Mission Accomplished

Last night, my boss Kay went to All Points East, a mini-festival in London’s glamourous Victoria Park.

She was going because one of her favourite bands – Hot Chip – were playing. And as an added bonus, The Chemical Brothers were headlining.

(Primal Scream were also on the bill, but we’ll gloss over them after lead Screamer Bobby Gillespie made some rather unsavoury comments about Madonna last week..more of this at some point over the weekend. Maybe.)

Anyway, on Thursday Kay did two very kind things which I’m very grateful for, which I thought I’d share with you.

Firstly, as Kay was out of the office on Friday – off having it large, no doubt in furry moonboots and waving glowsticks – she left me in charge of sorting out something on the most expensive live claim we have at work.

I’ll explain, as much as I am able to: we both work for my local Borough council, dealing with claims made against the council. Mostly these are by people who’ve tripped over a wonky paving slab and hurt themselves in the process, or whose car has hit a pothole, but occasionally a much more serious – and potentially valuable expensive – claim crosses our paths.

At most insurance companies, depending on your status, you will be trusted with claims of an estimated value. Unsurprisingly, it’s no different when working in the public sector: my authority limit is to deal with claims…umm…wait…I should know this…of about up to, let’s say £60,000 or so.

So, if a claim comes in which is worth £60,000 or less, than I investigate it, and decide whether it is one which we have a legal obligation to pay, or whether we have a legal “out” defence.

(I’m wording that very carefully, as Kay once told me off for describing my job as “trying to find a way out of paying”. Nowadays, I describe my job as “Telling people to fuck off for a living.” I’m not sure she finds that much more acceptable. I stand by both descriptions.)

But if the claim is considered to be worth more than £60,000, then over to Kay it goes. And the claim she trusted me to deal with was one such claim.

Obviously, I can’t go into specifics, but the claim in question is valued at over £1 million (I’ve written that as I’m not sure how many noughts there are in a million – proof enough that I should not be regularly trusted with this kind of claim). The task in question: get a statement from a rather elusive witness. Succeed, and we can (try to) dispute the claim in total. Fail, and we would be on for paying. A lot.

At the same time, I had to chase down another witness on another claim, who we needed a statement from, where the claim which has been presented is very obviously fraudulant, but without his statement, we would have to pay.

Both had a deadline of 15:00 hours on a Friday afternoon, and I’m happy to report that – after a lot of frantic emails and phone calls – I managed both: our Defences on both are able to continue with a not unrealistic chance of success.

So, anyway, I’m pleased as punch to have been entrusted with handling, albeit briefly, the most expensive claim we’ve ever had, and to have sorted it, along with another tricky one at the same time.

And secondly. It’s a Bank Holiday weekend, but our payday is the 28th of every month – Tuesday. The day after the Bank Holiday. I was talking to the chap who sits next to me at work, and who has to listen to me chunnering on about how obviously dodgy the claim I’m looking at is, and I was expressing my dismay at payday landing where it did this month. For I was skint, and having to manage to my last few quid so that I could afford to eat for the rest of the weekend.

On Thursday, having landed me with the above tasks, Kay strolled over to my desk, purse in hand, and shoved £40.00 under my keyboard.

“I can’t have you having a miserable Bank Holiday weekend,” she said. “Pay me back next week.”

I had budgeted for a bottle of red on my Friday night, but now the stakes were upped.

I’m writing this late on Friday night, working my way through the bottle of vodka which Kay’s gift allowed me to purchase. The bottle of red is on standby.

I gave Kay a ring when the statement on the £1 million + claim had been procured, and told her that I would spend her money on vodka in celebration, and would spend Friday night listening to Chemical Brothers records. Needless, to say she approved.

It’s rare, I think, that you can call your boss a mate too. But mate’s lend their mates some cash when they’re hard up, and bosses don’t.

That’s a thank you, by the way *hic*.

So, by way of an extra thank you: my favourite record by The Chemical Brothers. Not a popular choice, I would imagine; in fact, possibly not even the record preferred by many with the same guest vocalist.

chemical

The Chemical Brothers – Let Forever Be

One of the reasons I love this record, is the video which acompanies it.  Directed by Michael Gondry, who went on to create one of my favourite films ever, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this is just wonderful:

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #5

A couple of months before she and Neil got married last year, Hel told me two things about the impending wedding:

  1. That she was going to break with convention, and give a speech, and
  2. That I was going to be mentioned in it.

The first of these two revelations was no real surprise to me.  The second filled me with dread.

