Sunday 21 November 2004

We rejoice because the hurting is so painless

Working on a charity call-centre for a few hours certainly helps instill a sense of wellbeing. On Friday night, I must have handled a couple of hundred calls over the course of about 6 hours, and all bar one were from people wanting to donate money to a good cause (I'll come back to the one later). The donations I took ranged from £3,100 (from a pub that had dedicated their entire day to Children in Need and had, amongst other things, given £1 from every pint sold) to a single pound, pledged by an elderly sounding chap who was apologetic that his donation was so small, but it was all he could afford. I told him that if everybody in the UK gave £1, then the total would be nearer £60m than the £20-odd million they usually raise. Doesn't that put a bit of perspective on things?

The single non-donating call I took was actually my last call, at a little after 2am. It was a chap ringing to look for an address to complain to about a feature that had been on about abused children. It had clearly touched a nerve with this guy, and he wanted to raise his concerns about what he had seen as a terribly one-sided piece. On the one hand, this guy was wasting time I could have spent taking more money from someone, but on the other hand, he had a right to complain, so I gave him a couple of addresses to write to and suggested he try the website. Worryingly he told me that he had got through on the phones before, only to be told to "piss off" by the operator. We were extremely busy all night, but especially between 11pm and 1am as the number of operators began to dwindle (I was taking call after call after call). I can understand that this other operator wanted to move onto another caller, but it still seemed a bit unneccessary.

Anyway - it was a pleasant way to spend the evening. I like to think I give a fair bit to charity (I use the Give As You Earn scheme at work to donate directly out of my salary. My chosen charities are MSF, Oxfam, Shelter and Amnesty - they each get a £5 every month. Not much I know, but I hope it all adds up). On Friday I gave something perhaps even more important than a few quid a month, I gave up my time.

I look forward to next year.


Sod's law dictates that because I was out all night on Friday, that was the night that Interpol would be on Later.... And so it came to pass. Luckily I have a video.... Jools Holland reminds me of nothing less than a particularly self-satisfied toad, but he does get some great bands on his show. As well as Interpol, Friday's show also had sir Elton John, Keane, Bloc Party, Ray LaMontagne and the Old Crow Medicine Show. I discovered Devendra Banhart through this show, and I am definitely going to keep my eyes open for Bloc Party - they played a song called "helipcopter" which was fantastic ***update*** just downloaded this from ITunes. Hurray for modern technology, eh?

Watching Keane reminded me that:

a) Tom Chaplain has a lovely singing voice, but his stage presense is rubbish. The rock posturing is so WRONG for their music, and he doesn't carry it off at all

b) they were superb when I saw them at Glastonbury this year

c) Tim Rice-Oxley has incredibly long arms and legs (think of the Andrew Marr they do on Dead Ringers)

d) Isn't it time Coldplay did something?

I think point d) is the most damning this you can say about Keane, and sums them up for me.

Interpol were great. They are my current favourite band, and they are about to kick off a UK tour (the rock city date is now sold out, but I got a pair of tickets...). On "Later...." they played great versions of "Slow Hands" and "Evil" - both cracking songs off "antics", the new album which I heartily recommend. I have heard Paul Banks, the singer, described as 'a lawyer with the voice of an undertaker' (because of his doomy voice and lyrics like "and I will commit no acts of violence, be they physical or otherwise"). That's a bit harsh, but I know what they mean, and for me that's actually part of their appeal.

The band have a kind of goth rock feel to them, and they dress accordingly (all in black, with ties) - the drummer in particular looked great with a big pair of mirrored aviator shades on throughout. My one slight reservation is that the bassist Carlos D's interpretation of this image was to wear a sharp military style black shirt with a red tie and a red armband - in other words fascist overtones. This is hardly original - David Bowie for one played this out to extremes as the thin white duke, culminating in apparently giving a nazi salute from the back of a car at Victoria Station. Am I being overly sensitive to feel uneasy about it? I know it looks good, but....


I haven't bought a single christmas present yet. When should I start to panic buy?

Reading: Bill Hicks - Love All the People: letters, lyrics, routines

Listening: Razorlight - Up All Night ; Kings Of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak

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