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Archive for the ‘Mise-en-scene’ Category

To play puddle roulette, you will need:

  1. A road, ideally quite a long one, that is prone to epic puddles when it’s raining. It needs to be a pretty busy road as well.
  2. A clear goal and sense of purpose that you are Going On A Journey
  3. A whimsical sense of imagination

The number of players isn’t massively important. Two is probably the ideal number, but you can play it with more and you can play it on your own if your sense of imagination is strong enough as you will meet people on The Journey who are also playing the game, and this will help keep you in the zone.

The aim of puddle roulette is to get from the beginning of your journey to the end of your journey without getting wet. The sense of jeopardy comes from having to get past lots of epic puddles without being splashed by passing cars. For this reason, the puddles really do have to be truly epic puddles. That is, deep ones and, also, long ones.

You can spot people playing puddle roulette because they will be the ones hovering uncertainly on the pavement next to the start of an epic puddle, keeping a keen eye on the cars heading down the road towards them. Is that car turning off? Is it going to slow down or drive round the epic puddle, or will it drive through the puddle at high speed causing a veritable tsunami of water about five foot high?

Then, decision time. To walk or not to walk.

Sometimes you set off confident that there are no cars coming and suddenly one will appear from nowhere and come bearing down on you. You can speed up as you are going past the epic puddle, or run, or throw yourself off the pavement down a path or against a wall.

The jeopardy is greater if you aren’t dressed for the weather. But, even if you have a head to toe waterproof on, you can still play because if you get caught up in it enough you’ll forget that you have the waterproof on.

As I was playing puddle roulette today, I heard an indignant voice behind me proclaim, loudly, “It’s only water!”

I thought for a minute or two that he was talking to me, then I realised he had someone with them.

I think she was playing puddle roulette and he wasn’t.

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Item 1: A car driving down the A6 at dinnertime with about a third of a fir tree sticking out of the passenger window

Item 2: About 5 seconds later, noticing that the hairdresser opposite was cutting hair while wearing full Santa fig.

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Going past the Apollo to get the bus home from work tonight, we were greeted with the following message from their announcements screen:

SATURN 5 XMAS #1

A very Mancunian Christmas indeed

 

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On Saturday while taking a break from the annual Louder Than Words music literature festival at the Palace Hotel, I found myself standing outside 8th Day marvelling at a very smart and imposing horse drawn Victorian style funeral carriage which was parked up there.

I initially thought it was something to do with a group of gothic lolita girls and steampunks I’d seen earlier on Oxford Road, but I think that was just an odd coincidence as I worked out eventually that the carriage was attached to a gathering group of people in hi vis vests inside and spilling out of All Saints Park across the road. The banners they had seemed to be for something called The 10th Day, which google reveals is something to do with Karbala.

What made this odd occurrence even odder was that it must only have been about 20 minutes since the first of the days marches had passed down Oxford Road: The protest march against the treatment of Kurds in Turkey.

The 10th Day people must have headed off down Oxford Road at about 2pm as I could hear their drummers over John Robb interviewing Kristen Hersh upstairs at the Palace Hotel.

The third march? That was the Anti-Fracking demo and march in the city centre, which you can read about over on Frack-Free Manchester.  I did know about this one in advance actually, but as with every march on a Saturday, knew I wouldn’t be able to attend as when I’m not attending Louder Than Words I’m working.

Despite the nature of these three marches, it does feel oddly reassuring to hear the sound of people on the march again in Manchester as, increasingly, I’ve been starting to see last years TUC March as a kind of last hurrah and wondering what will happen next.

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Now, the cake maiden is not known for her interest in football, but…

Even I recognised the significance of the man stood outside the betting shop in Levenshulme this morning, holding a copy of the paper, sports page out, bearing the legend ‘Champions!’, and grinning and gesticulating wildly.

‘Ah’, I thought to myself from my seat on the bus ‘Leicester City have done it then’.

On the way home, I spotted a handmade cardboard sign by a skip, also in Levenshulme, decrying the corrupt nature of the DHSS.

A day of polarities then.

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Recently I have been reading Oliver Postgate’s excellent memoir Seeing Things while stuck in traffic on the bus. Often though, the bus is too crowded for reading and I get to thinking instead.

I’d like to say that I worry about the situation in Syria, and about the biggest mass migration of people since World War II, but I’m ashamed to say that I spent most of Wednesday’s morning commute considering the logistics of holding a ready to wear fashion show on a double decker bus. I’d almost nailed it by the time we reached Oxford Road as well, but it is admittedly a much easier one to figure out than the war in Syria, or mass migration. To which there are no easy answers, obviously.

