An evening in Coolsville

We spent yesterday evening in Coolsville, with the Duchess herself. She sang her way through the soundtrack to my student days in the early 1980s; listening to classic Rickie Lee Jones live was another awesome, red box experience.

The Duchess of Coolsville, 57, skipped on to the Royal Festival Hall’s stage in trademark brown beret and half an hour late for her Pirates concert. According to the Southbank Centre preview, the queen of pop/jazz/country/soul/R&B/blues/you-name-it, with a career spanning 30 years, maintains an unwavering cool despite a historically difficult personal life which has seen her battle and overcome broken hearts and drug addiction. Her concert featured tracks from her two most successful LPs, Rickie Lee Jones and Pirates, in her only stop in the UK before heading to Paris and Bilbao to round off her short European tour.

She opened with Danny’s All Star Joint to thunderous applause, and went on to dance with her beret through After Hours (12 bars past midnight). Spent, she abandoned her beret along with her water bottle, on the piano.

Rickie Lee Jones is not as tall as I would have imagined. I loved watching her bob and weave around the microphone with, what looked to me like awe and fear, and always, always needing the sound to be perfect.

The audience went crazy to hear the opening bars of Chuck E’s in Love, which the Duchess delivered to perfection before moving into a self-conscious, exquisitely delicate and vulnerable, arms-folded version of Company. A beautiful Easy Money prefaced her move to the piano, where she played and sang for the next hour. Living it Up was followed by a call from Rickie to ‘play some more happy songs’, as she moved on to the hauntingly beautiful clarinet-soloed Skeletons.

Ms Jones’ band is filled with outstanding musicians: a crazy talented lead guitarist, a Duke of Coolsville on bass, a keyboard (piano and Hammond organ) magician, an astounding drummer and ridiculously brilliant three-piece horn section of saxophone/clarinet, trumpet and trombone. Each artist had their moment in the spotlight to share their beautiful talent.

After We Belong Together, Rickie Lee apologised for being late.

“Did you forgive me yet for coming on late? I don’t have any reason, except I wasn’t ready. In so many ways,” she said ironically before moving on to Lucky Guy, filled with pretty, pretty Hammond organ solos. On Saturday Afternoons in 1963 was followed by an emotional, tear-filled outpouring of Coolsville.

The Duchess followed her heart rather than the setlist, which kept the band watching her closely and the setlist frequently being replaced.

She moved on to Pirates and Traces of the Western Slopes before a funky Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking. Guitar in hand, Ms Jones talked of her first trip to London in 1979 and how everything about the city ‘creeped her out’ as she walked through the ‘emotional chasm of heroine withdrawal. Everything was different, from having only one television channel (‘that played dogs chasing sheep’), to the light switches, to waking up at 3am and everyone was asleep’.

As an apology for that story, she sang a bonus number, a pure-Rickie Lee version of On the Street Where You Live. The Weasel and the White Boy’s Cool rocked the most insane lead guitar solo before Night Train, Young Blood, Last Chance Texaco and After Hours.

Ms Jones wept as she talked of the ‘supreme peace that found me, unexpectedly, on this Pirates tour’. She thought it would be a nightmare, reliving the difficult times through Pirates, but found that she can now ‘go home and sleep at night’.

With emotion and gratitude, she sang the closing number The Returns, leaving us all with a hope that the Duchess of Coolsville will be back. Two hours of pure Rickie Lee Jones magic. Catharsis rocks.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Advertisements

These are the good times

Having lived in London for two years, it was only last week that we experienced our first open-air concert in the rain. BBC Radio 2’s annual music festival in Hyde Park is a wonderful day’s entertainment. Add four seasons into that day, and I bid you welcome to British autumn.

Hyde Park’s summer season of open-air concerts ends with this one. It’s kind of ‘goodbye open air concerts; goodbye summer; hello any season you like, all at once’.

It was a huge line-up that we bought tickets to see. Billed by BBC Radio 2 as ‘a festival in a day’, the programme ran from 3.30pm to 10pm (‘any later and we’ll keep the Queen awake!’), packed in a whopping 12 artists in a row and 40,000 people into the park. The rain came and went, as did the sunshine and wind. The evening ended with a full-moon rising, blurred behind the clouds.

The likes of ’70s African American disco and R&B band, Chic, played numbers from our disco days:

Chic - who brought Le Freak to the world in 1978

Alabama-born duo, The Pierces, brought new American sounds into the mix, along with dazzlingly popular UK band Take That’s Gary Barlow. Add in some Will Young, James Blunt, Imelda May, Lenny Kravitz, Jonathan Jeremiah, Caro Emerald, Beverley Knight, Bellowhead and Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall and a rare live performance from Sandy Shaw, and you have a spectacular afternoon of music and entertainment.