Hel and I had shared a flat together for a few years when I first moved to London, and consequently, she’d seen me at my best, my worst, and more pertinently, in some right old states.

What the hell was Hel going to say?

It prayed on my mind right up until the moment she stood up and delivered her speech, and when the moment came, I sighed a huge sigh of relief.

She related how after her and Neil has first got together, he had called round one Saturday night. Hel expressed her relief that he hadn’t been put off her when he entered the flat and found the two of us, both in our bed wear, tucking into a family size bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (other brands of fried chicken are available, but they’re not as good), quaffing pints of White Russians and watching the Eurovision Song Contest.

Pints of White Russians were my speciality back then, and I would justify it by advising anyone who arched an eyebrow in my direction that it was simply a laziness thing: making a pint of the stuff just meant I didn’t have to get up and go to the kitchen to make another one as often. Although trips to the toilet remained as frequent, and sometimes I even managed not to fall asleep on the bathroom floor and actually return to the sofa.

Plus, I make really great White Russians when in the pint format. Ask me nicely and I’ll tell you the requisite measures.

I mention this now, because it’s Eurovision night tonight, and frankly I needed another back-story to justify me posting this song for *checks back* what I’m surprised to see is only the third time. And it’s been two years since I last bothered you all with it, so it’s long overdue.

Never has me mentioning a record I love, not despite but because of its glorious cheesiness, to someone ever provoked such a squeal of delight as it did when it first cropped up in a conversation with Hel.

This was the UK’s entry in 1982, the year after The Fizz’s triumphant skirt-ripping appearance. It came seventh, which is absolute travesty – and this was many years before every other country stopped voting for us for other reasons.

I didn’t buy it at the time – hence it’s inclusion here, although I raise it now to demonstrate that it’s not just so-called cool records that I rue failing to allow to bother my pocket money at the time – but it’s one that is guaranteed to put a smile on my face whenever I hear it.

I know it’s not a cool record, but liking music shouldn’t be about just liking the cool stuff, it should be about liking what you like and not being ashamed to admit it, right kids?

Right…..?

One_step_further_bucks_fizz

Bardo – One Step Further

Right, I’m off to work out where my nearest KFC is and how quickly I can get home after visiting it.

More soon.

A History of Dubious Taste

Oh dear.

I seem to have been overtaken by BBC4’s reruns of Top of the Pops, which has managed to reach 1987 whilst I’ve been left floundering way back in 1986.

But then again, I don’t have Mike Smith (who refused permission for any shows he hosted to be re-aired, and then went and died before he could change his mind), or Dave Lee Travis or Jimmy Savile (whose episodes don’t get rerun for slightly more obvious reasons…) hosting this series, so…

Anway, to act as a balance to my other current series 50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish – where I feature songs that I didn’t buy when they came out, but now love – here’s one which I did buy, which I offer up as evidence that in my youth I didn’t just waste my pocket money on records by Shakin’ Stevens and Status Quo (although I did waste an awful lot of it on them).

I think I saw first this on The Chart Show when it was still on Channel 4 on a Friday evening, before it got shifted to ITV on a Saturday lunchtime.

I have a smattering of records by The Icicle Works, and I’ve always got the impression that they’re a band I should love a whole lot more than I do. Somehow, they never quite fully grabbed me, despite this absolute belter, with it’s crunching guitars and gloriously catchy chorus:

understoodcov

The Icicle Works – Understanding Jane

The 12″ contained two extra tracks, this one, also penned by Ian McNabb, with a dictinct Tom Waits-feel to the vocal delivery:

The Icicle Works – I Never Saw My Hometown ‘Til I Went Around The World

…and this really rather lovely Van Morrison cover:

The Icicle Works – Into The Mystic

More soon.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Prompted by this popping up in my iPod as it shuffled on my way to work the other day, after which I felt 100 times better than did before it came on, I can’t resist typing three words I never thought I would.

Here’s 50 Cent (contains swears, which I appreciate makes it five words):

50 cent

50 Cent – P.I.M.P.

More soon. Probably with less effing and jeffing.

