Feeling My Age

Getting older has its drawbacks – but it's a lot better than the alternative.

Against The Day

September 1, 2017 Feeling My Age

Airship
Had never read Thomas Pynchon before hearing a chance reference to the brilliance of his prose – and boy, does this novel live up to that promise.

Against The Day is a vast sprawling wildly surreal epic that washed over me like a tidal wave. The immersive enjoyment of swimming through its language was reminiscent of Joyce’s Ulysses – insofar as it’s as much about the travelling as the destination – though in every other sense the two novels couldn’t be more different.

The tone is fiercely anti-capitalist, and ranges from gripping suspense through erudite humour to the lyrically evocative and the deviantly erotic. And yet the going isn’t as heavy as that all sounds. Though Pynchon is spitting feathers wherever he depicts the brutal exploitation of the have-nots by the haves, much of the time he is giving free rein to a life-affirming & exuberant sense of fun.

I bought and enjoyed this on audiobook first and listened to it over six weeks or so – the prose is so dense and resonant that it bears repeated listening – and would warmly recommend it as a way into this novel. Dick Hill‘s narration is masterful. However on the second time through, so much of the masterful detail was still slipping past me that I ended up buying the printed book as well.

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Alan John Percivale Taylor (1906-1990) was an English historian who specialised in 19th- and 20th-century European diplomacy. His book on the origins of WW1, War by Timetable argued that all the great powers believed the ability to mobilise their armed forces faster than the others, would serve as a sufficient deterrent to avoid war and allow them to achieve their foreign policy.

The great powers developed elaborate timetables to mobilise faster than any of their rivals. So in 1914, although none of the leaders of Europe wanted a world war, the logic of the mobilisation timetables – supposedly a deterrent to war – actually ended up causing one.

The actual trigger, according to Taylor was a weak and stupid Tsar overrriding his generals to make the snap decision to mobilise his army. The Germans were forced to respond by doing the same, and war in Western Europe became inevitable.

So mobilisation timetables were the nuclear deterrent of their day. All the major powers had ’em, and it would only need one weak and stupid leader to hit the button for everyone to be the loser.

Think on.

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Just in case your idea of fun is a reimagined and very camp POTUS rambling about Aliens. Donald Trump’s original words are revoiced by Peter Serafinowicz, one half of the Look Around You team (see earlier post on their Periodic Table).

For more of the same see Peter’s Sassy Trump playlist on YouTube.

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Photo of David Bowie at Montreux Jazz Festival 2002 ©Lionel Flusin
Photo of David Bowie at Montreux Jazz Festival 2002 ©Lionel Flusin.
Interview by Clark Collis for the now-defunct Blender magazine in August 2002, using questions supplied by readers. This interview has been copied with grateful acknowledgement from bowiewonderworld.com.

The Thin White Duke is happy to answer your questions about cocaine, Ziggy Stardust and Iman. He’d even be happy to talk about the mid-’70s – if only he could remember them.

“A little old lady once said to me, ‘Elton, could I have your autograph?’ ” recalls David Bowie, crying with laughter in a suite at New York’s Soho Grand Hotel, just down the road from the apartment he shares with his wife, the supermodel Iman, and their 1-year-old daughter. “I said, ‘You may have my autograph, but I’m not Elton John – I’m David Bowie.’ She said, ‘Good: I hate that bright red hair and all that makeup.’ So I was totally lost.”

Little old ladies aside, it’s difficult to imagine many people will confuse the man who brought us Ziggy Stardust, “Let’s Dance” and, ahem, Tin Machine with anyone else. Not only is Bowie releasing a new album – Heathen, which finds him reteaming with Heroes producer Tony Visconti – he’s also headlining Moby’s Area:2 tour. Before all that, though, he’s fielding your queries with minimal complaint and maximum chuckling.

