Friday, 29 February 2008


I felt I should post today, however briefly, as I won't have the chance to do so on 29 February again for a while. This post, born on leap day, is a "leapling" or "leaper".

No, I haven't proposed to the boyfriend, despite the fact that he'd have to compensate me for refusal.

No, I didn't walk out of the office in protest at having to work an "unpaid" day, and sadly they didn't give us the day off to do good works like the National Trust did.

It was just a rather boring day, not at all worthy of its quadrennial status. Although perhaps a day lacking in focus is appropriate for a concept so hazy as the inaccuracy of human-imposed timelines - sacrificing a day to drifting aimlessly, to prevent the years from doing so?

Thursday, 28 February 2008

A visitor

I was sat happily knitting about an hour ago, when I was disturbed by a pitiful miaowing outside in the garden. We opened the doors and in trotted this little pussycat:

S/he seems healthy and in good condition, very tame and pleased to be pacing round our flat in the warm. It was evidently hungry as it's eaten half a tin of tuna, and has also stuck its head in the butter dish. No collar, and very young - only just past kitten stage. Hmm, not sure what to do now. Think we will put it out tonight, with some food and water, and see whether or not it comes back tomorrow - after all, it could just be on the prowl for more food, or a bit lost and in need of a rest and refuel. If it does come back, we'll take it down to the RSPCA and see if it's microchipped (don't tell them I mocked their shop front). Poor little thing.

Now trying to convince the boyfriend that it does not need an "intermediate name". Especially not "Spaff", as he just suggested...

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Vag-ing on the ridiculous

Last night we were honoured with a command performance by Janice Phayre, doing her Edinburgh Fringe show With Occasional Showers. Why? Well, of course because Janice is extremely funny and very talented. But also because the show stars Knitterrooney's World Famous Award Winning Yarngina (TM), which we London knitters had seen on the needles but never on the stage.

Janice was fab and is sure to rock the house when she takes the show to Glasgow and Meribel soon. Here she is modelling the Yarngina with its proud mummy next to it:

Of course I had to have a go:

Why there was a dorky bit of hair sticking out when I had it on, I don't know. Perhaps my own hair was afraid of being upstaged by the pubes.  You'll note I'm, er, spreading 'em.

Yet more eating out... At the weekend I headed down south for my own mummy's birthday, and she wanted to celebrate by going to Aruba, or at least the restaurant of that name. Resisting the urge to sing Kokomo by the Beach Boys ("Aruba, Jamaica, oooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama..."), at least until later in the evening when doing so in the empty loos cured my hiccups, we braved the chavvier areas of Bournemouth to head to the pier approach on a Saturday night. My brother thought this was pretty much taking our life in our hands, but it was fine. He's paranoid.

The food was OK, with some nicely spicy chilli and coconut coated big king prawns shared between us all to start, and for me and mum a spatchcock (love that word) poussin each for main, with lovely refreshing mango salsa and corn on the cob. Mum had sweet potato chips too - in her words "to die for", which always makes me think of the response in American Psycho ("'Really?' I smile and lift my lips into a depraved grin. 'To die for?'"). I've had better, though cannot for the life of me remember the name of the relevant pub. Dad had something billed as a Tobago chicken stir fry, when I swear I never saw anything remotely similar, or indeed at all noodle based, in Tobago last year.

All that was fine, but unfortunately it was one of those restaurants which are incredibly noisy, with no sound insulation whatsoever: wooden floors, bare walls and high ceilings. Worse still, they were showing the rugby in the bar area, so there was plenty of lagered up yelling whenever England scored a try. This probably makes me sound old before my time, but it just isn't enjoyable to eat in such places (at least not if you want to converse with fellow diners), and so I really respect reviewers who mention sound levels. So all in all, good food, but take a megaphone and a hearing aid.

They did give out cute sweets with the bill though.  I love the turquoise and white:

Altogether now: "That's where we wanna go, way down to Kokomo!"

