Monday, 30 November 2009

Nicolas Cage - a gentleman and an honorary Bathonian

We, here at the Bath Chronicle, are doing an eight page picture supplement to mark the remarkable night last Thursday when Nicolas Cage switched on the Bath city lights. Here is the introductory piece I have done for it which sums up my feelings of a pretty extraordinary occasion. The picture above shows me and our managing director Sarah Irvine witht eh Hollywood A Lister (and yes, he is the one in the middle...)

Thursday, November 26, is a night that the city of Bath will simply never forget.

When it was first announced that Nicolas Cage was to turn on the city’s lights, I’m sure there were many who thought it was a ‘wind up’ or something that would actually never happen in reality.

But there we were, in our thousands last week, to see the reality come true as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood kicked off Bath’s Christmas celebrations in style.

It wasn’t just the fact that Nicolas Cage switched on the lights that made it so magical, it was the way he treated his adopted home town – and the way it treated him back. Even though there were upwards of 10,000 people struggling to get a view of the proceedings, the atmosphere, humour and spirit amongst this huge crowd was simply fantastic. Even the rain, which had been Bath’s constant companion last week, had a night off because nothing was going to ruin the night Hollywood came to our city.

As for Nicolas Cage, there are many things we could say to compliment him but what struck me most was that he came over as a real gentleman. He didn’t rush through proceedings as if he had something more important to do, he made time to talk to people and sign autographs. And when he spoke it was with a sincerity that belied the traditional view of his profession.

He was, in truth, an even better man than we had dared imagined and he made the night a special one for everyone that came into direct or indirect contact with him.

As far as the city goes, it was also a gift in publicity terms. The incredulity about the fact that the city had secured Nicolas Cage to turn on its lights was spread throughout the national and indeed international media but just as importantly was the fact that many of the media outlets picked up on what the star actually said.

The phrase that most hit me was when Mr Cage described Bath as “the most beautiful city in the world”. This is a man, remember, who has filmed and lived in some spectacular cities across the globe and yet none of them compares to the city of Bath in his eyes. This is a quote which must be used in every bit of literature that Bath tourism chiefs send out in future because the value of this cannot be understated.

We hope that Nicolas Cage realises that his simple actions last week have made him many, many friends in our community. He truly has now become an honorary Bathonian.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Nicolas Cage, Alcatraz and hard-to-please Bathonians!

I have come to the (somewhat belated) conclusion that it takes an awful lot to impress some people in the fine city of Bath.

Maybe it’s because Bath has always punched above its weight and attracted major events and famous people but it seems some Bathonians refuse to get excited about anything.
Take the event taking place in Bath tonight (Thursday, November 26) . For here in Bath we have Hollywood A-Lister Nicolas Cage switching on our city-centre Christmas lights. This is a role normally (and very adequately) performed by the mayor or another worthy citizen in most cities of Bath's size. But Bath (being Bath) doesn't think of itself as a small city so they wanted something different this year.

So the ad director at the Bath Chronicle newspaper (Paul Wiltshire) and a few others on the Bath Christmas marketing team drew up a ‘hit list’ of possible canddiates to do the honours with the emphasis on who could bring the most people onto the streets to kick off the Christmas celebrations.
Top of the list was a recent Bath resident Nicolas Cage but I bet next to his name there was brackets around the phrase “nice idea but no chance”.

Well, it seems there was every chance.

One of our enterprising young ladies here at the Chronicle, Emma Samways, did the really radical thing of asking simply asking Mr Cage via a polite letter if he would mind switching on the lights. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The news that a genuine Hollywood superstar would, quite literally, be lighting up the city, has caused a mixture of shock and awe in many circles. In our office alone a kind of minor hysteria has set in!

I sometimes think, however, you have to go out of Bath to get a perspective on things because when I’ve mentioned this news to people who live beyond our borders, they have said ‘how on earth did you pull that one off’?

In Bath, however, not everyone is so convinced.

