Category Archives: People

David Bowie rules, OK?

There are so many reasons why the artist formerly known as David Jones, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke is the hippest and coolest 53-year-old dude in the world, but none more so than the arrival of his daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones.

How any man can look so good at 53 is beyond me. His wife Iman also looks PDG (pretty damn good) for a 45-year-old who’s only recently given birth. Or at least they both do in their made-up, airbrushed photos in Hello! (wouldn’t want to nitpick or anything, but have you seen Dave down your local Kwik Save “au naturel” on a Sunday morning recently?).

Our Dave’s always been hip, cool, trendy and one step ahead of the in-crowd.
Despite having lived the typical rock star life at a frenetic pace, Bowie has aged at least twice as well as his chum, Jagger. Mick may still be as thin as a stick but his face has more crevices than the Grand Canyon. Bearing in mind DB’s other hobby of painting, I have to ask Dave: where’ve you hidden the painting of Dorien (Bowie) Grey? Is it in Switzerland?

The fact that Bowiekins, Iman and Alexandria can get splashed all over the cover of Hello! without looking naff is another testament to the Bowie Rule Bypass Theory. (That the chocolate-scoffing Turner/Bovey couple and those other recent parents Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas do look as if they’ve joined the World of Wallydom, could be because they were all featured in OK!, the poor man’s Hello!)

How many other times has the Bowie Rule Bypass Theory swung in Dave’s favour? Let me see…. Gnomes are naff right? After all when it was discovered that John Major’s father, Tom Major (who lived in Brixton and changed his name from Ball) made garden gnomes, it was met with howls of derision. Whereas when our Mr Jones (also from Brixton, also changed his name and sang about a Major Tom) wrote a tune called The Laughing Gnome for his first son – Zowie, or Joe, or Duncan, or whatever his name is these days – we all thought it was cute and sweet that he’d written such a kitsch little song for his son. One, two, three: aaaah! (Although I’m surprised that the ever-changing lyricmeister didn’t go further with the Major / Ball / Brixton / Gnomes connection – think about it Dave: there could be a concept album in there somewhere.)

And, lastly, apart from having beaten the godawful Turner-Boveys in the Cool
Dude Stakes (hardly a difficult task), the Bowie babe looks far happier and intelligent than the dopey Dylan Douglas featured in OK! Immediately obvious as having a better dressed baby with at least 4 outfit changes during the photo-shoot (so important when starting out your career as a rock star tot), Iman and Dave have the decency to wear some seriously cool and classy clothes themselves, unlike the semi-naked, eyes wide shut Zeta and Douglas. Tsk! Tsk! Catherine – you’ve got a long way to go to catch up!

Of course I could just be hoping that the “Curse of Hello!” might yet split Iman and Dave asunder (shame on me!). How could I possibly think that he could be happier with me (plump little unknown dumpling that I am) rather than his tall, slim, elegant, beautiful wife? Dunno … but the teenage girl’s game of “doesn’t Sharon Bowie sound good?” never entirely fades away.

Sprechen Sie English, Por Favor?

Having just returned from a brief sojourn in Spain, it has struck me once again how useless we English are at learning (or even attempting) the languages of our European neighbours.

When I booked the holiday a month ago I didn’t know one single word of Spanish but having managed to scrape through a French “O” Level and German Business Language course while working for Siemens, I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult to pick up a rudimentary grasp of the language from tapes or phrase books before my departure date. How wrong I was.

The first problem was the lack of adequate learning resources. After trawling the largest bookstores in London, I was left with a lackluster choice of some very expensive CDs or one phrase book and two cassette tapes(Not all of us have personal CD players yet, so I chose the cheaper option).

However, after struggling through the first tape with a very arrogant instructor teaching odd phrases such as “it is possible for me” and “it is not important for you” I had not learned anything useful (i.e. Hello, How are you? Where is my room? I would like to eat / buy…). The instructor also had an annoying habit of interrupting the ‘students’ repeating his phrases on the tape and correcting their pronunciation, which merely interrupted and confused the learning process.

Deciding instead to stick to the phrase books, I managed to find a few useful phrases such as “Donde esta?” (where is) but no guidance towards understanding any potential answers (e.g. Left, Right, Up, Down, In front of you)!

