Journey to the Centre of my Past

I’m again indebted to Planet Rock Radio for giving me the inspiration to write blog text again.  After my photographic mishaps – 3MB or not 3MB, that is the question – it’s nice to get back to familiar ground, even if it doesn’t look quite so “interesting”.

Last night’s One Man and his Prog – now I know it’s a repeat, but my near-lethal Ovaltine and Horlicks cocktails inhibit me from staying up till midnight on Sunday to hear it first time – featured Rick Wakeman as special guest, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Journey to the Centre of the Earth as only he can.  Which means mostly with dirty jokes.

I don’t own the record in any format, nor have I any special urge to go out and spend money on the Anniversary Special Issue, but nonetheless the programme took me back to my teenage years, and I got to hear one or two tracks I hadn’t heard since then: Rick’s own “Merlin the Magician” (nice story surrounding that too) and Black Sabbath’s “Sabbracadabra” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, which he plays on.

When I “rationalised” my prog rock collection circa ’77 to make way for the new wave, items like the above went to new homes so I could establish some cred when my cool NME-reading friends came round for tea.  I couldn’t make up my mind which Genesis, Crimson and Zeppelin records to get rid of, so I hung on to the lot and just gave them a lower profile (anyway, Gabriel’s first album, with Fripp on it, seemed to have earned a lot of favour).  With Yes and Sabbath, however, it was easier to be ruthless: I just kept Paranoid and the Yes albums with Tony Kaye on keyboards.  Sorry guys! 

As we know, progressive became THE unmentionable word for approximately 15 years, so I kind of felt vindicated.  My interests in musical adventure were well catered for by The Blue Nile, Virginia Astley, Shelleyan Orphan and others rather than Marillion or Porcupine Tree – although i have of course since found room for both schools of thought.

I’m quite in the mood for a decent album of prog cover versions.  The trouble is, progressive rock is so proprietorial – can you imagine anyone other than Hawkwind doing “Brainstorm”? – but I’ve been impressed by the way Floyd have been rendered danceable this millennium, and the very fact that, back in the day, Judy Dyble and Greg Lake both made great versions of “I Talk to the Wind”, makes me wonder what light some contemporary crooner could throw on the piece – provided that they can get their head round the lyrics. Not quite the same as assessing whether Dusty or Dionne did Bacharach and David more justice, but worth a try. 

Thanks to next door’s cat for stopping to pose for publicity during a break in the rain. No animals were harmed in the making of this photograph, though I had to be quick to avoid getting scratched :) Makes a change from writing text all the time, have to say…

In and Out of Focus

I’ve just been turned down from ANOTHER feckin’ focus group for not being 27 years old, ginger haired, degree in Papier Mache Science, £35,678 gross annual income and the owner of a one-eyed dog called Charlie.

What is it that these people are looking for?  Obviously not a representative sample of the British public.  If they’re seeking out future customers, they’re doing it from an extremely narrow client base.  Have they not noticed that?

It reminds me a little of the recent activities of our beloved national government.  What exactly is George Osborne’s idea of the typical British citizen?  Apart from “hardworking”, of course – like other Tories he’s under instruction from Lynton Crosby to repeat the word until we thick peasants are brainwashed into equating it with Conservativism.  What a great electoral strategy!

I couldn’t bear to listen to the Budget speech live because Osborne’s patronising, weedy-but-sinister voice gets on my nerves, but I get the picture.  Buy 500 pints, get one free (that makes up for the bedroom and pasty taxes, that’s for sure).  And who says that we don’t like the working class?  We even allow them to play bingo on the way home from the food bank.

At least Thatcher, in her pursuit of the White Van Man/cowboy builder vote in the 1980s, did so with common sense and an understanding, however vague and cynical, of her target market.  We seem to have lost that skill in the 21st century. 


One of the bridges I cycle under on my way to civilisation has some Sustrans-supported graffiti art with a cool guy requesting in a speech bubble that passers-by (pedestrians, cyclists and anal-expressive police horses) “respect the art”.

