Category Archives: Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday

So… last week was all about Manchester – and as you might know, Manchester is the home of many great musical talents. I’m not being an uber-purist about where Manchester ends – suffice to say if it’s below Bury, east of Salford, north of Stockport and west of Stalyvegas, it’ll do.

This week, my top ten are top ten ‘sounds of Manchester’. I’ve tried to do a kind of chronology, but I’m too lazy to do it properly. I need an anally retentive man in the style of High Fidelity to come and sort it out.

#1 Joy Division Atmosphere.

Could have gone for lots of tracks, but this one means so much more to me. It was the first single I bought of theirs and Love Will Tear Us Apart is just a little too popular. I still have many Joy Division posters. Top band. When Americans talk about British New Wave, this is is. Post-punk, nothing left.

This song is Affleck’s Palace through and through. Plus, I like it because the ‘disco’ in Bury was called Atmosphere, and it was nothing like this track, despite being equally depressing. I also like it because I kind of hope someone might have gone looking for Russ Abbott’s Atmosphere and found this by mistake.

# 2 New Order True Faith

The first on my list gave birth to the second. And this is one of my favourite tracks from them. I used to think that the day would never come… That my life would depend on the morning sun…

This just reminds me of PE where Mrs Riley encouraged us to do some kind of bizarre rhythmic dance to New Order. It’s a horrible memory to have of a top track.

# 3 The Smiths Girlfriend in a Coma

Here’s a cheery little ditty for you. I could have picked many, many things from the Smiths’ pantheon, but I love the faux-cheerfulness of this. Also, Morrissey doesn’t look quite so… special… in it. In fact, he doesn’t look unhandsome. Here’s a fact for you. My high school friend Anna was nearly run over by Johnny Marr on Deansgate. Boys that liked The Smiths were always cute. Witness Ferris Bueller with his ‘Meat is Murder’ poster.

So what if Morrissey is crazy now and says the most outlandish things. Like other Manchester men, he’s nothing without his partner, Johnny Marr – oh he of the twangly guitar.

# 4 A Certain Ratio The Big E

Perhaps from their more … hmmm… how shall I put this? … commercial period, this is a cracking song and one of my feel-good Manchester tunes. I won’t stop loving you. I still believe in you. When everything goes wrong, you think you’re on your own, I won’t stop loving you. And it’s also part of the soundtrack to the superb film about Ian Curtis

Bedfellows of Joy Division, Jeremy Kerr is also the brother-in-law of my RE teacher. See. Small World.

# 5 The Stone Roses. I am the Resurrection. 

They might have to be in here twice, being the defining sound of my late teens. My favourite Stone Roses track has to be I am the Resurrection. It captures Manchester insouciance like nothing else. I don’t care where you’ve been or what you plan to do. I am the Resurrection and I am the light. Confident, cocky, lovable, great tunes.

And, not unlike the Smiths, when John Squires decided Ian Brown was a little bit bonkers, the band fell apart. This isn’t a story that’s going to end here. Manchester bands seem to have a thing about having two prima donnas. Two egos are far too many for a band.

#6 James Laid

I listened to this album almost non-stop in 1995. It was on a cassette I took to France with me, back to back with a Depeche Mode album. I had so little space (and so much vinyl) that I only had five cassettes with me. It’ll always be about leaving St Malo and leaving Phil behind. Sit Down is a top track, but Laid is one of my favourite songs ever.

Tim Booth is strangely attractive in this video too, for a generally unattractive man. I love his songs because he seems to get what crazy really is. Anyone who has a line in their song saying ‘Dressed me up in women’s clothes, messed around with gender roles, line my eyes and call me pretty’ is a bit crazy if you ask me.

#7 The Happy Mondays Step On

I was never a huge fan of the Happy Mondays – Shaun Ryder was a talentless has-been even back in the day. However, they’re a lot of fun – laid-back good-for-nothings made good. That’s such a Manchester story. You couldn’t hate them even if you tried. This is why Bez won Celebrity Big Brother – because he’s impossible not to like, even if he can’t put a coherent sentence together and he still rattles, even if he’s not had a pill since the 90s. Even Shaun Ryder’s got something likeable about him, even if he is a hood.

Nothing is Madchester like the happy marriage of the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays.

#8 Inspiral Carpets This is how it feels 

An often overlooked Manchester band, they’re still pretty cool and trippy. Another 1988-1989 kind of vibe. This is how it feels to be lonely. This is how it feels to be small. This is how it feels when your world means nothing at all. Great music. Clint Boon’s synth is very 60s psychedelia as well.

#9 Oasis Champagne Supernova

Another chapter in the ‘too many egos’ in this band story. Noel’s the one with the talent. Liam’s the one with the attitude. Again. Manchester insouciance. Someday you will find me caught beneath the landslide in a champagne supernova in the sky. I don’t know what a champagne supernova is, but I guess it’d be a good way to go.

Liam practically invented the Manchester swagger. Unfortunately, now lots of people in England copy it and have neither the talent nor the balls to carry it off.

One of these people is the last in the list, though he’s a Wiganer by nature, and they’re not like Mancunians very much at all.

#10 The Verve Bittersweet Symphony

And that concludes my top ten. You’ll notice I’ve left out M People and Simply Red. That’s on purpose. Mick Hucknall makes me gip. Heather Small, well, she’s alright. She doesn’t fit in to either the snake-hipped floppy haired youth with haunted eyes category or the just plain barking mad as a hatter category that most of these bands seem to conform to. I could also have put Take That on the list, but my street cred would have fallen to pieces.

Few towns keep spewing out music like Manchester does. Some do, for a bit, like Liverpool did, and their well of creativity dries up. Not Manchester’s.


Top Ten Tuesday

Now, as you know, just because I live in France in the countryside does not mean that I do not love Manchester. Today I’m going to do a top ten favourite things in Manchester, just because I feel it’s time. I know you’ll appreciate that it can be hard to pick out only ten things – and this will be.

#1 St Ann’s Square. From cool little shops around a spacious square to Barton Arcade – a glass and iron arcade that links St Ann’s Square to Deansgate – it never seems crowded and it never seems run-of-the-mill. I love the flower stall by the church, and I love walking round through the little arcades that go lots of other places.

It might very well be raining in the picture, but there’s about a million little places to explore off this one – it’s a kind of meeting-place for all the narrow little roads that run from Deansgate to Cross St. You can go through the Royal Exchange Arcade – never as good as the Royal Exchange used to be before the bomb, of course. You can cut up via the bank, up St Ann’s St, via Half Moon St. And, best of all, the Victorian Chop House, secreted away behind the church. Cut through to King St via Barbour – this place leads everywhere. The buildings are elegant. There are places in the sun. There are lovely shops. There’s the Royal Exchange theatre… this is the quiet, still-beating heart of the city for me.

#2 The University and Oxford Road.