We ran a letter a couple of weeks ago from someone asking us to stop putting Mr Cage in the paper, and there’s been a number of similarly ‘sniffy’ remarks on our website ( too.
Some aren’t impressed with Mr Cage, others are worried about not being able to park and many are just a few words away from saying ‘bah humbug’.
So, in the interest of balance, can I just say publicly that the visit of Nicolas Cage is a GREAT thing for our city. As I say, if our office is anything to go by it has caused a wave of excitement among those who live and work in our community and all the shops and market stalls must be rubbing their hands with glee at the thousands of potential new customers who will hit the streets tonight and see what Bath has to offer.

Talking of shops brings me to another example of some Bath people finding it hard to appreciate what’s around them.

Bath has just opened a pretty stylish new shopping centre called SouthGate. I am more than happy to say that I really like the centre. I think it is an elegantly put together building which blends into Bath very well . And it is a million times better than the 60s monstrosity it has replaced.
But, again, not everyone is convinced.

This week, someone on a website has (wittily I think) compared it to Alcatraz, and although this did make me smile which is why I’ve reprinted the image here (SouthGate is below by the way!!!), we’ve already seen evidence in our letters pages and online that a lot of people just aren’t as convinced by the new centre as we are

Some people, for example, have criticised it for being ‘faux Georgian’ but sadly that’s the best we can do as we’re a couple of hundred years late to do the real thing! But equally, had it been more modern (and further away from Bath's Georgain roots) , I suspect the critics would have been lining up at the postboxes to write letters about how this betrayed the city’s heritage.

You just can’t win!

Ah well, maybe such debate is why we all love the city so much.
Right, better go, rumour has it there’s a Hollywood superstar in town...

Friday, 20 November 2009

2D or 3D, The Queen's dimensions do impress

There have been two revealing and thought-provoking images of Her Majesty, The Queen, on our TV screens this week.
The first was the remarkable footage shown on Channel 4 of The Queen’s coronation and her first few months as monarch – all shot in the gloriously intoxicating aspect of 3D.

As you will see from the crop of movies out this year, 3D is definitely ‘in vogue’ and Channel 4’s week-long celebration of the art of that extra dimension has been boosted by the amazing footage it discovered of The Queen showing her, literally, having new depths.

Fast-forward 60 years and on Wednesday we saw her resplendent in robes and crown opening Parliament. This was all in 2D (sadly) but those pictures will fly around the world as an example of the peculiar but rather splendid nature of our Parliamentary traditions.

These two bits of film left me pondering again about The Queen.

For, whether you are a staunch Republican or an avid monarchist, you can’t deny she has been one of the few ‘constants’ in British life since that ‘3D’ coronation in 1953. Politicians (and political parties) have come and gone as have members of the ‘new Royalty’ (celebrities) but The Queen has remained as a seemingly unshakeable rock in the midst of it all.

She has (amazingly) gone more than 60 years without ever really putting her foot in it, too – something none of us could ever say. Or indeed, let's be honest, any of her family.

It is a pretty impressive record.

I guess , like most people, my opinion on the monarchy has shifted over time. As a young, punky rebel I was very much an anti-monarchist. My preferred version of God Save The Queen was The Sex Pistols’ one rather than the national anthem and for years I argued that in this day and age the monarchy was an anachronism. And an expensive one to boot.

But over the years, as I have seen so much turmoil in the political arena, the solidity of the monarchy has increased its appeal to me. Without a King or Queen as head of state we would have had, instead, either a Prime Minister/President rolled into one or a separate, elected President alongside a PM. E

ither way I am pretty certain that due to their immense popularity at times that would have meant both a President Thatcher and a President Blair at one point. Both presidencies would have been very popular with their supporters – but would have incensed their opponents both here and abroad. And if you look at the nobody who has just become President of Europe that hardly inspires the Republican cause either. I doubt too many people will be buying tea towels with his face on it ....

The monarchy has also ‘got to me’ as I have travelled more and seen what they mean beyond our shores. The Queen (sorry about this Madonna, Angelina or even Jordan!) is the most famous woman in the world and when people see her they automatically associate her with these shores. It is a positive image - something our politicians and political instituitions rarely give.

I also recall watching a documentary which showed President George W Bush (another great advert for a President don't you think?) nervously waiting to meet The Queen at the White House. The US President is the most powerful figure on the planet (sadly) and yet W. knew where he ‘stood’ alongside Her Maj. After all where he is now – while she is opening Parliament?

