Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The time machine

I think I’m about to find a time machine in my garden.  I’ve uncovered two things that lead me to believe this.  Digging down in the sandy soil beneath the prickly hedge a few years ago, amid the calcified skulls of poorly sparrows who perished in the cold and fragments of clay pipe that look just like their bones, I came upon an escutcheon.

I even just love that word ‘escutcheon’.  It sounds so archaic. That little piece of metal which once decorated and protected a keyhole, a keyhole in a door to who knows where, from who knows when.

This little plot of land has been used by people for hundreds of years.  So I love it when I find the evidence of those who’ve left it behind, and long for the day when I might find an ancient coin perhaps, or a shard of pottery that dates back even further.  I love the way the worms, the moles, the ever churning, moving soil, turn up these random things.

Then, just a short while ago, amongst unidentified pieces of rubble and slivers of willow pattern crockery in the earth not too far below the surface, I came across this.  

It seems to be a door handle.   A broken porcelain knob,  and all that can be seen of a number, perhaps a date - 67 - stamped into the unglazed surface.

The handle bar now so bent, twisted, the rust growing around it like a living, organic thing.

A keyhole, then a doorhandle. More thoughts inevitably follow.  Thoughts of locks and passageways and portals.    And if you were to tell me that there was a strange and spine-tingling story behind these finds, I would love to believe you.  What tale might there be?  The time machine beckons,  it’s out there somewhere, I just need to find the key, literally.    I'll keep digging.

Where would you have it take you?

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Gigging, ligging and leek pie

There have been a few snippets of conversation in this blogging corner recently about travelling with bands.  I did my little stint of it in the early ‘80s because my boyfriend was the guitarist in an anarcho-punk band, and the other day I happened to mention in a comment over at My Top Ten a particular memory from when I joined them on a mini-tour.

There we all were at the end of this little trip around various dingy dives scattered about the UK: four band members, four girlfriends and the 'roadie', sitting in a motorway service station a long way from home, hungry and miserable as hell.  Surely it shouldn't be like this?!  But it was.  We pooled what little cash we had between us - like the sticky twopence pieces you find in those fluffy far corners of inner pockets - to see if we could afford a few buns.  Maybe a chocolate muffin.  But we didn't have enough for more than a crappy cup of tea.  It was desperate - so desperate - the vocalist had a little cry.

And the stupid thing was that we were on our way back home and it wasn't like we didn't have money there.  Or warm beds and clean socks.  It was the tension that caused the tears. Being cramped up with other people for too long.  Sleeping on floors.  Inhaling exhaust fumes and the communal breath of strangers in unfamiliar venues.  The waiting about, so much waiting.  All those things add up.

Is it time to serialise some of those recollections here?  Not being a band member, my perspective may be different too -  I observed things, I felt things, I didn't have to perform.  Whilst I don't have diaries, I do have memories, so maybe I ought to jot a few down before they fade?  As I'm sure most people can say about certain periods in their life, there's almost a book just waiting to be written.  Or a sitcom -  one in which I could also explain the 'leek pie' reference in the title above.... (I will!)

Anyway, while I think about that, I remember that I'd written a post some years ago (slightly edited here, but apologies if you've seen it before) which might serve to kick-start some more.  And if it does, then please think of this as the introduction...!

Do you have any tales from the tour bus?  I'd love to hear them.

* ~ * ~ *

A smell of stale cigarette smoke lingers in the stingingly cold night air. The floor of the back of the transit van where I sit feels icy, even through my trousers. My back hurts, leaning against something hard and unyielding, its corner poking into my shoulder.

There are seven of us in the back of this metal box, trying to ‘snuggle’ down between amps, drums, guitar cases, backdrops and bags of leads and pedals, behind the cab, hoping to catch some sleep as the vehicle rumbles monotonously down the motorway in the bleak early hours of a winter morning.

Along with band members and the other girlfriends is another passenger - a stranger.  He's a ‘fan’ who is cadging a lift back home after the gig. Whilst packing up at the end of the night - always a long-winded business - he’d hung about and asked, “Any chance of dropping me off in Hull?"   With the band’s badges on his lapel glinting in the streetlights, the bass player and self-appointed spokesman for the group couldn't refuse. Never mind that this detour takes us an hour out of our way home and it feels like an eternity when we’ve got another 120 miles to go. But this often seems to happen; there's always someone in the van travelling back who hasn’t travelled out with us, and usually it’s someone who smells strongly of sweat and dope and farts, with limbs that are far too long and a bulky rucksack, taking up precious space and time. And space and time mean more than anything on the home-bound stretch, because everyone is knackered, hungry, dehydrated, cold, squashed up and grumpy. Everyone just wants to get home, longing for deep sleep in a warm, soft, bed.