From being about 13 to right now, this is always cool. Students might be annoying, but they are also cool sometimes. This is where I bought the purple coat from yesterday’s blog. It’s where I bought comics by the dozen, and records. It’s also home to the fabulous University museum, with its mummies and its skeletons. It’s not the Natural History museum, not by a long shot, but it’s culture meets grunge all in one place. It’s home to the Cornerhouse cinema, where I became a fully-fledged indie chick and watched arthouse movies in French or Spanish. It can be utterly pretentious, but it can also be a cultured dream. It was also home to the legendary Banshee club, and Jilly’s Rockworld, where I cut my teeth on places that opened late. It’s a world of all tastes. From rock clubs to the Whitworth Art Gallery, it’s a world of contrasts, too.

#3 Oldham St.

back of Afflecks Palace

Across town, in the pretentiously named ‘Northern Quarter’, there sit lots of age-old businesses that fuelled the indie revolution, provided the wardrobe for the Second Summer of Love, for Madchester, for Cool Manchester. Afflecks Palace – a warehouse souk of epic dimensions which stocked everything from faded, pre-owned levis to funky silver jewellery – the only place for a girl to buy purple hair dye back in the day – still hosts a hundred tiny businesses with the coolest clothes. Shabby chic, kawaii, thrift shop, club-land neon, corsets… if it’s alternative, you’ll find it here. Couple that with Piccadilly Records, Eastern Bloc records, the Vinyl Exchange, all the second-hand stores, and it’s still cool.

# Chinatown. Manchester’s Chinatown sits around George St, forming a square completely made up of East Asian foods, restaurants, shops, bakeries and art galleries. You could spend all day here and share in this strange little home-from-home.


#5 Curry Mile. Manchester’s neon capital of curry, Wilmslow Road, is a golden marvel. Sweet shops, sari shops, curry restaurants, Asian grocery stores, it’s a mile of exotic smells and tastes that leads into the heart of the city like an artery of cumin and turmeric.

#6 St Peter’s Square. I love the Manchester Library – it’s round, which is always a good shape for a building. It’s another place you can feel a bit cultured and arty. It connects up the Town Hall with Oxford Road and Chinatown – and it’s another place to escape. If you come up via the University, along Wilmslow Road, it becomes Oxford Road and you can see it all in its splendour.

Central Library

#7 Castlefield and Deansgate locks. Right down at the far end of Manchester’s Deansgate, you can see some of the original city – the Roman fort – and the old fortress is a good place to spend a sunny day. The locks are also a quiet haven away from the chaos.

#8 New Cathedral St.

With Harvey Nichols at one side, Selfridges and Louis Vuitton on the other, it’s a dream shopping parade. Zara, LK Bennett, Lacoste, it’s a consumerist dream. I like to window shop these days, but it’s still a fab place to go shopping.

#9 Old Trafford cricket ground.

Cricket might not be the first sport you think of when you think of Manchester, but it’s a classic part of Manchester life.

#10 The Triangle.

To take a city destroyed by an IRA bomb and rebuild it is something amazing, especially when it’s so well done. Hopefully, it will still look as great in the future and won’t end up all dated! Urbis is a weird-looking museum, all strange glass ski-slope and I’m not sure I approve architecturally, but then I’m a classic-loving girl. Go round the side of the old Corn Exchange and there’s an array of amazing old buildings, from the world’s first public library at Chetham’s to the back of the Cathedral.

Top Ten Tuesday: book adaptations

Some films or television programmes are sad shadows of their literary counterparts. Coriolanus comes to mind. It should have been epic and all I couldn’t stop thinking how badly the actors delivered their lines and how I can’t stop thinking of Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. It was timely; it had some powerful messages to deliver. It could have been superb. In the end, all it came to was a load of actors who really struggled delivering the Shakespearean lines, or delivered them with the kind of unemotional delivery you expect with UPS, not a valiant warrior who refuses to kow-tow to the masses.

And in all truth, most people who read a book say the adaptation is nothing on the original. Harry Potter – ‘nice’ films for kids, but not really of the same calibre as the books themselves. Redford’s The Great Gatsby – shockingly lacking in any sex appeal whatsoever. But some adaptations are genius. Several have Jack Nicholson in them, and I make no apologies for that!

1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The novel is great – Ken Kesey created a masterpiece. But Jack Nicholson as McMurphy, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, the inmates – great cast and great retelling. I always cry when I watch this movie. I know Ken Kesey didn’t like it and reputedly never watched it, but he should have done. There’s a reason it won so many Oscars! Kesey didn’t like that the narrative had been messed with, that McMurphy wasn’t really the centre of the novel as much as he was in the film. When I read the book, McMurphy seemed – with all his followers – like a modern-day Jesus Christ, with his disciples. And the novel is a bit like the gospel according to the Chief. The film makes less of that, but then I guess point-of-view is such a lot harder to convey in films.

2. The Shining. Jack Nicholson’s forte – playing crazy men. Stephen King books – especially the later ones – don’t usually make good films – they’re so long and complicated it’s hard to reduce them to movie time. I’ve another one coming up – because when they’re done well, they’re epic. You just can’t beat Jack being crazy, though. Stephen King didn’t like it – same as Ken Kesey with Cuckoo’s Nest because Jack Nicholson isn’t supposed to be crazy – but it works for me.

3. The Green Mile. Genius novel, genius film. Stephen King films are hit and miss. Some of the best are Misery, The Shining or Carrie – dark and twisted visions from a dark and twisted mind. Some of them are distinctly average – Needful Things for instance is one of my favourite books – but the plot is so very complicated that it’s hard to film and get down to a sensible time limit for the movies. It’s more like Dickens in plot complexity. A dark, dark Dickens. So it’s no wonder his shorter novels or short stories make easier films. Salem’s Lot  – whilst not particularly a good film – did scare the bejesus out of me when I was 15. That’ll serve me right for reading scary stories late at night. Of course, The Shawshank Redemption is an epic movie – brilliant in its own right.

4. Of Mice and Men. Great story. Great casting. John Malkovich is a tremendous actor. If you see this and then you see him as Cyrus the Virus in Con Air, you’d be forgiven for thinking they weren’t the same person. Gary Sinise does a great job of playing George too – and Sherilyn Fenn was a superb Curley’s Wife. Am I putting this in at the expense of East of Eden? Why yes I am.

5. Brokeback Mountain. The Annie Proulx story is fabulous – and so short. The movie is amazing. I don’t care what issues it raises for men who feel a bit icky about it, or all the jokes that have subsequently come from it, it’s a tragic story about love and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are perfect. Just perfect. I wish I knew how to quit you. Best line ever about unrequited love.

6. Romeo+Juliet. Baz Luhrman – usually hit rather than miss. Shakespeare isn’t easy to do on the big screen – witness Coriolanus. But if anyone could turn it into something uber-cool, Baz would be that person. I’m still in awe of Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom. He’s currently doing The Great Gatsby and I’m waiting with longing. Leo was perfect, as was Claire Danes, and it took this play – which I don’t like very much in general – too much weeping and wailing – and turned it into something beautiful. Fab soundtrack too. Baz rules!

