Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bread, Butter and Badinage

Today's soundtrack:  Stornoway - Beachcomber's Windowsill

First week back at work passed pretty uneventfully, it didn't take long to catch up on emails and paperwork.  No major issues in my absence, either.  I always have this nagging uncertainty after a fortnight off - does the fact that I wasn't missed reflect on the quality of my team (and my management/delegation skills) or the fact that I am not at all indispensable?

It's the former, obviously.

So, John won the bake-off, then.  We felt it was a tad controversial, that Brendan (a Buddhist!  Who would have guessed?) had probably done enough - but that John was made of stern stuff.  I did get the impression his mum would have rather he'd lost and put this silly baking lark behind him, whilst going on to be a hot-shot lawyer...but I think we all know where John's future really lies, don't we?

Box-set shuffle this week as we finished the second series of Justified (excellent show) and started the latest series of Supernatural.  I love Supernatural.  It is just so marvellously silly, but is also remarkably subversive in its approach to 'religion'.  How does the Bible Belt in the US get its head around a popular TV series that has God depicted as a slightly puzzled looking middle aged man in a Columbo raincoat?  Anyway, Castiel is not God anymore, and he's unwittingly released a raft of new baddies on the world before disappearing...although a pond to a penny he's back soon, hopefully as a nice angel again.  We like Castiel.

Under instructions from Mrs W to make bread and butter pudding this week.  Not sure why, I've never made her bread and butter pudding - ever.  Still, I do what I'm told, and produced something - quite delicious, actually.  Loosely followed a 'Good Food' recipe, and although I'm not sure wholemeal bread is 'traditional' in these matters, it did add a touch of nuttiness to the taste that was very acceptable.  So, basically - lots of triangles of bread and butter, crusts off, in a baking dish.  Layers interspersed with cinnamon and mixed fruit that I'd soaked in warm water for a while.  Custard made with a couple of eggs, sugar, milk and double cream.  Poured over  with a hint of nutmeg and soaked for half an hour or so, then 40 minutes in a hot oven.  Served with the rest of the double cream.

And some left for tonight!  Nom nom!

Just watched Plucky Everton sneak a draw against the mighty QPR at Loftus Road.  We never really got into gear against a QPR team that have struggled to be more than the sum of their parts this season, although typically we met them just as they began to start playing as a team rather than a collection of strangers.  Without Fellaini and Gibson, we are very weak in central midfield - and it showed today.  We also struggled down the right with Seamus and Victor not really (at all) gelling.  Throw in a sending off on the hour and it was backs to the wall.  Thankfully Jagielka had a marvellous game at centre back to keep us in the game and, although we never looked like sneaking it, a draw was not an unfair result overall I felt.

Stornoway on the soundtrack today - a nice little band in the Guillemots/ BSP/ James mode.

Beachcomber's Windowsill is their debut album and whilst they are never likely to hit the Mumfordesque big time, they are just the sort of band who you'll chance across on one of the minor stages at a festival and who will entertain you most satisfactorily for an hour or so.  That's not to patronise them - I just think they fit a particular niche and fit it very well.

Anyway, this is 'Zorbing' - lead-off single from the album.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Not At All Pointless!

Today's soundtrack:  R.E.M. - Songs For a Green World

So that's that then - my home-holiday draws to a close, and probably with it this daily stream of nonsense.  I've enjoyed doing it though, so - perhaps - I'll carry on at weekends?  Don't hold your breath though...

Up and out this morning with the dog to see the Old Folks.  They like to see the dog.  Nice cuppa and chat with my mam & dad while the dog buried a bone in the garden.  It's not his bone, it actually belongs to my brother's dog.  Who will have a bugger of a job finding it now.  I like to think of them both, in turn, hiding the same bone from each other on alternate visits.  And each wondering why the bone is never where they last buried it when they come back.  Perhaps they will assume the bone has mystical qualities that allows it to transport itself from place to place on its own.  Perhaps this will blow their doggy minds.

We then went off to the forest for a stroll in the crisp autumn sunshine.  Not our usual route, we stopped in the main bit of the forest on our drive back through.  Dropped a bit of a goolie, as the bit of the wood we chose was obviously the 'bikers' section - lots of people riding quickly down hills and jumping over logs and stuff.  I had to keep him on the lead most of the time, lest he got run over by a runaway BMX-er.  He then led me a merry dance, taking me a bit 'off-piste' and into the muddy, boggy areas of the forest.  Bearings well and truly lost, we were lucky to find our way back to the main road just a hundred yards or so away from where I'd parked.

Been entertaining myself today watching my mate Gavin on the telly!  He was on the quiz show 'Pointless' (Episode 33 - catch it on iPlayer) with his mate.  And he only went and won the thing!  Sadly the jackpot is not of 'Millionaire' levels - particularly since the previous jackpot had only just been won in the previous episode, so he won't be retiring just yet.  After a dodgy first round, the boys improved as the game went on, until their deep knowledge of obscure Brit Award winners saw them through.  You'd expect nothing less of an Afterword regular!  He should just about be able to afford a round next time we all meet up...

Another mate of mine who has been doing great things is currently blogging about his trip to the USA, as part of an 'International Visitor Leadership Programme' administered by the US Department of State.  Noordad is a local councillor in the North West and as part of the trip is visiting Detroit, Washington, New York and other places to talk to US politicians about areas of common interest.  Hopefully this trip will inspire him to do even more good things for the people in his neighbourhoods.  His blog is here if you're interested - there's some inspiring stuff there.

REM on the soundtrack today - an 'official bootleg' of a 1989 show in Orlando, part of the tour promoting the 'Green' album, just as the group were transitioning from 'big' to 'gobsmackingly massive'.  I've a few of these albums, released by a company called 'Leftfield Media'.  The quality is variable (I've a Randy Newman one that sounds like it was recorded from outside the building) but this one is pretty good, both in terms of sound quality and the strength of the material.

I finally got round to seeing REM live on the 'Accelerate' tour and they blew me away.  I expected them to be pretty much going through the motions at this stage in their career but it was one of the most powerful shows I'd seen in years.  God, they must have been great in their prime.

And here they are, on the 1989 Tour, doing 'Pop Star 89' - in black and white, no less!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lazy Saturday

Today's soundtrack: Curtis Mayfield - Superfly

A nice lazy day today, in contrast to yesterday, when I boxed off all my outstanding chores.  So having walked the dog early on, I've been chillin', reading the paper, tinkering on t'internet and generally recharging in advance of the return to work on Monday.