Friday, 22 February 2008

Kick ass

Which is the one time I don't spell it "arse" like a true Brit. Somehow "kick arse" looks wrong.  Although "arse kicking" is correct.

As you can probably tell, I'm feeling decidedly gung ho this week, after work treated us to personal safety training. We had instructors from Resolute Training in, which psyched me up immediately as whenever I feel the need to buoy myself up I always silently chant the "be bloody, bold and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of man" line from Macbeth. That and Lady Macbeth's "but screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we'll not fail". I love Lady Macbeth, she's so wonderfully vicious. She and Medea are probably my favourite female characters in literature, which is probably telling.

Anyway, feeling highly resolute we were given very sensible advice on how to stay out of trouble, and also how to escape from strangleholds should you get into trouble, and how to inflict damage with "maximum aggression" (go for the face). Pity the fool who tries to tangle with me now.

Time for some more restaurant reviews!

On Tuesday we were invited to L's birthday celebrations at Mildreds, a vegetarian restaurant in Soho. This is somewhere we've wanted to go for a while, but never managed to since you can't book tables in the main restaurant, and the queue is always out the door and we get too hungry before we get to the front. Thankfully the private room upstairs is bookable for parties. The food itself was pretty good - I had artichoke crostini followed by stir-fry teriyaki tofu with brown rice, which was exactly what I had at the Rootmaster too, but I think the Rootmaster was slightly better. Again, brown rice! Sometimes I just want refined carbs with my tofu, you know? What was most excellent was that the walls of the room are covered with little pictures, which on closer inspection reveal themselves to be top-notch Victorian and Edwardian pornography. (For those with whom I was debating the difference last Saturday, check it out.) Terribly amusing, to me at least, to eat dinner surrounded by black and white daguerreotypes of ladies' maids exposing their fannies, and top-hatted gentlemen with rampant cocks. Great fun.

Thursday night was dinner with the girls at Thai Square in Islington, which is part of a chain, but generally very good. I don't think I've ever had a bad meal there, or at any of the others. Nothing stunning, but if you want a regular Thai curry, it hits the spot. I had the "Disco Duck", which sadly didn't come with flashing lights and a mirrorball, but instead had onions, peppers, cashews and chillies (so why "disco" I have no idea), and coconut rice. Lovely.

Finally, a couple of very exciting things: firstly we have booked our trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos for May, and secondly I've been offered a volunteering position at a butterfly house! Must buy more camera memory cards, I can see myself running out very quickly indeed...

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Despite all my rage I am still just a bat in a cave

Finally, on to this weekend! Very much a curate's egg, or even a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead...  Another photo-heavy one I'm afraid.

Spent Saturday daytime in the company of many lovely knitters, first of all at Knitflicks down at the Ritzy in Brixton. This is a monthly film screening especially for knitters, with the lights kept on low so you can see what you're doing if necessary. I'd never been before, due to unavailability, not being keen on the film or the ongoing weekend engineering works on the Victoria line, but this week fortune smiled upon me and I made it down there. It was really nice, with the low light and the slightly muffled clicking of needles making it much like being round somebody's house to watch a film. For anyone in London, go or they'll stop doing it. The film was Juno, which was very funny with a most excellent soundtrack.

We then headed on to a pub in Hackney to meet more knitters, for one last ktog in honour of Jenny who will soon be headed off for a new job in a far more exotic location than London. Good luck, we'll miss you!

On Saturday evening the boyfriend and I went to see the Smashing Pumpkins down at the O2 Arena (aka the Millennium Dome). We'd been really excited about this, but man, it was disappointing. Our seats were way up on the top level, miles away from the stage, and my view was this:

Which may or may not have been the Pumpkins, I couldn't really tell. The sound quality was about as good as when a hoodie on the tube menaces the whole carriage by playing mp3s on his mobile. There was the inevitable drunken twat sitting next to us, yelling for "old school" (or possibly "skool") songs - thankfully he got bored during the 20 minute prog rock session towards the end of the set (him and half the audience it would seem, judging by the mass exodus from our section). Anyway, it wasn't that bad, the Pumpkins were clearly rocking hard, if you were down in the mosh pit - not that I would really have wanted to be in there, as it swirled like boiling water or an enraged snake. My moshing days are sadly over, and I've only ever crowd surfed once, at Glastonbury, which was fun but never again.

