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Heads Up! Shock & Gore 2014 Schedule Released

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twin-peaks-cooper-doppelganger

Oh how I love the Shock & Gore horror festival at the Electric Cinema. And oh how gutted I am that I’m stuck on t’other side of the pond for this year’s fourth celebration of the weird and wonderful side of cinema.

To fully understand how much I love Shock & Gore, click HERE and HERE.

Yup it’s that good.

So what would I be going to see this year? Well I have never quite gotten over Twin Peaks, even though David Lynch abandoned the show in it’s second season leading to a sharp decline in quality and the damn network insisted that Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed early on when it was never meant to be a solved case at all and then it got cancelled on a reaaaallly infuriating cliffhanger…OK Breathe, it was 25 years ago dammit.

Horror meets Americana: Twin Peaks

Horror meets Americana: Twin Peaks

 

Anyway the fact remains that for a while, Twin Peaks captured our imaginations rather like Game of Thrones does these days. It remains one of the greatest TV series of all time. And in view of this, S&G are having a David Lynch night on Friday July 25th. There will be a showing of the strange and compelling Mulholland Drive, followed by some sort of Twin Peaks-related viewing. I have no idea what form this will take; could be a Log Lady riddle, could be Red Room dream sequence. The only thing for certain is that coffee and damn fine cherry pie will be available at the bar.

Cronos: Guillermo del Toro breathes new life into M.R. James' old 'enchanted object' plot.

Cronos: Guillermo del Toro breathes new life into M.R. James’ old ‘enchanted object’ plot.

 

For those of you who couldn’t care less about Twin Peaks (do I really owe you anything?) here are some other S&G offerings…

  • Classic spine-tingler in the form of The Innocents (Friday 25th – Thursday 31st)
  • Movie buff -worthy screening of Alien: The Director’s Cut (Saturday 26th)
  • Obligatory vampire quota is served by Cronos (Friday 25th) and the Lost Boys (Part of the All-nighter on Saturday 26th).
  • Morbid curiosity satiated by the intriguing sounding Death Cafe at the Victoria on Sunday 27th
  • Utter terrifying and all too real misery in Threads (Wednesday 30th) with a live score to bring the nuclear apocalypse even closer to home.
  • Queer Eye for the Dead Guy: Michael Blyth from the BFI delivers a lecture on gay presence in horror films from the 1930s to the present day. I expect this will be a lot like The Celluloid Closet stuff that Vito Russo wrote about and could be good fun.

So whatever keeps you awake at night, make sure you indulge it next month at Shock & Gore. And tell us how it went!

What happens in your mind when you watch Threads.

What happens in your mind when you watch Threads.

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From Brum to…?

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270px-Michigan_in_United_States.svgEvening Brummies,

Do remember this post?

Well it’s finally happened. Following graduation, the husband landed a job at a big bad investment bank in London and spent most of last summer in NYC (not me though, confined to the couch and enforced Corrie-watching as per usual). But it turned out that banks really are as evil as we all suspected and in November he was offered a job back in the States. So tomorrow I’m heading to the frozen north. Michigan to be precise.

Cue lots of standing around the US Embassy in London for me. In the rain. And at one point naked in a Harley St clinic to prove I was female (yes, they really do want to check you for that).

And also the nightmare that is international shipping (customs forms, dolls’ house bubble wrapping, waving goodbye to all you own in the vain hope it won’t arrive smashed to smithereens at the other end).

The question is, what does this mean for Brummedout? I guess it would be hard to continue writing about a city I no longer reside in or can even easily visit. Although I shall be keeping an eye on the place, through friends who live in and around the area.

So the next best thing would be to rename the blog and shift its focus. Or start a completely new one. What should I do? Any ideas?

I think I’ll keep posting about my ex-pat journey for a little while, and take y’all with me for the ride. So if you’d care to log in and accompany me into the polar vortex that is currently freezing up Niagara Falls, the Great Lakes and – allegedly – people’s toilet bowls, I’d be glad of the company.

Also, if you ever wanted to know about anything in particular about America from an outsider’s perspective, I’ll do my best to satisfy your curiosity. I fly out from Birmingham International (loyal to the end) tomorrow morning.

