Saturday, 27 December 2014

Live music in Santander, December 2014

My last few days in Santander were a bit hectic. Too many Christmas lunches and other commitments, no time to write. Now I am back to Gran Canaria, trying to get as much sun as I can before returning to Cantabria in January. Here are the highlights of the first three weeks of December.

  • 3 December: Javier Vercher Trio @ Rubicón, Calle del Sol 4
      Featuring Javier Vercher (sax), Deejay Foster (double bass) and Roberto Gatto (drums). I would have enjoyed it even more if not for a tall bloke who insisted on dancing in front of everybody and obscuring the view of the musicians, especially of Mr. Gatto. Listen buddy, whoever you are: it’s not nice, and your dancing sucks.
  • 5 December: Los Zapata @ Taberna La Solía, Liaño de Villaescusa
      50s, 60s and 70s standards (with the band members also in their fifties, sixties and probably seventies), from Elvis to The Beatles and Roy Orbison. No surprises here, but still: good stuff (and very decent food) in a vintage motorbike-themed pub.
  • 7 December: BRUUT! @ El Almacén de Little Bobby, Calle del Sol 20
      Bruutal!

  • 10 December: Flamenco Tablao @ Rubicón
      A warm and crowded evening of flamenco toque, canto and baile.

  • 12 December: Christian Escoude Quartet & Lew Tabackin @ Salón de actos de la Fundación Botín, Pedrueca 1
      Featuring Christian Escoudé (guitar), Jean-Baptiste Laya (guitar), Thomas Bramerie (double bass), Bruno Ziarelli (drums) and Lew Tabackin (tenor sax, flute).
  • 18 December: El Tumbao @ El Cazurro, Playa de La Arnía, Liencres
See you next year!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Fulton Stormshield Golf Umbrella

by Fulton

This October was unusually dry and sunny, by Santander standards. I spent it umbrella-less. On the 1st of November, I realised that resistance is futile and ordered this brolly from England (because I can’t find anything approaching it here). Now that people keep asking me about it, and I keep explaining, I thought I may just as well write the story down.

Unless I miss something, this is my fifth Stormshield. The first three were purchased in the now-closed (sigh) Eaden Lilley store in Saffron Walden. The very first one was black. It was under this umbrella that Yuri taught me his Life Cycle of Umbrella Bearers theory when he was about six. Unfortunately, I left it in a cinema and it was never found. I don’t buy black umbrellas anymore.

As much as I love to say that Stormshield is unbreakable, the truth is that the one of spokes of the second one’s got broken. Not by wind, but by a combination of various heavy objects in our car boot and kids competing for the right of carrying it. Even so, it was serving us well until we had to move. We left it behind and took another (intact) umbrella with us to Canaries.

The Stormshield #4 was bought when we were living in Porvoo. We didn’t use it that much there. Now it’s found a new home in Moscow.

So what’s so good about it? As I said, it’s practically unbreakable. Thanks to its vented canopy construction, it does not get turned inside out by wind. It’s lightweight. It’s huge: if it is not very windy, you can get four adults comfortably standing and chatting underneath it with their rears still dry. Mind you, the size can be a problem as well: at 130 cm when open, it is wider than most sidewalks here. Quite often I have to tilt it to fit, say, between a wall and a lamppost (naturally, I get wet). Finally, it’s long and sturdy. On weekends, I use Stormshield #5 as a hiking pole during dry spells in Cantabrian countryside.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

BRUUT! live in Santander

It was raining all day, so I ventured to El Almacén de Little Bobby to see what was on offer on the long weekend Sunday. I’m glad I did: it was undoubtedly the best show in town.

BRUUT! is a Dutch band featuring Maarten Hogenhuis (sax), Folkert Oosterbeek (Hammond organ), Thomas Rolff (bass) and Felix Schlarmann (drums), and music they play is... OK, maybe you can label it “jazz” but to say “jazz” is to say nothing. It’s swing, it’s boogie-woogie, it’s boogaloo, it’s rhythm and blues, it’s rock and roll, it’s twist, it’s fast, it’s groovy, it’s humorous, it’s super cool, it’s... well, rather bruut (which means “rough, brutal, fierce” in Dutch). And you can dance to it! People actually did dance tonight, although there was absolutely no space to do it. Maarten said, “Thank you guys for dancing. In Holland they don’t dance.” How weird. In Spain they dance.

I said it was fast. There were two slower numbers this evening: a jazz ballad (don’t remember the name) à la Gato Barbieri and a heavy blues, a very bruut tribute to Led Zeppelin.

Here’s a BRUUT! paradox for you: the tunes, all originals I reckon, sound uncannily familiar. I’m sure I heard them long, long time ago. Before these cats were even born. The sound is vintage and in the same time fresh. How do they do it?

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Live music in Santander, November 2014

And so, another month has ended. It was good.

  • 2 November: Jam Manouche @ Rubicón, Calle del Sol 4
      Apparently, I was attending an historic event: first ever Manouche Jam in Santander. From now on, it’s gonna be every first Sunday of the month.
  • 6 November: Antonio Borja @ El Cazurro, Playa de La Arnía, Liencres
      An evening of flamenco music in a cozy restaurant (great seafood!) overlooking the beach in Arnía.
  • 7 November: Samuel Blaser Trio @ Salón de Actos de la E.T.S. de Náutica de la Universidad de Cantabria
      An experimental jazz trio featuring Samuel Blaser (trombone), Marc Ducret (guitar) and Peter Bruun (drums).
  • III Encuentro Internacional de Canción de Autor featuring:
    • 11 November: Gustavo Almeida (Brazil) + Cierto Pablo @ Canela Bar, Plaza de Cañadio
    • 12 November: Ida Susal + JaviBotanz @ Rubicón
    • 13 November: Claudio H (Argentina) + Yael Gaitero @ Escalera 41, Calle San Celedonio 41
    • 14 November: Julio Hernández (Cuba) + Paolo Latrónica @ Restaurante Bodegas Mazón, Calle Hernán Cortés 57
    • 15 November: Linker vs Latrónica @ La Nave Que Late, Calle Antonio López 66
    • 16 November: Tincho Fernan (Uruguay) + Nuria González @ Cientocero, Calle Río de la Pila 20
  • 18 November: Swing Sentidos @ Canela Bar
      Appetisers: a couple of groovy originals. Main course: Gypsy swing standards. Dessert: a sizzling interpretation of Man of Constant Sorrow.
  • 20 November: Chambao @ Escenario Santander
      Say no more.
  • 25 November: The Buttshakers @ El Almacén de Little Bobby, Calle del Sol 20
  • 26 November: The Blue Ribbon Healers @ Rubicón
      I was meant to meet my friends at Rubicón that night but I was late. When I got there, about 10 pm, the room was totally crowded and the singer sang Ямщик, не гони лошадей (she seemed to know about three-quarters of the lyrics). I got quite close to the band but still could not see my friends. As I learned later, they turned up on time, found it too crowded, and headed to another bar. But I decided to stay because the band were really good. What their music is like? You can discover yourself. In the Healers’ own words, they “have concocted a sonic gumbo of tasty treats for the ears and feet, a sound you can drink to, dance to, and smoke to, a feeling that warms the heart and brings people together in lively celebration”. Yummy.
  • 27 November: Curtis Stigers @ Salón de actos de la Fundación Botín, Pedrueca 1
      I just found out that Curtis Stigers plays four shows over two days at Ronnie Scott’s in London next month, with tickets priced from £65 to £100, and they are already sold out. Well I just saw him for free. He is supported by the band featuring Matthew Fries (piano), James Scholfield (guitar), Cliff Schmitt (bass) and Paul Wells (drums). Stigers smoothly moves from jazz standards such as Our Love is Here to Stay, The Way You Look Tonight and In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning to Things Have Changed and Jealous Guy to his own Hooray for Love. My favourite was his take on Emmylou Harris’ I Don’t Wanna Talk About It Now by Emmylou Harris.
  • 30 November: Jam Manouche @ Rubicón
      This jam (originally planned to be on first Sunday of December) was moved one week forward. The last song was Очи чёрные played completely unplugged.
Bring on the winter!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Buttshakers live

