Bet Let's Talk About You For A Minute

Have you ever felt that while you’ve loved an artist’s output so very much and that they’ve been a massive part of your life, you’d be willing to give all that up so that they’d be okay? In something akin to a very special British indie-pop episode of Quantum Leap?

I condescend a smile and wink directly at the camera

Three songs. England Made Me.

Off to San Francisco again on Tuesday. Planes and deep learning. I’m hoping that I’ll have a bit more time for the latter in March. I am slowly getting my evenings and weekends back, so that seems positive at least. I even did a little fiction writing this week. And made chocolates! Which does make the week sound a lot more exciting than it actually was. Rest assured, I’m currently watching a Channel 4 documentary from the previous century, so some things haven’t changed.

Oh, and to prove that the house can still surprise me after having it for two years (aside from the slightly worrying cracks in the ceiling): I discovered this weekend that one of the ovens has a proofing mode. I have been making all the baked goods here for two years without knowing this!!

Crunch Crunch Crunch

This week has been mostly comprised of working, interspersed with blazing rows with Sanders supporters where I got called all sorts of names for insisting incompetence over conspiracy and that their candidate, whilst not having a resounding win, has ended up in a rather commanding position going into Super Tuesday. I was called centrist scum many times.. It’s a fun primary season, let me tell you.

What else? Not much, to be honest! It snowed, I re-discovered the problem of opening a 25-year-old bottle of bourbon and thanked my past self for buying a superbag for straining services (the issue is that the cork will have almost certainly dried out over the years, so when you try to open it, the cork disintegrates and falls into the bourbon. Fun times!), and I discovered Earthrise Transformers in Northern Kentucky. Oh! And the Year of Pain Au Chocolat continues with my second batch of the year. I’ve bought enough chocolate batons for about 180 croissants, so…there’s going to be some baking…

All in all, I’m just very tired.

The Palindrome Day Post

Picard s01e02 review: Irish Romulans are the best

“Come on love, where’s your flag?”

Things you think about on another rewatch: how much the opening sequence of That’ll Be The Day resembles the start of The Invisibles, albeit without beings from outside time and space wanting to subjugate humanity and copious ultraviolence.

“You won’t tell anyone, will you?”

Did I mention that I have two competing desires? One to write a sitcom about Ibiza where the plots for the first series are simply lifted from the first series of Hi-Di-Hi, and the second is a completely straight version of Hi-Di-Hi crossed with David Peace. This is what almost ten years of living away from Britain does to you. And perhaps this weekend more than most.

“Babycham and a packet of crisps”

Also embarrassing: did I buy my navy coat before I saw Essex wear it in Stardust or after? I’m fairly sure it was before, but after all this time, I can’t really remember.

I am…better? My nose is still clogged, but maybe, just maybe, January is gone and I might be well again. Probably best not to jinx it though. Just enough to do my taxes and not pass out. Baby steps.

It appears that I’ve now lived in the area long enough that I can have an emotional reaction to a shop closure. This is my local Kroger! Affectionately known as the ‘little Kroger’…and it’s going the same way as the ‘little Tesco’ in Bicester. Though probably won’t return asa a B&M that feels half the size of the old shop. Still don’t know quite how they manage that. Anyway, it won’t affect me much, but that’s because I’m lucky and I own a car. Walmart is 1.5 miles away, and the shiny new Kroger that’s probably helping this one to close is probably about 3. Not great at all.

Ill With A Cat On The Lap

Still ill. But! Finally, finally starting to feel like I might be well by February. Which is not something I felt last Sunday. So progress of a sort.

I have tired of reboots and restarts. Gilmore Girls cured me of that back in 2016, and the new series of Mad About You out last year did seem like the bottom of a barrel being scraped. Although, having said that, I’d be up for a 6-episode series of Watching. But I believe I might be the only person on the planet who does.

