Blimey. 2016. Who would have thought that one year could cause so much chaos, death, divisiveness and nincompoopery. 12 months of worldwide chaos, fear, destruction and idiocy.
I don’t have to tell you about the number of famous people who have died, many have already been mentioned in earlier blogs, but 2016 started with a corker by claiming David Bowie and made sure our musical morale was completely ground into the dirt with the death of George Michael.
It got so bad it reminded me of my parents watching old films at Christmas, pointing at the TV screen and stating flatly, “He’s dead. She’s dead. I’m not sure about him…”
Then we had the weird referendum our shiny faced prime minister decided to call in June. Allowing the general public to decide whether we would stay part of the European Union or leave, which is a bit like giving a chimpanzee a loaded revolver. Again, I have covered this fully in earlier blogs, so don’t really have to tell you any more about elderly ladies being interviewed on telly, saying how they’d voted leave because ‘it wasn’t their cup of tea’, or rather forceful leave voters explaining how we needed our sovereignty back and to take control of our own laws, whatever that means.
Perhaps things will turn out alright; give it 10 or 15 years, everything will be fine. It’s just the 10 or 15 years I’m worried about.
Travelling to Corfu the day after the referendum was a sad affair; Lady BSM and I have never been so miserable before travelling to a beautiful, sunny island. We tried to claim asylum at the airport, but they just laughed and looked at us with deep sympathy in their eyes. I hid my union jack t shirt and apologised for being British.
But running has taught me that with every uphill struggle, there’s a downhill waiting. The USA came up trumps, literally. The most powerful nation on earth suddenly became stupider than us by voting for an orange hued TV character who hated muslims, Mexicans and women. Like the EU referendum, I retired to my bed confident that common sense would prevail and awoke to a whole new world of mindfuck. Despite all of this, the tune ‘Nelly the Elephant’ echoed around my brain with these alternative words:
“Hillary, elegant, packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus,
Americans voted for Trumpety Trump,
Trump, Trump, Trump!”
Yes, Corfu was lovely, although we travelled to the all inclusive resort, laid on sunbeds for a week and then returned home without looking around Corfu at all. It was too hot.
Barcelona was much more active, giving us the opportunity to travel on open top buses once more, a pastime I hope to continue into old age. Sorrento was the perfect Italian job, where I relaxed my carb free diet, spent a week consuming pizza and Peroni at every opportunity and returned home 8 lbs heavier.
I told Lady BSM it was about time we saw a musician or band who didn’t release an album before 1980, but heck, we’ve seen some good old stuff this year. I fulfilled a childhood dream of seeing Gilbert O’Sullivan, who still has the same hair as he did 40 years ago but disconcertingly has shrivelled underneath this magnificent bouffant, like a well preserved mummy. The tunes were fantastic and I knew all the words.
Interestingly, in a year when so many ‘hard living’ musicians have passed on, Brian Wilson, who now adopts the Ozzy Osbourne technique for perambulation due to his historic proclivity for all things druggie; however he survived I do not know. What I do know is that he is a tremendous musician; seeing him perform the album Pet Sounds in its entirety along with several of the Beach Boys’ other hit songs was a great evening.
I’d officially retired from stadium gigs until the opportunity to see AC/DC came along. A family trip to see a band, who, it turns out, despite all of my music snobbery, are probably the greatest live band of all time, even without their regular lead singer. Again, I knew almost very song and all the words.
As for new albums? The only one that really sticks this year is Black Star by David Bowie. Listening to it on the morning his death was announced was genuinely spine chilling, especially the opening line of Lazarus: ‘Look up here, I’m in Heaven’…
The only other album that comes to mind is HYMNS by Bloc Party, with the great single ‘The Love Within’.
It seems I spent the year in retrospection, with Mott the Hoople, Supertramp and Pink Floyd. It was inevitable, since most of my friends find Brotherhood of Man too musically demanding.
Another act we had the great pleasure in viewing this year was Billy Connolly, now in the grips of Parkinson’s disease and not as mobile as he once was. Even he referred to the drug culture of the sixties and seventies when talking about smoking.
“Remember,” he said, “every cigarette that’s smoked puts an extra day on Keith Richards’ life.”
I must admit, I don’t go to the pictures that often. Two events I didn’t go to were the screening of The Italian Job at The Sherborne Cinema in Gloucester, which included a talk by Dick Sheppard, local stuntman and one of the drivers of the minis in the film. The other was I, Daniel Blake, which I have yet to see, although because it’s a Mike Leigh film and ultimately depressing, seems to be a rather odd ambition.
We did get to see The Hateful Eight, an rather quirky, long and brutal film by Quentin Tarantino. I’m ready to see it again.
The other was the new Star Wars film – sorry, I don’t keep up with the titles, but the one that’s the same as the first Star Wars film that wasn’t the first but really the third made in 1977. It has Chewbacca and Hans Solo and Princess Leia played by Carrie Fisher (cue dad saying ‘she’s dead’). We did enjoy it, but, as Lady BSM states so pragmatically, it was alright. Cue death threats from Star Wars fanatics.
Theatre and Dance
The Father, starring Kenneth Cranham, originally a French play about a man suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Disconcerting, chilling and extremely well staged. You decide where reality ends and tricks of the mind take over.
The Red Shoes, Matthew Bourne’s balletic interpretation of the 1945 film was the final cultural outing for the year. As always, where MB is concerned, the whole production was powerful, visually stunning, sensual and emotional. Lady BSM declared it to be the best ballet she has seen to date.
So what will 2017 bring? A chance to see Danny Baker, one of my heroes, live at Cheltenham Town Hall. We have front row tickets; Roger Hodgson (formerly of Supertramp); Paul Weller, the modfather; Abigail’s Party at The Everyman.
It appears our 1970s affection continues unabated.
Whatever happens, let’s hope that 2017 is a good year. 2016, I’ve never been happier to see the back of a year. Do one.
‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.’
Jo Cox (1974 – 2016)
Dedicated to our good friend Stanley the cat, 2007 – 2016.