January 11



I seem to be having trouble
getting started with all this again.

Whatever happened to enthusiasm?



January 23


I have a theory about gigs. It’s that when a band suddenly gets a lot of media attention, then lots of useless idiots show up at a gig to see what all the fuss is about. These useless idiots might have heard the music, but they also might not. What they certainly don’t do is add anything more than an air of ennui to a show. Like, well, we’re here, but we’re not going to get involved…..

Bsp The last time I saw British Sea Power, they had one record out (their great first one) and it was like everyone at the Rescue Rooms was into it, and the band played great, and a jolly good time was had by all.

This time, last night I think it was (yes, it was…), the band seem to have been in the bloody papers every day for the last fortnight (I know they haven’t, but they are everywhere, almost) and, if truth be told, they added to the air of no atmosphere (a poetical phrase, I think) by playing non-stop for maybe 90 minutes and barely uttering more than 6 words by way of talking to the audience. Why don’t these ultra-cool people say Hello, for fuck sake? “How are you Nottingham?” isn’t too much to ask. At least it’d make us feel like they cared about where they were, even if they only care enough to check on their itinerary out of politeness. Maybe they simply have the personalities of doughnuts. (I’m not convinced they can actually read books, no matter what the papers say. Just because in the photo here he's holding a book..... whatever.....)

Having said all that, I still think they’re really good. “Do You Like Rock Music?” is a pretty damn good record, I think, and I enjoyed the show, more or less. It went on for about half an hour too long, the last half hour filled with some self-indulgent wigging out, lots of noise, and not much in the way of song. But otherwise, ok. I couldn’t stand the audience, though, who only woke up near the end. Maybe the beers had kicked in by then.

Anyway, how have you been? Me? Fine thank you. Never been better. I just went out and made a cup of tea and forgot to come back. I’m back now.



January 26


Lawyers I’ve been hooked by a Chinese soap opera called 佳人当道. (In English, they have this as “Beautiful Lawyer”, which is not really a straight translation, but it'll do). I’m busy every day keeping up with my Chinese language study, to which end one of my Chinese friends has set up streaming Chinese TV on my computer, which gives me much-needed listening practice. Speaking Chinese is tough enough, but understanding what someone says back at you is more than tough. So, I have to listen a lot. And watching the TV/computer, I found 佳人当道, and I’m hooked, in part because they speak a pretty much up-to-date everyday lingo, which is good for me to hear, and in part because it’s full of rather cute girls.

The show’s set in a law firm called “Dream Team Law Firm” (yes, this is evidently the real world) and is basically about what all soap operas are about: Lawyers_2the personal lives and loves of the people in it. Most of the main characters of the show are way too young and too good looking to be lawyers, but since we never see them ever doing any lawyering that doesn’t really matter. They spend most of their time eating and drinking in various bars and restaurants. The girls at times knock back alcohol like there’s no tomorrow. And that’s just at lunchtime. This makes them, I think, untypical Chinese girls. I know some Chinese girls who drink, but the only Chinese girls I know who drink like it's their destiny work in bars, and they have a commercial interest in getting you drunk at the same time as them. The nearest these Dream Team lawyers get to lawyer type stuff is when they carry a piece of paper around so they look sort of like they might be working. The girls have a neat line in business suits, with shirts and ties and short skirts, and the men have finely sculptured hairstyles. Of course, because my language is limited, most of the time when I'm watching I don’t have a clue what’s going on. I understand a lot of the words, but making sense of it all is another matter. But today I understood quite a lot. One of the girl lawyers (I don’t know her name; I haven’t figured out any names yet) has been made pregnant by one of the man lawyers, but his wife is also pregnant, and it’s all very typically complicated and unreal.

So anyway, that’s an hour of every day taken up for the foreseeable future, I think. I need to see what happens, and see if I can figure out what they're saying in the process. What with that and a daily dose of CSI (I have this penchant for realist TV drama, as you can tell) it’s no wonder I’m not writing poems much lately. And this is already one of those times when suddenly you’re inundated by a whole bunch of stuff and you can’t begin to keep pace. By “stuff” (a word I over-use so much I now knowingly over-use it, just to entertain myself) I mean new books, music, people…… all arriving at more or less the same time.

