Monday, 21 June 2010

The Mark Watson ipod Challenge - Northern Irish leg

The Northern Irish leg of the TYSIC ipod challenge had been a long time a-brewing, with flurries of emails for weeks and weeks. The window of opportunity was narrow but in the end we rose to the challenge, synchronised our watches and all managed to gather at the same place (the café in the Ulster Museum) at the same time (4.30pm on Sunday 20th June) and pass around an ipod, memory stick and booklet while posing for photos.

As Simon has previously reported, I had taken custody of the ipod from his fair hands (and Kate’s and Hannah’s) on Monday 7th June, becoming Link 7 of the ongoing chain. That same evening, I went straight from the ipod Hand-over to a comedy gig in aid of the charity
‘Reprieve’. The headline act was Tim Minchin and after the show I was fortunate enough to meet him at the stage door. I was therefore able to include Tim in the challenge, in a small way, by trying to explain what his friend Watson had set in motion and asking him to autograph the ipod’s accompanying booklet. Here I am with Tim - in the rain (sorry, but the ipod isn’t in the pic).

The choice of music for my addition to the memory stick was simple – obviously it had to be some Minchin-music, but which track? In the end I picked ‘If I didn’t have you’ …and also ‘Not Perfect’ (yes, cheekily I added two tracks – if I need an excuse, I’ll just say that one choice is for me and one is for Tim himself….even though he wasn’t ‘officially’ a link in the chain).

The next official link-up takes us across the Irish Sea. . I travelled over from London to Belfast on Friday evening to spend the week-end with my family - in honour of my father’s 80th birthday – so the ipod simply hitched a ride on an existing travel arrangement. I spent a lovely couple of days in Portaferry enjoying the glorious weather and beautiful scenery with my parents, one of my sons, my brother , his wife and their 3 children. My Dad thoroughly enjoyed our special week-end together and then very kindly brought me back from Portaferry an hour or so early on Sunday - just to let me carry out my TYSIC duties (he and the rest of my family found it all somewhat bemusing to be honest!)

As the ‘custodian’ linking person for this leg, I was keen not to be late for our get-together. Thanks to my Dad, I managed to get there a few minutes early and was the first to arrive. I stationed myself in the Museum café within clear sight of the front entrance.

Tara was the next to arrive, having only a short way to come, as luck would have it. We exchanged texts like radar signals ('I’m here – where are you?') and then finally we ‘locked-on’ and bingo! Link 8 successful made! Greetings, friendly chat and ipod business all underway within minutes.

Only a short while later Kathryn and her friend arrived, adding our 9th and final Northern Irish Link to the ipod chain. Kathryn had driven to Belfast from her home-town of Bangor specially for the link-up (with a friend to protect her from meeting strange, unknown people off the internet – wise girl!). Kathryn had had a very busy week-end already and had only just time to zoom up to Belfast for our meeting before heading straight back to Bangor again for a further commitment that evening! She had also kindly brought along her laptop (in the funkiest, shiniest, purplest laptop bag I have ever seen – I want one!) so music copying was soon underway. As the laptop fired up I was delighted to see Kathryn’s desktop pic – a very fine photo of herself with Mr Tim Minchin after his Belfast gig last year.

Tara had picked Arcade Fire’s Black Waves/Bad Vibrations and soon added her explanatory message to the notebook. Kathryn had several possible tracks in mind and only made her final decision once she’d had a glance at the choices already in the book, in conjunction with weighing up the importance of having a Northern Irish musician (or two) included as part of the TYSIC NI-leg choices. I’m delighted that her final decision was in favour of Duke Special and Neil Hammon’s rendition of ‘Our Love Goes Deeper’

And here we all are – the 3 Northern Irish ones.

By the way, Mark, you just HAVE TO add Belfast to your tour now! Tara is counting on you! (Meanwhile Kathryn is waiting for results to see where she will be at University before booking, whereas I am trying to decide which show I can travel to, since I can’t manage the one and only London date - grrr).