Whilst most of the other travellers on my wonderful ‘bargain break’ package tour wanted to implore me not to bother and assure me that “everyone speaks English”, that was not quite the case. Certainly the hotel receptionists, souvenir vendors and most (but not all) people who wanted to make a buck did speak some English, the chambermaids didn’t speak a word and after a few misunderstood mimes I had to look up “yo necesito los papiers hygienicos, por favor” (more bog roll please!).

The other thing that annoyed many of the rest of the British lumpenproletariat was that many of the shops and bars were German run or influenced – this, of course, being because many Germans have taken Spain to be their favourite holiday resort, the same as us Brits. (How dare they!)

This did not bother me, still having a smattering of German from my business lingo course (although the phrase “he is not here, he is in a meeting” is somewhat limited on holiday).

In England, most of us learn French for about 4 years and German (if we choose a second language for our GCSEs) for 2 years. Although, frankly, when I left school at 16 with the requisite exam passes, I knew the same limited amount of both languages and don’t see that starting French at the age of 12 had been beneficial due to the way they were taught (slow, with fun and games for the first two years of French; rushed and crammed with German for the sole purposes of the exam).

So when David Blunkett (Education Secretary) or Chris Woodhead (Chief Inspector of Schools) is next looking at the National Curriculum, how about an overdue look at the way languages are taught in this country? How about starting foreign languages much earlier, at about eight or nine?

What about different schools in each area teaching DIFFERENT languages – not all French? One school could specialize in Spanish, another in French, the third in German and a fourth in Italian.

Thus, instead of educating the British lumpenproletariat all to speak a bit of French (badly) some of the pupils from each school would actually be linguists in at least one foreign language. What do you think Mr Woodhead? Or would that prevent gullible fifth formers from performing sexual favours for randy headteachers? Actually making them do some work for a change?

 

Be your own God!

If the British lumpen-proletariat weren’t annoying enough on holiday, the last few days were spoiled due to the musings and chantings of a (supposed) Buddhist, spiritualist, vegetarian, pacifist, tofu-eating “babe” (there is no other word for a size 10 stick-thin clothes horse with boobs the size of giant water-melons – something she attributed to the power of soya but it didn’t take a genius to work out that they were soya implants, not the result of excessive Quorn consumption!).

Normally I am prepared to “live and let live” as long as others don’t try to preach, teach or otherwise convert me to their own religion or beliefs. The “babe” had other ideas, however. Having proselytised to her assembled crowd on her first day about the benefits of vegetarianism (something I didn’t need to be told, having found it for myself at 15 years of age, but tend to keep to myself and not force on other people – not that the “babe” gave me a word in edgeways to defend myself, of course), meditation and Buddhism, I was surprised to find her choosing fish, chicken and turkey for her evening meals in the hotel (and, yes, veggie alternatives were available).

The other surprise was that the “Buddhist babe” was so keen to throw herself at the only 3 decent looking men at the hotel. (This may, of course, be because she had worked out early on that I liked one of them a bit, but with my looks probably had less chance than her. It certainly didn’t seem to be because of a genuine interest on her part.) Now I don’t think there is anything in Buddhist scriptures against one night stands but I just thought it was very strange and unspiritual behaviour for someone supposedly so “in tune” with herself.

As for the Buddhist principle of “generosity” the babe fell way short as she never bought one single drink for herself during the entire holiday (well, when you’ve got so many men offering, who needs to?), no gifts or holiday souvenirs and at the final totting up at their airport had incurred the least holiday expenditure and was the only one of us able to redeem the full value of her travellers cheques. (Unbelievable!)

Having since looked into the basic principles and tenets of Buddhism, I think that my own personal “take” on life is very similar but I don’t need the security blanket that a religion provides for the weak and indecisive who seem to need a God, Guru, or Set of Rules to live by.

I believe in “karma” to the extent that “what goes around comes around”. (Something Anthea Turner may like to consider. Not so many years ago her predecessor on the auto-cutie TV couch of fame, Anne Diamond, thought she was the cat who had got the cream when she walked off with another woman’s husband, Mike Hollingsworth… but seemed to be shocked and amazed later on when he pulled the same trick on a younger, prettier, fresher bit of talent in the radio studio.)

I believe that we are all accountable for our own actions and must be prepared to live with the consequences of the things we do. If you do a wrong thing or act in a way that is deliberately malicious or harmful to another person and think you’ve gotten away with it, chances are you haven’t.

