Author: ouestlachat

French Adventures #1

I love France…. well the bits I’ve been to anyway, which include Paris, Nice, Monaco, Cannes, Antibes and a good few parts of Brittany.

My first visit to France was in 1988 for my honeymoon. I’d hardly been abroad, and Paris to me was the most magical place I’d ever seen. It was grey and cold and I could hardly understand a word anyone said. The waiters were gruff, I ordered food that wasn’t what I thought it was and everyone kept trying to give me goats cheese….NOOOOO!!

I fell in love with the place; the atmosphere, the smoky Gailoise fume filled cafes/bars and the whole pavement cafe culture. 29 years later, I still feel the same. I feel at home in Paris and every time I visit I want to stay.

France is a big place and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface. My trips to France have been some of the most wonderful holidays I’ve had and each time I’m there, I curse myself and my laziness for not making the effort to learn the language that just make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge. For me, French is the most romantic, expressive, gorgeous language there is. Maybe one day I’ll get off my arse and learn how to speak it!

download-26

Je’taime Paris

Our honeymoon was wonderful, it was 29 years ago so some of the details are a little sketchy but I remember things like seeing the bonkers sight of the Pompidou centre for the first time, travelling on the metro and drinking wine outside cafe’s in the freezing cold, just watching the world go by. I also remember the friendliness of the French. We went at the end of April and in one restaurant we were presented with a Lilly of the Valley plant as it was almost 1st May which is the Feast of Our Lady.

Several trips later, we’ve had many great meals, worn out much shoe leather as we walked around the streets and saw so many lovely things.

A couple of years ago I had a fantastic surprise. As a Christmas present, John arranged for me to go to Paris for the day to one of my favourite shops, the Kooples. He’d secretly organised the flights and arranged for my friend Charlotte to come with me. He also gave me some money to spend and took us to the airport and picked us up again when we go home. We had a great day, had steak frites and Sancerre and a few glasses of Champagne in several bars along the way. It was such a treat and I know that I’m lucky to be married to such a thoughtful man.

Our last trip to Paris was for Christmas 2016. We flew out on Christmas eve and had a great few days there. When we arrived we went to the tourist information centre to buy tickets for the Roissybus to the centre of Paris and a carnet du billet for the metro. Whilst we were sorting things out, the lady on the desk was asking if it was our first visit and we explained it was our 8th. When we’d finished she presented me with a beautiful Christmas tree bauble, decorated with a glitter Tour de Eiffel! I felt really special as she hadn’t given one to anyone else she’d seen.

We stayed in a fantastic hotel called Hotel Platine. We chose it because it looked quirky and stylish and so different from any of the formula hotels that were on offer.

The place had a Hollywood/Marilyn Monroe theme and each room was different. The staff were really friendly, there was an honesty cocktail bar and a small hammam in the basement which guests could use for free. Breakfast was served in an American themed diner and served a great selection of things to suit everyone.

We would definitely recommend the hotel to anyone with a sense of humour and a desire to stay somewhere different…….oh and the best bit of the room we were in was the bathroom……THERE WERE DISCO LIGHTS IN THE BATH!!!!!!!

We spent Christmas Eve just trawling the streets of Paris. We took the metro to one of our favourite places which is Place du Madelaine. This is where all the fabulous foodie shops are such as Fauchon (which is famous for macarons and cakes), and Hediard, which is a really posh gourmet food and gift shop…….we once made the mistake of buying a beautiful punnet of cherries which looked hand polished and beautifully arranged in a lovely wicker box. The mistake was not looking at the price so we paid about £15 for around ten cherries!

After lunch and the obligatory Croque Monsieur, washed down by bottles of beer and a cognac for John and half a bucket of Sancerre for me, we mooched around the posh shops until it was time to go back to the hotel for a nap and a disco bath before going out for the evening.

We wanted to eat at Bistro Saint-Louis, near to Notre Dame, however, after spending what seemed like ages to get there we found it was closed, despite the website saying it would be open but you couldn’t book a table. Never mind, we made our way across the road to The Saint Regis for a very nice Christmas eve meal.

02.jpg

Steak and Potatoes and Chicken Chasseur were on the menu, followed by mousse au chocolat for me and a large slab of nougat for John (it came with a lovely foil wrapper to take home what you couldn’t eat, which was most of it!)

01

I thoroughly recommend St. Regis if you are having a trip to Paris, the food and service are great and it’s definitely not an expensive restaurant.

After a few more drinks, we walked to Notre Dame to watch them getting ready for midnight mass. As we walked there, we saw huge concrete blocks to prevent a terrorist using a vehicle to cause harm and we were searched several times on the way to the cathedral and on the way inside too. We didn’t mind this at all, given what had happened in Paris and the shocking attack at the Bataclan in November 2015 and the attack at the Christmas markets in Berlin the month before, it was totally understandable and small price to  pay to keep everyone safe. It has to be said that the police officers who were carrying out the searches did so politely, and with a smile on their face, wishing everyone a Joyeux Noel when they were finished.

Notre Dame at night is so beautiful, but it was a little cold for hanging around to take photo’s. It was also incredibly busy with a small queue forming to get inside.

Notre_Dame_de_Paris_by_night_time.jpg

Once inside, it was  hardly a tranquil haven, there were many people shuffling around taking photos. There were even people taking selfies with statues and the little candles you can light which seemed a bit strange to me. Lots of people were seated in the main body of the cathedral having got themselves in prime position for midnight mass. I’m not religious in any way shape or form, but I can’t deny that the organ music and the incense were very atmospheric and special.

Christmas day arrived! We opened the presents we had brought then after breakfast we went wandering again, this time we made our way towards the Eiffel Tower. It was a mild day so we didn’t mind missing out the metro and getting some exercise and let’s be honest, how can you complain about a long walk when you’ve got the Seine and Paris around you.

