Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Things That I Regret

The rain came down hard on the metal roof, sounding like a thousand manic horses. There were just the four of us in the garage: myself, our kid, LS and her cousin.

She was in one of her funny moods: verging on spiteful. She could be that way sometimes, wanting her own way, wanting attention. Looking back I guess there must have been something else going on there: third of three daughters, all of whom sent away to posh schools and boarding houses, almost as if the parents couldn’t wait to get rid of them. LS certainly had free run with no supervision and the three of us would wander off down the fields together for most of the day with no worry from parents (safer times, or less paranoia? You decide)

The rain continued to fall down. I guess I must have been about ten years old, my brother about six or seven. LS was teasing us, refusing to let us out of the garage. I was getting anxious because we were expected home at 4pm and I didn’t want to get into trouble (I was always pathetically well behaved). There was just a hint of nastiness in the way she locked the padlock – it wasn’t the first time recently that she had behaved just a little bit like a bully and I wasn’t enjoying the behaviour at all. Still the rain came down, harder than ever. She insisted that we wait till it subsided, but I knew that we were due home (as it would turn out my mother wasn’t even bothered). Finally she let us out and we ran through the rain, down the entry and in through the back gate.

I guess we must have met through the shared entry that backed onto both our houses: either that or our parents already knew each other. It certainly wasn’t through school. I don’t really remember the start of it, but I sure as hell remember the end.

There were endless adventures to be had on the nearby fields and we would play pirates and robbers, running away, Robin Hood (with myself as Robin and the infrequent visits from her cousin drafted in as Marion, much to LSs chagrin) – all the games that kids play. There must have been pictures, but the only memory I have of her face comes from an old home movie we made.

This was before the road cut the field in half, before the council decided that keeping a factory open a few more years was more important than preserving the environment: you could vanish into the grass, rolling in the sun and jumping over the brook with only the vaguest hint of car sounds in a faraway world that seemed unconnected to our private paradise. Things were great for a while there, yes indeed: the three of us almost inseparable – we must have been best friends for four or five years of my childhood.

And then it happened.

It was about a week after the rain incident. Myself and our kid were upstairs playing with action figures. There was a knock on the door and my mum called up that LS was there and did we want to go out down the fields. I told her that we were playing action figures – she could join in if she wanted to. It was our latest obsession me and Our Kid, but LS had never seen the point and this day would prove no different. So when my mum came up and asked again if we wanted to go out I just looked at my brother and said no.

And I can give you a million reasons why I did it: maybe I was going through that “girls are stupid” phase, maybe I was still angry about the shed incident or her attitude towards Our Kid (as he was often the focus of her worse behaviour), maybe I could argue that I knew she was being sent away to boarding school soon and our friendship would probably not survive.

But the truth is that in a moment of selfishness I may have broken a little girl’s heart: sending her home in tears.

I was seventeen when I saw her again. I didn’t even recognise her until she introduced herself. We chatted briefly: the kind of conversation where nothing much is really said, and there was no hint of any lingering bad feeling…and yet…

I guess I’ve been thinking about writing this post for nearly fifteen months now. As the years go past I find myself looking back at that moment, regretting that action and wishing that if our friendship had to end then it should have done so better, feeling that I should find her and try to make some form of amends. And sometimes I’ve even gone so far as to try and find her on the internet, but with no luck.

But time is not a window: time is like creating a painting. Sure there’s a certain amount you can do with it as you are creating the painting, but once the colours are dry then you can only look: wondering as to why some of the colours are so vibrant whilst others have faded.

What would I possibly say to her if I saw her? What could I do to make that single moment of childishness right? Would it even matter after all this time? At best I could hope to appease my conscience because nothing I could ever do can take back that moment.

And so I delay. I pause and don’t write this post. I pause and don’t take the simple steps that could be taken.

And then I get a friend invitation on Facebook

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Anarchy In The UK

June 1977 – a seemingly endless summer of strikes, street parties and social upheaval, a time of royalty, rebellion and recession. The news was full of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, but at the number two slot in the music charts there was an ominous blank spot. The voice of a generation had just been denied its freedom of speech.

