Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Two Sundays ago, I wrote for five hours. Today, I will have done so again. This is not music writing (I wish it was) but academic writing which needs to be finished soon for my sanity.
I keep thinking I'm done, and then I find a glitch to iron out.
At the moment, it's tone. I am being critical, but I want to be gracious about it.
I long for the punk punch- that verbal thwack, so swift and direct. But scholarly writing doesn't work like that; we have to twist and turn our way around existing obstacles of thought.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Suit U Up

With apologies to the Fast Show: but things have moved on quickly since then.

My name's Tommy Trotter and I work in Suit U Up, a shop in Jermyn Street where politicians  have been coming for many years to have their suits made-to-measure.
You'll recognise our suits; either dark grey or dark-dark-black-grey, they are a little on the tight side, and they all feature a loose buttonhole mid-belly. The chaps who wear our suits get out of their ministerial car, stand up, and touch their belly-button (see what I did just there?) with their right hand, very lightly, to make sure that it hasn't come undone.
We (Philip, the business owner, and myself) felt that Tony B was a little on the ostentatious side with this gesture,but Dave C has copied him religiously (we laugh when we think how much Dave C fancies Tony B, but that's for another time) and now it's kind of got into the performance side of things alongside running their hands through their Brylcreem and surreptitiously wiping the excess on their hankies.
A woman in a red coat came in a few weeks ago with a bearded chap in a shell suit. I think her name was Diana Priest, or something, and she was trying to persuade the guy to buy a suit from us. He ran a finger over a bolt of our best mohair suiting and winced as though he'd been stung by a wasp, then shuddered. They went over to Subway pretty quickly and I could see them arguing.
Suits aren't for everyone, are they?

Guitars and Photomontages

The Guitar Weekend was especially good this year, despite being held in February. Hats off to Martin, Jim and Brian.
The moment of the weekend was watching Brian dissect Fraser's guitar. Nobody breathed for a full ten minutes, knowing that Fraser is a respected member of the legal profession. It was tense, but the operation was successful and we all breathed again: a sigh of relief.
Yesterday evening I went to a talk by Linder Sterling about her work; Linder was the designer who collaged the wonderful Buzzcocks image of the naked woman with mouths on her breasts. Gina came along, and we listened to her describe her early work with porn mags and catalogues that eventually developed into ballets, work for Chanel, and what I found most interesting, work with carpets.
I wasn't convinced by the carpet/ballet crossover, but I was convinced by the carpet, which was utterly lovely, and had a gold underbelly.
On the way home I may or may not have accidentally shoplifted a lemon. The shopkeeper was on the phone and I did wave it around in front of his eyes, but the till was hidden by piles of stuff so I couldn't check.
I felt guilty, and then I didn't.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Chefs at The Alhambra, Brighton

I had moved to London. Someone in my flat had been showing their friend my budgie, Toby, and they hadn't shut the door of my room.
The house cat got in, knocked the cage to the floor, and sank her teeth into the little bird.
Next morning, I held him in my hand to keep him warm and set off to the PDSA. He was still breathing (just) but on the way there he fixed me with a beady eye, stretched out, and died.
That night, I discovered that The Alhambra in Brighton had burned down.
That's how eras end; you think things will last forever, but they don't.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Huntrhymeswyth's Big Idea

Jeremy Huntrhymeswyth looked in the mirror. Great face! Unlined, smooth-skinned, punctuated with sparkling eyes (especially when he looked at his own reflection).
Could be years younger than his real age!
His eyes roamed upwards. The hair. Was it time to stop using gel?
He’d been applying Snake Oil Hair Restorer for weeks, which Beatrice, the receptionist at Thai Therapies (in Shepherd’s Market, where he went each Friday for a power massage they called ‘Gentleman’s Relish’), had given him with the assurance that it would solve his problem.
But it didn’t; like the retreating tide at Frinton, it was stubbornly pulling back from his face, half a centimeter at a time, its recession linked in an unnerving way with each step of the step-by-step dismantling of the bloody National Health Service.
This was a major problem; Richard ‘horseteeth’ Branson was waiting at the wings flapping his Bank of Bermuda cheque book, and at the other side, the fellows from The Lodge were murmuring things about putting off his promotion to Grand Farolera.
He inspected his hairline carefully. Transplant? Maybe, but Roger’s transplant, even though it had been done by the top chap at Harley Street, reminded him of miniature rows of vegetables.
He’d tried to get Torquil to look into repealing the Hippocratic Oath but Torquil had got back to him and said that it wasn’t a law, it was an agreement between doctors that had nothing to do with law or Parliament.
Moving away from the mirror, and the slightly distressing reflection, a thought occurred to Huntrhymeswyth; it lit up the dank parliamentary office like a light bulb.
If he could, in conjunction with that lab in Surrey, develop a brand new virus that knocked out The Poor, The Unemployed Shirkers, The Asylum Seekers, The Disabled and The Elderly, what a lot of money that would save!
In the short term, they’d have to cough up a bit to Murdoch to make sure that it got reported properly: ‘nothing we can do’ and so on. And keep the United Nations out of it: mind their own business.
Of course it would cost a bit to ‘treat’ them all, but they could commandeer a few of the luxury flats that the Chinese and Russians were pulling out of, now they realize that the London property market is going to crash. Ship ‘em all to London and let the new Labour mayor sort ‘em out; that will give him something to chew on, little upstart!
Cosmo in Statistics would be able to work of the ratio of the elderly that the Tories need to keep going- maybe a ‘vaccination trial for elderly people only’, so as not to lose too many Tory voters- ha ha!
Rubbing his hands with glee, Huntrhymeswyth strode across the room to pick up the phone to call Budgets. It was time to put the plan in motion, before anyone could stop him. A neat, white, rich UK population of Tory voters within the next five years, and no need for social anything any more.
A gleam of light shone across at him from the mirror.
With a sinking heart, he met the gaze of two greedy, sparkling eyes that were peering back at him from the dome of a shining, and now completely bald, head.

