Archives for the month of: February, 2012

Andy Warhol looks a scream, hanging on the wall – six images of him being ‘strangled’. It’s his last day at the De La Warr Pavilion. We’ve seen these screenprints so many times: Mao, Marilyn, Andy… and we know the iconography. Warhol images: postcards, printed, cheap, disposable, ubiquitous. But the originals are powerful objects. The surfaces are real: luscious thick layers of ink on impasto-acrylic’d paper, big brushstrokes, throwaway squiggles. 10 Mao’s in different colourways – the murderous dictator benign and funny in rich unlikely colours. A gorgeous wall of electric chair prints: image of horror, beautiful colour.

Towner Gallery: In the middle of the huge room, there is a house. A full-size trapper’s cabin, come in from the hostile snowy landscape. Its bleached wood is almost colourless, but it’s actually not wood at all: it’s paper, photocopies tiled together over a hardboard frame – trompe-l’oeil from a few feet away. I had to feel it to find out. Inside (of course) there’s a rowing boat, and you get in, start rowing, across the lake on the big screen in front of you. As you pull on the oars, you are actually rowing the landscape around you, monochrome and bleak, sharp black fir trees – the wintry Canadian Rockies, uninhabited, menacing. You laugh, or say something to those waiting their turn. But if you were alone in here…

On the way home, a huge sun shines through low soft clouds, throwing the Downs into layers of cut-out blue.

‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ (Proust)

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Apparently the average age of a Honda Jazz driver is 60-something. As if I care. They’ve got a great reputation for reliability and good fuel consumption, and they look quite nice. If I could, I’d have a 1959 Vauxhall Victor de Luxe, but they’re probably not up to Jazz standard, these days. So – I would recommend a Jazz to anyone, and I did, to Wolf. He’s just passed his driving test. I drive him (in mine) to Shoreham to the Honda dealer, and Andy Honda welcomes him warmly. ‘This is my friend, Michael,’ says Wolf, and I try to look more heterosexual, even blokey. Jeremy Clarkson is on the TV, wearing a peaked cap and his legs inexplicably taped together.

We three blokes go for a test drive in a new Jazz. This new one has lots of features that I could never imagine (or concentrate on while Andy’s going through them). But the roof cover slides back so you’re all under glass, like a 50’s vision of a space-age car, which is fun. It doesn’t have that nice upswept-curved rear window that I like so much in my Jazz though (see fig.), but then I’m a sucker for an upswept curve.

At The Snowdrop, Terry Seabrook’s trio is cookin’ (as they say). Tonight’s guest is the excellent Sam Miles. Barely into his twenties, Sam’s at the Royal Academy of Music, and he’s a terrific sax player. Sometimes he plays with Ska Toons, and we’re really not worthy. From his usual unassuming mien, he’s an explosive force of nature in his solos.

And while I’m on the subject: Wolf’s a really good pianist, (he studied at the Guildhall), and sometimes he plays keyboards with Ska Toons too, and he blows us away with his playing. Another jazzer.

Jazz? I’d recommend it.

I’m trying to connect with Sheffieldlive.org at 8.59 on Wednesday morning to hear the first airing of Max Munday’s Mouthpiece. Son and heir promises a programme ‘Full to the wireless gills with politics, interviews and incredible music!’ and he opens with The Cat Empire’s Chariot Song, an inspiring and uplifting Melbourne ska epic about the power of music, friendship and community.

Saturday: Ruskin House, home to Croydon’s Trade Union and Labour Movement, is the setting for my dad’s 90th birthday party. Actually, it’s in the low wooden hall out the back, which is fine once it’s warmed up and we’ve got the bunting up. There’s been lots of gear coming in, as at least three Mundays and friends are determined to honour Jim by inflicting our various musics on him. Whether that’s his idea of a good time is neither here nor there. My mum had been a good pub-style pianist, and dad had (has) a lusty voice, and there’s a family tradition of showing-off, anyway. There are four generations here, from Dad and his sister Elsie through to newly-arrived baby Maddox from Shanghai, (and everyone wants to hold the smiley buddha-boy). Old friends/relatives have come from miles away, and dad is thrilled.

