Music and Driving

There is no doubt that the heady combination of music and driving can embed memories which are not easily put away.

Just a few minutes ago, a song came on the radio – ‘Where the Streets Have no Name’ by U2.

A good song, a long guitar intro, a catchy Edge riff, lively all-in-all.

But for me… well, it never fails to transport me. Back to 1991 Kensington, London W8.

Unable to get employment in my chosen profession after a year away in Australia, I went working as a builder’s labourer on an office-refurbishment project. Our mission was to rip out the third floor and put it back in differently.

It was a Saturday afternoon and me and the three other guys had worked hard, beating down plasterboard stud partitions with sledge hammers. Dusty, blister-inducing work.

We should have gone on until five but the boss had headed for Romford so we packed it up at 3.30.

I was heading for High Street Kensington tube to go home when Terry offered me a lift.

The other three were heading east and they could drop me off easy at Hyde Park Corner.

We piled in the car, me in the back, turned on to High Street and off down past the Albert Hall, Hyde Park sitting airy on the opposite side.

And then the radio came on and that U2 song was just starting and the lights were all green in front of us and all the Saturday-afternoon shopping people looked so good.

We cruised down along the park, sun shining, windows open. A hard days work done, money in pocket, and the prospect of Saturday night in London stretched out promisingly before us. And we smiled.

And that was it.

I’m sure they dropped me at the station. I’m sure I got home, showered and ate. But I don’t know.

All I know is the song and the drive and the feeling.

And it comes back every time I hear the song.

I guess it always will.

An Excuse to Chat about Movies – How Can I Possibly Resist?

You’d think I’d run a country mile from meme’s and such after my recent public tantrum but Matt has just posted a series of movie questions to answer.

It looks like such fun I think I’ll just drop my planned post, reel something off about this off the top of my head, and just play…

You can play too, if you like.

1) List one movie that made you laugh:
I don’t really laugh quite as much as some might think. I tend to appreciate/enjoy the funny bits quietly.

I have to say ‘Jackass The Movie’ made me laugh out loud. When the guy used the toilet in the toilet-shop, that was funny, man!

2) List one movie that made you cry:
‘Philadelphia’. The weirdest thing, this – I really didn’t enjoy the movie. I watched it on video at home. I thought Tom Hank’s was okay but I though he had one deplorable scene with some classical music (which so many people seem to like, what’s that all about??).

Anyway, I got to the final scene with a big ‘Meh’ attitude and that last scene just destroyed me.


I think it was the footage of the central character as a young boy (the same age as my own lad). He was just playing, completely unknowing of the pain and suffering which lay ahead in his adult life.

That ,coupled with Neil Young’s heart-tugging theme song... it made me cry.

Never happened before or since.

3) Name one movie you loved when you were a child:
The Jungle Book.

Need I say more?

4) List one movie you've seen more than once:
Seen tons of movies more than once. I’ve probably seen ‘Body Heat’ more than any other.

Whenever it comes on I cannot not watch.

5) One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it:
I loved ‘South Pacific’.

I didn’t tell my friends.

Oops, just did.

6) One movie you hated:
I hate loads of movies but I prefer to try to find a movie that I hated which lots of other people seemed to rate very highly.

One such clear offender was ‘Chariots of Fire’.

Slow-motion running and Vangelis soundtrack – what’s not to hate?

7) List one movie that scared you:
I don’t really scare too easily either – not at movies anyway.

I never even jumped at ‘Jaws’ while the entire rest of my home town were three foot up in the air.

For this category, I will say ‘Audition’, I was disturbed and surprised but not really scared.

Oh, Oh! Wait. I remember now!

I did jump once at a movie. Would you believe it was ‘A View to a Kill’ – Roger Moore’s Bond swan song (which was quite dreadful).

There was this one point where he was exploring a deserted house and a gratuitous cat jumped out 'MWROWWWR!!'

'Hit the roof, me...

8) List one movie that bored you:
Reds. Wasn’t it just boring though?

9) List one movie that made you happy:
‘Pulp Fiction’ really made me very happy.

I saw it Day One (as I often used to do, back then). The visceral vision and superb quality of the dialogue made me feel genuinely happy inside.

10) List one movie that made you miserable:
‘Jumpers’ just last Friday night.

I watched the credits at the end and gloomily thought ‘how can so many people conspire to make such total crap?’

11) List one movie you thought would be great, but it wasn’t:
The Great Gatsby… wasn’t.

Should’ve been called… ‘Gatsby’.

12) List one movie you weren't brave enough to see:
‘Sex and the City’ just… couldn’t… do it.

13) List one movie character you've fallen in love with:

Well, it was probably really Jodie Foster that I had fallen for. We were the same age, we both had a chipped tooth, she took off her clothes… I thought it could work.

I really really did…

Time of @reply

Summer was gone and the Tweets died down
And Facebook reached for its golden crown
I sit on down and heaved a sigh
For this is my time of @reply

I reach for coffee and drink it down
The tips of my fingers turning brown
I should just let my laptop die
But this is the time of @reply

The time of @reply is calling me to stay
My mind tells me to go to bed
But to leave there is no way

Facebook was gone and Myspace died down
Now Twitter reached for its golden crown
I sat on down and heaved a sigh
For this was my time of @reply

(to the air of Time of No Reply by Nick Drake)

Are you happy now?

Isn't it a bit of a shame that happiness is such a subtle state of mind?

We're all fully aware when we are unhappy, it tends to pervade everything else, but we only fully realise we were happy when it's gone and we're looking back at it from yet another unhappy state.

Let's try and realise when we're happy and - I dunno - celebrate it... or something. It certainly highlights for me the depth and insightfulness of that famous song, 

"If you're happy and you know it clap your hands."

The dude who wrote that certainly knew what was going on!

Ken Pulls a ‘Marlon Brando’ regarding Blog Award and Meme…

In the last few days I’ve been given an award and tagged for a meme. More on both of these good things below.

These two events, and my funny old reaction to them, got me thinking about myself, (what again?) which was useful. I’ll tell you about the ‘thinking’ bit at the end. First the good news.

I am very complimented that Matt Urdan at ‘Meltwater. Torrents. Meanderings. Delta.’ has selected my little blog for an award. There are obviously millions of blogs out there for him to choose from, so knowing that one of the five he actually chose was mine gives me a nice warm feeling inside, it really does.

It’s called the “Arte y Pico" Award and apparently it was created as part of a tag initiative from the “Arte y Pico" Blog, where you pass along a compliment to other bloggers.

This compliment is made all the better because Matt is a blogger who I particularly admire. I think you can learn as much from a blogger’s comments on other people’s posting as you can from the person’s blog itself.

So let it be with Master Urdan. I have seen Matt, through his comments, here and elsewhere, strongly reflect both his kindness and his enthusiasm. Also (only quite recently) I have witnessed his bravery in unflinchingly saying what he strongly felt in a situation where it would have been infinitely easier to say nothing at all. He also likes ABBA, which is largely forgivable.

Respect to Matt and many thanks.

* * * *

Then Wonderful Kathleen at Poetikat tagged me to list Seven Songs which I am currently into. That’s a bit of good fun so here goes:

Today’s Songs

‘Louisiana 1927’ by Randy Newman (Can’t get this out of my head at the moment)

‘The Look of Love’ sung by Dusty Springfield (I love the songs of Bacharach and David)

‘Lie to Me’ by Tom Waits

‘I saw Her Standing There’ by The Beatles (one… two… three…FOUR!)

‘True Faith’ by New Order

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips


Alexandra Leaving by Leonard Cohen

(This all may change tomorrow)

* * * *

Now here’s the thinking part…

When I got the award and the meme, I was dead pleased, really I was.

But… I did not want to pass them on, uh uh, no way.

So I asked myself why? And, frankly, I bullshitted myself for a few hours. I told myself I did not want to just pick five of the many Bloggers I admire. I told myself it was a deep-seated aversion to anything to do with a ‘chain’, however well-intentioned and harmless it might be. I told myself I was bloody lazy.

There is an element of truth to all these points, a little… not too much.

When I was honest with myself, it was actually quite revealing.

This is what I found to be the truth of the matter. *I hate asking people to do things for me.* I really do. That’s why you may never see a guest blog on this page.

To take it a step further – I also feel a strong moral obligation do try my best to do whatever anyone ever asks me to do. I think these two attributes are related but I haven’t quite figured out how yet. I’ll continue to chew on it for awhile.

So thanks guys, for awards and memes, for friendship and for compliments and, most of all, for empowering me to cast a cold eye on myself.

By the way, I won’t be passing on the award and the meme as the rules demand…

Go figure!


Juno – Review

Here’s another little movie which I just saw and which I really liked.

It’s new out on DVD in this neck of the woods so that means it’s probably available everywhere now.

‘Juno’ tells the story of a quirky and charming teenage girl who becomes pregnant and decides to see the pregnancy through despite some opposition from predictable sources and some support from more surprising sources.

It’s a funny, clever, warm little film and I enjoyed it very much indeed.

As is now customary with my reviews, I feel obliged to give you all a warning-or-two as to why you might not enjoy it as much as I did.

Reason 1: It is quite a ‘Young’ film. I had heard great things about it, rented it, and fifteen minutes in, I was saying, “This is good but it’s a teen movie, I’ve rented a teen-movie and I’m forty-four years old and my wife (younger and prettier) will kill me in a minute…”. The sassiness and the pop-references and (damn!) the inescapable Youth of the leads might make you feel it’s not the movie for you.

Reason 2: It’s… just… very… ‘American’. Now, I like that!! Many of my favourite books and an absolute shed-load load of my fave movies are unabashedly American and I make no apologies for it.

I just think it’s worth pointing this 'American' thing out, particularly in conjunction with Reason 1 above. You see, the juxtaposition of ‘Young’ and ‘American’ descriptors for a modern movie raises images of ‘John Hughes’, ‘Breakfast Clubs’, ‘Ferris Thingie’ and even, God help us, ‘Clueless’.

These comparisons may well put certain potential movie-renters off.Indeed, at times, ‘Juno’ can be slightly-reminiscent of some of these teen angst masterpieces.

But, if you can manage to get yourself over my reasons 1 and 2, I think there’s a good chance that you may really enjoy ‘Juno’.

It is very sharply written and the girl who plays ‘Juno’ is simply wonderful, as is her Dad and her boyfriend and… well there’s just a lot of good performances in here.

It’s funny, it’s human, it’s warm…

But the thing that really won me over is how it reverses the expectations raised by some of its characters.

You know how you see someone in a film and you just know what they will be like and how they will act? Well I drew these sort of conclusions as this little movie unfolded and it confounded me in several respects.

It was smarter than I was and I like that a lot.

Finally, there’s a nice hint of truth about the way ‘Juno’ resolves itself. The actions of the characters always seem somehow grounded in reality.

So anyone for small-scale American teen movie?

If you can get over any qualms you might have, I think you might be in for a nice surprise.

PS: Jane, a fellow-blogger who's posts I admire, has just posted a passionate and obviously heartfelt reply to my review of this film. You can read it by clicking here. I think it is very good and I recommend you consider it before swanning off to rent this movie on the basis of my naive word alone.

Baby You Got Me Checking in my Rear View Mirror

There’s a lady in my mirror.

She wasn’t there before but she sure as hell is now. She seems to have a very big head but that might just be a trick of perspective.

She is, after all, very very close to me.

I have to drive a little bit, for my job. One day most weeks I make a six or seven hour round trip journey. And this sort of thing seems to be happening a lot to me lately. I’m tipping along, minding my own beeswax when I happen to glance in the mirror and there’s a woman back there, driving her own little car - extremely close behind mine.

This often used to happen with guys – big hairy-arsed sweaty fellas who only wanted to get past you and on up the road to their mother. They may be no fun at all but at least they’re kind of understandable – They suffer ‘Alpha Male Delusions’ coupled with ‘Penis-Envy’… or something like that. Guys just tend to do this type of crap – it’s a given.

But, correct me if you think you need to, but Gals didn’t used to drive like this – not here anyway.

I’m not really sexist about driving matters. Reverse sexist, perhaps – I’ve always thought women were much safer drivers than us guys. I figured that they used their lack of imagination and vision on the road as a protective shield and that this has generally worked very well for them.

(God, I’m in trouble now).

But lately it’s always ladies in my rear view mirror, intently focusing on staying within four inches of my rear bumper.

So, what to do?

I’ve got bored with throwing on the rear fog lights and watching those gals vanish over the horizon as they stomp on their brakes. It’s a short-lived pleasure - they invariably come back, pissed-off as hell, and then they shorten the gap down to two inches.

Sometimes I will click on the hazard warning lights. That generally pushes them back a bit but only for a little while. When they realise that there’s no great hazard up ahead they come back up again.

Maybe I’ve just got an attractive exhaust-pipe (it has been said).

What I really wish is that I could have a large electronic display on the rear window that would flash pre-programmed messages to those intent ladies out back of me.

Subtle messages like, ‘You are Driving Very Close to Me Today… Do You Like Me?’

Straight-to-the-point things like, ‘BACK OFF LADY’.

Or, striving for good-natured wit, ‘While you’re there, would you mind terribly rolling down my rear passenger window a bit?’

Sometimes, in desperation, I just pull in and wave them past. Go on, leave me alone.

But they don’t go. These ladies don’t want to pass me out, they just want to drive behind me. Really really close behind me.

And, boy, I so wish they didn’t.

* * * *

Finally, for now. The title of today’s post comes from a song that I like.

You can have 100EC if you’re the first to comment with the title and the performer.

And if you’re willing to give me your solemn word of honour that you didn’t look it up, I’ll give you 150EC.

The Accordion Teacher

It was decided, at the tender age of seven, that I was ready to be initiated into the musical life.

So, one rainy Thursday afternoon, the accordion previously bourne by my two older brothers was ceremoniously passed down to me and off I went to Mr. Duffy’s music shop to begin my tuition.

Mr. Duffy’s music shop is long gone and there is now nothing of its kind left in the world.

Half of the establishment was made up of a tiny dark spartan front room, which was accessed from the street and which was evenly bisected by a tall wooden counter. This ‘shop area’ seemed devoid of any trace of musical paraphernalia but most customer requests could be readily filled by Mr. Duffy producing items from hidden cupboards and unseen drawers.

A small door led from the shop to a private residence in behind and it was here that the music teacher entertained his students. The room was a small shabby/comfortable living space dominated by the spindly music stand, which stood facing the shop partition wall.

Every week, I would stand facing this wall, my accordion harnessed around me, my sheet music in front of me, and I would play.

I was, in all fairness, a very poor master of my instrument. Thankfully, the sheet music had helpful codes scribbled on it to help me see which button to press and whether to squeeze or extend the air box to achieve the required note.

The accordion also boasted a most useful button at the left thumb for use when the box had no more ‘squeeze’ left in it. Upon pushing this button, the accordion could be pulled apart in an asthmatic gasp without any note issuing, to give some additional tolerance for any push-in notes which might follow.

While I am sure the accordion teacher attended to his more worthy pupils with the greatest of care, he always used my hour as an opportunity to catch up on his housework.

He wore a pair of eyeglasses of which one lens was enormously magnified. Occasionally he would leave off his tidying to peer over my shoulder, checking that I had not substituted his music with some post modernist, avant-guard score. Having satisfied itself that I was indeed attempting to play ‘The Toreadors March’, this Cyclops would withdraw back into its domestic routine, occasionally barking out an instruction or admonishing my chronic lack of practice.

By far the most constant refrain heard during my hourly sessions was that of ‘Keep Playing’.

I was much more interested in my master’s cleaning activities than in the latest tune and, as my interest peaked, so the music would whine and fade away. At this point I would hear the refrain ‘Keep Playing, Keep Playing’ and I would hit the ‘asthma button’, pull the accordion apart and plough boldly onward.

One day, my teacher was attempting to light his fire. I could see out of the corner of my eye that he had sealed the front of the hearth with a sheet of newspaper and was on his knees at the grate blowing upwards. This was of considerable interest to me so the tune duly petered out.

I was exhorted to "Keep Playing, Keep Playing" as Mr. Duffy retreated to a hidden back room in search of tinder.

As I unceremoniously murdered ‘Believe me if all Those Endearing Young Charms’, a new event seared itself on my questing peripheral vision. The newspaper over the fire has caught alight and was solidly ablaze, throwing bright orange licks toward the low black ceiling above.

"Excuse me?" I called out, "Excuse me?"

"Keep Playing," was the distant reply, "whatever you do just Keep Playing".

Thus, regardless of the fact the my teacher returned in good time to save the day, my abiding image from my years of accordion tutelage is one where I am cast as Nero, boldly accordioning away while home burned.

One Thursday, I was collecting my accordion case from the hall when a kind parental hand was laid over mine and I was told that there would be no lesson today. My accordion teacher had died peacefully in his sleep.

It might be judged a sad epitaph that I never again, after that day, picked up an accordion but really it is not. I am gifted with a good sense of rhythm and an uncanny memory for a tune, which I undoubtedly owe to my music teacher.

There is a quotation which says that; "A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion but doesn't".

There is some comfort in knowing that, in this one respect at least, I remain a gentleman.

Oh My God, It’s Eating Everything in Its Path

Friday night was DVD night again so brace yourself for another of those reviews that strives to tell you as little as possible about the movie.

‘Cloverfield’ is new to DVD here in Ireland and I was first-in to rent it out.

This is one I wanted to see at the movies but that doesn’t happen much any more. The best I can hope to do is get in early on the DVD release (before Castlebar gets its grubby fingerprints all over it), get the Maltesers and the Sprite Zero in, and turn out all of the lights.

Let’s cut to the chase.

I loved this movie. I recommend it to you and I look forward to seeing it again soon.

But, before you rush out to rent/buy/steal it, let me tell you just a wee bit about it because, rest assured, you are not all going to like it as much as I did.

‘Cloverfield’ may have been pitched as ‘Godzilla’ meets ‘The Blair Witch Project’ because that’s pretty much what it is. A giant ‘something’ is attacking a city and we witness the attack through the medium of a single video recording recovered after the event.

Yes, that’s it. Except somehow it’s more. What we get is an extremely convincing portrayal of what it must be like to be at Ground Zero of a major catastrophic incident. In this case it’s the far-fetched scenario of a monster from the deep or outer space or… someplace. It doesn’t matter what or where, the shock, terror, panic, disorientation and fear are all captured very authentically and very convincingly.

And, before you get too annoyed with me, I don’t use the phrase ‘Ground Zero’ in any way lightly. This film will have resonance for any of us who hold the awful events of September 11th 2001 in our memories. The city under attack in this movie is New York and, even though it’s a freaky monster from God knows where, the imagery of the desecration of the city seems quite deliberately designed to pinch the nerve of our shared memories. The sight of a huge opaque dust cloud tumbling up the city block, citizens rushing to stay ahead of its deadly contents – this sight is not new to us.

So ‘Cloverfield’ is monster movie entertainment from a new and highly-effective angle, no question, but it’s also pushing some pretty deep subliminal buttons along the way.

So who won’t like it?

Well, before you rent it, just know this – the hand-held camera work bucks and wobbles like no camera has ever bucked before. The effect in the cinema must have been seriously nauseating for some. You may not like the movie for this reason alone so be warned and don’t blame me if the Doritos come back up on the Axminster.

The great trick that the movie pulls off is that it manages to look like an utter no-budget-credit-card-funded-guerrilla-flick whilst incorporating some of the most remarkable digital effects ever seen. They get away with this because the effects are never trumpeted, they just ‘happen’ and the filmmakers are always more concerned with the protagonist’s reactions than with how cool they have made their monster look.

The film is a short sharp shock. It runs fast and it ends quickly. I like that, I hope you do too.

Let me know.

Blogging All Over the World..with Jen

I'm guest posting today. I hope you will go and visit with Jen, my very-gracious hostess.

Please click here.

When I started blogging, I had hoped I might reach some people at a great geographical distance to myself. One of the very best bloggers who comes visiting from across the world is Jenaisle. She is always encouraging, invariably kind and she keeps a number of very remarkable blogs of her own.

In the few guest posts I have done, I try to provide something that is in keeping with the content of the blog I am visiting.

I knew I would have to do a new memory-story for my spot on Gewgaw Writings so that's what I did. As is often the case, it concerns a fairly stupid thing I did , the difference being - this one is recent... too darn recent!

That's why I called it 'Still Stupid After All These Years.' I hope my misfortune raises a grin.

Thanks to Jen for asking me to post.

Working it all out with her has been a genuine pleasure.