Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Day Thirty-One - Petty France, SW1

About two years a ago there was a spin-off programme from Channel 4's Location Location, Location where Phil and the divine Kirstie looked at what you could buy for what was then the UK average house price - £180,000 - in the most and least expensive boroughs in the UK.

Westminster was, I believe, the most expensive borough at the time (it usually fights it out with Kensington & Chelsea) and so Kirstie and Phil showed you exactly what you could buy with your £180K - a studio apartment in this block, Vandon Court, which only happens to be right next door to where I work. Look at that link - my offices are the contiguous building.

I must admit that I considered the move. OK, so it's a studio apartment in a block full of (it seems) dotty old women and transient foreigners, but it's right next door to work. Commuting time: 30 seconds. Commuting cost: £0. And within walking distance of St James' Park, Westminster Abbey, The West End...50 yards from two very nice pubs, too.

But then I'd never be able to use the trains as an excuse for being late for work again. People would expect me to work late as "it's not as if you've got a long way to go home, is it?". I'd suddenly have lots more "friends" who wanted to crash the night at my central London pad. And where on earth would I put all my CDs and books? Reluctantly I decided that Vandon Court wasn't for me, not that I could have afforded it at the time anyway.

You might be saying to yourself that I was wrong and the positives far outnumbered the negatives, but consider this: if I had mortgaged myself to the hilt, got rid of 90% of my possessions and installed myself in my SW1 shoebox eyrie I'd never have started this blog. Yes. I did it all for you, dear reader. Thank you, you're welcome.

On the discman today: AM -John Coltrane Ascension PM - nothing, as I couldn't bear another forty minutes of what I'd been listening to in the morning. My tastes appear to have changed.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Day Thirty - Victoria Station, SW1

Waiting for the train to leave Victoria this evening, another train pulled in alongside and I experimented with taking pictures through two panes of glass. This was as Francis Bacon-esque as I could get before we pulled out.

On the discman today: AM and PM - Various Boffins archival series - musique concrète soundtracks to experimental short films 1956-1978 volumes 1-3

Friday, 27 July 2007

Day Twenty-Nine - Meard St, W1

Bit of a cheat this, as I took this photo at lunchtime on my way to Sister Ray (didn't buy anything) but it's my blog, I make the rules, and I rather liked this picture. I don't think the trio of ladies talking in front of the picture were even aware it was there.

The National Gallery are bringing art to the masses this summer by hanging reproductions of some of their paintings on walls all around Soho and Covent Garden - they're calling it The Grand TourTM. This is An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump by Joseph Wright. I know next-to-nothing about art, but I know that I like this a lot.

Opposite this picture is Van Gogh's A Wheatfield, with Cypresses which seems far less impressive in this context. Go up to Soho this weekend and check them out yourself. No-one will believe you when you tell them that that was why you went to Soho, but we'll know.

On the discman today: AM and PM - The Dukes of Stratosphear Chips From The Chocolate Fireball

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Day Twenty-Eight - Lord North Street, SW1

This morning was taken up by a meeting at Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court, so I had a different last leg of the commute than usual, going from Victoria Station to Westminster tube and then walking back to the Court via the Houses of Parliament. I took a nice picture of the statue of Oliver Cromwell which I was planning to share with you until I spotted this, cutting down Lord North Street. On the wall of one of the beautiful early eighteenth-century terraced houses - mostly owned by MPs and other excessively rich people - was this faded sign for an air-raid shelter, somehow preserved for the last sixty years. So now I know where to go when the bomb finally drops.

On the discman today: AM - Ground Zero Consume Red PM - Herbie Hancock Fat Albert Rotunda

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Day Twenty-Seven - Battersea Park Station, SW8

Battersea Park station. Weird station, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the Battersea Dogs Home and some lovely gas holders. Number one in my occasional series, intermediate stations on my commute and no, this is not the series I mentioned yesterday - that's still to come. Hold your excitement in check, true believers.

On the discman today: AM - Area Arbeit Macht Frei PM - The Beatles Anthology-ology (my edited version of the six Anthology discs - two and a half hours instead of six and a half)

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Day Twenty-Six - Victora Station, SW1

After the last couple of entries, I felt the need for a picture with a few people in it. This is the scene at half past five as I catch the train home from Victoria. It's often busier, but they've already announced my train so there's not so many people hanging about as there can be. I've had an idea for another picture in this series, but that'll have to wait for another day - one at a time.