It was a lovely walk, only slightly spoiled by numerous people trying to sell us Eiffel Tower souvenirs every 15 paces. It’s a shame to be pestered but it’s even more of a shame that people have to resort to making a living like that. Once thing I’d say about Paris this time is there certainly seemed to be more people on the streets or street vending and I have to say it seemed a lot ‘poorer’ than it had on previous visits. Maybe it’s a sign of the times everywhere, austerity seems to be hitting everyone and everywhere.

20161225_121039

20161225_123838

We went from the Eiffel Tower to Sacre Coeur, where we wanted to have a look inside but it was so damn busy. We’d visited many times  before so we headed off for lunch of chicken Quiche for me (not recommended, warm and waaaay too eggy….bleugh!) and a burger for John. We’d gotten into a bad habit by now, which involved ending every meal (apart from breakfast of course), with a brain frazzlingly strong coffee and a cognac, but why not, it was Christmas after all!

After a long walk home to get rid of the food and booze, we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for our Christmas Day dinner at restaurant we were keen to go to and had checked out during the day. Chartier was our destination and we were really, really excited!

bouillonchartier025 3-252e355aae.jpg

In 1896, the Bouillon Chartier was born out of a very simple concept – provide a decent meal at a reasonable price and give customers good service in order to earn their loyalty. 50 million meals, and only four owners later, the recipe is still every bit as much a success…..well that’s what their website says, and it seems to be true.

You can’t book a table, you have to queue. That means backpackers, tourists, locals, celebrities all have to get in line with everyone else and wait in anticipation for your turn to be escorted by an elegant, black-apron clad waiter to your seat. When you get there, don’t expect an intimate dinner – not a chance. We were seated upstairs next to some railings over which we had a fantastic view of the whole restaurant. We were shown to the table with two other people and we ended up sitting with a couple from Greece who were on their first trip to Paris and looked like rabbits caught in the headlights!

bouillonchartier020-2-a587e89ff9

Our waiter was lovely, not at all grumpy or arrogant as some of the reviews on Tripadvisor had said they were. He was professional, had a sense of humour and was keen to make our meal a pleasant occasion for us. He left us to look at the menu while he ran himself ragged with the rest of the diners in his station, it was packed out with Christmas diners.

We chose our food and wine, opting for a 14 euro bottle of fizz, not expecting much from either the food or the wine for the prices. How wrong can you be? We had pate and charcuterie to start, then steak frites with green beans. The food was fantastic and the cheap fizz was really great! I think we frightened the Greek couple though, they were drinking coke while we polished off the fizz, had half a carafe of red wine and finished the meal with………yes you guessed it cognac!

bouillonchartier007-88041cee62

We had eaten well, drank plenty and after desert we were ready for the bill and a walk somewhere else for a drink. When l’addition arrived, we were pleasantly surprised at how cheap it was. It came to 78 euro which was amazing considering we’d had everything we wanted.

I absolutely loved this place. It felt like going back in time and I found the hustle and bustle mesmerising. I love to sit at a table with white linen, old-fashioned cutlery and I think its lovely to have waiters who care about what they do. It isn’t a job for them, for most it is a vocation and that’s the difference to most of the waiting staff in UK restaurants. Yes some can be grumpy, yes you sometimes have to wait a while, but I’m just absolutely blown away when I eat somewhere like this. It feels truly special, even with no elbow room, little chance of having a ‘serious’ conversation and having to share your table. Anyway, you shouldn’t have a serious conversation over dinner, it is bad for your digestion!

I think I might be too romantic, but I just love places like this with a history and character built up over years and I could happily eat there again and again. In fact I even think it worth a day trip to Paris just for a lovely long  lunch and a bottle of that fizzy wine!

After a couple (or maybe it was three or four) cocktails, we made our way back to hotel. I found a friend at the metro station, and I also found a football, which I insisted on kicking back to the hotel. I was drunk of course, but I remember dribbling the ball around lampposts, rescuing it when it rolled down into an underground car park and I also remember people laughing at me along the way. I don’t care, I had a great time and it made me laugh when woke up the next day and saw a football on the dressing table in the hotel…….oh dear, I’ve done it again!

IMG-20161226-WA0002.jpg

The next day, it rained and it rained. It wasn’t the best day as most of the museums and galleries were shut, which meant the ones that were open were rammed with people. When we tried to go to La Louvre, it looked like we’d have to queue for nearly an hour in the rain so we gave it a miss. We walked, had coffee, walked and had lunch, then we walked to the metro back to the hotel.

That evening, we went to La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Louis. We’ve been here before and really enjoyed it so we thought we’d go back. They serve local brewed beer in stone mugs which I love and it was a really light refreshing brew.

We found this time that whilst we enjoyed the place and the eccentricity of the waiters, we weren’t blown away by the food. The style is traditional French with main courses such as

Sauerkraut with sausages and bacon
Porkknuckle grilled with apple
Stew white beans and pork
Sirloin steak with butter sauce
Hamburger steak with fried egg
Sole meunière
Ray fish with butter sauce
Haddock with boiled potatoes or sauerkraut
Special sauerkraut for two
Porkknuckle
Undercut steak with shallot fondue
Raw beef minced steak
Vealliver with boiled potatoes
Tripe terrine with white wine
Home made cockerel with white wine

I had the cockerel in red wine and John had the cassoulet, neither of which were amazing. It was rather expensive too and we left feeling rather disappointed and thinking we’d only go back for drinks next time.

Next day was a disaster. Whether it was because of the food from the night before or a stomach bug but John wasn’t well. He spent hours doing what people do when they’ve got stomach troubles and with our flight home at 8pm in the evening it was a long, long day.

Fortunately there was a shopping centre near the hotel with comfy sofas so we spent a few hours there just sitting and watching the world go by. Then I put my ‘I’m a genius’ hat on and remembered I’d seen a sign for a cinema  in the shopping centre, so we went and watched the latest Star Wars film Rogue One. It was perfect, there was a toilet handy, John could have a well needed sleep for a few hours and I had some entertainment. Not what we’d intended for our last day but it we made the most of it. It was a shame because it was a glorious sunny day, nice and cold too, which would have been perfect for a walk.

images (10).jpg

Overall, we had a great couple of days in Paris, but I can’t deny that the last day took some of the magic away. Would I go back again, yes of course, I’d love to take a friend to Chartier for lunch and spend a weekend showing them around and sharing what I love with them.