With so much free live music going on in Santander, you must be really good if you want people to shell out for the tickets. Well when I first saw the poster advertising The Buttshakers, I instantly knew that I have to see them. A band with a name like that simply has to be good. “Good, old fashioned THE”, in words of Jimmy Rabbitte. Even so, I did look them up on YouTube (yes!!! I knew it!!!) before heading to El Almacén de Little Bobby to buy my own ticket. In advance. I am that organised.

The band were organised too. They even started on time. OK quarter an hour late, but who would seriously expect the show to begin at 20:30? Ridiculous. And what an absolutely fabulous, ground-breaking, butt-shaking show it was. All way down from Lyon, France, The Buttshakers delivered 110% of the promised “hot, wet and raw” rhythm and blues and soul. Their frontwoman is a beautiful, charismatic and super-energetic Ciara Thompson from St. Louis, Missouri. She started to dance the minute she entered the room, lost her shoes on the second song, and by the end of the concert even made some santanderinos to shake their butts. (Not me though. I was lucky to find a good seat and spent all my time sitting there, probably open-mouthed.) At one point, she sang from the bar top. Imagine what she could do in Andalucia! And what a voice she has. Yes, THE voice. The voice soul should be sung with. They also had shown off their jazzy side playing a couple of instrumentals while Ciara was dancing away. I was especially impressed by duelling trombone (Guilhem Parguel) and baritone sax (Jérôme Bartolome). It’s a real stuff, man, I am telling you. Catch them live if you can.

Next month, The Buttshakers tour take Germany.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Chambao live @ Escenario Santander

Last Sunday I discovered, quite by chance, that Chambao were to play in Escenario Santander on Thursday 20 November. I just had to be there.

I bought the ticket online, but getting to the place turned out to be not as trivial. Their website does not tell you how to. There’s no bus that goes directly to Escenario. I was told that #6, #7 and #20 move in that general direction. I took the first bus that came my way, #20. The bus driver did not know where Escenario was, however a fellow passenger promised to show me the way. She did and, when I thanked her, insisted on dos besitos. I say.

I arrived there quarter to nine and was surprised to see a crowd outside. In contrast to what was printed on the ticket, the concert did not start at 21:00. They only opened the doors at that time. The venue itself uncannily reminded me of Cambridge Junction 1: dark interior, similarly-sized standing space (no seats, that is), overpriced beer, a small stall with (overpriced) merchandise... At 21:30 they started to screen the advertisements of forthcoming events in Escenario. Man it was boring, especially for the third time. At 22:00, the projector was switched off, to the enthusiastic applause, but nothing happened. At 22:05 the upbeat Balkan-ish music began to play through the PA, but there was no sign of the band. The public, densely-packed by now, started to clap and whistle. Myself included. I mean, Paco de Lucía used to be late but not that late. At 22:18, La Mari was on stage to a rock-star greeting, and this organisational disaster did not matter anymore.

Somehow, don’t know why really, I wasn’t expecting so much energy from the band. Nor from the audience who were dancing and singing (they appeared to know all the words!) with La Mari non-stop for two hours. So much for santanderino reserve. I begin to doubt that there is even such a thing. Unless all the people who go to the same events I go (and board the same buses that I do; see above) are not santanderinos. No, there was nothing chilled out about this night at all. You’d better believe me, it was one of these events which make anyone who happens to be there happy and in love.

Chambao played quite a few encores (Otra! Otra!) and concluded the show with Te la creío tú — starting as a tango, ending as a ska.

Monday, 17 November 2014

III Encuentro Internacional de Canción de Autor

III Encuentro Internacional de Canción de Autor*, organised by Paolo Latrónica and friends, was taking place most of the last week throughout Santander. For me, it was the first ever music festival where I managed to attend every single event (of six). Good thing it was free.

  • 11 November: Gustavo Almeida (Brazil) + Cierto Pablo @ Canela Bar, Plaza de Cañadio
      Yes I know, the canción de autor simply has to have a certain degree of amateurism. Gustavo, however, has delivered easily the most professionally-sounding gig of the Encuentro, without compromising the spirit of the genre. Great job.
  • 12 November: Ida Susal + Javi Botanz @ Rubicón, Calle del Sol 4
      I went there with my friends and we all enjoyed this evening a lot. Javi Botanz and Julia Botanz Guimerá have completely different styles: the former is more like a blues-rocker, the latter is a bit like cabaret chanteuse, but they were working together like a charm (or three charms).
  • 13 November: Claudio H (Argentina) + Yael Gaitero @ Escalera 41, Calle San Celedonio 41
      I loved that performance. Claudio H and friends were rocking! At the same time, I discovered a cozy and inexpensive pub.
  • 14 November: Julio Hernández (Cuba) + Paolo Latrónica @ Restaurante Bodegas Mazón, Calle Hernán Cortés 57
      Another great gig, but, in my view, inherently wrong venue for this (or maybe any) sort of concert. I would prefer a small bar where people listen to a big restaurant where people, well, mostly eat.
  • 15 November: Linker vs Latrónica @ La Nave Que Late, Calle Antonio López 66
      La Nave Que Late is a curious venue, apparently a former hangar converted into el espacio cultural. Currently, there is an entertaining exhibition of “e-robots” made from diverse industrial junk. It could be even better if the visitors treated it as an enclosed space that it is and refrained from smoking there. After the concert, there were some short films (?) to be shown but I never learned what it was about as the laptop and its owner had disappeared, nobody noticed at what point. Charming.
  • 16 November: Tincho Fernan (Uruguay) + Nuria González @ Cientocero, Calle Río de la Pila 20
      It was raining all day on Sunday, so Tincho and Nuria and guests (sorry don’t know their names) brightened it up. I guess the concert would be better attended if it were in the evening rather than in the early afternoon. Then again, there is not much space in Cientocero.