“The biggest misconception about me is that I have no sense of humor,” he says. “I probably was a bit [serious] – but only because I ‘m very shy. That’s probably one of the reasons I got so heavily into drugs: When you’re doing coke, you talk enough for several people…. ”

Who was your first love?
ALLYCAP, SYCAMORE, ILLINOIS

I was absolutely head over heels in love with a girl when I was about 10. She was the first girl in the class to get tits. I went out with her years later, when we were about 18 – but I fucked it up. On our second date, she found out that I’d been with another girl. I could not keep it zipped. All through my youth I was just terrible.

Iman, David and Alexandria Bowie

What first attracted you to Iman when you met her?
SHADRACH, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

We had an incredible, warm, lovely, intimate and fun night together – at dinner. I just got along with her immediately. [Blender feels obliged to point out that she’s also extremely gorgeous.] Yeah, but there have been a few gorgeous women in my life – and none where I went, “Wow, this woman is wonderful.”

When Iggy Pop was in a psychiatric hospital in 1975, is it true that you brought him drugs to cheer him up?
TAFTROOT, KENT, OHIO

Yeah. [Laughs] Did it work? Of course! Ah, that was so stupid. If I remember right, it was me and Dennis Hopper. We trooped into the hospital with a load of drugs for him. This was very much a leave-your-drugs-at-the-door hospital. We were out of our minds, all of us. He wasn’t well; that’s all we knew. We thought we should bring him some drugs, because he probably hadn’t had any for days!

I’m looking forward to seeing you on the Area:2 tour. Will you play “Always Crashing in the Same Car”?

RAMMRODD, SEATTLE

We are learning that, actually. The reason is that for Meltdown [a British music festival Bowie is curating], I’m doing both Heathen and Low in their entirety, two albums back-to-back. We have to learn “Always Crashing,” because it’s on Low. If you send me a letter telling me which gig you’ll be at, I’ll make sure I identify you in the crowd and play you that song.

When you wrote “Turn and face the strange” for “Changes,” who were you talking to?
JANICEWK, CORTEZ, COLORADO

[Sings] Turn and face the strange… I don’t think it’s any more complicated than just a note to self – that the narrator should turn and face the strange. Or, as somebody once said, turn and face the strain. Which sounds like a bathroom exercise.

Let's Dance

Could you have imagined that “Let’s Dance” was going to become such a huge hit?
HUNEEEBEER, PORTLAND, MAINE

The truth is, I told [producer] Nile [Rodgers], “Why on earth you think that’s a single, I have no idea.” I had serious doubts – I wanted “China Girl” to be the first single. But he said to me, “No, you’re wrong. ‘Let’s Dance’ is the one.” And he was absolutely right.

What do people say when they see you on the street?
FLIEGAL, ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Here in New York, it’s “Yo, Bowie!” They’re quite civil. In London, it’s “Dave!” – always Dave. I want to smack ’em, because my name’s David. I hate being called Dave, and I think they know it. But that’s the beloved English for you.

How often do you check out Bowienet, your Web site and Internet Service Provider?
BACK2LIVE, BELOIT, KANSAS

I thought you were going to ask how often I check into the hospital! [Laughs] I do it every single morning. If I’d known how much work it was going to be to start that blessed thing… I’d still have done it. But I’ve cut down my online time, because I realized how much of my life it was taking up. In the mid-’90s, I was an obsessive – I’d surf all the time, just crazed. And apparently there’s a lot of porn on the Internet too.

It’s January 28, 1972. You’re at the Friars, Aylesbury venue in England, about to perform as Ziggy Stardust for the first time. What’s going on backstage?
PADDINGTON, TORONTO

[Spiders From Mars drummer] Woody Woodmansey was saying, “I’m not bloody wearing that!” [Laughs] There were certainly comments, a lot of nerves. Not about the music – I think the guys knew that we rocked. But they were worried about the look. That’s what I remember: how uncomfortable they felt in their stage clothes. But when they realized what it did for the birds… The girls were going crazy for them, because they looked like nobody else. So within a couple of days it was, “I’m going to wear the red ones tonight.”

The Spiders From Mars 1972

Is it true you’ve quit smoking?
JMA1973, SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA

Yeah, but it’s one day at a time. I’m not going to talk about how long it’s been, because I’m superstitious. At the end of this tour, I need to look down at my hands and see that there isn’t a cigarette in them.

