Monday, June 13, 2005


Apologies for the lapse in blogging updates in recent weeks. Will be trying over the next week or so to quickly run through some of the features I would have otherwise covered, and by necessity this will mean a punchier approach than normal just to enable me to catch up and return the site to some normality.

A couple of weeks ago there was the stag weekend in Lisbon, not exactly a cultural tour (but when are they ever?), being in the main the predictable alcohol and tostesterone fuelled itinerary of jazz bars; poolhalls; superclubs and stripjoints. However, Lisbon's main advantage over other European cities is that in addition to the buzzing nightlife and seedy diversions there are some fantastic beaches within easy reach during the daytime. I'd recommend it as a great holiday destination, with fantastic and reasonably-priced food plus a relaxed, non-threatening atmosphere amongst its many virtues. I would also recommend though, a very sceptical approach to the taxi-drivers and some attempt to learn the basics of the lingo before travelling, particularly if, like me, you thought abrogado was something that Jamie Oliver was trying to get put on the school menu.

The centre point of the weekend, though, was the Super Bock Festival, in which several bands played on what was basically a huge car park near to the airport in Lisbon. The Hives (on their first visit to Portugal) were the first band that we caught, playing a suitably entertaining set of their greatest hits like 'Main Offender' and 'Idiot Walk' interspersed with amusing between-song banter delivered in the lead singer's inimitable trans-atlantic drawl. At some point a brilliant rainbow appeared in the sky, quite weird really as I didn't remember it raining, maybe somebody spiked my Super Bock?

More alcohol and dodgem-riding ensued before Black Eyed Peas emerged from their pod to do that shouty polite-funk thang that they do. They put a lot of energy into their show without me ever feeling like I was truly engaging with any of their songs, but they offered some diversion I guess while we waited for New Order to come on.

The event seemed much less than sold out, and the Portugese audience that did come along were considerably more restrained than festival audiences back home. They didn't quite know what to make of our group's noisy and boisterous reception for Hooky & Co.'s entrance on stage. Maybe it was the crowdpleasing set, the Super Bock consumption or the Southern European climate but I was hugely impressed by their performance that night, a lot of energy and conviction on show, and four old Joy Division songs played to mark the 25th anniversary of Ian Curtis' death. If there were any regrets (as opposed to, say, 'Regret'), I'd have liked a couple more songs from their new record, the under-regarded 'Waiting For The Siren's Call' but I'm getting picky now. If you've not got a ticket to Glasto this year, I'd recommend trying to catch NO at the Wireless Festival in Hyde Park on June 24.

The impending groom managed to survive the stag weekend with most of his dignity intact, although I did my very best to make up for this with my best man's speech at the wedding reception this weekend just gone. I think I was much more nervous than the groom beforehand, who spent most of the morning pounding the Reading streets looking for a pair of sandals to match his tie (don't ask). Luckily the best man's speech went down as well as I could have reasonably hoped for and I spent the rest of the night steadily pickling my brain until nothing that came out of my mouth resembled anything approaching the English language.

Fortunately, the weather was better than forecast, Ray and Deborah made a very striking couple and I wish them all the best for the future, and trust they'll be enjoying their honeymoon in Thailand as I type. Being best man was very nerve-wracking at times but I'd recommend it as something every bloke should try to do at least once in their lifetime, although I was fortunate, I think, to be called on for a relatively informal event and by a thick-skinned groom.


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