Sunday, 28 November 2010

put another log on the fire for me

I can't believe that it's so cold
And there ain't been no snow.
The sound of music comes to me 
From every place I go.
Sunday morning and there's no-one in church
But the clergy's chosen man
And he is fine, I won't worry about him,
Got the book in his hand.

Thanks, Sandy.  We've certainly got no snow.  And it's Sunday.
burner - not really working

It's been an interesting weekend.  It's certainly worked out better than I thought it would, given that I was supposed to be in Yorkshire doing the Three Peaks.

As the news suggested that this weekend was going to be a white-out in most places, I became hopeful that the trip was going to be cancelled - it wasn't my call to make. Up until 9:30 on Friday morning, it was still looking like we had to go.  Thankfully someone had the sense to call the whole thing off.

Friday evening meant a visit to the capital of Suffolk to see the rather wonderful Show of Hands who were firing on all cylinders and produced a cracking set - their version of Boys of Summer was a personal highlight.

Saturday at home meant that I didn't have to get up and scrape the car down at the crack of sparrow fart and drive up to Yorkshire - or more likely, sit on the A1 freezing to death. So, a leisurely day was had instead.  We had kippers from Pinney's of Orford for breakfast and a stroll into town to spend large amounts of money unnecessarily.  Lunch at a local Italian-style hostelry (a veggie platter and a glass of Adnams) before going over to Ipswich to Sainsbury for the weekly shop. It's an exciting life - mind you, given the alternative weekend I was expecting, a much better one.

So, over lunch we discussed the idea of a walk on Sunday as we weren't hill-walking - I guess it'd be flat-walking here.  Yes, we could wander through the woods and gather some branches to paint white and decorate for the coming festivities.

Was I dreaming that my life was being directed by Frank Capra? On waking in our snow free town, I was informed that what would be a good idea would be to go and buy a new vacuum cleaner.  Ah yes, a much better idea.  Anyway, thankfully the local House of the Book of Laminated Dreams had one so I didn't have to go all the way in to Ipswich again for what would have been the third time this weekend. Whilst we were out we went and gathered some winter fu-oo-el from the hardware shop.

Which brings us to the here and now, trying to get the damned wood burning stove working as it's really cold in the back room - yes, I know I could go into the kitchen where it's warm but the computer is in the back room. I know that men are supposed to all be pyromaniacs and experts at burning things but I do struggle to keep the damned thing alight.  Mrs Dave has just fiddled with it and it's "going well now" - there's a sort of look of disdain and a slight hint of "now leave it alone".

I've already prepared dinner - Beef in Marston's Oyster Stout, if you're interested. So all seems well.

And finally, on to a subject that seems to strike fear in many a red-blooded man.  "Home Improvements".  Yes, it has a sinister ring, doesn't it?  Anyway, Mrs Dave has taken a sort of Zen approach to "H.I." recently.  After last week's successful putting up of the IKEA shelves, a new phenomena has occurred - the "illusion of space". This was created by tins of tea and other kitchen paraphenalia being placed on the shelves, thus creating some space which therefore gives this illusion of space.  To create another illusion of space, the chopping board near the sink has been turned round so the narrow part of the oblong board now faces out to me whilst I am, indeed, chopping up things.  This has created a much more harmonious space on the kitchen worktop.  Well, at least the illusion of said space.

Through using this wonderful way of creating space, I have tried it here in the back room.  I've moved a few books off of the table and onto some shelves.  Blimey!  Once again, the illusion of space and uncluttered space has been created.  Excellent, so I'm going to go around the house improving it by creating the "illusion of space" everywhere.  Very soon we'll have created the illusion of so much space, our house will be like Dr Who's Tardis.

In the meantime I'm praying for snow. However now we're considered "key workers" we are required to make it in to school no matter what.  The onus has been put onto us "key workers" and we have to decide for ourselves whether or not it is safe to come in to work.  Unfortunately I live a 20 minute walk away from my school so I'll no doubt have to go in no matter what.

Bloody fire's going out again . . .

Sunday, 21 November 2010

if i'm dreaming my life

I've been listening to David Bowie most of this weekend.  Bloody bloke, he's always 'round here complaining about something or other.  Personally, I think Mrs Bowie prefers him to keep out of the house - I don't think she likes him taking cocaine in front of their daughter now she's of an impressionable age. Anyway, after living with all that 1970s stuff, I thought I should catch up with a few more recent albums - nothing too recent, of course.

I really like "hours . . ." and read recently that "Heathen" is better. We're talking turn of the century here, so quite modern, really. Well, the jury's still out but there are some good songs on the latter, especially Everyone Says Hi, so I'll keep listening.