One of the things I've been doing is hanging out on The Afterword site, the site that rose from the ashes of The Word website.  Regulars may recall my longstanding devotion to The Word in its many guises - magazine, podcast and website.  Sadly, falls in circulation and advertising revenue led to the demise of The Word back in July.  Unfortunately there isn't a market, apparently, for a well-written magazine covering all types of media - music, film, television, technology, and the business underpinning these media.  However of greater concern to me - and to many other people - was the associated loss of the website, where a strong, vibrant community of like-minded individuals had developed over a period of five or so years.

Fortunately, within this community are a number of people who had the drive, time and technical wherewithal  to design and launch an alternative to the Word website, and so 'The Afterword' (see what they did there?) came into being.  The intention was to mirror, as closely as possible, the original site, albeit without the ties to the magazine.  Over time, the vast majority of regular contributors have migrated across to The Afterword, and a number of new faces have also started to make a contribution.  Overall the transition has been pretty seamless, albeit with the odd hiccup and bout of navel-gazing.  If anything, the site's a better place than the old one, being run by the contributors rather than by the magazine staff.  Anyway, the link's over there - get yourself over there and registered!

With the England international last night, there's a distinct lack of footy to get worked up about this weekend.  This is not a good thing.  I have completely lost interest in the performance of the national team, to the extent that I can't be bothered watching.  And while it's nice to see a couple of the Everton lads getting the recognition they deserve, I'd rather they weren't playing and exposing themselves to injury (or the fluttery come-ons from the squad members at "bigger" clubs).  There have now been two international breaks since the season started, giving a disjointed feeling to the season and too few games being played, for my taste!  By the end of October there will only have been four league games played at home this season, and only one of those at its rightful time of three on a Saturday.  It's not good enough!

Anyway, I've been listening to the great Curtis Mayfield while writing this, and for the second day running it's a film soundtrack - this time for Superfly, one of a series of 'Blaxploitation' flicks made in the seventies.  I'm pretty sure I've never seen Superfly, but that doesn't matter - it couldn't possibly live up to the soundtrack anyway.

Curtis's voice was one of the sweetest in gospel/soul, and it remains sweet here, despite the subject matter - in fact, the contrast between the sweetness of the voice and the toughness of the lyric works incredibly well.

Here's Curtis back in 1973, performing 'Freddie's Dead'...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Smelly dog, smelly dog...

Today's soundtrack:  Various Artists - American Graffiti

So, my fortnight off work edges towards its close and - inevitably - Catholic Guilt kicked in this morning.  All those things I was going to do, that hadn't yet got done - well, today was the day, I suppose.

Firstly though, it was off to the woods again with the dog.  Nice, crisp morning - and for possibly the first time, we didn't see a soul on our circuit of the forest.  In an attempt to liven up proceedings a bit, Archie found something rank-smelling beside the path, and decided to roll in it.  He looked suitably pleased with himself.  Rather stupidly, I rubbed the dark patch on his flank to see if it would come off.  It wouldn't, but it did succeed in transferring plenty of the smell from him to me.

I frowned down at the dog.

The dog grinned back.

"What?" that grin seemed to say. "I'm a dog!  This is what we do!  Woof!"

So homewards we went, dog, me, and this invisible cloud of rankness.

Luckily, we have a dog that is not averse to a drop of water.  Specifically, the shower.  So, upstairs we went.  Me, stripped to the waist.  Shower on.  Dog in shower.  Me, half in and half out of shower, desperately trying to get water onto the rankest bits of the dog.  All too soon, the dog realised that this was not a game and decided to stop playing - at which point he dived past me, into the bedroom, to get dry.  Which he did by jumping on the bed and rolling around until water, residual mud - and residual rankness - was transferred from him, onto the bed.

I love him really.

Next job - ironing.  I'd been looking at the pile of shirts in the kitchen for the best part of two weeks.  They were not going to iron themselves, were they?  No, Paul, they weren't.  I actually don't mind ironing, but I do have a tendency to let things pile up until, basically, I've nothing left to wear.  Which does make it more of a job than it should be.  Mind you, I did have a brand new iron to play with (the old one ended up in the skip on Monday) - which was nice.

Job done an hour or so later.  Feet up?  No - sadly, the sun was shining, and the grass was looking sufficiently dry to take a cut.  So outside it was to cut the front and back - hopefully for the last time this year.  It doesn't actually take too long, and with the help of my (also relatively new) Bosch, I was finished in about another hour.

Back inside, and with the kitchen floor swept and mopped, and the freezer emptied for defrosting, I was - finally - done with the chores.

*Smug face*

Most of today's jobs were done to a musical accompaniment - as are most things in my life, to be honest - and today we've been accompanied by the Oasis brothers, the Trash Can Sinatras, David Bowie and a suitably mucky compilation from the lovely drakeygirl (whose blog you should also read - link over there to the right).  I also listened to a great compilation of stuff by Tony Joe White, reminding me just how much I love that 'Swamp Rock' vibe.

However the soundtrack to today's blogging stint comes from the soundtrack to the film 'American Graffiti'.  I loved this film back in the day, mainly for the soundtrack, but also for its depiction of a way of life that was so unlike the one I was experiencing at the time on the wrong side of the Mersey.  Diners, great cars, bobbysoxers - what was not to like?

Watching it many years later, the film itself comes across as a bit 'slight' - but the soundtrack is still wonderful.  Loosely 'rock 'n' roll', but also with plenty of doo-wop as well, the music evokes the era at least as well as the film itself.

Here's the Del Vikings with 'Come Go With Me' - apparently one of the songs a young John Lennon sang to Paul McCartney on the day they met at Walton Village fete all those years ago...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

In the Hudd

Today's soundtrack:  Bruce Springsteen - Tracks

Off to Huddersfield today, to see Son No 2.  It was his birthday earlier this week (when I was busy Skipping) and although I'd got his present to him directly, via the miracle of Amazon, I thought I ought to go and show my face and buy him lunch.  Oh, and he needed a hand getting rid of an old telly.  If only he knew someone with a skip to fill...

After a spray-soaked drive over the Pennines, it was thankfully dry in Huddersfield.  We loaded the telly up (an old one of ours that was big and heavy) and carted it off to the local recycling yard.  Despite many warnings about trying to dump stuff without a resident's permit, no-one demanded to see our credentials so we stuck the telly in the 'telly and monitor' container and went about our business.