Brum, it’s been emotional.

Take care of yourselves, you hear?

 

 

 

In Search of Halloweens Past

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On my wish list: a traditional American cross stitch is creepified.

On my wish list: a traditional American cross stitch is creepified.

Here’s a handy soundtrack for this post.

It’s that time of year again, when the leaves are turning, the bars of Broad St are advertising even cheaper neon-coloured drinks and Selfridges is awash with normal food products that happen to have spooky names. As I type I’ve just seen an ad for the Halloween edition of a particular brand of miniature cheese…

This used to be in the loo (but the results got too messy). I bought it in the town of Hell, Michigan and it moves.

This used to be in the loo (but the results got too messy). I bought it in the town of Hell, Michigan and it moves.

Halloween is increasingly reaching American proportions over here (not that I mind in the slightest as regular readers will know), and since I became auntie to two adorable little American children (one of which I think is turning into a future horror film and comic-book nerd – his uncle and I are beyond pleased), I have taken the opportunity to write them a spooky poem each year in a Halloween card complete with Trick Or Treat candy from ‘over here’.  I’m aiming for a kind of J.K. Rowling approach so that the poems/ stories are age-appropriate but will get creepier as the kids grow up. I’ve written about ghosts, cats and the rules of Trick or Treating before, but really not sure where to go this year. I’ve loosely settled on The Thing but as yet said Thing is unformed and I have no idea how evil or misunderstood The Thing is or its journey (like it’s on the X-Factor or something).

The pumpkin bauble came from Bronners - the legendary Christmas shop in Michigan - everything else came from the bargain stores of Birmingham.

The pumpkin bauble came from Bronners – the legendary Christmas shop in Michigan – everything else came from the bargain stores of Birmingham.

One thing I can rely on is my trusty collection of Halloween decorations. I thought I’d share how our old flat on Berkley Street looked last year (haven’t decorated this year yet as it’s too early). I find my Halloween decs as comforting as the family Christmas decorations; it’s as much a ritual to decorate for Halloween as for any other cultural/ religious holiday in our household.  And while one or two have exotic origins (see above) they are mostly from Poundland or the 99p Store and collectively cost about a tenner. Halloween is perfect for those of us on a budget, and (even though he probably wouldn’t approve) thank God for that!  I decorate our (black) Christmas tree and drape fake cobwebs everywhere (although with my approach to dusting, the work could really do itself). I collect vintage Halloween graphics in books, on Pinterest and in print. Each year I change all the photos around the house to various printouts according to our theme. Even in the loo. Especially in the loo.

My cheap computer print outs. Last years included a photo from St Lous Cemetery No. 1, a Victorian seance and a 1930s Halloween card.

My cheap computer print outs. Last year’s included a photo from St Louis Cemetery No. 1, a Victorian seance and a 1930s Halloween card.

My dad, who is probably even more macabre than me, is always threatening to bring a Ouija board home. Back when I was fourteen he dared a friend and I to walk through the village graveyard on Halloween night. We chickened out. In fact we went somewhere to ineptly puff on some cheap Korean cigarettes, which in hindsight was even more horrific. Of course dad didn’t know this and had used an alternative route to drive around to the back of the churchyard. His plan was to cut through a field, hide behind a gravestone and jump out at us. Unfortunately, he didn’t bargain on a sleeping cow lying in the middle of the pitch black field. Dad tripped over the unlucky heifer and knocked himself out. When he eventually came to, he had to haul arse back to the house before our return. We arrived to find him, slumped in an armchair, rather out of breath and slightly smelling of cow poo.

Let us eat cake: why should the Trick or Treaters have all the fun?

Let us eat cake: why should the Trick or Treaters have all the fun?

