Month: January 2016

You Are What You Eat

I hope that isn’t true, otherwise I’m a brownish, round disc made of puffed rice covered in Philadelphia light cream cheese…….(other brands of dairy spreads are available folks!)

Yes, this week I have been mostly eating rice crackers. Do I like them, yes I do, but I’ve had crackerbread for breakfast, rice crackers for lunch and it’s fair to say I’ve definitely hit the cracker wall!  You can have too much of a good thing and right now, Pip the cat’s treats are looking mighty tempting!

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Whilst I am protesting, I have to admit that I’m addicted to these Kallo made things. I love the smoked paprika ones particularly and I also like the chilli ones. They also make fantastic Torenisi breadsticks which I can’t buy unless I embark on a bus based voyage to Knutsford to a certain supermarket which is the only place that stocks them. It’s worth it though as they are damned tasty and suprisingly less fatty/carby than other snacks.

You might have guessed that I’m on a health kick. I’m hitting the gym hard three times a week, walking everywhere when I could catch a bus and generally trying to lose some weight and get fitter.

I can cope with the gym but it’s the times when I want some crisps or something sweet that really hit me. I’ve not got a massive sweet tooth but I could eat my own bodyweight in Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps. I can take or leave sweets or chocolate, but I can hear the rattle of a crisp based product packet from miles away.

My absolute favourite at the moment are Penn State Sour Cream and Chive Pretzels. I love these twisted little treats, but again you can only buy them in certain places. That’s probably not a bad thing or I’d be 20 stone by now!

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I can usually contain my hunger, however, I have to confess that I was once so desperate for something to eat on the way home from work that I ate some Strepsils that were in the glove compartment of the car.

Next week I’m thinking of embarking on a healthy soup making marathon, this will add some variety to my diet whilst not undoing the good work I’ve already done. I love cooking so this shouldn’t be a problem. I’m thinking of a Thai type of soup without too much coconut milk, something good, fiery hot and tasty.

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I do have a soup based confession to share with you, which I am slightly ashamed to admit, but at the same time I’m pretty proud of my revenge strategy!

Back in 1980, I worked in a very swanky hairdressers. They had a salon on King Street in Manchester and one on Wilmslow Road in Rusholme. I was on a Youth Training Scheme and worked at the Rusholme salon.

Being a hairdressing junior isn’t much fun, you get to go and collect dry cleaning for the stylists, fetch lunch, and even fetch them from the pub when their client has arrived but they can’t be found. It wasn’t the best time of my life but it was an experience, which is fine.

There was a lady there who shall remain nameless, but she was the owner’s sister. Let’s call her Gill.  Gill was quite nice to me, always friendly and I used to do jobs for her when I wasn’t busy. Gill ran the beauty salon above the hairdressers and she offered the usual treatments and leg waxing.

I came into work one Monday morning and Gill presented me with a bucket and a Brillo pad. Not the standard equipment for hairdressers or so I thought, so I wondered what was going on. After seeing the bemused look on my face, she explained I was to go upstairs, fill the bucket with soapy water and use the Brillo to scrape the used leg/bikini wax off the lino in the treatment room. Yes, my task for the day was to remove waxy excess pubes from the floor without the aid of gloves.

Now I wasn’t one to complain, though I didn’t think this was part of my job description so I set about my task, gagging slightly when a particularly large clump was found near the waste bin. It took me ages and by the time I’d finished, my hands were shrivelled from the water and I had bits of Brillo stuck in my fingers.

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The days passed and I wasn’t asked to do anything else unpleasant and I must have done a good job as Gill took to making me special sandwiches for lunch and generally being quite nice to me. I was still a bit miffed to be honest and I wasn’t best pleased when one day she thrust a shopping list into my hand, telling me I was spending the afternoon making soup for when the ladies had finished the yoga class she was running.

Now this was a bit worrying for me, I was sixteen  years old and I’d last  made soup at school about four years earlier. I didn’t even have a recipe to follow, I was just told to buy enough of the stuff on the list for eight people, cook it, then use the blender to make it look well….soupy.

Off I went to the supermarket across the road, gathering a mountain of potatoes, leeks and onions and a box of stock cubes. I was quite pleased with myself and I came back, trudging through the salon, up the stairs and into the little kitchen to start my task.

