Monday, 13 July 2020

Be my guest #1: John Medd and his Worm Top 5!

Brilliant!  Today Sun Dried Sparrows welcomes its first guest contribution and what a fine one it is.  I'm delighted to be able to publish this fascinating, entertaining (and educational!) post by our talented fellow blogger John Medd, whose own place of residence can be found here:

(You're far too kind in your introduction below, John, but I'm dead chuffed that you felt inspired.  Also very touched by your choice of subject matter.)

I'm really grateful to John for this lovely piece and for stepping in to help me out; more contributions are always welcome.  Enjoy,

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When C recently announced to the world that her writing mojo appeared to have temporarily deserted her and was asking for cover in the shop I thought OK, I could put a shift in on a midweek afternoon if it means she won't have to pull the shutters down; I can smile politely at the customers if they ask me any tricky questions - I'll just say, "that's a very interesting question, I'll get back to you on that if I may..." So these are big shoes to fill, let me tell you, I've been reading C's captivating musings for nigh on a decade now and I can't even begin to get near the fine detail that she puts into her subject matter; whether it be drawing & illustration, Triumph Heralds, rambling, '70s punk bands (her love of Generation X's guitar player is unrivalled) or Bippity Boppity hats, I can only watch from the sidelines in wonderment.

And that is precisely why I shan't be exploring any of the above material - even if I feel some of them are pulling me in (Generation X, definitely). No, today I'm going to scribble a few words about - wait for it - worms; a topic I know is very near to C's heart.  Her passion for and knowledge of worms and wormeries is something that she has touched upon in her writing often and, as with most people who are passionate about things, their affection for their subject matter just oozes off the page.

However, my ramblings today on these amazing invertebrates is going to concentrate on one or two of my favourites - a Worm Top 5 if you will, and no, it won't include the Alien chestburster that exploded out of John Hurt's chest cavity, nor will it have among its ranks Jeff the 600 foot subway worm in Men In Black 2.  Hilarious though they both are.  Ditto the talking worm in Jim Henson's Labyrinth.

It will come as no surprise that worms feature heavily in mythology and legends.  They are often associated with snakes, serpents and dragons and the worm's symbolic meaning is divided between death and renewal.  Compost Corner, anyone?

The legend of the Cockburn Worm has its roots in the North East of England - a part of the world raided by the Vikings for centuries during the Dark Ages.  The Viking longboats often had worms carved into their bows.  One particular raider, personified as a monstrous Viking worm dragon, plundered the village of Cockburn in the Tees Valley but was finally slain by John Conyers.  Even the fact that Lewis Carroll would later borrow the story as the basis for his nonsense poem Jabberwocky still didn't guarantee it a place in my Top 5.

That position is occupied by Walter the Worm.  He's the brainchild of Roger Hargreaves, creator of the Mr Men series.  Walter had many cameo appearances in various Mr Men adventures, but was given his own book later on in the run.  A big shout out to the early bird too.

The Number 4 slot is a strange choice.  I'll tell you for why.  I'm no Whovian - my love of Dr Who began and ended with Troughton and Baker with Pertwee in the middle - but here's a cracking little worm related tale.  It stars Matt 'Boxhead' Smith, an oft used science fiction trope - memory wiping.  Long story short, if you touch the Memory Worm it takes the last hour of your memory away; get bitten by it and you lose decades.  Watch this three and a bit minute knockabout clip and all will become clear.  Will you remember to do that?

In at Number 3 is the Mongolian Death Worm.  A cryptozoological creature reported to exist in the Gobi Desert.  Like Big Foot, sightings are rare.  But it's bright red in colour and two foot long.  Allegedly.  Oh, and it will kill you just by touching it.  If you're looking for excuses not to go to the Gobi Desert for your holiday this year, I think this may well be it.

I love this next one.  Number 2 in my worm countdown is The Lowly Worm.  He pops up from time to time in Richard Scarry's delightful children's books.  And just in case you confuse him for any of the other worms I've mentioned here, he'll be the one wearing the Tyrollean hat.

Toppermost of the Poppermost is my favouritest worm ever.  It's Danny Kaye's Inch Worm - and is taken from the 1952 movie Hans Christian Anderson. (And yes, something of an ear worm!)

