Friday, 25 April 2008


everyone has their own heroes. and they should. in the sentiment of self-development; and immediately after, the development of the human species we should all have an aspiration to be better. personal heroes are a template; not to be worshiped like some earth-bound deity, but an example of a pattern to knit your life and your theology and your ethics to.

my esteemed friend the troubadour has chosen Doctor Who, and to be honest i can't think of a better choice; certainly for him. he would acceptably maintain that Doctor Who chose him. it makes sense, you can't choose who suddenly makes a profound impact on your life, especially not when it's a fictional character penned by the hands of a skillful writer. there's no development there, just BAM! and suddenly it's a new feature of your life. i guess it's the same with those chaps that end up with sports-people as their aspirational being - one spectacular performance and the immediate accolade is impossible to ignore.

i can't understand the sports thing entirely, though. lest not footballers who generally appear to be amazing at kicking a round thing between two sticks, but often brain-dead and rapists. they're good looking, oh yes, but to aspire to be good-looking when you're not good-looking is a pretty pointless and wasteful use of energy.

i have two heroes outside my dad and a few of my close friends, who create feelings more akin to an ultimate respect than the idea of an abstract heroic entity. in this conversation i'm calling a hero a distant figure, admired from afar. and there's a huge list of very adequate people to choose from in the worlds of science, religion, human advancements, literature... fiction and real. worthy contenders feature martin luther king, einstein, beethoven, superman, michael gambon, the suffrogettes, neil armstrong, king arthur. none without their faults, but a decent selection of life aims and objectives could be filtered from such a list.

i have two. and they may lack the grandeur of a world leader like j.f.k, or the historic significance of someone like mahatma ghandi, but i suppose that echoes true with the reality of myself. my intention was just to write about one, but it looks like i've waffled out a bunch of unnecessary exposition, how very like me. if by some chance i may lose any of the regular readers that my deluded mind convinces me exist, may i take this moment to thank you for letting me dribble my nonsense into your consciousness. i won’t be in any way offended if you leave now, with only a peripheral sight as to how long this entry is turning out to be.

my heroes.

the first is ewan mcgregor. i shouldn't have to formally write many reasons why, it’s far too obvious - the man's successful, talented, has a respectable list of brilliant films and theatrical productions to be proud of. then of course there's the immense human achievement of riding around the world on a motorbike. for charity. and to top it all off, the man is beautiful. i mean, seriously. it takes a lot for a definitively hetero chap like myself to entertain the idea, but... i would. for mcgregor.

but he’s not quite at the top of my list. yes, he’s a man of integrity and talent, and has french-kissed scarlett johansson... but i have a favourite. someone who sums up all the elements, attributes, achievements and life stories that i can only ever dream of catching a glimpse of. that man is john ravenscroft, better known as radio one d.j. john peel. if you ask me, he’s one of a rare few true jewels in the british crown (not that i’m in any way patriotic) joining a list that should include shakespeare, richard noble, monty python, robin hood and steven fry. a quietly unassuming character that could literally be held responsible for a change in the zeitgeist of british popular culture, although arguably unsung comparatively to the impact he had. one of the many reasons for my unending respect.

unlike the troubadour and the doctor, i don’t have a definitive and vivid recollection of my first conscious engagement with peel. sadly too, it is far too late in my life to have built my youth around him in the same way that the doctor has influenced troub’. my initial experience was most likely not even john peel himself but a track he played at around midnight as i drove home from my university years job at the ugc cinema in northampton. terribly, i don’t even remember what track it was that caught my attention as i searched for radio enjoyment in the dull greys of that horrible midland town, i suspect and hope that it was some sort of odd bluegrass number or a poorly produced punk track made in someone’s lounge. both are equally likely from john’s eclectic, eccentric playlist. whatever, it caught me off guard and aroused enough interest to keep me listening to an otherwise unbearable radio station. and it suited the atmosphere of the stillness of the night, the flickering street lamps and the pile of scrap metal i was driving around at the time.

