Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The Shins - Phantom Limb

My new favourite 40-minute-thrill

My favourite new band, for the next five minutes anyhoo, is the Shins. Their new album, Wincing The Night Away, is great for fans of literate, eliptic, college rock, and they pick up the obtuse compass last used by Pavement (do you like my attempts to write all muso? it's true what they say about writing about music being like dancing about architecture). Quite what drugs are being piped into the water supply in Portland, Oregon, is unclear, but I want some of whatever Shins singer James Mercer is having; witness new single Phnatom Limb, which contains the lines: We wandered through your mama's house, And the milk from the window lights, Family portrait circa ninety-five,This is that foreign land,With the sprayed on tans,And it all feels fine, Beat it circa slime, So, when they tap our mundane heads, To zombie-walk in our stead, This town seems hardly worth our time,And we'll no longer memorize or rhyme,To fall along in our crime,Stepping over what now towers to the sky,With no connection.
And that's the chorus! It's hardly From Paris To Berlin, but it's great, somehow. In other news, the slavery blues project continues to grow into some kind of crazy blues behemoth, with lyrics now written including Bransholme Tesco Blues (Folsom Prison), Hull Hound On My Trail (Robert Johnson), Black Magic Telly (Fleetwood Mac) and Monotony On The A63 (Route 66).

Also, with Hull about to get a spanking casino licence, what future for Teddy's Amusements?

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Creative Writing Coming Atcha

Thought I'd use my newly minted MySpace page to showcase some of the creative wrambles I've been doing at college for the last six months. These little shanties have all been composed under the kosh, off-the-cuff in about 20 minutes, and I have kept them the same for the porposises of authenticity (they are deadly if crossed). The first one, based on using music as a trigger for memory writing, can be found here, hopefully.

Reader's guide for reading the poems/prose of Loz: Meditate. You are in a northern town. You are John Cooper Clarke, but a foot shorter, with a slightly less resigned take on the world. You are not married to Nico. You are not a teenage werewolf. You are full of admiration and wonder. Now read on ...

Friday, 26 January 2007

Peking Practise

Was well and truly dazzled by the Chinese State Circus at Hull New Theatre yesterday. Amazing contortionists, shaolin monks, slack wire balancers, chinese lions, pole jumpers, hoop hurlers and face magicians shared a stage with the infamous (alledgdly) jar jugglers of Xen-Djin. Spent the whole night open-mouthed at the audacity of it all and would quite gladly have run away and joined them if I had any of the skills they did. I wished I'd paid more attention in gym, rather than running round in a big circle. Out into the biting night of Hull instead though, away from the mastery and through a town square populated by a couple of shouty drunks. May have even been the Hull State Circus, but not sure if it had enough variety to stretch to a two-hour show. Could be quite something tho'. MARVEL at the way he turned that television into cash. GAPE IN AWE at the amount of Kestrel he drank in one sitting. FLUMUX at the number of incomprehensive words he can cram into one SENTENCE. You're right, it's got nothing on Houdini, but a circus might just keep them out of Farm Foods.
Listening: John Cooper Clarke - I Married A Monster From Outer Space; Slade - How Does It Feel
Watching: Skins; Justin Lee Collins trying to imitate Louis Theroux imitating something passing for light entertainment imitating Tom Jones
Weirdest televisual moment: Ben Folds lip-synching and then being interviewed by "fan" Andrew Castle on GMTV

Ben Folds - Learn To Live With What You Are - GMTV

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Taking the Ournal

Further proof, if proof be needed, that the HDM lost the ournal from its journalism a long times ago since. A colleague of mine goes out with Hull FC rugby player Scottt Wheeldon, who the Daily Fail brandished on its front-page today, claiming he was just seconds from death after suffering an allergic reaction on pre-season training in Portugal. Must have been an awfully slow news day, cos today she reports that he's been out go-karting. I have visions of Scott in the leading go-kart, with death lagging behind in a trailing car, shaking his fist at the boy's mastery of the circuit.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Farewell, jazz weasel

The Jazz Weasel moved out of my back room on amicable terms yesterday, after 18 months of experimenting with hair, jazz, hair jazz and pesto-based pasta dishes. Even though the experience was sometimes similar to Tom Waits' song What's He Building In There, we've had a right laugh over the past year and a half, and we'll continue to do so in a professional capacity with various workshops, but it was probably a good idea to go our separate ways before he turned into some comical sitcom lodger and I turned into Leonard Rossiter. It'll be good to meet him for drinks, discussions about Frank Zappa and minor pentatonic fretboard workouts, without having to quietly fume about where he's left the teabags or the trail of his jazz underpants.