7. American Psycho – super-cool book. I remember when one of my students submitted a monologue based on the book which freaked me out for days. And Christopher Bale, the 80s soundtrack, the crazy killings, the sex with the mirror scene – just brilliant. I like films about crazy people.

8. Pride and Prejudice. I think this is the only Jane Austen I like. And I mean the one with Jennifer Erhle and Colin Firth. It rocketed Colin Firth to super-stardom. It was witty and clever. Alison Steadman was a perfect mother. Lydia – perfect. Wickham – perfect. The Bingleys – perfect. Amazing casting. What I liked most was the fact that I really didn’t think Colin Firth was suited to the role. He grew on me – just as he grows on Elizabeth. And you see all that cold snobbery to be an aching shyness. The scene with the swimming – just perfect too. Brilliant. I could watch this over and over and never get tired. Forget anything with Keira Knightley, Miss Wooden, and give me Jennifer Erhle’s heaving cleavage any day.

9. Game of Thrones – this really should be number one if only for its amazing casting, setting and performance. Yesterday, I confessed my secret.

“I have a crush on Tyrion Lannister,” I said to a fellow lover of all things fantasy.

“So do I,” he said. He’s about as supremely heterosexual as you can be, which made it all the more amusing. Tyrion Lannister could have us all.

10. Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins was exquisite and divine as Hannibal Lecter. Nobody could be Hannibal after him. So perfectly creepy yet such a gentleman. A wonderful, wonderful adaptation.

(Don’t make the list: Atonement, Anna Karenina (Keira!) Reacher (Tom Cruise!) Interview with a Vampire (Tom Cruise!)

And a big Oh Yes to Baz Luhrman’s Great Gatsby

There are two actors who are destined to ruin everything I watch. One is Keira Knightley. I loved Atonement – great novel and I loved James McAvoy. I loved the score and I loved the film. I hate her. I hate her open-mouthed, wooden expression. I hate her inability to have an emotion. She’s the least good actress ever. She has zero sex appeal. A stick has more sex appeal and ability to act than Miss Knightley. If ever a woman was destined to ruin a film, it is she. I wish she’d die in every movie, like Sean Bean does. I don’t wish for him to die, he just does. Keira should be that person. I’m tired of her gaunt, vacant expression.

She does this expression ^^ in every film. Urgh. How did she win a BAFTA for Atonement when she does no acting? She just stands in various positions doing this expression. 10th Most Sexy Woman according to FHM. Do they not have eyes??! Atonement? Ruined. Pride and Prejudice? Ruined. Never Let Me Go? Ruined. And now she’s going to ruin Anna Karenina. Why doesn’t she just take all stories I like and ruin them? I bet she’ll do Madame Bovary next. Bah. I know Samantha Brick would say I’m jealous. I’m not. I don’t find Miss Knightley attractive – though I appreciate she could be a model. I dislike her because she ruins films that I’d quite like otherwise because she pulls this dumb open-mouthed face and can’t act. It’s like she’s had too much Botox, though I know she hasn’t. She just has no emotion in films – ones where she should have emotion and is just awful. Dreadfully wooden.

And the other one – destined to ruin another good adaptation? Tom Cruise. Awful in Interview with The Vampire – vampires should be all raw sexual energy, even if they’re not handsome, like Kiefer Sutherland or Gary Oldman. Tom Cruise has as much sex appeal as a used tea-bag. And he’s about to ruin Lee Child’s Reacher. Bah.

I will watch it, but only to say how I despise it. And I don’t dislike TC. I think he’s a fine actor. But he’s a bully who lands parts he shouldn’t by bossing people to cast him when there are others who are infinitely more appropriate. Anne Rice might have changed her mind over her objection, but I didn’t. Brad Pitt should have been Lestat. End of.


Top Ten Tuesday

Today, in honour of the Bard’s birthday last week, I’m doing my top ten Shakespeare plays. I’m in the middle of watching Coriolanus at the moment. It’s okay. The setting is fabulous, but I just see Voldemort when I look at Ralph Fiennes and the cast deliver their lines with absolutely no passion or understanding at all. Shakespeare should be delivered, not just said. 

Anyway, bad films aside and bad casting aside, here are my favourites:

1. “The Taming of the Shrew”. I saw my favourite theatre group, Propeller, do this. This is Ed Hall’s theatre group and they are marvellous. They’re an all-male cast and it made such a difference. The Taming of the Shrew is such a problem play these days – get a woman to come to heel by training her like an animal. So most theatre companies do it in a light-hearted way, and Katherina is never really ‘broken’. At the end, modern versions present Petruchio as a man who really loves Katherina who teaches her to come out of herself and realise the freedoms she can have in marriage, if she only stops being a shrew. But Propeller did the best. I was honestly speechless for an hour after. Petruchio was cruel, insane, brutal, a wife-beater. Katherina was a broken woman – repeating her lines like an automaton at the end. I don’t think you could do that with a woman playing the part. It’d be wrong. This is undoubtedly the best version of the best play I’ve ever seen and if I died tomorrow, I know I’d have seen the Bard at his best.

Plus, 10 Things I Hate About You… excellent film.

Best quote? Petruchio at his most foul:

“I will be master of what is mine own.
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ax, my ass, my anything,
And here she stands.”

Message? The Church never did a better thing than when they took ‘to obey’ out of the vows. If I had to belong to a man, why, I think I’d want to commit an act of murder. Even if he were a very nice man. And if a man ever said this to me, he better learn to sleep with one eye open.

2. Macbeth. Seen it about 20 times. Taught it about the same amount of times. I’ve seen versions in concentration camps, in 1930s-style Mafia get-ups, in kilts… and despite just how many times I’ve seen it, read it and studied it, it’s still great. Another Ed Hall classic performance where Malcolm reveals at the end that everything he said ‘in jest’ to MacDuff is true. He is just as tyrannical as the last. I know this play inside out, line after line. I like to be the weird sisters, mostly. Sean Bean in his prime as Macbeth – wow. Samantha Bond as a honeyed, strong and much-loved wife – wow.

Message: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

3. A Winter’s Tale. A man who goes mad with jealousy because he thinks his wife is cheating. The wife suffers because her husband is bonkers. Such is life. Those Shakespearean women were long-suffering, no doubt. The things they had to put up with! I think Hermione is my favourite of all the wives who say nothing and just put up with their husband’s insanity. And which girl hasn’t wished she could be a statue so she can hear how sorry her husband is when he’s been an idiot? Message? Husbands can be idiots and jealousy can be a killer.

4. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Another one I’ve seen over and over, and from dreamy Rupert Everett playing Oberon, to Brian Glover playing Bottom with Don Estelle, Tony Bell with his HUGE appendage – it’s weird and it’s funny and it’s bonkers. Message? Fathers don’t always know best. It also has the best cat-fight in the world and shows how quickly girls will turn on each other. Shakespeare saw the ugly side of women way before Sam Brick reared her head. I love the insults between the two. Calling someone a bead and an acorn is just delightful, as is calling a tall girl a painted maypole.