And our business was to partake of beer and burger in The Parish, Matt's watering hole of choice.  I think I've blogged about The Parish previously - but it's a nice friendly boozer that does good food and puts bands on from time to time.  The chilli burger comes highly recommended - even this big boi had to admit defeat.

Apparently Matt was in there on his birthday and they gave him a free drink - a B-52, no less.  I can't remember the exact constituents but there are many and they are highly alcoholic.  I have had my own run-in with the B-52 'cocktail' myself.

*cue wavy lines and retro music*....

Back in the day, I had a job that involved a lot of international travel.  On one occasion I was in Toronto with the local finance director and a group of investment bankers at the time a 'deal' was being discussed.  The FD took us all out to a local bar and, as the evening wore on, he decided we ought to be 'on the B-52s'.  The barman duly lined up round after round, which we poured down our throats.  Until four in the morning.  Which would have been fine, except we had a Board Meeting to attend the following morning.  Moreover, the bankers were on an early flight back to the US the following day.  I managed to crawl out of my pit having had about three hours sleep to sit quietly at the back of the Board Meeting, which passed without incident.  Sadly the bankers were not so lucky.  Short of time, they had to dash back to their hotel, pack and leave pretty much immediately.  Inevitably, they were still completely pissed when they tried to check in.  The airport staff were not particularly impressed apparently, and when one of the bankers tried to play the Big I Am, he apparently got carted off to a little room for the 'rubber glove' treatment.  Flights were missed and, I understand, 'deals' were never done.

I felt a bit guilty after lunch, as I was then off for a routine eye test.  That would involve the optician getting Up Close and Personal with my beer and chilli-infused breath.  Poor love.  Oh, and it was an excruciating process as well.  I had the 'air puffed into eyes' thing that I hate, and the optician was not too impressed by the extent to which I wear my contact lenses.  He also seemed to have great difficulty assessing my close-up vision.  At one point he left the room to 'consult with his supervisor' - at which point I thought I'd be going home with a white stick rather than some new glasses!  Happily it was all something and nothing, and all I need are some new lenses in my old glasses, and a change to my lens prescription.

Brooooce on the soundtrack today, with the box set of offcuts and alternatives called 'Tracks'.  Not a set that I play regularly, but perfectly pleasant and acceptable.  You do feel there is a reason why these tracks didn't make it onto the official releases though...

This is nice though.  An early version of 'Born in the USA' (a Nebraska outtake, I think) played acoustically, and without the bombast of the famous version.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cars, Girls and Vicars

Today's soundtrack:  Prefab Sprout - From Langley Park to Memphis

So, I duly got myself off to Birmingham yesterday afternoon, to put the world to rights with my old mates.  I gave myself plenty of time to allow for the inevitable delays on the M6, the intricacies of the Birmingham ring road system, and the road closures around the Tory Conference area.  Of course, apart from a few delays right at the end of the journey, everything went fine and I turned up about an hour early.

So I texted the boys to tell them where I'd be, got a beer and people watched.  And tweeted, a touch waspishly.  As you do.  Simon soon turned up, and I (guiltily) stopped tweeting.  Kevin turned up in time for the second round, after which we repaired to a local Chinese for some chuck.

A couple of hours later, with world duly put to rights, creatures of the land, sea and air duly scoffed, and the bill duly paid, we went our separate ways.

My soundtrack to the journey there and back was one of my favourite podcasts, by 'The Rocking Vicar'.  I had a couple lined up to listen to and, as always, they made the journey pass by pleasantly and quickly.

So tell me of this Vicar who Rocks, I hear you say.  What madness is this?

Well, the vicar him(or her)self has yet to make an appearance.  The podcast is in fact presented by two acolytes, Magnus Shaw and Terence Dackombe, who blather on about whatever takes their fancy for an hour or so, add some records to their imaginary iPod, and then take their leave.  Last night, subjects under discussion included The Great British Bake-Off, the rise/fall/rise of MySpace, Celebrity Mr & Mrs,  the charm and grace of Ivan George Morrison and 'all you can eat' meal offers.

The climax of the podcast is the 'pretend iPod', where Magnus and Terence each select, and justify with a few minutes' chat, a particular song for inclusion on their 'pretend iPod', closing the 'cast with a clip from each song.  I believe they stole the idea from the 'soundtrack' conceit popularised by this very blog...

I think you can see why this eclectic mix might appeal to me...

I should profess a (very minor) connection. On a trip to That London just over a year ago, I spent a very pleasant evening in the company of Terence, (along with David Hepworth, Danny Baker and various members of The Massive) watching The Silver Seas in Islington.  A nicer and more amenable chap you could not wish to meet.  Furthermore, a few other friends of mine have contributed occasional pieces to the Vicar's website, the address for which can be found in the 'Stuff I Like' box over to your right.

Be that as it may, you should all shoot off to the website, or your podcast provider of choice (iTunes works for me) and bookmark/subscribe post-haste.  You won't regret it!

And so to my album of the day.  From Langley Park to Memphis was Prefab Sprout's third album (leaving aside the delayed release of Protest Songs) and it was probably their most commercially-aimed release (and possibly their best-selling?).  Typically, it's possibly my least favourite of their albums - although Prefab Sprout's worst work is still going to be better than most people's best.

That's not to say I don't like the album - I love it dearly - but for me it just doesn't reach the heights of Steve McQueen, Swoon, Jordan or Andromeda Heights.  When it is good, it is very good (Cars & Girls, Nightingales) but the weaker tracks like The Golden Calf and the 'hit', The King of Rock & Roll do let the album down for me.

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that 'The King of Rock & Roll' was written just so Paddy could prove he could write a song around that title.  Oh, and the video is possibly one of the worst ever recorded.  Ever.  I also recall Cars & Girls being discussed on the Rocking Vicar - the song is a 'tribute' to Bruce Springsteen (cars, and girls, being all Bruce writes about, apparently) - the debate was around the degree of affection (or otherwise) included in the song.  For my part, I think it's written affectionately rather than dismissively - if not about Bruce himself, but about those who follow Bruce's dreams of escape (in a car, with a girl).

Anyway, you decide.  Here's the Sprout live somewhere in Europe (with some quite frankly bonkers dancing on the side) back in the day, performing Cars & Girls.  And just what is Wendy wearing?!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A Model Worker

Today's soundtrack:  Magazine - Maybe It's Right to be Nervous Now

Well I'm feeling the impact of all that heavy lifting yesterday on my poor aching bones - I'm getting too old for this sort of thing.  As a labourer, I make a very good accountant.  Even the early morning routemarch with the dog (in glorious, crisp autumn sunshine) probably compounded, rather than eased, the stiffness in my joints.

