Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Test Cricket next week!

England start a five match test series against India next week and I can't wait!!!  

But before I chunter on about that the ODI form must get a mention.  England have played brilliant cricket to batter an under strength Australian team 6-0 if you include the T20.  England were simply better in all departments and Joss Buttler's century in the fifth ODI was superb, earning victory from certain defeat.  Since then we've faced a strong Indian side who won the T20 series 2-1 but England came from behind to win the last two fifty over matches to take that series and hang on to the World number one ranking.  It's not the results that matter though, the way England play is brave and attacking, they back their talent and go for it.  There was a time when I wouldn't bother much with ODI cricket as it seemed stale and a bit boring compared to T20 which seemed the better 'short form'.  T20 cricket has influenced the modern fifty over game, given it a proper kick and rejuvenated the game and at the moment England really are the best in the world.

So why is the Test team so inconsistent?

Earlier this year Joss Buttler was selected for the test team on the back of his IPL form and it was a resounding success.  Now there is talk of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid of coming back for the same reason.  I'm all for Rashid's selection, I think he is the best wicket taking spinner we have in all forms of the game.  To select Ali would seem really unfair on Leach and Bess who have both done well since Ali last played.  I'd be more inclined to stick with one of the younger bowlers as although Ali has done well in home series his bowling abroad has been poor.

What about England's much maligned top three, would this benefit from the inclusion of Hales or Roy?  As I've said many times I'm a fan of Hales but maybe Roy should get a go should an opportunity arise?  In the short term Jennings will hold onto his place as Cook's partner.  Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes are both getting back to fitness so we could see a very different team to the one that beat Pakistan, way back before the great drought.

India have a team of superstars but they don't always travel well.  Normally I'd make England favourites at home but the weather this summer may well affect the pitches, I don't think they'll be dry turners but I can't see them seaming or swinging much.  Shear pace could well be useful this year.  If England are not at their best India could embarrass us.  However I still think England should be too good for India.

So the selector game...
Cook, Jennings, Root, Buttler, Bairstow, Stokes, Bess, Wood, Rashid, Broad, Anderson.

I've picked what  once long ago, the Ray Illingsworth's of the world would call a balanced side.  Four fast bowlers including one capable of hurling it down at 90mph and two spinners.  I think we might need six bowlers to bowl India out twice.  The batting would definitely look stronger with Ali instead of Bess but the youngster looked like a batsman against Pakistan.  I will be amazed if the XI that goes out next week will look anything like mine :)

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Latitude 2018 "All these things that I have done..."

Latitude starts with a nice drive through rural Suffolk followed by “The walk”, with a large  rucksack on my back and pushing a fully loaded fishing barrow holding Tent, kip bags, chairs, air bed and other sundries.  My dance partner, the Purple Princess is also similarly laden.  How far is the walk?  In the unrelenting heat of this summer it feels like miles, especially with a stop/start and a bit of queueing at the ticket exchange.  Measured in my “Just how knackered?” scale I’d say about ten miles, in reality I’d say nearer two.  Either way we were sweaty and breathless and needed to gulp down water when we got there.  We left home around 1300 and were camped and chilling just after 1500, sitting in chairs with a brew watching the camp site fill up around us.  Two Buzzards flew high above the woods, were they cries of bemusement?  The Buzzards went missing for a while after that but Gulls and Crows were becoming interested.

Red Camping had shrunk this year but we managed to get into the same general area we’d pitched up in previous years.  Now it was time for some hilarious ‘people watching’ and wondering how the Russian Roulette which decided our neighbours would fall.  Directly behind were a friendly couple around our age but due to the way our tents faced we never saw them after the first day.  Going anti clockwise from there we had a pair from Oxford university, he was gay while she was loud and pretentious.  Next to them were two lads from Leicester via London who were polite, friendly and considerate, very pleasant festival neighbours.  Directly in front of us were a quiet couple, I think he was French and she was Spanish, they communicated in English.  Then round the side were ‘The Inbetweeners’, five lads from the west midlands who were just idiots.  Not quite as extreme as the lads in the TV show but definitely of that ilk and actually old enough to know better.  Of course it was this group that left a large pile of rubbish when they departed.  Thank you to all our neighbours who don’t know how to speak quietly and shared so many entertaining and intimate details.

