Tuesday, 30 December 2008

And finally....

I can't post a great long list of my greatest books, films etc of the year [and who really cares anyway, except to see if they agree or not] as I am culturally illiterate, too fidgety and somewhat shallow. To prove the last point here's some pictures I took of the Gig Of The Year. I really concentrated on getting them sharp. And they brighten up these dark days, that's my theory.
Enjoy if you're so minded and I'll see you on the other side.

Happy 2009 to all 15 of you!

...oh and especially for fourstar....

Friday, 26 December 2008

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Holidays 1956 - by B.O.A.C - (part 4)

(sotto voce) 'Miss Woo, please go up to the cockpit and extract Miss Galore from the Captain, or vice versa. We have drifted well off course and as we have no navigator on board we will need to plot our course by looking out for familiar landmarks. Follow that whale!'

*broadcasts over intercom*
"Hello again Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you are enjoying the flight. You may notice icebergs out of the window; this is perfectly normal at this time of the year in the mid-Atlantic. The Captain assures me that there is nothing to worry about and that he is making the rules.

I am delighted to tell you that Dinner will be served shortly. It is of course from the B.O.A.C Christmas Menu. Please make your final selections and inform the Cabin crew of your wishes."

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

If you enjoy your travel experience and break in Grand Bahamas, please make a note that next year the blogger's Christmas holiday will be to BEIRUT, Jewel of the Near East. We plan to stay at the St George. See you in the bar.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for travelling with us on Office Pest Holidays by B.O.A.C.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Christmas Holidays 1956 - by B.O.A.C - (part 3)

All on board so here we go. Next stop Nassau, Bahamas!

Who are we travelling with today?


Pilot - Captain B.P. Perry. He doesn't normally make the rules but he will on this occasion.
Co-Pilot - Second Captain O. Pest. He's just along for the ride.
Radio Operator - Mr. M. Rudd. He can make sense of any radio chatter.
Flight Engineer - Mr. O. Docherty. This plane is festooned with gear, however he can handle it.
Head of Cabin Crew - Miss U. Woo. The best trolley dolly ever to twiddle a swizzle stick at 30,000 ft.
Cabin Stewardess - Miss P. Galore - in charge of those passengers requiring special attention.
Chief Steward - Mr. J. Bond - a late replacement for the usual Steward. Comes highly recommended.

Consulting my passenger list we find that alongside Mr. R. Burton, Mr. O. Welles, Mr. D. Niven and Miss E. Taylor, noted passengers include:

Mr. F. Centres - Top publishing executive, he can make and break careers like that.
Mr. Planet Mondo - Former Beat musician, famous for his axe.
Mr. R. Herrin - Famous philosopher.
Mr D. Hepworth - Noted commentator and publisher.
Rev. A. Collings - Spiritual Leader, Broadcaster and Life-style Guru.
Mr. L.F. Barfe - Showbusiness writer and author.
Mr. A. Goldfinger - Industrialist.
Mr. O. Job - Security consultant.
Mr. I. Fleming - Foreign Correspondent and author.

If I have missed anyone requiring individual attention, please let the cabin crew know.

Drinks and light snacks will be served as soon as we reach cruising altitude. Cigarettes and cigars may be taken in the smoking section, however Gentlemen are asked to refrain from smoking pipes.

Dinner will be served over the mid-Atlantic.

Please settle back and enjoy our B.O.A.C First Class Clipper service to Nassau, Grand Bahamas.

(Mr. Centres, I will ask the Second Class Steward to bring you a Castella up from Second Class.
"Prescott!, [he's on an exchange from our sister company Cunard], bring Mr Centres his Castella. Good. Now give it to him. Gently, Prescott, gently. Excellent. Now, Back! Back, Prescott."

"Please shut the curtain, Miss Woo".

Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Holidays 1956 - by B.O.A.C - (part 2)

Nearly ready for boarding now. Just to get you in the mood, here's a selection of the characters booked on our trip.

