Posts Tagged ‘Observations’

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.

‘Where are we now?’; The return of David Bowie

Posted 08 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Currently Listening, Music, Reviews

I’m a massive Bowie fan, so, transparently, today has been a ridiculously good day for me.

If you missed it – ten years after his last record and seven years after he last performed in public – this morning, entirely without fanfare or forewarning, David Bowie released a brand new song and announced a forthcoming LP. This is, in the world of pop, massive news, and judging by the fact that I heard about it on the Today programme on Radio 4, it’s presumably big news elsewhere too. The Guardian practically devoted their entire Arts team to covering it today (yielding good pieces from Michael Hann and Alexis Petridis), and my twitter feed was a pretty relentless stream of enthusiasm.

I’ve been in a good mood all day.

And amidst all the excitement, there’s a song, and you should listen to it.

It’s far too early for me to pass any real critical judgement, to declare it better than his 90s work or worse than the stuff on ‘Heathen’, and I’m too biased to be truly objective regardless – but the song matters to me because I find it thrilling to think that Bowie still digs making music (I thought he’d retired) and the song itself, regardless of its place in his canon, makes me happy – by chance it recalls much of Bowie’s music that I like best; the sombre, elegiac Bowie of the late ’70s, whose years in Berlin still seem to speak to him more powerfully than any others. To hear him singing in his own distinct, somewhat tremulous voice is, for all that it is aged, a great privilege.

He’s written so many wonderful wonderful songs, but there’s a category that I hold particularly close to my heart, and that’s the smallish number of songs where it sounds like Bowie is singing from deep within his true self – not channeling Anthony Newley, or Lou, or Iggy, or Dylan, or even James Brown (I love it when he channels James Brown). The best example is, I think, ‘Wild Is The Wind‘, which Bowie himself has described as his finest vocal performance. There are shades of that song here – or shades of the truthfulness it evinces. And something very vulnerable too.

What a joy it is to hear, and to have him back.

If you like it too – or, failing that, like David generally – then we can be friends.

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.

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.


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?”

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.

A song a week #43 (Drowning Song)

Posted 28 Oct 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Weekly Song

Very early this year I asked my friend Pete if he’d be interested in helping me write a song, and he immediately sent through some guitar stuff for me to work with. Almost immediately I was struck with paralysis and the files sat on my hard-drive untouched for about six months. Pete is one of the best friends I’ve ever had and the co-architect of some of the happiest afternoons and evenings of my life, playing with my band, so working together on a song meant a lot and I wanted to get it right. Eventually I dug the files out and worked them up into something that I’m very happy with, sounding, as it does, very like the kind of song which me, Pete, Andy and Ali wrote in the early 2000s. So of all the songs I’ve worked on this year, this is probably the most important to me.

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.

Trouble in North London

Posted 08 Aug 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

I hope things don’t kick off in London again tonight. It’s highly weird hearing the place names of my youth – Enfield, Ponders End, Wood Green – studded throughout reports of widespread rioting and looting. Looks like people still feel the same way about the police in North London as they did when I grew up there. No surprises there. Still – no more, please.

Here’s a remarkable time-lapse video of fires in the Tottenham night sky between Saturday and Sunday, found via the Guardian website.

Slowly cooking

Posted 03 Aug 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Everyone is complaining about the sun, including me. Is this peculiarly British? I know that we have a reputation for obsessing over weather and then complaining when we finally get what we want. Is it a cultural thing or a climate thing, I wonder? Do people from, say, Seattle –whose weather is pretty similar to ours – do it too? Yesterday at work I was gulping at oxygen like it was being slowly drained from the room. We talked at one point about authors missing deadlines, and someone speculated about imprisoning them in a room which was filling gradually with water. You’d let a couple of gallons out for every chapter they handed in. I think our own overheating might have had something to do with that conversation.

It’s a time for cool showers, but I just have a bath.

My skin is tight around my forehead.. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this.

The peaceful Vosges

Posted 02 Jun 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos, Share, Travel

While we were in Alsace earlier this month, Anne-Sophie took us up into the Vosges mountains, where we spent a few hours clambering through a series of impeccably preserved, incredibly interesting, World War One trenches. It was quite an experience, although one that seemed to spark in all of us – except perhaps Anne So – a vague feeling that there was something important missing from our individual knowledge about the events of the Great War, or just a dissonance so huge between our lives and those lost then that punctured a hole in our capacity to imagine what it must have been like to have been living and fighting on the Front. We tend, here in Great Britain, to see the wars from a very British perspective, and unless my lack of awareness is atypical, we have a far more realistic sense of the travails of the Second World War than we do the first. We speculated, walking around, that much of people our age’s visualization of war in that environment comes not from books, nor even films, but rather from video games – although I’ve never played a war video game in my life, so I guess that’s not the case for me.

What did I feel? Mostly I think I just felt a sense of serenity, inspired by the stunning views and pin-perfect temperature, and a kind of placid fascination, which manifested itself in the kind of self-indulgent over-intellectualization you’ll find in these paragraphs. We talked a lot about how it must have felt, without really understanding. But once or twice, down in the cool dark chamber of a trench, I felt a glimmer of panic, a sense of the immensity of what was faced in that place. I need to read more about it. At times we stood at points where the French and German trenches were a matter of 20, 30 metres apart – a stunning contraction of distance in a vast landscape. Then, seeing a branch shiver in the wind or hearing the snapping of undergrowth, you could get something of that claustrophobic closeness – the notion of your enemy appearing suddenly before you.