It was a good set, with all my favourites - Tonight Tonight and Ava Adore in particular. It's great that Jimmy Chamberlain is back on the drums as he really does have an incredible sound (and stamina). I was disappointed that they didn't get D'Arcy back though - I always wanted to be her when I was learning to play the bass - but I hear she's still in druggie hell. But I wonder why no Melissa Auf der Maur (definitely on the list of women for whom I'd become a lesbian) instead of D'Arcy like on the last tour?

So we've vowed never to go to another stadium or mega-arena concert, unless we're standing down the front. Not even if Jimi Hendrix comes back from the dead to play the O2. Not even if they resurrected Kurt Cobain and reformed Nirvana. Not even for Leonard Cohen, for whom otherwise I'd crawl across broken glass to prostrate myself at his feet if he'd only talk to me in that voice... ahem. In fact, we agreed that the only thing we'd consider seeing at the O2 would be if they managed to do Jurassic Park in real life, and took it on tour with a T-Rex, because (a) it's really big and (b) up in the gods would be the safest place. So there's your challenge, O2 Arena.

Sunday more than made up for it though. We started out by heading up to Highgate to join a bat roost survey run by the London Bat Group. This was fascinating not least because it was in some disused north London railway tunnels that have been given over to bats. Here were the entrances, behind the old Highgate overground station:

Through the zinc portal:

And into the dark!

We spent about two hours scrambling (quietly) over railway sleepers in the cold, drippy tunnels, looking for hibernating bats in crevices in the walls by torchlight or in our case a night vision scope (we are the cool kids). So much fun! The boyfriend has a photo of a Natterer's bat (Myotis nattereri) hiding in a crack here (tip: it's upside down, the pink bit on the left is its muzzle and the other bit is its ear). We also saw Daubenton's (Myotis daubentonii) and Brown Long-Eared (Plecotus auritus) bats.

Back out into the daylight, we fancied some more animal action so bussed it down to Camden for London Zoo, where we're members. It was springlike outside, with some gorgeous crocuses out already:

But for the poor meerkats, a long way from Africa, it was still decidedly wintery, and they huddled underneath their heat lamps like smokers in an Islington beer garden.

We also went to the butterfly tunnel, where it is always summer. I have a bit of a thing for photographing butterflies, so here are a couple of them who graciously kept still for long enough to focus (I don't know what species they are I'm afraid):

Before leaving, we had to visit our favourite fibre animals, the camelids. Here's the boyfriend communing with his beloved llamas:

And a friendly ginger alpaca, oh if only I'd had a bag big enough to hide it in to steal it.

Finally, an amusing shop front from up in Highgate. Very important topic, the cat AIDS, I'm sure, but not quite what we'd have chosen for a massive yellow sign...

And if Billy Corgan ever reads this, play a smaller venue next time mate, please?

Saturday, 16 February 2008


So, the trip to Latvia last weekend then... I'm not going to say too much about it, as I didn't have the best of times. Nothing to do with Riga itself, just perhaps there are people with whom I shouldn't go on holiday again. 'Nuff said. Added to which, I lost my beautiful, cuddly black Branching Out made of Knitglobal Ultrafine Merino, probably as a result of the absinthe shooters I was drinking at the time (oops). No-one had handed it in when I went back to the bars. I hadn't even photographed it for Ravelry, sob. So that didn't improve my experience.

I'll therefore just give the photographic highlights, if that's OK with you all? This might therefore be heavy on the old bandwidth. However, it's guaranteed free from any photos of monuments (or your money back).