The song, written by Loesser Frank, has many fans, not least David Bowie.  This is what the artist formerly known as David Jones had to say about it:

"I loved it as a kid and it's stayed with me forever.  I keep going back to it.  You wouldn't believe the amount of my songs that have sort of spun off from that one song.  Not that you'd really recognise it.  Something like 'Ashes To Ashes' wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for 'Inchworm'.  There's a child's nursery rhyme element in it, and there's something so sad and mournful and poignant about it.  It kept bringing me back to the feeligns of those pure thoughts of sadness that you have as a child, and how they're so identifiable even when you're an adult.  There's a connection that can be made between being a somewhat lost five-year-old and feeling a little abandoned and having the same feeling when you're in your twenties.  And it was that song that did that for me."

And here he is singing it:

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

An invitation...

I'm so sorry!  I have (once again) misplaced my blogging groove.  I just don't seem to be able to get in the right mood.  I've an awful lot of work on, so my mind is elsewhere most of the time, but I've had that before and it hasn't stopped me.  Maybe it's just the situation we're all in as, although I know just how incredibly fortunate I am in so many ways, I can't rid myself of a constant low-level sense of anxiety just about the world as a whole... more now than ever.   I can put it to the back most of the time and still derive pleasure from other things, but perhaps it's at the root of why I seem to become full of self-doubt as soon as I try to write more here.

Anyway - a thought!  A few of my lovely fellow bloggers with music-themed blogs have been opening up their doors to guest posts - it's great, and works well for everyone.  But of course I don't want to tread on anyone else's toes so I wondered if I could offer a different platform here if there's anyone out there who wants it...

Therefore, if you fancy contributing a guest post here some time, on any topic that might fit into this place comfortably (no restrictions other than that of libel and extremism, you know what I'm saying) then please write in.  Perhaps you - or your secret alter-ego! - have an urge to wax lyrical about pylons, Lloyd Loom chairs or the joy of shelling peas, for instance.  Not that I'm suggesting those at all, but.... who knows?! I have a fondness for the random and the eclectic, the funny, playful and intriguing - and would really appreciate some original input.

You can get in touch via the contact details top right if you're feeling more inspired than I am and could help inject some life back into these pages.  It may also get me back into the groove...

Publication at my discretion but anonymity will be fully respected if desired!

Pretty peas

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Through the magic door

Yesterday evening, on my lone walk through fields and thickets, having climbed over stiles, snaked through kissing gates and played hide-and-seek with the jackdaws, I came across a mysterious doorway.

It set my imagination alight.

What would you want to find if you stepped through this doorway?  Would it be a portal to the past, or to the future?  To the inner pages of a long-lost book, or a scene in a black-and-white film?  To a dream... abstract and transient, but full of meaning?

I know what lies behind it...

But it's terribly boring, so I won't spoil your fantasy!

St Louis Union: Behind The Door

Friday, 22 May 2020


Gotta have a little moan!  About adverts (again)...

It's the ones on TV that have been

specifically made to resonate within the current situation.

You may wonder why I'm formatting this post the way I am

but all you have to do is to imagine that every line here

is being spoken by a different person, via their separate video link.

It's the fashionable thing to do now, to show how we are

all connected, even when we can't actually be

in the same room.

But it's not that in itself which irritates me.

It's the fact that

they break up their sentences half way through.

That's the thing - they don't even get to finish their own


Some people just get

three or four words.

Whereas I only have two which spring to mind each time these ads come on the screen.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Mystery lovechild: the results

Thanks so much to all who joined in with the latest instalment of this absurd and trivial challenge.  I've realised that it's a bit like cooking a complicated meal; takes ages to prepare, finesse and serve up, and then it's all gone in a fraction of the time.  Just the washing up to do now...  and some indigestion tablets to gulp down.

Anyway, we started off with an amiable-looking character; I've got so used to looking at this new bespectacled face now that the actual origins somehow no longer look real to me.  'Helen', as Alyson has playfully named her (absolutely!), is essentially Bonnie Raitt, with just Buddy Holly's eyes and nose, but what a difference they make.  Both were correctly and quickly identified by Martin.


Next up, what do you get when you combine Kurt Cobain and Celine Dion? ( The top half of Kurt's face and hair, with the lower half of Celine's. ) You get a young man called 'Kyle', according to Alyson.  Martin correctly identified the Nirvana vocalist, and a warm welcome goes to Douglas McLaren who correctly spotted Celine - many thanks for joining in.  