I have also seen the effects of the monarchy at close range – the lift they give people they meet, the excitement their visits generate, the money their presence brings to projects – and let’s be honest no British politician has the ‘star quality’ to generate that unified enthusiasm.

So yes, whether it is 2D or 3D I now admit that The Queen and the institution she represents ‘works’ for me. I know my younger self is shouting ‘shame’ but I can only shout back – ‘come on Sam, it’s got to be better than a President John Major or a President Michael Foot surely?’

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Dubai - an amazing city with unlimited potential

Last week I had the chance to go on a special 'whsitle-stop tour' of the amazing city of Dubai. To be honest this isn't my normal kind of place - too hot? too flash? - but I was genuinely seduced by it all. Here is my lengthy overview of a remarkable place which is featured in a full page of the Bath Chronicle on November 19. Grab a coffee and read on . . . .

Some of the most popular computer games on the market at the moment are ones that give you the chance to design your own city out of thin air.

You are given the resources, the tools and the manpower to create your dream civilisation and the only thing limiting your ambition is your imagination.

At some point (particularly when things are going well), I’m sure most of the players secretly ponder: “if only this was real, if only you could really create a city out of nothing”. Well, ladies and gentlemen, stop pondering. It has already been done for you – welcome to Dubai.

Dubai didn’t even get electricity until the 1950s and it was one of those places where if you looked in any direction you would see the same thing – sand and the odd bit of Arabian water. Now, however, Dubai is one of the most exciting and rapidly-developing cities on earth. It has turned into an irresistible tourist magnet by wholeheartedly adopting the vision of becoming the most modern, innovative, stylish and forward-thinking resort on the planet.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Dubai courtesy of Virgin Atlantic and the Hilton hotel chain and I left – as I guess most people do – totally staggered by what I’d seen. I felt as though I was a witness to a unique and unprecedented experiment – one where money was no object and the desire to be the biggest, brightest and most dramatic tourist hot-spot was the sole driving force.
But, first things first.

Dubai is not cheap (but equally it’s not as expensive as you would think) and Dubai is hot – and I mean ‘microwave hot’.

I was there in the first week of November as we entered the ‘winter months’ and the temperature hit 33 degrees. A couple of months earlier – during our summer holidays over here – you could expect that figure to reach 45 degrees, a figure guaranteed to turn even the hardiest of Brits’ skin a deep shade of black. Be warned.

Those extreme months apart, however, this is a genuine beach resort and those beaches are beautiful, white and sandy and lapped by the gorgeous Arabian sea. So, if you want a luxurious beach holiday you will struggle to find a better one – but you would be wrong to go to Dubai just for that – it has so much more to offer.

As Dubai is a newcomer to the world of tourism, it hasn’t fallen into the trap of saying ‘here’s a beach, here’s a towel, that’s your holiday’. It has, for example, taken into account that one of the other great modern joys (for some people!) is high-class shopping and so in a population of a relatively modest one million people, there is currently 14m square feet of shopping space – and that figure could double in the next 10 years.

We visited just three of the 40 plus shopping ‘malls’ and I was left dumbstruck at the sheer scale.One of them, The Dubai Mall, covered nearly six million square feet and featured 1,200 shops. Every top class name you could imagine was there – it even boasted a Bloomingdale’s.

And, although this is a serious mall for serious shoppers, it is not without its fun side either because you could buy sweets from the world’s biggest sweet shop or visit a splendid cinema, an ice rink or dive in a remarkable indoor aquarium.

I took the latter option and stared into the white, naked teeth of the sharks encircling me – a feeling I’m sure many of the shoppers felt elsewhere.
But Dubai being Dubai, it doesn’t end there.
Inside one of these malls (The Mall of the Emirates) you can have the surreal experience of being baking hot on one side of a piece of glass and watching skiers on the other as a breath-taking indoor snow centre has been set up. So you can go down the slopes at Ski Dubai as the same high speed as your bank balance . . .
When you’ve finished all that sunbathing, shopping and skiing, then it’s time to head back to your hotel – and here again Dubai sets a very high standard indeed. Many people will, I’m sure, have seen pictures of the Burj (the world’s first seven star hotel) and there are other astonishing hotels like The Atlantis to admire but from what I saw, you would be hard-pressed to find any hotel that didn’t impress you with its quality, cleanliness and high level of service.