I washed the spuds, chopped the leeks and onions and there was a pile of veg the size of Snowden on the kitchen counter. I started to panic thinking I’d bought way too much, expecting to be chastised for wasting so much food.  I scooped the amount of spuds I though I’d need into a pan, and threw the rest into the bin in the leg waxing area of the beauty salon. I put a generous amount of leeks and onions into another pan and the leftovers suffered the same fate as the potatoes.

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About thirty minutes later when the potatoes were cooked, I realized that the amount in the pan would maybe feed a small colony of rats, but certainly wouldn’t feed eight women who’d just sweated their way through a yoga class, hell bent on eating as much soup as they could manage.

I started to panic, I had no money left to go back to the shops and I was running out of time. I was really worried about incurring the wrath of Gill, then I had a genius idea to solve my predicament.  I went to the leg wax bin, took off the lid, and fished out every little bit of discarded veg, carefully brushing off the nasty bits from the potatoes where they had gone deeper into the bin.

Quickly I boiled and fried the rest of the veg, shoved it with the initial batch and blended it together after adding the stock. I didn’t want to taste it for obvious reasons, though I didn’t really have a choice, and to my amazement it was bloody lovely!

By this time it was seven o’clock and I was desperate to get home, so I shoved it back in the pot, quickly set the table, grabbed my coat and legged it!

When I came in the next day, Gill was all smiles telling me how much the ladies had enjoyed the soup and how special it tasted!

They say revenge is a dish best served cold; I never meant it to be revenge, but if it was, it was served in a soup bowl!

 

 

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Slaves

Sometimes a band comes along and you just have to listen. Slaves slapped me around the face demanding my attention when I watching the coverage of their eye watering, blistering paced set at Glastonbury 2015. I was transfixed as I watched two blokes giving it all on stage, one beating a set of drums to death and the other thrashing the hell out of a guitar. They were raucous, energetic and the best thing I’d heard all evening.

How could two men make such skin crawlingly good music and make such a racket. I wondered if they had the gift of electronic wizardry to help boost the sound, but this wasn’t the case. What you hear is a raw, live, musically talented pair without any trickery, just their talent.

I don’t like to try and push music into a genre as I usually get it wrong, most bands don’t like to be tagged as this or that and what does it matter anyway? To me, they have the energy of early punk bands with bang on lyrics, and an early mod style with a slightly skinhead danger feel when they play live…….see I told you I was rubbish at this!

Slaves are  a duo which formed in 2012. The two members are Laurie Vincent (guitar, bass, vocals) from Maidstone, Kent, and Isaac Holman (drums and vocals) from Royal Tunbridge Wells.  Sugar Coated Bitter Truth was their first release in 2012, which was an EP.

Their first single “Where’s Your Car Debbie?”, was released by Fonthill Records in early 2014. After this they signed to Virgin EMI and released a single, “Hey”, followed closely by “The Hunter”.  Also in 2014, they appeard on Later….with Jools Holland and in 2015 they were nominated for BBC’s Sound of 2015. Their debut album Are you Satisified? was released in June 2015 and it’s absolutely amazing, but then again I’m a fan so I’m bound to say that!

SLAVES – MANCHESTER RITZ – 16 JANUARY 2015

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I’d been excited about this gig for ages, after I’d bought the CD I knew I wanted to see them live, well that’s a lie, I wanted to see them after the Glasto performance.

I had to wait longer than anticipated as they postponed the gig which should have been in November, due to Issac having an unfortunate shoulder injury. So this is why I found myself on a cold Friday night in January at the Ritz, Manchester, waiting for the fun to begin.

By the time Isaac and Laurie took to the stage to the sounds of We Like to Party by the Vengaboys, the walls and pillars of this knackered old venue were dripping with condensation….teenage sweat from the moshers in the crowd down below.  I’d chosen to perch along the balcony to get the best view and try and take some photographs.

Kicking off, (quite literally in the over excited crowd) with Ninety Nine, followed by Like An Animal, it was clear that boys were going to give us something special and the people below me were going crazy. It’s a long time since I’ve seen crowd surfing in such quantities and I don’t think I’ve ever seen practically the whole place joining in a skinhead type barging session…..perhaps someone could enlighten me with the correct term, I’m too old to know these things.

