vendredi 24 juin 2011

Playing with toys? It's got to be a boy thing . . .

Having recently paused to ponder on Silly Hat Syndrome, I was heard to opine that this was rather a Girl Thing.

Being a reasonably fair-minded person (except when ranting on about dogs, camper vans, eco light bulbs, and . . . and . . .), I thought I ought to redress the balance. Also I don't want Claire to hit me.

The pic bears witness to what is clearly a Boy Thing and a very serious business to boot: The Playing With of Toys. I was in the process of constructing a record player (See previous post on favourite vinyl) for mine and Claire's joint 50th birthday birthday party.

Persons of a house proud nature will be deeply shocked by the deck and LPs strewn all over the table, the sound desk on the chair and miles of cable all over the floor.

The resulting hi-fi was good for about 200 watts per channel, well enough to ensure permanent excommunication by the neighbours and a 9/10 Serious Toy Rating.

There is not the slightest doubt that this is an essential male need: I must increase my collection of Very Useful Musical Things, just as the golfer needs more bats and sticks or the camper van driver his Bolt-On Hyper Snail-Drive Transmission.

This is the only thing I have in common with either set of individuals. I wish I could deny it, but unfortunately I can't. We are all blokes and the logic is the same, even if our tastes are different.

And I'm afraid that when it comes to justifying the expense, us guys are far more hypocritical than the girls. When a woman buys that 80 quid hair-do she merely says it's worth it. She is of course wrong, but it' s her honestly-held belief.

Men usually apply their classic sense of economic priorities when the household is in dire need of essential but boringly non-toy items, such as car tyres or a new roof. In fact they buy the toy and then try in all dishonest seriousness to justify it.

For example, I just treated myself to a very classy little pre-amp for my oud (arab lute) and 12-string acoustic guitar. And why not? I do, in fact, earn some money as a guitarist, so it's not a toy, it's an investment. The one flaw in this argument is that on paying gigs, I'm invariably playing electric.

Yours unfaithfully, Ed

Revealed at last: The power behind the throne . . .

Regular indulgers cannot fail to have noticed that the legendary Cafédefa plays an indispensable role in this erratic series of chronicles.

I have to say that in all my years in Ongleterry, I never happened upon another watering hole so rich in character, local intelligence, and the warm and generous spirit of human thingummy doo-dah etc, etc . . .

Thus I am thrilled after a mere two years' delay to introduce you to proprietor Marie, la reine de Fa and Dave le Philosophe, loyal consort to the same.

The rather fab pic is thanks to my mate Ian Harvey of Rocktastic Pix, who not only knows what he's doing, but also possesses a lens (Serious Toy Rating: 9.5/10) capable of penetrating the somewhat subterranean lighting.

He snapped Marie and Dave down at the café during mine and Claire's joint 50th birthday bash. We were both very grateful for their help in making it happen, so all credit where it is due.

I must admit Dave's title has caused me some soul-searching of late. Obviously he has to have one, it's that sort of blog. Who could imagine Dennis Sans Menace? It wouldn't be right.

He's been Dave the Underdog for a good long while, thanks to a conversation between me, him and Claire in which he was suffering from an overdose of all-female hierarchy, which included Mollie the grumpy and stinky pub dog. The trouble is that it's ages ago and he may not remember it.

Being as he was clearly born to ponder over a pint, on whichever side of the bar he may find himself, I've decided on Dave le Philosophe . . .

Talking 'bout my generation . . . and a couple of others

You will have gathered that Claire and I have devoted much time lately to becoming officially decrepit.

In between waiting for bits to fall off, Claire also found a moment for a family party marking her 50th birthday.

This spotlights an essential difference between us. My family is small; hers is gigantic. I used to find this a bit overwhelming, but I think I've pretty much got it figured who's who these days.

There's a nice generational theme to this pic of Claire with her mum Francette and daughter Charlène. They're in the process of doling out slabs of the official cream cake; each naughty slice containing enough cholesterol to kill a horse.

vendredi 17 juin 2011

In praise of the silly hat: A marriage made in le Midi

One reason that some people come to the South of France is to get married.

I think this is mainly to avoid Soggy Bride Syndrome; this and the associated wind/rain/ snow/sleet/flood/fog/storm scenarios common in northern latitudes, especially Angleterre . . .

I was at just such a do last week, where the people were very sweet and it really was a whole lot of fun. Actually they were exceedingly lucky not to get frozen and drenched; we've had a very off and on summer so far. But in the end all was well.

Now there are those who argue that marriage is an outdated institution but I couldn't help noticing, whilst people-watching, that a wedding is a rare opportunity for pure display between the sexes.

We live in a very confused age regarding the signals given out by dress. We have endless arguments as to whether a sexy outfit means sexual invitation or intent.

A wedding seems to hark back to a simpler, almost primeval age: If you've got it, flaunt it. Because you can bet that the girl with the great legs is also the one with the highest heels and the shortest skirt, and so on accordingly for the spray-on trousers and the jaw-droppingly low-cut dress.

Now call me a sexist old twat (as you already have), but I think this is a bit of a girl thing. In fact any decent bloke should be content to shake the moths out of his BMD* suit, wash behind the ears and generally not try to steal any of the thunder.

OK, you could titivate things a bit with a flash tie or a neat buttonhole, but there definitely are limits. It's great to see the girls looking their best, and frankly it would be pretty damn dull if they didn't.