Big Yellow Taxi

Saturday, January 30, 2016


Perhaps you could call this research; I have spent two hours looking through a pile of cuttings and articles, weeding out the useful ones, discarding the interesting-but-not-relevant ones, and throwing away the rubbish.
There is still a fat pile of physical stuff to look through, plus a substantial amount of links and some notes-to-self to download some academic articles.
My research is looking miserably unsubstantial, but the upside is that it's really thorough. I have two volunteer readers and I think I might have finished in in two week's time. The might mean that the enormous pile of books that I've amassed in the last five years can be weeded out too and perhaps I'll see the surface of the kitchen table.
After all this is done (and I have an April deadline for another chapter plus two events in June and July to plan, more coming soon on those), I am going to re-boot my music life. I have had an album ready to record for six months but was clobbered by E Coli in September on the way to look at an analogue studio (yes, it was that quick). It's time I re-did my web page because I've had the same one for ten years. Stuff like that.
Now, however, I'm off to count houses. The neighbour over the back fence has build a humungous loft extension in place of a smaller one with obscured windows. I don't want to look at their child from my kitchen window, nor their teenage son apparently half-undressed, and especially not at what appeared to be two writhing human beings on the bed this afternoon, so I am going to post a tactfully-worded note through their door and advise them to put curtains up!

'Sweetie' Cover Photo By Claire Barratt

The Dansette Tour

This is a brilliant idea. It is the anniversary of The Daintees' album Boat to Bolivia this year. The band has made a re-recording of the original songs which will be released on vinyl, and Martin Stephenson will be going on a house concert tour of the UK with a Dansette, playing the album and talking about the songs.
It has sold out already- I think it took about a day to do so.
(I love the poster too, designed by Kieran Fitzpatrick)

Chefs Posters (again)

I am going through my 'archive' looking for the disc with the scanned Chefs posters on it- sadly, I appear to have mislaid it, but I did find these.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Cupboard Is Bare

It started yesterday; I needed to buy a bottle of water for a guest speaker who had come in to speak to the students.
No water in the University cafe (run by Starbucks- boo! Only used when desperate).
After racing up and down a few stairs, I found vending machine that sold water, which was a bit of luck.
Later, I went to Camden. I went into a cafe because I was starving. 'Sorry, no food', said the persona behind the counter.
So I went to the next cafe. Both of the things I asked for (first one, had run out, second one had... run out) weren't available.
Today, I struggled through ghastly Westfield Stratford to the best Lebanese restaurant, driven by my appetite after  avery busy morning. I was looking forward to a chicken wrap with spiced potatoes.
'No chicken', they shrugged.
No food then.
Everyone's cupboards are bare this week, which is completely unnerving. I always mean to make sandwiches before I set off, but you guessed it, every morning the cupboard is bare. I either have bread and no sandwich filling, or sandwich filling and no bread.
I can't think of a solution for this state of affairs at the moment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Charity Shops in High Barnet Mini-Review