Evening creative writing was great as well, using music as a trigger for memory writing. My piece of poetry managed to rhyme Frank Bough with goth, although I'm not suggesting that's what he's doing now. I also seem to have angered everyone in the second year of creative writing. Weird, isn't it, how even as mature students there's a certain snobby hierarchy between year groups, and how the second years have some kind of pseudo-intellectual cachet and fondness for bodywarmers, while us first years (some in their 50s!) are regarded as the naive young upstarts?

Sunday, 21 January 2007


Lovely walk in crisp January sunshine to the marina, fruit market and Victoria Dock, three parts of Hull that should be amazing but have yet to be touched with the inspiration so commonly found in Leeds or Manchester. They've been going on about the fruit market ever since I touched down in Hull three and a half years ago - and it could be so amazing, like a northern Covent Garden, although the signs proclaiming regenaration and swank flats are encouraging. Come to think of it, part of the reason I've loved Hull so much has been the ability to dream, to imagine how things could be. If it was all already accomplished, would I feel the same?
Does this lack of definition define me? Anyways, enough of that ... while down at the Marina we glimpsed across the mighty Humber at our new home, it's in the background of this picture. Immingham doesn't look all that much, even at this distance, but to the left, and beyond, the worlds of Louth, Cleethorpes, Tetney and Covingham St Mary beckon with icy fingers.

Macca Arbuckle

Weird dream featuring Paul McCartney, Jade Goody, my brother as a security guard, some Polish blokes in a Nottingham wood with dogs, a shady bloke in an 80s shirt (you know, one of those ones with a black zig zag down the front) and a mad dash to hear Macca play, ahem, For No-One to no-one in a Liverpool suburb. Dunno if this is some kind of reaction to the FattyArbuckleisation of Jade Goodster, or just a sign that I need to get out more.

Listening: Jamie T - Northern Line; Ronnie Lane live on the Basil Brush Show; Adele; Kate Nash; Mastadon

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Are you receiving me?

What is it with me and flogging televisions? Not in a pugelistic kind of way, you understand, but just in a getting rid of the bleeders. Last time I tried to off-load a widescreen, it developed into a complicated story arc involving violence, a lost Saab immobiliser and a lapsed memory surrounding an errant uncle. This time, similar Curb-Your-Enthusiasm type nonsense prevailed. A lady in Beverley wanted my TV, so I arranged to drive it over to her. After much faffing getting a 28-incher into a J-Reg, I set off, only for the temperature gage to rocket towards critical by the time I reached the West Bulls Carvery. Perturbed, I turned the car around and drove to the garage with me hazards on and a telly in the back, as the temp gauge began to flash alarmingly. Turns out the car has blown a gasket (you're telling me, meaning its a write-off). In a mood of what-the-hey, I struggled to get the TV into another car and drove to Beverley, determinded to make some good of a bogus lunch hour. The potential TV owner was out.

Any takers: One widescreen telly; knackered old Saab

Moment: Going down an old war bunker in a Leeds back garden. It had rooms going off rooms!

Glad to be leaving the Mail moment: My boss sends out an email advertising my job, on less cash, and 20 minutes later sends another e-mail saying: "Obviously, we're sorry to see Laurie go".

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

A bridge too far?

Here's a chance to make all our lives a bit easier and campaign for a reduction in bridge tolls over the magnificent Humber. Its just I expect a bit more for me £2.70 - a roller-coaster, maybe. Now that I'll be joining the exodus into Lincolnshire every morning, I thought I'd bang the drum a bit by signing this petition. Not that there's any chance of it happening any time quickly, if last night's Look North was anything to go by. Hull councillor David Gemmell didn't even have to wait for a question from Peter Levy before he started tearing into his North East Lincolnshire counterpart, Carol Hall, who has organised a meeting with top London ministerial bods to get the toll scrapped alltogether. Gemmell replied that he hadn't had any luck arranging a meeting, before admitting that the council hadn't done anything to set one up. Carol retorted by saying "we have a can-do culture", which Davo replied to with a sarky: "Well, you may well have Carol" as if it was a problem. Seems that the Humber isn't wide enough for our Dave.
Sign the online petition here

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Anyone for Tennyson?

I have decided to become a Ludensian, just like Alfred Tennyson here, and officially accepted the job offer in Louth. It looks like a beautiful little town ... here's its Wikipedia entry, and famous residents include astronaut Michael Foale, Robert Wyatt and Jim Broadbent. Beats Roland Gift and that Dan Bryan man, I guess. And Dave Windass once rode a horse through the town, but name me a place where he hasn't done that? The decsion wasn't hard in the end; the other job would have been mindcrushingly dull - I was bored during the 15-minute test they gave me, let alone a 40-hour week doing much the same.

