Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

An Error of Judgement, a short film

Posted 20 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Video

Last summer, when Dan came down from Reading for the weekend, the two of us set about doing some video work, as we often do when he visits. However, that day it was wet outside and we were short on inspiration, so we sat around for a bit trying to come up with a project.

Eventually, we came up with the following film. The title is taken from a (very good) Pamela Hansford Johnson novel, but the rest is really just a result of a bit of brainstorming and improvising. We needed to shoot the whole thing indoors, with only the two of us as actors, and we didn’t want to get caught up in dialogue as neither of us can act. Also, we didn’t want to spend ages doing lighting and sound and stuff like that, so the whole thing is pretty much shot run and gun, with just a little bit of extra lighting to help us in the hallway shots. Consequently the whole thing looks very scruffy, with plenty of bumps and whirrs caught on the camera’s in-built microphones, and a few nasty variations in light – but given that it took us about 2 hours to film, and then about the same time again for me to edit it together (this week, after the files had sat on my hard drive for six months) I think it looks pretty good.

I’m very interested in the idea of exploring what goes wrong after one person does something foolish; I’ve another idea for a film which I want to make this spring which concentrates on something similar. It’s easy, after all, to act without thinking.

Although not so easy to act.

An Error of Judgement from Jonathan Shipley on Vimeo.

Dream geography

Posted 14 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

I’ve been warned before that there’s nothing very interesting in talking about one’s dreams. People who analyse them are deluded and people who describe them are dullards. That’s probably true – but one’s own dreams always seem interesting to oneself, particularly if you wake like I did this morning, thinking, “bloody hell, that was vivid”.

A couple of fragments that I remember, to amuse myself.

I was walking through an altered Brighton – I assume I’m not unusual and that everyone distorts geographical reality when they dream. The Brighton of my dreams is pretty close to the one I inhabit when awake, except that some roads are louder, quieter, nearer, further away, blended or bent out of shape. My home is often different, although weirdly it’s rarely an amalgam of real places I’ve lived and rather somewhere quite distinct, a figment of my imagination. But when I dream it up – or at least, on the occasions when I remember it – I find I’ve done a good job of designing something really complete. I could knock on the walls.

I was walking through an altered Brighton – and it was a bit hotter and swingier; something of Lisbon transplanted to St James Street. People drank on doorsteps or cross legged on the pavement, people drifted diagonally from bar to bar. I walked to a camera shop (Jessops, I suppose, which has just closed down in real life, although there isn’t one in Kemp Town), and got invited to a party while I stared in the window. I crossed the road, and watched two men run at each other outside the Thai restaurant. One man was bent low, like a bull. The other man pulled a gun from his pocket and shot him. Then he pointed the gun at me, and I grabbed at a bit of loose wooden boarding which was nearby – quite calmly – and held it like a shield. He shot me through the board. I was carried away.

I woke up in a garden just around the corner, here in Seven Dials. It was New Year’s Eve and I had decided to sleep outdoors. It was a warm and balmy night. When I think about it, it often is in my dreams. I tossed and turned – in my dream – unable to sleep. So eventually I got up and walked through another part of Brighton (which is down by the seafront) back to my flat in Kemp Town. I slept there. After a while I rose and went back out onto St James Street and to an L-shaped bar which has never existed, but of which I dream, oddly, often. Downstairs they do cocktails and there is a small, tropical garden where you can stand. I think I dream about this bar twice a year.

I know what my dreams mean – they mean nothing. But I am intrigued by the geography of them. I often wake wishing for a map.

Coffee with Eva

Posted 04 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

When Sam was over for Xmas we met up with our dear friend Eva in Brighton’s nice Marwood cafe (pictures of which appear below). I am ashamed to say I hardly ever get round to seeing Eva, which is absolutely stupid, and something I must remedy in 2013.