As for the chanting to clear the mind and create inner peace and calm, I thought that was the purpose of sleep? How can having to adhere to specific daily rituals create calm when the “babe” admitted she would become stressed out if she missed her daily chant? Therefore for all the totally unreligious people out there like me, it’s time to say: I believe in myself! I am my own God and live by my own rules!

Magnolia

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia is set on one random day in the San Fernando Valley where we have to believe that ‘inexplicable things just do happen’. Magnolia is a mosaic of American life told through a series of tragic and comic tales. The ensemble cast is impressive: Jason Robards/ Julianne Moore/ Tom Cruise/ Michael Bowen/ William H Macy/ Philip Baker Hall/ Melinda Dillon/ Melora Walter/ John C Reilly/ Philip Seymour Hoffman/ Emmanuel

The themes covered in Magnolia are based on co-incidence and history. At the centre of a complex maze of connections is a dying man, Earl Partridge (played by Robards) and his coming to terms with his failures in life and his wish to see his estranged son. Enter Cruise who, as the Golden Boy Wonder, sells sex seminars to men on how they can get women – “Seduce & Destroy”. Aside from this – Robards wife (Moore), fuelled on amphetamines, realises that she actually does love him despite originally marrying him for his money.

Running almost as an alternate plot is the story of Earl Partridge’s
TV game show, which he created in the Sixties. This brings us to Donnie Smith (WH Macy), who once won the contest as a child genius but now is broke and has an odd fixation for oral surgery, and Stanley Spector – the new kid quizmaster and the pressures he faces from a pushy father. Add a dying quiz show host and his cocaine addicted daughter, a love struck dimwit police officer, who believes he ‘can make a difference’, and you are left with one of the most bizarre, original and inventive screenplays this year.

The film is simply magnificent. Winner of the ‘Golden Lion’ at the Berlin Film Festival and 3 Oscar nominations, I’d be surprised if it didn’t win the Oscar for best original screenplay. Tom Cruise gives a flawless performance, in fact, every single cast member gives their life and soul in this truly heart breaking / heart warming film. Like Anderson’s Boogie Nights, both stories have characters that spiral into a sympathetic depression. The cinematography is inventive and MTV generation-esque and the Aimee Mann soundtrack is moody and evocative to boot.

Some say at 3 hours 10 minutes Magnolia is too long – well let them whinge about that. I thought I would find myself squirming after an hour but the story is so engaging and provocative you are left still asking questions about the film long after the credits have rolled. For those that enjoy a challenging and rewarding cinematic experience, Magnolia is for you – for those that don’t, The Flintstones sequel is out soon.

What’s the story

A few of my very close mates went for a quick pint or ten down to the famous Sun Inn pub in beautiful Barnes on Sunday afternoon when who should swagger up and pull up a pew but (The Kid) Liam Gallagher himself. “Do you boys mind if I join yer like?”
Neigh bother big man, was the overawed reply. For the next twenty minutes he talked to himself about himself rather than listen to anything anyone else said. Typical. On the subject of Robbie Williams – Liam reached over and stroked my friend’s chin, and says: I’m gonna cut that prick from ‘ere to ‘ere! (Draws a line down his chest.) Now play nicely boys.

After a while Alan White, Oasis’ long-standing drummer, bowls up and says to Liam: Who the fuck are these twats? Normally the reaction of six beered-up lads to that one would have been a hard stamping – “No man these boys are alright,” from scruffy Liam himself – the situation diffused. Liam had given his seal of approval to the biggest bunch of monkey half-wits I know.

Sporting a cravat and shaggy haircut, Liam finished with “Our kid writes the best songs and were the fucking biggest rock’n’roll band in the world and that Wembley gig, I gonna fuckin hav’ it! (Referring to the gig the boys and me are rockin’ up to on July 22.) I see you boys later. Have a nice one.”

Cheers Liam – you have a nice one. You’re a fuckin’ legend.

Six golds, big deal!

A quick flick through the sports pages of the London Evening Standard had me reaching for the sick bowl this week.

No, I hadn’t cast my eyes over the odious David Mellor’s pictorial by-line for more than two seconds or read yet another obsessive ‘I hate Arsenal’ rant by Matthew Norman or Mick Dennis. No, this was far more worrying.