Watching down over everyone was a wonderful experience, a mixture of young, old and somewhere in between were just lost in music and the sweat poured down the walls in greater quantities.

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Things go more frenzied when Sockets started up and that seemed to be the catalyst for more mayhem in the crowd. Where’s your car Debbie? led to the stonkingly good crowd rousing,  Do Something and Cheer Up London, everyone in the place singing ‘You’re dead already, dead, dead already.’ By this time I was fearing for Isaac who looked absolutely knackered. He might be a lean, mean drumming machine but Christ that must take it out of you, playing like Satan himself every night.

I’ve said it earlier on but the musicianship and craftsmanship of both these men shouldn’t be underestimated. Laurie worked his way through a variety of guitars, his playing magnificent for each and every track the sound coming out of them working wonders with the hardcore drumming of his sweaty, bare-chested partner in crime.

We had The Hunter, White Knuckle Ride and In Dog Years Your Dead and Are You Satisfied, all received with the same rapture as the opening tracks, until at the end Isaac lay on the floor, a knackered, possibly kilo’s lighter than when he started. The pair embraced at the end, Manchester applauded and left, much better for the release of tension and entertainment bestowed upon us.

Did they do an encore? Did they balls, they could barely stand!

Thank you Slaves, my only regret?…… I didn’t get to buy a T-Shirt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read it in Books #2

It was October 1981, I sat down to watch a new television series on ITV called Brideshead Revisited. I was transfixed by it, much to the disgust of my dad who didn’t like the effeminate characters and the posh voices. I didn’t give a toss, I loved it. Every week, I waited for my fix of fiction and I was almost in mourning when it finished.

There was only one thing to do; I made my way to WH Smith to see if I could find a copy of the book. I knew the author’s name from the credits on the TV show and it didn’t take long to find it. I took it home and lost myself in a book that I love to a ridiculous degree and I read over and over again.

BRIDESHEAD REVISITED – EVELYN WAUGH

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First published in 1945, Bridesdhead Revisited is the ‘Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder.’

Evelyn Waugh started writing it in 1943 after he had suffered an injury whilst on active duty in the parachute regiment. His ‘rest’ from military service granted him, with the blessing of his senior officer, the time to complete the novel in 1944.

Waugh says in the preface to the book that the bleakness of the war influenced his writing; passages of the book focusing on wine, gluttony and splendour. He received fierce opposition to the novel, mainly due to the hinted  homosexual overtones throughout the early part of the book; his contemporaries lost their admiration of him and he lost his previous esteem. It seems a shame, though back in the day I can see how it would shake the tree in a similar way to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but for different reasons.

In a nutshell, the novel is about the relationship between Charles Ryder and Lord Sebastian Flyte and Charles’ subsequent embroilment in the lives of Sebastian’s various family members.

Their lives become entwined when they meet at Oxford University; their first ‘proper’meeting happens by chance. Sebastian interrupts Charles and his friends when he pauses to vomit through the open window of Charles’ ground floor room after a night of over indulging in wine. Next day, feeling contrite, Sebastian invites Charles to an extravagant lunch and their friendship and fates are sealed.

Religion is a theme that runs throughout the book. From Charles’ first trip to Brideshead when Sebastian shows him the chapel his father gave to his mother as a wedding present, religion came between them and would eventually be the reason for Charles living a life of deep unhappiness.

The story begins at the end, when the then Captain Charles Ryder finds his company posted to a country house that had been commissioned as a barracks. His young officer describes the house, telling Charles of the “frightful great fountain” proclaiming “you never saw such a thing.”

Charles had seen such a thing, he’d been there before. They’d been posted to Brideshead.

The rest of the book is divided into three books. Book one, Et in Arcadia Ego (In Arcadida I am) deals with the blossoming friendship between the two men. It is never openly stated that they develop a homosexual relationship, though there are many suggestions that this might be the case. For me the biggest hint comes in one of my favourite passages in the book. It describes an idyllic scene when the pair stop to eat strawberries and drink wine under a clump of elms on their first journey together to Bridesdhead.