Eva is terrific; we wished her well for the holiday season and she politely assured us that she had absolutely no intention of seeing us on Christmas Day, because she had an essay to write and also had ‘an onion and a pepper’ in the fridge that needed eating. If we did met up, she insisted, she would be unable to join in the festivities or pretend to like her presents. She also talked briefly about her new obsession with crime, her time in Turkey (when she was frequently mistaken for a spy) and her hatred of communism.

Eva is now in Greece where she is spending the next two weeks picking olives. I think perhaps she, rather than me or Sam, is the one with it all sorted out.

Flooded rivers and birds in trees

Posted 03 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

My parents have been flooded in for a few weeks up in Cambridge, meaning that when I spoke to my mum the other day she sounded a bit stressed.

“It’s been awful”, she told me. “We’ve not been out of the house. We’re both desperate to get out, we can’t wait for the flooding to go down! We feel rather trapped”.

“Oh dear. Is Dad OK? Put him on”.

There’s a rustling as my mum puts down the phone and seeks out my father. I hope that being stranded is not upsetting him too much.

“HELLO!” He booms. “Have you heard about the flooding?”.

“Mum told me”, I explain. “Are you OK?”.

“Oh yes!”, he replies, enthusiastically. “It’s very exciting!”.

Sometimes I’m more like my mum, sometimes more like my dad.

I took this photo last time I went up to visit them.

New Year’s Day

Posted 01 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

When we finally made it out of Brighton on the first day of 2013, it was much colder than we expected and the light, which had been thrillingly rich all day, was already beginning to dip. So we only walked around Devil’s Dyke for half an hour or so, mindful not to slip in the mud and binding our coats tight around us, as if we might conjure an extra layer by wrapping them round twice. Of course I had a hangover and new (year) promises to keep, so the cold wind did its unwelcome job of battering last night’s boozy breath out of my lungs until I felt like this was the start of something new, not just a painful bit left over from yesterday. I felt less than re-born, but glad to be alive and idling into another year.

No news yet on the resolutions, but I did take a few photographs.

On Roald Dahl Day

Posted 17 Sep 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Books, Observations, Share

It was Roald Dahl Day last Thursday; like everyone my age (and probably a great many people younger and older), Dahl left an indelible mark on me during my childhood; particularly with The BFG, The Witches and Matilda, all three of which I can remember being published (the first only hazily). But of course there’s much to love in the earlier books too, for example in Danny The Champion Of The World, which is lovely on the relationship between a boy and his father, particularly the pride the child takes in his father’s powerful knowledge of the world.

In a passage which has since been successfully (and lovingly) lampooned by the fantastic Adam Buxton, (here), Dahl captures that wonder.

I really loved those morning walks to school with my father. We talked practically the whole time. Mostly it was he who talked and I who listened, and just about everything he said was fascinating. He was a true countryman. The fields, the streams, the woods and all the creatures who lived in these places were a part of his life. Although he was a mechanic by trade and a very fine one, I believe he could have become a great naturalist if only he had had a good schooling.

Long ago he had taught me the names of all the trees and the wild flowers and the different grasses that grow in the fields. All the birds, too, I could name, not only by sighting them but by listening to their calls and their songs.

In springtime we would hunt for birds’ nests along the way, and when we found one he would lift me up on to his shoulders so I could peer into it and see the eggs. But I was never allowed to touch them.

I overheard a nice exchange on the train today, which offered up a nice insight into modern day parenting. A young, mop-headed boy sat with his father on the 5.21 from Chichester to Brighton. He looked up and asked his dad a question.

“Dad, what’s the speed of light?”

I smiled to  myself, suspecting (rightly) that his father wouldn’t know the answer offhand (I don’t either, sadly). It felt like a slightly sad moment to me – the son still too young to realise that adults don’t have all the answers.

But the father did something very clever. Instead of immediately replying, he engaged his son in conversation, asking him what made him want to know that, and generally talked confidently around the subject while he quickly tapped into his mobile phone. When – only moments later – Google provided him with the answer, he was able to very naturally say,

“Well, anyway – the speed of light is around 700 miles an hour”.

