3 Jan 2015

New Hair Claire

Keeping in mind with various resolutions for years to come and using Cathryn's diaries as an inspiration I'm going to try and keep a diary. I won't force myself to do it every day but as long as I've posted weekly I won't feel so terrible.

Last year clearly did not work.

1 Jan 2014

Be resolute young lady!

Well, I'm sat watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and drinking camomile tea eating snacks on what has been the happiest Festive season for years (perhaps ever).

We went to Aberystwyth for a few days before Christmas, driven up by our lovely friend Sara Watkin. It was great spending time with Ciaran, he loved having his Uncle William to do rough, silly play with him. Whilst there we also had a really nice day walking around Aber getting drunk and watching the starlings. It was sad to leave. On Xmas Eve we got a local bus to Carmarthen, stopping off at a great organic shop for treats (best bought mince pies ever, and every year I do a taste test) and then a train from there to Cardiff.

Back in Cardiff we went for drinks with Mel & Graf, Rosie & Max, Tomos & Steph and Nic & Gareth took turns looking after the baby. It was nice but I was missing Caroline, who was having alternative drinks elsewhere.

Christmas Day was perfect. We were lazy and did nothing but get drunk, be really affectionate, watch silly films and play with Frank. Boxing Day was similar but we tried to go for a walk before it started raining. No plans, no pressure: just relaxing.

27th Steen went back to work and I did some cleaning and chatted with Cath. I'm going to really miss her when she leaves in a couple of months.

On Saturday night we went to Charlotte and Ryan's for drinks and had loads of fun. It was great chatting to Noel and we played ate love hearts.

Sunday we went to see my parents for lunch. Dad had an operation just before Xmas for his carpol tunnel (sp?) and is still in a bit of pain but was in good spirits. Auntie Lynn was there too and the whole thing was just nice. No arguments, just a really nice afternoon. They are still looking for a dog and apparently have found one in the last couple of days.

More cleaning, finished watching Battlestar Galactica and started watching Ru Paul's drag race took up most of the end of 2013. I must read more books this year.

Last night we had Rosie over for food / mulling and then eventually Mel & Graf, Adam & Ryan Caroline & Tom and some others. We then headed to Chapter for NYE. U had been trying to get Ewan in and right at the last minute it got sorted. I was sort of dreading it, Steen has a horrible cold and was being really grumpy about it but it got better. It was great seeing Mike Lollipop, Jim Kolmar and most of the people I know in Cardiff. It was a true success and I felt really proud of Chapter. I met the Lovely Eggs' giant baby too. Casey is so broody. I was drinking port from a smuggled in bottle and just hope Andy Eagle didn't see cos apparently he really frowns upon that (understandably). All the bands were great and it was wonderful that Alex Dingley band got extra exposure to a new audience. I did a lot of crazy dancing with Cath Angle and kissing everyone at midnight. It was good fun. Best for years, think it was the best we've spent together. We went to a party at Hannah Bayfield's where our mission was to try and hook up Rosie with Rob Sell. It didn't work but he was really drunk and it was 4am.

Today we've done similar things to Xmas: watch silly telly, snack and cuddle. It has been good.

New Year's resolutions? Last year I kept it simple but kind of serious to buy only vinyl and sort out our relationship and that went pretty well.

Keep up my diary
Read more books
Get fit(er)
Finish sorting out the house

Not too unrealistic, we'll see how I get on.

Currently listening to:
*Brief Histories of Britain 1066-1485 / 1485-1668 / 1660-1864
*Life Itself by Roger Ebert
*Lancaster and York by Alison Weir
*Why E=mc2 and why should we care? by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

Currently reading:
*Longitude by??
*Affinity by Sarah Waters
*The Giant Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

7 Nov 2009

a rare quiet week

after the madness of the beer festival it was lovely to just relax and know that there was nothing too draining to do for a while. the film on the sunday was THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS, the new film from terry gilliam notable for it being the film heath ledger was working on when he died. it has had mixed reviews and as with most of gilliam's films it was a heroic mess but one i truly enjoyed. it mixes in elements of old gilliam films, the ramshackle oversized baroque paper cut outs from MONTY PYTHON and the ordinary everyday "real life" contemporary scenes that marked out TIME BANDITS. we meet a group of street performers setting up shop at a city centre at night, complete with violent vomiting club goers. one of them makes a grab for pretty valentina and ends up behind the mirror in the imaginarium (a tired looking theatre dragged along in a horse drawn gypsy caravan). here he finds himself in a world of his own making where he even looks different and given a choice: a hard climb up a step to redemption or a night in a nightclub with its easy entertainments. he picks the wrong one and the devil gets him. the film centres on the mysterious, boozed up dr parnassus (christopher plummer) who runs the theatre and his band of down and outs, conjurer anton (andrew garfield), aggressive assistant percy (vern troyer) and his daughter valentina (lily cole). they are involved in a race against time to win a wager with the devil (played by tom waits who easily steals the show) when they rescue heath ledger's character tony. it is a convoluted tale that you feel he could have told a bit more economically and been a lot more straight forward with, but then this is the man whose desperate attempt to end THE HOLY GRAIL was by breaking into reality and having the set shut down by some bumbling coppers, it would be churlish to expect something straight forward. the first time we meet heath ledger he is hanging from a noose under a bridge crossing the thames. there is something truly disturbing and shockingly confrontational about this but they are quite ingenious in coming up with ways to make the film with an incomplete performance by ledger. as the imaginarium works on the enteree's own mind their appearance can change once they are inside. when heath ledger's character steps inside he finds himself first as johnny depp, then jude law and finally as colin farrell. since he becomes more obviously seedy and evil as more is revealed about his character it seems fitting that the actors who he becomes get um, less attractive and seedy. i'm not sure how colin farrell would feel about this. i really quite enjoyed this although it frustratingly left unanswered questions about the characters, about the imaginarium and dr parnassus. there are some wonderful flourishes and it could only have been made with someone as truly imaginative and brave as dr parnassus, sorry, terry gilliam.

on monday steen and jarrett were djing joy collective stylee for the lovely people of LOOSE. it was one of those gigs where you want to curse the laziness of people who don't bother coming out on a monday night. there was only a scattering of people but it was good fun. first up were MWSOG who were pleasantly unexpected. bilingual songs that seemed to exist in their own world of theatrical sparks-lite pop seemed well suited to this strange little world in clwb with only us in. steen and jarrett did some djing, one of which was a comedy metal single that blasted out and i hated but apart from that it was good fun. i sat with liz and we awaited THE BALKY MULE who turned out to be my new favourite discovery. he did charming sweet but not sentimental little love songs that reminded me of a more subtle, scruffier version of sweet baboo. the headliners seemed to take an age to come on but once they did it was warm and nice and bluesy, very american and a bit forgettable. i enjoyed it ok at the time but the support acts were a bit more memorable, it was a BALKY MULE song i sang on the way home.