But the crowning glories are the silly hat and the eye-wateringly expensive hair-do: You know the sort of thing; eighty quid for a couple of snips and a dash of hair lacquer.

I always reckon it's a poor sort of world if a girl can't treat herself to a silly hat for a wedding. A head for hats is a talent just like for the skirts and the heels. It seems to run in our family. My sis always looks good in one.

And of course, hats are also a particularly satisfying form of self-expression for senior members of the party. I was best man for my mate Andrew a few years back and his dear old mum (well into her 80s) duly turned out in a magnificently OTT cloche affair. Noël Coward would have been gobsmacked.

*Births, Marriages and Deaths

lundi 6 juin 2011

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

As you'll have gathered, I don't go round painting things (apart from fences, kitchens, the spare bedroom . . .) but there was also plenty of music pencilled in for Artistes à Suivre.

After months of rehearsals, and a series of frustrating setbacks, Les Malfonctionnaires finally got out to play the entire 40 songs-plus in our set.

Thanks are indeed due to all the lovely people (lots of them much younger than us . . .) who filled Les Prés en Bulles à Quillan and bopped until they dropped.

Lots of short, sharp songs and keep firing them off. That was our strategy from the moment we first started rehearsing the band. And it works . . .

More thanks are due to photographer Martin Castellan. The upper photos show Mark, Kate, Debs and Stan, with close-ups of Debs and Stan.

Personally, I was deeply thrilled not to be standing in the entrance to the toilets this time, (see previous ace rock report) and thus eligible to be in the pictures.

Actually I think it's a fab pic but I put that down to the photographer . . . perhaps one day I will be a guitar hero . . . if I can just stop dropping bum notes all the way through those nifty little four-bar George Harrison guitar breaks . . . we can all dream . . .

There are people who think that the much-missed George wasn't much of a lead guitarist. As it happens they are all wrong, a fact which hits me forcibly every time I make a mistake.

The main reason for this misunderstanding is that The Beatles were a vocal band with guitars unlike The Stones who were, and still are, a guitar band with singer. The truth of the matter is that George was underrated, understated and a damn good player, bless what may remain of his cotton socks . . .

*All photos copyright Martin Castellan 2011

vendredi 3 juin 2011

As our Dave told Magritte: Ceci n'est pas un ashtray

As Artistes à Suivre prolongs its weekend of unadulterated sogginess, I feel it necessary to fall back on Fa's own philosopher Dave the Underdog.

I should explain that Artistes à Suivre is an annual shindig in which 40 or so artists prop up their bits and pieces in halls, homes, gardens and any other suitable space in la haute vallée de l'Aude.

Un-artists like me get to trog around the hinterland, dutifully admiring and hopefully coughing up. This time we've got a super four-day faire le pont bank holiday weekend. Except it keeps pissing down.

Not wishing to un-jaunty this account, I thought I'd start with a quick re-cap of recent progress at the Cafédefa which cunningly took place avant le deluge.

Long-time followers of this most indefatigable of chronicles will remember that Dave is (normally . . .) the belovéd of Marie, proprietress and reine de Fa. Always a handy fellow, he's been working away at the art concréte himself, except this bit's mostly made of wood; to whit, the fab new terrace in the (nice and sunny) pic.

The observant will note that the aforementioned construction is delightfully set about with wooden troughs for plants, the only drawback being that the happy band of regulars at the CDF between them smoke about three million fags a day.

Hence the erudite legend applied to the planters in big red letters:

Ce n'est pas une pipe - Réne Magritte
Ce n'est pas un cendrier* - Dave et Marie

Well I thought it was great but, of course, had to point out that that the quote is "Ceci" and not "Ce". Obviously I only mentioned it because I'm a real clever dick pain in the butt sometimes . . .

*Cendrier = ashtray

A super scone and a cup of tea, but is it art darling?

In this case, it is. I was, in fact, sorely tempted to abandon the pursuit of artistic perfection (all that Suiving of Artistes etc. . .), batten down the hatches, and curl up with a good book and imaginary crumpets or real hot buttered toast.

I was close to lighting a fire. In June? I cannot be serious, though actually I was. But in the end, I dragged myself out of the door and hied me unto Couiza where artist and fellow Malfonctionnaire Kate Hardy was exhibiting.

Under the circs, I'd be justified in cutting straight to the hot tea and deeply decadent scones with lashings of jam and cream, but really I ought to mention the paintings first.

I'm a big fan of Kate's current From A Train Window series. Her technique is to sketch rapidly the passing scene from a moving train, collecting her impressions into a composite image.

This painting is taken from a trip on our own haute vallée branch line from Carcassonne to Quillan, so it fills the bill rather well from the local point of view. Dear me, I am getting parochial . . .

Nonetheless, providing nosh was a smart move; thus preventing bedraggled art-lovers from expiring damply on the floor. We see Kate (right) and Sue, poised to dish out the cake, scones, quiche, tea and more tea. If a thing's worth doing . . .

Is it a bird? Depends on what you mean by . . .

Still bursting at the seams with tea and scones, I nipped across the road to where another friend Vanilla Beer was showing at the Mairie in Couiza.

Nilz is exploring a completely new style at the moment so she had a very varied collection. I was particularly intrigued by the birdman image.

The multiple arm movements are modelled on my mate Stan playing the cello, though the instrument has become in thought only or even never existent. Does anyone play air cello? Sorry, I can't keep this pretentious art crit stuff going for more than a line or two . . .