The world is a great big place though, and I’ve got many more places I want to visit, so I will look at my bauble next Christmas and remember the lovely time we  had.

Au revoir mon amis xxxxxx

download-27

Advertisements

Shakespeare’s Love Child

download-1

Shakespeare goes into his local, walks up to the bar and orders a pint. ‘No chance’ the landlord says. ‘Why not? says Will.  The landlord shakes his head, ‘I’ve told you, your bard.’……………yes that was pretty awful, I’m sorry.

I’ve been writing shit poems for years and I think it’s about time that I inflicted them onto the unwary few that read my blog. I’d like to be the next Hovis Presley or John Cooper Clarke but I’m more like Rick from the young ones.

Anyway here’s the first one:

 

clown

I WANDERED LONELY WITH A CLOWN

I wandered lonely with a clown I met one night in Alderley Edge

He shoes were big and his nose was red

He was pissed and I pulled him from a Hawthorn hedge

He’d been for a curry; said his name was Reg

He said he had a passion for growing veg

I said that I didn’t believe him.

 

I asked him how he landed here

He gave me a grin which was more like a leer

He said he’d been with Clarkson from Top Gear

His Aston Martin was parked near here

He said they’d been for a Vindaloo and beer

I said that I didn’t believe him.

 

We walked for a while, he was honking his clowns horn

I said “you’ll wake the neighbours it’s getting near dawn”

Then we sat for a while on somebody’s lawn

And he told me he was big in Porn

I was bored with his lies and I started to yawn

I said that I didn’t believe him.

 

I couldn’t get rid of this red wigged fool

I don’t talk to strangers when I’m out as a rule

He was dressed like a clown, though he looked like tool

He said he’d installed Wayne Rooney’s pool

He told me Alex Ferguson was really cool

I said that  I didn’t believe him.

 

We’d reached my house and he still wouldn’t shift

I said “see you mate” but he didn’t catch my drift

I had to make a move and I had to do it swift

He gave me a hug and his armpits whiffed

He said “Jenson Button’s going to give me a lift”

I said that I didn’t believe him.

 

While we were waiting for Jenson to arrive

The bastard started singing ‘I will survive’

He was telling me how good it felt to be alive

When Jenson’s Ferrari came skidding up my drive

Jenson got out, gave the clown a High Five

He turned and said “now do you believe me?”

 

This next poem was inspired by my first impressions of Wilmslow and Alderley Edge when I moved here quite a while ago now. Wilmslow isn’t quite so bad but I still get followed around the Hooper’s department store so I avoid going there if I can. Alderley is a great people watching place but I can still feel a little like Cinderella before the transformation when we go there. Hope you like my ode to misfits and those who don’t fit the bill!

images

LAST BUS TO GEEK TOWN

It can be a bit grim if you’re not stick thin

If your hair isn’t long then you won’t fit in

If you’re over 6 stone and your nose is your own

You’d better take the last bus to geek town.

 

You’ll be followed around when you walk in the store

If you’re bag is by Primark and not Dior

If you haven’t got a Porsche then you’re just too poor

So you’d better take the last bus to geek town.

 

If you haven’t had Botox to make your face tight

If your skin is still white then that can’t be right

This is no place for you on a Saturday night

Just get on that last bus to geek town

 

You’d better learn to air kiss and smile like you mean it

Make sure that staying rich is part of your remit

Spend on your card till it’s up to the limit

Or you’ll be on the last bus to geek town

 

Whatever you do don’t smile at a local

They’ll just thing your weird or some kind of yokel

Try and get in a club and some big bloke will

Shove you on the last bus to geek town

 

It’s all footballers’ wives with stars in their eyes

The people round here are intent on the prize

It’s really not for you so take my advice

Book your ticket for the last bus to geek town.

 

This next one is about a gentleman with a taste for unusual looking ladies. They do say there is someone out there for everyone!

 

rose

MY LOVE IS LIKE A RED, RED ROSE

My love is like a red, red, rose

At least that’s the colour of her nose

She’s got hair on her hands and on her toes

But she’s mine and I love her

 

We get strange looks when we walk down the street

You could ride your bike through the gaps in her teeth

She got webbed feet which is quite unique

But she’s mine and I love her

 

My mates say she smells like the undead

But I don’t care cos she’s great in bed

She takes out her teeth when she gives me head

And she’s mine and I love her

 

She’ll never be my blushing bride

She won’t walk down the aisle as her hips are too wide

But putting all of that aside

She’s mine and I love her

 

When we make love I could get concussed

By a blow to the head from her fifty inch bust

It’s worth the risk when she fills me with lust

Cos she’s mine and I love her

 

She drove the bus of love and I got on it

You wouldn’t believe what’s under her bonnet

That’s why I had to write this sonnet

She’s mine and I love her.

I wrote this as a protest poem after too many long walks…..nuff said.

sheep-shit

DARK SKIES AND SHEEP SHIT

Come for a walk in the Peak District

You said one Saturday morning

I wasn’t quite awake yet

I was scratching my arse and yawning

 

Ok I said ‘How long’s this walk?’