* The Spanish term canción de autor (or Russian авторская песня) does not have a good English equivalent. Nor is “singer-songwriter” the same as cantautor (a portmanteau of cantante and autor). One has every right to call Cab Calloway, Gary Moore and Shakira “singers-songwriters”, but they are definitely not cantautores.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Live music in Santander, October 2014

A great thing about Santander is that every night, and I mean every night, there is live music somewhere, and lot of it is free. For my first three weeks here, I did not have internet connection at home and there was not that much time to write about every gig I attended. So here’s a monthly digest, if you will. I learned about many of the gigs listed here from La Guía Go! (which also exists as a little booklet published every month).

  • 3 October: Guitar Lightnin’ Lee and His Thunder Band @ El Almacén de Little Bobby, Calle del Sol 20
  • 4 October: Tasty Grooves @ Black Bird Club, Calle Vista Alegre 13
      The reggae band from Madrid presented the Studio One tribute. The club was packed and everybody was dancing. I should say that beer in Black Bird is rather expensive by Spanish standards, which would be OK if it was a free concert (it wasn’t).
  • 11 October: Los Ruidos @ Black Bird Club
    • Veteran rockers from Asturias, of Si te gustan los toros mata a los toreros fame, gave an electrifying performance for a cheering audience of, um, about a dozen. I honestly don’t know why there weren’t more people.
  • 14 October: Mabel Sierra Quartet @ Canela Bar, Plaza de Cañadio
      An evening of boleros and jazz standards such as Lágrimas negras, My Baby Just Cares for Me, Nature Boy, Si te contara and Silencio. Magnificent.
  • 17 October: Alan Broadbent (piano) & Harvie S (bass) @ Salón de actos de la Fundación Botín, Pedrueca 1
      The first of the planned three concerts in series Jazz y otras músicas organised by Fundación Botín. I loved the duo’s take on jazz standards such as Body and Soul, Solar and How Deep Is the Ocean. But — sometimes I think musicians should talk less. This was one of these times.
  • 18 October: Chucho Manoucho @ Desafinado Wine & Jazz, Barrio Las Mazas 15, Liencres
      Not just Minor Swing but also La Foule, Две гитары and Очи чёрные, gypsy swing style. I was worried that I won’t be able to out of Liencres (the show started 10 pm and finished about midnight) but there actually is a night bus stopping just outside the bar. Even so, I was offered (and accepted) a lift to Santander by one of the musicians. Which was nice.
  • 22 October: El Turbión @ Rubicón, Calle del Sol 4
      Tango, milonga and waltz, straight from Buenos Aires. Santanderinos are very reserved people (I guess I am mentioning this not for the last time). Certainly nobody was attempting to dance tango, in spite of the singer Germán Pintos’s invitation. But I loved how he made the audience to sing (at first, reluctantly) Volver and Por una cabeza with him. They knew the words!
  • 23 October: Leslie Helpert Quartet @ Rubicón
      A Billie Holiday tribute presented by Leslie Helpert accompanied by Albert Vila (guitar), Pere Loewe (bass) and Caspar St. Charles (drums). I could swear a saw Billie herself there.
  • 29 October: Carlos Pizarro Cuarteto @ Rubicón
      Another fantastic band from Asturias, featuring Carlos Pizarro (guitar), Jacobo de Miguel (piano), José Ramón Feito (bass) and Fernando Arias (drums). If I were writing for a music magazine, I’d entitle my review “ECM-esque jazz at its minimalist best”, or “How a simple theme played by one hand on the piano can give goosebumps to anybody”.
  • 30 October: Jam session @ Restaurante Bodegas Mazón, Calle Hernán Cortés 57
      Yes, every Thursday, between 21:00 and 23:00 there is a jazz jam session. I learned that from Chucho Manoucho’s bassist. The musicians sound like they know what they are playing; in other words, too advanced for me. Besides, all my instruments are in Las Palmas. But, who knows, one day I may have a go.
Now that I wrote everything down, it looks like a lot! Luckily, most of these events (apart the one in Liencres) were about 10—15 minutes walking distance from my apartment.

The last day of October also happened to be the last day of veroño, at least here in Santander. Now it is cold and miserable outside. I am looking forward to more music in November.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Meet the Jacks (The Tale of the Flaming Witch)

by Timur Kulikov

With Hallowe’en upon us, it’s time to introduce you to... Jacks. Timur had been working on this project through all summer.

The flaming witch is the villain and is called that because she is a Jack. You play as a little girl who, after hearing about the witch, set out to stop her.
Jacks are the pumpkin people displayed in this picture and they all work for The Witch. The girl with the blue skin is who you play as and in this picture there are 11 Jacks.
Ain’t you scared?

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Guitar Lightnin’ Lee and His Thunder Band Live

In blues, you don’t have to be that terribly inventive. You can play the same old three chords (or, as Ali Farka Touré demonstrated, just one old chord) over the same old twelve bars and still get away with that. The lyrics also doesn’t matter much. Typically, you go from Indiana to New Orleans, or was it the other way round? The only thing that matters is that you do it well.

Yesterday I went to see Guitar Lightnin’ Lee and His Thunder Band, all the way from New Orleans, in El Almacén de Little Bobby. They started 21:30 and were cooking non-stop for about 100 minutes. After the first two songs, the tiny club was packed so I can’t see much from my bar stool. Boy, the man himself was good. The band members, every one probably half his age, also were rock solid. I couldn’t understand that well what he was singing or talking about but he looked genuinely touched by the crowd’s enthusiasm. “You guys are so nice to me”, he said at some point. “I’m not used to such kind treatment.”

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Mandé Variations

by Toumani Diabaté

I thought I loved kora, and I thought I knew Toumani Diabaté’s work. Well I didn’t. Because, you see, until last week I didn’t have time to sit down and listen to one hour of solo kora music in one go. Now that I did it, I come back to it again and again. Especially to Elyne Road, Djourou Kara Nany and Cantelowes.