Anyway, the Neatest Skip In The World has now been taken away.  The bloke who came to collect it was nice enough, but keen to tell me he'd been delayed by a hospital appointment.  I made the cardinal mistake of asking if everything was ok.  Which gave him the opening he was looking for to tell me about the tube he'd just had inserted down the eye of his, er, "needle" and what they found lurking in his bladder.  I then got a few minutes on his micturatory adventures before he finally confirmed that, happily, it wasn't all that serious.

I bet he'll be regaling everyone he meets today with the same story.

Off to Birmingham this afternoon, for an evening meal with a couple of mates - one who lives there, and another who is visiting in a 'professional' capacity for the duration of the Conservative Party conference.  This will be, I think, the third year on the run we've met up during the conference - last year it was in Manchester, effectively my 'home' venue, and it was Brum again the year before that.

Regardless of political affiliations, these events are very strange things to be around - large parts of the city centres blocked off, armed police on the streets, the odd (very odd) well-known face to be seen...and then all the party faithful, all dressed to impress and carrying an innate air of superiority around with them.  This was particularly noticeable two years ago, the first conference following the election "victory", when there was a barely-concealed sense of triumphalism and glee about the event.  I suspect the atmosphere will be a touch more subdued this time round.

If it isn't, it bloody should be.

Four or five years ago, the three of us were working together for the same employer, albeit in different cities. An employer who managed to dispense with our services, one by one.  Their loss.  At least all three of us have managed to get back into gainful employment - some quicker than others - and I think its fair to say all three of us are a damn sight happier as a result.

Driving tonight, so Coca Cola will be drunk, and something tasty will be eaten.  The world shall, no doubt, be put to rights.  I shall then be driving back, gassy but happy, to my sparklingly clean, ordered, and empty, garage.

The wonderful Magazine are playing as I type this.  God, I love this group, and always have.  They were the first group who convinced me that punk was not necessarily a musical cul de sac...that something else - intelligent, mysterious and edgy - could evolve from the three chord thrash but still be completely different to what had gone before.

Magazine took the punk attitude, added funkiness into the mix via the magnificent Barry Adamson, introduced a new kind of 'guitar hero' in John McGeoch, and were not too proud to include fine synth and keyboard stylings from Dave Formula.  Four great albums, and then...nothing, for the best part of thirty years.

They reformed a few years ago and I saw them a couple of times (in Manchester and at Latitude) and they didn't let me down.  Devoto less spiky than in the past, but just as oblique and challenging.

Maybe It's Right to be Nervous Now is a box set, collecting together alternative versions, b-sides, peel sessions and the like.  Interesting rather than essential - what you really need is the first four studio albums.

From the first album, Real Life, here's 'The Light Pours Out Of Me'.

Monday, October 08, 2012


Today's soundtrack:  Pet Shop Boys - Release

Not this sort of skipping...

(Apologies for the BA Robertson at the beginning there)

But this sort of skipping!

This was one of the chores I gave myself to do in my fortnight off - to clear the garage of all the crap in there, thus creating space to get one - who knows, maybe two - cars actually into the garage.  Over the years, the garage has become the dumping ground for lots of junk - cardboard and polystyrene, mostly - packaging from electrical goods old and new.  Sadly the junk has slowly squeezed out the cars, and created a fertile nesting ground for smaller rodents.  This needed to be sorted, before we had infestation problems and - more importantly - so Mrs W's temperamental motor could actually be garaged during the winter months.  If it's not kept in the (semi) warm, it complains bitterly.  Likewise the car (see what I did there? Ha!) - when it gets cold, the gearbox gums up making changing gear a bit of a lottery.  Which is a bad thing.

So.  The skip had been ordered, and I prepared to wait in until it was delivered.  I didn't have to wait long - at 07:45 there was the distinct sound of an industrial vehicle reversing onto the drive.  I, of course, was still in bed.  I'm on holiday, for God's sake!  Anyway, clothes flung on to open the door for the driver - and fooling no-one - I paid up and looked at the cavernous yellow box blocking up the drive.  "I'll never fill that", I thought.  Ha!

Well I thought I might as well make a start.  I was going to do a 'before' and 'after' picture - but to be honest,  I'm too embarrassed by what the 'before' looked like!  As I said, most of the junk was packaging, but there were a few old, beloved items that ended up in the skip - largely because the mice had got to them, not because they'd never get used again.  Oh no.  The football boots went - not worn in anger since 2000.  The rollerblades - not worn in even longer.  Video recorders.  35mm cameras.  The odd telly.  Oh, and the bike - bought on eBay for twenty quid.  Used once.  Reams and reams of computer cabling and obsolete connectors.  Modems. Mice (rodent as well as computer - I had an old 'humane' mousetrap with entrances but no exits...two mummified corpses confirmed that the thing actually worked...)

Once I got into it (not literally 'into' it - you know what I mean) I found myself actually quite enjoying the job.    Slowly, the skip filled and the garage emptied.  Halfway through, I did have a bit of a crisis of confidence - the skip was filling quicker than the garage was emptying, but when the heavier stuff started getting thrown in, it pushed all the cardboard and polystyrene down, making a bit more room.   Even so, as the picture above demonstrates, there was barely enough room for everything.

Suddenly, the job was done - everything that had to go in the skip was in the skip.  All that was left was to sweep the detritus off the garage floor (with a bit of a shudder when clearing some of the darker nooks and crannies) and then to rearrange all the stuff that was staying, nicely and neatly against the side walls.

Job's a good 'un!

I'd given myself three days to get all this done, so to box it off in a matter of hours was even more pleasing.  Go me!

Pet Shop Boys on the soundtrack today.  Multicultural aesthetes and bon viveurs they may be, but how many skips do you suppose Neil and Chris have filled in their time, eh? Eh?

Of all their albums (and I do have all their albums - I love the band) Release is probably the one I play least (and was probably one of their least successful overall).  It does feature Johnny Marr on most tracks though, which can only be a good thing.  Less overtly 'dancey' than most of their stuff, with the odd acoustic instrument in the mix, perhaps it was a bit too far away from 'usual' PSB territory for many.

This is 'Home & Dry' the lead-off single from the album.  The video, which may have helped the single sink without trace, features mice in the London Underground.  Which, given what I have been dealing with today, is curiously appropriate.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Glastonbury fail?