As an example, we stayed in two excellent and very different hotels – both of which were part of the Hilton chain.

The Hilton Dubai Creek (its sperctacular toof top pool is pictured above) is more of a top class business hotel than a typically ‘touristy’ one and it boasted the sort of bathroom that will make every guest feel like a member of the royal family. It also had the considerable attraction of a Verre by Gordon Ramsey restaurant where we were treated to a meal cooked by its charming head chef (who has somehow managed to keep his head and his humour despite working 10 years for Gordon!) which was superb.

Like everything we encountered in Dubai, you got the impression that first class was the ONLY class and that actually feels quite unusual in this day and age. Unusual – but rather nice.

Our second hotel stay was in a more traditional beach hotel – the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah. Once again the rooms, the food, the service and the general ambience made you feel very special and in terms of my culinary highlight this time, I enjoyed an unforgettable meal in the hotel’s South American restaurant called Pachanga. Here we ate a dish called Churrasco which gave you the chance to slice your own beautifully cooked meat off various spits and eat your meat with gay abandon. It all made me feel a bit Henry VIIIish.

Elsewhere on our five day trip we had a revealing tour of the city (which really reinforces the excitingly experimental nature of what they’re trying to do there), a lovely meal on the the delightful Bateaux Dubai dinner cruise and also a chance to visit the (thankfully authentic) gold and spice souks which gave you a glimpse into the true nature of these lands.

This was a far cry from the more westernised malls and beach hotels and there were real bargains and haggling to be had here – particularly in terms of gold. I would urge everyone who goes to Dubai for the more glamorous, cosmopolitan attractions to at least taste this other aspect of life in the United Arab Emirates because it is a fascinating (and friendly) cultural experience.

Our trip, expertly organised by the Virgin Atlantic team, was relatively brief – and as you can see from the fact boxes below, a lot of trips to Dubai are marketed that way. In some ways three-five nights just isn’t enough because I’m pretty certain that no matter how long you are able to spend there, you simply could never be bored.

The reason for this is that Dubai has had the luxury as a tourist latecomer of viewing all the rest of the world – and then taking the best of the best of ideas. As well as those gorgeous beaches, incredible shops and impeccable hotels, there are festivals galore, a brilliant water park, top class sporting events (the nearby Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a massive success and don’t be surprised if the Emirates go for a unique indoor Olympics in 20 years or so!) and you get the distinct impression that there are people in that city who, as we speak, are already planning the next jaw dropping attraction to tempt yet more of us ‘punters’.

Of course this may all sound too new and too flash for you and, let’s be honest, Dubai won’t be to everyone’s taste. But what impressed me is that the city has (remarkably perhaps), avoided allowing the extreme wealth behind their vision to turn the whole experience into a giant tacky Las Vegas style chocolate box.
Yes there are very tall, sky-dominating buildings (including the world’s tallest structure which is genuinely breathtaking) and yes there is a fair share of neon lighting as well but there’s still a subtlety and sophistication about virtually everything you experience which shows that Dubai wants to be the biggest and the best – but wants to remain a class act while doing it.

I personally think this is the kind of resort that has got something for everyone and also has an added ‘something’ which unfortunately many more modern resorts lack – and that is seemingly unlimited potential. Dubai has set itself a goal to attract 15 million visitors a year by 2015 and it aims to do so by improving its offering at every turn.

There is the vision to achieve it, the imagination to push boundaries, enthusiasm aplenty and, most of all, money to make it happen – bucket loads of it.In your dreams (or on your computer screens) you have probably already created Dubai.

Now go and see it for yourself.