“…..we lit fat Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian’s eyes on the leaves above and mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by any wind, to the blue-green shadows of the foliage, and the sweet scent of the tobacco merged with the sweet summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger’s breadth above the turf and hold us suspended.

    ‘Just the place to bury a crock of gold.’ said Sebastian. ‘I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.’

Nothing I’ve read since has ever had such an impact on me. I adore the imagery and impact behind those words and I totally understand Sebastian’s sentiment. How do we bury a crock of gold wherever we go? Do photographs fit the bill? Can those visual reminiscences of happy times conjure up feelings we thought we’d forgotten………or am I talking bollocks as usual?

In this section of the book we meet Charles’ eccentric father who’s cat and mouse games with him at the dinner table are a joy to read. The writing about the ‘entertainment’ he puts on to amuse Charles when he is staying with him is painful. You feel as if you are sat with Charles enduring every note of the Cello playing of the mustachioed Miss Orm-Herrick!

We are also introduced to Julia Flyte, Sebastian’s older sister and his wayward and wild younger sister Cordelia. Sebastian’s mother Lady Marchmain and his older, ridiculously pious (and pompous!) brother Bridey also make an appearance.

As Charles becomes more embroiled in the life of Sebastian’s family, the more their friendship is rocked. Sebastian is filled with dread that if he lets his family get a grip on Charles then he will lose him to them. This dread increases and he goes into a downward spiral of drink and depression.

In book two – Brideshead Deserted, Sebastian’s drinking has got worse. It is Christmas time and his mother sends him away to the Levant with Mr. Samgrass in the hope that he will be ‘cured’ of his malaise. Of course the reverse happens and on the day of the annual hunt, Charles lends his friend money knowing full well that he’ll gallop off to the nearest pub to spend it. When Lady Marchmain finds out, she labels Charles ‘wantonly cruel and wicked.’ He leaves the family and Sebastian, firmly believing that his ties with the family are over.

Book three – A Twitch Upon a Thread tells us of Charles’ relationship with Julia Flyte. Charles is now married with children and on board a boat bound for England from America, by chance he runs into Julia. A storm is raging both in Charles’ heart at the unhappiness of his loveless marriage and outside as the seas roughen, forcing his wife to take to her bed unable to cope with sea-sickness.

Julia and Charles share each others company, braving the waves and the weather to catch up on each other’s lives. Talk inevitably turns to Sebastian, and also to Julia’s own unhappy marriage to Rex Mottram, whom Charles had met and reluctantly had dealings with during his Bridesdhead days.

The pair are drawn together, Julia’s looks, mannerisms and whole way of being are the very embodiment of Sebastian and in my interpretation, he falls in love with his old friend. After initially refusing Charles’ attempt to bed her, Julia gives in and their unhappy story begins.

On return to London, the pair divorce and make plans for their marriage. Gravely ill, Julia’s father Lord Marchmain comes home to Brideshead with his Italian mistress Cara. Now an old man, he faces the struggle with death and religion. He desperately wants to keep his back turned on the religion he despises but fears death without absolution. The struggle between Julia who thinks her father should embrace  his religion, and Charles, who feels the man should be allowed to die in peace, proves too much of a strain on their relationship.

The death of Lord Marchmain is mirrored by the death of their happiness and the pair part. Then we return to the end, (or the beginning?) of Charles’ story.

It is a bittersweet book, the warmth and hope of the first few chapters do not prepare you for some of the dark desolate passages of which there are  many.

If I have one fault, (yes I know there are many more than one!) I can be accused of being over sentimental and reading too much into things. If this is a fault then I embrace it with wide open arms. I hope my enthusiasm encourages you to read this wonderful piece of writing and hopefully you will come back and tell me your thoughts.

QUAERERE SAEPE, MANENT CURIOSUS


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Mr. DJ

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I can’t remember exactly when or why I started listening to BBC 6 music. What I do know is that I can honestly say its the been the biggest influence on my life music wise for many a long year.

Honestly, every day I listen to it something catches my attention and I’m constantly looking at the ‘now playing’ facility on my digital radio to find out who I’m listening to. I’ve got into so many bands thanks to this station and my life is richer for listening to it.