We only had about 30 minutes before the Museum closed and Kathryn had to get away. We all said our farewells, and I headed back to my parents house, just up the road, for a bite to eat before flying back to London later that evening. So, Mission Accomplished! The ipod now restlessly awaits its next adventure, and I await my instructions – who will be the next link, I wonder?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Following the trail

A thought popped into my mind the other day and it amused me: it was the idea of Tim Minchin being the Hansel character in the famous fairy tale 'Hansel and Gretel', in the sense of him laying a trail of breadcrumbs (or pebbles) for me to follow. In the early part of the story, the trail of pebbles leads the children from attempted abandonment in the wood to safety whereas the trail of breadcrumbs subsequently fails because it is eaten by birds (and it's after that, while lost in the woods, that they become trapped by the witch in the gingerbread house). Granted, the analogy isn't all that great, but 'following a trail of breadcrumbs' has become a well-enough known image in its own right, denoting the attractiveness of some kind of a treat leading you from one morsel to the next, and so on. Certainly the Tim Minchin trail I've been following has led to many wonderful and magical things, some of them away from home and some of them initially scarey.

. . . . . .First and foremost along the trail I discovered the wonderful Duke Special. I found my countryman Duke while trawling through all the Minchin clips I could find on Youtube. The clip in question features a duet by Duke and Tim of the fabulous Duke song 'Our Love goes deeper than this'. Since making this discovery I have bought lots of Duke's music on itunes and have managed to see him playing live at the Shaw Theatre, performing his 'Silent world of Hector Mann' and 'Mother Courage' material. It was fab!. . . . .

. . . . . Further along the path, I made some lovely new friends - Jooles, Emma & Vikki (I first met all 3 of these, and other friendly 'Angry Feeters', at the Australian film festival - attended because Tim was introducing the 2 films that evening). . . . . .

. . . . . And, just round the corner, that same day at the Barbican, I found the beguiling and enchanting art installation in the Curve, featuring free-flying finches plucking electric guitars. . . . .

. . . . . . . On we go, and next I found Mark Watson (discovered because Tim had been involved in 'Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better' in the 1st series (made for radio 4) - so I bought the audiobook of that series online, to listen to Tim's bits, and then started following Mark himself on twitter, reading his blog and finally - very significantly - became drawn in to the whole TYSIC thing!) This has in turn influenced the routes I've been exploring, leading me into even more interesting territories . . . . .

. . . . . . Tim next led me to the Big Libel Gig and there I discovered just how good Marcus Brigstock is as a stand-up (I definitely hope to see him do a full-length gig someday and (although less of a surprise) I also re-confirmed that Dara O'Briain is one of my favourite stand-ups (I've now booked to see him in September). In fact, the Big Libel Gig was a big turning point in many ways, showing me that going to live stand-up comedy shows - something I hadn't done for years, if ever, was something I really enjoyed and wanted to do more . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . Along the road, some considerable distance away, I discovered 'The Hay Festival'. As with all the stops along this trail, Tim was the 'draw', but once more the side-benefits were terrific. Not only did it involve my lovely new friends Emma and Vikki, the event itself was a revelation! Having seen the pleasures to be had, I'm definitely planning to go back next year - hopefully with my husband this time - and to stay longer so that we can go to lots of the talks and events, and explore the town and surrounding area a bit more. . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . Continuing down the Timmy-trail, the next 'find' was at the Reprieve gig when Tim was headlining. My favourite side-benefit that night was getting to see Phil Jupitus doing stand-up (and singing!): I'd only previously seen his TV panel-game work. He was terrific - another I'd like to see do a full-length show. His accompanying group of acapella singers called (I think) 'The La de Das' were also fantastic!. . . . .

. . . . .And so we reach the current 'trail-head', a spot to which Tim's tweeted plugs, and my new friends' encouragement took me - reached after travelling way down south, alone by tube and through the streets of Stockwell, to find a bit of back-room comedy and small-venue music in a pub: 'The Junior Ministers' . . . . . . and Jukebox Collective. . . . . . Excellent stuff - made all the more enjoyable by further friendly mingling with new friends, many of them now twitter-mates. . . . . . .