Facts and figures..... We flew with Virgin Atlantic and stayed at the Hilton Dubai Creek and the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah.Five nights in Dubai with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow direct to Dubai, accommodation at the 5V Hilton Dubai Creek with breakfast and transfers starts from £620, saving up to £93. Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room. Price includes all taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. These prices are based on departures between May 8 to 18 2010.Five nights with Virgin Holidays staying at the 5V Hilton Dubai Jumeirah with breakfast and transfers starts from £712 saving up to £56. Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are also based on departures between May 8 to 18 2010.Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. For more details on these breaks contact, call 0844 557 3860 or, even better, visit the new Bath Virgin Holidays store on the first floor of the Jollys House of Fraser store in Milsom Street.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Bath Film Festival's Soulfull kick off

I had the pleasure of going to the launch of the Bath Film Festival on Thursday night - and what a 'soulful' and inspiriing night it was too.

The Festival chose Komedia to be the host for its launch which I thought this was a very good, non-traditional venue for a film fest.

And in a venue where laughs and good times are the order of the day it seemed apt that the film that kicked it all off was Soul Power, a movie about a three day music concert held to coincide with the classic 1974 heavyweight title fight in Zaire between Ali and Foreman.

The film footage, which has only just resurfaced and has now been beautifully packaged, followed the somewhat shambolic opening preparations for this gig to its triumphant conclusion where the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, dominated the show. The footage of this remarkable man was enough to make the film itself but you had plenty of other great performances to admire from African and African-American artists - I loved Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, BB King and Bill Withers in particular . All performed so well you almost forgot how bad their flares were.

The real star however was the main man himself - Muhammad Ali. If there is a more watchable man on screen I have yet to see it, because you literally can't take your eyes off him or turn off your ears to what he says. The trip to Africa clearly had a profound impact on him and he used every opportunity to talk about the relationship between black and white people in a way that still strikes a powerful chord today, 35 years later. And it clearly inspired him in the ring as well - enough to help him win the big fight that followed....

But this is not a boxing film, it is a musical one and the music just burns brightly. The feet never stop tapping throughout and it was a genuine (and unexpected) pleasure to see a film end with enthusiastic applause from a live and lively audience.

So a great kick off for the Bath festival and look out for many fine films in the next few weeks from blockbuster names and much-anticipated premieres such as The Informant and A Prophet to weird little movies including a 'cricket slasher movie' (I kid you not) and old classics like The Belles of St Trinians.

More details on this great feast of film from

Get up, get on up!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Why I respect, admire and support our servicemen

The context for this piece is that in the Chronicle letters two weeks ago a writer, Tony Culver, said we should be ashamed of our British military history and he said our armed forces did not deserve our respect. He has since repeated that claim in a new letter this week - and this was the response I made in my column, printed on November 12.

Whenever I talk to local community groups it is usually only a matter of time before the Bath Chronicle’s famous (or should I say infamous)? letters pages are discussed.

I know that our pages are avidly read by people and the contents are widely discussed and debated.

This is because, by and large, we have an exceptional letters section which allows our readers to pontificate on all manner of hot topics which really gets their debating juices flowing.

I am just like everyone else in that a number of the letters that appear are ones I fully agree with and others are totally against my own personal view. And that is fine, because they are your letters pages – not mine.

However, occasionally, just occasionally, one letter gnaws away at me so I cannot ignore it. And that is what has happened this week with the second letter we print by Tony Culver who has attacked our armed forces and their long history.

It is his view, one he passionately believes, and he has every right to be heard (and printed). But so do we who fundamentally disagree.

I could talk at some length about many of the issues Mr Culver raises about war, peace and our armed forces generally but I just want to focus on one core subject, one which I think challenges everyone who believes in ‘peace at all cost’.

And that is the Second World War.

You could make a fairly powerful argument against nearly every war that has been fought but the Second World War was different – very, very different. When you are growing you play games with goodies and ‘baddies’, and this was a war when those terms genuinely (and uniquely?) apply.

Yes, there are many innocent German people who lost their lives in that conflict, but there is no denying that the Nazi regime that led them to war was pure evil. And pure evil can not – and must not – be ignored.

Mr Culver’s plea of peace is absolutely commendable – but it only works if both sides sign up. As we know Britain did everything it could to appease Hitler – and all he did was to sneer at our weakness.

Had we ignored his growing militarism to keep our own ‘purity of peace’ we would have seen Europe enslaved, Britain completely overrun (the Nazis would hardly have respected our ‘neutrality’) and we would probably have seen the total and utter destruction of the Jewish race on our continent.

