It’s been a very long time since I’ve done this. But, if you look at the photograph, I’m sure you’ll agree it has been worth the wait… all 10 or so years.
My skills as a photographer have improved beyond measure, as the above picture amply demonstrates. I’m not sure I can maintain this standard, or even the commitment, but I’ll give it a go and see what happens: perhaps some of my friends from Pbase days will come along and say hello… or perhaps they won’t. Perhaps I will attract a whole new audience to my blog… or, then again, maybe I won’t. We’ll see.
So, you may ask, what have I been up to? Well, quite a lot, really… too much for a daily post, but I’m sure the story will come out over time and you’ll be able to put the jigsaw together and get a rough idea of what’s what. As for today, well, after finally, and rather late in the day, deciding to decorate the house we got around to putting up not one, but two Christmas trees. We normally put a 7ft or 8ft tree in the corner of the living room, but with the new furniture arrangement ahead of our dining room remodel and after the new windows and porch were put in, we just don’t have space now. Where the tree normally goes is now occupied by our dining table. So, instead of one big tree, we got two small trees: one in the living room next to the TV and the other one in our new porch – now that the new floor is down.
As you can no doubt ascertain from the picture, our Christmas decoration style can best be described as “understated”, or maybe “minimalist”. Indeed, you’ll be hard pushed to notice much at all, so let me help you. On the unit there is a china ornament in the shape of a Christmas tree; above that there is a string of lights and another Christmas tree ornament that looks as if it might be made of some part of an evergreen tree painted in shimmery white paint; out of the picture to the right of the TV is one of our 4ft trees, while on the door – also out of picture – is a wreath and on the dining table there are some more Christmassy ornaments. It’s all very nice and, importantly, fairly easy to dismantle when January 5 comes around.
Part of our Christmas tradition is to listen to music and drink port on the night we (or rather Linda) decorates the Christmas tree (or trees). The night begins with The Cheftains Bells of Dublin – a compilation of traditional and Irish Christmas songs. Once that has finished we enter what I like to call the “free music period” when we just play random music, either on the stereo or on YouTube. This year I bought a cheap turntable and hooked it up to my stereo, then I found my old LPs and 12″ singles at the back of a cupboard and brought some of them down to play for the first time in almost 30 years. I then sat and played a load of old vinyl while drinking gin, port and spritz (not all in the same glass, I hasten to add) – starting with a compilation called “Methods of Dance”, which had Heaven 17, Japan, Human League, Devo and more, which was followed by another altogether more New Romantic compilation that had songs by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, John Foxx, Visage and many more. I also shot that golden arrow to my heart with ABC’s first (?) album, The Look of Love, then a whole slew of 12″ singles – which were all the rage back in the early 1980s. I found Planet Earth by Duran Duran, Streetplayer by Fashion, Just Can’t Get Enough extended version by Depeche Mode, Wham (US Mix) by Wham, At the Height of the Fighting (He-La-Hu) by Heaven 17, then Sweat in Bullet by Simple Minds. It fair took me back to my youth and made me think about when my dad used to sit playing records on his turntable – although his tunes were Rod Stewart, Jim Reeves and Neil Sedaka.
The finale, which was played the next day, was Simple Minds’ first studio album, Life in a Day – an absolutely wonderful album that has stood the test of time rather better than some of their later material that made them big in the States. Listening to Chelsea Girl took me back to the time when I used to hang around with the wealthy private school kids who lived in the Dumbreck area of Glasgow. I told the younger brother of one of my friends that I was the band’s keyboard player, Mick MacNeil, but that I liked to be able to go about incognito, and that was why everyone knew me as Stewart. I kept this pretence up for about two months until he realised that I was in Glasgow while the band was touring Europe. He didn’t believe me when I told him that because I didn’t like hotel food, the record company organised a helicopter to take me back to my mum’s for my tea every night before the concert started. He almost believed me… or maybe he was just humouring me. Who knows?