. . . . . . .No idea where I'm heading next - looking forward to spotting the next bread-crumb, whenever and where-ever it may appear.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

TYSIC UPDATE - a month later...

A quick update on everything (To coin a familiar sounding phrase: 'it's been a month since my last 'confession')

1. Emotional well-being: good, although half-term 'chill out' took me into a state of lethargy which wasn't actually that great by the end. Still haven't quite got back into gear, although the thrills of my fangirl exploits have been delightful - in a brittle, 'high' sort of a way. Am currently reading 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman and it's excellent on practical ways to enhance happiness. Definitely going to put some of the ideas into action!

2. Be less lazy & more productive & stop procrastinating. - Big dip on the graph, I'm afraid. The effect of half-term week, as mentioned above. Laundry is piling up again, although I did manage a few other chores this morning. Oh, and I did get around to going to the dentist on Monday, which I'd been putting off for AGES! Oh, and twice recently I've met up for a drink with old friends I hadn't seen for ages (arranged before the half-term dip drained me of all 'getting on with things' gusto) On the other hand, I am writing this when I really ought to be getting on with at least two other fairly urgent tasks!)

3. Relationship with my Sons. Good stuff generally. Older son (aged 20) came over to me earlier today, just before going out to claim his 'daily hug'. I am very lucky. And the younger boy (now 18), with whom I have a somewhat stormier relationship at times, was able to share some of his favourite 'Dub step' & other music with me via my iphone link to Youtube, as I drove him a very long way - and back again - to collect his ebay-purchased new DJ 'decks'. Even though the traffic jams were horrendous, the sat nav a bit unreliable at times, and my son didn't like the Tim Minchin stuff I played him - despite all that, overall we got on pretty well. At one point, he found my video footage (on the iphone) of our dog playfighting with a friend's younger dog, and loved it, so linked to it on his facebook page.

4. Stay open to opportunities/ take risks etc. My recent outings to gigs will come up under separate category, but also relevant here. Similarly going to Junior Ministers this Friday (a complete departure for me - not sure what I'll make of it). But probably my recent (and ongoing) participation in the TYSIC ipod challenge is my highest scoring thing under this category! Met up with Simon, Kate, Hannah on Monday - I just went up to these complete strangers in the pub....and it was lovely!

5. Enjoy time with my parents. Have mostly been keeping up my new resolution to ring my mum more frequently - seems to be fortnightly rather than weekly, but that's still much better than it used to be (having said which, I think I owe a call this week...)

6. Nurture relationship with husband. Despite my dalliances in Hay and Lyceum, getting all fangirlish over Tim Minchin, things are good with the REAL man in my life. Nice bits of 'quality time' most week-ends. (Relieved that he didn't give me a hard time yesterday about my late night on Monday. He was so tired from lack of a good night's sleep he didn't even have the engergy to be grumpy, poor dear.)

7. Go out to live entertainment more. Well that's such an easy one now! At some point I may have to set myself a compensatory TYSIC - 'to go out to live entertainment LESS'!! Have now booked Dara O'Briain for September (am going with older son in fact), but nothing booked for July or Aug yet (no Edinburgh for me, sadly)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Meeting Tim Minchin at the Stage Door – Lyceum, 07-06-2010

(How I overcame tongue-tied nerves and gained a new nick-name)

After my experience in Hay, I was determined not to be tongue-tied this time. I had actual things I was hoping to say.

Delighted that Vikki appeared just as I found the stage door! (She’d just finished work, so seemed silly not to come along) Nice to be able to chat during the long wait in the rain - we both became very bedraggled, having no umbrellas. (to be honest, Vikki was also a delightful sight for my sore eyes for another reason - since she was bearing a working camera: my camera battery was stupidly dead so I’d only got my iphone camera– which has no flash). Others I recall being at the stage door - and whose forum names I know - were Aims - plus her v patient dad - and Jellybean (not sure of others’ names ).