I had opened the inside back page to be greeted by a full page, colour collage of our six Olympic Gold medallists kissing, biting and grasping their gold medals with pride. Don’t get me wrong, their performances filled me with immense pride. But while I drunkenly punched the air with delight last Friday as Steve Redgrave crossed the line and managed a broad grin through my hangover the following day as Denise Lewis took the Heptathlon title, surely this insular, self-appreciating, backslapping nonsense in the media is going some way over the top.

And that was before I’d even read the accompanying editorial. I was informed that we should stand proud, that Britain is, indeed, Great again in world athletics and that we’ve emerged out of the dark shadows which blighted our performances four year earlier.

True, we’ve won five more gold medals than that pitiful performance in Atlanta but if the press could take off their rose-tinted specs for just one moment, they’d see we’ve won just six golds for goodness sake, hardly a major achievement when we look at the greater picture.

Take a glance at the countries above us in the standings and we find Holland, a county no bigger in size than Wales and Italy, a country comparable in terms of size and population to our own. The Italians have reached double figures in terms of gold, while the Dutch have eight to their name. Moving further up the medal table we have Romania, yes them of crumbling economy and even more decrepit facilities and Australia who, although have the advantage of home support, have a population to pick from no bigger than London. These facts alone put our ‘achievements’ into some kind of context.

And as we get swept up in the euphoria that is bleated out by Sue Barker, John Inverdale et al, the emphatic failures, which occur on a daily basis, are glossed over. What happened to our 100 metres sprinters? Why is there no middle distance competitor capable of reaching a final? Hurdlers? 400 metres runners? And in a country that falls under a deluge of water almost daily, why are we so poor in the pool? Nobody seems to care because we’ve won six gold medals. Well, that’s all right then.
And before I’m accused of missing the point and that these successes will give the kids of tomorrow the inspiration to follow suit, let’s look again.

The majority of winners have come from the minority sports: rowing, cycling, shooting. Access to these sports is limited. Let’s not fool ourselves – most people don’t have any interest in them either, except during the Olympics.

Granted, Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards can be the inspiration for any budding young athlete but two role models from an entire nation will hardly fill those anxious bods from within the Sports Council with much optimism.

Hopefully they realise that there is plenty more work to be done before we can even consider ourselves to be half as good as the media believe we are. If not, those images of Atlanta will be replicated in Athens in four years’ time.

Queasy Rider

I don’t drive. I never have, I never will. My parents tell me, constantly tell me, I should be driving by now. Dad, especially, as he is sick of ferrying me around, helping me move house etc. “Well why have a dog and bark yourself?” I retort.

The truth of the matter I just don’t want to drive. I’m too scared. Not scared of what sort of driver I’d be… I’d be fine, I guess. I have an unrivalled sense of direction and am always berating cab drivers for taking the long way round. No, it is the rest of the world I’m worried about. It’s the other drivers, those over whom you have no control. Being a pedestrian in our beautiful Scottish capital has made me realise that unless I move to a one-horse town, I’ll never be able to drive, even though I would quite like to.

I can just picture me whizzing about the town in a little car (a BMW convertible, I think), casually parking it outside the city’s top night spots (hello 1980s) picking up my rich champers-drinking friends before zooming off to me £750, 000 apartment in the city centre. And then I wake up and realise that even if I did learn to drive I wouldn’t be able to afford a car and I would never use it anyway because the traffic would be too horrendous, and I’d probably crash all the time, AND 75% of people who drive in Edinburgh drive like nutters.

Below is a guide to recognising the different types of schizophrenic motorists whose bonnet you may end up on if you ever take a trip to ‘Scotland’s beautiful capital ™’

1. The Cabbie

Ah, the cabbie. Bastion of Edinburgh traffic… or should that be b*stard? Yes, our beloved psycho-cabbie will stop at nothing to get you to your destination… but you may not necessarily be alive when you get there. Squeal as he does U-turns at 85 mph in the middle of Princes Street. Yelp as he tries his best to run that red light. Gasp as he pulls out in front of a huge mutha of a bus/ wagon/ petrol tanker. Start to cry hysterically as he then charges you £15 for your 300m, 25 second ‘journey’. As if it wasn’t enough being fleeced and almost killed by him when he has got you in his cab, he and his friends will then attempt to mow you down whenever they see you, be you at zebra crossing, on the pavement, wherever. During Festival time he also adds attributes such as only picking up rich/ stupid tourists as they are the biggest tippers, meaning that to get a cab in Edinburgh you have to dress in an ‘I love Scotland’ T-shirt and carry tartan carrier bags.