On arrival, we had to wait for other travelling companions on another flight. The tiny cafe at Riga airport had the most perfectly arranged napkins I had ever seen, with one of these clean-lined beauties on each round table. I was rapt.

More geometry as we saw this magnificent bridge across the Daugava river on our way from the airport to the city centre:

I was then terribly excited on seeing a shop next door to our hotel with a spinning wheel and handspun yarn in the window. Sadly this was just for show - the shop sold artisanal woven cloth, beautifully made but not my cup of tea. Still, I'm sure it would have bored my companions witless if I'd spend hours in there drooling over fibre, so just as well.

We then went for a wander around the city. I adored the amazing scrolled doorknob to Riga cathedral:

A beautiful circular piece of stained glass hung up in an outside cloister which acts as a museum of artefacts from the cathedral - I love this shot as the soft light made the whole thing look like a Renaissance painting, not just the disc itself:

Outside, some surrealism with this Dali-inspired mural:

This stone bloke:

An even stonier lady:

And the sign of the hourglass:

How could anyone bear to eat one of these guys?

Anarchic graffiti:

Encouragement for yogic practice, although it was a bit cold to get your kit off:

I insisted we visit the Natural History Museum as I always do in foreign cities (and here in London). I'll post separately about the glorious taxidermy as I'm sure not everyone will like that. In the meantime, here's part of a big map of the world showing local fauna. Apparently Britain only has fish:

They had a wonderful exhibit of butterflies, mounted on mirrors. I managed to take a shot of myself looking at them that, surprisingly, I like (and I don't know why), so here is Self Portrait with Butterflies:

And because there has to be at least one "quirky" shot in the bunch, so we can all play look-at-the-wacky-foreigners (sorry, Latvia), here's something I couldn't resist from our hotel breakfast buffet:

Behold, cold baked beans as a breakfast garnish! The boyfriend thinks this looks like a great idea. Excuse me whilst I vomit. I do love the colour of them though.

Finally, of course there was some knitting done. I started a sock in some gorgeous SW merino from Skein Queen, and it's coming along nicely. Here it is in Riga airport, waiting for our flight home:

I might go back one day, maybe with other people...

Friday, 15 February 2008


Firstly, huge thanks to Helen for my You Make My Day award - right back atcha! And same goes for everybody on in the links to the right - you really all do brighten up my day. Thank you all for keeping on writing.

Secondly, apologies for the lack of content recently, having got as far as posting titles (late enough in themselves) I have been woefully inadequate in writing things up. It's probably because I've been feeling vaguely depressed and/or angry about several things this last week or so, and thanks to those who've listened to me rant in person or by e-mail. I should probably take up meditation, I need a bit of zen. If nothing else, it's making my gauge too tight.

Anyway, this post is to catch up with stuff I did during the week - my trip to Riga last weekend will be in the next post so unfortunately out of sequence.

On Tuesday Lotta, Gail, Viv and I escaped from our various offices at lunchtime to scoot on over to Liberty for a swift infusion of burlesque, as Miss Esmé Bianco was doing a performance in the Carnaby Street windows to launch a new line of lingerie. At 1pm we were presented with the surreal sight of a semi-naked woman posing behind glass, throwing seductive shapes silently, with no soundtrack at all apart from the clicking of camera shutters and the giggling of tourists. Quite disturbingly zoo-like.

She invited various audience members over for a kiss through the glass, including the lucky Lotta:

I was most interested in her gorgeous dressing gown - you can see the fabulous kimono sleeves above, and here's the amazing embroidered back:

Just the thing for over one of my plainer corsets. I would kill for one. I dare not go and see how much they actually are, assuming they're part of said lingerie range. Divine.

On Wednesday I decided to forgo my regular knitting engagement and head down to the pub quiz at the Sun & Doves in Camberwell, run by my good friends A, J and M. As it happened, I probably got more knitting done whilst they were reading the questions, in between counting entry fees, marking and adjudicating disputes, than I normally do with the girls... Free Guinness too, for being on the organisers' table. I try not to actually participate in quizzes though, as I get horribly competitive and stroppy. Who'd have thought?