No. 3 proved tricky.  No, not that Tricky.  It's Stormzy, or at least the lower half of his face, combined with Nona Hendryx looking suitably exotic, even more so with Stormzy's beard.  Another warm welcome and many thanks also to the soul of a collector for dropping by and correctly identifiying Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omair Owuo Jr straight away.  Alyson was so close with her Patti Labelle suggestion, but with a little nudge in the same direction realised it's acutally Patti's fellow Labelle member Nona instead.

Who's responsible for this living doll?  Rigid Digit was straight off the starting blocks to identify Cliff Richard, but wasn't 100% sure if Lulu might be the other half.  Martin also thought it could be Lulu.  You were both right.  Congratulations!

("... looks like an Angela to me," says Martin too.  I have to agree.)

Jon Bon Jovi and Patti Smith give love a bad name with this mystery lovechild...  Well done to Martin.

But Martin had earlier wondered if Bruce Springsteen's genes were in the mix.  I can see why.

*However I must reiterate that all lovechildren featured here must be genetically possible, i.e. with male/female parents.  Even if some of them would have had to have  their eggs or sperm frozen.  But, you know, I have to keep this realistic...

Ah, look what happens when you give Britney Spears an Ed Sheeran haircut!  As Alyson says, you get a kindly face who looks like a Frances.  And it's actually Britney's complete face, but seems that hair makes all the difference so, although Martin was quick to identify Ed, an extra clue was needed to spot this particular 'Princess of Pop'.  Maybe it would have been easier if they'd both shaved their heads...

Damon Albarn and Joan Jett combine to make one badass mean girl. (I reckon she's called Donna...)  Rigid Digit and Martin both wondered if real-life associates of Damon had something to do with this but I can confirm that neither Phil Daniels* nor Justine Frischmann were anywhere to be seen at the time of conception.

I don't know what happened down in Devil Gate Drive to result in this, but here she is.  Rigid Digit was quick to identify both Suzi Quatro and Robin Gibb.

I didn't think it would take too long to recognise this Stray Cat's enormous quiff and indeed Martin pinpointed Brian Setzer straight away.  But the lower half of this lovechild's face took far longer to identify as belonging to Miley Cyrus, in spite of valiant attempts from both Martin and Alyson.

And finally, although Martin was quick to recognise Janet Jackson here, Chuck Berry (the owner of those eyes, mouth and pencil moustache) also took a little more time to get right.  

And that's the lot.

Everyone who played along got a least one answer right, with Martin bagging the most and Rigid Digit a clear second place.  And it turns out Rol knew more than he let on, as confided he'd been to school with most of them...

But no points and no prizes - just another five minutes of your time wasted, I'm afraid!  Thanks to everyone for such astute detective work.

Monday, 4 May 2020

The return of The Mystery Lovechild...

I reckon it's time for something ridiculous. pointless and a complete waste of time; even more so than usual, I mean.  Another instalment of The Mystery Lovechild!

If you've been around for past 'mystery lovechild' posts you may remember the premise:

What might the secret offspring, born to a famous but unlikely set of musical parents, look like?

Previously, for instance, it turned out that the oddly familiar-looking character below was the (alleged) result of an (alleged) furtive fumble between Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks.   Apparently it all started when he asked her if she thought he was sexy.  That night was the night, but it seems it wasn't big love after all and she told him to go his own way - and that must be why he doesn't want to talk about it.

But every picture tells a story...

So here are some more, frankly very peculiar-looking offspring whose parents need identifying.  I'd love to know who you think could be responsible for such reckless and terrifying distribution of their genes.

No rush, no prizes, but I hope they make you smile rather than throw up.

Answers next Monday!











Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Hats entertainment...

It's brilliant how the brief mention of something in a blog can trigger thoughts in others' minds too, so it was really lovely to see recent posts by my dear fellow bloggers Alyson and The Swede on the subject of...


However, they took theirs one step further and each included a lovely photo of themselves in some very dapper headwear too.  It seems only right therefore that I should take up the gauntlet thrown down by Alyson at the weekend to try and find an image of myself also wearing a rather bippity-boppity hat.  Not easy!

So the image above is from 1986 - it's a screenshot from a little DIY film, which was such a novelty at the time as we really weren't used to being in front of a camera and seeing ourselves that way.  Some friends in a band* wanted to make a video about themselves, and this is from an afternoon in the rehearsal studio where Mr SDS and I were invited to watch whilst their manager mate nearly buckled under the weight of a huge, hired, shoulder-supported Camcorder.  Thus I donned my finest (posey!) garb for the occasion and made a cameo appearance.  I also smoked a lot of cigarettes.

