mardi 19 janvier 2010

This one go plunk: Ye Olde Pubbe Piano(e)

Or as they say in French: Celui dit "Plonque!", c'est le piano préhistorique du café.

Seasoned readers of this blog will know that I like nothing better than to quote the wit and philosophy of the immortal Nigel Molesworth; especially when this allows me to nick his gags, rather than think up some of my own.

This sinisterly unsocial animal, which usually lurks darkly and silently (mercifully) in the least remembered corner of the Cafédefa, is a dead ringer for the skool piano, that cranky old grid with Midle C that go plunk on which molesworth 2 hav learned to pla that grate piece Fairy Bells . . . chiz.

I have pictured the alleged piano doing what it does best; holding up display copies of some local author's book. It also supports a mean plant pot and the occasional lamp from large blue and yellow Swede-place just outside Toulouse.

Although normally shunned and avoided by all but bored small children and the chronically drunk, it has been known to pounce on unwitting players from faraway lands.

It all started the day that Dave the Underdog (formerly known as Barman) tried to nip out for a fag and met an enormous wooden projectile coming through the doorway that nearly flattened him. It was being propelled by some hairy bod from nearby Limoux, the tuner and owner of many pianos, who for some reason thought that we would like to be landed with this one.

Dave was just recovering from the shock when a manically sweaty German cyclist appeared and offered to play the piano for the evening if only he could use the shower. The deal was sealed amid a deafening cacophony of plunk-and-twang tuning noises, which indicated that for a few short minutes in an otherwise atonal life, the piano might become playable.

Marie, l'adorable chef, returned to ask exactly what a manic but recently unsweated German was doing in her shower. She was less surprised by the piano, having fought a sustained rearguard action to avoid it. Unfortunately she hadn't told Dave so the piano man managed to sneak it in while she was out.

Trillian (or something like that, or am I getting confused with the Hitchhiker's Guide?) the German turned out to be a dementedly brilliant pianist, sort of Cabaret with synchronised carpet-chewing, bulging eyes and exotic medication. I think his very serious family wanted him to become a chartered accountant and this was his way of saying nein.

He also established that the best way to deal with the piano was to be very firm with it and beat it to death. But Trillian went on his way and the piano . . . well, some old pianos just don't like staying in tune.

And so the cranky old grid stayed largely forgotten until an agreeable Aussie pianist got hoodwinked into joining our last jam session. Coming all the way from Oz, Simon could be excused for not having his own keyboard but couldn't be excused the piano.

Actually it didn't sound so bad except some prong (er, me . . .) had piled it up with bits of PA and other crap so we couldn't get the lid up to make it loud enough. I suppose I lacked the moral courage to thrust an SM57 instrument mike deep into its unsuspecting entrails. I must be getting squeamish.

Just to cheer up the anoraks, it's Blue Pig Day

January 17 is when it all happens at Anorakville-le-sacré*. It's Pommes Bleues Day, when the sun insinuates itself through the church window at a particularly cunning angle and projects "little blue apples" on the wall or something like that. Except that this year it didn't - no sun.

I'm always intentionally even more vague than usual about this sort of stuff. I'm not a natural atheist, but I can always rely on the Great Anorak Legend to make me break out in a positively purulent rash of scepticism.

I am indebted to illustrious fellow blogger Tilling-sur-Aude (see Other Fun Links) for the main news point but would have thought no more about it, had I not seen the charming little chap in the pic.

For a start, The Blue Pig is guarding the entrance to Rouvenac where they have got Nothing-Ever-Happens-Ever down to a fine art. These people have been World Watch the Floorboards Warping Champions so many times that they keep a fine specimen in seasoned oak down at the Mairie, as a sort of trophy held in perpetuity.

Experienced rival-next-villagers will of course know that, coming from Fa, I have to say this sort of thing, so sensitive Rouvenacians shouldn't take it too much to heart. Alternatively you could revive a centuries-old blood feud and Marcel Pagnol would be proud of you.

Mind you, if that means we're going to get Emmanuelle Beart dancing around wearing not very much as Manon de Rouvenac, then maybe we should sharpen up the pointed sticks right now . . .

Actually I think the real point of The Blue Pig is that you can go and order a lovingly hand-crafted Cerulean Porker of your own, if you so desire. I'm not really into blatant plugs but he brightened up my day, so why not ?

*Alias Rennes-le-château, see previous ramblings and turnips in the blood

mardi 12 janvier 2010

And here's one I prepared earlier

Yes, it's a genuine Airfix DIY Rothko kit. All you do is take the multi-coloured planks, fold Flap A, cut on dotted line B, while applying special clips F and Z, insert the cormthruster with your bared teeth, count to ten, light blue touch-paper and retire to safe distance.

Price 10/6 from all good toy and model shops, c/o Nostalgia Trips Ltd c.1967. Hammer, nails, glue, pins, parachute and craft knife not included. Motorising kit 6/6 extra. For impression of finished model, see box-lid (lower illus.)

I used to love all that sort of thing when I was a kid: Meccano, Hornby trains, Airfix kits erratically clagged together with mountains of polystyrene cement, KeilKraft model planes. They were great: you made them out of bits of balsa wood and tissue paper and finished by sloshing them over with a mind-bendingly powerful solvent called Cellulose Dope, to make the tissue go taut and airworthy.

I don't suppose that 11-year-olds are allowed to buy things called Dope these days . . . Of course, being naive back in 1972, it never occurred to us to abuse solvents; we just thought that getting stoned out of your mind was a trifling occupational hazard of pioneering miniature aviation.

