Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Catchphrases

After my post "What's Your Name?" I had more conversations with family members about the funny things our family says. I was reminded of a few more.

From Len:

"I'm still laughing at mahogany." This came from an episode of The Phil Silvers Show that I never saw, but for some reason this line was spoken by the character Doberman, but what it was in reference to, I have no idea. It certainly struck a chord with my Grandad. If anyone can enlighten me, please do.

An "I Gotta Be There Boy".This was a term Len used to describe anyone driving fast, and recklessly. "He's gotta be there! He's an I Gotta Be There Boy!"

"The rubber boot, rubber boat brigade". At the intersection of Beacon Oak Road and Ashford Road (A28) in Tenterden, where Len would turn right towards St. Michaels to drive home, on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon during the summer, the road would be busy with people coming back from or going to the beach, often with surfboards, kayaks or waterskis or other watery apparatus strapped to their roof racks. These were the rubber boot rubber boat brigade. And some of them were I Gotta Be There Boys too. A kayak would also spur Len into relating the story of the Eskimo whose feet were always cold and lit a fire in his boat to warm his feet, but instead caused the canoe to sink, hence the expression "You can't have your kayak and heat it."

Anytime someone was smoking a pipe or exotic-smelling cigarette, or indeed whenever a burning smell was present, Len always wheeled out the old joke about two men, one of whom was smoking a pipe. The first, sniffing the air, inquired "What are you smoking?" to which the smoker replied sniffily, "That's my business". The first snaps back with, "Thought it was -  how d'you get it dry?"

"Exactly!" This is a hard one to explain. Len would give a woman who lived nearby a lift to work, and once described to us the annoying way in which she said "Exactly". You kinda had to be there, but to hear him tell the tale and describe the way she said it and the alarming frequency with which it was uttered, it soon became a part of the family lingua franca. "Exactly!!"

"...but it's beautifully cooked!" This was another old joke of which the punchline became a standard remark at lunches, dinners, out at restaurants, cafes, etc. when something about the food wasn't quite right. The story concerns an Army Regiment in the North African Desert who were always complaining about the food. The cook, understandably, was short on supplies and struggled daily to make enough food and still keep it edible. He was tired of the job, so he said that the next person to complain about the food could have his job. Of course, no-one did, because they didn't want the job any more than he did. One day, to make sure of getting a complaint, he mixed camel dung in with the food. Everyone ate in silence until one soldier stood up and shouted "It's shit!... but it's beautifully cooked."


"Bloody old Kennedy! Rotten old keg-meg!" This actually came from my Great-Grandmother, Elsie's Mum. Growing up in the area of South London known as Camberwell, the local butcher was Kennedy's which had 9 stores up until 2007 when they were forced to close, like a lot of High Street butchers have, due to the big supermarkets taking their business. Evidently the phrase above is one my Great-Gran would utter when the meat she bought turned out to be not of a good quality, tough, gristly, or whatever. Elsie would say this in emulation of her at our Sunday lunches and so the phrase passed down to us. What "keg-meg" actually is, no one is quite certain.

Elsie was also fond of singing while cooking. We'd be in the other room,  and she'd be busy in the kitchen, singing "Big Rock Candy Mountain" as she worked. Now, this in itself is not unusual, I suppose. Lots of people sing while they busy themselves with household chores. It was not so much her singing as the way she sang. She would sing a line... and then, about a minute later, the next line. We would hear pots and pans and chopping and slicing and water running, and then "Oh, the buzzin' of the bees, and the cigarette trees...." and then more chopping, rinsing, clanging, slicing.... thirty seconds would go by... then "...the soda water fountain....". To this day I cannot think of Elsie without picturing her in the kitchen creating a slap-up Sunday feast, and singing that song.

And on that note, I bid you goodnight.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ciao Italia

I just noticed that I've had visits to my page from practically every mainland European nation, save one. Italy. La Bella Italia. home of some of the most delicious food on Earth. The place where it all started. The cradle of civilization. Birthplace of pizza, lasagne, and manicotti. Yum!
The reason this jumps out at me is my Grandfather, Len, who passed on in 1994. He was captured at Tobruk in WWII by the Italians, and in the late 60's after being made redundant he decided to take some time and write about his war experiences. My sister and I were very little, and I think he wanted to write it all down so that we could grow up, read it and understand it. I read it several times when it was still just typed sheets of paper in a binder, and told him many times that it was very good and he ought to get it published. 
He never did, so after his death my Grandmother decided to get it published privately. The result was "Laughing We Ran" and it looked like this:

In it he describes how after his capture he was taken to a prison camp in Macerata, Italy. One day after the Italians capitulated (changed sides) they awoke to find the camp deserted. He and some friends decided to strike inland, towards the hills, and there they befriended the Italian peasant farmers and stayed with them for a year. It's a touching story, with some moments very sad and others downright hilarious. If you want to get a hold of a copy, email my Mum at for details and prices. Right. Shameless plug over.

So come on Italy - let's hear from you!

Brekky, Jeffy-style

I know full well that I spent entirely too much time in Georgia. The reason I know this is because I went to the pantry the other morning, looking for something to eat. Cereal... nope. Toast... meh. OK - try the fridge. Bacon... pfff. Eggs... yeah, but not today. What do I really want? I pondered. Listen to your gut (or heart, if you prefer). What am I craving?

Buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy.

Normally, in Georgia, this would not have been too tricky. There's usually biscuits somewhere nearby. In the fridge. At the grocery store. Maybe even in one of the cabinets - just add milk and bake. But now I'm in  England, where the word 'biscuit' means cookie (and, perversely, so does cookie), and you are likely to be given an odd look if you tell someone you want your biscuits smothered in gravy.

Well, long story short, I had to settle, because I didn't feel like making biscuit dough first thing in the morning, I hadn't had my coffee yet and things were not right enough with the world to be able to put forth that kind of effort that early in the day. Besides which, it was grey, miserable, rainy and blah. Coffee comes first. Then... cereal. I resolved that evening to look up a good biscuit recipe and maybe make it on the weekend when I had time and could do it really well and knock everyone's socks off with my mastery of Southern Cuisine. I'll do it soon and tell you how it turns out.

If there's one thing I cannot live without it is breakfast. To me, a day that doesn't begin with breakfast is not a proper day at all. Even if I don't wake up till 11am, I want breakfast, not lunch. Nothing worse than starting your day with a burger. Ugh.

There is nothing to match the visceral pleasure one can achieve from cooking and eating a fried breakfast. The great English Fry-Up. The Full English, as it  is known. Whenever my sister and I stayed over at my Grandmother Kath's house, Nanny Kath (as we referred to her) would cook this humongous breakfast for us. We would come downstairs, and there'd be boxes of cereal on the table, milk, bowls etc. and copious amounts of tea. While we were eating a bowl of Corn Flakes, she'd be in the kitchen cooking and would come out and place in front of us this plate literally straining under the weight of the food on it. Toast, eggs, bacon, maybe a sausage or two, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, maybe some baked beans and sauteed potatoes. The rest of the morning would be spent in a stupor, just trying to digest this outsized meal. You ever had that feeling? "I wish I hadn't eaten all that, but it was sooooo good!" Ah, memories.