The illusion was allowed to stand – Dad as the oracle and the font of knowledge. Very sweet, and rather lovely. I hope that illusion can be maintained a bit longer.

But then the boy looked up and said,

“OK. But how fast is that?

On the discovery of beer

Posted 13 Jun 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

I’m sat in my local pub doing a bit of work and having a drink, and in the corner just along from me is a middle aged woman and (what I assume is) her elderly mother. My arrival at an adjacent table has caused a stir. The elderly woman, very animatedly, asks her daughter what that is in front of me.

“It’s a computer”, she explains.

There follows a protracted period of snorting and head shaking, followed by another question. This elicits a different response.

“It’s a beer”.

Further explanation is necessary. “It’s a long drink, a bit like wine. Made from hops”.

The elderly woman finds this answer fantastical. There is much to-ing and fro-ing, some further explanations (“No, it’s not really that much like wine”) and the younger woman is forced to spend some considerable time trying to convince her mother that actually, no, she probably doesn’t want to try a pint. This strikes me as somewhat unfair.

The barmaid comes over and collects their glasses.

“What’s that?”, the old lady asks, excited.

“That? That’s a cardigan”.

And so it goes on.

No Direction Home, festival review

Posted 11 Jun 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Observations, Reviews

Just back from No Direction Home, a lovely three day festival in Sherwood Forest – and feeling oddly invigorated rather than knackered, which is unusual after a festival – and seems particularly counterintuitive when you consider that this festival took place in a weekend during which Britain was so thoroughly soaked that it was almost lost to the sea.

Oddly, however, the Welbeck Estate stayed pretty much dry, and by a miraculous quirk of fortune I managed to pitch our tent on a bit of even ground. Consequently we stayed dry, slept well, drank with something approaching moderation, and ate regularly and expensively at the many excellent food stalls. So I’m not dead, but rather buzzing with excitement after a few utterly idyllic days and a bunch of awesome bands.

A potted set of highlights and observations, then:

- First, what an amazing site. Compared to End of the Road at the Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset, the festival is significantly more compact and even rather prettier; it’s a less fenced-in site, making it easier and more rewarding to wander off, and the lakeside setting and accompanying wildlife (skylarks, swifts, martins and owls) were so beautiful and rewarding that it was frequently more tempting to grab a pint of Welbeck Abbey Red Feather and sit by the water, than it was to watch another band.

- Second, once again, the on-site amenities were perfect. Three small stages, with the performance times perfectly scheduled, making it almost possible to catch every single band on the bill; a beautiful comedy and literature yurt; and an absolutely charming pop-up cinema (where we watched ‘Some Like It Hot’ in preference to catching Dirty Three, and where Woodpigeon provided a lovely score to Charlie Chaplin’s surprisingly angry ‘Modern Times’ – which made up for a slightly underwhelming solo set from their Mark Hamilton earlier in the day). Besides all that there were bookshops, vintage clothes stores, a branch of Rough Trade and tons of great places to eat. Perfectly judged.

- When buying my ticket a few months back I half-wondered if I hadn’t had my fill of folk-bands; I’ve seen a lot over the last few years and the bands that jumped out at me on the bill were at the rockier end; Mikal Cronin, The Wave Pictures and Veronica Falls. But actually the line-up worked perfectly; folk, a smattering of electronica, a few big guitars, some amazing new bands and a few unique performances (in particular, The Unthanks‘ extraordinary link up with the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, which saw them further mining their interest in northern cultural history and the poetry of the pits).

- Who was good then? New stuff is always most exciting, I think, so I had a brilliant time watching a few bands new to me. Laura J Martin stood out as being incredible playful and adventurous, taking as her starting point some post-Kate Bush warbling but adding clattering drums, mandolin, and layer upon layer of sampled flutes. It was an extraordinary, slightly surreal experience watching her construct explosive little symphonies from the most unlikely of components. She stood cheerfully signing CDs afterwards, clearly delighted at having delighted so many.

