mrry (Happy New Year)
Blog Incommunicado 23/Nov/2005

A hypothetical situation for you to chew over.

Suppose, in a fit of carelessness, you leave your mobile phone at home when you go out of the house. Which of these feelings is worse?

  1. The prolonged sense of unease that attends because you can't be sure that the world isn't falling apart because you aren't able to take a call from the King of Town/President of Earth/Mechapope, or
  2. The disappointment when you get home to find nary a text message, voicemail or missed call. In six hours.

As ever, your opinions, anecdotes and deprecating witticisms are invited in the comments.



PS. At least my illegal butcher's shop didn't get closed down. Phew.

Blog Having it so much better 23/Nov/2005

In this job, it's not often that you get to make a dedication. When consider that I don't do this for a living, and am in fact a dedicated amateur, what follows might be even more surprising. My heralded trip to see Franz Ferdinand last night, and this post itself are dedicated to one Miss Lisa Pappenheim from the British North American Territories, whose birthday it was on Monday. Go forth and document the experience, she asked, and it is that that I do today.

I think it's only fitting to start with an update on my own curmudgeonly tendencies. The unfortunate thing about liking a band that has become a huge success is that there's only a limited number of aesthetes. Eventually, the fanbase is going to have to include a fair proportion of idiots. Alas, these were out in force last night, and directed most of their efforts at the first support act, The (almost impossible to research on Google) 1990's. Despite making some friends by throwing sweets into the crowd at the start of their set, elements in the crowd turned against them, when—I assume—they realised that this was not music that you could pick up at Tesco's. The music was none too exciting, but enjoyable enough, and I found myself liking it more, the harder a time they got from the crowd (a contrarian approach that led to me vastly preferring the Fire Engines over the Kaiser Chiefs when I saw Franz play the SECC last year; an opinion since rescinded).

Next on the bill were Editors, a band that had vaguely entered my consciousness as some big thing or other, and, given that every band of the last year is essentially derivative of a band from the last two years, I was looking for a succinct comparison, along the lines of, "If you liked Bloc Party/the Kaiser Chiefs/The Futureheads, then you'll love Editors." None was forthcoming on the promotional guff that they handed out inside the arena, so I was left, for once, to form my own judgement about the band. Herewith:

  • If you like The Bravery, then you'll love Editors.
  • If you like The Killers, but don't want to be associated with the homoerotic connotations lest someone calls you "gay", then you'll love Editors.
  • If you like the music from the advert for Hollyoaks: Let Loose on E4, then you'll love Editors.

For me, it was proficiently-delivered music, but the only worthwhile hook in the whole set was a straightforward lift from An Honest Mistake, so I call them out as not being especially original.

To the main course, then! After a brief interlude, and a dance-a-long with the old chap sitting at the top of the lighting rig, on came our returning heroes, who launched straight into a rousing rendition of This Boy. As part of my assignment, I took some photos, though I had to rely on my familiarity with the songs so that I wasn't swept off my feet by a push for the stage. In a frankly manic crowd, I fancy myself as the personification of Brouwer's Fixed Point Theorem, adopting a zen-like calm and some questionable dance moves whilst chaos erupts around me. As to the set itself, it was a mix of old and new, with a slight bias towards the material from the new album. The very fact that I was more keen to hear the new songs than the established hits from the first album is a ringing endorsement of Franz's sophomore year, and proof that they aren't just a one-hit wonder.



Blog British Sea Power 22/Nov/2005

As much as I love living in Edinburgh (mrry passim), in some regards it simply doesn't pass muster. Take live music, for example. For a month and one day, it's the centre of the world. To get your fix at other times of year, you simply need to go to Glasgow. That I will be doing tonight as I return for Franz Ferdinand at the SECC (and thereby hangs a tale, of which more later); that I did on Saturday to see British Sea Power at my old stomping ground, the QM.

It's more than two years since I've been to see BSP: records indicate that I saw them at Tut's in October 2003. That gig, I remember, was marred slightly by a horde of ardent fans who had clearly been following the band all over the UK. They brought their own foliage, and, by the end of the set, I had a few colourful suggestions for what they could do with it.

Just in case you're worried that I'm going to come over all Captain Nippy again, the QM gig was excellent. It was a rare pleasure to go to a gig and not feel old (a privilege that I doubt tonight's concert will extend), also to come home not reeking of projected lager. As BSP came on first to play a B-sides set, the sound was excellent for both them and the support act, Field Music, who (I thought) were so similar to The Futureheads that I was running a sweep on which Kate Bush song they'd cover to end their set. When BSP took the stage for a second time, it was clear that their two albums gave them enough material to be consistently entertaining: even though my two favourite album tracks (Something Wicked and Victorian Ice) were absent, that didn't dampen the evening's enjoyment.

Somewhat stranger was being back in the West End for the first time since I bade farewell to my summer job in September. Ashton Lane is canopied with the same fairy lights that appear annually above Royal Exchange Square (and which an arriviste Edinburgh has recently strung along Multrees Walk). The new Computing Department extension has sprung up dramatically since I left. The drinks on sale in Jim's Bar might have changed, but the person serving them hasn't, and it was good to see Stevie still plying his trade. It was also good to hear how CompSoc is being taken forward by the new committee: from what I gather, the pub quiz was a great success, so congratulations to Haitham and David, and may there be many more events of a similar calibre.