as i say, i can’t remember particular details. i do remember being intrigued by the existence of such an oddity amongst the other d.j’s i’d heard that mostly put me off listening to radio at all. i do remember hearing captain beefheart for the first time on one of those drives home. my appalling memory only allows me a blurry idea of a weirdly varied selection of music and the drawling, strangely hypnotic delivery of an unending list of life stories that while not always life-changing, were always true, honest and erudite. i say not always life-changing, but subsequent interest has informed me that he was arguably instrumental in the careers of some of the most important bands in british popular culture: the sex pistols, the undertones, pulp, t-rex... actually i’m not going to list them, suffice to say that you have all heard of them and they could each be held partly responsible for much of the music you hear today, for the clothes you see on the street and for the attitudes of yourself and the sub-cultures around you... the rolling stones. ahem.

in short, in my opinion, if you have listened to any music and it has had any effect on you in the last 30 years then you have most probably been affected in some indirect way by peel. my love of the man doesn’t end there. anyone could play such an eccentric playlist, if they had the gall (sadly not very evident in todays media pandering to the mediocre tastes of the license paying majority), but there was a dedication that went with it that’s even harder to find. oh shit, i can see this going on for a long time... i’ve lost the brevity of my intentional blog entry. actually that disappeared after i wrote that thing about king arthur. it’s hard to stop once you’ve opened such a sluice of sickly gushing. for some reason it’s strangely satisfying to write, if not read over.

i just liked the guy. there was an honesty, an integrity to him. he quietly changed the course of popular culture without any desperate need for acceptance or praise. he loved his family. he was funny, intelligent, witty, eccentric and interesting. did you know he met J.F.K? no, i bet you didn’t. he worked hard at what he believed in, never let himself be compromised by external pressures, hated tony blackburn. it is basically a list of features that i had tried to have before finding peel, but a list that became suddenly credible and obtainable post-JP.

the best decision the bbc could make would be to resurrect all the recordings they have of him and play them in the same old slot, in chronological order, as they were first broadcast. i would listen intently, lapping up every track and word and mistake like a teenaged girl at a new kids on the block concert.

god i hate fanboys.

Monday, 21 April 2008

die another day

the following may well be read as grossly smug. read it at your peril if you're not happy with that, but don't say I didn't warn you.

a couple of times in the last twenty-eight years i've had a moment of clarity where everything seems to fit in place, where all that is happening to me makes sense. the first one perhaps shortly after birth, realising why i had been curled up in a comfy annex that more recently had been feeling like it needed some sort of extension. perhaps a conservatory. i have a morbid recollection that as i rolled down a road in islington at 50mph after dropping my bike i may have partly accepted the inevitability of the event as a brutal poetic justice for someone who was basically being an idiot. there have most certainly been others, most likely involving my long time confident: the troubadour, a certain evening in a tiny village with tisch, and standing on a high up volcanic rock as the sun set over the great white lake in the middle of nowhere, mongolia.

i can't help but have a spring in my step as i meander my way to work this morning; after a spectacular 10 days centred by my birthday, a fine selection of happenings enhancing my 28th like dolby digital.

the order went something like this:
a lovely evening with the lord and lady monkhouse: the 'rents who made it all possible. indian food and fine conversation, what more is needed?

being rescued from a disappointing evening with the new work mates by whackwit, and having a much more pleasant evening with him, a pint of finest and a handmade burger.

a day kicking terrorist ass with the troubadour, followed by a genius party for the duchess involving high spirits, high notes and an array of highly attractive young ladies. more of one of those later.

a very pleasant date with a girl who could be mistaken for natalie portman.

pub quiz with some of my nearest and dearest, accompanied by bangers and mash - the choice of a new generationX. we didn't win but at least i now know what piacrete is.