Another year, he mounted rotting pumpkins on spikes in the front garden to lure in unsuspecting Trick or Treaters who were subsequently made to put their hands into ‘the cauldron of doom’ (a La Creuset casserole dish full of pumpkin guts and sweets) only for the sweets to be soaked through. To be fair, we were usually the only house in the village that bothered making Halloween magical for the five or less Trick or Treaters that turned up annually. For a while, you might get one or two gangs of teenagers without costumes who would just say things like: ‘Can we ‘ave some chocolate?’ or ‘Can we ‘ave some (drug) money?’  But no, no they bloody couldn’t if they didn’t put in the effort.  With the increasing popularity of Halloween, maybe we’ll get some more well-meaning T or Ts this year, so we’ll have to give them a front garden to remember… ffd89379c206ef65d6ae711b53fc4b2d

Brum Legends #2: The Birmingham Vampire

 

Kurt Barlow

70s vampire: Salem’s Lot’s principle vampire Kurt Barlow

Over the past month, Northampton has been spooked by a grown man dressing as a clown. He seems to be harnessing the image of the scary child-killing monster Pennywise from the Stephen King novel It.

This character keeps a Facebook page and claims not to want to frighten the town’s residents, despite creeping around their streets in the dead of night, knocking on their doors, and staring at folks until they run away. Some think his creepy antics are amusing, others accuse him of exploiting Coulrophobia (yup, there’s a scientific term for the fear of clowns).  People have been worried that he may be disturbed and gathering attention in advance of doing something …worse (a la every serial killer on Luther). He even has his own vigilante. Fun or foe?  Here is a film of him so you can make up your own minds.

The Northampton Clown makes his rounds.

The Northampton Clown makes his rounds.

Anyway, around this time each year, I dig out another Stephen King novel, Salem’s Lot to reread while the nights are steadily drawing in. I’d thoroughly recommend it – very atmospheric and scary (the first time I finished it, I had to ring a few people up to make me less frightened – at 4.30 in the morning. You’re welcome). Now it is an autumnal ritual, the same as pumpkin carving, sloe collecting and the Halloween Tree.

Anyway, here’s the vampire bit…

So yeah, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Salem’s Lot is about vampires – and not the simpering Twilight model-ish, veggie ones. We’re talking back to basics, bad-ass, soulless demonic entities (click here if you dare *). We have so many variations on what a vampire is these days that the air of fear at the prospect of a human acting like an animal and biting us, has pretty much become extinct.

But back in January 2005, it returned for a while in the Birmingham neighbourhoods of Ward End, Saltley, Small Heath and Alum Rock. Reports of a man who attacked a family on Glen Park Road in Alum Rock by biting them on December 19th 2004, apparently led to a police report being filed. In the following weeks many more ‘incidents’ were alleged to have taken place.

The suspect was supposedly a Somalian man in his mid-20s, and each time the incident at Glen Park Road was reported, new embellishments were added; that he’d started his feeding frenzy by a biting a fully grown man before working his way through the family and then biting a chunk out of a female observer, that he was just after the Bangladeshi community, that he was just after women and children.

Suddenly it was in all the local newspapers, then the nationals, the Beeb and Sky News, and even Richard and bloody Judy. Worried parents at local schools plagued the head teachers with phone calls, in case the vampire had rabies and went after the ‘little ’uns’.  Imams and priests were being asked to speak out against the fear engulfing their communities.

vampire-mouth

Here’s the thing; the police had never had any reports of people being bitten, not one. Neither did any local hospital see any bite victims coming through their doors. Nor were there any reports of nut-cases with biting fetishes on the loose.

Since there were no victims on record, the authorities had no idea what the vamp looked like. But when did that ever stop people making crap up? Lots of forums had fun with this one.  The Birmingham Evening Mail in typical ‘crazy human interest story’ style, dispatched one of their number to the scene of the alleged crimes armed with garlic and a crucifix, to scrounge for more witnesses.

But try as they might, there was nothing to latch onto. Because it was a hoax. At least the people of Northampton have concrete footage of their creepy psycho, not for them the desperation of the urban myth. But as urban myths go, this was quite a good one, just plausible enough to keep people looking behind them on those dark winter nights. And just imaginative enough to fill the yawning gap we have for a little carefully contrived fear in our lives.

vampire-trick-or-treat-thumb

 *I actually find the 1970s TV version (directed by Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist fame) quite creepy but you may just find it quaint. Anyway, just try the book, it is properly scary.