I couldn’t go back to mainstream radio, I couldn’t listen to Radio 1 now when I used to be addicted to it when I was a kid. There really wasn’t much choice and I used to be there on a Sunday, fanatically taping the chart rundown on my little cassette recorder (google cassette recorder if I’m speaking another language). It was a fine art trying like mad to stop the tape at the end of the track before Alan Freeman started talking again!

Mainstream radio is well, too mainstream for me. There is a time and place for the stuff they play but for me, I get my kicks on BBC Radio 6.

The breadth of genres is astounding; Cerys Matthews on her Sunday show playing everything from bluegrass to Guatemalan banjo bands, Stuart Maconie and his freakier zone play all sorts of weird shit to the very wonderful Iggy Pop shoving anything on that he fancies, but lately it seems he’s in love with the Sleaford Mods…and why wouldn’t you be?

You’ve got Steve Lamacq kicking off the evening from 4pm, leading into the usually eardrum-splittingly loud (what do you mean I can turn the radio down?) Marc Riley from 7pm showcasing old and new music, with his favourite established and up and coming bands playing live.

On Saturday morning, I can wake up to the dreamy voice of the very lovely Mary Ann Hobbs. Her gentle enthusiasm is infectious and her way of getting the best out of her guests on the show (listen and learn Lauren Laverne) are a joy to listen to. I used to tweet her every Saturday and she always replied but I’ve stopped now – don’t want a restraining order do I?

Next up is the man with that voice  – Huey Morgan. His voice is amazing, I could listen to him reading the warning on a packet of paracetamol and still be smiling. If Jack Daniels had sound it would sound like Huey! He plays some seriously amazing music. When Huey isn’t around its usually down to Katie Puckrik to spin the discs…well push the buttons! I love Katie, she’s American, she’s rude and has a wicked sense of humour and she replies when you tweet her, which always make you feel special.

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A little while ago there was talk about the powers that be closing down BBC 6 music, there was outrage, there were petitions and tweets and a general outpouring of emotion that eventually led to the station being saved. Thank god for that say I and long may it stay with us.

It’s not only a radio show, there lots of spin offs such as the very popular 6 music festival; the show goes to various city’s putting on live music and showcasing bands both familiar and not so well known.

There’s also TV shows – Guy Garvey’s Music Box and  Marc Riley’s show All Shook Up and the brilliant documentary Music for Misfits recently hosted by Mark Radcliffe.

The station has developed a cult following with many ‘celebrities’ and musicians forming an orderly queue to host a show. It has also had it’s critics with the Mercury Music prize being a bone of contention for some people who think it’s elitist and not really for the ‘people.’

I say bollocks to that, I love it, and I urge you to give it a go if you haven’t tried it yet. If you’re a Radio 1 or Heart FM fan it might be a bit like Marmite for you…….but I LOVE Marmite!

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Beer, Balls and Disappointment – part 2

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After confessing my sins to my parents about my undercover first excursion to the holy ground, they were surprisingly OK about me going again. This could be because Celia’s dad always accompanied us but who knows. I certainly didn’t care as every fortnight I could get my fix of football and my blue clad heroes.

It soon became an obsession for Celia and me. Our fortnightly trips weren’t enough. We used to go to Maine Road when we could and walk down the back entries behind the team as they walked to Platt Fields park to train. Yes back in the day the team used to walk there in their kit and boots and walk back again covered in mud. Can’t imagine Yaya or Sergio doing that today if they had to!

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I remember one occasion we were waiting outside the main entrance to the club waiting for the team to come out after getting changed so we could get autographs. I spotted Big Helen, (the famous beehive hairdoo lady who sat in the ground ringing a huge bell at every match) clutching a large cardboard box. There were no signs of players emerging and Helen was looking anxious; making her way over to me she shoved the box in my hands. ‘Here, give these to big Joe (Corrigan) when he comes out, it’s a box of Penguin biscuits.’