Rachael Dadd was similarly great; dangerously close to conforming to twee-folk stereotypes at first glance, but standing out because her interests and approach (which incorporate steel drums played by her husband Ichi) naturally draw even the most sceptical of audience members in. Her abiding interest seems to be Japanese culture, gleefully drawing on a distant society, and, by the end, she was populating an entire song with the recipe for Oni Guri, and beguiling everyone in the process.

Also really liked Seamus Fogarty, who summoned up aspects of traditional folk music, US troubadours like Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt and his label-mates at Fence to provide good-hearted, quiet and sometimes funny ruminations on life. I was very taken with some of his lines, not least “I woke up in Chicago early on Christmas morn / with a woman who worked as a spy”, which is as lovely a set up to a song as you’ll hear.

And best of all the new artists I saw was Nat Johnson & The Figureheads, who played a pitch-perfect set of harmonious indie rock, recalling ‘Stories of the City’ era PJ Harvey and The Long Blondes, while every now and again invoking gloriously fuzzy Pavement-esque guitar riffs. They were poised, energetic, blessed with song after song, and deserve to sell lots of records.

- Saw some great stuff in the literature and comedy yurt too; Jon Ronson gave a characteristically charming reading of his Psychopath Test stuff, as well as casting further comedic light on the (surely unarguable) case for AA Gill’s criminal insanity. Mick Jackson, whose novel ‘The Underground Man’ had a seismic impact on me when I first read it in 1997, talked about the book, which was set at the Welbeck Estate, and he cast light on the network of underground tunnels which snaked through the ground beneath us. The only real disappointment was a very uncomfortable, boorish appearance by a drunk Josie Long (who I normally love) and a humourless friend, who performed an extended karaoke set prior to Robin Ince’s book club, which managed to do the impossible (make a Herman Dune song sound unwelcome) and eventually drive us out into the night, perplexed by the laddishness, excessive volume, affection for Weezer and, most pressingly, her co-host’s inept rape joke, which tipped the balance for us. Very depressing – but out of character, I think.

- More happily, we saw some superb performances from the regular suspects; from The Wave Pictures, Beth Jeans Houghton, Django Django, Spectrals, Martin Carthy and Euros Childs (who lucked out with the first real sun of the weekend setting over his glorious psych-pop). Two performances really stood out; Josh Tillman, playing as Father John Misty, played a ludicrously confident, charismatic set of acoustic country-pop. Slightly camp, very hilarious and deeply handsome, he could have left with anyone in the audience, I suspect. David Thomas Broughton was similarly engaging, if not quite so bloody sexy, but he once again captivated the crowd with a performance as funny as it was gifted, as troubling as it was proficient. Very impressed, as always. He’s one of pop’s more interesting, evocative lyricists.

- Hard not to mention beer. The End of The Road organisers are always scrupulous in sourcing decent ale for their festivals and, despite a tendency to under-order in terms of quantity, they did a great job here. My favourites were the afore-mentioned Red Feather, a very nutty session beer brewed on the premises, and the Bradfield Farmers Blonde, a very pale and floral beer. Of the various bars on site, the Boathouse gets the thumbs-up from me by virtue of their insanely friendly staff and habit of shouting ‘Tip Tip Hooray’ every time they get a tip. Ever eager to please, I think I tipped them about eight quid over the course of the weekend. Lots of hoorays.

- Two more artists who seemed to effortlessly personify the No Direction Home vibe were also on grand form. Liz Green’s talent is palpably natural – she has an effortlessly perfect voice, a wry and arch writing style and can even, it turns out, play a mean trumpet solo without a trumpet (seriously; close your eyes and you’ll hear brass – open them and you’ll see her trying not to laugh while she parps merrily out of the side of her mouth… if you’ll forgive the image). She also works with a band capable of adding texture to her songs with the most glorious instrumentation. The combination of Green’s jazz vocal, a be-turbaned sax player and a double bassist in a tweed jacket and adidias short might put some off; but it would be a hasty judgement. Great stuff. Trembling Bells, meanwhile, are a rather old-fashioned folk group, taking their lead from 60s and 70s British folk-rock, but live they’re forceful, immediate and somehow very modern – this is folk music a very long way from pastiche. Instead they deal in heavy, detailed, free-form visionary music. Unexpectedly they were perhaps the loudest band I saw all weekend.