 

 

Gypsy Curses, Knitting Needles and Afternoon Tea: Peaky Blinders Episode 2

Peaky Blinders

The Spaghetti-Western tones of Nick Cave’s  ‘Red Right Hand’ are kicking in on a Thursday night, and that can mean only one thing – it’s ‘Paykey Bloinders’ episode two,  y’all! Here’s a handy link to last week’s review.

The haircuts are still so terrible that it’s impossible to fancy any of the male characters, the accents are still all over the place (brother Arthur’s is straight up Brummie, Aunt Polly’s is apparently ‘historically accurate’ Brummie and Tom Shelby’s just sounds Scouse), Tom’s sister Ada is still managing not to let the Horny Bolshevik’s (HB) mop-crop get in the way of lust in the back-to-backs, Aunt Polly is still wandering around churches like Patricia Morrison possessed by Mama Fratelli, C.I. Campbell is still making his presence felt in between afternoon teas, and undercover spy Grace is still insisting on singing her maudlin songs, weakly, at every opportunity. This is what happened before X-Factor, people; we just let them carry on with their ‘dreams’. In public.

Add the looks of Patricia Morrison...

Add the looks of Patricia Morrison…

Now, it appears that the gang has run up a spot of enmity with a family of gypsies, who proceed to curse Tom’s beloved white horse, making it lame, and forcing him to shoot it. Where did these gypsies come from all of a sudden? I have no idea. Anyway it did give the director an excuse to shoot the most self-consciously cinematic fight I’ve seen on TV this year. In ultra-pretentious slow-mo, Tom and co proceed to show the world the meaning behind their not so scary name. Hair mops were a’flyin, coat tails a’billowin’ and peaky blinders were a blindin’. That’s right, we saw gypsies getting slashed in slow-motion. I hope someone from Big Fat Gypsy Weddings writes in to Points of View.

To the personality of Mama Fratelli...

To the personality of Mama Fratelli…

Back in Brum, little Ada finds out she’s preggers while HB is on the run.  Tom and Aunt Polly are appalled. Tom orders everyone out of the cinema where Ada has sought refuge (it’s all getting a bit Catherine Cookson by now, will Ada bring up her child in the projection booth?). Later he orders everyone out of the pub too – if I were living in the Brum of Peaky Blinders, I’d just throw house parties, any other night out would just be a big gangster-thwarted anti-climax. Ada and Aunt Polly have a heart to heart during which AP extols the virtues of the backstreet abortion.

And you have something approaching Aunt Polly.

And you have something approaching Aunt Polly.

“I did it to myself” she boasts to the increasingly scared Ada. That really puts all my Dad’s rugby stories about swallowing a bottle of Vaseline before each match to shame.  Yep, to Aunt Polly, feminism is a bleached knitting needle. And soon she is marching the reluctant Ada to the train station to meet a lady-who-does, only to find that Freddie the Bolshevik is waiting at the platform with an underwhelming ring and orders to get-the-hell-out-of-town-with-my-sis from Tom. What chivalry.

The smile that lights up Ada’s face as she dreams of running away to a land where barbers offer haircuts that appeal to women’s loins and never having to imagine another haircut whilst doin’ the do with Freddie is genuinely endearing. Then he promptly smashes her fantasy by declaring they will be going nowhere, and Ada will have to live in Bad Barnet Brum for evermore.

Ada and the Horny Bolshevik reach a compromise that she'll stay in Brum if he keeps his hat on.

Ada and the Horny Bolshevik reach a compromise that she’ll stay in Brum if he keeps his hat on.

Suddenly, another gangster (this time of the East End persuasion) has turned up and declared war on the Shelbys, but silver-tongued Tom twists this into a collaborative plot against the gypsies. And then he lands the biggest surprise of the series so far on his brother:

“Get yerself a good ‘aircut – we’re goin’ to the races.” YES! AT LAST!! That prospect alone has ensured I’ll tune in next week.

Lunch of the week.

lunch lost and found

What: A pulled-pork pitta, with baked apples and onion marmalade, served with a homemade slaw, mustard-dressed salad and a side order of truffle macaroni cheese. Really good-sized portion!

Where: Lost & Found on Bennett’s Hill

With: My brother on an emergency shopping trip. Yes, there is such a thing.