Who's playing you?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas Holidays 1956 - by B.O.A.C - (part 1)

For those bloggers joining the B.O.A.C holiday to the Bahamas this Christmas, please remember we will be boarding exclusively from the First Class Terminal Lounge.
The Captain asks that before you embark, you familiarise yourselves with the expected standards of behaviour whilst on board by attending Mr David Niven's short talk in the Virginia (Smoking) Lounge. In particular, Gentlemen are reminded that the effects of alchohol are exaggerated whilst flying at normal cruising altitude. Ladies travelling are asked to observe the commonly held norms of decency as regards their attire.

For those passengers who may not have travelled by air before, an information film will now be shown in the Capital & Provincial News Theatres Ltd Cinema, our new facility which opened this year.

Further announcments about our journey will be made regularly. Please listen for information broadcast by the Tannoy system or make enquiries of your Lounge Steward. (Please remember that tipping of the Lounge Stewards should be kept to a reasonable level).

Passengers are asked to confirm travel by registering their interest on the form below. There is a special offer on Cocktails in the Turtle Walk Lounge of the Jack Tar Grand Bahama Club for those passengers registering promptly.

(Turtle courtesy of http://www.arkivatropika.com/cgi-bin/tags.cgi?tags=%22Caribbean%22)

Sunday, 7 December 2008

"What's wrong with you?....

....why don't you want anything for Christmas?"

Oh dear. It's that time again. I've avoided answering the question for a month or more now but today was crunch time. It went something like this -

Mrs OP - "People want to know what you want for Christmas. You can't leave it until the last minute."
Me - "I can't think of anything I want. I never can."
Mrs OP "Well do you want some money then to buy something yourself?"
Me "Not really, it's a bit desperate to give money and anyway there's nothing I want to buy. They could give the money to charity or just keep it, I really don't mind.
Mrs OP "Well there must be something you want..."
"Must there", I say, rising to the challenge, "well, I don't think there is".
"What about an iPod, you haven't got one of those"
"No I haven't, because I don't want one. Nor have I got any kind of games console, DS, Wii, PSP, Gamestation or any of the rest of it, because I don't want them."
"Well, what about vouchers?"
"Same as cash - and you'll end up spending them anyway because I won't go to the shops all year."

The game is warming up now.

"What about tickets for a show, or play...ah! - what about Al Murray, he's on tour - you like him."
"Yes I like him on the telly, but I don't want to go and see him."
"Just not that interested in all the aggro of going, sitting there and coming back. That's why I like him on the telly".
"DVDs? CDs?"
"None I want thanks. Still got DVDs in their cellophane from 3 or 4 or 5 years ago. Never watched them. And books I've never read. It's a waste to get me things for the sake of buying them."
"We could book somewhere and go away for the weekend, or go out for a nice meal. Maybe go to London to the Mandarin Kitchen." (is that place still open by the way? Near Queensway tube station).
"Is that a present for me or for you?"
"Hmm, fair point. Well what about clothes, or shoes or..."
"Ties, hankerchiefs and socks", I suggest, "No ta, don't really need any at the moment".
"A new watch?"
"Got plenty of watches, thanks".
"Well, you'll have to think of something."
"Right", I say, "I'll try*. I've been looking around while buying things for other people but I just can't see anything I want for myself"
"You're being miserable"
"No, I'm not. In fact, I'm quite content because there is nothing I want, nowhere I want to go, nothing I want to see. Why is that wrong?"
"It isn't normal."

A truce is declared, whilst regrouping takes place.

The thing is, I don't want any more 'stuff' cluttering up my tiny world. Materially, I grew up with little and the instinct to ask for things, and acquire more and more was usually thwarted, so it never really took hold. I never really noticed at the time, but I'm sure that's how it's come out in me as an adult. I don't mind this, by the way.
As a reaction, I suppose, to my rather chaotic childhood all I ever really wanted was security, stability and to be left alone in peace when I wanted to be. By and large I have managed to achieve a measure of that, so far as anyone is able to in real life. I like that, and I think my family appreciate it as well.
However I will freely admit to having often confused the need for security with accumulating 'stuff', but lately I have become tired of these extraneous material goods hanging around me and have started to dispose of them**.