For a while this became quite a frequent thing for me as I travelled with the band to venues up and down the country. We usually tried to get back the same night, which in reality meant arriving home just as the sun was coming up.  When we stayed over somewhere, there was no nice comfy hotel or motel.  This was anarcho-punk, after all!  So instead there was the damp squat in Bath – a condemned terraced house with no plumbing, and the floor of a tiny council flat in a high rise in St. Helens, which did have plumbing but, by strange coincidence, a broken toilet.

My memories of those days are a melange of odd moments and images. From being stopped and searched by the Mets as we travelled home through South London, to seeing a cow giving birth as we ventured through the Cumbrian hills on the way to a gig near Windscale nuclear plant. From hearing rumours that skinheads were going to throw meat (!) on stage at Grimsby (they didn’t), to paddling in the sea before a gig in Fareham. And there was the Gizzard Puke-styled punk in Burnley who was ‘wearing’ a condom attached to his face between safety pins (one in his lip, one in his nose. It was quite a look.) It turned out he was the singer in one of the support bands, whose only memorable number was a re-worded demolition of Eddie Cochran’s ‘C’mon Everybody’ endearingly entitled ‘Fuck Off Everybody’.

I remember the inter-band arguments, oh yes, plenty of them.  And the seemingly endless soundchecks, the listening in on fanzine interviews, and the way only Northern punks sported moustaches… Strangely enough, perhaps, the thing I probably remember the least about is the performances. They were good, though.  Of course.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Mystery lovechild 2 - the results

Well, well, well, as Jeremy Kyle might say.   The DNA results are in.  It didn't take long to get to the truth though -  I'm so impressed!  Thank you for joining in.  Here's confirmation of the identities of those absent 'parents':

Quickly spotted by The Swede and agreed by Martin, yes No. 1 is Dave Grohl ( hair and eyes) and PJ Harvey (bottom half of face with nose and mouth.)


I can see why Pete Doherty's name kept cropping up here - the hat, the pout, the hair...

... but this babyshambles got their features from Iggy Pop and Courtney Love.  Well done Alyson for working out Courtney.

No doubt here about Paul Simonon, as identified by all.  I felt awful doing this to him.  But those eyes and mouth belong to Gwen Stefani - again well sussed by Alyson.

This sultry cutie (something of the Judy Geeson here to my mind) gets her eyes and nose from David Essex and her hair, mouth and bone structure from Chrissie Hynde.  Quite a combination, don't you think?

It's still just Brian Eno really, isn't it?  Who knew that Kylie and him were doppelgangers?  Special mention though to an inspired suggestion that it was Queen Victoria and Martin Gore.  Yeah, I get where you're coming from, Rol.  This is just for you....

Too freaky.  No difficulties for anyone in spotting Lionel Richie's hair and chin here. Poor Aretha Franklin doesn't look so good with them, though.  Congrats to Alyson for identifying her.

I was staggered to discover that this combination of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull looks rather too much like a good friend of mine.   Hmm, maybe a real DNA test is in order. Think of the money!

I know, I know, it was a bit obvious about Jim Morrison.  Here he is with Bjork's eyes, nose and hairline.  I even shaved his chest specially for the occasion too.

"Noel Fielding", says Rol, "Just Noel Fielding".  
So good it makes up for all the answers he didn't get right ;-)

So if Siouxsie Sioux and Liam Gallagher got it on, you'll now know what to expect.


I'm so sorry for Bobbie Gentry.  It's just that Marc Bolan's nose and jaw fitted her face so neatly, I 
couldn't resist.  (Wish I could say the same about this formatting.)

And that's the lot.  Today's joint champion gene-spotters are The Swede and Martin with a whopping 16 out of 20 correct answers each.  Brilliant work!  Alyson identified 15  to start with and then neatly filled in the earlier gaps after a couple of clues.  And Rol had me in stitches with his Queen Victoria and Noel Fielding. So you're all winners, of course.  Thank you!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Who is the mystery lovechild? Part Two

What a miserable time of year. I'm all for some light relief and a little blogging frivolity always helps....

So, yes, the rather fetching blend of characteristics featured in the last post were indeed from the very lovely Nile Rodgers (did you see that brilliant three-part BBC Four documentary on him, 'How To Make It In The Music Business', last October?) and the really rather scary Grace Jones.  Here's the 'proof' should it be needed:


This song seems quite apt...

But back to the matter in hand.

Please brace yourself for some other faces whose inherited features may not be so obvious - or are they?  Some may be wearing one of their parents' hand-me-downs and haircuts, which helps - but whose nose or eyes, or rugged chin perhaps, have they ended up with? All are, or have been, notable characters in the music business.

Anyway, no prizes for correct answers I'm afraid but all suggestions very welcome!











(Don't go having any nightmares, now....)

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Whose lovechild? More soon...

A little bird told me there have (allegedly) been an increasing number of  improbable rock'n'roll couplings resulting in offspring who are keen to find out who their parents really are.

You may remember I publicised some late last year by posting their pictures here and with your help the identification process was quite quickly concluded.

