Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Hairy Bikers at G Live

Guildford. Thursday 21-March-2019

An Evening With the Hairy Bikers provided pretty much what you would expect. Si and Dave on stage chatting away regaling us with anecdotes from their career. Assorted video clips of their early days, misadventures and outtakes. A cookery demonstration, of course, with two guinea pigs selected from the audience as on-stage diners. Then a break and the same thing all over again.

There were also questions from the audience. Some of these were clearly the usual suspects as they had clips ready to roll to answer them. Others seemed novel and evoked some of the funnier stories. The evening finished with a song featuring Si surprisingly good on drums and a guest bass player.

The train back to Clapham was relatively painless but even so I might try driving next time

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

George Ezra at the O2 Arena

London. Tuesday 19-March-2019.

George seems like a jolly nice chap. I like an artist who comes across as being glad to be there and appreciative of the response from the audience.

We were not able to get two seats together and so bought separate seats in adjacent blocks quite some way back, such is the size of the venue and the popularity of the artist. I sat in someone else's seat, next to Mary, until they showed up and then moved a couple of rows back to a "no show" seat so that worked out ok.

The excellent support act was Sigrid who did an energetic and enjoyable set as she bounced about the stage. Then George came on and did a fair bit of chat introducing each song which I always enjoy. He sang all the hits from both his albums. As we have his first but not his second we only knew some of the songs but enjoyed even the unknowns.

The modern equivalent of holding up your lighters is waving your smartphone torchlight, an impressive sight with so many; read about the origins of this custom.

The show was well designed for a large venue with the big screens and a visual, animated backdrop for the stage. The sound quality was good - not always the case in a big venue. Now all the O2 Arena has to do is sort out the very limited air-side catering and hiked-up drinks prices!

All in all a fine show.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Benson Row - 01

Penrith, Cumbria. Monday 11-March-2019 to Tuesday 19-March-2019.

The latest acquisition in the M&M Enterprises property portfolio is a holiday home in Penrith on the edge of the Lake District. Mary has been saying she needs a project to keep her busy and stop her from getting bored. This is that project.

When we sold Trullo Azzurro last year we started by looking for another property in Italy. Somewhere in, or on the fringes, of Cisternino old town. Somewhere without stairs for when we get old and our knees are going. We also wanted some outside space. This was proving impossible even ignoring the budget. There just aren’t many properties that fit the bill, if at all, never mind on the market.

So instead we repatriated the money and started looking in Penrith which we know and like. When we found this property last October, we made an offer which was accepted but kept it quiet from most of our friends as we expected a certain amount of stick from them. We broke the news to family and a few close friends shortly before completion which was then, of course, delayed.

It is a three bedroomed house with a decent size cellar but no outside space at all. We have right of access across the courtyard to get to our back door but that is it. It is an early Victorian mid-terrace house that was once two back-to-back houses, now combined into one. It is the one with the burgundy window and door surrounds. The middle door is an alleyway to a small yard.

The plan is to use it initially for ourselves, family and friends but eventually (especially after the kitchen refit) to put it on AirBnB for others to rent.

Floor plan

Living Room

Dining Room

Kitchen. This is a major component of the project: a complete kitchen redesign. We have two local firms currently producing designs for us to review.

Back Bedroom

Middle Bedroom

Front Bedroom



We finally completed on Monday the 11th March. We drove up that morning with the car stuffed to the gunnels including two single bed frames strapped to the roof and two vacuum packed, Swiss roll mattresses in the car along with all manner of other stuff. The first thing we did on receiving the keys was to assemble the beds release the mattresses and go down to the pub for a beer and meal with our Penrith friends.

Tuesday was delivery day for a whole load of bedroom furniture that we had bought from Barker and Stonehouse in the January sales. They were very good at holding back on delivery until we had access to the property. So Tuesday was literally a case of making my bed and then lying on it.

Wednesday was spent assembling the rest of the bedroom furniture: two wardrobes, two chest of drawers and a bedside cabinet. Fortunately I have had plenty of practice with IKEA furniture and a decent power screwdriver made the whole thing relatively painless although still tedious.

The rest of the week and weekend was more shopping for furniture and useful items like a fridge and microwave, a Dyson and various kitchen bits and pieces. Also visits from various trades to get quotes for works identified by the surveyor most of which it turned out were not needed!