- …with the exception of Mikal Cronin, who closed the festival. Wow, these guys are good. After lots of ruminative, esoteric folk and pop, the decision to employ Cronin’s band to blow away the cobwebs was masterful. Their music is super-powerful; skewed, loose indie rock twinned with blasts of urgent psych-garage. Watching their delightful, cleansing set was a bit like being placed in front of a massive, nuclear-powered fan. Great great fun. And the joyfulness of their vibrant indie rock seemed to energise a flagging crowd, who yelled jokes and sparred with the band between songs. At one point, while they were tuning up, a moth flew on stage and was briefly illuminated in Cronin’s spotlight. “A moth! A moth!” the crowd gleefully yelled. The band, who had previously boasted of their acid intake, looked bemused.

- Lastly it would be remiss not to share another couple of key ingredients of a super weekend; first off, as always, a festival is a million times better when you’re there with people you love (and I was) and always a winner when every single person you come across, whether staff, performers or audience, seems to share that same expression of delight, good cheer and peacefulness.

So a hearty congratulations to the organisers for putting together a seriously brilliant festival. Will be there next year.

If I’ve missed anything above, do leave a comment below.



Pasteis de Nata in Belém, Lisbon.

Posted 29 Apr 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

The quite beautiful Fabrica de Pasteis de Belém is justly famous as the most picturesque dining destination in the busy, imperial suburb of Belém, just a few kilometres west of Lisbon. It’s impossible to visit the town – which was the launching post for Vasco de Gama when he made the first sea-voyage from Europe to India back in 1497 – without noticing, amongst the open spaces, modern art galleries and intricate palaces, this ornate, bustling little bakery and cafeteria. But it’s also hard not to wonder if, somewhere down the line, this achingly authentic establishment (which is famous for it’s delicious, sweet pastries) lost its purpose, and began to exclusively serve the tourist community rather than the locals. When we arrived, on a cloudy weekday afternoon in late-April, the queue stretched down the road and spoke in many languages.

Happily, we’d already been tipped off that a visit to the nearby Pasteleria Chique de Belém would be just as fruitful – the Pastel de Nata they sell are not served in such picturesque surroundings, but they’re every bit as fresh and had a determinedly sugar-agnostic diner like me marvelling over the complimentary textures; the warm, sweet custard filling and the incredibly light, flaky crust. Really amazing – if you get the chance to visit Belém, be advised that you’d be stupid not to try some. (Not being me, of course, with my quaint reluctance to eat chocolate, cake, pastries or ice-cream, not trying a Pastel de Nata in the town that invented them, would probably never occur to you. Anyway.)


Pasteleria Chique de Belém, Rua Junqueira 524, Belém. (Right by the Belém tram stop – get the 15 Tram from central Libson)

Serendipitous animals

Posted 11 Mar 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Well of course I don’t believe in god, but I suppose I must confess that, irritating though it is to see it always listed as everyone’s favourite word, I am a fan of serendipity. And when fortunate things happen at opportune times, it’s tempting to ponder the prospect of some beneficent overseer – ’til one remembers all that is wrong with the world.

Nevertheless, after having looked after a very good natured, friendly cat for a period of ten days and just, within the last hour, returned him to his owners, I was feeling a bit sad. I’ve always loved cats and would dearly like one – it’s only the combination of a mild allergy and the fact that I live in a flat without a garden that ensures that I don’t. I missed Chatouille immediately.

As much as I enjoy the fringe benefits of having a friendly animal around (more cuddles, essentially, plus another living thing to talk at), the thing I like most about pet ownership is the simple fact of their presence – I liked this one’s calm and noisy breathing, her habit of curling up just out of reach, occasionally stretching her paws. It’s a consistent and reassuring pleasure just having an animal around; a silent, forgiving therapy.