In the outer ring were two large parties of teens or early twenties.  The younger group to our right were friendly enough but made all the classic festival mistakes and would have had a far less complicated festival had they ditched the prima donna twat called Adam.  The older group to our left were OK for most of the weekend but a bit pissed and twatty on the last night.  Apart from two women taking ages and much struggle assembling their tent there was only one more camper who attracted attention.  He and his partner appeared on Saturday afternoon and were very loud and over friendly, He announced to his direct neighbours “We’re a bit messy, I’m not gonna lie but we are polite…” This sounded ominous and I was glad he wasn’t camped any closer.  After that we never saw him again and apparently they were “led away by security…” at some point. 

The shrinking of Red camping meant it was more crowded than we’d ever seen it but this didn’t seem to cause any conflict.  Meanwhile the new, extended family camping area was positively spacious…  The toilet block barely survived the festival, as the weekend passed the number of bogs that actually flushed steadily decreased but to be fair the staff done well and kept things as clean as they could.  These toilets are now virtually dead and need to be replaced before next year.  The onsite food vendors actually played their music at a reasonable level, if they do that again next year I might even spend some money with them. A Buzzard returned on Sunday evening, possibly seeking out alcohol carrion amongst the canvas.

In the arena…

Latitude started in the Speakeasy.  John Lloyd & Sandy Toksvig in conversation was a lovely, light and funny way to ease into the festival, we really enjoyed it.  We has a long stroll around the site and on the way saw a bit of someone called Denzil rapping on Waterfront stage, he was pretty good but his vocals were clearer when you we further away from the stage. Our wander around continued and we noticed big changes to the site.  Most notably the big new food court in the centre which changed the latitude views we’ve come to love somewhat.  At first we were unsure if we liked the change in ambience but by the end of the weekend it had become just part of Latitude.  Not worse, not better, just different.

We sampled the food for the first time with a really tasty burger from somewhere in the middle of street feast.  The food was much better than last year but still over priced. Through the weekend I had a very good Calamari and chips, a too spicy jerk chicken and chips, the world’s most expensive toastie and some chips from elsewhere that were rank.  Mr Whippy ice creams with flake and chocolate sprinkles went down well at all times of the day.
Thursday ended up in the Alcove, having a little bop to Keith Allen‘s house band who we have christened ‘croaky dread’ and were as good as usual. After that our feet were complaining about all the walking, we were knackered so went back to the campsite to chill.

Some context..
The Live experience is unique and personal; the only thing that matters is how it makes YOU feel.  One man’s meat is another’s poison; two people standing side by side can have totally different live experiences.  Personally it matters very little to me if the singer misses a note or the sound is a bit off it won’t spoil my night.  Every live experience has a vibe, sometimes I miss the vibe, most of the time I get on and ride for a while, and sometimes I’m pulled into the vibe and couldn’t get out even if I wanted too.  Those are the nights you want to go on forever… I love live music and I am passionate about it.  I have no musical or technical knowledge that gives me any right to comment on a live performance so I base my opinions purely on the way the gig made me feel at the time.

We wandered up towards the Obelisk arena and ended up being drawn in by ‘The Go Team’ who had the unenviable task of opening the main stage and done a bloody good job.  A high energy good fun show that surprised us! 

After that we spent a while in the Comedy arena; firstly Angela Barnes was OK, a bit predictable but funny nonetheless. Then came ‘Lucifer’ AKA Marcus Brigstocke in full make up complete with horns giving Satan’s take on the current state of the world which was very good.
We left Comedy for an ice cream and bumped into Mr & Mrs G and family and all wandered back in to see Matt Richardson  who was very rude and very funny despite the Paedo Jokes    Our lure was Jonathan Pie, who was good but definitely works better in the spoof TV news format, he’s absolutely right that everyone should read ‘1984’ though.

After a siesta we reunited with Family G at the Obelisk arena where The Charlatans performed in the sun.  We know they will be good, they always are and they didn’t disappoint.  There were loads of classics and a good number of newer tunes, I was really happy they finished with ‘Sproston Green’, I love it and they don’t always put it in a festival set.  A good show from The Charlatans but we have seen them play better.

Belle & Sebastian surprised me, it took a while to get me hooked but the show got better and better and they won me over in the end.

