release The Courage Of Others. Another survivor was Bizarro, The Wedding Present’s 1989 second album. I borrowed this off my mate Kenneth, because we’re going to see the band next week at The Black Cat, and they’re playing the album in its entirety. The CD was in his basement when his house burnt down a couple of weeks ago, but as we were touring the wreckage he found it in his football kit bag, and it still plays fine. Now it’s survived a double calamity - smoke-stained, and possibly fingered by a felon, but nonetheless bravely cranking out gritty northern English indie-pop on a perfect east coast, spring afternoon. Message to today's youth - if you're going to be a sneaky, snivelling little crook, at least nick something decent. If you don't know which is the best CD to steal, just knock on the door and ask.