I know it may be an unreasonable demand, but try to find an hour of time and a quiet place. (No, not the car/bus/plane/airport.) Switch your computer/mobile/telly off. Then listen to The Mandé Variations.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Literatura de baño: 69 relatos para hacer popo

by Javier Pérez Gosálvez

This is another book that I discovered thanks to the library of Las Palmas (the other one was Wabi-Sabi). I saw it in the lobby among the new acquisitions. The concept and the title got me intrigued; I leafed through the pages and decided to borrow it... but I needed to visit the loo first. Then I went to check what my kids were doing (sitting downstairs, reading comics). When I got back to the lobby, the book had gone. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember neither the author nor the title. Was it something about the loo?

I found the book in the same place couple of weeks later and, naturally, grabbed it before it disappeared.

Normas de Uso y Disfrute
  1. Lee despacio cada relato. Detente en las comas, sí, detente... como ahora... detente, así... Muy bien...
  2. Cuando acabes de leer cada relato, vuelve a empezar. Te sabrá mejor.
  3. Y, por favor, no olvides limpiarte al terminar...
I like that the author does not take himself or his work too seriously. Still I think the title doesn’t do justice to the book. There’s nothing wrong with taking it to the bathroom, except in my case I would also need a good Spanish dictionary... that’s getting a bit awkward.

The stories sketches pieces anecdotes things may be short but for me it was no easy reading. Even without the rules 1 and 2, I had to read (and then re-read) each of them slowly. Sometimes the text is so short there is no context whatsoever to guess the meaning of a particular word or phrase, and some of the words are not in my dictionary anyway. I reckon some of the cultural references are lost on me too. But I enjoyed it a lot. Romantic, nostalgic, ironic, technical, angry, sad, humorous... The humorous $+@%!£$ things are the best, I wish there were more of them. #61 is a delightful collection of killer insults such as monocoño, culopollo and mierdófono (I got one of those). #69 consists of super-shorts, microrrelatos. #67 is one word. #14 has only a title. Poetry. #37 is my favourite.

— Tomo una copa o dos de vino en el almuerzo, un ron con el café y otro vino por la noche... Además, eso de hacer deporte... Mire, doctora... Estar en una piscina, por ejemplo, yendo de una pared a otra como un imbécil resulta absurdo. No hay creatividad maldita, aunque use el flotador azul y mañana el rosa... O pagar un monitor deportivo para que te haga sufrir físicamente es más absurdo si cabe: pago para sufrir, dicen que es saludable... — nunca han sufrido de verdad, de modo que se costean autodolor, ¡por dios...! — Ya se sufre bastante cada mañana cuando suena el despertador y evidencias que es de noche todavía...

As far as I can see, the book (which saw the light of day thanks to crowdfunding) is not available from Amazon and suchlike. You can buy it directly from the publisher.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Buying textbooks in Spain

Unlike the UK or Finland, where the school textbooks are provided free of charge, in Spain one has to buy them; at least, most of them. And they ain’t cheap. For example, for his first year Bachillerato, Yuri needs six (6) books, each priced about €30 in the bookshop, except Historia del Mundo Contemporáneo which costs €42! You can save a few euros shopping at Amazon.es; unfortunately, they don’t offer free shipping for Canaries. Moreover, I found one of the textbooks sold slightly cheaper by a vendor via Amazon.es but there was no option to deliver to Canaries at all.

So I decided to explore the second-hand market. In Fuerteventura, there are no second-hand shops; at least, when we lived there, they did not exist. There are a few in Las Palmas, but I don’t know any specialised bookshops. However I was able to find all the books for Yuri at segundamano.es. (I used the same website a few months ago when I was looking for a house to rent.) I thought the most difficult part for me would be arranging meetings with the sellers: I hate phoning! It turned out to be a fun way of practicing my Spanish. To pick up one of the books, I had to take a bus to hitherto unknown (to me) part of Las Palmas, where I explored streets named Calle Polca and Calle Mazurca.

There is quite a diversity of school textbooks in Spain: you don’t just buy a math textbook for the 3º ESO, you need a specific one. And they tend to require the newer editions every year. Good news that some of Bachillerato books stayed the same for several years. I mean, there was not too much progress with Ancient Greek or Latin recently.

Finding the second-hand books for Timur was a bit more tricky. Luckily, I discovered Relibrea, an excellent web site dedicated to buying/selling of second-hand books. There was nothing available in Gran Canaria but eventually I found the sellers ready to send me the books from Madrid.

Result: of the lot (twelve textbooks altogether), the most expensive book did cost me €16 (plus postage), the cheapest €8; total saving at least €200.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Wabi-Sabi

by Francesc Miralles

Speaking of coincidences: the other day Tamara mentioned the concept of wabi-sabi which, in its turn, had appeared in somebody else’s blog. “Do you know what wabi-sabi is?” — “Yes. As it happens, I am in the middle of a book entitled Wabi-Sabi”.

Incidentally, Wabi-Sabi was the first book that I had borrowed from the library of Las Palmas. I did not know anything about its author nor its topic, but I loved the sub-title: “Una novela sobre la belleza de lo imperfecto y lo efímero”. Also, it was the first novel which I had read in Spanish from beginning to the end without any on-line help. This is, without doubt, thanks to the author’s easy style of writing. (The fact it is short and written in short chapters helped as well.)

The adventures start when Samuel, the university professor of German in his mid-forties, receives a postcard from Japan with a picture of a lucky cat, maneki-neko, and a strange message:

Wabi-Sabi
I’m afraid I can’t tell you what happens next. Unlike its prequel, amor en minúscula (Love in Small Letters), Wabi-Sabi is not published yet in English. You better believe me that it’s good. Not perfect though: perfection would be very un-wabi-sabi. (Miralles’s liberal use of imperfect, I’m afraid, will be completely lost in English translation.) It has solitude, love and the end of love, songs in English, Japanese and the language of Atlantis (!), gentle humour and even some sort of happy end — again, as long as its imperfection, transience and incompleteness are accepted.

Here’s my favourite part. Samuel walks in a tiny bar in Kioto. The only other customer, an elderly gentleman contemplating an almost empty bottle of sake, all of a sudden bursts out singing.