Myself, I love to cook breakfasts. Nothing says Good Morning to me more than a hearty breakfast washed down with mugs of tea or coffee. The sizzle of the bacon and sausage. The beautiful aroma wafting up the stairs, rousing one from slumber. Some kind person bringing you a mug of Joe in bed. The friendly sting of a glass of ruby red grapefruit juice. This morning I found some leftover potatoes in the fridge, so I cooked a few and added them to eggs on toast. A couple of cups of coffee later, I had the energy to write this. Now, I think it's naptime... or perhaps time for coffee #3.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Idols and Toads

I was just flicking through the channels on the TV. After EastEnders was over, there was literally nothing on worth watching. I did stop for a few minutes on American Idol, a show which I watched with almost religious fervour in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. It was the mens' night, first time live in the studio. Seacrest was his usual fatuous self, of course, and new judge Ellen seemed a little trepidatious. The first guy up was a dude named Todrick Hall who totally reworked Kelly Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone", which was a daring move. He was working the crowd too, strutting his stuff with total confidence, which is natural as he's a dancer and so very used to being in front of a crowd. His singing, although a little on the "twenty-five-notes-per-syllable" side, was pretty dang good, I thought. The song was completely unrecognizable from Kelly's version, which, in my opinion, is not a bad thing. I watched all the judges pick apart his performance like they were in Biology Lab dissecting a frog. Then I changed channels. I just can't stand all that stuff anymore. Maybe I'm just getting old or soft or something. But I don't plan on watching any more Idol.

So I made dinner tonight, something traditionally English. Toad In The Hole. In the States I encountered much confusion about this dish. Some knew what it was, but abhorred the name. Others didn't know what it was. And a whole lot more thought they knew what it was, but were sadly mistaken. These people I had to correct. This group thought Toad In The Hole is where you fry a piece of bread with a hole cut in the centre on both sides, then drop an egg into the centre and cook it. No. That is Eggs In A Basket. Toad In The Hole is where you bake some bangers swathed in Yorkshire Pudding Batter in the oven. It all puffs up nice and crispy on the top and a bit doughy on the inside, and you find your sausages inside the batter, poking their ends out like a little toad in a hole. Like so.

Don't get me wrong. Eggs In A Basket is a fine dish. I've eaten it several times. It's just not Toad In The Hole. Oh and by the way, I put the sausages in the pan first and cook them about 10 minutes before covering them with the batter, but every picture I found on the Interwebs shows as above, the saussies lying on top of the batter. Wrong! The Toads (i.e. the sausages) are supposed to be in  the hole, not lying on top of it. It's not called Toad On Top Of The Hole, is it? And another thing - it's always been called Toad In The  Hole. Not Toad In A Hole. The number of websites I saw that on! Some purporting to be all about English food! Ack! Some 'English Food Blogs' also illustrated the egg thing instead. Silly people.
This all leads me on to another thing about food. Seems while I was away, things went a bit haywire in the food department. No wonder, with me not here to keep watch. Upon my return what do I find? You can buy frozen Yorkshire Pudding. Yes. We have sunk that low. It is probably one of the easiest things in the world to make, just three ingredients, eggs, milk, flour - yet we are so caught up in the convenience of an item, we just buy it, and our kids never see us make it from scratch and they don't know how it's made. They just think it grows on a supermarket shelf. I can just see people 10 years from now running out to the grocery store because the Wilsons are coming round and they have no Yorkshires in the freezer. Horror of horrors! I'm sorry, but a frozen Yorkshire Pud will never be a substitute for the real thing. And now I see bloody frozen Toad In The Hole!! Can you believe that nonsense?!

I don't know who Aunt Bessie is, but as far as I'm concerned, she is one of Beelzebub's little wizards. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I have a little device/widget/thingamabob on this blog called Feedjit, which not only counts my hits for me but tells me whence they come. There is a little option on there that lets you watch in real-time not only when they come in, but where they come from, what browser they're using, and sometimes, if they used Google to get to my page, what their search term was that got them there. Some of them are pretty straightforward, others not so much. The other day I wrote a column titled Judge This! which was all about the ladies' moguls event in the Olympic Winter games in Vancouver. Some of the hits on that page were reached by Googling Hannah Kearney cocky and Jennifer Heil spank. Um... I have to ask... no... maybe not.
Another example is someone from the San Francisco area reaching my post "What's Your Name?" by Googling twisted her ankle. I have reread that post a dozen times, and I don't see that phrase anywhere.
How does this happen? How does Google direct people to my site with such searches?
Incidentally, almost all the hits I've ever gotten from Canada seem to relate to the song Christmas Is Coming by The Payola$. And the only hit I got from Alaska came from Denali National Park, and it hit the page where I talked about Denali National Park. So clearly, they only are interested in hearing about themselves.

So it becomes increasingly obvious that in order to get a hit from a particular place, all you have to do is mention it.
In that spirit, then, I say to you... Australia! China! Saudi Arabia! Mauritius! And Antarctica!

(Actually, I think it would be cool to get a hit from Antarctica. It would be even cooler to get a follower from there.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

100 Records That Shook The World, #83

Johnny B. Goode

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry's hit of 1958 is partly autobiographical, a rags to riches story of a "country boy" who can play guitar "just like ringing a bell". The original lyric was "colored boy" but Chuck changed it to make sure it would get radio play. Chuck himself was born in a house on Goode Street in St. Louis. The song was originally written in 1955, and Chuck had several hits under his belt when it was finally recorded and released. It peaked at #8 on the Billboard chart. 

In 1986 Chuck was one of the first artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, who stated that" he laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance". He took basic rhythm and blues and sculpted it into something different, with lyrics about teen life, cars, girls, music. He added a new element to the mix with his showmanship, such as his classic 'duck walk', seen here, and the 'one-legged hop'. Hundreds of artists claim him as an influence, such as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Robert Cray, who all appeared with him in the film Hail! Hail! Rock & Roll, which documented his sixtieth birthday concert. Here's the man himself.

"What's your name?"

"I'll give you a clue - it clings to the wall."
"What, shit?"
"No - Ivy."
So goes an old 'joke' of sorts oft repeated by my late Grandmother Elsie.

The other day my sister and I were embroiled in a conversation and she reminded of this fact. We began to talk at length about all the old phrases, one-liners, jokes and idioms our family members would come out with. My mother and I also had a similar conversation recently too, and the germ of an idea about a blog entry came to me. As I write this, I'm still unsure about how to write this - but as usual I'll just do it without really giving it too much thought or planning, because that always seems to work out better.

My Grandfather, Len, was born and bred in this area, Tenterden and Romney Marsh, "the fifth quarter of the world" as he put it (and as I have often repeated). He was the storyteller in the family and I seem to have inherited this gene. How it started with him is impossible to say, but with me it began with joke-telling at school, often to deflect problems and lighten the mood with a few choice jokes. Nothing seems to soften a potential bully's heart better than a couple of good knock-knocks or an elephant joke.