I think it was Noel Coward who said that it was "extraordinary how potent cheap music is" On the journey to work this morning I found out how true that statement was. Not that George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" is particularly "cheap" - the recreational drugs bill of the musicians involved must have hit six figures for a start, and it was originally a triple album so not inexpensive for the punter to purchase either - but it's not the place I'd expect to get such an intensely emotional experience as I did.

"ATMP" was Harrison's first solo record after the Beatles' demise and while Paul sang about sheep on his farm with Linda and John indulged in primal scream therapy with Janov and Yoko, George was seen as the keeper of the flame, the one true hope that out of the mess of Apple and ABKCO there could still come great music. Most people will know "My Sweet Lord", the Krishna-celebrating number 1 single that trailed the album (and Harrison was later found to have unconsciously plagiarised from The Chiffons' "He's So Fine"), but that's just a slight morsel compared to the rest of the album.

Everything about this record is big. Really big. Three drummers, massed ranks of guitars, keyboards, horns and strings. Chord progressions of a blinding but beautiful simplicity. And who better to deal with the massed ranks of musicians (not forgetting the George O'Hara Smith Singers, or Mal Evans on tea, sympathy and tambourine) than the erstwhile Tycoon of Teen, the architect of the Wall of Sound, Mr Phil Spector?

Not every song on the record is a classic - I could do without "I Dig Love", for a start, and there's no real need for two versions of "Isn't It A Pity" - but George's reservoir of songs, dammed by Lennon/McCartney's historical dominance, flooded out over what were originally four sides of vinyl (let us not speak further of the "Apple Jam" LP that also appeared in the box) and rarely disappoint. For example, "Wah Wah", Harrison's dig at the whole Beatles experience, floods the listener with an almost joyous rejection of the past. "Let It Down"'s monster drum sound and cavernous, apocalyptic mixture of orchestra and Hammond organ (played by all, some or none of Bobby Whitlock, Billy Preston and Gary (Procol Harum) Brooker - you decide) is exhilarating.

But the epiphanal moment was "What Is Life". Listening loud on the way in this morning, looking out of the window unable to read or concentrate on anything but the deluge of music that was coming over me, suddenly I was experiencing a vision of being inside the music. Badfinger strumming till they bleed in the opposite bank of seats, Billy Preston on the luggage rack, cigarette drooping from his lips as he played the organ, Clapton strung out on the floor, attempting to find a solo that can cut through the wall of sound that Phil Spector, sat next to me, is orchestrating with unrestrained glee. Ringo and Jim Gordon behind me thumping out the rhythm, Klaus Voorman nodding his way through the bassline. Massed horns outside the windows, playing an almost flamenco refrain.

And Harrison, within me and without me, singing

"What I feel I can't say
But my love is there for you anytime of day
But if it's not love that you need
Then I'll try my best to make everything succeed

And tell me
What is life without your love?
And tell me
Who am I without you by my side?"

It looks a bit trite written down, and he was probably singing about Vishnu anyway, but in that moment of revelation he was also talking for me, and the realisation of the strength of my feelings toward my own beloved almost overwhelmed me. It was all I could do to keep from crying.

AM and PM - George Harrison All Things Must Pass

Monday, 23 July 2007

Day Twenty-Five - Maberley Road, SE19

When it rains heavily (and boy, has it been raining heavily recently - although not as bad here as in Gloucestershire, it did mean England were denied a victory over India in the cricket which had me rather miffed) all the soil from gardens around the junction of Maberley Road and Maberley Crescent runs down into the hollow where the roads meet, clogging the drains. It takes a while to go away, and meanwhile it smells of an odd mix of earthiness and, um, sewage. Lovely.

(worked from home on Friday as I had to be in for the loss adjuster to do his thing. This week I should be in work all five days, which must be a recent record)

On the discman today: AM - Jacques Lejeune Blanche Neige - suite musicale en 14 tableaux de jacques lejeune pour dire le conte et danser avec les enfants PM - Gil Melle The Andromeda Strain OST (twice - it's short)

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Day Twenty-Four - Crystal Palace Station, SE19

Back from the family seat, I was sitting on a station seat and looking to the heavens as another delay was announced. Above me was the pigeon-proofed roof of the station and I thought that this was a nice composition.

On the discman today: AM - Henry Cow Unrest PM - nothing, as I was rather drunk from the ASRA social

Monday, 16 July 2007

Day Twenty-Three - Somewhere between Watford Junction and Rugby

I did go home after work today, but instead of going to my normal SE19 home I was accompanied by my betrothed (pictured) to the family seat at Wilson Magna to attend to family business. Virgin Pendolinos are fast but they don't half shake you about.