2. The Laddie Racer

Like a boy racer, but Scottish. Now here’s my personal favourite. Laddie will have, say, an old Fiesta, or a Nova in black or white. He’ll be wearing the ‘latest’ schemie fashions (it is hard to describe to you what a schemie is, let’s just say that they are unpleasant), which will consist of a fake Duffer of St. George hooded top, a Ben Sherman shirt (yummy) and of course, stonewashed market stall jeans. They will drive all day and all night through the Grassmarket (intolerably cheesy tourist banlieue with strip bars, ‘theme’ pubs, souvenir shops and endless stag and hen weekend parties) with their music up really, really loud, windows wound down with arm nestled outside. They will drive up and down as their bleach blonde 13-year-old girlfriends sit in the back seat smoking badly-rolled joints and drinking vodka-based alcopops. The Laddies will whoop and yell at every strip bar they pass, shout ‘ye wankers’ at tourists and generally terrorise pedestrians. Then a police officer or a ‘blue meanie’ (evil strain of traffic warden) will come round the corner and they will turn back into the schoolchildren they are.

3. Driving Miss Daisy

Yep, except this time ‘Miss’ Daisy is driving herself. Really slowly. Until… she sees an amber light and then all of a sudden she will hit the ‘gas’ (man) pretending to be totally oblivious to all driving around her. Do not be fooled. She is evil and has a plan. “I look 10,” thinks she, “so I can get away with driving like a complete arsehole”. Not even an Edinburgh cabbie would punch an old lady in the face. Well, not unless really provoked… If lucky, one can also witness a chauffeur driving the little old lady very slowly in a huge car. You wouldn’t believe how often I see this. Believe it or not, there are some loaded people in this fair city.

4. The Family Guy

It is not particularly ‘hilly’ around these parts, so quite why we have so many people in the city who have Range Rovers and the like is a mystery to me. Or rather was. Until I noticed that they were all being driven by irate looking men in their early forties or their impossibly high-haired wives, accompanied by squealing, screaming, whingeing, crying brats. How I love to see them screech to a halt outside Sainsbury’s bawling at each other. “For crying out loud, Stewart, there wasn’t enough room to get the car through.” “I’m telling ye, Linda, ye couldae got a bloody bus through there”. How they find time to watch the road when they spend most of their journeys arguing and slagging each other off is totally beyond me.

So just a few reasons why I will never take to the roads. Why would I? There are easier ways to commit suicide. I think I’ll just remain a happy bystander. I’ll continue making wanker signs at people who don’t indicate, tutting loudly at those who run red lights, flipping the bird at drivers who toot their horn as I cross right in front of them (well, you could SEE me, couldn’t you, you arsehole?) and generally being a pedestrian. Why drive in the comfort of your own car when you can be jostled by over 10,000 people walking along Princes Street or sitting on a no.44 watching some niddron picking his nose?

With me behind the wheel, I don’t think anyone would be safe…

Making an exhibition of myself

How come Sly Stallone is so sexy in ‘Rocky’, but so minging in every other film? What exactly is it I don’t like about dogs (is it the shitting on the pavement, or is it the smelliness)? Does the delivery guy fancy me? These are just some of the thoughts that go through the mind of the average temp as she sits at her desk, shuffling papers to look busy, or staring at her blank VDU with an ‘engrossed and hard at work’ look on her face.

Apparently there are ‘supertemps’ with typing speeds of 300 wpm and degrees in sucking up to the boss, who get the top city jobs, which pay £25 an hour. I’m sure they’re rushed off their stilletto-ed feet, with not a minute for idle musing. But the majority of temps will find that, for at least a portion of the day, they are stuffing envelopes, filing and opening post. And for all but the most dull, this will not fully occupy their active young minds. Leaving them free to mentally construct witty multi-purpose put-downs, and answer the more pressing questions of their existence, such as does a head scarf and gold hoop earring combo make me look unacceptably ‘gypsy’?

