(2) To all the people who are panic-buying petrol across this fair and lovely land: STOP IT. YOU'RE BEING PATHETIC. Catch a bus along with the great unwashed like the rest of us. Enjoy the street theatre that is some poor mentally disturbed individual going through the entire plot of The Exorcist on the back seat of the 28 to Golders Green. [<--- happened to me, twice. Same fellow each time]
(3) London went loopy today because of the Ashes. There were thousands upon thousands of people
I think there are three reasons behind the sudden renewed love affair with cricket and the size of the celebration this morning.
The first and most obvious is that the team are actually *very* good now and they beat the best team in the world. I think Australia remain the best team in the world for now, but finally England can make a game of it.
I hadn't even taken my first set of proper school exams the last time England won the Ashes. I had started to think that the full name of the team was England Suffered A Dramatic Batting Collapse because that's all you ever heard on the news. There were always talented individuals in the England team in the 90s but never quite the strength running right through the order or the mental toughness when things were going badly. It's early days yet but this team might just have that latter quality.
The second reason is that football, which is the true national sport, is now so tarnished and sleazy and filled with foreign carpetbaggers, greedy owners and arrogant young millionaires who think they can behave like animals off the field and on it that people are growing sick of it. Also, the England team was SHITE last week. Losing to Northern Ireland, I ask you. Wankers.
The third reason is that we were cruelly deprived of our post-Olympic party earlier this summer by the bombings on July 7 and people are just ready to finish the summer properly with a good sporting knees-up.
How fantastic would this summer in London have been without the bombings? There was Live 8, the Olympic bid, Liverpool becoming champions of Europe (with a team not notably full of the football arseholes mentioned above) and now the Ashes. Could've been wonderful.
(4) Speaking of bombings -- Spooks is back! Adam Carter, you magnificent, terrorist-dangling ruthless bastard, I have missed you!
I couldn't quite believe that they went with a bombings storyline after this summer but because it was not Muslim extremists planting 'em, I suppose they thought they could sneak it through. You could tell that the bombing sequences had been cut to ribbons -- angles were tight and cuts were fast in a show not noticeable for shying away from gore. Antonia Bird used a lot of tight close-ups and made extensive use of the split screen, so it seemed more filmic than usual, if not quite so beautiful as film often is. Enough with the bloody countdown screens though, as if terrorists want their adversaries to know how much time they have left to defuse the bomb. Who believes that any more?
Things I liked:
-- that the script had an ordinary person caught up in the plot -- even if she was played by Martine McCutcheon -- and that she was repelled by Adam's actions (while being attracted to Adam)
-- Shirtless Adam in this ep, btw
-- Harry and Ruth. And Colin and Malcolm were back, but mostly just Harry and Ruth.
-- ADAM! My God, he's a right bastard but you empathise right along with him. There wasn't enough of him and his crazy wife but I suspect that will come.
-- I like that they did not forget Danny's death, using it to drive Adam and the rest of the team.
-- Anna Chancellor as the new Bitch Controller, but in that good, fun, intelligent adversarial sparring-with-Harry way and Jeff Rawles as the speccy home secretary, who is bound to come to grief, being a *good* politician
-- "I need you" You will have to watch 4.01 to get the context, but I am happy that my brain goes all subtexty at will.
-- Henry van Statten from Dalek was a CIA liaison, proving that there are only six American actors in London and at some point they will all have worked in every series I watch. The Vulcans! That was some smart wielding of audience prejudice there which US viewers will probably not get, as A&E will cut those character bits.
Things I did not like:
-- The SEVERE insufficiency of Ruth, which appears likely to continue given the cast order and the pics on the website. Damn it all, Ruth is way more interesting than the New Guy.
-- I was right about Zaf being introduced as potential New Guy in 3.10. He is indeed the new blood and very sketchy he is too, being a list of attributes -- he's single, he's a Muslim, he likes fast cars, blah blah blah woodencakes. He'd better become a real boy in the next couple of episodes or I will be seriously displeased.
