Archive for January, 2008

Fighting a blizzard as you forge a pioneering passage from the driveway to the front door is what being Canadian is all about. Partly, anyhow.

After your fumbling mittens have chipped the key into the ice-encrusted lock, you shoulder the front door inwards,  beating back the swirling white gale.

The door is vaccuumed shut behind you. Warmth is all around. But you’re not home and dry just yet.

In winter, our entrance gives onto an obstacle course of mats and boot trays.

If you fail to arrive home first of an evening, the mats will be soaked with melted snow, presenting a hazard to over eager socks, newly released from boot captivity. To the unwary, a carefree step to the right can sink you sock-deep in the icy water of a gaping boot tray.

In January, the cheery Hi Honey, I’m home! is replaced by Aw %$(*#! – I’ve been socked!

Uncharacteristically, blame is never apportioned. It is a truth domestically acknowledged that we all share the burden of sodden guilt.

Having negotiated the maze of boot trays and other sock perils, your next trial is to divest yourself of your winterwear and seek heated sanctuary for your outergarments: hat, gloves, boots, scarf.

Here, a primitive mist descends. Vent. Must have vent.

Sadly, all the vents in prime heated areas will have been seized long ago, so the downstairs bathroom is out of the question. Likewise, vents in the proximity of first floor entrances are all doubtless occupied.

There is a small chance that careless children have failed to leave mittens directly atop a vent, leaving the potential for sneak-in-ability by more deserving adult garments.

If all exit vents have been bagged, you must venture deeper into the house in search of vacant grilles.

This is a dangerous strategy.

Finding an inner vent, say in a second floor bedroom in the north wing of one’s abode, may seem like the logical approach.

Next morning, however, when the thrills of the vent hunt have abated, you will be clueless as to where your beloved bobble-hat is steaming in silence.

Despite the nagging voice in your head, you will doggedly begin your search in the downstairs bathroom, moving on to other vents in areas of prime real estate.

Fifteen minutes behind schedule, having risked a besocked morning by venturing close to key exits, you will stumble into the north wing, a faint memory of recognition pawing at your outer brain.

There, with joy within grasp, you will see the woolly scamp of a hat over in a far corner.

Chances are it will be sitting in a small puddle of its own making, glistening several feet to the left of the newly available grille.

Brimming with warlike fury, you look around for a handy child to admonish. You catch sight only of a cat, looking oddly sheepish, rolling around with its favourite scrag end of fabric. The cat is purring happily, a warm, blow-dried look about its well-vented coat.

Warm cat. Shifted hat. Vacant vent. Lightbulb of truth pings above head.

At the end of your own bit of rag, a chilling vow aimed at the cat comes forth unbidden – It’s the wicwoc for you tonight, pal. That’s right, the wicwoc.

But you’re just venting. You’ll get over it.


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Blogging has taken a back seat over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been busy meeting deadlines for a number of (ta-da) paid writing assignments.

Meanwhile, topping the in-tray of bloggable topics has been this meme, which filtered forth from Beth at the inestimable cup of coffey site.

The meme criterion is straightforward enough: seven unknown facts about yourself.

Since this meme nomination hailed from Beth, major blogosphere source of musical knowledge, I’ll stick to this theme.

1. First single bought

Meme etiquette demands that I reveal hitherto suppressed memories of actively purchasing the following vinyl embarrassments:

‘Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool’  – Little Jimmy Osmond

‘Name of the Game’ – Abba (which, of course, is now rightfully considered a classic)

‘Follow You Follow Me’ – Genesis

Ordinarily, the first single I would proudly admit to buying is “Start!” by The Jam.

2. First gig attended

As the ska/mod revival continued to sweep the UK in 1981, I saw The Beat (aka The English Beat stateside) at Cornwall Coliseum, St. Austell. I remember little of the gig other than a shambolic ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ and the stirrings of a political awakening during the encore of ‘Stand Down Margaret’.

Has Margaret Thatcher inspired more songs than any other British PM?  Renaud’s ‘Miss Maggie’, Elvis Costello’s ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’, Morrissey’s ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’, and Billy Bragg’s ‘Thatcherites’ spring to mind – there are doubtless dozens.

3. Last CD bought 

The last tangible CD I bought was Tom Waits’ triple offering of ‘Orphans’.  Another stunning addition to the Waits’ canon.

4. Best gig attended

In terms of raw excitement and crowd/band rapport, it has to be The Jam in 1982 at the Top Rank in Sheffield. The first five notes of Pretty Green was all it took to get the entire audience rocking in unison. No let-up for the duration.

5. Worst gig attended

Two obvious contenders spring to mind. In the mid-eighties, a Pop Will Eat Itself gig at Trent Polytechnic was cancelled mid-way through the first song. The NME later reported that a riot had occurred. In reality, a scrawny drunken student had exchanged a few unpleasantries with a female “security officer” – a member of the Poly Ents committee. It was a long drive home.

The other disappointment was The Jesus and Mary Chain at Brixton Academy in 1987. Apart from a blistering version of ‘Kill Surf City’ as an encore, the rest was a woefully sub-par event.

6. Best stadium gig moment

Has to be the Wembley Live Aid teddy bear in 1985. While Madonna was being beamed to the big screen from Philadelphia, the entire Wembley crowd was cheering the repeated launchings of a small brown stuffed toy. Whenever anyone held on to the grubby little cubby for longer than a nanosecond, 70,000 people would boo in their general direction.

7. Best R.E.M. gig.

Beth’s nomination makes an R.E.M.- free post out of the question. I’m still kicking myself for a mid-eighties decision to buy tickets for Martin Stephenson and the Daintees at the Town and Country Club instead of paying a fiver at the same ticket agency to see R.E.M. at the Hammersmith Odeon.

Still, other than an oddly soulless concert at The Hummingbird Theatre, Toronto a couple of years ago, I’ve witnessed several stellar R.E.M. gigs since then, topped by one at The Manchester Evening News Arena in 1999.

Accelerate to the next.

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