on tuesday i was asked to usher last minute so steen accompanied me to see GOODBYE SOLO. it was a wonderful film about two ordinary people who get to know each other under extraordinary circumstances. solo is a senegalese immigrant who has come to make a life in the US, striving for the american dream with his dream of being an air steward but at the moment is getting by being a taxi driver. as with many film taxi drivers, begins to take an interest in one of his clients: william is his fare. william is a man old and tired and longing for death. he hires solo to drive him up to a beautiful spot in the mountains where he intends to commit suicide. solo spends the movie trying to pull him out of it with sheer cheerfulness and good will. if this was a hollywood movie they would have a big sentimental talk about the value of friendship and william would move in with solo and become surrogate grandpa to his kids. but thankfully this is a indie movie by an iranian director and whilst it still delivers hope and a belief in the idea of life it does not offer such easy solutions. this was a good film about a hard subject, completely believable and moving.

on wednesday i was ushering for a strange film, part documentary and part fiction I WANT TO SEE was an uncomfortable mix. playing herself, catherine deneuve pays a visit to beirut for a film festival and requests a tour of the city to see the effects of the long, drawn out depressing war between israel and hezbollah. her host is actor bint jbail, a lebanese actor who takes her through town past destroyed buildings, to the town he grew up in that has been entirely destroyed and to the border road that the israeli army give permission for them to walk down but the cannot film. the script, such as it was, was apparently entirely improvised by the actors. deneuve is a fish out of water, an expensive carp amongst a school of sardines. she looks a bit strange, a plastic surgery smile and a look which you are never sure whether is sadness or disgust. it is odd to make a film based on the emotions portrayed by the protagonist when the protangonist can barely move her eyes. the situation is very sad and this film does not have any answers but nor does it seem to pose any questions, she simply "wants to see" to be a witness to this scene and due to the rigidity of her face and the height of her privaleged status you are not sure of her motivation. is this some sort of cruel tourism? there seems to be a moment that passes between the two of them at the end but i am not sure whether this was a conceit on the part of the director because i felt them not to have been linked at all.

i had some great nosworthy coleslaw and a chat with the lovely rhian and then played with the cat until it was time to see the new show from CAI TOMOS: CALON. it was a moving tale of one man's life but it felt like the lives of all of us. when we enter he is suspended by red rope, reliant on his heartstrings, and as the piece moves on he moves in a gentle, graceful way. he is marking time. small events that had significance to him are turned into markers, the kiss he shared watching a movie as a teenager, the time he crashed his mum's car... these little moments are aired, reenacted in symbolic, pared down movements and made into reasons to be. it was a wonderful show that was truly joyous.

on bonfire night we eschewed the outdoor fireworks and headed down for food in the new italian that used to be dirty sues that used to be europa and found it to be very lush the headed to the POP QUIZ at y fwch goch. we teamed up with rich and rhian and did ok, coming joint second with half of cardiff! it was hard this month and it had a picture round that i excelled in (always good with faces, me) and i was very excited to get alice cooper as a young thing clutching a puppy. they had indoor fireworks to celebrate and mr ben potter lit them for everyone to gasp in amazement: it was like a big lump of snakey poo being lit with a green flame. awful. we then headed off to the CARDIFF ARTS INSTITUTE opening party. i was really happy when i heard this was being redeveloped. i went to the bar's previous incarnation INCOGNITO once and found it a dreary, souless place in that boring beige-and-burnt orange interiors way. this they had livened up with lego on the walls, girls excitedly playing ping pong in a hidden room at the top of the stairs and a black cab at the back showing the wacky races on a loop. as with any opening parties that are invite only there was a lot of wankers and we'd missed the live music as we'd been at the quiz so it felt a bit pointless being there. a shame but to be expected. keeping in mind the groucho marx line about never wanting to belong to a club that would have me as a member we spied a familar face in the shape of ed truckell and clung to it like driftwood in the ocean. as soon as we got there a lady told us to get off the bit of red carpet we were stood on. i steeled my face and uttered through gritted teeth "shall we leave, steen?!" before casey and ewan jumped on us with chants about "WILL FUCKING STEEN" and the world seems ok again. there were plenty of lovely people hiding outside. we had a good time for a while and i shrunk my eyes and tried to imagine this full of people there to see a gig rather than here to pilfer some free booze (not us, by the way) and see whom had come in with whom.

on friday it was a DRONES COMEDY CLUB special improv performace. in attendance were: the lovely ben partridge, laura and clint, dans mitchell and thomas and jenn champion, who i hadn't seen perform before. they were great. they came up with some truly brilliant moments like the check out girl played by dan thomas, the fisting of the alien's nan sketch and some great kung fu fighting from mitchell and champion. they were all really good but unfortunately the audience wasn't. an improv show is pretty dependent on how much the audience shout out but they were quite a sedate bunch. i laughed all the way through and had a brilliant time. i stopped by the bar on the way out and saw casey and caroline and had a chat about true blood (casey's a fan too) and then home to bed where i slept like a baby.

4 Nov 2009

end of the season of exhaustion

after swn we sat back and though, "my, my! it will be nice to have a rest!" and then realised that the beerfest was only days away. yikes! beerfest is notable for a) massive selection of beers b) about 4000 people in chapter. more busy times! we also had noticed that a lot of people are checking out chapter, where we were expecting quite a few people to be walking through the doors we're having lots and lots and lots coming to have a gawp, which is great but we've all been rushed off our feet! every day has been a busy and we're all getting that adrenalin rush of talking to a billion people followed by the falling-asleep-the-moment-you-stop comedown.

to try and put some nice escapist distance between us and them i took steen to see KATALIN VARGA on monday. it was a really strange but wonderful experience. katalin varga is woman out for revenge. this is a modern romanian film (from a british director) that almost feels like a dark fairy tale. due to the slightly old fashioned dress in the smaller villages that gives the impression of a place stuck in time it feels like this is a story that could have happened at any time. after carrying the secret of the truth of her son's real father for 10 years she confides in a friend who quickly spreads it around the village. her husband kicks her out and she ventures out into the countryside with her son searching for something, someone to carry out her revenge upon. there are some wonderful moments that feel uncomfortable and make you frightened of the nature in a similar way to ANTICHRIST. nature, or human nature, is brutal and life has no meaning but is brutish and unfair. a wonderful film that i could not get out of my head afterwards.

for the next two days my mornings were spent at the half term screening of CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS. this was a fun tale, a nicely surreal cartoon about a young inventor who goes from zero to hero in his seaside town after his new invention is accidentally shot in the sky and food literally rains down. it was a classic tale of how a young lad can be corrupted by fame and glory with a horrid, ever expanding mayor who wants more more more without thinking of the concequences and a nice reverse makeover of a dumb bimbo weathergirl who turns out to be a beautiful nerd underneath all along. it was well designed for kids and adults but didn't seem too clever, like a lot of the modern pixar cartoons seem to be. there was an entertaining monkey called steve, a defecating cloud and i loved all the depictions of giant food. ace!