So, having moped around the empty flat for half an hour, we repaired as we always do on Sunday night, to the local pub, to scoff their leftover roast potatoes and grab a pint. The cat in our local is a lovely little thing, but in sharp contradistinction to their new puppy, she keeps herself to herself, flattening out atop the fruit machine and viewing newcomers and regulars with a wary eye.

But as soon as I arrived at the pub and went to order drinks tonight, she leapt up onto the neighbouring bar stool, gained a bit of extra height by placing her front paws on the bar, and pressed her head, affectionately (I think) against the triangle of my face which contains the left side of my nose, the upper part of a cheek, and my eye. And sort of butted me, persistently, back and forth. I stroked her cheerfully and cheered up markedly, while she whacked her face against mine.

I don’t believe in god, but thanks, world, for sending that cat.

The dimmest switch

Posted 07 Mar 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, Observations

Went for a drink with Dave on Saturday, ostensibly to borrow his bass guitar but mainly just to catch up. We met in the Farm Tavern, which was empty when I arrived at about half past three and only one Jonathan fuller than empty when Dave arrived ten minutes later. In that pre-Dave period I grabbed a pint of St Edmunds ale and went to peruse the pub’s books, discovering to my astonishment that novels by Kingsley Amis made up about 40% of the admittedly rather limited stock. For reasons still not entirely clear to me I picked up a collection of old Independent newspaper articles instead, and found the following treat.



Posted 05 Mar 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

We have an animal to stay for the next ten days, so I’m back to marvelling over how strange and delightful cats are, and pondering a mid-career switch to pet-psychology books. We’re looking after a pregnant French cat called Chatouille, whose coat matches for colour and evenness the dark grey underside of the rolls of carpet which I would absent-mindedly pick at on long trips to MFI with my parents as a child.

She spends much of her time sat impassive at the window, looking at I know not what. Then she trots into the corner, and paws listlessly at the wall. She will pass over strewn toys and bits of string and dig her nails happily, pulling, into the back of my office chair.

She seems, as most cats do, to be happiest when she can accompany one person about their business. If I am in one room and Lyndsey another, she clambers up next to me and grunts quietly, a pregnant kind of purr. Or she pads after Lynds and trots around her feet. In this context she’s a good little companion. But if there are two of us in the same room, she tends to keep her distance, clambering to a high vantage point and curling herself up into a contented ball so tight that it seems her head is upside down.

She’s with us ‘til Sunday. I can see I’m going to have to be stoic.


Squirrels, Boxing Day 2011

Posted 29 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

Squirrel watching in the local park is probably something I do frequently enough to legitimately describe it as a hobby – but if it’s not that it’s certainly a holiday tradition; there’s nothing nicer than wandering over to St Anne’s Well Gardens at lunchtime on Boxing Day and mooching around spying on wildlife. Accordingly – the latest dispatch from the animal kingdom:

Show off

action shot

A song a week #51 (Let It Snow)

Posted 25 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Observations, Weekly Song

Inevitable, given my song a week project, that I’d attempt a Christmas song; this one was written and recorded in an single sitting on, you guessed it – Christmas Day, after having sat on my doorstep with a cup of coffee watching people packing up cars. Recorded straight to camera with a bit of overdubbing afterwards. I might buy myself a clarinet next year.

Happy Christmas.

“It’s the first Christmas in a while,
When it’s been so unseasonably mild.
I drink my coffee on the step
and watch my neighbours heading home again.

I watch them go,
oh let it snow.

It’s my first Christmas in this street,
moving from place to place really takes it out of me.
Drinking coffee, watching cars.
Counting presents, counting cards.

I watch them go,
oh let it snow.
I don’t know,
why won’t it snow?”