You said ‘Just eighteen miles’

I wondered how my feet would cope

I worried for your piles

 

We set of way too early

We were there by half past nine

I was struggling with a hangover

From cider and red wine

 

The first five miles were easy

In fact they were rather pleasant

We rambled along country paths

Passing horses, sheep and Pheasant

 

It got to mile eleven

We stopped to rest and eat

I said my legs were buggered

I’d got blisters on my feet

 

When we had done fifteen miles

My enthusiasm was waning

I was sick of sheep and cow shit

And it had started raining

 

When we had done eighteen miles

I could not have got much wetter

Then the sun came out, the rain dried up

And I started feeling better

 

I’d realised I’d enjoyed the walk

I stood in contemplation

To think I had walked eighteen miles

Was quite a revelation

 

I’d like to do it all again

Maybe next weekend

Because ten hours alone with you

Is time I’ll gladly spend

 

Well I did  warn you! Hope you enjoyed my daft ditties, maybe they’ll inspire you to try to write one yourself. If you have a go, post one to me I’d love to read it!

xxxxxxx

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 7

ed-harcourt-lead-xlarge_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJweNtxj9PZ-PQqqpH_qJ95Uw

ED HARCOURT

Well here I am again folks, its been four months since my last post due to my head not wanting to think creative thoughts, but I’m fired up and ready to go again, writing words I don’t suppose anyone wants to read.

I’m really off on one today and I make no apologies for the fact that I get very giddy thinking about and listening to the music of the talented Mr.Harcourt.

Now I know there aren’t many of you that have read my posts, but those who have will know that I can go a bit silly and I have a tendency to get over excited…..well that’s how music makes me feel and I just can’t help it. Music is in my blood, my head and my heart and it’s always been my anchor as I sail the good ship me through the choppy seas of life….(told you I was on one today!)

I simply couldn’t live without music, it’s such an integral part of me and I’m in absolute awe of certain people who don’t just make music, they invent new ways of playing, go against the current genre grain to be different, cleverly creating the most fantastic tapestries with words and sounds through their intelligence, passion and talent.

Ed is one of my musical heroes (Damon Albarn, Thom Yorke, King Creosote, James Yorkston are also in the mix). Ed isn’t just a musician, he’s a craftsman, wordsmith and alchemist, conjuring up the most the most amazing musical offerings. He’s a chameleon, he doesn’t sit still, he seems to be constantly changing, experimenting and producing something amazing. Problem with people like Ed in my view, is that you either get him or you don’t. With some artists it’s not enough just to listen, which of course you can do, but if you step back and scratch the surface, you’re left in no doubt that there’s something special underneath. I know that I go over the top and gush/flow/explode with excitement and ‘think’ too  much about records,bands, music and not everyone wants to do that. Which is why someone like Ed is a crowd pleaser, you can enjoy some bloody good music or you can analyse, interpret and get lost in the whole musicallyness of it all…..hey I just invented a word!

May I suggest dear reader that you prepare yourself as I explain to the unwise and preach to the converted about the majestically, magical, musical things this Harcourt fella can do, especially on his latest album, Furnaces. But let’s start at the beginning shall we.

 

HERE BE MONSTERS

images (9)

Back in 2001, Ed  launched his debut album, Here Be Monsters. It was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and was produced by Tim Holmes, one-half of the British dance music Death in Vegas. The first thing I knew about it was hearing the single ‘Something in My Eye.’ It’s a long time ago and I’m getting on a bit but I can still remember the shivers I got from the opening of the track, as Ed’s vocal kicked in and it wasn’t like anything else that was around at the time. I loved the first lines of the lyrics

Spider has eight legs you know
Spins its web the patterns flow

Two sentences creating one great image, capturing me in the song like a fly in a web (see what I did  there?).

My favourite track of the album has to be ‘Those Crimson Tears’. This is Ed, playing the piano and once again singing some the best lyrics. He rhymes ‘dancing bear’ with ‘marble stairs’ for god’s sake!…..listen, if you haven’t heard it, it’s here courtesy of YouTube so treat yourself and have a little listen.

My absolute favourite is ‘She Fell into My Arms’. Again it’s the lyrics and the way the song is put together and the inclusion of the brass section.

 

This song contains a couple of lines that sum up how I’ve always felt and that I’d have as a motto on my own personal crest of arms!

 I don’t mind if I lose
‘Cause if I win I’ll be so confused

Every track on the album is worth a mention and listen to and is a showcase for Ed’s talent, wit and musical ability. For me it was the start of a journey with him but I didn’t catch the next Ed bus until much later.

BACK INTO THE WOODS

hqdefault

I don’t know why I missed out on the albums in between, these. There were other more important and more serious things going on in my life and I somehow missed out but I picked up the Ed trail in a very special place.

The launch of Back into The Woods gave us Ed playing at St.Philip’s Church in Salford on 3rd June 2013. It was my first gig in a church and it seemed very strange to be sat in the pews drinking wine. My childhood experience of church didn’t prepare me for the sight of tables of alcohol for sale and the man himself dispensing his own brand of ale the willing….erm…congregation. For that’s what it turned out to be, a spiritual experience.

I sat in the third pew from the front near the Piano and we were all waiting for the main man to appear when suddenly,  the last of the evening sun was streaming in through the corner stained glass window. The church organ struck up and everyone turned to see Ed in the organ loft singing ‘Brothers and Sisters.‘ the first track of the night. The acoustics, the tone of his voice, the mood of the songs all blended together to make what was quite an emotional night for me. The whole set was genius, Ed moving from piano, to electric and acoustic guitar for the immensely moving ‘Last Will and Testament.’. He took his signature microphone, wandered up and down the aisle and….he put his hand on my shoulder, a very sweaty hand, but hey! It was a brilliant night and I bought the album soon after.

It’s Ed’s piano playing that captivates me on this album but to be fair, he can play just about any instrument. On the first album Here Be Monsters he was credited with vocals, piano, pump organ, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, Wurlitzer, vibes, saxophone, harmonica, bass, beatbox, backing vocals, sampling, synthesizer, drums, percussion, string arrangement

Seven albums later, I’m sure there are even more arrows in his quiver.

The pretty girls

A brilliant song with a piano refrain that fills my heart with gladness and lyrics that make me smile:

You’re the circus tamer to my beast
I’m a puzzle with a missing piece
When I’ve been hanging off your soul by the skin of my teeth
Can’t believe I’ve never been in jail
How you stuck with beyond the pale
Sometimes I feel like I’m the monster in this fairytale

And what you love most I could well destroy
Because pretty girls always fall for the baddest boys

All the songs on the album have a melancholy air about them, but that doesn’t make them sad songs, not really. How you find them depends on the mood you are in but I have to confess that I barely listen to ‘Last Will and Testament’. It makes me think of my own mortality and that’s never a good thing. Still its delightful, haunting and a thing of beauty.