Heading for a bus home very late, I was delighted to see this roadsign:

See the butterflies? That's the Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa), a stunning butterfly, velvety burgundy with lacy blue spots then a wide cream border to its wings. It's named this (in Britain anyway, it's the Mourning Cloak in the USA) because the first two specimens in the UK were found on Coldharbour Lane, back in 1748 when Camberwell was still a village in Surrey rather than the somewhat scary part of inner-city south London it has become. At least they still celebrate their wildlife, in between stabbing each other (I've heard it called "Crackharbour Lane" you know).

Yesterday was, of course, Valentine's Day. I'm not a great one for soppy stuff, but to anyone reading this, consider yourself to have had a big wet smacker planted on your forehead from me!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Spinner's Review

I am seriously getting addicted to this spinning lark. Some kind of Twelve Step Programme may be in order before the month is out. Gorgeous packages of lovely fluffy roving are threatening to smother me (and I said I wouldn't have a fibre stash, hah!) although the insulating effect in the lounge may well do wonders for our heating bills. I am ordering new spindles left, right and centre. Not good, my friends, not good.

Being the scientific sort of person that I am, I decided to get me some proper reference material because I've either forgotten most of the stuff from the course we went on, or I need more detail than we were given. I therefore purchased three very different books last week, for instructional purposes.

Creative Spinning by Alison Daykin and Jane Deane

A beautiful, lush book this, definitely more for inspiration rather than technicalities, though there is a "how to" section at the front. Most of the book consists of gorgeous projects of various art yarns inspired by nature - titles like "Shell", "Seedling", "Lapis Lazuli" and "Frost" should give you some idea. My favourite is "Pasture", a darling, cuddly yarn made from pastel green, blue, pink and grey angora rabbit fibre (it would make me sneeze but never mind). Actually, when you read the projects, there's a surprising amount of instruction on fancy techniques such as snarls, knots and beads, which aren't covered in less OTT books. I'm unlikely to make any of the projects - most would be ruined if anything other than those particular colour and fibre pairings weren't followed, and that's not my style - but it really is lovely to wallow in.

By the way, my stupidity caused me to order two of these from Amazon, so I have a spare if anyone wants to buy it. Sigh, I surprise myself with my idiocy sometimes.

The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

Subtitled The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using and Enjoying Yarn, this really is a tome. This isn't so much about spinning as such, but is, in great depth, about the properties of different types of fibre, different ways in which it is combined, spun and plied, and how those translate into the final yarn. Very interesting in terms of why superwash wool spins differently to non-superwash, why singles behave differently to plied yarns, why commercial angora is so bloody sheddy, why hand-dyed sock yarns pool, and how these affect the eventual knitted product. There are plenty of patterns, nothing of great interest to me, but that's not why I wanted it. There's loads of information in here about every possible type of animal, plant and man-made fibre type, including a cool "family tree" on the frontispiece. Definitely a book I'll refer to again and again so well worth the price.

In Sheep's Clothing: A Handspinner's Guide to Wool by Nola Fournier and Jane Fournier

Definitely the most hardcore of the three, this. Only about sheep's wool, but by god, they find a lot to say about it. After a short preamble about the anatomy of a wool fibre and how it grows, the bulk of the book consists of a breed-by-breed analysis of wool, with a black and white photograph of a lock from each type, and a description of its spinning properties. This couldn't be further from the beautiful colours and misty landscape backgrounds of Creative Spinning! Terribly austere but very informative. I'm sure no-one but a spinner or a sheep breeder could be even remotely interested in this sort of thing. For me, it's made me want to have a whole field full of different sheep breeds and rub my face in their cuddly fleeces. The last section of the book has lots of technical help on sorting the fleece, carding, spinning and plying, including the first sensible description of Navajo plying I've seen (it still looks impossible). I'd been looking all over the net for the various definitions of batts, roving, tops, rolag etc, and how they should each be spun, and it's all here. There are even hand and arm exercises for after a long bout of spinning. Fantastic.