La camarera subió el volumen para que el hombre pudiera cantar a placer sobre unos acordes sincopados que recordaban a la música popular rusa. La melodía vocal era muy repetitiva y kitsch, más aún viniendo de aquel ejecutivo que parecía haber huido de una pelea de gatos.

dokonoko no kinoko kono kinoko dokono
dokonoko no kinoko morino kinoko
morino kinoko wa rappa ni natte
onpu kumo made tondetta

puppuru pappa~ purupappa~
puppuru pappa~ purupappa~
sora niwa naisho no hanashi dayo
Algunas notas eran demasiado altas para aquel extraño personaje, que desafinaba sin vergüenza alguna. Con los brazos cruzados sobre un kimono de mangas anchas, la dueña parecía complacida ante aquel show para dos espectadores, contándola a ella.

Horrorizado, tomé conciencia de que sin quererlo había entrado en un karaoke solitario.

Tras un final ridículamente apoteósico a ritmo de polka, el hombre de los cabellos grises volvió a sentarse dignamente en su taburete.

A complete Spanish translation of the song can be found at the author’s Facebook page.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

LC Grand Concert Cutaway and La Classica

by Luca Canteri

Last month, we went to Fuerteventura and visited Luca’s workshop. After Tamara had finished photographing two more of Luca’s masterpieces, I had a go on them.

The first of them, Grand Concert Cutaway, has a look and feel of the Grand Concert Multiscale but is even more beautiful.

(a)

As you can see, the cutaway is not very deep. It does not give you completely unimpeded access to the higher frets. But ask yourself, do you really need it? Instead, you get this amazing body shape and the sound to die for.

(b)(c)

Model specification: LC Grand Concert Cutaway

  • Woods: Val di Fiemme Spruce, Makassar Ebony back and sides, Ebony bindings, Brazilian Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Triple ring rosette (b) and Headplate (c): Brazilian Rosewood & Makassar Ebony
  • Bone saddle and nut. Back horn bridge pins
  • Tuners: Gotoh 510 mini 1.18 ratio
  • Nut: 45 mm
  • Bridge strings spacing: 58 mm
  • Multiscale: 25″—26″
  • Waist: 25 cm
  • Upper bout: 29 cm
  • Lower bout: 39.5 cm
  • Body length: 49 cm
  • Overall length: 102 cm

After playing a multiscale, a “normal” fretboard, at least for a little while, feels a bit weird. La Classica (d) looks more like a flamenco instrument than a concert classical. However, it sounds very different from flamenco guitar. If anything, its sound reminded me that of one cedar-top guitar I heard in Peter Barton’s workshop at the Leeds College of Music back in 1996 (sorry can’t be any more precise!), soft, sweet and long-lasting. Besides, it is a very comfy instrument to play. (As I had mentioned before, the steel string guitar’s neck is too narrow for me.) A pleasure for ear, eye and hands alike.

(d)

Model specification: La Classica

  • Top: Italian Val di Fiemme Spruce
  • Back and Sides: Burmese Rosewood
  • Ebony Fingerboard
  • East Indian Rosewood Bindings
  • Bone nut and saddle
  • Schaller Tuners
  • K&K pickup
  • Nut width: 54 mm nut width
  • Upper bout: 29 cm
  • Waist: 25 cm
  • Lower bout: 37 cm
More photos of acoustic guitar @ Shutterstock.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Techari Live

by Ojos de Brujo

Real Madrid or Barça? Or, closer to home, at least as far as this blog is concerned: Canteca de Macao or Ojos de Brujo? Don’t make me choose, I love both. But while the Barcelonians were the first of the two bands for me to discover some ten years ago, I missed my chance to see them live: OdB was disbanded in 2013.

As the name implies, Techarí Live is the live version of their 2006 studio album. When I first heard Techarí, I found it vastly inferior to its predecessor, Barí. (Imprinting or not, but at the time I thought that all this Cuban brass was unnecessary extravagance!) To fully appreciate the music and musicianship, not to mention the dance, one has to watch the DVD.

A word of warning though: the video quality is not the best. It looks as if it was filmed twenty years earlier and then transferred, rather sloppily, from VHS to DVD. I don’t think it was meant to be like that. The sound on the DVD also could have been better — I mean, both the CD and the DVD are the same concert from 22 December 2006, right? Curiously, the song order on the CD is different from that on the DVD.

The concert features quite a number of “invitados” including Martirio, Gyan Singh and Faada Freddy of Daara J. A magical thing happens: instead of being guest stars, they all become a part of Ojos de Brujo. Oh, and did I mention the dancers? Bailaores? Bailaoras? The best part was kept for the end: Sabor de Gràcia and Patriarcas de la Rumba, a group of elderly “tios” and a “tia” performing Bombón (sadly, this bit is missing from the CD). I wish I had been there.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

From Fuerte, with things

I hate my smartphone. It has a most annoying habit of doing things on its own, like phoning another person’s mobile and not hanging up, or switching itself on and off. Last Thursday, it locked itself. It couldn’t choose the least appropriate moment to do so.

I was flying from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura to collect our household stuff which we left behind in a storage room (trastero) when we moved to Finland. The “proper” (British) removal company gave me a quote which we were not prepared to pay. Eventually I found a local man with a van who took the job. He and his partner were travelling by ferry on Thursday morning. I was to meet them in the afternoon, pack and load the van, spend a night in Corralejo and go back home with them next day.

Just before the plane took off, I, like a good boy, had switched the phone off. When we landed, I found the damn thing on and locked. Apparently, it switched itself on and tried, unsuccessfully, to guess the PIN number. Not so smart, eh? Now it was demanding the PUK code which I, of course, didn’t know. I was not sure that I kept the original plastic thingy (does it have a technical name?), and even if I did, I had no clue where it could be. Maybe in trastero?

I popped to the Movistar shop to buy a new SIM card. Luckily, all the important numbers were stored in the phone’s memory and not on the locked SIM (although this smartass is also known to lose some of my contacts in the past). So I was saved.

It took us three hours to clear the trastero. There was not that much stuff, however the tiny room was pretty full and there were some steric constraints I completely forgot about. For example, to extract a bookcase (there were four of them), we had to flip it upside down while moving through the door. All our things seemed to survive this year without any damage and even did not collect much dust. To my amazement, I found the plastic card with the PUK number under the foot of the last bookcase.

It was nine o’clock already when we finished our job. I went to the C.C. Campanario because I needed to do some minimal shopping and to get something to eat. Better still, I was in time to see the second half of de lo Flamenco performance!

Next morning, I met Luca who brought me two more boxes (books again!) and the last of my musical instruments which he was hosting for a year. Finally, the van was full. We started from Corralejo at midday. It was a holiday, Asunción de la Virgen. The roads were largely empty, and we had reached Morro Jable much faster than expected. The sky was dusty-grey; it looked like the kalima was coming.

Good bye, Fuerteventura. It feels a bit strange that there are no more material things left that would oblige us to come and get them. But we’ll be back anyway.