How many houses do you own?
HANSWALK, MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN

How many do people think I own? [Blender guesses seven.] No! Let’s just say I’ve got nowhere near that. I’m not a property person.

What did you think when you heard Nirvana’s version of “The Man Who Sold the World?”
LEGROG, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

I liked it a lot. It was very painful – and I mean that in the kindest possible way. I didn’t actually get to see [Kurt Cobain] do that until he was dead. He stumbled a little bit on the guitar, and there was a plaintive quality in his voice that gave the song characteristics that had not been there before. He played it from a very personal point of view; mine was much more diffident. In fact, I had forgotten all about the song, and not long after that I started doing it occasionally onstage. It made me think, “You know, that really is a good song.”

You once said that saying you were bisexual was “the biggest mistake I ever made.” Do you still believe that?
WHOODAAMANN, SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA

Interesting. [Long pause] I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners or be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer, and I felt that [bisexuality] became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.

Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, David Bowie

Do you ever hear yourself on the radio and think it’s someone else’s music?
ABOUTABOY, WINDHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE

When I wish to, yeah. [Laughs] It’s funny: I never, ever recognize “The Laughing Gnome.”

What’s the secret to buying a really good suit?
FASTERCASTER, REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE

Always stick with people you can trust. There are only three people I like a lot. One’s Alexander McQueen, for when I’m feeling more flamboyant. Smithy [Paul Smith] I wear all the time. And Agnès B. – she does great casual suits. I’m not big on shopping, and Iman hates shopping even more than I do. I will want to window-shop, at least. She doesn’t want to spend time in stores. She hates buying clothes. Amazing.

Are you a fan of The Osbournes?
12GREATEST45S, EUGENE, OREGON

I’ve seen one episode. It’s… all right. I found it amusing, but I’m not sure it will become a staple of my viewing. Once you get the joke, you get the joke. I got over it really fast that he says fuck a lot and that he walks like my grandfather.

What’s your favorite David Bowie film?
JUNEBUG61, BOSTON

[Laughs] Is there an answer to that? Um, The Virgin Soldiers [an obscure 1969 British comedy]. I don’t even remember being in it, but apparently I am. I’ve yet to see it.

Do you follow any sports?
MARGEHOMER, OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI

I quite like boxing – but that’s only because I use it as a training method. Just recently I’ve started again. You look at yourself and think [pats stomach] that could go. And boxing’s not as boring as pumping bleedin’ metal all day, which bores the shit out of me.

Do you think you’ll be remembered in a thousand years?
GETRICHQUICK, SAVANNAH, GEORGIA

No. Absolutely not. A thousand years… My God, can you imagine? Of course, there’s talk of this huge comet explosion in something like 2090. It’s within the next hundred years, anyway. I suppose there’s a possibility that we might still be around in 3000. But think how much software will have been amassed – who would want to sit down and sift through it all?

When was the last time you lost your temper?
PILLOWFIGHT, MOBILE, ALABAMA

You know, I can’t remember. I’m not a temper person. Am I passive-aggressive? I don’t think so. Earlier in my life, there was more of the bipolar about me – I would vacillate quite aggressively between depressed and euphoric. I think I’m very even. Now I’ve been doing the pills a bit!

Is it true that you once appeared in an ice cream commercial that was made by Blade Runner director Ridley Scott back in the ’60s?
ZOWIBOWI, JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING

Apparently, yeah. It was called Love Lollies or something. I didn’t know it was Ridley, though. I found out only last year. I’m sure he’s as embarrassed about it as I am.

Is Mick Jagger a good kisser?
GADSMOCK, MINNEAPOLIS

[Laughs] You’d have to ask someone else, not me.

Did you really used to live next to Charlie Chaplin in Switzerland?
DAWSONSFEET, TOLEDO, OHIO

Yeah, he lived down the road. Well, his corpse lived down the road. It was in the garden, and then it was nicked. A couple of terrorists nicked his corpse and demanded money from the Chaplin family. It was awful. I knew the kids. Nice people.