Iit seems almost unbelievable now that a single song could so terrify and outrage those in power that not only would they ban all mention of the song, but they would refuse the band behind it permission to play in London for fear that the performance would cause a riot.

The song was, of course, “God Save The Queen” – the band: The Sex Pistols.

To understand the reasons that Punk Rock swept the nation with its short savage style you have to understand the times. They were not so different to those we face now: it was a time of endless strikes: the miners, the steel workers, the bin men. For those on the dole there were few jobs to be found and there was a feeling that there really was no future.

Ever since the dawn of rock and roll in the fifties music had become the voice of the emerging generation, but somewhere in the transformation to prog rock and Pink Floyd it had become increasingly for academics and people looking to expand their minds man, leaving a void for the man on the street that was screaming to be filled.

And then a new form of music started to trickle in from the USA. Bands like The Ramones, The Stooges and The New York Dolls had produced a new sound that spoke to the disaffected youth. It didn’t matter if you couldn’t sing, it didn’t matter if you couldn’t play: anyone could be in a Punk band as long as they had attitude.

Punk was also the first form of music to really recognise fashion as being an integral part of the music – savage haircuts and safety pins becoming the word of the day, and it even had its own designers in the likes of Vivian Westwood and Svengalis in the shape of Malcolm MacLaren.
It was as urbane as it was unique, as sacred as it was profane: for every band like Joy Division singing hopelessly beautiful songs about the dark depths of depression there was an Ian Dury and The Bliockheads with their tongue firmly in cheek, for every effort of bands like The Clash to unite rock with dub and reggae there was a Sid Vicious openly wearing swastikas to incite a reaction.

They deliberately adopted names and images that they knew would cause a reaction. For me this was the most distasteful side of Punk, because what started out as rebellion inevitably led to the attraction of people who really meant it.

The Punk Rock movement burned quickly: that initial level of anger could not be sustained – but what is perhaps more important is its legacy. It has often been said that Punk Rock was the last time that music was truly innovative – I don’t believe that’s true: because the bands that came out of the fire were, in many ways, far better for the burning.

If it were not for Punk we could not have had bands like The Clash, The Smiths, The Jam, Talking Heads. If it were not for Punk we could not have had 2-tone, Ska.

Today musicians create music at home, promoting it on YouTube or Myspace, doing away with the need for record companies. This “Do-It-Yourself” approach was very much part of the Punk ethos

However in many ways Punk must also be blamed for the ultra safe pop of Westlife, Girls Aloud and endless talent shows that now seek to control what we see and hear in the charts, created in direct response to the fear that punk spread through the music industry.

Ironically, however, it was the next generation that would finally sound the death knoll of Punk: with the next wave of music being made by the very people that the punks had set out to destroy.

These were people who wanted to be in music not just to make records, but to make money. Fame swiftly became the goal, with music often merely a means to an end. The Punks wanted to rebel against the beautiful and the rich: the next generation would want to be them. In our seemingly endless quest for fame and fortune Generation X have become The X Factor Generation.

I said at the start of this post that it seems almost unbelievable now that a single record could have such an impact and it seems equally hard to believe that music could ever be as important now as it was then. Take a look back to Christmas of 2009 – we had a number one single with over forty uses of the “F” word. Not only was it not banned, but it was played uncensored with barely a raised eyebrow.

When I was a kid if you wanted to buy an album you had to walk all the way into town, buy it, come home, find out there was a scratch or a warp and take it back – if you were prepared to do that then you were damn well going to commit time and energy into caring about the songs. We were as passionate about our music as the musicians were themselves: maybe even more.
Today people download entire albums at the click of a button and if they don’t like them immediately they delete them. Inevitably this means that there just isn’t the same level of emotional involvement.

But perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing – perhaps it’s only natural that music should no longer be the voice of the disaffected youth: perhaps that’s the nature of rebellion and change.