So I was prepared to be let down by Picard. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be mostly good (except for a few bits that scream “River Tam”, some poor costuming decisions, and a weird fridging that really doesn’t seem like it was necessary given the direction of the story). Irish Romulans as housekeepers! An old man needing help to get up the stairs! Number One! A general air of Le Carré’s Legacy of Spies, at least at the beginning! Anyway, it might all go to pot in the remaining nine episodes, but at least Rory isn’t going to end up with Logan again. Yes, I’m still bitter about that.

Meanwhile, I seem to have temporarily reached a part of my life where I can sit in the corner of my house on a Sunday night with a cup of tea in one hand and a play from 1972 (Lay By, if you’re wondering) in the other. With a book on Eastern Bloc Cold War architecture in Africa to follow. I can’t say I hate it.

While I walked down to the beach — New Order 2020

The first thing we did when we got to Miami was buy the drugs. By which I mean we walked past two very hopping clubs at 1:30am, complete with many people not wearing much in the way of clothing, and went straight for the 24-hour Walgreens with its bounty of NyQuil and VapoRub. It’s like a Northern Soul Revival if you squint hard enough, I swear.

(Although to be fair, the reviews for the clubs are…pretty terrible. Though I’m struggling to wrap my head around somebody spending $1500 (in cash!) on what’s clearly not a major or even that fancy club)

I’d like to say that we spent our one full day in Miami seeing all the sights that we could stuff into the 24 hours. What actually happened is that we got lunch in the Time Out Market, including some Bachour pastries, wandered aroun South Beach, and then we went back to the hotel where I laid in bed for the entire afternoon whilst Tammy worked out a concoction of cold medicines that would keep me up and running for the concert.

(let’s take a minute here to talk about The Fillmore Miami Beach. A wonderful art deco building that has surprisingly good sight lines even at the back of the venue, but the people running it seem to have absolutely no idea about how queues work or the chaos that results when you combine seating with general admission policies. Absolute madness ensued, and I’m still not entirely sure we sat in the right place)

New Order — fac 2020

If you were going to choose an era of New Order to see live, it’s likely that the post-2000 era is not going to be at the top of your list. Still, as I was barely a teenager when the 90s hiatus began, I can’t complain too much, and if I had to make a choice in this century, I’d definitely prefer seeing a lineup with Gillian Gilbert in it than one that doesn’t have her but does have Hook (cue my long-standing diatribe about how Gilbert has often got short shrift in fan circles over the years).

Anyway, the concert itself was good! Nothing on the scale of Taras Shevchenko, obviously, but a good fun mix of the hits people want to hear, new songs, songs that haven’t been played for a while, and even though they’ve been playing them for a while, the-still-surprising Joy Division songs (including Disorder, which they’ve only started playing again in the past couple of years). Was I disappointed that they didn’t play World In Motion despite 2020 being its 30 year anniversary? Sure, but I do appreciate that maybe Miami isn’t the ideal setting for an England World Cup song. And they played World (The Price of Love).

Also, whilst I will not be taking any questions at this time in response to my argument that the 12” version of Temptation is the only one that should be allowed to exist, the reworked Substance version they played did come with a strangely affecting nostalgia-heavy video including footage of BASF cassettes, ghetto blasters, radios, and even footage of OutRun. It’s still wrong, though.

A different concert experience than the rather Los Campesinos!-heavy ones I’ve had of late, but I have now seen New Order live and I’m very happy about having done so. And as always, many thanks to Tammy for managing to come up with a cocktail of cold remedies that kept me going all the way to the end of the concert before I collapsed back into a pile of snot. I have been ill every day of 2020 so far. I’m quite tired of it.

Ill Again

Last week, I was sick. This weekend, I’m also sick, though with something completely different and about as bad a bout since 2005 (though at least this time, I’m just wasting a weekend and not having to carry out an interview whilst trying to hold my insides together). I am hopeful that I’ll be better by next weekend, where I’ll be flying on three different planes and three airports for more chances to catch any bug that’s going around.