Today's soundtrack:  Queen - Greatest Hits II

Well, it had to happen eventually.  This year, my luck finally ran out, and for the first time in six attempts, I missed out on a Glastonbury ticket for next year.  150,000 plus tickets, sold out in an hour and forty minutes.  But not sold to me.

I got so close as well.  On four or five occasions, I got through to the screen for inputting my registration details - and once to the 'Confirm' screen to pay my fifty quid deposit.  But each and every time, the damn thing crashed and chucked me out!  Aaaargh!

This is not supposed to happen.  The last time I recall it being this difficult was also the year after a 'fallow' year - I'm sure that's had an impact on demand.  As have, I would expect, the rumours of The Smiths reforming for Glastonbury - or The Rolling Stones playing.  Inevitably there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth on the festival fora, with See Tickets getting it in the neck again - but to be honest, any system capable of selling that many tickets in that short a time must be, by definition, a pretty good system.

So unless I can finagle a ticket by other means, or in the April resale - I'll be watching Glastonbury from the comfort of my living room next year.  Still, you never know...

Up early today to watch the grand prix.  Although when I say 'up', that's not strictly true.  Propped up, more like, watching on my iPad via the miracle of Sky Go.  Not the most exciting of races, with Vettel having the thing sewn up from the off, and the first lap incidents that saw Alonso out and Webber running from the back eradicated the best chances of a challenge.

Tried to blow away the frustrations of the ticket sale by taking the dog up to the forest.  Because it was a later start than normal, and because it was such a lovely morning, there were a lot of people - and their dogs - out and about.  Happily Archie seems to be learning that - especially when off the lead - none of these dogs are a threat or a potential 'target', and he was happy to run and play with the dogs rather than barking angrily.  And obviously he was equally happy to sniff all their arses as well.

Home made pizza for tea tonight - breadmaker will shortly be called into action to make the bases.  Home made pizza is such a joy, shop-bought is always a bit disappointing now.  I tend away from the traditional when making my own.  If I knew the Italian for 'kitchen sink' that would just about cover it.  Mozzarella and passata will be involved, as will chorizo and pepperoni.  Red onion, sweetcorn and chillies.  Sadly not mushrooms this time though as there are none in the house.  I'm sure we'll cope though.

Last night we had Bob's ropa vieja - see post earlier this week.  Very nice indeed, although not as spicy as I was expecting.  Perhaps a bit less chilli de-seeding next time... We watched 'Final Desination 5' as well, which was as enjoyably crap as all the others.  Identical plotline, different set of kids, equally inventive ways for them all to die.  What else would you want on a Saturday night?

A bit of Queen on the soundtrack today.  There are those who would tell you that Queen are overblown, pompous, ridiculous.  And they would be right.  But that is exactly what is so good about them.

Greatest Hits is the best way to enjoy Queen - at heart they are just another great singles band.  They made some cracking videos too...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Not Paul's best 'Friend'...

Today's soundtrack: Miles Davis - The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions

...Kevin Friend, that is - the referee of the Wigan-Everton game I've just been watching on a snide internet feed.  Although the game finished 2-2, we were on the end of two very dodgy refereeing decisions - Wigan's opening goal was clearly offside, and Nikica Jelavic was denied a clear penalty halfway through the second half.

Now a more disinterested viewer than myself might argue that Everton were lucky not to have Marouane Fellaini sent off for a wayward elbow towards the end of the first half - but overall I would still argue we got the short end of the stick (again) today and were unlucky not to have won in the end.

 It started poorly though - Wigan were clearly very up for the game, and their 3-4-3 formation didn't really suit the way we were trying to play.  In particular they got a lot of joy down their right side, with Johnny Heitinga having a bit of a 'mare in the first half (as he admitted himself on Twitter later).  In fact we looked all over the place defensively, with Seamus also struggling at right back.  Central midfield was also a bit toothless, and Felli was in a stroppy mood which hindered his ability to contribute bryond giving away daft free kicks.

Notwithstanding the dodgy nature of the opening goal, the boys did well to equalise within a minute, only to fall behind again due to some dodgy defending.  Half time couldn't come soon enough!

At the break, Moyes made the necessary change, bringing Distin on to balance the defence and bring some pace and presence to the left side.  He should have been on from the start, really.  It worked too - Everton were on top for virtually all the second half, but as the chances went begging and the decisions weren't given, it looked like it was going to be "one of doze", as Ronnie Goodlass would say.  Happily, we were awarded a penalty that even our friend Mr Friend couldn't ignore, and we got the draw that was the least we deserved.

Man of the match?  Difficult, as few players really shined.  Jelavic led the line well, and took his goal very well, and Pienaar was always buzzing and available - but ultimately it has to be Leighton Baines for a busy, productive performance against his old club, topped off with a very calm and well-struck penalty.  By far the best left back in the country - bar none.

So - third in the table, and probably four points less than we should have.  I have no idea how long this run will last, but I'm going to enjoy it while I can!

Quiet day today after a late night last night.  Not deliberately - it was one of those 'headphone' nights after the fillum (The Pact - not a bad little horror movie, bigger on the psychology than the gore), finishing off the last of the wine.  Naturally this led to me falling asleep in the chair, to wake up at two in the morning with slobber rolling down my chin and something dodgy blaring out into my unresponsive eardrums!  Other than walking the dog (twice!) there is very little to report.  Which is as it should be on a Saturday.

Achingly cool (if somewhat dissonant) soundtrack today - Miles in his Bitches Brew period - the full sessions, note, not just yer plain vanilla Bitches Brew.  I have to say I do struggle a bit with this phase of Miles' career - the word 'fusion' tends to bring me out in hives, whether applied to music or to food.  I much prefer Miles' work with Gil Evans - but hey, iTunes plays what it will.  There are many out there that will attest to the importance of this phase of Miles' career, but some actual tunes would have been nice.

Here's Miles, running the voodoo down, in 1970.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Man's Best Friend

Today's soundtrack:  Various Artists - The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 8: 1968

I hate dogs, me.  At least I always used to.  Actually, 'hate' is a bit strong really.  But I was put off by memories of childhood pets trashing gardens, barking and pooing.  Always pooing.

So as far as I was concerned, I was a 'cat' person.  Off and on, I've had (or shared) a cat since my early teens.  Since Mrs W and I got together, we've had three cats.  Sadly the last two have both been run over on the busy road outside, and after the last casualty, we both said 'never again'.

But the house soon felt empty without a pet.  And with another cat being out of the question, thoughts slowly turned to getting a dog.  Dogs don't, typically, roam as freely as cats, so it was unlikely a dog would be getting run over outside.  But with us both working, would it be fair to have a dog cooped up alone all day, and would it trash the house in the process?

