Friday, April 29

Today Was Great, Thank You (Yesterday Evening Wasn't)

On Wednesday I had lunch with John Harvey. Way back when John was running the Slow Dancer poetry press, he was good enough to publish my first full-length book, "The Gracing of Days". When I moved to the Nottingham area in 1992 John was coincidentally (I think it was a coincidence, anyway) leaving Nottingham to live in London. And, what with one thing and another, we pretty much lost touch. Of course, in the intervening years John has built a marvellous reputation as one of the best crime writers around. Now he’s back in Nottingham, and at last, on Wednesday, we caught up with one another. The main reason I mention this is because today I have sprawled around on the sofa all day reading his “Flesh and Blood”. I can’t remember the last time I read a full 400 page book in one day. I couldn’t put it down. Well, that’s not exactly true. I put it down, then picked it up, thinking maybe I’d do one more chapter before I loaded the washing machine. I put the novel down six or seven times, I reckon. I needed to wash the pots. I was going to hoover. I was going to write a poem I have in mind, which is called "Faith In Poetry". Then the novel was finished, and it was half past seven this evening. It was a pretty good day, I have to say, although I do appear to have quite a few jobs to do: laundry, pots, hoovering, that kind of thing.

It’s a pity I can’t say that yesterday evening was a pretty good evening. The best thing about it was the sky: walking down to the Rescue Rooms it was a wonderful sunset, several shades of pink and red, sun and clouds, everything aglow, and as I was walking along Forest Road a bloke some yards behind me on the other side of the road cried out "That is so fucking beautiful, isn't it?" which rather took me by surprise because people don’t often shout such things out loud on Forest Road, especially as it's a haunt of self-employed women who hang around on street corners asking you if you are looking for business, but Yes, I had to agree, it was a beautiful sky, although I do not condone swearing.

At the Rescue Rooms it was Brendan Benson, supported by Hal. I have already written about Hal
elsewhere. I have no intention of repeating myself, except to say they are dreadful. A tune with a melody would make all the difference. Some heart and soul, some sense of desire, would be a bonus. Recently, a national newspaper touted their LP as a possible record of the year. Whoever wrote that review must be the drummer's dad. I was sort of looking forward to Brendan Benson. I’ve been listening to his recent "Alternative to Love" LP. It’s okay. I wouldn’t work up a sweat about it, but it’s okay. What you might call intelligent indie-pop. New ground isn’t being broken, but that’s not always what matters. Friends, though, and also my son Tim, are fans, and say his other stuff is good, too.

So, he has this band, and they evidently think they rock. My friend Nigel said they were massacring the songs. I was totally bored. The guy just about managed to say a few words to the audience, but it amounted to introducing a few songs in a desultory fashion and that was about it. I think he was there to be admired. When Hal were on he’d been sat at the table where the CDs were for sale, talking to a couple of girls. It would have been a good idea if he’d stayed there. The girls would have been happy, and we could have had an early night.

All in all it was a very disheartening evening. I kept thinking it was all about music the performers themselves didn’t care much about. They seemed to care more about something else. Image, perhaps. Or just indulging themselves. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed such a vacuous affair. Oh yes, it was The Magic Numbers and, um, Hal…… Mind you, some of the audience were into the same kind of thing. A chap in front of me, while I was leaning on the bar trying to stay awake, spent more time playing with the camera on his mobile phone than paying any attention to the music. Every now and then he’d stop and bop a bit, but he always went back to the phone to check his pictures, and to see if he’d got any messages. I felt very much at one with one of the girls behind the bar. She spent all of Benson's set reading the newspaper.

That’s why it was so good to read John Harvey’s novel today. After last night I was desperately in need of something genuine. A class act, and no messing around. Flesh and blood, for sure.

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