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

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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

James Michael McLellan MBE - a celebration

10-March-1925 to 27-December-2016.

It says something about Dad that so many people, when I told them his funeral was on Friday 13th, said "He would have loved that" or "That would have tickled him". His choice of music for the committal was Abba's Waterloo - "Finally facing my Waterloo".

From the Order of Service:

Michael McLellan, formerly Chief Architect of Waverley Borough Council, passed away peacefully on 27th December, 2016 at the age of 91.

Born on 10th March, 1925 in Battersea, London, Michael’s training as an architect was interrupted by serving as a sub-lieutenant in the RNVR during the war, and he took part in the operation on Omaha beach in the wake of the D-Day landings in June 1944.

After finishing his studies at The North London Polytechnic he worked for the architects’ department of Scotland Yard before becoming Senior Architect and then Principal Architect at Coventry District Council from 1956 to 1973. He was responsible for much of the re-building and regeneration of Coventry after it had suffered so badly during the war. He is particularly remembered for the much-acclaimed Swimming Baths, which have recently been listed as a Grade II building by National Heritage.

From 1973 to 1987 Michael was the Chief Architect at Waverley District Council. He led a dynamic and imaginative team who worked on a broad range of projects, winning a number of awards and distinctions, including for the Sports Centre and the St James’s Church conversion. He was awarded an MBE for services to architecture in 1984.

After retiring as Chief Architect Michael continued to work as a consultant for a number of private architectural practices and to develop his interest in painting. He enjoyed considerable success as a painter, and had numerous exhibitions, most significantly a major retrospective at Wolfson College in 2006.

He was also actively involved in Farnham life, particularly as a member of The Farnham Society and of The Farnham Public Art Trust.

Michael is survived by his wife Geri, and two sons and a daughter.

Michael was not your stereotypical father. He didn’t take me to the park to kick a ball around. He didn’t take me to a football match to see his favourite team be trounced.

Instead he took me to Stratford to see Peter Brook's production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. He took me to the Tate to see a Roy Lichtenstein exhibition. He took me for a weekend away to Chichester to see Fishbourne Roman Villa and to stay up all night to watch the moon landing live. That’s the kind of dad he was.

His own father died when he was only 10 and so he had no role model on how to be a father. By his own admission he made it up as he went along and a damn fine job he did of it too.

So thank you very much, Dad.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Castle Rock feat. Tyrannosaurus Rex

Dudley, Zoo, Dudley, Worcester, UK. Friday 05-June-1970

This was the first time I saw Marc Bolan live after listening to him on the John Peel Late Show and buying all those Regal Zonophone singles and the four Tyrannosaurus Rex albums. This was just before they shortened their name to T.Rex and burst upon the pop world with Ride a White Swan.

I bought my ticket somehow, there was no TicketMaster in those days. Off I went by train from the soon-to-be-reopened Kenilworth station to Birmingham and somehow from there to the Zoo. This was my first ever open air concert so it was all very strange and a little bit scary for a non-streetwise schoolboy.

I still have this programme.

Text of the above page.


Tyrannosaurus Rex are two.

Marc Bolan is one. He sings, plays guitar, organ and bass, and writes all of T. Rex's songs. "How do I see myself? I suppose I'm a poet. Well, sometimes."

Marc's first contact with top music came when he worked in Soho selling cokes at the 2I's coffee bar—the starting ground for early British rock’n’rollers like Adam Faith, Terry Dene and Screaming Lord Such. "I remember Cliff Richard being thrown out 'because you can't sing' I was nine at the time."

Marc is now 22 years old and Tyrannosaurus Rex are two. From their earlier accoustic songs, the group has travelled into electric music. . . . "But 1 don't think about it as 'being electric' I'm into the media power of the electric instrument, to reach as many people as possible."

Aiding Marc in reaching these people is Mickey Finn, the other half of T. Rex. Mickey plays bongos. And sings. And sometimes plays bass.

"Before I joined up with Marc, I was into painting. I painted the Beatles' shop—actually painted it and organised it so it'd be ready in time. Before that I sometimes played with Haphash and the Coloured Coat. We made an LP and did just one live gig, in Amsterdam.

Mickey, who particularly enjoys the music of Jack Bruce, The Band and The Flying Burrito Brothers, is a motor-bike freak. . . . "And I'd like to take up drag racing."

Following a chance meeting with Marc in a London macrobiotic restaurant, Mickey became T. Rex's other half.

"I wouldn't have put myself forward. He had an ad in the paper, didn't he? It came so easy. We met talked and then went down to Wales for three weeks."

"Since Mickey became a part of T. Rex the music has become freer, more relaxed, and we can improvise—which we could not do before."

And Marc's songs, those songs of fables and fantasies and dreams and images.

"I don't write the songs—inspiration does.

I couldn't write those songs—I'm being used."

And not badly either. Not badly at all!

I hadn't thought through the transport logistics and ended up missing the last train home. I didn't have any money to speak of, certainly not enough for a taxi or a hotel.

