Sunday, 28 December 2003

My awful wedded wife

2003 - the year of the wedding, at least, that's how I'll remember it. My year so far has been one big morass of marriages, a confusion of ceremonies, a bevy of betrothals, a parade of pairings, a...I think you get the picture.

I've received eight invitations, bought nine wedding presents, attended four ceremonies, danced at three ceilidhs and too many cheesy discos, been on two hen nights and one stag night. I've given up nine of my precious weekends (SIX in the last eight weeks) to travel around and outside the country for assorted friends' celebrations. It's been time-consuming, tiring and downright expensive and when asked I express jaded sentiments about my participation in repeated nuptial fandangos.

But my world-weary expression is just a facade to impress the naive and inexperienced, in truth each wedding has been an absolute joy. Every event has put its own spin on the particular pleasures of weddings. I've seen the four most beautiful women in the world get married to the world's most handsome men.I've seen four brides' nerves translate into relief and then beaming pleasure on that short passage from door to fiance, I've watched four pride-puffed fathers find nervous but touching words of love for their daughters in front of four happy crowds. And best of all I've basked in the luminosity of the collected happiness of scores of friends.

A quick note for any friends considering a wedding for next year, if you could all go for a simultaneous Mooney style mass wedding at somewhere convenient, say the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone that'd be much appreciated. Ta.

Wednesday, 17 December 2003

A life of grime

One of the conditions I imposed before I accepted the offer of becoming a Linhope resident two years ago was to get a cleaner to come weekly to try to impress cleanliness on the cluttered house. A simple rule for a tidier life is not to trust three busy, lazy and male city-types to expend much effort on domesticity; the fur-lined coffee cups and overflowing bins I saw on my first visit bore out my suspicions.

It was a wise move, our current cleaner is excellent, cleaning every exposed surface well enough to reveal quite how old and tatty the house really is. Her efforts have made it possible (but not necessarily advisable) to walk on the carpet in socks without stepping in last week's leftover pizza crust, to have a cup of coffee without rooting through the washing up, and I can almost guarantee that at least one saucepan will be clean at any given time.

Hard though she works she never can never quite make Linhope resemble the white-linen and mahogany bachelor pad that lives in my dreams and numerous Ikea catalogues, Morph look-a-like flatmate Davis makes quite sure of that.

Davis' trick, extremely straightforward but difficult to counter, is to never put anything quite where it might be expected to belong, and never, ever, ever, put anything away. For example, whilst it might look trivially simple to put washing-up straight into the dishwasher, Davis places used bowls and pans directly into the sink, where they may prevent easy usage of the tap and foster friendly bacteria.

The unused armchair in the corner of the lounge is so busy being his ersatz clothes-horse and wardrobe it could never be pressed into seating service. The wonky dining table, suitable for one at a time to eat at, shelters empty shopping bags and suitcases between its legs, whilst the table top proudly exhibits an ever increasing amount of unopened junk mail addressed to Mr S. Davis, out of date Time Out copies and half empty packs of chewing gum.

He is a voracious reader of newspapers, consuming them like an earthworm: for a short while they are in front of them, then there is copious rustling, and then they are behind him. And around him. On the floor, on the tables, on the chairs; on any fixed surface. The grubby blue carpet in the lounge is only intermittently visible at weekends as draughts from under the door swirl the sheets of yesterday's news to pile in great drifts of print against the table legs. Some days I get home from work, and, surveying the lounge, conclude I am alone, only for the large pile of papers on the armchair to ask me how my day was as Davis burrows his way through Wapping's output.

Davis' own bedroom is relatively clutter-free, not altogether unsurprising given how assiduous he is in distributing his belongings evenly and fairly over the rest of the house. He would make an economical house painter such is his ability to spread thinly a relatively small amount of objects to efficiently achieve uniformity of clutter coverage. The genius behind it all is that it's difficult to ever throw away any of the mountains of tat without his permission as buried somewhere deep in the stack of last week's papers could be the TV license, a spare set of house keys or a long forgotten guest.

In the face of this sustained tide of litter my feeble Sunday night tidying up efforts make me look a bit of a Canute*.

