Sunday, 28 February 2010

Wheels on fire

Look. Mobile libraries are cool again. They must be – this one was parked between the Tate Modern and a branch of Leon.

Admittedly neither of these places would pass for cutting edge in certain parts of Berlin or Brooklyn, but open the I-Spy Middle Class Cool book and they'll be right there next to The Big Chill and a Riverford organic vegetable box.

It seems strange to think of a roving library stopping off somewhere so urban. This is not a location that would strike me as culturally barren. But in the rarefied atmosphere of the Southbank, perhaps this van provides some kind of vital lowbrow lifeline, where punters can borrow a Dan Brown, no questions asked, and tuck it away in their fashionably sloganed canvas tote bag, just beneath their Malcolm Gladwell.

With Borough Market just a couple of hundred metres away, the mobile librarian probably does a roaring under-the-counter trade in Ginsters Pasties and Liebfraumilch too.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Square dance

My friend lives on Trinity Church Square, just off Borough High Street, and I visited her there for the first time on Friday night. It is a beautiful place, and I have passed within metres of it thousands of times without realising it was there. Now I can add it to the mental photo album that I flick through whenever I think that living in London is just pigeons and tutting and dropped kebabs and the hour it seems to take to get from anywhere to anywhere within the city.

If you like to imagine you live in a period drama – and which of us hasn't fantasised about a lifestyle of malnutrition and grossly compromised mortality – I'd say there weren't many better places to don a home-sewn Regency gown and affect your best consumptive cough under a generically olde-fashioned streetlamp.

On Friday, I was particularly excited because Rupert Penry-Jones and Phil Davis were also there filming.

The main cause of my excitement was that for a short time I believed they might have been making the long-awaited second series of Leeds-set legal drama North Square, which my friends and I think of with the same rosey-lensed nostalgic glow as we do the fruit crumble at our university refectory and the days when we could get through a dinner together without an extended discussion of fertility in the over-35s.

I was so excited I trod on a sandwich, which I failed to see in the darkness, and was then thrilled to discover wasn't a dog turd. It had that familiar sense of give-and-skid under one's foot.

Luckily, my penetrating reportage skills were to the fore, and I captured these images for you.

(V.I.G.s = Very Important Gilets)

What I haven't captured is the moment when a passer-by asked my gawking friends and I if it was OK if he walked through the filming area. 'Oh yes,' we replied authoritatively. 'You're fine, go ahead.' We were thrilled by this. We did not need a fluorescent gilet to conjure up the impression of insouciant authority and TV gravitas.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

A Candy Heart Too Many

I've said this before and I'm going to say it again, so I don't mind if you go away and get some chores done and come back in three paragraphs' time. We're all busy people.

As you go about your life as a single person, you tussle with the cliches of your gender, your age and your marital status, and – hopefully – leave them winded and redundant on the pavement behind you, with sand in their face.

It's kind of a sandy pavement.

And then, despite your most assiduous efforts, you find yourself inhabiting some chick-flick cliche. Today, Miss R and I inadvertently played out a scene from the Sex And The City movie, featuring Carrie and Miranda. The difference was that we did not have a row, and one of us did not have a thwarted storm-out.

So, there we were meeting up in Beckenham – it is equidistant from each of our homes – for our semi-regular Sunday arrangement of lunch and cinema. We had, however, overlooked the power of the calendar. Here is the scene inside the restaurant, featuring our fellow diners:

I have obscured their faces in case any of them were conducting an affair, having told their loving spouse that they were just popping out to the florist, and then the supermarket, and then the chemist, as they rushed between home and restaurant in a caper comparable to the exhilarating climax of Mrs Doubtfire.

And here is a picture of our romantic corner table. It is a terrible picture, but that is because the camera on my phone does not perform to its upmost in 'mood lighting'.

In the picture, you may – or more likely may not – be able to discern the following:

1) [Out of shot] The speaker above my seat, strenuously emitting 'sexy times' music, drawn from an opus of 80s soul. It was kind of nice really, as it's been ages since I heard Sweet Love by Anita Baker. The volume did become something of an issue though, forcing the amorous to crank their sweet nothings up to a seductive bellow: 'YOU LOOK REALLY, REALLY LOVELY TODAY.' 'THE LAST YEAR HAS BEEN THE BEST OF MY ENTIRE LIFE.' 'OH NO, I'VE LEFT THE PRICE ON THOSE CHOCOLATES, QUICK, GIVE THEM BACK A MINUTE.'

2) An enormous cushion taking up half of my already padded seat. I have no idea why it had to be there. I can only imagine it was in case we were completely overtaken by the carefully orchestrated ambience and had no choice but to make sweet, sweet love right there on the banquette, necessitating some extra comfort.

3) Balloons. It's not clear if these were complimentary, but we didn't take them with us, as it may have inconvenienced the people sitting behind us in the cinema. With their potential to deflate mournfully over time, or else explode suddenly – and disappointingly – without warning, I'm not sure balloons are such a brilliant symbol for the occasion.

4) The restaurant's regular decorative motifs, which contributed to the overall atmosphere of 'RED! RED! IT'S VALENTINE'S DAY! RED! VALENTINE'S DAY IS RED! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE WITH YOUR PLATONIC SAME-SEX FRIEND, YOU COLOSSAL CUCKOO IN THE LOVENEST?'


