Tag Archives: portsmouth

Farewell, Velcro City

boxesNo, no, I’m not closing down VCTB – sorry if I got your hopes up! Though given the quietude here of late, you’d be forgiven for thinking it of me…

What I am doing, however, is moving out of Portsmouth this coming Tuesday, shifting ~250 miles up the country to Stockport in order to set up housekeeping with my lovely lady.

That may go some way to explaining why things have been quiet this year on the VCTB front; every bit of spare time I’ve had has been invested in spending time with my better half, and when you live so far apart that can be quite demanding. It’s been a struggle keeping on top of my freelance work, to be honest, let alone chuntering sf-nal blather here on a regular basis. And so the time has come to transcend the geography and start a new life in a new town, to paraphrase David Jones. I’m really looking forward to it. 🙂

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with this town – a relationship that gave this blog its name, in fact. I arrived here in September of 1994, fifteen years ago, so I’ve now been here for near enough half my life, and it’s a huge part of my identity and outlook – not in the football-team sense, but in the sense of having spent the formative years of my adolescence and adulthood here, having been a part (no matter how peripheral) of its cultural pulse for a decade and a half. There’s times I loathe the place – and grey damp days like this one are the worst times for that, for sure – but to say I’ll miss it would be a massive understatement. So many people and places that I love dearly are here, and it’s tough to leave that behind.

But love makes the difficult into the trivial, and I’ve got an exciting new life waiting for me in the chilly hills of Cheshire. Stockport itself isn’t what you’d call a cultural hub, but it’s mere minutes from central Manchester on the train, where (so it seems) all the cornucopian cultural options of a sizeable city await my involvement. I’ll be looking to join a new band (one of the hardest parts of deciding to move was having to quit Aeroplane Attack, and I’ll never forget or recapture the fun of being in my first proper band with four awesome people), find some writing groups and hangouts, haunt concert venues and second-hand bookstores and libraries and museums and pubs… but more importantly, I’ll be living alongside the lady I love. And while I’d probably balked slightly had she asked me to move into an internet-less cave two hundred miles from the nearest bookstore, I’d still have gone. All the other stuff is just gravy.

But hey, it’s the season for gravy, AMIRITE? So maybe some of you lot who know Manchester can suggest good places to go, interesting people to meet, exciting stuff to do? Maybe you’d like to meet up if you’re in the same area, show me the sights, tell me the horror stories? Maybe you know of a science fiction fandom group or writer’s circle I might be able to join? If so, please drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you.

And for those who are wondering (and the few who have asked) about the fate of Velcro City Tourist Board, fear not – it’s not going away. Sure, I’ll not be based in Velcro City any more, but the place will always be a huge slice of my mental furniture… and who says the guy who runs the tourist board can’t telecommute, eh? Velcro City has always been the version of Portsmouth that lived in my head, and always will be; it will become no less real or detailed by me living somewhere else, and someday I may even finish the damned stories I keep thinking up for it. So, no promises about schedules, but look out here in the coming new year for me talking about stuff I like, books and albums I’ve received, stuff I’ve been to see, and stuff that’s amused/annoyed/amazed me on the intertubes… and maybe even some fiction and poetry. It’ll be just like old times. Except, y’know, new. 🙂

Friday Photo Blogging: Portsmouth as it once was

Here’s one for the history buffs! This is chart from the manuscript collections at the Royal Naval Museum where I work, that shows the layout of Portsmouth as it was in 1726:

Map Of Portsmouth 1726

As you can see, there was a lot less then than there is now. If my estimates are correct, the Hall Of Mirrors (my humble abode) would be somewhere in the midst of what is labelled as ‘The Great Morass’ (bottom left, almost out of shot – it’s a big chart). That could be taken as still being true in a metaphorical sense …

Full-time flashback

And speaking of morasses (is that a real plural?), my schedule has been a bit of a swamp this week; as I think I mention last week, I’m currently covering for the colleague with whom I job-share, which means I’m working full-time hours.

Having only been part-time for just under six months, I’m astonished at home quickly I’ve become accustomed to having more time on my hands … and how effectively I’ve managed to fill it all up with other work! Suffice to say that getting all my blogging, reviewing and interviews done this week has been a bit of a marathon effort, and I’m very thankful for the forthcoming bank holiday.

Scribblings delivered and pending

Over the last weekend, I wrote three articles – an introduction to Second Life (for D+PAD), a report on the SFF Masterclass I attended back in June (for Vector), and a piece on why anyone taking a potential career as a writer (or other sort of artist) needs to have their own website (for Focus). The Focus piece I consider to be an especially good result for me – as the “writers’ magazine” of the BSFA, that’s a fairly prestigious publication to be appearing in.

This week I’ve already knocked out three CD reviews (which I did last night, because the albums themselves took a while longer than they should have done to work their way through the postal service), and spent some time chatting on the phone to Tony Wright, who you may know as the frontman of semi-defunct Britrock heroes Terrorvision. He now has another band, Laika Dog, who have a new album in the pipeline … so I got to speak to him about the decay of the corporate music industry, and rock and roll as a vocation rather than a career. Lovely chap, great interviewee.

Interviews in the pipeline include the legendary David Yow (formerly of The Jesus Lizard, now frontman for Qui); Mark Meyers from Pox, a band who share history (and former members) with Belgian alternative heroes dEUS; history-obsessed UK post-rock outfit iLiKETRAiNS; and (way off in October) the mighty Oceansize. I may not get paid for any of this yet, but I certainly get to talk to some interesting people!

Apparel received

I don’t buy T-shirts anywhere near as often as I used to, but the urge still takes me from time to time. When I heard a friend was going to see the inimitable Tool at Brixton Academy this week, I asked him to pick me up a shirt while he was there; by sheer coincidence, my official WordPress T-shirt (that I had totally forgotten I ordered) arrived by mail the same day.

RockTee vs. GeekTee

So, choices: do I dress rock, or do I dress geek?

I know, I seriously need to get a life.

Books and magazines seen

Well, this is the third week in a row that an issue of F&SF (October/November 2007 this time) has arrived in my letterbox – which I take to mean I won’t be seeing any more until around December or thereabouts.

I’m definitely going to switch to digital when my current sub expires – I know it’s not the magazine’s fault, but the delivery is incredibly irregular. Plus that way I’ll get to pick and choose which issues to take.

A busy week for books:

  • Ascendancies – The Best of Bruce Sterling – the long-awaited (and, as always, beautifully made) Subterranean hardback that collects the highlights of Sterling’s career. I shall be saving this one for when I take some time off work, so I can just devour it in a day or so.
  • Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder – next review job for Interzone, and sequel to the excellent Sun of Suns.

And from SF Site (after a journey from Canada of over a month’s duration, according to the postmark):

  • Land of the Headless by Adam Roberts – well, it’s a Roberts, so I’m expecting high literary values. I nearly said “I expect it’ll be clever”, but I know that annoys him
  • Human Is? – a Philip K. Dick Reader – PKD is one of the huge self-assessed gaps in my sf-nal knowledge. I know loads of his work second-hand (through reading frequent reviews and references to them), but I’ve not read a number of what are considered to be his most seminal works – so this should be an enjoyable (and long overdue) education.

All this serves as a reminder that I’m hideously backlogged on books to be read and reviewed. Once this full-time intermission is over at the day-job, I think I’ll need to take a week off from music reviews (and possibly my increasingly rare and truncated visits to Second Life) and just attack the book pile to whittle it down to manageable proportions.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more appealing an idea that becomes …

[Side note: one of the books above came with a press release that described its author as “… one of the best writer’s (sic) in the field.” Come on, guys, you’re marketing literature here – surely you should be proofreading for the correct use of apostrophes? If any publicists require a new copywriter, my email is in the sidebar to the right …]


Well, that’s about it for this week. I can hear the silent yet clarion call of Meat Balti (Madras Hot) from a few streets away, so I shall venture forth to purchase (and subsequently consume) The Friday Curry.

In the meantime, enjoy your weekend (and extra day, if you’re a Brit) – I’m not even going to bother mentioning the weather, because doing so hasn’t helped at any point in the last few months. So, regardless of location or climate, have a good time doing whatever you’re doing. Hasta luego!