When my sister and I were young we would go to Grandad Len and Nanny Elsie's house once a fortnight on a Saturday afternoon and sleep over, thus giving Mum a bit of a break. She would come over for Sunday lunch, and over this meal, after everyone was caught up telling their news, trials and tribulations, Len could usually be relied upon to come out with a comic song or old chestnut with which to make us groan. We had heard them all a hundred times, but he still took delight in regaling us with the story of the Widow's Might or the song of Passengers Must Please Refrain, whereupon Elsie would say "Oh, Len!" and we'd all groan. He never relented. He would simply say "You'll be telling them all at school tomorrow!". I don't know about my sis, but I did, still do, and here I am telling you now. He was right, bless him. Some of his jokes defied comprehension, like the story of the Oopa-Doopa Bird, which was really not terribly funny, but it was the way he told it, as if making some sort of proclamation, a sort of cross between a travelogue narration and a town crier, that made it funnier. The punchline, when it was reached, always tickled him too and he would crack up while saying it. If anyone wants to know the full joke, I will email it to you.

He would also act out some stories to give you the full effect, such as his tale of the time when he, Elsie and Mum were up at Hemsby in Norfolk, near Great Yarmouth, at a Pontin's Country Music Festival. It seems they had somehow found someone up on the Norfolk broads who owned a real Mississippi Riverboat paddlewheeler, and a large group of would-be riverboat gamblers, cowboys, Union and Confederate soldiers and the like were cruising up and down on this thing when they happened upon a wine tasting event. One of their larger, taller compadres, a man known as Big Bill, who apparently would drink bourbon all night, sampled about six or seven before declaring "I don't like it." Len would always act out the wine tasting and sampling, causing much hilarity.

There was a time when at Christmas the family could be persuaded to participate in a game of charades. I suspect that secretly we only wanted to play because we couldn't wait to see his clues. There were two that stick in my memory, and I shall attempt to explain them to you now.
The first one started with Len letting us know that it was a book, two words.
The first word he acted out as follows: he pretended to be splashing cologne on. At the time, there was a famous commercial starring British boxing great Henry Cooper for Brut 33, in which our 'Enry exhorted the general public to "splash it all over". Whatever the word was, it supposedly sounded like 'all over'.
The second word was harder. Len contorted his arms around himself, trying to mime the word 'Twist', but, confused as to what the word could be, I described what it looked like - "Spastic!" (Please bear in mind that back in the '70s that was the correct terminology for people with cerebral palsy - there was even a charity shop for The Spastics Society called The Spastics Shop, which brings up another great family classic phrase - my Great Auntie Mac's mispronunciation and our titters of hilarity when she told us she's bought something at The Splastics Shop.) So, from then on, the phrase "All-Over Spastic" was used to denote the Dickens classic Oliver Twist.

The other classic Len mime moment was when he was trying to act out The Onedin Line. He drew an imaginary line on the floor and then placed a dinner plate on it. We were confused. "It's The One-Din Line", he said. From then on we couldn't hear the theme music or think of Peter Gilmore without thinking "One Din Line!"

Elsie had a stock collection of funny phrases. When she described something (or someone, let's be honest) that was black, they were either "black as Old Nick", "black as yer 'at" or my favourite, "as black as Newgate's knocker."

Her other classic phrase was one that I had long forgotten until just the other day when my sister reminded me of it. Apparently Elsie claimed to have picked it up during the war from a co-worker when she was working at the Admiralty, which was "to hit (someone) with a stocking full of hot poop". Take note of the pronunciation, please. It's not the long 'oo' as in goose but the short 'oo' as in book. Stockin' full of 'ot poop. Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?

My mother has some great phrases, which probably originated from Len and Elsie, and the one I noticed the other day is a word used to describe when someone is upset, annoyed, indignant, cross or otherwise creating a fuss. The word, and I'm making up the spelling here as it's not a dictionary word, is aireated,  pronounced 'airy-ated'. I think it's a lovely word and perfectly describes the condition.

Well, I've just about come to the end so I think I will leave you with a classic joke from Len. This one concerns a time during the Cold War when the Russians were going to great lengths to steal secrets from the West, and one night they parachuted in a female spy over Romney Marsh. Now, the marsh has a lot of sheep pasture, dotted here and there with small huts for the shepherds to sleep in and keep warm, very basic, with just a few essentials and a bed. Well, the female spy from Russia twisted her ankle very badly on landing and was unable to dispose of her parachute quickly, and was spotted by just one such shepherd. He saw firstly that she was very pretty, and secondly the distress she was in so he picked her up and took her to his hut for the night and kept her warm in ways only a true Romney Marsh man knows how. Hence the expression (wait for it, wait for it....)

"Red spy at night - shepherd's delight."

You may groan, but you'll be telling it tomorrow.

Gone But Not Forgotten

It seems we've had a number of high-profile deaths of some of our favourite celebs so far this year.

Most recent was the death three days ago of Lionel Jeffries, a fine English actor noted for playing eccentric characters and probably best remembered in the role of Grandpa Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He was 83. I always loved that song he did in the film, "Travelling Light". 'Port out, starboard home, Posh with a capital P. P-O-S-H, Posh!'

Famous for acting of a different kind was Jamie Gillis.
He died three days ago of melanoma, at age 66. One of the most recognizable faces of  70s and 80s erotica, he appeared in over 470 movies. But of course, I wouldn't know anything about that. I don't watch those kind of movies. Honest.

Before him was fashion designer Alexander McQueen,  who had been in charge of Givenchy's design department before launching his own label, and was awarded the CBE in 2003 for his services to the fashion industry. He died aged 40 just a few days after the death of his mother.

On February 6th John Dankworth,  venerable jazz musician and married to jazz vocalist Cleo Laine since 1958, died aged 82. John was a master of the sax and clarinet. he founded the London Symphony Orchestra's Pops Program and was the Pops' Musical Director.

Another recent death was that of veteran British actor Ian Carmichael. Ian was perhaps best known for his archetypal "silly ass" characters in such wonderful films as Private's Progress, Double Bunk, I'm All Right Jack, and the superb School For Scoundrels which co-starred the great Terry-Thomas. In the '60s Ian, true to type, portrayed another silly ass, Bertie Wooster, in TV's The World Of Wooster. In the later part of the '60s and throughout the '70s he played Dorothy L. Sayers' aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey.

Dick Francis, novelist and ex-jockey recently passed away also. He was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from 1953 to 1957, when a serious fall forced him to retire from racing. He started to write crime novels centered around the sport and wrote over 40 international bestsellers.