5. King Lear. Not only don’t fathers know best, sometimes, wicked sisters are as much your flesh and blood as the worst of the wicked step-sisters. Heart-wrenchingly sad.

6. Much Ado About Nothing. Were there ever such a fabulous couple as Beatrice and Benedick? Is there anything so sweet as seeing hardened bachelor Benedick threaten to kill a man who offended his love? Great lines, great comebacks, a great battle of the wits – and so much better than the cheesy teen angst of Romeo. Really, Romeo – you were only being banished. It’s all a bit melodramatic, love. Give me Benedick and Beatrice any day. Even Kenneth Branagh, super-lovie, made it lovely. Sometimes, I get him mixed up in my head with Eddie Izzard. In my mind, that’s who I’m picturing.

7. Henry V. If just for the inspiring battle cry of Harry. For God, for Harry and for St George. Nothing makes me feel patriotic like that does.

8. Coriolanus. Message: just because you save a country doesn’t mean anyone will thank you for it. The masses are idiots who only care about where their next pasty comes from. Someone should have told Cameron. Look what happened over pasty tax. Those media crows were indeed pecking at something. I’m not sure it was an eagle, though. More like a mockingbird.

9. Richard III. I was going to choose Othello for villainy wondering if there could be a better villain than Iago. Of course there can… the vile and repulsive Dick Three. I love it because one of my drama lovies repeatedly said ‘I’m doing Dick’ before class. Ralph Fiennes should have done Dick Three. I love the way Ricky chats up his future wife over her dead husband’s coffin (An Olivier invention, I know). Cold. Nothing about this man is redeeming. I’m surprised children don’t shout ‘He’s behind you!’ when he comes on stage. I know McKellen did a Hitleresque Dick, but even Hitler didn’t have his brothers children locked up. Not only that, he twists more than a twisty-turny thing. When he says “I am determined to prove a villain,” he so does. He puts all other villains to shame.  Even his own mother turns against him. Plus, I love the line: “Thou elvish-marked abortive rooting hog!” – it’s nigh-on the best insult ever. Message? Those old kings were twisted, man. I see Peter Dinklage, oh he of Game of Thrones, played Dick. I bet he played it superbly. He’s even slightly charming. This is not your thinking-man’s villain, this is your pure-and-simple cold-blooded, calculating, brutal, manipulative villain. Great stuff.

10. The Tempest. If you want to understand colonialism, read this and Heart of Darkness and nothing else. Again, bonkers fathers who are much in need of a good and sensible wife to calm things down. Women are much missed in Shakespeare.


Top Ten Tuesday…. almost

I was very much enjoying a Yannick Noah version of Redemption Song today and it made me think I should do a top-ten of classic covers. Not that they are better than the original, just different, and great by themselves. So many covers are rubbish.

#1 Whilst Pink Floyd are fab, I love this Scissor Sisters version of ‘Comfortably Numb’.

It’s appropriately other-worldly and really suits a disco beat. The worst thing is, those of you who know me well and know of my ex, The Dwarf, will know why the lead singer reminds me of him. He looked exactly like him. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he kept skin-tight sparkly pants in his wardrobe either.

I love the underwater scenes, though, and it’s like it was meant to be sung in falsetto. I think it might take a brave person to say they like this version, but I do, very much.

#2 I’m making NO apology for including two of this band… Life of Agony. Mina Caputo’s voice is like Caleb Followill’s – it gets inside your soul and messes with your inners. It’s a voice that has every single emotion in it that could ever be. It just aches with it all. The song reminds me of getting the bus from Fez up into the Atlas Mountains – it was a very long buss ride up from spring time weather to the tail end of the snows in Morocco and I listened to LOA repeatedly. This is ‘Redemption Song’ done in a way that might make you ache.

#3 The other LOA song I’m going with is ‘Don’t you forget about me’ which is a top song as it is – it reminds me of every school do I ever went to. Such am I, a child of the eighties. It’s that voice again. Ahhh. If you don’t know LOA, their lead singer – who was Keith – is in the midst of gender reassignment – and is now Mina – and the new stuff is as fab as the old. I think it’s fair to say nobody ever had a life like Keith Caputo. If you know his back story, he makes Eminem look like a whiney little girl (which he is) Sometimes, people are so very, very brave that it makes me sad. Fab song. Wait til all the music kicks in after the minute’s warm up.

#4 Echo and the Bunnymen – People are strange.

It was like Ian McCulloch was meant to sing this. I love that it’s still Ray Manzarek on keyboards which gives it that Doors feel, but it’s so unmistakably E&TB it’s untrue. I guess this is everything about being thirteen or fourteen, to me. Ian McCulloch – loving boys with backcombed 80s hair; The Doors; The Lost Boys. There’s a song that throws me right back in to being 13 again.

I have to say this took me on a little detour by way of ‘The Game’ – possibly one of my favourite songs ever – and I’d never seen it before. I hadn’t realised it was filmed in Rio. Too cool. ‘Candleland’, Ian McCulloch’s first solo album, by the way, is genius. Just genius.

#5 Gary Jules cover of Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’ – taken from the movie ‘Donnie Darko’. I still don’t get that movie. It makes no sense to me. Still, I love this song. I did a photomontage to it for an exhibition, all Parisian shots set to the track – all cross-processed or black and white – I was very proud of that photography. It looked amazing over huge walls with the music to it as well.

Just in case you think I’m maudlin, I’m going to move on to some excellent covers that are a whole lot more upbeat.

Before I do, I’ve GOT TO go with Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’.

#5 Johnny Cash ‘Hurt’

It’d be rude not to.

It’s not that I’m maudlin, it’s just that a lot of great songs are emotional. I could have done a list that included Kylie’s version of ‘The Locomotion’, but it wouldn’t be an epic top ten, now would it?

Sorry, NIN. This old mec rocks this song in ways you just can’t.

#7 Now for a little something upbeat. I was tempted to go for ‘Fire’ by the RHCP, but I prefer their version of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’. I love early Chilis as much as I love later stuff, but there’s nothing like the raw power of those first albums. Flea’s slap bass at the beginning and the snare snap of the drums… fabulous and very, very different. A wall of sound compared to 70s wah-wah.

I like one of the comments underneath this too. ‘I’m not gonna lie. I’d be all kinds of gay for Flea’. Now, there’s a comment. If you’re a bassist, you might even like Sting’s version with Stevie. It’s cool seeing Sting slapping that there bass – and a bit unexpected.

#8 Jimi Hendrix – as an upstart band in the 80s steal great covers from funky predecessors, there’s no reason the great master himself shouldn’t steal a track or two. This is ‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Jimi, a great, and different, cover of the also epic Bob Dylan version.

Jimi Hendrix will always, always remind me of my fabulous furry freak brothers, Andy and Stu. God, the hours I spent with Andy Mundy listening to Jimi Hendrix. It’s another of those songs that unlocks a door and throws me into another world of the past. What I love are the guitar lines that the RHCP pick up from this and dot through their work.