And now it’s time to come up to date with a sneaky peak at Ed’s latest album for you.

FURNACES

furnaces-cover-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8

On 29th June 2016, I went to the Deaf Institute in Manchester to see Ed launch his new album Furnaces. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it was going to be something special. I’d heard from Facebook that the new songs were fiery, with a heavier vibe and it sounded great.  The Deaf Institute is a splendid venue in Manchester, like an old music hall with a small balcony (where I was sat) and seating at the back. The stage is tiny and I had a great view of all the musicians but I didn’t take the photo’s I wanted out of respect and not wanting to look like a stalker, so I’ve not got any of my own photos to add, unlike the ones in my Slaves blog.

It was an uplifting, face slapping, mind-blowing set. If I needed proof that this man has is stupidly gifted in both voice and musicianship then this was it. It was soft/subtle, blew you away with its rock and metallic shapes/sounds and was just like being on a boat on a rough sea. You never knew which way the wind was going to blow so you held on for dear life. There were some funny moments, Ed obliging a request to play the Ghostbuster’s theme and a very strange marriage proposal, which I’m not convinced was actually accepted even though she said yes…..eventually.

Ed_Harcourt_Manchester_29_June_2016_Mike_Hughes_-30_1042_694.jpg

Ed at the Deaf Institute – Manchester

I bought the album this week, it’s been blowing through my ears and into my brain since. I’ve not had it off my Ipod and I keep singing snatches of tracks to myself…every one is an earworm in the making but in a good way.  My favourites?

The World is on Fire, Loup Garou, Furnaces, Occupational Hazard…hang on, I’m starting to list all of them all here!  Seriously, there isn’t a duff track to be found. I love them all. But if I really had to choose then these are the ones I absolutely love, in no particular order.

Loup Garou – clever lyrics, Ed’s vocals playing around, soft and endearing one second then turning threatening ‘don’t you know I’m a beast of a man and I’m coming to get what I came for.’ An absolute gem with sneaky piano, pounding drums and a bass line that drives through you.

Last of Your Kind – how can something with lyrics like ‘nothing more to do you’re the last of your kind/no one else like you you’re the last of your kind’ sound so upbeat. It’s a sort of anthem and if you didn’t listen to the lyrics you’d find it to be jolly and nice, but it’s really not.

Dionysus – starts off like a lullaby and ends up like a war cry. Stunning!

Furnaces

It’s not for me to give my interpretation of any of the tracks, but the mighty furnaces seems to be an apocalyptic warning of times to come.

 

If I were clever, I could blind you with my insight of the lyrics, compare Ed’s music to other bands and songwriters, but I’m not. If I could, I’d be a music journalist, but instead I just play at blogging, hoping I can spread my enthusiasm like poppy seeds and hope they grow in some barren patch of soil somewhere.

All I can do is to share my enthusiasm, my enjoyment and my appreciation of someone who’s music means a lot to me and who I admire for the work they do. Oh and on top of everything else, he’s a down to earth, genuinely warm, entertaining bloke……….bastard!!

One last thing………If you like this, please let me know. It get’s kind of lonely talking to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 6

Prince

 

Prince

I didn’t want to write a blog when David Bowie died; it didn’t feel right and I sure as hell didn’t think anything I could say would be any different to the other voices singing his praises.

With Prince, I feel different, I liked a lot of Bowie’s music and he was a massive influence to many people, but for me Prince was a little bit different. The little purple fella was intriguing and beguiling and he wrote some of the sexiest, filthiest lyrics for which I give him thanks and praise.

I’d be lying if I pretended that my Ipod and CD/Record collection were stuffed to the brim with Prince tracks, they aren’t, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel anything for his  music or feel sad when he passed away.

I love music of all types except the sort of jazz that sounds like seven people playing different music on different instruments at different pitches/tones.  Oh, and there’s always someone who sounds like they are strangling an elephant….that’s the sax player!

An electronic beat (like Hot Chip), strong guitar ( hello Nile Rodgers) and some cracking drums make up my favourite dance tracks. I do love a good dance, I’m crap at it mind you but I do love to have a go. Prince has provided some of the most danceable records with a feel good beat and I love him for that.

From the start Prince Rodgers Nelson was differen; taking charge of his very first album as he insisted that he played all the instruments, did all the vocals and the mixing himself. A brave task for a 17 yr old but one that gave him his first record release in 1978 with the ‘For You’ album. Warner Bros gave him the artistic freedom he wanted for his first three albums but the also took charge of ownership of the publishing rights.

Prince wasn’t an attractive man (to me), he was short and skinny, but his voice was something else. The lyrics, the innuendo combined with the slight, sly smile on his face and the gleam in those eyes let you know he was up for it if you were. He danced like the devil and you knew he had the energy of a steam train.

It would be easy to write a list of the dirtiest of his songs and lyrics but that wouldn’t be doing justice to the man. Instead, I’d rather focus on the fact he was a brilliant musician and songwriter. He played guitar and the credits for his records show he played a multitude of other instruments too. He wasn’t bad at writing lyrics either!

Here are a few of my favourites, I’d love you to share yours.

SIGN O’ THE TIMES

220px-Prince_Sign_single

The rumbling bass and his opening vocal set the scene for this explosive track from the 1987 album of the same name. Prince plays everything with just a backing singer, Susannah Melvoin, his then girlfriend joining in the fun.

With scorching lyrics showing Prince was political without being in your face, this was probably the first non-commercial record of his I really liked. It’s the keyboards, Fairlight synthesizer and sampled electronic bass that set the mood of the record before the meat of the sandwich, the lyrics kick in with a reference to AIDs:

In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name
By chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same

This cheery little ditty continues later on with lyrics that are still relevant today and probably always will be:

A sister killed her baby ’cause she couldn’t afford to feed it
And yet we’re sending people to the moon

Yes indeed my purple clad friend, life makes no sense sometimes and we’re still doing the same shit to each other.

GETT OFF

download (24)

Ok, so I lied, I said I wasn’t going to do the filthy stuff but I can’t resist this record from the 1991 album Diamonds & Pearls. I love dancing to this record, usually on my own when nobody is watching! I love the beats, the voice and the totally over the top lyrics:

How can I put this in a way so as not to offend or unnerve
There’s a rumor goin’ all round that u ain’t been gettin’ served
They say that u ain’t u know what
In baby who knows how long
It’s hard 4 me 2 say what’s right
When all I wanna do is wrong

He’s a conceited little fecker on this one. I’ve got an image of a sharp-dressed guy, sliding up to someone at the bar, determined not to take ‘no’ for an answer. He’s Mr. Smooth, all the women want him and he sees it as his job to ‘service’ the poor dowdy girl who doesn’t get much action.

With a promise of ’23 positions in a one-night stand’ this ‘talented boy’ could talk the talk but could he deliver the goods? My favourite cheese filled chat-up line of the song has to be:

Now move your big ass ’round this way
So I can work on that zipper, baby
Tonight your a star
And I’m the big dipper

It’s nonsense and harmless fun, it’s a shame that Robin Thicke couldn’t write a sexy song without insulting the whole of womankind! Or was Prince just as bad with his lyrics but I’ve somehow let him get away with it?  Answers on a postcard please or maybe we could start a debate on the most misogynistic lyrics ever?

ALPHABET STREET

images (8)

This is the first single off the 1988 album Lovesexy. Essentially it’s an instrumental with some lyrics relating to some girl on girl fun! I’ve tried to put a clip of the track on here but Prince didn’t like sharing his music in the way that some artists do. It’s a shame because it’s another ridiculously danceable track and I’m rather fond of it.

Prince wrote masses of songs, some were hits, some weren’t and some were little treasures to find hidden on the albums he made. He was talented, underrated and berated by those who thought he was too fond of celebrating sex and the fact that women actually enjoy it.

A little brightness went out of the world on 21 April 2016. The doves cried and the purple rain fell for the last time. RIP Prince……you sexy motherf**er!

 

 

GettyImages-86103158-640x435

 

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 5

Kate Tempest

download (23)

Her debut album Everybody Down, was launched in 2014. In the same year she was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize; which was won by Young Fathers and their album  ‘Dead’.

As with most music I like these days, I first came across Kate through BBC 6 Music. The track was called ‘Circles’; I loved the energy, loved the lyrics and most of all I loved the vulnerability of her voice. There was the timbre of a young girl’s voice mixed with the wisdom of an older, world weary woman trying to make sense of stuff that never will.

images (5)images (6)

I’ve had a few girl crushes in my time and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have an inexplicable love for Maxine Peake (bow down when you say her name!). She’s short, sassy, has more talent than any woman  has a right to have and still she goes on marches with UNISON to fight for what she believes to be right. Maxine is also a collaborator with the brilliant Eccentronic Research Council – songs about the Pendle Witches and other coven related tales.

Then there’s Kristin Scott Thomas; though she is an English actress she’s made films completely in the French language for Christ’s sake! She’s beautiful and she can pick and choose what she wants to do (Only God Forgives was a bit of a mare but let’s gloss over that!), so I should hate her but I just can’t. Then we come to Kate Tempest, which is another story entirely.

images (7)

I’d been listening to Everybody Down on my Ipod since the I first discovered it. I’ve made my own mix of Kate, Ghostpoet and George Clinton, which weirdly works really well. It’s my going out soundtrack and I love it.

Glastonbury 2015 however, was the turning point for me in terms of understanding exactly what a talent she is. I was flicking between the choices of who to watch; I’d seen an unbelievable set from Slaves and then the Fat White Family (bit scary but amazing!) then I turned over to find Kate half way through her set.

Holy shit! nothing had prepared me for this. There she was, looking like an innocent child, belting out rhymes, raps and rhythms, owning the stage, owning the audience. All the poetic lines I’d heard countless times making even more sense through the animation of her body, her eyes and her voice. As an artist, she’s stunningly talented, as a performer she’s explosive and powerful; living each line and delivering it like she’s just thought it and want’s to get it out of her head.

For me, it was the closing part of her act that just blew me away. She shared a poem called ‘Hold Your Own’,* 4minutes and 55 mesmerising seconds where the crowd were silent and it felt like even the birds in the trees would have stopped to watch her. This is what she does, she’s a poet, a wordsmith, a sorceress with magic powers that I would kill to possess.

It’s not right that one person should be so talented; so what does she do?  She’s  gone and written a book based on the characters from the album. The book comes out on 7th April. Can’t wait to find a space, lay back and read until my eyes hurt and I’ve found yet another reason to love this awsome woman.

 

9781408857304

* click to watch the Youtube clip.

Listen To The Voice of Reason – Part 4

Thom Yorke

download (20)

 

They say the best things come to those who wait; I feel this is absolutely true of my relationship with Radiohead and the voice of Thom Yorke in particular.

Radiohead are one of those bands that slipped my attention for many years. I’d heard the obvious tracks like Creep, High and Dry, and once I started paying attention, it was the insanely unique voice of Mr. Yorke I became slightly obsessed with. Once his vocal skills had wormed their weird little ways into my brain, they nestled there, incubating, waiting until I was able to appreciate them in every sense.

Anyone who’s read parts 1 to 3 of my blog will know music and vocals in particular are such a massive part of my life, so it’s fair to say I had my mind blown when I first heard my favourite Radiohead album ever. Which one? For me, it has to be In Rainbows. 

download (21)

The album came out in 2007,which seems like a million years ago but to me it’s the one constant on my ancient Ipod. As far as I’m concerned, all the tracks are fantastic but I’m going to focus on my three favourites. I like these three for the lyrics, Thom’s voice, the musicianship from Colin, Jonny, Ed and Philip and the stupid way they make me dance.

15 Step 

How come I end up where I started?
How come I end up where I went wrong?

These are the opening lyrics to one of the best tracks on the album for me.

The skittish start always sets me off on one of my stupid, all over the place dances, I just can’t help it. I love the lines; these are the questions I quite often ask myself and Thom’s voice just adds extra poignancy to them.

You used to be alright
What happened?

Another great lyric, sung with the same weary tone. Was he asking the question of a friend or just looking in the mirror? The words work either way and the voice just adds more melancholy to the meaning.

Did the cat get your tongue?
Did your string come undone?

I love this line, it’s as if he’s talking to someone like they are a puppet who can’t speak or think for themselves because they don’t have the power to any more. It makes me think of someone who’s been so ground down they can no longer function as a person.

I love this song and the tone of the voice, the sense of exasperation, boredom and resignation overlaying the music is just genius.

*(click  the title to  see the live Radiohead From The Basement recording)

 

download (22)

Bodysnatchers

I have absolutely no idea what these opening lines are about and the rest of the song doesn’t really give you a clue either.

I do not
Understand
What it is
I’ve done wrong

Sometimes it’s best not to try and analyse things too much. I’ve read that the song is about aliens, a near death experience after an accident or a suicide attempt. I don’t care really, the meaning is Thom’s secret, let him keep it!

The middle verses of the song are sung in the same tone and have the same nonsensical lyrics which I love. As the song goes on, Thom’s vocals get more and more manic and desperate and this is when I love his voice and the way he sings the most. When he gets going he’s almost out of control and this is what I love, it’s as if nothing else matters but the song and he just lets go. I wish I had that ability and the outlet to just go for it and not give a shit.

Has the light gone out for you?
Cause the light’s gone out for me
It is the 21st century
It is the 21st century
You can fight it like a dog
It brought me to my knees
They got scared and they put me in
They got scared and they put me in
All their eyes wrapped around my face
All their eyes wrapped around my face
Although everybody else can see
Although everybody else can see

I’m alive
I’ve seen it coming

This is the point where he’s completely lost it and he starts to do amazing things with his voice, almost a low howl one minute then a full blown rant. With anyone else they wouldn’t get away with it but this is just superb for me.

 

images (4)

Nude

This is one of my all time favourite Radiohead tracks, again it’s the sinister, haunting quality of the vocal that gets me first, combined with the lyrics that tell me something isn’t quite right here.

Don’t get any big ideas
They’re not gonna happen

You paint yourself white
And fill up with noise
But there’ll be something missing

Now that you’ve found it, it’s gone
Now that you feel it, you don’t
You’ve gone off the rails

So don’t get any big ideas
They’re not gonna happen

You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking

All the way through the song I keep thinking is this about someone being stalked? Is there an element of fear and menace? Again, I haven’t got a clue what the lyrics are actually about but I’d love to hear your views in the comments box for this post.

I like to listen to this in the dark, I find it incredibly disturbing and I love the power that some songs have to do that to me. Another track that does this to me is I WANT YOU *by Elvis Costello – makes me want to lock the door and keep a knife with me!

*click to hear the track.

Well this is the end of my post about the vocal shenannigans of the amazingly talented and slightly scary Thom Yorke. I hope you have enjoyed it, found it interesting or at the very least it’s stopped you thinking about that annoying little itch you’ve got for a couple of minutes.

I’d love to hear what you think, good, bad or indifferent. I’m new to blogging so I’m always after advice……even if it’s ‘Your shit, why are you bothering?’

Cheers

Mxx

 

 

 

Listen To The Voice of Reason – Part 3

 

download (15)

James Yorkston

Sometimes you hear a voice that makes the hair on the back of your neck and arms stand up, but that only lasts for a second. For me this has been happening for years, it happens every time I hear the distinctive, amazing tone of the voice of James Yorkston.

I first came across Mr. Yorkston when I went to a little festival called the Green Man Festival. We’d tried Glastonbury, V and such like but quite frankly it was just mainstream stuff you could enjoy any time. In search of something different, we decided to try the Green Man, a little known festival in a lovely setting near Hay-on-Wye. I think the first one we went to was at Baskervill Hall but it was a long time ago.

We didn’t know anything about anyone on the line up, we looked at names like Adam, 4tet, Tunng, Joanna Newsome, King Creosote and James Yorkston and the Athletes with a shake of the head – nope, not a clue.

Our tent was pitched, our cans of beer and cider (I’m such a classy bird!) were stowed in our rucksacks and we went off to further our musical education. After a few dodgy starts and quick exits from stages, we found a tent where we watched a man wearing a furry dog head mask playing a synthesizer – they were called Fonda 500 and we loved them.

After a while we wandered off, still not knowing who to see or who they were, but for some reason we both decided we liked the name James Yorkston and the Athletes. We found they were playing in the same tent we’d been in and made our way back. The tent was really full and we had to push our way inside. The music had already started and I have to admit to not really listening as we tried to find somewhere to stand.

download (16)

The first track I remember was St. Patrick (from the album Moving Up Country), the slow rumble of the instrumental opening leading to James and the opening line:

I didn’t sleep at all last night
I thought my heart had mastered the run of these seas

Well that was it, talk about hooked and landed! I was the fat fish on the end of his vocal line. His voice wasn’t perfect, which made it exactly perfect, if you get my meaning. The band played with him, the music getting louder and louder, creating the image of a rolling sea and sending shivers through me.

I awoke with a smart and a look at the phone.
I swear that I would have called you if I’d been sure you were alone.
And doesn’t that drive things home?

Simply beautiful lyrics; no fancy tricks, just a couple of very classy lines that’s all I need to make me fall in love with a song, a voice, an idea and an imagined set of circumstances. It’s not that I’m easily pleased, I just know when I’ve heard something special.