But! Miami! New Order! 26ºC! The total oddness of staying at South Beach! And who knows, by Monday, I may work up some needed enthusiasm for the trip. But right now, I’m lying on the couch in full ‘manflu’ repose. Helvetica is soaking up John Wick and given her interest in Casino last week, I’m a little concerned that my cat might be a little bit evil.

Oh! I also subjected an American to The Story of 1989. As a result of that, I discovered that Airwolf was not as popular here as it was back home. Multiple people in my age bracket did not remember it. I had to show the titles to indicate how exciting they were to a six-year-old that didn’t really care that, pilot aside (which I think was rated 15 in the UK?), only had the one plot and five different bits of stock helicopter footage.

As a result of that, I went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and discovered that Donald Bellisario actually met Lee Harvey Oswald during the time when both of them where in the Marines, and those encounters made it into the Quantum Leap JFK episode. So there’s your surprising fact for the weekend. I will be hanging out here on the couch for the rest of it.

The Story of 1989 and Other Things

This is one of my favourite times of the year., when the BBC archive gets mined and either Mel or Sue narrates The Story of:, or “we’re about to show a lot of Top Of The Pops from this year, so we should probably put it into some context whilst we’re cutting out all the Mike Smith bits — _wait, is that Gary Glitter?_” Anyway, we’ve reached 1989. Soul II Soul, Happy Mondays, S’Express…and The Bunny That We Will Not Speak About. Oh, and The Reynolds Girls fleetingly glimpsed in the Fall of SAW montage, which is normally a cue for me to launch into a stirring defence of I’d Rather Jack. But it has been a long week and I’m alone on the couch shivering with a mild fever, so it’s more of a wistful watch as people talk about how 1989 seemed to be heralding a promise of a better world.

The President interrupts, threatening to bomb cultural sites and other war crimes.

And this is why I’m watching the first episode of Time Team. Escape to the past. Hence all the contemporary documentaries reporting on the Three Day Week and Militant, plus all the new (old) books lying about the house. There’s no way out, and no future except for what we can excavate from the past. A nice bit of flint and a regeneration programme for the masses. Against the classes.

But there’s also time for simple nostalgia:

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I seem to remember that there was a spearmint version. And that it was disgusting. But my mind might be playing tricks on me there…

Ten Years. TEN YEARS!

Firstly, let me just say that I was promised this:

Iron Man 2020

(though Marvel seems to be having a stab at trying to make Iron Man 2020 happen, perhaps without the part where he’s responsible for the destruction of Los Angeles)

Rounding out the decade, then. A partial list:

  • Got married in a Pac-Man costume
  • Moved to the US
  • Worked at Activison Blizzard HQ
  • Moved house more often than in the preceding 30 years
  • Bought two houses (but I sold one!)
  • Having moved 4000 miles, went 800 extra miles north
  • Became a US citizen
  • Heard another song that’ll mean something
  • Watched many, many TV shows from before I was born
  • Got divorced, though not in a Pac-Man costume (we missed a trick there)
  • Went to Alinea. And Next. And The Aviary
  • Saw many brutalist buildings
  • Went back to Manchester to see how things have changed
  • Wrote a book!
  • Made new friends that will hopefully be around for many years to come
  • Got increasingly insane planning desserts
  • Continued overcompensating for a small bedroom to the point where it now seems to be a complex
  • Obtained a black cat and outfitted her with batwings for Hallowe’en
  • Voted many times in two different countries. Can’t say I had much success, but maybe next year, eh?
  • Spoke at multiple conferences
  • Built up a bourbon bar that probably rivals most outside of Kentucky (and even some there). It’s…an issue
  • Gave Allo Darlin’ and the SHUX team chocolates
  • Participated in two DIY projects that didn’t involve me being sent away to make tea
  • Went to Singapore. Still not actually sure why I was sent to Singapore, but I went!
  • Reached the age where it is acceptable to be excited about ordering a chest freezer…and ordered one
  • Became a fan of board games…and it got out of hand…
  • Lost more hair
  • Gained more psoriasis (though the light therapy is helping!)
  • Went to San Francisco for the first time, and the second, and more
  • Saw Los Campesinos! enough times that I’ve actually lost count
  • Accidentally ordered 111 copies of an LC! album that saw me being rescued by Gareth
  • Obtained a complete collection of B.S. Johnson books
  • Watched so much Law & Order
  • Made chocolate from cocoa beans
  • Got to the point where I only curse the French once or twice whilst making macarons
  • Recycled so much cardboard
  • …and probably a lot more besides…