* (c) easy jokes 2003

Thursday, 11 December 2003

The Cloud Factories

Vague shapes demarcated by flashing lights rolled through the thick fog draped across Heathrow. From the lounge only two planes could be seen, the rest of the world had disappeared. Despite the gloom the fog layer was thin, perhaps a hundred metres high, and twenty seconds after take-off I was blinded by the sun as the plane left the clouds below.

power stations in cloud

From six miles up the fog was white crayon childishly scrawled over the drab khaki of Britain, as flat and still as a puddle of spilt milk. The blank, bright surface ruptured only by power station cooling towers, fountains of cloud pumping more and more frothy white foam over the landscape.

Wednesday, 3 December 2003

From behind the decks

"Play something funky,", she smiled, swaying uncertainly to either the music pulsing from the speakers close to her head or the hammering effect of the cocktail she was sipping "yeah, play something with a bit of funk in it.".

I had to lie, "Sorry, I left my funk records at home.". I don't like funk, never bought any funk records, never owned anything funkier than an Orb dub track, but I couldn't insult her by immediately dissing her taste.

"Oh go on, play something funky.".

Just for a few seconds, I hated being a DJ.

We, that is Ruffles and Spankee (I am Graham Spankee*, Scott is Justin Ruffles**, together we are Ruffles and Spankee***), threw a party this weekend. Although we let my flatmate Barry pretend it was for his birthday, it was really just a chance to get a lot of people we knew, and a fair few we didn't, into a bar and play on our record decks in front of them.

Playing music I like to large groups of people is such a buzz, I have nothing to liken it to in terms of gratifyingly immediate feedback but it must be a similar to performing stand-up or live theatre. I first felt the high ten years ago when I ran The Pav, the cheesy college disco. Every week I'd play the same records - Bulletproof by PWEI, Sympathy for the Devil, What Can You Do For Me? by The Utah Saints - for the same drunken hordes, every week I'd listen to countless irritating requests for Take That or Wham! or Abba and every week I'd get the same joy from looking at a roomful of people dancing and smiling to something I was doing.

People misunderstand the skill of DJing, either dismissing it as just pulling one huge tune after another from the record box or believing it to be about the turntablist arts of beat mixing, scratching and cutting. Whilst a combination of good tunes and technical skills is useful, the art of good DJing is picking records to control and drive the mood of a night. A good DJ won't play the biggest acid party monster of a track at 8:30 whilst you're still ordering your first drink, and they won't play Leonard Cohen when you're in the mood for dancing. No amount of seamless fading or rapid scratching will help people to have a good time, picking the right music is the only way.

The amount of control over a crowd a good DJ has is phenomenal. A few years back, Prime Cuts played at the excellent The Bomb in Nottingham. He's one of the world's greatest turntablists, part of the all conquering Scratch Perverts, so I went along to listen to someone who could create new music from a pair of decks and a hundredweight of black vinyl.

A couple of run of the mill hip-hop DJs and some live MCs were on beforehand, but their uninspiring performances left the audience listless. I was bored and tired and desparately wanted to go home to bed but I hung around hoping to see an impressive if ultimately rather dull display of scratching and cutting skills. Instead I saw a virtuoso performance of top DJing. Ten minutes after Prime Cuts started the whole room was alive again. The crowd were laughing and happy with all signs of boredom gone, I was re-energised and couldn't stop dancing. By the end of the night he had the entire club bouncing up and down and cheering as he created a rhythm from crashing the needle into the side of the empty platter.

With neither the skill nor experience of Prime Cuts, but with plenty of enthusiasm, Ruffles and I soundtracked the whole party on Saturday night. We played party hip-hop and recognisable house, we got people grooving to that Fatboy Slim track they once heard and kept them moving through Audio Bully remixes of Groove Armada tracks. And although there were moments when the eighty records in my box seemed to telescope down to just one poor choice, and moments when we misjudged quite how the crowd would react (in retrospect the Junior Cartier mix of Women Beat Their Men was just a little hard) by the end we even had some dancing on the tables.

We didn't even need any funk.

* just 'cos.

** just 'cos.

*** Just. 'Cos.