A quiet weekend

I’ve just returned from a quiet weekend in Melbourne.  I did almost nothing between Friday and Monday apart from spending time with family.  I read That’s not my pirate to my niece and taught her to say Yarr.  I had lunch at Melbourne Hall with my parents, watched some TV with my sister & Dave and had a barbecue.  I did very little writing.  And it was great.

My main achievement this weekend was yesterday’s run.  With my half marathon approraching I needed to ramp up my training, particularly after last weekend where I gave up after three miles with a stitch.  On Saturday I managed 10 miles, taking 88 minutes to do it – I may not be the fastest person in the
world but I’m pleased to have reached this point after years of being sedentary. 

Next weekend, in Brighton will be much busier.

Brighton Wok

It’s fair to say that neither Joh or I expected much from the movie Brighton Wok, a copy of which she bought me for my birthday. I mean, it was always going to be better than Urban Menace but I was expecting something like Brighton: The Musical, of interest mainly to people from Brighton.

Brighton Wok is actually a very good movie. Not good as in ‘despite the low budget’, or ‘because it’s filmed somewhere I know’. I enjoyed it more than some of the blockbusters I’ve seen this summer. Recently I’ve been comparing films to Iron Man$140 million to make, entertaining enough, but no spark.

Brighton Wok was a much better film than Iron Man, and used its smaller budget very well. The baddies are based in the Royal Pavilion and the film starts with some lovely aerial shots of the town. The script is funny without being corny, particularly the French student, who speaks mostly through subtitles and is obsessed with ‘street cred’. The fight scenes are fun and the storyline exciting.

The plot is that an army of ninjas have taken over the town (after burning down the West Pier, of course). They begin kicking out the hippies and harrassing residents. Two old ladies search for a champion to save the town as rumours spread of a ‘chosen one’ with the power of Ganja Boxing. The soundtrack is fantastic, with some great songs, but above all I loved the strange vision of Brighton: kung-fu experts training in traveller camps, the ‘Ninja Express’ shop, the Crazy old man up a tree at Queen’s Park, the constant references to Brighton-and-Hove rather than Brighton.

I loved this movie and will force everyone to watch it with me on my return to Brighton. Everyone!

Thank you Joh!


Johanna and I spent the weekend at Shropshire’s Festival at the Edge. We arrived on the Friday, a little too late to register, but were happy to spend the first evening catching up. We turned in around one but I fell awake as soon as my head hit the pillow. I took a walk instead, helped a stranger erect their tent by headlight and, a little more tired, returned to bed.

Saturday started with a run around Much Wenlock, which is a truly beautiful village. Sadly the run was a disaster and I stopped with a stitch after only 3 miles. I walked back to the site, took a shower, then grabbed some more sleep.

We spent most of Saturday listening to stories, as you’d expect. The main problem with storytelling festivals is that, after a night under canvus, nobody has slept well. It takes a good story teller to keep your attention (and keep you awake). We did OK, because half the performances we saw involved Peter Chand. Joh and I first saw him at Beyond the Border three or four years ago and he’s become even better since then. I love his use of Midlands accents in the stories, and it’s hard for me to imagine Vishnu and Shiva without Birmingham accents. Lost in Translation, a piece he performed with Shonaleigh, was particularly stunning. This mixed Jewish and Indian traditions and ended with the audience joining the bhanghra dancing at the wedding.

The coolest act we saw was Annamation, a three-woman troupe who mix storytelling with comedy. I loved their impression of the The Grey Ones.

Amy Douglas‘ performance, Special Brew, was my favourite type of storytelling, mixing memories with traditional stories. Starting with the deaths of two grandfathers and Duncan Williamson in the last year, Amy led on to the story of Jack and golden apples that bring eternal life. She made her conclusion that death is as natural as life seem reassuring.

FATE is a smaller festival than Beyond the Border but managed a very high standard of performances. The amenities were less sparse than when John and I went some years back, with a wider range of good food. I’m looking forward to going again next year.

A visit from Rosy and Olive

My friends Rosy and Olive came to visit this weekend.  We met up in Birmingham where we went to the UK Schools Poetry Slam.  There was a good mix of work, with the best being very good indeed.  There were a lot of political poems and we learned that war is bad, carrying knives is foolish and we need to take care of the planet.  For me the quirky and personal poetry was more effective than the serious preachy pieces, just as with adult poetry slams.


Saturday we went to Coombe Country Park where we fed squirrels, were chased by a swan, ate ice-cream, played catch, and messed around on an adventure playground.  We went back into town and, after noodles, watched Kung-fu Panda.  It was one of the best films I’ve seen this year (along with The Orphanage and 3-Iron).  It has everything I wanted from it: superbly edited martial-arts, training montages, kung-fu mysticism and tragedy. 


After a lazy Sunday I waved Rosy and Olive onto the coach and did another run.  I managed 7.5 miles but it was very hard work.  I’m supposed to be doing the half-marathon in a month and right now I’m not sure how I’ll manage it. 