Although it reminds me a bit of Ali G, I do support the sentiment.  I respect the art of respect.

But we have a funny attitude to the issue, don’t we?  We respect the bus driver by saying thank you when we disembark, but disrespect our fellow passengers by sitting next to them snifflling and slobbering.  We “respect diversity”, but treat anybody smaller, poorer or less powerful than ourselves like a piece of dirt.

I can’t stand seeing notices in public places saying words to the effect of “our staff deserve to be treated with respect, and if they’re not we’ll call the cops”.  These are usually to be found in places staffed with little Hitlers who think everyone who comes through the door is a complete moron: places like Job Centre Plus, doctors’ reception areas and pharmacists.

Granted, if you’re regularly coming into contact with anti-social smackhead wasters, you’re not likely to be in the best of moods, but that’s not the point.  Why should perfectly innocent, genuine customers suffer because of it?

Respect is a two-way street.  If you don’t show it, you don’t deserve to receive it. 

Giving it up for Lent

It’s not going to be chocolate or wine, I know that.  I’ve already got this week’s supplies in, and I’m thinking ahead to next week’s already.

Pancakes seem to be the logical and traditional option: I do like eating them, though i hate cooking them, and in fact I never cook them, at least not from scratch.

Or maybe full English breakfasts for the same reasons.  The one I had at the market cafe today was mediocre enough to encourage me to.

Or perhaps I should do the sensible thing and give up going to church, with all this sponsored frugality.  Or does it have to be something you enjoy?  Well I’ll have you know I love English churches!  I love being in enclosed spaces with people I don’t like – that’s why i’m a regular (once a year regular) in several Manchester pubs.

Though i’m doing the pubs a disservice – at least, unlike the churches, there aren’t any clipboard-carrying twits and self-righteous nutters, maybe the occasional psychopath but at least they take their medication most days.

I know!  As it’s Grammar Day as well as Shrove Tuesday, I shall stop being so pedantic innit.

Amen to This!

What is hell?  Come and listen to our vicar speak.

Back in those naive pre-millennium, pre-FB, pre-Twitter days, grammar nerds like me used to rely on the internet for a laugh at ambiguous public notices.  Miami Herald headlines, if I remember rightly, were a regular source: “Man struck by lightning faces battery charge”, but church-related material was equally fruitful.  “Come and hear Betty Belch, all the way from Africa” was a personal fave.

Being a Christian is a proud personal boast of mine, but I freely admit to doubts and disillusions, and a lot of these have to do with the ineffectiveness of the church establishment in representing its most disadvantaged members.  If the church can’t do it, who will?

So it was pleasing to see a number of prominent clergy, in a letter to the Daily Mirror, taking the UK government to task over its appalling welfare reforms, so much so that even the BBC had to acknowledge them, albeit after it had spent the previous 48 hours spewing out coalition propaganda about how the Bullingdon Boys had slain the twin evils of inflation and unemployment (by doctoring the statistics, in case you were wondering).

There’s nothing wrong with the church wanting to stand up to oppressive, unelected right-wing regimes.  The Liberation Theologians did an admirable job of this in South America a generation ago, and it’s good to hear the British bishops singing from the same hymn sheet.  As I’ve said before, any suggestions of economic recovery made against a backdrop of food banks, payday loans, heating or eating, and Job Centre Plus pipsqueaks disallowing legitimate benefit claims have to be treated as absurd. 

Wet Weekend

Roses are red

Violets are blue

The house is quite flooded (or it would be if I lived further south, ha ha)

And (to quote Alice Cooper), I can’t even think of a word that rhymes.


I am minded of Alice’s immortal line from “School’s Out” this Valentine’s Day more than any other – possibly since I spent a fair part of Valentine’s Eve listening to his programme on Planet Rock, my new spiritual home.  Quite impressed by the range of his choices too – Supertramp, The Police…

Thursday on Planet Rock is like a prog fan’s time warp!  Carl Palmer offering his personal choices, One Man and his Prog doing the right thing – why did I let it pass me by for so long?  Probably because I stubbornly put off getting a DAB radio until it became unfashionable to do so, which of course is classic prog fan behaviour. 

