by Ted Kessler.
Ted Kessler is a friend of ours but you wouldn’t call him a friend of the river. He’s a boy of the city. Well dressed, well groomed and well with it. He will never hold a fishing rod (but if he did, you can be assured it would be of the finest tonkin). He’s Nik Cohn, not split cane. But Ted has been with us from the start. Behind the scenes and at the bar, with well timed words of encouragement and always there to help when I’m out of my depth in the writing department.
This isn’t the first time Ted has graced our pages (you can read his previous HERE) but today is special. From today, we get him monthly (JB)
Towards the end of 2009, Jeff Barrett generously asked if I’d write a diary for CBTR in 2010. All right, I said, I’ll write one for you every month. And here we are, right on track, as February is sucked from under us by the swell of March…
OK. Let’s do it. Diary entry number one. Right here, on the internet. Is that a good idea? Or a bad one? And what would you like to know about in detail, dear diary? The awkward divorce? The girlfriend’s struggle to recover from meningitis? My routine at the gym? I think not. Let’s keep those items in-house for now.
But what’s left? What do I actually do that’s worth relating? The question hangs miserably in the air. In 2000, I was sent by my then employers, NME, to interview Paul Weller. Weller provided one quote that afternoon that haunts me with each passing day and that looms especially large whenever I attempt to fill in a blank brief such as this.
I asked Weller what he did with his life outside of his day-job, what was he into? He looked forlornly at his tea. “I’m still only into the same things that I was into when I was 15,” he said, shrugging. “Music. Clothes. Girls. And wanking, though I don’t get enough time for the wanking. Nothing else seems to matter apart from those things.”
And as I write this diary entry and reflect upon what’s interested me these past six or seven weeks, it is with some shame that I echo Weller’s comments. I’m now the same age that Weller was when he made those remarks, and what am I into? I’m into music, I’m into clothes. I have a girlfriend, and an ex-wife, which means I must be “into” girls too. From time to time, I go to the cinema. I invest money supporting a football team, but I’m not entirely sure whether the emotion enveloping me is hate or love. Beyond that, however, the mental landscape is barren apart from the occasional mirage of a book or a television series, perhaps a quarterly vacation, and newsprint. In truth, the subjects that occupy my mind are those that did so with the same demented intensity as when I was 15 years old: Music. Football. Clothes. Girls. (The order rotates depending on the emotional fixtures list). Totally retarded, yes, but I’m comfortable as such. I am what I am, after all, Olive.
So, bearing that in mind, let’s limber up for this monthly(ish) diary with a debut entry in the shape of a list of ten things that I have enjoyed this January and February, 2010, a period that has seen me unavoidably restricted to the triangle of home-hospital-work and little in-between, apart from necessary self-medication. You’ll note it’s a music-clothes-football-girls based list. I hope all you anglers and lovers of birdsong and brown ale aren’t quite as single-minded as I am…
How Far To The Horizon, Jan and Feb 2010:
Their first album was like a cold bottle of Fanta on a Mediterranean beach: tangy and just the ticket when you pop it open, but you wouldn’t want to drink it all the time. The second album, due in April isn’t like that. It’s like this:
2. Peggy Olson
I watched both seasons of Mad Men this time last year. I was obsessed with it and it acted as a mooring as I floated through a tricky period, otherwise high as a kite. Then, when my girlfriend was released from hospital on New Years Eve 2009, we started tucking into the first two series again because there were limited opportunities for other meaningful entertainment. I think we watched four episodes in one sitting. I could probably watch it again as new meaning emerges with each viewing, but season three is now upon us, dragged out agonisingly in weekly portions on BBC2.
Throughout the first season and for much of second, I thought Mad Men was about Don Draper, the maverick at the centre of the piece (Interests: Clothes. Girls. Drinking. Anguish.). But, now, as the picture pulls slowly back to reveal more of the canvas in season three, it becomes increasingly apparent that the show is actually about Peggy Olson. She arrived in the first episode as the agency newby, a wide-eyed suburban secretary. She was tormented by her colleagues, routinely humiliated and patronised. But as we edge gradually deeper into the 1960s, it is she who is most a-tuned to the decade while all her colleagues remain arrogantly moored in the 1950s, even keen-witted Draper, who feels the tug of the future but is unsure how to adapt. But Peggy? Well, she’s Peggy Olson and she wants to smoke some marijuana.
The gentleman I met on a West London Monday, as we both watched football in an otherwise empty pub, two lost souls looking for love (or something) in all the wrong places, who suggested he’d swap any Paulo Nutini tickets I could lay may hands on with some of his own “tickets”. New school and very enterprising. Nutini would be very proud.
4. Antonio German
As my very being is bent further out of shape by the procession of mercenaries briefly wearing blue and white hoops and barely breaking sweat each week in W12, it was heartening to witness the goal-scoring full debut of 18 year-old local lad German this weekend. Big boy, strong in the air, good with his elbow, and with a by-line of A German in the scorers chart. Already described as “cocky” by QPR’s useless Geordie full-back, which must constitute an endorsement. A rare crack of light in the hooped gloom…
5. Harlesden Cars
My transport to St Mary’s hospital for anti-social visiting hours. Get in the cab. Dreadlocked driver nods, turns up reggae to 11: “Black man in the White House! Obama! Obama!!” You know you are going to be delivered swiftly to your destination.
6. Steve Mason
His forthcoming album, Boys Outside, due in May, is produced by Richard X and what sounds like a very forlorn internal dialogue. The rhetorical chorus of “Could it be that you don’t love me anymore” on The Letter is about as miserable and as pointed as a chorus gets.
7. ASOS: delivering clothes you’ve bought online directly to your office. And crediting your account swiftly when you send them back because they don’t fit.
8. Baloji, persuasive African hip hop:
9. Paul Weller blaming Facebook for the “death of the post box” on the title track from his new album Wake Up The Nation (an album described by my colleague Pat Gilbert in drunken awe as “The Small Faces meets Sun Ra on the moon,” while we listened to it at supersonic volume, through a mid-afternoon Stella haze under the sober gaze of the Mod Furher at a press playback). The devil’s window, indeed.
10. The moment in A Prophet, the masterful tale of French crime and punishment, when our leading man, Malik, goes through airport security whilst on day-release from prison and automatically opens wide and sticks out his tongue, just as he routinely would in jail. It’s a second that summarises the entire two and a half hour plot. You surely don’t need me to spell it out for you.
And that’s where we must close this month’s diary. Time to return it to the bedside table. I’m going to take advantage of my own liberty over the next couple of months to step out of the home-hospital-work triangle, and hopefully place those constant reminders of mortality back where they belong, in the rear-view mirror rather than the foreground. The next two months promise exploratory travel, to the ocean and beyond, to the desert. Expect a full report…