I didn’t have time to argue, she was off like a shot leaving me holding the box like it was a bomb. I didn’t want the responsibility, I was only twelve, I certainly didn’t want to speak to big Joe……he was big Joe for god’s sake! I was quaking in my shoes and I didn’t want to hang around for autographs any more. What made it worse was Celia had to go home. I was left alone with a box of 50 penguin biscuits. What if I dropped them? What if they were all broken and Big Joe and Helen came looking for me??!!!

Five minutes passed which seemed like an age, then the big doors opened and a man as big as a house came strolling out. Big Joe was stood in front of me. My knees were shaking, I thrust the box at him, ‘Helen the Bells got these Penguins for you.’ He looked down, smiled at me, patted my shoulder and uttered the words ‘thanks love.’ then he was off. I was rooted to the spot as I watched him go, wishing Celia had been there to watch my proudest moment.

 

 

Read it in Books #1

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I love books, not just reading them but holding them, enjoying looking at the covers and reading the blurb. Most of all, I love the mystery that unravels at the turn of a page.  I couldn’t own a Kindle, I’d feel like a traitor to my best friends; silly I know, but there you go.

I don’t remember being taught to read at school. I just remember the teachers being amazed at how quickly I could read new words and plough through books. Later in my school days they’d be amazed at how shit I was at everything else, hey you can’t have it all!

In my blog, I’ll share will you my favourite books, thoughts on why I like certain authors and if I get the courage I’ll post the chapters of my latest novel as I complete them.

Let’s start at the beginning though shall we?

The Once and Future King – T.H White 

 

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This was the first book I ever devoured from cover to cover. I was around thirteen years old, I’d read loads of books, but this one was a turning point in my reading pleasure.

The Once and Future King was the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It was the original (and best) game of thrones without the tits and ice.

The story tells of how Wart (Arthur) meets Merlyn who gives him a very different sort of education; turning Wart into a bird of prey, a fish and an ant. Why did he do this? To teach him about social groups and the order of things and it makes perfect sense to me. Could you imagine that today! OFSTEAD would have a fit at such unethical teaching  practices. Turning children into creatures would never make it to the curriculum even if it were possible, imagine the health and safety breaches!!

At times it was hard reading for me, there were lots of deep messages about relationships and such that I didn’t understand; for a children’s book it was very deep and dark. I think that’s why I loved it. I hadn’t read anything so fanciful before and the way it was written just appealed to me.

The second half of the book was particularly tricky, the harsher side of life, love and responsibility came to the fore and it didn’t seem as comforting in the latter chapters. The end of the book is terribly sad and I remember sobbing for ages until I decided to read it again almost instantly.

It’s a lovely book with great tales and important messages of kindness, loyalty and love. I’ve read it many times since and I would highly recommend it.

 

Clean Plates and Empty Glasses #1

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Over the next few blogs I will sharing with you my passion for food and drink. I will post some of my favorite recipes, tell you of the wines that tickle my tastebuds and post some reviews of places I love to eat.

Bon Appetit and Down the Hatch!!

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I love food, not in a gluttonous way  you understand but in a passionate sort of way. I love recipe books and articles about food in the Sunday papers. It’s strange then that I don’t like cookery programs; I’ve got no inclination towards the Hair Bikers or The Great British Bake Off, they just don’t cut the mustard (excuse the pun!).

For me, it’s all about the sacred act of cooking a meal; whether it’s for one, two or twelve, there is an art to cooking and this art should be respected, enjoyed and embraced in flour coated open arms.

I love eating out too. One of my friends on Facebook recently posted ‘do you ever eat at home?’ the answer is yes of course, but I like to worship food at different alters from time to time……..oh bollocks, lets be honest, lots of the time!!

DOWN THE HATCH

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Eat, drink and be merry. It’s hard to have a decent meal without a lovely bottle or three of something to go with it. Let me clarify again, I haven’t got a drink problem but I do love a drink.

If I could drink just one alcoholic drink every day it would be Champagne. Now before you go off on one let me explain. Don’t worry dearies, I’m too short, fat, and I’ve not got enough hair to be a WAG or a Real Housewife of Cheshire, so I’ve not taken leave of my senses.

My love of fizz comes from the fact that I genuinely love the taste, it doesn’t give me a hangover and a bottle could last all night….depending on the night and the company!  I’d rather have a bottle of Champagne (or Prosecco) and enjoy it than have several pints of cider just because they might be cheaper, which actually half the time they aren’t!

