Friday, January 30, 2009

My First Brighton Bloggers Meet-Up

January has been just about the most uneventful month on record. Apart from last Sunday's mad flurry of Nathaniel's Baptism/Reggie's third birthday party/Sebastien Tellier gig, we've hardly been out since Christmas, and I was starting to climb the walls. All our friends have been hunkering down detoxing/saving the pennies/recovering from festive debauchery - none of which I've particularly needed to do, having had a relatively quiet and frugal Christmas. Another night in front of the TV and I would have gone seriously crazy (you don't want to see me when that happens).

So last night, we broke the seemingly endless cycle of home entertainment and spontaneously decided to pootle along to the Brighton Bloggers meet-up, something we've never done before despite both being long-term bloggers living in Brighton. I'm glad we did. A small but interesting gathering took over a corner of the recently opened Florist pub (which was the PV), talking about everything from retro phones to tractor-mounted lasers (blame Ant for that one), eco-travelling to the recent celebrity Twitter explosion. All in all it was a very pleasant evening, and nice to connect with fellow bloggers after years of writing away in my own little vacuum. As was generally agreed last night, all this advanced virtual communication technology is all very well, but it's good to bring it back to the real world once in a while and meet people face to face. 

Next up in the virtual-meets-real-world social calendar, the Brighton Twestival on 12th Feb. We already have our tickets, but you can still get yours here.

Links
Some of the lovely folks I met last night (and one I already knew because I'm married to him):

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sebastien Tellier Live at Concorde 2

Last year I coined a brand new genre, 'Chansonica', to encompass that certain stable of contemporary electro music with one foot in the French Chanson tradition. Some of my current favourite music, much of which I have talked about here, falls into this category. A recent addition to my ever-expanding Chansonica collection is Sebastien Tellier, whose retro synthpop ballads strike just the right balance between sophistication and cheese, nostalgia and now. His latest album, Sexuality, has remained poised on top of the stereo ever since it was purchased, ready for those spontaneous post-pub gatherings, to which it has proved the ideal accompaniment.

Taking the tradition of Gallic insoucience its nonchalant extreme, Tellier finally appeared in Brighton last night, three months (and two postponements) after he was originally scheduled to play the Concorde2. Shuffling onto stage 30 minutes late in a swirl of photography-defying smoke and relentlessly flashing lights, France's far-too-cool 2008 Eurovision entrant delivered a pleasing if not exactly electrifying hour or so set. 

This was my first gig of 2009, and I was still riding high from the final one of last year - Camille's storming show at Den Atelier in Luxembourg. It would have been hard for anyone to match Camille's energy, polish and passion on that occasion, though I had heard similarly rave reviews about Sebastien Tellier's live performances. Standing all alone (Ant had gone home sick) at the edge of the audience last night, I couldn't help feeling that the epic euphoric keyboard riffs and Gainsbourg-inspired flowery sentiments would have been better experienced in the fuzzier context of a festival field, and was doubly gutted that I failed to catch his Latitude gig.

Everyone seemed in subdued Sunday night mode, no doubt hungover from the night before and preoccupied with having to get up for work in the morning - which may have partly accounted for the general lack of vavavavoom. Apart from a few over-excited French students, the reaction was unusually low-key for a Concorde gig, and even the encore-request felt half-hearted. It was difficult to determine whether Tellier's barely intelligible Franglais banter between songs was the result of intoxication, nerves or pretension, but his kooky attempts at humour resulted in little but awkward forced laughter and bemused eyebrow raising among the punters. 

I fear I am being unduly negative, and it's not that I didn't enjoy the gig - I did. It's just that after such a long wait it felt disappointingly flat. Having just listened again to two Sebastien Tellier albums back to back, I am determined to try and see him live again at some point, preferably with a warm Mediterranean breeze on my face and springy grass under my shoes next time.