I am, as they say these days, on a journey. I don't want any more gear underfoot, tripping me up. I have no burning ambition to go anywhere or see anything in particular either.
Is that normal or abnormal - or is it just the time of the year? What's wrong with me?

*any ideas gratefully received

**what about a couple of trestle tables, for car boot sales? Now there's a thought.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Technical Help Please

I'd appreciate some technical help. I want to download some DV tapes to my computer and do some simple edits etc., before burning to a DVD. Any ideas about how to do this and the best software to use, good tips etc., gratefully received. Thanks.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Phew! That Was a Close One!


Last weekend, before today's predicted blizzard turned rainy for many of us, my father and I were talking about the old chestnut of how useless this country is at dealing with a bit of snow. Not only that, but the blaring out on all news media, led by Police advice, that no one should go anywhere and do anything if there is a risk, let alone a fall, of snow.

The now endemic risk aversion stance now informs so much of what we are supposed to do and moreover be cabable of doing, that it seems to have eaten away at people's confidence as adults in their ability to cope with fairly unusual, but nonetheless normal events, like snow.

My father proposed that 'what this country needed to be able to deal with' (yes, here we go), was a really bad winter like 1947 or 1963. " '47 was longer, but '63 was colder" he said. 'Regular snow and freezing temperatures continuously in both of them for three months. Snow above the hedgerows'. As he's lived through both of these famous winters I'll take his word for it. But as for proposing that this kind of weather should be visited on modern day 2009 GB Ltd as a kind of long, sharp shock I think we all know what the outcome would be, don't we.

Shortly after the transport system collapses (midway through the second day), all remaining economic output ceases (toward the end of the week), and the electric, water and gas go off for good (early the second week), there the British would be, cold, hungry and bankrupt - alone at home, advised to 'sit tight'.

As the picture says - End

No need for fancy viruses or meteorites to wreak mass havoc. Snow has the power.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Put The Needle On The Record

I do like 'pages from Ceefax', which is sometimes shown late at night as a filler when the BBC regional programmes finish at slightly different times.
All that tragic world news set to lush sweeping strings and a jolly brass section. Terrific.

Sunday, 2 November 2008


Fantastic drive from Lewis Hamilton. Well Done Sir.
Let's have some music to celebrate:

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Doggone Halloween

Happy Halloween from the proudest fast food crew on the scene.

Bless 'em.

Full of Hot Air 2

Talking to a schoolteacher the other night, an enthusiastic newly qualified young woman, I asked why the reading book changeover was becoming erratic. Well, she says, I don't 'manage' that process, Mrs. so-and-so does it, 'while I proceed with actioning morning input'.

It turned out she meant taking the register.

Why does everybody want to ape city-business-bollocks speak? I mean these days it's not a great role model for anyone, given the ruination of the world economy, and for educators of young children, is it ever?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Seaside Special

It's goodbye from me as we're off on holiday for a while.
Plenty of this:

And no more of this:

Friday, 20 June 2008

Full of Hot Air

As seen over our back garden about an hour ago

Nice eh?

Looks like the 21st is going to be a washout, so let's call these the official record of a warm Summer night at the brightest time of the year.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Clogs 4, Frogs 1

Fantastic performance by the Oranjeboom Boys.
Let's have some music to celebrate;

Thursday, 7 February 2008

"Trying Not to Pose, For the Cameras and the Girls" / 'Don't Hold Back - Fire Up the Quattro, Bolly Knickers!'

Nice to see our hero's return, and just as big in every way.

Favourite moments of detail? The footbridge down to the river boat that was rusting and peeling in 2008, and then pristine and new a few minutes later in 1981. And The Passions, 'I'm in Love With a German Film Star'. Got that on a single somewhere, probably still round at my Dad's. I remember I got it for 20p, remaindered from WH Smith, and it was on really thick vinyl with a silver, or perhaps dark blue, screen printed 'painted' label.