More recent notables who are no longer with us:

  • Pernell Roberts - Bonanza's Adam Cartwright
  • J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher In The Rye
  • Jean Simmons, actress
  • Teddy Pendergrass
  • Kate McGarrigle, folk singer and sister of Anna
  • Erich Segal, author of Love Story
  • Juliet Anderson, aka Aunt Peg, another actress from the golden age of erotica
  • Bob Blackburn, voice of the Seattle SuperSonics for many years
  • Art Clokey, pioneer stop-motion animator responsible for Gumby
  • Thomas Sam Davis, better known as Eric Shark, singer with legendary art-rock band Deaf School
  • Doug Fieger, lead singer of The Knack
  • Jennifer Lyon, Survivor:Palau contestant and breast cancer awareness advocate
  • Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser detective novels
  • Kathryn Grayson, actress (Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate)
  • Justin Mentell, actor, Boston Legal
  • Charlie Wilson, inspiration for the movie Charlie Wilson's War
To all of them, I say, God speed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Well Done, Amy

Okay, okay, I know everyone's been a-moanin' and complainin' and gripin' about the Winter Olympics. Not enough snow blah blah death of an athlete blah blah, yeah, we heard all about it. Move on. Now, it may surprise some of you that even though I abhor, in fact I shun, most mainstream sports, football (the English kind), football (the American kind), baseball, ice hockey, field hockey, horse racing, etc., I find the Olympic Games to be fascinating. Perhaps it's the international competition that stirs something patriotic in me. It must be for this reason that I find myself absently watching downhill skiing, the men's 1500 metres, or the Third Test against Pakistan for no apparent reason sometimes.

So when I hear the news that Great Britain today won its first solo gold medal in about 30 years, I feel a swell of patriotic pride. Yes, you heard me right. We won a gold. Not a team gold. An individual gold. The first solo gold for the Brits since figure skater Robin Cousins twirled and triple-Axeled his way to glory at Lake Placid in 1980, and the first by a woman since 1952, again by a skater, Jeannette Altwegg, who won Britain's only gold at Oslo.

Amy Williams from Bath took the gold in the women's skeleton-bobsled event. Here's the amazing thing... it was her first time on a course that long. Her training track apparently is only half the length. The track is a full 1450 metres long, and is the track upon which the fastest speed in luge was recorded -95.68 mph.

Skeleton is a crazy event. I though luge was bad enough... lying on your back, steering with little movements of the foot, at over 85mph. But in skeleton the sled is what amounts to a tea-tray upon which you lay on your stomach and go face first. At the end of the course is laid a mat of foam rubber, to slow your sled to a halt.

If you missed it and want to see for yourself what gold medal speed is like, here's a video.

Congratulations Amy. You make me proud to be a Brit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Load Of Old Brit(s)

Well, the Brit Awards (the UK version of the Grammys) took place 2 nights ago and was, um, interesting. Costume of the night had to go to Lady Gaga:
Um, do you see what I see?

Thought so.

(For those of you that still are having trouble, click on the pic to enlarge it and you'll catch on.)

The Lady herself won three Brits, for Best International Female, Best International Newcomer and Best International Album for 'The Fame'. If there'd been an award for Best International Vadge, she'd probably have got that too.
However, that is not the reason for this post. This post is going to require you to cast your mind back a ways. An award was presented for the Best British Album Of The Last 30 Years, going to Oasis' (What's The Story) Morning Glory,  and was accepted by Liam Gallagher, who, in true typical Oasis style, thanked all the people who worked on the album apart from his brother Noel, then walked to the front of the stage and threw the award into the audience. This prompted host Peter Kay to refer to Liam as a 'knobhead'.

Knobhead or not, does the past thirty years have nothing better to offer than Oasis' sophomore effort? Since 1980, there have been many albums I would place above Morning Glory. Don't get me wrong - I like Oasis, but I think calling that album the best of the past 30 years is just a lazy decision. Here are some of my suggestions...
From the early '80s

UB40 - Signing Off
Specials - Specials
Human League - Dare!
Joy Division - Closer
David Bowie - Scary Monsters And Super Creeps
The Jam - Sound Affects
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (aka Melt)
Genesis - Duke
Elvis Costello - Armed Forces
Madness - 7
Echo And The Bunnymen - Porcupine
Bauhaus - The Sky's Gone Out

From the late '80s

The Smiths - Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead
Kate (Phwooaarr!!) Bush - The Hounds Of Love
New Order - Low-Life
The Jesus And Mary Chain - Psychocandy
XTC - Skylarking
Peter Gabriel - So
Depeche Mode - Music For The Masses
Pet Shop Boys - Please
The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
XTC - Oranges And Lemons

From the  '90s

Depeche Mode - Violator
Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas
The La's - The La's
Blur - Leisure and Modern Life Is Rubbish
Morrissey - Vauxhall & I
Paul Weller - Wild Wood
Portishead - Dummy
Everything But The Girl - Amplified Heart
Pulp - Different Class
Supergrass - I Should Coco
Radiohead - OK Computer
The Verve - Urban Hymns
Fatboy Slim - You've Come A Long Way, Baby
Prodigy - The Fat Of The Land

From the 2000's (The Noughties)

Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Muse - Black Holes And Revelations
PJ Harvey - Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
The Strokes - Is This It
Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderbeast

Now, you must understand that this is not a definitive list. There are many many more, and these are but a few wee suggestions to get your juices flowing. I know you guys can think of a ton more. So let's hear it - your picks for Best British Album Of The Past 30 Years. Give it a bash!


OK folks, time to feel old. The TV show Twin Peaks first hit our screens 20 years ago! Where, oh where does the time go? On April 8, 1990, TV as we knew it changed forever the first time Kyle MacLachlan uttered those immortal words: "Damn fine coffee". Kyle himself was on the box tonight as a guest on BBC's The One Show. The man is 4 days shy of turning 51, yet still looks as devilishly handsome as he did on Peaks. Blast his eyes! If I look that good in, let me see, 7 years, I will be happy. If I look that good tomorrow, I'll be over the moon. The guy is doing great right now on Desperate Housewives, and of course he's constantly in syndication as Trey from Sex And The City. Two shows I will probably never watch on purpose. He and his wife own two dogs which, due to them "loving them too much" have their own website, which is a hoot! It's called Mookie And Sam, and well worth a browse.
Twin Peaks and its prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me were directed by that lovable nutball David Lynch, of course, who also directed Kyle in Blue Velvet, another inexplicable yet immensely watchable movie. Blue Velvet also starred the eternally lovely Isabella Rossellini, the wonderfully unhinged Dennis Hopper and the talented Laura Dern, and contained one of my favourite songs, In Dreams  by Roy Orbison, lip-synched in a bizarre scene by Dean Stockwell.

I recall seeing David Lynch guesting on an early episode of  The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Jay knew that Lynch, a total geek, was a lover and collector of all things kitschy, and presented him with an old speaker from a drive-in movie theater. Lynch's reaction? "Neat-o!"

Here in the UK, Season 2 of Peaks is set to be released on DVD on March 22, one month after Kyle's 51st birthday.

Well, that was an odd little post, wasn't it?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Photo credit: Laura Madison Grant

Amen to that.

It's Good News Week

Just been perusing the news.

Of course the big story today is the horrific train crash in Belgium. Head-on collision. 18 dead. Eurostar services suspended pending an investigation. Big nasty. Ouch.

Then there's the lovely story of a fella who is still in hospital, unsurprisingly, after being stabbed in the eye with a stiletto heel! Yes! I'm not making this up.
"Gavin Taylor, 28, remains seriously ill in hospital after the incident last Sunday.
He suffered the injury in the back of a taxi while travelling home from a night out in Huddersfield with his girlfriend.
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "At around 2am on Sunday, police received reports of a serious assault which occurred in a vehicle travelling through Huddersfield town centre."
A 28-year-old man was struck to the head and taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
"He was subsequently transferred to Leeds General Infirmary and is currently in a stable but critical condition."
Staci Hargreaves, 33, from Stalybridge, Cheshire, has been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. She appeared at Huddersfield Magistrates' Court on Tuesday where she was granted bail to appear at Bradford Crown Court on February 16.
Police said the stiletto penetrated the eye socket and touched the victim's brain.