At the same time, my kid brother got a new dog.  The last one they had, had disgraced itself by biting a chunk out of my sister in law's ear (this was a big tick in the 'No' column, as you can imagine).  However their 'new' dog (which might or might not be a shih tzu - don't quote me on this) is a happy little bundle of fun.  Albeit one that barks a lot.

Our kid's dog came from a 'rescue' centre with contacts to one of our cousins - so at the start of the year we suggested to her that if a nice, placid dog - similar to our kid's - came available, then we might be interested. After a couple of early offers that didn't feel right, we were told about this young Jack Russell  that was 'up for adoption' - a lovely dog, but its current owners had a young child and were nervous about the dog's behaviour around the child - there were stories of snarling and growling, but not actual biting.  Not having (or ever likely to have) a young child, we thought this wouldn't matter to us.

So we went off, one Sunday in January, to meet Archie (for it was he).  We sat, nervously, waiting for him to be brought out to us - and there he was, excitedly jumping up on the end of his lead.  A bit too much of the jumping up, I thought.  But we took him off for a walk, and despite my reservations, Mrs W couldn't bring herself to hand him back - so we took him home.

And that's where he's been ever since.  As I type this, he is sat next to me on the chair, dozing but close by.  He likes to be close by.  And he is an absolute joy.

Perhaps I don't hate dogs after all.

Things I have learnt about dogs this year.

  1. They need to be exercised.  But this is a good thing - because a by product of exercising a dog is exercising yourself.  I have walked further this year, and in the process discovered more about my village and the surrounding countryside, than I have done in the previous ten years.
  2. When you walk a dog, people talk to you.  We've spoken to more people, out and about, than ever before.
  3. Dog poo is relatively easy to cope with if you invest in a 'pooper scooper'.  However we have also learnt that there is at least one dog poo fascist living in the village.
  4. Dogs smell.  But not as badly as you might think.
  5. Our kitchen floor is unlikely to ever be clean again, ever.
  6. If you start off allowing the dog to sleep on the bed, you will never, ever, be able to stop him doing this.
  7. Our beds are unlikely to ever be clean again, ever.  It's like sleeping on the beach.
  8. Squeaky dog toys are the best things in the world ever.  Until the squeak has been torn out, when they just become shapeless lumps of plastic.
  9. If Archie is off the lead, other dogs are all potential playmates to run and frolic with.  When he's on the lead, other dogs are all potential enemies that must be sent packing with a snarl and a bark.
  10. Dogs actually do say 'Woof' when they are asleep, dreaming.
  11. Being licked awake by a dog is not the worst thing that can happen to you.
  12. Dogs are strong.  I mean really, proper strong.  Especially the little ones.
  13. Any food that has originated on my plate will be the finest delicacy, animal or vegetable.  Any food specifically designed for dogs will be treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' and what was perfectly acceptable yesterday may not be so acceptable today, according to whim.
  14. Dogs are camera shy.  Well, this one is.
  15. I was wrong about dogs.
Motown on the soundtrack today, which is always a joy.  This is one of a huge number of Motown compilations I own in various forms.  Today's soundtrack is one of an ongoing series of Motown Singles collections available, roughly grouped into annual sets (the first covers 1959-61, with two sets covering 1971).  Today we're listening to 1968, which was a classic year for Motown.  But then so were they all.

I managed to get the bulk of these box sets on the cheap.  In physical form, they have been available as limited edition boxes, nicely bound and presented, at a premium cost.  But they have also been available as downloads, obviously without the attendant add-ons.  I was lucky enough to find a download site that had failed to grasp the fact that these sets generally comprised 6 or 7 individual discs, and for a while priced them all at £7.99.  So I, er, filled my boots.  They did discover their error, but not before I'd managed to exceed my download limits over a busy weekend!

How to pick a single song from 1968?  Marvin's 'Grapevine' would be the obvious choice, but let's go with something a little bit different.  'Alfie', by the strangely named 'Eviets Rednow'.  A second's thought might reveal who the mysterious 'Eviets' is.  As might the header on the YouTube clip...

Thursday, October 04, 2012

"You're going on after Crispy Ambulance!"

Today's soundtrack: Crispy Ambulance - Frozen Blood (1980-82)

Well, so far, I seem to have spent the bulk of this holiday walking the dog, shopping and cooking.  And then writing about walking the dog, shopping and cooking. Indeed, so far today I have walked the dog (twice) and been to Tesco to buy food.  That I shall later cook.

Right, that's got that out of the way.  Ok Simon?  But what the hell else am I going to talk about?

Well I've also taken the opportunity this week to catch up on some reading, making at least a token attempt to get the pile of unread books down to a manageable level.  Only eight to go now...but then there's the hundred or so queued up on the Kindle!

I'm being a bit OCD about this.  Over the course of the last year or so, I've downloaded books here and there from Amazon as things have caught my eye - generally cheap stuff from their daily deals or one of their regular sales.  But there's something in my psyche that won't let me actually read these books until all the 'real' books have been read.  I've got close a couple of times - but then I might wander into Fopp, or pick up a few books at mingles (thanks Terry!) and the finishing line recedes into the distance again.

I have no idea at all why I'm doing things this way - but it just seems like the right thing to do.

Anyway, I'm currently reading 'Frost/Nixon', the story of the famous 1977 interviews when Tricky Dicky perhaps maybe sort of admitted that he might have got things just a teensy bit wrong about Watergate.  The book is written by Nixon's interrogator, David Frost, some years after the event.  It will, I'm sure, come as no surprise to you that Mr Frost is quite proud of his role in all this, and does not hesitate to tell the reader just how instrumental he was in getting Nixon to apologise to the world for messing up so badly.  The book itself is a bit disjointed - it feels like a long magazine article fleshed out to book size, and essentially splits into three parts: the factual bit, giving the reader a day by day account of the research/interview/debrief process; some analysis of Nixon's historical legacy (which is actually quite fair in giving due credit for his role in international relationships with Russia and China, and in establishing civil rights in the Southern States); and then the transcripts of the interviews themselves.  By the close, it does begin to feel like you've read everything at least twice in different formats.

That said, it's an interesting read if you like that sort of thing and it has a particular resonance for me as I was actually in the States (albeit as a young boy) when the Watergate story initially broke, and the whole thing quite shook, at an early age, my faith in politicians.  Although "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal", according to Dicky.

