Zig a zig ah!

Perhaps I've been getting too engrossed lately trying to deconstruct song lyrics, but even before I started my novel, I still thought the Sugababes were never the most profound lyricists. I was stood waiting for the bus this morning, late again, and after Chris Moyles said how one of the Sugababes had spent the night in the nick for alleged assault he played one of their most recent songs, and I was reminded how much I hated this one particular lyric.

In comes from the song 'Easy', and contains this line "Hey Mr Postman, where's the post for my mailbox?" I'm guessing it is an attempt at alluding towards a subtle sexual subtext. But frankly it's just shit. One guy on a fan site called the lyric 'epic'! I mean, come on it doesn't even scan well. I'm surprised they didn't sing something about the milkman taking the cream from their milk, or some other equally poor metaphor. The song was co-written with Californian 'rock' band Orson, and I use the term 'rock' loosely as I imagine that Keane are probably also described as a rock band, tar them all with the same brush. I read a better description of Orson that called them "indie-types, but lets face it, they're about as indie as Steps." Accurate description methinks.

As for example's of their genius, well you don't have look too far. Check out this Dylanesque stanza:

There's no line for you and me
'Cause tonight we're V.I.P.
(I know somebody at the door)

Wow, I mean, I'm gobsmacked lads. Don't worry, it gets even better:

Just look at me, Silly Me,
I'm as happy as can be-
I got a girl who thinks I rock.
And tomorrow there's no school,
So lets go drink some more Red Bull,
And not get home 'till about 6:00.

6pm lads? Really rocking it up there. I'm now going to attempt to defend lyrics like this, but only a little bit mind you.

I think the main thing is that although song lyrics are poetry, they only tell half the story without the rhythm and melody to go behind them. Usually at the end of the day what determines the popularity of the song is its ability to catch your ear and hook you into song. Like it or hate it, it's this infectiousness that all pop records strive for, and lets face it, I don't think they're planning on challenging for a place in the Rock and Roll Fall of Fame. So my defense for these lyrics is that they are not supposed to be read silently, they are supposed to be heard, a bit like Shakespeare in many ways, though don't think for one second I'm comparing Orson or the Sugababes to Shakespeare.

This is not to say that some of my favourite bands and artists haven't produced some clangers, and drug induced lyrics often provide some of the most ridiculous lyrics of all time, but - in the words of Mark E Everett - I can't remember what my selective memory won't let me. I think at the end of the day what makes a truly bad lyric is when it stands out from within a song and something inside you makes you think 'hang on, that was really shit,' and this is when there the distinction needs to be made. There are good songs with bad lyrics, and bad songs with good lyrics, but when the correct combination is made then you get that musical rarity - a great song.


Nicely toasted

I really like toast. But it has to be toasted exactly right, too burnt and it's just wrong, not enough and it's just, well, bread. The word itself derives from the Latin tostare, meaning to "roast". But our modern use of the word comes from the old French word around 1398 and literally means, "to brown with heat". Enough history though, toast is great, end of story. So yesterday I was making myself a spot of lunch, I was having a fried egg and mushroom sandwich since you ask, and I like to toast my bread for my sandwich. The main reason for this is that when you're using a filling like an egg, which obviously has a liquid centre, plain bread can often break up under the pressure of the egg yolk. Some might say the bread just soaks it up, I say "No! Soggy bread is wrong!"

So I've put the toast in the toaster, my mushroom are done and my egg is just finishing itself off. Now I have quite a cheap(Argos) frying pan, it's non stick that isn't that non stick, so I'm delicately trying to free the egg from the grasp of the pan when I hear the toast ejaculate from its fiery pit. Unfortunately this excites me so much that I create a slight tear in my yolk, and yellowy goodness begins to spread over the pan. Thinking quickly I abandon the egg, goto the toaster, throw the toast on a plate and spin round with said plate back to the frying pan. As I do so I hear the sound of one of the pieces of toast fall off my plate, 'no worries' I think, I'll retrieve it in a minute.

So I manage to free the egg, get it on my toast with the mushrooms and I now go to get the other bit of toast. I search all around the toast. No toast. I look to the floor. No toast. I even went out into the hallway. No toast. I was beginning to get a little concerned for two reasons, one, my egg and mushrooms were getting cold, and two, that was the last of the good bread as I only had end pieces left. Things were getting serious.

After standing in the middle of the kitchen I decided my only option was to think like the toast. Maybe then I could find out where it had gone. So I stood by where I had last seen the errant slice, and imagined myself flying off the plate as I had spun around. Crouching onto the floor I examined the surrounding area. No toast. So I did the experiment again, maybe it hit a cupboard, went in the opposite direction and ended up in an open drawer. But, alas, no toast.

