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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Aint got no/I Got Life - Nina Simone

The second part of this song makes me smile out loud, everytime I hear it.

"Got my hair, got my head, got my brain, got my ears, got my eyes, got my nose, got my mouth, I got my smile!"

What a voice. No doubt she would be eliminated in the first week of Idol.

One for The Boss

I'm always amazed at just how much energy James Brown could generate through his vocals. You can't help but move your body. This song in particular always gets me going. Listen for the very first vocal. It's electrifying! It's as if the brass provides the introduction and then, right from the word go, on the down beat, he makes his entrance and gets his message out, like a bolt of lightning direct to your soul bone:

"RAISE UP! Get yourself together and drive that funky soul!!!!"

Put on your dancing shoes.

Songs that make me smile: The Summer - Josh Pyke

As the days in Paris get longer and longer, this song just gets more and more appropriate. Josh Pyke's lyrics are so unapologetically Australian. The imagery he manages to squeeze into a pretty standard verse/chorus song is quite superb. It is a complement to the "evocativeness" of the lyrics that I found the actual clip to be a bit of a disappointment. It was as if I didn't really need someone to provide me with images for the music. I had them all in my head already.

Listen for the perfect slide guitar on the very last note. It's like the very last of the sunlight slipping away on a summer evening as you play cricket in the street with your mates, using a taped up tennis ball and an otto bin for stumps. All songs should end this way.

The Summer - Josh Pyke

If I could bottle up the sea breeze I would take it over to your house
And pour it loose through your garden
(Does everyone feel warm inside?)
So the hinges on your windows would rust and colour
Like the boats pulled up on the sand for the summer
And your sweet clean clothes would go stiff on the line
And there’d be sand in your pockets and nothing on your mind

But every year it gets a little bit harder
To get back to the feeling of when we were fifteen
And we could jump in the river upstream
And let the current carry us to the beginning where
The river met the sea again
And all our days were a sun-drenched haze
While the salt spray crusted on the window panes

We should be living like we lived that summer
I wanna live like we live in the summer

And I’ll remember that summer as the right one
The storms made the pavement steam like a kettle (so great!)
And our first goodbye always seemed like hours
In the car park in between my house and yours
And if the summer holds a song we might sing forever
Then the winter holds a bite we’d never felt before

But time is like the ocean
You can only hold a little in your hands
So swim before we’re broken
Before our bones become
Black coral on the sand

Monday, April 20, 2009

The dark side of living far from home...

I got a voice mail message from my sister Fie and my two and a half year old niece Anna yesterday (yep, that's them above). It went like this:

Fie: Hi James. It's us. We just got home from camping and we were wondering if we could ring you up and tell you some of our camping stories. Hope that you're well. And if you'd like to give us a ring in the next two hours, Anna would love to see you on the computer. (to Anna) Have you got any messages for James.

Anna: (Pause) James you need to come here first of all.

Fie: "James you need to come here first of all". (Pause) I agree. Bye.

After I hung up the phone I realised I was physically clutching at my heart.

Have a listen for yourself:

A message from home from james on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The next train goes to Brahms via Elgar, first stop Nina Simone.

I noticed the other day, whilst standing waiting for my train home from work, that classical music is now being played in the Paris metro. I like this development for three reasons.

1: New music: Sometimes you hear music you've never heard before. I like this.

2: In an environment which is all about "moving on", "being on time" and "getting to the next destination", the music acts as a reminder to stop and enjoy the moment. I love the juxtaposition of these two apposite energies.

3: There is something significant about the fact that music is played through the platform loud speakers to all of us, as opposed to the endemic individualism promoted by ipods. It emphasises our togetherness over our being alone. I find it refreshing to see people take out their ipod headphones, look up and listen to what's going on around them.

Good work City of Paris

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Useless observation #342

A day will come in your life when you realise that you have reached the magical age where covering your index finger with a handkerchief and using it to forage away at the insides of your nostrils in front of a whole carriage of strangers is 100% acceptable.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Those Magnificent Men - Part II

My little cousin James is currently in Paris on exchange at the Sorbonne. It's great to have someone from home in this "overseas life". It makes it more real.

Most of my social relationships in Paris are 2 or 3 years old at the longest. I sometimes feel that it is too easy to split my personality into "pre" and "post" Paris - two completely distinct worlds. The experiences in each world don't know each other, or mix.

So it's great to have James in Paris, because the shared memories I have with him go back 20 years. The sort of memories that have now faded into the background, forming a category you now only know as "childhood". They are memories you can no longer pin point, or at least, no longer feel the need to. You just know that collectively, they somehow formed the basis of your personality.

James and I met up to watch a game of rugby in Paris the other day. I was surprised when he turned up wearing a vintage Eastwood jumper (see previous post). It was a classic rich navy blue, a v-neck of pure wool with the crest of the club emblazoned on the front. It looked like the sort of jumper that might be worn by a character in a post war BBC drama, except that it wasn't beige. Just underneath the crest, a single word was embroidered in white. "Eastwood". Dignified and simple, just like the club. To most it would have meant nothing, and yet to me, it could not have meant more. A thousand questions. Where did he get it? They don't sell those jumpers anywhere. What vintage shop did he find it in? How lucky could you be? But how? But how? But how?

"Oh my god, where did you get that?" I said, trying not to sound too incredulous.


"Um, that jumper."

"Oh! Guess what? Your Mum gave it to me."