Now I have another gallery of images awaiting suggestions, which I'm just compiling now.  If you're interested, please look out for them here on Wednesday evening.

Here's one just for starters. I don't think they're going to have too much trouble believing who their musical mum and dad (allegedly) are, having clearly inherited some obvious characteristics from both - what do you reckon?

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Abstract moment of the week #7

This weekend I had to paint lots of little men for the latest children's book commission, a story set many years ago.  These men – 12 of them – are in a boat in the middle of a terrible storm.   There’s this other geezer on board whom they’ve been following (he seems a very memorable good guy, he can do all sorts) and when he puts his hand up and commands it the storm subsides and the lake they are on becomes calm.

I have to say - even though I'm not remotely religious, I do enjoy these kind of illustration jobs, and the publishers are lovely to work with.

Well, I was painting away, I'd got my main man done, and needed to make each of his 12 sidekicks slightly different.  Side and middle partings, curly and straight hair, noses of various sizes and shapes, etc.  Each face is only about 1cm across so very small, not much room for detail at all and I have to use a very thin brush  -  the features, whilst simple, are a bit haphazard to be honest.   But as I finished the last man’s tiny face, I couldn’t help thinking he looked familiar.  It was as if my drawing hand was under another’s control, guided by a spectral presence, and without any conscious effort from me this character had emerged.  A total surprise!

I can’t show the whole picture for confidentiality reasons, so here’s just the relevant section significantly enlarged, with the man I’m referring to at the back.  

Is it just me, or does he look a bit like...   ?

Sunday, 31 December 2017

In with the new...

(I'm getting a bit hooked on these weird Victorian cards)

It's been another mixed year (has it ever been anything else?) - a world in chaos, so much political madness and ineptitude, hate, corruption and violence beyond most people's comprehension but, as always, the positive flip side to it is  the responses of ordinary, decent folk just getting on and doing the right thing. As for my own 2017, well it was better than 2016 which was marked by loss and grief from the start, and actually not an awful lot has happened - which is pretty much a good thing!  

My edited highlights - I can't do favourites and lists! - would include falling utterly in love with Detectorists and being gripped by Line of Duty on TV,  having hedgehogs visiting the garden every night, seeing Blondie at Brixton Academy,  getting some top albums (particularly Saint Etienne 'Home Counties', the XX 'I See You' and Jane Weaver 'Modern Kosmology') finding a newt (simple pleasures!), a trip to the National Portrait Gallery, meeting up with lovely old friends, making new ones, being given the very special The The single 'We Can't Stop What's Coming' and all that it means, witnessing a pair of bluetits successfully using the nestbox again (was it four chicks or even five?), having fun illustrating for a notable toy company, buying a mad stripey coat...  I've probably forgotten loads because none of it is that important in the grand scheme of things, but at least nothing life-changing, nothing dramatic, just some sweetness in a fairly uneventful life for which I'm grateful.  I hope it's been the same, if not better, for you.

Saint Etienne: Sweet Arcadia

It's been brilliant escaping into Blogworld whenever I've had the time, enjoying everyone else's posts and comments - all the words, music, pictures and more, trying to keep up with writing and listening myself - and getting to know some fab new faces and places around this virtual wonderland too.  

So, thanks; here's to more.  Take care everyone and...

~ * ~  HAPPY NEW YEAR!  ~ * ~
"May the hinges of your friendships never rust"

Friday, 29 December 2017

Good will to all, including the milk thief

This one really is a silly 'First World' dilemma.

Imagine you live in a rural area where there’s still, amazingly, a local milk round.  You’ve been using it for years – getting a couple of pints delivered three times a week; the milkman puts them inside your little plastic container on your doorstep early in the morning, no problem.  One day your two bottles of fresh milk get nicked.  The same thing happens a couple of weeks later.

Hmm, so what will you do if it happens again?!

1) Cancel the milkman

2) Put a note in the container that says FUCK OFF YOU THIEVING SCUMBAG  

3) Lie in wait for however long it takes to catch the offender red-handed and confront them

4) Fill up two empty milk bottles with white paint, replace the foil tops like new and put out for the taking....

5) Leave a packet of luxury biscuits alongside a note that reads, “Sorry you’re so desperate that you need to steal milk - have these on us and we’ll say no more about it”

6) Do nothing, if it happens again just let it go

Or something else...?

I'm on 6 at the moment (having merely fantasised about 4). The milk thief could be anyone, couldn't it? Someone struggling to get by on meagre benefits, unable to cope with their rent and bills, stooping that low. It's not like they stole our car.  Then again they might just be a selfish arsehole.  Who knows?

But at least it gives me a tenuous excuse to post a favourite song.  This was actually the track that first made me take notice of Saint Etienne some years ago, with huge thanks to a friend who was way ahead of me there; I was a bit late to the party.  But I’ve never looked back.

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