I knew then that I’d be fan for a very long time and now, all these years later I still anticipate anything James does with the interest of an inquisitive puppy.

images (3)

Born in Fife, James Yorkston was involved at an early stage with the Fence Collective who’s artists include the like of King Creosote, KT Tunstall and The Beta Band. James writes and sings and plays a wide variety of instruments. I loved the Facebook posts from him when he was having a new guitar made. It was an education as I’ve never seen an instrument being loving constructed before! 

James Yorkston and the Athletes are just one of many of James’ musical guises. He’s a man of many musical personalities, he’s played with John Martyn and Bert Janch and has had the blessing of John Peel. There’s been the Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society, a collaboration with Alexis Taylor, KT Tunstall, Pictish Trail, Emma Smith & Jon Thorne. He’s had numerous albums released, all with their own delicious twist and unexpected turns.

I think however, apart from the Athletes, my favourite reincarnation for JY has been his recent work with Jon Thorne (Lamb) and Suhail Yusuf Khan. With James singing and playing guitar, Jon playing the base and Suhail charged with making the most magical music on a sarangi (a strange little Indian instrument you play with a bow), you’ll never hear anything as lovely. I saw the trio at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester last year. I was spellbound as always, though this time the mix of cultures, sounds and styles of songs and music were just breathtaking.

download (17)

James has written a book about his life as a travelling troubadour ‘It’s Lovely To Be Here’. It’s a great insight into the often not very glamorous life on the road and gives us a peek into what really happens. It’s not all groupies and fantastic tour buses that’s for sure.

download (18).jpg

This blog is meant to be about voices and I feel I’ve digressed. I’m not ashamed though! I just feel the need to tell more people about the music I love and to persuade you to listen for yourself so you’ll understand why I’m so passionate about it.

James hasn’t got a ‘simple’ voice, it’s full of emotion, traits, strains and strengths that I’ve not heard from many people. He’s quietly spoken, funny, caustic, sarcastic and tender, especially on certain songs that mean more to him than I could every understand or explain.

He’s not a folk singer,  he’s not a man to be labelled as anything. He’s unique, supremely talented and it’s a better place for having him and his storytelling through songs in it.

I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve been to see him. He’s seen us through bad times when John had cancer (he had trouble in the scanning machine as he was listening to James and it all got a bit much, too many good memories!), he’s been with us when we’ve been pissed (Green Man festivals and practically every gig!) and he’s always made us happy.

I’ve got to say that I’m in awe of Mr. Yorkston. If I had half of his talent in anything I’d be so happy. When we go to see him I always want to say this to him but I’m too shy, too worried he’d think I was a gushing, sentimental weirdo.  One day I might say ‘hello’, but I’m just kidding myself, I’m too cowardly for that! I’ll just be content to go along, stand and listen and just enjoy.

download (19)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all about the Basa

Since Christmas I’ve been on a bit of health kick. I joined a gym last September but after a big three week holiday in America, a stinky cold for about a month, it’s only since January that I’ve been really going for it.

I’ve been hammering the cross-trainer, the stairmaster (Satan in the form of fitness equipment!!) walking up hill on the treadmill and interval training on the rower. As a result I’ve lost half a stone and I feel 100% better about myself than I did before.

Alongside the gym sessions I’ve been trying to eat healthier. I’ve cut down on as much carbs as possible, I’m eating smaller portions and I’ve been living off rice crackers during the day, (see my previous post). I’ts hard sometimes, but when I see and feel the results it’s so worth it.

I’ve also given up my packet of Walkers Cheese and Onion crisp habit at lunch times.  My name is Maria, I’m a crispaholic but I’m now four weeks crisp free.

In my search for healthy, quick meals to cook from scratch when I get home from the gym, I turned to one of the many lovely cookbooks I own from one of my favourite chefs, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Now I’m not a fish fan. I like scallops, prawns, mussels (must be eaten somewhere warm and sunny sans French fries and a glass of Sancerre) salmon and mackerel. I don’t like really fishy fish and I’d rather starve than eat trout – muddy and ridiculous things.

I have found a great fish recipe in Hugh’s book  River Cottage Light and Easy which I will share with you because I’m nice like that. I liked this because I could get it ready the night before and it’s quick to cook with not much washing up…..lazy cow!

9781408853535

Hugh recommends the best fish to use but I couldn’t find any pollack, whiting or coley when I went shopping in Aldi, however, I did see Basa fillets. Pay attention now, this is where I tell you why Basa is the boss.

Basa fish is a type of catfish native to Vietnam and Thailand and sometimes referred to as the river cobbler, swai, pangasius or bocourti. As with other types of catfish, basa are rich in protein but not as lean as tilapia and some other low-fat fish.

That’s enough of that,  here’s the recipe

Fish-rizo with Broad Beans – Serves 4

700g white fish fillets, such as pollock, coley, whiting or sustainably caught haddock, skinned and boned
1 tbsp unsmoked paprika
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil, plus a little extra for cooking
Sea salt
150g cooked broad beans, skinned if they are large (I used lovely sugarsnaps instead)
Juice of half a lemon
Roughly shredded mint, to finish (optional)

Check the fish for pin bones, prising out any find with a tweezers (preferably NOT the ones you use for your eyebrows), then cut into roughly 2cm chunks. Put into a bowl with the spices, garlic and oil. Add a pinch of salt. Turn together and leave in the fridge for up to half an hour. (I left them in the fridge overnight and it didn’t make any difference. I thought I might end up with ceviche but it was fine.)

Heat a large frying pan or wok over a medium-high heat. Add a trickle of olive oil. then the fish, and cooking, tossing often, for 4-5 minutes until cooked through. Stir in the beans of your choice and cook for another couple of minutes. Squeeze over the lemon juice and remove from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed. Sprinkle over the mint if you are using it.

It’s recommended that you can serve it with peas, lentils or new potatoes. I found it went well with couscous which seemed to match the texture and flavour of the fish.

Enjoy!

download (14)

 

 

 

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!

download (8).jpg

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!

download (9)

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.

download (10)

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.

download (11).jpgdownload (12)

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.

download (13).jpg

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!

 

 

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

image

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.

image

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!