Provincial Letters

Far from the mad crowds of the city, Blaise Pascal passed comment on the strange behaviour of this urban contemporaries in his Provincial Letters. The connection between them and this blog is somewhat tenuous.

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Location: Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

My star sign in Superstition. And I didn't believe in reincarnation last time, either. The only thing I can't tolerate is intolerance. I am a fanatical ant-fanaticist. I am bigotted only where bigots are concerned. I am a fundamentalist atheist. I'm proud to be a product of evolution; I know it in my genes.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Posted @ 11:59The Fifth Sentence

I've come across this little game a few times while trawling the blogs and am (slightly) amused and (slightly) intrigued by it.

The idea is this:

[1] Grab the nearest book.

[2] Open the book to page 123 (clearly, the book must have at least 123 pages).

[3] Find the fifth sentence (clearly, the book must have writing in it; this rules out colouring books: even ones you've finished colouring in, Mr Bush).

[4] Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

[5] Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Use what's actually next/nearest to you.

And so, for your delectation and delight, I give you my "Fifth Sentence":

It was Dolores, his wife.

Make of that what you will.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Posted @ 18:58Normal service will be resumed...

Well, to be precise, that should be "abnormal service". After all, I wouldn't want anyone going around accusing me of being normal (anyone who accuses me of being normal must be strange in some way).

Anyway, on with the blog. And that's exactly the problem: I haven't been getting on with the blog (done a bit of decorating, that's all). I've got lots to say about a lot of things that have gone on the last week, but they'll have to wait until tomorrow as I rather fancy some tea and then a pint or two.

My new motto: "Procrastination Rules Tomorrow, OK". And I'm at one with Douglas Adams with regard to deadlines: "I love the whooshing noise they make as they go past".

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Posted @ 13:56Open Mic Night @ The Carnival Barton

My Saturday night began in Swigs at about 17:15, meeting Ian for a tea-time beer. As usual, we managed to set a great proportion of the world's wrongs right (it's the one about not listening to us that we have the most problem with). This was achieved despite Ian's lingering (lingering?) hang-over from last night, which was all Mark's fault, anyway (see: "Richard Papps @ The Tap"). Mark, naturally, has some lame excuse for not coming out to play tonight: he's working ("...I've worked 66 hours in the last 6 days..."). Anyway, I'm off to Barton - to the Carnival Inn, to be exact - for the Open Mic Night. Perhaps I'll just have another beer before I go and get ready...

The biggest mistake you can make when you're going out for an evening's drinking and making music is to start the drinking bit before it's really evening. This is caused by the extremely optimistic expectation - totally unsupported by your experience - that you won't be drunk by 21:00. I record this observation as a public service and as a reminder to myself that it is a bad idea. Don't expect it to change much, though.

Tim is due to pick me up from the Tap around 19:30 (I get a text to confirm this). Leave Swigs for home to collect guitar. Arrive at the Tap at 19:00 thinking that another pint won't hurt (this turns out to be untrue). Have a game of pool with Sean (he won). Drink my beer; realise that my earlier optimism was unfounded but, unfortunately, there's no going back now. Tim & Jen arrive at 19:40, uncharacteristically late (apologies are offered, but no worries, it's good of them to take me). Then off to pick up Big Steve (he's called that 'cos he's very tall and his name is Steve; this is to distinguish him from other people called Steve - of which I know a lot - who are not as tall as he is; we're quite literal with our nicknames in these parts).

Our hosts for the evening are known to us by reputation and previous encounters; thus fore-warned, we are fore-armed (four-armed? - no, that's just the beer talking). Essentials, such as money and petrol, are obtained on the way out of Grimsby. As we pull into the petrol station, white stuff falls out of the sky. "That'd be snow, then," I observe, glad to know that youngsters will now not disbelieve me when I talk about the good old days when winters featured snow on a regular basis. Steve makes a joke about Tim's dandruff which I am saving for "Give an old joke a good home" week. Jen is sent out in the cold, windy storm to pay (this is the sort of thing that causes feminism, chaps). The rest of the drive to Barton is uneventful, except for...