thursday evening was a real treat, the HARMONIE BAND contributed live music to the carl dreyer classic VAMPYR, it is a talkie but as it is an early film has little dialogue so it suited being transferred to a live score. i had seen stills from this film before but never had been able to see it properly and was stunned by the beauty of the film. a young man enters a cut off village full of sad lost souls and has to spend the night in an inn. he is awakened during the night by an old man who enters his room and leaves a package so he gets up and walks around to try and find out what has happened, he passes a castle with an old woman and a doctor and then comes across the old man's house and witnessess his death. the man had two daughters, one of whom we learn has been bitten by a vampire. he calls the doctor who tells him the daughter needs a blood transfusion, which the young man readily agrees to. he falls into a sleep and when he wakes realises the doctor is not all he seems. i was very tired when i saw this film, it was the end of a long couple of weeks, a long day and i must admit that i started to drift into that strange place between waking and sleeping for a few minutes at the start. it added a strange frission to my enjoyment of the film. i started to drift just as the young man was in the first few scenes and awoke to find the image of the old man creeping, almost gliding into the room and it was extremely creepy. all through the film were shots of extreme beauty, the light quality was very subtle and it reminded me most of the murnau film SUNRISE. it was claustrophobic and perhaps aided by how tired i was, had a hypnotic seductive quality. i felt i was truly under a spell.

after that i rushed off to newport to catch the last MEZEFEST gig. it was a good one too! i jumped off the train first up was LITTLE DEATHS, a brilliantly unexpected math rock treat. they were unpretentious and seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves which is something you rarely see with such musos. next up was MIDORI HIRANO. i saw her at a LOOSE gig earlier in the year and it seems that despite that there seemed to be a low turn out for her, which is a shame because her music is so beautiful, she seems so shy and eager for people to enjoy it. it reminds me of icebergs melting and light falling on grass, its just so delicate and subtle. the next lot up were a horrible bunch of rapping boys with plastic looking hair. i read my book in the back room instead. they were called DIRTY GOODS and they had day-glo merch and customised goggles. ugh. luckily MAX TUNDRA was up next. he is someone i saw earlier in the year too but unfortunately it didn't quite count. that evening i started throwing up and that kept me in the toilet for the entire gig. poor max tundra, i don't think it was his fault. he came on stage and lo! he didn't make me vom. he was very funny, brilliant dance moves and little gems of songs that made me dance with a small little bunch of lovelies at the front. a brilliant show that enabled me to neglect my tiredness for a while. i dashed out just before the end to make sure i could collect my bike from the train station (a man let me keep it in the staff room because we couldn't find the bike racks!) and slept well that night!

bloody good i did get some sleep because it was the CHAPTER OKTOBERFEST that weekend and i was doing the looong shift on friday. i started at 6pm (2 hours earlier than usual) and finished at 2am (about an hour longer than usual) and it was hard. there were times when i thought people were just drinking really quickly because i seemed to be serving them a lot and by the end of the evening i worked out that it was just the time going quickly and being too busy to take stock and wonder what time it was! chapter dealt with it really well and we had a record breaking weekend as far as i can tell, i find out the true figures this week. it was great to be able to have the space not to have a one-in-one-out system like we had to do for the stwidio cafe bar.

by the next day i felt like i had been battered and bruised by all the tiredness so it was a quiet hallowe'en for us. we had plans to go and see the lovely multi talented rhodri viney then go dancing in TWISTED but first i was ushering EDDIE LADD: THE BOBBY SANDS MEMORIAL RACE in the theatre. i love eddie's shows, she has such a wonderful muscular energy. she has a lithe, androgynous look and it combines with her femininity to make her a graceful, beautiful performer. the idea for this came when she discovered that a town in america has a memorial race each year for hunger striker bobby sands. he wrote an article about running and ladd uses the sport and the idea of the marathon, going the distance as an allegory for his form of protest. in the centre of the stage is a line of lasers running down the length of a giant treadmill. voices echo around, a northern irish voice (bobby sands' writings) and the welsh translation (eddie ladd's commentary) telling of how he was a runner in school and then got sent to prison and tells the tale of him trying to keep up, striving to keep pace. she stands on the treadmill and it gathers speed. the click click and the hum of the machine providing an interesting backdrop to the atmospheric music from guto puw. through the words and her movements we imagine bobby sands running, running, trying to make it to the end. it is a very powerful piece and the lighting was so subtle she seemed to go from fit and lithe to fragile and sinewy by the end.

present at the show were our friends anne and helen and since the show had finished too late to catch mr viney we went back for a cup of tea at theirs. very rock and roll. but by gum, it was nice. we just sat and ate biscuits and drank tea and had a chat and i think it was the quietest hallowe'en i've had for years but it was perfect.

it was a good end to a bloody brilliant but exhausting month. november is looming and there are a couple of big things on the horizon there. i keep saying its going to slow down but i'm not sure if it is! its great working here and living with steen and seeing so many brilliant bands all the time but i do keep having to remind myself to sleep!

27 Oct 2009

all hands on deck!

well, so it begins. saturday night we shut up shop and were ready to re-open the new CHAPTER by tuesday. in the gap in between were two days of solid hard work! sunday i got a sort of lie-in (till about 9.30am, which for me is a late start on a sunday!) but we needed it, it was a whole two days of lifting, moving, cleaning, sorting, constructing, chucking out... and not much sitting down. the bloody wonderful lex did a lovely thing and cooked dinner for everyone on the sunday, it was only a bit of chilli or a bagette and chips but it was so appreciated. we all worked so hard those two days getting the place straight for the opening on the tuesday morning that i sat down at home and just fell asleep on the sofa. tuesday morning was inevitably HARD what with a million people asking questions / making approving noises and us lot trying to work out where we'd put everything ("where are the bins? oh yeah, they forgot to buy bins..." etc) but it was a good tired, like when you've done a good job.

on tuesday night i invited a few people down for a drink so i could have a go and see what it was like to actually enjoy the place. i've spent almost two years helping to plan chapter and going in and out of the building site only to then spend time running around setting it up but didn't know what it was like to just sit and enjoy the space and decide if i really liked it or not! thankfully i did. i went with the lovely miss ginny head and beautiful spooner to see the DOTS SHORT FILM BAND play music alongside some local short films, most of which were quite beautiful and lovely. the brilliant ewan morris jones had a film he'd worked on years ago based on a short story by a jorge luis borges that had some wonderful ideas in it and showed off what a great film maker he is. the biggest surprise was what the composers did to ginny's former art in the bar installation "we are not what we seem". the lead composer described what she did and it sounded interesting but i did not feel it worked and of all of them i found it a little disappointing. afterwards i sat and had some food with steen and some drink with casey, ewan and leila, duffy and the lovely rhodri viney, who gave me a cd of his new work which i was very excited to receive. it was a shame that they still haven't got the speaker system in place as it felt odd sat in chapter with no beautiful music playing but a lovely evening and a bloody good way to have a nice relax.