Which of your albums from the 1970s do you least remember making?
CAMERON2, BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA

Without a doubt, Station to Station [1976]. I have only flashes of making it. I have serious problems about that year or two. I can’t remember how I felt; I have no emotional geography. It’s all so murky. It was a very, very awful time for me. Very bad. I’ve probably blanked quite a lot of it out, because I felt so weird and displaced most of the time.

What’s your fondest memory of Andy Warhol?
4TI5ED, VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA

I’m not sure that there’s such a thing as a fond memory of Andy Warhol. He was a strange fish. Even people who say they knew him well, I don’t think they did. I certainly didn’t know him well.

Bowie as Warhol in the movie Basquiat
David Bowie as Andy Warhol and Jeffery Wright as Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1996 movie Basquiat

How would your career have been different without cocaine?
STEELAZ, ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

I simply have no idea. I was fairly drug-free right up to seventy… four. Ha! Which is not very long, is it? [Laughs] Strangely enough, all the techniques and the things I was trying to do, I got interested in before I started doing drugs. So it’s conceivable that I’d try a lot of the same techniques. What the outcome would have been, I don’t know. Maybe I would never have touched the darkest corners in quite the same way. Although I know that I can, and do, write fairly strange music without the aid of drugs.

Is it true that you originally wrote “Golden Years” for Elvis Presley?
ROUGHRIDA, CASPER, WYOMING

No. Apparently Elvis heard the demos, because we were both on RCA, and Colonel Tom [Parker, Presley’s manager] thought I should write Elvis some songs. There was talk between our offices that I should be introduced to Elvis and maybe start working with him in a production-writer capacity. But it never came to pass. I would have loved to have worked with him. God, I would have adored it. He did send me a note once. [Perfectly imitates Presley’s drawl] “All the best, and have a great tour.” I still have that note.

What’s the last good joke you heard?
BOYZDONTCRY, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS

Dopey Dwarf says to the Pope, “Are there any dwarf nuns in Rome?” The Pope says, “No.” “Are there any dwarf nuns in Italy?” “No.” “Are there any dwarf nuns anywhere in the world?” The Pope says, “I’m sorry, my son – no, there aren’t.” The rest of the dwarves start singing: “Dopey fucked a penguin! Dopey fucked a penguin!”

Gnomes

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Christ resurrected

My wife recently dug out her copy of the 1662 Book Of Common Prayer to look up the answer to this question, and it turns out the answer is much simpler than you might imagine…

“THIS Table contains so much of the Calendar as is necessary for the determining of Easter; to find which, look for the Golden Number of the year in the first Column of the Table, against which stands the day of the Paschal Full Moon; then look in the third column for the Sunday Letter, next after the day of the Full Moon, and the day of the Month standing against that Sunday Letter is Easter Day. If the Full Moon happens upon a Sunday, then (according to the first rule) the next Sunday after is Easter Day.

To find the Golden Number, or Prime, add one to the Year of our Lord, and then divide by 19; the remainder, if any, is the Golden Number; but if nothing remaineth, then 19 is the Golden Number. To find the Dominical or Sunday Letter, according to the Calendar, until the year 2099 inclusive, add to the year of our Lord its fourth part, omitting fractions; and also the number 6:

Divide the sum by 7; and there is no remainder, then A is the Sunday Letter: But if any number remaineth, then the Letter standing against that number in the small annexed Table is the Sunday Letter. For the next following Century, that is, from the year 2100 to the year 2199 inclusive, add to the current year its fourth part, and also the number 5, and then divide by 7, and proceed as in the last Rule.

Note, that in all Bissextile or Leap Years, the Letter found as above will be the Sunday Letter, from the intercalated day exclusive to the end of the year.”

A Table To Find Easter Day

Actually, calculating the date of Easter is child’s play compared to explaining exactly how this method was arrived at – which takes more than 12,000 words on Wikipedia – while still leaving most of us none the wiser.