More photos of Fuerteventura @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dralion

by Cirque du Soleil

Almost quarter of a century ago, still in Moscow, we (Tamara, my brother and I) went to see Shlomo Carlebach supported by Jerry Katz and his band. It was a great show. An extra entertainment was provided by an old guy who happened to sit just behind us. Throughout the first part of the concert he was complaining, addressing not only his wife but also his surroundings, about the support band. Evidently the sound was too loud and modern for his liking. My favourite of his comments was: “Что вы им хлопаете? Чем больше мы будем хлопать, тем дольше они будут играть.” (“Why are you applauding them? The more we clap, the longer they will play.”)

Shlomo Carlebach was playing the second half. There was no running commentary, so I turned around to check if the oldster finally left the building. No he didn’t. By the time the show ended, he had recovered his faculty of speech.

“Я не знаю, что там было 30 лет назад, но сейчас это не то...”
(“I don’t know what it was 30 years ago, but now it’s not the same...”)
Now the last thing I want to sound like is that grumpy old-timer. Yet I found myself uttering his very words after watching Dralion. This is the first show of Cirque du Soleil I’ve ever been to. Perhaps I set my expectations too high. If it was, say, Las Palmas Community Circus, I’d probably think it was one hell of the show. But then they wouldn’t be charging €36 for the cheapest seat.

The show was in the brand new Gran Canaria Arena, an impressive venue for watching sports but hardly a substitute for a big top. It could be nice if any of the relevant websites bothered to mention how to get there. We took the line 91 city bus, Teatro—Tamaraceite, to Pintor Felo Monzón, 22 (the corresponding stop on the way back is called Pintor Felo Monzón, 17). Allow about ten minutes to walk to the arena from that stop.

The choreography was good. The costumes were stunning. The clowns were pretty annoying, as per usual. The circus proper was a mixed bag. For example, the juggler was performing kind of breakdance, which I rather liked, but the juggling itself was nothing to write home about, and he managed to drop the balls a few times. Of four gods/goddesses, I found Azala (Air) and Océane (Water) to be completely useless. Gaya (Earth) was the best. The aerial silk act (pictured on all posters of Dralion around the town) was conspicuous by its absence. The three best acts were:

  1. Trampoline, with the acrobats jumping (and running) on and off the wall
  2. Hoop diving (also featuring Gaya’s African dance)
  3. Skipping rope guys
The music was not bad but at times it sounded suspiciously like a soundtrack. Since the band was hidden behind the wall, I can’t tell how much time they were actually playing. As for singing... the show could have been way better without it.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Saku Kuld

There are many things I am going to miss, or missing already, about Finland. Finnish beer is not one of them.

At its very best, Finnish beer — any Finnish beer that I tasted, that is — is nondescript. At its usual, it’s best replaced by something else. I don’t know what the secret is.

Now that I am safely back to Canaries, I can offer my totally unsolicited tips for responsible beer drinking in Finland. Here:

  • If you have enough Polish (Czech, German, Dutch etc.) beer in your fridge, stick to it.
  • If you don’t have enough Polish beer, start with Finnish beer and polish it off with Polish, not the other way round: the pain of disappointment will be unbeerable. Save your Asahi and Leffe for the very end. Unless you’ve got something worse, never finish with Finnish.
  • If all you have is Finnish beer, take it olut of the fridge and put it into the freezer for an hour, then take it with you to the well-heated sauna. The contrast of temperatures could make it just about drinkable, or, if you happen to “supercool” it, spoonable.
  • If the only bear you have is Karhu, it’s time to leave your lair and do some basic shopping. That probably means there is no proper food left in the fridge either.
Saying that, I’ve managed to discover an excellent beer in Finland. It comes from Estonia’s Saku Brewery. It is slightly cloudy and has a great fresh taste thanks to, I just learned, Nordic oat malt. In the Alko shop, a bottle of Saku Kuld costs €2.89 (€5.58 per litre is cheap in Finland). Enjoy!

More photos of beer @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Undercover Economist

by Tim Harford

As the author himself wrote in the introduction to his book,

I would like to thank you for buying this book, but if you’re anything like me you haven’t bought it at all.
Sure I haven’t. Normally I don’t buy the paperback editions that shout at me from their covers “OVER ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD”. (My reasoning being, that’s enough already, the author won’t die of hunger.) Apparently, the landlady of the house that we rent did buy this book. I thought I’ll give it a try.

The book was first published in 2006. Next year, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression began. In hindsight, it is too easy to kick the author in the pants for his rather naïve faith in free-market capitalism, but hey, I don’t always look for things that are not easy. So let’s kick him. Then again, what’s the point doing it eight years later? I’m sure he learned by now at least some of his lessons.

There are many things I disagree with, but I have enjoyed the book anyway. Or maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed it so much? It is well-written, occasionally funny, and makes you think, be skeptical, and go and research those numbers for yourself. And if it is so, Tim Harford should be proud that he made you think and even save some money. (For example, by going for the cheapest of the cappuccinos in Starbucks, or by not buying The Undercover Economist.) Last but not least, he knows Three Men in a Boat (or at least its first chapter), and that counts for something in my book.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Гитары Луки Кантери

This is a Russian version of the original post published on 15 May 2013

Каждый уважающий себя испанский остров просто обязан иметь гитарных дел мастера. У нас на Фуэртевентуре, к счастью, есть Лука Кантери. Его специальность — акустические фолк-гитары, хотя он также делает тимпле. Гитары Луки оказались первыми (и пока что последними) когда-либо попавшими в мои руки инструментами с переменной мензурой.

Мое первое ощущение было что-то вроде головокружения. От гитары как-то ждешь параллельных ладов, а когда они таковыми не оказываются, начинаешь подозревать, что тут что-то не то, то ли с полом, то ли с геометрией комнаты вообще.


(а)

(б)

Я держал в руках два произведения Луки: Grand Concert Multiscale (а) и несколько похожую на гитару XIX века “The ParLou” (б). Должен сразу сказать, что фолк-гитара — не совсем моя стихия, я чувствую себя комфортнее с классической. К примеру, у обоих инструментов гриф узковат для моих рук. Зато, как только привыкнешь к идее веерных ладов, левая рука начинает чувствовать себя более естественно. (Потому что так оно и есть.) Звук мне понравился. Ясные дисканты и удивительно — особенно в случае ParLou — громкие и глубокие басы.

Так что опыт есть. Единственный побочный эффект: теперь я убежден, что мне действительно нужна одна из его гитар.