We arranged to meet family G at the BBC arena after we’d fed but we under estimated the crowd, the tent was packed!  We got in and as the set went on gradually worked our way in deeper and deeper. James were excellent, Tim Booth is a great performer and the band are first class, the set mixed the old with the new and kept pounding away.  Songs with a social message combined with songs about shagging.  “Sometimes” always sounds good, “Laid” was a riot the crowd were elated and let the band know with a great reception.  A top, top show from a great band.

Our first music of the day was at the Sunrise arena where we saw Durand Jones & the Indications deliver forty five minutes of sweet Louisiana soul.  Our view wasn’t great but the sound wasn’t affected and we really enjoyed the show.  We moved on to the BBC arena for IBEYI, we lasted about twenty minutes, it was OK but didn’t hold our attention.  We wandered across the Obelisk arena and  saw a bit of Hudson Taylor but I remember nothing about it.  Sometime during Saturday we went into the Comedy arena for a bit of Lauren Pattison who was OK and Tom Lucy was a bit better.  There was another female comedian in between but I can’t remember her name, she was OK too.

I saw Oasis years ago and also saw Noel at this festival more recently.  We could hear Liam Gallagher’s worst kept “secret set” from the camp site whilst on siesta but felt no urge to get down there and watch him singing his brother’s songs.

After a rest it was back to the Obelisk for a rendezvous with Family G. I like The Vaccines and thought they were excellent, the old songs went down an absolute storm but for me they weren’t as good as when they headlined the tent a couple of years ago.  Still we loved it, wiggled our old bones and sung along throughout.

Before we knew it the main event was imminent, The Killers.  I’m not a massive fan but they have a lot of tunes I like and a couple that I absolutely love.  Before the weekend I couldn’t have told you the band member’s names but now I’m lead to believe the singer is called Brandon.  I thought they were awesome.  Slick & professional, Brandon has a great voice, a warm personality and makes an excellent front man.  From where we were the sound was fine and they picked a very good set which kept us moving.  “I’m the man” got the show off to a cracking start; “Mr Brightside” was a perfect conclusion.  Gig of the weekend and I didn’t want it to end...

…So we went into Film & Theatre next, for a reggae music late, late night.  Trojan sound system were holding court and doing a fine job.  We managed to see most of Holly Cook, a charismatic lady with a beautiful voice, playing chilled lover’s rock.  Then came Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry who was as whacky as expected with his unique attire, bright red hair, wizened face and, it has to be said, a very weak voice.  I was excited about seeing Scratch and it was surreal if ultimately disappointing, didn’t stop us dancing though.  Saturday evening into the early hours of Sunday was another special, over indulgent Latitude experience which ended in exhaustion shortly before sunrise.

The whole weekend hat been hot but Sunday was DAM hot!!!!  When it’s this hot our tent becomes uninhabitable so we left the sanctuary of sleep a bit too early.  Saturday’s adventures had left us physically battered and we were well below full fitness on Sunday.  We wandered down to Comedy where Rhys Nicholson was very clever and very funny. Lolly Adefope’s character send ups were also clever and made us chuckle.  Finally David O’Doherty stand up/sit down musical madness and stuff was very good, probably the funniest thing of weekend.

After that we staggered back to the camp site where I heard Rag & Bone man from the tent, he sounded OK.  We fell asleep and stayed in the campsite for much longer than we had planned before staggering back to the Obelisk arena for Wolf Alice who were very good and had much more variety and talent than I expected, possibly the biggest musical surprise of the weekend?

After that we staggered up to the BBC arena for Jon Hopkins who was good and deserved to get us dancing but our legs were fucked.  We left this show a little early and our festival ended in the Speak easy, where it had begun.  Dr John Cooper Clarke took to the stage but the small tent was packed and it was difficult to hear or see at times.  I had to chuckle at the young gal obviously flying on an E, dancing to the beat of JCC’s voice.  What I could hear of JCC was good but after about half hour we wandered off.  Our festival finished sipping tea and chatting back at the tent.  It had been a slow day but a great weekend.

We packed up on Monday morning and once again it was really fucking hot!!  We slowly trudged back to car with the merciless sun in a cloudless sky.  Latitude is a fantastic weekend but its hard work too, I'm happy to trade a bit of sweat and grunt either side of the festival because the meat in the middle of sandwich is just fantastic.

