Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cleaning the Wandle February 2018

Poulter Park, Sutton, Surrey. Sunday 11-February-2018.

Looking at the weather forecast the dress code was thermal long johns and two pairs of thick walking socks.

Looking back over the calendar, Poulter park seems to be an annual event. The last time I attended a clean-up here was in March 2015 when we pulled around 200 tyres out. So this stretch should be in pretty good shape by now.


In fact the first hour I spent using the litter picker to clean out hundreds of wet-wipes that had snagged on some pilings. Still that was better than those who were working upstream and were picking out sanitary pads and condoms. All this courtesy of the Beddington sewage treatment plant upstream of where we were working. A good day to work with your lips tightly clamped.


It was good to see my old wheelbarrow that we donated when we down-sized in action. The lady in red said it was a smooth little runner.


After the lunch break my fingers were going numb. I went back in the water for half an hour but then decided that loss of sensation was nature's way to telling me to take an early bath so I did.

As always, the first thing I do back home is strip off and put all my clothing straight into the washing machine. Then a nice warm shower and a cup of tea. Good deed done for this month.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Brubecks play Brubeck at Ronnie Scott's

Soho, London. Sunday 14-January-2018.

Another fantastic evening of music at Ronnie Scott's. This time "Brubecks play Brubeck" - three of Dave Brubeck's sons plus Dave O'Higgins on sax. Going on any night but Friday or Saturday means you get a double dose of music. Instead of a support act, one set from the main act and thrown out for the second crowd, you get two sets from the group.


I was impressed how Chris managed to make an electric bass sound like an acoustic double bass. I was even more impressed with Dan whose drum solos were controlled, elegant and precise. Too many drummers seem to think that a solo should either be as fast as possible or as loud as possible. This was how it should be done. I don't understand time signatures but apparently "their father invited listeners to start counting in odd numbers".

Reviews from previous years:

“Darius, Chris and Dan, augmented by British saxist Dave O’Higgins, are rekindling the old magic. The four cantered affectionately through the hit list, but shrewdly didn’t try to clone the original sound.”
John Fordham, The Guardian

“At the end of a joyous second set the pianist Darius Brubeck and his brothers cued in the audience’s handclaps on Unsquare Dance. More than half a century after their father invited listeners to start counting in odd numbers, the music has lost none of its poise.”
Clive Davis, The Times
[www.dariusbrubeck.com/]

Friday, January 19, 2018

Great British Rock & Blues Festival 2018

Butlin's, Skegness. Friday 19-Jan-2018 to Monday 22-Jan-2108.

After the memory of last year's chilly conditions had faded, Mary persuaded me to return for this year's Rock and Blues Festival. This time we chose accommodation slightly closer to the central facilities hence less chance of frostbite walking to and fro.

1 °C, Heavy Snow.
This is warmer than last year!

This year, instead of self catering, we went for the inclusive dining package. There were two restaurants with similar quality, pub-like food; part self service, part carvery style buffet and an all-you-can-eat deal. The wine list choice was reasonable. The staff were all really friendly and eager to help, you can tell that is the ethos of the place.

Again there were three venues (Jaks, Reds, Centre Stage) and a stage in the main foyer (Skyline) for up and coming acts. This year they swapped Reds and Centre Stage back to the arrangement used prior to last year with blues acts on Centre Stage.

This is the full list of the acts we got to see, * for acts we liked, ** for acts we really liked, *** for the acts we really, really liked, x for dire acts.

As someone pointed out, guitars and drums don't age but the human voice does. The two dire acts were vocalists whose tonsils unfortunately hadn't stood the test of time: Roger Chapman ex Family and Edgar Broughton ex his eponymous Band. Oh dear.

Friday 19th:
Deep Blue Sea (Skyline)
Tom Walker Trio (Centre Stage) *
Sari Schorr and The Engine Room (Centre Stage) *
Atomic Rooster (Reds) ** (MSM)

Atomic Rooster may be a getting on a bit but they still belt out good ole rock'n'roll. Nothing says "ageing rocker" more than leather trousers and a shiny top over a bit of a paunch.