Makes me chuckle a little bit that the two protagonists in this story are named Gavin and Staci.

Then we've got this rather disturbing report that in a recent study, 75%  of women surveyed said they think that some women should take responsibility for rape. The old chestnuts being used here, such as dressing provocatively, and if they consented to getting in bed with the man before he attacked them.
Let me address the 'dressing provocatively' thing here. It doesn't matter how you're dressed, because a man is not an animal. We should be able to control ourselves, even when lusting after a hot girl in a miniskirt - this response seems to suggest that men have no self-control and that rape is triggered by sexual desire, whereas we know damn well that rape is all about power, control, and humiliation. A violent act, not a lusty one. And it doesn't matter if a woman consented to getting in bed with a man, it is still not an excuse for a man to suddenly turn violent once between the sheets, is it? It's not like the guy told her he was gonna become a maniac as soon as he got his kit off!

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said the findings were "alarming but sadly not surprising".She said: "It is depressing that, nearly half a decade later, people are still quick to blame the victim of rape rather than placing the responsibility where it actually belongs - squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator."
 Amen, sister.

Then we have the story of Clerks director Kevin Smith getting ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight by a pilot who said he did not fit in the seat correctly. So Smith goes on Twitter and says "Wanna tell me I'm too wide for the sky? Totally cool. But fair warning, folks: If  you look like me you may be ejected from @southwestair."
Whereupon a flood of support comes for Smith, including a user by the name of  Praxilla who called Smith the "MLK of fatties," to which he replied, "I have a Dream. And two lunches (meatball parm and Trix). And a couple of Twinkies. And a Diet Coke."
Southwest quickly responded to the Twitter storm with a public apology. However, they stated that their "Customer Of Size" (i.e. fattie) policy states that if a person cannot fit correctly into a seat then they are required to purchase an additional seat.
Now, Smith had purchased two seats. However, he was on standby, and only one seat was available. 

The airline did give Kevin a $100 travel voucher for his inconvenience, but he said that he did fit in the seat. "The arm rests went down and I could buckle my seatbelt without an extender. So...?" 

Always knew there was something wacky with Southwest.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Judge This!

So this morning while eating brekky I was watching the Ladies Moguls' final from Vancouver, and while I am not a skiing buff, I recognize skills when I see them, and can certainly differentiate degrees of difficulty when I see them.

The first one I saw was the third-to-last lady, Heather McPhie of the USA. She came downhill perfectly, until on her second jump/trick combo the rear of her ski hit the ground before everything else and cacked her landing up, causing her to fall over, but moments later she was back up due to skilful use of the next mogul to boost her body upright. For that, I say Heather, well done! Mad props to you!

Next was 2006 champion, Canada's Jennifer Heil, who won silver. Her run was absolutely flawless, her first jump a 360,  her second a Back Puck/Pike Position, which means she did a backflip and crossed her skis in what the commentators were calling an 'Iron Cross'. Looked spectacular and she finished in the lead.

However, the last skier to go was the USA's Hannah Kearney. Again, a flawless run, but she played it safe on the jumps. A backflip, nothing special. Then a 360, plain, ordinary, no tweaks. She finished in the lead with 27.86 seconds, a mere 0.05 seconds ahead of Jennifer Heil, clinching the gold.

There are seven judges. Five for the turns and two for the 'Air'. The only difference between Hannah's and Jennifer's runs apart from the time that I could see was the jumps. And I thought Heil's, being more complex, should have been given a higher degree of difficulty than Kearney's, but evidently according to the rules they are the same difficulty.

The air judges gave Heil a 2.2 for the first and a 1.9 for the second, Kearney a 2.2 for the first and for the second a 2.3. I realise they are specially trained for the job, but I fail to see how a plain old 360 with no special tweaks beats out a Back Puck/Pike Position. I know I know nothing about the sport, but that crestfallen look on Jennifer Heil's face when she thought she had it in the bag, only to have it snatched away by an American with a boring routine... call me an old softy, but I wanted to go to Vancouver and rip those judges a new one. How dare they judge a complicated jump like that by the same standards as the American girl's boring jumps? Outrageous. I felt like writing a terse letter to the International Olympic Committee. "Dear Sir, I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about the standard of judges you employ for the ladies' moguls event...."

Why do we need to compete? Why can't we just dispense with the rules and make the Olympics be just a bunch of people getting together and playing just for the sheer enjoyment of the sport? Like kids in the playground playing kickabout with 30 a side. Nobody keeping score, no-one having to live up to anyone else's 'standards' or 'rules'... just doing it for the sake of it.
Kinda goes back to what Michael Leeman once said when I saw him and Bev Bos at an auditorium in Everett, WA,  right before he sang the song 'Right Field'... "Give sports back to the kids".
Here are the brilliant Peter, Paul and Mary singing it.

Valentines and other musings

I won't go into a great deal of detail about the whys and the wherefores and history of Valentine's Day, because the information is all out there on Wikipedia, among other places. I will say that even during my short lifetime Valentine's Day seems to have changed from a day when you express how you feel towards your beloved girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, or significant other, to a marketing exercise where you feel obliged to give a Valentine card or gift to everyone  you are related to or like or are marginally acquainted with. Parents feel pressured into sending their kids to school with about 30 cards for all their classmates and their teacher, because we don't want little Johnny the one-eyed hunchback who drools and smells a bit funny to feel left out because he might grow up with low self-esteem and go postal in 20 years, taking out the manager of the local Safeway with an AK-47.

Do I sound jaded and cynical? Maybe. Do I still go ahead and do these things? Of course - under extreme duress. But I am still left hankering for those days of my youth when you got just ONE card or gift, and sent/gave it to the ONE person in the world you cared most about.

Back in the day, if a group of teenagers were being a bit rowdy outside your house, you'd go out front or lean out the front window and yell at them to bugger off. Nowadays people are afraid to do this because they are terrified of getting mugged by a gang of baggy-pants-and-hoodie wearing, sullen, spotty youths with a box cutter.

Back in the '70s when the world was told by all the 'smart' people that you could not spank your kids, could not tell them off, could not even say boo to them without doing their ego irreparable damage, we took the first step on the slippery slope to where we are now, afraid to raise our voice to some cocky teenager who needs a good thrashing, for fear he would turn around and punch our lights out.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating physical punishment, but I am saying we've gone soft. There's nothing wrong with making sure your kids are scared to step out of line. I was generally very well-behaved as a kid, mainly because I didn't want to find out what punishment would be meted out should I act up. The teachers at school were scary enough when being nice, so I made sure not to aggravate them. I think I only got spanked once, and that was enough to make me avoid it again at all costs.

