Friday 27 January 2023
Thursday 26 January 2023
Getting on for three years in, Robyn Hitchcock and Emma Swift's life-affirming series of streamed concerts (Live From Tubby's House) continue. Every week they perform new songs, old songs, ridiculously obscure out-takes, covers, all interspersed with laughter and life updates. Robyn usually begins each show with a few minutes of instrumental acoustic noodling and concludes, 90 minutes later, with a slow building raga. Yesterday, a mere four months after the release of the magnificent 'Shufflemania', Robyn announced 'Life After Infinity', a brand new completely instrumental album, which is due out in April. Read all about it here.
Friday 20 January 2023
I paid a flying visit to the smoke last weekend, to check in on my aunt and catch up with my cousin, whose own, literal, flying visit involved significantly more miles than mine. She flew in from New York to stay with her mum on Friday before heading home again on Tuesday.
Three highlights of any trip to my aunt's little corner of London are;
1) Newham Bookshop. A glorious indie on the Barking Road. Enter this place at your own risk. The last things I need at this stage of my life are yet more books to add to the never-ending pile, but once through the door I lose any sense of self control - resistance is absolutely futile. It's a wonderful Aladdin's Cave of a place.
2) Central Park Café. The park itself is a fabulous local resource, but the café at its heart is a real community hub, welcoming families and their canine pals into its generous space. In addition to a friendly welcome and a decent brew, they bake a fresh rack of delicious sourdough every morning, seven days a week. I nipped in to pick up a warm loaf before leaving on Monday and demolished half of it at home that very evening.
3) The Boleyn Tavern. Following a lengthy and much needed refurbishment, The Boleyn welcomed thirsty punters back into the historic pub in June 2021, since when it's been my local whenever I'm in town. The food is great, the beer selection is ever-evolving and the contents of the free jukebox are seemingly purloined from my own record collection. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Dave Bartholomew, who died in 2019 at the ripe old age of 100, was no slouch in the songwriting department, co-penning such r&b staples as 'I'm Walking', 'Ain't That a Shame', 'Walking to New Orleans' and 'I Hear You Knocking'. Here he is in 1952 though, performing a cleverly written Billy Austin song.
You'd never find these kind of shenanigans going on at The Boleyn.
Friday 13 January 2023
The closest pub to my gaff had already ceased trading by the time I rolled into town a couple of years ago. It wasn't alone either. Two more former hostelries also stand abandoned and forlorn within a mile of my front door. I quickly became convinced that my would-be local, in spite of its listed building status, was destined to eventually become a residential property. So imagine my delight when, out of the blue, the old place was purchased and reopened as a boozer in the Spring of 2022. Since then the pub has become something of a bolthole for me on a day off, a place to while away an hour at lunchtime with a book, either indoors, or, during the heat of the Summer, out in the yard (it can't really be called a beer garden). The pub was open for a couple of hours on Christmas Day, allowing me the perfect opportunity to stretch my legs, enjoy a pint and have a bit of a chinwag with a group of friendly strangers at the bar, before returning to the solitude of my flat.
As I mentioned previously, I didn't do too well on the eating front during the busy run-up to Christmas, variations of toast and porridge mainly, so I was determined to enjoy a decent meal on the big day itself. When I got home from the pub I roasted every vegetable I could find in the fridge, threw in a few pieces of Quorn, piled the lot onto a monster Yorkshire pud and doused it all with lashings of gravy. It may not look (or sound) that appetising to most readers, but my goodness it was welcome, delicious and filling. The only problem was that following the long, exhausting festive period at work, the bracing wander to the pub, a midday pint and such a hearty repast, within a very short time I could barely keep my eyes open. Long story short, I was in bed by a little after 6pm and didn't stir for a full eleven hours. What a glorious and much needed lump of sleep that was.
Tuesday 3 January 2023
I kept increasingly erratic hours as December progressed, arriving at work by 4am in a fruitless attempt to get ahead of the game before the doors opened and pausing only for a quick shower before hitting the sack as my eyes began to burn early in the evening. Food wasn't high on the list of priorities, though I did discover the revitalising powers (and convenience) of an instant porridge pot in lieu of lunch and more than once wondered if it'd be possible to have an intravenous drip of coffee surgically attached to my body in some fashion. Anyway, it was while in this slightly altered state that I glanced at my phone in the early hours of December 20th to find that Shirley Watts had passed away at the age of 84. It was sad news, but I allowed myself a brief bittersweet smile to know that she was now reunited with her beloved Charlie. With a mug of steaming black coffee in one hand I scrolled further through my Instagram feed and began to see multiple photos of Terry Hall appear. My semi-conscious mind reasoned that it must've been his birthday, but of course the truth was altogether more tragic.
I've yet to begin trying to catch up with what's been going on around these parts in the period that I've been otherwise engaged, but I'm sure that blog tributes to Terry will have been fulsome and heartfelt across the board. His passing is one of those, not unlike that of Charlie Watts actually, that has hit unexpectedly hard. Terry Hall's music entered my life when I saw The Coventry Automatics supporting The Clash in 1978 and, well, he's kind of been there or thereabouts ever since. It was only at the end of November that I dug out The Specials' comeback album 'Encore' for a spin and marvelled once again at what a very good record it is.
Somewhere in this flat there's a box of VHS videos, the remenents of the days when I recorded anything relating to music off the TV. I threw away bin-liners full of those tapes when I got rid of the telly in the early noughties, but somewhat illogically still hold onto a few particularly prized videos, even though all the contents are probably available on YouTube these days. One of the tapes that I kept contains Fun Boy Three's live cover of 'The End', the band's TV swansong, broadcast on the short-lived programme 'Switch'. It's a performance every bit as electrifying now as it was that evening back in 1983. Terry's hair is quite magnificent too.
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