Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Get Big Picture

It was a busy bank holiday weekend all round and the last thing you need is for the chap you are walking with to say two things that get you thinking about all sorts of stuff. I was very happy with the external entertainment I certainly didn't need an internal running commentary as well.

Just to save any suspense that wasn't building

'this is just about , offset pints'

and then the killer

'na it really only works when you do the bigger picture stuff'

I promise I'll get to this later but this weekend had all sorts of options, I turned down an invite to the Monaco GP fully paid as I thought an afternoon in Litchfield watching Melanie at The Folk Festival of Britain would be better.

Melanie Song

I didn't go for the Ricky Hatton fight despite it being round the corner, in truth I'm not overly impressed with the whole live boxing malarky. I went to see pie boy fight at the MEN Arena against Costa Tzu maybe. Anyway I have never ever been in a more unsavoury looking (thats really clever after the pie line) bunch of people in my life. If the Manchester Police had locked the doors and interviewed everyone on the way out, I bet 80% of all wanted people in Greater Manchester would have been caught.

So all three of the above never happened, nor did the rugby final in Cardiff - well not for me anyway

I did however manage a quick stroll through the Cheshire Countryside. Beeston Castle is excellent value, the only really defensible spot in the whole of Cheshire as described in the old days. Except its in the middle of bloomin nowhere with nothing to defend except a hill. Even the Victorians who have a reputation of being a bit EMO (penny blacks fgs) had a bit off a laugh at their forefathers by building the mock Peckforton Castle on the hill next to it.

So armed with the walking world guide to the Cheshire Countryside I headed off, first instruction was park outside Beeston Castle - easy . Then walk away from it without so much as even having a look, next walk all the way round Peckforton Castle without even having a look and then walk up Bulkeley Hill which even the locals havent heard of. Oh well at least there was lots of wildlife to view on the way.

Rabbits are making a major comeback 'Bigwig for PM'. There must have been 300 rabbits on the hillside next to me at one point, I've heard that the Miximitoasties thing has stopped killing them, but I also think we should be a bit wary as they must have teamed up with the foxes to be this abundant - or maybe kung fu school for bunnies. Then there was the monster size Green Woodpecker that scared the life out of me, having read about Mad Allen the hermit who lives in the caves round here I guess I was a bit jumpy. Actually he sounded like a bit of a boy

Mad Allens Story

There was also some sort of railway line which went up to the top of Bulkeley Hill but my 4 minutes of research haven't enlightened me to its purpose. Yeah I know trains run on them!

The walk back was pleasant enough across farmers fields, even though the directions were again vague 'the path goes cross away the fields' and the brilliant 'follow the obvious path' or the 'you can see the next stile from here'....you couldnt. It must have rained here during the day as my legs were bloomin soaking by the time I got back to the Castle....which was now shut. If life really is just doh! and woohoo moments then this was the former.

The plan for Saturday was, easy day then see The Charlatans in Manchester

8.30am woken by a screaming family who had caught a rabbit in our garden.....oh good. Sorry that wasn't clear it was actually my family as opposed to randoms.

We've always had an understanding that the most adventurous pet we should be allowed to keep are fish. On the basis that all animals poo and we all hate any inside to outside stuff, cute as they may be they are not for us...or so I thought. Within an hour of capturing this rabbit we had it well an truely incarcerated, ok so we didnt give an orange suit or use dubious interview techniques, (Steve Gribbons 'sittin on Guantanamo Bay watching our rights fade away' hum along) but a few phone calls later and we had cages, and food and water. Please God let there be a picture in the local paper next week of a child crying and asking if anyone has found fluffy.

The Charlatans - Academy 1 Manchester

I've seen The Charlatans a few times over the years and I've a pretty good memory for gigs (Yes I sadly have most of the tickets since 1978). The first time I saw them was at The Riverside in Newcastle in about March 1990. One of my pals was having a stag do, well more of a can't be arsed to do it properly do. We ended up on The Quayside fairly early doors and to slow things down a bit we went to watch a band. Thankfully being aficionados we all thought they were really good even at that stage.

As a slight aside we accidentally broke into The Natwest Bank on the same night. (I'll save that for later in case my mate Dave reads this)

I also saw them in Middlesbrough a year or so ago when I witnessed the most flagrant ignorance of non smoking signs and a smoking ban ever. I like a bit of insignificant rebellion ( ok Roy Castle excepted) and smoking in The Town Hall is excellent.

Anyway back to the gig, it was off to Manchester tonight with Pam,The Bank Manager Dave and a Random (Turned out Dave had met him at a cricket match and then shared a room with him - I didnt listen to any further details). First stop 'The Lasso Gowrie' its legendary, lookit up next time you are in town its just as good as it was 15 years ago.