Ah, those were the days.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Few Thank Yous

I just wanted to say a few shout-outs to the various people from various cities around the globe that have been kind enough to view my page. I have had hits in the past few days from such varied locales as:

Orlando, Florida
Basildon, Essex
Menlo Park, California
Wroclaw, Poland
Lodz, Poland
Braintree, Essex
Moscow, Russian Federation
Manteno, Illinois
Morrill, Maine
Felicity, Ohio
Andover, Hants
Valencia, Spain
Tivadar, Hungary
Gliwice, Poland
Worms, Germany
Horw, Switzerland
Narashino, Japan
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Puliyur, Tamil Nadu, India
Beverly Hills, California
and last, but not least, Matupá, Brazil!

I wish I could give individual shout-outs, but I can only see where the hits were from, not who. If you would leave a comment if you land on my page and you're from a distant location, I could thank you individually! Thanks anyway, and keep reading!

Sexy, My Aunt Fanny!

So Billboard, just in time for Valentine's Day (how predictable) has posted on their website their list of the 50 Sexiest Songs of all time. In their defence, they do put a disclaimer at the beginning that the list is not a list of the songs people find sexy, merely a list of the most popular songs about sex, ever. So not sensual, get-ya-in-the-mood-for-makin-luuurrrve type songs, just songs about doin'it or wanting to do it. Tedious. Boring. A lot of rap, not surprisingly. Who wants to read that list?

OK, some songs about the act of coitus are actually sexy. Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing, for one. It talks about it, and sounds sexy too. A double whammy. The top of their list was Olivia's Physical - which just makes me want to jam knitting needles into my eyes. Not sexy at all.

So what's on my list of songs that get a person in the mood? Hmm. I have much thinks about this tricky one.

Well, let's start with a bit of the classical. Ravel's Bolero  is a nice, slow, pulsating bit of orchestral foreplay, isn't it? Same goes for Kashmir by Led Zep. Longish song with a lustful hypnotic rhythm. Gets the old juices flowing. Nights In White Satin by The Moody Blues is a lush, sweeping, romantic opus, and Chris Isaak's Wicked Game is an old favorite too. I once made a tape designed to set the mood. Here's a few of what was on it...

This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren
David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto - Forbidden Colours (this is also the theme to Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and Sarah Brightman did a nice cover of it a while back).
James Brown - Cold Sweat and Sex Machine
Prince - Erotic City and Girls and Boys
The Doors - Moonlight Drive
Simply Red - (Open Up The) Red Box
UB40 - Don't Let It Pass You By
and you can't beat a bit of Barry White, especially I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby.
See if this doesn't get you in the mood. Oh, and it's got a kick-butt intro, which has been used in TV and movies dozens of times.

What are your favourites?

Friday, February 12, 2010

More Idiocy

So, more news from the world of chocolate. It seems that Kraft Foods (hereafter known as "The Minions Of Beelzebub"), despite the ink on their takeover deal with Cadbury's barely being dry, and despite their "hopes to keep open" the Keynsham plant, have now announced that the plant will close and production will shift to Poland, resulting in the loss of 400 or so jobs.

To be fair to the Minions, Cadbury's had planned to close the plant and had invested £100m in the new Polish site. But The Minions had raised hopes for these 400 workers, and barely six days later, said they only now realised how far gone the plans were and decided to go ahead with them.

I'm sorry, but if that's truly the case, then Irene Rosenfeld, head of the Minions, does not need to be in any bloody position of responsibility whatsoever. Head of a multinational giant and you don't know how far-reaching the closure plans are of the company you are about to buy? Puh-lease.

The plant had been part of Cadbury's since 1919, and before that it was owned by Fry Brothers. The plant makes Fry's Chocolate Cream, the Double Decker, Dairy Milk, Chocolate Buttons, Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs, Cadbury's Fudge, Chomp and the Crunchie. So now we'll have Polish Creme Eggs. That doesn't seem right to me.

At least there are plans in place to invest a bunch of money in the Bournville plant. If that goes, I'm giving up chocolate. Let's hope the Minions Of Beelzebub don't conveniently 'forget' or 'misplace' those plans. "Oh, we were not aware of anything of that nature when we bought the company..."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Scots Wha Hae

Goodness! No sooner do I mention that the Scots were sadly lacking in the "reading-Jeff's-blog" department and I get a hit from bonnie Glasgie! Thank you my Hibernian friends! Now.... let's have some from Wales, Northern Ireland, and Eire! Not to mention the Channel Islands (including Sark and Alderney). Then we'll work on the rest of Europe.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What's Funny; ICONS 2

Rowan Atkinson is a man who understands the joy of slapstick. I, too, am that sort of person. Slapstick, though, it seems, is a divisive issue. This is understandable. There is such a thing as bad slapstick. When Rowan transforms into the bumbling Mr. Bean, he is, in my opinion, elevating the art of slapstick and mime to its highest level. He is this generation's Jacques Tati.

Some people, though, hate mimes and exponents of slapstick with a passion. To them, good or bad, it's all the same. My mother is one of those people. She loves Rowan Atkinson in 'Blackadder' or 'Johnny English' - but in Bean she just sits there with a screwed-up expression on her face and occasionally mutters 'twit' and 'I'm sorry, but I just don't find this funny'. I finally figured out what it is.

To her, slapstick, however well done it is, is a mite too close to being clowning for her liking. Because she hates clowns. Clowns are just not funny. They're stupid, that is her standpoint. And I can kinda see that.

When she was quite young she was taken to a circus. She hated the whole thing, especially the clowns, and the ripe animal smell. Maybe that's why she has a look on her face like a bad odour has just parked itself underneath her nose whenever Bean starts falling about. She doesn't like Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy, either. It's probably a good thing she hasn't seen any Three Stooges films.

Anyway, that segues me nicely into the 2nd instalment of the occasional series:
Rowan Atkinson is one of the funniest people alive. How he can take almost nothing, the minutiae of life, and turn it into funny stuff is amazing. After Monty Python, there was little in the way of 'subversive' comedy on either side of the Atlantic, save for perhaps George Carlin and Richard Pryor. On British TV it was just sitcoms and comedians telling 'jokes' and doing impressions so terrible that they were hard to recognize even when wearing full make-up and wearing signs saying the person's name. I remember a show called Who Do You Do? that was pretty good most of the time with people like Freddie Starr and Peter Goodwright (who would do obscure people like Fred Emney), but the worst offender, to me at least, was Mike Yarwood. His best impressions were Denis Healey (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Ted Heath (Conservative P.M.), but even those were ridiculously lame - Denis with the bushy eyebrows and "what a silly billy", Ted with the heaving shoulders while chuckling. I laughed, but deep down I wanted accurate impressions. I hated the way Mike would always end his show with a lame song, starting off by saying "and this is me". I thought, we know it's you, Mike! Did you think for even a second that you had us bamboozled?

Suddenly in 1979 along came this show on BBC2, at 9 o'clock at night, once a week, with all these funny people in it - a chubby guy with a silver tongue, a blonde with an acid wit, and this weird-looking rubber-faced guy who walked into lampposts. I had found it. Suddenly there was comedy nirvana.