A number of the artists were new discoveries for us: Jonathan Jeremiah with his mesmerising ‘Lost’.

Jonathan Jeremiah - I just loved his 'Lost'. What a great find.

Imelda May’s contemporary rockabilly beat seriously rocked, and I was entranced with her playing of the bodhrán (Irish frame drum), not to mention her unique style and talent.

Imelda May - a great Irish rockabilly star

British talent is always popular in London. Will Young was ill and without much of a voice, disappointingly, but he did his best; he even tried miming to one of his songs. That wasn’t such a great idea. James Blunt rocked the park, much to my surprise, and I didn’t see his jumping-on-to-the-piano dramatics coming at all. Not at all.

Beverley Knight brought rocking soul to the stage, while Bellowhead – with their 11-piece band of piano accordion, banjo, mandolin, cello, fiddles, trombone, saxophone and tuba – brought a kind of medieval story-telling into the mix. I really loved them.

Caro Emerald, from Holland, was another new and lovely voice to hear, while Lenny Kravitz – in his trademark shades – was just incurably cool.

Lenny Kravitz is too smooth. And he does move

Ruby Turner filled the park with her big voice and rousing Infatuation and Moving out of the Cold, with sensational backing from Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. Backing singer, Louise Marshall, also grabbed the mic and the audience’s attention; she’s another one to watch.

Gary Barlow stood in for headline act, Lionel Ritchie, who was either ill or busy with a new album, or both. Gary is currently heading the judging panel on the new season of X Factor and, if the contestants represent a chunk of the UK population, a lot of women on this island are in love with Gary Barlow. He couldn’t have been better received.

Gary Barlow. Much-loved British artist

I have to say, though, that my favourite favourite of the whole day might not be what you’d expect. Contemporary music, new music, rockabilly, heart throbness, coolness, retro beat, story-telling and miming aside; this grand lady floated on to the stage in sparkly short pants, fringed top and shining black locks. With long beautiful legs that flowed all the way to the ground and into two bare feet, her two songs took me back to a childhood in dusty Zambia, where – despite being light years behind the rest of the world – we still knew iconic pop music when we heard it. Even if we were only six.

Here’s the original version of one of Sandy Shaw’s two songs:

Rain, sunshine, wind and many drunken revellers notwithstanding, our red box got richer by two more tickets. And, in the words of Sandy Shaw’s second number last Sunday, there’s Always something there to remind me.

Sandy Shaw - on the soundtrack of my childhood - performing here with crazy-talented Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra
If you look beyond the brollies, you can see Will Young

Sunshine signing off for today!

An audience with Miss Chatelaine

It must be about 20 years ago that I first saw this floppy-fringed Canadian singer. I didn’t really like her look and paid little attention. Until I heard her sing. Miss Chatelaine blew my mind, not to mention my assumptions. Seeing her perform that song live last night felt like a musical dream for me.

Just a smile,  just a smile, hold me captive for a while
I can’t explain why I’ve become Miss Chatelaine
Every time your eyes meet mine,
Clouds of qualm burst into sunshine

kd lang live at the Royal Festival Hall. Yesterday’s date stared out at me from our calendar for a few months, our tickets stared out at me from their shelf in our cabinet, and I grew more and more excited as the day neared. Yesterday was a beautiful warm and sunshiney day in London; temperatures hovered around 26 degrees for most of the day. After work I walked along the edge of the Thames from my London Bridge office towards the South Bank, where I’d arranged to meet my husband at the Nelson Mandela bust. It seemed fitting.

Much of London was out enjoying the sun and the summer construction of a “beach” along the South Bank. Street dancers performed, families strolled along licking ice lollies, pubs overflowed with chirpy office workers, benches and patches of grass were filled with cheery people enjoying the welcome London sunshine. In lengthening shadows and royal blue sunshine, the balmy evening was simply sublime.

Because we booked early for last night’s show, we managed to get great seats in the fifth row from the stage. Little Miss Higgins and Floyd Taylor opened the show with infectiously bouncy old time country music, inspired by her rural home in the Great Northern Plains of Western Canada. After a short interval, kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang Band took the stage and wove musical magic around us for the next hour and a half.