i did sort of get escape (although i dunno whether looking after full cinema's worth of teenagers is really an escape) when i ushered for the national schools film week's screening of SHIFTY. i remember it being advertised to look a bit like a guy richie gangster film but it was more mike leigh than guy richie. it was an authentic day in the life of an east london estate where a muslim drug dealer shifty has his beat. his best mate has come down to visit after a long absence and found him much changed from the "brightest kid in school" he once was. they spend a day avoiding his devout, successful brother; an addict who is ruining his life in the persuit of one more hit; the police; and his future. shifty has spent the past few years descending further into this life and his mate chris seems a little shocked about how he's ended up like this. he makes a few subtle hints that he does not approve but there seems to be some guilt that it maybe his doing that he has ended up like this. i was a bit worried when SHIFTY started as the first few scenes graphically showed people taking hard drugs and with coachloads of teens it gave me an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach that it wasn't going to be appropriate or that i wouldn't know how to deal with questions afterwards but by the end of the film i felt safe that they had gone on a journey with shifty and discovered that this stupid, seedy life is for idiots and fuck ups. it wasn't patronising, it was honest and felt real. the relationship between daniel mays and riz ahmed as chris and shifty truly shone through and they had real chemistry, related to each other in a way that i felt those kids were totally going to get. a really good choice from the film education board.

wednesday was an extended ushering day as i was asked to do the 6pm and 8pm as well as my normal matinee. first up was the new version of DORIAN GRAY. i loved the old version with angela lansbury and this unfortunately, did not manage to top it. as vapid as the character is, the subject should not be treated in such a light manner. it was a glossy remake and i did not think it was possible to make the story of a man who commits every sin imaginable dull, but dull it was. they also managed to make him seem not quite so queer, which seems like almost a feat. the famously gay novel written by oscar wilde which was even used in the prosecution case against him in france, turned into a sort of tame modern beautiful costume drama. they'd changed some of the characters around, pinned down the setting a little too clumsily and stretched the story a little too thin. its a great archetypical tragedy but it felt trapped in its new form. it wasn't unwatchable but it was a big disappointment. at times i longed for francis ford coppola's version of DRACULA as that outlandish camp film seemed a more credible an example of hedonistic victorianism.

next up was 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. i'd been quite looking forward to this, being a big fan of joseph gordon levitt since i realised he'd grown up to be actually quite a nice little actor in greg araki's MYSTERIOUS SKIN. zooey deschanel is in it too, her of the "eyes dewey and wet like a baby seal" (which is one of my all time favourite hyperbolic quotes) and it promised to be an alternative to those gooey sit com romances that tend to be ten a penny these days. ooh for the days of smart rom coms that have never seen the green biro of richard curtis. well, it certainly was not a disappointment. in fact, there seemed to be an almost uncomfortable amount of facts that were very similar to my own life. i'm sure i'm not alone in this, i know many people who have had similar experiences, but it was almost creepy at times. tom (jg levitt) went to university to study architecture and couldn't get a job so ended up working in a boring office job but yearns for escape. a beautiful girl with a lovely smile called summer starts working in his office and when he notices enough small coincidences (they share a sense of the absurd and both like the smiths) he convinces himself that she is THE ONE and falls hopelessly in love. it won't spoil the movie if i tell you that she ends up breaking his heart because we find this out in the first scene. what director marc webb has cleverly done is to zip back and forth over the 500 days she was in his life to give a full vision of the relationship, to examine what went wrong. it gives the impression of what we all do after a break up. we see tom's initial shell shock at being dumped, we see the heady days of tripping around to our own soundtrack in a happy daze, we see him being severely depressed once its all sunk in and we see the first day of meeting summer. although it could get a little tiresome (i'm not sure i entirely believed in his little greek chorus of friends and family and sometimes i wanted to know a bit more about the distant, glacial summer) when it was good it was very very good. there were perfect little scenes such as visits to ikea where they imagined living in the fake rooms and a party that switched to split screen where tom's expectations and the reality played out heartrending and without dialogue. i used to really like romantic films before they started treating women like idiots who obsessed with getting married and wearing the right clothes. hopefully this will encourage people to make more films with a bit more of a bite.

last up was ARMY OF CRIME, which told the tale of the french resistence was a sort of antidote to the more brash, hollywood INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. now, i must first make a confession. as much as i do take a keen interest in history and have watched many "war" documentaries with benny my knowledge of the french resistence is mostly coloured by having been a big fan of ALLO ALLO as a child. as much as i engaged with this wonderful, illuminating film i was secretly hoping for a cameo appearance of the madonna with the big boobies. sorry, very childish. i was listening out for the fake french accent of the police officers, paying keen attention to fat french restaurant owners and wondering where the two RAF officers were stowed in this episode. its sometimes so much easier to deal with difficult things if we make them flippant comedy than if we try to examine real emotions. the difficulty the french find with their history in world war two is legendary and also very understandable. at times this film felt more like THE LIVES OF OTHERS, the french - german alliance where neighbours inform on neighbours and the police are working for the nazis, it was a frightening time to be living in france. many thought that it was better to collaborate and try to preserve france where others more perceptive knew that it was impossible to collaborate, that the nazi ideaology would wipe them out eventually one way or the other. having seen KATYN earlier this year, about the polish nation's problems in a similar vein, this film serves as a poignant accompaniment. again, a true story, it follows the men and women who were on a famous poster put up in france mocking their attemps to turn the tide on the nazi regime, a propaganda attempt to turn the perception of these people from freedom fighters to dangerous criminals. it centred on armenian immigrant missak whose initial reticence at joining a group who are willing to kill slowly disippates due to the circumstances surrounding him. he becomes the heart of the group, a strong presence who knows what evil the nazi army can do (they all but wiped out the armenians) and has the experience of age to guide the young hot headed members of the resistance. the vichy government are leaned on by the nazis to wipe out this force and slowly and inevitably, the net catches all the members, leading to the line up and the famous photograph. it is fittingly human that under such inhuman times the betrayal was so banal and the characters who told on them so unheroic. a question every school child must have asked themselves when they study history is "would i or my family have been involved in this?" and it is important to have films like this to show the very real people who fight back against monsters like the nazis.