Atomic Rooster

Alvin Youngblood Hart (Centre Stage) *

Alvin Youngblood Hart

Saturday 20th:
Rebecca Downes (Centre Stage) ***

Rebecca was the first of two female blues singer who really impressed, Connie Lush being the second.

Rebecca Downs

Thorbjorn Risager (Centre Stage) *
Joe Anderton (Skyline)
Storm Warning (Skyline) **

A nice feature of the festival is the Skyline stage where lesser known bands get three quarters of an hour to show what they can do and be voted for. The most popular acts are then invited back the following year to open on one of the main stages. We liked these guys and hope they make it.

Storm Warning

Yoko and The Sugabeets (Skyline)
The Ryk Mead Band (Skyline)
Bernie Marsden (Reds) **
Jo Harman (Centre Stage) *
Roger Chapman (Reds) x
Earl Thomas (Centre Stage) ***

Earl Thomas was a flamboyant performer. A good voice and a real entertainer.

Earl Thomas

Sunday 21st:
Edgar Broughton (Reds) x
Greg Coulson (Centre Stage) **
Rob Tognoni (Centre Stage) *
Connie Lush Band (Centre Stage) **

The second blues songstress to make an impression. She was joined by Rebecca Downes for a duet on one song.

Connie Lush Band

Lucky Peterson (Centre Stage) ***

The rented organ that Lucky Peterson was due to play malfunctioned and, like a true professional, he switched seamlessly to some fine slide guitar while the technicians scurried about fixing the rig. His band were adroit in adapting to the ad-hoc set list picking up as soon as he started to play.

Lucky Peterson

Dr Feelgood (Centre Stage) **

We've seen these guys before and again they bashed out a rocking closing set.

Dr Feelgood

Elles Bailey (Jaks) ** was on late at the Jaks stage. Having seen and enjoyed her act last year we popped in briefly but it was crowded, the acoustics are poor, it was late and we were tired after the full on weekend so didn't stay long however she didn't disappoint.

Monday was another full English breakfast and a four-hour drive home to recover.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cleaning the Wandle January 2018

Earlsfield, London. Sunday 14-January-2018.

Goodness me, over a year since my last Wandle clean up. Most of that was spending seven months in Italy then calendar clashes for the other dates: Royal Parks' Half Marathon, walking in the Lake District, cortisone injection in my foot, Dad's funeral, Valentine's Day in Dublin, Sunday lunch with old friends, the Brighton Marathon, Sunday lunch with new friends; 2017 was a busy year.

So it was good to get back in the water and pull out some rubbish. There is a bad fly-tip at the Trewint Street bridge which I had reported to the council and the Trust. I had hoped that would be included in our stretch for the day. Apparently not. Polly explained that the Trust are in conversation with Wandsworth Council trying to encourage them to take a more pro-active, preventive approach with this popular fly-tipping location. Otherwise they are relying on volunteers to clear up the mess several times a year.


We met in Ravensbury Terrace and, instead, cleared the section starting from the old factory buildings and working upstream (so you don't muddy your own water). The water was low and clear so that helped spotting the rubbish.


We got as far as the railway bridge by lunchtime so after lunch continued up to the fish weir at the Trewint Street bridge.

For me the highlight of the day was finding an eel. They like to hide in containers so you always check cans and old tyres or, in my case, a scaffolding pole. I was emptying it out to make it lighter to carry and out popped the eel. I was able to divert it onto the bank so others could see the slippery little sucker before it slid back into the river.


A good haul from what looked like, to me at least, a relatively clean stretch. No shopping trollies but many of the usual suspects - beer bottles and cans, plastic sheets and carrier bags, bits of car and bike, duvets and mattresses.


As always there some oddities in amongst the usual rubbish. The coconut shells confuse the newbies. Was there a circus? No, Hindus float them down the river as votive offerings so I'd be looking to the Shree Ghanapathy temple here.


Back home for a shower to warm up as the water was v. cold and I was losing sensation and grip in my right hand. Fortunately the thermal long johns and two pairs of walking socks kept the feet warm enough to avoid full on chilblains but the toes still tingled for some time.

That's the halo freshly buffed up ready for next month.