Due to the lack of regular bassist – his car frozen – Max is asked to dep (as if he needed asking), and brother Alan and newly-depped band launch into their brand of Americana, and I can’t resist jumping up and adding my strangled harmonies to ‘Up on Cripple Creek’. Then I stuff my face. More acts follow, each involving at least one Munday, and dad listens indulgently to the other Munday generations. Music, friendship, and community.

I’ve got to be really careful with this otter – it would be so easy to drop him in the snow, bang his head on the door frame or, worse, slide on the ice and go flat-on-my-back, broken hip and ottered face…

Sweating after our band’s first set at the Snowdrop, I go outside to watch the flakes whirling down: smokers huddle, but it’s cool on my face, and beautiful, coating South Street and bringing silence to the town. There’s a good turnout, surprisingly, on this coldest night, for the pub is warm, welcoming and, well, rocking. After the gig I drive home at 10mph, snow coming straight at the windscreen.

The next morning we crunch through the streets to the Linklater Pavilion, by the river, to meet up for the Junior Film Club event, which is to culminate in a showing of Ring of Bright Water. Not as many children as we’d hoped though – a film doesn’t have the same pull as a fresh deep coating of snow. We’re meant to have a talk about otters, but our expert is snowed in, so we set off on the path through the railway land, and the children start to pelt each other, then the adults, with snowballs; but they’re on the lower path, and we’re on the upper (and can throw further) so we’re winning. Shrieking and whooping, we arrive at the fire circle: three big logs over the fire support a cauldron of hot sloe-cordial, ladelled out to us all in paper cups, with home-made Swedish cinnamon biscuits. The Junior Film Club patron is Nigel Cole, director of Made In Dagenham, and he gives a talk about film-making, and working with animals in particular. He pitches his talk just right, and the kids ask bright questions, and give thoughtful answers. Then throw more snowballs.

The film is, well, 1969, so a bit dated, brown, and sentimental (a manly tear escapes my cynical eye at one point), but I like the otter, and of course, otters have returned to Sussex after a 30-year absence. Afterwards, we’re clearing up, and I’m strangely drawn to the stuffed creature that has been glassily eyeing the audience throughout the film. I volunteer to carry it back, through the streets of Lewes, to its temporary home, above the High Street.

Judy and Lisa have been on a bread-making course, and tonight we’re going to make pizzas. And eat them. At Dixie’s house, we carefully carry in our trays of pizza-dough balls, that are more-or-less round, but nicely natural-looking, as if made by hand (which they are). They look great. Until we see the pizza dough that Giorgio has brought. It’s an unfair comparison, of course: Giorgio is Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur, Giorgio Locatelli, and his dough is beautiful: smooth, round, perfect. The big table is covered with boxes of toppings: mozzarella, artichokes, dried tomatoes, ham, sausage, mushrooms, anchovies, tuna, oil-soaked garlic cloves, basil, onions… and lovely wines.

Giorgio is showing us how to make the pizza shape, by kneading with flat hands, and fingers pressing and turning, on the big wooden butcher’s block, then spooning his smooth tomato paste on, spreading it with the ladle; then it’s away to choose the toppings. The children are drawing and writing their names in the semolina flour, then rush off to dismantle the sofa and build a stack of cushions and themselves, a living sandwich, shouting with joy until joy inevitably turns to tears.

Meanwhile, I make a not-too-misshapen base, and load it simply with artichokes, sausage, tomatoes and garlic (oh and anchovies), and Giorgio slides it into the wood-burning oven in the garden. I hover in hope. But the dough is broken and the pizza becomes a calzoni-shape on shovelling, which would be sort-of fine if it weren’t for the nuggets of raw sausage in it.

Meanwhile, pizzas are being churned out thick and fast and thin, and the crusts are soft, light yet chewy and sweet, and I’m sampling as many as I can. I take a gulp of this gorgeous red, put my glass down, put more toppings on, can’t remember where I put my glass, fill another, more topping, sample this, lost my my glass, fill another… Sofas reassembled, the adults are sitting around, and Giorgio is reminiscing about Lucien Freud, while I just try this one last slice…