to crown off the first weekend in the new CHAPTER we hosted part of the SWN festival and the entire MAY YOU LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES. i was a bit worried that we were hosting two festivals in one weekend, especially since one was named after an old japanese curse but it was all fine. all over chapter there were rooms filled with conferences about art forms today. i listened in on a couple and they all seemed really useful. its one thing to come up with an idea, another thing entirely about how to make money out of it. lots of different aspects of the art world were discussed and it was also nice that people were coming up with ideas and contacting each other and making friends. its what chapter was designed for! brilliant fun and i met so many lovely people. unfortunately it was only listening in and checking things were ok because i was working all the way through, no chance of getting time off when its all hands on deck! i wouldn't miss out on too much swn though. i was really excited about this not only because its a brilliant music festival and i get to see a whole load of bands but also because it would test us out to see how well we can do under the pressure of a billion people in the building. happily, it was all fine. a few oldies who didn't understand why we weren't doing the normal gorgeous menu, but apart from that everyone seemed to love it. i had a brilliant time working upstairs in the theatre. i was ushering and sort door control lady but it was a lot more fun than that. we were holding it in two rooms, the newly monickered "common room" in the west wing and the theatre. on thursday we had the bbc in with adam walton and bethan elfyn with bands like SCIENCE BASTARD and MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS. vern from science bastard decided to launch himself into the crowd mid-song and snog steen but in his place i would have done the same thing. they are bloody entertaining boys. marina and the diamonds were my favourites of the evening after that, having a great pop sound and a really interesting female vocalist. it all went suspiciously well, no disasters and no problems. curious! we had the lovely jenny and rich from that london down to visit and i was sad to be working all weekend but we got to spend some time relaxing on friday afternoon. i took the to the micro makers fayre, part of the MAYLIIT events. there was a man who made bikes that played a tune as the wheels revolved; a lovely lady who had a stall where you could make revolving paintings; badgemakers, knitters and my friend zoe who was getting you to cycle to power a blender that made smoothies. fantastic! we had a look at the EDDO STERN exhibition in the new gallery and we were all blown away by the beauty of the sculptures and laughed at the world of warcraft inspired animations. we popped into town for the SWN BINGO where we were frightened to hear exactly what FOGHAT sounded like in order to recognise them and didn't win but had a lovely time (thank you jonny et al). then i dashed back to chapter but thankfully friday night at swn was just a breeze (if you excuse the pun). it was the PEPPERMINT PATTI night and it was one i was really looking forward to as it was a sort of "greatest hits of patti" night. it also featured a first for patti, the performance by a solo MALE artist, our brilliant theatre programmer JAMES TYSON. i had never heard james perform so i was really curious to see what sort of thing it would be. his songs were beautiful and delicate pieces about love and yearning. gorgeous. in the common room space they i also caughta bit of the beautiful PAPER AEROPLANES, a ethereal folky loveliness floating up the corridor. soon after in the theatre it was the riotous KING ALEXANDER, who were brilliant as always. laura was the artist co-ordinator for swn in chapter so it gave her a good break from stressing about the bands to jump on stage and yell for a bit! EMILY BREEZE was on a while after and i was surprised by h0w much she had changed. when i last saw her. the cracked, edgy performance had a sheen on it that was not quite expecting and i'm not sure if i approve of yet! i'm still mulling it over, its difficult to look at emily breeze and her amazing, sexy performance and try to separate it from the music, she is so charismatic. WETDOG were amazing as always, they get better every time i see them and they are all so lovely. the night was topped off by a great, techinicolour performance by the VICTORIA ENGLISH GENTLEMANS CLUB who decked the stage in bunting and flowers and painted their faces like clowns gone wrong. i really like their angular, biting take on indie pop and i'm glad they're doing well. wish i'd been able to bring frankie down to see them play... but my highlight of the day was dancing with my friends davida's baby alba and martin and mary's baby sonny. the three of us were throwing some shapes in the theatre foyer and for me that was better being in a packed out gig any day. great fun. saturday was an all day swn event and it started right in front of my eyes with swn-mo wrestling in the entrance to chapter. it was great watching kids and hungover adults (including WETDOG) with perma-grins get suited up and bump into each other. there was also the OXJAM record fayre where i spent £20 on a massive bag of records. on a quick break from the box office i went and saw the PAST COLLECTIVE perform a wonderful piece in cinema one. on the screen were various welsh landscapes and the musicans on the stage beneath trying to articulate the memories of that place in their performace. it was really moving and i felt so proud of them. after my shift i hastily trod up to the theatre to take my place again at the final swn night. luckily it was lovely promoters liz and ryan from LOOSE. their gigs always brilliant so it was a treat to be their usher. throughout the night though a problem was looming: BROKEN FAMILY BAND. it was their last ever gig and word had got out. lots of people had bought day tickets just to see them but the swn wristband holders had priority. what if 200 wristband holders came over for the gig and we had to let down 100 day ticket holders with stamps on their hands?! ahghg! we were trying to warn everyone that were buying the day tickets but it didn't seem to put anybody off. as the day wore on and as we were getting closer and closer to the show the theatre foyer was filling up with people who i swear would have elbowed their granny out of the way to ensure a space. i decided to split the room prior gig into wristband holders and ticket holders. when the moment came i made a big announcement to make sure they separated and with some help from old mucker usher clive we managed to get them all in without breaking any laws! when the band started i was so full of adrenalin and relief that i just sat around dancing and didn't go in to watch we packed up shop, set up the merch stall for the band and relaxed for the first time in days. after they finished a very excited 10 year old girl, eyes big as saucers told me how the lead singer had shook her hand! no partying for me that night, i sloped off home with my honourary wristband on that laura had given me and went home for some much needed sleep.

sunday i met my family for lunch as it was my nan's birthday and she liked her chapter soup, thank god! i was stressing about the lack of a sunday lunch (we're starting in november) and then i ushered for CREATION, the new film about charles darwin. it was an unexpectedly sad tale. i was expecting him rushing off the beagle to prod some birds and then fighting off the critics when his book is published but this was the story of what happened in between. he was married to a devout christian and his wife was not happy with his findings. they lost a daughter, who he paints in his visions of her as being highly intelligent and full of curiousity. his daughter's death haunted his thoughts in more than just the fact of her death. her ghost teases him, chastises him for not publishing his book. the film gives the impression that his agonies over his daughters death caused a textbook case of transference, a future echo of another thinker that shattered our perceptions of life, sigmund freud. it was a strange film with some beautiful scenes and very well photographed but did seem to be more in support of freud's theories than an explanation of how darwin came to his.

after this i slid in to cinema two where chris buxton was doing a talk on the MOVIE MAGICIANS OF EARLY CINEMA. this time is my favourite period in film, an exciting time where anything could happen, cinema could have easily been just another circus attraction but instead took over as being the most popular and democratic art form of the 20th century. chris buxton was a wonderfully enthusiastic lecturer and really gave you a feel for how precarious this period was for film. he showed all sorts of gems of early special effects, including some things i'd not seen before but only read about such as DREAMS OF A RAREBIT FIEND, a trippy film by edwin s porter about a man who has too much cheese before bedtime and then dreams he is flying over new york. he artfully demonstrated how it had started as vaudevillian stage craft and gradually became more artful and relied less on what went before and more on what it could be. he showed plenty of melies, including one i'd not seen before of him becoming a whole band by overlapping the film and it was so fantastic to see all those films on the big screen.

after that it was off to the last swn party, DIM SWN, held at gwdihw. it started in the afternoon but i arrived at about 7pm just before MEANZ HEINZ started. they are so great and it was a treat to be able to spend time with jenny and show her this amazing band, that the musicians regard as a silly side project. i think they're in my top 5 cardiff bands! we had a chat with casey, ewan and lovely ben the cameraman for a bit and then settled to watch NIWL. steen had seen them at some other gwdihw event whilst i was working and told me they were great but i wasn't expecting to be just fall so quickly. amazing surf rock that had me dancing away and humming all the way home. it was so nice to just relax, even it was for a couple of hours! dim swn was such a great event, it felt like some sort of village fete, all cosy and full of family. it was a great way to end the festival and a very busy week.

