A roundup of the best bits from my summer travels.
Guided Tour - recommended posts from the 3rd quarter of 2012
1) Time is tight - 5th July 2012
A great live performance of one of the classic instrumental numbers by Booker T. & the M.G.s.
2) Hail to the Duck! - 7th July 2012
A tribute to the great bass guitarist Donald 'Duck' Dunn, who had died at the age of 70 a few weeks earlier.
3) Mongolian Drinking Song - 22nd July 2012
Beijing's favourite folk-rockers Hanggai perform a traditional party song which has become a regular highlight of their sets.
4) It's my party - or is it? - 26th July 2012
A particularly strange dream.
5) Craft beer?! - 27th July 2012
My return to England from America triggers some adverse reflections on the beer scene over there.
6) A culinary 'Unsuitable Role Model' - 28th July 2012
Fond reminiscences of Keith Floyd, one of the first and greatest of all TV chefs - and an unabashed boozer.
7) The 3rd Avenue crawl - 31st July 2012
One of my best nights out during my recent American visit. (A few others are described here and here and here.)
8) Great Love Songs (33) - 5th August 2012
Waves of nostalgia brought on by being back in the old home country remind me of The Beautiful South, a band I used to listen to a lot in the '90s. Their Song For Whoever is a typically warped and witty account of how a writer's urge to treat everything as raw material for his work distorts his experience of the world and compromises his relationships. Why do I feel such a connection with this?
9) Conversions - 7th August 2012
Some reflections on the difficulties of shifting between different countries and currencies... And the shocking realisation that Britain is now a cheaper place to drink than Beijing (in bars, anyway).
10) Great Drinking Songs (34) - 11th August 2012
Well, more of a smoking song, really - Afroman's splendid catalogue song about the hazards of over-indulging in weed, Because I Got High.
11) Another nail in my heart - 14th August 2012
Remembering The Carpenter's Arms, one of my favourite pubs from my days living in Oxford in the early '90s; one of the many small pubs in the UK that have closed in the last decade or two.
12) A pocket full of moonshine - 15th August 2012
As my return to China draws near, I reflect that erguotou - a particularly rough variety of the native white spirit, produced in Beijing - is NOT one of the things that entices me back. However, I am intrigued to discover the website of a chap who is trying to learn to love Chinese spirits. Rather him than me!
13) The call of the wild - 16th August 2012
Another 'Unsuitable Role Model', though really not so unsuitable this time: Les Hiddens, an Australian survival expert who had a superb TV series in the 1990s about how to live off the land in the Outback.
14) Songs that make me weepy - 19th August 2012
Some of the music that I find most
self-indulgent cathartic when my depressions strike.
15) The blues make it all seem better - 31st August 2012
My first couple of weeks back in Beijing had been utterly miserable. But there's nothing like a dose of the blues to perk you up.
16) Gosh, has it really been FIVE years??!! - 2nd September 2012
The anniversary of my favourite little bar, 12 Square Metres, is upon us. I celebrate with another dose of The Beautiful South - the rather too appropriate Liars' Bar.
17) Something new - 7th September 2012
I discover an excellent new barbecue place down in Shuangjing - and try a couple of dishes I've never had in China before.
18) Great Love Songs (34) - 8th September 2012
A serendipitous discovery during my travels was April Smith and The Great Picture Show. Here's their bouncy, saucy little love song, Wow and Flutter.
19) Our 'theme song' - 15th September 2012
My 'local' has become a bit of an '80s timewarp just lately: they seem to be constantly playing Twisted Sister's We're Not Going To Take It. Not that I'm complaining. Not at all. It chimes with my present mood very well.
20) Bon mot for the week - 17th September 2012
A particularly good one - from Noah Baumbach's great film Kicking and Screaming.
21) I have often walked down this street before... - 21st September 2012
The return to familiar Beijing stomping grounds cues some reflection on the territoriality of my life here (strictly a Gulou boy!), and some reminiscences about my early days in the city (when I enjoyed it far more). This, of course, was soon a pretext for a song or two - a pair of favourites from My Fair Lady that I have often been known to sing on the streets of Beijing.
22) After-love - 26th September 2012
I am told that the Russians have a single word to describe the feelings that you have for a former lover. I express my scepticism - rightly, as it turns out.