December 2003

Cape Town


Back from 2 week vacation in Cape Town which was totally reviving.

It’s amazing how unknowable levels of stress are in London. It takes 3 full days in a warm, relaxed place (or a monastery) to even realize how stressed you’ve become.

But by the last week I was sleeping under the stars in the Cedarberg in a cave and bathing in mountain streams. It was beautiful and emotional. In fact the whole trip pulled lots of adolescent emotions to the surface. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the fact the Carey and Gary were both plugging back into the South Africa of their childhood. Perhaps it was the Epstein book. In any case I was glad to be feeling all that stuff again.

I felt excitedly alive for the first time in a while and poised for something new to unfold.

Kid Galahad

After wondering in from the Artic cold sweeping down Upper Street, Treena and I wandered into the seemingly brand-new Islington Academy nee Marquee and bought a lime and soda.
Almost 2 hours later after some turgid Scottish tosh (B&S have a lot to answer for…) and a oddball Manc comedian, John Cooper Clarke, we realised we were in the wrong venue. And we were about to see The Fall. We toyed with the idea of staying… but since I’d lived through the 80s and 90s without embracing the genius of Mark E Smith, and we were both feeling a little tired we thought we’d go home.

Popping our heads into the Academy BAR, however, we saw Kid Galahad were about to start.
I’d bought the tickets in the spirit of Lucky Dip – vaguely having heard something somewhere.

THEY WERE BLINDING. Short set – cos they’ve only got one album, but of Hive-like precision and fronted by a totally sexy budding Rock Star, Ash. He’s the biz. Enjoying himself, doing the show, giving us juice. Check them out.

Belle & Sebastian

Simon had free tickets, so we went to the B&S gig at the Astoria.
Heard their first album in Berlin, years ago. But to be honest, didn’t recognise a single song which didn’t really matter.

Gigging is so great. It’s much more alive and satisfying than going to the theatre and concert hall these day. People who go to gigs really want to be there. I have the impression most theatre-goers would rather be somewhere else and only dragged themselves out because the Guardian Guide told them to.

The Astoria was full of fun people. Giggers all care a lot about what they wear but are so individualistic that ever one is sui generis. Which conequently relieves all fashion fear since whatever you’ve slung on is going to look like a statement of your individuality. Also there’s a particular kind of intense-looking 20 year old male that stares devotedly at the stage which I find totally endearing and not a little sexy.


Belle & Sebastian aren’t really my bag – instinctively. They’re a little fey. Like Teenage Fanclub and Sterolab. But after a little twitch of disapproval I got sucked up by the irresistable power of watching a live band.

It’s like getting sucked into a narrative. You start to watch the lead singer and then how he reacts to the guitarist. You see a smile from the keyboard player and wonder what that was about. Then there’s a joke the band share with the audience and suddenly you’re wrapped up in a web of relationships – all meshed around this wonderful act of standing on stage and singing.

Of course, by the end, I loved them all and let myself be completely embraced by the surround-sound crowd of fans, who knew all of the razor-sharp lyrics. And naturally, I left wanting to be in a band. Again.


Just back from Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! at Sadlers Wells. And that exclamation mark just about sums it up. It was entertaining in a sort of confectionary way – but by the end I was nearing insulin shutdown from an overdose of cutesy saccharinosity. As my partner for the evening, Matias, pointed out the dancing wasn’t quite sharp enough to make it a pure dance delight and the comedy wasn’t quite varied enough to make it pure comic delight.

Also, Tchaikovsky ballets do go on. Did no one ever tell Piotr the one about leaving them wanting more.

Got home to find this in the mail box from Desmond in Berlin. It’s teetering on the brink of terrifying.

Curtain Call Envy

I was wondering about curtain-call envy.
Went with my folks and brother to see “Anything Goes” on Drury Lane last night.

anything goes

Usually a bit bored at those tap-dancing jamborees. Though the sight of a stage full of people dancing in sync is one of those things – like a rug of pigeons taking off against an evening sky – that always reduces me to tears. And – in fact – I was completely sucked up into the performance from the first cheesy bar.

I think it has something to do with my TV-less state. The less frequently I watch the box or see a movie, the more potent it becomes for me. It reminds me of that wonderful article by Ajahn Amaro, The Happy Monk where he’s asked about missing music:

“I used to be a big music fan and listened to it all the time. Now that I don’t deliberately listen to it, I find that when I do happen to hear music, it’s as if I’m hearing it for the first time. Music used to be such a constant presence in my life that it had lost its power. If I hear it now, it has an astonishing quality of freshness. I am with every note, every phrase.”

Anyway… back to curtain call envy. There was a time in my life when any live show I went to I had this crushing urge to be up there on stage with the performers taking the call. It sometimes swamped my enjoyment of the show. Now I can handle it a little better. Buddhism has a highly prized quality called mudita which is usually translated as sympathetic joy. Basically, it’s allowing one to enjoy the joy of others. So it ceases to generate a sense of loss – a “why can’t I be doing that/having that” – and creates as sense of pleasure: “how wonderful that there is that in the world”.

Still, I would have loved to be up there in that red sequined number with the ostrich feathers beaming up at a full Drury Lane audience.

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