The Drink: A Smokey Joe cocktail made from Buffalo Trace bourbon, Hickory smoked Pepsi cola (!),  Black walnut bitters and Maple Syrup. Sounds like Beyonce’s pre-tour diet but was actually really complex and tasty.

Smokey Joe @ Lost & Found

Smokey Joe @ Lost & Found

The Cost: £15 pp

Pub Crawling towards The World’s End: Brum’s Best Drinking Pubs

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Drinking like there's no tomorrow: Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on their Newton Haven pub crawl. NB drinking 12 pints in one evening is probably not advised outside of your dreams.

Drinking like there’s no tomorrow: Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan on their Newton Haven pub crawl. NB: drinking 12 pints in one evening is probably not advised outside of your dreams.

After watching The World’s End last Saturday, my first thought was ‘Quick! Let’s find that old Sisters of Mercy album and dance around to “Lucretia My Reflection.”’

My second (slightly more productive) thought was ‘If I had to visit twelve pubs in Birmingham and drink a pint in each before a robotic apocalypse, which ones would I choose?’

So I made my list, and in the event of said robotic apocalypse, I’m all sorted. Would these pubs make your list? If not, which ones would?

1 The Pub: The Hare and Hounds, High Street, Kings Heath, The Drink: Purity’s Ubu  Why? The Hare and Hounds is always a hive of activity, usually involving some live music, and this coupled with Purity brewery’s presence at the Moseley Folk/ Jazz Festivals make this combination a no-brainer.

2 The Pub: The Prince of Wales, Alcester Road, Moseley The Drink: Oakham’s Bishop’s Farewell Why? If J.R.R. Tolkien likes a pub, there’s good drinking to be had. Although I’ve blogged on its epic beer garden before, The Prince is first and foremost a drinker’s pub. The front is a model Victorian boozer almost puritan in its restraint, while the back is just drinking-Disneyland. I chose Bishop’s Farewell purely because I thought the name would be apposite (damn those evil-natured robots –damn them all to hell!) But I have confidence in the beers on tap at this place, which I certainly can’t say about all the pubs I’ve visited over the years.

3 The Pub: The Anchor, Bradford Street, Digbeth The Drink: Hobson’s Mild Why? By now my dad would be complaining that he was missing out on a mild (although he’s been missing a particular mild – Ansell’s – for many years now). I don’t know why more pubs don’t keep one on draught permanently, so kudos to The Anchor for making sure they do. A four-time winner of CAMRA’s Local Pub of the Year Award, they really put in the effort to support smaller breweries. Let’s hope the robotic apocalypse doesn’t occur before Digbeth gets further in its regeneration because The Anchor deserves to be visited, and often.

4 The Pub: The Old Contemptibles, Edmund Street The Drink: cloudy cider Why? Although it’s owned by Nicholson’s (which some drinkers object to but in these straightened times it’s hard for free-houses to keep afloat) there is always a decent selection of cask ales, regular festivals and during the summer, usually a fab selection of ciders that transport you out of the city centre and into a fantasy Somerset farm, preferably under an apple tree. Also, I’d be getting hungry by now and it’s always good to eat a pie with a massive lamb shank sticking out of the top!      

5 The Pub:  The Jekyll and Hyde, Steelhouse Lane The Drink: Hendricks Gin and Tonic Why? Although I’ve had great times washing down Bathtub Gin, Lovehearts cocktails and a mixture of Gin, jam and lemon juice served from a teapot in the upstairs Gin Parlour, this is the end, folks. Time to go back to basics. J&H boast that they treat gin like whisky, i.e. there’s one to suit almost every palette. Well for me, it’s got to be Hendricks and Fentiman’s with a lime (or maybe cucumber, no, definitely lime). I hope they have that  DJ there that plays all the MoTown stuff.

