It was back when I lived in Tooting with Mairi. We knew there was a nice couple living next door – we had seen each other over the garden fence from time to time. Siobhan and Andy, who later turned out to be called James – feck knows where I got the name Andy from. It was the usual strangers-in-proximity London thing for a while, passing on the doorstep and so on. Then one day I was having a new oven delivered, and I realised I couldn’t get it up the stairs to our kitchen.
So I shrugged and rang next door’s bell. James answered the door, and I asked if he could help me lift a great heavy electric oven up my stairs. He kindly agreed, and we set to it. Thanks very much, nice to properly meet, we must go for a drink etc.
Fast forward god-knows-how-many months.
Eventually James, Siobhan, Mairi and I went for a drink at the Ramble Inn on Mitcham Road, a funny little place with table service (fatal), big sports telly, and thriving Irish community regulars. It was a really nice evening, if interrupted somewhat by the highly entertaining impromptu singing in the pub (not ours).
Then James and Siobhan moved away, luckily only a few streets away. We managed to meet pretty regularly for the pub quiz, first at the Castle (where we won a couple of times, and came second or third often), then later at the Selkirk (where we were foiled by 20-strong cheating nurse teams, we wuz robbed etc).
When Mairi and I split up, I went for a walk on Tooting Bec Common with James to talk about it, and we often went for man-chats and pints over the following months. Before I left for the US, Siobhan and James invited me for dinner, and we had a great evening. I was sad to leave, even though at the time I felt numb and emotionless from all the stuff that needed doing. I miss those guys. Hey, you guys, I miss you!
Anyway, all of this sentimental drivel (must be the season, in fact ’tis) is a lead in to a plug for James’ excellent co-authored music blog Both Bars On, and specifically their Top Ten Albums of 2008, sort of like the Festive Fifty but for albums, and different, with less Black Star Liner. Both Bars On bloggers jkneale and angrybonbon do a swift rundown of their favourite new albums of the year, and make a compelling argument for immediately buying them all (or adding them to a wishlist, *whistles nonchalantly, strolls away looking up*).
I’m slightly distressed to realise that I barely know any of the bands on this list, apart from a couple in the “bubbling under” section. Then again, I’m coming to terms with the fact that my musical knowledge has not really kept up. The number of links to other music blogs is proof that there is more stuff out there than I will ever come to terms with. I often have to ask Cassie what music is playing in her car, and even then I can’t remember later. I still have enough knowledge to hold my own in musical conversations, usually managing to sound informed, if a bit “old school” with a nice line in slightly obscure oddities to fend off the “stuffy old git” jibes.
Maybe if I buy all these albums I will be cool. That is the Both Bars On guarantee, after all.