On the discman today: AM - Michael Nesmith - Nevada Fighter and Tantamount To Treason (train so delayed I managed to listen to both on the way to work) PM - Kraftwerk Autobahn Olivia Tremor Control Black Foliage: Animation Music and wedding talk.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Day Twenty-Two - Maberley Road, SE19

Maberley Road is full of cats. The look this one gave me when I tried to take its photo was as nothing compared to the look the schoolchildren gave me as they watched me take the picture.

On the discman today: AM - REM Lifes Rich Pageant PM - Godspeed You Black Emperor! - Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Day Twenty-One - Bressenden Place, SW1

A bit of colour to break up the drab steel-and-glass buildings. This is taken from what I suppose is the back of the sculpture, as you come out of the back entrance of Marks and Spencer in Cardinal Place.

Mattress update: it disappeared some time yesterday while I was at work. A public-spirited citizen, the bin men, or aliens?

On the discman today: AM - REM Reconstruction Of The Fables PM - Bill Frisell Rambler

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Day Twenty - Victoria Station, SW1

That's London Brighton and South Coast Railway, one of the regional precursors of the Southern Railway, which was amalgamated into British Rail, which begat Southern (amongst others). This map - and another, which shows the links all the way down to the coast - are hidden in alcoves in one of the main entrances to Victoria Station and date back to before 1923, when the LB&SCR was swallowed up. You don't often see old maps like this preserved at stations (can't think of another offhand), so I'm always pleased to see it. 99.9% of people who go past it, of course, never even notice it.

On the discman today: AM and PM - eRikm and Dieb13 Chaos Club

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Day Nineteen - Crystal Palace Station, SE19

Clearing the gutters - and not before time, if the vegetation behind the chaps is anything to go by. However, when I came home this evening they'd not bothered to clear all the detritus on the right, so the next time it rains heavily it'll all clog up the gutters again. Sigh. If you're going to do a job, do it properly.

On the discman today: AM - Ground Zero Live 1992+ PM - Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus

Monday, 9 July 2007

Day Eighteen - Maberley Road, SE19

Ah, an Abel & Cole van. Told you I lived in an area full of young, affluent middle-class Guardian readers. The joy of London is that we're freely interspersed with the kind of people who leave mattresses in the road. It's still there, by the way.

On the discman today: nothing, as I had a headache.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Day Seventeen - Pulling into West Norwood Station, SE27

The antisocial youth that hacked these lines out of the seat in front of me was so pleased with his work that he signed it with his initials.

Mind you, I think his composition is quite good. And if he was an antisocial youth he probably would have left a tag rather than his initials. Hmm. I have a CD coming out that needs a cover picture. I wonder if "DG" is available for commissions?

On the discman today: AM - Stereolab Live Peel sessions at the QEH, 3 June 1999 PM - nothing, as I went to the cricket

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Day Sixteen - Maberley Road, SE19

What is it with Maberley Road and mattresses? This is just a few yards up the road from where this one was.

On the discman today: AM and PM - Quickspace (Supersport) singles compilation CD-r

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Day Fifteen - Victoria Station, SW1

Ever since the attempted car bombings last week you can't move for coppers in London, especially at travel termini. A community support officer was stabbed in Victoria Street yesterday, so it's all a bit tense around where I work. I'm sure these young ladies were just confused about where they could drop people off, though.

On the discman today: AM - The Cortet HHHH PM - Gene Clark No Other

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Day Fourteen - Anerley Vale, SE19

Big thunderstorm on the way home tonight. I was sensible and waited in the station for it to subside, which meant I got to see these kids having fun in the huge puddle by Tesco once it had calmed down a bit.

It reminded me of when I was a kid in Port Moresby (officially the world's worst city to live in: it wasn't that bad in the early eighties) and the first rains of the wet season came. We'd be dancing around in the warm downpour, before floating toy boats down the channels the deluge made in the garden. After a week of heavy rain at 4pm every day it got less exciting though...

On the discman today: AM - Aix Em Klemm Aix Em Klemm PM - Bill Frisell Band Lookout for Hope

Monday, 2 July 2007

Day Thirteen - Crystal Palace Station, SE19

(been away for a week on holiday in Scotland - had a lovely time)

Today was the first working day of the smoking ban. As a non-smoker, I'm quite happy about this. When I first worked in the LCD in the early nineties you could smoke in the office before ten and after four and they'd not long got rid of smoking carriages on the Tube. Times change.

On the discman today: AM - The Skull Defekts Polonium (twice - it's only 20 minutes long) PM - Ry-om Ry-om