Related posts

Photo of Sebastien Tellier at Flow Festival, by Vilhelm Sjostrom on Flickr (creative commons licence)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Snapshot of a Weekend

Seven o'clock Sunday night: We're huddled in the lounge - the only warm room in the house - fire blazing away. It seemed sensible to switch off our central heating earlier when the boiler started rattling like there was a malicious pixie in cloggs lurking inside. We've been putting off getting the thing replaced for months, knowing it was on its last legs, but reluctant to stomach the cost and inconvenience of having a new one fitted.

Freakzone is on the radio as I move from place to place around the room, trying to pick up a weak wireless signal. Another domestic job we have failed to accomplish lately is the installation of our own wi-fi router, and while my new MacBook Air(I know, far too cool for me) is both stylish and practical, its sleek design leaves no space for an ethernet socket, so this is the only way to get online at home for now.

I realise it has been nearly a week since I last blogged (apart from for work), but then I have had little of interest to report. It is my general policy not to blog about work (apart from occasional anecdotes about office Christmas parties), and working is pretty much all I have been doing for the last couple of weeks. Not that I'm complaining; I've been in my element learning all sorts of geekery for the new job, and it's fun in it's own way, but I do need to let my hair down once in a while.

A girls' night was on the cards for Friday, followed by a dinner party at ours on Saturday (all work and no play makes Ro a grumpy girl), until I was struck down with the lurgy and had to cancel my playtime plans. I haven't been out properly (house parties don't count) since my birthday bonanza back in September, and am just itching for some dancefloor action. Cue major sulk on my part.

So instead I spent Friday night at home and most of Saturday curled up on the sofa watching DVDs. Today we did venture out briefly - for Sunday lunch at the Juggs and a wander round the Antique shops of Lewes. We bought a new bookcase for the bedroom from the Flea market, and were very nearly tempted by a 1950s Danish teak table nest that we didn't need, but really really liked.

7.54: Ant has stopped reading The Rough Guide to Germanyand is now shooting Germans on his laptop(I'm hoping there isn't a direct link between the two activities). Freakzone is nearly over, reaching its usual climax of weirdness right before the end. Leftover curry and a final Wallanderepisode await; gosh we're so rock 'n roll. As if to purposefully compound my party yearnings, 'Rhythm Is a Dancer' kicks off Dave Pearce's Dance Anthems show. Memories of Kerry and me larging it at the end of the pier circa 1992 come flooding back. Sigh.

8.13: Time to microwave that massala and find out what mysteries are in store for the brooding Swedish detectivethis time.

*******

11.00: I'm brushing my teeth, listening to the news on Radio 2. Tony Hart has died. The sound of his voice and the music from 'Take Hart' - so warmly evocative of my childhood - bring tears to my eyes. I break the news to Ant as I get into bed and we spend a good 20 minutes reminiscing about the man who gave us 'The Gallery' and Morph, and made us all believe in our own creative potential. Ant remembers most fondly the string of art school assistants who appeared with Hart - invariably willowy young ladies with floaty hair, a different one for each series. I remark on the hitherto overlooked similarity
between Tony Hart and Doctor Who...

One of my art teachers at Ratton, Mr Rowe, claimed to have been a college contemporary of Hart's - certainly both men shared a sweet gentlemanly demeanor and charmingly non-ironic love of cravats that sprung from a bygone era. Strangely, Ant was given a 'Make Your Own Morph'set for Christmas; he resolves to do so at the next available opportunity. I switch off the light; the weekend is ended.

Further reading
Tony Hart's Obituary in the Guardian

Official Tony Hart Website
Twitter Tributes to Tony Hart

Monday, January 12, 2009

Where Shall We Go Today?

Ant and I have decided to try and be a bit more adventurous in our choices of places to eat, drink and socialise this year. We've got into the habit of frequenting the same old circuit of cafés and watering holes, and lovely though they are, I often feel as though we are missing out by limiting ourselves to these tried and trusted joints.