Фотографии акустических гитар на Shutterstock.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Angel

a film by François Ozon

Some time last year (I think), very late at night, I saw a second half of this movie on Spanish TV. Yesterday, they were showing it again, so I finally watched it in its entirety.

Ozon’s trademark stylisation meets Tim Burton in this tragicomedy (it’s getting progressively more tragic though): pre-Raphaelitesque Angel, wonderfully rendered by Romola Garai, charmingly obvious rear projection scenes, fabulous costumes... everything you’d expect from Ozon and more, but what it’s all about? True love, of course.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Dear Porvoo

Ten months ago, we arrived to Finland. I had my fair share of preconceived notions about this country. The top five of them were:

  1. It’s too dark most of the time.
  2. It’s too cold most of the time.
  3. It’s uncomfortably close to Russia.
  4. It’s too expensive.
  5. Its language is impenetrable.
Well.

Now I can confirm, it’s all true. And if the first two factors feel somewhat alleviated right now (temperature is in double figures and astronomical twilight has disappeared), you can’t do much about the large and increasingly unpleasant country at the east. And prices on practically everything are so high it almost physically hurts. To give you an idea... take any Spanish price and multiply it by three. If there ever was a good time and place to teach our kids the concept of euros per kilo/litre, that was it.

Learning the language is tough but not impossible. Why, I’ve just seen the book entitled Punainen kortti in the lobby of my hotel (yes, the traditional mini-library of books in obscure languages left behind by retreating North European tourists) and immediately known what that means. I guess if I’ve spent here ten years rather than ten months, I probably would be able to converse in vernacular. As it happens, I am no longer there. Finns themselves realise how difficult their language is. I suppose that’s why the free Finnish courses are on offer. Most people in their forties and younger here speak very decent English. Thanks to that, dealing with schools, police, bank clerks, tax office etc. is much easier in Finland than, say, in Spain or Italy.

Mind you, all these generalisations are based on our life near Porvoo. To be more precise, in the middle of the forest not that far from Porvoo. As generalisations go, they are probably closer to “average” Finnish reality compared with those based on life in Helsinki. But I did not live in Helsinki.

Earlier this year, Michael Booth wrote an article for The Guardian which managed to piss off every Nordic nation. What he says about Finland seems to be true though. It’s up to you to decide whether you would love or hate that “They’re not big on chat” or that “the place appears to be 99% trees”.

Porvoo (Borgå) is a pleasant historic town, which I grew to regard as the Finnish equivalent of Saffron Walden. In contrast to Saffron Walden, there is a river to speak of (I like its Swedish name, Borgå å) and the charming waterfront. Just like Saffron Walden, it is too close to the capital, so nothing epic, such as Leningrad Cowboys shows, seems to happen here. On the other hand, there is an awful lot of education for such a low-key place. In addition to the aforementioned Finnish courses, we went to the evening Spanish class, just to keep the language alive. And the Porvoo City Library is the best public library I ever used. (Take that, Cambridge.) I am going to miss it.

I can’t say much about Porvoo’s gastronomical scene: of its many restaurants we visited exactly one and only once, for Timur’s birthday. The food was good enough but the bill was exorbitant, or so I thought until we had a couple of drinks at the Vantaa airport.

It is not easy to make friends in this country, especially if you live in the forest. (I don’t regard our regular visitors, a red squirrel and a woodpecker, as friends.) But you should try. If anything, it will help you to survive. As Alexander Stubb, Finland’s minister for European affairs and foreign trade, put it,

There is nothing fake about the average Finn: what you see is what you get.
I think we not only have survived but made some good friends in Finland.

Heippa, Porvoo.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Tjango!

by Tjango!

Another pleasant discovery. I knew Otto Tolonen as a classical guitarist, and quite liked his album of Finnish modern guitar music, Toccata. I certainly did not expect this. Of course, “Tjango” refers to Django Reinhardt, just like Minor by Pasi is a homage to Minor Swing. But I wouldn’t label Tjango! as a “Gypsy jazz” band. Not even as a jazz band. What they play is very original, beautifully nostalgic and at times humorous music. Yes, it comes from Finland, and no, there are no polkas nor tango. Intrigued? So you should be.

Tjango!

  1. Minor by Pasi (Eerikäinen)
  2. Late Autumn Bossa (Leinonen)
  3. Mili (Tolonen)
  4. I’ve Met My Lady (Leinonen)
  5. This Ain’t My Day (Eerikäinen)
  6. Don’t Go (Eerikäinen)
  7. Farewell Song (Leinonen)
  8. When You Are Gone (Leinonen)
  9. It’ll Be Great to See You Again (Leinonen)
    Pasi Eerikäinen: violin
    Antti Leinonen: accordion
    Otto Tolonen: guitar
    Eero Ignatius: double bass

    Laura Airola: mandolin (3, 4, 7) and ukulele (6, 9)
    Markku Veijonsuo: recording, mixing and mastering
    Lina Galrito: graphic design

    Recorded in June 2013 at Varistoteles Studios Helsinki
    Produced by Antti Leinonen, Pasi Eerikäinen and Otto Tolonen

Friday, 23 May 2014

Fortant de France Merlot Rosé 2013

Summer is here at last — according to Weather Underground, we have “extreme high temperature” today (26 °C, feels like 26 °C). Beats Las Palmas (21.5 °C, feels like 24 °C). I don’t quite understand this “feels like” business, but I know that it is the proper weather for a glass of chilled rosé. I feel like one. Unfortunately, we just finished this bottle of Merlot Rosé and there’s no more in the fridge.

I never heard about Fortant de France before, and, indeed, it was the unbearable cuteness of the bottle (butterflies, flowers and a lady in a hat picking the said flowers) that prompted the purchase of this outrageously priced beverage. Which turned out to be rather nice.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Masterpieces: The Powerhouse Sound of the 70s

by Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass

I thought this name rang a bell. It turns out, I first heard RC & B on the very The Jazz Rock Album which introduced me to the music of Return To Forever. It’s funny that I went to become a fan of the band that was opening the album and completely forgot the guys who were closing it. However, I did remember the song names, Jive Samba and The Mixolydian Highlander; luckily, both of them are featured here on Masterpieces.

Even though I just started to (re)discover this amazing musician and bandleader, it’s clear that this 1995 compilation is far from presenting a balanced overview of Herbolzheimer’s music of the 70s. Nor is it “the best of” album: for example, five tracks (out of 11) are taken from 1976 album Hip Walk. Deservedly so, I should add, but still. Can one call this collection Masterpieces? Absolutely.