Catkin christmas

Posted 12 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

I’m limbering up towards feelings of Christmassyness; this weekend Lynds and I trotted up to Cambridge to see my folks, and were given gifts of hats, scarves, socks and gloves. As always, my parents’ were liberal in their provision of alcohol. Over a long boozy lunch on Saturday, we managed to sample delicious ale, Italian wine, sloe gin, amaretto and spiced rum – bravely fighting off the offer of prosecco to finish. A long afternoon nap followed.

Best bit of the weekend was a lovely walk around a lake near their house – it was a beautiful winter morning, crisp and crunchy with frost but the sky was a clear and brilliant blue. Lyndsey picked some lovely purple catkins.

They’re now our christmas tree, following an aborted attempt to construct one out of cardboard.

A song a week #44 (Jackdaw)

Posted 04 Nov 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Observations, Weekly Song

I try to write a bit about each song I do here, but sometimes other things seem more relevant. This is a nice enough song, I think, but the moment I paired it with the images below, filmed by Dan the morning after our friends Ali and James got married, it meaning got lost a bit. So instead of rattling on about the song, I’ll just mention what a glorious day we had with our friends, and how nice it was wondering through the fields and orchard the next morning.

Bond and Wallington

Posted 27 Sep 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

This Saturday me and Lynds went to visit friends in Wallington. We were talking, actually, on the train, about whether we’d like to live in London in the future, and I explained that while I’m happier in a smaller town, like Brighton, I feel like I have unfinished business in London, which is where I grew up. And that unfinished business is really nothing more than a growing feeling that I am losing touch with the city of my birth. When I left London for the last time, over a decade ago, I felt tired of the capital and broadly like I’d done everything there which I needed to. While one can always find new things in a city the size of London, my level of curiosity had declined, and I felt (probably wrongly) that I had the measure of it.

What I don’t like, now, is visiting places I remember from my teenage years and finding them either much changed or better/worse than I recalled them. Or someone asking me about a part of the city of which I know nothing. As a Londoner, I feel entitled to tell people about the city, to act like I know it innately, and the part of me which would like to live there again is not much besides the part of me which wants to map it again, conquer it, make it my neighbourhood once more. Which isn’t much reason to move.

Wallington’s a good example. Until the weekend, I’d never heard of it. It bothers me to be out of touch with geography. Although as it turns out, Wallington is right out of the way; in a part of the country which would properly be called Surrey had London not got so big for its boots, and so big. On the way I looked it up on my phone. Here are the three things I learned.

- Wallington was the centre of lavender oil production until the first world war. The plant still grows freely around the area. Lynds works for the Body Shop, so I made some hilarious jokes about her day out being a busman’s holiday.
- Zammo, the much-loved smack addict from Grange Hill, has a key-cutting shop in Wallington. This is amazing. It’s called Mentor Lock and Safe.
- I like the idea of rivers in London that aren’t the Thames. The River Wandle runs through Wallington.

We met up with Steve and Doro and inspected their house, which is new and lovely. We ate lunch, and sat down to watch a Bond film (Steve is your man if you like Bond films). Shortly before we started, someone (it may have been me) suggested we have a drink everytime Bond’s name is spoken. Or he makes a quip. Or uses a gadget. Or someone dies.

I don’t think we realised quite how disastrous this decision was ’til about 8 o’clock, when we realised the extent of our folly. Turns out quite a lot of people die at the end of Live and Let Die. And James Bond never bloody shuts up with the quips. I quietly resolved not to make so many stupid jokes in the future. And never to drink again. But actually, as it turned out, we were so insensible that only bed made sense, and after a long sleep I felt curiously fine the next day. Miracle.

Missing articles, continued chaos

Posted 29 Aug 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

OK, so I’m currently preparing for this year’s End of The Road festival. Last night two things happened; first, around ten o’clock, the lights blew. Normally it’s just a case of flicking up the trip switch but on this occasion that didn’t work – every light in my flat had gone, with not much prospect of a remedy this side of the bank holiday. Minutes later, sitting in the dark, the second thing happened; Lynds said,

“Do you know where your End of The Road ticket is?”.