I visited Auschwitz last year and saw for myself the appalling effect of Hitler’s insane beliefs and anyone that can possibly think he would have been stopped in his evil plans to create an Aryan master race by ‘peaceful methods’ is almost dangerously naive. Hitler had to be stopped – and the only way, sadly, he was going to be stopped was at the end of a gun.

In his latest letter, Mr Culver also said that the freedom we have now isn’t worth the price of the millions who died for it. He is wrong. Freedom, like democracy, is something that we in the west take for granted – ask the millions in the world who don’t have it how much they were prepared to sacrifice to gain it and you may not see such a flip attitude to freedom. And that has been earned mainly by our brilliant, committed and dedicated armed forces for whom we all owe our pride, respect and loyalty.

I will, as editor, continue to print Mr Culver’s words and those of people who support him but as an individual I feel nothing but incredible pride for the people who lost their lives in British uniforms so that I, and Mr Culver, can have the right to debate these issues.So, yes I will remember them all.

And with genuine pride.

Ex-Strangler Hugh Cornwell previews his Bath show

This is a piece I have done for the Bath Chronicle about Hugh Cornwell, the former lead singer of The Stranglers, and his appearance on November 18 at the city venue Moles. If you see this and can get to Bath next week there is a contest at the bottom of this to win tickets!!

Former Stranglers front man makes Moles debut

Hugh Cornwell, the locally-based former lead singer of The Stranglers, returns to Bath on Wednesday for a surprise second major show in the city this year.

The Box singer/songwriter, who played an extremely well-received concert at Komedia in March, will be making his first ever appearance at Moles as part of a warm-up for an important national tour, on Wednesday.

But, although it will be Hugh’s debut live show at Bath’s most famous venue, he is certainly no stranger to its underground delights.

“I’ve never played Moles before”, said Hugh. “I used to go there a lot in the past and thinking about it, I must have spent an awful lot of drinking money there.

“It was always a good place for seeing bands and I can remember seeing The Manic Street Preachers there before they broke. I also have some vague memory of The Stranglers doing some filming in Moles but I can’t remember what it was so perhaps that’s just one of those memories that doesn’t actually exist.”

The reason for Hugh’s quick return to Bath is for him to prepare for several high-profile national concerts which will sees him playing a set devoted to the classic 1977 Stranglers album Rattus Norvegicus and the other half to his solo album, Hoover Dam.

It’s the first time that Hugh will ever have done this ‘whole album concept’ and he says it just seemed a logical thing to do at this stage of his long and varied career.

“We have been touring extensively with Hoover Dam and it is an album the band and I really enjoy playing. The idea to do the whole of that record as well as the whole of Rattus came together when I realised how many of the songs from that first Stranglers album I already played and so it seemed like an interesting thing to run them all altogether and then do the same with the latest record. It will all make for a nice little show I think”

This means that fans of both Hugh’s past and current music should have a real treat. He will kick off with the whole of his latest album – which has been a huge success critically and has earned him an enormous amount of attention after being given away free to download – and after a break he will return to the stage and blast out all the songs of his first ever album with The Stranglers including such hits as Peaches and Grip as well as acknowledged Stranglers classics like Hanging Around and Down In The Sewer.

“There are only a couple of songs on Rattus that I haven’t done on my own before so I thought doing them would be fun. I don’t normally sing songs that other people in the band used to sing but it’s been good to revisit them and give them a new twist,” he said.

Before this mini-tour Hugh had been very active in America.

In Europe The Stranglers always had a big following and success, but in the United States it was something of a different story which is why Hugh is so determined to make his mark there this time around.

“Being a success in America is a real building process and you have to put the work in and leave a calling card everywhere you go. It’s something that we just never really did with The Stranglers. It takes time to make your mark over there and with The Stranglers we were never that bothered about doing that. We also left it far too long between each visit and I’m determined not to do that again. I’ve learned from my mistakes,” he said.

The fact that Hugh’s album can de downloaded free all around the world (visit will greatly help that process.
“A lot of people we played to seemed to know the Hoover Dam songs pretty well because of the whole free download situation. It meant that we could play just about anywhere and be sure of an audience because people could check out our album for free in the days running up to a show and then come along if they liked it.