  • The builder reckoned the damp was condensation and the damp specialist confirmed that. 
  • The roofer said the felt we could see was a sign the roof had actually been repaired and no work was required. 
  • The timber treatment man said the colour of the soft timbers showed it had been treated and the rest was solid oak which woodworm blunt their teeth on. 

And what timbers they are too. Magnificent, gnarly bits of old oak. Not neatly sawn, they just have to be recycled timbers from some older building, the Victorians would never have been that cavalier with their roof timbers. Another clue to recycling rather than purpose-sawn was one rafter that didn't reach the ridge and was held up by an oak prop.

Saturday was Penrith Parkrun, more shopping and then in the evening a dinner party at a friends' house. Andrew makes delicious home-made limoncello and arancello which we sampled possibly more than was strictly necessary!

Monday was, joy of joys, a trip to Gateshead IKEA to choose and buy furniture for the other two bedrooms. IKEA should patent their special time dilation secret they clearly have whereby it seems hundreds of years pass inside the store and you come out to discover that only a couple of hours have elapsed in the real world.

Tuesday we drove back to London for a quick turnaround and then out to see George Ezra to recover from an action packed and productive week.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Dave Robinson, The Story of Stiff Records at The Half Moon

Putney. Sunday 10-March-2019.

Back in 2017 we really enjoyed the talk and Q'n'A session with Bruce Iglauer, founder of Alligator Records so when we saw "Dave Robinson, The Story of Stiff Records - If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth A F...k" advertised we just had to go along.

For the first half Dave gave us an insight into his biography pre-Stiff records as a photographer and how he got into the music business. Then followed a series of tales of the artists he signed, how he found them and video clips of them performing. For a small independent label the calibre of artists is truly impressive including Elvis Costello, The Damned, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Lena Lovich, Madness, the list goes on...

What came across very strongly was the ethos of the company, of looking after the artists, unlike the big labels. It was a family affair; they made a real effort to promote all of the bands and look after their welfare.

After the break it was more stories including how he promoted the bands using The Stiff Tours and then taking questions from the audience. He let us know that he is working on a book which will doubtless be worth adding to the Christmas list when it comes out.

This was the first of a proposed series of Eight O'Clock Rock Chats to be hosted by The Half Moon. Ones to watch out for.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Arturo Sandoval at Ronnie Scotts

Soho, London. Thursday 07-March-2019.

Packing in visits to Ronnie's while we were in the UK. This time, as it is a weekday, we got a support act as well as the main act.

The support act was the Kate Williams trio: Piano, bass and drums. They were fine but didn’t really excite. We have heard a number of similar trios and they’re all good and competent musicians playing jazz standards well but what makes one stand out from the other. I couldn’t put my finger on it but they did not really do it for me although the Guardian thinks otherwise: "Kate Williams is a very good jazz pianist anyway – crisp, incisive and totally at one with the rhythmic ebb and flow."

The drummer had the most minimal drum kit I have ever seen: A snare drum, bass drum, normal (crash?) cymbal and a hi-hat. I have realised that I am, for some reason, irredeemably biased against the wire brush approach to jazz. I tend to associate it with late night, easy listening jazz. Not that it’s lazy drumming, it goes back to the 1920's and clearly involves a lot of skill and technique but it just doesn’t appeal to me.

Arturo Sandoval and his Cuban band were superb. Arturo gave us a masterclass in trumpet playing and general band leading. The band were certainly high energy especially the drummer who was doing his best to resemble Animal from the Muppets.

At some point they played a tune which I eventually recognised as "The windmills of your mind". I only knew it as a novelty single from Noel Harrison (1968). I was surprised to learn that it has some heritage being written by prolific French composer Michel Legrand as the theme tune to The Thomas Crown Affair.

Another song which I recognised but could not have named until now was The Peanut Vendor which I had to look up on Wikipedia:
"Together with "Guantanamera", it is arguably the most famous piece of music created by a Cuban musician. "The Peanut Vendor" has been recorded more than 160 times, sold over a million copies of the sheet music, and was the first million-selling 78 rpm single of Cuban music." 
You live and learn.

I hadn’t fully appreciated how steam punk an instrument the saxophone is. All those levers and valves and certainly this band's sax was not a gleaming and polished example of the instrument. It looks straight out of some typically Steam Punk themed anachronistic Victoriana.

Another fine evening. Ronnie's never disappoints.