 

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #4

You’ll probably have noticed by now, there’s an era that most of the songs in this series are from: the early to mid 1980s. And there’s a reason for that.

See, in my book, there is never a more exciting time in your life than when you start exploring and discovering music for yourself. In my early teens, I discovered many a band that I connected with, that gave me that rush of recognition, that I’d found something special, a record I loved and was truly mine.

Certainly, it’s not a feeling I’ve experienced for a good thirty years or so, but that’s not to say I’ve remained stuck in the past and haven’t heard any good new bands in all that time, just that it doesn’t effect me in the same way any more. I simply can’t imagine myself becoming as obsessed with a new band I’ve heard now as I did back then.

If I had to pick my Top Ten Favourite Albums…Ever! then I can guarantee that every one of them would be one which I first heard or owned between the ages of 13 and 25.

So part of the reason I’m writing this series is to ask myself: “What If…?” Would my musical taste be any different now if I’d bought differently way back when?

When I finally bought this record, some five years or so after it came out, I bought the album it’s on: High Land, Hard Rain.

In fact, I actually bought their second album, Knife, first, and even that didn’t put me off (it’s not great).

But High Land... is an album that will constantly live in my Top Ten Favoutite Albums ever, there’s not a duff tune on there. But that’s also because I discovered it when I was a teenager, when such things mattered way more to me than they do now.

Of course, this is the most well-known song on it, and rightly so, it’s an absolute peach:

aztec

Aztec Camera – Oblivious

More soon.

Welcome Back

Amidst all the joyous football results this week (4-3, 3-3, oh, and apparently there’s another cup that Arsenal and Chelsea are still in, but I’ve not really seen anything about that), there’s been one more comeback which has probably passed you all by.

I don’t wish to place any undo pressure on her to start blogging again regularly, but I was utterly delighted when new posts by Lorraine over at Still Got Manners unexpectedly popped up in my notifications.

I’ve been meaning to tidy up my sidebar for a while, root out those that didn’t post anymore so that visitors here didn’t waste their time clicking on defunkt links, and, as she hadn’t posted anything in almost four years, hers was one which probably would have gone.

It turns out her hiatus was well justified, and now she’s back on the scene I’d heartily recommend you visit her blog; Lorraine predominantly writes eloquently and entertainingly about gigs she’s been to, and seems to lead a much more exciting social life than me, which probably isn’t saying much.

A majestic tune, then, to welcome her back to the blogging fold:

BOO_RADLEYS_LAZARUS-554799

The Boo Radleys – Lazarus

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

After her initial impact with the utter glorious Video Games, which gave auditionees a new song to murder in the early rounds of The X Factor, I’ve been less than bothered about most of Lana Del Rey’s output.

And then in 2017, she released an album which had this, for my money her first truly heart-stoppingly gorgeous moment since that auspicious debut.

This is just beautiful:

cover

Lana Del Rey – Change

Oh but Lana, a word to the wise: it’s probably best not to call your album Lust for Life, it can only draw unfavourable comparisons….

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

For many years, before I got into “proper” clubbing – far too late, I know, I know – my idea of going clubbing on a Saturday night meant going to an indie club.

To be honest, things have come pretty much full circle for me now; I’m far too old to go clubbing at all now, but on the odd occasion that I do, it’s far more likely to be to an indie club than a bass-pumping house music chugging one.

When I first lived in Cardiff, that would mean going to Subways – nothing to do with sandwiches, feel free to insert your own joke about having a foot-long here if you so choose to do – a subterranean bar with a tiny dance floor which had a pillar plonked right in the middle of it, which was as renowned for the toilets flooding as it was for the music it played.

Subways closed in the early 1990s, which pretty much left either Clwb Ifor Bach (or The Welsh Club as it was colloquially know to non-native speakers such as I), or, more often, Metros as your bona fide alternative music venue.

Like Subways, Metros was also an underground club in the very literal sense of the term, but was a much bigger beast than Subways had ever been. And for a year or so, I managed to get in free, thanks to some friends of mine.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, I used to drink regularly in a pub called The Tut ‘n’ Shive on City Road in Cardiff. Now demolished, I loved that pub like no other, and usually spent two or three nights a week in there, and both nights (and often days) at the weekends.