Opening with I Confess from her recently-released and beautifully crafted Sing it Loud album, she moved on to The Water’s Edge before sending the audience into raptures with her crazy-fabulous arrangement of Miss Chatelaine. Mixing old and new songs, she sang and she danced and with every word, she reached out from her soul to an adoring audience.

When she shouted, “London!” we screamed and we whooped and we whistled, before her rousing delivery of Sing it Loud, her album’s title song and anthem to being who you are. She then began a set of spiritual songs starting, as she said, “at the top and working my way down”. She tore through Talking Head’s Heaven before moving on to probably the most sincere and emotional offering of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah I have ever heard. She brought me to tears and all of us spontaneously to our feet. After a poignant A Sleep with No Dreaming, she ended the set by giving her guitar pick to a little girl in the front row. Much applause followed and then kd said, “What? She wants my guitar too? Right. Everyone wants Josephine; she’s that kinda gal.”

She then introduced us to the immensely talented band from lead guitarist, to bass player, drummer, keyboard/piano wizard and then ended with the man who “changed my life”. She met Joe Pisapia at the Ryman Auditorium at the Grand Ole Opry and what we experienced last night is what resulted from “that union”. I’d heard her talk before about the name of the band – Siss Boom Bang is what happens when they play together. They sizzle and they just work. Beautifully.

A clearly well-loved woman, kd batted audience chirps away with grace and gentle wit. One audience member shouted out a whole bunch of song titles. This seemed to confuse ms lang, who said, “So many titles, so few mine.”

What followed was The Perfect Word, Habit of Mind, Reminiscing (what an adorable love song), Sorrow Nevermore (where kd ditched Josephine to play the banjo) and ended with a powerful rendition of Constant Craving. The audience went ballistic and she and the band left the stage. We wouldn’t let her go, so she returned sans shoes and jacket for the beautiful Inglewood, before her final and delightfully frenetic Sugar Buzz.

We still didn’t want her to go. And nor did she. She and the band returned for a third and final encore. She gathered her band closely around her on the stage to perform a song “for all the businessmen here tonight”. A fun and bouncy Pay Dirt  was followed by the achingly delicate Hungry Bird.

kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang Band then left the stage. They left us screaming for more but knowing we’d just experienced an evening of musical genius. I loved it. k daddy – you have the voice of an angel and I’m a fan. A big fan.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Songs from the soul

Non, Je ne Regrette Rien

( My blog friend, Cindy, at The Only Cin nominated me for Side Views’s weekend theme. She gave me this title, and I thought re-posting this from last November would fit the bill.)

“I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day,” is playing on the radio as I write. It’s grey and miserable and wet and cold in London today. The song is perfect encouragement for me.

So back to our weekend. After our delightful breakfast in Bethnal Green on Saturday morning, we went to Greenwich to show our friend the market and the wonderful second-hand record shops. The first record shop we went into had this poster on its window – there’s a bit too much reflection in the photo, but it’s clear enough to show you the message. Sorry to all the Celine Dion fans out there … nothing personal! Promise.

So this was a great record shop!

“You got the new Celine Dion, man?” “Gulp! Err, No. But we have got some decent music, though.”

My husband and his friend were lost in old records and memories, and moved on from that shop to another that has two levels of second-hand sounds. Wall to wall records and CDs … heaven, indeed!

After a good old bogle, we moved across the road to Greenwich market. The market in Greenwich dates back to 1700, when the Royal Charter Market was assigned to Greenwich Hospital for a thousand years. It has moved site since then and over the years has grown and evolved into the arts, crafts and food market that it is today. You can buy anything from a divinely iced cup cake to a leather handbag, jewellery, clothing, second-hand books, Italian nougat and a hat. Flanked by vintage clothing stores, pubs, coffee shops and toy shops, there is also a fabulous food section in the market where you can buy any kind of food from curries and Turkish wraps (our absolute favourite!) to cakes and sweets.

One of my favourite places in London.

One of our favourite things to do is to go there after church on a Sunday, pick up a Turkish wrap and then go and walk through Greenwich Park, venturing up to the Royal Observatory if we have the legs, or just relaxing on a bench or on the grass. It’s always lovely there, and if you do walk up the hill, you can see just how curvy the Thames is. I look forward to going there when it’s snowing and watch the tobogganers speeding down the hills. Earlier this year, a few English bobbies were reprimanded for tobogganing on their shields (somewhere in Oxford, I think). I loved that story – they just couldn’t resist the thick snow and they had perfect makeshift toboggans!