That is what the usual receptionist/admin bod/audio typist jobs I do are like. But this week I was dumped into the black hole of temping, into a sphere of work of which I had hitherto only been dimly aware. My booker had said “Darling, can you be at Earl’s Court Exhibition Hall at 7.30 a.m.?” Heart sinking, I gutlessly trilled “Course I can, thanks sooo much! £6 an hour? That’s absolutely fantastic!” I had no real idea of what I what I was going to be doing, but my luckless brother has ‘done’ the exhibitions thing several times, and has returned with grim tales of rank uniforms, tortuous hours and stressy, chain-smoking organisers.

Anyway, I rocked up at 7.30 on Monday in the requested all-black and was swiftly handed an attractive polyester scarf to wear. I then sat in a cold office with 20 other monochrome temps for two-and-a-half hours. When I enquired why we had to be in at 7.30 if the Internet World exhibition didn’t start until 10, I received a contemptuous look from a hardened ‘expo’ and was told that it was to make sure we weren’t late. Interesting. Clearly, intelligence, punctuality and diligence were not a major expectation on the part of my employers. Four days of slacking off I could definitely handle.

But at 10 I was seated at what looked suspiciously like a 1985 Amstrad. Then they opened the doors. Within seconds, the previously tomb-quiet foyer was filled with 1000s of geeks desperate to find out about new HTMLs, 20-year-old MDs of dotcoms, and doddery old geezers who’d come to find out if they could get ‘inline’ on the ‘world wide intynet’. And they all had to register with me first.

“Hi! Do you have your registration card? Thanks so much! Bear with me, sir…(protracted period of one finger typing)…that’s great…go to the end of the next desk and pick up your badge. Enjoy the show!” As the queues got longer, and the guests became more impatient, I just became more inanely cheery, daring someone to be rude, daring them to ignore my shit-eating grin. At first, the effort of figuring out the computer kept me diverted. But as the days wore on my mind would wander as I typed in the millionth illegible surname – to scenarios in which I was being romanced simultaneously by Drs. Ross and Kovac from ER. To the puzzle of Britney’s breasts. To that row I had with my best friend when we were 14. Inevitably, I got slower and slower, pre-occupied with why my friend had never apologised for telling everyone I fancied her brother. Bitch! Eventually, a stroppy French bloke barked “Excuse me, do you think you could type any slower?”

My moment had come! Still mentally cross-examining my childhood pal, I looked up, smiled sweetly and said “I’m sure I could sir. Would you like me to try?” Sweet Victory! I was 100% SASSY!! And, best of all, my boss was nowhere in earshot! I was so impressed with my wit that I replayed the exchange in my mind several times that day, and then re-enacted it for the benefit of my dad at home. Temps have to salvage their dignity where they can, and just for a second, one punter was forced to see me as more than a rather inefficient automaton.

Unfortunately, any shreds of self-esteem I had garnered were soon ripped away again. My boss had given me a flatteringly tentlike T-shirt covered in corporate computer logos. This was bad enough. But the final humiliation came when faceless geekboy #200897 leaned over my desk, stared at my T-shirted chest for some time, and then remarked to his friend “I didn’t know Cisco Systems were sponsoring this”. My boobs – modesty aside, people don’t usually miss them – reduced to advertising space! I WAS no longer a person, but just a machine, a faceless, boobless machine!

I am not one to leave an experience without learning its lessons. This week I have learned:

1) Never take a job so hectic that daydreaming seriously impairs your performance.

2) Take a good book to any job that claims to start at 7.30 a.m.

3) Always wear tight tops.

4) Temping fills you with existential despair.

Actually I already knew about no 4. But it never hurts to remind yourself that your life’s going nowhere. It helps wile away the inert hours between lunch hour and home time.

 

Who Cares if the Fat Lady Sings?

Having been labelled an uncultured drunken Aussie bird, I decided to try to boost my image by going to the opera. Yes, that’s right, opera.

Now, I have to confess that I hate all things involving people standing on a stage belting out tunes at the top of their lungs. I think it stems from my parents’ love of musicals, particularly (cringe) Gilbert and Sullivan. They would insist on dragging my brother and I along to these shows and forcing us to sit through endless productions. HMS Pinafore was the worst, as it would mean my father would spend the following days strolling around the house with a newspaper hat on his head, singing “I am the very model of a modern major general” in his best ‘modern major general’ voice. (I obviously use the word ‘singing’ in its broadest terms, especially as he would do all the parts).

