Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Very cautiously optimistic.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

When I was eight or nine years old I took part in a dance at my small first school in Northumberland. It was part of an annual event called Coffee Evening, during which the whole school would be turned into a sort of village fete-cum-bring and buy sale. I don’t know why it was in the evening rather than the day, and come to think of it, I’m pretty sure it took place on two consecutive evenings: Thursday and Friday. It was always sometime in June or July.

The Coffee Evening I’m thinking about would have been my last or penultimate one at first school. As one of the older kids I was taking part in what we would call a country dance. Country dancing was what we did every other Wednesday afternoon with an elderly local couple called Mr and Mrs Gamble. Square dancing I suppose is the correct term for it.

But the particular dance we were doing this Coffee Evening was a maypole dance. The maypole was white and antediluvian. The wood creaked and squeaked when we danced around it, as we tugged on the frayed multi-coloured ribbons that criss-crossed in beautiful geometric patterns on the pole if we got the dance right. If somebody messed up, the ribbons would get horribly knotted and the whole thing would fall apart.

On the Friday night we performed the maypole dance in the front yard of the school. Almost everyone in attendance at the Coffee Evening had gathered round to watch. At least one of my parents would have been there. The two guttural-voiced, gargantuan-stomached coaches of Newbrough Hunters FC, Tommy Gradwell and Philip Leadbitter, would probably have been there too. Our headmaster Mr Moore was of course looking on to check that everything went OK, and I suppose also out of pride for his school and pupils.

We danced to the folk music coming out of the speakers of the massive black tape player. Everything was going according to plan, but then I felt the ribbon go slack in my hand. It had snapped because it was so old and frayed. I shrugged. There was not much else for it but to gather up the remains of the ribbon, and to carry on with the dance. I must have looked pretty stupid dancing around the maypole with no ribbon, weaving in and out of all the other kids seemingly without purpose. But we made it to the end of the dance as though nothing had gone wrong, and the geometric pattern on the pole was formed perfectly. There was a little gap where mine should have been, but this was barely noticeable.

Mr Moore said in Monday morning assembly that me carrying on with the dance was the best thing that had happened during the whole Coffee Evening, and at this point I became overwhelmed with an almost unbearable happiness. 

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Maybe it was a September thing. Newcastle this time around seemed overwhelmingly bleak: a place of monolithic grandeur, of roaring silence punctuated by the sound of the wind.

The multiple levels of the city, its bridges, walkways and steep changes of view, give it a rare sense of spatial drama ...

Owen Hatherley's description is well judged.

It strikes me that SJP is very much part of this tradition, a rare instance of bold, industrial modernism in an epoch of endemic PoMo/corporate-modernist timourousness. It might have been the brainchild of Thatcherite monsters like the Halls and Freddie Shepherd, but regardless, it's the perfect embodiment of a flamboyant, unremittingly ambitious community (much more so than celebrated recent Quayside developments like the Sage and the Millennium Bridge, I think).

A sort of inveterate, brash idealism is the common thread which unites Grainger Town, the bridges, viaducts, the sixties walkways and high rises, the Metro system, Byker Wall, the public art and slogans, the train station, Ouseburn: everything really, aside from the egregious yuppy flats of the past two decades. It's odd - or perhaps weirdly fitting - that the football stadium seems like one of the few latter-day buildings to have stayed true to the Geordie genius loci.

I particularly like the post-war modernist lettering here: an archetypically Toonian iconoclasm, but one which also hints at the continuity between neo-classical and later idioms.

Vista from the walkway outside the Gallowgate Stand at SJP. The last gasp of British modernist poetry took place in the mid-1960s, just to the left of those white buildings.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Just finished watching a nigh-on heroic appearance by Paul Morley on The Review Show.

Unphased by either the blandishments of Miranda Sawyer, the aggressive high-brow stuffiness of Tom Service, or the spectacular vapid corporatism of new(ish) NME editor Krissi Murison, Morley was on hand with an unflinching stream of pithy, PoMo-free rationality (for once).

I quote from memory:

... music festivals are talked about in the same way as Epsom or Ascot ... 

... the Mercury Prize is pure marketing...

... what you're talking about are business models ...

... live music is a leisure industry ...

... no actual music is heard at live gigs ...

... I've recently started using Marxist terminology again ...

... what you're lacking is a narrative of how music is produced ...

... what is music for? ...

... the gatekeepers have been removed ...

... there is no desire to subvert or disrupt any more ... 

Here's the link, for as long as it lasts.

Friday, 10 September 2010



Thursday, 9 September 2010


The present-day Labour Party? Tribal?!


Anyway, surely the best way of winning back Lib Dem voters is by adopting a broad-left, "tribal" Old Labour standpoint on foreign policy, social equality, law and order, etc?