Strangely enough I got Roxy's 'The Same Old Scene' (that ones on thin vinyl though) out of the same box, probably on the same day. That's weird. They're both mighty tracks though. Happy days.

As for the rest, it can't possibly be 27 years ago, can it? But I remember it so well! That's like me in 1970 watching a film set in 1943...and that can't be right at all. Time flies.

And then, I actually had to explain to Mrs OP what TaB cola was. F**k me, I must be old.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Meek, not mild

41 years ago today, on the anniversary of Buddy Holly's death (which he himself had claimed to have predicted in a seance years before), Joe Meek shot himself after murdering his landlady.

A short and often brilliant career had burnt down and ended in the worst possible way, Meek's own problems driving him to destroy another's life as well as his own. His depression, drug use, paranoia, worry about his homosexuality being exposed (it was then a criminal offence in England) all did for him in the end. He was however a true innovator, a rebellious experimentor and a technical genius who really did come up with the holy grail of pop music; something different.

He knew this and was initially guarded and eventually paranoid about others stealing his ideas. One day, strangely providing a connection to a modern day shooting tragedy, Meek received a phone call from Phil Spector, who he was already suspicious of. He refused to talk to him, instead accused him of stealing his production techniques in order to produce the 'Wall of Sound', then promptly hung up on him.

However, except in producing loud and 'full' recordings, Spector didn't copy Meek or vice versa; Spector used conventional instruments en masse with multi-tracked voices to create his sound.
In contrast, working with many musicians (including the Tornados) but often individually, Meek recorded and manipulated a mixture of sounds from instruments and anything else that took his fancy. Then, using tape recorders at various speeds with proprietory and his own home made equipment he produced - pre-synthesiser - effects and sounds that today would be difficult to originate from scratch; the arts of tape manipulation having been largely supeseded in the intervening years.

So he was one of, maybe the first, engineer/producers to realise the possibilities of using recording equipment as a production tool, and also how to push vinyl mastering to new limits to present it properly to the listener. The 1962 Decca pressing of "Telstar" is a technical tour de force in it's own right. But I won't go on..

Maybe, considering how things turned out it's perhaps in bad taste to laugh at aspects of Meek's life, but apparently there were laughs a plenty. Some though, were unintentional. One of my favourite stories concerns Meek's obsession with the paranormal, the afterlife and general 'ghostwatch' style activities.

As a virtuoso recording engineer it was no problem for Joe to mic up a graveyard to record any messages from 'beyond'. Mostly he got nothing, of course, until one night a cat obliged by meeowing and wailing for some time, certainly long enough for Joe to later analyse the sounds and announce that the cat was trying to converse with him using human speech; it was in fact a trapped human spirit pleading for help via the medium of Cat. Cat-onese maybe.
I guess you had to be there. I wish I had been.

This extract from a documentary is a long clip in total, but the audio of the cat incident - with subtitles - is a minute and a half in, after stories from Screaming Lord Sutch and Heinz Burt:

Anyway, if you want to take a look there's plenty out there about Joe, his life and his body of work (for instance, "Telstar" was the first record by a British group to reach number one in the U.S. charts - sorry Beatles fans). Interest in him seems to be growing again, with a cinema film in production and an in-depth documentary to be shown soon.

Before we finish off, with The Honeycombs, here's a strange mix of Delia Derbyshire meets Joe Meek, complete with rockets and aliens; it's a version of "Telstar". For me it lacks both the energy of the original 'Telstar' and the brooding menace of the 'Dr Who' theme, but it's well meant and it shows spirit I suppose. That's something Joe would have approved of, I'm sure.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Get On Your Bike

For background, I'm looking for a suitable job at the moment, after being made redundant due to company restructure, etc etc. I was, or might be again I suppose, a bit of a generalist, having to be competent at quite a few things to keep the wheels of the business I was involved in turning smoothly.
Like a lot of us no doubt.

However, having no particular specialisation, but varied competencies & experience gained from a good background in commercial publishing coupled with department management, I've found it difficult to tick the right ticky boxes on agency registrations, job search websites and so forth.