I’m quite at home drinking the house stuff in bars, though I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a bottle of Tattinger Nocturne if you insisted. I’m also quite happy to drink (horror of horrors!) Aldi’s finest fizz. I love the mellow taste, the bubbles on my tongue and the dry after taste. Plus I look more elegant when I’m not downing pints!!

I love Champagne glasses too, flutes, coupes, they all look so lovely and add something special to the drinking experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my fizz but I’m also happy with a pint of Stowford Press down the King’s  Arms on a Saturday afternoon.

Over the next few posts I’ll share some of my favourite drinking dens and tipples……….unless I’m too drunk to type!!

 

 

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 2

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JULIE LONDON

Julie London was an American nightclub, jazz and pop singer, film and television actress and a former pinup model, born on 26 September 1926.

I had heard a couple of her other records, including an amazing version of Blue Moon, but it was this record which made me stop in my tracks.

Her delivery of the song makes you feel she’s singing at you, making you feel for her predicament even more.

Never possessing a powerful voice in comparison to her contemporaries, she used what she had to great advantage. In an interview in 1957 when she was on the cover of LIFE magazine she said, “It’s only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.”

For me its that almost frail quality of her voice that really draws me into the song and makes me believe that she’s a woman on the edge.

The End of a Love Affair

The song was written by Edward C. Redding and was also sung by Billie Holiday. I’ve listened to both and I prefer Julie’s version.

With her husky, dusky, sexy voice Julie sang of the end of a love affair. The song tells of her trying to pretend she’s not bothered that her love affair is over by over acting and generally being a bad ass.  Only her voice betray’s that inside she’s a broken women.

The song starts with sweeping strings before the vocal comes in. The smooth, sultry scene is set for the song to begin.

“So I walk a little too fast and I drive a little too fast
And I’m reckless it’s true, but what else can you do at the
End of a love affair?”

The opening line and the nonchalant way she sings it is the hook. ‘What else do you expect me to do?’ she’s asking, as if suggesting people think she should be a broken women lying weeping in a corner.

“So I talk a little too much, and I laugh a little too much
And my voice is too loud, when I’m out in a crowd
So that people are apt to stare.”

Ah yes! overcompensating when you are out of your depth, trying too hard to be funny and entertaining, determined to be the life and soul of the party. Sound familiar?

“Do they know, do they care, that it’s only that I’m lonely
And low as can be? And the smile on my face isn’t really a smile at all.”

Here, it’s as if she’s saying, ‘You haven’t got a clue how I’m feeling but would you give a toss if you did?’ So she’s pretending to have a good time to hide the hurt. How many times have you done this. Smiling on the outside but dying on the inside; Tony Soprano described it perfectly as being a ‘sad clown’.

“So I smoke a little too much, and I drink a little too much
And the tunes I request are not always the best
But the ones where the trumpets blare!”

For some reason this makes me think of her sitting in a bar, on  her fifth double gin and tonic, cigarette in  hand as she chooses really loud music from a jukebox much to the annoyance of those around her.

“So I go at a maddening pace, and I pretend that it’s taking
Your place, but what else can you do, at the end of a love affair?”

What else indeed? Throw yourself under a bus or throw yourself into life and hope that some of the pretence becomes reality?

It’s the richness of her voice, the perfect diction and the general sexy tone that draws me in. I’d love to spend an afternoon talking to her, drinking Vodka Martini and letting her tell me all her troubles. I doubt I’d leave sober, but I’d be very happy.

Julie London was a stunning looking woman with a voice that could melt your  heart. If it really was the end of a love affair for her I doubt she’d be on her own for long!

 

 

 

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 1

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 1

Through a series of blogs I will share with you the voices and lyrics that have had an impact on me and have shaped my musical history. I’ll be talking about sounds and resonance of singers plying their trade. I’ll introduce you to the men and women who have captivated me, moved me to tears, scared the life out of me and made me smile. Over the years, my taste in music has definitely changed, but it’s usually the voice that’s the hook that caught this fish. Don’t just take my word for it though. Click on the song title to find out for yourself.

