COCKER-HOOP; IN THE BRITISH SUMMERTIME; Dodgy Shorts, Failed Fishing Trips and a Blast of Mungo Jerry. the Irrepressibly English Jarvis Cocker Is Back with a New Album and Festival Show. So Who Better to Kick off Our British Summer Special with a Fond Tribute to Happy Holidays on the Home Front

Article excerpt

Byline: Jarvis Cocker

Jarvis Cocker has never given the impression of being the most sunshiny of characters.

With his famously lugubrious manner and a complexion as pale as a candle, it's hard to imagine him relishing the prospect of a day on the beach with a bucket and spade. But here he sits, in a sun-bathed beer garden near his home in east London, and clearly he can't wait for spring to be over and another great British summer to begin.

'I love the feeling of summer approaching,' he says.

'It always puts a spring in my step. You get the feeling of the seasons turning and everything coming back to life. You imagine what the summer is going to bring.

Everything seems filled with promise. Then summer arrives and it never disappoints. The air is filled with the smell of suntan lotion, wet swimming trunks, candyfloss and vinegar sprinkled over chips. With that smell around you, anything seems possible.'

His mood of radiant optimism refuses to be spoiled by talk of the credit crunch from neighbouring tables.

'I think the credit crunch is a brilliant thing,' he says, unashamedly. 'We should all stop moaning and start celebrating. When times are tough, it's an opportunity to start looking at life in a different way.

'Unless you're living on the street and surviving on a diet of discarded turkey drumsticks, there's no point in being gloomy. We've spent too long trying to cheer ourselves up by spending money on brightly coloured things we don't really need. We've stopped using our imaginations. Now is the time to realise that another new pair of shoes isn't going to make us feel better for long. I'm not saying that shoes aren't important. But how many pairs does anyone need? 'The things that are guaranteed to make us happy are right in front of our eyes and they don't cost sixpence.

A bit of sunshine and a nice walk along the beach - you can't go wrong with that combination..

I've always had an eye for nature, but it's the sort of thing to keep quiet about, because I don't want to come across as a mad hippy. But it makes sense to appreciate those things.'

Despite the fact that he's recently separated from his wife of seven years, fashion stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington, Jarvis has much to feel cheerful about. Most notably, he's about to release his second solo album, Further Complications, arguably his most potent collection of songs since the heyday of Pulp.

It's the culmination of a seven-year period that's seen him establish himself as something of a Renaissance man. The mind-boggling scope of his recent activities would greatly surprise those who imagine his career was bookended by the birth of

Britpop and his bum-wiggling gesture towards Michael Jackson at the 1996 Brit Awards. He's made regular appearances on TV documentaries and curated London's Meltdown Festival. He's written songs for Marianne Faithfull, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tony Christie and Nancy Sinatra. He's earned rave reviews for his concert lectures on the art of songwriting. He's even appeared on Celebrity

Stars In Their Eyes (doing a flawless imitation of Rolf Harris) and popped up in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire to play the leader of a fictitious pop band. While he gears up for a summer of live dates, he's also been putting the finishing touches to his work on the forthcoming animated Fantastic Mr Fox movie.

Meanwhile, he's been busy making plans for his summer holidays.

'You won't find me sitting around on a beach in Majorca reading a terrible airport novel and getting sunburnt. I can see why some people would want to spend their holidays doing that. If you do a job that entails sitting at a desk all day, you don't get too many opportunities to lie down during the daytime.

But I don't do a proper job. I spend most of my time lying down. That's a big part of my job. I get a lot of my thinking done when I'm having a good lie-down. …