Perhaps it is only natural that in a generation where everything is disposable our music has become so too.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Johnny Hates Jazz (Me Too)

The Saxophone teacher looks exactly like a saxophonist should: under regulation height, with more stubble than seems feasible, a roll-neck jumper and just the vague suspicion that, in a bag not a million miles away, there is a peaked felt cap which will only ever be worn backwards. I suspect that if I look closely I will see fingers yellowed from smoking too many roll-ups of “herbal” cigarettes, but nonetheless instantly feel strangely reassured.

It’s Wednesday night and his class has about twenty minutes left to run. I’m upstairs in a building that stands on the ground where my Head Master once broke a classroom window whilst playing cricket with the sixth-formers and thinking about lessons in general.

I guess I was about 11 when I first thought about learning the guitar. Our Kid (northern slang for younger sibling) was already playing keyboard by then and was on book three of the Vince Clark songbook (or so it seemed – anyone not familiar with the works of Mr Clark should do a search in Wikipedia for Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure) – but I fancied the guitar as my instrument of choice.

The problem being that by then it had been made clear to me that teachers were Strange Alien Beings To Be Feared and that they were of the considered opinion that I had all the intellectual capacity of a wet cabbage – so the thought of asking about lessons was utterly terrifying to me. It didn’t help that we had two music teachers at our school: one of whom made the local tramp (the one who walked down the subways yelling “AAAAAAHH, up the bee-gees, up the bee-gees” in a heavy Irish accent) look sane, the other couldn’t bear to look at us until her fourth cup of coffee – in three years of music lessons we would see one xylophone once and that was it, but on my first day in class I made a point of walking in first so I could stay behind after everyone else had gone and ask about lessons…and then totally bottled it (chickened out).

I was seventeen when I finally started after school lessons through the community college where the teachers were happy to teach you anything as long as it wasn’t complicated, then left and just carried on playing and recording at home happy in the knowledge that I would never be Eric Clapton (hell I’d have settled for his second cousin Dave)

But at some point along the way I started thinking about other instruments – I’m always interested in trying something new. I have something of a gadfly mind and it tends to jump about and try and do everything (sometimes I think it would be nice to be focussed)

And then a few years passed

And then I saw that my old school were doing evening classes in Saxophone – something I had been interested in for a while: only the lessons were Wednesday night.

Toastmasters night. Bugger.

So there I was, chatting to some old geezer about Guitar Pull evenings at a local pub whilst I waited for the Saxophone teacher to finish up with his class so I could ask about private lessons that would bring me up to speed for the advanced (Monday evening) classes.

Saxophone – invented by Peter Saxon and Padraig O’Phone..or maybe not

The musical instrument most associated with the “J” word (and for my opinion on Jazz see the above and the comment made by Jimmy Rabbitte in “The Commitments”)

When the class have finished SaxMan gives me a quote for tuition and it sounds a bit pricey for one person – which is when I remember that Argent has previously mentioned that she owns an Alto Sax but hasn’t touched it in years. I decide to see if she would be interested in starting again.

SaxMan gives me his number and I go away, texting Argent – who seems positively thrilled at the idea and offers to go and pick up the Sax that I’ve had my eye on for a couple of weeks – I subsequently collect it from her and, after several hours of turning an unnatural shade of beetroot manage to elicit the sort of sound that is usually made by a rabbit that has been tortured by a cat for some hours before finally being bashed against a brick wall.

A couple of weeks pass and things get a bit hectic. Argent and I have agreed to work towards an Open Mike night and now it is upon us meaning that we have Final Practice (Friday eve), Open Mike (Monday), Saxophone lesson (Tuesday) and Toastmasters (Wednesday).

BTW – on the subject of the open mike I’m going to leave it to Argent to comment on that other than to say that I spent too long staring at the floor and my lyrics when I didn’t need to and was relieved a) not to be accosted by the usual drunk man who has taken a fancy to me and b) the crowd were politely indifferent instead of openly hostile.

And then the first practice – SaxMan arrives with barely a sign of the peaked-cap, but still wearing the trademark Jean-Paul Satre jumper and talks us both through setting up the sax and the proper way to blow (turns out that the wording in my book was misleading, leading me to think I had to bite down on the reed). It turns out his favourite word is OK (pronouned slightly nasally to sound like no-kay) and then he shows me what I've been doing wrong and mercy of mercies – a whole two notes come out.