 

 

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Friday, Saturday and today have been taken up by attending the annual Louder Than Words festival at the Palace Hotel. Louder Than Words is a “genre specific literary festival” organised by Jill Adam and John Robb, themed around music and writing about music, with a good dollop of poetry. I haven’t been before, largely due to a lack of planning on my part, but this year I decided to go, my thinking being along the lines of “Well, I am trying to get this punk women book done, I should be making an effort to get out and about and get myself seen.” Though, in reality, I am crap at networking, and I probably always will be. The events on the programme looked good though.

As such, on Friday, I commuted in early and had tea at 8th Day while reading NME and Stylist, both of which are deposited in the cafe for customers to read. It’s been a long time since I had a look at NME, I last bought it when I was writing a piece for The F-Word about sexism and the music press, and I tended to buy it whenever Florence Welch was on the cover, but before that, I had long given up buying it every week. Thoughts on reading the newly free NME? In terms of look, layout and general vibe, it was largely indistinguishable from Stylist, which is a bit weird, and – in terms of content – I found myself being more swayed by Stylist. How very odd. Will stick to Private Eye and The Economist.

The Palace Hotel is, I’m pretty sure, the grandest hotel I have ever set foot in, anywhere. I arrived as a very large group in full black tie arrived, which only added to the palatial ambience of marble, stained glass and sweeping grandeur. It is a lovely building, albeit slightly daunting.

Manchester poet Mike Garry opened the festival, and I enjoyed him, but decided to give Paolo Hewitt on Oasis a miss on the basis that, while I’ve certainly got nothing against Paolo Hewitt, I never could stand Oasis, and often wonder what would have happened had Puressence been the dominant Manchester band of the 1990s rather than Oasis.

Feeling too shy to really speak to anyone, and feeling a bit of an imposter, I sat in the restaurant and nursed a pot of tea while making notes for blog posts in my notepad. It passed the time until Chris Salewicz was on, talking about his new book about the 27 Club with Chris Madden. I enjoyed this talk, despite it’s dark subject matter, albeit for somewhat different reasons than with the Mike Garry/CP Lee conversation.

The evening done, I walked down Whitworth Street and got the 192 home, feeling vaguely disappointed with myself for my inability to connect. A lot of people travelled from London for the event, and were staying in the hotel, and I had visions of missing out on late night conversations in the bar or in people’s rooms. This may or may not have happened, but it was hard not to feel at this stage that commuting in each day put me at a slight disadvantage so far as meeting people was concerned. On the other hand, I didn’t have to worry about travel and accommodation costs, and knew all the good places to buy food, so, pros and cons.

I felt decidedly knackered when I got up on Saturday morning, but did manage to drag myself out of bed and make and eat some porridge before heading out.

First up in the Keith Levene Suite was Karren Ablaze! and Julia Downes talking about Riot Grrrl. I haven’t seen Karren for 15 years, and I haven’t seen Julia for about 9 or 10 years, so it was lovely to catch up with them upstairs afterwards. Julia was toying with heading over to Ladyfest at Islington Mill, and I’d thought about it as well cos Lesley Wood was playing and I had a gap in the afternoon schedule in terms of finding stuff I wanted to see. In the end though, I chatted to the artist in residence, Bob Fallen, for ages while looking at his artwork. Then I went back to 8th Day and had Spiced Sausage And Pasta Bake while listening to some very lively MMU students on the next table.

Next up was Steve Ignorant and Slice of Life doing songs and spoken word. I liked some bits more than others, but the overall message and attitude was sound, and he seemed like a top bloke.

But the real highlight of Saturday, for me, was the Independent Publishing panel, with Karren Ablaze! (Mittens On), Ian Daley (Route) and Steve Pottinger (Ignite Books), which was utterly fascinating. What I really liked was the supportive nature of Independent Publishers, as well as the inventiveness and ingenuity, and all three of them just came across as very approachable, engaging, highly creative and positive people, which I loved. Given it was a small audience and quite informal discussion, I think a real sense of camaraderie developed. We all had a good chat afterwards, and I bought books from Ian and Steve when we all headed back downstairs for Richard Boon’s Jukebox Jury.