Phrases you never expect to hear yourself saying (No 1 in a series):  "I think I'll put on some Crispy Ambulance today".  Not the easiest of listens, the Ambulance (the Crispies?) were one of a number of miserabilist bands that signed for Factory in the immediate post-punk period.  However they are probably most famous for being namechecked by Half Man Half Biscuit in 'Running Order Squabble Fest".  Which is not a bad sort of fame to have, to be honest.

It would be cruel to describe Crispy Ambulance as 'the Aldi Joy Division' so I won't.  And the boys seem like nice enough chaps, interviewed about the whole Factory scene of the time in the documentary 'Shadowplayers' which I would recommend to anyone interested.

Frozen Blood collects together a couple of early singles, some BBC sessions for John Peel (who else?) and Mark Radcliffe, along with some live tracks.  Here's 'Drug User, Drug Pusher' from 1981.  All music was like this in 1981, kids!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Baking Doesn't Get Camper Than This...

Today's Soundtrack: Eric Clapton & BB King - Riding With The King

Day three of this year's 'staycation' (is that right?) is being spent in the company of Mrs W, who is currently working a four day week, with Wednesdays off - an arrangement that splits her working week quite nicely into two, two day chunks.  And gives her Wednesdays to do all the chores that need doing around the house.  Or sit there watching Deal Or No Deal and Come Dine With Me.  Today however, shopping needed to be done so, after walking the dog, we went off to the shops (again) to buy women's clothes and suitcases for the cruise planned for the year end.

And with today off, it meant that last night we could kick back with a nice bottle and a plate of cheesy pasta - and watch The Great British Bake-Off!

I recall last year a couple of my Twitter friends (Hi Grant!) getting quite giddy about one of the contestants on this programme.  Now last year I was pretty much living on my own, as Mrs W was working in Southampton and although I do enjoy cooking programmes, baking is not really my thing.  So I was far too busy watching 'boy' stuff and was quite happy to let TGBBO slip along beneath my radar.

My mistake.

We've been completely sucked into this year's contest which has been absolutely fantastic television, knocking Masterchef into a cocked hat.  After a succession of rounds which have seen innumerable WI members and vicars' wives bite the dust, we were down to the last five last night.  And with wickul gurly Cathryn sulking her way out of contention, we are left with three blokes and the token lady - and even she has a bloke's name.  Danny (for it is she) could still win this - but the smart money is on one of the lads carrying off the big prize.

My favourite is James.  Not because he's going to win (he isn't) but because he comes across as if he's making the whole thing up as he goes along and, quite frankly, couldn't give a bugger.  Plus his proclivity for chucking a gallon of whisky into everything and anything he's baking makes him a man after my own heart.  And on top of that, he's clearly modelling his look on Criminal Minds' Dr Spencer Reid, which has to be a good thing.

Which leaves the remaining (and only) competitors in the Great British Camp-Off side competition - John and Brendan.  John is delightfully camp, but don't let that softly spoken demeanour fool you - he is one tough cookie.  A couple of weeks ago he cut himself and disguised the fact by putting on a blue rubber glove - which slowly filled up with his own blood until it had doubled in size.  Still John baked on, his bloody glove flopping about like a big clown's hand, in imminent danger of exploding under the pressure and showering contestants, presenters and judges in a Carrie-esque fountain of his vital fluids.  Happily he was led away to surgery by the presenters, living to bake another day.

Brendan combines his campness with an underlying note of posh, but both are completely masked by a steely, ruthless determination to win that would make lesser men (ie me) quail.  He has this wonderful half-smile that extends no further than the right side of his mouth - and certainly never reaches his eyes. You just know that while he is smiling politely at one of the judges' comments or presenters' witticisms, he is secretly wishing upon all of them, along with his fellow contestants, horrible, slow, painful deaths and that he would bake his own grandmother if it meant he could be Star Baker just one more time.

So yes, Brendan to win, and if I was one of the other contestants, I'd be cocking up my petits fours just to make sure he won.

A special mention for the presenters and judges as well.  Sue Perkins and The Other One are good fun, but the real stars of the show are the judges - Mary and Paul.  Mary's name seems to get bandied round in hushed tones by all - I assume she is/was the Heston Blumenthal of the Victoria Sponge back in the day.  She's a lovely lady, but the jeans last night were slightly inadvisable I thought.  Paul Hollywood (that can't be his real name, surely) seems to get Mrs W all a-quiver for some reason.  I like to think it's his gentle scouse lilt and steely good looks that do it - traits he obviously shares with me.  He does like a 'good bake' though.

I will so miss this series when it ends.

I'm typing this to the incongrous mix of Eric and BB on 2000's 'Riding With The King'.  I can see what Clapton was trying to do with this album - fulfilling a desire to play with one of his heroes and, no doubt, try and regain some blues credibility into the bargain.  It works to a certain extent, but still comes across as too smooth and polished to these ears and whilst the guitar playing is (obviously) technically excellent, it is all a bit emotionless and clinical for me.

Still, I'm sure they both had fun and I'm all for BB's pension fund getting topped up some more.

Here's Eric, Ridin' (and Singin' and Playin') with The King.  It does look like fun, doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

These boots are made for walking...?

Todays soundtrack: Be Bop Deluxe - Axe Victim

The problem with buying new walking boots is, well, that you have to walk in them.  And whilst I know that in a couple of months they will feel like a pair of favourite slippers on my feet, I know equally well that I will have torn my feet to ribbons getting them to that stage.  T'was ever thus with new shoes.  I type this, dear reader, with a pair of throbbing heels that will continue to throb until the boots - or my feet - are completely broken in.  Ouch.

Still, I gritted my teeth, and the dog and I dashed up to the forest for our daily constitutional.  And today I took the camera as well!






(The swamps of Cheshire shown in the picture above.  Small boy playing banjo just out of shot.)


Sore feet aside, it was a lovely walk, with Archie again failing to catch any wildlife.  He did find a few other dogs to bark at, although strangely this seems only to be a problem when he's on the lead - off the lead, he'll be charm personified.  If sniffing another dog's arse can be classified as 'charming'.

Apparently the whole walk burnt off 321 calories (according to my 'special app'), which, I tweeted, would allow me to look at my cheesecake for about thirty seconds.  Ah yes, the cheesecake.  You were waiting for an update, weren't you?  It is currently sat in the fridge, awaiting the return of Mrs W from work.  I am not allowed to sample in advance of her return.  Whilst it looks fine in the tin, I have some concerns as it did 'brown' a bit in the oven (An hour, Nigella said - but check after 50 minutes.  I checked after 50 minutes to find I should have checked after 40 instead).  Still, we'll see.  I shall update later with more details.