6 The Pub: The Rose Villa Tavern, Warstone Lane, Hockley The Drink: Gwynt Y Draig Happy Daze Cider Why? I’m not really a fan of Hoxley/ Jewellery Quarter pubs on the whole. They are not what you’d call down to earth. And drinking should be an easy-going, enjoyable process, not dependent on dodging queue-cutting morons who pretend to wear glasses, eyeing up someone’s thrift-shop purchase quota, or enduring extra-loud house music when I want to conduct a conversation. It’s not really the pubs’ fault (apart from the music volume); it’s more that the clientele can be tricky. But they seem to like it that way and each to their own. But tonight I’m making a couple of exceptions; the Rose Villa Tavern has always been a little different, more tranquil, and I’ve gone for the Welsh cider on tap at last month’s Cider Fest (to appease Dad again, Welsh as he is).

 7 The Pub: The Black Eagle, Factory Road, Hockley The Drink: Ansell’s Mild Why? I just said I wasn’t a fan of Hockley boozers so why am I back here? Well, for one thing I have never been to this pub, but tonight there’s a first (and last) time for everything. It has brilliant reviews and is a multi-award winning CAMRA favourite. Do you remember the advert for Fry’s Turkish Delight back in the day? This One with the Rudolph Valentino lookalike? Well that’s only the landlord! I know – it’s blowing my mind! But best of all it keeps Ansell’s Mild on tap – the mild of my Dad’s dreams. Having found out about this place, I’m going to take him this weekend! He’s old, so why wait?

8 The Pub: The White Horse, York Street, Harborne The Drink: Hanson’s Porter Why? There is plenty of healthy competition among Harborne’s pubs. The Plough won CAMRA’s Rising Star award in 2010 though some locals on well known beer forums accuse it of being a wee bit too expensive on the beer front, as the hub of Harborne’s gentrification. I’ll bow to popular opinion on this one. The White Horse has ten real ales on tap, a beer board just like my final pub choice (plenty more pints to sink yet though) and friendly, slightly incontinent spaniels (obviously we connect on a number of levels).     

9 The Pub: The Tap and Spile, Gas Street The Drink: Doom Bar Why? This was our local for a couple of years, it’s nothing special, but it stays open later than pretty much everywhere else in town, always has Doom bar and Greene King on tap and descends into a reliably cheesy karaoke session during which  everyone at the bar imagines themselves to be Freddie Mercury, Steve Perry or Dave Lee Roth. Fun Fact: The husband almost got into a punch-up here with a 6 ft 4’’ Glaswegian who didn’t like more than one person in the pub to wear a hat. My husband wore one, guess who wore the other?

10 The Pub: The Victoria, John Bright Street The Drink: Brooklyn Lager on draught Why? I’m hoping the world ends on a week night because by Friday night this place is rammed. Also I don’t want to be on the side of the bar with the sticky carpet. And, the barman here looks like my husband’s good friend (and epic drinking companion) Terry, which is comforting.

 11 The Pub: The Post Office Vaults, New Street The Drink: Chimay White Why? By this point in proceedings I really don’t care anymore so let’s up the alcohol content with some of the hoppy Belgian white stuff. I’m so pleased the POV has been a success story, it’s always rammed in the evenings, has over 300 foreign beers available now (including the decadent Deus Brut des Flandres which I would have bought if I hadn’t just spent all my cash at the previous ten pubs) and my dad can even have a third pint of mild! Not bad for the little cellar that could.

12 The Pub: The Wellington, Bennett’s Hill The Drink: Whatever you’re selling the most of today, good sir Why? This is the granddaddy of Brum’s CAMRA pubs, a World’s End if ever there was one*. The adult equivalent of a sweetie store, each pump glistens with promise of flavours yet to come. Again, it gets absolutely rammed on weekends but that’s not when I’ve had my best times here. There have been cosy chats, loud impassioned debates on international policy (oops, that kind of broke the rules on polite pub conversations and almost got some of us chucked out), sightings of Neil Morrissey (in the back alleyway, puffing on a ciggie), a thirty second heart to heart with a barmaid about my late mother, and epic, epic all-day sessions here when I was a student. Always loved that you can bring in food and eat it here (they even supply the cutlery); the scene of many a guilty MacDonald’s meal and Christmas Market bratwurst. But this place has made me happy (and a bit dizzy), so I’d have my last drink here.

 

*There is. In Camden. Went there last week. But they were accepting cash only. Boooo. 

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