So, there I was - I had a (Hay Festival) canvas bag – but no sharpie; I had a Watsonian notebook; I had a bag of jellybags. I had no umbrella, no proper camera & was sporting the ugliest anorak in the entire universe. I had, however, remembered to put on some eyeliner.

Ok, so eventually Tim came out, all lovely and saying ‘Aww, you guys’ cos there we were, standing in the rain. There were quite a few of us, but not toooo many. Aims’ dad was so indulgent and lovely. (although when the moment came to take the photo, he had real trouble with the camera – I think the flash hadn’t had time to recharge or something. I do hope the photos came out ok, Aims?)

As he joined us, Tim ducked under various umbrellas, one after the other, all held by much shorter female people, so they kept forgetting to hold the umbrella high enough for him, and Tim’s long mane-like hair kept getting caught in umbrella spokes, which he jokingly complained about ( Vikki’s hair also got tangled in a spoke at one point – while having her photo taken with Tim I think). I managed – this time – to operate Vikki’s camera correctly, I think, and (hopefully) got a photo for her ok. (hope you can reassure me on that point, Vikki?)

I can’t really quite remember the order of my attempted banter to engage Tim in something like a normal conversation (determined not to be tongue-tied this time, after Hay embarrassment), but here goes, although not necessarily quite in this order:

I borrowed someone else’s sharpie (huge thank you for that!) and got Tim to sign my Hay Festival canvas bag (although I didn’t get/take the chance to mention that I’d seen him in Hay – he probably didn’t even notice it was a Hay bag – nor did I mention that I had also been a ‘Hi…Bye’ tongue-tied idiot then – but why would I want to remind him of that!)

I did, however, remind him that it had been me, @Joneshs, who had recently tweeted him the link to the ‘mr whippy fallacy’ 21st floor blog featuring a critique of Peter Hichens’ bizarre observations on anti-depressants and serial killers. Thankfully, he remembered it. I then tried to reference the latin name for that causal correlation fallacy (which he quoted in the Hay show, but which I can never remember), mentioning along the way that my son had studied Philosophy A level, but that the latin name ‘was all greek to me’ – and then, catching his eye, did the old ‘did you see what I did there?’ comment. He laughed and made some quip in reply, which (sadly) I can’t recall (but I do recall that I could see the cogs of his mind whirring at that point, which was fun)

I then offered him a Jellybaby (‘don’t know if you like these, but would you like a jellybaby?’. He initially responded 'I love jelly babies' but then went on to ask me, slightly suspiciously, 'you haven't poisoned them, have you?' (I hadn’t, and fortunately he was trusting enough to believe me) He took a couple – and later came back and grabbed quite a few more, saying he was really hungry.

Ok, so what else? Oh yes, I asked him, as a favour, to sign the booklet accompanying the ipod for the Mark Watson TYSIC ipod challenge. (I’d only just met up with some other Watsonians earlier that evening and received the ipod & booklet for my leg of its journey around the country) It was hard to explain this to him when I didn’t want to monopolise his time too much –I just mentioned his friend Mark Watson and gave the briefest gist of what was going on, although I’m pretty sure he didn’t really get it. ‘Ok, so what do I need to do? ‘ he asked ‘ Just sign the booklet, really’; - so he did – a nice wee autograph, which is great – I do hope the eventual recipient appreciates this addition! (In hindsight, I suppose I should have asked him for a recommendation of a music track really - something he likes to listen to. Oh well – will just stick with my original plan to include a Minchin track as my addition to the ipod – not sure which song yet)

At one point, a bloke who was a drummer put a note of his contact details into Tim’s hand, offering his services, any services– if he should ever happen to need a drummer …(at which point Vikki pipes up, offering to do Tim’s lighting – go girl!: between us all we could probably source and service every aspect of his forthcoming tour, I’m sure – although I couldn’t think, at the time, of a single thing I could offer to do..) ‘So, are you a good drummer? An ace drummer…?’ asks Tim – but bless him the bloke wasn’t arrogant or self-confident enough to say an up-front ‘Yes’ to that .