Have been quite dee-mob happy at work; have started swearing at the Mail's many idiots rather than privately seething. Also lots of evening irons in the fire, which is cool - a bit of teaching, web designing, writing.
Elsewhere, have been spitting out me crunch nut cornflakes at the racist, down right blinking ignorance of the Celeb Big Brother contestents, much like everyone else. And composing slavery incidental music.
You tube moment: Started watching 1984 holocaust drama Threads, which is always good on deadline day. Very bleak, but beats the Advertiser series!
Listening: The Decemberists - Crane Wife; Joan As Police Woman - Real Life; Vetvier - To Find Me Gone

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Darts, Decks and Hancock

Wasn't the darts like the best Faustian opera ever? Even Dee looked up from her glossy and by the end was describing Martin 'Wolfie' Adams' wife Michelle as "that bitch" to her mother. Babies were held aloft, cygnet rings glittered beautifully and Frimley Green rocked to the athleticism of Britain's favourite sport. Those looking for a more arrah-by-arrah account should check out this link ...

Sunday was also populated by getting high on decking fumes, the new album by the Decemberists (hard to pigeonhole The Crane Wife but prog-folk-sea shanty meets They Might Be Giants comes close) and Hancock's The Blood Donor. Cracking.
Blog watch: Some interesting information about Kylie's Showgirl NoShow is to be found on the No Rock N' Roll Fun blog
Hull Freecycle Watch: OFFER: 48 pickled onion monster munch in unopened trade box (Avenues) "Is this against the rules?I bought this for a friend for Christmas and it's never been delivered. The sell-by data is December 2006 - so they are officially out of date, but the box is unopened.I can eat them myself, but my wife won't let me. Any takers?"

Saturday, 13 January 2007


To recover from a week of interviews and job conundrums, me and Dee take in the Hull air with a seven-mile walk of downtrodden, less seen, Hull. I resolve to return with a camera. This is beautiful, untouched, urban nonsense, all of it. We head down Sculcoates, past the Urban Sensation development (marketed as city centre living but next to a great big Extracting company), cut through by what's left of the River Hull, past some allotments, the smelt-meets-Cadbury's-Twirl-smell of Wincolmlee, thru Garden Village and into East Hull, where I have childhood memories reawakened at the Splashboat and I overdose on mallows at the purpose-built East Park cafe. Me and Dee thought the new building was ace, but still populated by the people you expect to see at an east Hull cafe. We took a window seat by the charming water feature, only for the over-exuberant waitress to become the most attentive tertiary-employee in history. She swept around us. Wiped three times. All without uttering a word and in a brusque manner that suggested the only way she'd get rid of undesirables like us was to scare us off with an epic cleaning spree.

Then walked home past the J Arthur Rank dosshouse, Sew to Sew, Wed N Things, Cuddly Girls and the Charterhouse, having bought an album of Cossack music purchased from Help The Aged. A lovely afternoon for a skint January.

Listening: Larrikin Love; Ray LaMontagne new stuff, Kings Of Leon forthcoming album

Watching: Leo Sayer being ridiculous with a broom in Celeb Big Brother: "Beatles, Peter Gabriel, Stones, Sayer."

Thursday, 11 January 2007

The Toxic Bastard

We've all come across a few of these in our time, even if most of them seem to work at the Dull Fairy. Now research by Bristol University bods with nothing better to do reveals that there is a type of manager - called the "toxic bastard", who leads the proper, well-adjusted, decent people into depression and unwellness.

Psychologists have identified a breed of "toxic" managers who shout
at staff, have few academic qualifications, are arrogant and could
make life hell for workers.
Research published today shows that a "classic bastard" among bosses
usually lowers the morale of staff and affects productivity.
Professor Adrian Furnham, of University College, London, said the
characteristics of bad parents could be translated to managers - with
similar effects on other people.
"Having a toxic manager makes workers unhappy and incompetent," he
said at the British Psychological Society's occupational psychology
conference in Bristol.
"One of the major causes of misery is misery at work, especially if
your boss is uncaring, selfish and arrogant, because you are stuck
with that for eight hours a day. It leads to low morale and poor
productivity because people keep going absent from work."