Mostly we talked, paradoxically, about the near-century that has passed since. We speculated – in an uninformed kind of way – about how the forest would have slowly been repopulated with trees, about wildlife timidly returning to a landscape pockmarked with the echoes of gunfire. The incredible thought of a century of near-peace in a mostly unchanging landscape is quite something. It made us wonder, actually, if there might not be some potential in a book which was called something like ‘A Natural History of War in the Twentieth Century’ – a study of the impact of conflict on the natural world, on flora and fauna. Oddly I can’t find anything online that does that. We spent a lot of the weekend, actually, talking about bats, frogs, butterflies, the sound of cicadas. On the way down the mountain we passed a stationary deer, and it was – unsurprisingly – quite magical. We drove past and it stood alert in a pose which was simultaneously full of movement and perfectly still. Unmoving, and yet taut with the expectation of flight.

Here are a few photos from the afternoon.

Last weekend’s shopping

Posted 06 May 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Observations

When I was a young teenager the highlight of my week was a visit to Harum Records, on Barnet High Street. I think I’d figured out the significant role that pop music was going to play in my life, but I hadn’t yet discovered John Peel or the music press, so I had a kind of wild, magpie like desire to pick up records without quite knowing what to go for. In those days, happily, seven inch singles were 99p, so it was quite possible to head up there and come back with a bunch of singles by bands I’d never heard of; originally pop records by Jellybean, Climie Fisher or Tanita Tikiram, and later indie records by The House of Love, the Wonder Stuff and Birdland.

Once I did tune in to Peel and the Melody Maker, I started going further afield – to Selectadisc in Soho or Rough Trade in Covent Garden, where I kept up the routine; handfuls of seven inches by Therapy?, Cornershop and Jacob’s Mouse. Later still, I discovered the second hand shops of Camden Town and graduated to 12″s. By the time I was 16 it was quite normal for me to spend £20 on records I’d never heard of on a Saturday afternoon, sneaking them upstairs before my parents could see how many I’d bought.

These days I probably spend slightly less on records than I did then – though I suppose I can, now that I am independent financially, finally splurge without feeling guilty. It’s still hard, however, navigating a weekend without the old feeling of wanting to go out and bring records (and books) back home with me.

So I do. Here’s this weekend’s haul.

Voice recognition

Posted 04 May 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

I get occasional waves of affection, thinking of friends, when prompted by familiar voices. There’s a girl on my floor at work who has a cracked, friendly voice, punctured with breaths and hesitations, which I hear fleetingly; it takes me back to thoughts of an old pal whom I see rarely. There’s something about Joe Cornish’s laugh, which he unveils with happy regularity on his Saturday morning radio show, which always makes me think of Pete, whose laugh I’ve not heard directly for far too long, as he’s moved away. And there’s a girl working at the servery at work, who has a clipped voice whose intonation I haven’t quite yet matched to a face – but which brings out odd, not-quite-tuned notes of a prior friendship. My best friend’s voice is nothing like her brother’s, but both occasionally say words the same way, or use a phrase I remember from the other. It’s comforting and strange; all the notches of pitch and pronunciation on a scale we all draw from.

Evading the circus

Posted 26 Apr 2011 — by Jonathan
Category General, Observations

I don’t suppose that anyone will be in the least bit surprised to read that I have absolutely no interest in the impending Royal Wedding, or anything at all to do with the Royal family unless it involves their ploughing some of their obscene wealth back into the country and/or abdicating, but it’s really quite distressing to note the feverish interest from other quarters. The Guardian – a newspaper which could once be counted on to either ignore or critique the monarchy – claimed earlier this month to have renounced its republicanism. That was, happily, an April Fool’s joke, but it might as well not have been. Today the paper boasts an article which does two things; first points out that Prince William has been cautious to keep himself private, remaining a ‘great unknown’, and second add to the endless tiresome speculation about his supposed ‘normality’.

There was a bit of mild intrigue in the press this week about the fact that William had invited a bunch of Tories – including John Major – to his wedding at the expense of Labour politicians; not even Tony Blair is on the guestlist. But today’s article includes one really irritating sentence, which suggests that William is a child of Blair rather than Major, inheriting the tendency towards the same infuriating – and largely patronising – fetishisation of football which blighted New Labour. According to the article, Wills still plays!

Only last week a team turning up for a kickabout in Battersea Park were surprised to see him on the other side.

Oh for god’s sake! Are we really supposed to believe this inane PR? What, Prince William just spontaneously decided to go and play football down the park the other day, lining up against a bunch of local lads? That The Guardian believes this is symptomatic of the fact that it’s stopped looking critically at the Royal Circus.

My television, needless to say, will be turned off on Friday.

Fish market, Marseille

Posted 26 Mar 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos, Travel

Nothing in Marseille was a disappointment, in that the city was everything I expected and a bit more – a bit more relaxed, a bit friendlier, a bit hipper, a bit more beautiful. But I did expect something from the daily market – held down at Vieux Port each morning – which it didn’t quite deliver. But it was nothing more than size; and the fact that it was smaller than anticipated – just a row of perhaps ten stalls set against the waterside – didn’t in any way reduce the amount of colour or life. Indeed, with most stalls stocking a still-wriggling haul, life was in no shortage.

The fish themselves were a wonderful variety of colours, and magnificently ugly. We seem to be obsessed with eating beautiful fish in the UK – Waitrose’s fish counter is a measured display of smooth, silver scaled treats. Here in Marseille, I discovered, they draw little distinction between the perfect, shimmering form of a sardine and a wonderful series of red, blotchy, lumpy, out of proportion little fellers – heads bigger than their bodies, fins apparently replaced with malformed little wings, twisted at the edges like loose leaves of lollo rosso.

The nicest sight of all was the fisherman, unloading fresh catches and untangling nets. The most compelling the fish surgery; heads getting roughly seperated from bodies on blood-stained plastic trays. Seagulls – lacking the rude manners of Brighton’s flock – waited patiently for the remains to be discarded into the water.