The night ends poignantly, with me reluctantly skipping Keith Levene in favour of an early night and the seemingly impossible task of getting two very full paper bags full of books, fanzines and a CD back down Whitworth Street, onto the bus, and home in driving wind and rain, without an umbrella. Things weren’t going too badly until I stood up to get off the bus in Heaton Chapel, and the bottom and one of the sides of one of the bags completely disintegrated, depositing my Coping Saw CD on the floor, and breaking the case. Cue quick undignified grab of said CD from the floor of the bus, desperate clutching of CD and remnants of case to chest along with increasingly soggy bags, and scurrying down the bus, stairs of bus, to the front, just as the bus reached the stop.

I had heard vague references to events in Paris throughout the day, but one of the disadvantages of not owning a smartphone, or being inclined to carry your laptop about with you, is that you isolate yourself from ongoing events and rolling news. Generally, this is a positive thing for me, but occasionally it’s not.

When I got home I had a shower and got my tea, then sat down to eat it while listening to an interminable debate on Radio 4 while waiting for the 11 o’clock news. I’d forgotten it was Saturday, not Sunday, and as such The World Tonight wasn’t on. The 11pm bulletin didn’t tell me enough about Paris, so I turned over to the World Service, and discovered the full horror all in one go.  Went to bed feeling deeply sorry for the French and, as with 9/11, with the thought that nothing any of us create is worth anything when it can be destroyed in seconds by incendiary devices wielded by zealots. Only the names of the groups change, nothing else.

I managed to put these thoughts aside this morning, probably because I was even more knackered then than I was on Saturday. I had to go into Piccadilly to find a cash machine, and on my way to the Palace Hotel I observed Manchester’s homeless sleeping in their sleeping bags and tents in doorways and on the pavements of Oxford Road. No doubt about it, the visible evidence of Manchester’s homeless problem is increasingly in your face. I remember noticing the rate of visible homelessness around Oxford Road starting to creep up in 2010, although there has always been visible evidence of homelessness in Manchester, and the supposed fat years of Labour government between 1997 and 2010 certainly didn’t change it. Still, over the past year, homelessness has become much more politicised, and there have been the homeless protest camps, first outside Central Library, now under the Mancunian Way flyover and by Altrincham Street on the fringes of Piccadilly. The flyover camp is in MMU territory, and MMU have erected barriers all around campus buildings on Oxford Road, seemingly to stop the homeless sleeping or camping out too close to the buildings. Manchester University, as far as I know, haven’t done anything about the one by Altrincham Street, but its not actually on campus, so it may get left alone. As more and more camps spring up, I keep thinking about Hooverville and 1930s depression hit America.

Having grabbed a latte and a sarnie for later at Patisserie Valerie from a girl who seemed to be about as sleepy as I was, I decided to go to the Fact To Fiction workshop with Olivia Pietkarski, rather than do the Stiff Records Story.

As with the Independent Publishing event, this proved to be a very absorbing and interesting event, with participants from all sorts of backgrounds, and with all sorts of interesting stories to tell. As with the Independent Publishing panel, discussions continued outside of the workshop, emails were exchanged, friendships begun, and a great deal of enthusiasm was generated.

I skipped Pauline Black talking to John Robb in favour of Unconvention: Is The Enemy Really Free? But, on balance, I think I would have got more out of seeing Pauline Black as Steve Pottinger said she was brilliant. Unconvention wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t for me. It was a debate around ‘free’ music, journalism, etc, and digital disruption, but it was mostly about music, not really about journalism. Barney Hoskyns was the only journalist on the panel, and the musicians in the room were very intent on discussing that, so I kept quiet and kept my thoughts to myself.

After that, I went to watch Jon Savage being interviewed by John Robb about his new book 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded. Savage was in a playful mood, and the two of them interacted well, making for a very entertaining conversation. Afterwards he was signing books, so I got him to sign my incredibly battered copy of England’s Dreaming and my much less battered but equally loved copy of Teenage. Didn’t get the chance to talk to him, so didn’t tell him how he’d helped me fail most of my GCSE’s. I bet he’s heard that line before…

After that, I went to watch the by now rather hoarse John Robb interviewing Mike Harding, who was an absolute delight.

I lugged my incredibly heavy bag of books I’d bought/brought with me to get signed back down Whitworth Street while being followed by a posse of London journalists with suitcases, presumably heading to Piccadilly train station, and then waited for a 192. I was more prepared in terms of bags today, plus it wasn’t raining, so there were no spillages. A very polite but clearly struggling young man asked me for money while I was poised to flag down the slowly approaching bus, and I gave him some.

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