Consequentially, I was on first name terms with the bar staff, the landlady, and many of the regulars. It was the closest I ever came to being part of a bar like in Cheers; I can count on one finger the amount of times I went in there and didn’t know anybody. Truly, everybody knew my name (and sometimes, I could remember theirs).

One Saturday night, one of the bar staff – a lad called Dave, who since he also had a shaved head and glasses, was often asked if we were related, and vice versa – approached me and told me that he and the rest of the staff were going to Metros after work, and I’d be more than welcome to come along too if I wanted to. Dave and I had become friendly over the years I spent drinking there, and whilst we haven’t really been in touch for a few years now – since I left Cardiff, just over ten years ago – for a few years we were pretty good mates.

Anyway, I’d had a few by chucking-out time, and whilst my mind and body quite fancied the idea of carrying on into the wee small hours, my wallet was less enthusiastic. Not a problem, Dave advised me, for they had a deal with the club: staff from The Tut get in for free. All I had to do was not appear too pissed, pretend to work at the pub, and I’d be in.

And so off we traipsed, after they’d finished all the wiping down of tables and mopping of floors. It was about a 10 minute walk into town, during which time I sobered up enough to seem, I thought, inconspicuous when trying to get passed the bouncers.

Although, one did stop me, and tried to get me to pay.

“But I work at The Tut, with these guys,” I protested, puffing my chest out in faux-indignation, trying to appear taller and bulkier than I really was.

“Oh really. I’ve never seen you with them before,” said the shaved ape. “What’s the name of the landlord?”

A trick question. “Well, it’s Keith’s name over the door,” I replied, “but he doesn’t have much to do with the day-to-day running of the pub, not since…oh, you know…” (Legend had it that Keith had been beaten up by some ne’er do wells he’d been ejecting from the pub years ago; he now walked with a limp, assisted by a walking stick) “…so his missus Debs runs the show these days…”

Being a regular in a pub certainly pays off sometimes: “In you go then.”

The DJ at Metros had a playlist not dissimilar to what I tried to do years before when I DJ’d at Uni: anything indie-ish could get played, and he/I would try to encompass as many different sub-genres as possible. He wasn’t bothered whether one song sounded good next to the preceding one, his ony concern was getting people to dance for as long as possible, and work up enough of a thirst to spend money at the bar. And because the club was underground, it was always ridiculously hot; sweat would vaporise, collect and solidify on the ceiling and then drip back down on you.

But the fun of this approach, as a punter, was that you never really knew what would come next. One night I remember channeling childhood country dancing lessons along to The Proclaimers one minute, then wafting imaginary puffs of dry ice to The Sisters of Mercy the next.

And here’s the best thing about Metros, something I’ve never encountered in any club before or since: open until 4am, at around 2am they would start serving free toast. No, not a euphemism or code word for some kind of interesting drug: actual toast.

It was here that I danced to hip hop for the first time, if you can call it dancing. It was to a tune which the DJ would often drop, but which I nor anyone I knew, recognised.

Asking the DJ what a particular tune was equals a definite no-no at Metros, as I found out.

“‘Scuse me mate,” I once ventured, “what’s this tune you’re playing now?”

The enquiry brought a withering look from the man behind the decks.

“Fuck off” was the response.

For whilst he liked playing a wide-ranging spectrum of indie-esque tunes, he didn’t like people knowing what they were. Knowledge is power, and all that.

And so it was that, in those pre-Google days, it wasn’t until many years later that I found out what that hip-hop tune I liked enough to dance to was.

And of course, it was Llŷr who cast light into that particular shadowy corner for me.

“Do you mean this?” he said, after he let me pathetically attempt to describe (and, if memory serves, beatbox) it to him:

concrete

Jurassic 5 – Concrete Schoolyard

More soon. I’m off for some toast.

Sounds Familiar…

Did you ever hear a record, and think it’s the mid-way point between two other songs?

Or more specifically, the mid-point between two versions of the same song?

I’m not explaining this very well.

Probably easier if I illustrate.

Here’s song a):

Primal

Primal Scream – I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have

…which, through Andrew Weatherall’s utter brilliance (Swiss Adam™) mutated into this:

Primal

Primal Scream – Loaded

But somewhere in the middle, sits this:

Beta

The Beta Band – Dry the Rain

See what I mean…?

Ah, ok. Just me then.

More soon.