Not The Nine O'Clock News  had its teething troubles, but by the second series it was taking Britain by storm. All the lads in my class would come to school quoting the rude bits from the sketches and songs. It was amazing for us in our early teens to hear words like tits and bum on air. I often had to fight with my mother to get to stay up to watch it. Their take-offs on news magazine shows of the day and pop music were outrageously funny. Songs about trucking, bigoted policemen, squashed hedgehogs and talking gorillas were just the norm for these guys. Even 30 years on I have no trouble quoting "Gay Christian", "The Bouncing Song", "Gob On You" and "Constable Savage" in their entirety. The cast was Mel Smith ( now an acclaimed director), Griff Rhys Jones (comedian, actor, and documentary host), Rowan Atkinson of course, and Pamela Stephenson (married to Billy Connolly, she gained a doctorate in clinical psychology in 1989 and currently hosts a show on British TV called Shrink Rap, where she interviews celebs). Though the show only lasted three short years, just 27 half-hour episodes, three LPs and a stage show, all you have to say to someone of my generation is "Gerald The Gorilla" and instantly you are on the same wavelength. That, 30 years on, is funny.

Problem Solved

Well, it seems all I had to do was change to a different template and everything's hunky dory. I didn't much care for the other template selections and so I downloaded a free one from another website. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Blogger problems

As you may notice the blog headers for some reason are screwed up. I keep getting this 'undefined undefined' garbage at the top, the titles aren't in bold, and since Blogger's upgraded their template editors, and I can't tell HTML from a car crash, I have no idea exactly what to tweak to correct this. I'm going to keep working at it, and I'll try to get it fixed ASAP. Until such time as I do, please bear with me and don't think I'm a twit.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It's The Only Way To Live

In Cars.

I was thinking today about what a crazy thing memory is. I am convinced that the way the mind works is topsy-turvy. Memory ought to be assigned starting with the most important things getting the biggest block of mind-RAM, things like your bank account number, your address, the location of your keys etc. and less important stuff, such as who the director of That Touch Of Mink was, the jingle for Carling Black Label, what a pangolin is, who played Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride etc. assigned lower amounts of memory, only to be accessed during episodes of Jeopardy!  and quiz nights at the local tavern. Sadly, though, it is the other way around. I can remember all sorts of completely useless stuff - the number of my first bank account (01008060), my NatWest cheque card number (all the teenyboppers going what the heck's a cheque card?), and the model of all the cars I or my family have ever driven, including some of the license plates. Why do I remember this? Search me.

Let's start with my Dad. He had a Morris Minor 1000 that was white, but I don't remember it clearly. I've seen pics of it, I'm sure I rode in it a time or two, I have heard the story of our trip up to Birmingham in it when the exhaust pipe kept falling off many a time, but I can't remember seeing it. I'm sure I was too young. First car I remember him driving was an Austin A40. Looked a bit like this. My grandfather Len had one too, but that's only because I've seen it in home movies. His was blue with a black roof, Dad's was maroon all over. License was something like BPD 567D, so about the same year as the one pictured.

The other car was Pinky. An Austin Cambridge.
Like this.

I'm putting pics of the front and back to show the sheer size of this thing.

He had bought it from a mate for the princely sum of a bottle of Scotch. You don't get deals like that any more. The story was that it had been taken to be resprayed and the garage or whoever it was that painted it had some red and some white but not enough to do the whole thing, so they mixed it. It was bright, I mean bright pink.  We christened it The Pink Panther.

The brakes were not the best and we went one day to visit the fellow who had sold Dad the car. He lived on a hill. We parked and went inside. On coming out a couple of hours later Pinky was about 10 feet further down the hill from where she'd been parked.

My Grandad owned one too, but his was a rather more sedate maroon.

Grandad's next car was a Humber Sceptre. These were kind of more upscale than the Cambridge, like the English Buick. I remember the nice leather seats, and the fins. I think the license plate was FKR 569D, but don't quote me on that.

His was a light metallic green with tan leather interior and walnut dash. Nice.

Before long he changed it for a 1968 Triumph 2000, reg. UPB 321F. Dark green and pretty, it was the one I remember most as being our transport to Butlin's and on many fishing excursions. Also the first car I remember having a fold-down arm rest in the middle of the back seat. A nice divider between my sister and I.
In the late 70s he got a Citroen GSX, white, registration KKR 407P. It had a hydraulic rear suspension, which we would feel elevating in the back seat, shortly before takeoff. This thing was like a rocket.

Then he had two Honda Accords, back to back. The first was a sedan, silver blue, reg. DHC 883W. Like this.

Then a silver hatchback version. I cannot remember the registration, but  it was an A reg. My mother owned it after he bought a Lada estate.
Ladas are built like tanks. Before they were Lada they were known as Polski Fiat, engines designed by Fiat and built in Poland. His was a Lada Riva estate (that's station wagon for you across the pond) and it was tan(ish).
It was around this time that my mother surprised everyone including herself by learning to drive. While learning she bought her first car, a Peugeot 104.

Hers was yellow, and a nippy little thing, although it had its share of mechanical issues. I remember she drove my girlfriend and I down to the sea at Camber one day, or tried to. We got about halfway there and after clearing a small humpbacked bridge the muffler, well.... ceased to do its job, shall we say. We turned around and drove slowly home while the muffler (which turned out to have a small hole in it) made the car sound like a double-decker bus.

Around the same time my best buddy Nigel had learned to drive and had gotten a Peugeot also, a 304. HAE 549N.  This was dark blue and the issue with it was that one of the rear doors did not shut properly. I remember one night being jammed in the back with about four other people, going down Reading Street Hill at a rate of knots, and clutching on to the door handle with all my might for fear of falling out. I think whoever was sitting by the other door was doing the same thing.

My friend James has had several cars, but the two I remember most distinctly were the Hillman Imp and the Ford Capri.
The Imp was I think Jimbo's first car, and I remember going over to his house in Ox Lane one day and seeing it in the driveway. A funny little thing with a back window that flipped open like a trapdoor and a button for the windshield washer fluid that was less a button, more a rubber dimple, similar to the primer button on a gasoline-powered mower. The amount of fluid dispensed was directly proportional to the amount of pressure on the dimple. If you pressed it with all your might, the fluid would shoot over and above the car and wet the ground behind the car.

A few years later Jim had a Mk3 Capri, black with a black interior, one of the last ones to roll off the production line at Dagenham before they stopped making them in 1986.Beautiful car.However, I fear the car was not beautiful after what happened when I and my girlfriend at the time, whose name I will not mention so as not to embarrass the poor girl, visited James and his missus at their Ashford abode. We went over for dinner, and afterwards we sat and had a bit of wine & cheese. Blue cheese. Nice and stinky.