So, it's Sunday.  The day of rest.  An opportunity to catch up on a few chores.  You know, those five minute ones.  First up, get rid of the "beer fridge" (idly interested parties are referred to last week's blogs) - so a few minutes after I got up, I managed to do my back in a bit.  Great. Next up how about checking why the security light by the back door won't come on?  Probably the halogen bulb has blown.  A simple task.

Now, if you invent something that is designed to be kept outside in all weathers, would it be too ridiculous to ensure that the one screw that is likely to be needed (ie to change bulbs, etc) would be either weatherproof or covered in some way?  Okay, thought not.  A design fault, I guess. Or just too much to ask.

So, the rusted screw that now has a hole that no earthly screwdriver could possibly work on is totally impossible to remove.  So, the five minute job of changing a light bulb now becomes a hunt to find exactly the same model (on Sunday) and a need to turn all the electricity off in order to put said replacement on.  Now, I know that it is entirely possible to isolate the area of the house electrics to enable such emergency work, but if there's one thing I won't do, it's mess about with electrics when there's ANY chance of  being electrocuted. So, it all gets turned off. First, off I go to the local "Homebase" and, yes, unbelievably, an exact replacement is found.  Readers who know the Jack Dee sketch about DIY may begin to smile at this point - my facility for inventive foul language is well known around these parts.  The neighbours are kept amused by the colourful new verbs and adjectives I invent.  Perhaps that's why Mr Bowie was around again.

Actually, it all went swimmingly - replacement part found and replaced in a few minutes. No need for the family to move out for any length of time. But, a five minute job on a Sunday morning can so often become a full day's chore if you're not careful. Electrics changed and working, all tickedy-boo. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon putting up shelves in the kitchen.  I have in the past managed to keep things bought from Ikea hanging around for quite a while - a year is my personal best.  But, I was put into an awkward situation and forced to put up the giant shelves.  Obviously, it goes without saying that they were never going to fit in the space allocated.  So the electric saw was involved.  An electric saw and an electric drill - recipes for disaster both.  Oh well, sometimes the bullet has to be bitten.  All worked out okay.

The truth is I've plundered my eldest's cd collection whilst she's away in sunnier climes so I've found Mr B's "Heathen" cd - not bad at all.  I've also managed to purloin  Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" and several Ryan Adams' albums I'm unfamiliar with.  All excellent stuff.

Mrs Dave and I went out for a meal last night to a local Brasserie.  I thought the cod loin was too good to miss despite my reservations about the "bed of roasted artichokes" - obviously Jerusalem Artichokes. Are you familiar with said beasts?  The impact upon one's stomach can be devastating, but I really didn't fancy anything else.  Well, along with the lighting problem, I had to deal with the after effects of the artichokes - I'm not adverse to a little, er, wind after a night out, but Jesus, these devils really are in a World of their own.  Standing up a ladder fighting with rusted screws that won't budge in the freezing cold with - literally - a tail wind isn't the best way to spend Sunday morning.

God knows what the neighbours thought.  Speaking of which, I made a rhubarb crumble for pudding tonight.  The rhubarb was given to us earlier in the year by a well-meaning neighbour.  That David Bowie, since he got his allotment hasn't stopped showing off his green fingers.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

morgan the pirate

Mrs Dave has been wandering around the house dressed in an eye-patch with a colourful scarf about her head, white frilly blouse and long black boots.  Yes it's that time of year again (quiet at the back) - Children in Need. Tomorrow at her school there will be plenty of sixth formers and staff willing to go "ooh-arr" and "avast there land lubber".

I won't.

Okay, as no one else will be wearing a suit etc then, of course I won't either.  I'll wear civvies and pay my pound for the privilege. However, with heavy heart, I'll enter a full teaching day knowing that class after class will have assumed that "non-uniform day" means "leave the brain and manners at home day".  Alright, cynical I know but I have suffered this, sorry, experienced this, for quite a few years. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy to give money to charity, it's the complete refusal by pupils to accept that they're still expected to learn and work that gets my goat.

Ah well, I've not been into work today.  I felt awful yesterday.  I won't regale you with the full details but I did spend a lot of time rushing to the loo.  We had a sixth form parent's evening afterwards which meant that basically I spent about 11 hours at school yesterday (feeling awful) so I felt fully justified on waking up with gut-ache and a sore throat to not go in today.

Just for once - and I mean this most sincerely, friends* - I didn't do any work.  I messed about with guitars and crosswords.  I felt that I needed a complete rest (a recharge). However, as soon as I thought that I felt okay and I'd be back at the chalkface tomorrow, I thought I'd better do some work. Any other jobs make people feel like this?  I'm ill and I feel guilty, for Christ's sake.  One day I'll win the lottery . . .

