Come on baby, baby, now feel the waltz…

For whatever reason I found myself having tea in Carnaby Street in the drizzle at 8.30 on a Saturday morning. Huddled under a cafe umbrella and wrote my morning pages and then thought – hell yeah! i’m a’goin shopping.

I can’t remember the last time I went clothes shopping. Though I am acutely aware that I only have 2 pairs of trousers that I like wearing and one of them has big hole in the groin (not good) and the other is stained with seaside tar (also not great). So shopping for trousers didn’t seem such a bad plan.

Oxford Street early on a Saturday morning is wild. All the smart shop assistant, wincing in the bright neon from their hangovers, but glittering still from the fun and dizzyness they enjoyed out the night before. The shops all palatial and smart, swept and polished by a team of midnight cleaners – another secret world – and empty of all the normal Saturday shoppers who are still at home in bed.

I strolled around. Bought a couple of pairs of jeans just like that. (Sometimes I can mooch for months deciding whether to buy one – but this morning I nailed two within an hour). And then drifted into Urban Outfitters.

My friend Mac in New York tells me we should boycott Urban Outfitters because it’s boss supports ultra-conservative, gay-bashing Congressmen. That’s a shame because it’s the nicest place to clothes shop in London. It also has a groovy record shop seeded into the tailored fabric of it’s menswear section. So still accessing ‘things I haven’t done for ages’ I went and listened to a few CDs.

ITunes Shop has pretty much killed those visits to music emporia for me. Is that bad or good? I don’t really know. I remember the almost panic-inducing trance I would get into in HMV. ‘Must find new music. Must find new tunes.’ And then after half an hours euphoria – ‘I am cool. This is cool. I am young and plugged in’ – I would crumple inwards into a stew of over-consumption and leave the shop an hour later with a bagfull of CDs I would never listen to again.

But this morning – all was well with the world. I stood stock still by the listening post and listened to 4 tracks from Regina Spektor’s new album. Those listening posts always have incredibly good headphones. The music never sounds as crystal clear at home. But i was entranced. I listened past the obvious Fiona-Applely-ness of her voice and fell in love with the line:

“His daughter is twenty years of falling snow.”

How perfect is that.

My morning was complete.


  1. Valerie

    September 3, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    Okay so my son loves the jeans in Urban Outfitters. What
    jeans did you buy, I assume not from there because you
    went in after the jean purchase. When my son bought jeans
    from Urban Outfitters, I considered it conspicuous consumption
    but then I’m a child of the seventies and I used to go to
    Army/Navy stores to buy my jeans. I just couldn’t swallow
    $180 for jeans. I guess it like when my parents used to
    be shocked on the price of things compared to their day.
    But I still won’t pay the price even though he says the’re
    the best jeans. I’ll stick to my Lee Riders. My philsophy
    to my children is you earn it you spend it. Maybe I need
    to expand my shopping horizons. My philosophy is If it fits
    buy it.

  2. Jitu

    September 4, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    Urban Outfitters is fine but they’re a bit too pricey though. I always thought AA shopped at H&M. Ah well! Regina Spektor’s album sounds interesting.
    OH, and I’m glad I’m not the only one with the holes in the crotch!!

  3. Paddy

    September 5, 2006 at 12:35 am

    Personally I think it’s kinda bad that iTunes is stopping people from buying music from a store, but also have to admit to being a iTunes shopper myself. If there is a group I want to support then I go buy it. Something in me tells me it’s a sense of duty!

  4. John

    September 5, 2006 at 1:23 am

    I’ve read your blog now and then for a while, but never actually replied to any of them…

    But seeing that you mention Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple in this one, I felt compelled. They’re two of my favourite musicians, along with the likes of Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Rufus Wainwright.. that gang. There’s something so much more expressive and connected with piano-based songwriters than guitars. I think Regina’s music brings back some much-needed innocence and hope, while still acknowledging the world we live in… maybe I read too much into it. I guess I’m biased as I am a writer of pianosongs too. In fact, I played “20 Years of Snow” at a gig recently. I’d love you to listen to my music, you may like it… I can send you links to my stuff 🙂

    You probably know Tori, Kate and Rufus.. I think you may also like Sufjan Stevens (Illinois), Múm (Finally We Are No One), Eberg (Plastic Lions), Sigur Ros ( ( ) – untitled), Björk (Vespertine), if you don’t know them already.. Particularly good albums for the approaching Autumn/Winter evenings, watching the rain from indoors.. CDs are definately seasonal.

    Take care…


  5. Young

    September 5, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    You might like one of the lectures in the following website.
    This lecture is going to be held on 26th September
    by British Accademy. It is about History of Buddhist Art
    in 18th Century China.

    Hope you like it.

  6. Jess

    September 8, 2006 at 3:19 am

    I’ve been reading you’re blog for awhile now, but never have actually replied to any of them. I decided to check out Regina after reading your blog and found her music really fasinating. Thanks for the recommendation. I am always looking for new artist to listen to.

  7. Jason

    September 8, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    Regina. Splendid stuff. And I can concur with John’s recommends too.
    Mum reminds me of being up a snow covered mountain in New Zealand, alone with
    my iPod, feeling like everything would be alright. The music makes takes you to feel that way.

  8. Kelly

    September 25, 2006 at 12:20 am

    I find that iTunes is good, in that I rarely spend tonnes
    of money on music anymore, but bad in that I never have the
    beautiful serendipity of stumbling across something magical
    and beautiful I would have never encountered were it not
    for an interesting album title or piece of art catching my
    eye. Some of my favourite albums come through leisurely
    rumages through stores, and I miss that and the influx
    of music from it.

    Then again, I don’t miss the CDs bought on a whim, the
    space they took up, or the irritation of one good song on
    an album full of things I don’t like. iTunes is great for
    convenience and being able to buy just what it is I want –
    but yeah. I sometimes miss finding things I wouldn’t know
    I wanted if they didn’t metaphorically jump up and catch
    my eye.

  9. Julia

    October 26, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    First of all- sorry for my english- I’m still learning.
    I became your fan after seeing a “House doctor” programme.
    I just read, that you’ve been teaching at University of
    Gdansk, and I’m a student of this place for four years
    -what a small world:) My reply is not connected to the
    subject of this blog, but it would take me a month to
    translate anything more complicated:)

  10. Kelly II

    November 12, 2006 at 1:33 am

    My dear Alistair, thank you so much for helping me find Regina! Blows you a big kiss in gratitude!

  11. matt m

    October 28, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    AHHH!!! Regina Spektor has on more than one occasion
    brought joy and meaning to my day. When I woke up
    this morning I was singing Field Below, and two seconds
    later I posted a myspace bulletin containing the first
    four lines of her song…

    “I wish I could see a field below.

    I wish I could hear a rooster crow.

    But there are none who live downtown…

    and so the day starts out so slow.”

    Her music is filled with personal thoughts and
    experiences that we all share… and her interpretations
    show the beauty and originality of her way of thinking.

    thanks for the story!

    and btw… don’t sweat the congressmen…

    its the entire system you should be worried about.

  12. Chris

    October 31, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Regina rules! I feel the waltz

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