#9 Faith No More ‘Easy’ Now it’s getting hard. I’ve got about 20 tracks left and only 2 places in my top ten. I’ve got to put Faith No More in with their version of ‘Easy’ – I’d be incredibly remiss if I didn’t. This is one of those songs that just makes me say ‘Ahhhh’. Mike Patton is an amazing vocalist. Like LOA, little men with big voices – only not quite so well-endowed, emotion-wise. Mike Patton is much more fun. And it’s a great version of The Commodores’ original.

# 10. Cyndi Lauper ‘All through the Night’

Putting crazy into music way before Lady Gaga. This is a beautiful version of the Jules Shear song. Only Cyndi Lauper can go on stage looking like she just got out of bed and belt out something like this.

In fact, I’ve got far too many good songs left, so I’m going to break protocol and add them underneath. You’ll know why when you see what I’ve got left. And you’ll know I couldn’t have left them out. It’d just have been rude.

#11 The Bangles ‘If She Knew What She Wants’ – another Jules Shear cover.

#12 The Black Crowes ‘Hard to Handle’ – an Otis Redding cover.

# 13 Letters to Cleo ‘I want you to want me’ – a cover of the Cheap Trick original for the movie ’10 things I hate about you’

#14 Lemonheads ‘Mrs Robinson’ – a jangly, guitary version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic.

#15 Muse ‘Can’t take my eyes off you’ – fabulous!

#16 No Doubt ‘It’s My Life’ – cover of the Talk Talk song from the 80s. Fab video too.

#17 Alien Ant Farm ‘Smooth Criminal’ – fab video as well as a great rock version of the Michael Jackson track.

#18 Julie London ‘Cry Me A River’ – I almost couldn’t choose a favourite cover of this song – I like the Aerosmith version too. But Julie’s smoky voice gets my vote.

#19 Janis Joplin ‘Piece of My Heart’ – here’s another one who sings to make your heart ache.

#20 Kula Shaker ‘Hush’ – a cover of the Deep Purple cover – but it’s pretty cool for all that.

I could easily have added Keith Caputo’s version of the Annie Lennox classic ‘Why’. Anthrax ‘Got the Time’ should be in there as well, I reckon.

Anyway, here’s my Youtube playlist if you fancy a bit of back to back covers from the LJ station of Rock.

Top Ten Tuesday

I thought that I’d go flavoursome today and tell you my top ten favourite meals. Apparently, my dad’s neighbour has a fascination with what people would eat for their last meals. He’s never asked me, but if he did, these might be the things I’d say:

1. Sushi. I ♥ sushi. I could easily live off sushi and never get bored, even though it’s not the most exotic of foods. I even like plain rice. There’s little to beat the fresh sushi in Japan, though I’ve eaten sushi in many places. A little strangely, the best sushi I ever had was in Brazil – but then there’s quite a large Japanese population in Brazil. I like the little rolls with salmon in them and I love eating with chopsticks. Mainly, and it’s very childish, this is because it’s a bit of  a show-off thing to do since I only know about ten people who can eat with chopsticks. What else I love about sushi is that it’s not something I can do myself (though I don’t know why!) and so it’s something I only ever eat in restaurants or sushi bars.

2. Sweet and sour vegetables. Something about the sharpness just gets me. I love sweet and sour food. I love hot pineapple, though I know it’s not to everybody’s taste. When the onions and peppers are soft, it’s just delightful. Noodles, fried rice, chips or even plain rice – it’s all perfect accompaniment and I love it all. I miss take-aways. I miss the little plastic tubs and the convenience of being able to go and pick up a takeaway after work. This said, it’s much better that I can’t, so I don’t mind too much. I do miss having thirty great Chinese restaurants to pick from, without even thinking, and I miss the variety. Our nearest specialist supermarket is in Bordeaux, and so it’s a thing I’ve learned to make (and I’m pretty good!) or do without. I make this one a lot as I love the Hairy Bikers.

3. Noodles. Soba noodles, udon noodles, ramen noodles, egg noodles, spaghetti, I love them all. I love them in soups, I love them mixed in with things. I even like supernoodles, though I draw the line at Pot Noodles. I don’t even mind that David in The Lost Boys showed noodles that looked like worms. I’d still like them. I like them most in a rich broth when they’ve gone all fat and soft, mixed in with soft spring onions.

4. Pizza. When I went to Italy, I ate pizza. I ate it for lunch and for tea. I’d eat pizza all day every day if it didn’t make me fat. I love pizza. I’d eat pizza for ever. I eat it plain, with a little origano and basil, or with all kinds of marvellous toppings. I’m not an anchovi fan, but I can stand a few olives. Favourite of all? Four cheeses. Yum. I’m not a fan of the deep dish or those with massive crusts. Thin crust pizza is perfect. In fact, I might even be tempted to make some dough and make a pizza tonight. There’s nothing like home-made pizza with home grown origano and basil, home-grown tomatoes and a few slices of mozzarella.

5. Macaroni cheese. Apparently, my Nana once got cross at my Mum for giving me Mac and Chee (as my brother and I refer to it) as a baby, when I didn’t even have one tooth to eat it with. It’s a habit I’ve never broken. Mac and cheese, cauliflower cheese, any kind of cheese sauce, it’ll all do for me.

6. Risotto. Nothing needed but a good stock, a splash of creme fraiche, some peas, some fresh broad beans and some parmesan. Perfect.

7. Fish and chips, English-style. Battered fish and deep fried chips, with some mushy peas. Nothing better. If you buy it and the batter is still perfectly crisp and almost too hot to eat, it’s even better. How I miss fish and chips, especially those fish that are almost so big you need three of you to eat it, never mind just one.

8. A hot hard-boiled egg and mayo sandwich on white bread. Salt and pepper, no tomato, no salad, no messing. I can tolerate it on a good wholewheat, but I can’t think of a better sandwich. Mind you, I seem to be going through a processed cheese phase at the moment. I have no idea why. It’s not even nice. The French pain de mie (almost crustless bread) is fantastic. I don’t want much by way of crust. And I want that bread soft. None of this fresh malarky – something filled with preservatives and salt is what this butty needs. Maybe some plain crisps as a side dish. I want that sandwich so fat with hard-boiled egg and mayonnaise that it spills out the other side.

9. Veggie lasagne with puy lentils and a bechamel sauce. Hand-made pasta, perfect sauce. Aubergines, lentils all in a thick stew. The crust should be hard and crunchy and the sauce shouldn’t be sloppy. If it can’t hold its shape when it’s cut, it’s too sloppy.

10. Egg fried rice with peas and sweetcorn. Ahhhhh.

I actually had a fairly hard time coming up with ten – not because I like a lot of things but because I find it hard to pick just one. I like most of what I eat, or else I wouldn’t eat it. That’s the beauty of being a grown-up. You get to eat what you like and leave what you don’t. Sometimes, being a grown-up IS better than being a child.