*thank you Michael Miles.  

Monday, 15 November 2010

twilight alehouse

It was a damp November evening and I set off from the East Coast on my annual visit to the Hitchin Folk Club - still often mentioned in dispatches by Radio 2, Froots magazine et al as one of the best folk clubs in the country. I started returning a few years ago when they started booking an annual visit by tonight's guests. An easy drive, despite poor weather, and I was looking forward to seeing John Tams and Barry Coope.  After all, it was Remembrance Sunday so I was sure that it would be an emotional evening for Tam, and indeed for us. As always, they delivered and it was a cracking gig. Plenty of songs from the past and various shows that he's been involved in over the years.  Over The Hills and Far Away (theme song from Sharpe) and several from War Horse (currently being filmed by Spielberg) although not Scarecrow from Alright Jack.  The Home Service are reforming so I'll look out for those gigs - a live album from the Cambridge Folk Festival which I'm sure I was at.  Excellent.

A few things have changed over the years since I left the area. The last act I went to see when I lived down that way was the Oysterband some 22 years ago.  In those days there was a bar upstairs at the Sun Hotel and they had support acts and floor singers. Nowadays the main act play two sets and the support act is the raffle. And there's no bar upstairs. Everybody queues up like the good Englishmen we are - it was a long queue, though, at half time. Brendan suggested we go across the courtyard to the other bar. Good idea quoth I.  It appeared to be shut.  Never mind, let's nip 'round the corner to the one in the market square.  Shut. The Red Hart? Shut. The King's Arms, shut. As were all the others. 

Sunday night in Hitchin - in the town centre - and there wasn't a single pub open.  I've never known anything like it. It wasn't like that in my day.  We ended up at the back of the ridiculously long queue  waiting at the hotel bar. I remember when Hitchin was the place to go to find where all the parties were. It was a ghost town. It was like being in Letchworth before the Black Squirrel opened.

Even in sleepy Suffolk it's difficult to find a pub that's shut. Oh how time's have changed.  If anyone has any ideas as to how this sad state of affairs has come about, I'd be interested to know.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't anything to do with Remembrance Sunday - there were quite a few pubs open in other parts of the town as I drove my weary way home.  100 miles. Tired and slightly astounded.

Despite the pub thing, Brendan pointed out that there were only two young people in the audience.  He said, "There's not really a generation behind us."  And I guess he's right.

The vibrant folk club culture has gone and it seems that our traditional social life of pubs is very quickly disappearing.  I'm beginning to feel like a character from Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford watching the old ways go:

One last drink and then I'm on my own
Still trying to make the long voyage home

Sunday, 14 November 2010

who'll blow the candle out tonight?

And so the youngest child becomes a man. Eighteen years ago I had to rush out of the house to the first frost of the year to scrape the Sierra down (remember them?) and drive in a panic to Ipswich in miserable weather.

Flash forward eighteen years later.  Last night he had a soiree - NOT a party.  Mrs Dave and I spent all day shopping, preparing food and driving him into Ipswich to meet up with a crowd of friends.  They all went to see Let Me In while we continued to prepare food etc. When they all turned up we had to go out.  So we hopped into a taxi and were whisked away to the Hand In Hand pub to see some friends playing in a band.  A very pleasant evening, too.  When we got home we found our son ushering everyone out of the house.  Obviously this busy day celebrating had tired him out.  The previous evening he'd been to someone else's 18th birthday party.  This one was organised in a bar - a good way to celebrate your coming of age.  Unless, of course, you are not actually 18 until the following day. They refused to serve the lad because he wasn't old enough!  I think having your birthday either on the night or a few days later might have been a little more sensible.

My son's friends tended to ignore the large amount of lager we'd bought for them which may be a good thing for the Mrs but not really for me as I don't tend to drink the stuff. I'm sure we'll manage somehow.

Ah well, off to Hitchin tonight for my annual return to the Sun Hotel where the Hitchin Folk Club has existed for the last 25 or so years.  John Tams is an annual fixture and I can usually guarantee seeing him at least once a year, so off I go.  No wine this afternoon with the slow cooked lamb, then.

Probably a good thing. I really do need to cut down:

it takes a lot of wine to cheer up my mind
and i've drained a few bottles for sure
but now i find - i'm not so inclined
to spend so much of my time on the floor
                                                 (you keep me right on line - john tams)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

a stick on fire

I should think things through more thoroughly, I guess. There are, of course, probably loads of firework/Bonfire Night songs.  There are probably whole blogs devoted to them. . .