I realise that The Mikado isn’t quite the same thing as La Bohème, but you know what I mean. This dislike for all things involving people on stage singing loudly was compounded by my brother’s summary that opera is nothing more than “fat bints warbling in some dago language”. Not very PC, but arguably accurate.

So, there I was, sitting in the Coliseum trying to ignore the urge to go to the pub instead, thumbing through the programme in a desperate attempt to come to grips with the story before the singing started.

The English National Opera’s Magic Flute was described in Time Out as “Mozart’s touching, funny, noble panto-allegory in Nicholas Hytner’s tried and tested family favourite production” so I thought “how bad can it be?”

I’ll tell you how bad – try a bunch of people singing as loudly and as dramatically as is humanly possible in … English.

Now, I’m no expert, but I would have thought that something written by a German, in German, should be sung in bloody German! Apparently it is sung in English to make it easier to understand which is totally untrue because the straining to make out the words detracts from the following of the storyline.

This is what I managed to work out : Tamino (hero, handsome prince etc) is on a quest to rescue the beautiful princess Pamina, daughter of wicked Queen of the Night (witch, not Whitney Houston) from the evil clutches of Sarastro – ‘the gentle high priest’. Along the way he becomes mates with the Queen’s bird catcher Papageno (as you do) who immediately breaks into several rousing choruses of “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” which loosely translated means “Oh, catching birds, that is my trade”. Tamino tries to escape from a giant snake, gets knocked out, misses Queen’s ladies-in-waiting who kill the snake, sing their own praises and then check him out. They disappear, Papageno appears and sees dead snake, Tamino lies about having killed the snake which is swiftly followed by the ladies reappearing and putting a padlock on his mouth (must find out how to do that …) they show him a miniature of Pamina, he gets horny and vows to save her, Queen appears, reinforces story and promises daughter, ladies reappear, take off padlock and give him a set of chimes and a golden flute – just what you need to save a princess – and wish him luck…. and so the story continued for what seemed like an eternity.

Needless to say, I left during half time (or intermission, as it’s called in the theatre) went straight to the pub and toasted the fact that I remained loyal to my Aussie roots. Cheers!

Sex, vodka and rock’n’roll

In the greatest rock documentary of all time, when the drummer of Spinal Tap is asked how he would feel if the band broke up, he replies that so long as there is still sex and drugs, it doesn’t matter too much if there isn’t any more rock ‘n’ roll. Two out of three is never bad, especially when it is those two in particular. But it is the music that allows for the excesses in the other two areas of the unholy trinity.

Music, then, is sometimes simply a means to an end. Or rather, the music is a means to getting your end away. Since the dawn of time young men have formed bands to get girls. Of course, thousands of years ago these bands were comprised of cavemen with clubs, but the principle is the same; the only thing to have changed are the tools of the trade – the cavemen now have guitars and only play in clubs.

What is it about girls that they immediately fancy any guy in a band? Shove an ugly bloke on stage, put a guitar around his neck and suddenly he is God’s latest gift since Mick pranced off to the nursing home.

I was mulling over this fact in a club the other night while watching a group of unremarkable lads murder the Stones classic Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker), to the rapture of eight young girls and would-be groupies, who had probably never heard the original. Now far be it from me to say don’t (don’t don’t etc) because it was clear the girls really would be groupies as soon as this last song was hurriedly brought to an end. So, if you’re ugly or just not getting any lately, the answer is to form a band.

The next group on that night had a female vocalist, a rock vixen with the cock-sure audacity of Courtney Love and the stage presence of Jim Morrison. Immediately I understood what the female fans feel: awe. I didn’t head for the front of the stage or throw my knickers at her or anything but I was captivated and seduced nonetheless. This sex bomb prowled about the small raised platform like a wild tigress and promptly fell off. I wanted her all the more. I was the groupie to be and I longed for access all areas. I made my way to the bar to buy her a vodka.

Well, I can’t say that sleeping with future rock goddess Eva did my ego any harm, unless it getting bigger is a bad thing (so most friends will undoubtedly think it is). I wanted her because she was attractive, yes, every guy in the joint probably thought that he’d ‘give her one’. But her lyrics, when they could be understood, were beautiful; I felt like I really knew this girl even before she left the stage (head first).

As it turns out the guitarist, Mike, wrote the lyrics, and she was boring as hell in bed, which only goes to show that contents and packaging are rarely in tune. As for her singing, well, ‘in tune’ would have been a good start.