Wednesday 26 August 2015

The caterpillar

It took a couple of hours to seal itself itself up safely inside the nettle leaf, pulling each side together with its thread, like a sewing machine.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Bit on the side

I'm putting together another blog, as a kind of side-dish to this one.  All the same posts have been, or will be, on here, so for some it may be a repetition - it's just that the other new one will be like a specifically edited version of Sun Dried Sparrows.

It'll focus on the theme of growing up and the past, with a leaning towards (but not exclusively) my musical experiences.  So - no birds, no outpourings about families, no spiders or snails, no mention of my current work or art or country walks, etc.   However, there may well be reference to '70s childhood summers and the rite of passage into punk...

I'm getting it up and running with just a couple of posts at a time and intend to add more each week, so if you haven't read them here before, please feel free to visit

Saturday 22 August 2015

Random access memory #2

I heard a song the other day - I can't even remember what or where and it was barely in my consciousness - but there was a staccato guitar in it and it prompted a thought.  A fleeting one - one of those that drifts in vaguely and out again quickly, like a faint wisp of smoke.  "That sounds a bit like Marquee Moon" went the thought, and promptly disappeared.

But it came back and this time it brought along a random memory - of late Summer 1977, the weather a bit like now, when I had just turned fourteen.  I was venturing - half of me tentatively, and the other half of me very brazenly -  into a lot of new experiences,  most of which revolved around boys and punk.  I'd only bought one proper grown-up album so far - the eponymous Clash first - and was saving my pocket money for more 12" vinyl.  What were they, about £2.49, something like that?  I couldn't just go out and buy one, it had to be planned. So the cheapo singles bin in Martins was always worth a look in case I could pick up something for 10p, something I didn't have to scrimp for nor plan, but something I could actually take home the same day and play.

A lot of band names were becoming familiar;  I was latching on to what I thought 'fitted' the punk scene, but often without having first heard the music.  I mean, bands like The Cortinas had the honour of getting their name carefully written on my school science overall in permanent black pen alongside the more obvious ones like Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols et al, even though I hadn't yet heard one track by them (the Cortinas, that is) .  I got it wrong sometimes... like, I thought Dead Fingers Talk must be young, new and very raw just on the name alone... wrote that name on my school satchel too... they weren't, though, were they?  And it was the same with Television.  It was a name which was linked to all this new stuff I was exploring with limited means of doing so, and I imagined that they must be making songs at least as aggressive as White Riot or snarly as Pretty Vacant, whoever/whatever they were.  So when I flicked through the cheapo singles bin in Martins and saw the 7" of 'Marquee Moon', I was quick to hand over my 10p and dead excited at the prospect of hearing it.

I remember walkng home with it feeling really chuffed.  I had to go past the petrol station which was usually a bit nerve-wracking because there were always some young guys working there and I didn't know quite how to strike that balance between feeling horribly shy and yet also wanting their attention.  Just having to walk past was a big deal.  Funny how you remember these odd details but I recall very vividly that this time there was a new petrol attendant there, a tall bloke with acne.  He smiled at me.  Actually he stared.  I think I got more of a look than I really wanted.  I didn't fancy him at all... but I sort of wanted him to fancy me... I smiled back.  Then I immediately regretted it, in case I was giving him the come-on, which I didn't really want to even though my heart was beating fast and oh now I'd never be able to walk past that garage again.  It would make it really difficult going into town because that was the main route,  I'd have to take that funny detour down the other side of the hill.... oh what was I thinking.....   Ha, they were confusing times, those early teens.

Anyway, I got home, unwrapped my new purchase and put it on the turntable on the family stereogram.  I was so excited.. hopeful for some thrashing chords, some fierce drumming, hadn't a clue what a song called Marquee Moon might be about, but I'd heard of The Marquee...

Erm, it wasn't what I expected at all.  It was weird.  And the B-side was more of the same!

So, I had to work really hard to convince myself that I could, perhaps, sort of, like it.  Or I could at least grow to like it... one day... maybe.  I played it again.  My sister came downstairs and said she thought it sounded a bit like Yes.  I didn't know what Yes were like but that didn't seem to me to be a good thing.

Well, I kept the single anyway, in my little cardboard box which I'd covered in an offcut of orange patterned wallpaper, and it stayed there amid what I deemed to be far more worthy 7"s by Buzzcocks, the Adverts, etc.  I did grow to like it in the end, although I have to admit, it took time.  And even now I can't be sure, I wonder if I like it really only because I just can't separate it from that time, that feeling, that age and stage in life, the mood it evokes... the memories.  These things are so inextricably linked.