“In the past it was only the bigger towns where we used to get an audience because our material wasn’t universally available – now you can play to as many people in a smaller town as in a bigger one. The internet knows no boundaries ands we have benefited from that.”

Before returning back to the States, Hugh is keenly-anticipating his concerts in the UK and it seems his work ethic and desire to play live has never been stronger. His reasons for that are quite clear: “I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been which certainly helps,” he said. “I also think as you get older you realise there’s only a short time left to be able to do what you do and you just want to be more active. If you sit around that time just goes. I don’t want to waste any time at all – and I think that’s part of the drive.”

As for Wednesday’s Bath show, Hugh says he’s really looking forward to returning to Moles.
“This concert has all fitted in perfectly and I’m really looking forward to it. Bath is just such a nice place and it has always been good to me,” he said.

Wednesday’s show starts at 7.30pm and any remaining tickets, costing £20, are available now from Moles and their usual outlets.

  • The Bath Chronicle has two tickets to give away for the gig. If you would like to win the pair then send an email to with the answer to the question: in what year did Hugh and his fellow Stranglers release Rattus Norvegicus? The concert promoters will contact the winners direct.

Monday, 9 November 2009

An 18-year-old daughter? Me? I am far too young/....

If you were to ask people around me to list my most irritating faults, I am pretty certain that one thing that would crop up frequently is that I am forever banging on about the fact that I don't think I look my age. No matter what my passport or driving licence tells me in my own warped mind, I am convionced the mirror tells a different story.

However, sometimes something creeps up and bites you on the big bottom of life that cruelly destroys your self-delusion about your age.

And that happened to me last weekend when my eldest 'child', my 'little' girl, Charlotte, was 18. Yes, I am now the the father of an 18-year-old and no pretence that I look young enough to host Blue Peter can escape that fact.

It really is a sobering moment to realise your child is no longer your 'child'. She can see the same films as I do (not that we have the same tastes), vote in the same elections (not that she has the interest that I do) and do practically anything she wants really without ever uttering the immortal words 'Dad, can I.....?'

Actually that isn't strictly true. As every parent of a teenager will know, you become a taxi driver – and so, last Saturday night, my role was to help ferry her and her friends off to Poo Nah's Nah's in Bath. Nightclubs hey...and all this from that sweet little well-mannered girl who only a few years ago (in my memory) was taking her first dancing lessons at the age of just three.


Nowadays, in the world of social networking sites it is so easy to track the length of people's lives and learn all about them easily but for me, and the rest of the family, our pondering over Charlotte's 'big 1-8' has still been centred around digging out old photographs of baby competitions, first days at school, first holidays and so forth. It has been, as our American cousins say, emotional.

Perhaps the best way of tracking that time, however, is to see how different the world was when Charlotte was born (in 1991) to today.

For a start, the aforementioned social networking sites obviously didn't exist. It is amazing, considering their influence, to learn that Facebook is only six years old (and in reality was nothing like we know it today until two or three years ago), Twitter is just three years old and even the supposed 'grand daddy' of them all, Youtube, is astonishingly just four years old. How many other four-year-olds can genuinely be considered a world phenomenon?

Oh and as for Wikipedia (nine years old), if I had wanted to give Charlotte that much info as a birth gift I would have had to pay £200 for a book of dusty old encyclopedias – which would have been outdated the moment after purchase.

Those 18 years have, of course, seen many epic, often frightening worldwide events but it is probably this dramatic age of communication change that has characterised this past generation.

Many of you, may, for example be reading this online on my blog (hi there!) rather than in print and with so many developments of this kind happening so quickly one can only imagine how different the communications scene will look when one day Charlotte talks about her 'eldest's' 18th.

By then the world may not, for instance, be 'run' by the US and Europe as we pretend it is now but by the 'BRIC' countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China, the next global powers apparently). And I defy anyone to predict what life will be like then because no one, but no one, could have predicted life now the day 'Lotte' took her first breath.

So, a belated very happy birthday 'young' Charlotte. No dad in the world could be prouder of this but please don't be offended if you overhear me say: 'An 18-year-old daughter? When I look this young? Impossible....'