I was thinking about Kate Bush the other day.  Not for the first time (in fact, there is a Kennedy effect at play here for those of us of a certain age: Where were you the first time you saw Kate Bush?*) but this is in relation to the previous post.

That November night, looking up into the sky,
You said, "Hey, wish that was me up there -
It's the biggest rocket I could find . . .

Yes, Rocket's Tail from The Sensual World - the one with Dave Gilmour, The Trio Bulgarka and, most probably, a kitchen sink. Totally barking - the verse about turning herself into a rocket! Great track and one, like the John Tams' one Brendan reminded us of, Winds of Change (Yalta, Bonfire Night 1992) from Unity, that I should have remembered. Ah well, blame it on the generals, blame it on their guns, blame it on the scarecrow in the rain.

Anyway, after a passing comment in the staff room, it would seem that everyone and his wife have written songs about the subject including Souxsie and the Banshees, Carter USM and all sorts of people I've never heard of. So, I'll draw a veil over the subject.

Another of our occasional cds is required: songs that make me happy.  12 tracks. So, thinking hat back on.

* One for another time, methinks.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

i just want to be your firecracker

We watched as fireworks zoomed up into the air over Stevenage Old Town.  Amongst the "oohs" and "aahs", I wondered why no one has ever written songs about Guy Fawke's Night.  I wasn't really thinking about all that  money going up in smoke - I quite liked it to be honest.  Maybe it's the beer, wine, baked potatoes and vegetable chilli that goes with it.  And the craic. After all we've been going to this particular do since last Century.

Now, I could be wrong and maybe someone is about to send me a list of songs I've missed (or ignored over the last 50+ years) but beyond light up the sky with Standard fireworks, I can't really think of any. No one else could either last night. I did think of a few American songs, most of which involve the Fourth of July.  Dave Alvin mentioned "Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below" and Ryan Adams provided the title of this blog, but I 'm racking* my brain for British November gunpowder references.  It all came down to the suggestion that I would have to write one. Oh alright then, watch this space . . .

It's weird going to your hometown for an evening and only dipping in and shooting out again the next day. To be perfectly honest, I only know a couple of places in the town - mostly the houses of my friends and the graveyard.  I feel no real attachment to the place - and why should I? I left it in 1982. Still, there is a sort of pull that I can't quite explain. A temporal ebb and flow, I guess.

On another note, dear reader, I seem to be under attack as far as personal emails are concerned.  All I can do - it seems to me - is to change my email account, so you may well get a new address to contact me.  120 junk emails yesterday - 237 today suggests that it's time I closed the current account.  I may be missing something here - I've done everything I've been told to to battle against it but I do feel totally fed up and hotmail don't seem too helpful about it. The small-minded criminals that rely on messing up our lives for whatever perverse pleasure they get from it may possibly be able to eloquently explian the point of what they do but it's beyond my comprehension.  At least another account may last for a few years as much as the last one did.

The end of an era, I suppose. 

*not exactly sure about the etymology here, but the popular vote is for this form as in "the rack" -  a popular torture instrument a few years back ( as in stre-e-e-tching . . .).

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

what shores?

I was brought up within a drinking culture.  Actually, I was brought up in a smoking culture but tended to veer away from that. My smoking career lasted from about 1973 to 1980.  I remember giving up on New Year's Eve 1980.  That's when it stopped.  I didn't really enjoy it - except for rolling your own Gauloise tobacco  cigarettes - well, we all have to grow up. And cycle to and from work. However, I've never given up drinking.  I can't see the point. What would be the point?  Health reasons?  The only doctor whoever mentioned it to me, mentioned it with a smirk.  I later found out he was the biggest dipso in our town . . .  and the only reason for our discussion was a brief course of antibiotics.

Anyway, alcohol.  Today on Radio 4 they made great play of the fact that it was the most destructive drug . . . blah, blah, blah . . . ad nauseum. Oh come on, I know people who have managed to wreck their lives by NOT drinking - choosing other ways to entertain themselves. I'm still around and I have a reasonably long list of friends who are much the same as me. Okay, I know that drinking isn't the answer - but it is an answer. Martyn Cornell runs a website about beer ( if you're interested) and has recently posted about the fact that ladies don't tend to drink beer despite the various attempts of the brewers to entice them to.  I maintain that the female of the species has more of a tendency to change over the years than the hairier of the species.

Personally, I enjoy drinking - it's social, fun and leads to great stories and I have had some of the most fantastic experiences of my life being involved with like-minded people. Okay, most of them can tell a story about me which I may not fully remember, but at least they remember who I am the next day!

And nowadays, I can remember them, too!

And please, check out the red triangles on the beer bottles in the Manet painting (Bass - remember?) - or else I will have to buy Brendan a pint.