It sure beats going out in this weather, though I hear the worst of it will soon be over.  I’m looking forward to the TV and radio appeals to raise money for the victims of the floods, “this is Rupert, who’s stuck in the third floor of his Thames Valley mansion, unable to get to Waitrose until the next vaporetto goes past and, unlike the people up North, without the necessary physique to live off his own fat for too much longer.”  

Happy weekend!

Ministry of Truth

“The financial situation we inherited was a dire one.  We had some tough decisions to make, but we made them because we were convinced they were in the national interest.  And time has proved us to be right in our judgment.  We now have an economy which is growing at a faster rate than our competitors, unemployment is low, and spending is increasing.”

Sorry – I was just going through the script for the Tory Party election broadcasts for the next 15 months.

The Lib Dems could say the same things of course, with a damn sight more sincerity, but I don’t think they’ll be allowed to.  The BBC, YouGov and doubtless Twitter will all be part of Lynton Crosby’s propaganda machine by then, in the style of Stalin.

And we’ll kind of put out of our minds the classic indicators of economic recovery – food banks, soup kitchens, social supermarkets, payday loans, bedroom tax – that have taken over our nation since 2010.  Let’s go fracking into the future with Cameron! 

Caution: Wet Floor Notice

Made it!  No amount of viruses, buffering or general effing around should keep a good blogger down.

Or “real world” misfortunes.  I wish I could have a quid for every Wet Floor notice I’ve stumbled into in the last few weeks.  Usually carefully placed at the entrance to lavatories in office buildings, or right next to cafe tables, you can’t help but not notice them.

The fact that these vertically challenged A boards are so tiny doesn’t help much either.  Granted, my peripheral vision is not what it was, but that doesn’t excuse the recklessness of the staff who place them in such idiotic places.  I’m sure i’m not the only person with poor eyesight who’s had this problem.

I’m equally sure the risks of the wet floor per se, which I think are negligible to the average vigilant person, are far outweighed by those of the Wet Floor notice.

Last time it was in a cafe whose floor was already on a slope, creating an uncomfortable sense of vertigo.  It was a mercy that the cafe owner brought the coffee to the table himself, otherwise there really would have been a wet floor. 

Rant over.  I shall file these experiences in both my Potential Legal Action and Stand Up Comedy Subjects dossiers, and get back to my TEFL course, provided that Oh Snap the Buffer Wheel allows me to.

Nobody’s Business

What’s the worst thing about going into business?  I say t’s going along to conferences and listening to addresses from guys who pronounce the word “better” as if it’s pronounced with two Ds in the middle, like they’re auditioning for a 1980s car commercial.

Also, being forced to “network” with people with whom you have absolutely nothing in common, except they decided to enter the business world at the same time as you.  This is a punishment that not even a glass of the best wine in the house can help to alleviate: it’s still like the lesson at school that you hated the most, with a class full of school bullies!  “Why haven’t you got your VOIP yet, you retard?”

So I’m easing up on the networking – they never allow you to get pissed enough anyway, even on licenced premises – and focusing my business where it matters, in the community (it’s a social enterprise, after all, targeted mainly at people who are experiencing social isolation)..  I hope the community can come to terms with it. 

Also trying to get some radio recording done – there is a connection, as this is community radio – this is more familiar ground to me, but that doesn’t make it easy.  Yesterday a small group of us worked on a couple of short scripts I’d written, loosely under the banner of local (to Manchester) dramas.  It was a bit of trial, but in the end we had a good laugh and actually finished the session with some usable material, which is a true Godsend.  When we actually have a broadcast date and time, I’ll be on WordPress like a rat out of a trap.

And so to business.  Yawn!