OK so Courtney Pine is not going to be losing any sleep any time soon, but I think we both enjoyed the session and that SaxMan was suitably impressed. It’s like learning my chords all over again – I know that all it needs is a little more practice and that wobbly sound will go away (until such time as it is required)

So the upshot of this post is – if there’s something you’ve been wanting to do for a while but haven’t gotten around to it: go and try it. You never know – a couple of years down the line we could have a group internet jam as we all play along to Baker Street

Take it away Bob Holness…


(the link to post Gerry Rafferty’s infamous song was disabled, so you’ll just have to visit the site)

NB: despite all the internet rumours to the contrary Bob (the former host of All Time Greatest Quiz Show Blockbusters and one time radio James Bond) did NOT play the famous sax line on Baker Street. Not even a tiny little bit.

Monday, 22 March 2010

TFE's Monday Protest Bus

This week Total Feckin Eejit has asked us all to show solidarity to the wrong that was done to him by not winning the best blog award by writing a Protest Poem...

Well: here's the thing...I was hoping to get my guitar out and my video out and record this song for you, but time flies like an arrow and a banana flies like a fruit (Groucho Marx, the more funny brother of Karl) and I never did get around to it.

This is one of the first songs I wrote when I started learning the guitar and wasn't quite confident enough to take it seriously yet - so with apologies to Bob Dylan, Lloyd "Through The Keyhole" Grossman and Neil Inness here is:

Protest Song

Well you can't trust the Government, you can't trust the law
They'll kick in your head, when they kick down the door
Some people are crazy, some people are sane
But the world is dying, so get that round your brain

If you watch through my keyhole, you'll get a poke in the eye
And there's many a people would say, hey!
Don't mess with the master, don't argue with me
Or I'll come round and block up your drains

Well I work for a living, but they took it from me
With taxes and bills on everything you see
My kids all hate me, my wife she left me
But that's a mixed blessing if you know what I mean...

If you watch through my keyhole you'll get a poke in the eye
And there's many a people would say, hey!
Don't mess with the master, don't argue with me
Or I'll come round and block up your drains

Probably a good idea that we didn't put that one on the set list...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Wordzzle 103

Well it's been one of those weeks this week where I had lots of things I wanted to post about but somehow never got around to doing. Like last saturday when i went to a 1 day art course, only I turned up on the wrong day and ended up with a painting of flowers instead of a landscape (admittedly very nice flowers, but still not a landscape)

Or the endless bus journeys that I now have to face and my joy that cycling season is soon approaching, or my trip to London to sell some old videos

Or the upcoming gig...

But time had smacked me around the head until i am truly dizzy and so i find myself having to push these things aside to bring you my regular entry to the fun:

As some of you will already know the excellent Raven has been experiencing computer problems as of late, but still managed to put some words up for useage

Every week she sets a total of 15 words which can be used for a mini (5), main (10) or massiv (15) challenge and you have to write a story encorporating those words

This week's 10-word challenge: culture, sheep, skin, mentally, box, desert, several people, church, Greece, thirst,

The mini challenge: swimming pool, cargo, czar, focus, fine

As with last week we re-join the crew of the HMS Frightfully Sorry as they splice their mainsails, heave ho all the me harties they can manage and generally fail to make any progress in...

Four Sheets To The Wind

The door of the Captain’s cabin opened slowly. Captain Hogarth put down the pickled Sheep and picked a piece of mutton out of his beard

“Ah Colinberry! Excellent to see you!”

First Mate Jenkins sighed and pushed the door a little wider. What was it about Sunday afternoons that the Captain found so hard to cope with? Perhaps it was the four hour church service in which Pastor Glennig had preached about shipwrecks until several people had seen their breakfast for the second time that day, or perhaps it was the side-effects of all that salt water, but the Captain always seemed to be mentally in a different place to everyone else

“It’s Jenkins sir” the First Mate corrected.

“So it is!” boomed Hogarth, “Come in Jenkins and tell me again how long it is until we return to Hogarthland?”