ELVIS COSTELLO

Elvis Costello’s voice was the first voice that attracted me musically. There was something about the depth, tone and sarcastic pronunciation of the lyrics that made me pay attention. Whether he was singing about Watching the Detectives, Angels wanting to wear his red shoes or not wanting to go to Chelsea, I was hooked.

Elvis Costello – Watching the Detectives

This was one of the first records I bought more years ago than I care to remember. The opening base line a perfect scene setter before ‘that’ voice sang ‘those’ lyrics.

 “Nice Girls not one with a defect, cellophane, shrink-wrapped, so correct.”

What an opening line – the mood of the song captured in an instant. I heard the song before I’d seen the man performing it and I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t a skinny dude in a black suit with huge glasses!  It was 1977 and I was thirteen years old, I didn’t fit in anywhere and I wanted to be Elvis, he was geeky, unattractive and a bit angry, just like me…….except I couldn’t sing.

“You think your alone until you realise you are in it now, fear is here to stay love is here for a visit.”

Sung with a threat and a promise, it conjures up an image of desperation and loneliness. Would you ever get away from this situation? Who would come to save you? Elvis’ voice gave you no hint of hope of a happy ending, just a sense of impending doom.  It sounded perfect to me then and it still sounds as good today.

Beer, balls and disappointment – Part 1

Beer, balls and disappointment – Part 1

This wasn’t where I was meant to be going.  I was meant to be heading to the cinema to see some shite 70’s film with my mate Celia Cremer….well that’s a lie actually, this was always my intended clandestine destination. The cinema trip was a ruse, if I’d told my parents where Celia and her dad were really taking me I wouldn’t have been let out of the house.

At the grand age of eleven years, I was about to break all the rules, I was telling lies, crossing boundaries and risking a bloody good hiding.  I didn’t care, I couldn’t stand it any longer, I had to find out what lurked behind the scarily large, blue steel doors I walked past almost every day. At last, I was to understand why I couldn’t leave the house at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon without fear of being trampled under foot. Sounds of singing, roaring and chanting were the soundtrack of my younger years every other weekend and at last I could find out what all the fuss was about.

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Where was I going? I was on my way to my first football match at Maine Road, the place which will always be the spiritual home of my beloved Manchester City Football club. It was a Wednesday night in November, the crowd practically pulled us along with them as we walked the five minutes from my house down Kippax Street and along to Main Road towards the Platt Lane end of the ground.

I’d never been through turnstiles before, they looked like some sort of medieval torture device and when I got stuck and started to panic because I wasn’t strong enough to get it move, some big fat bloke with massive arms and a tattooed neck pushed me through to the other side where Celia’s dad was stood laughing at me. I forgave him though, he was a great bloke and after all he had taken me to the match, bought my ticket and was taking good care of me.

Now this wasn’t a normal match, this was England under 21’s v Italy under 21’s. I would have to wait a whole fortnight before seeing my first ‘proper’ City game. There was a massive crowd, well it seemed massive to me having witnessed nothing larger than the congregation at church on Sunday. I was overawed even though I didn’t know what the word meant then. The sheer volume was ear splitting, I was surrounded by on all sides by some of the biggest blokes I’d ever seen and there didn’t seem to be an end to the sea of football shirts and bobble hats.

Being a night game made it all the more special. I’d seen the floodlights lit up when going past the ground but I’d never witnessed them lighting up the place from the inside like some shrine, which I didn’t know then was exactly what it was. Even the air was different, the smell of the grass mingled with the cold night air. Even now when I visit the Etihad I love the smell of the pitch, it’s the best perfume ever!

I have to confess that I didn’t really watch the match, there was too much going on around me and I didn’t want to miss a thing. One thing I do remember though was being strangely attracted to the site of Peter Barnes in full flight in a pair of tight shorts! The other thing I remember was the smell of Bovril at half time, there was a beefy fog all around me as people held on tightly to their cups of brown stuff, blowing on the surface before trying to taking sips without melting their lips on the molten liquid.

All too quickly the game ended and the three of us queued to file out of the ground with the rest of the crowd. It was the best night of my short life and one that would change it completely and shape my future.

To be continued…..