16 Oct 2009

the good book

this week's diary is an extended cat edition. frankie continued to wear the cone and in the end sort of got used to it. he was walking around like a little gangster, the weight of the cone bearing down on his neck a bit. he was leaping around and clearly feeling a bit better and on tuesday i took him back to the vet. she gave him the all clear but as i had a lot to do that day she said to wait till we would be in the house for the rest of the day to take the cone off, so the responsibility fell to steen. poor steen. he took the cone off and frankie flew out of the room, jittered about the place freaking out over his new found freedom and then sat down in front of him and scratched open the room. ugh. when i got back from work that night steen met me at the front door with a panicky look on his face and the cat in his arms, it was the first time frankie had been still enough to be picked up all evening. we took him upstairs and he sat in my lap and we reattached the cone. fleeting freedom, back to square one.

tuesday was a bit of a stressy day for me all 'round, what with the vet visit, working in the evening and a big job interview all with me thick with cold and feeling like i was walking through fog. the interview was for the front of house manager at chapter, a job which is a bit like the duties i do now but more regimented, more power and much more money. i had managed to perk up during the interview, felt confident that i could do the job and answered all the questions with no trouble at all and described for them what i felt the job needed and what i could bring to it. the trouble was by the end of the interview the last question i faultered on: "if we offered you this role would you take it". i stuttered "i believe so" and have never felt so insincere. i was seriously doubting whether i wanted the job at all. the way my life works at the moment might mean i'm scraping the breadline every month but it is stress free and allows me to have a tonne of fun. added to that earlier in the day i was offered the role of looking after the film academy (the new screen school), involving admin hours as well as looking after the kids when they come for their lessons and films. i was completely chuffed about this and really looking forward to starting it and mentioned it in my interview. if i took on this front of house manager job it would mean a lot of stress, loads of troubleshooting and erratic working hours and i really wasn't sure whether i wanted that in my life. by thursday i had got a letter saying i had not been successful but had really impressed them in the interview. a perfect result as far as i am concerned. i'm not very ambitious, i'm not very good at being ambitious and although i try to gee myself up seomtimes i am quite happy how i am. its not officially been announced but if the rumour of who got it is true then i couldn't be happier. i get to keep my life, i get to do the film academy and the "contact a family" shifts too and things will tick over carefully but happily. ace.

wednesday i was ushering for the new nora ephron film JULIE AND JULIA. i remember hearing about the blog, later book a while ago and was interested to see how they would turn a blog into a film, especially a recipe blog. well, nora ephron has completely come up trumps. this film was hugely enjoyable, abley handled the dual narrative of 1940s julia child starting life in paris and discovering a love of food and julie powell a post-9/11 new yorker finding meaning in her life through julia's cook book. the two narratives work well together, reminding us of how different times were then and yet how similar. julia child's husband paul works with pressure from the increasingly paranoid mccarthy breathing down his neck and questioning the list of library books in the embassy library and, although it is not made explicit, it is interesting that julie powell is working for a 9/11 support service in an america where an american's own library take outs were being monitored for any sign of terrorism (or even dissent). it is also comparable how different the two wives look at their daily duties. paul child seems beset with worries about his life has played out, whether he has made a difference and so, conversely does julie. in an early scene we see her having lunch with a bunch of grotesque "friends" who are competitively trying to out do each other in a similar way we used to see men "doing" a liquid lunch and boasting about their sales figures. the film is rich with comparisons for the two ways of life for the women but the main thing that comes through is the love of food and life. julia and paul, on their first day in france stop off to have a meal that makes julia tear up with its richness and beauty and julie takes comfort in the ability to make something beautiful and delicious out of a few simple ingredients. the joy that julia takes in food (and sex) is life affirming. she seems to have lived life to the full and took personal disappointments such as the inability to have children and the constant reposting for paul's job to more obscure locations in her stride. it was refreshing to find a film that focussed on women but was not all about them searching for a man to complete their perfect world. this was a film about women finding themselves and finding their own joy. it also made me very hungry. when i got home from the film i was hoping steen had cooked me one of his wonderful curries and instead we warmed up a pizza. it was one of the biggest small disappointments i have ever experienced! seriously though, with the supportive husbands abound in this film it did turn my thoughts to sweet steen and how bloody ace he is. we both delight in food (hence my expansion over the past two years) and it is a shame he couldn't come and watch it with me but he was there in spirit, taking the place of the wonderful paul child (played by the fabulous stanley tucci) in my head.

wednesday night we dashed out to go to the MEZE FEST, in this case a cacophony of post rock from france, england and america. we turned up at 8pm and were the first there, a bit of worry abound about whether anyone else would come. we got a drink and started to play pool and then a flurry of people, starting with lovely businessman keith, gindrinker graf and ex-truckers ben turned up and we knew it was going to be o k. the bands started a bit later to ensure a bit more of a turn out. first up was SINCABEZA. they took to using the dance floor rather than the main stage so the neck of the bassist's guitar kept almost hitting me in the face. not a bad thing. they were fantastic to watch, mostly instrumental math rock noodling about occasionally broken up with yelps from the bassist that made me think of the amazing PONYTAIL gig at the start of the year. it was great to find out that the lead guitarist was a lovely chap as we chatted to him at length at the merch stall (this expensive bordeaux bands compilation? "not so good"... this 4 band compilation cd? "ah, that: it is free"). next up was SNORKEL. now, i've been going on and on about snorkel as being one of those brilliant finds we made at the last ever VENN festival. they were on in the dank, dark thekla and stormed it bringing an experimental quasi electro jazz music played with real instruments and seemed to have a million people on stage. i was intruiged to find out how they were going to fit them all in the meze. it turns out they limited their band to a guitarist, keyboardist, drummer and of course trombone player. they were ok, a little more ravey than i remember them being but much of their set was hampered by the extreme anger i was feeling for the students who had streamed into the venue on the premise for cheap beer and who had decided to heckle the band through the set. the trombone play is a giant of a man who menacingly looked into the crowd throughout and looked more than a little pissed off. bloody students, don't know they're born! i started to feel very old and grumpy at the sight of all these young 'uns totally ignoring the FREE and brilliant line up of bands in their midst. i went to university in swansea and remember the excitement of RACHEL STAMP playing. no-one played swansea then. i would have ripped someone's arm off at the opportunity of having the kind of line up the meze had. pah. anyway, i had fully vented my anger by the time PUBLICIST came on. i was really excited about this, my friend ol had introduced me to TRANS AM a few years ago and i hungrily devoured their albums. to know that he would be playing such a small venue and be inches away from me (another musician who favours the democratic dancefloor staging) was pretty exciting. i put in my earplugs, watched him set up his drum kit and got ready. his songs were heavy on the urgent, travelling trans am beat, where it feels like you're speeding down a road too fast with no lights on. he added some fantastic vocoder vocals that made it seem like some mental robot was talking through your car radio on the journey. it was great, i was dancing a bit and if i'd been drunk and if this gig had been full of music fans rather than plastic students then i might have been leaping around the room crashing into the hi hat. it was a strange old night but not a bad one. i still say that this MEZE FEST adventure is an ambitious one and one that i hope has paid off for jonny, every night i've been to has been loads of unpretentious fun (and for every one i've been to there have been loads more that steen has attended).