Sometimes I will do anything to avoid marking.
Well, here you are: a mini-review of High Barnet's charity shops, sometimes the source of rich and fruitful pickings, sometimes quite literally threadbare.
Cherry Lodge: can be rather disappointing, and really only for the most dedicated charity shopper who is able to make daily trips. I have sometimes seen nice china serving dishes here. Alas, I do not serve, so they remained languishing in the window.
North London Hospice: this shop used to have a canny manager whom I suspect bought some of the best stuff before it ever hit the selves. However, you still see the occasional camera in the window and I bought an acoustic guitar here which unfortunately has a twisted neck, but they weren't to know that. Sometimes they have small items of furniture, and it's definitely one of the best ones.
All Aboard: unlike the above, nobody weeds out stuff before it gets to the All Aboard chain. Some of their stuff is really peculiar but I've bought a couple of Western shirts here, and this is the shop that had an old fashioned gramophone with a trumpet once. What a good job it was far too expensive for me to buy! The lady in here is phenomenally friendly.
Cancer Research: they have recently redesigned the interior of this shop, which was a mistake. Now it's all tidied up and the desire to pop in for a rummage has evaporated along with its untidiness. There are sometimes nice women's shirts and tops, though.
PDSA: enormously untidy in the friendliest way, and I bought a great leopardskin coat here once. There are some superb men's clothes at the back. I once bought three brand new tweed shirts for two quid each. Now that's charity shopping!
Oxfam: pouf! the only one that smells like a charity shop. Come on guys, it doesn't have to! In spite of that, and the fact that it's rubbish for clothes, it sells records and CDs (some really good buys sometimes), and the occasional antique book. Well worth a visit.
Noah's Ark Children's Hospice: sells functioning electrical goods- some audio gear- and has been a godsend for last minute emergencies like old CD players and so on. Not very nice clothes though.
Willow, and another new one: avoid. Nylon, acrylic, bobbly wool. Pull up your socks guys. The lady in one of them refused to take my donation one week, then the following week they were appealing for donations. How very silly.
Last but not least comes my favourite, the British Heart Foundation, where someone takes the trouble to put the books in alphabetical order (yippee!! thank you! I buy all my books here), there's a fab selection of clothes for both genders, and the right ratio of space:rummage-rails to accommodate all sorts of people, buggies, waking sticks and lonely chatters.
There you go.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dear Tories: a Sunday Letter

This letter is inspired (!) by Richard ‘horse-teeth’ Branson’s buying up of the NHS by stealth, and his acquisition of the East Coast Line from the state as soon as it turned a profit, then his subsequent abolition of the lowest fare band, making travel to Newcastle upon Tyne, where some of Britain’s poorest people live, the most expensive mile-for-mile journey in the whole of the UK.

Dear Tory Party

I know that many of you are practicing Christians, although I am really stretching myself to work out how this connects with what you are doing to the poor and sick in Britain, because I thought the whole point of Christianity was to take care of those people, not steal their money and opportunities and hand them over to the rich.
No matter- this letter’s about something else: a fabulous idea that I’ve had that I will sell to the Tories for a reasonable, negotiated fee to be agreed at a later date.
This is the plan.
There is one institution that you haven’t sold off yet- the Church of England! Just imagine how much money you could make. I am absolutely certain that Richard Branson would be interested in buying it and I’m sure he could run it at a profit.

Here are some tips:

Those cassocks, or prayer cushions that people kneel on, and that have been hand-embroidered in woolwork and donated to the church for scores of years- they are worth a fortune. Send them off to an auction and replace them with polyurethane foam pads covered in wipe-clean vinyl, which will be much  more practical and hygienic, and easier to maintain.

Archbishops’ robes: again, why bother with expensive repairs and embroidery? These too will bring in a fortune at auction, and can be replaced with printed nylon robes, lighter to wear and easier to launder.

Church organs and pianos. You don’t need these! Sell them off to Russian churches, perhaps? Anyway, they can be replaced with audio equipment and pre-recorded hymn backings (provided by Virgin, perhaps? I’m sure that they still have a functioning studio somewhere). 
As an additional income stream, I suggest that you register the canon of traditional hymns with the PRS, copyright of the Tory Party. This should bring a fair bit of income to party coffers, for ever and ever, Amen.

Church Services should be charged for. This will be easy for the congregation to understand because they know what the word ‘service’ means. Tickets can be sold at the door, or in advance from one of the proprietary Internet ticketing services.

Hymn books can be pulped and sold on to a recycling company. For a small weekly charge, your church customers (you don’t need the word congregation any more) can download an app from the Internet with the week’s hymns on it.
They can do this by paying a small charge for the wi-fi service you have installed in the Church itself.

As for staff: put this out to tender. Pubs are losing business at the moment due to the cheap supermarket booze everyone’s buying. Why not ask the bar staff to stand in? They could probably be hired for the minimum wage; as an alternative, Jobcentres should be able to provide volunteers to man the churches on Sunday mornings if you really want to save a bob or two.

So there you go. There’s a plan for you disgusting bunch of Tory greedballs.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Wot a Larf

I should have stopped reading this book by now. I've washed the kitchen and bathroom floors and I'm waiting for The Young Montalbano.
Mark Forsyth tells us rather a feet-of-clay snippet of information that I never knew: that T.S. Eliot used his middle initial because of what his name would spell backwards if he didn't.
Somehow I don't think that's the only piece of info the reader is supposed to take away from his book!

Awww! Astrud Gilberto