Published 05 July, 2005
Not a minute to spare lately and still no job. Bits of jobs keeping hunger at bay but nothing worth writing home or here about. And then a call today - guess what - Stevenage again. If the Martians were using job ads as an indicator of intelligence, Stevenage would be in the A stream. Picture their consternation when they land in the "shopping centre", the ship is burnt out by the local wide boys, and they can't find the train station.
Obviously the last interview didn't work out but it got people reading and buddy Dawn has even pulled out the maps. Ian tells me his worst escape from a new town was from Swindon. My worst was a ladies (euphemism) pub outing from London to a social club in Slough for a jolly. Slough may not qualify as a new town (I don't know what the definition is) but it was new to me and what I saw lacked character and soul. Who would choose such an itinerary - down to the bizarre tastes of a mature scottish barmaid in a pub in the basement of the tower block in Hackney (map reference for Dawn: London, Hackney/Shoreditch, Downham Road off Kingsland road) where I lived at the time.
John Betjeman was from Slough and penned the poem, The Slough of Despond. Despite liking Betjeman, I never read it, couldn't make my way past the unpromising title. An Irish poet, Paul Durcan, wrote a similar/parody poem on the subject of Drimoleague (map reference for Dawn: Ireland, County Cork, West Cork). I ran an art gallery there for a while - great times, grim times.
These towns should twin and make a joint bid to attract hyperactive tourists who will benefit from the grey, featureless and depressive riches these places have to offer. We could start a whole league of depressive resorts and do a sort of exchange tourism, sending their residents on hols to new towns and Hackney and places with a bit of edge and dangerous creativity - but never any soul.
Was there soul and edge at Live8 do you think? It was not there on Saturday when Madonna practically handcuffed a beautiful, dignified African woman to her, the woman whose death's door photos as a baby sparked our generosity twenty years ago. Madonna wonders if England is ready for revolution - her every gesture towards this lovely lady spoke of control, power and was totally devoid of empathy or class. Go home Madonna please, you impress me about as much as George double U at this point.
The plusses of Live8 included Will Smith's finger-clicking cleverness and general, all-rounder, hunkability. A favourite Irish singer of mine, Brush Shiels, told me in always aims to be just a shade more entertaining than the previous act - never show them up but never be overshadowed. Dido and Yossou n'Dour did not spare their energies for Live8, hopping from London to the Eden Project and onto Paris to take the 7 second message to a new universe of listeners. Where was Neneh Cherry? How could you not want to be part of that party, singing with the songbird of Senegal.
Andy Kershaw was angry at the lack of african music on the original plan and Chris from Coldplay (who has been reading far too many of his own rave reviews, like wife Gwynneth) got straight in there, defending the motives and goals of the mighty Bob Geldhof. My thinking is that Bob Geldhof knows exactly what he wants to achieve, is not particularly concerned by Andy Kershaw's attacks which might be attributed to sour grapes, and has been working towards these plans for a long time, perhaps 20 years. However, I also think he may be wrong, a pawn to Blair, and also reading too many personal rave reviews.
I'd prefer to spend radio time any day with Andy Kershaw and the wonderful musicians he discovers and nurtures. But the purpose of Live8 was about glitz and media and spin - to make it sexy and exciting to give back some of the western comfort and wealth to the societies we raped to pay for it. Andy needs to look forward to the future of the continent that is collapsing around the culture he does such a good job at exploring and sharing. There really isn't much time for pussyfooting - we need to hold hands and overlook the little offences right now.
Tomorrow I will blog on the march to Edinburgh - not there but I lived there and know the city intimately. It will be fun.