Other than books... well, there's the fibre of course. I've been photographing what I have so far and will be putting it all up on Ravelry eventually, but I can thoroughly recommend Etsy sellers loop, copperpot, alltheprettyfibers, and enchantedknoll for the lovely things that have arrived chez Ginger so far, with more on the way from hobbledehoy, fibermonster and fyberspates. Dear me. I am the proud owner of a pretty butterflygirldesigns spindle, and there's another coming from Sublime Spindles for plying purposes. Oh deary deary me.

So, what with being all kitted up, you'd expect me to produce some yarn, wouldn't you? I can't say my output has been prolific as such, mainly because I'm doing one large batch of merino tops and so whilst I've been working on it steadily, there's nothing to show off yet. But with my enchantedknoll order came a tiny mini-roving of merino in Gypsy, a combination of blues, greens, oranges and pinks, so I immediately spun this up (read: ballsed this up). So here is my first home handspun:

Any prettiness there is wholly down to the roving, not to my skill. There are some good bits but some unintentional thick and thin sections and some horrendously over- and underspun bits. But still, it's yarn, hooray! All two yards of it (four grams or 0.1 ounces).

I am so over actually knitting anything...

One final thing: I've found my spiritual home on Ravelry in the new "Lazy, Stupid, and Godless" group, for all of us who just love swearing and can't be arsed to do anything useful when playing on the internet's an option. I love you guys!

Sunday, 3 February 2008


For our anniversary (sixth, if you're interested) the boyfriend and I went last night to see a production of Kafka's The Metamorphosis. Call us hopeless romantics if you like, but nothing says "I love you" like the existential crisis of turning into a giant cockroach, does it? Even better, I have just been presented with a fox skull found on his work trip to the woods today, so I have to find a non-food bowl in which to soak it in biological washing powder.

This production was by Icelandic troup Vesturport, and seems to have rather taken the London theatre world by storm, overwhelming the small Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith where it's being staged. Our performance was meant to be the last one but the run has now been extended due to popular demand - it's then going on a UK tour and worldwide later in the year. We were therefore intrigued to see what all the fuss was about.

I'll say right away this is one of the best theatre performances I have ever seen, full stop. It even made me cry at the end. The stage set was inspired, a slice through the Samsa's accommodation like a dolls house, but with Gregor's room presented as an arial view (making for a strange Escher-like swoon of perspective when the light grew enough to first see it properly), the walls covered in cracks ("cracking up"?) which serve as climbing holds for Gregor to scuttle about in a convincingly insectile way. The cast were amazing and "tighter than Robocop" according to the boyfriend (what an accolade). The actor playing Gregor (sorry, we didn't get a programme so I don't know his name) was just incredible, perfectly capturing the cold, lonely, hungry misery of the son left to starve to death in his room, forgotten by his family below - that and his remarkable athleticism in making all the jumps and catches needed to crawl and bound around the set, and the strength to spend whole scenes hanging from various holds. He also has an amazingly expressive face, such fear in his eyes as he waits for his family to react by screaming or attacking him.

It was interesting that this production has Gregor dressed in a business suit throughout - no attempt to dress him as an insect or even allude to what he may have turned into that is so horrific to his family, other than by his physical crawling (Kafka's original German text doesn't say "insect" either, just "monstrous vermin"). Instead we merely see a crouching human, cowering in the corner in dirty, torn clothes. This made me understand the analogy more with marginalised people - Gregor could easily have been mentally ill, psychotic, with strange behaviour that his family couldn't comprehend or relate to, and slowly becoming a burden for them to look after and a "dirty secret". I'm sure this happens far too often in real life. It also made me terribly sad that people behave like this with pets when they get bored - why rouse oneself from one's book to bother to go and feed them and clean them? People should need licences to keep animals.