Now anyone really sad or paying way too much attention may have noticed that this gig is at the same venue as last weeks excellent Pendulum gig - but on arrival the crowd could not have been any more different. The average age must have been about 40 , but all with the haggered look of a 1000 Johnny Marrs - as for the blokes. Last week - no problem to get to the bar at any time (the kids live on water and pills), this week 6 deep at all times as the alcoholic generation (Generation XXXX) made their way through so much beer the bar was down to cans of Redstripe as the only lager left and the is before the band came on.

Blackened Blue Eyes

It could easily have been a drunken dirge of a singalong with your long lost mates, but fortunately the band and the sound were much better than that. We had the singalong songs, they played all six songs that Pam knew. They played the best 2 or 3 trackes of each album which is what all bands should do .....even if they only have one album.

Whatever the architect types did to the venue with the protracted redesign last year it really has worked a treat. The sound quality was top notch , the bass reverb was excellent and The Charlatans played a blinder. Even the normally quiet Tim was heard to say ' this ones kicking off'. So 9/10 for the gig tonight.

Off to Edinburgh

It may seem a bit daft to go to Edinburgh to watch a virtually unknown pop combo from The USA, but as my pal says 'you have to be somewhere'.

Bleary eyed and slightly sore {WARNING Red Stripe is proper evil -tastes great, easy to drink - makes you giddy and Nightmare Hangovers even with only 4 cans}. I set off for The Pen Something Hills and a 2pm meet up with Colin the IT man from before. The whole gig walk gig walk thing going really rather well now. Well for one of us.

The Pentland Hills are ace; only 6 miles outside Edinburgh; I have to drive passed them anyway; and BIG. Even for a first trip I think Scotland is First Division Hills.

England >3000 ft about 5 hills
Scotland >3000ft about 280 hills

These are made up numbers but fairly close

Colin 'Mr Unprepared' breezed up 15 minutes late (he lives 4 miles away, I'm 200 miles) in a pair of running shoes and a T-Shirt, anyone unclear on just how mad this is should read The King Arthurs Seat blog. This walk was billed as 'a lovely stroll round a couple of reservoirs and back over the hills'. Right!

The other brilliant thing about Colin is that he's very Scottish, he just couldnt get the hang of saying hi to other walkers. Just in case they came back with 'who you saying hi to?' or 'what's your problem pal?' 7 trys 7 failures. The best he did was grunt and even then after they had passed.

The first test was to get passed the fly fishermen, its ok to fish 6 side by side, but not backing onto the road please. For the older game addicts if you can remember 'Frogger' it was exactly like this but with hooks rather than crocodiles. We passed this test and then dodged passed the obligatory pensioners (one in a wheelchair this time) and so to the bottom of the hill. I've got a bit of experience at these hills now and this one even looked steep from a distance - it was very very very steep. I'm ok at climbing, I'd even go as far to say I really quite like it now and I wish we had a few more hills where I lived, however I wouldnt mind an incy warm up slope. What made it worse was Colin's lateness and the fact that he had booked a 6pm tea with the inlaws. So a stroll became a pressurised uphill yomp! Walking World (WW) said 210 minutes which meant back to the car for 6pm.

No way 6pm - we were on a mission from God - or Colins wife as she became known during our jog! I was knackered after 100yards but made it up in stages and I got my second wind after about 30 minutes and then we were off, not one person overtook us all the way not even one of the compulsary marathon running pensioners.

I now realise that this happens all the time at the tops of big hills but 'the views were awesome'. When you can see all of Edinburgh, the famous bridges and the seaside on one side and most of Southern Scotland on the other it is going to look pretty special. There are two peaks on this walk and bizarrely the weather on both was great until the last 10 meters where suddenly huge winds blew us all over the place. The treck down was pretty easy an uneventful except for the dwarf man laying under a very low hanging tree. He was basically laying on his back reading a piece of paper 2 inches from his eyes, just calling out numbers. Very odd- perhaps this is where old bingo callers get put out to pasture.

Brilliant timing and had knocked about 40 minutes off the estimate so everything back on plan

And so off to Edinburgh for me to meet Craig and go to see what he has perhaps over enthusiatically billed as 'the best band in the world'. Colin drove like the wind to enjoy tea with the outlaws.

The Young Republic

Halfway into town I got a text from a pal to say she had just completed the Edinburgh marathon, excellent news both in achievement and the fact we could catch up for a beer. I walk up mountains so I can't really hold a negative opinion on someone who wants to run over 20 miles, it just seems like a lot of effort. So WDY Sue and then this brings me back to the big picture stuff.
Get Big Picture - almost a rant stuff

The whole offset beers vs exercise is a great concept, infact this should be brought into to all government health warnings, maybe even food labelling. 10 Bensons = 15 mile run, sausage roll = walk down for the paper etc. 6 pints of lager = walk up a mountain. Its brilliant in its simplicity and WDColin...if only he had stopped at this point.