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Beatles crossing Abbey Road - from Giphy

Saw this on Twitter: the Beatles’ zebra crossing turned into a treadmill. The Lennon walk in particular – and the way Ringo’s jacket is way too big for him –  really made me laugh…

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Bob Dylan 2002

Bob Dylan at Brighton Centre
The Guardian,  May 6, 2002

The air is fraught with expectation, the crowd largely comprised of characters you never normally see at rock concerts: smart middle-aged couples, grim-faced fathers dragging children, a glut of paunchy, balding men, faces glistening with anticipation. They look more like people at a garden centre, albeit one where dippy women hawk homemade books called things like Voice of the Nightingale: A Poetic Interpretation of Dylan.

What draws them to an artist whose live reputation is so erratic? Aside from their memories, it is his mythic status. Dylan started talking gibberish in the early 1960s, then gave up talking entirely. This tour has been heralded not with the usual interview blitz, but with rock mags listing their favourite barmy Dylan tales. No extant star boasts such an impregnable aura of mystery.

The mystery remains intact tonight. Looking trim in a cowboy hat, Dylan never speaks. His singing voice bolsters the enigma. On record it has deteriorated into a terrifying croak; live it is literally beyond language. “Hesh a sheeshuuh unna shezz,” he rasps. “Unwah a shusheshah heeesh.” Legendary songs – Tangled Up In Blue, It’s All Right Ma, I’m Only Bleeding – go on for minutes without a flicker of audience recognition.

The true Dylan nuts cover themselves by applauding the first few notes of everything, regardless. Subterranean Homesick Blues is at least identifiable, but Dylan forgets the words and fills in with noises: “. . . heeesh shuzzz unnnuuh, carry round a firehose . . .” The crowd love it.

Intermittently, you see their point. Some songs suit his ruined voice. Tweedle Dee is bleakly menacing. Masters of War, sung in a husking death rattle, sounds more foreboding than ever. His onstage attitude is legendarily wayward – solos are included, timings changed, tracks altered without warning – but it’s gripping stuff. Watching Dylan battle his back catalogue is infinitely more entertaining than seeing another super-annuated star glide slickly through their hits. At the very least, he is one legend from whom you can expect the unexpected.

Alexis Petridis

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Trumpocalypse Now

November 24, 2016 Feeling My Age

Trumpocalypse Now - click to expand image in new window

“What all have foreseen
From the outset,
And yet in the end it takes place,
Is idiocy,
The fire it’s too late to extinguish.
Called Fate.”

MAX FRISCH, The Fire Raisers (1958)
Translated by Michael Bullock.

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Vote Brexit because...

With thanks to Twitter user James Melville, who describes the following as “a glorious summary of the Brexit debate in the Financial Times comments section.”
Original tweet here.

So this is how the debate reads so far. I kid you not. It’s practically verbatim:

Remainers (left holding the Brexit baby after the Leavers… left) “WTF? ”

Leavers “We voted Brexit, now You Remainers need to implement it”

Remainers “But it’s not possible!”

Leavers “The People Have Spoken. Therefore it is possible. You just have to think positively”

Remainers “And do what exactly?”

Leavers “Come up with a Plan that will leave us all better off outside the EU than in it”

Remainers “But it’s not possible!”

Leavers “Quit with the negative vibes. The People Have Spoken.”

Remainers “But even you don’t know how!”

Leavers “That’s your problem. We’ve done our bit and voted. We’re just going to sit here and eat popcorn and watch as you do it”

Remainers “Shouldn’t you do it?”

Leavers “It’s not up to us to work out the detail, it’s up to you experts.”

Remainers “I thought you’d had enough of experts”

Leavers “Remain experts.”

Remainers “There are no Leave experts”

Leavers “Then you’ll have to do it then. Oh, and by the way, no dragging your feet or complaining about it, because if you do a deal we don’t want, we’ll eat you alive.”

Remainers “But you don’t know what you want!”

Leavers “We want massive economic growth, no migration, free trade with the EU and every other country, on our terms, the revival of British industry, re-open the coal mines, tea and Vickers on every village green, some bunting, and maybe restoration of the empire.”