Top Ten Tuesday

Today it’s films. This is hard. I like films, and there are a lot I liked to watch once but wouldn’t watch again, even though they were good. And the ones I’ve seen numerous times, like Grease and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure are ones that are throwbacks to a very young me and aren’t really what I’d class to be ‘great films’.

So I’m going to get them out of the way first – the ten films I’ve watched over and over again. I make no apologies that these are from my teenage years, on the whole, and they date me. I don’t care.

1. The Lost Boys. I watched this over and over. I know all the words. It’s like Twilight but with vampires who were dangerous and not wet. Robert Pattinson does nothing for me. Kiefer Sutherland was one naughty vampire with great fashion sense. So I thought then. Dianne Wiest always plays a great mum, and she always reminds me a bit of my mum. Corey Haim was classic. His hysteria, his ‘fashion sense’, his one liners. His reaction to his brother’s vampiric state: “You wait til Mom finds out, bud…” – genius.

But then I know most of the film inside out.  Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots. How do they taste? This is only one of the lines from the film that have made it into my day-to-day discussions. I can’t eat noodles or rice without quoting David. That must make me very annoying indeed. All this, though, and a bloody good soundtrack. Echo and the Bunnymen’s rendition of People are Strange is very, very good indeed. It’d be in my top ten covers.

I watched this at the old Mayfair cinema in Whitefield – and I’ll even hazard a guess there was some impromptu snogging on the back row.

2. The Outsiders. This movie is a who’s who of Brat Pack acting. Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon. I know all of this inside out as well. I always cry when Johnny Cade dies and I always cry when Matt Dillon goes loco.  I even read Gone with the Wind and Robert Frost after this. That’s what this movie did. It introduced me to the delights of Vivien Leigh. I think all teenagers should watch it. It’s a great movie, even if it is old. My favourite moment as a teacher (and there are many) was when I overheard two little lovely but semi-literate hooligans whispering ‘if you were in this book, would you be a Greaser or a Soc?’ to each other. They both agreed they’d be Greasers. That’s why I loved those boys. That and the bit when I was reading and I started getting a wobbly voice, one of them said, in a very manly voice: ‘would you like me to take over the reading, Miss?’

Boys, even Greasers, are lovely, mostly.

3. Grease

It’s funny that so much stuff from the early eighties is a throwback to the late 50s and early 60s. And Grease is one of those things. When I was 8, I was in Mr Parkes’ class. He read us ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ and let us put our heads on the desk to listen to him. He had two pictures, one of John Travolta and one of Olivia Newton-John. He was cool and therefore those images were cool too. And there’s just no way that Grease is ever uncool. John Travolta might be old and fat now, but he was utterly adorable as Danny. There’s never been a Danny like him. It’s another movie where I know most of the words, all of the songs, and it’s great that Jake can play it on the bass guitar. I think he loves Grease too. And Danny when he’s doing Greased Lightning. Oh. I would. I so would.

And from Frenchie to Marty Maraschino (what a great name!) to Jan and Rizzo, those Pink Ladies were the business. They were so cool, in fact, that we all dressed up as the Pink Ladies for my sister’s hen do.

4. Silence of the Lambs. Has ever a film been so mis-quoted, or so quoted? Can anybody eat fava beans? Can anyone drink a chianti without making some joke about it? Still, it’s genius. Jodie Foster is great and Anthony Hopkins, the crazy gentlemanly psychopath serial killer. Why not? I just wish they hadn’t messed with the ending of Hannibal. Is it really so unbelievable that Clarice would be attracted to Hannibal? And these two just get in the way of the rest of the plot. I only have say ‘roomy!’ now, or ‘it puts the lotion in the basket or else it gets the hose again’… it’s quintessential craziness. And as part of my gothic literature course in 1992, I got to study this marvellous book alongside Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory. Now that’s a genius bit of craziness too.

5. Strange Brew. You’re either in this cult classic fan club or else you’ve never seen it. It’s pure genius. I love it because it’s a pastiche of Hamlet and they’re two odd Rosencrantzes and Guildernsterns. I love it because of the jokes. I love it for the steam roller moment and I love it for the Omega Man beginning. I love it for the line ‘you can’t split pleas… two bowls of split pleas to go…’ and Doug when he’s talking about going to prison. Bob asks him where he’ll be… ‘In the cafeteria, selling smokes’. And the line ‘if I didn’t have puke breath, I’d kiss you.’

In fact, there are too many very, very funny lines in this. I love it because the coolest people in the world know about this film and it’s so unknown. It’s probably got all the jokes in that Bill and Ted stole. And then it still had a few for Wayne’s World. If there are two goofy men, it’s probably just a pastiche of this film. Plus, I have a small crush on the Mackenzie brothers. There. I’ve said it.

6. Rebel without a Cause.

I don’t know whether it was the poster company Athena that made me love James Dean with my whole heart, or whether it was Affleck’s Palace in Manchester, but I loved him. Again, I think it was an 80s revival kind of a thing. Sal Mineo was adorable. I wore odd socks in homage to him for weeks. But it was James who won my heart. I’ve got about 10 or so biographies about him. Yes, I was that little teenage girl who loved a boy who’d gone off the rails. Story of my life.

7. The Breakfast Club. I think it’s one of those questions all girls should have to answer… were you a Molly Ringwald or an Ally Sheedy? Miss Popular or Miss Weird? I was of the Ally Sheedy variety – down to the dark hair, the long fringe and the black clothes. And the boys all split up pretty well, too. Were you a jock, an outsider or a nerd? This is teen angst at its best and its worst. Unlike the film, though, we knew that even a detention couldn’t break the social barriers between the jocks and the nerds, the Miss Populars and the Miss Individuals. I don’t think I ever fell out of love with Molly Ringwald’s boots in this film. Most teenagers don’t feel very good about themselves, and this film isn’t your typical teenage despair film. They all leave that room happy, having got one up on the teacher, and even though you know, come Monday, that things will be back to normal, it’s still nice for a little while.

8. Pretty in Pink.  You know, I know and she knows that she should have gone for Duckie. Biggest love-gone-wrong story ever. I’ve never been an Andrew McCarthy fan. He’s too drippy, ordinary and fey for my liking. Duckie, though. Oh. How I love strange boys in tight trousers. I like that Pretty in Pink was called Rose Bonbon in French. I also loved Iona’s record shop, Trax, which is an epic kind of record shop. I’d have loved to have worked there. I don’t think I consciously modelled myself on Iona, but I feel more and more like her as I grow older. I’ve got three John Hughes movies on this list, and it’s no surprise. I don’t think a director/producer had such a track record with teen movies as he did – genius.

9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… because what girl didn’t want a boyfriend like Ferris? Sometimes, I deliberately channel the economics teacher who always asks his unresponsive class ‘Anyone? Anyone?’ before answering the question himself. Plus, Ferris is fun. And cute. I’d have liked to have had a boyfriend like Ferris.

10. 10 things I Hate About You. Favourite Shakespeare Play + Julia Stiles + Heath Ledger + I want you to want me. Genius.