And so after a weekend in festival land, surrounded by debauchery, over indulgence and madness we return to the 'real world' and it is horrible compared to the supposedly lawless environment we've left.  At least we missed Trump dirtying our soil but our own society is broken and governed by crooks as well.  Only fifty one weeks till Latitude.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Some gigs

We saw the Wailers again at the UEA, sometime in March, between the ice ages.  Mr & Mrs Green were seeing them for the first time whilst my closer family had seen them before a year ago.  In short it was a very good show but when you see a band twice in a year it'll never be as good the second time.  Plus Family man wasn't playing...  Never mind, we all enjoyed ourselves as they rolled out the classics and our legs ached at the end.

Mid June the Princess and I joined Mr Green and Mr Red in a car to Norwich to see another iconic artist, Public Image Limited fronted by the one and only John Lydon.  It was hard to believe that none of us had ever seen Mr Rotten play before, in any of his incarnations, it barely seemed possible.  I have the Pistols in my collection but nothing by PiL so only really knew a handful of songs but this didn't matter at all, I loved it!  The band is tight and the guitarist "Lou" is fucking ace, then there's John who has a presence and draws the eye.  Seeing him live you appreciate what a fucking good voice he has too.  Highlights are the inevitable ones; "Love Song", "Public Image", "Rise" and the final tune, his personal and relevant reworking of the Leftfield collaboration "Open up".  Class!

Then last week Mr Green kindly took the wheel again and drove the princess, my daughter and myself down to London to see my/our? favourite band in the world.  The middle of a heatwave, England are still in the World cup and the roads seemed quiet...  Until we hit the concrete and everything snarled up.  London, how the fuck do people live here?  Why do so many people drive Range Rovers?  Why does anyone need a 6.3 litre car?  Why does everyone jump the lights, we catch them up at the next set anyway?  You meet beggars at the lights too and see piles of homelessness along the paths, then blink and the surrounds are opulent.  Don't get me started...  The traffic is bad, the sat nav literally leads us into a dead end, I'm starting to get nervous because I don't want to miss a single second of this one

Our destination was the Brixton academy and Mr Green had us positioned fairly close and dead centre with ten minutes to spare.  Just enough time to take in what a great venue the academy is, it's been a few years since I've been here.  These minutes drag, I keep checking my watch...  Lights dim, the Rocky theme starts up...  Then Eels casually stroll onto the stage and I'm all fan, I love this band and I don't care who knows it!

This is the fifth time I've seen the Eels and every single time they have been absolutely first class.  They couldn't possibly hits those heights again could they?  The answer is an emphatic FUCK YES!!!  The gig started slowly with a song I actually didn't recognise, picked up with a cover of "Raspberry Beret" then just got better and better and better and...  We literally danced all night.  There were only a handful of new songs sprinkled into a set that kept hitting us with classic after classic including at least half a dozen favourites that I'd never seen Eels play live before.  It was a fantastic set for a long time fan and equally good for my daughter seeing them play for the first time.

How do they do it?  How are they so consistently good at what they do?  Well tour is completely different to the last one, they must look at the previous set list then rip it up and pick a new one fresh.  With the exception of one song; "My Beloved Monster" is played every time but is completely reinvented.  It's not just the set list, the whole vibe shifts too.  I've seen them play R&B style with a horn section, a five piece rock band (twice) dressed in track suits followed on the next tour by them all suited and booted playing what can only be described as a soft rock orchestra (which is my banner picture at the top of the page).  This time they were four piece, casually dressed in jeans and jackets and played a bit of everything.  This band, these musicians are masters, they can do anything and between the songs the chat is damn funny too.

Sometimes you listen to a musician and it seems the songs have been written for you, this is obviously the case with Eels and me.  I get emotional about this band because they are so good, they should be better known but then again I'd rather see them in Brixton or the RAH than in some soulless arena.

Anyway the gig...  Highlights for me were the tunes I'd never heard live before;  "Daisies of the Galaxy", "Magic world", "Climbing up to the moon" and especially "PS You rock my world" - 'a careful man tries to dodge the bullets while a happy man takes a walk...'  Classics included a demonic "Flyswatter", a haunting "Novocaine for the soul"and a thrashed "I Like Birds".  They played for nearly two hours and I could have happily danced along for two more.  Four years slipped by between Eels tours, I hope they don't make me wait four more for the next.