I also got brave and walked past the petrol station again, continuing my ambivalent flirtation with a boy I didn't fancy one bit.  I never grew to like him, although even then there was this naive teenage thought process which went along similar lines to my feelings about the record... like, maybe I would if I really tried... should I just keep playing him again in case....?!

Tuesday 18 August 2015


Just a quickie music post tonight and it's a new one.  It's also a very new one on me because I only heard it for the first time a few hours ago, and since then I've been jumping up and down thinking, who can I tell?!  Why, you, of course!

Mr SDS heard it earlier on the radio in the car, and said he thought I'd like it because it was a bit weird and arty. (He knows how to flatter me, that man.)  Described by Greg James this afternoon (yes, on Radio 1!) as being what you might get if you put David Bowie, Village People and Franz Ferdinand into a blender, WHITE are a Glasgow five piece and this is their new single 'Blush'.   I'd add that there is also a dollop of Edwyn Collins, a spoonful of Billy Mackenzie and perhaps even the merest pinch of Peter Murphy (sort of), oh and a sprinkling of sax that made me think of Blurt of all things.  Funk it all up and serve immediately!  I know that doesn't make sense but who cares.

Saturday 15 August 2015

So, who are Robert & the Uptights?

Something is amiss in Coronation Street.

The lovely Lloyd (soul aficionado and part-time DJ with a big record collection) played by the lovely Craig Charles (soul aficionado and part-time DJ with a big record collection) has lost one of his singles.

It's by Robert & the Uptights and it's worth £1000.  Some of us here in the UK know what's become of Lloyd's rare and treasured soul 45 but I'm keeping shtum in case anyone is behind on their Corrie episodes.  But that's not the issue here.  What I really want to know is, does a Robert & the Uptights single actually exist outside Weatherfield?!

A quick internet search brings up a picture... but there's no mention of it on 45cat.  A highly knowledgeable and reliable source tells me it doesn't appear on any of their soul compilations or lists (thank you!). Could it be a hype?  Or a spoof? Could someone behind the scenes in Corrie, perhaps a soul aficionado and part-time DJ with a big record collection, have mocked up a convincing looking label and put it out there just to get us wondering?  Of course I'd love to know it was genuine.  Surely I can't be the only one who wants to know if a Robert & the Uptights single exists in the real world...  (or can I?!)

Monday 10 August 2015

Family ties

Sadly, I have a funeral to attend this week, for a lovely elderly relative.  It will be a fairly untraditional and very low key affair; she was from the secular and somewhat eccentric intellectual side of the family - my dad's.

I'd love to think I could be even just a little like her in my final years - still attending educational courses, travelling and embracing new technology into her early 90s and keeping healthy and youthful until very recently.  Funerals are so hard, aren't they, and this will be no exception, especially as I feel desperately sad for the husband she leaves behind -  my dad's brother.  In recent years, I've seen more of him than I have my father.  And this is where it gets weird and is the reason I feel the need to write something here... because my dad may be at the funeral too...

So, I was trying to work out how many times in total I've seen my father since he and my mum divorced around 35 years ago... There can't have been more than about a dozen occasions and the last time was around 2005.   He lives the other side of the country, frequently forgets my birthday (as he did again this year); he's only phoned a handful of times and then only when there's been big news (like when he was getting married!)  Oh and one time to ask if I could record something off the telly for him when he was at a conference in Japan....  that may not sound so odd until you know that it was completely out of the blue - we hadn't been in touch for a couple of years beforehand and I didn't know he was in Japan.  So our relationship seems pretty non-existent.   I know that on paper, or in the eyes of anyone more judgmental, it might seem like he's not a good father, yet I feel the need to explain that he is a good man - he's just, well I don't know, but I think perhaps he has a degree of Asperger's. He's highly intelligent, something of a mathematical genius in fact (god knows where those genes went - down the back of the sofa?) and I know he has a kind heart and a very gentle nature.  He's just 'different' - and I really don't think he knows how to 'be' when it comes to interacting with his two daughters.  I simply think that we are not a part of his world, but - and it's difficult to explain - there is nothing deliberate or harsh about that, it's just the way it is.

Anyway, I'm just airing this now because tonight I'm full of so many mixed emotions at the thought of seeing him, particularly on such a sad occasion, that I'm already steeling myself for it.  I may report back, or I may not -  but I've realised that however bizarre and confusing it might be,  I actually really do want him to be at the funeral, because I don't want the next time I see him to be at his.

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