Rainclouds… Oh they used to chase me…

Today, I am continuing with my Manchester love and I bring you a Monday sponsored by the Stone Roses, my favourite Manchester band.

I was sixteen when their eponymous first album came out, and The Stone Roses was constantly on my newly-acquired CD player. It was the second CD I ever bought. The first was a kind of post-Hanoi Rocks glam metal marriage with The Faces via Dogs D’Amour with A Graveyard Of Empty Bottles. It’s funny because I think of myself as a vinyl child, but I’d already started acquiring CDs by then.

I used to hang out at this little second-hand record stall on Bury’s flea market. The guy there used to let me browse through his vinyl for hours on a Saturday afternoon, even though I’d usually go home with one or two singles. The first I ever bought was David Bowie’s Life on Mars. I loved that place. I’m sure he thought it strange that a pre-teen girl was hanging around buying music, but he indulged me. In fact, he recommended a whole load of great stuff, like Buddy Holly, that I never would have listened to otherwise. By the time I was sixteen, I’d already worked my way through the Stones and the Who, the Beatles and lots of other 60s stuff right the way up to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. I always think of myself as a bookish teenager, but in reality, it was music that ruled my life.

I consumed it compulsively and I could never get enough.

By the time I got to 16, I had something of a taste, but the Stone Roses were so far removed from the other stuff I was listening to that it felt a little uncool to like them. However, their music was SO cool, with Ian Brown’s dreamy voice and John Squires’ jangly guitar that it was just impossible not to fall in love with it all.

Not only that, they paved the way for that kind-of Mancunian braggadoccio that came to epitomise everything that was Manchester in the 90s. They were so effortlessly cool. They characterised the Manc swagger in ways that would become world-famous because of Oasis. They weren’t just crazy lads like the Happy Mondays were – they were serious musicians, but they were musicians who knew just how good they were. They were better than anybody else. So what if they only released two albums? So what if they never achieved global domination? The whole point of the Manc attitude is in believing that you could be better than everybody else, if only you could be bothered.

By the time it got to Oasis, it just all got a bit laddish and boorish and boring. But there was something kind of cool about a band who sing that they are the resurrection and the light and they just can’t bring themselves to hate you as they’d like.

I’ve been introducing the Americans to all things English and French, trying to make it count in equal measures. We’ve eaten sausage baguettes at the foot of the castle in Rochechouart. We’ve been to proper markets. We went to a vide grenier yesterday because I think this is the best – nay, the only – way to really experience French life. Marcus said he had never seen so many French people all together. It’s the ritual of Sunday life in the countryside. I have Much Love for old dolls, knackered shoes, broken tools, dusty books, tapestries, stuck-down jigsaws, coffee grinders and ashtrays. Shannon loved it. She thought that it was just vintage-tastic and loved all the old postcards and letters that may go on to have a new life as some treasure in some new owner’s hands.

We’ve also been trying to take in the greats of French cinema. I had to take a detour to Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources simply because it would be rude not to. For the first time, the accents really struck me in ways I’d never noticed before. I went to the Cornerhouse cinema to see these films right around the time I was listening to the Stone Roses. Ironically, we’re watching Pan’s Labyrinth (I know, not French, but rude not to following on from all our war talk) and I watched that at the Cornerhouse too.

As a teenager, the Cornerhouse was home to all that I loved. It was cool to discover things that were mostly not watched by a too-cool-for-school teenager, mostly the reserve of the Guardianistas and fashionable media types. I watched lots of French stuff here, and lots of very cool foreign films. It’s where I fell in love with Maurice and Merchant Ivory and EM Forster. It was kind of a guilty pleasure, because it wasn’t something my other friends did. I  think they would have considered me crazy.

Anyway, to up the English, we have been watching Bill Bailey, Peep Show, The League of Gentlemen, Gary – Tank Commander and Frank Spencer. It would be wrong if I didn’t share a little Frank, possibly the strangest English comedy show ever. We’ve also indulged in a little Cadbury’s Fudge and a Curly Wurly.

In response to what is Britain like, I would like to quote Bill Bailey.

“We’ve got Nectar Points… they’re quite handy. As a nation, we’re prone to mild eccentricities, binge drinking and casual violence. And, on the up side, we’ve got Little Chef.”

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