My favourite track is My Kind Of Sunshine, from the album of the same name, with groovy solos by “the fat man with the trombone” himself, Ack van Rooyen on trumpet, Dieter Reith on organ (ye fans of Deep Purple, listen up!) and Tony Inzalaco on drums. My kind of music.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel

a film by Gareth Carrivick

Who could have thought that visiting a loo in your local could be that dangerous?

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (shown here as Aikamatkustus FAQ) is a proof that you don’t need a Hollywood-size budget to make a good sci-fi movie. It has a clever script; a bunch of familiar and semi-familiar faces: Chris O’Dowd (Simon “I believe the technical term is a fuckload of boats” from The Boat That Rocked), Anna Faris (Friends), Marc Wootton and Meredith MacNeill (both Confetti — I think I saw it) and Dean Lennox Kelly (I think I saw something with him, but don’t quote me on that); and it is funny. Needless to say, I won’t be able to hear the most popular song to sing in the shower with the same ears ever again.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

East City Blues Band In Session

by East City Blues Band

I thought Zel Quartet was obscure. I could find even less info on ECBB. I only learned about them thanks, once again, to the Porvoo city library, and only because the album’s beautiful cardboard sleeve caught my attention in the “uutuus” (“new”) section. I don’t even know where one can buy this album, physical or MP3. I guess you can enquire via their Facebook page.

So why do I write here about them? Because they are great and really deserve a bit of publicity.

East City Blues Band In Session

  1. Pride and Joy (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
  2. I Ain’t Superstitious (Willie Dixon)
  3. Sittin’ on Top of the World (traditional)
  4. Mary Had a Little Lamb (Buddy Guy / S.R. Vaughan)
  5. Black Magic Woman (Peter Green)
  6. Out of Reach (Peter Green)
  7. Red House (Jimi Hendrix)
  8. Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Reverend Gary Davis / Tina E. Andrus)
  9. Sweet Home Chicago (Robert Johnson)
  10. Sweet Home Alabama (Ed King / Gary Rossington / Ronnie Van Zant)
  11. Worried About my Baby (Howlin’ Wolf)
  12. Malted Milk (Robert Johnson)
    Tapsa Suonperä, guitars
    Hemppa Lehtimäki, vocals
    Eero Martin, bass
    Tuomo Saloheimo, keyboards
    Sauli Lahtinen, drums & percussion
    Vexi Kirsimaa, harmonica

    Recorded at Mooseblues, Helsinki and Ksar Musique, Porvoo
    Mixed and Produced at Ksar Musique
    Ksar Musique & East City Blues Society 2013

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Hickory Dickory Dock

a film by Andrew Grieve

I first saw this episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot back in mid-1990s. Until I watched it again a few days ago, I couldn’t remember anything at all apart from its glorious finale. The rest of the movie, as I discover now, is not bad either, although the mouse (that ran up the clock) is really annoying.

Hercule Poirot. It is most kind of you to invite me here, Chief Inspector.
Chief Inspector Japp. After staying with you for a whole week, Poirot, the least I could do is offer you a spot of lunch, wean you away from that... well, let you taste some proper English cooking.
Poirot. And the good Madam Japp, it is today that she returns?
Japp. Yes, about three o’clock. There. Now that is what I call food. That’s your mashed potato. This is your peas.
Poirot. Oui.
Japp. Mushy peas, we call ’em. You’ll love ’em. And this, the pièce de résistance... faggots.
Poirot. Faggots?
Japp. Faggots. And there’s spotted dick for afters.
Poirot. Dick?
Japp. Yes, it’s called that because...
Poirot. This is tragic, Chief Inspector.
Japp. No, no, it’s fine.
Poirot. I can eat none of this wonderful food.
Japp. What? Why?
Poirot. Because... I have an allergy of the faggot.
Japp. An allergy?
Poirot. Oui. I do not know how you say it in English but in Belgian it is known as... le phobie de faggot.
Japp. I’ve never heard of that.
Poirot. I am so sorry, Chief Inspector, I should have warned you.
Japp. Well, this is a blessed upset, I must say. Still, you can have some spotted dick. You don’t have a phobie de dick, have you?
Poirot. Non... Some cheese?
Japp. I’ll have a look.
Poirot. Some brie perhaps? Bon.
Japp. Nothing like a nice bit of mouse trap.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Waving at the Gardener

edited by Kate Pullinger

This book presents the twelve stories shortlisted for the Asham Short-Story Award 2009, plus four stories (all excellent) by Margaret Atwood, Esther Freud, Yiyun Li and Alison MacLeod. All different, each touching a different nerve. My favourites are Because it is Running By by Jo Lloyd, a beautifully understated love story (deservedly, first prize); Rape Fantasies by Margaret Atwood; and The Stripper and the Dead Man by Janna Connerton.

❀ ❀ ❀
She would slice some bread and cut some cheese and wash some lettuce in the tiny kitchen that was next to the couch that was also the bed that was next to the shower. She liked the smallness of the caravan, the few steps it took to go from beginning to end, the little space there was to accumulate things. Just what you needed and no more. Every morning she turned the bed into a couch, made it ready for the day, and every evening she turned it back into a bed. In the night she could hear creatures moving around outside, as if she wasn’t there.
Jo Lloyd, Because it is Running By
❁ ❁ ❁
The old woman returns to the flat, walking faster than she should, and finds Electra at her husband’s side reading to him from the paper. They have solved that day’s crossword, working out the clues together. The old woman is sad that they have performed this most intimate of acts together, more intimate than that for which Electra’s services were obtained.
Janna Connerton, The Stripper and the Dead Man
✾ ✾ ✾
She and I are the ones that’ve been here the longest and she never will forget the time I got drunk at the office party and insisted I was going to dance under the table instead of on top of it, I did a sort of Cossack number but then I hit my head on the bottom of the table — actually it was a desk — when I went to get up, and I knocked myself out cold. She’s decided that’s the mark of an original mind and she tells everyone new about it and I’m not sure that’s fair. Though I did do it.
Margaret Atwood, Rape Fantasies

Contents

  • Alison MacLeod: The Thaw
  • Alexandra Fox: Whalebone Stays
  • Nora Morrison: All for the Best
  • Jo Lloyd: Because it is Running By
  • Janna Connerton: The Stripper and the Dead Man
  • Esther Freud: The Crossroads
  • Erica Rocca: Something Small and Understood
  • Hilary Plews: Lily’s Army
  • Cherise Saywell: The Candle Garden
  • Vicky Grut: Visitors
  • Alison Dunn: Omi’s Ghosts
  • Yiyun Li: Number 3, Garden Road
  • Juno McKittrick: Bella
  • Liz Day: Waving at the Gardener
  • Margaret Atwood: Rape Fantasies
  • Catherine Chanter: A Summary of Findings