Now, don’t beat me for the fact these are all American. I could have added Maurice and I cried buckets and buckets when I watched this at the Cornerhouse as a little 14 year old. Love’s still love, no matter who the lovers are. I thought it was one of the saddest stories I’d ever read, and then ever seen. Mostly, English film seemed to be in the Merchant&Ivory camp or like Kes. I’d also make no excuses for having Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on there – as that’s as much a part of my growing up as The Lost Boys. Grosse Pointe Blank would be on there too, no doubt. This is definitely not a list of great films, just a list of films I’ve seen many, many times – mainly because I was too young to know better! Then there are films like Thelma and Louise which I’ve also watched lots of times, too. Far too may to pick just ten! And then Pump Up The Volume. 

Top Ten Handsome Men

Now here’s a list that takes me right back to my teen years. I should mention I kept very detailed lists of who I liked. It changed quite regularly and I had the most huge crush on Axl Rose from Guns N Roses. It was the snake hips. As soon as he got a moustache and looked red-necky, I went off him. Skinny men with big hair and make-up. That’s where I was as a teenager. It’s no wonder I’m confused.

Anyway, I’m probably not going to atone for my previous sins with this post. And no doubt, if you asked me next week, I’d find a completely different set of men handsome. I like how my tastes have changed as I’ve grown up. That’s good. You can’t keep liking skinny men with big hair and make-up unless you want to fancy Russell Brand. And I just don’t, funny as he is. Noel Fielding. Now there’s a fanciable man.

I digress.

1. Always number 1 in my heart is Sean Bean. I can forgive him his terrible accents (I’d have had to have switched the sound off on Missing if he hadn’t died in the first two minutes… Sean does not do accents. Cf Patriot Games if you don’t believe me. p.s. I was alarmed to find that when I did a little search for Sean Bean the first ‘complete’ Google phrase was ‘Sean Bean Death’ – which alarmed me a great deal, so I clicked on it and it took me to a youtube clip where he dies 21 times. He’s good at dying, obviously. Not so good at accents, but hey ho. I saw him as Macbeth in Ed Hall’s version – wow. Handsome, manly, rugged, well-cut, Northern accent, near enough to touch (I was on the third row) and wearing naught but black leather pants. If a man can carry off leather pants, that man is Sean.

2. Keanu Reeves. Just because. No, he can’t act. No, he can’t do accents either. But he is pretty. And Keanu as Johnny Utah in Point Break. Wow. Like I listened to a word he was saying. He’s not very good at growing beards or moustaches, though. He needs to stop that.

3. Jim Caviezel. Never did a man look so uncomfortable smiling. If Jesus looked like Jim Caviezel, I’d be surprised that all the disciples weren’t women or men who appreciate a razor-sharp cheekbone.

4. John Cusack. Quirky, handsome, funny, sharp. Yes. What’s not to like, there?

5. Christian Bale. I had a three-letter discussion with my teenage penpal Paul about Christian Bale, who had pipped Paul at the post for the role in Empire of the Sun. We were both of the opinion he was a boy who would go far and Paul was a little too old for the part. Plus, he was doomed to have a life in the theatre and to do endless tours. I realised this is quite a fun life when I accidentally propositioned comic actor Tony Bell who’d been playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by telling him he had a marvellous appendage. He gave me his phone number and Yasmin and I ended up partying the night away in the Press Club with the cast of A Winter’s Tale a couple of season’s later. That was when I was La Lee, living a life that seems so far away from mine now – where you just might blag your way into a club with a group of theatre actors for a dance. I was wearing a Jackie-Kennedyesque orange suit that one of my students said made me look like a giant smartie. It’s no wonder I could disco til three in the morning and then turn up at work four hours later – sober as a judge and wondering if I’d really just spent the night with the cast of my favourite repertoire company. Anyway, I digress. Christian Bale. A very handsome man.

6. Matthew McConaughey. If solely for the fact he was in How to Lose a Guy in 10 days which was brilliant – and not a film I thought I’d enjoy, but loved anyway. I watched it four times on my way back from Brazil. It was either that or watch Colin Farrell shouting in a phone-box.

7. Matt Dillon. Ever since he was Dallas Winston, I’ve loved him. I loved him with long hair in Over the Edge. I even loved him with big teeth in There’s Something About Mary. 

8. Robert Downey Jr. Even though he’s crazy and often a naughty boy, he’s still lovely.

9. Ben Cohen. Because rugby men are often very, very handsome.

10. Mark Cueto – because, like I said, rugby men are very, very handsome, especially if they’re backs and wingers.

I make no apologies for this being a girlie blog post. I am a girl. But if you’re a girl and you are in need of a little something easy on the eye, maybe these handsome men will give your day a lift!


Top Ten Tuesday

My top ten cities, accompanied by the very fine Midge Ure and Ultravox, with Vienna. 

Vienna isn’t on my top ten cities, because I’ve never been. Maybe it would be, if I had.

1. Manchester. I’d be remiss if I did not have Manchester as my number 1 top city. We rule at sport, music, socialism and all sorts of other things. We do science AND industry. We do factories, we do warehouses, we do trains. We had the first proper canal, the first passenger railway and the longest passenger rail station. We welcomed settlers from the Flemish weavers right through to modern influxes of Irish, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Jewish, Polish and Ukrainian. We also created the Communist Manifesto to be written, and gave the world Dr Harold Shipman, the world’s most prolific serial killer in peacetime. We also had the biggest bomb released on mainland Great Britain in peacetime. God, I love Manchester.

2. London. I love London ALMOST as much as Manchester, although all they gave us were fighting bankers and a place for politicians and royals to hang out. I love Camden, I love Green Park, I love Piccadilly. I love South Kensington, I love the Thames, I love the Victoria Embankment. I loved those days when I worked in London and had meetings in the poetry society café and on Whitehall and the Strand or on Piccadilly. I love everything that London is.

3. Paris. Because it’d be rude not to. Because of the Sacre Coeur, because of Montmartre, because of Notre Dame and Ile St Louis. Because of bateau mouches and perky madeleines, because of macarons and grand cremes, because of the shopes and even because of the French people who look at every single tourist who tries to speak French as if they are speaking Farsi or Swahili.

4. Kyoto because it reminds me a little of Manchester, as it rains a lot. It’s surrounded by hills. I love the mix of ancient and uber-modern, of temples and Kyoto train stations. I love how there are coffee machines everywhere, and I love the little co-op corner shops who sell green tea Kit Kats and Pocky. I love how polite Japanese people are, and I love Mr Donut. I love tea ceremonies and I love sushi. I love eating udon noodles and soup at a little noodle bar. I love underheated floors and futuristic toilets with privacy buttons. I love the umbrellas and the handkerchiefs and the children in yellow hats and sailor shirts.