"- I'm sorry?"

"Your Mum gave it to me before I left Australia. Apparently some 70 year old club doctor gave it to her in the 60s because it didn't fit him anymore. She told me she kept it wrapped in plastic in the bottom drawer of her wardrobe all this time. She'd been waiting to give it to someone. You were overseas. So she gave it to me. It's funny, I remember thinking that you love that club and that it was weird that she was giving it to me, her nephew, and not you, her son, considering how much you love that club and all. And I mean, she had it in her drawer all that time. She could have just given it to you, you know, for your 21st, or when you finished school, or when you left the country... you know, on a special occasion. But she didn't give it to you, did she? Who'd she give it to?"

I stared at him, blank faced as he answered his own question by pointing to himself with both thumbs while smiling.

"This guy!" he finished, just in case there was any doubt.

Well, it probably doesn't fit me, I thought to myself. I mean, otherwise mum would have mentioned that she had it.

I tried it on. It fit perfectly.

As you can see from the photos, James, my cousin, has been pretty good about not gloating. He wears it every time he sees me. If for whatever reason, he thinks I haven't sufficiently noticed that he has the jumper on, he will say something inconspicuous like, "Geez, I'd hate to not have this awesome Eastwood jumper." As I said. He's very subtle.

As you can tell, I'm taking it pretty well.

Those Magnificent Men - Part I

I have loved Eastwood Rugby Club ever since I can remember.

My maternal grandfather played for them after the war. In fact, he died while watching them play in the ABC television match of the day from his home in Mudgee.

One of my earliest childhood memories I have is of running around on the grass in front of the club house at TG Milner field (above) as my paternal grandfather made a daisy chain for me from the aluminium pull rings of his empty beer cans. I remember the general murmer of grown men, the smell of beer, the warmth of the sun that bathed the field and the players in gold, and the old tree leaning over the fence by the scoreboard.

Heading down to TG Milner on Saturday to watch "The Woods" run around was a weekly ritual in my family. It wasn't just a match of rugby. It was so much more than that. It was the end of the week. It was Saturdays. For my parents, I'm sure it was a welcome refuge from the week that was. For my Mum, perhaps it provided a furtive connection to those times she had spent at the ground with her own father.

Each Saturday afternoon had the same familiar liturgy. We arrived at the ground in time to watch 3rd grade. That way, Mum and Dad had two games of rugby in which to let the worries of the week dissipate before the arrival of 1st grade. Mum would lay the tartan rug on the wooden benches in the grand stand opposite the club house. We always sat on the half way line. At half time, my dad would stand to stretch his legs and gaze pensively across the field at the clouds behind the clubhouse, or the trees on the other side. Mum would reach for the 1972 green thermos, and would somehow instantly produce a cup of tea or coffee for whoever was there. There were biscuits too (iced vovos, tim tams -the "special biscuits" that we weren't allowed to touch during the week), or an apple, or a home made cake, all lovingly prepared at home by Mum for the afternoon. Our spot in the grandstand became a regular meeting point for friends and family. They would drop by unannounced to catch up. No need to arrange ahead. We were invariably always there.

I can remember the early players. Space Housten. Tim Dalton, Tony Carter, Steve Tyneman, Marty Roebuck, Ian Williams, Niel Tyler, the great Daniel Manu, Travis Hall, Scott Fava, Scott Staniforth, Matt Burke, Graeme Bond, the freakish skills of the Miller brothers, Tim Donnelly - these magnifiscent men stride around the field of my memory as superhuman versions of themselves - great, decent, blue and white striped childhood heros.

I can remember the bloody battles with famous foes, most of them with Randwick but more recently, with Sydney University. Each club we played had its own unique associated memory. Away games at Manly would end in fish and chips on the beach at Dee Why; games at Sydney University in complaints at the distance of the grand stand from the actual playing field; at Southern Districts, the distance of the drive home was particularly long after a loss; Randwick, the nasty one eyed nature of the supporters; Gordon, the silver tails from the north shore, would spark arguments about why my Dad ever left his well paid job in taxation.

I remember that when the game had finished, we drove home and I would spend what was left of the Winter light replaying the match by myself in our back yard. The jacaranda tree suddenly became a corner flag. The camelea bush doubled as the base of the scrum. The azalea shrub was personified as the imposing second rower from some hated foe. I would chip him to score the winning try of the match. Sometimes, I'd even provide my own accompanying commentary. "There's seconds to go, he chips the fullback, and... oh he knocks on over the line... but that's ok because amazingly there's still some more time, so he regathers the ball, chips again, sidesteps the sandpit and that's a great try to Eastwood, just next to the BBQ!"

I remember that sometimes, when I closed my eyes to go to sleep on a Saturday night, I would still see images of the game, with faceless shapes in blue and white jerseys running out onto TG Milner field, as if it were all playing out on the back of my eyelids.

I have loved Eastwood Rugby Club ever since I can remember.

Club song (to the tune of those magnifiscent men with their flying machines)

La, La La, La La La La La La Hey !
Those magnificent players from Eastwood are here,
playing their rugby and drinking their beer.
They win in the tight play and also the ruck,
and if they don't score well they don't give a... damn!
See them go for a try -
heads down in the scrum and their arses up high.
They're all frightfully good,
those Magnificent Men,
those Magnificent Men,
those Magnificent Men who shout,
Up the WOODS !