On Saturday night we took our friend to the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, north London, to see Britain’s finest jazz singer, Ian Shaw. Despite getting slightly lost en route there (our trademark), we got there good and early and sat and had a drink in the pub downstairs until the doors opened.

We went upstairs as soon as we could, and waited for the great muso to arrive and start his show. He was just fabulous. He sang a few of his Joni Mitchell numbers – mashing Edith and the Kingpin together with Big Yellow TaxiTalk to Me and a wonderful mix of River and A Case of You. In between he delighted with Stuck in the Middle With You, Bowie’s Ch-ch-ch-changes and a beautifully poignant Alone Again, Naturally that brought me to tears.

Ian Shaw, jazz singer extraordinaire.

When we were waiting downstairs before we went in, we saw a huge posse of youngsters arrive, all dressed in matching tracksuit tops, and heading towards the Club. The Club is pretty small and we couldn’t imagine that they could possibly be going to see Ian Shaw. Where would they sit, and why would youngsters – apparently on a school trip – want to go to an evening of jazz? Turns out they were a big band from a school in Finland and were obviously mad-keen musicians. I felt quite ashamed of my assumptions, and listened in awe as a handful of them scatted along confidently at Ian Shaw’s nod, and one took out his saxophone and, with perfect attitude and flair, accompanied Ian Shaw’s intuitive piano playing. I was humbled and oh so impressed.

Ian Shaw took a few requests, and generously sang Baghdad Cafe, mixing up a hilarious snippet of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights in the middle. An absolutely fabulous version of Al Wilson’s The Snake led him to the perfect closing number in Shirley Horn’s Here’s to Life. A beautiful conclusion to an exceptional day.

No complaints and no regrets.
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets.
But I have learned that all you give is all you get, so give it all you got.
I had my share, I drank my fill, and even though I’m satisfied I’m hungry still
To see what’s down another road, beyond a hill and do it all again.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life the dreamers and their dreams.
Funny how the time just flies.
How love can turn from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
And leave you with the memories you’ve memorized
To keep your winters warm.
There’s no yes in yesterday.
And who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away.
As long as I’m still in the game I want to play
For laughs, for life, for love.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life, the dreamers and their dreams.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.

Sunshine signing off for today!

 

On The Carpet

It’s red carpet season in London. Celebrities, also known as movie stars, dress designerly and walk along the red carpet to answer endless and inane questions about their movies and their co-stars and their spouses and partners and directors and friends and why they think their movies should win awards and what their movies mean and if they seek enlightenment through the art form they support and who dressed them.

Film premieres take place all year round in London, and this week has also seen a swathe of awards ceremonies in the capital. On Sunday night, London played host to the Bafta Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and last night the music awards ceremony, the Brit Awards 2011, took place at the O2 Arena in North Greenwich.

As was expected, The King’s Speech garnered most of the big Bafta awards, including best actor, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best film and best original screenplay. It was nominated for 14 awards and won seven. The darling Colin Firth, who won the best actor award for the second year in a row (in 2010 he won one for A Single Man), said “I like coming here.”

The director, producer and screenwriter describe the film as “a little film”, one they never thought would attract the worldwide attention it has. David Seidler, writer of the original screenplay for The King’s Speech, won a Bafta for his screenplay. As a child, Seidler battled with a stammer and, listening to King George VI speak on radio, he thought that if the King could overcome a stammer, there was hope for him too. I like stories like that.

Last night’s Brit Awards 2011 honoured many young and not so young members of the music industry. A young south London rapper, known as Tinie Tempah, won two Brits, while Take That – recently rejoined by Robbie Williams – collected their first Brit Award for Best British Group. Robbie walked away with his 17th.

A young fringe-flicking Canadian received a Brit Award for International Breakthrough Act of the Year. He declined to show off his Michael Jackson skills in the pre-show interview, claiming that he couldn’t moonwalk “on the carpet”.  The moves had to be seen to bieber-lieved.

Canadian band, Arcade Fire, also walked away with two Brit Awards for Best International Group and Best International Album.

We’ve stood by the red carpet for film premieres a few times since we’ve been in London. The first time we were lucky enough to be penned in, up close and personal, with uninterrupted views of this:

The less glamorous view of the red carpet

Imagine being close enough to see the red carpet being fitted? Kind of takes the glamour out of the event. A couple standing near us asked if they could have the carpet off-cuts. Seriously?

Knee pads are clearly a health and safety requirement

But this is really why we stood and watched the red carpet being set up:

The man of the moment. Or as I like to call him "The Georgeous"

I think the guy standing behind the star of “The Fantastic Mr Fox” was thinking, “OMG! I can’t believe I’m standing this close to George Clooney!”