I had somehow picked up from my father the bizarre idea that in an emergency police stations acted like Western Union, that he could go into Kenilworth police station, hand over a tenner and the Birmingham police would give me the same. I told you I was not streetwise, not then, not now! They didn't, of course, and the upshot was that they took pity on me and let me sleep in a police cell overnight. The next morning I made my bleary way home by train again.

I had been sufficiently geeky during the gig to note the set list on an old scrap of paper. That set list eventual found its way into the excellent book Marc Bolan: A Chronology by Cliff McLenehan:

Set List: One Inch Rock, Debora, Hot Rod Mama, Wind Quartets, Pavilions Of Sun, King Of The Rumbling Spires, By The Light Of The Magical Moon, Organ Blues, Elemental Child, Conesuela, Salamanda Palaganda, Fist Heart Mighty Dawn Dart, The Wizard, Jewel.

The track that has stuck in my memory was an extended version of The Wizard with a long guitar solo to the words "he was a wizard and he was my friend he was [repeat * n]". Ah, that was all a very long time ago.

PDF of the complete programme.

TXT of the complete programme.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

Olive Harvest 2017 Part 02

Puglia, Italy. Sunday 12-November-2017.

The second pass through our trees to pick the later ripening olives. Over the last few years various friends have come out from the UK to help with the harvest. This year it was a full set of friends plus one mum.

Planning session in the local Cisternino pub, Diaulicchie.

The harvest went much as Part 01 but yielded more per tree: 60 kg from four trees as opposed to 26 kg from five.

When we were done we went and harvested our nearest neighbours' trees and reaped another 20 kg. Olives of all different sizes and ripeness.

The happy pickers: Mark (me), Tony, Terri, Gavin, Tania, Kate, Christine, Nigel, Mary (photographer).

We delivered the olives round to our friend Mino in the nick of time just as his first batch was on its way to the press. That meant we were able to collect our own oil in time for the return drive to the UK. The yield from our batch was 14% so that's 11 litres. Excellent.

Harvest over, we took our friends for a trip to see some gnarly trees down on the coast. These are truly extraordinary, ancient looking trees.

Then a dip in the Adriatic has become a tradition with the hardier members of the party - which does not include me.

"It's lovely once you're in" they claim. I'll not put that to the test.

One final harvest before we set off: lemons from our tree on the apartment terrace. Still a little green but they may ripen some more off the tree.

That's it apart from close down of the properties and packing up ready for the long drive home and our return next year.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Olive Harvest 2017 Part 01

Puglia, Italy. Saturday 04-November-2017

This year was a unique two-part harvest. We have two types of trees: five smaller trees with large black olives which ripen early November and four larger trees with small green olives which start to turn black late November.

Previous years have always been a compromise. When we flew out for a weekend to harvest we either came early and picked a good crop of the black olives and smaller, lower yield, green olives or came later for a good crop of green/black olives but lost the early ripeners to windfall.

Now we are retired and able to spend more time in Puglia we were there over the full harvest period. Another contributing factor is having two neighbours with whom we could combine our olives for the press. The local press has a minimum batch of 220 kg, we are lucky to reach 100 kg. Our friends' neighbour was due to pick and press imminently so we harvested the first batch.

The crates, nets and rakes.

Spreading the nets in preparation.

Plum, juicy olives.

Raking out of the trees onto the nets.

As they fall.

Herded olives ready to pick out leaves and twigs.

Approx 26 kg ready to go to the press.

While at the local tyre shop we saw a large 220 kg crate as used by the press on the back of an Ape. No need for a jack with this, the owner simply held it up while the wheel was changed..

When our neighbour's oil came back from the press a few days later we received two 1 litre tins. Very happy with that. Murky, as it is unfiltered, also more than a little peppery on the back of the throat. Give it a month or two to settle and mellow and it will be ready to use.

Next up the "team" out for the main harvest...

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Winter Droving 2017

Penrith, Cumbria. Saturday 28-October-2017.

Last year we enjoyed The Winter Droving 2016 so much that it was the trigger for this whole week's visit. After four days walking, Saturday arrived. A little cooler than last year, we wandered around for a few hours but there didn't seem to be as much street entertainment as last time. So we watched a couple of bands then retreated into the warmth of Dockray Hall for beer.

We emerged from the pub for the main event: the procession of giant illuminated figures, fancy dress and marching bands.

The ram lead the parade, of course, as The Winter Droving is about the sheep, but the wolf got a look in as well.

All participants are encouraged to wear masks.

After the parade it was back to Dockray Hall for more beer and victuals. The food was excellent as was the company.

The next morning we had time before our train home to visit two ancient monuments within minutes walking of our B & B. First up King Arthur's Round Table, a Neolithic earthwork henge, dating from about 2000 BC, but much later believed to be King Arthur's jousting arena.

Just 0.2 miles away is Mayburgh Henge is a large and impressive Neolithic henge. Its banks stand up to three metres high, constructed of pebbles collected from the nearby river.

Then it was time to pack up and taxi back to the station and train home for a rest.