I'm sure Tim doesn't always take the wrong turnings on routes he's driven several times before. Well, I'm reasonably confident he doesn't do it when I'm not with him. However: (a) Tim, you nearly went to Elsham Hall last time and you did get the right exit from the roundabout for the A15 north from the A180/M180 junction for Barton and the Humber Bridge; (b) Last time, Tim, you said "Oh, not this one, the next one" for the exit to Barton - but that seemed to slip your memory last night (quite enjoyed the "scenic route" into Barton, though). We were glad Big Steve knew where we were going...

"By the time we got to Barton...", the snow had stopped. To be strictly accurate, it hadn't started yet; we had simply overtaken it on its rush up the Humber to cause havoc in Doncaster and all points west. It is not spoiling any surprises to let you know that the snow arrived in Barton some 30 minutes after we did.

I am not going to mention the appalling trick that Tim played on me during the journey when I mentioned that I would appreciate an early arrival in Barton as my bladder was rather full and wished to be emptied. Driving over cat's eyes in order to add extra vibration to my bladder strain is not big and it's not clever and, no matter what you might think, is not funny. Just to spare your blushes, I will mention that we arrived in Barton without Tim's car being in need of a good clean.

So, here we are in Barton. The PA's already set up and the guys kick off very soon after we arrive. I get the beers in (Everard's Tiger for me; Stella for Big Steve; half of Guinness for Jen - whiskey, later; and Tim's sole pint of Guinness for the evening - you're a hero, Tim). At first it looks like there's not to many people there (and, with the arrival of the snow, that no-one else will venture out). But, eventually, Laurie (guitar & harmonica) and Mark (guitar; the tall one in Missing Time) arrive and the evening goes great guns.

Steve (not the Big one; another, shorter, one) is landlord of the Carnival but he's leaving (tonight is his last night) for Spain to open a bar called The Mariners. He sings along with Laurie on a good old song from the good/bad old days of the fishing [this originally said "dishing" but I changed it] industry. Ben knocks out a wonderful medley on the piano which has us whooping in the aisles (or, at least, from our chairs). Mark is supreme, as always. Big Steve - after delaying his appearance until sufficient quantities of Stella have been consumed - plays a blinder and makes Jen cry with a truly beautiful song (the title of which I have forgotten because I had had too many beers by then). Helen, Ian and Denny (in various combinations) keep the evening rocking. Oh, and I sang a few songs...

It was great to do Beautiful Day (The Levellers) with Ian, Denny and Helen. There was a really good finish with just about all of us doing Knocking On Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan).

A truly wonderful night was had by all. And I drank too much beer... ...what a surprise!

We drive back to Grimsby, leaving around 23:45. It's stopped snowing. Tim drops me off at home at around 00:15 and I secure my guitar and pop out for pizza: a 10" vegetarian with added jalapinos (which is not a cue for a naughty joke). Take this home and eat it in bed (re-)reading Douglas Adam's Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul. Fall asleep quite happy but under the influence of a large quantity of beer. Not a bad night at all.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Posted @ 13:43Richard Papps @ The Tap


Last night Richard Papps played his first solo live gig at the Tap & Spile. Thought I'd share my thoughts, memories, experience and embarrassing photographs with you all.

Things began, strangely, at 12:45 when I got a phone call from Dave (landlord and deputy boss of the Tap; Dave, we know Rose is in charge) saying that the PA had already arrived and would I have a word with the guy so that there wasn't the cock-up there was last time (don't ask me about last time!). So I spoke to the guy; I won't go into his short-comings in the politeness stakes at this point (ask me sometime) but, suffice to say, I think I specified all that was needed.

Now, here's a question for you: if I said I wanted two microphones for a gig, would you just leave two microphones; or would you, as I would, assume that also I wanted the leads to connect the microphones to the mixing desk and the stands to hold them up in front the performer. And, if you didn't immediately have them to hand, you'd let someone know they'd be there later.

It will not take a genius to guess that: (a) when I arrived to set up the PA, there were two microphones but no stands (and only one lead); (b) Richard and I (he had a mic stand in his car) improvised; (c) during the sound checks, someone turns up with mic stands and extra lead.

Anyway, Roger B and I got Richard set up and sound checked over a couple of beers and then went off to eat, wash, get changed or do whatever was needful for the evening ahead.