We also saw Sir Ben Kingsley:

Ever the elegant and serene professional. He pretended not to hear the guy next to me call him a "sexy beast".

And Bill Murray:

Henna'd hands reach out for his autograph but Mr Murray was only there to shake hands.

As we speak, London is ordering miles more red carpet to welcome the sporting elite and the spectating elite (you clearly have to be elite to afford the ticket prices I’m reading about) to the London Olympics in 2012. 527 days to go and counting. Danny Boyle, director of movies such as Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine (I don’t know that movie but I love the title!) and 127 Days, will be directing the opening ceremony. Will we see a field full of brightly coloured anoraks doing Bollywood moves and avoiding the chasm? I can hardly wait.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Our red box

We have a red box into which we throw any tangible memories of our adventures here in London. This morning I threw two Paolo Nutini concert tickets in there – mementoes of a surprisingly wonderful concert we saw last night.

I don’t know Paolo Nutini’s music too well, although I enjoy it and we have his CDs. When we saw he was performing in London, we thought it would be great to see him. I just didn’t realise he would blow my highlights back as much as he did last night. He is one hugely talented songwriter and singer, and his poignant lyrics and soulful delivery belie his 23 years.

I booked our tickets the very minute ticket sales opened, about a month ago. I was thrilled to get our two tickets, and I grew more and more excited as the concert date loomed on our calendar. What I didn’t realise, and I only discovered when we chatted to a couple last night who had travelled over from New Zealand for the concert, was that the tickets sold out in three minutes. I was totally oblivious to the mad scramble that ensued for tickets after I had got ours … the NZ couple paid three times more than we paid for our tickets, as they’d bought them on auction.

Paolo was the headline act for one of the Little Noise Sessions –  an annual week-long acoustic festival to raise funds for Mencap, a mental health charity. Tom Jones headlined for the festival the night before, supported by one of our other favourites, Lauren Pritchard.

The concert was at the Union Chapel in Islington, north London. (The scene of a disaster earlier this year when we saw the wrong show – check out Bad memories make good stories …)  It is a beautiful and relatively intimate venue, it seats about 850 people and it also still functions as a church. We got seats in the third row pews, and had a perfect, uninterrupted and up-close-and-personal view of the artists.

The opening acts were great: Jessie J, Michael Kiwanuka and Rumer. Check them out on youtube, they are all worth listening to. Rumer was my favourite; she is shy and self-conscious and her beautiful, soothing voice has been likened to Karen Carpenter’s. Her two big singles Slow and Aretha have had plenty of airtime on radio this year. She says she took ten years to become an overnight success!

The audience went ballistic to welcome Paolo Nutini on stage. Accompanied by a fabulous band – strings, brass, keyboard, drums, plenty of guitars and a ukelele – Paolo took the stage and kept us gripped for the next 90 minutes or so. Occasionally he would say a few words between songs, but mostly he just belted out number after number to the adoring delight of the audience, some of whom seemed to know the words to every song.

He didn’t introduce his band, although he did mention “big hairy Dave”, one of the acoustic guitarists who had co-written a song with him. As the band soulfully and passionately wove magic around Paolo’s unique voice, we enjoyed a journey through songs such as Candy, Pencil Full of Lead, Jenny Don’t be Hasty, Worried Man, Growing Up Beside You and the new and brilliant Bear With Me. My favourite of the evening was Paolo’s beautiful interpretation of Nature Boy, backed by a haunting and liltingly string-filled arrangement.

Of Italian descent, Paolo is exceedingly Scottish. Third generation Scottish, in fact. He grew up in Paisley, on the borders of Glasgow, the son of a fish and chip shop owner. Quite awkward in his song delivery, Paolo locks his knees together, stands on his tiptoes and leans to one side as he pours raw, eye-closed talent and passion through the microphone. His broad Scottish accent shines delightfully through his every song and, as well as everything else about him, that makes me smile.

Our red box is growing full.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Excerpt from Pencil Full of Lead

I’ve got a sheet for my bed
And a pillow for my head
I’ve got a pencil full of lead
And some water for my throat
I’ve got buttons for my coat
And sails on my boat
So much more than I needed before

I got money in the meter
And a two bar heater
Oh now it’s getting hotter
It’s only getting sweeter
I’ve legs on my chair
and a head full of hair
Got in a band
And shoes on my feet

I’ve got a shelf full of books
And most of my teeth
Two pairs of socks
And a door with a lock
I’ve got food in my belly
and a License for my telly
And nothin’s gonna bring me down

Damp squids and veekend viewing

We ventured into the heart of London on Saturday to witness the Lord Mayor’s Fireworks display. Public transport woes and an unsatisfactory ten-minute display left us feeling a little disappointed. A damp squid indeed.