Recently it’s been some books of Chinese poetry (in translation, naturally) to review for Stride, books of prose poetry and “postmodern American fiction” (some of which dates back to before anyone had ever used the term "postmodern") which relate to a new class I’m going to be teaching from Monday, and new music from The Magnetic Fields (great), Vampire Weekend (current big hype thing going on, so it’s dead cool to mention them, not so cool to say they’re ok but not over-exciting; probably good live, though), and Hayden (only got that this morning, but it sounds like good Hayden-type stuff), plus the odds and sods compilation from Eels.

And I saw one of my Chinese friends and teachers this afternoon, and I was more or less able to tell her about what happened in my life between the ages of 30 and 40 in Chinese. Fuck, I could barely do that for you in English.... 



January 27


Back in another world and another time, and on another personal planet (it was 1988 or 1989, I think) I was in Ian's Records in Felixstowe one Saturday, and Ian was playing a record that, in old-fashioned parlance, blew my mind. It reminded me of a together Syd Barrett, but it was also definitely NOT Syd Barrett, and I had to know who it was. Ian told me it was Robyn Hitchcock. I told him I wanted to buy the Picture_013_2record. He told me it was a 3" Import CD and he'd have to order it. He did, and I got "The Ghost Ship" [Listen], and Robyn Hitchcock has been a constant on my various record and music players ever since.

I've never quite been able to keep up with Hitchcock's prolific record output, but I have loads of it, and I go back to it all time and time again. If you asked me which bits of my recordcollection I couldn't live without, he'd be among it for sure. Brilliantly wordy, clever, smart and funny, warm and sad and genuinely his own bloke. He's the real deal, for sure.

So how come the hell I've only ever seen him live once? He was the first gig I ever took my kids to, when they were maybe 14 or so. Since then, zilch. It's not his fault, the blame is all on me.

Tonight, at the Rescue Rooms, it was genius. He's touring, playing the "I Always Dream Of Trains" record in (more or less) its entirety. But, after the "Nocturne" prelude, he immediately did my head in with an acoustic version of "My Wife and My Dead Wife", from "Fegmania". If Picture_007that wasn't brilliant enough, the next hour and a half or so was simply tremendous. With a couple of supporting musicians (Terry & Tim) we got the works: wonderful invention, crazy surreal between-song patter, warmly moving songs, mad songs, always clever and smart songs. Everything really intelligent. And crisp sound, because if you write words as good as this, then let people hear them. And you could hear it all. And for anyone who gives a damn about words .... well, Robyn Hitchcock knows about words.

Then, as if I wasn't already happy enough, he did "Queen Elvis" from "Eye" as part of the encore. Bloody hell! I was melting.

Nigel and I saw British Sea Power earlier in the week, and there is an absolute immense intellectual and emotion gulf between what they have to offer and what Hitchcock can give you. It's to do with range and depth and sensibility, all of which words I know sound like absolute bullshit and it's five minutes to midnight and I'm not even going to bother to try to make myself any clearer. Let's leave it that not many people who get up on stage holding a guitar remind me that it's worth being alive. Robyn Hitchcock does exactly that.



January 28


1. An Apology Of Sorts

Lawyers3With reference to the Chinese lawyer girls (January 26th), I feel I have to point out that today they did some lawyering. I tell you this in the interests of fairness, and in case one of them reads that post and comes after me. Today they were in court. Four of them all together. They were only there for a couple of minutes, and they spent the rest of the episode in bars and restaurants getting over it, but credit where credit is due. These people are real pretend lawyers. And I’ll keep you up-to-date with things in their world. I know you’re interested. It’s way more interesting than checking to see if Sean O’Brien’s won any more huge cheques for being great.

2. Something Else

Bath I really miss baths. Before I went to China I lived in an apartment that had  a bath/shower, which meant I had a choice. In China, I just had a shower. Here and now, I just have a shower. And tonight I really feel like having a bath, soaking in it and trying to forget about the six student essays I’ve just read. It occurs to me that I haven’t had a soak in a bath for around two and a half years, and tonight I really feel like having one. I know you don’t mind me telling you this. I know you’re interested. It’s way more interesting than checking to see if Sean O’Brien’s won any more huge cheques for being great.

3. Whatever

I seem to be posting here every day at the moment. It’s accidental. Don’t get used to it, even if it is way more interesting than checking to see if Sean O’Brien’s won any more huge cheques for being great.