There was a real craze for making these planes at my school (started by me, actually) and to be honest we were more worried about the strong possibility of the model room exploding. Just to alarm proponents of the Nanny State a little more, Dope (cellulose, for the use of ) was also incredibly inflammable.

Curiously, we managed to avoid either becoming drug addicts or burning the school down. Perhaps it's simpler sometimes just to trust children. They will not always succeed in modifying their life expectancy (a lesson here for modern parents, methinks).

Perhaps under the influence of too much Dope, I seem to have wandered rather from the aforementioned planks; or are they perchance Infinitely Adjustable Linear Pigmentation Spatial Realisation Elements?

They were on display at the Pompidou Centre in Paris last summer and I've been keeping them up my sleeve for a rainy day or at least a slightly less cold one in January.

As it happens, I'll stick with calling them planks 'cos I'm not that bright. I thought they were quite cool but was immediately struck by the thought that it was a Rothko kit. And Hey Presto! Five minutes later I found a real Rothko.

Apology Number One: I find that I have forgotten to note the correct name for the planks and their artist. I'm genuinely embarrassed about this as I greatly dislike failure to give credit where due, so if anyone can identify the piece, let me know . . .

Apology Number Two: I have never got Rothko and have yet to work out what makes him world-class (I have to tread carefully here because one of my regular readers really rates him and she knows lots more about art than I do).

To place one coloured rectangle over another once strikes me as a rather modest achievement; to make a habit of it seems, frankly, dull. I've always found it hard to accept as world-class anything that smacks of one-trick pony. Warhol and Lichtenstein spring to mind.

But then, art is like that. I get Pollack, I don't get Matisse. He's too decorative for me, I always find myself asking: What does it do? What's it for? Mind you, I used not to get Cezanne until I took the trouble to find out what he was trying to achieve. After that I thought he was brill, so maybe there's hope yet for the other guys.

lundi 11 janvier 2010

Meanwhile at a beach near you . . .

A superbly untopical pic of Canet-en-Roussillon where girlfriend Claire lives and works, in fact her little house is just round the corner in rue Jules Verne.

But is it? If this were filmed in new Avatar-tastic Feel-a-Round, you would be able to tell that a wild and viciously cold wind fit to shatter false teeth on a global basis was blowing.

Hence the very small number of insane people out and about of a Sunday morning despite there not even being enough snow to spark an English-style "blind-panic-as-first-solitary-flake-since-1827-lands-on-London-Weather-Centre" tabloid frenzy.

Yes, only an hour south of the Aude valley global meltdown (er, freeze-up? Ed.) catastrophe centre, there was bright sunshine, mainly chilled by the fact that the bloody Weekend Guardian failed to appear for the third weekend on the trot.

What is it with these people? I am close to writing a stiff email of the Doug-used-sarcasm variety to the Grudniardnp circulation manager, full of barbed and sophisticated witticisms like: Dear Sir, have you tried putting your newpapers into shops so that people can buy them?"

Or: "Dear Madam (mustn't be sexist), I have had sod all to read of an erudite and critically-acute nature over Christmas, New Year and the increasingly long and winding misadventures of early grotty January, is this a record?"

As all I really want to do just now is stuff the wood-burner to bursting point, to way beyond the pain threshhold with copious lumps of retired tree, hide from the world and read; I definitely am in the mood for a minor rant, even if only a modest, pre-packed and frozen one.

So why go against the grain? Why not blog away happily about snow and rampant polar bears in secondhand luminous underpants?

My theory is that looking at too much snow paralyses the brain. I kept looking at the increasingly insidious and venomous creeping white stuff steadily encroaching on its own croaches and felt unable to write a single word.

As 2010 rapidly seemed to be becoming year of the grave for the dear old blog, I had to do something and found my solution, at least for a fleeting moment (containing real fleets), beside the sunny sea.

vendredi 1 janvier 2010

Talking huge tomatoes with slipped guitarist

How's that for an obscure arty headline to start 2010? I suppose really the pic ought to be a too-clever-by-half conceptualist pair of bricks on an old plate, hot contender for the Turner Prize. Still you can't have everything. I'm not darling Damien and so haven't worked out how to sell you the aforementioned artwork for 25 grand.

What you're actually looking at is the new wonder duo of girlfriend Claire singing and me playing my 12-string guitar down at the world-famous CDF, complete with super-duper new pick-up for me to make a (rather tasteful, actually) racket with.

As it happens, snapper Martin Castellan has cunningly omitted me, apart from a subtle touch of forearm, some invisible shirt and a little peek of guitar body. At the time, I thought this was a decision made on the understandable grounds that Claire is better-looking than I am. However Martin assures me that I was simply standing in a dark bit and wouldn't have shown up, hence this revised version of the entry.

I should however clarify that Claire is not trying to balance a huge tomato on the end of the mike. In fact it is wearing what we technical types call a muff, or mini foam-rubber tea cosy that keeps it warm during sub-zero gigs, and stops hurricanes or other gale-force winds from making obscene blowing noises that wreck the sound quality.

The picture represents a cunningly-frozen mime of Claire doing one of her Claude Nougaro covers. Yer man Claude hailed from Toulouse. He had a fine taste in French/US crossover jazz and was thus our local boy made good and an all-round bon oeuf.

We shall be back. Be warned . . . Bonne Année!