(Before any of you boffins jump to tell me that saying is incorrect – I know. It’s intentional. Keep reading.)

Rugged up good and proper (as my Aussie friends say), we headed off with some friends into central London, to watch the fireworks display. I asked one of our friends what the Lord Mayor’s Show was all about (it took place all day on Saturday) and he said it was to mark the inauguration of the new Lord Mayor of London.  The show has been taking place at the same time each year for 785 years! Read more about it here – such a heritage astonishes me!

First up, our local tube was not operating at all over the weekend. Ideally, we could have jumped in a tube, travelled for about ten minutes and then walked up the road from the tube station to have a good view of the fireworks. Instead, we caught a bus and, as we approached London Bridge, discovered that the bus wasn’t going any further. Because of the Lord Mayor’s Show. This meant a repeat of our walk of last weekend, but in reverse. Not actually walking backwards (although that would have been fun!), but walking from London Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge.

It took us about 45 minutes, with the added challenge of three gorgeous, energetic, small boys running this way and that, fascinated by everything that caught their eye, not least of which were the mounds of autumn leaves which got kicked and thrown and tucked into other people’s jackets!

We got to Blackfriars Bridge, along with the rest of the world and his wife, and found a good spot in the middle of the bridge. The fireworks were due to start at 5pm (at which time it’s been dark for about half an hour). The fireworks are set off from a boat on the Thames, somewhere between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriar’s Bridge, so you can view from either.

The display began at 4.55pm (just as well we had got there a little early) and were over by about 5.05pm. What we saw was spectacular, but it certainly left us expecting more. Apparently the show is usually much longer and more spectacular, but I guess no-one has escaped the austerity of the budget cuts that the bosom buddies have introduced since taking office.

As teenagers, my siblings and I used to talk about things being “too much effort and not much fun”, and I think that described our venture to Blackfriars Bridge on Saturday. As a teenager I met someone who described a disappointing event as “a damp squid” … I rest my case.

And on to the veekend viewing. I have mentioned before that we are enjoying the current series of X Factor, the reality TV show for aspiring singers. Saturday’s show began with the final nine, which includes fabulous young soloists, a gorgeous and infectiously enthusiastic boy band, a delightful 50-year old Irish woman who describes herself as a belter and who left her day job as a cashier at Tesco to enter the show. And then there’s Wagner.

Hmm, how to describe Wagner? He’s Brazilian. He’s 54. He has long hair, which he usually wears in a half-moon. He can’t sing. And he can’t dance. Apparently he’s in the show for the sheer entertainment of having a former lion tamer in the line-up. (He was actually a PE teacher, but they keep showing a photo of him in his bare-chested youth, holding the tail of a lion.)

His mentor, Louis Walsh, can’t pronounce his name. No matter how much he’s reminded that Wagner is pronounced Vagner, Louise continues to correct everyone by air writing “W” and saying, “No, it’s spelt with a W. So it’s Wagner.”

However, things seem to have backfired for the show. Last year, a bunch of people started a Facebook group to try and stop the X Factor’s winning single from becoming the Christmas number one (which it usually does). They pushed for support to buy Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name and they succeeded; it outsold the X Factor single. X Factor Haters 1. Simon Cowell 0.

This year, the same group – I understand – have mobilised to vote to keep Wagner in the show. And so he survives week after week. His rendition – or shall I say rending – of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing rang false but true, if you know what I mean, on Saturday night. He dances like he’s running downhill in heels. And he sings like he just stepped down a steep staircase and can’t stop himself. Like he’s trying to keep up with the music. The music always wins. He smiles. And his numbers (and outfits) are always over-stuffed into productions reminiscent of Gary Glitter at his tottery-heeled peak.

Each week when Dermot announces that Wagner is safe (he hasn’t yet been in the bottom two), the X Factor-watching public sighs. No doubt the X Factor haters punch the air. And Louis grimaces – like he doesn’t know what to do next. And week after week talented youngsters slink off the stage, into a future that I hope will bring them more meaning and success than the X Factor drama. And Wagner prevails.

And ve continue to vatch. Vy, I ask you, vy?

Sunshine signing off for today!