How was 1986 for you?  What were you listening to?  The charts were full of Five Star and Simply Red, and there was very little new stuff around that was floating my boat.  I was 23 and had been discovering '60s psychedelia and beat, the US 'Nuggets' and 'Pebbles' albums, all that kind of thing.  I've written about my love of that '60s revival period here before, and how it seems strange looking back to be so young but getting into music that was (or seemed at the time) so old.   But this music was new to my ears, and that was enough.  It was so fresh and exciting to be exposed to it for the first time, and fantastic to have so much to delve into from previously unplundered archives.

Songs like this:  Rupert's People - Hold On (1967)

Having a whole new genre of music to investigate brought with it too an interest in the fashions, attitudes and ephemera of its original era and I scoured the charity shops for dated clothes (including that hat), wishing myself back to a fantasy version of life where I might have shopped at the 'Granny Takes A Trip' boutique on the Kings Road or seen a trippy band at the UFO Club.  But the reality was quite different - perhaps that's why.   We were still in the midst of the Thatcher years, renting a shitty top-floor flat with peeling wallpaper in a new town well-known for the ubiquity of its concrete.

Granny Takes A Trip

Still - I had the pleasure of working in a record shop and spending my wages on interesting vinyl.  It was through this that I discovered other bands who didn't originate from the '60s but who still wanted to revive or at least borrow something from that whole era.  Paisley Underground, Garage Revival, call it what you will... it ticked a lot of boxes.  It meant you could do more than just stick on a twenty-year-old record and dream yourself back to some idealised version of the past, instead you could go see a band the same age as you, making similar exciting sounds in real time.   Things evolved too, different elements were thrown into the mix by these new bands - not only was there the mod influence but there was a hint of the punk ethos about it too, if that makes sense.  Fuzzy guitars or contemporary lyrics and more radical haircuts or over-the-top cover designs - something with a harder, brasher edge was going on which fitted in to the contemporary setting.  We had bands like the Godfathers and the Prisoners here in the UK, alongside Scandinavian groups such as the Nomads and the Backdoor Men; there were the Fuzztones from New York (and many more).

The Fuzztones: Bad News Travels Fast

Anyway, I'm waffling on but just wanted to put the above image into context. It's how I came to be watching a young new band rehearse in 1986 and yet didn't feel out-of-place in a pair of  '60s style granny glasses and a bippity-boppity hat!

*Just in case they ever stumble upon this, for the sake of anonymity/privacy I've missed out the band's name. But we thought they were great.

Monday, 6 April 2020

A bippity boppity hat


I have long wondered what a bippity boppity hat looks like - haven’t we all?

But I was thinking, if ever there was a time to start wearing one it must be now, with the current widespread despair about our uncut / unstyled hair.  I jest, but still...

I’m imagining it could have feathers, or sequins perhaps (to go with the satin tat).  Would it pull down over the ears? Or have a wide brim?  

I found some women's hats from the early 1900s that strike me as being very bippity boppity.

Bowie’s memorable lyric also puts me in mind of a character from a James Thurber children’s book, The 13 Clocks.  I have a copy tucked away; it’s a great fairy story, but a detail which has stayed with me most vividly is that a central character, known as the Golux, wears an “indescribable hat”.  

“He wore an indescribable hat, his eyes were wide and astonished, as if everything were happening for the first time, and he had a dark, describable beard…” 

Is that not brilliant?

Thurber was blind by the time he wrote The 13 Clocks and could not add his own images as he'd done in the past, so he got his friend, Marc Simont, to illustrate it for him.  He then asked Simont to describe all his illustrations; Simont was unable to describe the hat.  Thurber was, quite rightly, satisfied.

The Golux in his indescribable hat, as illustrated by Marc Simont

My copy is illustrated equally charmingly by Ronald Searle

Anyway, when it comes to some hats I would like to wear to disguise lockdown hair, I love the look of some from the 1920s.

If you're male (although not necessarily), maybe one of these would take your fancy?

Or something more flamboyant perhaps?  It would make our daily exercise allowances so much more interesting.

Berets are a favourite of mine and I actually have a few, but I seldom wear them.  If only I could appear this cute

but I reckon the reality is more like this nowadays...wot with me glasses an' that.

Wrong on so many levels

I may be going slightly mad.

Take care x

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