A rather interesting decade. Also, I’ve almost been writing on this blog for 20 years now. So, so old…but hopefully still much more to write.

Bourbon Round-Up 2019

Last year, I talked about my bourbon habit and how I wasn’t going too crazy with it. Checking back in at the end of this year…well, okay, things got a touch out of hand.

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Highlights of the past twelve months include:

  • Obtaining private selection picks of every single combination of Four Roses’s two mashbills and five yeast strains (ten bottles overall).

  • Finding not one, but two bottles of the MGP-sourced O.K.I. releases.

  • Getting hold of every special release that New Riff put out, including the Balboa Rye that sold out within hours. (You should find a New Riff Single Barrel Rye as quick as you can, by the way)

  • My first taste of ‘pre-fire’ Heaven Hill bourbon.

  • I now have a bottle of ‘Cheesy Gold Foil’ Wild Turkey to be opened on a very special occasion.

And in a last-minute addition to round out 2019, I also got my first-ever limited edition Four Roses edition, which I amazingly managed to find at retail in the UK. So yes, things got a little out of hand. On the bright side, I now have all the ‘unicorn’ bottles I’ve been looking for, so 2020 should be a much lighter year (I completely ignore anything from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection; it’s good bourbon, but I’m not paying $1000 a bottle (at least) for any of it). In fact, I’m only looking forward so far to three releases next year:

  • Wild Turkey Rye Rare Breed — should be fairly common in shops and on the basis of their single barrel ryes and Cornerstone, it’ll be something special.

  • New Riff 6-Year — This is still only a rumour at the moment, but as their first barrels will be six years old in 2020, we’re hoping for an older bottling as their stocks come into their prime.

  • Wild Turkey Master’s Keep TBA — there’s talk that there’s going to be a final showing of the company’s remaining old bourbon barrels in 2020. While the other two are likely to be released widely, this will be rather hard to come by, given how popular ‘dusty’ Wild Turkey has become.

  • Oh, and I’ll probably pick up a bottle or two while visiting Japan next year as well!

It’ll be a calmer year. Mainly because I don’t want to buy another set of shelves for the bar…

And Then A Flood

Somehow, I managed to get two blisters on one toe. I’m still a little confused how my feet got covered in them during the trip home. Yes, I did walk seven miles on Friday, but I often do that in airports. Maybe they got freaked out when my original flight to Charlotte got delayed enough that I’d have missed my connecting flight to Heathrow. Instead, I got put on a last-minute flight to Philadelphia and a stand-by seat on a British Airways 747 (which I didn’t realize they were still flying). Which I almost missed because they said that they’d call me…and they didn’t, so if I hadn’t overcome my natural British reticence to ask follow-up questions, I might still be in Philidelphia.

But anyway, I am home! And I have seen Rise of The Skywalker, which I’d sum up as exactly what you’d expect from a Star Wars film by JJ Abrams except somehow more bereft of any new ideas and more predictable than the second hand of a clock. I know a lot of people hated The Last Jedi, but at least it tried, as opposed to “look! Five seconds of Ewoks and a space battle that seemed to comprise of 5 X-Wings, three B-Wings, 2 Y-Wings, and an A-Wing piloted by the bloke from Heroes”.

(The best Disney Star Wars film remains Rogue One)

Meanwhile, I’ve very lucky to have Tammy and Robert working on my house this weekend after discovering that the master bathroom has been flooding into the garage. It’s a nice house. But it does give me a headache at times.