The second part came about as Colin pointed out that last time he had been really fit he had run a half marathon but that he couldn't get fit just by doing the training....WHAT!. This was about to scupper the whole plan of getting fit to walk up big mountains just by walking up small mountains first. I should have stopped him at this point but I didnt...

Colin went on to explain 'The Big Picture' concept. And yes its pretty obvious and yes people like my Americana loving pal Andy has been doing this since Bon Jovi were still in spandex, but doing the whole - fun exercise food - balance thing always leads to denial....and I'm not great at that.

I've spent a bit of time thinking about this in the last week or so and its actually much worse than that.... you have to do more of the excercise and the healthy eating thing than you do of the fun thing to make any improvement. I've always been pretty good at doing anything really; once I put my mind to it,

I generally don't put my mind to it at all if I'm going to be rubbish or don't fancy the effort.

One or two pals may have noticed a lack of blog activity for which I apologise however I've been spending the last 10 days (now a bit longer) getting myself psyched to do this big picture stuff, as with stopping smoking the theory is easy 'don't light a cigarette and put it in your mouth = live longer'

Eat healthy take exercise = be fitter

With stopping smoking howver I did make the discovery that you can control the running commentary to life that you have going on in your head. Well I did, once I also discovered that I had music running in my head at all times in parallel to the conversation. I know this sounds a bit bonkers but we all do it, you think 'I'll drive past the Pizza shop and make a salad sandwich when I get home' to then find yourself in the pizza shop 30 seconds later because your running commentary as told you that it'll be quicker , taste nicer and well there is always later for salads.

If it needs to be Big Picture Stuff to get up a real mountain then thats the plan. Updates to follow no doubt.

So meeting Sue for a beer with her tired out friends and then meet Colin again and off to see 'the best band in the world' erm in a tiny pub in Edinburgh. Our local tour guide Colin got us completely lost and in the wrong bar in the wrong street, so we turned up 'just as the band went on stage' the lovely lady on the door informed us. Oh well at least we'll still hear them from the back I thought.

ahh on the basis that the back and the front of the audience were 3 yards apart I needn't have worried. I can't wait to tell the grandkids that I saw the best band in the world on their first gig in Scotland in a tiny pub with 25 other people. It just has to be a 'Free Trade Hall' moment. My ticket number which I had just collected at the door was No1 (this is true and its the only time its ever happened).

Craigs track record on music is pretty good.....he's only ever liked about 6 bands

The Beatles
Billy Bragg - first Album
The Jam
The Stone Roses - First Album
British Sea Power

and now

The Young Republic.

Once they recovered from two broken strings in the first couple of songs they were really good, especially as only the band and Craig had heard any of the songs before. Two violins a couple of guitars, a basist and a drummer and taking turns on keyboard. I had this down as a pretty large band (ok not compared to UB40 but thats exceptional) until Craig pointed out that the flautist had been fired and the other keyboard player had buggered off in the last couple of weeks too. I was enjoying the whole jangly guitar and violin indie thing when they suddenly headed left into a couple of fantastic cover versions, Bob Dylans - Isis

Some Young Republic Stuff

and a Tom Waits song - Which neither of us know the name of. This was then followed up by a comment of 'we're going to play a few new and louder songs now', I'm a big fan of jangly music the C86 tape is still a prize possesion, however this new stuff was even better. At the end of the night we said a slightly drunken hello to the band- I'm sure they were thrilled

Craig ' oi mate why did you sack the flute player' - both diplomatic and classy!

I bought the album and its a belter.....with talk of two new albums in the near future I think they may just end up in a few big venues soon.....world domination round the corner mate.

Lots of Pics

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I dont like the sound of theis 'big picture' stuff, can't we just employ more sherpas instead. I'll even leave the piano at home if it means not having to go all IMAX and eat my greens.

Remember, Andy counters his blueberry and pumpkin seed habit by drinking 24 cans of Boddingtons every day, maintaining his fitness by karate chopping breeze blocks and chavs.

You are spot on with the age at gig things though, I couldnt get near the bar at a recent Weller gig - Generation XXXX indeed.

Got to take issue with the 6 bands only thing, or rather with the 6 you picked. Bragg and The Stone Roses are out, single albums cant count, even if they are permanently in the car CD and in the case of the The Stone Roses, the best LP ever.

No, Hunter and Morrissey make the cut instead. One the soundtrack to being 14 when the rest of you were sticking safety pins though your noses and spitting on each others tartan trousers and the other the backdrop to my thirties.

So if you are reading this Ian and Steven, as I expect you do, its all lies. Except the bit where he went for a walk. Probably.