The Main Event

So, around 20:45, the evening begins to get going when "The Boys" (see left) arrive. Since both have been out since 16:00 (yes, Mark, I know you worked 54 hours in the last four days), they are in a "jolly mood". We natter (men natter; women gossip; this is an axiom and a joke) and catch up on the last few days. Mark mentions, once or twice, that he's worked 54 hours in the last four days (he is possibly not quite in control of his senses having worked 54 hours in the last four days; then again it could be drinking 54 pints of Stella Artois in the last four hours). Mark drinks more Stella (from a Stella glass), Ian drinks cider (from a Stella glass), I drink Deuchars' IPA (from a Deuchars' glass) and Mark mentions that he's worked 54 hours...

Richard kicks off in fine style, delivering a first set of great numbers on the guitar and keyboards (Days being extremely memorable). Gradually the gang arrives and we sit and talk nonsense and sing along. Hi Della, Angie, Rachel, Rob and Tina.

The thing about Richard's performances that grabs you is the sheer range of material he covers (from Bill Withers & Paul Simon, through the Kinks & Tom Lehrer to Joe Jackson). And he is such a consummate performer: he makes it all look so easy, as if there was no effort involved in punching out the songs.

Richard's second set is pure magic (Is She Really Going Out With Him? and Sweet Baby James stand out: the latter for Seany & Babs even more so) with the crowd dancing and singing along. This was a night I felt lucky to be at: the music was good and the company was good and the beer was good (and so were the wee drams of Talisker that Rob and I enjoyed). It was made even more enjoyable by the 10%-off "special" for the Tap & Spile's loyalty key-ring holders between 22:15 and 22:45 (if you haven't got one, get one now).

Richard finished the night with three (at least) encores. Everyone had a good time and I even managed to catch some pictures of the camera shy. One of the great things about gigs at the Tap is that it always feels like you're in a room full of mates who've managed to persuade a really great performer to pop round and do a couple of numbers. This is true even when you don't even know each other. By the end of the evening, you do.


So, Richard & I take down the PA and get it all packed away for collection on Saturday (there's some confusion about this; but John & Faith sort it all out - thanks guys). This doesn't take too long and is not too strenuous (or am I just relaxed from the beer?). Then there's the long debate about what to do next, where to go, who's coming..., etc.?

Eventually, Della, Rob, Mark, Ian, Tina & myself end up back at Mark's listening to Kings X, drinking tea and talking nonsense. And then playing a bit of guitar (very, very quietly) until the early ours of Saturday morning.

Now I'm looking forward to the Open Mic Night at the Carnival in Barton tonight and Rob Lowdon's (see, Rob, I remembered: Lowdon not Lowden) gig at the Tap next Friday (25th February).

[This posting is long because I wanted to make up for not posting anything yesterday and on Thursday I said I'd try and post something every day.]

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Posted @ 18:12Today I decided...

I've decided that I'll make a go of this blogging malarky, and also:
  • to get rid of the silly posts about changing the template (one click, they're gone!);
  • to make some entry every weekday;
  • to go for a pint later (this is, suprisingly, not as new as it appears);
I'll also make an effort to publish links to this blog so that others can share the delights of the "blogging experience" and join the 21st century's obsession with sharing pointless trivia (there is a touch of cynicism here, perhaps).

The only thing that surprises me, as I wander through blogger-space (and, maybe, it shouldn't), is the number of teenage angst blogs featuring idiomatic and linguistic variations on the phrase "I want to die". That, plus all those blogs that seem to be simply a way for companies to get their keywords listed (and, again, this shouldn't really surprise me).

At the moment, I'm looking forward to seeing Richard Papps at the Tap & Spile tomorrow (Friday) night (but not looking forward so much to setting up and taking down the PA). And I'm looking forward to going to, and performing at, the Open Mic Night at the Carnival in Barton on Saturday.

Posted @ 13:35Grimsby Dock Police Boat

I don't know the date of this photograph (click on the title of this post to see the original context) but I would guess late 19th to early 20th century. This was the height of technology at one time (but I can't quite square that with the inane grin on his face...).

I have this image of this man chasing trawlers out of the docks to attempt to apprehend some miscreant who's gone to sea before paying his bar bill.

Just what did they need this for? The pursuit idea is a wonderful fantasy, but - even with sailing vessels - I can't see it being successful. It could have been a rescue boat for those unfortunate enough to fall in water (cue Bluebottle for all Goons fans).

This is a wonderful photograph that I came across by accident whilst searching the net for something else entirely. I have a sneaking suspicion that the boat's only use was to appear in this photograph: I can't work out whether he's grinning with pride or embarrassment.