i spent thursday perfecting my housewife look, in order to better understand julia child. not seriously but i did do loads of housework and cooked tea. i was not up for going out again, for all the fun of the meze i have tended to be really bloody tired on that last train! i coerced steen into missing SIC ALPS and instead we stayed in with the cat really happily cwtched up in our laps and seeming almost back to normal and we caught up with THE DAILY SHOW (a teatime ritual. it makes me so happy we get this show over here now) and then i made steen watch TRUE BLOOD. i'd heard about this new hbo show from alan ball, the man responsible for SIX FEET UNDER and since i was a pre-teen goth quite fancied an intelligent drama about vampires. i was a little too old for BUFFY when it came out and i'm far too old for TWILIGHT so hoped i'd found a way to satisfy my urge for blood. steen didn't like it that much but i really enjoyed it. in this version of the present vampires have come out and trying to integrate into human society, this has been enabled by the japanese invention "true blood" a synthetic blood that can be sold at supermarkets. sookie, a virginal telepathe in louisiana comes accross one of such creatures when she saves one from being attacked by local drug dealers determined to drain him of his "v juice" (his blood) that has become quite an attractive new high. the first episode was a little lame in parts, batting you over the head with character traits to make them memorable but by the second episode they all felt a bit more imbedded and real and i really enjoyed it. there was a great little frizzle of chemistry between the lead vampire and little ol' anna and i loved all the vampire politics that kept hitting the news channels. i can see this being something i'm going to have to watch on my own on catch up tv as my dirty little secret.

friday i was working for the DRONES COMEDY CLUB. it was a really good night and it reminded me how brilliant the people are who run nights like this. for £3 you can come and see a bunch of comedians who are trying stuff out, some on stage for the first time, some seasoned pros. last night was hosted by clint edwards and brought on some drones regulars, like dan thomas and frank honeywell (is ted an act? well, he certainly heckles well) and some new faces. it was brilliant as usual. at one point behind the scenes clint took a go on some of dan's snuff. he sneezed and creased all three of us up backstage. later on he explained to the audience what the noise was about and introduced a few members of the audience to the snuff that i turned down (on duty, y'know) but apparently tastes minty. hmmm. well, they all seemed to enjoy it. there was a running joke about a bunch of 16 year old girls (i didn't serve them booze, they were drinking water, despite what clint claimed) and a liberal mp in the audience. clint and dan just manage to work the crowd so everyone's having a great time, it feels fun and all at the same time professional and relaxed like a gig going on in your living room. they are lovely to work with and its always a good night.

saturday it was MACBETH as performed by the increasing un-amateur seeming amateur group EVERYMAN. this was a very well designed and often very well acted version of the play. i've seen quite a few macbeths and know the play almost off by heart (its my favourite shakespeare play) so i was impressed that i was so impressed! a few really good moments, such as a genuinely creepy scene where the macbeth seeks out the witches for a second time and a great use of the stage and set made it a really good version of the play. it was a simple modern dress costumed play with a few pieces that didn't work (a too long coreographed dance scene before the banquet where banquo appears) and a couple of the younger actors still seemed to say the lines like they didn't really know what they meant but these were minor quibbles. for a 3 hour play it went quite quickly and was always engaging.

now, sunday and monday is the new chapter move. exciting and frightening!

9 Oct 2009

happy cat, poorly cat, bloody cat, sad cat

this has been a long week of no sleep. our lad frankie has not been well and it has dominated all our thinking time, any time off i've had. ugh. anyway, i'll moan about that a bit later. at the start of the week he was healthy and well and all was good and i took steen to see my friend gerald tyler's new play THERES SOMETHING WRONG WITH ABEL. gerald is a bloody lovely man who just happens to be an amazing performer and writer. i was lucky enough to be asked to usher for his previous play BIG HANDS in its two incarnations and its a joy to watch him work. his plays are thought provoking and beautiful but still retain the ability to have a universal appeal, anyone could enjoy them they are sublime without being pretentious. he works completely with his surroundings, the music in the show is not just a poorly thought out loop but music but in an organic way, it is an integral part of the show and uses a band called LIMBO during the performance like a greek chorus. the set in THERES SOMETHING WRONG WITH ABEL is a garden shed on a patch of lawn and the whole stage is used, nothing in this play is unneccessary. as with BIG HANDS (a beautiful play about a private detective who is given charge of a renegade angel) ABEL had a religious theme. gerald plays a man who at first appears to be a mad old bastard who lives in a shed and talks to himself but after the play is over you are not sure whether he is in fact cain, one of the twin brothers who started humanity and murdered his brother and has been placed in this present as pergatory by god to relive the murderous argument that ended his companions' life. in moments of comic genius and an attempt to contact god more directly he dials his number and finds himself on the end of a frustrating automated message giving him options to "if you are having problems accessing your faith dial 3". then he seems to re-enact his brother's murder, the initiation of evil in the world over and over again, in different ways, like groundhog day. these scenes are darkly comic. he is trying to spend some time day dreaming and is interrupted by a never seen and never heard presence in the shed that makes him vitrolic and he powers up his black and dekker making you sure that the other person hasn't come off so well. but is there really anyone else there at all? after these episodes he leaps up onto the top of his shed and convenes with god. in these moments cain is sad, measured and serene. we hear how cain thinks he has seen other biblical characters like judith on the bus but she seemed to not recognise him, he is always a heartbeat away from pleading with god to end this repetition and confusion. the play was tantilisingly short, leaving me wondering what had happened to cain. is he ok? is he really a biblical character or just a character in his head? it was very funny and fascinating study of madness.

on sunday the first film was ICE AGE 3, that we were showing partly for a kids party. it was a bloody awful experience, too many kids not enough adults and the adults who were there seemed not to care about them or the cinema. ugh. i won't dwell on this but i was very glad that the next film was ADVENTURELAND. i had liked the poster depicting two attractive looking indie kids in 80s ringer t-shirts and wasn't too put off by the fact that it was a new film by the man that did SUPERBAD. i thought it had michael cera in it. it didn't, it had jesse eisenberg in it, who is the kid from the ROGER DODGER movie that i enjoyed years ago and couldn't remember the name of till i imdb'd it a moment ago. in roger dodger he was fittingly irritating in that teenage precocious way, but he was still pretty irritating in adventureland and annoyed me all the way through. after being irritated immediately by jesse eisenberg i was then irritated by the 80s setting which seemed completely needless. why was it set in the 80s? i was hoping for some sort of plot development which meant it was essential to be the summer of '87 but none came. the effect made me wonder if it was just a cash in for the 80s nostalgia racket that leaves modern 10 year olds dressing a bit like i did when i was 10, which leaves me feeling a little like i'm wondering around in a sort of mass fancy dress party every time i'm on queens street. i'm not sure how relevant the 80s were as a setting but because the film was so good though, it put me in mind of those really brilliant 80s john cusack and john hughes teen dramas such as SAY ANYTHING, THE SURE THING, BETTER OFF DEAD, SIXTEEN CANDLES, SOME KINDA WONDERFUL, PRETTY IN PINK. i know i don't need to list them but i love the memories they evoke. as a introverted lass blessed with a tv in her room from a young age (thank you, rich relatives) i poured over these and thought i was the only one watching them till the internet nostalgia boom made me realise how popular they really were. this film stands up with them, which is massively to its credit. james (eisenberg) is a young rich kid who is planning a post-university trip with his pals in europe then told on the eve of the off that his parents can't afford it and he needs to get a job finds himself trudging up to the gates of the adventureland theme park to join a bunch of fellow poor outsiders. for a film set in the 80s these characters are pleasingly devoid of overdressing in every sense, they do not look like fancy dress characters, like the poor sods in THE WEDDING SINGER but seem like real people. james falls for emily, but she seems reluctant to fall for him, as she is otherwise engaged in a sleazy affair. he makes friends with the nerds that litter the park and gains some much needed humility. my irritation abated gradually during the film and by the end i was left with a feeling of what a lovely and quite old fashioned film it seemed, no gross out moments in a teen comedy is quite refreshing.