-- The BBC moving Spooks around the schedule, which is usually the sign that they want a series to go away and die quietly.
-- The BBC running ep 2 against the glorious Smoking Room on BBC3. Bastards.
Download now, my friends. Get the long, confusing version, as opposed to the shorter, more confusing version.
(5) I read The End of the Affair yesterday. What a strange, depressing book. A great look at obsessive love though, the strained passion of Bendrix becoming by turns bitter, furious and forgiving. Might read some Waugh this weekend and continue the 'odd Catholic novelists of the 20th century' theme. Though Waugh is a twat.
I went to the Oxfam shop in Ilford the other week because I have a glamorous lifestyle, and I suppose they must have cleared out some old dear's house recently because there, piled on a table carelessly, as if they weren't the holy grail (of this book buyer at any rate) were tens of the famous old Penguin editions.
There they were, resplendent in orange, their paper faded to smokers' yellow, with the Adelie on the front and the price, two shillings. Such elegant objects, with their simple iconic design, and so redolent of my childhood -- going to my gran's and reading the old books she would buy me from jumble sales with prices I didn't understand and pages that were written in or which contained bits of shopping lists, old bookmarks, notes, dedications and pressed flowers. (This was before avarice dictated that we no longer give things away, we sell them at car boots and on eBay. I'm not suggesting that people who trade on eBay are generally avaricious or indeed doing anything other than having fun, getting rid of their old rubbish and making a little money, it's just that I miss the days when old things were not automatically assigned a monetary value.)
My gran didn't keep books caged on her shelves -- she seldom had more than 20 in the house, I think, because they were passed around her many, many sisters then went back for jumble. What I liked was that all the books were pre-read and most of them had these foreign symbols on, of shillings and denari. And the radio was "the wireless" and the television was black and white, and tea was bacon and egg pie, cucumber and tomatoes and a glass of orange squash. Tuesdays was my gran's sisters coming around for endless cups of tea and lemon curd tarts. There would be games of gin-rummy and gossiping about whichever sister was not there, and smoke and laughter would thread through the room.
Anyway, the yellow leaves of the books were my mnemonic, because they held a hint of that smoke. Their spines were creased with use. No shopping lists within or dedications on the title page unfortunately. Just the simple beauty of the Penguin Orange editions, which came about because it was thought that ordinary people should have access to modern, cheap, good books.
I like dedications, though they're sometimes upsetting because I wonder what happened that the book found its way to the sellers under Waterloo Bridge or indeed the exotic funhouse that is Ilford Oxfam.
(I bought some btw. Three quid each! Jeebus. They used to cost my gran 20p at the jumble)
(6) The new Elbow album, Leaders of the Free World which came out yesterday, is already one of my favourite records of this year.
It's gentle, yet passionate, often cynical and Guy Garvey is in glorious, sweet voice, though he sounds tired and emotional on occasion.
It's more inventive than the new Coldplay album but just as heartfelt. I thought X&Y was straining at the hymnal quality that U2 can achieve at their best but not quite making it in the same way that A Rush of Blood To The Head did. Meanwhile it exposed how threadbare Chris Martin's lyrics are becoming these days. Enough of the stars and oceans and bones, Chris, you're not saying anything new to me. I do think Coldplay are unfairly maligned in general, but X&Y was not the big step forward that the sycophants claimed. It was just a good little CD.
Pitchfork, you cloth-eared, indier-than-thou twats, you can kiss my arse.
So what are my favourite albums of this year? . These are albums I've bought this year. In no real order
Karine Polwart -- Faultlines
Antony & The Johnsons -- I Am A Bird Now
Kelly Joe Phelps -- Shine-Eyed Mr Zen
Elbow -- Leaders of the Free World
Split Enz -- True Colours
Eliza Carthy -- Angels and Cigarettes
Kaiser Chiefs -- Employment
Boards of Canada -- Music Has The Right To Children
Coldplay -- X&Y
And that's quite enough of that. I have to go work with people who think I'm an idiot tomorrow, you know. That requires sleep.