to the theatre with some more nearest and dearest to see a show that is just about the closest to manly that a dance show could get; about a family of kung-fu stars who spend all their life training under their kung-fu master grandfather. the nearest it gets to a story is when 2 burglars try to break in to the house and they end up having a half-hour martial arts fight. utter genius.

then the troubadour and i whacked out a very tasty odd cast within only a few minutes.

the biggest disappointment was when i found out my wonderful friend xany was suddenly unable to come to my birthday party, but i managed to swap an evening with her for an evening with the - frankly delightful - miss budd; a very easy-on-the-eye, pint-sized blonde with a filthy sense of humour and turquoise eyes you could swim in. life dealt me lemons, i made long island ice tea.

a very enthusiastic lie-in on saturday was quickly followed by ale & pie, shopping with The Budd, more drinks with nearest and dearest which involved (quite thrillingly and against all odds) xany appearing from nowhere. battles had been fought and variables had been conquered and there she was in the pub we had chosen but minutes before. i still don't quite understand how it happened, but will happily remain in the dark, marveling only at the way the world works sometimes.

more food, mexi-CAN. by this time, my stomach was making some noises of complaint and one or two worrying gestures. nothing a good cocktail couldn't fix, mind.

then onto shunt, my favourite of all london clubs; possibly the only one i actually like: a selection of darkened tunnels weave their way under london bridge. a series of manmade caverns and hidey-holes and pinball machines, where between 20 and 30 wonderful people joined me to share in the wonder of 28 years of jonathan. so many thanks to all who came, i spent the evening with the funniest men and the most beautiful women in all of christendom.

and that's just an overview. how could i pick a favourite bit?

perhaps the x-box 360 i bought myself as a birthday present.
perhaps the dedication of The Fox, who queued for 2 hours to get into my party after being stuck on a tube, only to be mildly concussed by a hurtling drum stick soon after she got in. thank you jenny.
perhaps the crazy chain of events that suddenly leapt in our favour and xany magically appearing from the depths of the midlands.
perhaps the spectacular time i spent with The Budd, who by now must be aware of my growing affection and doesn't seem to mind responding to my poor-witted (and sometimes rude) text messages, and with whom i share a love of geese and trickle vents.

i literally cannot find fault with the last 288 hours. if you have seen me or sent me a message in that period you have contributed to the spring in my step and the whistle in my suit. or something. it has been a feast of great joy and for a while i forgot how close i am to turning 30.


Monday, 14 April 2008

indecent proposal

remember kids:

eagle vs. shark

(it's likely that you will now encounter a very bad metaphor...)

typical. you wait for a bus for a good few months and suddenly out of nowhere two come along at the same time. two very beautiful buses.

your brain tells you to take the first one and disappear into the wide blue yonder. but there's a wildcard; your heart tugs you to the second one. it's a bit of a walk, but it's got a CB radio.

and it's a really very sexy bus.

Monday, 7 April 2008

my happy ending

almost famous

it's been far too long since i went to my last gig, but thankfully the drought was ended with a brilliant evening spent with shoelace and his old school pals from devon, the rumble strips.

a long while ago i heard their song "motorcycle" which is frankly nigh-on anthemic, disguised as a sort of lo-fi garage recording. not only is it a catchy little number, but also came onto my radar at pretty much the same time i passed my motorbike test and got myself a crotch rocket. the 'strips encore performance of said song bought those pleasurable feelings flooding back and i was momentarily back in the fresh air with the wind in my eyes and flies in my teeth.

in the very hip new proud gallery, camden (£5 drinks... urgh) the rumble strips played to a small but energised crowd. there was an honesty to the set, a result perhaps of a group with their feet still on the ground; becoming famous, but not yet suffering from the fall out of mega-stardom (despite collaborations with mark ronson.) anyone who knows me will know i will always favour the underdog, the independent, the cult... and this band is happily within this gamut; certainly for now. though there's something unpretentious and genuine about their writing that implies they could remain untainted for a good while.

brilliant, don't ruin it.