Blog Mise en Scène 21/Nov/2005

It seems that every post I've written since I moved to Edinburgh has been of the fish-out-of-water variety. If we're not careful, it'll turn into the worst kind of formulaic sitcom where, each week, your hero will get into a series of scrapes due to his accent/condiment choice/hygiene standards, only to be redeemed by him realising that everyone can just get along if we embrace our differences. If we're lucky, it'll turn into Joey.

So, let's take a break from half-arsed attempts at wry observational comedy, and enjoy a few photographs from the last three months:

Fulfilling the role of "park next to the university that you probably shouldn't cross on your own at night" is The Meadows. Nevertheless, if you happen to be there as the sun comes up, the mist upon the grass makes for quite the dramatic picture. And, if you're down there, what better place to avail yourself of Edinburgh's liberal stance on the public consumption of alcohol. (Okay, permit me one observation. Glass of wine with your picnic in the park, good; sozzled tramp on a street corner drinking from a can of special, not so much. The absence of the latter is why I think a ban has been a good thing for Glasgow, and why I find it jarring every time I see even a student walk up Nicolson Street with a bottle. That said, it also explains the frisson of excitement I felt when I cracked open a can in the street, unmatched since I was a thirteen year-old, buying a copy of—ahem—FHM from the local newsagent.)

Perhaps you're feeling more adventurous, more energetic. Then perhaps a climb up Arthur's Seat is in order. The views of the surrounding area are unparalleled, and the mobile phone reception is outstanding. The best time to visit, however, is practically unphotographable. As you walk into Holyrood Park on the fifth of November, there is a moment when the streetlights end and the hills are pitch black in front of you. As your eyes adjust, you start to see the light of a hundred sparklers and a thousand stars. Then, as you sit with your back to the rocks, you look out over the whole city, and enjoy the fireworks.

But maybe you're not so keen on hillwalking. A lifetime of holidays in the Mediterranean has left you dependent on a regular diet of sun, sea and sand. (If you thought I was going for a different triplet, you might be better off in Tollcross.) A short walk out of town to Portobello will guarantee you at least one and a half of these on any given day. You'd be well advised to stop in at The Prince Balti House for lunch, before heading down to the beach to walk off your excess. Here you will find everything from cryptic messages in the sand, to, um, cryptic messages on walls.

If that doesn't whet your appetite for a trip to Edinburgh, I don't know what will. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a train to catch.



Blog Supermarket Sweep 12/Nov/2005

One of the main attractions of city-centre living is that all of the amenities one could possibly need are close to hand. The fact that you can look out of our front window in Edinburgh and see no fewer than four pubs, a 24-hour shop and a branch of Scotland's finest independent record chain was particularly compelling when we chose this flat (a malfunctioning oven and furniture that could charitably be described as "rickety"—somewhat less so). Better still, if corners don't faze you, turning onto Nicolson Street yields three supermarkets. Walking north, there's Tesco Metro for the beginning of the month, Farmfoods for when you've wasted half of your paycheque on alcohol, and Lidl for when money's tight and you have to subsist on diet of 10p cans of kidney beans and Lebkuchen.

It is this last that interests us today. Long-term readers, close friends and particularly-attentive spies might remember the time, three years ago, that I queued patiently outside my local Lidl to purchase the very computer on which I write this today. Allow me, then, to present my step-by-step guide to discount shopping:

  1. Forewarned is forearmed. Quite obviously, you've got to know what the specials are, and when they come on sale, before you head down to the shop. This enables you to make arrangements for the big day, such as, for example, taking time off work. If you're particularly canny, you'll have a word with one of the shop staff on the night before, in order to find out particulars like the amount of stock, and the precise location of the goods on the sales floor (you may wish to mark this on a handy copy of the architect's drawings of the shop, while stocks last).
  2. The early bird catches the specials. Make a note of when your local Lidl opens: in my case, this is at eight o'clock in the morning (a full hour before the Lidl helpline suggested—be warned!). Get a good night's sleep, and make sure you arrive outside the (shuttered) door at least ten minutes earlier than the advertised time.
  3. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. When you arrive at the shop, there will likely be a queue. I, for example, forwent sleep last night, so that I wouldn't miss opening time; I was sixth in line. At this point, you might think that positioning would be important: when that shutter goes up (exactly at opening time, and not one moment sooner), you would want to duck under it, slip through the turnstile and make a dash for the non-food department. Fool! What is little known about the cult of the discount supermarket is that there is a strict honour system. Everyone remembers when everyone after them arrives, and it is this, your number, that determines whether you'll be walking out of there with a shiny new DVD player. And if some wiseguy thinks that he can push his way to the front of that queue? Well, there's gonna be one helluva thrifty lynch mob on his ass.

So, there you have it. Perhaps you would like to try out your new skills on Monday, when specials will include Dictation Machines, Video Recorders and Bodyforming Tights. Lidl. Top Quality Always Cheap.





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