Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sardines, Free Jazz and Spray-Tan: a Holiday Report (plus Latitude)

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0, been sitting on trains for most of it
Reading /Listening: 'Last Orders' by Graham Swift / CD of French Impressionist-ish 'cello music that cost a mere 3 euros
Hair Day: awright

juice took their original score to the silent film 'The Danger Girl' to Latitude, courtesy of the Bird's Eye View Film Festival girls, and bagged free tickets for the weekend of plus ones/babies/babysitters too, meaning Little Miss Molly Snow was the coolest baby in town with her oversized special baby ear-protector thingies. Our gig was fine, though we thought we'd gone down like a lead balloon until we were told afterwards that there's a special dampening of audience sound onstage for the techies, so the deathly silence and tumbleweed were mere imaginings on our part and in fact the sizeable audience was chortling merrily away. Phew. For the rest of the time we got on down to festival fun, and with this being Latitude it was a mix of music, literature, comedy, poetry, theatre and much more. Highlights were: Sigur Ros, so ridiculously elegaic I'm surprised that they didn't sprout wings and float off into the celestial heights, to the accompaniment of sousaphone, bowed guitar and 5-piece brass of course; Seasick Steve, a charming hoe-downy hound-dog of a man and damned funky with it too, proving that all you need a 1-string 'piece of shit' guitar and a twinkle in your eye to get on down; Joanna Newsom, who crooned her odd, supple songs to sleepy Sunday morning festival-goers until she forgot the words to one particularly lengthy song, and was mortified as she kept on forgetting them too; some nice readings of choice quotes about dreams in the Literature tent, performers including the tigery-growling Gary Dourdain from CSI!!!; The Irrepressibles performing their wondrous chamber art-pop whilst dressed in gimp masks and metal shards in the woods; the immensely funny Ross Noble, who had the crowds outside the Comedy tent rolling around on the grass with laughter like the extras in 'Monty Python and the Life of Brian' when Michael Palin's Pontius Pilate starts saying 'Welease Woderwick!'; and speaking of the 'Life of Brian', it really did turn into that, with Ross Noble inspiring such heights of adoration that he got half his crowd following him in a strange running conga across the Latitude site until they got to a Vegan stall where they starting chanting 'Meat! Meat!' loudly as he crowd-surfed and people tried to touch his flowing locks, etc. He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty comedian, etc.

Then Andy and I trained it long and hard down to Mazamet, south-west of Toulouse, to stay with my old school-mate Christina in her recently-moved-into pad with her partner and 3-year old moppet. When I say pad, I mean mansion: 7 bedrooms, a cellar, a bar, sky-blue wooden shutters, a pool with a self-cleaning robot thing, a log fire - really it's quite hilarious what you can buy with the money from a crappy 3-bed in High Wycombe when you fancy a change of scene. Besides hanging out with them drinking criminally cheap rose, we enjoyed the following:

1) Lounging around at the Lac de la Montagne, a big lake surrounded by butterfly and bird-festooned woodland, where you can swim in its filmy, milky-brown waters and squish your toes in the mud. All very Roger Deakin's 'Waterlog'.

2) Miro sculpture exhibition in Carcassonne. Much more impressive than the fully-intact medieval city, which while so turreted and domed and walled it's ripe for a BBC drama series location, it would only be for interior shots as inside we found less stinking streets of manure and guards with spears drinking mead and more shops bursting with cheap tat and slow tourists drinking Lipton's Ice Tea.

3) Striking gold whilst staying in Narbonne - a contemporary music festival! We sat in a stunningly dramatic open courtyard in the Palais D'Archeveques, looking up at the stars and the arches and stairways lit so that the stone simpered pink, glowered red and lamented blue whilst a group called Vrak'Trio (comprising drums, sax, tuba, electric guitar/loops and a high-falutin', screaming, shouting flute player) played a non-stop hour of avant-chamber-free-jazz fun, plus visuals. They had to stop their encore when fat rain plopped down; amusingly Andy and I were the only people in France with umbrellas. Ah, so English...

4) Playing about on the coast of the 'l'etang', a huge 'pond' just off the coast near Narbonne, with samphire-filled marshes and rich fish and birdlife. We had fun making beach-sculptures from found materials and peering at the spooky sea-ghost jellyfish lurking by the tide-lip. The seaweed was spread over the beach like dessicated coconut and crunched under our feet like tissue paper.

5) Culinary highlight of the week was not our modern tapas in Narbonne, or our extremely avant-garde luminous green and pink gaspacho soup in Beziers, but in a crumbling, overgrown garden in an out-of-the-way auberge. For 12 euros we had a massive salad, piping hot lemon cake and best of all, sardines fished from about 20 metres away slapped down on ashy smoking coals in a big brick barbecue and served up with nothing more than a wedge of lemon. Apart from the crazy flies, it was bliss; we had tea with fresh mint from the garden whilst 2 compulsively sneezy and somnambulant bassett hounds plodded around our feet.

Still, it's nice to be back. If I'm an English Rose then in France my petals wilted, dropped off and got mulched to pieces in the mad hazy 34 degrees heat and I can only take so much of that and spending most of the morning getting Andy to spray-tan me - ahem. so it's back to the laptop and the gig-getting and the rest of it...

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