My new job, which I started on Wednesday, takes me to the opposite end of Lewes from where I was previously working, and dangerously close to one of my regular foodie haunts - the wonderful Bill's. But even more excitingly, right underneath my office is a little gem of a place that had until now evaded my lunchtime radar. Tucked away in the courtyard of Pastorale Antiques, Buttercup is a rustic cafe-bistro with a simple menu that changes daily, and a bountiful supply of mouth-watering cakes. The free Wi-Fi also makes it a perfect spot from which to work whilst enjoying a slice of home-made Battenberg and a pot of Earl Grey. As if the new job wasn't cool enough already, I am immediately endeared to my new surroundings by virtue of this discovery. In the words of Little Orphan Annie: "I think I'm gonna like it here".

On Saturday, we re-acquainted ourselves with an old hang-out from our Waterstone's days - the Pull & Pump in Brighton. Though many a post-work pint was sunk inside its cosy walls back then, neither of us had ever eaten in there before. A stone's throw from the dreaded Churchill Centre (which I only ever brave out of necessity), it is a veritable sanctuary of calm in comparison. Taking a well-earned break from the end-of-Sale madness (I was on a new work-clothes mission), and not wanting to go too far-afield, we ducked in for lunch. I chose vegeburger and chips (obviously), while Ant went for the Kedgeree; both were excellent. I can't understand why more people weren't doing the same - the place was half empty.

Falling back into old habits, and in the absence of further inspiration, on Sunday afternoon we popped to Middle Farm for refreshment after a walk around the Firle Estate, resolving to investigate new afternoon tea options for next weekend. Any suggestions?

Photo of Buttercup cafe courtesy of Mister Snappy on Flickr.



Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Final Chapter

Today is not only my last day in my current job, but the end of a ten year stint working in the publishing world. My career in books began back in 1998, when I took a job at Waterstone's in Richmond after graduating from Roehampton. At the time, I envisaged it being a fun summer job to see me through until something more 'serious' came along. But apart from the terrible pay, a bookshop is a nice place to work, and I ended up staying with the company for two years, transferring to the Brighton branch in 1999.

I met many good friends, and a husband, during my time with Waterstone's, but the penniless lifestyle eventually started to take its toll, and I began browsing the Bookseller for publishing jobs (it seemed like the natural next step). Frances Lincoln was the first place to offer me an interview, and I took the job of Publicity Assistant, even though I had always fancied myself more as editorial material. FL was a wonderfully friendly and creative company, but Kentish Town is a long commute from Brighton and so after two years and a couple of promotions, I moved on to Orion in Covent Garden.

During my time in children's books, I worked with many interesting authors, and travelled all over the country doing launches, festivals and signings. One of the most memorable moments of these jaunts was during Cheltenham Literary Festival, when several of the other publishers' publicists and I had organised a dinner at the hotel for all our authors. It was so over-subscribed that we ended up sitting on a separate table outside the main dining room, along with one of the authors' husbands, who was only too glad to escape the drunken bombasting of twenty-plus writers all clamouring for each others' attention. "Well I..." "Well I..." "Well I" came the rowdy refrain from our garrulous charges as we peeked in to check on them occasionally.

The frequent weekends away were fun, but draining, especially when I was no longer allowed to take Ant along with me to events and we were hardly seeing each other. So when a job came up closer to home at John Wiley in Chichester, I stepped into the completely contrasting world of academic publishing. My final (for the foreseeable future) publishing job here at GMC brought me into an entirely different sphere again - working on an eclectic list of craft books that encompasses everything from knitting to dolls' houses to woodturning. It's certainly been an interesting experience learning about all those things, although I am sorry to say I have failed to master any of them!

I'll still be reviewing children's books for Carousel magazine - so the publishing world has not seen the back of me completely, but as from tomorrow I shall be leaping head-first into the mysterious and exciting world of Online PR to earn my daily bread. Wish me luck.