This was a new one to the First Mate, who frowned and tried to focus on anything that had happened recently that his Captain could be referring to, “Hogarthland sir?”

“Yes Hogarthland. You remember, that place we discovered with lots of people in togas and that person called the Czar that we met”

“That was Greece sir.” Jenkins paused, “and I think he was the Caesar”

“Nonsense:” Hogarth boomed, “I discovered the demned place, so I get to name it after meself”

“No sir” Jenkins corrected patiently, “to discover a place you have to be the first one there sir. Greece is the culture capital of the known world sir. Everyone knows about it”

“Really?” Hogarth opened the box of cigars on his desk and picked one out, taking great care not to set fire to his beard, “Demned shame if you ask me: I was going to name one of the islands after you Colinberry”

“It’s Jenkins sir,” Jenkins reminded, “and it’s very fine of you to offer, but I think you’ll find that all the islands are already named”

“Really? Even the one with the swimming pool?”

“Especially the one with the swimming pool sir” Jenkins paused, as if looking for an escape route from the conversation, his skin beginning to show the result of stress, “Would you like me to tell you when we DO discover somewhere knew sir?”

“Yes I think so” Hogarth paused as he sucked thoughtfully on his cigar, “but not one with too much sand: can’t stand the desert Jenkins”

“No sir” Jenkins agreed, “Anything else sir?”

“Hogarth nodded, “Fetch me another bottle of brandy from the cargo hold would you Jenkins, I’m just about bally ready to die of thirst”

Monday, 15 March 2010

TFE's Monday Poem

As many of you will know by now Total Feckin Eejit (People's Republic Of Eejit) is currently campaigning for Greatest Blog Ever (and who am i to dispute this?) so it seems only fair to help TFE's claim by taking part in the poetry bus competition this week.

This week the poem had to start with:
"She was wearing Stella McCartney
I was drinking Stella Artois" - or words thereabouts

Things I Think About On The Bus

I was drinking in Stella McCartney
Whilst wearing my Stella Artois
As I leered at her on the telly
And admired her from afar
Then i leaned over to the landlord
Said "does she ever come to this bar?"
He just laughed and shook his head
"You've more chance with Ringo Starr"

Friday, 12 March 2010

Wordzzle 102

Sorry to say that the mightly word-warrier Raven has been felled this week by computer problems, so in the spirit of solidarity to the competition we here at DFTPs are posting our entry anyway.

For those of you who don't know - Raven sets two sets of words, a 10 word selection and a 5 word selection - these can either be used individually as a main and minor, or combined for a mega 15 - but once you endeavor to create a story you must include each word, or phrase, in the work at least once.

Words for this week's 10-word challenge are: slimy, Pluto, champing at the bit, peaceful, chapter, upright, depression, starfish, matches, channel changer

For the mini: liver spots, pesticide, plaid, unpredictable, upsetting the apple cart

Following on from my entirely hypothetical ship of the other week I thought it would be interesting to create another fictional ship, one which I may well return to if it proves popular:

so join with me now as we wrestle with the rollocks and fondle the Brass Monkeys as we experience the increasingly odd adventures of the HMS Frightfully Sorry and her exasperated crew in...

Four Sheets To The Wind

There was a polite knock on the Captain’s door, followed by a moment of respectful silence before the door squeaked open. First Mate Jenkins peered through the gap, trying to gauge the mood of the Captain. Ever since they had left Scunthorpe six months ago the usually chipper head of the ship had been subject to deep bouts of depression.

Today Captain Hogarth seemed to be back to his usual self. He was wearing his best plaid and was sitting upright in his chair peering closely at his book. He held up a hand and continued to read for a few more moments, before finally slipping the bookmark into place and looking up

“Ah Chiswick, good to see you old chap” he began with his usual booming tones, “sorry to keep you waiting, but had to finish my chapter first”

“It’s Jenkins sir” Jenkins corrected with the tired air of a man who has had the same conversation every day for the last six months

“Really?” Hogarth said, furrowing his brow without ever feeling the need for any form of gardening implement, “Are you sure?”