Now, obviously, I didn’t. At any time of day or night this would be a question destined to send me into a spin, scouring my flat for a rectangular piece of paper which might be anywhere. At 10.30pm in a flat entirely starved of artificial light, it was a disaster. After 45 minutes of scrabbling around with a tea light, I concluded, grimly, that “No, I don’t know where the fucking ticket is”. But at least I’d be able to find it the next morning.

So guess what? I started looking at half past eight this morning and by twelve had all but concluded that hope was lost. The End of The Road is not only the best festival in the UK, it’s run by inordinately lovely people, but that counts for little as they grimly inform you that ‘duplicate tickets will not be issued in the event of tickets being lost or damaged’. So, increasingly desperate, I turned over the flat, cursed my chaotic lifestyle, lay on the floor. The Cat, who is in temporary residence at my house, became tremendously excited by my breakdown, leaping into every cardboard box I began to empty and attacking the furniture with delirious gusto. Lyndsey, with a nervous smile on her face, edged to the door.

A few hours later I had scoured the web for expensive replacements, sworn to change my life completely and, at last, found the missing ticket. Down the side of the bed. So it seems that I am going to the End Of The Road after all.

I’m so happy. And such an idiot.

First video from the Amina set

Posted 18 Aug 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Video

Here we all are, on set – this video was created by Dan, who when he wasn’t helping set up, or making coffee, or doing sound, could reliably be found hovering in a corner with his camera in hand. Every time he put it down, I scampered over, switched from video to stills, and took a photo or two. When he returned he’d look at the settings, tut loudly, switch back to video and resume filming. Then some important audio check would prove necessary and I’d switch back to stills. In this small way I chipped away at his all-pervading good humour.

Annoyingly, his video turned out much better than the photographs I took.

This little collage of activity shows us on days 1 and 2 of the Amina shoot. Thanks Dan!

Making Amina

Posted 17 Aug 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Video

So, two months ago my friend Sam emailed me and mentioned that he was planning on spending a couple of weeks in Brighton in August, and he suggested that we grab a bit of time while he was over to make a short film. This wasn’t totally unexpected. Sam and I spent some time with our friend Dan in the spring, working on a few projects around Brighton, and Sam has since worked on some terrific videos for Depaul International, a homeless charity who do some amazing work. And he’s weighing up film school later this year. Nevertheless, for reasons of time, expense and logistics, a big project was never on the cards.

But it happened anyway. Following a series of excitable Skype conversations, I completed a first draft of a screenplay on the 29th June, which was repeatedly revised until we had a complete script, a little over a week ago. Sam set about assembling the crew, casting actors, securing locations and planning the look and feel of the picture. Ten days ago he arrived in the UK and we sat down with our cast – two Richards and a Kate – for the first time and began rehearsing, chipping away and sculpting the script along the way. I’ve never written a screenplay before, and the insight and improvisations of the actors – plus amazing ideas from Sam, Lyndsey and Vic – helped immeasurably in creating something I was proud of.

And then, aided and abetted by the most good-humoured, enthusiastic, patient and talented group of people imaginable (particularly Eva, who from behind the camera provided some stunning shots and filthy Greek phrases), we made ‘Amina’. We started filming on Saturday morning and worked four consecutive 12 hour days, shooting and re-shooting, concentrating, laughing and joking, half-falling asleep – until at around 8.45pm last night we hauled our lead actor, Richard, out of a cold bath and shouted ‘It’s a wrap’.

Along the way we were helped out enormously by people who gave a very generous amount of their time – Eva, Dan, Jackie, Lyndsey, Victoria, Louise, Marina, our fabulous cast – and lots of tolerant by-standers who allowed us to film outside their homes and on their high streets and resisted the urge to wander into frame, rebuke us or interrupt. (Although a lot did stop to tell us about the history of Shoreham’s Norman churches.)

So – will probably describe the process in more detail; but in the meantime here are a few snaps taken on set…