The only slightly jarring note was the decision to change the lodgers towards the end of the story to one scarily upright gentleman, who is a love interest for Grete and also her boss at the department store. Whilst this gave great comedy, it did lend a different slant to Grete's final vicious turning against Gregor, here catalysed by the loss of her potential romance and her job as much as the loss of an income stream for the family. To me this makes her betrayal more of a crime of passion, more human, as opposed to the distinctly cold way Kafka has it as her boredom and frustration at having to deal with Gregor unaided move her from neglect into hatred - inhuman behaviour contrasted with Gregor: inhuman physically but never ceasing to love his sister deeply and to be willing to sacrifice himself for her.

Still, a really wonderful production, and with a score by Nick Cave, what could be better? Seriously, go and see this.

P.S. I know I have a string of positive reviews on here - perhaps I'm easily pleased, but this really was fantastic - even The Times agrees. I'll try to go and see something crap soon and report back immediately.

Friday, 1 February 2008

"Welcome to Network SouthEast"

On Tuesday night, having more or less won my battle for control of my respiratory mucus membranes, I headed down for a Robyn Hitchcock gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre, a genteel, small, all-seater venue perfectly suited to my still-delicate state. On my way in, I found this groovy glowing sculpture:

It's part of the Festive Lights installation by David Batchelor, and sadly (since it was pretty with all the colours) will have been dismantled by now.

Waiting for A, I had a hazelnut brownie and a real lemonade for "dinner" in the Royal Festival Hall - do you think this is why I get colds? At least there was vitamin C involved somewhere. Surprisingly, the brownie was round and in a sort of muffin case, which seemed fundamentally wrong. Good though, with whole nuts rather than pieces. Mmmm. Then A turned up wearing his scarf, most gratifying.

Support were the slightly odd Rasputina - two cellists and a drummer, singing songs about dying deer and cold snaps in 1816. Riiiight. They were good, but not really my thing, too much yodelling. They were dressed most amusingly, from left to right: goth Victoriana with a black feather headdress, barefoot native American with a big single feather in her hair, and some sort of Civil War/General Custer thing. I think they had the whole audience mildly bemused.

Then time for Robyn Hitchcock:

You may or may not have heard of him. Respect to you if you have. He's one of our great songwriters, generally described as "English", "eccentric", "surreal" and/or "psychadelic" in some combination. He certainly is part of a musical family tree including Syd Barrett (in fact the last time I saw Robyn play was his recreation of Pink Floyd's famous 1967 Games For May show last year, as a tribute to Syd). Robyn's songs are very quirky, extremely witty and funny, although not funny in the sense that musical comedians like Mitch Benn aim to be (possibly with the exception of one called The Cheese Alarm which is just silly). Most of them are rather more melancholy, but always fiercely intelligent. Above all, he has the most brilliant turn of phrase, and is a bloody good musician. I've seen him quite a few times and he is always wonderful, and his monologues between songs inevitably have the audience nearly wetting themselves.

Anyway, this concert was to celebrate the reissue of his 1984 album I Often Dream Of Trains (hence Robyn's opening comment which gives us the title of this blog). Why did all the good stuff in music first happen when I was too young to appreciate it? There were also a couple of extra tracks thrown in to the performace that were conceived at the same time but ended up on different albums, like the wonderful My Wife & My Dead Wife (what a concept for a song!) and Queen Elvis, and a beautiful cover of More Than This by Roxy Music, as we were told that Avalon inspired Robyn to write an album that was dark green.

A and I were most thrilled, however, at gossip from Robyn about R.E.M.'s new album, Accelerate, due at the end of March - apparently this will only be 34 minutes long! Whilst that's rather upsetting in terms of actual quantity of R.E.M. per album wait time, at least it means they're likely to be fast, rock songs rather than the turgid stuff on Around The Sun (it was better live, OK). Please let that be so.

For more about Robyn Hitchcock, there are a couple of short Time Out articles on him, both as lists of fascinating facts, well worth a read here and here. His own website, featuring his music, poetry and art, plus art from his relations, is here.