New story in Penumbra #3

I had some post dropped off this afternoon, including the new issue of Penumbra Magazine which contains a new story of mine, riddled.


I’ve just finished reading the issue, which includes poetry and prose from the UK and several other countries.  I particularly liked the poems by Ed Harris (‘Chasing Hurricanes in Derbyshire’ and ‘Pterodactyls in Devon’) and the stories by David Yost (‘And every man a king’, about micronations) and Joel Willans (‘Rumble Tumble’).  Joel William’s story starts with the line “When I got the Oakland greyhound to San Fran, the bus was full of dwarfs” and then gets even better. 

The magazine is available by mail order for £3.95 +£1 P&P.

riddled: “Recruitment consultants sometimes call about incredible jobs. They
can’t give details because of the NDAs, but sometimes, if you’re
bored, you let the seduction play out to see what they offer you. It
was one of those calls that led to my break-up with Helen …

A day in London

I went on a visit to London yesterday.  I started with a limp from Euston to South Bank, stopping off at Muji on the way. I don’t need any new stationary but still bought a few things.  I then went to the Hide and Seek festival (review here) where I waited to meet some friends. 

I felt too awkward to join any of the directly interactive events but enjoyed looking around.  I particularly liked Trap Street which involved making an imaginary map of London.  I also signed up for The Day of the Figurines, an SMS game that I’d missed when it was in Brighton (picture below).  The game was interesting and I liked the gentle flow of messages updating me with game events.  The only problem I found was with text messages as an interaction – it was a little like a terse text adventure.


Since my friends were running late I spent some time exploring the South Bank.  I found a beach at the riverside where people practiced somersaults on the sand.  I also joined up with the event I’d come to see, the London-as-tokyo tour given by Momus, which consisted of outrageous lies and facts about Tokyo.  Meanwhile my friends tried to find me by SMS, which they described as ‘Hide and Seek with James.


We wandered to the Tate Modern where we checked out the Street & Studio exhibition, which contained an interesting range of work.  My favourites were Wolfgang Tillman‘s pictures of tube passengers and a couple of group shots by Richard Avedon, of the Chicago Seven and the Factory.  The image below is from outside the Tate, where the exhibition’s sponsors have provided an Information Tunnel – ‘thanks’.  We then ate at Tas Pide where we had lovely food and lousy service.


Sadly the day ended with another train problem – Virgin trains are not a means of transport, more an open invitation to go fuck myself.  I’d assumed I’d have no trouble travelling back a little later than planned but discovered the last train north of Northampton left London at 9:50pm.  Do people from the Midlands not visit London for the day? My sister helped out by booking a National Express ticket which was sent my mobile and I arrived home a couple of hours later than planned.  She also cheered me up by telling me about Jay-Z’s Glastonbury set, where he proved himself to be a better man than Noel Gallagher.

But it was a good day: drifting, catching the sun and staying up late.

London as Tokyo &c.

I'm still limping from the weekend and growing frustrated at not being able to do any training.  Hopefully things will be back to normal without disrupting my training for the half marathon too much.

Speaking to one of my old creative writing tutors this week I learned they'd lived in Coventry for a few years after graduation.  She recommended seeing the Kennilworth Road, telling me that President Eisenhower described it as "A million dollar entrance to a two-bit city"

This weekend I hope to visit the Hide and Seek Festival in London, where Momus is presenting London-as-tokyo: "Momus and Mizutani will transform London into Tokyo – a city they both
know well – using nothing more than language and the collective power
of imagination.

See James Run. Run, James, Run.

I've just managed to put my neice to sleep.  She was very tired and not too happy about Mummy and Daddy being out.  I read to her, sang, played and let her mess around with my phone.  Nine Inch Nail's 13 Ghosts II helped out as a soothing lullaby.  I need a wider selection of music on my phone.

Aside from limping like Dr. House, I'm feeling pretty good now.  My final time in today's race was 31 minutes and 30 seconds which I'm very pleased with. 

The race was an interesting mix of locations.  It started off with a run uphill to Breedon Church then downhill to the golf course and through Breedon before following the railway track for a mile.  The race ended with another hill through the middle of a crop field before a gentle descent to the finish line. 

The further away I get from the race the more I enjoyed it.  I need to get much more training in before August and the half marathon, but for now I'm going to have a short rest.


Breedon on the Hill race – part 1

I've just come back from the Breedon Race and have enough energy to blog but not quite enough to drag myself to the shower yet.

The race was incredibly painful.  At the 3K-to-go marker I was despairing because I thought I'd gone further.  But then I realised I'd not be feeling much better if it was 2K to go.  And it's not like I could have stopped because I'd never have started again. 

I should get the time later today (my sister was helping with the recording).  No idea how fast I was but I don't think I embarassed myself.  I coped with the hill better than I'd feared and managed not to grunt bad words as I climbed the last hill towards the finish.  So, actually not that bad an afternoon.  Despite the limping afterwards.

And, for the record, I was wearing shorts for the first time in, I think, 15 years.