5. I love Fes. It’s everything I wanted Marrakech to be, but that was just too touristy, too slick and a little too jaded. Fes is fun and still feels foreign to anyone who’s not from there. There are souks galore – the whole city is a souk. It’s not filled with high-end restaurants and shops like Marrakech. Plus, this is the city where I saw a camouflage fleece jellabah. Every girl needs one of those.  It’s also home to the tanneries – a weird kind of  giant stinky paint box where all the leather is processed and dyed. Marrakech does not have one of these. Fes might not have a huge square like the Jamaa el Fna, but then they don’t have people trying to get money off you for taking a picture of a snake charmer, either. Something about Fes feels much more real. Plus, I like that the only things that can get down most of the streets are donkeys. That must make Fes, despite the tanneries and the huge population, very green indeed.

6. Havana. The socialists’ dream. No shops, nowhere to buy Adidas trainers. A wonderful harbour that has amazingly clean waters (that’s what having an embargo on cargo from the US does to you…). Yes, the buildings are in a state of ruin, but that didn’t happen in the post-Batista years – no matter what you think of Cuba or Castro, Havana – right now Havana – with its melange of donkeys, horses, bicycles, buses, ancient ladas and huge American classics – is utterly amazing. There’s a magic to a city that switches all its lights out at night – even if it is to save on electricity. The Capitolio, ice cream stands, pizza served from windows – all part of the charm.

7. Brasilia. Not the popular choice, I guess. But any city that looks ENTIRELY like something from the 50s vision of the future is cool by me. It’s the ultimate film set. I’m surprised it’s not used more as a backdrop to almost every modelling shoot there is. It’s way cool. It’s neat and it’s Brazilian at the same time. For a city so far from the sea, it also seems very blue – I don’t know why. Maybe they use a lot of blue glass. No government in the world has a parliament building as cool as the Brazilian one. No-one. Compare the houses of Westminster with those two saucer things and you’ll know what I mean.

8. Tokyo. Because of Omotosando shopping, the Meiji Shrine, Asakusa, the Asahi golden turd building, 60 storey department buildings, the Imperial Gardens, Harajuku, Shinjuki, Shibuya. It’s too cool for school. Yes, you feel that you’re in a world with 29,000,000 other people. You are. You can’t really find any space and if you’re a claustrophobic person, that might freak you out. Even if you go to Fuji, you’ll find that the other 28,999,999 people in Tokyo have decided to do the same, but it’s still cool.

9. Galway. Because it’s everything Dublin and Cork should have been. It manages to be touristy but it still feels like you’d want it to feel. You can still sit in little bars with a pint of Guinness and listen to people who sound like they should rule the musical world. It might have rained the whole time we were there, but, like Manchester and Kyoto, it’d feel kind of weird if it hadn’t.

10. Essaouira – this is just about THE coolest seaside city. It kind of looks a bit like St Malo in Brittany. It’s one of the last ‘safe’ stops before you get down to Western Sahara. People speak Spanish, French, Arabic, berber languages, English. There’s a great beach. There are little souks. There’s a fabulous marquetry bit and shops in the old fortress walls.

Top Ten Tuesday

I was going to follow a theme, like the first top tens should be a ten top tens about music, but I’m really not that organised.

Since I’ve been immersed in liberated books, I thought I’d do my all time top ten books.

1. The Great Gatsby. No comparison. No argument. No contest. It just is. It’s one of the reasons I don’t think they could ever do a good film of it because it’s such a great, great book. It’s such a sad, sad story – the pointlessness of love, of never being able to go back and reclaim what you once had, how love blinds us, how love improves us. Love is sad. That’s all this book says. The Redford film version is not for me, but I love Baz Luhrman and I long to see what he’ll do with it. Leo di Caprio is a little portly for me but I loved him in Romeo+Juliet and he was floppy-haired and beautiful, so maybe it will work. No matter how corrupt you might be, you can still have a pure and un-corrupted love, even just for a moment, but you can’t cling to that love. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And mostly, the other person in that love affair won’t see it the same way you do. Too sad.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird. I know both of these are fixed in a period of time and in a space in the world, and I think that’s why I like them. I love how dignified Tom is, and I feel for the Ewells in a way. It’s inspired and it always makes me cry, just like The Great Gatsby does. The Gregory Peck version is great, but I can’t listen to anyone saying ‘Atticus’ in a southern drawl any more. I like that Nelle Harper and I share a surname too. That’s just the icing on the cake. It’s the first of my favourites told through the eyes of a child. I obviously like the ‘writing as a child’ genre.

3. The Shadow of the Wind. A story about a library in Barcelona, and a love story. What’s not to love?! I love the description of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and I’d kind of like to be the curator of such a place. Not unlike The Great Gatsby as it is a story of a sad love, but also a mystery. I love Carlos Ruiz Zafon and I’d go as far as to say he’s my favourite current writer.

4. Of Mice and Men. Yes, I could put many Steinbeck greats on here. I equally love East of Eden and Cannery Row and Tortilla Flats – the quaint American picaresque of the Depression – but when you’ve taught Of Mice and Men over twenty times and it never, ever loses its wonder, then that’s a great book. I like things that are allusions to other great stories – and I like how this book works as a giant hyperlink to loads of other texts, not least the Bible. Also, noticing a pattern about how life doesn’t work out the way you expect it to… about how life isn’t fair. Read every major book he’s ever written and I love them all, even though he’s quite a lazy writer – he likes to re-use the same images and ideas. I wonder if he thinks his reader stupid and feels the need to reiterate his point over and over and over.

5. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. I love South American fiction – so many, many great writers and I love the kind of surreal, dreamy magic to them, so this would definitely be right up there. Plus, Eliza, the main character, is the type of woman I’d like to be. She’s amazing, a little crazy, independent and super-adaptable. And not only that, the first book on my list that’s a little more upbeat.

6. Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s all of this stuff that got me thinking about South America a long, long time ago. I don’t know what it is about these stories – they’re just so free.

7. A Suitable Boy. Stephen King once said reading a novel can be like a long love affair – and this one really, really was. It made me weep buckets at the end. Like a love affair, it didn’t end the way I wanted it to. That’s all I’ll say about it. I lived this book for about a month. Most things don’t take me a long time to read, but this one did and it was part of me for what seemed to be a very long time.

8. The Dharma Bums. Again, another of those books that are just so free and so fun, a little crazy and also completely unique and unforgettable. I have a huge crush on Japhy Ryder, the little zen poet who sends the author off into another realm. I’ve been lucky to know a few people like Japhy Ryder – freespirited individuals who are not constrained by society in the same way as most.

9. The Kite Runner – such an amazing story and so beautifully written. Friendship and guilt. I obviously like stories that make me cry!

10. The Magic Toyshop  – I had to put at least one Angela Carter on. She’s probably my favourite writer of all. I wallow in her words – it’s like taking a bath in Belgian chocolate, sumptuous and rich and glorious – but not every day reading. I love her short stories the most, since I like anything that takes something expected and makes it unexpected – twists on originals, if you like (this is why I like John Scieszka’s children’s books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) and spent a lot of time teaching creative writing classes where I take a classic story and twist it. But of her full-length novels, this is probably my favourite. It’s both sad and happy and weird and definitely Carter, through and through. Love comes in many forms.