I've ranged far & wide in person and on the web in my search for suitable vacancies, but for some reason I'd never really considered my local Job Centre. So I thought I'd ring them up and make an appointment to see one of their career advisers.

What follows is the verbatim account of what happened next.

JC Woman: "Hello, Job Centre, how can I help you?"

Me: "I'd like to come in and talk to someone to get some advice and maybe some career leads. My problem is that the website job searches the job centre have, and the agencies as well, are making me tick boxes that aren't really 'me' and aren't giving me the kind of opportunities and vacancies that I can apply for successfully.
I thought if I could talk to someone who is involved with taking briefs from local companies I might get better results on what is out there at the moment."

Her: "Oh, ok, I see. Are you on benefits at the moment?"

Me: "No"

Her: "Err, ok, do you have any disabilities that might prevent you from working in particular roles?"

Me: "No".

Her: "Oh, well, if you don't have any disabilities and you're not on benefits then we can't really help you."

Me: "But, I haven't got a job at the moment, I want to work, and I need some help finding the right roles to apply for."

Her: "Well, we can't make an appointment for you to come in and talk to us unless you are on benefits and/or have a disability. You're welcome to come in and have a look at the boards or look on line yourself."

Me: "So you're saying that I have to wait until I'm so in trouble that I'm on benefits before you'll help me get a job? Would it be better if I lost my house as well?"

Her: "That's right. Unless you have a disability, anyway."

Me: (incredulously) "Really?".

Her: "I'll give you some phone numbers and some other website addresses etc"

Me: "Are those the same ones I can already get from your website?"

Her: "They might be."

Me: (laughing by now) "Right, ha ha, well, goodbye then".

Her: "Yes, sorry, goodbye"

You couldn't make it up, could you. If I saw this on the telly, on "Not Going Back To Work" or similar, I'd think, 'oh yeah, over imaginative scriptwriter at work'.

Several hours later, I still can't really believe it happened. So I've written it down, if only to give myself some evidence that I'm not trapped in some kind of Chekhov story.

I'm going in there tomorrow, to see what's what.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Hello World


Well I've come late to the blogging revolution, but better late than never, that's what they say. I like to keep up to date with some regular blogs myself so I thought I'd have a go as well and see how I get on.

I've been putting this off for a while until I was in the right frame of mind to do it, but I've been waiting for ages and that still hasn't happened so here I am anyway.

I was wondering what to write about for my first post and I thought I'd share something with you that's been popping in and out of my mind for maybe 35 years now. It's about George Martin, the Beatles producer, more specifically his composition 'Theme One', written for the BBC to be their Radio 1 theme tune. This was in the days when they actually used to go off the air at night and come back on in the morning.

Anyway, in the early seventies, for various reasons I had a spell of living at my grandma's house. She had a put-you-up bed settee thing that wasn't too bad to sleep on, but it was in the living room and the curtains were really thin, meaning that I'd be awake at the crack of dawn (it must have been Spring or Summer).

I had this tiny light blue transistor radio and one morning I put it on and there was this, to me, scary organ style music, which sounded like something from a Hammer film but speeded up.

I liked it, was thrilled by it, was fascinated by it and I was scared of it all at the same time. It got to the point where I'd wake myself up purposely to hear this strange music every morning. However, I never knew what it was, or who made it until much later but the strange way I found it has popped into my head every so often since that time.

So there I was, looking through YouTube the other day and I thought...I wonder. Well, I didn't find George Martin's version, but I did find this:

I love it. Listening to it now, it still kind of affects me, but I like it even more now because this is my nostalgia.

And I wasn't aware of them at the time, but looking back now didn't VDGG have it all. Apart from the vocalist who's not needed for this track, the three VDGGs featured here are; the handsome, capable keyboarder; the crazy genius saxophonist; and the super-competent jazz-rock drummer who must have been the template for every surf dude and grunger who ever existed. I love his style of head down, hit it hard and fast. Great stuff and I hope you enjoy it, whether or not it personally still gives you the tingles.

See you soon.