“Fairly sure” Jenkins replied, adapting his patented peaceful tone of voice

“Well what happened to Chiswick then?”

“Went overboard sir, got caught in the Baltics by a starfish”

Captain Hogarth screwed up his eyes and reached for his number four pipe and matches, “Demned shame, what?” he said eventually, “Slimy buggers, those Starfish”

“Indeed sir” Jenkins paused for a few extra seconds to allow his Captain’s brains to safely return from their trip to Pluto, and then cleared his throat, “Sir?”

“Hmmm?” Hogarth’s eyes cleared as it suddenly dawned on him that there might be some other purpose to his First Mate’s visit other than to re-confirm his own identity, “oh yes: I expect you’re just champing at the bit to tell me whatever piece of news you have, what?

“Yes Sir,” Jenkins confirmed, wondering how best to break the news, “It’s Bernard sir”

“Bernard?” Hogarth thought for a second, trying to cross check his mind with whatever passed for the channel changer for his brain, “Ah yes! Bernard! Excellent fellow: worth his weight in ten other men. What about him?”

“He’s a girl, sir”

“A Gel?” Hogarth questioned, “are you sure?”

“Quite sure, sir”

“But he’s got a beard Jenkins”

“I know sir” Jenkins paused, aware that this was not the worst of the news, “fooled a lot of us with that one she did sir. It was only when we found out that she was pregnant that we realised where we’d gone wrong”

“Pregnant! Pregnant you say?” Hogarth bellowed, “Well we can’t be having with that: doesn’t that lead towards liver spots Jenkins?”

“Generally speaking sir” Jenkins corrected, “it is believed to lead to babies sir” he paused to see if this was sinking in,

“Not liver spots then?”
The captain harrumphed in disgust, “Well we can’t be allowing that Jenkins, by jove not!” he decided, “can’t have a baby stomping around the place and upsetting the apple cart by luring us all towards rocks”

Jenkins thought for a second, “That’s Psirens, sir” he replied eventually, “not babies”

Hogarth shook his head, “Well I don’t know Jenkins, better have the pesticide ready just incase, unpredictable buggers these babies”
Jenkins nodded and prepared to leave, “Yes sir, consider it done sir” he paused, “any news for the crew this week sir?”

Hogarth shook his head again, “No, no: you just carry on”

“Right you are sir”

“And Jenkins?”

The first mate paused and looked back over his shoulder, aware that he was only a quick sprint from safety, “Yes sir?”

“Keep me informed on this baby thing, what?” Hogarth ordered, “Wouldn’t want one of those demned baby things creeping up on me and eating me in the night”

“No sir” Jenkins replied with barely any trace of stress in his voice, “definitely not sir”

Sunday, 7 March 2010

TFE's Poetry Bus: Everybodies Gotta Have A Train Song...

OK, so the bus has left us all waiting at the station this week and its time to bring in a few other influences for the journey, hence the title which a certain Irish group will probably recognise - and because they're so fecking brilliant I've posted a video of the song of the same name below (hope you don't mind guys):

Moving on now I was in too minds as to whether to post my own effort, because I wrote these lyrics the other day and, frankly, I'm not entirely pleased with them. It's a kinda Bob Dylany/Travelling Wilbury kinda thing with much work needed on the lyrics, but here goes anyway:

Back On The Train

I'm a cynical mind in an untamed world
But we're going for a ride, yeah me and my girl
Gonna shout, every victory, that I claim
When you see me coming you will know my name
Cos I've spent too long going slowly insane
Now it's time, to get back, on the train

Though I had lost it for a while
But giving up, just ain't my style
So I'll jsut wait and play it cool
If you think I'm beaten you're the fool

You can leave indescision, at the gate
My destiny's coming and I've fixed my date
I've made bad connections, down the line
But I've no more regrets, cos I ain't got time


This is something I have to get off my chest before I throw my TV out of the window.

Things That Have Annoyed Me This Week: #1 - Constant Adverts For Disney's(R) Alice In Wonderland

I don't care
how much you've changed
the plot
It's not