It had seemed that the toast had been swallowed up by a black hole and transported into the fifth dimension. Just my luck. Begrudgingly I took an end piece and ate my sandwich thinking about my lost slice and how lonely it must be. Mind you, I'm not a fan of cold toast anyway, so maybe it was for the best.


Grow Bikes

Does it just happen to me, or do you always find yourself stuck behind the slowest person ever when queuing at a supermarket checkout? In fact, this only seems to happen to me in Co-Ops, not Tesco's or Asda. Maybe people who shop at the Coey just can't find their way to bigger supermarkets. Just yesterday I was doing a bit of shopping, relatively pain free I must say, although they had run out of courgettes which was a bit annoying. But I went to pay, and at this Co-Op they only ever seem to have two tills running despite having around 20 check outs, and I had to make a quick decision as to which till to go to. There was a guy who had a fair bit stacked up on the conveyor belt on till one, but till two just had a guy with a motorbike helmet on and a few bottles of beer.

Of course, I made the mistake of taking till number two. Motorbike guy only had four bottle of lager, and a bottle of wine, but then when he was about to pay he suddenly decided that he wanted to get a grow bag for his tomatoes. He was obviously having problems seeing properly out of his helmet as he kept having to move his directly towards anything he wanted to look at. Anyway, he struggled to pick up a grow bag and gave it to the cashier. She added it to his bill, and he carried on trying to put his bottles in a carrier bag. Not as easy as it sounds it would turn out. The first bag he picked up he accidentally threw into the air, and after frantically swatting it around with his flailing arms, it fell to the floor and he opted to get a new one. Once the bottles were safely in, he decided they should be double bagged. By this time around three other people had gone through check out one, and because I had already put all my food on the conveyor, I couldn't move.

Well, he finally had his bottles safely doubled bagged, which I suppose was sensible really, but what I was more interested in was seeing how he was going to drive off with his grow bag. As he left, the cashier gave me a shake of the head and a sarky comment that only those disillusioned with public service can do. I paid quickly, and went outside to see my motorbike helmet mad sat on his moped. He had the grow bag half on his seat, with the rest dropping down to where his feet would normally go, and he was resting his feet on the bag. I stood at watched him slowly leaving the car park, he was even swaying as he went and I couldn't help but laugh as I saw him trundle around the corner, sat on a grow bag with a load of booze in his carrier bag swerving all over the road. I wonder what stories my next Co-Op trip will entail.

Trundling along

I can't believe it was almost a year since I ran a marathon, and the small amount of running that I've done since have made that day seem even further away. Training was pretty hard going at times, motivation was the main bugbear of my preparation. Running in the winter when it's cold and wet, and often dark, was no fun at all, but once spring set in I actually found myself able to enjoy my runs a bit more.

Of course I can still remember running in the snow in Oxford during March, including running from Oxford to Wheatly and back in the pouring rain, along the main road. Not the most idyllic of runs! I had a fair amount of self doubt, mostly around three weeks before the final date, as at that point you know that you can't really improve any more as you've run out of time.

The hardest thing to train for is psychological strength, the ability to just keep your legs moving, or to create goals whilst you're running and each time you achieve one you feel good. To a degree this kind of mental strength is something that comes naturally, but it is possible to train for this, and you can also get the strength on the day from people supporting you.

I still remember the reason why I wanted to run the marathon, and I'll admit I did for almost entirely selfish reasons. I wanted to show a lot of people wrong, to prove I could do it and do it well, I wanted people to be surprised that James "who is always having a pint in the pub" could run a marathon. The thing was though, once I started training, no one doubted me, and my initial motivation changed: now I didn't want to fail those people who had faith in me.

The race itself was a bit of blur really. Yes I can remember certain moments, but the vast majority of the race holds no particular memory for me. I remember starting and thinking that I would start slightly slower than my pace, to save my energy and just run comfortably and try and forget about the other runners around me. This strategy worked, and I felt good for almost the entire race. The best advice I received though, came from a friend on the other side of the world, and although I laughed at him at the time (it was a comment I totally expected from him), it was a phrase that I kept thinking whenever I felt tired: "Your body is a machine"

It sounds silly, but every time I thought this I pushed any tiredness or pain to the back of my mind and just concentrated on keeping my legs going, just keep working them.

All of these things helped me through, as well as all the people supporting me on the day, and in the end I finished with a time of 4hours 2mins, not sure about the seconds, but I was a little gutted not to break 4 hours. Maybe another time.

So fast forward a year and I'm sat at my computer instead of going for a short run just to keep on top of things. But another run looms not far away, the Bristol Half Marathon in September. I'll start training for this in about a months time, and I know that everything I learned from my previous training will come in useful, and I look forward to crossing that finish line again, complete with bottle of Stella in my hand!