Oh, just remembered, at one point, seeing other people getting hugs (including the drummer), I was brazen enough to outright ask ‘Can I have a hug?’ And of course I got one, bless him (probably not too pleasant for him, cos my anorak was soaking wet; and, to be honest, lovely as it was, I didn’t get quite as much of a thrill from it myself, as I had from my hand-round-waist cuddle at Hay, cos there were just so many layers of wet-weather gear this time!)

Also, a bit later, after other people had had lots of photos, I suddenly realised I hadn’t had my photo taken with him at all this time. SO, again I was brazen – but polite of course – and asked if I could also have a photo too. ‘Aw, Jonesy’ he said (YAY for getting a nickname from Tim!)

As he put his arm round me for the photo (taken by Vikki on her camera – what a star she is!), I expanded on the reason for my request for a photo: ‘I haven’t had my wet photo yet’
‘A Woto’ he quipped.

SO, that was about it. I did ask if he’d like to keep the whole bag of jelly babies and he was obviously tempted, but In the end he said ‘No, I’d only eat them all’ So now I’m eating them. Ah well, I’ll be the fat one and he can stay skinny, I don’t mind.

So there you have it: lots of happy memories.BUT do you know the one important thing I forgot to do: I bloody well forgot to tell him how fantastic his performance had been that night (I guess we all assume he knows that we love what he does - and that it’s been amazing - hence the standing in the rain - but it wouldn't hurt to tell the fella!) Am kicking myself.

It was so hard to leave while he was still there, with a few other patient people at last getting their turn, but Vikki and I pulled ourselves away and off we went in the rain, in search of a way home (so glad I made the last tube and didn’t have to resort to night buses!)

But as we walked away, glancing back at Tim with the others still around him, I couldn’t help wish I could just linger till the very last moment when he himself would have to say goodbye and head for home…

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Tim Minchin in Hay

Well, this is my first time trying to include pics in my blog - fingers crossed. Live entertainment TYSIC - and then some!

Here he is, in all his lushious quizzicalness - the very lovely Mr Minchin. 'If I didn't have you, someone else would do' perhaps? Well, no harm in wishful thinking.

Here's another favourite shot - note the hand resting on thigh of what were very skinny black jeans (sadly I didn't get any shots of his bum, with monkey-skeleton hand prints on each pert cheek)

The next one captures the moment when Tim, during Rock and Roll Nerd, broke off momentarily, saying 'Oh fuck, I forgot the words' - much to the great delight of the crowd. Even better, once back into the song - without losing a single beat, I might add - he riffed on the usual 'You've either got it or you don't', in the next section changing it to 'You either forget the lyrics or you don't'. It was a real treat - the real 'you had to be there' moment of the night, our very own unique version of RARN.
Of course, the bare-chested flamboy-ance of Canvas Bags, with its 'having your cake and eating' it approach to the spoofing of rock-God posturing, was a particular highlight. So first here's a bit of Tim's self-deprecation.....

.....and then the Messianic posturing (a bit blurry and psychedelic, but it's the best shot I have, and I love the - ahem - belt area....)

Then, finally, giving a good excuse for an arty shot, the Black-out moment... Fuck Yeah!

So, there you go: a few glimpses of Tim on stage at Hay. But ofcourse this blog wouldn't be complete without recording the thrill of getting to put my arm around the man himself for a photo....(I was all jangly - and hence I look a tad crazy in the pic. Ah well, His Minchinness looks fab, doesn't he....
.....Fuck, yeah!
PS For a full review of Tim's performance, follow this link to the Angry Feet forum's review section:
and this one
PPS And for a great blog on the whole experience of going to Hay to see Tim, visit my good friend Noodle's blog at the address below