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

If it's broke, recycle it

Some months back, I signed up to Hull Recycle, an online list which allows people to get rid of unwanted items for free, or ask one of the subscribers if they have anything they need shifting. E-rag-and-boning, basically. I was exasperatted by the timewasters who seem to phone up every time you put a Moulinex in the local rag. But it seems timewasters have caught up with Hull Recycle as well. Today there's been requests for a car, a stocked drinks cabinet, a gun, and, just now ... a broken sandwich-toaster and kettle (broken)

If anyone wants either of these old appliances for scrap metal or theythink they could fix them (although I sincerely doubt they arefixable) then please contact me. Toastie has the front handle brokenoff exposing the metal underneath which I think is rather dangerous,and it has no plug. The kettle was bought brand new from the internet but arrived broken in the post with the handle smashed off & a bigdent in it.

In other email communications, I have incured the wrath of our MD. I sent him this email, asking if he'd help me and Dee's fundraising drive for Peru ...

I thought I would just pass this link on to you. We are walking to the Incan temple city of Machu Pichu to raise cash for Help The Aged (it's a tough life I know!). Being the cheeky chap I am, I thought I'd send you the link in case you wanted to help this exceptional cause (and believe me, we need all the help we can get!) Many thanks in advance, blah blah blah

I got this reply

Laurie - yes extremely cheeky after handing in your notice ……
My initial thought was for us to offer support to you both, I even suggested an amount. I then learned that you had decided to leave the business and for that reason I have decided that the company can not support you financially.

Ah well, can't blame a bloke for trying.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

London buses

The tone has been set for January early, that's for sure. Before the year's even had a chance to establish itself, ruffle me collor and cook me dinner, I am now weighing up two job ops. The new one, near Leeds, may have more responsibility and include the prospect of working in India. But the other one is home to Robert Wyatt. Decisions, decisions, and still the fug of new year ain't cleared. Writing: Lyrics for a new slavery-themed blues project, possibly titled The Wilber Force Free. Song titles include You Can't Get Wet Without The Wang, I Shot Up This Morning, Got A Hiding In The Riding, and Dem Hairy Mail Blues

Friday, 5 January 2007

At last, I am free (Robert Wyatt version)

Well that didn't take long! Three years, seven months and four days after I started at Mail Towers, six interviews, two warnings, one racist comedian, a bogus website and one "immature and "unprofessional" attitude later, I am leaving the Mail for the sunny south bank. After all those interviews last year, I was amazed by the quickness of it all. Went for the interview in Louth yesterday, had the job in the bag by lunchtime today. Louth was a lovely little town, bustly and east coastey, and home to Robert Wyatt, above, and John Shuttleworth. Oh, and Tennyson. Dee had a better time than me; drinking rosehip from the hip in a funky little cafe called Chuzzlewits, reading Suddenly a new world stretches before me and Dee, as we contemplate house moves, new jobs and the dubious attractions of places like Wrawby, Ulceby and Appleby. Basil, I may need your help. What is the south bank, or is it just Hully rhyming slang for bobbins?

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Smoked out

It's amazing how when you give up smoking, you suddenly seem to notice the number of anti-smoking propaganda on our TVs and in our inboxes. I decided to give up way before new year, cos I never keep New Year's resolutions. Hey, I thought, time for the kids to have a chance with them fags - let them have their moment. And heck if I don't feel a whole lot better for it (down to 30 nicorette gums a day now, feel like I've just been demobbed from 'Nam). But honestly, the number of smoking reminders I've had to put up with in the last few days has been stressful enough for me to go back to the old habit. Gawd knows what other smokers think about it all, but for me the habit was always about association. Just the mention of a cigarette was enough to send me running to a shop. There must be loads of quitters who will find all this anti-smoking talk overwhelming and nip to JSK Minimart for some Capstan non-filters. So I've now put a ban on breakfast news (there must be other stuff to talk about by now, surely), 70s cop shows (they make smokin' look so cool ...) and our work email.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Marmalade sandwiches and lofty dreams

Spent new yeah! in Leeds, watching the fireworks descend on the city below as everything around me turned into a beautiful lunacy. Am genuinely looking forward to 07, what with new jobs, new homes and New York all pencilled in together with playwriting courses, more creative writing and web designing, plus a new year resolution to blog more regularly and champion the work of Emitt Rhodes at any opportunity - a recap, he was the American McCartney, got screwed by his manager, grew a beard, grew depressed, made aerobic music to get by and is tentatively looking at a comeback now at the age of 57.
Marmalade-sandwiched in the middle of all this madness is mine and Dee's trip to Peru to raise cash for Help The Aged. We climb 5,000 feet to the summit of Machuu Pichuu, eating guinea pigs and admiring the Amazon basin and various fauna. Should be beaut. If you fancy having a toddle over to our personal site here and maybe giving a few pence so the Aged can buy a packet of Werthers or Wool Monthly or whatever it is they do. In the meantime, here's hoping your 07 is full of beautiful vibes, days out and nice lunches.