Mrs W is now home and the cheesecake has been cut.  And sampled.  Ohmigod.  Quite apart from having more calories per slice than eighteen stones of lard, it is actually rather delicious!  Nom nom nom!

 While we're on recipes, below is my good friend Bob's recipe for 'ropa vieja'.  I'm posting it here because if I don't, I'll lose it and I don't want to lose it.  The original recipe came from 'My American Mate' who isn't really my mate (although he is American) - that is/was his 'username' on the Word/Afterword website.  Anyway, this is Bob's version and it looks yummy and I commend it to the house...

"You'll need:
Skirt steak, in the piece, as much as you like.
Red peppers, maybe two or three.
Red chillies, de-seeded, a few.
2 onions
lots of garlic
A couple of tins of plum tomatoes
Black pepper
I like the steak in long, thick slices. Just brown it quite fast in olive oil, then turn the heat down and thrown the onions, cumin, garlic and chillies in to soften and release their flavour, stirring every so often. I tend to give this stage about 20 minutes on a low heat.  Chuck the tomatoes in and bring up to heat. When it's bubbling, turn down to a simmer and cover. Keep it bubbling along gently for about 3 and a half hours. Then chuck in the sliced peppers and leave for another half hour. Season to taste. 
It's incredibly simple and incredibly good. Serve on soft tortillas with lots of coriander salad and some creme fraiche, or on rice with lots of coriander snipped over and a dollop of creme fraiche."

Looks ace, doesn't it?  I'll be giving it a go later on this week.

Early Bill Nelson on the soundtrack today - Be Bop Deluxe's debut album, Axe Victim.  It's not their best, and the Glam/Bowie influences are writ large (Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus, anyone?) but it's not a bad album by any means and some of the guitar playing is sublime.  Bill Nelson went on to many other projects, including the wonderful 'Red Noise' album, Sound on Sound, and a huge number of solo projects that increasingly tended towards the ambient, but in his time fronting Be Bop Deluxe, he produced some of his most commercial and enduring stuff.

Anyway, here's the aforementioned Jet Silver and a frankly bonkers video.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Uh-oh! He's blogging again!

Today's soundtrack: Graham Parker - Vertigo

*Blows dust off homepage*

Hello?  Anyone still out there?

Ok - I know I've been neglecting you all, but I've been busy!

To recap - I started seriously blogging back in 2009.  I'd been made redundant, and I wanted to do something to keep my brain ticking over, and to document how I coped with both redundancy and the ensuing job search.  I kept it up, pretty much on a daily basis, until I got back into full time employment about 12 months later.

It helped - really helped - me deal with the stresses and strains of unemployment, and it makes fascinating reading on the occasions I looked back on what I'd written.  It wasn't all about me - one of my sons got very ill - and then got better - whilst I was blogging.  We lost a dear family pet, but gained another (who we also lost last year), and always in the background was the supportive, comforting presence of the mysterious Mrs W.  The format was pretty constant - start playing an album at random from my iTunes library, write about the featured artist (usually with the help of YouTube), and stir in some bollocks about music, football, cooking or housework.

So why start again?  Well, happily I've not been made redundant again, but I do have a fortnight off work.  We spent this year's summer holiday money on the house, so we've not gone away - and this, combined with the lack of a Glastonbury this year, left me with loads of holiday that had to be taken or lost.  So for the next fortnight I'm going to be around the house, catching up on the odd chore, doing a bit of cooking - and, if I don't do something else, steadily getting on my own nerves.

So I'm going to get on your nerves as well.

So far, it's been all go - out with the dog first thing to Delamere Forest (the dog that has replaced the succession of cats run over on the road outside the house - do keep up), then out for cooking ingredients and some boots to replace the pair that are falling to pieces with every step I take.

Having a dog has been a real shock to the system - but in a good way.  Archie - for it is he - is a young Jack Russell who was a 'rescue' dog, and he's been with us for most of this year.  A lot more high maintenance than the cats, but a joy for all that.  And, having to walk the dog has been giving me plenty of exercise and had me exploring parts of our village that I'd never have come across otherwise.  Only the other week, I followed a bridle path that runs about half a mile from our house, to find it led right into Delamere Forest, where Archie can run off the lead to his heart's content, chasing (and failing to catch) squirrels and rabbits.  And where I can sneak a crafty coffee, and bacon barm, from the van that parks up in the car park at the far end of the forest.  This has now become our 'standard' weekend walk, and (assuming the weather and my legs hold up) will become the start of every day I'm off for the next couple of weeks.

It won't all be fun and games though - chores will be done.  Oh yes.  Next week, a skip is getting delivered, for me to pour the contents of our garage into.  There are tins of paint in there that we inherited from the previous owners, over twelve years ago.  I fully expect to find a Japanese soldier in the further recesses, steadfastly waiting for the end of the Second World War.  I certainly expect to find whatever has been nesting in the corners as well (ulp...)

I'll keep you posted.

But hold on, Paul!  Back up there you said something about buying cooking ingredients!  What's on the menu today, matey?

I'm glad you asked.  Tonight Matthew, I shall be attempting Nigella's Peanut Butter Cheesecake.  Merely typing those words has added two inches to my waistline.  Peanuts and their butter will be involved.  Along with cream cheese - pots of it.  Sour cream will be added, as will eggs and extra yolkage.  There will be chocolate on top - as well as in the base, which will be buttery and biscuity as you would expect.

Here's the recipe.  Pictures will follow tomorrow.

Delighted that Graham Parker popped up on shuffle today.  I've always liked GP, from his early days as one of the 'angry young men' of punk and New Wave alongside Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson.  GP was never a punk though - he had far too much soul to be so narrowly defined.  Backed by The Rumour, possibly the best backing band an English singer ever had, he produced a raft of great albums early in his career (Howlin' Wind, Heat Treatment, Squeezing Out Sparks) and continued to produce some great stuff off the radar up to the present day.  Recently, I've been investing in his 'official bootleg' boxes, which collect together live performances from across his career, demonstrating perfectly that not only has he still got it, but that he never lost it either.

Vertigo is a double album 'compilation', unusual in that it contains full copies of both the original 'official live bootleg', 'Live at Marble Arch', as well as the aforementioned 'Squeezing Out Sparks', possibly his best studio album.  And it's none the worse for that.

Here's GP and the Rumour back in 1977, performing the sublime 'Silly Thing'.  It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing!