Monday, 25 February 2008

Cupboard Love

I don't think I have got so excited about a piece of furniture since our bed was delivered from Lombok 3 and a half years ago. But on Saturday our new kitchen dresser arrived, and I can't stop looking at it and stroking it - very worrying I'm sure.
It is a beautiful thing though - we had it built to the measurements we wanted and we specified exactly what we needed it to do - play host to our cookbooks, glassware, and all the bowls, serving dishes and gadgets that used to reside in the kitchen units that were the most awkward to get at. There's also enough room on the top of the bottom cupboard bit to put nice things like flowers* and even use as a spare work surface if need be. It's made from reclaimed pine by the wonderful folks at Foxwood and I love it. It suits the space perfectly and what was a pretty empty wall space now seems homely and inviting without being too cluttered. Of course, it's taken us 18 months since we moved back in after doing the extension to be able to afford to buy any new furniture at all, so at this rate we might get a new dining table in 2010...

* thanks Ali for the last 6 years :o)

Friday, 22 February 2008


This is turning into a bit of a culture blog at the moment (well, TV and music anyway) but we've had a couple of really good gigs this week so I thought I would document them for posterity. Now that it's nearly a year since my first post, it's quite nice looking back and seeing what we've done over the previous months, especially since I started to tag up my posts with basic categories. Much more interesting than my tightly maintained 'home calendar' spreadsheet which is actually very useful for planning weekends away etc but when all's said and done is just a boring bit of excel.

So this week we had Hot Chip at the Oxford Academy on Tuesday night, and last night we saw the Gutter Twins at Koko. It's lovely going into Oxford for a night out - don't have to leave work early, and can eat a normal dinner at home, drive in and park up near the venue, and have a swift pint or two beforehand, all before the main act comes on. Then at the end, it's a mere 15 minute drive back up the A34 and home to bed at a relatively normal time for a school night. Bonzer! Hot Chip were great too - one of those kind of contented gigs, where the music doesn't massively lift you, and you don't go mental down the front, but you leave smiling and seem to have been bouncing up and down on the spot for the entirety of the show. The new album's great and they were on top form live.

I wasn't massively looking forward to the Gutter Twins, it has to be said. The combination of trekking into London after work, having to find somewhere to eat, seeing a band who had the potential to be very dark and depressing, and then haring back to Paddington for the last train home only to get to bed in the wee small hours of the morning and get up a mere 5 hours later to go to work, seemed all too much to take after having already been out once this week (and following a full on weekend at Center Parcs, more of which in another post). However - all in all it was a pretty amazing night. Got into town by 6.30 and we went up to Camden to find somewhere to eat, with vague ideas of consuming Japanese food in a Time Out-tipped restaurant a stone's throw from the venue. We were turned away as we hadn't booked, so wandered up (or frog-marched - Ali was ravenous) into Camden in search of a Wagamama or the like. We didn't find Wagamama, but we did find another Japanese place which had an article in its window from the Observer Food Monthly advertising it as Julian Clary's Favourite Table. Based on this recommendation alone (!) and the fact that the menu offered quite a bit of additional stuff for a sushi-hater like me, we got a table and started to eat - the food was way better than Wagamama's and they even gave us some carved fruit at the end as a little freebie dessert. Fortified we made our way back to Koko for the gig.

First nice surprise was that Ed Harcourt had been drafted in as a last minute replacement support act - his set was only half an hour and very enjoyable (not quite taking away the sting of the £3.80 charge for a pint though). Then the Gutter Twins came on. What surprised me most was how ROCK they were - I was prepared for an hour and a half of doom-laden gloominess, given the 2 frontmen (Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan) aren't renowned for their chirpy pop sensibilities. There were some tracks that were really upbeat and almost headbanging, and overall it was just good, LOUD raw rock music in a great venue. We had to leave before the last encore (Martina Topley-Bird didn't add *anything* to the track she came on for) and sadly (for us) Dulli announced as we were leaving 'now for some stuff you'll know'. Boo sucks to First Great Western timetables. Still, home by 1am, knackered today, but very glad we made the effort and didn't wimp out.

Coming up, we've got Eels in Oxford on Easter Sunday, Elbow in Oxford in April, and Radiohead twice(!!!!) in Milan and London in June so it's shaping up to be a great year for music so far.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Fire up the Quattro!

I wonder how many bloggers today around the UK are eulogising over Ashes to Ashes on BBC1 last night. We had a ball watching it - the music was fab, the clothes were hilarious (who really wore skirts quite that short in 1981? Mind you I was 8, so still in T-bar sandals from Start-Rite) and Gene Hunt a proper pastiche of his Life on Mars version - un-PC-ness turned up to 11.

Having said that, I've just read quite a damning review of it in the Guardian which has somewhat dampened my rosy memories of Gene, Ray and Chris brandishing machine guns, hair blowing in the wind as they tear down the Thames on a motor boat to rescue Keeley Hawes. I shouldn't let myself be so influenced by Guardian critics really but I kind of agreed with him in some places, after all, the plot, such as it was, was ludicrous. Didn't stop us having a great hour on the sofa laughing at the obvious jokes though, same as the ludicrous plots don't stop us watching Spooks. The only thing I hope improves over the series is the drippy WPC 'Shaz' who is in no way a replacement for Annie from Life on Mars. Life on Mars was altogether a more credible drama series - grubbier (especially Sam's bedsit which always looked as if it was coated with years of chip grease and nicotine and crawling with bugs) and grittier and actually seeming more authentic. Sam was also, lest we forget, a proper DI, with real experience, whereas Alex Drake is a criminal psychologist pretending to be a DI, which seems a bit unethical to me. So Ashes to Ashes is really a Gene Hunt spin off series to showcase the wonderful Philip Glenister - but none the less enjoyable for that.