the next film i had a look at was the sumptious COCO BEFORE CHANEL. it was on my brilliant oldies shift and they bloody loved it. the film stock seemed to be printed on silk, it seemed to have such an expensive sheen. at first it seemed to have a bit too much in common with the previous big expensive french period drama LA VIE EN ROSE, a poor orphan and scenes in a dirty turn of the century bar being a bit too close to the previous story. but coco did not have the little sparrow's common touch. she quickly escaped to be the kept woman of a local landowner and made him fully aware that she did not wish him to ever mention that she once worked in such a place. it is made clear that coco always knew her own mind and although she was clearly using the landowner for status, her upkeep and power her honesty in the matter difficult to judge her poorly on it. audrey tatou is gorgeous to watch, those deep dark eyes of hers always hint at her glowering at those in her path but the film was a little dull. gorgeous but dull, like a lot of fashion.

the rest of the week was taken up with cat-ness. on tuesday afternoon frankie leapt up into my lap (very uncharacteristic, he usually just wants to play fight) and just wanted to be held and stroked. i looked at him and saw he had a little scratch under his chin. no problem, thought i. but then it was bedtime and frankie came up to the pillow and we saw this massive bloody bald patch where he had been scratching. initially i was worried it was fleas again and we gave him a treatment and went to bed with plans to take him to the vet. frankie slept next to me completely still all night, i had my hand over his fur to feel for fleas but there was no twitching. the next morning, having been awake most of the night a bit worried i too him to the vet. i expected him to say "there is nothing the matter with him, ms vaughan. please give me £25 for taking a look at laughing at you" but instead he said he had an abcess and needed an operation. wah! i was a bit upset, he said he could do it straight away and that i could pick him up after 4.30pm. because we'd failed to get insurance (he's only been going outside for a month!) it would cost about £90. ouch. needs must. i went home and paced about the house with a lumpy throat until i went to work for a bit and dashed out phoning the vet to hear he was ok and went to pick him up. the vet said to keep an eye on him but he should be ok now. ace! that night he was still very poorly and again slept next to us silently all night. the next morning he was a bit more awake and as i went to do a big tidy up of the house he played with me and then sat down and scratched at his neck. aaaaghgh! it was gross. big gross pussfilled wound oozing blood. i rushed him back down to the vet and we fitted a plastic cone (which i now know to be called an "elizabethan collar". i want ruffs next time). he hated it and hissed and growled at the nice lady vet. he's going to be very unpopular since he scrammed the one who diagnosed him, leaving blood trickling down his face. we did it eventually and i was putting the blanket back on the carry case in the waiting room when... he pulled the collar right back off. back in the vets' office she and the nurse then put bandages on his feet and the collar back on. he won't be doing that again. he sat there and glared at me. sorry, frank. we got home and he sat in my lap and didn't move. in fact, he didn't move for the next day or so. he looked severely pissed off. we had another night of interrupted sleep as he couldn't walk easily in his new weird bandaged feet we had to get up to put him in the litter tray as he was trying to shit the bed. friday night i was at work so steen had to look after him and when i came back he announced that frankie had managed to take off the bandages. but he did keep the cone on. by saturday evening he was trying to run around and be normal again and since he'd taken the bandages off anyway we took him outside with the harness on. he walks around like a gangster, head heavy with cone and still a little pissed off but learning to live with this new weird element to his body.

thursday night my parents had bought me tickets to see JOAN BAEZ at st davids' hall. as steen had other plans that night i put out a call and found that no-one wanted to go to see joan baez. stupid sods. well, no-one apart from the lovely willy downie who stepped in last minute and braved the vaughans, my mum's hippie dancing (hard to do in your seat) and my dad's anxiety that we will be late for anything. it was a great show. i saw her here a couple of years ago and she was very regal and the show seemed sort of sedate but tonight she seemed to be really having fun. she and her band did a few accapella numbers and it was themed with many appalacian gospel numbers, which happens to be one of my favourite things. she even did a dylan impression in the verse of a cover of one of his songs which shows was a lot more relaxed at this show that previously. her voice is still very strong and her age rather than making it a big nostalgia fest, brings even more pathos to the murder ballads and folk numbers. brilliant.

quite different from joan baez was the fantastic trio of acts at the barfly on saturday night. GINDRINKER were wonderful as always and thanks to their dark themes and the lighting at the newly opened up barfly stage, could have easily been the house band at the black lodge in TWIN PEAKS. there were a lot of people there that night who i never see at gigs and they all loved GINDRINKER, calling them genius and a great and inkeeping addition to the line up. next up was the very funny and slightly frightening FRANK SIDEBOTTOM. i haven't seen frank come up on the "things we liked in the 80s and 90s" programmes and i think he still remains uniquely northern, a lot of people still haven't heard of him. i remember him from kids programme THE 8:15 FROM MANCHESTER on a saturday morning. even then i knew he didn't fit in and that there was a joke somewhere i was too young to get but still found him brilliant and though he was the best thing about telly at the time. i haven't youtubed or googled him or anything since so it was truly a sort of weird forgotten memory from childhood that i saw in the flesh (and the papier mache) that night in barfly. he sung medleys of manchester songs, punk songs, always ending with the catchy ending he employs for showbiz effect (and as he rightly points out, a lot better than a lazy fade out). it is hard to describe what is brilliant about frank, he is like a showbiz entertainer from another time, part childrens entertainer part blue northern comic but never offensive. but there is something unnerving about that head. ending the evening was JOHN COOPER CLARKE. i saw him at the coal exchange a few years ago supporting THE FALL and for a poet he still has that rock star haze about him, he is far more jagger than he is andrew motion. his stuff is funny and true and it feels very much like a stand up gig, some of the jokes are bloody old and creaky but its how he tells them, it seems impossible to tut and not laugh. it was a really nice mix in the audience, a lot of men in their 40s reliving old days and telling me afterwards that they first saw frank / johnny clarke in 1980something a really great night. if we weren't so tired from all this cat worry then we'd be drinking all night with everyone instead we flew off home to sleep and sleep and sleep.