Remainers “You’re delusional.”

Leavers “We’re a delusional majority. DEMOCRACY! So do the thing that isn’t possible, very quickly, and give all levers what they want, even though they don’t know what they want, and ignore the 16 million other voters who disagree. They’re tight trouser latte-sipping hipsters who whine all the time, who cares.”

Apologies for not crediting the originator of the above – couldn’t get behind the FT paywall to find out their name…

Brexit

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Benji Kirkpatrick

November 16, 2016 Feeling My Age

Benji Kirkpatrick is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who performs on guitar, mandolin and banjo although his favoured instrument is the bouzouki.

Born in Shropshire, England in 1976, he is the son of renowned English folk musicians John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris, and his entry into the recording business suitably came about on his father’s 1994 album Earthling.

Benji Kirkpatrick - click to open full size image in new window

Benji subsequently formed the acoustic band The Hedgerows and toured around the UK and Europe, before launching his solo career in 1998 with Dance In The Shadow. Around the same time he co-founded the groundbreaking English folk trio Faustus (originally known as Dr. Faustus) and also worked with Magpie Lane, the Oysterband, and his father’s five-piece ceilidh band, Mr. Gubbins’ Bicycle.

In 2004 he helped co-found another seminal English folk group, the acclaimed big band Bellowhead. He also completed the recording of his second solo album, Half A Fruit Pie. After featuring on Seth Lakeman’s hit albums Kitty Jay and Freedom Fields, Benji played for three years in the Seth Lakeman Band – releasing his own third album, Boomerang, in 2008.

Over the years Benji has also worked with John Jones, Maddy Prior, Thea Gilmore and Joan as Police Woman. His fourth solo album Hendrix Songs saw him strip back the songs of his hero and set them in a new, acoustic light. In summer 2016, as part of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations, Benji was involved in The Fairy Portal Camp at the RSC in Stratford upon Avon. Musicians, actors and dancers collaborated to produce new works every day for a week, working up to a final performance which opened “The Fairy Portal”…

In the latter part of 2016 his energies have clearly been focussed on Faustus who just concluded a UK tour at the end of October promoting their latest and most assured release to date Death And Other Animals.

In the course of the year they have have been Artists in Residence at Halsway Manor, National Centre for the Folk Arts where they had unlimited access to the Manor’s extensive library. The album includes four songs unique to Halsway’s little-known Ruth Tongue archive. Halsway has been omnipresent throughout the process as the band also recorded the album itself in the Manor. It tackles head-on, we’re told, “subjects from the Dance of Death to the plight of the common man, sand-swallowed ships to mythical black dogs”.

The three tracks from Death And Other Animals below convey a strong sense of the band’s powerful instrumental sound and vocal mastery. The album can be bought direct from the Faustus Bandcamp page:

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1963 Radio

“One of the curiosities of the British music scene in the early ’60s was the so-called ‘needletime agreement’ that had been struck between the BBC and the Performing Rights societies and the Musicians’ Union. Only five hours of recorded music could be played per day. Everything else had to be performed live by a BBC ensemble or a band hired to play on the radio. It generated work for the musicians but also fed all the songs of the day through a strange filter of orchestras on the BBC Light Programme, the musical frequency that ran adjacent to the Home Service You could turn on the wireless in 1961 and believe that it was still 1935. You might hear the strings of Semprini playing light classics, or the polite dance music of Victor Silvester and His Ballroom Orchestra, or even a broadcast of someone playing happy tunes on a cinema organ for an entire hour.”

The BBC Radio Orchestra

“It seemed the BBC would do anything to fill up the broadcast schedule, and it was on the air only from early morning, with the Shipping Forecast, to just before midnight, when it closed with some improving thoughts from a vicar. I’d wait all week for Saturday Club, a two-hour show that featured live appearances by pop groups in between the records. Beat Groups, as they were now being called, would turn up on variety shows and have jokes made about their hair by comedians who might have only been five years older than them. The Joe Loss Orchestra may have seemed square to some ears – one famous beat group member once told me, ‘We used to call him Dead Loss’ – but they made a better job of playing the hits of the day than some of their contemporaries, due to their ingenious arrangements and having at least one very versatile singer. This was often the only may to hear your favorite songs, if not the original artists.”

From Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink
Elvis Costello
Paberback, May 2016

Elvis Costello

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Hipy Papy Bthuthdy

April 11, 2016 Feeling My Age

Owl by E H Shepard - from

Owl licked the end of his pencil, and wondered how to spell “birthday.”
“Can you read, Pooh?” he asked a little anxiously. “There’s a notice about knocking and ringing outside my door, which Christopher Robin wrote. Could you read it?”
“Christopher Robin told me what it said, and then I could.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what this says, and then you’ll be able to.”
So Owl wrote . . . and this is what he wrote:

HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA
BTHUTHDY

Pooh looked on admiringly.
“I’m just saying ‘A Happy Birthday’,” said Owl carelessly.
“It’s a nice long one,” said Pooh, very much impressed by it.
“Well, actually, of course, I’m saying ‘A Very Happy Birthday with love from Pooh.’ Naturally it takes a good deal of pencil to say a long thing like that.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

From Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), by A.A. Milne
Chapter Six: In Which Eeyore Has A Birthday And Gets Two Presents
Illustration by E.H. Shepard

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Saw a preview of the new movie Pride – which is co-produced by BBC Films – and came away both tearful and uplifted. I vividly remember people collecting for Lesbians & Gays Support The Miners during the epic strike of 1984/5, but didn’t know at the time that The National Union of Mineworkers had been reluctant to accept the group’s support. The movie tells the story of how the activists ended up taking their donations instead directly to a small mining community in Wales, and how – despite some vigorous opposittion within their ranks – the villagers eventually came around to accepting and welcoming their support.

Most movingly of all, it shows how a large delegation of miners turned up to march in solidarity at the head of the 1985 Pride parade in London. I remember one of the miners’ wives coming onto the main stage in Jubilee Gardens to thank LGSM for the £20,000 they raised, and to say she would be proud for any child of hers to grow up gay. The following year a motion to enshrine LGBT rights in the Labour Party manifesto was passed, largely thanks to a block vote by the NUM.

Critics have complained that the story has been simplified and glamourised, and that the scene where villagers get up en mass in the Miners Hall to sing spontaneously in perfect Welsh Choir harmony is a tad sentimental. But screw that – the cast, acting and cinematography are stellar, and above all the story is a true one. This stuff actually happened.

Not a dry eye in the house – then or now.

Pride has its own excellent website and opens in UK cinemas on September 12th 2014.

Pride The Movie

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One of the more memorable TV advertising slogans of the last 20 years came from Murphy’s Irish Stout – whose main rival back in the 1990s was the hugely popular, though more bitter-tasting, Guinness brand.

Murphys brewery in Cork had been taken over by the Dutch giant Heineken, whose own lager famously “refreshes the parts that other beers cannot reach”. Heineken commissioned a series of 30 second vignettes set in Irish pubs starring a handsome young actor recovering from a series of humorous misfortunes with a comforting pint.

“Like the Murphys,” he would say, “I’m not bitter.” Take that, Guinness! The ads were launched during Channel Four’s Father Ted Christmas Special in 1996.But just who was this suave, twinkly-eyed star of all three ads, and why haven’t we seen more of him since then? It’s been extraordinarily hard to find out… [More]

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As mentioned in an earlier post about Wild Swimming, my wife is a member of the South London Swimming Club at Tooting Bec Lido. whose wintertime activities appear – to the casual observer – to be plain barking mad. Namely open air swimming in water just below 5C.

However in this gorgeous new video shot by a ridiculously fit SLSC member called Jonathan Cowie, his own dolphin-like grace and the beauty of the setting makes the whole ritual look truly graceful and enticing. It seems almost tempting to have a go. Almost.

But then you remember thay on some days SLSC members have to break the ice before they can even get into the water for goodness sake… Fit and graceful or not, these people are crazy.

To be continued…

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