We carried on to the cinema to see the new Disney film, The Princess And The Frog. And I am aware that as unmarried, thirty-something women, this choice marks us out as being likely to have an enormous row of stuffed animals on our beds. (I mean cuddly toy animals. Not, like, taxidermy. As yet, we are nowhere near that kind of weird, although there is no eccentricity I would be foolish enough to rule out in both our futures.)

In any case, love struck for both of us in the cinema foyer, as the man behind the Ben & Jerry's concession was amazing. And by that, I mean he encouraged us to try as many of the flavours as possible, entirely for free. He was either extremely enthusiastic about his job, or else was trying to bring down the Odeon chain from within by giving away all its retail stock. For the record, he likes every flavour, except for the Cheesecake Brownie, which he just can't get on with. He thinks it might be because it has a strange after-taste. He also prefers the Low Fat Fro Yo Chocolate Fudge Brownie to the full-fat version. It's lighter and the brownie pieces taste better.

This over-enthusiastic approach to product promotion may, however, have contributed to what we saw on the way into the actual cinema. On the other hand, the sheer emotion of this most spontaneous and genuine of festival days may just have proved too much for one young cinema-goer.

My choice of song for the day would be Valentine, by Willie Nelson ('Candy heart… if anyone could, you could have a candy heart'), but, so far, there is no clip on YouTube that exactly fits what I'm looking for. And if that is not a metaphor…

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Coded message

Take a word from the title of each of these songs, lovingly/ditheringly harvested from my iTunes library, and you will discover a hidden and historically significant message.

(I couldn't find an embeddable version of this.)

Heartbroken I couldn't find a full version of this. Well, heartbroken is a bit strong. Slightly frowny, perhaps.

Toss-up between this and this.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Shameless reposting

The clip below was on the Holy Moly mailout this week. It is behind-the-scenes footage of The Stars recording the charity single We Are The World, all the way from 1985. These are proper, legendary, stadium-filling big guns and seeing them off-guard and making awkward jokes with each other, like strangers on the first day of a residential work conference, is weirdly moving – like those old clips of The Beatles I was droning on about a few months ago.

I don't remember too much about We Are The World. I was 11 years old and completely obsessed with Do They Know It's Christmas?, the UK precursor. That record featured all the bands that made me feverish with pre-teen longing, and it was better for shrieking along to at school discos in an effort to obliterate the sight of your so-called best friend slow-dancing to Phyllis Nelson's Move Closer with the boy you were seriously, this-is-the-real-thing-even-though-I-am-still-at-primary-school in love with. My charitable take on USA For Africa was probably something along the lines of 'GOD! They are TOTALLY copying Band Aid!' which suggests a consummate failure to grasp the purpose of the exercise. Band Aid simply blew my mind ('Duran Duran? And Wham!? And Spandau Ballet? In the same room? On the same record? *11-year-old head spins round and explodes*). I bought a special souvenir mini-magazine which, unsurprisingly, I still have 25 years later, and infuriatingly can't find right now.

This clip has many, many highlights, including:

1) Lionel Richie coming on like some flamboyantly smart-casual high-school drama teacher and teaching some of the biggest stars on the planet how to lean into the microphone.
2) Stevie Wonder getting the giggles just after Quincy Jones tells everyone off for being noisy during a take, while Paul Simon stands there silently, as anxious and tiny as Piglet.
3) Cyndi Lauper's clattering jewellery ruining the take.
4) As Holy Moly brilliantly noted, Lionel helpfully pointing out notes on the sheet music to Stevie Wonder.
5) The youthful, bed-headed, leather-jacketed Bruce Springsteen looking like some bad-boy-with-a-heart boyfriend from an episode of Blossom. His voice is such an explosive contrast to the silky vocal skills of everyone who's gone before that I find it impossible not to shout 'GO ON, BRUCE' right before his part comes in.
6) Michael Jackson at a point where, maybe, just maybe, he could still have found his way back.

Also, everyone involved can really sing.

You can see the full, finished video here, which is noteable for the presence of Bob Dylan. He's barely there on the behind-the-scenes footage, and I didn't remember him being on board at all, but that's probably because, at 11, I would have taken one look at him and said, 'Bore off, Grandad. You can't even sing. And your hair's stupid,' which, coming from a Duran Duran fan, would have been pretty rich.

Huey Lewis's fist of pure emotion, meanwhile, is also laudable. I have a lot of love for Huey Lewis. This is because my other twin obsession from 1985 was Back To The Future. Here is a picture of Huey's cameo in the film, taken from my Back To The Future souvenir magazine, which I found when I was looking for the missing Band Aid memorabilia.

Huey seems like the kind of man who would show you the inside of a wild bar, the outskirts of town, and every part of a good time (maybe this is a characteristic that comes as a package with the name Huey. The Fun Lovin' Criminals' Huey is exactly like this, but with added 'Seriously, I am ludicrously sexy' built in). Recently, someone I was working with told me that they had been to see Huey and his News at the Shepherds Bush Empire a few years ago. The magnitude of my jealousy surprised even me. I used to love the Sports album – which I bought from Woolworths in Bicester during a stay with my grandparents – so you can imagine how excited I was to hear I Want A New Drug playing in the background during this week's Glee. Maybe this will signal a path back from the critical badlands for Huey Lewis & The News. After all, it's working for Journey.

Or, er, maybe not.

(See part 1 of the We Are The World film here)