We were in the back of the car on the way home when she felt a bit ill. She evidently had been raised by a stern father who did not like messes. She was also a bit claustrophobic, and because she was worried she might getl sick, this brought back memories of her dad, and then she was terrified of making a mess when throwing up, which made her feel more tense and worried, until she finally upchucked blue cheese vom all over the lovely black interior of the car. Needless to say the odour will always stay with me. And probably with James, too.
I cannot talk about cars without mentioning my friend Alastair. He bought a Triumph Spitfire from the local junkyard for a song, with the intent of fixing it up. He worked on this thing for months until finally one day my mother, sister and I heard a vroom-vroom from out front, and went to investigate. There outside sat Alastair in his pride & joy, his Spitfire which he'd painted red, and said "Who wants to go for a spin?". Well, of course we all did. However, it only had two seats, so we had to take turns. And there was a small hole in the floorboard which terrified my mother and sister. Here's Al with said motor, a photo I took one freezing night in Hastings, Sussex. We had driven down in convoy with Nigel and friends to go to.... somewhere. Not sure where. See what I mean about memory? If I could remember anything about that night other than the car journey and listening to Radio Caroline playing Genesis' Abacab on the tinny little radio the story might mean more. But try as I might, those are all the details I remember. Ah well.

Now, where did I put my keys?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Musical Travesties

I have nothing against heavy metal as a genre. Some of my favorite songs are by metal bands. When you get into the sub-genres of metal, though, you can lose me a little. Death metal, speed metal, thrash metal, speedcore, thrashcore, it all begins to sound a little like those dirty little magazines you could get confiscated at Dover customs when returning from France. In a recent post on her blog concerning cover versions, my friend Marissa made note of a band called Northern Kings who play a kind of doomy symphonic metal, which in itself, done right, has the potential to sound amazing.


In researching this band I happened upon some videos of songs they covered for their last album, Rethroned (in stores now, kids!!) which in fact appeared to be an album purely of cover versions. Or, as my Mum used to say, "How we would have done it if we'd thought of it first".

Firstly of all, there are some songs that just should not be touched, period. There are some that should not be touched by hairy bearded caterwauling and grunting men with grungy guitars and caveman drummers. Unfortunately for Northern Kings, they are precisely that type of band and they somehow managed to pick a crop of songs that are of the kind that shouldn't be messed with. Either this is some staggeringly bad decision-making on their part, or they are just crap. I fear the latter to be true. I have yet to hear a song they did that isn't a cover, in fact. Some of their poor choices include:

I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight
Kiss From A Rose
Don't Stop Believin'
I Should Be So Lucky (by Kylie!!)
A View To A Kill
In The Air Tonight
Róisín Dubh (Black Rose) by Thin Lizzy
Ashes To Ashes
Brothers in Arms
We Don't Need Another Hero (seriously!)
The Training Montage from the movie Rocky

I trust you'll agree that, for a band that sounds like Metallica and the London Symphony Orchestra meets Korn and Guns'n'Roses, without the talent, these are indescribably bad choices. All great songs, in their own right, but even a great song played by a bad band sounds like a bad band. Even when their choices steer towards the region of rock, such as their rendition of Don't Bring Me Down by ELO, they can't help but make it sound like a crap '80s hair band song. But the worst - the absolute pinnacle, if that's the right word, of the steaming pile of dung that is their output, is their downright blasphemous version of A-Ha's classic Take On Me. They should be flayed alive for crimes against music. Take a listen, if you have the stomach for it.

It transpires that Northern Kings are a supergroup. Four hairy lads from four different Finnish symphonic metal bands. Who knew there were even four?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Junior Choice

Those amazing people who both follow my blog and my Facebook antics - most of you I will call friends, one or two of you who only follow my Web tracks just to check on me and harrumph disdainfully at how much time I'm spending on the computer or how childish I'm being or other silly reasons, I will call something else - will have noticed that earlier today I posted a bunch of YouTube videos from such notables as Kenneth Williams and Rolf Harris, as well as some other things, perhaps strange to you, and it kinda put me in the mood to talk about something that was a big part of my growing up, and I suspect to countless other Brits of my generation. I'm talking about a radio show that aired on Saturday and Sunday mornings on BBC Radio 1, Junior Choice.

Originally the show had started in the early '50s, called Children's Choice and subsequently Children's Favourites, hosted by Derek McCulloch (Uncle Mac) until 1965. Several hosts were tried after that, including Leslie Crowther, until in 1968 the show moved from The Light Programme to the brand-new Radio 1 and Radio 2, broadcast simultaneously on the two stations, with a new host, Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart, who hosted for 11 years, and then the final host Tony Blackburn took over until 1982, when the show ceased.

The show was basically a request show. Kids wrote in and requested songs, and whatever the majority requested got played, so it was an interesting and sometimes downright weird mix of pop, children's songs, hymns, whatever. A few years ago EMI released an album on their mfp (Music For Pleasure) label an album entitled All Aboard! containing 20 tracks, all of which had become staples on the show over the years.
This cassette was a total trip back in time for me. Some of my favourites included on the album were:

  • Michael Holliday - "The Runaway Train"
  • Flanders & Swann - "The Gnu Song"
  • Mandy Miller - "Nellie The Elephant"
  • Arthur Askey - "The Bee Song"
  • Ronnie Hilton - "A Windmill In Old Amsterdam"
  • The Seekers - "Morningtown Ride" (an instrumental version of which was the show's theme tune)
  • Bernard Cribbins - "Right Said Fred"
  • Elton Hayes - "The Owl and The Pussycat"
  • DIck James - "Robin Hood"
and a bunch more. I realise that a lot of my readership on the other side of the pond will recognise none of these. For that I apologise, and to try to rectify the situation, I will now post a selection from the above list. It seems to me the one that would probably cause the most confusion is Right Said Fred as you'll all recognise the band that sang 'I'm Too Sexy' - well, that's where they got the name.

Bernard Cribbins was a comedic actor who was steadily becoming popular in the UK in the early '60s and, as is the obvious thing for a young funny guy to do when he's getting popular, he made some records. Right Said Fred  was his biggest hit, peaking at #10 on the UK chart in 1962.

Right Said Fred (Cup of Tea)
(Myles Rudge, lyrics & Ted Dicks, music)

"Right," said Fred, "Both of us together
One on each end and steady as we go."
Tried to shift it, couldn't even lift it
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea and

"Right," said Fred, "Give a shout for Charlie."
Up comes Charlie from the floor below.
After strainin', heavin' and complainin'
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea.

And Charlie had a think, and he thought we ought to take off all the handles
And the things wot held the candles.
But it did no good, well I never thought it would
"All right," said Fred, "Have to take the feet off
To get them feet off wouldn't take a mo."

Took its feet off, even took the seat off
Should have got us somewhere but no!
So Fred said, "Let's have a cuppa tea."
And we said, "right-o."

"Right," said Fred, "Have to take the door off
Need more space to shift the so-and-so."
Had bad twinges taking off the hinges
And it got us nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea and

"Right," said Fred, " Have to take the wall down,
That there wall is gonna have to go."
Took the wall down, even with it all down
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea.

And Charlie had a think, and he said, "Look, Fred,
I get a sort of feelin'
If we remove the ceilin'
With a rope or two we could drop the blighter through."

"All right," said Fred, climbing up a ladder
With his crowbar gave a mighty blow.
Was he in trouble, half a ton of rubble landed on the top of his dome.
So Charlie and me had another cuppa tea
And then we went home.

(I said to Charlie, "We'll just have to leave it
Standing on the landing, that's all
Trouble with Fred is, he's too hasty
Never get nowhere if you're too hasty.")

(c)1962, by Myles Rudge (lyrics) & Ted Dicks (music)
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